The importance of Katha Upanishad lies on the subject of ‘life after death’. The intricacies of this subject was told to Naciketa by Yama and considered to be one of the best explanations of soul. One is that Naciketa was a sincere and devoted disciple and second is as it was told by Yama who is the Lord of death, his explanation should be authoritative. When Naciketa asked Yama about soul, Yama said that it is not an easy subject for discussion and instead offered Naciketa all the wealth and prosperity in the world. Yama also added that even gods do not understand this subject. But Naciketa politely refused all the material wealth offered by Yama and instead insisted that Yama should teach him the secrets of the soul. Naciketa considered Yama as the right person to teach him about soul as Yama, the lord of death deals only with souls. Naciketa knew very well that material wealth is not permanent and that knowledge of inner self alone is permanent. Yama tempted Naciketa with those things that we aspire for and tested Naciketa to find out whether he was the right person to impart knowledge on the inner Self. But Naciketa was so adamant about gaining knowledge and not interested wealth, about which Yama was pleased and decided to share his knowledge on life after death with Naciketa. Now we are going to look at one of the best possible explanations of soul given by the lord of death himself. The ultimate (spirit) is different from the pleasures as they give different results. We are born either to enjoy life or attain liberation. If we decide to enjoy life, there will be associated miseries. We are reborn and pleasures and sufferings continue birth after birth. If we decide to attain liberation, future births are avoided and consequently all our sufferings come to an end. The reality of our existence is that today we may enjoy and tomorrow we may suffer. Happiness and sufferings are not permanent, but they alternate. Ignorance (Ignorance of the Supreme Self) is the cause for our attachments to worldly pleasures. Amidst our enjoyment of worldly pleasures we forget the purpose of our birth.
The human birth is supposed to be supreme gift of God and the purpose of our birth obviously is the liberation by acquiring inner knowledge about the Brahman. Those who decide to take the path of liberation are fully aware of the possible hurdles and they know for sure that their suffering is one time. It is generally said that one’s sufferings could be more during his last birth. There are only two kinds of people. One is with the knowledge of the Brahman and another is with no knowledge of the Brahman. Those who seek the knowledge of Brahman do not develop attachment to any pleasures, be it sensual or material. Since they are aware of the reality, they are called knowledgeable. Those who develop attachments to sensual and material pleasures are called ignorant as they forget the very purpose of their births. There is no such thing called middle level, the midpoint between knowledge and ignorance. You cannot call somebody as half knowledgeable or half ignorant. The knowledge about the Brahman (God) should be total and not half baked. By reading some scriptures and without understanding their inner implications, and not having self experience, some proclaim themselves as spiritual masters or guru. They are worse than an ignorant man. An ignorant man at least does not lead you in the wrong direction. These half-baked men push you to a corner with their half-baked knowledge. There is no short cut method to divinity. Understand the difference between the learned and an ignorant. Knowledge is called vidya and ignorance is called avidya. Vidya alone triumphs finally.