Katha Upanishad

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The Katha Upanishad (Devanagari: कठोपनिषद्) (Kaṭhopaniṣad) is one of the mukhya (primary) Upanishads, embedded in last short eight sections of the Kaṭha school of the Yajurveda.[1][2] It is also known as Kāṭhaka Upanishad, and is listed as number 3 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads.

The Katha Upanishad consists of two chapters (Adhyāyas), each divided into three sections (Vallis). The first Adhyaya is considered to be of older origin than the second.[2] The Upanishad is the legendary story of a little boy, Nachiketa – the son of sage Vajasravasa, who meets Yama – the Indian deity of death. Their conversation evolves to a discussion of the nature of man, knowledge, Atman (Soul, Self) and moksha (liberation).[2]

The chronology of Katha Upanishad is unclear and contested, with Buddhism scholars stating it was likely composed after the early Buddhist texts (fifth century BCE),[3] while Hinduism scholars stating it was likely composed before the early Buddhist texts in 1st part of 1st millennium BCE.[4]

The Kathaka Upanishad is an important ancient Sanskrit corpus of the Vedanta sub-schools, and an influential Śruti to the diverse schools of Hinduism. It asserts that "Atman (Soul, Self) exists", teaches the precept "seek Self-knowledge which is Highest Bliss", and expounds on this premise like other primary Upanishads of Hinduism. The Upanishad presents ideas that contrast Hinduism from Buddhism's assertion that "Soul, Self does not exist", and Buddhism's precept that one should seek "Emptiness (Śūnyatā) which is Highest Bliss".[5][6] The detailed teachings of Katha Upanishad have been variously interpreted, as Dvaita (dualistic)[7] and as Advaita (non-dualistic).[8][9][10]

It is among the most widely studied Upanishads. Katha Upanishad was translated into Persian in 17th century, copies of which were then translated into Latin and distributed in Europe.[11] Max Müller and many others have translated it. Other philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer praised it, Edwin Arnold rendered it in verse as "The Secret of Death", and Ralph Waldo Emerson credited Katha Upanishad for the central story at the end of his essay Immortality, as well as his poem "Brahma".[8][12]

Etymology[edit]

Katha (Sanskrit: कठ) literally means "distress".[13] Katha is also the name of a sage, credited as the founder of a branch of the Krishna Yajur-veda, as well as the term for a female pupil or follower of Kathas school of Yajurveda.[13] Paul Deussen notes that the Katha Upanishad uses words that symbolically embed and creatively have multiple meanings. For example, a closely pronounced word Katha (Sanskrit: कथा) literally means "story, legend, conversation, speech, tale".[13] All of these related meanings are relevant to the Katha Upanishad.

Nachiketa, the boy and a central character in the Katha Upanishad legend, similarly, has closely related words with roots and meanings relevant to the text. Paul Deussen[2] suggests Na kṣiti and Na aksiyete, which are word plays of and pronounced similar to Nachiketa, means "non-decay, or what does not decay", a meaning that is relevant to second boon portion of the Nachiketa story. Similarly, Na jiti is another word play and means "that which cannot be vanquished", which is contextually relevant to the Nachiketa's third boon.[2] Both Whitney and Deussen independently suggest yet another variation to Nachiketa, with etymological roots that is relevant to Katha Upanishad: the word Na-ciketa also means "I do not know, or he does not know".[14] Some of these Sanskrit word plays are incorporated within the Upanishad's text.[15]

Like Taittiriya Upanishad of Yajurveda, each section of the Katha Upanishad is called a Valli (वल्ली), which literally means a medicinal vine-like climbing plant that grows independently yet is attached to a main tree. Paul Deussen states that this symbolic terminology is apt and likely reflects the root and nature of the Upanishads in Black Yajur veda, which too is largely independent of the liturgical Yajur Veda, and is attached to the main text.[16]

Chronology[edit]

The chronology of Katha Upanishad is unclear and contested by scholars.[4] All opinions rest on scanty evidence, an analysis of archaism, style and repetitions across texts, driven by assumptions about likely evolution of ideas, and on presumptions about which philosophy might have influenced which other Indian philosophies.[4][10]

Buddhism scholars such as Richard King date Katha Upanishad's composition roughly to the 5th century BCE, chronologically placing it after the first Buddhist Pali canons.[17][18]

Hinduism scholars such as Stephen Phillips[4] note the disagreement between modern scholars. Phillips dates Katha Upanishad as having being composed after Brihadaranyaka, Chandogya, Isha, Taittiriya, Aitareya and Kena, but before Mundaka, Prasna, Mandukya, Svetasvatara and Maitri Upanishads, as well as before the earliest Buddhist Pali and Jaina canons.[4]

