Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Yajnavalkya Mean?

Yajnavalkya is the name of a sage and teacher who was one of the earliest Hindu and yogic philosophers and who later became a wandering ascetic. Some believe he was an incarnation of the Hindu god, Brahma. His teachings are recorded in "Shatapatha Brahmana" and "Brihadaranyaka Upanishad," which dates to about 700 B.C.E.

The "Yajnavalkya Smriti," a text that describes dharma, or religious duty, is sometimes attributed to Yajnavalkya, but since it was written hundreds of years after the Upanishads, it could not have been authored by the sage. Some scholars believe that there were several Hindu teachers by the name of Yajnavalkya, but it is also possible that the Smriti was named in his honor.


Yogapedia Explains Yajnavalkya

Yajnavalkya's teachings represented a new view and a break with the ritualism of Vedic philosophy. According to his doctrine of karma and rebirth, a person's destiny is determined by his past actions, so that someone who lives a righteous life will be blessed in the next life. Likewise, someone who leads an evil life will face suffering in the next life.

Yajnavalkya also described the Atman, or true Self, as different from the individual ego. As a result, the Atman is eternal, is not subject to karma or the cycle of rebirth and is unchanging. The Atman is associated with Brahman, and obtaining moksha (liberation from the rebirth cycle) comes from realization of the oneness of the Atman and Brahman.

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