there be peace and love among all beings of the universe. OM
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Awake! Approach the great and learn.
Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path,
so the wise say the path to salvation is hard to tread and
difficult to cross."
rewards, performed the Visvajit sacrifice, in which
he gave away all his property. He had a son named
When the gifts were being distributed, faith
entered into the heart of Nachiketa, who was still
a boy. He 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
4. He said to his father: Father! To whom
will you give me? He said this a second and a third
time. Then his father replied: Unto death I will
5. Among many I am the first; or among many
I am the middlemost. But certainly I am never the
last. What purpose of the King of Death will my
father serve today by thus giving me away to
6. Nachiketa said: Look back and see how it
was with those who came before us and observe how
it is with those who are now with us. A mortal
ripens like corn and like corn he springs up
7. Verily, like fire a brahmin guest enters
a house; the householder pacifies him by giving him
water and a seat. Bring him water. O King of
The brahmin who dwells in a house, fasting,
destroys that foolish householders hopes and
expectations, the reward of his intercourse with
pious people, the merit of his kindly speech, the
good results of his sacrifices and beneficial deeds
and his cattle and children as well.
9. Yama said: O Brahmin, salutations to you!
You are a venerable guest and have dwelt in my
house three nights without eating; therefore choose
now three boons, one for each night, O Brahmin! May
all be well with me!
10. 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 the three boons.
11. Yama said: Through my favour, your
father, Auddilaki Aruni, will recognise you and be
again toward you as he was before. After having
seen you freed from the jaws of death, he will
sleep peacefully at night and bear no anger against
12-13. Nachiketa said: In the Heavenly world
there is no fear whatsoever. You, O Death, are not
there and no one is afraid of old age. Leaving
behind both hunger and thirst and out of the reach
of sorrow, all rejoice in Heaven. You know, O
Death, the Fire-sacrifice, which leads to Heaven.
Explain it to me, for I am full of faith. The
inhabitants of heaven attain Immortality. This I
ask as my second boon.
Yama said: I know well the Fire-sacrifice, which
leads to Heaven and I will explain it to you.
Listen to me. Know this Fire to be the means of
attaining Heaven. It is the support of the
universe; it is hidden in the hearts of the
15. Yama then told him about the Fire, which
is the source of the worlds and what bricks were to
be gathered for the altar and how many and how the
sacrificial fire was to be lighted. Nachiketa, too,
repeated all this as it had been told him. Then
Yama, being pleased with him, spoke again.
16. High-souled Death, being well pleased,
said to Nachiketa: I will now give you another
boon: this Fire shall be named after you. Take also
from me this many-coloured chain.
17. He who has performed three times this
Nachiketa sacrifice, having been instructed by the
three and also has performed his three duties,
overcomes birth and death. Having known this Fire
born of Reality [Brahman], omniscient,
luminous and adorable and realised it, he attains
18. He who, having known the three, has
performed three times the Nachiketa sacrifice,
throws off, even here, the chains of death,
overcomes grief and rejoices in Heaven.
19. This, O Nachiketa, is your
Fire-sacrifice, which leads to Heaven and which you
have chosen as your second boon. People will call
this Fire by your name. Now, O Nachiketa, choose
the third boon.
20. Nachiketa said: There is this doubt
about a man when he is dead. Some say that he
exists; others, that he does not. This I should
like to know, taught by you. This is the third of
21. Yama said: On this subject even the gods
formerly had their doubts. It is not easy to
understand: the nature of Self [Atman] is
subtle. Choose another boon, O Nachiketa! Do not
press me. Release me from that boon.
22. Nachiketa said: O Death, even the gods
have their doubts about this subject; and you have
declared it to be not easy to understand. But
another teacher like you cannot be found and surely
no other boon is comparable to this.
