The Kattha Upanishad (Katṭhopaniṣad, also Kāṭhaka), also titled “Death as Teacher”, is one of the mukhya (“primary”) Upanishads commented upon by Sri Adi Shankara
The Upanishad uses as its base the story of Vajasravasa (alluded to in Rigveda 10. 135), a poor and pious Brahmin who performs a sacrifice and gives away all his worldly possessions as reward to the priests, which included a few old and feeble cows. His son, Naciketas, feeling disturbed by the inappropriateness of his father’s observance of the sacrifice, proposes that he himself may be offered as payment. As he insisted, his father said in anger, “Unto Yama, I give thee.”, whereupon Naciketas goes to the abode of Yama, and, finding him absent, waits there for three days and nights. Yama on his return, offers to grant him three wishes. (I.9) Naciketas wishes the following:
to be allowed to return to his father alive (I.10);
to be instructed as to the proper performance of Vedic fire-sacrifice in order to gain immortality (I.12-13);
to be given knowledge about life after death (I.20).
Yama grants the first wish immediately (I.11). In answer to Naciketas’ second question, Yama expounds the performance of a special fire-sacrifice, which he states is to be named after Naciketas (I.15-19).
“He who knows the three-fold Naciketa-fire and performs the Naciketa fire-sacrifice with three-fold knowledge, having cast off the fetters of death and being beyond grief, he rejoices in the realm of heaven.” (I.19, trans. Paramananda)
Yama tries to avoid answering the third question and offers all sorts of worldly pleasures instead, but Naciketas insists (I.21-29). The remainder of the text (parts II to VI) contains Yama’s teaching concerning true immortality. It notably includes the parable of the chariot (III.3-4), not unlike (and roughly contemporary to) the one found in Parmenides, or the one in Plato’s Phaedrus. Yama’s parable consists of the following equations:
atman, the “Self” is the chariot’s passenger
the body is the chariot itself
consciousness (buddhi) is the chariot driver
the mind (manas) is the reins
the five senses (indriya) are the chariot horses
the objects perceived by the senses are the chariot’s path
The Katha Upanishad is also notable for first introducing the term yoga (lit. “yoking, harnessing”) for spiritual exercise:
“When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the highest state. This firm holding back of the senses is what is known as Yoga.” (VI.10-11, trans. Paramananda)
Having desired to attain the highest results (of spiritual enlightenment), (the man by name) Vaajasravas conducted a yaaga (a Hindu ritual where oblations are made to different forms of God through sacrifices to the fire and by gifting certain specified things to others) called “Viswajith” as specified in the Veda Saastras. This was a very well known fact. He had a son by the name of “Naciketas”.
During the conduct of the yaaga, the young boy Naciketas, by reason of his sincerity (in the ritual and other dharmaas), seeing the ritual being performed, got anxious. He thought as under:
“These cows (which were being gifted to others as part of the rite) have drunk the water, have eaten the grass, have been milked and have lost all their vigil and virility. Whoever gifts these (old, by all means of no use to the receiver or the donee) cows will certainly go to those worlds (after his death) which are in blinding dark and which are deprived of joy and happiness”.
Having thought of this, he went to his father and asked him this: “O father! To whom are you going to gift me?” (The father did not answer since he was fully busy in the performance of the rituals. However, Naciketas continuously disturbed him with the same question for another two times.) Becoming flustered with his son, he said “I shall gift thee to Yama (the Controller / God of Death)”.
Naciketas thought: “Among the disciples, I will either go first; or in the middle; what is there that I can do to Yama; what would have my father planned for me to do to Yama?”
“One has to consider the way of life which his forefathers had adopted and understand the guiding principles; and should try to follow them in his life. Man dies like a shrub and comes back to the earth like the shrub again.”
Naciketas told his father the above and obtained his approval to leave for the world of Yama. He eventually reached there only to find that Yama was not available in his residence. So he waited outside Yama’s House for three full days without a grain of food. When Yama came back, he was shocked to see Naciketas waiting for him for three days without consuming any food. In olden days, it was considered a crime to make a guest wait in someone’s place without giving him adequate food and shelter. More so for a Brahmin and for a young Brahmachari (celibates, established in the pursuit of Dharma).
