By Swami Harshananda
The Brhadāranyaka Upanisad (2.4 and 4.5) has immortalised Maitreyi by depicting her as a woman of high spiritual aspirations who cared more for mokṣa or emancipation than for 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, not only about his leaving the house as a recluse but also about the dividing of his property between them. Though Kātyāyanī was happy with getting her share of the property, Maitreyi was more interested in that for the sake of 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, rejecting the other offer of worldly wealth and possessions.
Then follows a long discourse by Yājñavalkya on the existence and attain¬ment of the ātman, for whose sake only, people love one another. These two sections of the Upaniṣad— 2.4 and 4.5—are known as Maitreyi Brāhmana.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore