1. Vagasravasa, desirous (of heavenly rewards), surrendered (at a
sacrifice) all that he possessed. He had a son of the name of Nakiketas.
2. When the (promised) presents were being given (to the priests),
faith entered into the heart of Nakiketas, who was still a boy, and he
3. 'Unblessed, surely, are the worlds to which a man goes by giving
(as his promised present at a sacrifice) cows which have drunk water,
eaten hay, given their milk, and are barren.'
4. He (knowing that his father had promised to give up all that he
possessed, and therefore his son also) said to his father: 'Dear father,
to whom wilt thou give me?'
He said it a second and a third time. Then the father replied
'I shall give thee unto Death.'
(The father, having once said so, though in haste, had to be true to
his word and to sacrifice his son.)
5. The son said: 'I go as the first, at the head of many (who have
still to die); I go in the midst of many (who are now dying). What will
be the work of Yama (the ruler of the departed) which to-day he has to
do unto Me?
6. 'Look back how it was with those who came before, look forward how
it will be with those who come hereafter. A mortal ripens like corn,
like corn he springs up again.'
(Nakiketas enters into the abode of Yama Vaivasvata, and there is no
one to receive him. Thereupon one of the attendants of Yama is supposed
to say :)
7. 'Fire enters into the houses, when a Brahmana enters as a guest .
That fire is quenched by this peace-offering ;-bring water, O Vaivasvata!
8. 'A Brahmana that dwells in the house of a foolish man without
receiving food to eat, destroys his hopes and expectations, his
possessions, his righteousness, his sacred and his good deeds, and all
his sons and cattle.'
(Yama, returning to his house after an absence of three nights,
during which time Nakiketas had received no hospitality from him, says:)
9. 'O Brahmana, as thou, a venerable guest, hast dwelt in my house
three nights without eating, therefore choose now three boons. Hail to
thee! and welfare to me!'
10. Nakiketas said: 'O Death, as the first of the three boons I
choose that Gautama, my father, be pacified, kind, and free from anger
towards me; and that he may know me and greet me, when I shall have been
dismissed by thee.'
11. Yama said: 'Through my favour Auddalaki Aruni, thy father, will
know thee, and be again towards thee as he was before. He shall sleep
peacefully through the night, and free from anger, after having seen
thee freed from the mouth of death.'
12. Nakiketas said: 'In the heaven-world there is no fear; thou art
not there, O Death, and no one is afraid on account of old age. Leaving
behind both hunger and thirst, and out of the reach of sorrow, all
rejoice in the world of heaven.'
13. 'Thou knowest, O Death, the fire-sacrifice which leads us to
heaven; tell it to me, for I am full of faith. Those who live in the
heaven-world reach immortality,-this I ask as my second boon.'
14. Yama said: 'I tell it thee, learn it from me, and when thou
understandest that fire-sacrifice which leads to heaven, know, O
Nakiketas, that it is the attainment of the endless worlds, and their
firm support, hidden in darkness.'
15. Yama then told him that fire-sacrifice, the beginning of all the
worldS , and what bricks are required for the altar, and how many, and
how they are to be placed. And Nakiketas repeated all as it had been
told to him. Then Mrityu, being pleased with him, said again:
16. The generous, being satisfied, said to him:
I give thee now another boon; that fire-sacrifice shall be named
after thee, take also this many coloured chain.'
17. 'He who has three times performed this Nakiketa rite, and has
been united with the three (father, mother, and teacher), and has
performed the three duties (study, sacrifice, almsgiving) overcomes
birth and death. When he has learnt and understood this fire, which
knows (or makes us know) all that is born of Brahman, which is venerable
and divine, then he obtains everlasting peace.'
18. 'He who knows the three Nakiketa fires, and knowing the three,
piles up the Nakiketa sacrifice, he, having first thrown off the chains
of death, rejoices in the world of heaven, beyond the reach of grief.'
19. 'This, O Nakiketas, is thy fire which leads to heaven, and which
thou hast chosen as thy second boon. That fire all men will proclaim .
Choose now, O Nakiketas, thy third boon.'
20. Nakiketas said: 'There is that doubt, when a man is dead,-some
saying, he is; others, he is not. This I should like to know, taught by
thee; this is the third of my boons.'
