Commentary on the Katha Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Section 1: Nachiketas’ Position

Nachiketas and His Father

uśan ha vai vājaśravasaḥ sarva-vedasaṁ dadau:
tasya ha naciketā nāma putra āsa. (1)

“Desiring heavenly enjoyment, Gautama performed a sacrifice called sarva dakshina. He had a son, Nachiketas, very thoughtful and discriminative.”

Desiring did he perform the sacrifice. The intention behind it was to gain heavenly pleasure. This represents the purely exoteric aspect of religion, the outward form of devotion and faith as different from the internal spirit or the esoteric significance of practice. While Gautama represents the outer form of religion, Nachiketas symbolises the inner spirit. The former attitude expects something from every religious act: ‘What shall I get from my pilgrimage, from a sacred bath, etc.?’ These are the questions of this mind. ‘If I will not get something, I will not be religious’. This attitude exhibits a commercial attitude leading to bigotry. While the outer form is necessary—like the legs of a person who can walk with them but needs a head to think with—it is inadequate by itself. The spirit should go hand in hand with the form. So, religion is different from spirituality, though it is very necessary. The outer form of worship should be an expression of inner surrender, and not a mere symbol. This is what Gautama’s sacrifice lacked. Desiring something he performed the sacrifice, but did not part with everything he had, as was required by its spirit. When this dakshina was given by him, Nachiketas thought to himself:

taṁ ha kumāraṁ santaṁ dakṣiṇāsu nīyamānāsu śraddhā-viveśa, so’manyata. (2)

Is this religion? He was a great spiritual example for all times to come, though his question was impertinent. He thought: “What is this sacrifice?”

pītodakā jagdha-tṛṇā dugdhadohā nirindriyāḥ
anandā nāma te lokās tān sa gacchata tā dadat. (3)

He wants the pleasure of this world, so he did not part with the good cows; and he also wants the pleasure in the other world, so he gives (useless) cows. It is a poor sacrifice, because he offers that which is unworthy.

sa hovāca pitaram, tāta kasmai māṁ dāsyasīti;
dvitīyaṁ tṛtīyam; taṁ hovāca: mṛtyave tvā dadāmīti. (4)

In the fourth mantra, the teaching proper commences with: sa hovaca pitaram... “To whom do you propose to offer me?” The ‘me’ represents also the self of Gautama. If it is offering all, sarvadakshina, then it should include not only what belongs to one, but also his own self. Three times asked Nachiketas this question. The answer was, “Unto death I offer you.” Though this was the answer to the son, it mystically means the death of the soul.

Three times asked the boy, implying the ‘I’ has to be given up in three stages, not at once. The first one is the physical offering, followed by the subtle and the causal, because we are this threefold being; we can also call it conscious, subconscious and unconscious. We are citizens of three worlds; this is brought out when one takes sanyasa. The seeker takes an oath that he renounces the pleasures of this world, of the astral world and of the heavens—all the three worlds. The offering has to be total and all-inclusive. Psychologists call this condition introversion, and it is self-abnegation in ethics. So Nachiketas’ thrice-repeated question has spiritual import of the necessary threefold offering of every seeker. This is like dying, for who can offer his whole being to God? We cannot even offer our physical possessions. To offer the mind and the subconscious is veritable death. The threefold personality has to pass through veritable death, and this is rebirth, as it were, into the awakening of the spirit. It is rebirth in the spirit, and death to all that is physical. “Let the ‘me’ be offered in its threefold significance!” is the outer and inner meaning of the mantra.

bahῡnām emi prathamaḥ, bahῡnām emi madhyamaḥ;
kiṁ svid yamasya kartavyam yan mayādya kariṣyati. (5)

It is the darkness of not-knowing that is spiritual death. Nachiketas thought: “What is the business of Yama that is being achieved through me? Why should I go to him? I have served my father well. I may be the first or at least the next, but not the worst. What is the intention of his offering me to Yama?”

anupaśya yathā pῡrve pratipaśya tathāpare,
sasyam iva martyaḥ pacyate sasyam ivajāyate punaḥ. (6)

“Well, whatever you have said is all right,” he said to Gautama, and added: “Don’t withdraw your words. Remember our ancestors who have adhered to truth always. Let it be so, although it may be unpleasant. Though you might have unwittingly, in anger, said it, don’t take it back. Like a corn in the field does a human being grow and fall: the seed grows only to fall and falls only to grow. So is human life; and if I pass away, let there be no grief, because birth and death are only correlatives.”

