Yajnyawalkya : a novel based on the writer's insights into ancient Indian Upanishads, it depicts Yajnyawalkya’s, journey towards self realization. It is also attempt to understand the human condition.
The writer is rooted in the philosophy of existentialism. However, there is no need to relate to any philosophy, know or unknow. A readiness to understand humanity takes us along the path Upanishads.
Yajnyawalkya’ is the name of the quest for eternal life. ‘Maitreyi’ is the script of that quest. The quest did not die. Because unknown to her, every Maitreyi carries the knowledge of deathlessnes, the nectar of life, within her.
"The insights you express in the story of your characters vibrate and reveal the human condition in a new and wonderful manner. This depiction brings cross-cultural exchanges to a new level of communication. Wonderful!. - Robert West, Greater Philadelphia.
Prof. Sushama Karnik graduated from Elphinstone College, Mumbai, with English as principal and Sanskrit as subsidiary subject. She did her post-graduation from the University of Mumbai, with English as principal and Aesthetics as subsidiary subject. She has post-graduate diploma in teaching English from Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL), Hyderabad. She taught English and American literature and Aesthetics to the undergraduate and the post-graduate class in College and in the University Of Mumbai. She retired as Head of Department of English horn S.S. and L. S. Patkar College, Goregaon, Mumbai.
Upanishads, known as Vedanta, are the culmination of the ancient Vedic quest for the knowledge of Atman: the inner self. Yajnyawalkya, Janaka, Gargi, Shakalya, Artabhaga, Maitreyi, Katyayani; the major characters of this novel, belong to an Upanishad called Brihadaranyaka, which is known to be the longest and the oldest of all Upanishads. Though these characters owe their origin to Brihadaranyaka, there is a considerable departure in my treatment of them in this novel. Brihadaranyaka formed the ground from where I gathered the seed and transplanted it to grow in the modern soil, with the sensibility and the idiom which belongs to our time. However, at certain points, I have tried to reproduce the archaic tenor of the Sanskrit language to recreate the atmosphere of formal debates in ancient India.
I met the character of Yajnyawalkya in the pages of a Sanskrit text prescribed for study at the undergraduate level of college. The text contained a few excerpts from Brihadaranyaka. There was one more excerpt from another Sanskrit text called Yajnyawalkya Smruti, the authorship of which is conventionally attributed to Yajnyawalkya himself.
Whereas Yajnyawalkya, the proponent of Yajnyawalkya Smruti, is a prudent and pragmatic law-giver of society, the one in Brihadaranyaka appears to be a recalcitrant egoist who challenges the smug pedagogues who are out to devalue him at the symposium held under the auspices of King Janaka. The ostensible purpose of the symposium is to seek enlightenment on 'Brahma': the Absolute and the Ultimate principle of life of the universe.
But everyone is aware that it is impossible to expound on it. Yajnyawalkya who has been watching in silence all this while, comes forward, and defying all decorum, dares the audience to stop him as he directs his disciple to walk away with the coveted prize of a thousand cows, meant to be won by the scholar who could prove to the assembly that he knew 'Brahma', and was capable of explaining its nature to the assembly.
In all, by his acts, gestures, and language, Yajnyawalkya rose far above his time and sounded a note for a new age. Though a priest by vocation, he detested the vacuity of the shallow intellectualism of his time. It was intellectualism raised to the level of a dignified ritualism in the form of performances of ostentatious rites. Yajnyawalkya knew that those scholars who had gathered at the assembly could not go beyond rituals and dogmas to grasp the inner meaning of 'Brahma'.We see him making a mockery of their empty rhetoric as he cleverly silences them all, beating them on their own ground by his suave and apparently deep exposition of the subject at hand. His disdainful attitude to his fellow academia bears testimony to the rupture that divides his vocation from his deeper understanding of life and humanity.
The Sanskrit language of these parts of Brihadaranyaka dons a robe of other-worldly metaphors and an occult imagery of personification for the abstract, intangible realities of the mind and the spirit in order to negotiate an experience of another domain. Decoding the meaning of certain mystifying occurrences that took place at Janaka's symposium as reported in the Upanishad was a challenge. At those crucial points, language was used to hide, rather than to reveal the meaning. It was a dense forest of obscurities which sheathed riddles of psychology and parapsychology. While working my way through those riddles, I realized the existence of a tempestuous clash of personalities: Yajnyawalkya and Shakalya. When these two personalities engage in a formal debate, the apparently pedagogic questions and answers suddenly take a turn for an indignant denunciation of Gargi: a female participant in the debate: and a terrible curse pronounced by Yajnyawalkya upon Shakalya: a fellow participant in the debate. To me, this event seemed to loom like a configuration out of the dark and cast its shadow over those portions of Brihadaranyaka wherever Yajnyawalkya made an appearance. The event had too much of reality in it to be dismissed as a mythical, enigmatic phenomenon.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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