Friday, November 16, 2007

The Theme of Kathopanishad

Kathopanishad attempts to grasp the principle of Brahman by exploring the nature of life

A principle comes to focus when it is denied. Eternal principles get polished only through violent debates that try to extinguish them. Here the denial of the principle of life is done by Usan, the conservative parent.

Usan ha vai vajasravasah sarvavedasam dadou
Tasya ha nachiketanamaputra asa

Usan is obsessed with holding onto the objects of desire. He also craves for the glory accompanying the performance of sacrifices. In the grand sacrifice of life where everything is to be given away Usan acts as a miser intent on absorbing all vital resources giving out as little as possible. The prana principle in him dominates over the apana principle.

A thesis gives life to its antithesis. Nachiketas is the son of Usan. Nachiketas is the fire of pure passion. When one has inhaled fully the inner urge to let out the breath becomes powerful. The relief of letting out the breath is as intense as the joy of taking it in. Usan, the conservative parent, lives in all of us. But so does Nachiketas the child.

Tam ha kumaram santam dakshinasu neeyamaanaasu shradha/avivesha
Peetodaka jagadhtruna dugdhadohanreendriyah
Anandaa naama te lokastan sa gachchati tadadat

As Nachiketas watch the miserly behavior of Usan the urge to give away all accumulations keeps growing. Just as Usan wants to be pure prana Nachiketas wants to be pure apana. Even though Nachiketas is a child he carefully observes the nature of the gifts being given away in the sacrifice being performed by his father. He says to himself: “These cows can not drink water. They refuse to eat the grass offered to them. They have stopped yielding milk. A person giving away only such cows ends up in the domain of unhappiness.”

The most sublime form of giving is giving someone a connection to the flux that converges to the central ideal that holds everyone together. But this type of giving can be done only by parting with some amount of personal power. A spiritually evolved person knows the art of giving. He will delegate everything and is fully prepared to remain without any feeling of personal power. The authoritarian parent, on the other hand wants to delegate only the vestigial processes that do not count. He wants to cling to the lifelines exclusively because he feels that giving out any of that will erode his personal power. Such authoritarian behavior takes one to a joyless existence.

Sa hovacha pitata taru kasmaimam dasyati iti
Dviteeyam truteeyam tam hovacha
Mrutyuve tvadadat iti

The childlike instinct in the seeker asserts itself through the words of Nachiketas to question the validity of the actions of his parental nature. Nachiketas asks his father: “To whom are you going to give me?” He repeated the question thrice. The three repetitions are addressed to the parental behavior in the domains of body, mind and intellect. A question when properly asked contains its answer. To his questions Nachiketas gets the answer: ‘You are being given away to death”.

Is this an act of exasperation on the part of Usan? No. It is an act of enlightenment. There is no exasperation anywhere in Upanishad. Every word, every nuance, in Upanishads is an instrument for enlightenment. The direct question of the uncompromising child, still in touch with divinity, is addressed to the body, mind and intellect of the worldly conservative parent. Nachiketas is challenging the reluctance to change that is the characteristic of a conservative. Death is only the extreme form of change where the magnitude of the transformation and the uncertainties of the hereafter are exemplified ad infinitum. The declaration of Usan that he gives up the acquisition closest to his heart, his son, to death is an act of consecration. He is now no more afraid of the phenomenon of change. It is this total acceptance of change that makes spiritual progress possible.

The dialogue Nachiketas has with death reveals the subtle principles of the phenomenon of life. This is the theme of Kathopanishad.


bhattathiri said...

Your kapothanishat is beautiful, informative and Excellent.

comment by M.P. Bhattathiri, Retired Chief Technical Examiner , to The
of Kerala.
swami Vivekananda liked much kathopanishat among all other Upanishats. Beacuse his brahmacharya he was able to do wonders.

Brahmacharya ( Celibacy)

"Brahmacharya or spotless chastity is the best of all penances; a
of such spotless chastity is not a human being, but a god indeed... To
celibate who conserves the semen with great efforts, what is there
unattainable in this world ? By the power of the composure of the
semen, one
will become just like Myself."

- Sri Sankaracharya

The importance of Brahmacharya is clearly explained in Yejurveda. In
modern life very few only understand this and practice it. All Vedas
other scriptures of Hinduism lay great emphasis regarding Brahmacharya.
vedic period a student is also known as Brahmachari. By preserving the
energy, strength and vitality of mind and various organs one can lead a

happy, energetic and healthy life. The mind will be clear and brain
superb for a Brhmachari. It enhances the strength, life span and health

since it is the mine of all virtues .Brahmacharya is the dam of all
pleasures of life and only learned people keep it and their power and
increases and all sickness is destroyed. It is easy to preach and to
practice is very difficult. One should try to be always in the company
noble people and control their senses as far as possible to get the
reward of human life. A man is known by the company he keeps. If one
move in the company of good, learned and noble ones there is no doubt
he can be one among them one day. Company is contagious and man changes
colors accordingly sooner or later. He cannot remain unaffected for
best company means not only noble people but also good books written by