Ranade[19] posits a view similar to Phillips, with slightly different ordering, placing Katha's chronological composition in the fourth group of ancient Upanishads along with Mundaka and Svetasvatara. Paul Deussen too considers Katha Upanishad to be a post-prose, yet earlier stage Upanishad composed about the time Kena and Isha Upanishads were, because of the poetic, mathematical metric structure of its hymns.[20] Winternitz considers the Kathaka Upanishad as pre-Buddhist, pre-Jaina literature.[20][21]

Structure[edit]

The Katha Upanishad has two chapters, each with three sections (valli), thus a total of six sections. The first section has 29 verses, the second section 25 verses, and the third presents 17. The second chapter opens with the fourth section of the Katha Upanishad and has 15 verses, while the fifth valli also has 15 verses. The final section has 17 verses.[2]

The first chapter with the first three vallis is considered older, because the third section ends with a structure in Sanskrit that is typically found at closing of other Upanishads, and also because the central ideas are repeated though expanded in the last three sections, that is the second chapter.[2] This, however, does not imply a significant gap between the two chapters, both chapters are considered ancient, and from 1st millennium BCE.[2]

The origin of the story of the little boy named Nachiketa, contained in Katha Upanishad is of a much older origin.[15] Nachiketa is mentioned in the verses of chapter 3.11 of Taittiriya Brahmana, both as a similar story,[15] and as the name of one of five fire arrangements for rituals, along with Savitra, Caturhotra, Vaisvasrja and Aruna Agni.[2][22]

The style and structure suggests that some of the verses in Katha Upanishad, such as 1.1.8, 1.1.16-1.1.18, 1.1.28 among others, are non-philosophical, do not fit with the rest of the text, and are likely to be later insertion and interpolations.[2][15][23]

Content[edit]

The son questions his father - First Valli[edit]

The Upanishad opens with the story of Vajasravasa, also called Aruni Auddalaki Gautama,[24] who gives away all his worldly possessions. However, his son Nachiketa (Sanskrit: नचिकेता) sees the charitable sacrifice as a farce, because all those worldly things have already been used to exhaustion, and are of no value to the recipients. The cows given away, for example, were so old that they had 'drank-their-last-water' (पीतोदकाः), 'eaten-their-last-grass' (जग्धतृणाः), 'don't give milk' (दुग्धदोहाः), 'who are barren' (निरिन्द्रियाः).[25] Concerned, the son asks his father,

"Dear father, to whom will you give me away?"
He said it a second, and then a third time.
The father, seized by anger, replied: "To Death, I give you away."

—Nachiketa, Katha Upanishad, 1.1.1-1.1.4[25][26]

Nachiketa does not die, but accepts his father's gifting him to Death, by visiting the abode of Yama - the deity of death in Indian mythology. Nachiketa arrives, but Yama is not in his abode. Nachiketa as guest goes hungry for three nights, states verse 9 of the first Valli of Katha Upanishad. Yama arrives and is apologetic for this dishonor to the guest, so he offers Nachiketa three wishes.[27]

Nachiketa' first wish is that Yama discharge him from the abode of death, back to his family, and that his father be calm, well-disposed, not resentful and same as he was before when he returns. Yama grants the first wish immediately, states verse 1.1.11 of Katha Upanishad.[27]

For his second wish, Nachiketa prefaces his request with the statement that heaven is a place where there is no fear, no anxiety, no old age, no hunger, no thirst, no sorrow.[27] He then asks Yama, in verse 1.1.13 of Katha Upanishad to be instructed as to the proper execution of fire ritual that enables a human being to secure heaven. Yama responds by detailing the fire ritual, including how the bricks should be arranged, and how the fire represents the building of the world. Nachiketa remembers what Yama tells him, repeats the ritual, a feat which pleases Yama, and he declares that this fire ritual will thereafter be called the "Nachiketa fires".[28] Yama adds that along with "three Nachiketa fires", anyone who respects three bonds (with mother, father and teacher), does three kinds of karma (rituals, studies and charity), and understands the knowledge therein, becomes free of sorrow.[28]