The Upanishad does not mention what happened to Nachiketas or Gautama after this conversation. The Taittiriya Brahmana says that the boy went to the hall of Yama, either due to the words of Gautama or by the power of his own tapas.

Nachiketas in the House of Death

vaiśvānaraḥ praviśaty atithir brāhmaṇo gṛhān:
tasyaitāṁ śāntiṁ kurvanti, hara vaivasvatodakam. (7)

When Nachiketas reached the abode of Yama, Lord Yama was not there. This is a very important stage in the seeker’s life: when the disciple goes to the Guru, the latter often does not welcome him, but shows indifference.

Suka went to Janaka’s court and was asked to wait. There was no warm reception; he was not told when the Guru would be available or even if he would be available at all—but instead, great temptations were presented to him.

Yama came after three days and, during that time, Nachiketas waited patiently. In contrast to Suka, we do not know what he was thinking or doing. Another important truth is taught here: that a guest should be honoured. A guest who comes of his own accord, an atithi—one who comes without a particular tithi or day—is regarded as God. It is the universal Soul that presents Itself as the guest. One who comes to you, expecting help, is to be regarded as God Himself; such a one is to be propitiated. Such a guest, if turned out, takes away all the merits of that person who is inhospitable.

āśā-pratīkṣe saṁgataṁ sῡnṛtāṁ ceṣṭāpῡrte putra-paśῡṁś ca sarvān
etad vṛṅkte puruṣasyālpamedhaso yasyānaśnan vasati brāhmaṇo gṛhe. (8)

“Of the person in whose house a guest starves, is not being given, even when asked for; of that person, the guest goes away taking all virtues and merits, and also the lives of all his children and cows; all these are destroyed.”

When God is turned out of a house, anything can happen, is what is suggested by this. There is a beautiful story in the Chhandogya Upanishad, of a poor man who went for alms. When people refused him, he asked: “Do you know to whom you are refusing to give? To the Universal Prana!” They were frightened to hear this, and called him back and offered alms. The spiritual man is a godly man; a saint is a divine person. And hence, the atithi who is coming either to bless you or to test you may go away, taking everything of yours, if you turn a deaf ear to him.

When Yama returned to his abode, his courtiers told him: “Lord, a guest has come; an uninvited guest. Who is more important than he! He is God who has come as the universal fire.” Yama answered: “Please him. Let him not burn; give him water!”

When Yama presents himself before Nachiketas, the spirit of the Upanishad rises to great intensity.

Yama’s Address to Nachiketas

tisro rātrīr yād avatsīr gṛhe me’naśnan brahman atitthir namasyaḥ.
namaste’ṡtu brahman; svasti me’stu tasmāt prati trīn varān vṛṇīṣva. (9)

Yama says to Nachiketas: “O Brahmana, you have fasted in my house for three nights. I make obeisance to you! Ask from me three boons, for the three nights you starved here, so that I may be blessed and do not incur the sin of not giving to my guest. May auspiciousness be mine!”

The soul that ascends to God has to break three knots—the knots of avidya, kama and karma, corresponding to the three bodies: sthula, sukshma and karana. Karma is the character of the physical body, kama of the subtle body, and avidya of the causal. These three are like impregnable fortresses; hard is it to penetrate them! They are called the tripura of the three demons of ignorance, desire and action. The only way of liberating oneself from them is fasting. They are veritable nights; they are darkness.

Three boons will be bestowed in accordance with these three fasts of the physical, subtle and causal realms. Eating is a great bondage which can do and undo things. When you take food of any particular realm or any person, you are bound and obliged to them. On all these levels of being, there are temptations of various kinds. The free person is he who does not get bound by them, by not accepting gifts. When you take something from someone, you must return it to him, which obligation brings you rebirth. If you have not taken anything, you need not come back. Thus, the three nights represent the breaking of the three knots of avidya, kama and karma. These fasts bring great advantages. The first is universal renown. Even if you starve for twenty-one days, your name appears in newspapers and you become a world-celebrity; this is only a gross form of starvation. But accepting nothing which does not really belong to, or is not really needed by you, is a great tapas. The spiritual seeker often gets more than even householders. This is a temptation which prevents a soul from progressing. So, accept not anything in the physical, subtle and causal realms! But the higher you go, the deeper are the temptations. The physical ones are weaker than the higher ones which are more powerful and more difficult to overcome. Yama, as the universal night, offers three boons for the three nights of fasting observed by Nachiketas.

