commentary on the katha upanishad - swami

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  • COMMENTARY ON THE

    KATHA UPANISHAD

    SWAMI KRISHNANANDA

    The Divine Life Society Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, India

    Website: www.swami-krishnananda.org

  • ABOUT THIS EDITION

    Though this eBook edition is designed primarily for digital readers and computers, it works well for print too. Page size dimensions are 5.5" x 8.5", or half a regular size sheet, and can be printed for personal, non-commercial use: two pages to one side of a sheet by adjusting your printer settings.

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  • CONTENTS

    CHAPTER 1 ................................................................................................... 9 SECTION 1 NACHIKETAS POSITION ............................................. 9 Prologue: Nachiketas Devoted to Death .......................................... 9 Nachiketas in the House of Death .................................................... 12 Three Boons Offered to Nachiketas ................................................ 13 Nachiketass First Wish: Return to an Appeased Father

    on Earth ...................................................................................... 15 Nachiketass Second Wish: Understanding of the

    Sacrifical Fire ............................................................................ 16 Nachiketass Third Wish:..................................................................... 21 Knowledge Concerning the Final Death ........................................ 21

    SECTION 2 THE EXISTENCE OF THE SUPREME BEING ...... 27 The Two Ways: The Good and the Pleasant ................................ 27 The Requirement of Steadfast Renunciation

    and Meditation ......................................................................... 40 The Eternal Indestructable Soul ....................................................... 51 The Opposite Characteristics of the Supreme ............................ 54 The Conditions of Knowing Him ...................................................... 55

    SECTION 3 SADHANA ........................................................................ 61 Two Selves: The Universal and Individual Soul ......................... 61 The Nachiketas Sacrificial Fire as an Aid ...................................... 64 Parable of the Individual Soul in a Chariot .................................. 65 Intelligent Control of the Soul's Chariot Necessary .................. 67 The Order of Progression to The Supreme .................................. 70 The Method of Yoga ............................................................................... 78 Exhortation and Call to the Way of Liberation from Death .. 85 The Immortal Value of this Teaching ............................................. 92

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  • CHAPTER 2 ................................................................................................ 93 SECTION 1 THE INTRICACIES OF THE INNER WAY

    OF THE SPIRIT ............................................................................ 93 The Self is Not to be Sought Through the Senses ...................... 93 Yet the Agent in All the Senses in All Conditions ....................... 98 The Universal Soul is Identical with the Individual Soul .... 103 Failure to Comprehend the Essential Unity of Being is the

    Cause of Rebirth ................................................................... 112 The Eternal Lord Abiding In One's Self ...................................... 116 The Results of Seeing Diversity or Unity ................................... 120

    SECTION 2 THE STAGES OF SELF-CONTROL ....................... 123 The Real Soul of the Individual and Creation .......................... 123 The Appropriate Embodiment of the Reincarnating Soul .. 132 One's Real Self, the Same as the World-Ground...................... 136 The Self is Both Immanent and Transcendent ........................ 138 Indescribable Bliss of Self-Realisation ........................................ 140 The Self-Luminous Light of the World ........................................ 146

    SECTION 3 THE TREE OF LIFE ................................................... 147 The World-tree Rooted in Brahman ............................................ 147 The Great Fear ...................................................................................... 152 Degrees of Perception of the Self .................................................. 156 The Gradation Up To the Cosmic Being ...................................... 160 The Method of Yoga ............................................................................ 163 The Self is Existence ........................................................................... 167 Requires Sincere Renunciation of All Desires and

    Attachments ........................................................................... 172 Seeking the Self..................................................................................... 174 This Teaching: A Way to Immortality ......................................... 178

    The Katha Upanishad by Sri Swami Sivananda (Sanskrit

    Verses, Transliteration and Translation .................... 180

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  • SHANTI MANTRA

    Every Upanishad commences with a prayer, the Shanti Mantra; a formula for the invocation of peace, chanted at the beginning and close of study. The Shanti Mantra of the Katha Upanishad reads:

    au saha nvavatu, saha nau bhunaktu, saha vryam karavvahai; tejasvi nv adhtam astu: m vidvivahai; au ntih, ntih, ntih.