Nachiketa then asks for his third wish, asking Yama in verse 1.1.20, about the doubt that human beings have about "what happens after a person dies? Does he continue to exist in another form? or not?"[28] The remaining verse of first Valli of Katha Upanishad is expression of reluctance by Yama in giving a straight "yes or no" answer. Yama states that even gods doubt and are uncertain about that question, and urges Nachiketa to pick another wish.[29][30] Nachiketa says that if gods doubt that, then he "Yama" as deity of death ought to be the only one who knows the answer. Yama offers him all sorts of worldly wealth and pleasures instead, but Nachiketa says human life is short, asks Yama to keep the worldly wealth and pleasures to himself, declares that pompous wealth, lust and pleasures are fleeting and vain, then insists on knowing the nature of Atman (Soul) and sticks to his question, "what happens after death?"[29][31]

The theory of good versus dear - Second Valli[edit]

Yama begins his teaching by distinguishing between preya (प्रेय, प्रिय, dear, pleasant),[32] and shreya (श्रेय, good, beneficial excellence).[33][34][35]

Different is the good and different is the dear,
they both, having different aims, fetter you men;
He, who chooses for himself the good, comes to wellbeing,
he, who chooses the dear, loses the goal.

The good and the dear approach the man,
The wise man, pondering over both, distinguishes them;
The wise one chooses the good over the dear,
The fool, acquisitive and craving, chooses the dear.

—Yama, Katha Upanishad, 1.2.1-1.2.2[34][35]

The verses 1.2.4 through 1.2.6 of Katha Upanishad then characterizes Knowledge/Wisdom as the pursuit of good, and Ignorance/Delusion as the pursuit of pleasant.[35] The verses 1.2.7 through 1.2.11 of Katha Upanishad state Knowledge/Wisdom and the pursuit of good is difficult yet eternal, while Ignorance/Delusion and the pursuit of the pleasant is easy yet transient. Knowledge requires effort, and often not comprehended by man even when he reads it or hears it or by internal argument.[36] The pursuit of Knowledge and the good, can be taught,[37] learnt and thus realized.[38]

A similar discussion and distinction between the pleasant and the beneficial is found in ancient Greek philosophy, such as in Phaedrus by Plato.[39]

Atman exists, the theory of Yoga and the essence of Vedas - Second Valli[edit]

Katha Upanishad, in verses 1.2.12 asserts Atman – Soul, Self – exists, though it is invisible and full of mystery.[40] It is ancient, and recognizable by Yoga (meditation on one's self), states Katha Upanishad. This is one of the earliest mentions of Yoga in ancient Sanskrit literature, in the context of Self development and meditation.

तं दुर्दर्शं गूढमनुप्रविष्टं
गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम् ।
अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन देवं
मत्वा धीरो हर्षशोकौ जहाति ॥ १२ ॥

He (the Atman), difficult to be seen, full of mystery,
the Ancient, primaeval one, concealed deep within,
He who, by yoga means of meditation on his self, comprehends Atman within him as God,
He leaves joy and sorrow far behind.

—Katha Upanishad, 1.2.12[41][42]

In verses 1.2.14 through 1.2.22, the Katha Upanishad asserts that the essence of Veda is make man liberated and free, look past what has happened and what has not happened, free from the past and the future, refocus his attention past Ignorance to Knowledge, to the means of blissful existence beyond joy and sorrow. This is achievable through realization of Atman-Brahman, asserts Katha Upanishad, and this essence is reminded in the Vedas through the word Om (, Aum), state verses 1.2.15-1.2.16.[43] That syllable, Aum, is in Brahman, means Brahman, means the Highest, means the Blissful within.[42][43]

Yama, as the spokesman in the second Valli of the Katha Upanishad asserts that man must not fear anyone, anything, not even death, because the true essence of man, his Atman is neither born nor dies, he is eternal, he is Brahman. These passages have been widely studied, and inspired Emerson among others,[8][44]

The seer (Atman, Self) is not born, nor does he die,
He does not originate from anybody, nor does he become anybody,
Eternal, ancient one, he remains eternal,
he is not killed, even though the body is killed.

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.

The Self (Atman), smaller than small, greater than great,
is hidden in the heart of each creature,
Free from avarice, free from grief, peaceful and content,
he sees the supreme glory of Atman.

—Katha Upanishad, 1.2.18-1.2.20[45][46]

In final verses of the second Valli, the Katha Upanishad asserts that Atman-knowledge, or Self-realization, is not attained by instruction, not arguments nor reasoning from scriptures. It is comprehended by oneself through meditation and introspection. It is not attained by those who do not abstain from misconduct, not those who are restless nor composed, not those whose mind is not calm and tranquil, but only those who live ethically, are composed, tranquil, internally peaceful, search within and examine their own nature.[46][47] Similar ideas are repeated in the Mundaka Upanishad in chapter 3.2, another classic ancient scripture of Hinduism.[47]

The parable of the chariot - Third Valli[edit]

The third Valli of Katha Upanishad presents the parable of the chariot, to highlight how Atman, body, mind, senses and empirical reality relate to a human being.[48][49]

Know that the Atman is the rider in the chariot,
and the body is the chariot,
Know that the Buddhi (intelligence, ability to reason) is the charioteer,
and Manas (mind) is the reins.

