In the House of Death: Story of a Boy-Nachiketas: Part-2

Introduction: Death is a Teacher:

Please read the first part of this story: The link is here: In the House of Death: Story of a Boy-Nachiketas: Part-1
This is the second part of the legendary story of a little boy Nachiketa, barely ten years old, son of Sage Vajasravasa , who meets Yama (The Death God in Hindu philosophy). Through conversation, Yama reveals Supreme Knowledge to Nachiketa, the knowledge of the nature of Self (Atman) and the path to gain Wisdom, for Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).
Text is lengthy, since all the dialogs are covered to get the Essence of Katha Upanishad. Readers are requested to read with patience. My efforts will be successful, if you like the content.

Yama: Lord of Death! In short, I address here as Death!

Death said: ” This question has been discussed by the gods, it is deep and difficult. Choose another gift, Nachiketa! Do not be hard. Do not be hard. Do not compel me to explain.

Nachiketa said: ” Death! you say that the gods have discussed it, that it is deep and difficult; what explanation can be good as yours?

Death tempts Nachiketa a bit more:

Death said: ” Take sons and grandsons, all long lived, cattle and horses, elephants and gold, take a great kingdom. Anything but this; wealth, long life, Nachiketa! Empire, anything whatever; satisfy the heart’s desire. Pleasure beyond reach, fine women with carriages, their musical instruments; mount beyond dreams; enjoy! But do not ask what lies beyond death”

Nachiketa said: “Destroyer of man! these things pass. Joy ends enjoyment, the longest life is short. keep those horses, keep singing and dancing, keep it all for yourself. Wealth cannot satisfy a man. If he but pleases you, master of all, he can live as long as he likes, get all he likes; but I will not change my gift. What man, subject to death and decay, getting the chance of Un decaying life, would still enjoy mere long life, thinking of copulation and beauty. Say where man goes after death; end all that discussion. This, which you have made so mysterious, is the only gift I will take.”

Two Paths in Human Life: ” The Good and the Pleasant” # SREYAS & PREYAS # Sreyas is Vidya(wisdom), and Preyas is Avidya (ignorance).

Death said: ” The good is one, the pleasant another; both command the Soul. Who follows the good, attains sanctity, who follows the pleasant, drops out of the race. Every man faces both. The mind of the wise man draws him to the good, the flesh of the fool drives him to the pleasant.

Lord Yama praises Nachiketas’s discrimination:

Death Continues: Nachiketa! Having examined the pleasures, you have rejected them; turned from the vortex of life and death. Diverging roads: One called ignorance, the other Wisdom. Fools brag of their knowledge; proud, ignorant, dissolving, blind led by the blind, staggering to and fro. What can the money-maddened simpleton know of the future? ” This is the only world” cries he thinks there is no other, I kill him again and again. Some have never heard of the Self, some have heard of the Self, some have heard but cannot find Him. Who finds Him is a world’s wonder, who expounds Himis world’s wonder, who inherits Him from his Master is a world’s wonder. No man of common mind can teach Him; such men dispute one against another. But when the uncommon man speaks, dispute is over. Because the Self is a fine substance, He slips from the mind and deludes imagination. Beloved! logic brings no man to the Self. Yet when a wise man shows Him, He is found. Your longing eyes are turned towards reality.

Lord Yama’s attainment, when He was young:

Lord Yama continues: Would that I had always such a pupil. because man cannot find the Eternal through passing pleasure, I have sought the Fire in these pleasures and, worshipping that alone, found the Eternal. Nachiketa! The fulfilment of all desire, the conquest of the world, freedom from fear, unlimited pleasure, magical power, all were yours, but you renounced them all, brave and wise man. ” The wise, meditating on God, concentrating their thought, discovering in the mouth of the cavern, deeper in the cavern, that Self, that ancient Self, difficult to imagine, more difficult to understand, pass beyond joy and sorrow. The man that, hearing from the Teacher and comprehending, distinguishes nature from the Self, goes to the source; that man attains joy, lives for ever in that joy. I think, Nachiketa! your gate of joy stands open.”

Nachiketa asked: ” what lies beyond right and wrong, beyond cause and effect, beyond past and future?”