Yama was advised by his people as under: “A Brahmin Guest enters your house as the Fire (representing the Fire-God) itself. He is pacified by the wise who provide him with all sorts of respects and treating him with enough food and water. O Yama! Go immediately and bring some water (to perform some respect to the Guest)”.
“That fool who allows a Brahmin to stay in his house without taking any food will suffer from heavy loss since all his desires, determination, association with wise men, good deeds, good words, penance, service to the society, servants, cattle etc are all destroyed by him (the Brahmin) who is in the form of Fire (representing the Fire God).
Yama, on hearing all this, appeals to Naciketas: “ O Brahmana! Since you, my respectable guest, have stayed at my home without consuming anything for three long days, I hereby pray to you to have that sin removed. I should be completely cleansed of this sin and continue getting good results. For these to happen, I hereby agree to grant you three boons. (One for each day of his stay). Tell me what do you want now.”
Naciketas replies: “ O Yama! My father, Gowthama, is very upset and filled with sorrow on thinking about me. He is deeply disturbed about my coming here. Let him forget all his anger, sorrow and confusion and let him become quite happy and contented. Let him receive me (when released by you again) with pleasure and bless me. I request thou to grant me this as the first boon.”
Yama: “ Your father (by reason of my grant) will get rid of all his anger and sorrow and will receive you with great pleasure. He will be able to sleep peacefully all nights and will also take care of you quite well.”
Naciketas: “There is no fear in the Heaven. You are also not there. There is no fear of agedness. Nor do we have the problems of hunger and thirst. Thus, the man who has attained Heaven remains there with all happiness.”
“You know the fire-related Homa practice that can lead one to Heaven. O Yama! I request you to kindly teach me that art and I assure that I will attend to it with all sincerity. As the second boon, I request you to grant me that knowledge which those who have attained the Heaven possess.”
Yama: “O Naciketas! As I know that Homa practice fully well, I shall also teach you that art which takes leads one to the path of Heaven. Understand this clearly and carefully. This instrument, which is ideal to attaining Heaven, is hidden in the cave of intelligence (buddhih) in the man. Identify and understand this.”
Yama then taught Naciketas this agni vidya (Homa Practice), which is the means for attaining Heaven and also about the structure of the Homa place, the components to be used, the stones to be used in constructing the sacrificial stage etc. Naciketas immediately grasped it and repeated it (for confirmation) to Yama. Yama was very happy with his sincerity and understanding power. Hence, as a satisfied Guru, he granted another boon to Naciketas and told him: “ Let this agni vidyaa become known to the world by your name itself. And I also present you with this necklace which consists of beautiful beads and precious stones (including diamonds) of various colors.”
“That one who has performed the Naciketas Sacrifice (the agni vidyaa will now be known by this name) thrice (after having learnt it, understood and followed) will be linked to Vedas, Smrutis and the sishtaacharam. He becomes eligible to perform the three duties of Homa or Yajna, Adhyayana and Daana (ritual sacrifice, study of the Vedas and the act of gifting or giving) and crosses the sea of births and deaths. He gets to identify Agni (the Fire-God who was born of the Supreme Being, the knower of all and the respectable one) as the Atma or the Soul. By this, he also attains immeasurable peace.”
“That one who knows these three-fold aspect of Naciketa agni and abides by these three things and properly performs the worship of Naciketa agni will destroy all the bindings placed on him by Yama in the form of adharma (doing those things that are not legal as per the Vedas or are strictly prohibited from being done), ignorance, anger and other inhuman behavior and related tendencies, even before his death and lives his life in Heaven with infinite joy and without a grain of sorrow.”
“O Naciketas! As the second boon, you have been taught what you wanted to learn – the agni vidyaa that leads one to Heaven. This practice of worship shall hereafter be known to the world by your name. O Naciketas! Go ahead and request your third boon now.”
