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9Upanishads in English, sample chapters

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With illustrations, abstract, explanatory rendering (without

Sanskrit verses) of all verses in simple, modern English;

copious notes and gloss on difficult verses and words;

simpler important  verses are  printed  in Highlighted-

bold for the first time readers; 83 quotations from

the Bhagavad-Gita; Chapter&Section headings,

Glossary of Sanskrit words used, Cross

reference and Appendixes



Ramananda Prasad, Ph.D.


© International Gita Society (IGS)

No permission is required for non-profit use of materials

in this book, provided proper credit is given to IGS.







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 “… Dr. Prasad’s deft rendering of the nine principal Upanishads with subsidiary supports makes an in-road and gives access to the magnificent conclusions left by the ancient sages of India. This book gives us a summary view of the information which was divulged by those teachers. It’s easy to read and understand and will encourage you to delve deeper into the subject matter.” 

Michael Beloved, New York



The philosophical portion of the Vedas is called the Upanishads. The Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Vedas and are also called Vedānta (added at the end of the Vedas). They are found appended to all the four Vedas, and thus we have Upanishads belonging to all four Vedas: Rig, Yajur, Sāma and Atharva. Each Vedas reveals its contents under four sections: (1) The Samhitās, containing beautiful lyrical poems or mantras describing and adoring the beauty of nature and the power of the extraordinary forces. (2) The Brahmanas section containing the ritualistic injunctions and prescriptions for various ceremonies. (3) The Aranyakas, containing various methods of worship or Upāsanās and (4) The Upanishads, containing the philosophical discussions and sermons that had taken place at various periods of time between different teachers (Rishis) and their students, regarding Brahman, Eternal Purpose of creation and the goal of human life. While the hymns of the Vedas emphasize rituals and the Brahmanas serve as a manual for those Vedic rituals. The Upanishads are inherently opposed to rituals.

The name ‘Upanishad’ has a very purposeful meaning and deep significance. The Sanskrit word Upanishad translates to: “Upa (near) ni (down) shad (sit), sitting down near a teacher". The term 'Upanishad' literally means sitting near the enlightened Master and listening closely to the mystic doctrines of the spiritual teacher, who has grasped the fundamental truths of the universe. To Indian scholars ‘Upanishad’ also means a literature that destroys our present ignorance of Reality and helps the student to attain the Supreme Knowledge. There are more than 200 known Upanishads, one of which, Muktikā Upanishad, predates 1656 and contains a list of 108 authorized Upanishads, including itself as the last. The first dozen out of 108 Upanishads are the oldest and most important known as the principal Upanishads. They all predate 6th century BCE. The top Nine Principal Upanishads are introduced in this book in simple, easy to understand modern English.




Om! purnamadah purnamidam,

purnāt purnam-udacyate.

purnasya purnamādāya,


Om! Shantih! Shantih! Shantih!

Om! The invisible Brahman is infinite; the objects of the visible Universe are also infinite. From infinite Brahman, infinite universes come out. The infinite Brahman still remains infinite, even though infinite universes come out of it.

Read an explanation of this very important verse at the end of this book.

The Ishāvāshya Upanishad is one of the shortest of the Upanishads. It is more like a short poem than a philosophical treatise, consisting of only 18 verses in poetry. This Upanishad constitutes the final chapter of the Shukla Yajurveda. The study of Upanishads traditionally starts with this Upanishad and should go on in the sequence given in this book.

All is Brahman

Om! Ishāvāsyam idam sarvam, yatkincha jagatyām jagat.

Tena tyaktena bhunjithā, mā gridhah kasyasvid dhanam.

01. Whatever exists in this (transient) world is an abode of Lord of the universe (Isha, God). Enjoy whatever (wealth) is allotted to you by the Lord with a spirit of renunciation (Samnyāsa) that nothing belongs to you, but to God. Do not seek or covet any one else’s wealth. (Also see BG 7.19)

After many births, the enlightened one surrenders to My Will by realiz­ing that everything is, indeed, My manifestation. Such a great soul is very rare. (BG 7.19) (Also see BG 7.07, 18.66)

Seven Sanskrit verses of the Vedas, called great sayings are: (1) All this is, of course, the Spirit because everything is born from, rests in, and merges into the Spirit (in ChU 3.14.01 of Sāmaveda). (2) All this is Spirit. The Spirit is everywhere. All this universe is, indeed, Supreme Brahman in MuU 2.02.11 of Atharvaveda. The Bible also says: You are gods (John 10.34). The Vedas and Upanishads declare: (3) Consciousness is Brahman (in AiU 3.03 of Rigveda). (4) I am the Spirit (in BrU 1.04.10 of Yajurveda). (5) You are the Spirit (in ChU 6.08.07 of Sāmaveda). (6) The individual Self (Jivātmā, Jiva) is one and the same as the Absolute (Brahman, Brahma) (in MaU 02 of Atharvaveda) and (7) That which is One has become all these (in Rigveda 8.58.02).

