Dialogues from the Upanishads


by Swami Sivananda

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Book Code: ES78
159 pages
ISBN: 8170521289
Book Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.35 inches
Shipping Weight: 190 grams

Table of Contents

About This Book (Back Cover)  
Dedication (5)
Preface (8)
Introduction (9)
Vedantic Sadhana (18)
Song for Developing Will (19)
Sadguru Stotra (21)
I. Kathopanishad 25
II. Prasnopanishad 38
III. Mundaka Upanishad 46
IV. Kenopanishad 54
V. Taittiriya Upanishad 57
VI. Kausitaki Upanishad 62
VII. Chhandogya Upanishad 73
VIII. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 121

About This Book

There is no book in the whole world that is so thrilling, soul-stirring and inspiring as the Upanishads. The philosophy taught by the Upanishads has been the source of solace for many, both in the East and the West. The Upanishads teach the Philosophy of absolute unity. They contain the sublime truths of Vedanta and practical hints and clues which throw much light on the pathway of Self-realisation.

The Eternal Wisdom of the Sages of India is stored in the Upanishads. The Upanishads are the cream of the Vedas. Each of the four Vedas, the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda, has its own philosophical and mystical crowning teachings which go by the name of the Upanishads. The breadth of vision, the profundity of insight and the marvellous gamut of inclusiveness revealed in these holy writings, considered as Sruti, or revealed Divine Messages, are remarkable and breath-taking.

Dialogues from the Upanishads is a collection of the most sublime and thrilling portions of the Upanishads, the only authentic source of spiritual knowledge, that treat of Jnana or Knowledge of the Self. The interpretation of the verses is at once appealing and original. It is hoped, however, that spiritual aspirants all the world over will be benefited to a considerable extent by this publication, for, while it serves as a kindly light that leads the aspirants on through the dark alleys of Vedanta, it also contains a mine of information and knowledge to the layman as well.



Though Upanishads treat exclusively of the Jnana-Kanda or Knowledge-portion of the Vedas, yet you will find a mixture of Jnana, Bhakti and Karma in some portions of the Upanishads. You will find in Isavasya Upanishad Jnana-nishtha, Karma-nishtha and prayer to Surya and Agni as well in the end. In the closing portion of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is a description of a Yajna. Chhandogya Upanishad abounds in Upasana in the preliminary portion.

A neophyte is bewildered when he takes to the study of the Upanishads. I have culled out the dialogues from the Upanishads which treat of Jnana or Knowledge of the Self and have expressed the ideas in a lucid manner. The knotty, abstruse, intricate portions are nicely explained. I have made the subject matter very interesting and attractive. A book of this description has never been presented to the public yet.

The dialogues between Uddalaka and Svetaketu in the Chhandogya Upanishad, between Yajnavalkya and Raja Janaka in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad are extremely thrilling and highly instructive. The dialogues in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad contain advanced lessons.

I hope this book will prove to be a valuable companion to the aspirants who thirst for Knowledge and Self-realisation. Here is a message of hope, bliss, immortality, secret of life and Knowledge of Brahman.





Om Sri Sadguru Paramatmane Namah

The word Upanishad is formed by adding the Krip suffix and the prefixes Upa and Ni to the root Shad, meaning (1) to shatter or kill; (2) to attain; (3) to loosen. By the word Upanishad is denoted the knowledge of the knowable entity inculcated by the work which is to be commented on. By what etymological process this knowledge is denoted by the term Upanishad is now explained. This knowledge is called Upanishad by virtue of its signification that it shatters or destroys, the seed of Samsara such as ignorance and the rest, in those seekers after emancipation, who, devoid of all desires for objects seen and heard of, acquire the knowledge called Upanishad to be hereafter explained, and with their mind firmly concentrated therein meditate on it; for, it will also be said later on ‘well ascertaining that he will be freed from the jaws of death’; or the knowledge of Brahman is called Upanishad because of the fact that it leads to Brahman, in that it makes the seekers after emancipation just above described attain the highest Brahman; for, it will be said later on, ‘having attained the Brahman he becomes untainted and immortal’; or, even ‘the knowledge of Agni’ is denoted by the term Upanishad, because of its connection with the meaning of the root ‘to loosen’; for the knowledge of Agni, the first born, the knower, born of Brahman—the subject matter of the second of the boons asked for—leads to the attainment of heaven and thus loosens or enfeebles the lot of misery, such as residence in the womb, birth, old age, etc., continually recurring in this world. It will also be said later on, ‘having reached heaven they enjoy immortality’. It may be urged that students apply the term Upanishad even to the book, as when they say ‘we shall study or teach the Upanishad’. This is no fault; as the meaning of the root sad, i.e., the killing of the cause of Samsara, etc., cannot attach to the mere work but attaches to knowledge; and even the mere work may also be denoted by that word, because it serves the selfsame purpose, as when it is said ‘ghee verily is life’. The word Upanishad, therefore, is used in its primary sense when it is used to denote knowledge; but it is used by courtesy, i.e., in a secondary sense, to denote the work. Thus by the mere analytical explanation of the word Upanishad, those who are fully competent to acquire knowledge have been stated. The whole subject matter of knowledge has also been stated to be the highest Brahman, the internal Atman of all. The fruit of this knowledge has also been stated to be the thorough release from the bondage of Samsara consisting in the attainment of the Brahman.