The Goal of all Spiritual efforts- “OM”

Death said: “The word the Vedas extol, austerities proclaim, sanctities approach- that word is OM! ” That word is eternal Spirit, eternal distance, who knows it attains to his desire. ” That word is the ultimate foundation. who finds it is adored among the saints. “The Self knows all, is not born, does not die, is not the effect of any cause; is Eternal, self-existent, spelt AUM, perishable, ancient. How can the killing of the body kill Him? He who thinks that He kills, he who thinks that He is killed, is ignorant. He does not kill nor is He killed. ” The Self is lesser than the least, greater than the greatest. He lives in all hearts. When senses are at rest, free from desire, man finds him and mounts beyond sorrow. though sitting, he travels, though sleeping is everywhere. Who but I Death can understand that God is beyond joy and sorrow. Who knows the Self, bodiless among the embodied, unchanging among the changing, prevalent everywhere, goes beyond sorrow. “The Self is not known through discourse, splitting of hairs, learning however great; He comes to man He loves; takes that man’s body for His own. “The wicked man is restless, without concentration, without peace; how can he find Him, whatever his learning? He has made mere preachers and soldiers His food, death its condiment; how can a common man find Him?”

Let us put it mathematically: “smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest”. Suppose n is a number, and we consider two loops. n=n+1 and n=n-1 in two different cases.
case 1. n+1> n; in the loop n=n+1, n approaches to ∞ (infinity)
case 2. n-1 < n; in the loop n=n-1, n approaches to zero; ε (epsilon) but ≠ 0. This example will just help to imagine the vastness of Brahman.
Planck length, the smallest in size = 1.6 x 1035 meters. Planck time, the smallest time = 1044seconds. Volume of the observable Universe is 3.566×1080 m3


एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ब्रह्म : = This word alone is verily “Saguna Brahman”. एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं परम्: = This word alone is verily the “Nirguna Brahman”. This syllable AUM(ॐ) is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the Highest, Eternal. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. एतदालम्बनं ज्ञात्वा ब्रह्मलोके महीयते : = This word is the ultimate foundation. Who finds it is adored among saints.

ब्रह्म` ~ “Brahman” : The Principal word in Upanishad: What is That?

Brahman: IT is That which is Absolute, fills all space, is complete in Itself, to which there is no second and which is continuously present in everything, in every being and everywhere. It is homogeneous in nature.

Important Reads related to this article

  1. The Four Great Sayings of Vedas:
  2. The Divine Art!!!


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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In the House of Death: Story of a Boy-Nachiketas: Part-1


This is a legendary story of a little boy Nachiketas, barely ten years old, son of Sage Vajasravasa. Nachiketa meets Yama (The Death God in Hindu philosophy) and get answers of his question: ‘What is Death?”

Through conversation, Lord Yama reveals “Supreme Knowledge” to Nachiketa, the knowledge of the nature Atman and the path to gain Wisdom,  Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

Sage Vajasravasa wished to perform a sacrifice called Vishwajit (Sarva Dakshina), meaning victory over the whole universe. Through such sacrifice, the performer aims to gain the fruit of gaining a higher world and enjoy the pleasures there. (Vajasrava means a Giver). The boy faced wrath of his father after completion of sacrificial fire , when he found there was fault in the part of his father. As such the boy was offered to Yama, by his father in anger.

Finally he got the desired knowledge from Yama when he exhibited “Mumukshautva” (intense desire to seek Wisdom) and Vairagya(dispassion for all worldly pleasures).

The Story in details:-

Sage Vajasravasa, desiring Heaven, rewards, performed the Visvajit sacrifice, in which he gave away all his property as gift[Dakshina]. He had a son by name Nachiketa.

Gifts not worth the name:

When the gifts were being distributed, Nachiketa, who was still a boy said to himself: Joyless, surely, are the worlds to which he goes who gives away cows no longer able to drink, to eat. to give milk, or to calve. He went to his father and said: Father! To whom will you give me? Nachiketa repeated this question second and a third time. At last his father got angry and replied: ‘Unto death I offer you’.

Nachiketa then proceeded to meet the king of Death: “Yama”

Nachiketas at the door of Death

Nachiketa thought: whether I die now or later matters a little. What purpose of the King of Death will my father serve today by thus giving me away to Death? Nachiketa said: Think of those who went before, those that will come after. Man dies and born again like a blade of grass. A mortal ripens like a corn and corn springs up again.

"Man dies and is born again like a blade of grass. This means seed grows only to fall and fall only to grow. This is the cycle of human life because birth and death are correlatives."