Nachiketas’ First Wish

śānta-saṁkalpaḥ sumanā yathā syād vīta-manyur gautamo mābhi mṛtyo,
tvat-prasṛṣṭam mābhivadet-pratīta, etat trayāṇām prathamaṁ varaṁ vṛṇe. (10)

“As the first gift, O Lord, offer this to me: when I return, released by you to the world of my father, may he receive me with a calm mind, free from anger, recognising me as I have been before; not thinking that I am dead and returning.”

This implies that Nachiketas must return, and when returned, should be recognised. He wants normal circumstances to prevail when he returns. This is the result of fasting for one night: one becomes normal in a spiritual sense, and the world from which the soul rose accepts it truly. Many believe this verse to mean that by the power of fasting, austerity etc., a seeker can gain world-renown; you will wield a power which the world will recognise. This is a boon, but also a temptation of which one has to be cautious. A person, who was just a part of the world, now becomes a world figure. Every seeker will have to pass through this stage, and to each one it will come in a different shape.

To give an example, there was a mahatma in the regions above Gangotri. For more than twenty years he did not even come to the village, such was his vairagya. But suddenly, desire arose in his mind to go and preach to the world. Of course, his retreat must have done some good, because no tapas goes without effect. Such a temptation also came to the Buddha. Mara said to him: “You have attained the highest! Go and preach to the world!” If one yields to this, he returns before reaching the topmost level, feeling a satisfaction that the world recognises him, and spiritual pride takes over. It is difficult to truly transcend this stage; and it is doubtful if there is anyone now who has done it. It would be a rise to universal renown and universal knowledge.

yathā purastād bhavitā pratīta auddālakir āruṇir matprasṛṣṭaḥ,
sukhaṁ rātrīś śayitā vītamanyus tvāṁ dadṛśivān mṛtyumukhāt pramuktam. (11)

Yama says: “Your first boon is granted, and you will be recognised by your father who will be happy to receive you, who has returned with knowledge. What is the second boon?”

Nachiketas’ Second Wish (Nachiketas Vidya)

svarge loke na bhayaṁ kiṁ ca nāsti na tatra tvaṁ na jarayā bibheti.
ubhe tīrtvā aśanāyā pipāse śokātigo modate svarga-loke. (12)

Nachiketas asks: “Lord, I have heard that in heaven there is supreme satisfaction, there is no death. People are youthful, with no fear of old age. How do they gain immortality? Teach me that secret!”

Gods in heaven experience only birth, youth and growth; no old age and death. There are two heavens, the lower and the higher. The lower one referred to in the Puranas is indra-loka, and the higher one is brahma-loka. Nachiketas may be referring to both of them. In the lower heaven is intense joy. It is like our world; a counterpart to our desires, but there is no heat, cold, hunger, thirst, old age, disease and death, all of which are our sufferings here. The individuals there are partaking of the glory of the realm. But from that heaven, one has to come back. One may go there on account of having done good deeds here, but on exhaustion of their merits, he returns. The higher heaven or brahma-loka is different in its nature: it is identical with hiranyagarbha. And here, one crosses over hunger and thirst.

When one becomes the Soul of the cosmos, or hiranyagarbha, there is no return. It is enjoyment not only after death, but even while living. This state is known as jivanmukti, and described in various ways in our scriptures. It is the state of vaishvanara, identified with vaishvanara-agni or nachiketas-agni, or universal fire. This vaishvanara is ishvara, the Universal Man (vishva and nara: vaishvanara) to be attained through a mysterious upasana by imagining, in internal meditation, the external sacrifice. The Aranyakas contain such types of meditation where the actual sacrifice is contemplated in the mind, without material objects. The nachiketas-agni is an example of this type. This particular portion of the Upanishad is a faint memory of the Aranyaka portion of the Taittiriya Brahmana.

sa tvam agniṁ svargyam adhyeṣi mṛtyo, prabrῡhi taṁ śraddadānāya mahyam
svarga-lokā amṛtatvam bhajanta, etad dvitīyena vṛṇe vareṇa. (13)

“O Yama, you know the secret of the performance of this mysterious universal fire-sacrifice, by which one can attain heaven. Teach this to me, who has come with faith. I am honest. I have heard that they become immortal, who reach that abode. This I choose as my second boon.”