The meaning of the Upanishad is, it may be either because it lessens the numerous evils of conception, birth, old age, disease, etc., in persons who take kindly to this knowledge of Brahman and approach it with faith and devotion; or, because it makes them reach Brahman; or, because it totally destroys the cause of Samsara, such as ignorance, etc., thus from the several meanings of the rootshad preceded by upani.

Brahma Jnana

Saunaka, the great Grihastha, questioned Angirasa: “Kasminnu bhagavo vijnate sarvamidam vijnatam bhavati—O Bhagavan, what is that, which being known, all this becomes known?” It is Para-vidya by which the Immortal Brahman is known.

By acquiring Brahma Jnana, what is not heard becomes heard; what is not seen becomes seen; what is not thought of becomes thought of; and what is not known becomes known.

You can bore diamond with a bristle. You can tie an infatuated elephant with a slender silken thread. You can bring the sun down for the play of your child. You can make the flame of fire burn always downwards. But it is difficult to control the mind.

He who has no Atma Jnana is only a confirmed fool, even though he is a learned Pandit with knowledge of the six schools of philosophy, even though he is a research scholar of Oxford or Harvard University with M.A., Ph.D., Sc. D.Lit. titles. Their intellects are still stony and barren.

One may know by heart all the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, the Gita, the Shad Darshanas, the Angas, the Smritis, western philosophy, etc. There is no salvation for such a learned man without the realisation of one’s identity with Brahman through constant, intense meditation—not even in hundreds of crores of years.

Nature of Brahman

Who Himself sees all, whom no one beholds, who illumines the intellect, etc., but whom they cannot illumine. That is Brahman. That is Atman. That is Shyam. That is Ram.

That unheard Hearer, the unseen Seer, the unthought Thinker, the unknown Knower, is Brahman.

That unborn, undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless (ajam, ajaram, amritam, abhayam) essence is Brahman.

That from which the world has come out, That in which this world subsists, That in which this world gets dissolved is Brahman.

That in which there is neither east nor west, neither light nor darkness, neither pleasure nor pain, neither hunger not thirst, neither elation nor sorrow, neither gain nor loss is Brahman.

He who dwells in this eye, who is within this eye, whom the eye does not know, whose body is the eye, who rules the eye from within is thy Self, inner Ruler, Immortal (Atma, Antaryamin, Amritam).

He is the Eye of the eyes, Ear of the ears, Prana of Pranas, Mind of minds, Light of lights, Sun of suns, King of kings, Shah of Shahs, Emperor of emperors.

That something than gaining which there is no greater gain, than knowing which there is no greater knowledge, than whose bliss there is no greater bliss, that must be known as Brahman or Atman.

There is something dearer than wealth. There is something dearer than a son. There is something dearer than a wife. There is something dearer than Prana (life). That something is thy Self, Inner Ruler, Immortal (Atma, Antaryamin, Amritam). That something is Brahman.

Jnana Yoga Sadhana

Samadhi is superconscious state. It is union with Brahman. It is of two kinds: viz., Savikalpa and Nirvikalpa. When the mind is fixed in the Advaita Brahman along with Jnata (knower), Jnana (knowledge) and Jneya (knowable) (Triputi sahita), it is Savikalpa Samadhi. There is recognition of subject and object in this Samadhi. This Savikalpa Samadhi is of two kinds: (1) Sabdanuvid or with words and (2) Sabdananuvid or without words.