great scholars, Sages, Saints, Prophets, Rishis, and Munis. These
vast treasures of wealth and will make one so rich that the worldly
would appear very insignificant. One of the verses in YajurVeda state
taught people who are actually endowed with divine powers should do two

things in this world. One is that they should propagate the teachings
Brahmacharya and control of senses so that people may become strong and

healthy leading a full vigorous life. Next thing is by education and
practice thereof, they should teach one and all how to develop their
strength and power so that people may enjoy their blissful life fully
in all
respects. In another verse it is stated that such people who abandon
company of bad people and give up all bad evil habits and keep away
immoral life increasing their vitality beget good children, they
and glorify their race and their country.

Brahmacharya will give the power to face and solve any problems as a
can ferry people through turbulent waters of the sea. A Brahmachari
will be
liked and respected in all the societies and meetings. In one verse it
explained that the age of a boy begins at twenty-sixth year and for a
it is seventeen and up to this period they should practice Brahmacharya
any cost and can get married. Those who get education following the
rules of
Brahmacharya, they shine like sun are quick in all what they do, like a
and become the hallmark of respect, enjoying their life skipping like a


In the student life it would be better to preserve their vital fluid
is the life thread, so that they can utilize their energy and strength
their education and learning. In vedic period student is imparted with
the knowledge right from the Earth to the sun and in this way all
reside in his body and such students in future will assets to their
and world. They will have harmony of the head, heart and hand in such a
which will be beneficial to the society as a whole. It has been truly
that if our hearts are strong, our heads are right in vain. A person
education is beast and a person without Dharma is like a beast.

Education and knowledge are like two eyes of a person which enable him
see things correctly and assess his own position. The purpose of
is to make man what he ought to be.

According to Vedas education on arts and material science is not enough
because major portion of achieving perfection can be achieved by
spiritual science. The aim of life and education is that we may live a
life in the realm of self and the creation, with harmony and happiness
will become virtuous. Every second of the life should be fully utilized
that there is no room left for idling. It may be noted that ?An idle
mind is
a devil?s workshop.? Of course relaxation and enjoyment should be there

along with study to keep one fit and fresh and ready to face any
of life.

If proper education is not given to children parents become enemies
they get isolated in society. Teachers should take utmost care for
understanding to develop good character and affection along with
They should be taught that all women are like mother, sister or
according to their age and they should be protected whenever necessary.

In Vedas it is also stated that

Not to earn wealth at the cost of others pain and suffering
It is not good to be fatigue self too much both physically and
Hard-work is the keystone to virtuous earning with the sweat of one?s
brow, not by lottery, speculation and gambling.
Don?t do anything undesirable and harmful to the society
Acquire knowledge which can?t be stolen away by thieves than material
A great scholar of ancient India Sri Pathanjali's in his teachings
the importance of Brahmacharya and it is studied by foreign scholars
and one
such famous scholar
Dr. Louis an eminent physician opined that most precious atoms of the
enter into the composition of semen (in his book Chastity) . So
of semen by practicing continence helps the better development of brain
body, and mind .Dr. Nicholas says that the best blood in the body goes
form the elements of reproduction in both the sexes .So if anybody
semen he is loosing the best part of the blood and he becomes weak
physically and

intellegently. If preserved he becomes strong, intellectual, heroic and


Brahmacharya can be practiced by married people also. Chastity and
are the foundation on which a strong and happy marital relationship
and should be understood by husband and wife. In Srimad Bhagavatham a
book of Hinduism it is clearly mentioned that practice of brahmacharya
also one of the important duties in married life and it is waived only
the purpose of procreation, austerity, purity, contentment and
towards all. (11.18.43)
Ancient Rishi of India Pathanjali also says in his Yogasutra
LORD SHIVA in the Jnanasamkalani Tantra says that " The wise do not
ordinary forms of asceticism as real asceticism. Continence is the
asceticism. He who is a continent is equal to God.
So especially youth in whom the future of our country rests, should
celibacy as far as possible to lead the country and countrymen to have
prosperous future.

Living examples are Sri A.B Vajpayee, President A.P.J.Kalam and Mata
Amritananda may Devi.

Ref, Rig Vedia, Yajur Veda, Bhagavad Gita, Yogasutra,
Upanishaths, Tantra Texts, Srimad Bhagavatham

A.V.G.Warrier said...

Bhattathiri: Brahmacharya is generally painted as a negative act of repression. This overtone persists even when one extols the virtues of celibacy. This interpretation of 'brahmacharya' is perhaps partly responsible for the divide between spirituality and real life.

I think a positive interpretation of 'brahmacharya' appears in the verses of Taittiriya Upanishad. I have tried to interpret this in the relevant posting in my blog on Taittiriya Upanishad.