King Janak and Rishi Yajnavalkya were both very illustrious and learned sages, and were the best of friends too. Both loved a discussion or debate on subjects related to Truth and Self. Neither would let an opportunity go to engage in such discussions. Janak was especially fond of Yajnavalkya and was always badgering him with questions of the Self. And Yajnavalkya would accept no gift from the King without satisfying fully Janak’s thirst for knowledge.
King Janak was a master of the Vaisvanara Vidya, the Secret Knowledge of the universal, all-pervading Self. Once a discussion happened between Janak and Yajnavalkya on this subject. There were several other bright students and disputants in that discussion and several intricate questions were thrown at Janak. Janak promptly and authoritatively responded to all the queries, and this pleased Yanjnavalkya immensely. As was the custom with such noble sages, Yajnavalkya offered a boon to Janak — “Ask for whatever you wish, O Friend!”
Janak immediately said, “May I have the privilege of asking you any question, anytime and anywhere!”
The boon was happily granted.
So it happened that the two met after some time, on another occasion. Yajnavalkya was radiant and concentrated in consciousness and decided he would not speak much, only listen to Janak. But Janak was his usual eager and questioning self. He certainly did not wish to miss even one opportunity — and especially now, when Yajnavalkya seemed to be radiating wisdom. So Janak called upon his boon to break the Sage’s silence.
“O revered Sage,” he began, “I wish to know what is the Light that illumines a being, that awakens him and makes him do all that he does?”
Yajnavalkya replied: “The Sun, O King! The Sun is the source of Light and it is for this that a man does all that he does — his actions, his works, his rest and return.”
“True,” said Janak, “but what if the Sun has set?”
“The Moon.” replied Yajnavalkya, “When the Sun has set, it is the Moon that is the source of Light!”
“And what when the Sun and the Moon both are not there?” asked Janak, “what illumines and guides man then?”
Yajnavalkya replied, “When the sun has set and the moon is absent, Fire is our light, for by that Fire we sit, we work, we go out and come back.”
“I understand, O Sage,” said Janak then, “but when the Fire too is not there?”
Yajnavalkya paused for a brief moment and said, “Then it is Speech, O Janak, that becomes the illumination. Though we cannot see our own hand in the dark, but the sound of our speech can guide us to the hand.”
Janak was deeply satisfied and was absorbing. Another question then arose in him: “O revered Sage, when there is no Sun, no Moon, no Fire and no Speech — then what illumines? What is the Light?”
Yajnavalkya paused again and slowly spoke: “O King, it is the Self then that is the Light. It is by the Light of the Self that we see, we move, we work, we go out and we come back.”
Janak became peaceful and contemplative. He understood then that the Self is the Light of all lights, the supreme illumination. Yajnavalkya continued to reveal layer upon layer of the Knowledge of Self:
The Self is pure awareness that shines as the Light within the heart..
It is this Self that is one with Brahman, the One Reality..
This Self is free from desire, from evil and from fear..
The one who has realized this Self and is in union with it, sees without seeing, smells without smelling, tastes without tasting, speaks without speaking, hears without hearing, touches without touching, thinks without thinking, knows without knowing, for there are no divisions and separations in him.
This state of oneness without separation and division is the state of non-duality, the realm of Brahman. This indeed is the supreme goal of all existence, the supreme attainment and the highest delight!
From Brihadaranyaka Upanishad