Shani Dev Kee Mahimaa | Reference-31

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Read his full story in  Kath Upanishad

In this story, a boy is told by his father to go to Death. He goes to Death and the King of Death sends him back to live. During the Vaidik times, there was a Muni named Uddaalak Muni, son of Arun and the grandson of Baajshravaa. Once he performed a Yagya. In that Yagya one had to donate whatever he possessed, so Uddaalak Muni called Braahman and donated whatever he had. Nachiketaa was the 16-year old son of Muni Uddaalak. Seeing his father donating "so called" all his possessions, including a large herd of cows, Nachiketaa asked him - "Father, You are not donating all your possessions, you are donating only lots of sick cows who cannot even lift their heads if they lower their heads to graze. Who is going to praise you for this kind of donation?"

His father pretends not to hear, but Nachiketaa doesn't stop asking. He again asks - "Father, I am also your possession, to whom you will give me?" His father gets irritated by a series of his questions, so he replies, "I will give you to Yam Raaj." His father said it only in anger, but the boy took it seriously. He thinks, "I am one of the best disciples of my father, then why does he say this to me? What is the purpose he wants to achieve by giving me to Yam Raaj? When he wants to give me to Yam Raaj, then I will certainly go to Yam Raaj, even if he has said it in fury, his orders must be followed." So he said to his father - "Our ancestors have never hesitated to give their lives for Truth, by doing so please give me the permission to go to Yam Raaj." Muni repented his words, but seeing his son's honesty he allowes him to go to Yam Raaj and Nachiketaa leaves home to go to Yam Raaj. Just a thoughtless sentence said in a non-serious mood, "I will give you to Yam Raaj" takes Nachiketaa to the Lord of Death - Yam Raaj.

Nachiketaa at Yam's Gate

As Nachiketaa comes to Death or Yam, the King is not at home. He is very busy in carrying out his duties. The boy sits at the door and says, "No problem, I will wait for him." He cannot go back. It is said that the Buddha also, after six or seven years of searching, sat down in meditation with the resolve not to rise again until he had found the Eternal in this very life. Nachiketaa is also doing the same.

He waits there for three days and three nights - without food, water and sleep. When Yam comes back, his wife informs him that "some extraordinary Braahman guest is at the door to see him. Since a guest is like Agni Dev, he must be served and offered food. This Braahman boy has been here for three days and three nights without food, water and sleep, he shall be pacified only when you yourself serve him." Yam receives him cordially with hospitality and says to himself, "He is very young but he has done a daring act. What is he up to?" Then he says loudly - "O Boy, I am a very poor host, so I give you three boons as the compensation for spending three days and three nights at my door without food, water and sleep."

The First Boon: Forgiveness Nachiketaa asks his first boon for his father, that his father should not be angry at him when he returns home. He should be happy to see him in the same way as he was when he looked at him when he was born. Yam promises - "Your father will see you again as he saw you for the first time and his heart will be at peace." This boon was very essential because without forgiving somebody one cannot open the doors of Death. [Normally people ask for everybody's forgiveness, and forgive everybody before dying.]

The Second Boon: Kundalinee

The second boon he asks for, after setting to his house in order and at peace, - "I have heard that there is a land in which one lives free from old age and is forever young. They also say that you know an Agni Vidyaa (fire sacrifice or Yagya) that leads to this land. Teach me that sacrifice as my second boon." So Yam tells him about that Yagya too.

The Third Boon: Immortality

Yam said - "Nachiketaa, Now you ask for your third boon." Nachiketaa said - "I want to know the secret of life and death. When you take away the life of somebody, where does he go? Is that the end, or there is something which you cannot kill? And if that is the end, then also I want to be certain; and if it is possible to go beyond death, then show me the way. Teach me the truth. I am your obedient student." Death is very pleased to hear this from Nachiketaa because although he has met lot many people during his work, but very few people wanted to learn anything from him. Death is ready to teach him this but he wants to give him a final test before he imparts that knowledge to him, so he says - "Nachiketaa, You are very young. Many people have asked me this question before, so if you like you can read what they say about death. Besides, it is a difficult concept to understand, I don't think you can understand it."

Nachiketaa says - "O Death, Harder is better. You are the Lord of death, so who else can tell me about this better than you; and I want no other boon." Yam warns him - "I said, it is not easy, the path is sharp as a razor's edge. You need superhuman tolerance and dedication to know about it. Ask for some other boon." Nachiketaa wants to say something, that Yam interrupts him - "Wait, First listen to what I want to say. You can have as many sons and grandsons as you like, and wealth too, and any number of all kinds of animals. No strings attached. All these animals will come to you with lots of money to maintain them and land to live upon. And more - how long do you want to live, one century? or two centuries? and everlasting vitality too." And Yam looks at his face to see his reactions.

Nachiketaa says - "Is that all? But at the end of my life you will take me away." Ignoring him Yam says - "If you don't want these, ask for something else. Give me a complete list of your desires and I will fulfill all of them." After a short pause he spoke again - "Perhaps, Nachiketaa, you are too young to choose which pleasures you should ask for. Let me show you something." He creates a scene before him - of a contest among celestial beauties. Yam described each beauty's characteristics and said - "You will not see such girls on Earth and they will never get old." Nachiketaa is still silent. Yam further says - "OK, I agree, it is difficult to choose, you may take them all."

When desires are unified and the will becomes nearly invincible, every human capacity becomes stronger. To desire something is to will it. If a person has attained this state, he can succeed in fulfilling all his feats. The boy replies pondering over them - "They are no blessings, you are offering me a curse because even if I live for thousands of years, wouldn't I end up in the same situation?" Death is silent. It is true. When Praan goes, Praan goes, whether one lives for five years or five thousand years, it doesn't matter. Nachiketaa continues - "Tell me which sensual pleasure lasts forever?" Death is again silent. The boy further says - "And after everything, won't you come to me and cut my life's thread? Then what is the use of all those pleasures? O Death, While I am mortal, my life is not my own. As long as you allow me to live, I live; when you say "come", ad I have to go. What kind of life is that? Look, who do you think I am, that you can buy me with these trinkets? You may keep them for yourself and then tell me for how long they can satisfy you?"

Yam Raaj knew that this child cannot be diverted, so he grants him the third boon also.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 8/9/2008
Updated on 06/09/11