Essence of Katha Upanishad :part 4A of 4


Nachiketas at the door of Death

Preface: Patience is essential to read this article:

Introduction: Death is a Teacher:

Katha Upanishad belongs to Katha Branch of Krishna Yajurveda. Katha Upanishad is a favorite one in all ages and it is placed in third position in the list of Ten Principal Upanishads.

“Kata Upanishad” is divided in two ” parts( Adhyaya). Book-1 & Book-2. I have published  Essence of Book-1 in three parts. The links are given below:-

1.Essence of Katha Upanishad: Part-1 of 4

2.Essence of Katha Upanishad: Part-2 of 4

3.Essence of Katha Upanishad: Part-3 of 4

In this part, I will discuss in details on BOOK-2; Valli -1

काठकोपनिषदि द्वितीयाध्याये – प्रथमा वल्ली :–

“Path to realization of Atman”

The Nature of Atman: 

Book-2 has 49 verses in total. It is subdivided into three chapters(Valli). This part contains 15 Mantras of Prathama Valli.

Know the Power of Knowledge:– But before that let us know two obstacles to Knowledge.

We the Human face two obstacles in life. Both are obstacles in the path of Enlightenment. They are:——–

a) The External world of Senses.

b) The internal world of Mind. 

BOOK-2 CHAPTER-1 :(Adhyaya-2: Valli-1)

पराञ्चि खानि व्यतृणत् स्वयम्भू-
    स्तस्मात्पराङ्पश्यति नान्तरात्मन् ।
कश्चिद्धीरः प्रत्यगात्मानमैक्ष-
    दावृत्तचक्षुरमृतत्वमिच्छन् ॥ १॥

Mantra1: Lord of Death Yama Said:” The Self-Existent created the senses out-going, therefore one looks outward, not into the atman within. A rare discriminating man arises, desirous of immortality, sees the atman within.”

Mantra-2: The ignorant man runs after pleasures, sinks into the entanglement of death; but the wise man seeking the immortality, does not run among things that die.

The Cognizer of Sense Experiences:

येन रूपं रसं गन्धं शब्दान् स्पर्शाꣳश्च मैथुनान् । 
एतेनैव विजानाति किमत्र परिशिष्यते । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ३॥

Mantra-3: By , that they are cognized. whatever form, taste, smell, sound, touch and sexual joy one encounters, is by that alone. What is there unknowable to That in this world? This is verily That. (एतद्वै तत् ~This is Mahavakya of this Text)

Witness of the Three States.

Mantra-4: The wise man by meditating upon the all pervading Self, understands the objects of Dream and those of Waking State. That Great Omnipresent Atman, Having realized this , the wise man goes beyond sorrow.

[We may refer Mandukya Upanishad, from where we can know about the different states of Consciousness: 1} Waking, 2) Dreaming, 3) Deep Sleep and 4) Turiya] Interested readers may please read my blog on Mandukya Upanishad:  The Link is Here:-- 

Mantra-4 presents the Self as the Witness of the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. The Deep Sleep state is not mentioned as no objects are perceived in it. The perceiver is indicated as being the Self.

Mantra-5: He who knows that the enjoyer of this honey is one’s own dear Atman, the sustainer of his life, the Lord of the past and the future, no more thereafter does he ” wish to save himself”

Knowing the Truth, that the Individual Self, the eater of the fruit of action, is the Universal Self, maker of past and future, knows that he has nothing to fear.

Hiranyagarbha ~ Brahman in Subtle Creation:

Mantra-6: He is the “First-Born” of the Austerity of Brahma; He is born prior to the five elements; He enters and take his seat in the heart cavity, in the midst of the elements- He now truly Sees. This is verily That! [एतद्वै तत्]

This means that: the boundless power, source of every power, manifesting Itself as Life, entering into every Heart, living there among the elements, that is Self: “Brahman”

Mantra-7: It is She (Hiranyagarbha) from whom Prana is Born; She is the Enjoyer in the form of the Devas; She enters and takes her seat in the heart of cavity, in the midst of the elements-She is now truly Born. This is verily That![एतद्वै तत्]

The essence of the Mantra-6 & 7 has to be understood minutely.

