ha vai Vājaśravasaḥ sarva-vedasaṁ
tasya ha Naciketā nāma putra āsa. (1)
uśan = being desirous
ha and vai = 'once
upon a time' or 'the story goes'
Vājaśrava = he whose is famous, (srava = heard of,
dadau = gave away ;
sarva-vedasam = all (his) wealth;
tasya = of him;
āsa = there was ; like this
naciketā nāma= by the name of Naciketa
= a son
of desire, so goes the story, the son of Vajasrava gave away all
his wealth. He had a son named Nachiketas.
“Once upon a time, desiring
rewards, Vajasravasah performed a sacrifice as prescribed by the
scriptures wherein one has to give away everything. He had a son
by the name Nachiketas."
Dsirous of future fruition, Bajushrubusu performed the sacrifice Vishwujit, at which he
distributed all his property. He had a son named Nuchiketa
desiring rewards, performed the Viśvajit sacrifice, in which
he gave away all his property. He had a son named Nachiketā.
"The author attempts to
distinguish between Vājaśravasa, the protagonist of an
external ceremonialism, and Naciketas, the seeker of spiritual
wisdom. Vājaśravasa represents orthodox religion and is
devoted to its outer forms. He performs the sacrifice and makes
gifts which are unworthy. The formalism and the hypocrisy of the
father hurt the son."
= One who has fame for giving of food. Vāja = food. śrava
= glory, fame. Vājaśrava is the father of Vājaśravasah.
(Dr. Radha Krishnan)
NACIKETAS = (Na + Cit = No +
Knowledge) = Idiot
Vajasravasah: Uddala Aruni
Aruni or Uddalaka or Uddalaka
Aruni was a
philosopher whose teachings are recorded in the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad and Chandogya Upanishad. He was of the lineage of
Gowthama. He taught
that everything in the universe (including all living things) is
made of three elements: heat (or light), water, and food (or
plants), and furthermore that all of these were manifestations of
the universal Self or Ātman.
Aruni hailed from the country of Panchala and was known as
Aruni of Panchala. His
son was Svetaketu.
Aruni was one among the
disciples of sage Ayodha Dhaumya, along with Upamanyu and 'Veda' (Mbh
1.3). As per Mahabharata (MBh 1.3), on one rainy night Aruni's
preceptor Dhaumya Muni asked him to supervise water flowing
through a certain field. Aruni went there and found that water had
breached the field and was moving away from its designated path.
Aruni tried to stop water by all means but was unsuccessful. Left
with no other way, Aruni lay down on the breach and prevented the
water flow using his body. Due to this Aruni did not return to the
hermitage in the night. Later in the morning, Dhaumya Muni came to
the spot in search of Aruni with other disciples. Upon seeing the
dedication and sincerity of Aruni, Dhaumya was very pleased upon
Aruni and gave him the title Uddalaka. Later Aruni became very
famous under the name Uddalaka Aruni.
Several other scriptures have
references to the sage Uddalaka Aruni.
In the Katha Upanishad,
Uddalaka Aruni has been portrayed as a very learned sage who had
performed numerous yajnas and sacrifices. Uddalaka Aruni was also
called Vajashravas because he organized innumerable community
feeding programs. Vajashravas had one negative quality as he had
no control over his anger and flew into uncontrollable rage at
trifles. His wife was Vishwavaradevi. The son of Vajashravas was
the great young seeker Nachiketa. In a heat of rage Vajashravas
had given Nachiketa to Yama, the death.
Many Mahavakyas are ascribed
to sage Uddalaka Aruni. Among those,
"That is in
"Tat Tvam Asi" is central to Chāndogya Upanishad, which is a part of the
Sama Veda. This great utterance is repeated nine times in this
Upanishad as the ultimate Truth, which reveals itself as the
conclusion of each inner experiment. In that context The teacher
is Uddalaka and the student is Svetaketu, his son.
It appears at the end of a section, and is repeated at the
end of the subsequent sections as a refrain. The meaning of this
saying is that the Self - in its original, pure, primordial state
- is wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the
Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena.
Major Vedantic schools offer
different interpretations of the phrase:
- absolute equality of 'tat', the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, and 'tvam',
the Self, Atman. However
the nine examples that are
given by Uddalaka to Shvetaketu speak of the differences and
dependency and definitely permit the interpretation of identity in
- oneness in "essence" between 'tat' and individual
self; but 'tat' is the whole and self is a part.
- identity of individual self as a part of the whole which is
- equal non-difference and difference between the individual self
as a part of the whole which is 'tat'.
of Madhvacharya - “Sa atmaa-tat tvam asi” in Sanskrit is actually “Sa atma-atat tvam asi” or “Atman, thou art not that”. In refutation of Mayavada (Mayavada
sata dushani), text 6, 'tat tvam asi" is translated as
"you are a servant of the Supreme"
Bheda Abheda - inconceivable oneness and difference between
individual self as a part of the whole which is 'tat'.
If these relations are
reliable Rishi vAjashravasaH, is also known as Uddalaka, and is
the great teacher of Shvetaketu in the Chandogya Shasta DhyayaH
Upanishad.. Then he had two sons - Shvetaketu and Naciketas. Chandogya Upanishad deals with
Uddalaka and his son Shvetakertu; Katha deals with Uddalaka an his
H.C. Raychaudhuri (1972), Political
History of Ancient India,
Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.41–52 and Ben-Ami Scharfstein (1998), A
comparative history of world philosophy: from the Upanishads to
Kant, Albany: State University of New York Press, pp.56-62. estimates
Aruni's date as approximately the 7th or 8th century BC.
However the Classical Sanskrit in which these upanishads
are currently available could not have been possible earlier than
150 AD. If the teaching existed orally in the 7th century BC it
would have to be in a different language probably in Vedic
Sanskrit viz .Persian Avestan.
It would be safe to assume the first
writing down of the Upansihad to sometime after the second
century. During the course of history it has undergone several
redactions as any discerning student could understand from a
casual look at the contents in the series of Valli in the progress
of the book. In that process most of the major portions were either
deleted or lost. What
we have today is just the outline of the teaching, yet profoundly
indicates the significance of the subject area.
When I took the study of the Upanishad, I
had no idea of what to expect until I saw the intense parallel of
the treatment with the recent Christian presentation of the
subject as "The Four Spiritual Laws" which are widely in
then is my reconstruction of the Upanishadic teaching based on
that assumption. It
again consolidates the historical fact of the presence of
Christianity all over India, both North and South by that time and
to the Ministry of St.Thomas the Apostle.
Yagna or Quorban
means sacrifice, which in the South Indian and Eastern Churches is
known as Quorban. In the Chrisitain thought of the early period,
the Quorban was the means of creation.
God gave himself or sacrificed himself to create the
Cosmos. If God was all that was, there is nothing outside of Him and
so if he has to create anything he has to create a space where He
relinquishes his total power and give freedom.
This was the greatest sacrifice of God:
He gave ups his body and He gave up his authorithy and
power to create beings with freedom of will.
That is how God created Sons of God in His own image.
"In the beginning God created."
Creation is the physical manifestation of yajna (quorban).
Even today creation of a family implies sacrifice on the part of
the husband and wife. Yet
there is joy in the creation. The whole universal principle of
sowing reaping are implied in the yajna.
elements of yajna
6:7-8 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man
sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own
flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows
to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
contains three significant elements:
Praise and Worship as an act of gratitude,
Communion with fellow beings in all dimensions of existence
Sacrifice, daan or giving as a way of life.
Indian ritualistic traditions yajna is considered as a science of
sowing and reaping -give to receive - to obtain a desired
objective through the sacrifice.
Since in the Hindu tradition there are several gods each
with their own circle of authority, these gods as invoked and
given the seed sacrifice for the fulfilment of specific desires.
These form the sakama yajna.
the god of nourishment is invoked in order to gain power, wealth
is propitiated to beget worthy offspring.