23. Yama said: Choose sons and grandsons who
shall live a hundred years; choose elephants,
horses, herds of cattle and gold. Choose a vast
domain on earth; live here as many years as you
24. If you deem any other boon equal to
that, choose it; choose wealth and a long life. Be
the king, O Nachiketa, of the wide earth. I will
make you the enjoyer of all desires.
25. Whatever desires are difficult to
satisfy in this world of mortals, choose them as
you wish: these fair maidens, with their chariots
and musical instruments men cannot obtain
them. I give them to you and they shall wait upon
you. But do not ask me about death.
26. Nachiketa said: But, O Death, these
endure only till tomorrow. Furthermore, they
exhaust the vigour of all the sense organs. Even
the longest life is short indeed. Keep your horses,
dances and songs for yourself.
27. Wealth can never make a man happy.
Moreover, since I have beheld you, I shall
certainly obtain wealth; I shall also live as long
as you rule. Therefore no boon will be accepted by
me but the one that I have asked.
28. Who among decaying mortals here below,
having approached the undecaying Immortals and
coming to know that his higher needs may be
fulfilled by them, would exult in a life over long,
after he had pondered on the pleasures arising from
beauty and song?
29. Tell me, O Death, of that great
Hereafter about which a man has his doubts.
said: The good is one thing; the pleasant, another.
Both of these, serving different needs, bind a man.
It goes well with him who, of the two, takes the
good; but he who chooses the pleasant misses the
2. Both the good and the pleasant present
themselves to a man. The calm soul examines them
well and discriminates. Yea, he prefers the good to
the pleasant; but the fool chooses the pleasant out
of greed and avarice.
3. O Nachiketa, after pondering well the
pleasures that are or seem to be delightful, you
have renounced them all. You have not taken the
road abounding in wealth, where many men sink.
4. Wide apart and leading to different ends
are these two: ignorance and what is known as true
knowledge [jnana]. I regard you, O
Nachiketa, to be one who desires real knowledge;
for even many pleasures could not tempt you
5. Fools dwelling in darkness, but thinking
themselves wise and erudite, go round and round, by
various tortuous paths, like the blind led by the
6. The Hereafter never reveals Itself to a
person devoid of discrimination, heedless and
perplexed by the delusion of wealth. "This world
alone exists", he thinks, "and there is no other."
Again and again he comes under my sway.
7. Many there are who do not even hear of
the Self; though hearing of Him, many do not
comprehend. Wonderful is the expounder and rare the
hearer; rare indeed is the experiencer of the Self
taught by an able preceptor.
8. The Self, when taught by an inferior
person, is not easily comprehended, because It is
diversely regarded by disputants. But when It is
taught by him who has become one with Self, there
can remain no more doubt about It. Self is subtler
than the subtlest and not to be known through
9. This knowledge cannot be attained by
reasoning. Self become easy of comprehension, O
dearest, when taught by another. You have attained
this knowledge now. You are, indeed, a man of true
resolve. May we always have an inquirer like
10. Yama said: I know that the treasure
resulting from action is not Eternal; for what is
Eternal cannot be obtained by the non-eternal. Yet
I have performed the Nachiketa sacrifice with the
help of non-eternal things and attained this
position which is only relatively eternal.
11. The fulfilment of desires, the
foundation of the universe, the rewards of
sacrifices, the shore where there is no fear, that
which is adorable and great, the wide abode and the
Goal all this you have seen; and being wise,
you have with firm resolve discarded
12. The wise man who, by means of
concentration on the Self, realises that ancient,
effulgent One, who is hard to be seen, unmanifest,
hidden and who dwells in the intellect
[buddhi] and rests in the body he,
indeed, leaves joy and sorrow far behind.
13. The mortal who has heard this and
comprehended it well, who has separated that Self,
the very soul of Dharma, from all physical objects
and has realised the subtle essence, rejoices
because he has obtained that which is the cause of
rejoicing. The abode of Reality, I believe, is open
14. Nachiketa said: That which you see as
other than righteousness and unrighteousness, other
than all this cause and effect, other than what has
been and what is to be tell me That.