From the external sacrifice of Gautama, we turn to the internal one of Nachiketas.

pra te bravīmi tad u me nibodha svargyam agniṁ naciketaḥ prajānan
anantalokāptim atho pratiṣṭhāṁ viddhi, tvam etaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyām. (14)

“Well, I shall tell you the secret,” says Yama. “I do know it, and I know that you know that I know. This heavenly fire, which is not physical, is the support of the Virat-purusha, the universe; and it is in your heart, secretly.”

What is this universal fire? Not found in the kitchen, not found in the house, but in the heart of everyone. Just as the ocean is in every drop, the Universal is in you, and can be invoked. The knowledge of this agni is equal to becoming the support of this universe, attaining to all worlds, nay, he himself is this creation. Wonderful is this teaching! It is not easy to explain what this universal fire is. The fifteenth mantra says it very enigmatically, and it is difficult to understand.

lokādim agniṃ tam uvāca tasmai, yā iṣṭakā, yāvatīr vā, yathā vā.
sa cāpi tat pratsvadat yathoktam; athāsya mṛtyuḥ punar evāha tuṣṭaḥ. (15)

The Upanishad does not reveal what Yama told Nachiketas, but uses a mystical language: agni is the origin of everything, and creation emanates from it.

“This sacrifice can be done either internally or externally, even as you can adore God by thinking of Him, or by offering flowers to Him. The nature of the substance with which to build this altar, the number of bricks and the way of lighting the fire—these three are the difficult things in the sacrifice. Whatever Yama spoke, Nachiketas repeated it just as it had been told.”

tam abravīt prīyamāṇo mahātmā varaṁ tavehādya dadāmi bhῡyaḥ.
tavaiva nāmnā bhavitāyam agniḥ, sṛṅkāṁ cemām aneka-rῡpāṁ gṛhāṇa. (16)

“Yama was very pleased with his competence and said: ‘My dear child, I give you here another boon: I ordain that from now on this sacrifice will be called by your name instead of vaishvanara-agni. Take also this multi-coloured garland’ (symbolising prakriti).”

In mystical texts, the spiritual experience in this condition is compared to a garland of different colours that adorns the seeker, indicating manifold experiences and not only a single one. Here, one is blessed with universal knowledge of the past, present and future, and of memory of previous births. Past and future become an eternal present.

There are many stages of God-attainment, and three or four major ones. One of them is the acquisition of omniscience, or universal knowledge, or being hiranyagarbha, the Soul of the universe. This meditation which gives the practitioner supernatural knowledge—because the world which is normally seen as an external object enters into himself—is described elsewhere in this Upanishad. A Guru has to teach personally how this is done.

triṇāciketas tribhir etya sandhiṁ trikarma-kṛt tarati janma-mṛtyῡ
brahmajajñaṁ devam īḍyam viditvā nicāyye’māṁ śāntim atyantam eti. (17)

This is the crux of the teaching. The performance is threefold; the means employed are threefold; the action is threefold. It is only through the tradition of a Guru explaining this enigmatic mantra that we know its meaning. What is this threefold performance symbolised by the threefold fast? It is self-control in the three realms. In addition to physical fast, also fast mentally. And thirdly, you should not even have a subconscious desire, not even for renown or omniscience. This threefold internal meditation is trinaciketas: piercing through mind, intellect and soul. Another explanation says it means father, mother, Guru—threefold gathering of knowledge. Still another holds that by performing the three duties: tapas, dana and yajna—the three austerities relating to oneself, world and God—one transcends mind, intellect and individuality; tapas meaning the restraint of one’s passions; dana the giving out of oneself to the world, thereby killing the ego; and yajna the sacrifice of one’s individuality. “By these, one crosses over birth and death. Then the flame burns steadily in the form of divine experience, born of Brahma or the Universal. Knowing Him, resplendent and adorable, one reaches peace ultimate.”

triṇāciketas trayam etad viditvā ya evaṁ vidvāṁś cinute nāciketam,
sa mṛtyu-pāśān purataḥ praṇodya śokātigo modate svarga-loke. (18)

“Nachiketas, I have told you the secret of internal meditation, hereafter to be called nachiketas-agni. Performing it, he who lights thrice this fire breaks the bonds of birth and death (which are but raga and dvesha). Breaking them, one becomes a jivanmukta in this very birth. Freed from all sorrow, he reaches the highest heaven of divine bliss.”

eṣa te’gnir naciketas svargyo yam avṛṇīthāḥ dvitīyena vareṇa.
etam agnim tavaiva pravakṣyanti janāsas; tṛtīyaṁ varaṁ naciketo vṛṇīṣva. (19)

As a result of two days’ fasting, Nachiketas received the blessing of two great boons. Now, Yama speaks to him about the third one: “Nachiketas, your second boon has also been granted; the fire sacrifice will be known by your name. Choose now your third boon.”