Naciketas speaks: “When a man dies, his Atma or the Jivan leaves the physical body and starts out on an entourage. The questions as to where the Jivan goes, where is its destination, what is its status till the destination is reached etc (about death and the thereafter) remain the subject of great debate and interpretation. Some people (wise men) explain this in one way and others interpret the same subject in other ways that seem to be totally unrelated. Now as the third boon, I hereby request thou to explain to me the truth and clear explanatory answers to the above questions.”
To this Yama replies: “This has been the subject of great doubt and debate even among the Devas. This is not something that can be known very easily. This is a very complex, weird, uncanny and yet quite secretive subject. Ask me something else. Don’t pressurize me for this one.”
Naciketas: “O Yama! You have now accepted that this has been the subject of great doubt even among the Devas and also that this cannot be understood very easily. This being the case, there can be no other person who can explain and elaborate on this subject than you (who is the authority on this). There is no equal for this to be asked as the third boon.”
Yama: “You can request for sons and grandsons who will live for a long time (hundred years), for a massive herd of cattle, for elephants or horses, for pots of gold etc. I am ready to offer you all of these. You can even ask for a great portion of the earth to be under your ruling and control. Ask for a longer life for yourself. I can grant you all of these.”
“In line with the above, ask for anything else that can equal this much of wealth and life, if you desire that. O Naciketas! You can rule a huge portion of the world. I can materialize all of your desires.”
“Whatever other things are there in the world to be enjoyed by a human, ask for that from me and I shall grant you that. These women (now with me) are always found with only the Devas and with the court musicians. They (their beauty) cannot be even dreamt of by human beings. I shall send them with you for doing service to you. O Naciketas! I can grant you all of the above things. (Please) Do not ask me about death and the thereafter.”
Naciketas (addressing Yama): “O blind one! All those things that you have offered to grant me are subject to decay, if not today, by tomorrow at least. And all these things are directed at depriving and depreciating man of all his virility and strength of his limbs. Even if you grant me a longer life, that again is of no use (since I am going to die someday). At the end, all the vehicles, music, dance (all those offered by you to me) will again become yours (after death)”.
“Man can never be satisfied with material things. (Even if he is satisfied with worldly objects, it will last only for a short while. The next desire will start at the immediate moment.) Once I have had a vision of thou, we will certainly attain all the things that we desire. I need not even request for that as a boon. We will also live until such time you decide to come and take us back. Hence, the third boon that I requested for remains unaltered.”
“Having met with (and interacted with) wise men who are not subject to aging and death and still having to live the life on earth as a slave to both of them, which man of reasonable sense would like to live here for a long time having known the transitory and momentary nature of all the things that allow him to enjoy and please the sense organs.”
“O God of Death! Thou shall explain to us that heavenly matter about which all the people are having great doubts and which is not easily understandable and which is hidden beyond the reach of the normal human. Naciketas, (I) does not desire any other grant apart from this one.”
Yama continues: “O Naciketas! What we call as ‘Sreyas’ and as ‘Preyas’ are two different things of contradicting nature. Both of them are aimed at attracting the Purusha or the Jivan into doing certain specific things and to arrest him within that range. Out of this, the one who follows ‘Sreyas’ attains good results here and in the hereafter. The one who chooses to adopt ‘Preyas’ loses control of himself and of his spiritual progress.
Both Sreyas and Preyas come in search of a man. The wise man analyzes both in all aspects and understands the difference between them. He deserts the path of ‘Preyas’ and adopts ‘Sreyas’. The idiot, who is interested only in earning wealth and in protecting it takes on the path of ‘Preyas’.”
“O Naciketas! You have identified the worldly desires as hindrances to one’s spiritual progress and have chosen not to follow them. These desires, however, are very attractive and quite easily hypnotize any one of a strong will and make them run in search of their fulfillment. You have been very strong enough (in your mind) to come above this hindrance. You have not adopted that path of illusion (of making wealth and of protecting it) in which all people get immersed and lose themselves (the self referred to here being the Atman).”
“The path that avidyaa (or ignorance) leads one to and the path that vidyaa (or knowledge) takes one through are extremely different ones and are very far from each other. O Naciketas! I understand that you are the one in search of knowledge since you are not interested in fulfilling all the worldly, material desires that I offered to grant you. Those desires did not move you even an inch from your strong focus (of attaining the knowledge).”