The senses are called the horses,
the objects of the senses are their paths,
Formed out of the union of the Atman, the senses and the mind,
him they call the "enjoyer".

—Katha Upanishad, 1.3.3-1.3.4[48][50]

The Katha Upanishad asserts that one who does not use his powers of reasoning, whose senses are unruly and mind unbridled, his life drifts in chaos and confusion, his existence entangled in samsara. Those who use their intelligence, have their senses calm and under reason, they live a life of bliss and liberation, which is the highest place of Vishnu.[50] Whitney clarifies that "Vishnu" appears in Vedas as a form of Sun, and "Vishnu's highest place" is a Vedic phrase that means "zenith".[51] Madhvacharya, the Dvaita Vedanta scholar interprets this term differently, and bases his theistic interpretation of Katha Upanishad by stating that the term refers to the deity Vishnu.[52]

This metaphorical parable of chariot is found in multiple ancient Indian texts, and is called the Ratha Kalpana. A similar simile is found in ancient Greek literature, such as the Parmenides, Xenophon's prologue of Prodikos, and in the Platonic dialogue Phaedrus.[48]

The nature of Atman, need for ethics and the hierarchy of Reality - Third Valli[edit]

The Katha Upanishad, in verses 1.3.10 through 1.3.12 presents a hierarchy of Reality from the perspective of a human being. It asserts that Artha (objects, means of life) are above Indriya (senses), that Manas (mind) is above Artha in this hierarchy, above the Manas is Buddhi (intellect, his ability to reason), above the Buddhi is Atman (his Soul, great Self).[48][51] Beyond the Atman, states Katha Upanishad, is the Avyaktam (unmanifested Reality), and Purusha (cosmic soul) is beyond the Avyaktam, and beyond the Purusha, there is nothing - for it is the goal, for it is the highest road.[48] At the basic level of life, the interaction is between Artha and Indriya (sensory organs); while at the highest level, man becomes aware of and holistically realizes the entire hierarchy. The Soul is hidden in all beings, asserts the Katha Upanishad; it does not show itself, but its awareness is felt by seers with agrya sukshma (subtle, more self evident conscious, keen thinkers).[51][53]

In verse 1.3.13, Katha Upanishad states that Prajna (conscious man) should heed to the ethical precept of self-examination and self-restraint, restraining his speech and mind by the application of his Buddhi (power to reason). Man should, asserts Katha Upanishad, holistically unify his tempered senses and mind with his intellect, all these with his Atman (Soul, great Self), and unify his "great Self" with the Self of the rest, the tranquility of Oneness with the Avyaktam and "cosmic soul".[51][53] Self (Atman) is soundless, touchless, formless, tasteless, scentless, without beginning, without end, imperishable, beyond great, blissful, and when one reveres one's own Self, he is liberated.[54] Such Self-realization is not easy according to Katha Upanishad,[55]

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत
प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत ।
क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया
दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति ॥ १४ ॥[56]

Rise, awake!
Having obtained these boons, understand them!
Like the Razor's sharp edge is difficult to traverse,
The path to one's Self is difficult.

—Katha Upanishad, 1.3.14[54][55]

Paul Deussen states that verses 1.3.10 to 1.3.13 of Katha Upanishad is one of the earliest mentions of the elements of Yoga theory, and the recommendation of Yoga as a path to the highest goal of man, that is a life of spiritual freedom and liberation.[57] This theory is significantly expanded upon in the second chapter of Katha Upanishad, particularly in the sixth Valli.[57]

The theory of Atman, Oneness and Plurality - Fourth Valli[edit]

The fourth Valli starts by asserting that inner knowledge is that of unity, eternal calmness and spiritual Oneness, while the external knowledge is that of plurality, perishable "running around" and sensory objects.[58][59] The Katha Upanishad in fifteen verses of the fourth Valli, as well as those the fifth Valli, explains what is Atman, how it can be known, the nature of Atman, and why it ought to be known. For definition, it deploys an epistemic combination of "positive assertions" as well as "exposition by elimination", the latter repeated with,[60]

किमत्र परिशिष्यते । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ४ ॥[61]

What is left here? Truly, this is that (Atman).

