Katha Upanishad

1. The better is one thing, the pleasanter another:
Both bind a man, to different ends.
Of the two, it is well for the one who chooses the better,
The one who chooses the pleasanter fails of his end.

2. ‘When both have examined the better and the pleasanter human course,
The wise one discriminates between the two.
The wise one chooses the better over the pleasanter;
The foolish one chooses the pleasanter, for the sake of getting and enjoying.

3. ‘You, Naciketas, contemplating desires
Both pleasant and pleasant-appearing, have let them go
You have not taken on this chain made of wealth
Into which many human beings have plunged.

4. ‘These two are far apart, disparate,
Ignorance and what is called wisdom.
I think Naciketas is a seeker of wisdom:
Many desires have not distracted you.

5. ‘Living in the midst of ignorance,
Wise in their own view, thinking themselves learned,
The foolish rush about,
Like blind men led by one who is blind.

6. ‘Intoxicated, deluded by the glamour of riches,
The childish one does not see that he must pass away:
Thinking, “This is the world: there is no other”,
Again and again he comes into my power.

7. ‘What many will not get the chance even to hear of,
What many, though hearing, do not know?
Wonderful is the speaker of it, skilled the winner of it,
Wonderful the knower of it, taught by a skilled one.

8. ‘Through the teaching of an inferior man it cannot easily be known,
Though it be thought about in many ways:
There is no way to it without another’s teaching,
For it is subtler than the subtle, not to be reasoned out.

9. ‘This thought, which cannot be grasped by reasoning,
Yet is easily known when taught by another,
You, my dear, have grasped. How steadfast in truth you are!
May we find another questioner like you’

10. ‘I know that what is called treasure is impermanent,
That what is constant cannot be got through inconstant means,
So I have built the Naciketa fire:
Through impermanent objects I have won the permanent,

11. ‘Fulfilment of desire, a firm foundation in the world,
Infinity of power, the further shore of fearlessness,
Greatness of praise, a wide-ranging foundation,
Naciketas, you have seen, and, being wise, have steadfastly let go.

12. ‘By the study of the yoga of the self, the wise one knows as god
That which is hard to see, that is deeply hidden,
That lies in a secret place, that rests in the depths, ancient,
And abandons joy and sorrow.

13. ‘Hearing and grasping this, a mortal,
Drawing out that which belongs to dharma, attains this subtle one.
Then he rejoices, for he has won what is worthy of rejoicing.
I consider Naciketas a fitting home for this.

14. ‘It is different from dharma, different from not-dharma
Different from this that is made and unmade,
Different from both past and future.
Tell me what you see’

[Nadketas cannot, so Yama continues:]

15. “The word which all the Vedas recollect,
Of which all ascetic practices speak,
Searching for which folk live as students of brahman,
I will tell you in brief. It is OM.

16. ‘This syllable is brahman.
This syllable is supreme.
Knowing this syllable,
Whatever one wishes for, one has.

17. ‘This support is the best.
This support is supreme.
Knowing this support,
One is honoured in the world of Brahma.

18. ‘The wise one is not born, nor does it die.
It is not from anywhere, nor was it anyone.
Unborn, everlasting, eternal, primaeval,
It is not slain when the body is slain.

19. ‘If the slayer thinks it slays;
If the one who is slain thinks it is slain:
Neither of them understands.
It does not slay, nor is it slain.

20. ‘Subtler than the subtle, greater than the great,
The self is hidden in the secret place of a being.
One without will, through the creator’s favour,
Sees the greatness of the self, his sorrow at an end.

21. ‘Sitting, it travels far.
Lying down, it goes everywhere.
Who else but I (mad-) is able to know
The god who is ever delighted (madamada).

22. ‘Knowing this great all-pervading self?
Bodiless among bodies,
Stable among the unstable?
The wise one does not grieve.

23. ‘The self cannot be won by speaking,

Nor by intelligence or much learning.
It can be won by the one whom it chooses.
To him the self reveals its own form.

24. ‘Neither the one who has not ceased from wrongdoing,
Nor the unpeaceful nor the unconcentrated,
Nor the one of unpeaceful mind
Can win it through knowing.

25. ‘The one for whom priesthood {brahman) and royalty (ksatra)
Both, are the rice
And death is the sauce:
Who, truly, knows where he is?

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