Katha Upanishad - Part Two (chapters I-III End)
> Introduction to Katha Upanishad
> Dr. C.S. Shah
> All Upanishads are written in Sanskrit, and the commentary by
> Acharya Shankara is taken as the most authentic. Upanishads are
> based on the dialogue between a realized soul acting as the
> Teacher, Rishi, and a sincere seeker of Truth who approaches Him as
> a disciple.
> In Katha Upanishad the teacher is Yama - The Death Himself - and the
> student is a young Nachiketa in his teens. This Upanishad is one of
> the most popular Upanishads for its simplicity and clarity in making
> the subject matter regarding the highest truth easily
> comprehensible. It consists altogether of 120 verses.
> This summary is based on the English exposition of Katha Upanishad
> by Swami Ghambhirananda of Ramakrishna Order, which in turn takes
> Shankara's commentary as its basis. I am not a scholar, nor do I
> know Sanskrit. I accept the Truths of Upanishads because I know Sri
> Ramakrishna had objectified - personified - Upanishadic Truths in
> his life. Later Swami Vivekananda, his foremost disciple, decided
> to make all these truths broadcast all over the globe for the
> benefit of humanity.
> The Contents
> As the story goes, Vajashrava, Nachiketa's father, decided to
> acquire fruits of sacrificial ritual -Viswajit Yagna- in which the
> performer had to give away all his precious possessions. Cows were
> designated as valuable and special possessions in those very
> ancient days, and hence Vajashrava decided to donate all his cows
> to Brahmins.
> Nachiketa was in his teens, and he was observing the sacrificial
> ritual with innocent interest. However, he was surprised to notice
> that his father was giving away only old and disabled cows, cows
> 'who had given their milk for the last time and who were not
> capable of bearing calves'.
> This 'worldly cleverness' of his father produced unfathomable change
> in the heart of this young boy in whose heart now entered Shraddha -
> Faith. Nachiketa, in order to dissuade his father from engaging in
> further mean acts, asked," O father, whom have you decided to give
> me away?" (The purport was to bring to the notice of his father the
> fact that he has to give his everything and not just old cows.)
> Initially, the father did not take any notice of this 'childish'
> question, but Nachiketa was insistent. He repeated the question
> thrice when the irritated father said," O. K. O Nachiketa, I give
> you to Death.”
> Thus ordained, young Nachiketa went to the kingdom of Yama - The
> Death - where he waited for the return of Death from his duties. On
> his return, Yama was told about the 'Brahmin boy waiting for him for
> there days without food or water'.
> Yama praised sincerity of Nachiketa to wait for him, but also felt
> grieved that he was responsible for keeping a Brahmin boy waiting
> for him. Therefore, he granted three boons to Nachiketa one each
> for a day of waiting.
> The Boons
>"O Death, of the three boons you have offered me, I ask for the
> first to the effect that my father may become freed from anxiety
> about me and he may recognize me and talk to me when freed by you,"
> The boon was granted. As the next boon Nachiketa asked for granting
> him the knowledge of the means to attain higher life in the heaven
> and immortality. There is a dialogue between Yama and the boy about
> the primordial Fire and sacrificial rituals to attain to heavenly
> life. Yama tells him about the methods and ways of performing these
> Yagnas etc. Death tells him that it is the sharpened intellect of
> the enlightened one, which qualifies that sadhaka to become fit to
> go to heaven. In heaven there is no fear, fear of old age, etc.
> having transcended both hunger and thirst, and crossed over sorrow,
> one rejoices in the heavenly world.
> The Third Boon
> Then comes the main subject matter of this Upanishad. As regards his
> third boon, Nachiketa wants to know:
>"This doubt that arises, consequent on the death of a man - some
> saying 'It (The SELF) exists', and others saying 'It (The SELF) does
> not exist'. I would like to know this, under your instruction, O
> Death, what is the Truth.”
> Nachiketa had asked for the ultimate knowledge. What is death, what
> is after death! What is Reality and what is Truth. Yama tries to
> dissuade the young boy from going into these subtle questions of
> immense intricacies for Death was not sure whether Nachiketa was
> qualified to receive this knowledge for which only an occasional and
> rare aspires. Yama says to the boy," O Nachiketa, ask for health,
> life, riches, jewels, and enjoyment. Ask for lasting kingdom and
> armies, ask for anything in this world or of heaven, I will grant
> you all this as your third boon, but do not force me to go into the
> secrets of life and death. Do not insist for ultimate knowledge.”