—Katha Upanishad, 2.4.3[58][59]

Atman, asserts Katha Upanishad, is the subject of Self-knowledge, the bearer of spiritual reality, that which is all-prevading, inside every being, that unifies all human beings as well as all creatures, the concealed, eternal, immortal, pure bliss. It exists and active when man is in awake-state, it exists and active when man is in dream-state.[58][60] The empirical reality is the "honey" for the Atman,[59] with the honey metaphor repeating "fruit of numerous karma flowers in the valley of life" doctrine found in other Upanishads, such as in the second chapter of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. To know Atman, look inward and introspect; to know objects, look outward and examine, states Katha Upanishad. Everything that changes is not Atman, that which was, is, will be and never changes is Atman.[58] Just like a baby is concealed inside a mother's womb when conceived, Atman is concealed inside every creature, states verse 2.4.8 of Katha Upanishad.[60]

Soul is the lord of the past, the lord of the now, and the lord of the future.[58] Soul is eternal, never born, never dies, part of that which existed before the universe was formed from "brooding heat".[60] Sun rests in it, gods rest in it, all nature rests in it, it is everywhere, it is in everything.[62] To understand the eternal nature of one's Soul is to feel calmness, inner peace, patience and freedom regardless of the circumstances one is in, affections or threats one faces, praises or insults one is subjected to. Anyone who runs after sensory-impressions, gets lost among them just like water flows randomly after rainfall on mountains, state verses 2.4.14 and 2.4.15 of the Katha Upanishad; and those who know their Soul and act according to its Dharma[63] remain pure like pure water remains pure when poured into pure water.[60][64]

There is no plurality and separateness between the essence (Atman) of I and others, between the essence of nature and spirit, asserts Katha Upanishad in verses 2.4.10 and 2.4.11.[58][64] The soul-driven individual ignores the superficial individuality of others, and accepts their essential identity.[64] Paul Deussen suggests that verses 2.4.6 and 2.4.7 posit a nondualistic (Advaita) position, where both Purusha and Prakrti are only Atman. This position contrasts with one of the fundamental premises of the dualistic schools of Hinduism.[65] Shankara agrees with this interpretation. Ramanuja doesn't and offers a theistic dualism based interpretation instead.[66]

Life is highest joy, and what happens after death - Fifth Valli[edit]

Katha Upanishad's fifth Valli is an eschalogical treatise. It begins by stating that human body is like a Pura (Sanskrit: पुर, town, city) with eleven gates[67] that connect him to the universe. The individual, asserts Katha Upanishad, who understands and reveres this town of eternal, non-changing spirit, is never crooked-minded, is always free.[68][69] The Soul dwells in swan, in atmosphere, in man, in Varasad (wide spaces), in eternal law, everywhere in the universe; it is born of water, it is born of kine, it is born of Ṛta (right, truth, ethics, morals, eternal law), it is born of stone (mountains) as the great Ṛta, as ought to be. This Soul is worshipped by all the gods. Body dies, Soul doesn't.[69]

In verses 2.5.6 and 2.5.7, the Katha Upanishad discusses what happens to the soul after death, stating a variant of the premise of Karma theory that underlies major Indian religions,[70]

योनिमन्ये प्रपद्यन्ते शरीरत्वाय देहिनः ।
स्थाणुमन्येऽनुसंयन्ति यथाकर्म यथाश्रुतम् ॥ ७ ॥[71]

Some of these souls enter into the womb, in order to embody again into organic beings,
others assemble unto what is Sthānu (immovable things),
according to their karma, according to their shrutam (श्रुतम्, knowledge, learning).

—Katha Upanishad, 2.5.7[68][69][70]

The Soul is always awake and active, while one is asleep, shaping wishful dreams. It is one with Brahman. It is everywhere, within and without, it is immortal. This universal, oneness theme is explained by the Katha Upanishad by three similes, which Paul Deussen calls as excellent.[69] Just like one light exists and penetrates the cosmic space, enveloping and clinging to everything and every form individually, the "one inner Self" of beings exists and dwells in all beings, clings to every form and remains still without, states the Katha Upanishad.[69] Just like one air exists and penetrates the world, enveloping and clinging to everything and every being individually, the "one inner Self" of beings exists and dwells in all beings, clings to every form and remains still without.[68] Just like the Sun exists and its nature is not contaminated by the impurities seen by the eyes, the "one inner Self" of beings exists and its nature is pure, never contaminated by the sorrows and blemishes of the external world.[69][70] Parts of the ideas in these first two similes of Katha Upanishad are of far more ancient origins, and found for example in Book 6, Chapter 47 of Rig veda.[68]

