Athato Brahma jignyasaa ! ......

“ Athato Brahma Jigyaasaa! :

The Katho Upanishad

"He who gives away cows that have drunk water, eaten grass, whose milk has been milked and whose organs have lost the power , that one goes to the worlds that are known as joyless". In simple words giving away a useless cow one would not go to Heaven a desired destination. That is how Kathopanishad starts.

Kathopanishad is one which is more widely known in East and West.

Like all Upanishads it aims at inculcating the knowledge of Brahman which alone enables a man to attain Moksha or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. In the tradition of conveying a complex subject through the use of a subtle parable the Kathopanishad starts with the story of a Rishi Vajasravas and his son Nachiketa.The dialog of Nachiketa with Lord Yama carries the message of the Upanishad

So the kathopanishad starts ...

Once upon a time Vajasravasa desirous of attaining fruit namely Moksha or liberation, gave away all he had as part of a sacrifice. He had a son by name Nachketa. As the gifts were being given away to Brahmans ,faith took possession of Nachiketa who pondered over the events. 'He who gives away cows that have eaten grass and drunk water for good and cows that have been milked for good, will go those worlds that are known as joyless' . .He said to his father " Father to whom will you offer me" . He asked him a second time and third time . To him his father said ' To death I offer you'.

Thus having been spoken to , Nachiketa wondered. 'Among many I rank as belonging to highest. Among many I rank as belonging to miiddle. I am never the worst. What purpose can there be of death that my father will achieve by giving me away'.Nachiketa wanted to make sure for himself that he is also not like the worn out Cows being given away . He tells his father ' Look back and see your forefathers and consider others who are there now. Man decays and dies like a corn and emerges again like a corn'. Therefore Nachiketa asks his father to send him to the abode of Yama to keep his word . There after to keep his fathers words Nachiketa proceeds to the abode of Yama.

When Nachiketa went to abode of Yama , Yama was not there. So nachiketa stayed put for three days without taking any food till Yama came back. As Yama returns his counselors tell him . " A Brahman guest enters the house liek a fire. For him they accomplish this kind of propiation. So O Yama carry water for him. If a Brahman guest abides without food , that Brahman destoys hope and expectation, the results of Holy association, and sweet doscourse, sacrifices , charities etc '.

Having been told that Yama approches Nachiketa and speaks to him.

"O Brahman since you have lived in my house for three nights without food, being a guest and adorable one at that , my salutations are to you and let good accrue to me. Ask for three boons one in respect of each night you have spent waiting for me'.

Nachiketa replies.

O Death of the three Boons I ask this one as the first, namely that my father Gautama may become one whose mind is freed from anxiety. May he be calm of mind freed from anger towards me , and he may recognize and talk to me when freed by you.

Yama replies.

" Having recognised you , Auddalaki Aruni will be just as he had been before. Seeing you freed from the jaws of death , he will get over his anger and sleep happily many a night.'

Nachiketa asks for his second Boon.

"In heaven there is no fear. And you ( death) are not there.Nobody is stuck with fear of old age. Having transcended both hunger and thirst and crossed over sorrow one rejoices in the heavenly world. The dwellers of Heaven get immortality . O Yama , such as you are , you know that Fire which leads to heaven. You tell me of that Fire sacrifice , as I am full of faith "

Yama replies.

"Nachiketa , being aware of that Fire conducive to Heaven I shall tell you about that. Know this from my words. That fire which is the means of attainment of Heaven, which is the support of this world , know it to be established in the intellect".

Yama told him told him about the fire that is the source of the world, and the manner of arranging that fire. Nachiketa too repeated with understanding all these as they were spoken. . Then Yama being satified with this spoke again.

"Out of favor towards you I grant you one more boon. The fire will be known by your name indeed. And accpet this multiformed necklace as well. One who getting connection from the three( Mother Father and Teacher) , piles up fire thrice , undertakes three kinds of work crosses over death . getting knowledge fo Brahma he attains peace fully. One who performs Nachiketa sacrifice thrice after having known these three factors casts of the snares of death even earlier and crossing over sorrow rejoices in Heaven . O Nachiketa this is for you the Boon about Fire that leads to Heaven. People speak of this fire as yours indeed. O Nachketa ask now for the third boon."

Nachiketa asks for his third Boon.

" This doubt arises consequent on the death of a man. Some saying-"it exists" and others saying 'It does not exist'. I would like to know this under your instruction. This is the third boon I want ".

Yama replies.

"With regard to this even gods entertained doubts. For being subtle this "self" is not truly comprehended. O Nachiketa ask for any other boon donot press me. Give up this boon you are demanding"

Nachikete replies.

" Even the gods entertained doubt with regard to this thing. O Yama since you too say that it is not truly comprhended there can be no other instructor like you and ther can be no other boon that I can ask"

Yama replies.

"Choose sons and grandsons who will live hundreds of years, choose cattle , elephants gold and vast expanse of earth. And you yourself can live as many years as you like. if you think of some other boon to be equal to that ask for that. . Whatever things there be that are desirable but difficult to get , pray for all those things according to your choice. here are women with chariots and bugles such as surely not be had by mortals. With these you will be well served. O Nachiketa donot ask about Death.

Although tempted like this Nachiketa does not get perturbed and insists again.

"O Yama thses are transient indeed and they waste away the vogour of all organs that a man has. All life without exception is short indeed. Let the vehicles be yours alone . Let dances and songs be yours too. Man is not to be satisfied with wealth. Now that We have met you wealth in any case we will get. We shall also live as long as you rule. But the boon worth praying for me is that alone. O Yama tell us that thing about which people entertain doubt in the context of the next world and whose knowledge leads to a great vresult. Apart from this boon Nachiketa does not pray for any other !!!"

Yama is pleased and replies.


O Yama tell us that thing about which people entertain doubts in the context of the other world , that knowledge that leads to great result. Nachiketa does not pray for any other Boon than this thing which gives inscrutable knowledge about death.