Katha Upanishads is one of the popularly known Upanishads that gives more insight in knowing the Brahman. Naciketa is the son of Vajrashravasa. The latter is considered to be one of the famous sages and is known for his charity. One day when Vajrashravasa was giving charities, Naciketa noticed that all his father was giving were of inferior quality with no value. He saw his father giving sick and old cows that do not yield milk at all. Charity means helping others with what they need. Any charity with pomp and vanity is not charity at all. The person who receives charity should also be a deserving one. Though Naciketa was young, he was very intelligent. Visibly upset over his father’s action he asked his father to whom he would give him (Naciketa) in charity. His father answered that he would give Naciketa in charity to the God of death, called Yama. Naciketa decided to fulfill the wishes of his father and left for Yama’s abode. When he reached Yama’s abode, he was made to wait without food and water as the Lord Yama was not available at that time. When Yama returned from his sojourn he apologized to Naciketa for having made him to wait without food and water and in return Yama promised three boons to Naciketa. Extending a hearty welcome to any visitor is underlined here. Naciketa asked the following three boons from Yama. The first boon was that his father should not be angry with him and that when he returned to his father, his father should accept him with love and affection and that his father should not feel his absence. The second boon that Naciketa asked Yama was about the knowledge about agni or fire to reach the Heaven.
Fire sacrifices are very popular In India and other countries. Agni is supposed to be the carrier of our wishes to the God. The third boon he asked Yama was about the soul. Yama clarified all the doubts of Naciketa since Yama is an exponent in Vedas and sastras. The first boon that Naciketa asked Yama shows his concern for his father. In spite of his father having said that he would sacrifice his son to the lord of death, Naciketa still expressed love for his father as he knew that his father would have said that without meaning it seriously. Since Naciketa wanted to keep up the words of his father, he had chosen to go to the lord of death. Apart from emphasizing the truth, it also means that a son has a duty to keep up the promises of his father and also to make him happy. That is why Naciketa asked Yama to keep his father happy till he returned back to his father. Therefore the first boon emphasizes the duties of a son to his father and also the importance of truth. The second boon was about knowing the Heaven. Naciketa says that people in the Heaven do not have fear of death as the lord of death Yama is not there. Those people do not feel hunger and thirst. They do not have any worries and they live in happiness. The people live there have divinity. Having addressed Yama like this, Naciketa wanted to know about the fire ritual that could take anyone to the Heaven by performing it. He demands this knowledge from Yama saying that he is always sincere and dedicated in acquiring knowledge. As Yama already knows Naciketa and his qualities, he readily shared his knowledge with Naciketa. There are two things that are clear at this stage. One is that knowledge should be shared and secondly, only with those who are really interested in acquiring knowledge. (To be continued)