Selected verses from Kathopanishad – #2

Selected verses from Kathopanishad

Verses collated from the question papers for KSOU MA Sanskrit (2007 to 2014).

Part 2 with notes from the classes conducted by Dr. Vanitha Ramaswamy (30-Sep-2015)


  • The Kathaka Upanishad with Shri Shankara’s Commentary, edited with notes by Sri Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati, Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya
Online References for Sanskrit Verses and English Translation

1.      सस्यमिव मर्त्यः पच्यते सस्यमिवाजायते पुनः ॥ ६ ॥ २००९.०१, २०१४.०१

See how kernels of corn fall to the ground, decay, and are later reborn.

अनुपश्य यथा पूर्वे प्रतिपश्य तथाऽपरे ।
सस्यमिव मर्त्यः पच्यते सस्यमिवाजायते पुनः ॥ १.१.६ ॥

Look back to those who lived before and look to those who live now.
Like grain the mortal decays and like grain again springs up (is reborn).

Mantra 6: अनुपश्य Consider यथा पूर्वे the way your forefathers behaved प्रतिपश्य तथा परे and consider also how the others behave now. सस्यम् इव Just like corn  मर्त्यः man पच्यते decays  सस्यम् इव अजायते पुनः and is reborn like corns sprouting.

यथा पूर्वे अनुपश्य | तथा अपरे प्रतिपश्य । मर्त्यः सस्यम् इव पच्यते |  पुनः मर्त्यः सस्यम् इव अजायते |

Among the verses on नचिकेतसो यमसकाशप्राप्ति:, this one is पितरं प्रति नचिकेतस उक्ति: |

Since Nachiketa kept asking to whom Vyaajasravas is going to denote him, his father angrily says that he will be given to Yama. Before leaving for the Yama Loka, Nachiketa says this to his father.

Because his father has spelt out a few words in his mood of anger, and later on only he realizes what he has done. Just look at our predecessors and our followers. We need to follow their steps. Nachiketa feels that his father is not doing the right thing and that he does not have the right knowledge of how the sacrifice had to be conducted. His father also got angry when questioned about donating his son. Giving things in charity, which are of no use to the receiver does not result in good benefits. This ignorance and the anger are not the right features of a Jnaani or an enlightened soul. So Nachiketa is giving advice to his father. He points out that our predecessors never spoke untruth. So he tells his father not to do against the predecessors’ actions. The man matures like a crop. From the seed of the crop again, another crop emerges. (अ in अजायते indicates past tense and not negation). “Don’t feel bad that I am going to die. I will come back. This body might die. But I will remain in the form of the Atman. This has been told by our ancestors. This can never go wrong. Though there is continuity of the soul, man cannot live in this earth carrying the same body until eternity. So this transient life has to end. So make your words come true and send me to the Yama Loka”, says Nachiketa to his father, convincing him to send him to Yama Loka.

2.     अस्तीत्येके नायमस्तीति चैके

येयं प्रेते विचिकित्सा मनुष्ये  अस्तीत्येके नायमस्तीति चैके ।
एतद्विद्यामनुशिष्टस्त्वयाऽहं   वराणामेष वरस्तृतीयः ॥ २० ॥

Nachikētas said: There is this doubt regarding what becomes of a man after death. Some say he exists, others that he does not exist. This knowledge I desire, being instructed by thee. Of the boons this is the third boon.

या इयं this  प्रेते on the death विचिकित्सा doubt मनुष्ये- of man अस्ति ‘It exists” इति एके some say नायं ‘it does not’ अस्ति ‘exist’ इति च एके say the others. एतद् this विद्यां would like to know अनुशिष्टः being taught त्वया by you अहं I वराणां among the boons एष this वरः boon तृतीयः is the third one.