When the Samadhi is associated with the sound ‘I am Brahman—Aham Brahma Asmi, it is Sabdanuvid. When it is not associated with the sound ofAham Brahma Asmi, it is Sabdananuvid.

In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the mind is fixed in Advaita Brahman without any Triputi, i.e., any idea of knower, knowledge and knowable and is without recognition of subject and object. Savikalpa Samadhi is a means (Sadhana) to the end—Nirvikalpa Samadhi which is the result or fruit.

“Though there is a perception of duality in the Savikalpa Samadhi, inasmuch as there is distinct recognition of subject and object, yet the duality only helps to know the Advaita Brahman; in the same way as in an earthen object, there is a perception of earth, though there be an appearance of an earthen jar, etc. So too, is there the perception of the secondless Brahman alone, even though there be an appearance of duality.”

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is of two kinds, viz., (1) Advaita Bhavanarupa Samadhi which is Vritti-sahita. Brahmakara Vritti is present here. (2) Advaita Avasthanarupa Samadhi which is Vritti-rahita. Brahmakara Vritti dies here. Advaita Bhavanarupa Samadhi is Sadhana (means) to the end—Advaita Avasthanarupa Samadhi which is the result or fruit.

In Vichara Sagara you will find: “In this manner the difference between the two kinds of meditation is established; that is to say, in the meditation with recognition of subject and object, there is a perception of duality with that of Brahman, and in the meditation without recognition of subject and object, there is no conscious perception of the three integral constituents, knower, knowledge and object to be known; likewise with the state of profound slumber and this second variety of meditation, there is this difference, that in the former, there is an absence of modification of the mental function in the shape of Brahman while in the latter, there is no perception of it. Thus then, there is an entire absence of the integral organ with its function in profound slumber, while in the unconscious meditation there is only a want of the perception, though the integral organ and its function are modified into the shape of Brahman; now this modification proceeds from the practice of the conscious variety of meditation; hence that is reckoned as one of the eight means, whose result is this meditation without recognition of subject and object.

“Unconscious meditation is of two kinds: (1) Non-dual mental perception. (2) Non-dual form of resting in Brahman.

“(1) When the non-dual modification of the internal organ after it has assumed the shape of Brahman arises with the unknown function, it is called a form of non-dual mental perception of the unconscious meditation. Here much practice is needed, so that the functional modification of Brahman also ceases.

“(2) When the function has been completely done away with, it constitutes the non-dual condition of unconscious meditation. Then, just as water sprinkled on red hot iron is absorbed into the body of the metal, so by such persevering and firm practice of the non-dual perceptional form of the unconscious meditation, the function merges into the extremely manifested Brahman; and this resting on the non-dual Brahman form of unconscious meditation, is the chief result of which the first, or perceptional is a means only.

“Between the non-dual resting and profound slumber, the difference consists in the merging of the mental function in Ignorance in the latter, and the merging of the same function into the extremely tangible Brahman in the former; the felicity of the latter is enveloped in Ignorance while the blissfulness of Brahman perceived in the former, is entirely devoid of covering.”

Brahma Vidya

The way of the Universe is a knotty and vexed problem that has defied all human skill for its proper solution. It has not been satisfactorily explained by any of the Acharyas, Rishis and Seers of Truth. Srutis and Smritis are silent on this point. The origin and nature of Maya can only be understood after attaining Brahma Jnana, when the Antahkarana is absolutely pure. Brahma Jnana is an occult mystery, a subject for initiation by a real Guru.

Now, just pause for a moment and think quite seriously your mode of life. You are proud that you are wise, and that you know science, arts, law, medicine, etc. Are you really prudent? Emphatically not. You are helplessly ignorant. In how many diverse wombs have you been placed? You have been swindled wholesale by the fleshy eye and the nervous tongue. You are carried away hopelessly by a little bit of colour, taste and touch.

Now, awake, arise and stop not till the goal of Elysial Bliss, final Beatitude, or the Turiyatita state, or Nirvikalpa absorption in Brahman or Videha Kaivalya is reached. Develop the sixfold virtues (Shat-sampat). Acquire the four qualifications. Remove the three kinds of impurities of the mind, viz., Mala (by Nishkama Karma, Japa, Tapa, Yama, Niyama, etc.), Vikshepa or tossing of mind (by Upasana of conditioned Brahman) and Avarana or layer (by Satsanga, study of Atma Jnana books, Vedantic scriptures, ceaseless Atmic enquiry or Vichara). Have faith first in yourself, then in Guru’s words and in the Srutis. Lead quite a simple life with sublime thoughts and lofty ideals. Eliminate desire and attachment, the two root causes of Samsara, the two potent factors of bondage. Have constant Satsanga, a rare panacea for the cure of the formidable disease of rebirth.

