By Swami Harshananda
The Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad has immortalized Maitreyi by depicting her as a woman of high spiritual aspirations who cared more for mokṣa or emancipation than for the worldly wealth. She was the first wife of the great sage Yājñavalkya, the second being Kātyāyanī.
When Yājñavalkya decided to renounce worldly life and take to the monastic life, he called both of them and announced his decision of not only about his leaving the house as a recluse but also about the dividing his property between them. Though Kātyāyanī was happy with getting her share of the property, Maitreyi was more interested in the sake due to which her husband was renouncing the world. On hearing that he was doing so for attaining mokṣa or liberation from transmigratory existence, she begged him to teach the same to her also. She rejected the other offer of worldly wealth and possessions.
Then follows a long discourse by Yājñavalkya on the existence and attainment of the ātman for whose sake people love one another. These two sections of the Upaniṣad are known as Maitreyi Brāhmana.
- Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad 2.4 and 4.5
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore