Attributing to Krishna Yajur Veda again, Kathopanishad has only two chapters of three ‘Vallis’. A unique Brahmana named Vaajashrava Gautama Uddalaka the son of Aruni, a rare example of Sacrifices pursued his great faith in such Dharma literally gave away all his possessions, and decided to sacrifice his son, hardly a boy. The latter repeatedly asked the father and finally got the reply that he was to be sacrificed to Lord Yama, the Deity of death. First Nachiketa was struck with awe and fear but then got reconciled that the father might have had strong reasons like celestial commands to have taken such harsh and extreme decision and indeed it would be his duty to obey. After the death Nachiketa reached the abode of Yama Dharma Raja and soon heard a divine voice alerting the household stating that a Brahmana boy was arriving as the guest and be allowed his entry since Yama was away for three days and nights. On return Yama talked to Nachiketa and observed that the boy stayed there for three days /nights without food with patience and thus desired to grant the boy to grant three boons. Nachiketa asked for the first boon that let not his father be not disturbed of sleep nor have any anxiety for his son especially since the latter reached Yama’s abode safe. Nachiketa’s second boon was that since the Sacrifice deserved Swarga and as such he be granted the happiness typical of heavens; Yama conceded the second boon, while explaining of the impact of such Fire Sacrifices where Agni- Surya-Vaayu on which the solidified water converted as earth that Hiravygarbha rests on; the relevant mantras were simultaneously repeated by Nachiketa and a happy Yama was overwhelmed with the boy’s erudition and gifted him a multi dimensional necklace representing unique knowledge of Sacrifices. Yama further granted to him an additional boon to the boy that in future whosoever performed such Sacrifices of Praanis the relevant Fire be henceforth declared as Nachiketa Agni and such Agni Sacrifices, if done thrice would surely enhance three kinds of achievements of Sacrifice-Study-Charity. Now on to the third boon, Nachiketa desired to know as to what would be the status of an Individual Self after death. Yama replied that on this question, the replies would vary even from Gods and instead of such a controversial question he might as well ask for any other boon such as sons and grandsons, longevity of lives henceforth, enormous number of cows, horses, elephants, or gold and jewellery, of becoming a King, women of grace etc. Nachiketa refused the offers and insisted on Brahma Vidya only.On testing Nachiketa about his eligibility at length, Yama explained about the concepts of Shreya and Preya or Vidya and Avidya, the intensity of Samsaara vs. the Lasting Option and of the Identity of Brahman. Dharma Raja complimented Nachiketa as the sincere seeker of the UltimateTruth. Finally, Yama divulged the secret teaching which indeed was ‘durdarsham’ or hard to vision, ‘gudham anupravishtam’ or subtly hidden and stationed inaccessibly, ‘guhaateetam’ or located beyond the realms of unique intellect and highest knowledge and ‘gahraveshtam’ or existent in the midst of desolation and misery originating from- and deeply imprisoned- by body parts and sensory organs pioneered by the typically mercurial mind!) On visioning the portals of Brahman, Nachiketa was in a virtual trance visioning a total segregation of mortal delights and gradual inflow of the serene waves of the Ocean of Immortality! Nachiketa’s first enquiry to Yama was to as to what was that glittering Object he visioned as being distinguished as ‘anytra dharmat anyatraadharmaat’ or from virtue to vice, ‘anyatraasmaat kritaakritaat’ or the cause and effect and ‘anytra bhutaat cha bhavyaat cha’ or distinct of the past and future! Then Yama initiated the essence of his instruction: The ultimate objective of Vedas was to promulgate one Unique Voice; this Voice is what all austerities make the most significance of; that which all the persons of Brahmacharya or Self Discipline and restrained regulation, would vouchsafe for and indeed sincerely it is the Single word OM. Etadyekaaksharam Brahma param/ or Om is the prefix toall prayers and introspection to Hiranya garbha as well as the Supreme Brahman alike; any kind of meditation on OM is applicable to both! The Self or Antaratma is immune from births and deaths; it is subtler than the subtle and far more mammoth to mammoth; it could travel places, with memory yet motionless; it reveals itself on meditation as the huge fund of bliss while being right in the midst of organs and senses as though in a prison; none too easy to discern through study, learning, and such communications; indeed body is the husk and the Self is the grain within!!
The Upanishad then reviews the details of the Seekers of ‘Satkarmas’ or virtuous deeds, prominent among them being those who worship ‘Panchaagnis’ or the Five Fires viz. Garhapatya, Ahavaneeya, Dakshina -agni, Sabhya and Avasatya representing Heaven, Cloud, Earth, Man and Woman as also perform Nachiketa Sacrifice thrice. Once an Individual Self is realised as the Supreme, it is signified as the Master of the Chariot, then body is reckoned as the chariot, body is the chariot, charioteer is the ‘buddhi’ or the Intellect, mind is the bridle all for sure the party normally engaged in the cycle of births and deaths. The Purusha is hidden in all the Beings covered by maya or cosmic illusion and Tri Gunas of Satva-Rajasa-Tamas nature.. Now, the reply about the true profile of the Individual Self comparable to that of Brahman is the result of past deeds but yet the Inner Self or Antaratma remains neutral as a spectator of the goings-on of the body-senses-mind . Indeed, Absolute Truth is the Unmistakable Unity of the Supreme and the Self within, despite the mortal body and its influences; after death too the darkness of ignorance persists till the Realisation of their Unity!

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in