Just as the coloured water penetrates freely and nicely a piece of cloth when it is pure white, so also the instructions of a sage can penetrate and settle down in the hearts of aspirants only when their minds are calm, when there are no desires for enjoyments and when the impurities of their minds are destroyed. That is the reason why an aspirant is expected to possess the qualifications of Viveka, Vairagya, Sama, Dama and Uparati before he practises hearing of Srutis, reflection and meditation. Discipline and purification of the mind and the Indriyas are the prerequisites of an aspirant in the path of Truth and Self-realisation.

Knowledge is power. A doctor who has knowledge of medicine, of the physical machine and its workings, of therapeutics, and of diagnosis and treatment of diseases is a powerful man. He can influence thousands. A lawyer who has knowledge of law has got influence and power. The Commander-in-chief and Field-marshal who have knowledge of manoeuvres and enveloping movements of the battlefield and of the tactics of war have wonderful influence and power. The whole armies stand electrified before them and are ready to obey their commands. The raising of the policeman’s fingers stops all motor cars in the streets of London. Just as heat is inseparable from fire, so also power is inseparable from knowledge. Brahman, the source of Maya is the storehouse for all powers. A Jnani who has knowledge of Brahman has got tremendous powers. He wills through his Satsankalpa and everything comes into being.

Kill out all desires of life (Abhinivesa) in this world. Clinging to earth-life is the root cause of birth and death. Destroy the idea or the sense of separateness. Separateness is death. Unity is eternal life. Separateness is Avidya or ignorance. Unity is Jnana.

Unless a man perseveres seriously in the pursuit of Knowledge of the Self and unless a man struggles hard in the spiritual path with intense Vairagya and keen longing for liberation, he will never take recourse to Satsanga or company of sages and will never lend a willing ear to spiritual instructions, sermons and discourses.

There are no Vedantic Prakriyas (categories) in Upanishads. You will have to study Atma Bodha, Tattva Bodha, Vivekachudamani, Vedanta Sara, Laghu Vasudeva Manana in the beginning. These are all Prakriya Granthas. Then you will be able to understand clearly the teachings of Upanishads. A knowledge of three bodies, five Kosas, four Avasthas, three Gunas, Neti-neti doctrine, Bhaga-tyaga Lakshana, Anvaya-vyatireka, Adhyaropa-apavada, Layachintana of Om, Layachintana of Antahkarana, Layachintana of elements, Rajju-sarpa Nyaya, various Drishtantas, and Vadas like Drishti-srishti Vada, Vivarta Vada is indispensable requisite for proper understanding of Brahman. An elementary knowledge of Indian Logic, Nyaya philosophy is also necessary for proper understanding of Vedanta.


Meditation is the royal road to attain Godhead. It is the Grand Trunk road which takes the aspirant direct to the destination of Divine Consciousness. It is the mystic ladder which takes the Yogic students from earth to heaven. It is the Divine ladder of Yogins which pushes them to the heights of Asamprajnata Samadhi. It is the step in the staircase of Chidakasa to take the aspirant to the highest storey of Advaita-nishta and Kaivalya Mukti of Vedantins. Without it no spiritual progress is possible. It is a rope-bridge that allows the devotee to glide easily into the other shore of Bhava Samadhi and drink the honey of Prem and nectar of Immortality.

O Prem! There is a place where you will neither hear any sound nor see any colour. That place is Parama Dhama or Padam Anamaya (painless seat). This is the realm of peace and bliss. There is no body-consciousness here. Here the mind finds rest. All desires and cravings melt away. The Indriyas remain quiet here. The intellect ceases functioning. There is neither fight nor quarrel here. Will you seek this silent abode through silent meditation? Solemn stillness reigns supreme here. Rishis of yore attained this place only by melting the mind in the silence. Brahman shines in native effulgence.

Forget the body. Forget the surroundings. Forgetting is the highest Sadhana. It helps meditation a great deal. It makes the approach to God easier. By remembering God, you can forget all these things.

