| Katha Upanishad,
also called Kathakopanishad which belongs to the Taittiriya school of the Yajur
Veda, uses the setting of a story found in ancient Sanskrit literature (1). A poor and
pious Brahmana, Vajasravasa, performs a sacrifice and gives as presents the priests
a few old and feeble cows. His son, Naciketas, feeling disturbed by the unreality of his
father's observance of the sacrifice, proposes that he himself may be offered as offering
(daksina) to a priest. When he persisted in his request, his father in rage said,
'Unto Yama, I give thee.' Naciketas gies to the abode of Yama and finding him absent,
waits there for three days and nights unfed. Yama on his return, offers three gifts in
recompense for the delay and discomfort caused to Naciketas. For the first, Naciketas
asked, 'Let me return alive to my father.' For the second, 'Tell me how my good works (ista-purta)
may not be exhausted'; and for the third, 'Tell me the way to conquer re-death (punar
In the Upanishad, the third request is
one for enlightenment on the 'great transition' which is called death.
The Upanishad consists of two chapters, each of which has three
Vallis or secions.
There are some passages common to the Gita and Katha
(1) Taittiriya Brahmana III. I. 8; see also Mahabharat Anusasana
Parva : 106. The first mention of the story is in the Rig Veda (X. 135) where
we read how the boy Naciketas was send by his father to Yama (Death), but was allowed to
get back on account of his great faith, sraddha.
Source S. Radhakrishnan : The Principal Upanishads
[ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]