“Those fools who are sunk in the ocean of ignorance think and feel that they are the really wise ones and that they are the masters (of knowledge). They are comparable to the blind who are led by the blind again. They do not reach their ultimate destination and will just be encircling the same place.”
“This knowledge about the Heaven and about the knowledge of the Atman will not be understood by that one who is not deeply interested in it and by those idiots who are attracted by the worldly wealth and desires. Such people tend to think that there is no such thing as Heaven or Hell and that what exists is only earth or the world. Those are the ones who get into my trap time and again”.
“It is quite rare to know even little regarding that thing (the knowledge) about which many people have not even heard of and even those who have heard of have not understood a fraction of it. It is rare to get someone who can explain about it. It is rare again to get someone who can understand and grasp it. Rarest of rare it is to get someone who is taught (about this knowledge) by an expert teacher and who understands it fully well.”
“The Atma cannot be understood if told by a man of a lower stature (by knowledge), because different people perceive it as many different things. If it is taught by one who has crossed the principles of duality and who has identified himself with the Brahman, there would not be any scope for misunderstanding. Since it is smaller than the smallest atom and finer than the finest one, it cannot be understood by the process of debate and discussions. (called as dharkam)”
“O Dear Naciketas! The knowledge that you have attained is something that cannot be attained by dharkam. It can only be learnt first-hand from a learned, wise teacher. You have a very strong will and heart. Quite surprising! I only wish that I should get more (aspiring students) like you (who are interested in learning this knowledge).”
“I know that the wealth saved and protected is illusory. One cannot attain the ever-existent, permanent wealth of Self-Knowledge through and by the use of temporary, illusory objects that you see in the daily life of the materialistic world. Still, I have taught you the technique of Naciketa-agni which can be performed with the worldly objects and which can take you to the ultimate knowledge path. Since I have done this, I will also be eligible for being in this position (of Yama and also of the knowledgeable one) for infinite years to come.”
“O Naciketas! Thou hath attained this state of Knowledge which is at the end border of the satiation of all desires, the reside of the whole world, the end-result of all deeds, the place of no fear in which everything else is centered, that which is praised by all, the limitless one, the all-pervading and the one which is the life of the life (breath) through sheer will power and strong mind! O the Brave one! You have crossed all those things that are of illusory nature.”
“The brave one who, by continuous practice of meditation on the self, identifies and understands the Self (the classic, bright force of power) which is hard to be seen but that which is present within all things, which is the hidden thing and remains in the brain-cave of every being and the oldest of all things, he immediately leaves behind himself all sorts of happiness as well as sorrows. He remains unaffected by either of these.”
“The man who has understood it as it is and who has segregated the root of dharma using his intelligence and sense and having attained the smallest atom of the Atma will obtain that which is deeply enjoyable and remains ever-joyous. I think the house of salvation is kept open for thou, O Naciketas”.
Naciketas: “That thing which you see as beyond both Dharma and Adharma, and that which is beyond activity and cause, and that which is beyond the produced and the one to be produced, kindly tell me about that”.
Yama: “That is the one which is praised by all the Vedas; the same is the object of end-result of all penances; desire of attaining the same is the reason for practice of celibacy. I shall tell you that thing in short. It is the syllable ‘OM’ (also written as AUM).”
“This syllable (OM) is the (lower aspect of) Brahman; this is the highest aspects of Brahman as well. If one understands this, he gets all his desires fulfilled. Whatever he desires for becomes his immediately.”
“This support is the best; this support is the highest as well. The one who understands this support becomes the blessed one in the Brahma Loka.”
“One who has understood this truth beyond doubt – he is not born again; nor does he die. This Atma is not given birth to or produced by something. Nothing else is produced from this Atma also. This (the Atma) is birth less, ever existent and immortal. It precedes everything else and it is not destroyed even when the physical body (where it resides) is destroyed.”
“A killer, who thinks that he has killed (the Atma) and the killed, who thinks that he (the Atma) has been killed are both wrong. Both of them do not understand the Atma. This (Atma) does not kill nor can it be killed.”