Nachiketas’ Third Wish

yeyam prete vicikitsā manuṣye’stītyeke nāyam astīti caike;
etat vidyām anuśiṣṭas tvayāham, varāṇām eṣa varas tṛtīyaḥ. (20)

The boy now surprises Yama by raising a most unusual and unexpected point, a question that most people would not even think about: “I ask of you not any material object, but a knowledge which I wish to receive. What happens to the soul when it reaches its final death—extinction of personality. Some hold that nothing exists; that all is void. Some say, something is. I shall regard your blessing me with this knowledge as my third boon.” This is not the death people normally undergo but the other one, when the soul crosses all phenomena. Does it exist there, or does it get extinguished?

This question was also put to the Buddha. He replied that to say something exists or nothing exists is both wrong. Maitreyi asked Yajnavalkya about this same theme, to which he answered that after final death, there is no self-consciousness.

devair atrāpi vicikitsitam purā, na hi suvijñeyam, aṇur eṣa dharmaḥ.
anyaṁ varaṁ naciketo vṛṇīṣva, mā moparotsīr ati mā sṛjainam. (21)

“Even the gods wonder about this, and have never come to an understanding. Subtle is this truth, so subtle that no answer would be adequate to it. So, Nachiketas, please ask another question. Please release me from this obligation,” said Lord Yama.

But Nachiketas was not a person to give up like that.

devair atrāpi vicikitsitaṁ kila, tvaṁ ca mṛtyo yan na suvijñeyam āttha,
vaktā cāsya tvādṛg-anyo na labhyaḥ; nānyo varastulya etasya kaścit. (22)

“You say that even the gods have doubt; that it is the subtlest of truths—from this I can derive that you know it. I am happy to be in the presence of the proper person! No boon can be equal to this: I do not want an inferior one!” With this statement, Yama is cornered.

śatāyuṣaḥ putra-pautrān vṛṇīṣva bahῡn paśῡn hasti-hiraṇyam aśvān
bhῡmer mahad-āyatanaṁ vṛṇīṣva svayaṁ ca jīva śarado yāvad icchasi. (23)

“I offer you big posterity, wealth, cattle, gold and elephants in plenty; land and long life for yourself.”

etat tulyam yadi manyase, varaṁ vṛṇīṣva, vittaṁ cira-jīvikāṁ ca,
mahā-bhῡmau naciketas tvam edhi, kāmānāṁ tvā kāmabhājaṁ karomi. (24)

“Any boon like this that you want, choose it, and wealth and long life. Prosper, O Nachiketas, on this vast earth!”

ye ye kāmā durlabhā martya-loke sarvān kāmāṁś chandataḥ prārthayasva.
imā rāmāḥ, sarathāḥ satῡryāḥ, na hīdṛśā lambhanīyā manuṣyaiḥ.
ābhir mat-prattābhiḥ paricārayasva, naciketo maraṇam mānuprākṣīḥ. (25)

“Whatever delights there may be, conceivable or inconceivable, visible or invisible, ask for them without restraint. Here are chariots, and noble maidens with musical instruments, to serve you. People have never even seen them; they cannot be won by men. Be happy with these. But do not ask about this great death again, I pray!”

śvo-bhāvā martyasya yad antakaitat sarvendriyāṇām jarayanti tejaḥ
api sarvaṁ jīvitam alpam eva tavaiva vāhās tava nṛtya-gīte. (26)

Nachiketas says: “I understand your intention. But ephemeral are all these pleasures! They wear out our senses; we become feeble and old after their enjoyment. Even longest life is nothing before eternity; and all the happiness—because it has a beginning—shall have an end also. These chariots, these damsels and enjoyments: take them back; I do not want them!”

na vittena tarpaṇīyo manuśyaḥ, lapsyāmahe vittam adrākṣma cet tvā.
jīviṣyāmo yāvad īśiṣyasi tvaṁ varastu me varaṇīyaḥ sa eva. (27)

“No man can find eternal contentment with these, and yet you want me to be satisfied with them.” This is what Yayati declared after a hundred years of enjoyment: “Wants have no limit; when one is satisfied, another one comes up, and then a third one, and so on.” Thus, no wealth of the world can keep anybody content. “And if I wanted this wealth: if I know the secret about death from you, it shall come as a corollary. So why should I only want the effect without the cause, the former being transient and fleeting, since we shall only exist as long as the world, for when it gets dissolved, we too, shall have to go. I do not want all these things.”

