May 24, 2024, Friday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Yamaraj advises Nachiketa to choose “beneficial” over “pleasing”

1. Kathopanishad- II

The Nepal Weekly
January 25, 2022

Kathopanishad presents as an illustration a story of dialogue between Nachiketa and Yamaraj to explain logic for what is pleasing in short term and what is beneficial in the long run.

Nachiketa, the son of Bajashrabas, is confused about his father’s pledge to give away all his wealth in charity. When he sees his father offering old, sick and dying cattle in charity, he wonders what better wish his father would like to fulfill through this rather poor act of offering useless animals. He asks his father, amidst bewilderment, “whom do you plan to donate me?” His father ignores initially the question. But the boy persists asking until his father said in anger “I would offer you to Yamaraj, the God of Death.” Since Nachiketa was truthful and honest he thought of offering himself to Yamaraj as per his father’s words. His curiosity did not allow him to wait for his father to move to contribute.

Once Nachiketa reaches Yamaraj’s place, he finds the Death-God not in. There he waits for three days starving without water and food despite being well-received by the consort of Yamaraj. After three days Yamaraj reaches his home and finds the boy waiting anxiously and devotedly for him. Being pleased over his focused dedication, the Death-God asks Nachiketa to ask for three boons in return.

“Let my father deal with me in a pleasant mood when I return home,” demands Nachiketa in his first boon. It was granted. As for the second, he wants to be blessed with the knowledge of the way to access heaven which is free from trouble, fear, disease and old age. Yamaraj agrees to this boon also explaining the Yagya ritual essential for entrance to heaven. The third boon was related to state of human after death. “Tell me whether human soul survives death or gets finished with last breath,’ Nachiketa begs. To this Yamaraj responds : “there is no simple answer to that so ask for something else such as wealth, gold, land, elephant, horses, century long life, son, etc.” The boy wants nothing else but answer to his question what after life on earth?

Being pleased with Nachiketa’s concentration, Yamaraj refers to the famous teaching of the Geeta and explains human soul is immortal, it is never born, it never dies, it knows no old age, it does not go through the cycle of death or birth, it exists in smaller than atom-form and could cover various universes together.

Those who go for sensual pleasure could never understand it for they get lost in the cycle of bodily pleasure which is temporary. Those who understand the immortality of soul look for greatness, positivity, openness, light and knowledge; they opt for beneficial for long term not caring for sensual pleasure. The beneficial could be beyond the reach of eye, mind, intellect and other faculties. It could be realized through high mental exercises undertaken with no worldly or bodily wish but disciplined spiritual dedication and concentration.

(See Choosing between immediate pleasure and lasting peace, TNW Jan 18)  By Shirish B.Pradhan