    It means that there should be proper attunement of spirit between the Guru and disciple before they begin the study, for only then will the teaching be fruitful: May we both be protected. May both of us be taken care of properly. May we study together. May our teaching and learning be resplendent. May there be no misunderstanding between us. May there be no discord of any kind. May there be peace, may there be peace, may there be peace. Thrice peace; we have three kinds of troubles, called tapatraya: internally, physical ones; externally, from outside beings; and from above, given by the gods. May all these cease.

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  • INTRODUCTION

    The Bhagavadgita is a part of the Mahabharata epic. The purpose of this epic is to spread esoteric knowledge to the publica knowledge which is difficult to get. The Mahabharata is a Smriti, which implies an easy rendering of a complex and esoteric text. Smriti is a text which is written, and not revealed, like the Shruti is. The Vedas are a revealed text and not written by any author.

    As mentioned in one of the Gita Mahatmya verses, the Bhagavadgita is the essence of the Upanishads. Why was it necessary to give the essence? Because Kaliyuga was about to dawn, and truths which could be understood before now needed elaborate explanations, as peoples minds had become unfit to understand the subtleties of the ShrutisHence, it is profitable to behold the esoteric and mystical meaning of the Bhagavadgita. A truth not to be given to the masses, but only to initiated disciples. It is not that knowledge is to be hidden, but it should be avoided being given into wrong hands.

    There is a scripture similar to the Bhagavadgita in many respects, called the Katha Upanishad, the one from which the Bhagavadgita-teachings are believed by many to have been drawn. If the Bhagavadgita is a conversation between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, placed in the context of the historical event of the Mahabharata war, the Katha Upanishad is a conversation between Yama and Nachiketas. Just as we have the confusion of Arjunas mind in the beginning of the Bhagavadgita, we find intense aspiration on the part of Nachiketas in the beginning of the Kathopanishad. There are four important stages in its

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  • teaching, even as the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavadgita reveal the stages of the sadhakas evolution.

    The Katha is magnificent in its poetic beauty and mystical value. It touches the vital points of spirituality without beating about the bush. The verses or mantras are statements of human consciousness in its higher reaches of the spirit. This Upanishad takes an anecdote for its background. It occurs in the Taittiriya Brahmana portion of the Vedas which precedes the Kathopanishad:

    Vajasravasa Gautama performed a sacrifice called Sarvavedas or Sarvadakshina, a sacrifice in which one is supposed to offer everything he has, without exception; hence its name Sarvadakshina. It is a preparation for the last stage of spiritual life. However, he was not really ready for it. He wanted to offer only things which were not useful, thus following the letter of law, but losing the spirit behind it. He had a young son, Nachiketas by name, who clearly saw the two defects in the sacrifice: the giving of weak and barren cows, and the fathers ignorance of the fact that the son, too, was to be offered. Joyless, said the boy, are the regions to which he goes who offers such sacrifices! thus irritating his father. And he asked him: To whom are you going to offer me? He repeated this question thrice, and the displeased Gautama answered angrily: To death I send you!

    Here ends the outline of the story, and now we have the real beginning of the Upanishada direct teaching to the spiritual aspirant.

    The Vedas contain four sections: the mantra portion called the Samhitas; the ritualistic portion called the Brahmanas (external sacrifice to the chanting of the

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  • Samhitas); the internal ways of sacrifice, the Aranyakaswhich can also be called internal Brahmanaswhich are sacrifices without involving materials; and the endportion of the Vedas, the Upanishads, also known as Vedanta.

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  • CHAPTER 1

    SECTION 1 NACHIKETAS POSITION

    Prologue: Nachiketas Devoted to Death

    uan ha vai vjaravas

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