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Updated on November 3, 2014

Author of 10 Vedic Hymns & Maitreyi Upanishad

Sage Maitreyi, daughter of Sage Mitra, was the niece of the great Sage Gargi Vachanavi. When Maitreyi was young, Gargi was her guru. Gargi's descendant, Sage Garga, chistened Krishna and gave him his great and wonderful name. King Janaka of Videha, the father of Mother Sita, sponsored a philosophic congress called Brahmayajna. Gargi asked difficult and challenging questions. None could answer her questions but Sage Yajnavalka. Gargi was the court sage under King Janaka. She was considered, along with Sage Yajanvalka and Sage Maitreyi, to be one of the most prominent sages of the Vedic Age (500-800 BCE).

Gargi taught her niece the Vedas, the Sastras, and the Upanishads. She brought her to yajnas and religious gatherings, including the philosophic congress. Maitreyi became very educated in all the texts with the help of her aunt. She was called a brahmavadini, a woman seer who "had the vision of the Mantras and Vedic truth." This relationship shows the power of an aunt to shape your destiny. Gargi was the one who helped her mold her destiny of being a sage.

When Maitreyi was 18, she wanted to study the Vedic texts under Sage Yajnavalka. Because she was single and a female, the only way she could live with him as a disciple was to become his wife. The sage was already married to Katyayani, the daughter of Maharishi Katyayana. In Vedic times it was legal to have more than one spouse, so Maitreyi approached Katyayani asking permission to live there as his second wife. She explained the situation of wanting the study the Vedic texts with him as a disciple. Gargi had brought her to the sage's ashram. Katayayani approached the sage and both had a long discussion about her proposal. Finally they all agreed, and Maitreyi married him and studied the Vedic texts with him.

Matreyi composed ten hymns in the Vedas and wrote the Maitreyi Upanishad. The essential truth of the text is "chittam eva hi samsarah, tat prayetnena shoadhayet." Samsara is the world of change that we exist in. It is full of grief and joy. It is what the mind is experiencing. She says to end the samsara you need to purify the mind. When you do this, you find the truth within. You do this by "silencing the disturbances of the mind." Basically, you become what the mind is. You are healed when your mind is healed. Truth is found within, not in doing rituals.

Although she focused more on being a sage, scholar and philosopher, she also was involved with household tasks along with Katyayani. Katyayani and Yajnavalka had four sons: Katayayana, Chandrakanta, Mahamedha and Vijaya. All of them became great Vedic scholars.

At the end of Sage Yajnavalka's life, he decided to renounce householder life and enter sannyasa ashrama. This is end of life dedication to the spiritual life away from householder life. The Bridharanayaka Upanishad describes this great story. He met with both wives to divide his property and possessions. Katyayani gladly accepted his plans, but Maitreyi, being a sage, wanted to understand what made him want to renounce his life as a householder. She asked him if having wealth made you immortal. He answered her question by stating that having wealth and riches will only make you rich. It will not make you immortal. He said only the Atman, or soul, is immortal. This is why he renounced householder life. We all have an individual soul, which is part of the Super Soul or Atman. The Super Soul is the Divine, God or Goddess. He explained that the Atman is all there is. In the end she and Sage Yajnavalka decided to travel from town to town discussing the importance of the Atman. Katyayani stayed in the house and obtained all his wealth, but Maitreyi obtained the true wealth of understanding the Atman. It was later in her life that she wrote the Maitreyi Upanishad.

All this is high philosophy. When you die you only take your soul with you--nothing else. You can not take your wife, husband, brother, sister, girlfriend, boyfriend, wealth or cell phone with you when you die. They won't give you liberation or salvation. Only doing good and right actions can bring you liberation. Jumping into the River Ganga can't give you liberation by itself. You must have a good heart and do just actions. Rituals, in and of themselves, can not bring salvation. These types of actions can bring you liberation: helping the poor, treating nature with respect, living a just and ethical life, promoting human rights and other good actions. If you accumulate wealth and do not do good with it, this is greed. It is okay to have a comfortable life, but if you have millions you should not be just accumulating it. You need to do good in the world with the wealth you have been given by Goddess. She gives you wealth. Greed leads to bad karma. In the Bible there is a great saying, "The love of money leads to many evils." How you treat others and creation is the highest form of yajna (sacrifice). This truth is found within.

In the 15th Chapter of the Gita, Krishna spoke eloquently of the Vedas. He said, "I reside in every heart. From Me alone come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. I am to be known by the all the Vedas. I am the author of the Vedanta and I alone know the Vedas. All these great sages: Yajnavalka, Maitreyi and Gargi expounded upon the truth found in the Vedas, but the true source of the Vedas is Divine.




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    • radhapriestess profile image

      radhapriestess 2 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks for reading. I do blogs on the divine feminine, female leaders and saints, social concerns of women and girls, health, ecology and comparative religion. She is a very interesting personality. I was fortunate to be able to present her character in theatrical presentation.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 2 years ago

      very informative hub! I knew about sage Maitreyi but wasn't aware of her life history.