Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gleanings from the Katha Upanishad - Part 4

The Katha Upanishad is presented as dialogue between
Nuchiketa (the son of a Brahman under obligation) and
Yamu the God of Death. Selected extracts from Rammohun's
translation of the 1st 'Valli', concerning life after
death and the nature of the soul.

Yamu, "Make, O Nuchiketa! thy third request."

Nuchiketa then said : lf Some are of opinion that
after man's demise existence continues, and others
say it ceases. Hence a doubt has arisen respecting
the nature of the sou
l ; I therefore wish to be
instructed by thee in this matter. This is the last
of the favours thou hast offered."

Yumu replied : "Even gods have doubted and disputed
on this subject; which being obscure, never can be
thoroughly comprehended : Ask, O Nuchiketa ! another
favour instead of this. Do not thou take advantage of
my promise, but give up this request."

Nuchiketa replied: "I am positively informed that gods
entertained doubts on this subject ; and even thou,
O Yumu ! callest it "difficult of comprehension". But
no instructor on this point equal to thee can be found,
and no other object is so desirable as this."

Yumu said : " Do thou rather request of me to give thee
sons and grandsons, each to attain the age of an hundred
years ; numbers of cattle, elephants, goat, and horses;
also extensive empire on earth, where thou shalt live as
many years as thou wishest.  I will enable thee to enjoy
all wished-for objects, but do not put to me, O Nuchiketa!
the question respecting existence after death."

Nuchiketa then replied. "The acquisition of the enjoyments
thou hast offered, O Yumu! is in the first place doubtful;
and should they be obtained, they destroy the strength of
all the senses; and even the life of Bruhma is, indeed,
comparatively short. But the only object I desire is what
I have already begged of thee.  A mortal being, whose
habitation is the low mansion of earth, and who is liable to
sudden reduction, approaching the gods exempted from
death and debility, and understanding from them that there
is a knowledge of futurity, should not ask of them any inferior
favour and knowing the fleeting nature of music, sexual
gratification, and sensual pleasures,. who can take delight in
a long life on earth? Do thou instruct us in that knowledge
which removes doubts respecting existence after death,
and is of great importance with a view to futurity, and which
is obscure and acquirable with difficulty. I, Nuchiketa, cannot
ask any other favour but this."

End of the first Section of the first Chapter (ist Bullee. \

Yumu now, after a sufficient trial of Nuchiketa's.
resolution, answers the third question,

(to be continued)

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