These are temptations in the path of sadhana, to which Nachiketas gave a prompt and befitting reply. All objects Yama offered come under the eshanas. There are three of them: vitteshana, putreshana and lokeshana, also called kanchana, kamini, and kirti; the desire for gold, the desire for sex and the desire for fame; these three bind the soul and prevent its further progress. Yama offered everything except God, with the intention to trick Nachiketas; but his ruse is met with equal strength of viveka and vairagya: the power of renunciation backed up by understanding.

Whatever be its glamour, everything is transient. Even glamour is relative to this world, and when the latter changes, the former also changes, and we are in horror instead of delight. Even if we are to really get these things, they are not going to satisfy us. No one can truly be happy with them, because wants rise ultimately from a lack felt within, from an infinite Source which cannot be satisfied by finite objects of this world. Like stones, that cannot fill the vast depth of the ocean, the gifts being offered by Lord Yama cannot fulfil the desires of a person. “O Lord, give not these things to me. They are of no use. May I repeat: I want only that which I asked for.”

ajīryatām amṛtānām upetya jīryan martyaḥ kvadhasthaḥ prajānan
abhidhyāyan varṇaratipramodān, atidīrghe jīvite ko rameta. (28)

“A mortal having come face to face with the Immortal that you are, how could he ask for mortal things? By properly scrutinising the nature of the various attractive pleasure-centres of the world, who can ask for a long life? It is full of pain, and a long life is only extending the misery. No one who knows of That which perishes not, would want what you are offering.”

When an object is presented before us, what is presented is nothing but a shape, colour and contour. The perception of an object is coupled with the longing for it, a meaning it represents; and this meaning tells us whether we should have it or not. It excites the desire to contact the object, which results in delight. Happiness is of three kinds: priya, moda and pramoda. Happiness by perception of a desired object is priya. You get stimulated when you see a desired object. When you possess it, the happiness increases; this is moda. The happiness of enjoyment is still more intense; it is called pramoda.

When one enjoys an object, one forgets himself, and it is this self-forgetfulness that brings delight. The nearer an object comes, the more pleasure it gives, and the more you forget yourself. This happens when one experiences sense-pleasures in deep sleep and in samadhi; in all three states, self-consciousness is lost. But one does not know what happens in sleep and in sensory experience. When you are conscious of the object, you are not happy, and when you lose self-consciousness in the possession and enjoyment of it, you forget it and you are happy.

yasminn idam vicikitsanti mṛtyo yat sāmparāye mahati brῡhi nas tat,
yo’yaṁ varo gῡḍhamanupraviṣṭo nānyaṁ tasmān naciketā vṛṇīte. (29)

Clinching the whole matter, Nachiketas says: “I shall not be satisfied with all the things you offer. I shall be happy only with that thing about which even the gods have doubt. What happens to the soul in the last stage? Nachiketas shall not ask another question. Nachiketas wants nothing else than this.”

The student has proved his worth. The glamour has not tempted him, and he has stood the test successfully. This is the transitional process which is necessary between the first two boons and the experience of immortality. The temptation of the Buddha is relevant here: everything was offered to him. The difficulty is that one cannot know them as temptations, because they come as realities and it requires a superior intelligence to detect them and find out from where they have come, and why they have come. The condensed essence of all delights of all the worlds will come before us as a bar against our progress. But when viveka helps us, Truth shall reveal itself.

The world, through its laws, wants to prevent us from straying away; like sheep in a herd should we keep doing. Thus, the laws of the world to which we are tied take these forms, and the more we try to go away from them, the more they try to pull us towards them, and our attempts will be useless if they are inadequate. These are inconceivable ordeals. We cannot even imagine them now, and when we are really placed in such a condition, we will weep, not knowing where we are standing. Nachiketas is the representative of human character passing through a crisis.

Yama is now pleased beyond measure and speaks no longer words of temptation, but words of knowledge which soothe Nachiketas’ burning aspirations.