Because of being beginningless and unaffectable by the three modes of material Nature, the eternal Supersoul—even though dwelling in the body as a living entity—neither does anything nor becomes tainted by Karma, O Arjuna. (BG 13.31)

The universe is made up of the Lord. He is the creator, operator and destroyer. The universe is made up of God, made by God, and made for God to reside, play and enjoy His own creation by becoming jivātmā.

Live Like a Lotus Leaf

02. People should wish to live full life span by doing their prescribed duty (without ego and attachment to results). There is no other way to avoid the bondage of karma.

The Bhagavad-Gita also says:

     One who does all work as an offering to God—abandoning attachment to results—remains untouched by karmic reaction or sin, just as a lo­tus leaf never gets wet by water. (BG 5.10)

Destiny of the Ignorant

03. Those devoid of Self-knowledge, also called the slayers of Ātmā, are verily born in the wombs of evil beings, lacking Self-knowledge, after death.

I hurl these cruel, sinful, and mean people, into the cycles of death and birth in the womb of demons (or degraded parents) again and again, according to their karma. (BG 16.19)

Description of the Un-Describable Ātmā

04. Ātmā appears Immovable, yet it remains in constant motion **. It is swifter than mind and beyond the reach of intellect, always remaining ahead of mind and senses (because it carries mind and senses with it). Thus, Ātmā out runs all those who run. The cosmic energy of Ātman, the Prāna, sustains activities of all living beings; Ātman really does no action.

      **The electrons and protons are in constant motion. This motion is what we call ‘RāsaLilā’ of Krishna, the never ending dance of Prakriti and Purusha.

05. Ātmā moves and also does not move; it is very far as well as very near. It is both inside and outside all beings. (Also see BG 13.15)

The Beauty of Advaita Philosophy

06. The wise one perceives one’s own higher Self in all, and all in one’s own higher Self. Therefore, he does not hate or injure anyone. Such a person loves everybody as one loves God.

07. The wise one who has realized that his own higher Self has become all, and sees the oneness of entire existence (non-dual), what sorrow and what delusion can overwhelm him?

One, who sees One in all and all in One, sees the One everywhere and in everything. To fully under­stand this and to experience the oneness of individual soul and the Supersoul, is the highest achievement and the only goal of human birth.

How to Work and Worship

08. He (the Self) is all-pervading, radiant, bodiless, spotless, all-powerful, pure, untouched by sin, all-seeing, all-knowing, transcendent, and self-existent. He assigns duty and properly gives the fruits of one’s karma.

Reconciliation of Contradictions

09. Into the blinding darkness enter those who practice Avidyā (rituals, fruitive actions) only; and into greater darkness those who practice Vidyā (or seek theoretical Knowledge of the Vedas) only.

      He who worships deities (many gods) to fulfill material desires is in the mode of passion (Rajas). Such a person is ignorant like a child, because he thinks: I am different from God. Pursuit of only theoretical Vedic knowledge without any action is useless and is in the mode of greater ignorance (Tamas). There is no doubt that twelve years of Vedic study had left Shvetaketu both ignorant, proud and arrogant (ChU 6.1.03).

10. One thing, they say, is obtained from Vidyā (Jnāna) and another thing from Avidyā (karma). Thus we have heard from the wise who have taught us this.

11. One who pursues both Avidyā and Vidyā together, attains relative immortalityby going to heaven where there is no fear of deathby Avidyā or good karma, and obtains immortality by Vidyā, the Self-knowledge.

The idea behind verses 9, 10 and 11 is that one must not neglect either karma or Jnāna. The fruit of Jnāna can only come out from the soil of karma, therefore karma is better than mere book knowledge of the Vedas. (BG 5.02). Both are complementary and not exclusive or contradictory as some may believe. (Also see BG 18.78)

12. Into a blind darkness enter they who worship manifest god or a deity only (just to fulfill desires, without knowing that deities are not God). But into a greater darkness enter they who worship formless, Brahman only. (Also see KeU 1.05)

The Bhagavad-Gita says: Self-realization is more difficult for those who fix their mind on the impersonal and formless Absolute, because worship of the impersonal is difficult for ordinary human beings and the beginners. (BG 12.05). Shri Ramakrishna said: “Image worship is necessary in the beginning, but not afterwards, just as scaffolding is necessary during the construction of a building.”