Sun god replenishes cosmic energy.
Aditi brings delicious food and heavenly bliss.
Earth is propitiated to provide nourishment to all living beings.
eventually led to the worship of idols in all the various forms.
means universe and jit means victory.
Hence this yagna was for the purpose of being victorious
over the universe. Since
it involves the universe, the total yaga was needed.
The fruit corresponds to the seed.
He desired to go to heaven.
"What shall I do to get salvation, go to heaven?"
"How am I going to conquer the universe?" The
verse clearly indicates that he knew the Scriptures and all its
laws and in accordance with the scripture, he decided to do a
yagnam in which he has to give away all that he has.
This sacrifice is known also as Visvajit sacrifice, in
which he gave away all his property.The name of the sacrifice as
Viswajit is not clearly stated in the verse.
It is an assumption of the commentators.
At any rate it was for some gain.
This sacrifice is performed
as a kamya karma, (action for desired result) trying to go for
results. He doesn't do it properly according to some interpreters
and according to others he is so poor that all he had was not
The vedas say the sakara
karma must be performed perfectly. NishkAma can give results even
when performed defficiently, sakama Karma must be performed
properly with proper angas to get the results desired. Nachiketa
means "one who
does not know". Thus
Nachiketa stands for a spiritual seeker.
He goes beyond the rituals and externals into the heart of
the religious performance.So, Nachiketas means one who does not
know but one who is intelligent.
If on the other hand if we
assume Johnston's interpretation, the ParaBrahman desiring to
regain contact with the scattered individual souls of man who lost
their contact with the Parabrahman as the individual soul took
control of the reign of the heart over the indwelling Holy Spirit
the Atman, (as distinct from Jivatma) sends His only begotten Son
into the world with the simple technique of Naciketa Fire to
reclaim the Universe. Then
that indeed was the Viswajit
Yagna. Prabrahma sacrifices himself to regain his own.
taṁ ha kumāraṁ
śraddhā-viveśa, so’manyata. (2)
= into him, into Naciketā;
kumāraṃ santam = while still a
śraddhā = faith (in the verity of the
āviveśa = entered;
= when gifts
were being brought in accordance with the regulations,
saḥ = he, (Naciketā);
amanyata = thought.
the presents were being given in accordance with the regulations
of the sacrifice, faith entered into the heart of Nakiketas, who
was still a boy, and he thought:
has the meaning concentrated attention. Shraaddha is a Sanskrit
word which literally means anything or any act that is performed
with all concentration. Some give it the meaning: sincerity and
faith . In the Hindu
religion, Sraddha is the ritual that one performs to pay homage to
one’s 'ancestors' (Pitṛs), especially to one’s dead parents. Conceptually,
it is a way for people to express heartfelt gratitude and thanks
towards their parents and ancestors, for having helped them to be
what they are and praying for their peace. It also can be thought
of as a "day of remembrance."
commentators interpret it simply as faith.
In this case Naciketa was thinking about the welfare of his
father during the sacrifice as is evident from his thought
mentioned in the next stanza. His concern was for the welfare of
his father and he watched the procedures with concentrated
anandā nāma te lokās tān sa gacchata tā
pītam = drunk;
dakam = water,
jagdham = eaten; tṛṇam = grass,
dugdhah = milked; dohaḥ
nirindriyāḥ = without senses; those that are devoid of
the power of their organs, incapable of
dadat = giving ;
tāḥ = those,
gacchati = goes;
tān = to those (worlds);
anandā = unhappy.
surely, are the worlds to which a man goes by giving (as his
promised present at a sacrifice) cows which have drunk water,
eaten hay, given their milk, and are barren.'
He said to himself: sorrowful,
surely, are the worlds to which my father goes who gives away cows
that are worthless which are no longer able to drink, to eat, to
give milk, or to calve.
have drunk water, they have eaten grass, they have been milked of
their milk, they are without strength. Joyless, verily, are those
worlds; to them he goes, giving these.
Water has been drunk (for the last time by
these cows), grass has been eaten (for the last time); they have
yielded all their milk, and are devoid of (the power of) the
organs. Those worlds are indeed joyless where he goes who offers
there was something wrong with the intentions of the sacrificer,
since he is giving away worthless possessions.
He cannot certainly take care of the Universe if he gain
Viswajit - the Kingdom. Not
only that with such offering as these defective cows, Naciketa
realized that his father will not only will not achieve his
viswajit aim, but will condemn himself to the unhappy world of
pain and sorrow.
Johnston of the Theosophical
Society looks upon this in a totally different way.
He proposes that this is the story of the Father in Heaven
who discovered that all what he had hoped for from his creation
has gone bad and wants to restore it by sending His own Son to die
and building the bridge back.
sa hovāca pitaram, tāta kasmai māṁ
tvā dadāmīti. (4)
uvāca ha = said;
pitaram = to the
kasmai = to whom
mām dāsyasi = will you offer me
uvāca = he spoke
uvāca ha tam == said to him,
= to Death,
dadāmi = I give away;
tvā = you,
iti = thus.
(knowing that his father had promised to give up all that he
possessed, and therefore his son also) said to his father: 'Dear
father, to whom wilt thou give me?'
said it a second and a third time. Then the father replied
(angrily): 'I shall give thee unto Death.'
Naciketā being the
property of his father, even though he is the loved one, he also
should be given away if the Viswajit is to be perfect.
Hence he asks this question.
Apparently Vājaśravasaḥ did not wanted to do this. Hence the hesistation and the angry giving.
"go to hell"
Most commentators interpret
this three repetition to imply the three dimensions of existence:
Body, Soul and Spirit. The
name Yama is not clearly stated in this verse, indicating it was
an angry outburst and not a considered reply.
" The boy earnestly wishes to make himself an offering and
thus purify his father's sacrifice. He does not discard the old
tradition but attempts to quicken it. There can be no quickening
of the spirit until the body die."
Cp. St Paul 'Thou fool, that
which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.'
mṛtyave: unto Death Mṛtyu or Yama is the lord of
death. When Vājaśravasa gives away all his goods,
Naciketas feels that this involves the giving away of the son also
and so wishes to know about himself. When the father replies that
he will give him to Yama, it may mean that, as a true saṁnyāsin, personal
relations and claims have henceforward no meaning for him.
Naciketas takes his father's words literally He in the course of
his teaching points out that the psychophysical vehicles animated
by the spirit are detennmed by the law of karma and subject to
death. He who knows himself as the spirit, and not as the
psychophysical vehicle is free and unmortal. "
Yama, the god of Death
is the god of death, belonging to an early stratum of Vedic
mythology. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean
In the Zend-Avesta he is
According to the Vishnu
Purana, Yama is the son of the sungod Surya and of Sanjna, the
daughter of Visvakarman, sometimes called "Usha" the
dawn. He is the brother of the current Manu Vaivasvatha and of his
older sister Yami, According to Harivamsa Purana her name is
Daya.(Mercy) implying that death was brought in to existence
because of the mercy of God.
Only the Buddhist influence represented it as wrath of God.
Hindu Mythology, Vedic and
Puranic by W.J.
Wilkins  CHAPTER X. gives the following details of the
Indian concept of Yama.
"Yama, the judge of men
and king of the unseen world, was the son of Vivasvat (the sun)
and Saranya, the daughter of Tvastri. He was born before his
mother had become afraid of her glorious husband. He was
twin-brother of Yami, and, in the opinion of Professor Roth, they
were regarded as the primeval pair from whom the human family has
another verse of the Rig-Veda they are described as the
offspring of the heavenly choristers, the Gandharvas. As there
were no others to perpetuate the race, Yami entreated Yama to
become her husband. She urged the fact that Tvastri had formed
them as man and wife in the womb; and therefore it was useless for
him to refuse her request, as none can act contrary to the
ordinances of Tvastri. But Yama was firm, and resisted her
overtures on the ground that it was monstrous for those who are
preachers of righteousness to act unrighteously. .....
