Essence of Katha Upanishad: Part-2 of 4


  • The article is purely based on my studies, my thoughts, my concept, my beliefs, my experiences and self realization.
  • ☆ I found some link between modern science(Quantum mechanics) and teachings of ancient sages as mentioned in Vedanta, regarding Universe, Supreme Consciousness or the Ultimate truth , the Ultimate Reality whatever we say.
  • ☆ The term “MAN” wherever used in this entire text is intended to consider as “HUMAN” irrespective of gender differences.
  • ♡ Having gone through the Vedanta/ancient texts, commentaries, translated by different writers, translators, publishers on the same topic, I have tried my best to share the subject matter as I understood and convinced too. My intention is to reach to you with the topic that I found very useful for human lives. I am not good in English literature. Please give your valuable suggestions for the improvement and valuable inputs to make the text beneficial for mankind.
  • ☆ The Spiritual context is purely based on ancient sacred texts. Sanskrit slokas are taken from books and websites. There may be little variation in the translations and commentaries. I have shared my own views and explanations according to my concept gathered in the subject through experience and intuitions. There is no discrimination against any religion, race, cast or creed.
  • Your feedback will be highly appreciated. I am sure that the subject matter is highly logical and does not bring any conflict. Hope you will enjoy reading. Regards. NAMASTE.

Katha Upanishad : — It gives a direct teaching to the spiritual aspirant.

ॐ ॥ अथ कठोपनिषद् ॥

प्रथमाध्याये द्वितीया वल्लीIntroduction:

In Essence of Katha Upanishad: Part-1 of 4 , Section-1/Chapter-1 has been discussed. In this part we will discuss second Valli of first Adhaya.(Section-2/Chapter-1- from verse -1 to verse-25). Text is lengthy, since all the verses are covered to know the Essence of Katha Upanishad. Readers are requested to read with patience. My efforts will be successful, if you like the content.

Two Paths in Human Life: ” The Good and the Pleasant” # SREYAS & PREYAS #

अन्यच्छ्रेयोऽन्यदुतैव प्रेय-
    स्ते उभे नानार्थे पुरुषँ सिनीतः ।
तयोः श्रेय आददानस्य साधु
    भवति हीयतेऽर्थाद्य उ प्रेयो वृणीते ॥ १॥

श्रेयश्च प्रेयश्च मनुष्यमेतः 
    तौ सम्परीत्य विविनक्ति धीरः । 
श्रेयो हि धीरोऽभि प्रेयसो वृणीते 
    प्रेयो मन्दो योगक्षेमाद्वृणीते ॥ २॥

Lord Yama said ” The preferable (Sreyas=श्रेय ) and the pleasurable (Preyas= प्रेयो ) both approach the mortal man. The good is one, the pleasant is another. These two serves divergent purposes. Both have commands. Who follows the good, attains sanctity; who follows the pleasant drops out of the race.” Every man faces both. The intelligent selects the electable in reference to the delectable. Choosing is always a function of the intellect, not the mind. The non intelligent person(मन्दो ) , driven by mind looks for short time happiness and chooses Preyas.[1.2.1-2]

Lord Yama praises Nachiketas’s discrimination:

स त्वं प्रियान्प्रियरूपांश्च कामान्
    अभिध्यायन्नचिकेतोऽत्यस्राक्षीः ।
नैतां सृङ्कां वित्तमयीमवाप्तो
    यस्यां मज्जन्ति बहवो मनुष्याः ॥ ३॥

Lord Yama said: Nachiketas! Having examined the pleasures, you have rejected them; turned from the vortex of the life and death. I showed you all the glitters there exists. You simply renounced them, where most people would have grabbed that I offered.[1.2.3]

Sreyas is Vidya(wisdom) and Preyas is Avidya (ignorance).