13. One thing, they say, is obtained from knowledge of the manifest Brahman; another, they say, from Knowledge of the unmanifest Brahman. Thus we have heard from the wise who taught us this.

14. He who worships (realizes or fully understands) both the un-manifest and the manifest aspects Brahman, overcomes fear of death in the heaven by the worship of deities (manifest) and obtains immortality by true Knowledge of the Absolute, formless, non-dual, Brahman (un-manifest).

     To those who worship Me meditating on My personal form with unswerving devotion, setting Me as their supreme goal, offering all actions to Me—I swiftly become their savior from the world that is the ocean of death and transmigration. (Also see KaU 6.13, BG 12.06-07)

    The ideas behind verses 12, 13 and 14 are that one must fully understand both aspects—the personal and the impersonal—of the coin of Reality. The Absolute Being is beyond the human conception of form and formless. It has a transcendental form beyond human conception of form and formless. (BG 7.24).

Nirvāna by Giving Up the Ego

15. The face of Truth is covered with a golden curtain of ego (maya, ignorance). Uncover it, O God, so that I, who am devoted to the Truth, may behold it! (Also see APPENDIX 3 on ego)

16. O Pushan, the nourishing God in the form of Sun, O controller and supporter of all, withdraw your blinding radiance of ignorance; and focus your soothing rays of jnāna on me, so that I may be able to fully comprehend Your transcendental form. And realize that whosoever person is up there, that also I am.

Always Remember God

17. Now, let my breath be merged in all-pervading immortal Prāna, and the body be reduced to ashes. O mind, remember Om, remember past deeds. The mind remembers all that I have done. (Also see BG 8.06-07)

    During the last moment of our life, the mind automatically remembers what we have done during the entire life, as mentioned in BG 8.06.

Rishi Ghora Āngirasa, communicated the following teaching to his student, Krishna, the son of Devakiand it quenched Krishna’s thirst for any other knowledge. Rishi said: "When a man approaches death he should take refuge in these three last thoughts: “Om! Thou art indestructible,” “Thou art unchanging,” and “Thou art the subtle essence of Prāna.”  (ChU 3.17.06)

18. O Agni (the Bright Being)! Lead us to blessedness by the noble path—the Northern path of gods. O Lord! You know all our deeds, remove all evil and delusion from us. To Thee we offer our prostrations and prayers again and again.

Note 1: The Northern paththe path of no returnhas been also mentioned in the Upanishads (ChU 4.15.05, BrU 6.2.15, BG 8.24-26)





O= saha nāvavatu

Saha nau bhunaktu

Saha v$rya= karvāvahai

Tejasvi nāvadh$tam astu

Mā vidvi^āvahai

May He protect us both (the teacher

and the pupil). May He nourish us both.

May we work together with great vigor.

May our study be thorough and fruitful.

May we never misunderstand each other.

Om! Shantih! Shantih! Shantih!

The Kenopanishad is one of the earlier primary Upanishads. It is associated with the Sāmaveda where it is found inserted into the last section of the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana. It discusses how our senses get their power from Brahman. Brahman is the unknown and unknowable. Everything runs by the power of God, Devas (gods) also get their power from Brahman. The Sanskrit word ‘Kena’ means by whom. It has 35 verses written in prose.


1.01. The disciple asked: Om! By whose will does the mind proceed to its objects? At whose command does the Prāna do its duty? At whose will do men utter speech? Who directs the eyes and ears to function?

Brahman Powers Our Senses

1.02. The teacher replied: it is the spirit (Ātmā) by whose power the ear hears, the eyes see, the tongue speaks, the mind understands and Prāna function. Having distinguished the Self (or Real) from the non-Self (unreal)body, mind, sense-organsthe wise attains immortality.

1.03-04. The eye does not go there, nor speech, nor the mind. We do not know it, nor do we know any method of instructing about it. It is different from everything known; it is unknowable. Thus we have heard from the teachers who taught it to us.

1.05. That which cannot be expressed by speech, but by which speech is expressed, know that alone as Brahman, and not what people here worship.

Note 2: People worship deities or some extra-cosmic Being to fulfill desires. These deities are not Brahman. Lord Krishna said: O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship the deities with faith, they also worship Me, but without proper understanding (9.23).