That individual is perennially happy, asserts Katha Upanishad, who realizes the Atman is within him, that he himself is the Master, that the inner Self of all beings and his own Self are "one form manifold", and none other.[70][72] Life is spirit, full of joy. Meaning is Atman, full of perennial peace. "Truly, this is that", once deeply felt and understood by man, is inexpressible highest joy. It is he who realizes this who shines, his splendour shines everything with and by (Anu), the whole world shines by such joy unleashed, such splendour manifested.[73]

The theory of Yoga - Sixth Valli[edit]

The sixth Valli continues the discussion of Karma and rebirth theory, sections of which Max Muller states is possibly interpolated and inserted in a later period. The first five verses of the last section of the Upanishad assert that those who do not know or do not understand Atman return to the world of creation, and those who do are free, liberated.[74][75] Some unaware of Brahman's essence are naturally inclined to fear God and its manifestation such as nature (fire, lightning, sun), state verses 2.6.2 and 2.6.3 of Katha Upanishad.[74] Those who are aware of Brahman's essence, are awakened to the knowledge, fear no one and nothing, become immortal as with Brahman.[76]

The Katha Upanishad, in verses 2.6.6 through 2.6.13 recommends a path to Self-knowledge, and this path it calls Yoga.[77]

यदा पञ्चावतिष्ठन्ते ज्ञानानि मनसा सह ।
बुद्धिश्च न विचेष्टते तामाहुः परमां गतिम् ॥ १० ॥
तां योगमिति मन्यन्ते स्थिरामिन्द्रियधारणाम् ।
अप्रमत्तस्तदा भवति योगो हि प्रभवाप्ययौ ॥ ११ ॥[78]

Only when Manas (mind) with thoughts and the five senses stand still,
and when Buddhi (intellect, power to reason) does not waver, that they call the highest path.
That is what one calls Yoga, the stillness of the senses, concentration of the mind,
It is not thoughtless heedless sluggishness, Yoga is creation and dissolution.

—Katha Upanishad, 2.6.10-11[75][79]

Realize you are perfect now and here - Sixth Valli[edit]

The Katha Upanishad concludes its philosophical presentation in verses 14-15 of the sixth Valli. The state of perfection, according to the last section of the Upanishad, explains Paul Deussen, consists "not in the attainment of a future or yonder world, but it is already just now and here for one who is Self-realized, who knows his Self (Soul) as Brahman (Cosmic Soul)". This teaching is also presented in the other ancient scriptures of Hinduism, such as Brihadaranyaka Upanishad's Chapter 4.4.6.[79][80]

The verse 15 of the sixth Valli declares that the Upanishad concludes its teaching therein.[80] Yet, the Valli contains three additional verses in modern era manuscripts. Scholars suggest[80][81] that these remaining verses 2.6.16 – 2.6.18 are possibly modern additions as appendix and have been interpolated, because of the declaration of Upanishad's end in verse 15, and because these additional three verses are structured in prose-like manner, rather than poetic metric-perfection of much of the Katha Upanishad.

Reception[edit]

Charles Johnston has called Katha Upanishad as one of the highest spiritual texts, with layers of metaphors embedded therein. To Johnston, the three nights and three boons in the first Valli of Katha Upanishad, for example, are among the text's many layers, with the three connoting the past, the present and the future.[82]

The Irish poet William Butler Yeats dedicated several essays and sonnets to themes in Katha Upanishad and related ancient Upanishads of India.[83] George William Russell similarly esteemed the Katha and other Upanishads.[84][85] The American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson held Katha Upanishad highly, and wrote several poems and essays paralleling the themes in it.[86][87]

The various themes contained in Katha Upanishad have been subject of many scholarly works. For example, Elizabeth Schiltz[88] has compared "the parable of the chariot" in Katha Upanishad and Platonic dialogue "Phaedrus", noting the "remarkable similarities give rise to a great many tantalizing historical and literary questions", and adding the comment, "each provides an image of the self as the chariot, they each offer a complex moral psychology, and point toward an effective justification of the best life".[88] Radhakrishnan notes that Katha Upanishad's discussion of "good versus pleasant" is evidence of ethical theories and philosophical longings of ancient human beings in India by 1st millennium BCE, much like those in Greek city states in Europe.[89]

In popular culture[edit]