यः पूर्वं तपसो जातमद्भ्यः पूर्वमजायत । 
गुहां प्रविश्य तिष्ठन्तं यो भूतेभिर्व्यपश्यत । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ६॥

 या प्राणेन संभवत्यदितिर्देवतामयी ।
 गुहां प्रविश्य तिष्ठन्तीं या भूतेभिर्व्यजायत । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ७॥

Mantra: 6 reflects the views in the perspective of Brahman and Mantra:7 views in the perspective of Human in the Earth.

“Hiranyagarbha” is Brahman Himself in a conditioned form. Hiranyagarbha is to be known as ” the First Born”(Poorvam Jaatam). ” Pranena Sambhavati” means from whom Prana is born.

The Tapasvin in Brahman is called Ishwara, which combines with the creative power called Maya at the Causal level. The first fruit of this union is “Hiranyagarbha”, which also is known as “Cosmic Womb” at the subtle level, who represents the Female potential to produce creation.

To understand the concept of Brahman-Ishwara-Hiranyagarbha-Virat(The creation), I request to read my another blog " The Divine Art", the link is here:--

Three types of Worshippers:

अरण्योर्निहितो जातवेदा गर्भ इव सुभृतो गर्भिणीभिः 
। दिवे दिवे ईड्यो जागृवद्भिर्हविष्मद्भिर्मनुष्येभिरग्निः । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ८॥

Mantra-8: Lodged between two pieces of wood(known as Arani), is the Fire of Knowledge that signifies Omniscience. It is like a foetus that is well-protected(nourished), there in womb of pregnant women. Day by day, it is carefully tended and adored(worshipped). i) By the sleepless one (the awakened in his contemplations);ii) by the offers of oblations(the householder) and iii) by the men (Upasakas) who worship triple Fire               (Nachiketas Fire). This is verily That! [एतद्वै तत्]

Here is the mystic meaning of the above Mantra.

In ancient time, Fire was created by the ignition of two sticks-the upper and lower aranis are the two sections of the mathava which ignites fire and keeps it hidden in them. One stick can not generate Fire, but two are necessary. Jatavedas means Agni (Fire). Just as rubbing is necessary to ignite Fire, some sort of igniting force is necessary to manifest Hiranyagarbha. We have Him in us; we carry Him with us always; just as pregnant women carry the foetus in their wombs wherever they go, we move about with Him, and we cannot live without Him. The Agni (Fire) is symbolically worshipped by the householders as the fivefold Agni which has become a Ritual only. People mistake this Agni, Earthly Fire as the real, instead of recognizing it as the Universal Fire. The Agni we worship is a symbol of the Vaishvanara-agni. Prana is Life manifesting itself as energies of various kinds, just as electricity can be manifest as heating or mechanical or other works. This mysterious living Being within individual bodies is That answer to Nachiketas’ question about Hiranyagarbha.

Essence of Mantra-6,7 & 8: The whole of Virat, the gross manifestation, has to be considered as being nothing but Brahman Himself. The same applied earlier to Hiranyagarbha. Now this is extended to include that even Virat too stand for Brahman alone.

Brahman- The Absolute:

Mantra-9: That from which the SUN (Hiranyagarbha) arises, and into which it merges or sets- That upon which depend all the Deities. None ever transcends That (The Supreme Brahman). This is verily That! [एतद्वै तत्]

Brahman is Both Here & Thereafter:

Mantra-10: That which is here is thereafter; whatever is there, is likewise here. He goes from death to death[Transmigrates], who sees any difference between there and here.

One should not differentiate and categorize “Brahman”-the Supreme. Brahman is Non-Dual and therefore can not be differentiated. He can only be known as one Homogenous Whole. He is both ” There and Here” . He is both in conditioned and unconditioned state. He is transcendent as well as immanent respectively. He is beyond as well as within.

Train your Mind that– there is but ONE; he  who divides the ONE, moves from Death to Death.

Mantra-11: This is to attained through the Mind alone; There is no diversity here whatsoever. He goes from death to death; who sees any difference between “Here & There”.

The “Thumb-Sized Brahman”

Why and whom to fear?

Mantra-12: The Purusha of the size of a thumb; resides in the middle(core) of the body. He is the Lord of the past and future; knowing Him one does not fear thereafter. This is verily That! [एतद्वै तत्]

Mantra-13: The Purusha of the size of a thumb; is like a light without smoke. He is the Lord of the past and future. He Exists today, and He will exist tomorrow. This is verily That! [एतद्वै तत्]

Mantra-14: Just as water rained on inaccessible height, gets dispersed as it runs to lower regions; so also one who perceives the selves differently, cannot avoid running after them endlessly.

