Katha Upanishad




First Valli.

1. Once desirous (of heaven) the son of Vājāsrava (Gautama) gave away all his property. He had a son, Nachikētas by name.

2. When the presents were brought, filial anxiety (about the welfare of his father) penetrated the youth. He thought:-

3. (A sacrificer) who bestows (cows) which have drunk their water, eaten their grass, given their milk, and which are barren, goes verily to the worlds of unhappiness.

4. He said to his parent:-O father, to whom wilt thou give me? (He said so) a second and a third time. (Enraged) he answered him: -To Death I will give thee.

5. (Nachikētas thought: - ) Among many (sons) I am the first, among many the middle, (but not among the bad, therefore) is there any work of Yama, which he will perform today through me?

(Nachikētas said:)

6. Remember, how former men (our forefathers) acted; consider, how the present (good men) act. Like corn, the mortals get ripe, like corn they are born again.

7. A Brāhmaṇa guest, enters a house like Vaiśvānara (fire). For him (the good) make this peace-offering. Take the water, O son of Vivaswat (the sun).

8. Hope, expectation, meeting (with the good), friendly words, sacrifices, pious gits, sons and cattle,-all this loses the man of little sense in whose house a Brāhmaṇa dwells without taking food.

9. (Yama speaks:-) O Brahma, because thou, a venerable guest, hast tarried in my house for three nights, without taking food, therefore be salutation to thee, and welfare to me; moreover choose three boons instead (the three nights thou wast here without hospitable reception).

10. (Nachikētas speaks :-) O Death, that Gautama be appeased in thought, and composed in mind, that his anger towards me may have gone, and that he may salute me, liberated by thee, remembering (me as his son), this I choose as the first of the three boons.

11. (Yama speaks :-) Through my favour, AudāIaki, the son of Aruṇa will remember (thee with love) as before; he will sleep happily at night; free from anger he will see thee, when released from the mouth of death.

12. (Nachikētas speaks:-) In the place of heaven there is no fear of any kind; thou art not there, none fears decay. Without either hunger or thirst, beyond all grief (all) rejoice in the place of heaven.

13. Thou hast, O Death, a recollection of the heavenly fire, make it known to me (also) who have faith. The dwellers in heaven enjoy immortality; this I choose as the second boon.

14. (Yama speaks :-) I will tell thee; do thou attend to this my word. I know the heavenly fire, O Nachikētas. Know that the fire, which is the cause of acquiring infinite worlds, which again is the foundation (of the universe), is placed in the cavity (of the heart).

15. He then explained to him that fire, which is the first of the worlds, the nature of the bricks, and their number, and in what way (the rite of that fire is to be performed). Nachikētas also repeated it in the same manner as it was explained to him. Then thereby pleased, Death again said:-

16. Satisfied, the magnanimous Death spoke to him:-I grant thee now another boon again. After thy name shall be named that fire. Take also this many-coloured chain.

17. Whoever performs three times the sacrifice of the Nachikētas fire, when he has received advice from the three, (viz., the mother, the father and the teacher,) who has done the three works (offering, reading of the Vēdas, and liberality),-overcomes birth and death. Whoever knows and judges well, (that fire) which sprung from Brahma, and is wise, which is divine, and worthy of praise, obtains that everlasting peace.

18. Whoever offers three times by the Nachikētas fire, when he knows its threefold nature, leaves before (the death of the body) the chains of death, and without grief rejoices in the place of heaven.

19. This is the heavenly fire, which, thou, O Nachikētas, chooseth for thee by the second boon. Men will call this fire even after thee. Choose the third boon, O Nachikētas.

20. (Nachikētas speaks :-) There is this enquiry: Some say, (the soul) exists after the death of man, others say, it does not exist. This I should like to know, instructed by thee. Such is the third of the boons.

21. (Yama speaks:-) With reference to this (question), there was enquired of old even by the gods; for it is not easy to understand it, subtle is its nature. Choose another boon, O Nachikētas; do not compel me to this ; release me from this (boon).

22. (Nachikētas speaks:-) Even by the gods verily was enquired (into this question), and as to what thou sayest, O Death, "that it is not easy to understand it," there is no other speaker to be found like thee, there is no other boon like this.