"Yama was the first
of mortals who died, and, having discovered the way to the
other world, is the guide of those who depart this life, and is
said to conduct them to a home which is made secure for them for
ever. He is a king, and dwells in celestial light in the innermost
sanctuary of heaven. He grants bright homes to the pious who dwell
"In the Rig-Veda, Yama
is nowhere represented (as he is in the later mythology) as having
anything to do with the punishment of the wicked. Nevertheless he
is still to some an object of terror. He is said to have two
insatiable dogs, with four eyes and wide nostrils, which guard the
road to his abode, and which the departed are advised to hurry
past with all possible speed. These dogs are said to wander about
among men as messengers, no doubt for the purpose of summoning
them to the presence of their master, who in another place is
identified with; death, and is described as sending a bird as the
herald of doom."
"When the remains of the
deceased have been placed upon the funeral pile, and the process
of cremation has commenced, Agni, the god of Fire, is prayed not
to scorch or consume the departed, not to tear asunder his skin or
his limbs, but, after the flames have done their work, to convey
to the fathers the mortal who has been presented to him as an
offering. Leaving behind on earth all that is evil and imperfect,
and proceeding by the paths which the fathers trod, invested with
a lustre like that of the gods, it soars to the realms of eternal
light in a car, or on wings, and recovers there its ancient body
in a complete and glorified form; meets with the forefathers who
are living in festivity with Yama; obtains from him, when
recognized by him as one of his own, a delectable abode, and
enters upon more perfect life, which is crowned with the
fulfilment of all desires, is passed in the presence of the gods,
and employed in the fulfilment of their pleasure."
"In this kingdom, over
which Yama reigns, friends meet with their departed friends—husband with wife, children
with parents—and together live in a state
of blessedness, free from the evils and infirmities that belong to
the present life. As the gods are described as enjoying the
pleasures common to men on earth, the kingdom of Yama, the abode
of the departed, is not at all less sensual than the present
world; and when mortals have been privileged to enter this happy
land, they become objects of veneration to their descendants still
living, and joyfully partake of the oblations they offer to them.
In the following lines Dr.
Muir * has given an epitome of the teaching of the Vedas
"To great King Yama
homage pay, Who was the first of men that died,
That crossed the mighty gulf
and spied For mortals out the heavenward way.
"By it our fathers all
have passed; And that same path we too shall trace,
every new succeeding race, Of mortal men, while time shall last.
"The god assembles round
his throne A growing throng, the good and wise
those whom, scanned with searching eyes, He recognizes as his own.
"Departed mortal, speed
from earth By those old ways thy sires have trod;
behold the expectant god Who
calls thee to a higher birth.
"And calmly pass without
alarm The four-eyed hounds that guard the road
leads to Yama's bright abode; Their master's friends they dare not
"All imperfections leave
behind: Assume thine ancient frame once more—
limb and sense thou hadst before, From every earthly taint
"And now with heavenly
glory bright, With life intenser, nobler, blest,
large capacity to taste A
fuller measure of delight,
"Thou there once more
each well-known face Shalt
see of those thou lovedst here;
Thy parents, wife, and
children dear, With rapture shalt thou soon embrace
"The father, too, shalt thou behold, The heroes who in battle
saints and sages glorified, The pious, bounteous kings of old.
"The gods whom here in
humble wise Thou worshippedst with doubt and awe,
there the impervious veil withdraw Which hid their glory from
"The good which thou on
earth hast wrought. Each sacrifice, each pious deed,
there receive its ample meed; No worthy act shall be forgot.
"In those fair realms of
cloudless day, Where Yama every joy supplies,
every longing satisfies, Thy bliss shall never know decay."
In the Purānas Yama is called the judge of men, and is said to
rule over the many hells in which the wicked are made to suffer.
Thus the "Padma Purāna" says: "Yama fulfils
the office of judge of the dead, as well as sovereign of the
damned; all that die appearing before him, and being confronted
with Chitragupta the recorder, by whom their actions have been
registered. The virtuous are then conveyed to Swarga (Indra's
heaven), whilst the wicked are driven to the different regions of
the "Vishnu Purāna" the names of the different
hells are given, and it is there stated that " there are many
other fearful hells which are the awful provinces of Yama,
terrible with instruments of torture and fire." In the same
Purāna it is
said that all men at the end of their existence (life) become
slaves to the power of Yama, by whom they are sentenced to painful
punishments." Inquiry is then made as to how men can be free
from his authority. The answer is that "Yama is the lord of
all men, excepting the worshippers of Madhusūdan (Vishnu).
Worship him in one of his many forms, and Yama can exert no
authority over you."
Amongst the many names by
which Yama is known, the following are the most common:—
Dharmarāja, "King of righteousness."
Pitripati, "Lord of the
Samavurti, "He who
Samana, "The leveller."
Dandadhara, "He who
carries the rod."
god of funeral ceremonies."
Vaivasvata, "The son of
Antaka, "He who puts an
end to life."
In art, Yama is depicted with
blue skin and red clothes and rides a water buffalo. He holds a
loop of rope in his left hand with which he pulls the soul from
the corpse. His Greek counterpart is Hades and Thanatos. His
Egyptian counterpart is Osiris.
Perhaps other than Indra, no
other Vedic character has undergone so large a transformation by
the time of the Puranas. In the Rig Veda, he is the son of Saranyu
(daughter of Tvashta, the artisan God) and Vivasvant (associated
with the sun).
Depart by the former paths by
which our forefathers have departed. There shall you behold the
two monarchs Yama and Varuna rejoicing in the Svadha."
"Be united with the
forefathers, with Yama, and with the fulfillment of your wishes in
the highest heaven. Discarding iniquity, return to your abode, and
unite yourself to a luminous body." (RV: 10.14.8)
Rigveda 10.13.4 states,‘ for the benefit of the
mankind who refused immortality and embraced death? In the Yajna
of Bruhaspati, Yama sacrificed his beloved body.’
He entered into another dimension and created a new world of joy.
In the epic Indian poetry of
the Mahabharata the heaven of Yama is described as:
“Being neither too hot nor too
cold. Where life is without sorrow, where age does not bring
frailty, tiredness or bad feelings. Where there is no hunger or
thirst, where everything that one would seek is found there. Where
the fruits are delicious, the flowers fragrant, the waters
refreshing and comforting; where beautiful maidens dance to the
tunes of celestial musicians, and where laughter blends with the
strains of heavenly music."
Thus the heaven was created
by Yama by sacrificing
his own body.
"The Pavilion of Yama
was fashioned by the divine carpenter Tvashtri, it shines like
burnished gold with a radiance equal to the sun. Here the
attendants of the Lord of Dharma measure out the allotted days of
mortals. Great sages (rishis) and ancestors wait upon and adore
Yama, who is the ‘King
of the Fathers’
(pitris). Sanctified by holiness, their shining bodies are clothed
in swan-white garments, and adorned with jeweled bracelets, golden
earrings, exquisite flower garlands and alluring perfumes, which
make that building eternally pleasant and supremely blessed. Here
hundreds of thousands of saintly beings worship Yama, the
illustrious King of the Pitris.”
By the time of the Puranas,
Yama is said to be the son of Surya and Sangya (who is the
daughter of Vishwakarma), and is the brother of the planet Shani.
He is one of the eight guardians of directions, responsible for
south. He is the lord of the dead, and all mortals go to his court
to be judged. His scribe Chitragupta, keeps a record of all the
deeds of men. Yama sentences the soul to either heaven or hell
based on the balance of Karma. In his role as the judge, Yama is
also referred to as Dharmaraja, the lord of justice. His knowledge
of the scriptures is immense and and he is the ultimate arbiter of
truth and falsehood.
where Ra is the Sun, while Amen-Ra, the hidden Sun, the sun after
sun-set, is the Lord of the realm of Death.