The Self of the wise men remains pure.

Mantra-15: Just as pure water when into pure ; it is poured, it becomes verily pure water only; so also the pure thoughts of men of knowledge, poured on the Self, remain pure, O Gautama.

  *काठकोपनिषदि द्वितीयाध्याये - प्रथमा वल्ली*

पराञ्चि खानि व्यतृणत् स्वयम्भू-
    स्तस्मात्पराङ्पश्यति नान्तरात्मन् ।
कश्चिद्धीरः प्रत्यगात्मानमैक्ष-
    दावृत्तचक्षुरमृतत्वमिच्छन् ॥ १॥

पराचः कामाननुयन्ति बाला-
    स्ते मृत्योर्यन्ति विततस्य पाशम् ।
अथ धीरा अमृतत्वं विदित्वा
    ध्रुवमध्रुवेष्विह न प्रार्थयन्ते ॥ २॥

येन रूपं रसं गन्धं शब्दान् स्पर्शाꣳश्च मैथुनान् ।
एतेनैव विजानाति किमत्र परिशिष्यते । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ३॥

स्वप्नान्तं जागरितान्तं चोभौ येनानुपश्यति ।
महान्तं विभुमात्मानं मत्वा धीरो न शोचति ॥ ४॥

य इमं मध्वदं वेद आत्मानं जीवमन्तिकात् ।
ईशानं भूतभव्यस्य न ततो विजुगुप्सते । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ५॥

यः पूर्वं तपसो जातमद्भ्यः पूर्वमजायत ।
गुहां प्रविश्य तिष्ठन्तं यो भूतेभिर्व्यपश्यत । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ६॥

या प्राणेन संभवत्यदितिर्देवतामयी ।
गुहां प्रविश्य तिष्ठन्तीं या भूतेभिर्व्यजायत । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ७॥

अरण्योर्निहितो जातवेदा गर्भ इव सुभृतो गर्भिणीभिः ।
दिवे दिवे ईड्यो जागृवद्भिर्हविष्मद्भिर्मनुष्येभिरग्निः । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ८॥

यतश्चोदेति सूर्योऽस्तं यत्र च गच्छति ।
तं देवाः सर्वेऽर्पितास्तदु नात्येति कश्चन । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ९॥

यदेवेह तदमुत्र यदमुत्र तदन्विह ।
मृत्योः स मृत्युमाप्नोति य इह नानेव पश्यति ॥ १०॥

मनसैवेदमाप्तव्यं नेह नानाऽस्ति किंचन ।
मृत्योः स मृत्युं गच्छति य इह नानेव पश्यति ॥ ११॥

अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुषो मध्य आत्मनि तिष्ठति ।
ईशानं भूतभव्यस्य न ततो विजुगुप्सते । एतद्वै तत् ॥ १२॥

अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुषो ज्योतिरिवाधूमकः ।
ईशानो भूतभव्यस्य स एवाद्य स उ श्वः । एतद्वै तत् ॥ १३॥

यथोदकं दुर्गे वृष्टं पर्वतेषु विधावति ।
एवं धर्मान् पृथक् पश्यंस्तानेवानुविधावति ॥ १४॥

यथोदकं शुद्धे शुद्धमासिक्तं तादृगेव भवति ।
एवं मुनेर्विजानत आत्मा भवति गौतम ॥ १५॥

  इति काठकोपनिषदि द्वितीयाध्याये प्रथमा वल्ली ॥


Failure to comprehend the Essential Unity of Being is the Cause of Rebirth.

Why do we take rebirth or otherwise we can say we move from death to death. Why? It is due to wish of fulfilling desires that remain till death. But if we can realize the True Reality of the Self, the Eternal Self, from whom everything manifests, the desires get vanished, get dried up. All desires melt is the light of the Self. This is Nirvana. Nachiketas wanted to know, what happens to the Souls after death. Lord of Death ” Yama ” explained the reality through conversations between them. That is the Essence of Katha Upanishad.

Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite.**
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  4. Commentary of Katha Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  5. Katha Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  6. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  7. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentary By Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  8. Commentary of Mandukya Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  9. MANDUKYA Upanishad By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  10. A-U-M Awakening to Reality : By Dennis Waite***
  11. Panchadasi: Swami Vidyaranya: 
  12. Information available on internet.

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