Chapter 5: Initiation into the Shukla Yajur Veda
Yagnavalkya invokes Gayatri Devi.
Immediately after vomiting the Yajur Veda taught by Vaisampayana, Yagnavalkya proceeded to the banks of the holy Ganges and had a purificatory bath to cleanse himself. He straightway performed Anushtana rituals and first meditated on Sri Maha Vishnu, followed by dyana and japa to Gayatri, the Mother of Vedas, the perennial protector of those who repeat her potent 24 lettered Gayatri Mantra at least 108 times daily with devotion and faith. The objective of Yagnavalkya in invoking the supplication to Goddess Gayatri was to seek help in his quest for a Guru as he had forsaken his guru Vaisampayana. He went into intense tapas in the midst of panchagni and undertook severe penance seeking the blessing of Goddess Gayatri to secure the knowledge of a pure and pristine Yajur Veda.
Gayatri in appreciation of the penance and prayer offered with devotion in her worship by Yagnavalkya appeared before him and gave darshan in her resplendent glory. She came in the form of a benign mother with five faces and ten hand, with Agni, Surya and Chandra constituting the three eyes, with conch, chakra, pasam, kasa, ankusa, kapalam and two lotus flowers in her hands. Yagnavalkya prostrated before the effulgent and omnipotent Gayatri and offered prayer to her.
He said: "Oh, Mother of the world, benign Bhagavathi, I wanted to master all the four Vedas. Because of certain providential circumstances I had to incur the displeasure of my guru Vaisampayana and as demanded by him, gave out the Yajur Veda taught by him. I have no other refuge than you Mother for securing enlightenment and gaining the knowledge of the Yajur Veda. I make obeisance to you, Divine Mother and beseech you to please bless me to learn the Yajur Veda other than what Vaisampayana preaches and not known to anyone. I wish to be taught the chaste and perfect Yajur Veda by a pre-eminent guru".
Gayatri whose abode is the realm of cosmic rays of the Sun " the glowing spark of real knowledge " blessed Yagnavalkya and spoke to him in loving and affectionate words. She said: "Oh, dear child, do not despair or grieve over what has happened. You have had the best training and initiation from Brahaspathi and Veda Vyasa. You had removed the Brahmahathya-dosha of your guru. The path of achievement is strewn with thorny shrubs and prickly plants. Perhaps you are yourself carved out by destiny for greater achievement and you deserve to be given all assistance. I recollect at the time of Mimithika Pralaya, Asura Somaka had stolen from Brahma Deva all the four Vedas, which are extant now. Maha Vishnu later recovered these Vedas. In order to preserve and safeguard a vital part of the Vedas, the first pre-eminent fifteen sakhas of the total 101 sakhas of Yajur Veda were retained in the safe keeping of Surya Bhagavan. These therefore were never been stolen by the Asura. That Veda is known as Shukla Yajus and Ayathama, not taken away by Somaka and no one on the earth, including Vaisampayana even knew the existence of this Yajur Veda. Therefore I bid you to worship the Sun " God and through his grace and benediction learn that rare Veda from him and propagate it throughout the world".
So saying, Mata Gayatri withdrew herself and disappeared from his presence. Yagnavalkya was pleased that his search for a proper guru had satisfactorily been rewarded. As bade by Gayatri, Yagnavalkya resolved to learn from the Sun God, a repository of Vedas the Yajur Veda that was not known to anyone including Vaisampayana. He proceeded to Hatakeswara town, had his ceremonial bath in Viswamitra Hrada, a pond, and supplicated to Diwakara, the Sun god." Yagnavalkya offered solemn worship with one pointed deep meditation and strenuous penance to the Sun God. He composed and rendered songs of praise in the name of Surya Bhagavan. He blended the Gayatri tatparya into the mantra "Om Namo Bhabavathe Adityaya" and offered prayers to Sun God. To develop single-minded concentration, Yagnavalkya trained himself to offer penance under the scorching Sun on rocks with fire lit on all sides. With this background, Yagnavalkya found it easy to offer sincere worship to Sun God. He was frugal in eating, living solely on leaves, fruits and roots. He performed japas and recited the Gayatri mantra concentrating his mind to rest on the Supreme Brahman in the form of Sun. The severe penance continued for several years and at last the Sun God moved by his penance gave darshan to him in human form.
Surya Bhagavan said he was very much pleased with Yagnavalkya's tenacious penance and worship and inquired what he wanted. Yagnavalkya explained to him the nature of his quest and how Gayatri had directed him to Surya Bhagavan. He pleaded with Surya Bhagavan to teach him the first fifteen sakhas of the Yajur Veda. Surya Bhagavan was surprised about his knowledge of the first fifteen sakhas as it was not supposed to be known to human beings and he said under the directions of Sriman Narayanan, he along with the rulers of eight directions, Mahendra, Agni, Yama, Niruti, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera and Esana had to carry out their respective responsibilities continuously without interruption day and night without a stop and therefore he will not be able to remain stationary at any place to teach Yagnavalkya the entire fifteen sakhas of the Yajur Veda which was kept safe with him. He however offered to teach Yagnavalkya provided the latter was able to traverse with him following him all over to learn the Veda. On hearing this Yagnavalkya was a little downcast but Surya Bhagavan was kind and gave him a clue for getting over this problem. He asked Yagnavalkya to open his mouth and Surya Bhagavan introduced in his mouth His tejas in the form of Goddess Saraswathi to make him fit and ready to acquire not only the clear Yajur Veda but also Karma Vidya and Brahma Vidya and all other Vidyas. The entry of Goddess Saraswathi blazed the physical body of Yagnavalkya with unbearable heat as he found it difficult to stand the terrific temperature of warmth coursing through him. Seeing the state of agony, Surya Bhagavan took pity on him and showed him a nearby tank and directed him to take a dip. He also told him that at the bottom of the cool waters Soura Mantra Bijas were established and inlaid in the inner depth of the tank.