So also Osiris, the great
sacrificial victim, is
Lord of the
Death and Judge of
the dead, and is, at the same time, Lord of the hidden wisdom, Lord of Initiation.
He resides in Yamapuri and is
a staunch devotee of Vishnu. His servants are called Kinkaras, who
perform the duty of bringing the mortal soul to judgment. He rides
a buffalo and is himself dark in color. He carries a noose in his
hand, the Yama Paasa, with which he sunders the soul from its
interpretation of Christian Symbolism in Katha continues:
is one point of
to be considered in
the passage translated: namely,
the sacrifice of cattle,
the sacrifice of
the symbol in
to the Hebrews, and
the law having a shadow
of good things
to come, and not the
very image of those
then would they not have ceased to be
For it is
not possible that
and of goats should
when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering
thou wouldest not,
but a body hast thou prepared me: in
burnt offerings and sacrifices
had no pleasure. .
. Then said
he, Lo, I come
to do thy will, 0
God. He taketh
a~ay the first, that he may establish
By the which
offering of the body of Jesus Christ once
for all . "
we have exactly the
same sequence as in the
Upanishad: first the sacrifice
the sacrifice of
may find the
clue in the Upanishad itself, in the verse which
may be translated
have called the
horses, and the
objects of these powers
the pastures, or the roadways."
are the bodily
they act, are
graze, or the roads
on which the horses
cattle symbolically represents a
the natural senses and powers,
holding them back from objects of
of self, without
subjection of the heart to the divine law, expressed in the words:
"I come to do thy·
will." For the
motive of this asceticism may
well be spiritual
be gained for
oneself; an ambition full
of vanity and
Therefore there is
perfect and effectual
the divine Will,
of the human
heart to the supreme Heart, the sacrifice of the Son to the
gain only joyless
not possible that
of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Sin lies in
the will, and can be taken
the absolute offering up
of all the wills of self."
bahῡnām emi prathamaḥ,
bahῡnām emi madhyamaḥ;
svid yamasya kartavyam yan mayādya kariṣyati. (5)
bahūnām = among
emi = I;
= as first,
emi = middling one;
Kim svit = what;
kartavyam = duty or purpose;
yamasya = of Death-can there be;
adya = today;
= will achieve;
mayā = through me?
Nachiketas thought: “What
is the business of Yama that is being
achieved through me? Why should I go to him? I
may be the first among many or may be the middle one. What is the
purpose of my being
offered to Yama?”
youth then said to himself,
“In the discharge of
my duties as a son,
I hold a foremost place among many sons or pupils of the first
class, and I am not inferior to any of the sons or pupils of the
second class: whether my father had a previous engagement with
Yumu, which he will now perform by surrendering me to
him, or made use of such an expression through anger, I know not.”
Of many, I go the first; of many, I go the midmost. What is this
to be done of Yama, which through me he will today accomplish?
anupaśya yathā pῡrve pratipaśya
sasyam iva martyaḥ pacyate sasyam ivajāyate punaḥ.
paśya = consider;
yathā = how;
pūrve = forebears, etc.
Tathā = in the same way;
apare = others
prati-paśya = again consider;
martyah = humans;
sasyam iva = like the vegetation,
pacyate = decays and
punaḥ = again;
sasyam iva jāyate = vegetation reappears (is born) again.
those who have gone before; and consider those who came later. As
it was with those, so it is with these. Like the vegetation man
decays and dies; and like the vegetation he is born again.
Śankara says "Thus
addressed, the father sent his son to Yama in order to keep his
The Upanishad does not
mention what happened to Nachiketas
or his father after this conversation. The Taittiriya
Brahmana says that the boy went to the hall of Yama.
There is only one way to get the hall of Yama.
That is by the gates of death.
How did Nachiketa die?
Was he sacrificed by his father?
Did he commit suicide?
These are open questions that are not answered.
Probably it is only a Katha - a story to hang the
However in many sacrifices
narabali (Human Sacrifice) or Purushamedha was part of the
owner of the flock was, of course, the nearest and the most
precious to himself, and his children, the next after him, and
accordingly would be deemed the most appropriate to be offered as
a sacrifice; though generaly speaking, the main object of woship,
in early times, having been the temporal good of the worshipper,
it was by means convenient for him to offer himself as a sacrifice
for it. Children
particularly when there happened to be several in the family,
could be more readily spared, and they would accordingly more
frequently given up for the purpose."
'"The following summary
of the conclusions which may be fairly drawn from the facts cited
That the Sunahsepha hymns of te Rik Sanhita most probably
refer to human sacrifice.
That Aiterya Brahman refers to an actual and not a typical
That the Purushamedha originally required the actual
sacrifice of men.
That the Satapatha Brahmana sanctions human sacrifice in
some cases, but makes the Purushamedha emblematic
That the Taittiriya Brahmana enjoins the sacrifice of a man
at the Horse sacrifice.
That the Puranas recognize human sacrifice ...
That the Tantras enjoin human sacrifice...."
Human Sacrifices in Ancient India: Raja Rajendra Mitra, Journal of
Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol XLV, Part 1, 1976)
A 1933 journal of the Assam
Research Society says that living people were sacrificed until the
reign of King Gaurinath Singha between 1780 and 1796.
Records of earlier periods at the Department of Historical
and Antiquarian Studies indicate that the practice was widespread
in Assam. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1908706.stm)
Satapatha Brahmana Part V
(SBE44), Julius Eggeling tr. , at sacred-texts.com
13:6:2:12-13 states "By
means of the Purusha Nârâyana (litany), the Brahman priest
(seated) to the right (south) of them, praises the men bound (to
the stakes) with this sixteen-versed (hymn, Rig-v. X, 90, Vâg. S.
XXXI, 1-16), 'The thousand-headed Purusha, thousand-eyed,
thousand-footed --thus (he does) for the obtainment and the
securing of everything, for everything here consists of sixteen
parts, and the Purushamedha is everything: in thus saying, 'So and
so thou art, so and so thou art,' he praises and thereby indeed
magnifies him (Purusha); but he also thereby speaks of him, such
as he is. Now, the victims had had the fire carried round them,
but they were not yet slaughtered. Then a voice
said to him, 'Purusha, do not consummate (these human
victims ): if thou wert to consummate them, man (purusha) would
eat man.' Accordingly, as soon as fire had been carried round
them, he set them free, and offered oblations to the same
divinities , and thereby gratified those divinities, and, thus
gratified, they, gratified him with all objects of desire."
Brahmanas came later to the
Vedic ritualistic period. Hence
most scholars consider that as evidence to prevalent human
One can see a pinch of Abram
Isaac story in this especially in the
Satapatha Brahmana intervention through a voice forbidding
killing the person.
"During the Vedic period
The injunction in the
Shatapatha Brahmana to release the victims is another reason why
scholars have speculated that the Purushamedha originally involved
actual killing of humans. Alfred Hillebrandt, writing in 1897,
claimed that the yajna involved real human sacrifices, which were
suppressed over time. Albrecht Weber, writing in 1864, came to a
similar conclusion. Julius Eggeling, writing in 1900, could not
imagine that actual human sacrifices occurred. Hermann Oldenberg,
writing in 1917, claimed that the Purushamedha was simply a
priestly fantasy, but that sacrifices may have occurred
nonetheless. Willibald Kirfel, writing in 1951, claimed that an
early form of Purushamedha must have preceded the Ashvamedha.
According to Jan Houben, the actual occurrence of human sacrifice
would be difficult to prove, since the relevant pieces of evidence
would be small in number.
However, in a late Vedic
Brahmana text, the Vadhula Anvakhyana 4.108 (ed. Caland, Acta
Orientalia 6, p. 229) actual human sacrifice and even ritual
anthropophagy is attested: "one formerly indeed offered a man
as victim for Prajāpati," for example Karṇājāya. "Dhārtakratava
Jātūkarṇi did not wish to eat of the
ida portion of the offered person; the gods therefore exchanged
man as a sacrificial animal with a horse." References to
anthropophagy are also found in Taittiriya 7.2.10 and Katha
Unless we assume that this is
just a story, the best assumption will be that Nachiketu submitted
himself to his father's commitment and he was sacrificed along
with the cows. The
animal sacrifice is still prevalent in Assam, Nepal and Tamil Nadu
as part of the Sakthi worship.