> But Nachiketa argues that all worldly treasures and heavenly
> pleasures come to an end sooner or later. If not day after, after
> hundred years. These are not permanent means of enjoyment. He
> insists to get the ultimate knowledge of Self, 'for, O Death, you
> have promised me the third boon'.
> Seeing the determination, faith, sincerity, and perseverance of
> Nachiketa, seeing him to be the perfect disciple, Death agrees to
> tell him about the Ultimate Reality: Brahman or Atman.
> And as Death goes on elaborating the subtlety and nuances of means
> and methods to achieve that transcendental state, consciousness of
> Nachiketa also is getting established in that altered state to
> experience those Truths.
> It is wonderful fact that if the Teacher and the taught are of
> highest qualifications, it is a matter of minutes to enter the state
> of samadhi. As the Teacher explains so does the disciple experiences
> the Truths spoken.
> Nachiketa gets established into highest state of bliss where
> 'knowledge of Brahman becomes a fact of direct experience'. The same
> thing can be seen when Arjuna experiences the cosmic form of Sri
> Krishna when the Lord is telling him the Gita!
>—Dr. C.S. Shah
> January 2000
1 Yama said: The self—existent Supreme Lord inflicted an injury upon the sense—organs in creating them with outgoing tendencies; therefore a man perceives only outer objects with them and not the inner Self. But a calm person, wishing for Immortality, beholds the inner Self with his eyes closed.
2 Children pursue outer pleasures and fall into the net of widespread death; but calm souls, having known what is unshakable Immortality, do not covet any uncertain thing in this world.
3 It is through Atman that one knows form, taste, smell, sounds, touches and carnal pleasures. Is there anything that remains unknown to Atman? This, verily, is That.
4 It is through Atman that one perceives all objects in sleep or in the waking state. Having realised the vast, all—pervading Atman, the calm soul does not grieve.
5 He who knows the individual soul, the experiencer of the fruits of action, as Atman, always near and the Lord of the past and the future, will not conceal himself from others. This, verily, is That.
6 He verily knows Brahman who knows the First—born, the offspring of austerity, created prior to the waters and dwelling, with the elements, in the cave of the heart. This, verily, is That.
7 He verily knows Brahman who knows Aditi, the soul of all deities, who was born in the form of Prana, who was created with the elements and who, entering into the heart, abides therein. This, verily, is That.
8 Agni, hidden in the two fire—sticks and well guarded—like a child in the womb, by its mother—is worshipped day after day by men who are awake and by those who offer oblations in the sacrifices. This, verily, is That.
9 Whence the sun rises and whither it goes to set, in whom all the devas are contained and whom none can ever pass beyond—This, verily, is That.
10 What is here, the same is there and what is there, the same is here. He goes from death to death who sees any difference here.
11 By the mind alone is Brahman to be realised; then one does not see in It any multiplicity whatsoever. He goes from death to death who sees multiplicity in It. This, verily, is That.
12 The Purusha, of the size of a thumb, dwells in the body. He is the Lord of the past and the future. After knowing Him, one does not conceal oneself any more. This, verily, is That.
13 The Purusha, of the size of a thumb, is like a flame without smoke. The Lord of the past and the future, He is the same today and tomorrow. This, verily, is That.
14 As rainwater falling on a mountain peak runs down the rocks in all directions, even so he who sees the attributes as different from Brahman verily runs after them in all directions.
15 As pure water poured into pure water becomes one with it, so also, O Gautama, does the Self of the sage who knows.
1 There is a city with eleven gates belonging to the unborn Atman of undistorted Consciousness. He who meditates on Him grieves no more; liberated from the bonds of ignorance, he becomes free. This, verily, is That.
2 He is the sun dwelling in the bright heavens. He is the air in the interspace. He is the fire dwelling on earth. He is the guest dwelling in the house. He dwells in men, in the gods, in truth, in the sky. He is born in the water, on earth, in the sacrifice, on the mountains. He is the True and the Great.
3 He it is who sends prana upward and who leads apana downward. All the devas worship that adorable One seated in the middle.
4 When the soul, identified with the body and dwelling in it, is torn away from the body, is freed from it, what then remains? This, verily, is That?
5 No mortal ever lives by prana, which goes up, nor by apana, which goes down. Men live by something different, on which these two depend.
