Selected verses from Kathopanishad – #4

Selected verses from Kathopanishad — Verses collated from the question papers for KSOU MA Sanskrit (2007 to 2014). Part 4 with notes from the classes conducted by Dr. Vanitha Ramaswamy (7-Oct-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.    हीयतेऽर्थाद्य उ प्रेयो वृणीते २०१४.०३
But the one who unthinkingly chooses the pleasant is verily a fool.

अन्यच्छ्रेयोऽन्यदुतैव प्रेय-        स्ते उभे नानार्थे पुरुषँ सिनीतः ।
तयोः श्रेय आददानस्य साधु    भवति हीयतेऽर्थाद्य उ प्रेयो वृणीते ॥ १.२.१ ॥

Yama said: The good is one thing and the pleasant another. These two, having different ends, bind a man. It is well with him who chooses the good. He who chooses the pleasant misses the true end.

अन्यत् different श्रेयः is the preferable अन्यत् different उत also एव indeed प्रेयः pleasurable. ते these उभे two नानार्थे being aimed at different ends पुरुषं man सिनीतः bind. तयोः among these two श्रेय preferable आददानस्य who chooses साधु good भवति comes about हीयते falls  अर्थात् from the noble goal य he  उ that प्रेयो pleasurable वृणीते chooses.

Among the shlokas on विद्याविद्ययोर्विद्याया एव श्रेयस्करत्वम्, this one is श्रेय: साधनमुपाददानस्यैव पुरुषार्थ: |

Nachiketa wants to understand relationship between the dualities –  Atma Vidyaa and Avidyaa ; Prevas and Shreyas. Man is bound by Vidyaa and Avidyaa in different forms. The path of Preya gives pleasure at the immediate instant. Shreya path gives pleasure in the end. श्रेय: आददानस्य – For the one who chooses the good, साधु भवति – good things will happen to him.  “वृ वरणे” – प्रेय: वृणीते – One who chooses Preya, हीयते – he will be deprived of the desired result. Yama had showed various pleasures that Nachiketas rejected. So Yama feels happy that his student passed in all the tests he conducted for checking the eligibility of the student to receive this highest knowledge. He tells Nachiketa that among Vidya and Avidya, Vidya is the only good option.

2.     श्रेयो हि धीरोऽभि प्रेयसो वृणीते २०१२.०३, प्रेयो मन्दो योगक्षेमाद्वृणीते २०१३.०३

It is the wise that selects the good in preference to the pleasant;
The simple-minded person selects the pleasant for the sake of their worldly well-being.

श्रेयश्च प्रेयश्च मनुष्यमेतः            तौ सम्परीत्य विविनक्ति धीरः ।
श्रेयो हि धीरोऽभि प्रेयसो वृणीते    प्रेयो मन्दो योगक्षेमाद्वृणीते ॥ १.२.२ ॥

The good and the pleasant approach man; the wise examines both and discriminates between them; the wise prefers the good to the pleasant, but the foolish man chooses the pleasant through love of bodily pleasure.

श्रेयः the preferable च and प्रेयः च the pleasurable मनुष्यं man एतः approach तौ these two संपरीत्य weighed विविनक्ति distinguishes/separates धीरः the intelligent man. श्रेयः the preferable, the beneficial हि indeed धीरः the intelligent one अभि by all means प्रेयसः comparable to the pleasurable वृणीते selects प्रेयः the pleasurable मन्दः the short-sighted one योग-क्षेमात् to satisfy his concern for security and growth वृणीते chooses.

Among the shlokas on विद्याविद्ययोर्विद्याया एव श्रेयस्करत्वम्, this one is विवेकिन एव श्रेय: साधनं वृणते |

In this shloka, Yama explains why people choose the path of Preyas even though Shreyas is far better, even when they have the freedom to choose (कर्तुं स्वायत्ते). Like a rat that unknowingly gets stuck in its trap, man gets entangled in the pleasures one after the other even without realizing that he is getting trapped in it.  इत: प्राप्नुत: श्रेयश्च प्रेयश्च | Man can get both Preyas and Shreyas. अतो हंस इवाम्भस: पय: The Hamsa takes only the milk leaving the milk. Like that the wise person takes only the Shreyas separating out the Preyas. विविनक्ति = due to his discriminating power. धीरः = One with high mental strength. योगक्षेमात् वृणीते – chooses for the sake of his worldly comfort.

3.     अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथान्धाः ॥ ५ ॥  २०१०.०२, २००९.०२, २०१४.०२

Like the blind that are led by blind man

अविद्यायामन्तरे वर्तमानाः           स्वयं धीराः पण्डितंमन्यमानाः ।
दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा       अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथान्धाः ॥ १.२.५ ॥
Fools dwelling in ignorance, yet imagining themselves wise and learned, go round and round in crooked ways, like the blind led by the blind.

अविद्यायां अन्तरे in the midst of ignorance वर्तमानाः existing स्वयं themselves धीराः intelligent पण्डितं enlightened मन्यमानाः considering दंद्रम्यमाणाः go round and round परियन्ति following crooked paths मूढाः senseless ones अन्धेन एव blind ones नीयमानाः being lead by यथा just as अन्धाः blind ones.