या इयं प्रेते विचिकित्सा मनुष्ये  अस्ति इति एके न अयम् अस्ति इति च एके ।
एतत् विद्याम् अनुशिष्ट: त्वया अहम्  वराणाम् एष: वर: तृतीयः ॥ १.१.२० ॥

मनुष्ये प्रेते (सति) अयम् अस्ति इति एके, अयम् न अस्ति इति च एके  (इति) या इयं विचिकित्सा (भवति), एतत् विद्याम् त्वया अहम् अनुशिष्ट: | एष: वर: वराणाम् तृतीयः वर: (भवति) |

Among the verses on तृतीयो वर:, this one is आत्मग्नानप्रार्थना |

Having reached the abode of Yama, Nachiketa waits for 3 days with any food, for Yama to return to his abode. To save himself from the ill-effects of not extending hospitality to the guest, Yama offers three boons to Nachiketa. As the first boon, Nachiketa prays for the peace of mind for his father. For the second boon, Nachiketa gains the knowledge about the construction of the fire altar and other actions associated with the fire sacrifice or Yagna which gets named after him as Naachiketaagni. This shloka has the third boon asked by Nachiketa. He has become aware of the extra-ordinary and the advantageous situation (सदवकाशा) that he is placed in. So he wants to make the best use of the third boon as he realizes the greatness of Yama. So he wants to gain the highest knowledge from Yama.

Being told to ask for the third boon, Nachiketa says this. “This is an eternal doubt that everyone has. Having died, a few people say that he continues to exist in a different state where the body, the senses, the mind and the intellect have been silenced.  He exists beyond the body as the Atma. Another party says that there is no existence after death. We are not able to prove by Pratyaksha (Perception) or Anumaana (Inference) [The other means of knowledge or Pramaanaas are Upamaana (Comparison), Saabda (Verbal Testimony) , etc.]. This specialized field of knowledge (Vignaanam) is what I want to know. This knowledge is about the life after death.  I was looking for a knowledgeable person to learn about it. As the third boon, kindly enlighten me with this knowledge.”

3.     नचिकेतो मरणं माऽनुप्राक्षीः ॥ २००८.०२

O Nachiketas, Do not insist me about death.

ये ये कामा दुर्लभा मर्त्यलोके
सर्वान् कामाँश्छन्दतः प्रार्थयस्व ।
इमा रामाः सरथाः सतूर्या
न हीदृशा लम्भनीया मनुष्यैः ।
आभिर्मत्प्रत्ताभिः परिचारयस्व
नचिकेतो मरणं माऽनुप्राक्षीः ॥ १.१.२५ ॥

इमा: सरथाः सतूर्या: रामाः ईदृशा: मनुष्यैः न हि लम्भनीया: (भवन्ति)। मत्प्रत्ताभिः आभि: परिचारयस्व | हे नचिकेत, मरणं (i.e., मरणसम्बद्धं प्रश्नं) मा अनुप्राक्षीः (i.e., मा एवं प्रष्टुम् अर्हसि) |

Whatsoever objects of desire are difficult to obtain in the realm of mortals, ask them all as thou desirest; these lovely maidens with their chariots and musical instruments, such as are not obtainable by mortals — be served by these whom I give to thee. O Nachikētas, do not ask regarding death.

ये ये whatever कामा desirable objects दुर्लभा difficult to get मर्त्यलोके in the world of mortals सर्वान् all those कामान् objects च्छन्दतः according to your choice प्रार्थयस्व seek to obtain. इमा these रामाः celestial nymphs सरथाः endowed with chariots सतूर्याः with musical instruments न never हि indeed ईदृशाः such ones लम्भनीयाः are obtainable मनुष्यैः by humans आभिः by these women मत्प्रत्ताभिः provided by Me (Yama) परिचारयस्व get served नचिकेतो O Nachiketa मरणं regarding death मा never अनुप्राक्षीः ask Me.

Among the verses on तृतीयो वर:, this one is आत्मग्नानफलतुल्यतया उपस्थापितानि कतिचित् फलानि |  (तुल्यता = equivalent)

Yama was surprised when Nachiketa sought the knowledge of after-life and the science of soul (atma vignaanam) for his third boon. Even the demi-gods did not know this spiritual secret. It requires a lot of maturity. He discourages the boy from asking for this knowledge by presenting before him more attractive options to the young Nachiketa.

“You should enjoy life with beautiful wives, travelling in chariots, along with musical instruments. Don’t undermine the value of this pleasurable life. I am giving some of the best pleasures that one can wish to enjoy, which are not easily obtained by all. Be served by these women who are being provided by me. Don’t ask me the secret about death”.

Yama’s intention was not to avoid sharing the knowledge with Nachiketa. He was actually happy to see such a good disciple in Nachiketa.  But he wanted to test the Nachiketa’s eagerness, firmness of mind, and sincerity by tempting him with all the material pleasures.


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