“This Atma, which is smaller than the smallest atom and which is larger than the largest one, resides in the heart of the Jivan. That one who has completely renounced his desires, he can see the Atma. (Having thus relinquished his desires,) he understands the greatness of the Atma through the clarity of the mind and an attitude that is not stained by sorrows.”
“Sitting at just one place, it (the Atma) travels long; laying down at a place, it goes everywhere. Who else can understand that Supreme Soul, which resides in me in the forms of both pleasure and sorrow except me (since it is inside me that it resides)?”
“The wise one who understands the Atma, which resides in the bodies without a body and which is a stable thing residing in instable forms and which is very large and all pervading, as himself (the feeling of: ‘I am He’) does not get affected by any sorrow.”
“This Atma cannot be attained (or understood) by an aspirant simply by learning the Vedas or by brilliant brain or by elaborate questioning sessions or debates. It is only when the aspirant mediates exclusively on the Atma (by the Atma), it is attainable by him. Then the Atma illumines its true form to him.”
“That one who has not come out of his bad habits, the one who has no control over his sense organs, the one who is not able to control and direct his mind in attaining peace – all of these cannot attain the Atma just by reason of possessing greater knowledge or awareness.”
“The Atma to which the four kinds of people (viz the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vysyas and the Sudras) are like basic food and to which me, the Yama (the one who has the entire world as his basic food) is like a pickle – who can understand what it is in reality?”
“In order to reap the results of one’s own actions done in this world, two (people or Jivas) are said to be entering the cave of heart and residing there (until such results are reaped fully). The wise men, the worshippers of the five-fold aspect of agni (fire-god) and those who have completed the Naciketa-agni worship atleast thrice – compare these two to light and shadow (the actual comparable simile is that of Jivatma and the Paramatma).”
“I think this practice of Naciketa-Agni shall serve like a bridge (unto the Supreme) for those who perform Yagnas or sacrifices, and like the immortal Brahman and shall be the place of no fear for those who want to cross the ocean of births and deaths.”
“If the body be the chariot, the mind (or the manas) is the steering cord (of the horse), the intellect is the driver and the traveler is the Jiva or the Purusa. Understand it to be so.”
“The horses (driving the above chariot) are the sense organs and the materialistic desires or things of interest are the paths it travels by. The wise ones call the Jiva, which comprises of the body, the mind and the sense organs as ‘Bhoktha’.”
“In as much the same way that the wild horses cannot be tamed by a rider, the sense organs will be uncontrollable by that one who has no control over his mind and has no sense of intellect.”
“(On the other hand), the sense organs will be fully under the control of that one who has complete control over his mind and has the distinguishing power of intellect. This is comparable to the control a rider exercises over trained, tamed, good horses.”
“That one who has no intellect, who has no control over his mind and who is dirty (in his mind and thoughts), he will not reach the destination (of the Supreme). He will continue to wander in this world through further births.”
“(On the other hand), that one who is full of intelligence and who has complete control over his mind and is very clean (in his mind and thoughts), he reaches that place from where nothing is ever born again. (the destination of the Supreme).”
“That one who has the intelligence as the rider and a controlled mind as the steering cord, he travels the long way and ultimately reaches the end of the tedious path of samsaara (or the materialistic world). That is the state (called as the Parama-pada) where there is a unison between the Jiva and the all-pervading Divinity.”
“Beyond the sense organs are the objects of sense. Beyond them is the mind. Beyond it is the brain or intuition. Beyond that is the great soul (one of the aspects of the Atma).”
“Beyond that great soul is the unmanifest divine. Beyond that is the Purusha (the all knowing and all pervading Atma). There is nothing beyond the Purusha. That is the end. That is the supreme.”
“This purusha remains hidden in all beings and creatures; he is not visible (to the naked eye). He is seen only by those wise seers who are able to do so by concentrated efforts and focused meditation.”
“The wise man with subtle intelligence shall restrain the speech in his mind, the mind in the intellect, the intellect in the great soul, and the great soul in the Supreme Divine (from where there is no return to this materialistic world).”
“Arise! Awake! Attain the pure knowledge by following the intelligent teachers who practice what they preach. The experienced sages say that the path (leading to self-knowledge) is a risky one since it is sharp as the edge of a knife and also difficult to tread upon or cross over.”