15. 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, I will tell you briefly: it is OM.
16. This syllable OM is indeed Reality
[Brahman]. This syllable is the Highest.
Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he
17. This is the best support; this is the
highest support. Whosoever knows this support is
adored in the world of the creator, Brahma.
18. The knowing Self is not born; It does
not die. It has not sprung from anything; nothing
has sprung from It. Birthless, Eternal, everlasting
and ancient, It is not killed when the body is
19. 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
20. Self, 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
tranquillity of the senses and the mind and becomes
free from grief.
21. Though sitting still, It travels far;
though lying down, It goes everywhere. Who but
myself can know that luminous Self who rejoices and
22. The wise man, having realised the Self
as dwelling within impermanent bodies but Itself
bodiless, vast and all-pervading, does not
23. This Self cannot be attained by the
study of the Vedas, or by intelligence, or
by much hearing of sacred books. It is attained by
him alone whom It chooses. To such a one Self
reveals Its own form.
24. He who
has not first turned away from wickedness, who is
not tranquil and subdued and whose mind is not at
peace, cannot attain Self. It is realised only
through the knowledge of Reality.
25. Who, then, knows where He is He
to whom brahmins and kshattriyas are mere food and
death itself a condiment?
there are who dwell within the body, in the
intellect, the Supreme Emptiness [Akasha]
of the heart, enjoying the sure rewards of their
own actions. The knowers of Reality describe them
as light and shade, as do those householders who
have offered oblations in the Five Fires and also
those who have thrice performed the Nachiketa
2. We know how to perform the Nachiketa
sacrifice, which is the bridge for sacrificers; and
we know also that Supreme, Imperishable Reality,
which is sought by those who wish to cross over to
the shore where there is no fear.
3. Know the Self to be the master of the
chariot; the body, chariot; the intellect, the
charioteer; and the mind, the reins.
4. The senses, they say, are the horses; the
objects, the roads. The wise call the Self united
with the body, the senses and the mind the
5. If the intellect, being related to a mind
that is always distracted, loses its
discriminations, then the senses become
uncontrolled, like the vicious horses of a
6. But if the intellect, being related to a
mind that is always restrained, possesses
discrimination, then the senses come under control,
like the good horses of a charioteer.
7. If the intellect, being related to a
distracted mind, loses its discrimination and
therefore always remains impure, then the embodied
soul never attains the Goal, but enters into the
round of births.
8. But if the intellect, being related to a
mind that is restrained, possesses discrimination
and therefore always remains pure, then the
embodied soul attains that Goal from which he is
not born again.
9. A man who has discrimination for his
charioteer and holds the reins of the mind firmly,
reaches the end of the road; and that is the
supreme position of Vishnu.
10-11. Beyond the senses are the objects;
beyond the objects is the mind; beyond the mind,
the intellect; beyond the intellect, the great
Self; beyond the great Self, the Unmanifest; beyond
the Unmanifest, the Supreme Self [Purusha].
Beyond the Purusha there is nothing: this is the
end, the Supreme Goal.
12. That Self hidden in all beings does not
shine forth; but It is seen by subtle seers through
their one-pointed and subtle intellects.
13. The wise man should merge his speech in
his mind and his mind in his intellect. He should
merge his intellect in the cosmic mind and the
cosmic mind in the tranquil Self.
14. Arise! Awake! Approach the great and
learn. Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path,
so the wise say the path to salvation is hard to
tread and difficult to cross.
15. Having realised the Self, which is
soundless, intangible, formless, Undecaying and
likewise tasteless, Eternal and odourless; having
realised That which is without beginning and end,
beyond the Great and Unchanging one is freed
from the jaws of death.
16. The wise man who has heard and related
the eternal story of Nachiketa, told by Death, is
adored in the world of Brahman, the Reality.