In a Visvajit Sacrifice, a Son would be perfectly
Here is the reconstruction of
understood the motive of his father's action and could not
tolerate the wrong act. He realised that his father was keeping
the healthy cow for his son and so decided to stop such wrong
acts. He stood before his father and asked "To whom are you
giving me?" The father did not pay heed, being too busy
donating the old cows. Nachiketa again asked the same question; he
repeated his question three or four times.
Uddalak could not control
himself; he became angry and hastily said that he was giving the
boy to YamaRaj, King of Death.
Uddalak realised his mistake
and pleaded him to forgive, when Nachiketa started going away in
the woods. But Nachiketa was firm. He could not be persuaded to
stay back. Folding his hands Nachiketa said to his father:
"My revered father, I was told by you that for the past
twenty one generations, our ancestors never went back on their
word. Father I do not want to disobey your orders under any
circumstances. I need your blessings."
Nachiketa argued with
conviction and quoted philosophical treaties against his father
who had no answer to his argument. He explained how Death was not
frightful but just the means to change the body and to acquire a
new form. He explained a man became immortal only through his
actions. Nachiketa touched the feet of his father and started
along the path to the Kingdom of Death. Every person present was
struck with awe and wonder at the faith and courage of this little
boy who was only eight years old. Nachiketa was full of joy as he
walked away, because he had prevailed upon his father, but with
every step the road became more and more difficult. There were
furious animals and demons, who tried to stop the boy and send him
back, but he did not pay heed to them, nor was he afraid. When he
reached the door of Yamaraj's castle, the guard told him that Yama
Raj had gone out. Yama's guards would not allow anyone to enter
the palace in his absence, so it was better for the boy to return
home. But Nachiketa was determined to wait. He waited for many
days; he did not eat or drink or sleep.
After many days Yama Raj came
back. As he was about to enter his castle he saw the brave and
fearless lad. Yama Raj was attracted towards the boy and asked for
the purpose of his visit. One of the watchmen briefed Yamraj as
how Nachiketa was waiting to meet him and has spent many days
without eating or drinking. Yamaraj's heart was touched; he rushed
to the boy and embraced him saying, "Oh my dear boy! Who are
you? For what have you come here?’ " (http://susanskrit.org/qnq-for-nachiketa.html)
Nachiketa in the House of Death
praviśaty atithir brāhmaṇo gṛhān:
kurvanti, hara vaivasvatodakam. (7)
brāhmaṇaḥ = a Brāhmin;
praviśati = enters,
vaiśvānaraḥ = as though fire itself; the
= the houses;
tasya = for his sake - for the guest;
kurvanti = accomplish:
etām = this kind of;
śāntim = propitiation
vaivasvata = O Death;
udakam = water -
for washing his feet.
Verily, when, like fire a brahmin guest enters
a house; the householder pacifies him by giving him water and
washing his feet, bring him water. O Death!
"I entered into
thine house, thou
gavest me no
water for my feet."
The implication is that the youth Nuchiketa, in
accordance with the wish of
his father, went to the habitation of Yama. Yama was not at home. Yet Nachiketa remained there for three days without food or
Yama returned to his dwelling, his family advised him thus: “A Brahman entering a house as a guest is like fire; good householders, therefore, extinguish his anger by offering him water, a seat, and food. Do thou, O Yama,
present him with water.
Vaiśvānara refers to the universal fire that is in
every person. Vaiśvānara is a Sanskrit word literally
to all men”
and by extension “omnipresent.”
implying the presence of the divine element in every man.
This epithet is later applied to Agni (fire). Agni. the
life energy in every living being. Vaiśvānara
is regarded as the author of Ṛg
Veda 10. 79 and 80. The
term is then applied in Vedānta to the waking state of human
beings, one of the four states, the others being deep sleep,
dreaming, and sublimity (turīya). It was the name of one of
the sacred fires mentioned in Rig Vedic hymns and, thus, another
name for Agni, the Hindu god of fire. Helena P. BLAVATSKY states
the psycho-metaphysical symbolism it is the SELF, in the sense of
non-separateness, i.e., both divine and human”
(SD II:568 fn.).
This is recognized by the greeting Indians give when they meet
each other as "Nama Aste" " I worship that is in
you". In every
human being there resides the Holy Spirit the sakthi or energy
that is of God which alone can give life.
putra-paśῡṁś ca sarvān
yasyānaśnan vasati brāhmaṇo
= in expectation
= the fruit derived from the association with spiritual people;
= joy ,
pūrtam = fruit resulting
sarvān etat (sarvam etat)
= excludes (from)
alpa-medhasaḥ = from (i.e. of) a person of
yasya = in whose;
anaśnan = not-eating,
vasati = abides.
Hopes and expectations, the rewards of
respecting the saints, the merit of his kindness of words and
deeds, the results of worthy sacrifices and
wealth of cattle and
children, are all destroyed in the
case of the ignorant man, in whose house a Brahmin guest stays
without taking food.
Hope and expectation, friendship and pleasant words, sacrifice
and good deeds, sons and cattle, this destroys, of the man of
little wisdom in whose house a sacred guest dwells without eating.
man deficient in wisdom suffers his hopes, his sanguine
expectation of success, his improvement from associating with good
men, the benefit which he might derive from his affable
conversation, and the fruits produced by performance of prescribed
sacrifices, and also by digging of wells and other pious liberal
actions, as well as all his sons and and cattle, to be destroyed,
should a Brahman happen to remain in his house without food.”
Three Boons Offered to Nachiketas
tisro rātrīr yād avatsīr gṛhe
brahman atitthir namasyaḥ.
brahman; svasti me’stu tasmāt prati trīn varān vṛṇīṣva.
= O Brāhmaṇa;
yat = since;
= you have stayed;
grhe me = in my house;
anaśnan = without eating,
saluted (venerable) as
Brahman = salutations
be to you; O Brāhmaṇa;
svasti me = let there
fortune for me;
tasmāt = therefore,
= ask for;
trīn varān = three boons
prati trīn varān vṛṇīṣva.= one in respect of each
night you have spent
Yama said to Nachiketas: “O Brahmana, you have fasted
in my house for three nights. I make obeisance to you! Ask from me
three boons, for the three nights you starved here, so that I may
be blessed and do not incur the sin of not giving to my guest. May
all be well with me!”
greets Nachiketas): Because thou hast dwelt three nights in my
house without eating, a sacred guest, worthy of reverence—reverence
to thee, holy one, and may it be well with me—therefore, in return do thou choose three wishes.
Yumu being thus
admonished by his family, approached Nuchiketa and said to him;
thou, O Brahmun, hast lived in my house, a revered guest, for the
space of three days and nights
without food, I offer thee reverence in atonement, so that bliss
may a tend me; and do thou ask three favours of
me as a
recompense for what thou hast suffered while dwelling in my house
during these days past.
We are given the hint of the
story which is not directly said.
Nachiketa went to the domains of
Yama and had to wait for three days before Yama appears to
him. He remained
without food or water for those three days.
can interpret these three days of fasting but it appears that they
are imposed on the Upanishad and not directly stated.
