Nachiketa

akbanik's picture



Average: 5 (1 vote)

The story of Nachiketa is as follows, the account being lifted from the Upanishad called Katha, which was from the Krishna Yajur Veda. Nachiketa in tradition is the great Yogacharya. My text follows the text of the Advaita Vedanta Printing House version of the Ramakrishna Math and was done by Swami Madhavanda. If it is not a good translation, it is because of my rewrite.

It was many years ago in the age of the Vedas. That would be about 1200 BC when the Arya (nobility) as they called themselves swept down and across an already weakened and partially defunct Harrapan civilisation. The Arya had settled the Gangetic plane in successive waves and had established a new civilisation. A bungalow civilization with a very developed farm culture and many memories of the Indus Valley and probably the steps. The scythians are relatives of the people who came to the Ganges and were called Arya (Nobles). The dyonesian stage of the India of Krishna and Rama, the warrior kings of the Lunar and Solar dynasties of the trans-Arya, the most famous and significant of the presumed kings of early India, was yet to happen.

This story about a Brahman hotra priests yagya and his son's propriety. One Auddaalaki "Vaajashravas (the gift-giver or food-giver)" Aruni by name decided to give away his possessions in order to earn some good Karma. He had, however, at that particular ceremony called the vishvajit given only those goods which were defective. The cows were old and the skin barely hanging on their bony frames. The udders were not giving milk and the teeth could hardly chew. This was the sacrifice which Vajrashravas intended to give in order to get into heaven in the afterlife. His son called Nachiketa by name and a very astute young man saw his fathers dilemma. By way of rectifying the situation he suggested to his father that he be given away. In this way since the son was the prize possession his father could earn the necessary merits and would be absolved for his paltry offering which must surely have offended the Gods.

"Father" he demanded, "to whom wilt thou give me." he said in the Vedic language which probably resembles the Sanskrit still used today for many of the scriptures of India, the Sanskrit which inherited from Prakrit and which is the origin of the many root words of the Indo-Aryan languages which are the common stock of European civilization. "I repeat," he said, "to whom will you give me?" Dad was outraged. The most precious son was trying to give himself away. Father Vajashrawas could not bear his son's obvious snicker and turned on him, "I'm giving you to death!" (It was the curse of Vajshravas). The son Nachiketa was not phased at all. He was ready. His ingenuousness led him to speculate as he walked toward the woods. "I'm no so bad. I never came last and as often as not I came first. I'm not just middling. Dad must have his reasons for sending me to death. there must be more than meets the eye to this. anyway people are born and grow like corn only to be harvested in the fall. They are plowed under and grow back again in the spring. It is always the same. You have to go sometime so it might as well be now."

We don't hear how he got to the death god, one Yama by name, but suddenly there he was at the doors of death asking the wife of the God of Death. "Where is the God of Death?" he asked very politely. Nachiketa was a most dutiful son. In his uprightness and his innocence he was very powerful. The wife said, "He is not here right now. You will have to wait." Wait he did. Three days. Three days without food or water. The Death God returned and his wife said to him, "Yama, there is a Brahman boy waiting outside. He has been waiting for three days." Yama went out right away. A brahman should be well treated in anybody's house, and even though he was the Lord of Death he still lived by the laws and custom of the Veda. He went up to Nachiketa directly and said, "Sorry to keep you waiting for so long. We didn't know you were coming. But by way of recompense I will give you any three boons that you wish." Nachiketa was flattered by his offer and bowed most genteelly to Death. "Thank you. I would first that my father should forgive me."

Death Said "so it shall be on your return that he will forgive and will no longer be angry."

Then Nachiketa asked, "What is the secret of the sacrificial fire which alone leads to heaven." He was asking - for the modern reader will no have a clue what this question really means - why is it that people use sacrificial rites. What good does it do. Does it really mean anything to burn incense and sit around a fire throwing in ghee and herbs and chanting all night long. Does that mean we are going to heaven as if there is some sort of causal connection between these rituals which look so completely silly to the Charvaka (the materialist skeptic or the modern scientific mind) and going to "heaven".

Yama said, "I love you forth rightness and your inquiring mind. You have come to me and you can ask for any material thing and you have asked for knowledge so I am just tickled. I am going to do you a favor. This sacrificial fire will now be called the Nachiketa fire. Come closer and I will teach you some things which are the key to this sacrifice."

Nachiketa took a seat beside him.

Yama said, "There are three kinds of knowledge for the Knower of the Veda. there is a knowledge of the Veda or scripture, there is a knowledge of the direct perception of the state or the immediate experience of the state, and there is inferential knowledge, as for example when you see some fire you can presume that there must be some heat, if not some flames. When these kinds of knowledge converge into one stream and they concur on some object then it can be concluded that is real knowledge. The sacrifice is the focus of this kind of knowledge. No one goes to heaven by putting little spoonfuls of liquefied butter in a fire he goes to heaven because he has ref