दूरमेते विपरीते विषूची
    अविद्या या च विद्येति ज्ञाता ।
विद्याभीप्सिनं नचिकेतसं मन्ये
    न त्वा कामा बहवोऽलोलुपन्त ॥ ४॥

अविद्यायामन्तरे वर्तमानाः 
    स्वयं धीराः पण्डितंमन्यमानाः । 
दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा 
    अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथान्धाः ॥ ५॥

Lord Yama continues: ” Diverging roads: one is called ignorance and the other is called wisdom. Nachiketas! you turn towards wisdom. Being an aspirant for wisdom, do I consider you to be, O Nachiketas! Fools brag of their knowledge; proud, ignorant, deluded in many crooked ways, blind led by the blind, go round and round.[1.2.4-5]

Preyas: A false Vision:

न साम्परायः प्रतिभाति बालं
    प्रमाद्यन्तं वित्तमोहेन मूढम् ।
अयं लोको नास्ति पर इति मानी
    पुनः पुनर्वशमापद्यते मे ॥ ६॥

न साम्परायः प्रतिभाति बालं => na saam-paraayah prati-bhaati baalam” :- Meaning of the line is that, the means for the attainment of the long term goal are not revealed to those who have a short term goal. What can the money-maddened ignorant know of the future? This is the only world, and none hereafter- the fool thinks in this manner. I kill him again and again. (पुनः पुनर्वशमापद्यते मे ~ Poonah Poonah vasham aapadyate me). Remain in the cycle of birth and death.[1.2.6]

Wonder Teacher and Wonder Disciple:

श्रवणायापि बहुभिर्यो न लभ्यः
    श‍ृण्वन्तोऽपि बहवो यं न विद्युः ।
आश्चर्यो वक्ता कुशलोऽस्य लब्धा
    आश्चर्यो ज्ञाता कुशलानुशिष्टः ॥ ७॥

Lord Yama says: “Some have never heard of the Self, some have heard but can not find Him. Who finds Him is a world’s wonder, who expounds Him is a 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. It is a wonder to find that rare expounder , who is proficient to teach , also it is wonder to find that rare listener who is proficient to grasp the teaching.”[1.2.7]

Principles in Spiritual teaching:

न नरेणावरेण प्रोक्त एष
    सुविज्ञेयो बहुधा चिन्त्यमानः ।
अनन्यप्रोक्ते गतिरत्र नास्ति
    अणीयान् ह्यतर्क्यमणुप्रमाणात् ॥ ८॥

नैषा तर्केण मतिरापनेया 
    प्रोक्तान्येनैव सुज्ञानाय प्रेष्ठ । 
यां त्वमापः सत्यधृतिर्बतासि 
    त्वादृङ्नो भूयान्नचिकेतः प्रष्टा ॥ ९॥

Beloved! logic brings no man to the Self. But when taught by one who sees no Duality, then no doubts and variations will arise. नरेणावरेण “प्रोक्त एष सुविज्ञेयो बहुधा चिन्त्यमानः ” This knowledge can not be obtained from the inferior instructor( who has not attained Brahman). “अणीयान् ह्यतर्क्यमणुप्रमाणात् “ means: Indeed, It can not be argued that It is subtler than the subtlest. You have obtained that wisdom, as you are already soundly fixed in the Truth. [1.2.8-9]

Lord Yama’s attainment, when He was young: [1.2.10]

जानाम्यहं शेवधिरित्यनित्यं
    न ह्यध्रुवैः प्राप्यते हि ध्रुवं तत् ।
ततो मया नाचिकेतश्चितोऽग्निः
    अनित्यैर्द्रव्यैः प्राप्तवानस्मि नित्यम् ॥ १०॥

कामस्याप्तिं जगतः प्रतिष्ठां 
    क्रतोरानन्त्यमभयस्य पारम् । 
स्तोममहदुरुगायं प्रतिष्ठां दृष्ट्वा 
    धृत्या धीरो नचिकेतोऽत्यस्राक्षीः ॥ ११॥