A verse in the Upanishad inspired the title and the epigraph of W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge, later adapted, twice, into films of the same title (see articles on 1946 and 1984 films). The epigraph reads, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." taken from a verse in the Katha-Upanishad – 1.3.14. Maugham had visited India in 1938 and met Ramana Maharishi at his ashram in Tamil Nadu.[90][91]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnston, Charles (1920-1931), The Mukhya Upanishads, Kshetra Books, ISBN 9781495946530 (Reprinted in 2014)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 269-273
  3. ^ Richard King (1995), Early Advaita Vedānta and Buddhism: the Mahāyāna context of the Gauḍapādīya-kārikā, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2513-8, page 52
  4. ^ a b c d e Stephen Phillips (2009), Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231144858, Chapter 1
  5. ^ Robert Altobello (2009), Meditation from Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist Perspectives, American University Studies - Series VII, Peter Lang Publishers, ISBN 978-1433106927, pages 73-101
  6. ^ John C. Plott et al (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120801585, page 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism".
  7. ^ Ariel Glucklich (2008), The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture in Historical Perspective, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-531405-2, page 70, Quote: "The Upanishadic age was also characterized by a pluralism of worldviews. While some Upanishads have been deemed 'monistic', others, including the Katha Upanishad, are dualistic. Monism holds that reality is one – Brahman – and that all multiplicity (matter, individual souls) is ultimately reducible to that one reality. The Katha Upanishad, a relatively late text of the Black Yajurveda, is more complex. It teaches Brahman, like other Upanishads, but it also states that above the 'unmanifest' (Brahman) stands Purusha, or 'Person'. This claim originated in Samkhya (analysis) philosophy, which split all of reality into two coeternal principles: spirit (purusha) and primordial matrix (prakriti)."
  8. ^ a b c SH Nasr (1989), Knowledge and the Sacred: Revisioning Academic Accountability, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791401767, page 99, Quote: "Emerson was especially inebriated by the message of the Upanishads, whose nondualistic doctrine contained so lucidly in the Katha Upanishad, is reflected in his well known poem Brahma".
  9. ^ Kathopanishad, in The Katha and Prasna Upanishads with Sri Shankara's Commentary, Translated by SS Sastri, Harvard College Archives, pages 1-3
  10. ^ a b Patrick Olivelle (1996), The Early Upanishads: Annotated Text & Translation, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, Introduction Chapter
  11. ^ Philip Renard (1995), Historical bibliography of Upanishads in translation, Journal of Indian philosophy, vol 23, issue 2, pages 223-246
  12. ^ R White (2010), Schopenhauer and Indian Philosophy, International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 50, issue 1, pages 57-76
  13. ^ a b c KaTha Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, Germany
  14. ^ WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, page 91
  15. ^ a b c d WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, pages 88- 112
  16. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 217-219
  17. ^ Richard King (1995), Ācārya, Gauḍapāda - Early Advaita Vedānta and Buddhism: the Mahāyāna context of the Gauḍapādīya-kārikā, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2513-8, pages 51-58
  18. ^ A.L. Basham in Paul Williams, ed., Buddhism: Buddhist origins and the early history of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia. Taylor & Francis, 2005, ISBN 978-0-415-33227-9 (page 61).
  19. ^ RD Ranade, A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy, Chapter 1, pages 13-18
  20. ^ a b S Sharma (1985), Life in the Upanishads, ISBN 978-8170172024, pages 17-19
  21. ^ M Winternitz (2010), History of Indian Literature, Vol 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120802643
  22. ^ Radhakrishnan, S. (1994). The Principal Upanishads. New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India. ISBN 81-7223-124-5 p. 593.
  23. ^ Max Muller (1962), The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages xxi-xxv, and page 5 with footnote 1
  24. ^ Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, page 1 with footnote 1
  25. ^ a b Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 1-2 with footnote 3
  26. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 275-276
  27. ^ a b c Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 277-278
  28. ^ a b c Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 278-279
  29. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 279-281
  30. ^ Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 5-6
  31. ^ Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, page 7
  32. ^ Search for zreyas and priya spellings under Harvard-Kyoto convention for Sanskrit Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, Germany
  33. ^ p. 42, Easwaran (2009), Essence of the Upanishads (see article). Easwaran writes that "these alternatives have precise Sanskrit names that have no English equivalent: preya and shreya. Preya is what is pleasant; shreya, what is beneficial. Preya is that which pleases us, that which tickles the ego. Shreya, on the other hand, has no reference to pleasing or displeasing. It simply means what benefits us" (p. 42).
  34. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 281
  35. ^ a b c Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, page 8
  36. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 282-283