21. Death said: 'On this point even the gods have doubted formerly;
it is not easy to understand. That subject is subtle. Choose another
boon, O Nakiketas, do not press me, and let me off that boon.'
22. Nakiketas said: 'On this point even the gods have doubted indeed,
and thou, Death, hast declared it to be not easy to understand, and
another teacher like thee is not to be found:-surely no other boon is
like unto this.'
23. Death said: 'Choose sons and grandsons who shall live a hundred
years, herds of cattle, elephants, gold, and horses. Choose the wide
abode of the earth, and live thyself as many harvests as thou desirest.'
24. 'If you can think of any boon equal to that, choose wealth, and
long life. Be (king), Nakiketas, on the wide earth'. I make thee the
enjoyer of all desires.'
25. 'Whatever desires are difficult to attain among mortals, ask for
them according to thy wish;-these fair maidens with their chariots and
musical instruments,-such are indeed not to be obtained by men,-be
waited on by them whom I give to thee, but do not ask me about dying.'
26. Nakiketas said: 'These things last till tomorrow, O Death, for
they wear out this vigour of all the senses. Even the whole of life is
short. Keep thou thy horses, keep dance and song for thyself.'
2 7. 'No man can be made happy by wealth. Shall we possess wealth,
when we see thee? Shall we live, as long as thou rulest? Only that boon
(which I have chosen) is to be chosen by me.'
28. 'What mortal, slowly decaying here below, and knowing, after
having approached them, the freedom from decay enjoyed by the immortals,
would delight in a long life, after he has pondered on the pleasures
which arise from beauty and love?'
29. 'No, that on which there is this doubt, O Death, tell us what
there is in that great Hereafter. Nakiketas does not choose another boon
but that which enters into the hidden world.'
1. Death said: 'The good is one thing, the pleasant
another; these two, having different objects, chain a man. It is well
with him who clings to the good; he who chooses the pleasant, misses his
2. 'The good and the pleasant approach man: the wise goes
round about them and distinguishes them. Yea, the wise prefers the good
to the pleasant, but the fool chooses the pleasant through greed and
3. 'Thou, O Nakiketas, after pondering all pleasures that
are or seem delightful, hast dismissed them all. Thou hast not gone into
the road' that leadeth to wealth, in which many men perish.'
4. 'Wide apart and leading to different points are these
two, ignorance, and what is known as wisdom. I believe Nakiketas to be
one who desires knowledge, for even many pleasures did not tear thee
5. 'Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit,
and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round, staggering to and
fro, like blind men led by the blind
6. 'The Hereafter never rises before the eyes of the
careless child, deluded by the delusion of wealth. "This is the world,"
he thinks," there is no other; thus he falls again and again under my
7. 'He (the Self) of whom many are not even able to hear,
whom many, even when they hear of him, do not comprehend; wonderful is a
man, when found, who is able to teach him (the Self); wonderful is he
who comprehends him, when taught by an able teacher'.'
8. 'That (Self), when taught by an inferior man, is not
easy to be known, even though often thought upon; unless it be taught by
another, there is no way to it, for it is inconceivably smaller than
what is small.'
9. 'That doctrine is not to be obtained by argument, but
when it is declared by another, then, O dearest, it is easy to
understand. Thou hast obtained it now; thou art truly a man of true
resolve. May we have always an inquirer like thee!'
10. Nakiketas said: 'I know that what is called a treasure
is transient, for that eternal is not obtained by things which are not
eternal. Hence the Nakiketa fire(-sacrifice) has been laid by me
(first); then, by means of transient things, I have obtained what is not
transient (the teaching of Yama)'.'
11. Yama said: 'Though thou hadst seen the fulfilment of
all desires, the foundation of the world, the endless rewards of good
deeds, the shore where there is no fear, that which is magnified by
praise, the wide abode, the rest, yet being wise thou hast with firm
resolve dismissed it all.'
12. 'The wise who, by means of meditation on his Self,
recognises the Ancient, who is difficult to be seen, who has entered
into the dark, who is hidden in the cave, who dwells in the abyss, as
God, he indeed leaves joy and sorrow far behind.'