The first boon: Resurrection from the
sumanā yathā syād vīta-manyur gautamo mābhi
mābhivadet-pratīta, etat trayāṇām
= O Death;
syāt = may become;
santa samkalpa sumana yathā = in calm mind and gracious,
vīta-manyuḥ = free from anger;
mā abhi = towards me;
me abhivadet = may greet
by you - sent
pratītah = recognising me,
trayāṇāṃ = of the three boons;
= I ask
etat prathamam = this is the first boon;
the first gift, O Lord, offer this to me: when I return, released
by you to the world of my father, may he (my father) receive me
with a calm mind, free from anger, recognising me as I have been
before; not thinking that I am dead.
answers): That the descendant of Gotama, my father, may be of
quiet heart, well-minded, without resentment towards me, O Death,
when I am sent forth by Thee; that he may address me gladly this I
choose as the first wish of my thre
then made this as his first request, saying, “Let,
O Yama! my father Gotam’s
my death be
removed, his tranquility of mind be restored, his anger against me
extinguished, and let him recognise me on my return, after having been set free by thee. This
is the first of three favours which I ask of thee.
This is very clever way of
asking several boons tucked in one boon.
This implies that Nachiketas
will be resurrected, and he will be the son of his father as the
same person, the father will recognize him and that he will be
pleased by the son's return. This is not reincarnation where you
will take up a new body and gets a new start.
yathā purastād bhavitā pratīta
rātrīś śayitā vītamanyus tvāṁ dadṛśivān
yathā purastāt = as
bhavitā = in that very
pratītaḥ = having recognised (you);:
and Auddalaki refer to the same (person). And he is auddalaki may
not add any meaning to the original word uddalaka, or it may
signify the son of Uddalaka. In the latter case, he becomes a
scion of the Uddalakas as also of the Arunas. This was possible
when a brotherless girl was given in marriage with the stipulation
that her son would be counted as belonging to either family, so
that the offering of rice balls etc. to the departed of both the
lines might be guaranteed.
mat-prasṛṣṭah = being permitted
by me; (your father)
= will sleep;
sukham = in comfort
vīta-manyuḥ = free from anger;
tvāṃ dadṛśivān = having seen
pramuktam = as having been freed from the grasp of Death.
Yama said: Through my favour, your father,
Auddilaki Aruni, will recognise you and be again toward you as he
was before. After having seen you freed from the
death, he will sleep peacefully at night and bear no anger
Understanding of the way
to Eternal Life
svarge loke na bhayaṁ
ca nāsti na tatra tvaṁ na jarayā bibheti.
ubhe tīrtvā aśanāyā
pipāse śokātigo modate svarga-loke. (12)
in the heavenly
= there is
na tatra = are
jarayā = because of old age;
na bibheti = nobody fears;
= having transcended both hunger and thirst;
= having beyond sorrow
modate = rejoices; |
svarga-loke = in the heavenly world.
Nachiketa said: In the Heavenly World there is
no fear. You, O Death, are not there and no one is afraid of old
age. Leaving behind both hunger and thirst and out of the reach of
sorrow, all rejoice in Heaven.
This immediately defines what
heaven is and how is it different from the no-heaven.
Everything dies and grow again in the material kingdom.
But in heaven, beings do not die. The law of decay and
death as applicable in this world does not apply to Heaven.
What Nachiketa asking was the way of salvation, eternal
redemption and eternal life.
Eternal life in itself is not desirable since life with
pain and suffering is nothing but hell.
In the Indian thought there
are two heavens. The Indra-loka where there is no eternal life,
but sensual pleasures in galore. This is obtained as a reward for
good works. But they
will also have to return to the ordinary world of sorrow when the
reward period is over. This
is not heaven really.
The higher heaven is Brahma
Loka which is simply eternal life with eternal joy without pain
and suffering. Nachiketa is asking the secret of eternal life and joy.
He is asking "How do we attain theosis?"
sa tvam agniṁ
svargyam adhyeṣi mṛtyo,
prabrῡhi taṁ śraddadānāya
bhajanta, etad dvitīyena vṛṇe vareṇa.
= O Death;
tvam = such as you are;
agnim svargyam = the Fire that is the means for the attainment of
tvam = you;
mahyam śraddadānāya = to me who am full of faith,
svarga-lokā = the dwellers of heaven, those who have reached heaven,
bhajanta = get ;
etat = this;
= I seek for;
dvitīyena varena =
through the second boon.
Yama, you know the secret of the performance of this mysterious
universal fire- sacrifice, by which one can attain heaven. Teach
this to me, who has come with faith. I am honest. I have heard
that they become immortal, who reach that abode. This I choose as
my second boon.”
"Thou knowest, O Death,
that fire (sacrifice which is) the aid to heaven. Describe it to
me, full of faith, how the dwellers in heaven gain nnmortality.
This I choose, as my second boon."
In svarga which is a part of the manifested universe, the
immortality may be endlessness but not eternity. Whatever is
manifest will sooner or later enter into that from which it
emerged. Yet as the duration in svarga-loka is incalculable, the
dwellers in it are said to be immortal. They may continue as long
as the manifested world does.
Fire has been used in
religious rites and symbolism for hundreds of years; with the main
image of the smoke from the fire disperses into the heavens.
Fire is one of the four classical elements: air, earth,
fire and water, as well as one of the five in the Chineese
Agni the Hindu deity of fire,
has a very prominent place among Rigvedic deities.
In Hinduism, fire is one of
five sacred elements of which all living creatures are comprised
and is considered an eternal witness essential to sacred religious
In Christianity, fire is a
symbol of the Holy Spirit and is often used in many descriptions
Fire & Early Science
The ability to make, build
and ignite fire was undoubtedly the single most important
discovery that enabled the civilization of human beings. By
learning to use fire, people gained a decisive advantage over all
other species, and indeed over other human communities that had
not taken part in this learning. Fire made it possible for people
to populate land in the colder regions of the earth. Fire produced
light and provided protection. Fire enabled food to be cooked and
for human beings to benefit from a wide range of nutrients. Fire
made it possible for the science metallurgy to develop. The
understanding of the transformative nature of fire as well as how
fire could transform nature marked the beginnings of a systematic
exploration of the workings of nature. The cosmic laws of the
universe, asha, were symbolized by fire.
In the Zoroastrian religion,
fire is constantly used to represent Ahura Mazda, or God of the
Zoroastrians, including the fire at Yazda, which has been burning
for over two millennia.
pra te bravīmi tad u me nibodha svargyam
anantalokāptim atho pratiṣṭhāṁ
viddhi, tvam etaṁ nihitaṁ
Naciketas = O Naciketa;
te = to you;
pra-bravīmi me = I shall tell you,
nibodha = listen with attention;
tat u = that very thing,
svargyam agnim = the Fire that
is the means for the attainment of heaven;
prajānan = being
well aware of (it).
ananta-lokāptim = the attainment of infinite world
atho = and also;
pratiṣṭhāṃ = the cornerstone
etam = this thing
nihita guhāyām = abiding in
the secret place .
Yama said: I know well the Fire−sacrifice,
which leads to Heaven and I will explain it to you. Listen to me. Know this Fire to be the means of attaining
Heaven. It is the support of the universe; it is hidden in the
hearts of the wise.
thee I declare it; through awakening, learn thou of me this
heavenly fire, Nachiketas, becoming conscious of it. Behold and
know the obtaining of the unending world, the root and resting
place, that which is hid in the secret place.
said) Knowing well as I do, that fire (which is) the aid to
heaven, I shall describe it to thee-learn it of me, O Naciketas
Know that fire to be the means of attaining the boundless world,
as the support (of the universe) and as abiding in the secret
place (of the heart).
Now all of sudden we are
confronted with a new form of fire that is the foundation of life
and that rests upon people and transforms them into heavenly
being. This purusha
is in the heart of every one and this is what gives life even in
this world.. It is nikitaṁ guhāyām: abiding
in the secret place (of the heart). It means literally,hidden in
the cave. The cave or the hiding-place is said to be in the centre
of the body. It
asserts that there is a point of contact from the outer infinite
spiritual realm to the inner man which gives life and meaning to
life. This is the point of contact between the Supreme Spirit and
tam uvāca tasmai, yā iṣṭakā, yāvatīr vā, yathā
sa cāpi tat pratsvadat yathoktam; athāsya
punar evāha tuṣṭaḥ.
uvāca Tasmai = spoke to
tam lokādim agnim = that Fire before the creation
= the type of bricks,
= how many
yathā vā =
or how the fire is to be arranged;
sa cāpi prati-avadat
= and he repeated verbatim;
tat = all that;
yathoktam = just as Yama had spoken;
atha = then;
= being satisfied
mṛtyuḥ = Death;
eva aha = said over
declared to him that fire, which is the beginning of worlds; what
are the bricks of the altar, how many they are, and how they are.