Taste the spiritual consciousness by withdrawing the mind from the sensual objects and fixing at the lotus feet of the Lord Who is ever shining in the chambers of your heart. Merge within by practising deep, silent meditation. Plunge deep. Swim freely in the ocean of Sat-chit-ananda. Float in the divine river of joy. Tap the source. March direct towards the fountainhead of Divine Consciousness and drink the Nectar. Feel the thrill of Divine Embrace and enjoy Divine Ecstasy. I shall leave you here. You have attained the state of immortality and fearlessness. O Prem! Fear not. Shine now. Thy light is come.

Practise regular, systematic meditation at the same hours daily. You will get the meditative mood easily. The more you meditate, the more you will have inner spiritual life, wherein mind and Indriyas do not play. You will be very close to the source, Atman. You will enjoy the wave of bliss and peace.

All sensual objects will have no attraction for you now. The world will appear to you as a long dream. Jnana will dawn in you by constant, deep meditation. You will be fully illumined. The curtain of ignorance will drop now. The sheaths will be torn. The body-idea will vanish. You will realise the significance of the Mahavakya, ‘Tat Tvam Asi’. All differences, distinctions, qualities will disappear. You will see everywhere one infinite, illimitable Atman, full of Bliss, Light and Knowledge. This will be a rare experience indeed. Do not tremble with fear like Arjuna. Be bold. You will he left alone now. There is nothing to see or hear now. There are no senses. It is all pure consciousness only.

Thou art Atman, O Prem. Thou art not this perishable body. Destroy the Moha for this filthy body. Do not utter in future, “My body.” Say, “this instrument.” The sun is setting now. It is drawing within all the rays. Now sit for meditation. Again have a dive in the sacred Atmic Triveni within. Collect all the rays of the mind and plunge within quite deep into the innermost recesses of the heart. Give up all sorts of fears, cares, worries and anxieties. Rest in the ocean of silence. Enjoy the eternal peace. Your old Jivahood is gone now. All limitations have disappeared. If the desires and old cravings try to hiss, destroy them by the rod of Viveka and the sword of Vairagya.

Keep these two with you always for some time till you get Brahmi-stithi (fully established in the Atman).

Om is Sat-chit-ananda. Om is Infinity, Eternity. Sing Om. Feel Om. Chant Om. Live in Om. Meditate on Om. Roar Om Om Om. Hear Om. Taste Om. See Om. Eat Om. Drink Om. Om is thy name! May that Om guide you! Om! Om! Om! Om Santi.


Single Word Image

(Meditate on these ideas)

1. Om Amritam (Immortal)
2. Om Nirakara (Formless)
3. Om Nirguna (Without attributes)
4. Om Niravayava (Without limbs)
5. Om Nishkriya (Actionless)
6. Om Vyaapaka (All-pervading)
7. Om Nirvikara (Unchanging)
8. Om Advaita (Secondless)
9. Om Akhanda (Indivisible)
10. Om Aparichhinna (Infinite)
11. Om Nitya (Eternal)

Have the word-images also. Repeat these words mentally several times.


Bhajo Radhe Krishna, Bhajo Radhe Shyama
Om Om Om Om Om, Om Om Om Om Om
Soham Soham, Sivoham Soham

Will is Atma-Bal, Will is dynamic;
Have a strong Will, and realise Atman.                              Om Om Om Om

Your Will has become weak, through various desires;
Destroy them to the very root, by Vivek-Vairag-Tyag.      Om Om Om Om

My Will is powerful, I can blow up mountains;
I can stop the ocean waves, I can command elements.      Om Om Om Om

I can command Nature, I am one with Cosmic Will;
I can dry up ocean, like Muni Agastya.                             Om Om Om Om

My Will is pure and strong, no one can resist;
I can influence people, I always get success.                     Om Om Om Om

I am hale and hearty, I am always joyful;
I radiate joy and peace, to million distant friends.              Om Om Om Om

I can give Samadhi, by simple gazing;
I can do Sakti-Sanchar, by mere Sankalpa.                      Om Om Om Om

I am Yogi of Yogins, I am Emperor of emperors;
I am King of all kings, Shah of all shahs.                           Om Om Om Om

I can elevate aspirants, by simple Master’s touch;
I can work wonders, by the power of Sat-Sankalpa.        Om Om Om Om

I can heal millions, from a long distance;
This is due to Will, therefore develop Will.                        Om Om Om Om

Give up Vasanas, and think of Atman;
This is the royal way, to develop your Will.                       Om Om Om Om

