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2-Three Boons

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Kathopanishad-Page 2
p 19-29

Three Boons to Nachiketaa

As Nachiketaa comes to King of Death or Yam Raaj, 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 for three days and 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. [But this is true that very few people can continue to love their child as they loved him when he was born.] But 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 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." This fire sacrifice is not an outward action but an inside one - the fire of life; as he wants to be forever young. This fire may be compared with Praan (Vaayu) or breath or can be used as a synonym of Praan, because this is the one which keeps us alive. Till the Praan comes and goes in our body, we are alive, otherwise we are dead.

To light fire one needs wood. Some wood are so dry they can catch fire even from a distance, burn soon and turn into ashes very soon; while some wood are like a thick logs which take a long time to catch fire, continue to burn for a long time and even after the wood is burned completely its heat emanates for a long time. Such people who are like thick logs are very few. Nachiketaa tells Yam that he wanted to be like the latter wood. Yam tells him that Yagya. 

In olden times fire used to be started by rubbing two sticks together. This fire is also started by rubbing two sticks together - one is will and other is selfish passions. When our selfish passions (subjects of senses - see Indriyaan) are in our control - means in control of our will, we become very powerful. It is not only Praan that flows in our body, but there is also an unlimited reserve of Power in a highly condensed form called "Kundalinee". Kundalinee is an intensely concentrated Praan packed until we are ready to draw on it. Everybody has that Power, but very few people can use it. And that is the fuel we need to start our journey to Self-realization. In order to use this fuel reserve we have to close all our other kinds of energy outlets. But once it is opened, it is ignited, and it burns fiercely, it can change our personality.

Most of us, even if we desire it, take a very long time to proceed on this path. Yam grants this boon also and Nachiketaa burns his all desires in that fire in order to perform that Yagya. Yam is impressed and the boy has now unlimited will and vitality.

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 want 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 young. Many people have asked 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; 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? 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", I 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 is ready to grant him the third boon.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 11/26/11