17. And he who, practising self-control,
recites the supreme secret in an assembly of
brahmins or at a after-death ceremony obtains
thereby infinite rewards. Yea, he obtains infinite
said: The self-existent Supreme Lord inflicted an
injury upon the sense-organs in creating them with
outgoing tendencies; therefore a man perceives only
outer objects with them and not the inner Self. But
a calm person, wishing for Immortality, beholds the
inner Self with his eyes closed.
2. Children pursue outer pleasures and fall
into the net of widespread death; but calm souls,
having known what is unshakable Immortality, do not
covet any uncertain thing in this world.
3. It is through the Self that one knows
form, taste, smell, sounds, touches and carnal
pleasures. Is there anything that remains unknown
to the Self? This, verily, is That.
is through the Self that one perceives all objects
in sleep or in the waking state. Having
realised the vast,
all-pervading Self, the calm soul does not
who knows the individual soul, the experiencer of
the fruits of action, as Self, always
near and the Lord of
the past and the future, will not conceal himself
from others. This, verily,
verily knows Reality who knows the First-born, the
offspring of austerity, created prior
to the waters and
dwelling, with the elements, in the cave of the
heart. This, verily, is That.
verily knows Reality who knows Aditi, the soul of
all deities, who was born in the form
of prana [the
life force], who was created with the elements
and who, entering into the heart, abides
verily, is That.
the God of Fire, hidden in the two fire-sticks and
well guarded like a child in the womb by
is worshipped day after day by men who are
awake and by those who offer oblations
in the sacrifices. This, verily, is That.
the sun rises and whither it goes to set, in whom
all the devas are contained and whom
none can ever pass beyond This, verily, is
is here, the same is there and what is there, the
same is here. He goes from death to
death who sees any
the mind alone is Reality to be realised; then one
does not see in It any multiplicity whatsoever. He
goes from death to death who sees multiplicity in
It. This, verily, is That.
Supreme Self, of the size of a thumb, dwells in the
body. He is the Lord of the past and the
knowing Him, one does not conceal oneself any more.
This, verily, is That.
Supreme Self, of the size of a thumb, is like a
flame without smoke. The Lord of the past
future, He is the same today and tomorrow. This,
verily, is That.
rainwater falling on a mountain peak runs down the
rocks in all directions, even so he
who sees the
attributes as different from Reality verily runs
after them in all directions.
pure water poured into pure water becomes one with
it, so also, O Gautama, does the
Self of the sage who
is a city with eleven gates belonging to the unborn
Self of undistorted consciousness. He who meditates
on Him grieves no more; liberated from the bonds of
ignorance, he becomes free. This, verily, is
2. He is the sun dwelling in the bright
heavens. He is the air in the interspace. He is the
fire dwelling on earth. He is the guest dwelling in
the house. He dwells in men, in the gods, in Truth,
in the sky. He is born in the water, on earth, in
the sacrifice, on the mountains. He is the True and
it is who sends prana, the life force, upward and
who leads apana, the vital air responsible for the
elimination of energy from the body, downward. All
the devas worship that
adorable One seated in the middle.
the soul, identified with the body and dwelling in
it, is torn away from the body, is
freed from it, what
then remains? This, verily, is That.
mortal ever lives by prana, which goes up, nor by
apana, which goes down. Men live by
on which these two depend.
then, Gautama, I shall tell you about this profound
and Eternal Reality and also about
what happens to the Self after meeting death.
beings [jivas] enter the womb to be
embodied as organic beings and some go into
according to their work and according to
the Supreme Self, who remains awake while the
sense-organs are asleep, shaping one
lovely form after
another, that indeed is the Pure, that is Reality
and that alone is called the
Immortal. All worlds are contained in Him and none
can pass beyond. This, verily, is
the same non-dual fire, after it has entered the
world, becomes different according to
whatever it burns,
so also the same non-dual Self, dwelling in all
beings, becomes different
according to whatever It enters. And It exists also
the same non-dual air, after it has entered the
world, becomes different according to
whatever it enters,
so also the same non-dual Self, dwelling in all
beings, becomes different
according to whatever It enters. And It exists also
the sun, which helps all eyes to see, is not
affected by the blemishes of the eyes or of
the external things
revealed by it, so also the one Self, dwelling in
all beings, is never contaminated
by the misery of the world, being outside it.
is one Supreme Ruler, the inmost Self of all
beings, who makes His one form manifold.