23. (Yama speaks:-) Choose sons and grandsons who may live a hundred years, choose herds of cattle, choose elephants, and gold and horses, choose the wide-expanded earth, and live thyself as many years thou listeth;

24. Or, if thou knowest a boon like this, choose it together with wealth, and far-extending life. Be (a king), O Nachikētas, on the wide earth, I will make thee the enjoyer of all desires.

25. All those desires that are difficult to gain in the world of mortals, all those desires ask thou according to (thy) pleasure, -these fair ones (of heaven) with their cars, with their musical instruments; for the like as they are not to be gained by men. Be attended by them, I will give them to thee; (but) do not ask (the question of the state of the soul after) death.

26. (Nachikētas speaks:-) (All those enjoyments) are of yesterday; they wear out, O thou end of man, the glory of all the senses. And more, the life of all is short. With thee remain thy horses and the like, with thee dance and song.

27. Man rests not satisfied with wealth. If we should obtain wealth and behold thee, we would (only) live as long as thou shalt sway. The boon, which I have to choose, is what I said.

28. Which man living in this lower world, who knows that he decays and dies, while going to the undecaying immortals, (he shall obtain some exceeding bliss), who is aware of (the nature of the Apsaras and the like who) rejoice in beauty and love, can be pleased with a long life?

29. Tell us, O Death, what it is which they inquire into, as to the great question, concerning the next world. Nachikētas asks for no other boon, but that (concerning the soul) of which the knowledge is hidden.

Second Valli

Yama speaks:

1. Another thing is what is good, another what is pleasant. Both, having different objects, chain man. Blessed is he who between them takes the good (alone), but he who chooses what is pleasant, loses the (last) object (of man).

2. What is good, and what is pleasant, take hold of man; the sage comprehending them, distinguishes (their nature) ; the sage chooses even the good, because it exceeds (in value) what is pleasant; but the dull man chooses what is pleasant for acquiring and preserving.

3. But thou, considering the objects of desire, whether they are pleasant (as a son, etc ), or of pleasant shape, (as the heavenly nymphs,) hast abandoned them, O Nachikētas. Thou hast not chosen the road of wealth, on which so many men perish.

4. Those two, ignorance and knowledge,f are known to be far asunder, and to lead to different goals. I think thee, O Nachikētas, desirous of knowledge, because (even) many objects of desire did not attract thee.

5. Those who live in the midst of ignorance, but fancy themselves wise and learned (Pandita), go round and round with erring step, deluded, as blind people lead by a blind.

6. The necessary causes for gaining the next world are not apparent to the careless youth, who is foolish by the delusion of wealth. Believing, this world exists, and not the other, he is again and again subject to my sway,

7. Of the soul,-which is not gained by many, because they do not hear of it, and which many do not know, although they hear of it, - of the soul is wonderful the speaker, ingenious the receiver, wonderful the knower, instructed by an ingenious (teacher).

8. That soul, declared by an inferior man, is not easily to be known, as it is to be thought of in various ways, (but) when it is declared by a teacher, who beholds no difference, there is no doubt concerning it, (otherwise) the soul, being more (subtle than what is subtle), is not to be obtained by arguing. 

9. That knowledge, O dearest, (for which thou hast asked,) is not to be gained by argument; (but) it is easy to understand it, when declared by a teacher who beholds no difference. - Thou art persevering as to the truth. May there be for us an (other) enquirer like thee, O Nachikētas.

10. I know, worldly happiness is transient; for that firm one is not obtained by what is not firm. Hence the Nachikētas fire (is established) by me through transient things; (thereby) I obtained the permanent (place of Yama).

11. Thou, O Nachikētas, although thou hast beheld the fruit of sacrifice, the eternal place (of Prajāpati), where all desires are fulfilled, the world is founded, where every fear ceases, which is praiseworthy and great, of wide-extended sphere, and the abode (of the soul),-yet, wise by firmness, thou hast abandoned it, O Nachikētas.

12. The wise by means of the union (of the intellect) with the soul, thinking him, whom it is difficult to behold, who is unfathomable and concealed, who is placed in the cavity, whose abode is impervious, who exists from times of old,-leaves both grief and joy.

13. Having heard this (nature of Brahma), comprehended it, having distinguished the (soul, as) endowed with qualities, (Dharmya) (from the body,) obtained it in its subtle nature, the mortal rejoices; for he has obtained what is a cause for rejoicing. (Thee), O Nachikētas, I believe a house, whose door is open (for Brahma).