Among the shlokas on यमकृता नचिकेतस: प्रशंसा, this one is नचिकेतसो विवेक: |

अविद्यायाम् अन्तरे – inside the Avidyaa, वर्तमानाः  – staying in it, स्वयं धीराः पण्डितंमन्यमानाः – considers themselves to be a wise person and a most learned person – not realizing that he is entangled, he thinks that he has achieved something. दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा  – The fool moves from hither to thither. i.e., he faces very difficult circumstances in life. He who is caught in the material pleasure suffers from disease, old age, etc.  यथा अन्धेन एव नीयमाना अन्धाः – like the blind people being lead by a blind person.

4.     आश्चर्यो ज्ञाता कुशलानुशिष्टः

Wonderful is the knower being taught by an adept.

श्रवणायापि बहुभिर्यो न लभ्यः         शृण्वन्तोऽपि बहवो यं न विद्युः ।
आश्चर्यो वक्ता कुशलोऽस्य लब्धा    आश्चर्यो ज्ञाता कुशलानुशिष्टः ॥ १.२.७ ॥

He about whom many are not even able to hear, whom many cannot comprehend even after hearing: wonderful is the teacher, wonderful is he who can receive when taught by an able teacher.

श्रवणायाः for the hearing अपि even बहुभिः for many यः that which न is not लभ्य: available. शृण्वन्तः अपि even while hearing/learning बहवः many यं which न do not विद्युः understand. आश्चर्यः wonderful वक्ता the expounder कुशलः proficient अस्य लब्धा who receives this teaching आश्चर्यः wonderful ज्ञाता is the knower कुशलानुशिष्टः being taught by an adept.

Among the shlokas on यमकृता नचिकेतस: प्रशंसा, this one is श्रेयोऽर्थी सुदुर्लभ: |

It is very rare to see a man who chooses this path of spiritual prosperity, Shreyas. Among numerous people, only a few take to the right path. Among the people who take to the path, there are only a few who get to reach the goal of spiritual enlightenment.

बहुभि: श्रवणाया अपि न लभ्यः Many people are there who do not even hear of Atman; Through the company of good people, man gets good thoughts. शृण्वन्त: अपि बहव: न विद्युः Though hearing of Him, many do not comprehend. आश्चर्य: वक्ता Wonderful is the expounder and कुशल: अस्य लब्धा   rare the hearer; आश्चर्यो ज्ञाता rare indeed is the experiencer of Atman, कुशलानुशिष्टः taught by an able preceptor.

Self-knowledge is hailed as the highest vidyA, Knowledge. The supreme status accorded to AtmavidyA is due to the fact that it is the most difficult to teach, learn and assimilate. This triad of challenges makes the expounding and receiving vidyA a unique one. That is the reason that the upaniShads specify very high standards for the AchArya, the preceptor and the shiShya, the aspirant.

5.     मत्वा धीरो हर्षशोकौ जहाति ॥ १२ ॥ २००८.०३, २०१३.०२

The wise realize and they leave joy and sorrow behind.

तं दुर्दर्शं गूढमनुप्रविष्टं        गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम् ।
अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन देवं   मत्वा धीरो हर्षशोकौ जहाति ॥ १.२.१२ ॥

The wise, who by means of the highest meditation on the Self knows the Ancient One, difficult to perceive, seated in the innermost recess, hidden in the cave of the heart, dwelling in the depth of inner being, (he who knows that One) as God, is liberated from the fetters of joy and sorrow

तं That दुर्दर्शं inscrutable गूढम् lodged inaccessibly अनुप्रविष्टं having entered गुहाहितं and located in the intellect गह्वरेष्ठं and seated in the midst of misery पुराणम् ancient One अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन by resorting to the spiritual disciple देवं मत्वा knowing this Deity, the Conscious One धीरो the intelligent man हर्षशोकौ जहाति gives up happiness and sorrow.

Among the shlokas on वक्ष्यमाणज्ञानस्तुति:, this one is आत्माज्ञानाद् द्वन्द्वात्यय: |

धीर: तं दुर्दर्शं गूढम् अनुप्रविष्टं गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम् अध्यात्म+योग+अधिगमेन देवं मत्वा हर्षशोकौ जहाति | Yama glorifies the spiritual knowledge that has been asked as the third boon by Nachiketas. He explains the benefit of gaining this knowledge. धीर: हर्षशोकौ जहाति | धीर: – intelligent, smart person, one who can discriminate; An enlightened person gives up both  happiness and sorrow after gaining this knowledge. तं refers to that knowledge that Nachiketas wanted to obtain – यं ज्ञानं त्वम् इच्छसि तं ज्ञानं दुर्दर्शं | दुर्दर्शं – दु:खेन दर्शनम् अस्य इति दुर्दर्श: | This knowledge is difficult to be understood. The nature or properties of this knowledge are the following:

  1. दुर्दर्शं – hard to understand or perceive.
  2. गूढम् – it is secured in a secret place.
  3. अनुप्रविष्टं – a thing which is difficult to be entered into.
  4. गुहाहितं – हितम् = स्थितम् It is in the cave of intellect.
  5. गह्वरेष्ठं – It is in the midst of many troubles (गह्वरे विषमे अनर्थसंकटे तिष्ठति).
  6. पुराणम् – It has been existing for a very long time. It is not something new. It exists in all the 3 काला

[side note त्रिकालाभाद्यं ज्ञानम् = सत्यम् ; अभाद्य = that which is not affected].

This sacred secret spiritual knowledge अध्यात्मयोगं is the one where the mind is cut off from sensory objects like the family and possessions, and the conscious is kept on the Atma. देवम् = आत्मानम्. The intelligent person has the समभावा and does not feel excited during happiness or depressed during sorrow. This is the state of attained by the gnaani on gaining this knowledge.


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