Yagnavalkya immediately plunged into the deep waters of the tank and bathed. On emerging out of the cool waters Yagnavalkya felt normal and felt mentally purified and was able to find and retrieve the Soura Suktas. Immediately thereafter he established icons of Aditya on the banks of tank itself and standing before the images Yagnavalkya recited Soura Suktas with a full throated voice. Many Maharishis happened to listen to the recital with rapt attention and praised Yagnavalkya for bringing out the Soura Suktas from the bottom of the pond. It was then under the directions of Surya Bhagavan, he supplicated Goddess Saraswathi by composing a stotra in Her reverential honour. This stotra on Saraswathi has the power to fulfill all desires, so that Yagnavalkya could constantly have the blessings of Goddess Saraswathi and ever remember the Vedas all the times. Surya Bhagavan was immensely pleased with the worship through the recital of Soura Suktas and gave Yagnavalkya further clues as to how he would be able to traverse at the speed of Surya Bhagavan. He revealed to Yagnavalkya that in the midst of the ocean there were certain speedy horses belonging to the His family. These horses were in the custody of Patabhagni. If he could procure few of them and ride along with Surya Bhagavan he could be taught Yajur Veda.
In fact the horses referred to were the off-springs of Surya Bhagavan Himself. Samgra the consort of Surya Bhagavan could not continuously bear the heat of her husband. She therefore made a female figure out of her own shadow, named her Chhaya, and kept that form with Surya Bhagavan in her place and returned to the place of her father. Samgra explained to her father that she was not able to stand up to the torrid heat and dazzling brilliance of her husband and therefore come back to the parents to live with them. On hearing this, her father Dwashada admonished him that it was not proper for ladies of good family to live apart from their husbands and bade her to go back. Samgra did not desire to return to her husband and therefore proceeded to a small island in the midst of the ocean. There she assumed the form of a horse and was happily passing her days. Surya Bhagavan, after some time, came to know through Chhaya, the island where Samgra lived and visited her time to time. By their union they begot a number of sons in the form of horses. Surya Bhagavan kept these horses in the care of Patabhagni. The most brilliant and speedy horses, which, in a way cousins of Ashwini Deva, were left with Patabhagni as pledge.
On hearing this from Surya Bhagavan, Yagnavalkya thanked Surya Bhagavan, took leave of him and went to the ocean where the horses were. In the midst of the ocean he was able to locate Patabhagni and explained the purpose of his visit and told him that he was directed by Surya Bhagavan to procure some of the fastest horses kept with him. Patabhagni immensely pleased to hear the directions of Surya Bhagavan handed over a few of the best horses. Receiving the divine horses, Yagnavalkya took them straight to Surya Bhagavan and offered obeisance to him. Surya Bhagavan was immensely pleased with the return of Yagnavalkya along with the speedy horses. He arranged to have a chariot made to suit the horses, harnessed them to the chariot, directed Yagnavalkya to get into it and instructed him to follow him in his daily rounds. When the Guru Sun-god and Sishya Yagnavalkya were moving round the sky together in rendering the adhyayana of the Yajur Veda, it appeared to the human world as though there were two Suryas orbiting the sky.
It was in this manner Surya Bhagavan imparted to Yagnavalkya the Ayathama Yajur Veda. Yagnavalkya was made fully conversant with all the first fifteen sakhas of the Yajur Veda. The Sun god also revealed to Yagnavalkya several Vedic secrets and mantras, which were not known to the world. In addition Surya Bhagavan instructed him in the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda and all the six Sastras including the Siksha Sastra, Yoga Sastra and Jyotisha Sastra. In fact, Yagnavalkya was the second direct disciple of Surya Bhagavan, after Ambhini, a Deity, who was the first Vedic student. Yagnavalkya acquired complete mastery over the Vedas and Sastras and the related prayogas, procedural modes, direct from Sun God, which were not known previously to anybody including Vaisampayana, his erstwhile guru.
After acquiring knowledge from Surya Bhagavan, Yagnavalkya, in the frame of his mental resignation desired to retire from the worldly life, renounce and embrace sannyasa. But, Surya Bhagavan noticing his bent of mind directed him to train up a line of disciples for propagating the knowledge of the Supreme Brahman, by resuming the life of a house holder and disseminating Brahma Vidya to mankind in this world. Yagnavalkya willingly accepted the advise of Surya Bhagavan prostrated in reverential obeisance and returned back to the earth. He was immensely pleased at the initiation into pure Yajur Veda by Surya Bhagavan Himself and felt that it was his duty and responsibility to carry out his Divine Guru's instructions to settle down as grahastha and propagate the Vedas, Sastras and Vidyas imparted to him for the universal benefit of the mankind. How fortunate is our world to derive the benefits of everlasting truths from Sage Yagnavalkya!