Keep diary, give up cares and worries;
Do simple Tapas and develop attention.                            Om Om Om Om

Develop patience, and have command of temper;
Control the Indriyas, and practise meditation.                    Om Om Om Om

Have power of endurance, and practise celibacy;
All these will help you, to develop your Will.                      Om Om Om Om

I am neither mind nor this body, Immortal Self I am;
I am witness of three states, I am Knowledge-Absolute.     Om Om Om Om


1. I bow to that Supreme Guru who assumed the forms of Lord Jesus, Lord Buddha, Lord Krishna, Lord Rama and Sri Sankara in times of catastrophe and high calamities to destroy wicked people and established righteousness on earth.

2. Salutations to that spotless Brahman, Who has hidden Himself like oil in seed, like butter in milk, but Who reveals Himself to those who practise constant and intense meditation after purifying their minds, by Tapas, continence, right conduct, etc.

3. Prostrations to the World-teacher, who removes the veil of ignorance of ignorant Jivas when they meditate on Him with one-pointed pure mind and who is an embodiment of love and mercy.

4. My silent adorations to the non-dual, pure, Self-effulgent, eternal, All-full, imperishable Brahman, who is the support of my body, mind, Prana and Indriyas, who is the light and substratum of this world, and who is the silent witness of all my mental states and modifications.

5. Hail, hail to that Sat-chit-ananda Atman who is unchanging, immutable, all-pervading like ether, without limbs, without body, Prana, senses and mind, and who is represented by the monosyllable Om.

6. Glory to that indivisible, infinite, immortal one essence that lies hidden in all these names and forms and that is known by the various names—Atman, Brahman, Chaitanya, Purusha, Paramatma Svarupa; Kutastha, Purushottama, etc.

7. Victory to that Brahman who is the source, womb, support, root for this world and my body, who is ever waking even when all the minds are resting in Mula Ajnana at night during deep sleep, who illumines the Buddhi, sun and all objects of the world, but who Himself is not in need of any other light on account of His Self-luminosity.

8. I bow to that Nirakara Nirguna Brahman who is like steam or H2O but who assumes Sakara Saguna form like ice for the pious meditation of His Bhaktas.


Sam no mitrah sam varunah. Sam no bhavatvaryama. Sam na indro brihaspatih. Sam no vishnururukramah. Namo brahmane. Namaste vayo. Tvameva Pratyaksham brahmasi. Tvameva pratyaksham brahma vadishyami. Ritam vadishyami. Satyam vadishyami. Tanmaamavatu. Tadvaktaramavatu. Avtu mam. Avatu vaktaram. Om Santih Santih Santih!

May the Sun (Mitra) be good to us! May Varuna be good to us! May the Sun (Aryama) be good to us! May Indra and Brihaspati be good to us! May Vishnu of great strides be good to us! Prostrations to the Brahman! Prostrations to thee, O Vayu! Thou indeed art the visible Brahman. I shall proclaim the visible Brahman; I shall call thee the just! I shall call thee the true! May it protect me! May it protect the teacher! May it protect me! May it protect the teacher! Om Peace, Peace, Peace!


Between Nachiketas and Yama

1. Once, desirous of heaven, the son of Vajasrava (Gautama) gave (in sacrifice) all that he possessed. He had a son, Nachiketas by name.

2. When the presents were being distributed, filial anxiety (about the welfare of his father) entered into the heart of Nachiketas, who was still a boy, and he thought.

3. “Joyless verily are those worlds to which a man goes by giving (presents in sacrifice) cows which have drunk water, eaten grass, given their milk and are barren.”

4. Nachiketas said to his father: “O father, to whom wilt thou give me?”; he said this again and for the third time the (enraged) father said: “To Death I will give thee.”

5. Nachiketas thought: “Among many I go as the first; among many I go in the midst. What will be the work of Yama which today he has done unto me?

6. “Remember how our forefathers acted; consider also how others now act. Like corn, the mortal decays and like corn they are born again.” Nachiketas entered into the abode of Yama Vaivasvata. There was no one to receive him. Yama had gone out.

7. “A Brahmin guest enters a house like fire. For him men give this peace-offering (to quench the fire to quiet him). Bring water, O Vaivasvata (O son of Vaivasvat, the sun).”