And he in turn repeated it to him as it had been told him; and
Death, well pleased with him, again spoke.
Evidently this is a ritual
fire sacrifice. Rituals
are only images of the ultimate reality which alone can lead to
salvation. But as a
first step to the understanding, as a means of communication from
beyond and within it is to be accepted.
tam abravīt prīyamāṇo
mahātmā varaṁ tavehādya dadāmi bhῡyaḥ.
tavaiva nāmnā bhavitāyam agniḥ,
cemām aneka-rῡpāṁ gṛhāṇa.
the magnanimous One,
tam abravīt iha = to him said thus
tava = for you;
adya = now;
dadāmi = I
ayam agniḥ = this fire ;
bhavitā = will become [famous];
tava eva nāmnāḥ = by your name indeed;
ca = moreover;
gṛhāṇa imām =
was very pleased with his competence and said: ‘My
dear child, I give you here another boon: I ordain that from now
on this sacrifice will be called by your name instead of
vaishvanara-agni. Take also this multi-coloured garland’
To him, he of Mighty Soul, well satisfied, said: Today I give
again thy wish; thine shall this fire be by name; and take thou
this garland of many forms.
What is this garland of many forms?
sṛṇkā:= chain. The word
occurs again in I. 2. 3, where it means a road sṛṇkā vitta-mayī, the
road that leads to wealth. Worldly prosperity:ratna-mayīm mālām,
a necklace of precious stones
akutsitāṁ gatiṁ karma-mayīm, the
straight way of works which is productive of many fruits karma-vijñānam
I believe that this necklace
of gem garlands forms the second half of the book.
Otherwise those series of "This indeed is that"
statements would not make sense in the context of the story.
tribhir etya sandhiṁ trikarma-kṛt
śāntim atyantam eti. (17)
sandhiṁ etya = becoming connected;
= with the three;
tri-nāciketaḥ = one who has piled up the
Naciketa fire thrice;
= one, who undertakes three kinds of ritual activity;
tarati = crosses over;
viditvā = knowing from
= Understanding of the Brahman the ultimate reality,
devam = deity
nicāyya = meditating on
atyantam = thoroughly.
He who has performed three times this Nachiketa
sacrifice, having been instructed by the three and also has
performed his three duties, overcomes birth and death. Having
known this Fire born of Brahman, omniscient, luminous and adorable
and realised it, he attains supreme peace.
kindles the triple fire of Nachiketas,
union with the three (having
been instructed by the three),
the three works (performed
his three duties),
crosses over birth and death;
knowledge of the Radiant Divinity, ever to be praised,
knows that which is born of the Eternal, and comprehending it,
he goes to the
The problem remains we have no clear description of these steps
and conditions. Even
the commentators are confusingly divergent.
trayam etad viditvā ya evaṁ vidvāṁś
śokātigo modate svarga-loke. (18)
viditvā = after knowing
etat trayam = these three described earlier,
tri-nāciketas = a performer of the 'Naciketa
as identified with oneself; cinute = accomplishes;
= the Nāciketa fire; performs
the sacrifice called Nāciketa;
= casting off;
mrtyu-pāśān = the snares of Death -consisting in
ignorance, selfish-desire, hatred, etc; purataḥ = even earlier - i.e. before death;
= crossing over suffering - i.e. anxiety;
modate = rejoices,
svarga-loke = in heaven, in the
world of Virāṭ,
by becoming identified with It.
He who, having known the three, has performed
three times the Nachiketa sacrifice, throws off, even here, the
chains of death, overcomes grief and rejoices in Heaven.
who kindles the triple fire of Nachiketas, knowing this triad,
who, thus knowing, prepares the altar for the fire of Nachiketas,
he, escaping beforehand the snares of death, and crossing beyond
sorrow, rejoices in the heavenly world.
After giving this teaching,
Death asks Nachiketas to repeat it to him.
"Nachiketas asks for the
secret of the heavenly world, the heavenly ﬁre. Perhaps it may be said
that the Upanishad, in recording the response of Yama, lord of
Death, at once conceals and reveals the secret." Theosophical
Quarterly, Volumes 18-19
For there is no explicit
answer, no clear description of the heavenly fire. Yet, in the
answer of Yama, much is reveald as to its nature. It is known
through "awakening". Awakening what? The Mind? Most commentated were blown away at this point.It has to be a
fire that leads of immortality or total redemption of the Man.
Here are some suggestions:
Explaining the phrase:
"gaining union with the three , the commentary attributed to
Shankaracharya says that the three are "father, mother and
Master" -threefold gathering of knowledge.
Others purpose that this
threefold performance symbolised by the threefold fast is
self-control in the three realms: physical fast,
mental fast. fast in subconscious desire. This threefold internal meditation is trinaciketas: piercing
through mind, intellect and soul. Others suggests Vedas, the
Smrtis, ad the good people; or through direct perception,
inference, and the scripture
Still another holds that by
performing the three duties: tapas, dana and yajna—the three austerities
relating to oneself, world and God—one transcends mind,
intellect and individuality; tapas
meaning the restraint of one’s passions; dana
the giving out of oneself to the world, thereby killing the
ego; and yajna the sacrifice of one’s individuality. “By these, one crosses over
birth and death. Then the flame burns steadily in the form of
divine experience, born of Brahma or the Universal. Knowing Him,
resplendent and adorable, one reaches peace ultimate.”
At any rate we are left with
no real understanding of what this fire means that should lead to
redemption and escape from death and attaining immortality.
There is in fact no physical ritual that can lead us to
that. Rituals can
give us a step and not the reality.
They are means of communication and not the reality.
naciketas svargyo yam avṛṇīthāḥ
etam agnim tavaiva pravakṣyanti
eṣa = this is;
tegnir Naciketas = to you O Naciketas;
the Fire that leads
yam = which;
dvitīyena vareṇa = as the second boon;
= will speak of;
tava eva = by
your name .
vṛṇīṣva = O Naciketa ask for;
varaṁ = the third boon.
This, O Nachiketa, is your Fire−sacrifice,
which leads to Heaven and which you have chosen as your second
boon. People will call this Fire by your name. Now, O Nachiketa,
choose the third boon.
Concerning the Final Death
yeyam prete vicikitsā manuṣye’stītyeke
nāyam astīti caike;
etat vidyām anuśiṣṭas
tvayāham, varāṇām eṣa
yā iyam vicikitsā
= this doubt, that arises;
prete manuṣye = when a person dies;
eke = some (say);
asti iti = (It) the Self, exists;
ca eke = and others (say);
ayam = this [Self];
na asti = does not exist;
tvayā anuśiṣṭaḥ = being instructed by you;
aham = I;
etat vidyām = would know this;
= of all the boons;
this one [is];
Nachiketa said: There is this doubt about a man
when he is dead: Some say that he exists; others, that he does
not. This I should like to know, taught by you. This is the third
of my boons.
(Nachiketas expresses his wish): This question that there is, in
the case of the man who has gone forth; some saying that he is,
while some say that he is not; a knowledge of this, imparted by
Thee this, of my wishes, is the third wish!
The real question here is,
"Is there any personality that transcend death and
This question was also put to
the Buddha. He replied that to say something exists or nothing
exists is both wrong.
