Raja Janaka of Videha was seated on the throne. Rishi Yajnavalkya approached him. The King asked, “O, great sage, what brings you here? Are you in need of cattle or have you come here to participate in the profound discussions on Truth?”
Sage Yajnavalkya had an ashram with many disciples where his two wives Maitreyi and Katyayani were also learning. Hence Jnana (Knowledge) without Artha (Assets) would not be of much help in maintenance of Ashram.
“Indeed both, your majesty”, Rishi Yajnavalkya said and stayed in the kingdom with many more Brahmajnanis debating and discussing on various subjects pertaining to Eternal Truth.
Once Raja Janaka wanted to receive Brahma Vidya (Knowledge of Self) from a Brahmanishtha (one absorbed in Self), “Whosoever is the best amongst you may drive these thousand cows home & illuminate me on Brahman”, he declared. None dared to get up and take away the cows as they were afraid of censure by the others. Rishi Yajnavalkya stood up and asked his disciple Samsravas to drive the cows’ home.
The others present there got irritated at this and questioned, “How can he decide himself to be the best among us?” Thereupon several Rishis challenged Yajnavalkya with many questions on transcendental matters to which Yajnavalkya answered perfect. Thereby Rishi Yajnavalkya increased his assets (In the pastoral society assets were largely measured by the count of cattle) on every opportunity available.
As the time to enter the third ashram of his life, Rishi Yajnavalkya told Maitreyi that he wishes to go on Vanaprastasrama (retirement to forest). He told her he wants to divide his assets between his two wives Katyayani and Maitreyi. He assures her she can live a comfortable life with his material assets (cattle and ashram) but yet he confesses that he cannot assure her Eternal Happiness. The asset of Knowledge that is the other portion will aid in achieving Bliss. Amazingly that asset increases by giving; hence the asset of knowledge is supreme of all possessions.
Maitreyi question him of what use is the material assets which does not give Eternal Happiness. She gives away all the material assets to Katyayani, her husband’s other wife and wants her husband to share his knowledge with her.
Yajnavalkya imparts her knowledge of true nature of the Self, the Universe and Brahman. He tells her that Self is pure subject, the knower, which cannot be described through any form of known means of communication. Then he goes on to explain the relationship between the husband and wife, how the “Love” between husband and wife is due to the love between the two subtle bodies and not the physical bodies. Maitreyi could benefit from the asset of knowledge she chose.
1,200 years of slavery has made us consider only material property to be asset. The 1000 years of Muslim invaders ruling our land robbed of our aesthetic wonders and caused huge physical damage to both our architectural assets as well as citizenry asset. The next 200 years of rule by East India Company did even much more damage than the Muslim rulers they robbed of our intellection, our ability to use higher level of cognition. We were robbed of our thinking process and are now left with looking at our life from the western perception….very unfortunate!!!