8. Hope, expectation, company of good men, friendly discourse, sacrifices, pious gifts, sons and cattle—all these are destroyed in the case of the ignorant man, in whose house a Brahmin guest stays without taking food. Yama returned to his abode after an absence of three nights.

9. Yama said: “O Brahmin, as thou, a venerable guest, hast dwelt in my house three nights without eating, therefore choose now three boons in return. O Brahmin, my prostrations unto thee. May good befall me.”

10. Nachiketas said: “O Death! as the first of the three boons, I choose that Gautama, my father be pacified, kind and free from anger towards me, and that he may know me and greet me, when I shall be sent away by thee.”

11. Yama said: “Through my favour, Auddalaki, the son of Aruna, will recognise you as before. He will sleep peacefully at night and when he sees you released from the mouth of death, will lose his anger.”

12. Nachiketas said: “In the heaven there is no fear; thou art not there, O Death! and no one is afraid on account of old age. Having conquered both hunger and thirst, one rejoices in heaven being above sorrow.”

13. “O Death! thou knowest the fire-sacrifice which leads us to heaven; explain it to me, for I am full of faith. Those who live in the world attain immortality—this I ask as my second boon.”

14. Yama said: “I will tell thee well, learn it from me, O Nachiketas. I know the fire that leads to heaven; know the fire that leads to heaven (which is the cause of acquiring infinite worlds), and which again is the support of the universe and which is seated in the cavity (of the heart).”

15. Yama then explained to him that fire-sacrifice, the source of the worlds, what bricks are required for the altar, how many, and how they are to placed, and Nachiketas repeated all as explained. Then Yama, being pleased with him, said again.

16. Satisfied, magnanimous Death spoke to him: “I give thee here this other boon; this fire-sacrifice shall be named after thee; and take thou this many-coloured chain.

17. “Whoever performs three times this sacrifice of Nachiketas fire and has been united with the three (father, mother and teacher), and has performed the three duties (study, sacrifice and alms-giving) overcomes birth and death. When he has understood this adorable, bright, the omniscient fire born of Brahman and realised Him, then he obtains everlasting peace.

18. “He who knows the three Nachiketa fires, and propitiates the Nachiketa fire with this Knowledge, throws off the chains of death, goes beyond sorrow and rejoices in heaven.

19. “This, O Nachiketas, is thy fire which leads to heaven and which thou hast chosen as thy second boon; people will call this fire thine alone. Choose now, O Nachiketas, thy third boon.

20. Nachiketas said: “There is that doubt, when a man is dead—some say he is and some say he is not,—This I should like to know, taught by thee. This is the third of my boons.”

21. Yama said: “On this point even the gods of olden times had doubt. Verily it is not easy to understand it—subtle is its nature. O Nachiketas, choose another boon; do not press me on this; give this up for me.”

22. Nachiketas said: “Thou sayest, O Death, that even the gods had doubts here and that this is not easy to know. Another Teacher like thee is not to be found; surely there is no other boon like this.”

23. Yama said: “Choose sons and grandsons who may live a hundred years, herds of cattle, elephants, gold and horses. Choose the wide abode of the earth and live yourself as many years as you like.

24. “If you can think of any other boon equal to that, choose wealth and long life. Be a king, O Nachiketas, of the wide earth. I shall make thee the enjoyer of all desires.

25. “Whatever desires are difficult to attain in the world of mortals, ask for them according thy wish: These fair maidens with their chariots and musical instruments—such are indeed not enjoyable by mortals; be attended by them, I will give them to thee; but O Nachiketas! do not ask the question of the state of soul after death.”

26. Nachiketas said: “These things last till tomorrow (ephemeral), O death, they wear out the vigour of all the senses. Even the longest life is, verily short. Keep thou thy chariots, the dance and music.

27. “No man can be made happy by wealth. If we should obtain wealth and behold thee, we would only live as long as thou shalt sway. Only that boon which I have chosen is fit to be longed by me.

28. “What decaying mortal living in the world below and possessed of knowledge, after having approached the company of the undecaying and the immortal, will rejoice in long life, after he has pondered over the nature of the pleasures produced by song and sport (beauty and love)?

29. “O Death! tell us that in which men have this doubt about the great hereafter. Nachiketas does not choose any other boon but that (concerning the soul) of which the knowledge is hidden.”


Nachiketas and Yama

Hari OM.

1. Yama said: “One is good, while another is pleasant. These two, having different objects, chain a man. Blessed is he who, between them chooses the good alone, but he who chooses what is pleasant, loses the true end.