Eternal happiness belongs to the wise, who perceive
Him within themselves not
is One who is the Eternal Reality among non-eternal
objects, the one truly conscious
conscious objects and who, though non-dual, fulfils
the desires of many. Eternal
peace belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within
themselves not to others.
sages realise that indescribable Supreme joy as
"This is That." How can I realise It? Is
Does It shine brightly, or not?
sun does not shine there, nor the moon and the
stars, nor these lightnings not to
speak of this fire.
He shining, everything shines after Him. By His
light all this is lighted.
of the page
1. This is
that Eternal Asvattha Tree with its root above and
branches below. That root, indeed, is called the
Bright; That is Reality and That alone is the
Immortal. In That all worlds are contained and none
can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.
there is the whole universe vibrates
because it has gone forth from Reality,
which exists as its
Ground. That Reality is a great terror, like a
poised thunderbolt. Those who
know It become Immortal.
terror of Reality, fire burns; from terror of It,
the sun shines; from terror of It, Indra
and Vayu and Death,
the fifth, run.
a man is able to realise Reality here, before the
falling asunder of his body, then he is
liberated; if not,
he is embodied again in the created worlds.
in a mirror, so in the intellect; as in a dream, so
in the world of the Fathers; as in water,
so Reality is seen
in the world of the Gandharvas; as in light and
shade, so in the world of
the creator, Brahma.
understood that the senses have their separate
origin and that they are distinct from
the Self and also
that their rising and setting belong to them alone,
a wise man grieves no more.
the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the
intellect, higher than the intellect is
the great Self,
higher than the great Self is the Unmanifest.
the Unmanifest is the Person, all-pervading and
imperceptible. Having realised Him,
the embodied self becomes liberated and attains
form is not an object of vision; no one beholds Him
with the eye. One can know Him when
He is revealed by the intellect free from doubt and
by constant meditation. Those who
know this become
the five instruments of knowledge stand still,
together with the mind and when the
intellect does not
move, that is called the Supreme state.
the firm control of the senses, is what is called
Yoga. One must then be vigilant; for
Yoga can be both
beneficial and injurious.
Self cannot be attained by speech, by the mind, or
by the eye. How can It be realised in any other way
than by the affirmation of him who says: "He
is to be realised first as Existence limited by
impositions [upadhis] and then in His true
Of these two aspects, Self realised as Existence
leads the knower to the realisation
of His true nature.
all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away,
then the mortal becomes Immortal
and here attains
all the ties of the heart are severed here on
earth, then the mortal becomes Immortal.
This much alone is
are one hundred and one arteries of the heart, one
of which pierces the crown of the
head. Going upward
by it, a man at death attains Immortality. But when
his prana [life force] passes
out by other
arteries, going in different directions, then he is
reborn in the world.
Supreme Self, not larger than a thumb, the inner
Self, always dwells in the Hearts of men.
Let a man separate
Him from his body with steadiness, as one separates
the tender stalk from
a blade of grass. Let him know that Self as the
Bright, as the Immortal.
18. Having received this wisdom taught by
the King of Death and the entire process of Yoga,
Nachiketa became free from impurities and death and
attained Reality. Thus it will be also with any
other who knows, in this manner, the inmost
OM. May Brahman [Reality] protect us
both! May Brahman bestow upon us both the fruit of
true knowledge! May we both obtain the energy to
acquire knowledge! May what we both study reveal
the Truth! May we cherish no ill feeling toward
OM! Shanti! Shanti! Shanti!
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