Maitreyi asked Yajnavalkya
about this same theme, to which he answered that after final
death, there is no self-consciousness.
devair atrāpi vicikitsitam purā, na
hi suvijñeyam, aṇur eṣa
mā moparotsīr ati mā sṛjainam. (21)
purā = in days of yore;
atra = with regard to this thing;
vicikitsitam = doubt was entertained;
devaiḥ api = even by gods;
hi = since;
dharmaḥ = this principle called the Self;
na suvijñeyam = is not easily comprehensible
it being so subtle and abstract.
naciketaḥ vṛṇīśva= O Naciketa you ask for;
anyaṁ varaṁ = some
other boon .
Mā uparotsīḥ mā = do not press me
ati sṛja = give up;
enam = this one.
the gods wonder about this, and have never come to an
understanding. Subtle is this truth, so subtle that no answer
would be adequate to it. So, Nachiketas, please ask another
question. Please release me from this obligation,”
devair atrāpi vicikitsitaṁ
yan na suvijñeyam āttha,
vaktā cāsya tvādṛg-anyo
na labhyaḥ; nānyo varastulya etasya kaścit.
atra = with regard to
api vicikitsitam kila = indeed doubt was entertained even
by the gods;
ca = and;
mṛtyuḥ = O Death;
yat = since;
āttha = say; [that the reality of the Self];
suvijñeyam = is not easily comprehended, [therefore this
thing is unknowable even to the learned];
vaktā ca asya = and an instructor of this principle;
= anyone else;
= like you;
na labhyaḥ =
cannot be had;
varaḥ = there is no other boon;
whatsoever; which is;
etasya tulya = comparable to
Nachiketa said: O Death, even the gods have
their doubts about this subject; and you have declared it to be
not easy to understand. But another teacher like you cannot be
found and surely no other boon is comparable to this.
bahῡn paśῡn hasti-hiraṇyam aśvān
ca jīva śarado yāvad icchasi. (23)
you ask for;
sons and grandons;
= gifted with a hundred years of life;
bahūn = many;
hasti-hiraṇyam = elephants and gold;
aśvān = horses.
a kingdom -
ca = and,
= you I yourself;
jīva = live,
yāvat icchasi = as
you wish to live.
Yama said: Choose sons and grandsons who shall
live a hundred years; choose elephants, horses, herds of cattle
and gold. Choose a vast domain on earth; live here as many years
as you desires.
etat tulyam yadi manyase, varaṁ
mahā-bhῡmau naciketas tvam edhi, kāmānāṁ
tvā kāmabhājaṁ karomi. (24)
manyase = you think
etat tulyam = equal
mahā-bhūmau = vast
tracts of land;
tvam = you,
edhi = become (prosper);
= of all desirable things;
tvā kāma-bhājam karomi = I will make you the
boon like this that you want, choose it, and wealth and long life.
Prosper, O Nachiketas, on this vast earth!”
Whatever desires are hard to gain in the world of mortals, ask
all desires according to thy will! These beauties with their
chariots and lutes not such as these are to be gained by men; be
waited on by these, bestowed by Me! Ask me not concerning dying,
ye ye kāmā durlabhā martya-loke
paricārayasva, naciketo maraṇam
martya-loke = in
the human world;
= according to your choice,
= here are; the celestial nymphs -
= (lit. women) who are so called because they delight (ramayanti)
men; sa-rathāḥ = with chariots,
= with musical instruments.
īdṛśāḥ = such (women);
na hī lambhanīyāḥ = are not surely to be had;
= by mortals.
= by these - by these female attendants;
= who are offered by me;
paricārayasva = get (yourself) served;
= O Naciketā; maraṇam = of death;
mā anuprākṣīḥ = do not inquire.
delights there may be, conceivable or inconceivable, visible or
invisible, ask for them without restraint. Here are chariots, and
noble maidens with musical instruments, to serve you. People have
never even seen them; they cannot be won by men. Be happy with
these. But do not ask about this great death again, I pray!”
śvo-bhāvā martyasya yad
jīvitam alpam eva tavaiva vāhās tava nṛtya-gīte.
antaka = O who
śva-abhāvāḥ = ephemeral, transient
jarayanti = waste away;
= the vigour;
sarvendriyāṇāṁ = of all the senses;
martyasya = of a human being;
api jīvitaṁ = all life
alpam eva = short indeed;
= the vehicles;
= the dances and songs;
tava eva = yours alone - let them remain yours.
Nachiketa said: But, O Death, these endure only
till tomorrow. Furthermore, they exhaust the vigour of all the
sense organs. Even the longest life is short indeed. Keep your
horses, dances and songs for yourself.
na vittena tarpaṇīyo
lapsyāmahe vittam adrākṣma cet tvā.
yāvad īśiṣyasi tvaṁ
varastu me varaṇīyaḥ
sa eva. (27)
manuṣyaḥ; = people;
na tarpaṇīyaḥ = cannot be satisfied;
vittena = with wealth;
lapsyāmahe = should we
vittam = wealth;
yāvat = as long as;
tvam = you;
īśiṣyasi = will rule
tu = but the boon;
me varanīyaḥ = which is worth requesting
eva = is that alone
Wealth can never make a man happy. Moreover,
since I have beheld you, I shall certainly obtain wealth; I shall
also live as long as you rule. Therefore no boon will be accepted
by me but the one that I have asked.
These are temptations in the
path of sadhana, to which Nachiketas gave a prompt and befitting
reply. All objects Yama offered come under the eshanas (desires or
Eshanas (Desires, Cravings)
three of them:
ARTHAISHANA , PUTRAISHANA, AND LOKAISHANA
Desire for wealth, the desire for sons, the desire for world
kanchana, kamini, and kirti
the desire for gold, the desire for sex and the desire
three bind the soul and prevent its further progress
Yama offered everything except God, with the intention to trick Nachiketas; but his ruse
is met with equal strength of viveka and vairagya: the power
of renunciation backed up by understanding.
Whatever be its glamour,
everything is transient. Even glamour is relative to this world,
and when the latter changes, the former also changes, and we are
in horror instead of delight. Even if we are to really get these
things, they are not going to satisfy us. No one can truly be
happy with them, because wants rise ultimately from a lack felt within, from an infinite Source which cannot be satisfied by finite
objects of this world. Like stones, that cannot fill the vast
depth of the ocean, the gifts being offered by Lord Yama cannot
fulfil the desires of a person. “O Lord, give
not these things to me. They are of no use. May I repeat: I
want only that which I asked for.”
upetya jīryan martyaḥ kvadhasthaḥ
atidīrghe jīvite ko rameta. (28)
upetya = having come near to;
ajīryatām = of the undecaying, of those who do not
undergo the loss of age;
= of the immortals;
prajānan = knowing himself to be;
jīryan martyaḥ = subject
on the earth;
abhidhyāyan = while deliberating
sex and entertainment;
rameta = would delight;
ati-dīrghe jīvite =
in a long life ?
Who among decaying mortals here below, having
approached the undecaying immortals and coming to know that his
higher needs may be fulfilled by them, would exult in a life over
long, after he had pondered on the pleasures arising from beauty
yasminn idam vicikitsanti mṛtyo
yat sāmparāye mahati brῡhi nas tat,
tasmān naciketā vṛṇīte. (29)
= tell us;
tat = that,
yasmin = about which;
idam vicikitsanti = entertain
sāmparāye = in the context of the great departure;
yat = which ;
mahati = is calculated to lead to a great result;
varaḥ = this boon;
= which is;
anupraviṣṭaḥ = has entered into an
tasmāt = apart from
naciketā vṛṇīte = does Naciketas
Clinching the whole matter, Nachiketas says: “I
shall not be satisfied with all the things you offer. I shall be
happy only with that thing about which even the gods have doubt.
What happens to the soul in the last stage? Nachiketas shall not
ask another question. Nachiketas wants nothing else than this.”
The student has proved his
worth. The glamour has not tempted him, and he has stood the test
successfully. This is the transitional process which is necessary
between the first two boons and the experience of immortality.