Lord Yama explains here that impermanent means can not bring permanent. Because man can not find the Eternal through pleasures, means Preyas. Yama says: ” I have sought Nachiketas fire in these pleasures and worshiping that alone, found the Eternal. The fulfilment of all desires, the conquest of the world, freedom from fear, unlimited pleasure, magical powers, all were yours , O Nachiketas!, being full of wisdom and firm resolve, you have rejected them all.”[1.2.10-11]

The means to attain the Supreme Self:

तं दुर्दर्शं गूढमनुप्रविष्टं
    गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम् ।
अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन देवं
    मत्वा धीरो हर्षशोकौ जहाति ॥ १२॥

एतच्छ्रुत्वा सम्परिगृह्य मर्त्यः 
    प्रवृह्य धर्म्यमणुमेतमाप्य । 
स मोदते मोदनीयँ हि लब्ध्वा 
    विवृतँ सद्म नचिकेतसं मन्ये ॥ १३॥

Lord Yama continues: “The wise meditating on God, concentrating their thought, discovering in the mouth of the cavern, deeper in the cavern (गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम्), that Self, that ancient Self, difficult to imagine (तं दुर्दर्शं गूढमनुप्रविष्टं), more difficult to understand, pass beyond joy and sorrow. Hearing from the teacher and comprehending, distinguishes nature from the Self. He then rejoices, for that he has obtained the very cause of all joy. I think, the abode of Brahman , your gates of joy stands open.”[1.2.12-13]

The concept conveyed here is that; the Self is Real even though it can not be perceived through senses and mind. It is said that He is the most hidden of all hidden secrets. People go to different places seeking Him, but He is hidden in the bottom of the seeker himself. Seeker carries Him wherever he goes, yet he asks for Him. The cave represents the intellect. [deeper in the cavern (गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम्) : पुराणम् = pooranam which means ” from the time immemorial” ] By means of the science of inner Self, the Supreme Deity within is meditated upon (अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन देवं). The wise man who recognizes That Supreme Being, comes to renounce both joys and sorrows (मत्वा धीरो हर्षशोकौ जहाति ).

Boon 3: A reminder: Nachiketas says to Lord Yama:

अन्यत्र धर्मादन्यत्राधर्मा-
    दन्यत्रास्मात्कृताकृतात् ।
अन्यत्र भूताच्च भव्याच्च
    यत्तत्पश्यसि तद्वद ॥ १४॥

Nachiketas asked: ” What lies beyond right and wrong, beyond cause and effect, beyond past and future , tell me of that thing as you see it” [1.2.14]

The Goal of all Spiritual efforts- “OM”

सर्वे वेदा यत्पदमामनन्ति
    तपाꣳसि सर्वाणि च यद्वदन्ति ।
यदिच्छन्तो ब्रह्मचर्यं चरन्ति
    तत्ते पदꣳ सङ्ग्रहेण ब्रवीम्योमित्येतत् ॥ १५॥

Brahman is AUM:

Yama said: ” The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence, will tell you briefly: The word is AUM [1.2.15]

एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ब्रह्म एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं परम् ।
एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ज्ञात्वा यो यदिच्छति तस्य तत् ॥ १६॥
एतदालम्बनँ श्रेष्ठमेतदालम्बनं परम् । 
एतदालम्बनं ज्ञात्वा ब्रह्मलोके महीयते ॥ १७॥

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.[1.2.16-17]

The Yoga of the Self: The Nature of Atman:

Following two slokas are also seen in second Adhaya of Bhagvad Geeta:

न जायते म्रियते वा विपश्चि-
    न्नायं कुतश्चिन्न बभूव कश्चित् ।
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो
    न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥ १८॥

हन्ता चेन्मन्यते हन्तुँ हतश्चेन्मन्यते हतम् ।
उभौ तौ न विजानीतो नायँ हन्ति न हन्यते ॥ १९॥

