Front Page Titles (by Subject) FIRST VALLĪ 1 - The Thirteen Principal Upanishads
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FIRST VALLĪ 1 - Misc (Upanishads), The Thirteen Principal Upanishads 
The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, translated from the Sanskrit with an outline of the philosophy of the Upanishads and an annotated bibliography, by Robert Ernest Hume (Oxford University Press, 1921).
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Prologue: Naciketas devoted to Death
1. Now verily, with zeal did Vājaśravasa give his whole possession [as a religious gift]. He had a son, Naciketas by name.
2. Into him, boy as he was, while the sacrificial gifts were being led up, faith (śraddhā) entered. He thought to himself:
4. Then he said to his father: ‘Papa, to whom will you give me?’3 —a second time—a third time.
To him then he said: ‘To Death I give you!’
Naciketas in the house of Death
Warning on the neglect of a Brahman guest
8. Hope and expectation, intercourse and pleasantness,4
Sacrifices and meritorious deeds,5 sons and cattle, all—
This he snatches away from the man of little understanding
In whose home a Brahman remains without eating.
Three boons offered to Naciketas
[Death (Yama), returning from a three days’ absence and finding that Naciketas has not received the hospitality which is due to a Brahman, says:]
9. Since for three nights thou hast abode in my house
Without eating, O Brahman (brahman), a guest to be reverenced,
Reverence be to thee, O Brahman! Well-being (svasti) be to me!
Therefore in return choose three boons!
Naciketas’s first wish: return to an appeased father on earth
10. With intent appeased, well-minded, with passion departed,
That Gautama toward me may be, O Death;
That cheerfully he may greet me, when from thee dismissed—
This of the three as boon the first I choose!
11. Cheerful as formerly will he be—
Auddālaki Āruṇi, from me dismissed.1
Happily will he sleep o’ nights, with passion departed,
When he has seen thee from the mouth of Death released.
Naciketas’s second wish: an understanding of the Naciketas sacrificial fire that leads to heaven
12. In the heavenly world is no fear whatsoever.
Not there art thou. Not from old age does one fear.
Over both2 having crossed—hunger, and thirst too—
Gone beyond sorrow, one rejoices in the heaven-world.
13. Thyself, O Death, understandest the heavenly fire.
Declare it to me who have faith (śraddadhāna).
Heaven-world people partake of immortality.
This I choose with boon the second.
14. To thee I do declare, and do thou learn it of me—
Understanding about the heavenly fire, O Naciketas!
The attainment of the infinite world, likewise too its establishment—
Know thou that as set down in the secret place [of the heart].
15. He told him of that fire as the beginning of the world,
What bricks, and how many, and how [built].
And he too repeated that, as it was told.
Then, pleased with him, Death said again—
16. Delighting, the great soul (mahātman) said to him:—
A further boon I give thee here today.
By thy name indeed shall this fire be [known].
This multifold garland (sṛṅkā), too, accept.
17. Having kindled a triple Naciketas-fire, having attained union with the three,1
Performing the triple work,2 one crosses over birth and death.
18.7 Having kindled a triple Naciketas-fire, having known this triad,
He who knowing thus, builds up the Naciketas-fire—
He, having cast off in advance the bonds of death,
With sorrow overpassed, rejoices in the heaven-world.
19. This, O Naciketas, is thy heavenly fire,
Which thou didst choose with the second boon.
As thine, indeed, will folks proclaim this fire,
The third boon, Naciketas, choose!
Naciketas’s third wish: knowledge concerning the effect of dying
20. This doubt that there is in regard to a man deceased:
‘He exists,’ say some; ‘He exists not,’ say others—
This would I know, instructed by thee!
Of the boons this is boon the third.
21. Even the gods had doubt as to this of yore!
For truly, it is not easily to be understood. Subtile is this matter (dharma).
Another boon, O Naciketas, choose!
Press me not! Give up this one for me!
This knowledge preferable to the greatest earthly pleasures
22. Even the gods had doubt, indeed, as to this,
And thou, O Death, sayest that it is not easily to be understood.
And another declarer of it the like of thee is not to be obtained.
No other boon the equal of it is there at all.
23. Choose centenarian sons and grandsons,
Many cattle, elephants, gold, and horses.