“Having known that which is beyond the aspects of sound, feel, vision, taste and smell, which is unchanged and eternal, which has neither a beginning nor an end, which is beyond even the greatest, which is stable and consistent, one frees himself from the mouth (hungry claws) of death.”
“The intelligent one will become the praised in Brahma loka (the world of Brahma) for the reason of having recited and heard the Naciketa – Upaagyaana (the Naciketas Story) which is ancient and taught directly by Yama, the Lord of Death.”
“That one who propounds this great secret amidst the wise ones who are interested in self-realization or who teaches it with great interest and dedication during the performance of rituals for the dead (by another), will be greatly benefited and blessed. He will be greatly benefited and blessed.”
Parameshwaran (the Lord) has created the sense organs with a basic interest for material objects. Hence, the man sees only the outward appearances alone (also that he sees only outside himself and not within himself). Rarely a wise man who aspires for liberation controls his mind, concentrates inward and sees the Supreme Soul inside (himself).
The idiots and the unwise run after the worldly objects and the material desires. And they fall into the death trap that is wide open. Contrarily, the wise men get to understand the immortal one (through rigorous meditation and concentration). Knowing fully well that there is nothing stable in this transient world, they do not run after anything like the others.
The intellect with which a man enjoys the various objects of his desire in the forms of sound, feel, vision, taste and smell is the one which is also capable of going beyond all such worldly objects and distinguishing them from the immortal. What is there that is beyond such intellect (or the knowledge)? This is that (this intellect or knowledge itself is that Atma or the Supreme Soul).
Having understood that huge and all pervading Atma (the Soul) by means of which one is able to see that within dream and reality, the wise one gets rid of all sorrows.
That one who recognizes the Atma, which is residing very close to oneself in the form of Jiva drinking the honey (which is the result of the deeds performed earlier), and which is the master for all those which came and went, he does not worry about saving himself (since there will be no fear or joy as he identifies himself with everything else). That is that state which we are contemplating about (the state of no fear – arising out of knowledge of the Self).
That one who sees the Atma, which arose from the Brahman even before the creation of all the five components of life (the pancha bhuthas – viz., the water, fire, earth, air and space) and which resides in the heart cave of all beings, in everything else – only he sees the truth. That is that state which we are contemplating about.
That which is in the form of all Gods and Goddesses, and which is called as the aditi (because it eats up all), and that which is born as the chief life-breath out of the Brahman and which resides in the heart cave of all beings, and which is created along with all other things that are created, is the thing (that we are contemplating about).
Like the sparks of fire hidden in the fire-sticks dug out of a bunch burning in a yagna and like the embryo well hidden and protected by the pregnant women, like the incessant fire carefully protected and hidden by those who perform their rites very carefully and devoutly, the Atma is hidden and protected within the heart. That is the thing (that we are contemplating about).
From where the sun rises and unto where it returns on set, upon that vital energetic force of the Atma do rest all the Devas. (In other words, all the Gods and Goddesses are founded only on that force or power without which they would cease to exist). No one can go beyond that. That is the thing (that we are contemplating about).
Whatever is here, (only) that is there; whatever is there, (only) that is here. Whoever distinguishes it here (not understanding the all pervading principle of Atma while living in this world), he goes from death to death again. He is caught in the cycle of deaths.
This can be attained only by the mind. There is no difference here; not even a little. Whoever distinguishes it here (not understanding the all pervading principle of Atma while living in this world), he goes from death to death again. He is caught in the cycle of deaths.
The Purusha (or the Atma), who is of the size of one’s thumb, resides in the center of one’s body (within the cave of heart). He is the Lord for all that comes and goes. That one who knows it to be so will never worry about saving or protecting himself (since there is no second thing to be protected against – all are seen as one and the same there being no distinction).
The Purusha residing in the heart cave, who is of the size of one’s thumb is like a flame without a smoke, crystal-clear. He, who is the Lord of all that was created and those to be created, is the one present now and in the hereafter (conveying the immortality principle).
