Athato Brahma jignyasaa ! ......

Athato Brahma jignyasaa

The Katho Upanishad (*)

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.

Rishi Vajasravas performs 'Viswajit' sacrifice which involves giving away "all" his wealth. His son Nachiketa notices that his father is giving away gifts( cows) which are of no use. Very much concerned and trying to grab the attention of his father he asks his father to whom will he give 'Nachiketa' as he is part of his fathers wealth. Father being busy with the rituals and with without realizing says "to death". There upon to keep his fathers word Nachiketa moves to Yama's world. Yama was away when Nachiketa reaches the place. He waits for three nights till Yama returns. Alerted that a Brahman was waiting for him for three days without partaking anything as a guest , Yama offers him three boons for the three nights he waited. For the first boon Nachiketa wants to understand the Fire sacrifice and for the Second boon he wants that his Father be free of anxiety and be happy . Both the boons being granted Nachiketa asks for the third boon the knowledge about "here after". Nachiketa says that some say there is life after death some say not and he wants to know what happens after death. Yama tries to dissuade him with all sorts of worldly boons. Nachiketa could not be deterred. Yama tells him even Devas do not know, it is too difficult to understand . Nachiketa still insists on the knowledge then Yama relents.

After testing Nachiketa's determination , Yama starts his teaching. He starts by teaching importance of "Om" the two letter word . After extolling the efficacy of "om" , Yama teaches about Self .

Yama also answers the question what happens after death saying Jivas who understood the Atman get liberated others go to different lives based on their karma. . He says they go from death to death meaning that they continue in the cycle of Birth and death !

The teaching continue in 2.2

Katha Upanishads 2.2 

Yama continues his teaching of Atman.

 “Oh Nachiketa ! This human body is like a city with eleven gates, where the eternal unborn Spirit (Atman) dwells. These eleven gates are the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the mouth, the navel, the two lower apertures, and the imperceptible opening at the top of the head. The Self or Atman is like a ruler in this city. Like a king is not the city Atman is not the body.

 A person who thinks, understands, and realizes the Atman within will never be sorrowful for anything. He is free from Birth and death and attains mukthi. This is the one which you asked about.

Oh Nachiketa, the Atman is all pervading. He is the sun dwelling in the bright heaven; He is the air dwelling in space; he is the fire burning on the altar; He is the guest dwelling in the house. He dwells in man. He dwells in those greater than man. He dwells in sacrifice. He dwells in the ether. He is all that is born in water. he is all that is born in earth. He is all that is born in sacrifice, all that is born on mountains. He is the True and the Great.

 Oh Nachiketa! The Atman is the life-breath upward and throws the out-going breath downward too. All the senses under the control of this Atman, seated in the centre of the heart. When this Atman, which is seated in the body, goes out from the body, what remains then? This really is that which you wanted to know. 

 Oh Nachiketa Know from me that no mortal lives by the in-coming breath (Prana) or by the out-going breath (Apana), but he lives by another one on which these two depend.

 O Nachiketa!, I shall declare unto thee the secret of the eternal Brahman and what happens to the Self after death. The Jiva which do not realize the secret of Atman go through cycle of birth and death based on the karma according to their deeds and knowledge.

Then Yama continues his teaching on the Self describing it in various ways.

THE Being who remains awake while all sleep or dream, that is pure. That is the Brahman That alone is said to be immortal. On That all the worlds rest. None goes beyond That. This really is that you wanted to know.

As fire takes the shape of what it burns the Self takes the shape of everything it enters but remains unchanged.

As air takes the form of what it enters Awareness takes the form of what it enters yet remains unchanged.

 As the sun, the eye of the world, is not defiled by the impurities of the eye that sees it, the Self of all is untouched by the miseries of the body occupied by it or the miseries of the world.

In spite of multiplicity of bodies there is only one Atman the wise who perceive Him seated within their Self, to them belongs the eternal bliss, not to others who are moving from death to death

 ETERNAL among the changing, consciousness of the conscious, which though one fulfils the desires of many, it is the Brahman. The wise perceive Him seated within their Self, and to them belongs eternal peace, not to others. 

 THEY (the wise) perceive that indescribable highest bliss, saying, This is That.

Then Yama himself brings up the question. “But how am I to know it? Does it shine by its own light or does it shine by reflected light?”

And he proceeds to answer

"THE sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor the stars; nor do these lightnings shine there, much less this fire. When He shines, everything shines after Him; by His light all is lighted" .

Om tat sat !!!

(*) Refernces

1 "The Upanishads" Vol 1 by Swami Nikhilananda , Published by Advaita Ashrama, Kolkatta.

2 "Eight Upanishads" Vol 1, by Swami Gambhirananda, Published by Advaita Ashrama, Kolkatta.