2. “The good and the pleasant take hold of man; the wise man prefers the good (Sreyas) to the pleasant (Preyas) for the sake of the body.

3. “O Nachiketas, thou hast renounced desires and desirable objects of pleasant shape (as the heavenly nymphs), judging them by their real value. Thou hast not chosen the road of wealth, in which many men perish.

4. “These two, ignorance and knowledge are wide apart and lead to different points or goals. I believe Nachiketas to be one who desires for knowledge, for even many desires have not shaken thee.

5. “The ignorant, who live in the midst of darkness but fancy themselves as wise and learned go round and round deluded in many crooked ways, as blind people led by the blind.

6. “The way to the Hereafter is not apparent to the ignorant man who is foolish, deluded by the delusion of wealth. ‘This is the world,’ he thinks, ‘there is no other’—thus he falls again and again under my sway.

7. “He (the Self) of whom many are not even able to hear, whom many, even when they hear of Him, do not comprehend; wonderful is a man, when found, who is able to teach the Self; wonderful is he who comprehends the Self, when taught by an able teacher.

8. “That Self, when taught by a man of inferior intellect is not easy to be known, as it is thought of in various ways. But when it is taught by a preceptor who is one with Brahman (who beholds no difference), there is no doubt concerning it, the Self being subtler than the subtle, and is not to be obtained by arguing.

9. “This knowledge is not to be obtained by argument, but it is easy to understand it, O dearest, when taught by a teacher who beholds no difference; thou hast obtained it now; thou art fixed in truth. May we have, O Nachiketas, an enquirer like thee!”

10. Nachiketas said: “I know that the treasure is transient, for that eternal is not obtained by things which are not eternal. Therefore the Nachiketa fire has been propitiated by me with the perishable things and I have obtained the eternal.”

11. Yama said: “The end of all desires, the foundation of the world, the endless rewards of sacrifice, the other shore where there is no fear, the praiseworthy, the great, and wide-extended sphere and the abode of the soul—all these thou hast seen, and being wise, O Nachiketas, thou hast with firm resolve rejected all.

12. “The wise sage who, by means of meditation on his Self, recognises the Ancient, who is difficult to be seen, who is unfathomable and concealed, who is hidden in the cave of the heart, who dwells in the abyss, who is lodged in intelligence, indeed renounces joy and sorrow.

13. “Having heard and well grasped this (the Self), the mortal abstracting the virtuous Atman, attaining this subtle Self, rejoices, because he has obtained what is cause for rejoicing. I think that the abode of Brahman is wide open for Nachiketas.”

14. Nachiketas said: “That which thou seest as other than virtue and vice, other than cause and effect, other than the past and future, tell me that.”

15. Yama said: “The goal (word) which all the Vedas speak of (praise), which all penances proclaim and wishing for which they lead the life of a Brahmacharin, that goal (word) I will briefly tell thee—It is OM.

16. “This word is verily Brahman; this word is verily the highest; he who knows this word, obtains, verily, whatever he desires.

17. “This is the best support. This is the highest support. He who knows this support is worshipped in the world of Brahman.

18. The Intelligent Atman is not born, nor does He die; He did not spring from anything, and nothing sprang from Him; unborn, eternal, everlasting, ancient, He is not slain, although the body is slain.

19. “If the slayer thinks ‘I slay,’ if the slain thinks ‘I am slain,’ then both of them do not know well. This slays not, nor is slain.

20. “The Atman, subtler than the subtle, greater than the great, is seated in the heart of each living being. He who is free from desire, with his mind and the senses composed, beholds the majesty of the Self and becomes free from sorrow.

21. “Sitting, he goes far; lying he goes everywhere; who else, therefore save myself, is able to comprehend the God who rejoices and rejoices not?

22. “The wise man, who knows the Atman as bodiless, seated firmly in perishable bodies, great and all-pervading, does never grieve.

23. “This Atman cannot be obtained by study of the Vedas, nor by intelligence, nor by much learning. He whom the Self chooses, by him the Self can be gained. To him this Atman reveals Its true nature.

24. “But he who has not turned away from bad conduct, whose senses are not subdued, whose mind is not collected (is not at rest), can never obtain this Atman by knowledge.

25. “Of whom, the Brahmana and the Kshatriya classes are (as it were) but food, and Death itself a condiment (or pickle), how can one know where that ‘Atman Is?’” 

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