As water poured upon the mountain tops comes down in numerous branches in all sides (with increasingly lesser strength), that one who distinguishes between various dharmas (life-codes propounded by different religious doctrines) runs after each of such variants with increasingly lesser understanding and knowledge of the Self.
As pure water poured in to pure water merging and becoming one and the same, so becomes the soul of a sage who has understood the truth of the Self. (He, on identifying the true Self, and getting into it, merges with it and becomes one with it. That is the state of liberation).
By meditating on that one (the Atma) who is immortal and whose mind is without a blemish and who resides in this city of eleven gates (the philosophical comparison of the human body with eleven pores in different places), one gets relieved from all sorrows. He attains the characteristics of a wise man and gets relieved from the bonds of birth and death. This is that state which we are contemplating about.
He is the sun traveling in the pure, clear sky; He is the air filling up the entire space of the universe; He is the fire in the places where yagna (a hindu rite) is performed; He is the guest at people’s houses; He is in men; He is in the best Devas; He is in truth; He is in the sky; He is the one seen in various forms in the water, earth, yagna and in the mountains (in the form of rivers) etc., He is the one present everywhere and He is the great one who is above all.
He moves the praana (the inward life-breath) upwards; He brings down the apaana (another force of breath – the outward one– refer the Prsna Upanishad translation for more). He, in the small form, who is seated at the center of the body, is worshipped by all Devas (the Gods and Goddesses).
If this Atma residing in the body leaves this body and goes out, what is it that will remain? That without which the life and body will be inactive is that thing that we are contemplating about.
No man exists just because of (the movement of) praana, the inward breath and apaana, the outward breath. He exists on that thing (the Atma) which is the source of these forms of breath.
O Gautama! Concentrate on this intently! I shall now tell you again about this Brahman, which is very ancient and secretive.
I shall also tell you about the state of and whereabouts of the Jiva after death (when it has not learnt about the Brahman).
Some of those who have born with bodies (the human beings), requiring other bodies reach the entry point again (the womb). Some others reach the state of plants (or other stationary objects). All these happen according to their actions, thoughts and knowledge.
The Purusha who is awake even in the one sleeping and who is continuously engaged in shaping one desire after another, He is the pure one; He is the Brahman; He is called as the eternal and immortal. In Him reside all the worlds. On him do they rest. No one crosses Him. This is that (thing that we are contemplating about).
As one fire entering various forms of worldly objects assuming the shapes of such objects, so does the Atma, which, on entering various bodies, takes on various forms, although it remains as one and the same thing and it exists even beyond all such objects within which it is present.
As one air entering various forms of worldly objects assuming the shapes of such objects, so does the Atma, which, on entering various bodies, takes on various forms, although it remains as one and the same thing and it exists even beyond all such objects within which it is present.
As the Sun, the eye of the entire world, is not attacked by the external faults of the eye, so is the Atma, the Atma of the entire world (all the beings), which remains unaffected by any of the worldly sorrows. It stays beyond all that.
Those wise men who perceive the Atma, which is the only Atma for all that is created and which is the Supreme Divine and which multiplies its single form into various, to be residing in themselves – only they are entitled to the limitless joy (arising out of such knowledge of the Self). Not the others.
Those wise men who perceive the Atma, which is the only stable thing in this transient world and which is the knowledge of the beings that possess knowledge and which, standing as one, grants the desires of all, to be residing in themselves – only they are entitled to the eternal peace (arising out of such knowledge of the Self). Not the others.
Although the pure ineffable supreme joy referred to as ‘that’ cannot be defined or explained about clearly, it is regarded as ‘this’ (that is clearly understandable and enjoyable here in this life) by the wise men. Is it self-shining or does it shine by reflecting the light of another? How will we understand that by our intellect?
The sun does not shine there; nor do the moon and the stars. Not even the lightning and certainly not this fire. All these shine only by depending on Him (the Atma) who is self-shining and self-illuminating. It is only because of His light that other things are seen and understood.
This banyan tree, which has got roots above the soil and branches underneath, is quite ancient. That (its root) is pure, that is Brahman, that is the eternal and immortal. On it rest all the worlds. No one goes beyond that. This is that (thing that we are contemplating about).