6 Well then, Gautama, I shall tell you about this profound and eternal Brahman and also about what happens to the atman after meeting death.
7 Some jivas enter the womb to be embodied as organic beings and some go into non—organic matter—according to their work and according to their knowledge.
8 He, the Purusha, who remains awake while the sense—organs are asleep, shaping one lovely form after another, that indeed is the Pure, that is Brahman and that alone is called the Immortal. All worlds are contained in Him and none can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.
9 As the same non—dual fire, after it has entered the world, becomes different according to whatever it burns, so also the same non—dual Atman, dwelling in all beings, becomes different according to whatever It enters. And It exists also without.
10 As the same non—dual air, after it has entered the world, becomes different according to whatever it enters, so also the same non—dual Atman, dwelling in all beings, becomes different according to whatever It enters. And It exists also without.
11 As the sun, which helps all eyes to see, is not affected by the blemishes of the eyes or of the external things revealed by it, so also the one Atman, dwelling in all beings, is never contaminated by the misery of the world, being outside it.
12 There is one Supreme Ruler, the inmost Self of all beings, who makes His one form manifold. Eternal happiness belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within themselves—not to others.
13 There is One who is the eternal Reality among non—eternal objects, the one truly conscious Entity among conscious objects and who, though non—dual, fulfils the desires of many. Eternal peace belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within themselves—not to others.
14 The sages realise that indescribable Supreme Joy as"This is That.” How can I realise It? Is It self—luminous? Does It shine brightly, or not?
15 The sun does not shine there, nor the moon and the stars, nor these lightnings—not to speak of this fire. He shining, everything shines after Him. By His light all this is lighted.
1 This is that eternal Asvattha Tree with its root above and branches below. That root, indeed, is called the Bright; That is Brahman and That alone is the Immortal. In That all worlds are contained and none can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.
2 Whatever there is—the whole universe—vibrates because it has gone forth from Brahman, which exists as its Ground. That Brahman is a great terror, like a poised thunderbolt. Those who know It become immortal.
3 From terror of Brahman, fire burns; from terror of It, the sun shines; from terror of It, Indra and Vayu and Death, the fifth, run.
4 If a man is able to realise Brahman here, before the falling asunder of his body, then he is liberated; if not, he is embodied again in the created worlds.
5 As in a mirror, so in the buddhi; as in a dream, so in the World of the Fathers; as in water, so Brahman is seen in the World of the Gandharvas; as in light and shade, so in the World of Brahma.
6 Having understood that the senses have their separate origin and that they are distinct from Atman and also that their rising and setting belong to them alone, a wise man grieves no more.
7 Beyond the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, higher than the intellect is the Great Atman, higher than the Great Atman is the Unmanifest.
8 Beyond the Unmanifest is the Person, all—pervading and imperceptible. Having realised Him, the embodied self becomes liberated and attains Immortality.
9 His form is not an object of vision; no one beholds Him with the eye. One can know Him when He is revealed by the intellect free from doubt and by constant meditation. Those who know this become immortal.
10 When the five instruments of knowledge stand still, together with the mind and when the intellect does not move, that is called the Supreme State.
11 This, the firm Control of the senses, is what is called yoga. One must then be vigilant; for yoga can be both beneficial and injurious.
12 Atman cannot be attained by speech, by the mind, or by the eye. How can It be realised in any other way than by the affirmation of him who says: "He is"?
13 He is to be realised first as Existence limited by upadhis and then in His true transcendental nature. Of these two aspects, Atman realised as Existence leads the knower to the realisation of His true nature.
14 When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal becomes immortal and here attains Brahman.
15 When all the ties of the heart are severed here on earth, then the mortal becomes immortal. This much alone is the teaching.
16 There are one hundred and one arteries of the heart, one of which pierces the crown of the head. Going upward by it, a man at death attains immortality. But when his prana passes out by other arteries, going in different directions, then he is reborn in the world.
17 The Purusha, not larger than a thumb, the inner Self, always dwells in the hearts of men. Let a man separate Him from his body with steadiness, as one separates the tender stalk from a blade of grass. Let him know that Self as the Bright, as the Immortal—yea, as the Bright, as the Immortal.
18 Having received this wisdom taught by the King of Death and the entire process of yoga, Nachiketa became free from impurities and death and attained Brahman. Thus it will be also with any other who knows, in this manner, the inmost Self.
End of Katha Upanishad
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