14. (Nachikētas speaks:-) (Then) make known to me the (being) which thou beholdest different from virtue, different from vice, different from this whole of effects and causes, different from past, from future (and present time).
(Yama speaks:-)

15. The word of which all the Vēdas speak, which all the works of penance proclaim, of which desirous they live as Brahma-students, this word I will briefly tell thee ; it is " Om."

16. This sound means Brahma, - this sound means the supreme. Whoever knows this sound, obtains whatever he wishes.

17. This means is best, this means is supreme; whoever knows this means, is adored in the place of heaven.

18. The knowing (soul) is not born, nor does it die, it was not produced from any one, nor was any produced from it; unborn, eternal, without decay, ancient as it is, it is not slain, although the body is slain.

19. If the slayer thinks I slay, if the slain thinks I am slain, then both of them do not know well. It (the soul) does not slay, nor is it slain.

20. The soul, which is subtler than what is subtle, greater than what is great, is seated in the cavity of the living being. He, who is free from desire and without grief, beholds by the tranquillity of his senses that majesty of the soul.

21. Sitting it (the soul) goes afar, sleeping it goes everywhere. Who else (therefore) save myself, is able to comprehend the God who rejoices and not rejoices.

22. Thinking the soul as unbodily among the bodies, as firm among the fleeting things, as great and all-pervading, the wise casts of all grief.

23. The soul cannot be gained by knowledge, not by understanding, not by manifold science. It can be obtained by the soul, by which it is desired. His soul reveals its own truth.

24. Whoever has not ceased from wicked ways, is not subdued, (in his senses,) not concentrated, (in his intellect,) and not subdued in mind, does not obtain it, (the true soul,) not even by knowledge.

25. Who is able to know in this manner, where that soul is, whose food is both the Brahma and Kshattra, and whose condiment is death?


1. (The supreme and inferior souls,) drinking the due reward from their works in this world, entered both the cave, the highest place of the supreme (soul). The knowers of Brahma call them shadow and sunlight, thus also the performers of the five-fold fire, and the sacrificers of the three Nachikēta fires.

2. We are able (to understand both) the Nachikēta fire, which is the bridge of all sacrificers (to cross unhappiness), and the indestructible Brahma, the place, where all fear disappears, the refuge of those who are desirous of crossing (the ocean of the world).

3. Know the soul (the embodied soul) as the rider, the body as the car, know intellect as the charioteer and mind again as the reins. 

4. They say, the senses are the horses, and their objects are the roads. The enjoyer is (the soul) endowed with body, sense, and mind; thus say the wise.

5. Whoever is unwise with reins never applied, has the senses unsubdued, like wicked horses of the charioteer.

6. But whosoever is wise with the mind always applied, has the senses subdued like good horses of the charioteer.

7. Whoever is unwise, unmindful, always impure, does not gain that goal, (but) descends to the world (again).

8. But whosoever is wise, mindful, always pure, gains the goal from whence he is not born again.

9. But the man, whose charioteer is wise, (and) the reins of whose mind are well applied, obtains the goal of the road, the highest place of Vishṇu.

10. Higher indeed than the senses are their objects, higher than their objects is the mind, intellect higher than the mind, higher than intellect the great soul.

11. Higher than the great one the unmanifested, higher than the unmanifested the soul (Purusha), higher than the soul is nought; this is the last limit and the highest goal.

12. Being the hidden nature of all beings, it is not manifested; but it is beheld by the attentive subtle intellect of men of subtle sight.

13. Let the wise subdue his speech by mind, subdue his mind by that nature which is knowledge (by intellect), subdue his knowledge in the great soul, subdue this also in the placid soul.

14. Arise, awake, get the great (teachers) and attend. The wise say, that the road to him is (as) difficult to go, as the sharp edge of a razor.

15. Whoever has understood (the nature of Brahma) which is without sound, without touch, without form, which does not waste, which is without taste, which is eternal, without smell, without beginning and without end, higher than the great one (intellect), which is firmly based,- escapes from the mouth of death.

16. The wise who says and hears the eternal tale, which Nachikētas received and Death related, is adored in the world of Brahma.

17. Whoever pure (in mind) explains this (work) of deep import, which (otherwise) should be concealed, in the assembly of the Brahmas or at the time of the Srāddha, obtains thereby infinite fruit, obtains thereby infinite fruit


Fourth Valli

1. The self-existent subdued the senses which turn to external objects; therefore (man) sees the external objects, not the internal soul; (but) the wise, with eye averted (from sensual objects) and desirous of immortal nature, beholds the absolute soul.

