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Kathopanishad Chapter 1 - Valli 1 - Mantras 20-23

Blog for 11/21 and 12/5

In Mantra 20, Nachiketa requests his third boon which is, what happens after death? When a man dies, is there anything that still exists?

We briefly discussed how the choice of boons shows his maturity. First boon was dedicated to family, second boon to community, and third boon to Self-knowledge.

There are three different beliefs about life after death which encompasses all possibilities, but Faith is common for all three.

  • Nothing after death

  • Matter is the only reality

  • Awareness is a random epiphenomenon

  • Pratyaksha (perceivable by our senses)

  • Jeeva (Soul) continues

  • Theistic (conventional) religion

  • Encompasses many religious ideas like Reincarnation, Heaven-Hell

  • Paroksha (through Scriptures)

  • "I” never die

  • Advaita philosophy

  • Birthless-Deathless true Self, but unknown to most

  • Aparoksah (Direct knowledge)

We discussed the analogy of life as a movie to describe these 3 groups:

  • Nothing after death group thinks “Movie is Reality”

  • Jeeva continues group thinks “Movie is reality", but we can control and change it into happy ending

  • Advaita group thinks “Life is just a movie" and “I” is the only reality

Mantra 21: Yama Raja tries to dissuade Nachiketa by saying even Devas have difficulty understanding this concept and encourages him to ask for a different boon. This mantra is a test of Nachiketa's resolve.

Mantra 22: Nachiketa says to Lord of Death, if you say this is something even Gods cannot understand, that makes it even more important for me to get this teaching from you, as you are the ultimate teacher. By this Nachiketa passed his first test.

At this point we discussed the four-fold qualifications of an “Adhikari”, one who is ready to receive Atma Vidya or Self-knowledge.

  • Viveka – Discrimination between permanent and impermanent

  • Vairagya – Dispassion towards impermanent

  • Shatka sampatthi – Discipline (Sama/Dama/Uparathi/Titiksha/Shraddha/Samadanam)

  • Mumukshatvam – Desire for liberation

We will discuss in the next session why Nachiketa is an Adhikari

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