13. 'A mortal who has heard this and embraced it, who has
separated from it all qualities, and has thus reached the subtle Being,
rejoices, because he has obtained what is a cause for rejoicing. The
house (of Brahman) is open, I believe, O Nakiketas.'
14. Nakiketas said: 'That which thou seest as neither this
nor that, as neither effect nor cause, as neither past nor future, tell
15. Yama said: 'That word (or place) which all the Vedas
record, which all penances proclaim, which men desire when they live as
religious students, that word I tell thee briefly, it is OM.'
16. 'That (imperishable) syllable means Brahman, that
syllable means the highest (Brahman); he who knows that syllable,
whatever he desires, is his.'
17. 'This is the best support, this is the highest support;
he who knows that support is magnified in the world of Brahma.'
18. 'The knowing (Selo is not born, it dies not; it sprang
from nothing, nothing sprang from it. The Ancient is unborn, eternal,
everlasting; he is not killed, though the body is killed.'
19. 'If the killer thinks that he kills, if the killed
thinks that he is killed, they do not understand; for this one does not
kill, nor is that one killed.'
20. 'The Self, smaller than small, greater than great, is
hidden in the heart of that creature. A man who is free from desires and
free from grief, sees the majesty of the Self by the grace of the
21. 'Though sitting still, he walks far; though lying down,
he goes everywhere. Who, save myself, is able to know that God who
rejoices and rejoices not?'
22. 'The wise who knows the Self as bodiless within the
bodies, as unchanging among changing things, as great and omnipresent,
does never grieve.'
23. 'That Self, cannot be gained by the Veda, nor by
understanding, nor by much learning. He whom the Self chooses, by him
the Self can be gained. The Self chooses him (his body) as his own.'
24. 'But he who has not first turned away from his
wickedness, who is not tranquil, and subdued, or whose mind is not at
rest, he can never obtain the Self (even) by knowledge.'
25. 'Who then knows where He is, He to whom the Brahmans
and Kshatriyas are (as it were) but food , and death itself a
1. 'There are the two, drinking their reward in the world of their
own works, entered into the cave (of the heart), dwelling on the highest
summit (the ether in the heart). Those who know Brahman call them shade
and light; likewise, those householders who perform the Trinakiketa
2. 'May we be able to master that Nakiketa rite which is a bridge for
sacrificers; also that which is the highest, imperishable Brahman for
those who wish to cross over to the fearless shore.'
3. 'Know the Self to be sitting in the chariot, the body to be the
chariot, the intellect (buddhi) the charioteer, and the mind the reins.'
4. 'The senses they call the horses, the objects of the senses their
roads. When he (the Highest Self) is in union with the body, the senses,
and the mind, then wise people call him the Enjoyer.'
5. 'He who has no understanding and whose mind (the reins) is never
firmly held, his senses (horses) are unmanageable, like vicious horses
of a charioteer.'
6. 'But he who has understanding and whose mind is always firmly
held, his senses are under control, like good horses of a charioteer.'
7. 'He who has no understanding, who is unmindful and always impure,
never reaches that place, but enters into the round of births.'
8. 'But he who has understanding, who is mindful and always pure,
reaches indeed that place, from whence he is not born again.'
9. 'But he who has understanding for his charioteer, and who holds
the reins of the mind, he reaches the end of his journey, and that is
the highest place of Vishnu.'
10. 'Beyond the senses there are the objects, beyond the objects
there is the mind, beyond the mind there is the intellect, the Great
Self is beyond the intellect.'
11. 'Beyond the Great there is the Undeveloped, beyond the
Undeveloped there is the Person (purusha). Beyond the Person there is
nothing this is the goal, the highest road.'
12. 'That Self is hidden in all beings and does not shine forth, but
it is seen by subtle seers through their sharp and subtle intellect.'
13. 'A wise man should keep down speech and mind; he should keep them
within the Self which is knowledge; he should keep knowledge within the
Self which is the Great; and he should keep that (the Great) within the
Self which is the Quiet.'
14. 'Rise, awake! having obtained your boons', understand them! The
sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the
path (to the Self) is hard.'
15. 'He who has perceived that which is without sound, without touch,
without form, without decay, without taste, eternal, without smell,
without beginning, without end, beyond the Great, and unchangeable, is
freed from the jaws of death.'