Choose a great abode of earth.
And thyself live as many autumns as thou desirest.
24. This, if thou thinkest an equal boon,
Choose—wealth and long life!
A great one on earth, O Naciketas, be thou.
The enjoyer of thy desires I make thee.
25. Whate’er desires are hard to get in mortal world—
For all desires at pleasure make request.
These lovely maidens with chariots, with lyres—
Such [maidens], indeed, are not obtainable by men—
By these, from me bestowed, be waited on!
O Naciketas, question me not regarding dying (maraṇa)!
26. Ephemeral things! That which is a mortal’s, O End-maker,
Even the vigor (tejas) of all the powers, they wear away.
Even a whole life is slight indeed.
Thine be the vehicles (vāha)! Thine be the dance and song!
27. Not with wealth is a man to be satisfied.
Shall we take wealth, if we have seen thee?
Shall we live so long as thou shalt rule?
—This, in truth, is the boon to be chosen by me.
28. When one has come into the presence of undecaying immortals,
What decaying mortal here below that understands,
That meditates upon the pleasures of beauty and delight,
Would delight in a life over-long?
29. This thing whereon they doubt, O Death:
What there is in the great passing-on—tell us that!
This boon, that has entered into the hidden—
No other than that does Naciketas choose.
[1 ]The narrative and dialogue at the opening of this Upanishad seem to be taken—with some variation, but with some identical language—from the earlier Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa, 3. 11. 8. 1-6. The old tradition of Naciketas in the realm of Death being in a position to return to earth with knowledge of the secret of life after death, is here used to furnish a dramatic setting for the exposition which forms the body of the Upanishad.
[2 ]This line is found at Bṛih. 4. 4. 11 a K verbatim; with variant in the first word, at Īśā 3 a and Bṛih. 4. 4. 11 a M.
[3 ]That is, Naciketas voluntarily offers himself in order to fulfil the vow which his father was paying so grudgingly. Thereupon the father, in anger at the veiled reproof, exclaims: ‘Oh! go to Hades!’
[1 ]As in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa narrative.
[2 ]śāntim tasya; both words probably with a double significance, ‘extinguishment of fire’ and ‘appeasement of the Brahman’ by bringing water.
[3 ]A Vedic epithet of Yama (Death).
[4 ]śūnrtām, according to a strict etymology, might mean ‘good fellowship.’
[5 ]If derived from √iṣ (instead of from √yaj), iṣṭāpūrte might possibly (though less probably) mean ‘wishes and fulfilment.’
[1 ]As it stands, prasrṣṭaḥ is nominative and must agree with the subject, ‘Auddālaki Āruṇi.’ But in such a connection it is hardly applicable; and in the previous stanza it was used with reference to Naciketas. To relieve the difficulty Bohtlingk (in his translation of the Kaṭha, Aitareya, and Praśna Upanishads, Berichte uber die Verhandlungen der Koniglich Sachsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, philologisch-historische Classe, 1890, pp. 127-197), p. 132, emends to prasrṣṭe, i. e. ‘toward one from me dismissed’; and Whitney (in his ‘Translation of the Katha Upanishad’ in the Transactions of the American Philological Association, 21. 88-112), p. 94, emends to prasrṣṭaṁ, and translates: ‘be cheerful [toward thee], sent forth by me.’ Śaṅkara solves the difficulty by giving the word a sense, ‘authorized,’ which is quite different from what it evidently has in the previous stanza.
[2 ]That is, both death and old age.
[1 ]Śaṅkara explains these as ‘father, mother, and teacher.’
[2 ]Namely, ‘sacrifice, study of the scriptures, and alms-giving.’
[3 ]brahma-ja-jña perhaps is a synonym of jāta-vedas, ‘the All-knower,’ a common epithet of Agni (Fire, here specialized as the Naciketas sacrifice-fire).
[4 ]īdya, a very common Vedic epithet of Agni (Fire).
[5 ]nicāyya may carry a double meaning here, i. e. also ‘by building [it, i. e. the Naciketas-fire].’
[6 ]Half of the third line and the fourth line recur at Śvet. 4. 11.
[7 ]Stanzas 16-18 are not quite apt here. They may be an irrelevant interpolation—as previous translators have suggested.