Home | Upanishad | Teachings


Previous | Next

Teachings of Kath Upanishad
Rig Ved 10th Mandal;   Taittireeya Braahman [by G Balasubramanian]

About Rebirth

1. Comment: God of Death in Kathopanishad
Reply: Yam says in Kathopansihad, “Devairaatra-api vichikitsitam pura, meaning even the Gods were also confused on this.” Yam further discourages Nachiketaa, “Ma Ma Uparaatseeh ati ma sraja enam” It means “do not make it (your response to the offer of a boon) excessively pressing.” Yam almost begs, “And help release me from the offer of boon”. This secret knowledge is beyond human comprehension. That statement defines the Upanishad. The next chapter speaks of Shreya (good; fit to be promoted.) and Preya (desired; to be discouraged. ). It discourages hedonism and demands self control. This is the theme that is developed in this Upanishad.

2. "Yonim anye prapdyantesareeratv aya dehinah" To be sure this (unity of all life forms) is the greatest discovery or realization of ancient Hinduism. It was unique to accept the unity of all life forms. Hinduism was the only religion to recognize the equality of all life forms. That was how or why the transmigration (of the soul) idea became logical.

If life is of unitary origin there should be provision for transmutation from one form to another. “Soul” provided that connection in Hinduism. This was the logic of rebirth. Students of science believe that the DNA is the connecting link. But science knows a little better and goes one step further. It has achieved recombination of parts of different DNA units. Har Govind Khorana’s invention of recombinant DNA is an exploitation of this idea. It is being used now to produce insulin by exploitation of the commonality between the human DNA and that of the bacteria. If the Hindu orthodoxy could accept this link, there is no major quarrel with science on rebirth. But the integrity of the soul would still be a sticky point. Both parents contribute to the DNA of the child with certain reservations. The "Janmaantar kritaani paapaani" would be those of the parents not of the child.

3. Comment: A question is often asked, “can anyone escape the cycle of birth and death"?
Reply: This question is irrelevant. The reply has to be necessarily a matter of faith.

4. Faith (Shraddhaa) and love (Bhakti) - Shraddha is dealt with in the Geetaa, 17. Shraddhaa is social conditioning. Like the Gun it is three fold : Saattwik, Raajas and Taamas. Gun is genetically ordained. Over a long period of inbreeding, as in the case of the Braahman Shraddhaa may become genetic.

Geetaa sets the stage by saying Saattwik worship the Gods, Raajasik honor Yaksh and Raakshas and the Taamasik celebrate the spirits and ghosts. Asur are proud and arrogant. They observe irrational and fierce austerities having no sanction in the Shaastra. The types of food, the offerings (Yagya), austerities (Tap) and philanthropy (Daan) also fall into the three categories. We may broadly identify the three Shraddhaa as creative, productive and destructive. These are the qualities that define the different Shraddhaa of an individual. About Bhakti - A society in which Saatwik Shraddhaa dominates would be creative and prosperous.

6. Everyone merges into the ultimate reality on death. There is no special privilege for the conformists. Moksh is for those who transcend the barriers of existential limitations.

7. The human body is called the Kshetra (field) in which we sow seeds of our desires and reap the harvest of our lives. The harvest or fruit depends upon the quality of the seed sown and the care bestowed thereafter. Both the sowing and harvesting constitute an unending chain of cause and effect, the chain of Sansaar in the technical language of Vedaant. The gentle but steady erosion of this chain is what is achieved by spiritual education and its complete destruction by spiritual realization. Slow as this erosion is, it needs for its operation, not one but many physical manifestations.

"Yonim anye prapdyantesareeratwaaya dehinaah", says Yam, god of Death in Kathopanishad. It means that on death "the embodied enter other wombs". The Mantra in that Upanishad further says, that such remanifestation may not be only in human and animal bodies but also in plants and trees - "Sthanumanye anusamyanti". How can a rational man be reduced to plants and trees or even animals? I am sure this question will be raised by someone amongst you? Vedaant states that if the effects of a man's actions and his state of awareness be such as to need an animal or plant body for their appropriate manifestation and not a human body, it has to take such a course.

A question is often asked, "can anyone escape the cycle of birth and death"?..
In the Bhagvad Geetaa the Lord imparts the knowledge of both the absolute (Nir-Gun) or attributless and with attributes (Sa-Gun) aspects of Divinity and declares that people having no faith in this knowledge revolves in the whirling of births and deaths. Conversely, those who have faith in the knowledge imparted by the Lord can escape the cycle of births and deaths. The very birth in which a man attains the rank of an enlightened devotee is the last of his many births.

Says the Lord, "Bahunaam Janmanam Ante Gyaanvaan Prapadyante Vasudevas Sarvamiti sa Mahaatmaa Durlabhah " One who realizes that the Supreme God alone is all, at the end of several births reaches Me; it is difficult to find such great souls," declares the Lord. Having realized God one is never born again. If the faith (Shraddhaa) and love (Bhakti) of a devotee are highly developed and his practice (Saadhanaa) is intense he can realize God in one single birth and there is no rebirth for him. But if one's Saadhanaa is slack through deficiency of his Shraddhaa and Bhakti, a devotee may have to go through many births. This is the message of the Geetaa.



Home | Upanishad | Teachings


Previous | Next

Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 07/31/12