16. 'A wise man who has repeated or heard the ancient story of
Nakiketas told by Death, is magnified in the world of Brahman.'
17. 'And he who repeats this greatest mystery in an assembly of
Brahmans, or full of devotion at the time of the Sraddha sacrifice,
obtains thereby infinite rewards.'
1. Death said: 'The Self-existent pierced the openings (of the
senses) so that they turn forward: therefore man looks forward, not
backward into himself. Some wise man, however,with his eyes closed and
wishing for immortality, saw the Self behind!
2. 'Children follow after outward pleasures, and fall into the snare
of wide-spread death. Wise men only, knowing the nature of what is
immortal, do not look for anything stable here among things unstable!
3. 'That by which we know form, taste, smell, sounds, and loving
touches, by that also we know what exists besides. This is that (which
thou hast asked for).'
4. 'The wise, when he knows that that by which he perceives all
objects in sleep or in waking is the great omnipresent Self, grieves no
5. 'He who knows this living soul which eats honey (perceives
objects) as being the Self, always near, the Lord of the past and the
future, henceforward fears no more. This is that!
6. 'He who (knows) him' who was born first from the brooding heat,
(for he was born before the water), who, entering into the heart, abides
therein, and was perceived from the elements. This is that.'
7. '(He who knows) Aditi also, who is one with all deities, who
arises with Prana (breath or Hiranyagarbha), who, entering into the
heart, abides therein, and was born from the elements. This is that.'
8. 'There is Agni (fire), the all-seeing, hidden in the two
fire-sticks, well-guarded like a child (in the womb) by the mother, day
after day to be adored by men when they awake and bring oblations. This
9. 'And that whence the sun rises, and whither it goes to set, there
all the Devas are contained, and no one goes beyond. This is that.'
10. 'What is here (visible in the world), the same is there
(invisible in Brahman); and what is there, the same is here. He who sees
any difference here (between Brahman and the world), goes from death to
11. 'Even by the mind this (Brahman) is to be obtained, and then
there is no difference whatsoever. He goes from death to death who sees
any difference here.'
12. 'The person (purusha), of the size of a thumb, stands in the
middle of the Self (body?), as lord of the past and the future, and
henceforward fears no more. This is that.'
13. 'That person, of the size of a thumb, is like a light without
smoke, lord of the past and the future, he is the same to-day and
to-morrow. This is that.'
14. 'As rain-water that has fallen on a mountain ridge runs down the
rocks on all sides, thus does he, who sees a difference between
qualities, run after them on all sides.'
15. 'As pure water poured into pure water remains the same, thus, O
Gautama, is the Self of a thinker who knows.'
1. 'There is a town with eleven gates belonging to the Unborn
(Brahman), whose thoughts are never crooked. He who approaches it,
grieves no more, and liberated (from all bonds of ignorance) becomes
free. This is that.'
2. 'He (Brahman) is the swan (sun), dwelling in the bright heaven; he
is the Vasu (air), dwelling in the sky; he is the sacrificer (fire),
dwelling on the hearth; he is the guest (Soma), dwelling in the
sacrificial jar; he dwells in men, in gods (vara), in the sacrifice (rita),
in heaven; he is born in the water, on earth, in the sacrifice (rita),
on the mountains; he is the True and the Great.'
3. 'He (Brahman) it is who sends up the breath (prana), and who
throws back the breath (apgma)All the Devas (senses) worship him, the
adorable (or the dwarf), who sits in the centre.'
4. 'When that incorporated (Brahman), who dwells in the body, is torn
away and freed from the body, what remains then? This is that!
5. 'No mortal lives by the breath that goes up and by the breath that
goes down. We live by another, in whom these two repose.'
6. 'Well then, O Gautama, I shall tell thee this mystery, the old
Brahman, and what happens to the Self, after reaching death.'
7. 'Some enter the womb in order to have a body, as organic beings,
others go into inorganic matter, according to their work and according
to their knowledge.'
8. 'He, the highest Person, who is awake in us while we are asleep,
shaping one lovely sight after another, that indeed is the Bright, that
is Brahman, that alone is called the Immortal. All worlds are contained
in it, and no one goes beyond. This is that.'