1.06. That which cannot be comprehended by the mind, but by which the mind comprehends, know that alone as Brahman, and not what people here worship.

1.07. That which cannot be seen by the eye, but by which the eye sees, know that alone as Brahman, and not what people here worship.

1.08. That which cannot he heard by the ear, but by which the ear hears, know that alone as Brahman, and not what people here worship.

1.09. That which cannot be smelt by the breath, but by which the breath smells, know that alone as Brahman, and not what people here worship.


2.01. The teacher said: If you think: "I know Brahman well," then surely you know very little about it. You only know it as perceived by human mind. Therefore you should enquire further about Brahman.

2.02. The disciple said: I think I know Brahman, but very little. I do not think I know it well, nor do I think I do not know it. He among us who knows the meaning of  "Neither do I not know, nor do I know"—knows Brahman. (Jivātmā does has very limited Knowledge of Brahman.)

Brahman is Unknown to the Wise

2.03. The teacher said: He by whom Brahman is not known, knows it; he by whom it is known, does not know it. It is unknown by those who know it; it is known only by those who do not know it.

(Brahman is unknown to the wise and known only to the ignorant )

2.04. Brahman is known when it is realized as a witness in all the three (waking, dream and deep sleep) states of consciousness (see MaU 01-06); by such Knowledge one attains immortality and strength to face all difficulties and fear of death.

2.05. If a man knows Ātmā in this life, he then attains the true goal of human birth. If he does not know it in this life, a great calamity awaits him. Having realized the Self in every being, the wise mentally renounce the illusory world and become immortal.


Everything Runs by The Power of God

3.01. Brahman, according to the story, got a victory for Devas over Asuras (demons); and by that victory (of Brahman) the gods became elated. They said to themselves: "Verily, this victory is ours; verily, this glory is ours only."

     All actions are actually performed by various forces (or Gunas) of Nature, but due to delusion of ego or ignorance, people assume themselves to be the sole doer and get bound by karma. (BG 3.27)

3.02. Brahman—knowing their pride born out of ego (The ego is a notion that oneself, instead of God, does all works!) —appeared before them as a male Spirit. But gods did not know who that adorable Spirit was.

3.03-06. They said to Agni (Fire god): "O Agni! Find out who this Great Spirit is. "Yes," he said, and hastened to find out. Brahman asked him: "Who are you?" He replied: "I am known as Agni." Brahman said: "What power is in you?" Fire replied: "I can burn all—whatever there is on earth." Brahman put a dry straw before him and said: "Burn this." He rushed toward it with full force but could not burn it. When he returned from the visit with this Spirit and said to the other gods: "I could not find out who this Spirit is."

3.07-10. Then they said to Vāyu (Air god): "O Vāyu! Find out who this Great Spirit is. "Yes Sir," he said and hastened to find out. Brahman asked him: "Who are you?" He replied: "I am known as Vāyu." Brahman said: "What power is in you that make you great?" Vāyu replied: "I can carry off all—whatever there is on earth." Brahman put a dry straw before him and said: "Carry this." He rushed toward it with full force but could not move it. Then he returned from the Spirit and said to the gods: "I could not find out who this Spirit is."

3.11-12. Then the gods said to Indra: "Indra Bhagavān! Find out who this Great Spirit is. "Yes," he said and hastened to find out. But the Spirit disappeared from him. Then Indra saw in that very region of the sky a Woman highly adorned. She was Umā Devi, the daughter of the King of Himalayas. He approached Her and said: "Mother, who that Great Spirit could be?"













Devas Get Power from Brahman


Devi instructs Indra about Brahman

4.01. Mother replied in great detail: "It was, indeed, Brahman. Through the victory of Brahman alone you have attained glory." After that Indra understood that it was Brahman and realized his mistake and learned a lesson from Mother.

4.02. Since these Devas came very near Brahman and were the first to know Brahman. These three Devas, namely: Indra, Agni, and Vāyu excelled the other gods.

4.03. Since Indra approached Brahman and he was the first to know Brahman, Indra excels the other gods and is considered the King of gods.

4.04. This is the description of Brahman with regard to the gods: Devas get power from Brahman. Brahman is behind every form of power, movement and life (Prāna) in the universe.

4.05. Now the description of Brahman with regard to the individual self: Because of the powers of Brahman, the mind knows the external world, remembers, creates and imagines things.