2. Idle youths follow desires turning to external objects; they fall into Death's wide-extended net; therefore the wise who know what is truly of an immortal nature, do not ask (for any thing) here among the fleeting things.

3. To the (soul) by which (every one) knows of form, of smell, of sounds, of touch, of love, nothing remains (unknown). This is that (Brahma for which thou hast asked).

4. Thinking (the soul) by which he recognises both, what there is in dream, and what there is in awaking, thinking this as the great pervading soul, the wise does not grieve.

5. Whosoever knows this soul as the consumer of the fruit, as the bearer of life, as what is always near, as the ruler of the past, the future (and the present times)-does thence not try to conceal (the soul.) This is that.

6. Whosoever beholds the first-born from the penance (of Brahma) who was created before the waters, when he has entered the cave, and dwells (there) with (all) the beings, beholds that (Brahma for which thou hast asked).

7. Whosoever (beholds) Aditi, the nature of all gods, who through life (Hiraṇyagarbha) sprang forth (from the supreme Brahma), who was born together with (all) the beings, when she has entered the cave and dwells there, (beholds) that (Brahma for which thou hast asked).

8. As the fire is concealed within the two pieces of wood, as the embryo is hidden in the mother, so the fire-which is to be praised day after day by men, who are awake (careful to do their duties) and offer with clarified butter,-is that (Brahma for which thou hast asked).

9. From whom the sun rises, and in whom it sets again, him all the gods entered; from him none is separated. This is that.

10. What is even here, the same is there, and what is there, the same is even here. He proceeds from death to death, who beholds here difference.

11.  By the mind is this (Brahma,) to be obtained, (then) there is no difference whatsoever. He proceeds from death to death, who beholds here difference.

12. The soul (Purusha) which in the measure of a thumb dwells in the middle of the body (in the ether of the heart) is the ruler of the past, the future (and the present times). Hence (from having this knowledge, the wise) does not desire to conceal (the soul) (vide latter part of v. 5). This is that.

13. The soul, which is like light without smoke, the ruler of the past, the future (and the present times), is even to-day, (and) will be verily to-morrow.

14. As water, when rained down on elevated ground, runs scattered of in the valleys, so even runs after difference a person who beholds attributes different (from the soul).

15. As pure water, which is thrown down on pure ground, remains alike, so also, O Gautama, is the soul of the thinker (Muni) who knows.


1. (The body is like) a town with eleven gates of (the soul) which has no birth and is of upright intellect. Adoring it (the supreme ruler), (the wise) does not grieve, and liberated (from ignorance, etc.,) he becomes liberated. This is that.

2. As Hansa (Āditya, sun) it dwells in the heavens, as Vasu (wind) it dwells in the atmosphere, as the invoker (of the gods) it dwells within the earth, as Soma in the water jar; it dwells in man, it dwells in truth, it dwells in the ether, it is born in the waters (as aquatic animals), it is born in the earth (as ice, etc.), it is born in the sacrifice, it is born on the mountains (as the rivers), it is truth, it is the great one (infinite).

3. Him, the dwarf, sitting in the middle (of the ether of the heart) who raises upwards (from the heart) the vital air that goes forwards, who dejects the vital air that goes downwards, him all gods (all the senses) adore.

4. When the soul, which dwells in the body, departs and becomes separated from it, what else is let there? This is that.

5. No mortal whatsoever lives by the vital air that goes forwards, by the vital air that goes downwards (or by any sense); they live by another on which both (the two vital airs together with the senses) are founded.

6. Now again I will declare to thee that eternal Brahma, who is to be concealed, and (hear), O Gautama, (how by the knowledge of him all concern for the world ceases,) and also, how (by not knowing him, the ignorant) obtaining death assumes a body (again).

7. Some enter the womb (again after death) for assuming a body; others go inside a trunk, according to their works, according to their knowledge.

8. The perfect one (Purusha) who, building desire after desire, is awake in those that are asleep, is called even pure, is called Brahma, is called even immortal. Upon him all the worlds are founded; none becomes different from him. This is that.

9. As the one fire, when entering the world, becomes to every nature of every nature, so the one soul, being of every nature to every nature, is the internal soul of all beings, and is also without them (in its own nature).