Lord Yama’s Instructions on Hospitality: 

Nachiketa went into the forest and sat in meditation within the house of Death. Death king Yama was out of his kingdom on his job. When Death appeared his servant said: Lord! when a holy man enters a house as guest it is as if fire has entered. The wise man cools him down. So bring him water O king of Death!

If a holy man comes into fool’s house and is given nothing, the fool’s family, public and private life, ambitions, reputation, property, hopes alliances, all suffer. Thereupon Lord Yama said to Nachiketa: ‘A guest should be respected. You have dwelt in my house three nights without eating; I bow to you O holy Boy! Take from me three boons[gifts]. Choose now three boons, one for each night, O Brahmin! may all be well with me’!

The First Boon: 

Nachiketa said: ‘O Death! may Gautama, my father, be calm, cheerful and free from anger toward me! may he recognise me and greet me when I shall have been sent home by you! This I choose as the first of three boons’.

Death grants the first boon!

King of Death said:  ‘I will so arrange things, that your father, will recognise and love you as before and he will sleep peacefully at night and his grudge against you will vanish’.

The Second Boon: 

Nachiketa said: ‘ There is no fear in the kingdom of Heaven, because you are not there, nobody there is afraid of old age. man is beyond hunger, thirst and sorrow. You know, O Death! Please explain me what Fire leads to Heaven, show it, I am full of faith. I ask this as my second boon.’

Death said: ‘ I will explain it, listen! find the rock and conquer unmeasured worlds. Listen, for this came out of cavern.’

Death grants the second boon! 

Yama told him that out of Fire comes this world, what bricks and how many go to the alter, how best to build it. Nachiketa repeated all. Death encouraged ran on. I give you another gift. This fire shall be called by your name. Count the links of the chain: 

*Worship the triple  Fire: 1) Knowledge, 2) Meditation, and 3) practice.

*The triple process: 1) Evidence, 2) Inference, and 3) Experience.

* The triple duty: 1) Study, 2) Concentration, and 3) Renunciation.

Understand that everything comes from Brahman. That Brahman alone is sought and found, attain everlasting peace; mount beyond Birth and Death.

***Here, Fire means Energy-

King of Death continued: ‘ When man understands himself, understands Universal self, the union of the two, kindles the triple Fire, offers the sacrifice; then shall he, though still on Earth, break the bonds of Death, beyond sorrow, mount into Heaven.[ **This is liberation, while living on Earth]

The Nachiketa Agni[Fire]:

The perfect sacrifice is explained by Yama.

 Out of fire arises all that exists in the Universe. Mastering this, one gains mastery over any field of human activity, and acquires whatever one desires in terms of worldly prosperity and power. However, it is all within the transitory realm; all gains here are impermanent. Nachiketas very attentively listened and was able to follow what was said. He repeated all that Yama explained. Being happy with Nachiketas, Yama encouraged and said " I will give you another gift. This fire shall be called by your name." And it is known as "Nachiketas Fire". 

‘The Fire that leads to heaven is your second gift, Nachiketa! It shall be named after you. Now choose the third gift.’

The Third Boon: 

The secret of Death!!!

Nachiketa said: ‘Some say that when man dies he continues to exist, others say that he does not. Explain, and that shall be my third gift.’

It is too difficult for you Nachiketa!

Death said: ‘ This question has been discussed by the gods, it is deep and difficult. choose another gift, Nachiketa! Do not be so hard. Do not compel me to explain.

Nachiketa said: ‘Indeed on this matter, even by the gods doubts have been entertained. You also say, O Death, that this principle is not truly comprehendible easily. But a teacher like you can explain this. Another such teacher I shall never find. therefore, I have no option before me but this. No other boon equal to this there be for me to choose!

To continue in the next part….

Third gift was indeed granted and it is a great part of the story, where the words of wisdom are the main essence. To be published in the second part, or else it will be a very lengthy blog.

Interested readers may go through the following post

Essence of Katha Upanishad :Part 4C of 4: -The Concluding Part-

*** This story is from Katha Upanishad. Kathopanishad is part of Krishna Yajurveda and consists of two Chapters. Each Chapter has three sections. This Upanishad is a favourite one in all ages and it is placed in third position in the list of Ten Principal Upanishads.


Through this dialogue between Nachiketa and Lord of Death, the response of Death has to be observed minutely! Every one is interested to know the secret of Death! But what are the conditions that an aspirant should posses to know the secret. That discussion proceeds from here onwards.