The knowing Self is not born; It does not die. It has not sprung from anything; nothing has sprung from It. Birth less, eternal, everlasting, and ancient, It is not killed when the body is killed.[1.2.18]
If the killer thinks he kills and if the killed man thinks he is killed, neither of these apprehends aright. The Self kills not, nor is it killed.[1.2.19]

Self-Knowledge-1 : Majesty of the Self: –

अणोरणीयान्महतो महीया-
    नात्माऽस्य जन्तोर्निहितो गुहायाम् ।
तमक्रतुः पश्यति वीतशोको
    धातुप्रसादान्महिमानमात्मनः ॥ २०॥

Atman, smaller than the small, greater than the great, is hidden in the hearts of all living creatures. A man who is free from desires beholds the majesty of the Self through tranquility of the senses and the mind and becomes free from grief.(1.2.20)

Let us put it mathematically: “smaller than the small, greater than the great”. 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

आसीनो दूरं व्रजति शयानो याति सर्वतः ।
कस्तं मदामदं देवं मदन्यो ज्ञातुमर्हति ॥ २१॥

अशरीरँ शरीरेष्वनवस्थेष्ववस्थितम् ।
महान्तं विभुमात्मानं मत्वा धीरो न शोचति ॥ २२॥

Though sitting, He travels; though sleeping, yet everywhere. Who but you and I , Death can comprehend that Supreme who is beyond joy and sorrow.[1.2.21]
The wise man, having realized Atman as dwelling within impermanent bodies but itself bodiless, vast, and all-pervading, does not grieve.(1.2.22)

The sole condition: Choose only the Self:

नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो
    न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन ।
यमेवैष वृणुते तेन लभ्यः
    तस्यैष आत्मा विवृणुते तनूꣳ स्वाम् ॥ २३॥

नाविरतो दुश्चरितान्नाशान्तो नासमाहितः ।
नाशान्तमानसो वाऽपि प्रज्ञानेनैनमाप्नुयात् ॥ २४॥

The Self is not known through discourse, splitting of hairs, learning however great; He comes to the man He loves; takes that man’s body for his own. [1.2.23]
He who has not first turned away from wickedness, who is not tranquil and subdued, and whose mind is not at peace, can not attain Atman. It is realized only through the knowledge of Reality.[1.2.24]

यस्य ब्रह्म च क्षत्रं च उभे भवत ओदनः ।
मृत्युर्यस्योपसेचनं क इत्था वेद यत्र सः ॥ २५॥  

He has made mere preachers( Brahmanas) and soldiers(Kshatriyas) His food, death it’s condiment; how can a common man find Him? This verse means that How can one know thus as to where the Self is, for which both the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas become food, and for which death takes the place of curry. Above mantra (verse-25) has an intellectual in depth inner meaning, which need to be elaborated.

The Brahmanas and Kshatriyas represent knowledge and power. But that knowledge is not omniscience and power is not the authority.उभे भवत ओदनः = means both become food ( odanah = boiled rice). मृत्युर्यस्योपसेचनं = means , for which mrtyuh, death becomes upasecanam, supplement to the food, being unfit even to be food. क इत्था वेद यत्र सः = means kah, who – being a man with worldly intellect, and devoid of the disciplines described above; veda knows; ittha, in this way- like the man endowed with above mentioned disciplines; yatra, as to where The Self, the eater-destroyer of the Universe-exists in Its own glory. Who knows It as such? In other words, it can be said as ” In the case of Atman, existence is general and absolute. This is paramarthika-satta. In it , individuality ( Brahmanas and Kshatriyas ) is ruled out. As such death has no meaning there; death is dissolved in it. Such Atman-who can know where He really is? “

॥ इति काठकोपनिषदि प्रथमाध्याये द्वितीया वल्ली ॥

***End of Second Valli of first Adhaya***

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. Information available on internet.

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