10. As the one air, when entering the world, becomes of every nature to every nature, so the one soul, being of every nature to every nature, is the internal soul of all beings, and is also without (them).

11. As the one sun, the eye of the whole world, is not sullied by the defects of the eye or of external things, so the soul, as the inner soul of all beings, is not sullied by the unhappiness of the world, because it is (also) without it.

12. He is one, the ruler, the inner soul of all beings, who renders (his) one nature manifold. The wise who behold him as dwelling in their own selves, obtain eternal bliss, not others.

13. The wise who behold (the soul) as the eternal among what is transient, as the intelligent among those that are intelligent, which, though one, grants the desires of many (who behold it) as dwelling in their own selves, obtain eternal bliss, not others.

14. (Wise) think that supreme bliss, which cannot be described, to be this (individual soul). How then shall I know it? Does it manifest or does it not manifest?

15. There (with regard to Brahma) the sun does not manifest, nor the moon and stars, there do not manifest those lightnings; how then should manifest this fire? When he is manifest, all is manifested after him; by his manifestation this whole (world) becomes manifest.


1. It (the world) is like an eternal holy fig-tree, whose root is upwards, and whose branches go downwards. This is called even pure, this is called Brahma (all comprehensive); this is called even immortal; upon this all the worlds are founded; none becomes different from it. This is that.

2. This whole universe trembles within the life (the supreme Brahma); emanating (from it) it (the universe) moves on. It (Brahma) is a great fear, like an uplifted thunderbolt. Those who know it, become immortal.

3. Through fear of him burns the fire, through fear of him burns the sun, through fear of him runs Indra, the wind, and Death as the fifth.

4. If here (in this life) one is able to comprehend him (Brahma) before the death of the body, (he will be liberated from the bondage of the world; if one is not able to comprehend him,) he is destined for the assumption of a body.

5. As one is reflected in a looking-glass, so (the soul is) in the body; as in a dream, so in the world of the forefathers; as in water, so in the world of the Gandharvas; as in a picture and in the sunshine, so in the world of Brahma.

6. Considering the different state of the senses which are produced one after another (from the mind) and their rise and setting, the wise do not grieve.

7. Higher than the senses (and their objects) is the mind, more excellent than the mind the intellect (Sattvam); above the intellect soars the great soul, more excellent than the great one is the unmanifested.

8. But higher than the unmanifested is the soul (Purusha) which is all-pervading and without cause. Knowing this, one gets liberated and gains immortality.

9. Its (the soul's) being (nature) is not placed in what is visible; none beholds it by the eye, by the heart (the intellect) the ruler of the mind, through thinking it gets manifest. Immortal become those who know it.

10. The state which ensues, when the five organs of knowledge remain (alone) with the mind, and the intellect does not strive, is called the highest aim.

11. This they call concentration (Yoga) which is the firm keeping down of the senses. At that time (man) gets careful; for concentration has as well its furtherance as its hinderance.

12. It (the soul) is not to be gained by word, not by the mind, not by the eye, how could it be perceived by any other than him who declares that it exists?

13. (The soul) is to be perceived by (the notion of) existence; it is to be perceived by its true notion ; (that is to say) by both of them ; the true nature of the soul becomes manifest, when (first) it has been perceived by (the notion of) existence.

14. When all the desires cease which were cherished in his heart (intellect), then the mortal becomes immortal, then he obtains here Brahma.

15. When all the bonds of the heart are broken in this life, then the mortal becomes immortal; this alone is the instruction (of all the Vēdas).

16. There are hundred and one arteries of the heart; the one of them (Sushumna,) proceeds to the head. By this-(at the time of death) rising upwards (by the door of Āditya) a person gains immortality; the other (arteries) are of various course.

17. The spirit, the inner soul, which is of the size of a thumb, is always residing in the heart of men; let a man with firmness separate it from his own body, as from a painter's brush a fibre.

Let a man know it, which is pure, which is immortal; let a man know it, which is pure, which is immortal.

18. Nachikēta, having gained that science declared by Death, and also the whole rule of concentration, obtained Brahma, and hence was without passion and immortal; thus also any other (will obtain Brahma) who knows in the same manner the unchangeable soul.

19. May he protect us both at the same time, at the same time support us both ; may both of us at the same time apply (our) strength ; may our reading be illustrious, may there be no hatred (amongst us). 

Om! Peace, peace, peace!