Friday, November 23, 2007

Nachiketas asks for the third boon

When one has pacified the cravings of his physical body and his emotional needs his intellect is free to pursue the knowledge about the transcendental truth. Nachiketas now aspires for this knowledge

Yeyam prete vichikilsa manushye
Asteetyeke nayamasteeti chaike
Varanamesha varastruteeya

The transcendental truth persists even beyond the death of a being. When entangled in the web of the concerns of its own being intellect is unable to conceive this truth. So the mind is full of doubts about this truth. Some say that there is nothing beyond death. Some say that a being continues to be even after death in some other form. Nachiketas, the child, now seeks an absolute answer to this question. Only death can answer this question. Only by ridding oneself of the concerns of one’s own being and surrendering totally to death one qualifies to address this question.

Devairatrapi vichikilsitam pura
Nahi suvijneyamanuresha dharmah
Anyam varam nachiketo vruneeshva
Mamoparolseerati ma srujainam

But even now in this condition it is not very easy for the intellect to remain focused on the question. It tends to shy away at the tremendous challenge it confronts at the borderline that separates this world and the other world. It hesitates in the presence of the apparent difficulties for the reconciliation of the inscrutable discontinuities while making a breakthrough across the boundary. All the ideals that the mortals follow in this universe had tried to address this question but rebounded from this mighty wall unable to penetrate it. Apparently the ideals of this world, however glorified they are, have relevance only as long as one lives in this world. So how can one find a source that can sustain the momentum for the pursuit of the transcendental truth? The path of dharma that connects this world with the other world is very subtle and is not easily known by any mortal bound by the concerns of being. Faced with this difficulty the intellect teases itself about dropping the pursuit and applying itself in endeavors that yield more tangible results.

Devairatrapi vichikilsitam kila
Tvam cha mrutyo yanna suvijneyamattha
Vakta chasya tvadruganyo na labhyo
Nanyo varastulya evasya kashchit

But Nachiketas is firm in his resolve to continue with his pursuit. He argues against logics of his intellect. This knowledge about the hereafter had indeed been a subject of debate for devas. All worldly ideals tend to attune themselves to pursue this elusive knowledge. It is also known that this subtle truth can be discerned only by the process of death itself. I came this far and have courted death. Now I should not give up this opportunity but must continue with my pursuit. There can be no better instructor fit to impart this knowledge than this death experience. So this indeed is the third boon that I must seek in the domain of my intellect. I should not waste the powers I have gained by my encounter with death on anything less.

Shatayushah putrapoutran vruneeshva
Bahoon pashoon hastihiranyamashvan
Bhoomermahadayatanam vruneeshva
Svayam cha jeeva sharado yavadichchati

The intellect however continues with its arguments sticking to logics of this world. It tries to advise Nachiketas. “This tremendous potential you have acquired by abandoning yourself to death can be used to seek children and grandchildren with long life spans to give continuity to your lineage in this world. You can use it to husband the many processes, resources, wealth and sensual pleasures. You can become so important and be treated as the ruler of a great part of this world. You yourself could be living for as many years as you wish. Why not apply yourself to these worldly rewards rather than going after the answer for a difficult question, which is beyond the domain of this world?”

Etat tulyam yadi manyase varam
Vruneeshva vittam chirajeevikamcha
Mahabhoomou nachiketastvamedhi
Kamanam tva kamabhajam karomi

The intellect continues. “And how can you be sure that what one can have here is not equal to or better than what one can have in the other world? So why not make use of this boon to get something that is valid here? Why not seek for wealth and longevity? Why not aspire to be a significant person who is sought after by a greater part of the world? Why not try to enjoy all that one can aspire to enjoy in this world?”

Yeye kama durlabhamartyaloke
Sarvan kamamshchandatah prarthayasvah
Ima ramah sarathah saturya
Nahi drusha lambhaneeya manushyaih
Abhiramat prathabhih paricharayasva
Nachiketo maranam ma/nuprakshih

The intellect continues. “You may seek the most sublime objects of desire that are rare in the domain of mortals. And do not worry about their transience. You may own them with their sources so that you can have them at will. These well endowed and accomplished beauties are not accessible to ordinary men. You may enjoy all these keeping them as your servants, with no fear that they will start ruling you. Why not give up the pursuit to know the secrets kept hidden by death and concentrate on all these?”

Shyobhava martyasya yadantakaitat
Sarvendriyanamjarayanti tejah
Apisarvam jeevitamalpam eva
Tavaivahastava nrutyageete

Nachiketas is unmoved by the arguments of the intellect. He rejects all temptations that are rooted in worldliness. He says to himself. “All these are temporary things and vanish without a trace after a short time. Dwelling on them only accelerates the aging of the sense organs. Life by itself is actually insignificant and in this life one should not be enamored by the vehicles for self expression and the happiness associated with artistic involvement. So let me consecrate all these to death itself.”

Na vittena tarapaneeyo manusho
Lapsyamahe vitta madrakshamachettva
Jeevishyamo yavadeeshishyasitvam
Varastu me varaneeyah sa eva

Nachiketas continues to himself. “Wealth can not provide satisfaction to man. When a man stands up and faces the traumas of change boldly he gets all the wealth he wants. And he can keep living only as a subject of death. So none of these things are worthy of my pursuit. Knowledge about the domain that transcends this world is the only boon that is worthy of being sought by my intellect.”

Jeeryan martyah kvadhah sthah prajanan
Abhidhyayan varnaratipramodan
Atideerghe jeevite ko rameta

Perceptions change drastically when one faces and accepts the reality of death. Having established contact with the death principle, which is beyond the processes of aging and mortality, it is inconceivable that anyone would want to return to the inferior pleasures associated with the categorizations that keep objects asunder. This being so how can a person like Nachiketas, who is driven by pure passions, after encountering death, can accept a long lifespan enjoying the pleasures of this world, as a worthwhile boon?

Yasminnidam vichikilsanti mrutyo
Yat samparaye mahati broohinastat
Yo/yam varo goodhamanupravishto
Nanyam tasminnachiketa vruneete

Nachiketas has no doubt about what he should seek from his encounter with death. He addresses his death experience: “O! Death, this subtle knowledge that I seek is a subject of doubt for everyone. Tell me about that glorious thing that transacts in the world beyond this world. Give me the boon that I may use my intellect to reach that subtle knowledge. I do not wish to have any other thing in place of this.”

Nachiketas is thus firmly resolved to pursue the subtle knowledge that connects the domain of this world to the domain that transcends this world.

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