All these in the world arise from the Brahman, which is of the form of Praana or the life breath and revolves around it in discipline. It functions in clarity and discipline because of the great fear and awe about the strict rule of the Brahman, which is like the upraised vajraayuta – the acclaimed powerful weapon of Lord Indra. Whoever knows it to be so attains immortality.
From fear of it the fire burns; from fear of it the sun produces heat; from fear of it does Indra sends the rains and the wind blows; and it is because of the same that as the fifth, Lord Yama does his duty of snatching the lives of people.
If, before death, one is unable to understand the true Self, he is born again on the earth with a body (either as a plant or other stationary object or as a human based on the actions and thoughts he had during his life time).
The Atma can be seen, felt and understood like the reflection on a glass within everyone’s heart; like a dream in the world of the parents (pitru-loka); like the reflection on water in the world of the Devas (the Gandharva-loka) and like the light and shade in the world of God (the Brahma-loka).
Recognizing the distinct nature of each of the sense organs (which are unrelated to each other) from the Atma, the wise one who thinks about and understands the reason for the presence of such distinction during the state of awakening and the absence of such distinction during the state of sleep – he remains unaffected by sorrows.
Beyond the senses is the mind. Beyond it is the brain or intuition. Beyond that is the great soul (one of the aspects of the Atma). Beyond that great soul is the non-manifested or the invisible (or the Supreme Divine called as the avyakta).
Above that non-manifested is the Purusha (the all knowing and all pervading Atma). He is all pervading and is devoid of any particular mark or characteristic. On knowing Him to be so, the Jiva is liberated and attains immortality.
The form of the Purusha does not remain before the eyes. No one ever sees it with the eyes also. It can be seen only through a fully controlled mind and strong will power and intellect. Those who have known it to be so attain immortality.
That state in which the five sense organs (the action organs are referred to as karma-indriya and the sense organs are referred to as gnaana-indriya) remain united with the mind, and where the intuition or the brain remains idle or blank without any thought is the ineffable, supreme state of bliss.
That state at which the sense organs are devoid of any activity (constant practice of inactivity of the sense organs) is the Yoga state. The wise one who has attained that state is undistracted and remains free from the clutches of the sense organs and their compelling desires – since yoga is essentially of the nature of arising and fading away.
The Atma cannot be reached through speech, mind and the (naked) eyes. How else can it be comprehended except from the words of the wise sages who have experienced it and affirm that ‘it exists’?
Out of the two thoughts viz., ‘it can be seen’ and ‘it cannot be seen’, one who firmly believes in the former with concrete will power (and with the idea of it being in a definite form), will be able to realize the ultimate truth (of its no-form nature) which is beyond any sort of forms and speech and thought.
As soon as all the desires hidden in one’s heart are destroyed, he transcends from mortality to immortality. He enjoys the Supreme Bliss.
As soon as all the knots in one’s heart are untied while being here in this world, he transcends from mortality to immortality. This is the decision of the teaching.
There are a hundred and one nerves attached unto the heart. Out of those, one runs upward to the head. The Jiva attains immortality by going up through that nerve. All other nerves take him back only to the cycle of births and deaths.
(It is said that the Jiva of sages and other wise men goes out of the body through the head – called as the kapaala moksha and also that after their death, a hole can be felt in their skull at the top most center. Probably, this is what is indicated in the teaching).
The Atma, of the size of one’s thumb, residing in the body is present always and at all times in the heart of the people. As the minute weeds are removed from the grass, so should the Atma be distinguished and segregated from the body by the use of clear intelligence and steady mind. He is the pure one and the immortal, eternal one.
Naciketas, having gained this knowledge (of the Self) and the other rules of Yoga discipline directly from Yama, attained Brahman or salvation by removing himself of all emotions and desires and attained immortality. Anyone else who thus understands these principles about the Self shall also attain immortality in as much the same way.
OM! May Brahman protect us (the Guru and Sishya) both! May he give us both (enough) to enjoy! Efficiency may we both attain! Effective may our study prove! May we not hate (each other) at all!
Om Shanti ! Shanti ! Shanti !
from http://www.vedarahasya.net & wikipedia