Katha Upanishad: Book I

1. OM. Usan Vajasravasa once offered a sacrifice entailing the giving away of all his possessions. He had a son called Naciketas.

2. Though he was just a boy, when the gifts of cattle were being led away, faith entered him and he thought:

3. 'They have drunk their water and eaten their grass, Have given their milk, senseless ones:

"Joyless" are the worlds called

To which goes the one who gives these.'

4. And he said to his father, 'Father, to whom will you give me?' A second and a third time he said it.

'I give you to Death’

5. 'First of many I go; Midst of many I go.
What work has Yama to do
That he will be doing with me?

6. 'Looking toward those before me
And looking back at those who come after—
Like the crops a mortal ripens
And like the crops springs up again.'

7. As fire a Brahmana
Guest enters a house,
And so they quench him,
Bring water, son of Vivasvat!

8. From that man of little wit
In whose house he stays, unfed,
A Brahmana takes hope and expectation,
Friendship, happiness, action and merit, sons and

9. 'Brahma, since you, a guest to be honoured,
Have stayed three nights in my house, unfed,—
Homage to you, Brahma! May it be well with me!—
Choose three boons.'

10. 'May Gautama, his mind at peace, well disposed,
His anger toward me gone, 0 Death,
Greet me, content, when I am released by you.
I choose this as the first of the three boons.'

11. 'Auddalaka Aruni,, released by me,
Shall be content as before.
He shall sleep well nights, his anger gone,
Once he has seen you set free from the mouth of Death,

12. 'In the heavenly world there is no fear:
You are not there, nor does one fear old age:
Having crossed over both hunger and thirst
One rejoices in that heavenly world beyond sorrow.

13. 'You teach me. Death, about the heavenly fire.
Tell it to me, who have faith.
The heavenly worlds share in immortality.
I choose this by way of my second boon.'

14. 'I will tell you, Naciketas, so listen to me
And leam of the heavenly fire.
Know of this, which is kept in a secret place—
How to win an endless world, and remain there.'

15. He taught him of the fire, the beginning of the world,
What bricks to use and how many, and how to build it-
And he repeated it back as it had been told to him.
Then Death, satisfied, spoke again

16. The great-hearted (mahatman) one, pleased, said,
'Today I give you another favour:
This fire will be known by your name.
Grasp this chain with its many forms.

17. 'The one of three Naciketa fires, who has attained union with the three,
Who does the three works, crosses over birth and death.
Knowing the god, worthy of offerings, who knows all that is born from brahman,
And building the fires, he reaches this surpassing peace.

18. 'The one of three Nadketa-rires, knowing this threesome,
Who, knowing this, builds up the Naciketa,
Thrusting Death's snares from before him,
Going beyond sorrow, rejoices in a heavenly world.

19. 'Naciketas, since you chose the heavenly fire
By way of your second boon,
Folk will speak of this fire as yours.
Naciketas, choose your third boon.'

20. 'There is doubt concerning a man who has departed.
Some say "He is” and others say "He is not".
Taught by you, I would know this.
This is the third of my boons.'

21. 'This was doubted here too, by the gods before;
It is a subtle dharma, not easily understood.
Choose a different boon, Naciketas.
Do not, do not insist: release me from this.'

22. 'So this was doubted here too, by the gods'
Since you. Death, tell me it is not easily understood,
And no one else can be found who can teach this as you can,
There is no boon to equal this,

23. 'Choose a hundred years, sons and grandsons,
Many cattle, elephants, gold, horses:
Choose a great estate of land,
And yourself live as many autumns as you will.

24. 'If you think fit, choose another boon, equal to this,
Wealth and long life too.
Naciketas, enter a great realm of desires:
I will make you the enjoyer of your desires.

25. 'Whatsoever desires are hard to obtain in the mortal world,
Ask for them all, at your will.
Here are fair ladies, with chariots, with musical instruments,
Their like not to be won by men.
Enjoy yourself with them—I give them to you—
Naciketas, but do not ask me about dying.'

26. 'Ephemeral things, Ender! Since they wear out
The potency of all a mortal's faculties,
And all life is so short,
The chariots are yours, the dance and song yours still.

27. 'A human being cannot be satisfied by wealth.
Shall we get wealth if we have seen you?
We shall live just as long as you decree.
That boon of mine is the only one to choose.

28. 'Once he has encountered the agelessness of the immortals,
How could the ageing mortal, dwelling on earth below, understanding this,
Contemplating their beauty, pleasures and delights,
Find pleasure in very long life?

29. 'Tell us, Death, what people are doubtful of
In the great matter of their passing away.
Naciketas chooses no other boon but this one
That is so deeply hidden.'

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