  37. ^ Note: in later verses, Katha Upanishad clarifies that empirical knowledge can be taught, but spiritual knowledge about Atman can not be instructed, only meditated upon and realized. See verses 1.2.23-1.2.25, Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 286
  38. ^ Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, page 9
  39. ^ S Radhakrishnan (1994 Reprint, 1953), The Principal Upanishads (see article), in discussing this verse, offers a quote from Plato's Phaedrus for comparison: "In every one of us there are two ruling and directing principles, whose guidance we follow wherever they may lead; the one being an innate device of pleasure, the other an acquired judgment which aspires after excellence. Now these two principles at one time maintain harmony, while at another they are at feud within us, and now one and now the other obtains mastery" (p. 608).
  40. ^ Paul Deussen, Kathaka Upanishad in Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 283
  41. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 283
  42. ^ a b Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, page 10
  43. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 284-286
  44. ^ Brahma Ralph Waldo Emerson, Poetry Foundation
  45. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 285
  46. ^ a b Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 10-11
  47. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 285-286
  48. ^ a b c d e Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 12-13
  49. ^ Katha Upanishad - Third Valli The Thirteen Principle Upanishads, Robert Hume (Translator), page 351
  50. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 287
  51. ^ a b c d WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, page 103
  52. ^ BNK Sharma (2008), A History of the Dvaita School of Vedānta and Its Literature, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120815759, pages 8, 160-169
  53. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 288-289
  54. ^ a b WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, page 104
  55. ^ a b Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 13-14
  56. ^ Katha Upanishad 1.III.14 Wikisource
  57. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 288, 298-299
  58. ^ a b c d e f Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 288, 290-292
  59. ^ a b c WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, pages 104-106
  60. ^ a b c d e Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 15-17
  61. ^ Katha Upanishad 2.IV.3 Wikisource
  62. ^ This principle is repeated in many Vedic texts such as Atharva Veda in chapter 10.8, and the principle is more ancient than Katha Upanishad; for example, Rigveda states it in hymn 10.121.6; see Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 292
  63. ^ inner law, ethics, morals, just, right, precepts
  64. ^ a b c WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, pages 106-107
  65. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 291
  66. ^ Kathakopanishad with Sankara Bhasya and Ranga Ramanuja's Prakasika SS Pathak, in Sanskrit, pages 64-65, 150-151
  67. ^ These are two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, two organs of evacuation/excretion, navel, and Brahmarandhram - the aperture at the top of head through which Atman links with Cosmic Soul. See Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 293
  68. ^ a b c d WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, pages 107-108
  69. ^ a b c d e f Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 293-295
  70. ^ a b c d Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 18-20
  71. ^ Katha Upanishad 2.V.7 Wikisource
  72. ^ WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, pages 108-109
  73. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 295-296
  74. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 296-298
  75. ^ a b WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, pages 109-111
  76. ^ Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, pages 16-22
  77. ^ Max Muller (1962), Katha Upanishad, in The Upanishads - Part II, Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486209937, page 22
  78. ^ Katha Upanishad 2.VI.10-11 Wikisource
  79. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 298-299
  80. ^ a b c WD Whitney, Translation of the Katha-Upanishad, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1869-1896), Vol. 21, page 111-112
  81. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 299-300
  82. ^ Charles Johnston, The Mukhya Upanishads: Books of Hidden Wisdom, (1920-1931), The Mukhya Upanishads, Kshetra Books, ISBN 978-1495946530 (Reprinted in 2014), pages 149-152
  83. ^ JZ Marsh, The Influence of Hinduism in William Butler Yeats's "Meru", Yeats Eliot Review , Vol. 22, No. 4 , Winter 2005
  84. ^ Peter Kuch (1986), Yeats and A.E.: "the antagonism that unites dear friends", Colin Smythe, ISBN 978-0861401161, pages 19-23
  85. ^ A Davenport (1952), WB Yeats and the Upanishads, Review of English Studies, Oxford University Press, Vol. 3, No. 9, pages 55-62
  86. ^ Andrew M. Mclean (1969), Emerson's Brahma as an Expression of Brahman, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Mar., 1969), pages 115-122
  87. ^ Frederick I. Carpenter, Immortality from India, American Literature, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Nov., 1929), pp. 233-242
  88. ^ a b Elizabeth A. Schiltz (2006), Two Chariots: The Justification of the Best Life in the "Katha Upanishad" and Plato's "Phaedrus", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Jul., 2006), pages 451-468
  89. ^ S. Radakrishnan, The Ethics of the Bhagavadgita and Kant, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Jul., 1911), pages 465-475
  90. ^ Katha Upanishad, 1.3.14.
  91. ^ Razors Edge: The Katha Upanishad by Nancy Cantwell. Timequotidian.com, January 29, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Text
  • Kāṭha-Upaniṣad edited by Marcos Albino, Erlangen 1996; Transliterated TITUS version by Jost Gippert
Translations
Recitation