9. 'As the one fire, after it has entered the world, though one,
becomes different according to whatever it burns, thus the one Self
within all things becomes different, according to whatever it enters,
and exists also without.'
10. 'As the one air, after it has entered the world, though one,
becomes different according to whatever it enters, thus the one Self
within all things becomes different, according to whatever it enters',
and exists also without.'
11. 'As the sun, the eye of the whole world, is not contaminated by
the external impurities seen by the eyes, thus the one Self within all
things is never contaminated by the misery of the world, being himself
12. 'There is one ruler, the Self within all things, who makes the
one form manifold. The wise who perceive him within their Self, to them
belongs eternal happiness, not to others.'
13. 'There is one eternal thinker, thinking non-eternal thoughts,
who, though one, fulfils the desires of many. The wise who perceive him
within their Self, to them belongs eternal peace, not to others.'
14. 'They perceive that highest indescribable pleasure, saying, This
is that. How then can I understand it? Has it its own light, or does it
15. 'The sun does not shine there, nor the moon and the stars, nor
these lightnings, and much less this fire. When he shines, everything
shines after him; by his light all this is lighted.'
1. 'There is that ancient tree, whose roots grow upward and whose
branches grow downward;-that indeed is called the Bright, that is called
Brahman, that alone is called the Immortal . All worlds are contained in
it, and no one goes beyond. This is that.'
2. 'Whatever there is, the whole world, when gone forth (from the
Brahman), trembles in its breath. That Brahman is a great terror, like a
drawn sword. Those who know it become immortal.'
3. 'From terror of Brahman fire burns, from terror the sun burns,
from terror Indra and Vayu, and Death, as the fifth, run away.'
4. 'If a man could not understand it before the falling asunder of
his body, then he has to take body again in the worlds of creation.'
5. 'As in a mirror, so (Brahman may be seen clearly) here in this
body; as in a dream, in the world of the Fathers; as in the water, he is
seen about in the world of the Gandharvas; as in light and shade, in the
world of Brahma.'
6. 'Having understood that the senses are distinct (from the Atman),
and that their rising and setting (their waking and sleeping) belongs to
them in their distinct existence (and not to the Atman), a wise man
grieves no more.'
7. 'Beyond the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the highest
(created) Being, higher than that Being is the Great Self, higher than
the Great, the highest Undeveloped.'
8. 'Beyond the Undeveloped is the Person, the all-pervading and
entirely imperceptible. Every creature that knows him is liberated, and
9. 'His form is not to be seen, no one beholds him with the eye. He
is imagined by the heart, by wisdom, by the mind. Those who know this,
10. 'When the five instruments of knowledge stand still together with
the mind, and when the intellect does not move, that is called the
11. 'This, the firm holding back of the senses, is what is called
Yoga. He must be free from thoughtlessness then, for Yoga comes and
12. 'He (the Self) cannot be reached by speech, by mind, or by the
eye. How can it be apprehended except by him who says: "He is?"'
13. 'By the words "He is," is he to be apprehended, and by
(admitting) the reality of both (the invisible Brahman and the visible
world, as coming from Brahman). When he has been apprehended by the
words "He is," then his reality reveals itself.'
14. 'When all desires that dwell in his heart cease, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and obtains Brahman.'
15. 'When all the ties of the heart are severed here on earth, then
the mortal becomes immortal here ends the teaching.'
16. 'There are a hundred and one arteries of the heart, one of them
penetrates the crown of the head. Moving upwards by it, a man (at his
death) reaches the Immortal; the other arteries serve for departing in
17. 'The Person not larger than a thumb, the inner Self, is always
settled in the heart of men. Let a man draw that Self forth from his
body with steadiness, as one draws the pith from a reed. Let him know
that Self as the Bright, as the Immortal; yes, as the Bright, as the
18. Having received this knowledge taught by Death and the whole rule
of Yoga (meditation), Nakiketa became free from passion and death, and
obtained Brahman. Thus it will be with another also who knows thus what
relates to the Self.
19. May He protect us both! May He enjoy us both! May we acquire
strength together! May our knowledge become bright! May we never
quarre1! Om! Peace! peace! peace! Harih, Om!