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Kathopanishad Chapter 1 - Section 1 - Mantras 05-06

In the 5th Mantra of the 1st Valli (section) of Chapter 1, Nachiketa calmly considers his father's angry statement about being given to Death. The boy shows no anger or resentment. Faced with a stressor (his father's words), Nahiketa exhibits reflection rather than retreat or reaction. He objectively assesses his capabilities and concludes that he is a student of the "Uttama" (top) or Madhyama (middle) level, never of the "Adhama" (low) level. Thus, he finds no cause for his father's outburst.

Even so, Nachiketa decides he should go to Death rather than invalidate his father's words. In making this decision, Nachiketa exemplifies a type of transactional relationship described as "I am OK - You are OK". This outlook, which leads to happiness and growth, begins with the idea that I am a person capable of self improvement. We do not necessarily agree blindly with everything others say or do. Instead, "You are OK" means that others are worthy of respect, compassion, and collaboration.

We discussed the three other possible transactional relationships. Someone with the attitude "I am OK, You are not OK" tends to be arrogant or angry. A person who believes "I am not OK, You are OK" will feel helpless, defensive, or even depressed. And finally, a person who thinks, "I am not OK, You are not OK" is likely to be cynical and pessimistic.

We enumerated many practical tips to help us reflect 'in the moment" rather than react when we are under stress. Ideas from the attendees included:

  • breathing before responding; counting to 10

  • telling the other person that we should take a pause

  • practicing patience; doing drills to prepare for stressful situations (e.g. fire drill)

  • not taking ourselves so seriously

  • understanding that everything we face is temporary

In Mantra 6, Nachiketa tells his now-regretful father of his decision to leave to meet Death. He explains that his father's words, spoken in a Yagnasala, must not be in vain. Nachiketa proclaims that mortal life is temporary and that we must never abandon duty (dharma), which is more important than mere living. With that, the young boy leaves to meet the Lord of Death.

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