4.06. That Brahman is called the adorable of all; it should be worshipped by all. All creatures love him who worships (or realizes) Brahman.

The Teachings of Upanishad Lead to Liberation

4.07. The disciple said; “Teach me, sir, the Upanishad." The teacher replied: "I just now told you the Upanishad about Brahman." But I will repeat again:

4.08. Austerities, self-restraint, and sacrificial works are its feet, and the Vedas are all its limbs. Knowledge is its abode.

4.09. He who thus knows this Upanishad shakes off all sins and becomes firmly established in the Infinite. He reaches the main goal of human birth.




O= asato mā sad gamaya

Tamaso mā jyotirgamaya

M&tyormā am&ta= gamaya

O= %ānti+ %ānti+ %ānti+

Om! Lead me from unreal to real,
lead me from darkness to light.
lead me from death to immortality,
Om! Shantih! Shantih! Shantih!   (BrU 1.3.28)

The Katha Upanishad is also titled "Death as a Teacher". It is one of the primary Upanishads and is associated with the Krishna Yajurveda. It has 119 verses in poetry.



1.01. Rishi Uddālaka, the son of maharishi Aruna, desiring heaven, performed the Vishvajit sacrifice, in which he gave away all his property. He had a son named Nachiketā.

1.0203. When the gifts were being distributed, faith entered into the mind of Nachiketā, who was still a boy. He said to himself: Joyless are the worlds to which he goes who gives away cows that no longer are able to drink, to eat, to give milk, or to give a calf.

Nachiketā’s felt very compassionate for his father. Thus to save his father from the sin of giving such a fake donation, he presented himself as a real object of donation and said to his father:

1.04. Father! To whom will you give me? He repeated this a second and a third time. Then his father angrily replied: To death I will give you.

1.05. Nachiketā thought: Among some of the followers of my father, I am the first; or among many I am the middlemost. But certainly I am never the last. What work of Yama, the King of Death, will be accomplished by my father giving me away to Yama?

1.06. Look back and see how the ancients honored their promise at any cost. Like corn, the mortals ripen and fall and are born again. Thinking like this, Nachiketā decided to go to Yama.

Nachiketā’s father really did not want him to die, but to make the words of his father true, Nachiketā convinced his father to allow him to go to Yama.

Nachiketā in the House of Death

The first test of Nachiketā

Yama was not at home when Nachiketā arrived. He waited for three days without any food or water. Upon Yama’s return, Yama said thus:

1.07. Like fire, when a Brāhmana guest enters a house; the householder pacifies him by giving him water and a seat.

1.08. The Brāhmana, who stays in a house without a meal, destroys that foolish householder’s hopes and expectations, the reward of his good associations, the merit of his beneficial speech, the good results of his sacrifices and beneficial deeds and all his cattle and children as well.

Three Wishes Offered to Nachiketā 

1.09. Yama was very pleased with Nachiketā’s firm determination and said: O Brāhmana, salutations to you! You are a venerable guest and have dwelt in my house three nights without a meal; therefore now choose your three wishes, one for each night, O Brāhmana

Nachiketā’s First Wish

Return to an Appeased Father on Earth

1.10. Nachiketā said: O Death, may my father, be calm, cheerful and free from anger toward me! May he recognize me (not as ghost!) and welcome me when I shall be sent home by you! This I choose as the first of the three wishes.

1.11. Yama said: Through my favor, your father will recognize you and be again toward you as he was before. After having seen you freed from the jaws of death, he will sleep peacefully at night and bear no fear against you.

Nachiketā’s Second Wish

Understanding of the Sacrificial Fire

1.12. Nachiketā said: In the Heavenly World there is no fear of death and no one is afraid of old age. There one rejoices leaving behind both hunger and thirst and is out of the reach of sorrow.

1.13. You know, O Death, the fire-sacrifice, which leads to Heaven. Explain it to me. The inhabitants of heaven attain immortality. This I ask as my second wish.

1.14. Yama said: I know the fire-sacrifice well, which leads to Heaven and I will explain it to you. Listen to me. Know this to be the means of attaining Heaven. It supports the universe; it dwells in the causal hearts of the wise who know it.

1.15. Yama then told him about the fire, which is the source of the worlds and what kind of bricks and how many were to be gathered for the altar and how many and how the sacrificial fire was to be lighted. Nachiketā memorized all that was told to him. Then Yama, being pleased with him, spoke again.

1.16. Death, being well pleased, said to Nachiketā: I will now give you another wish: This fire-sacrifice shall be named after you. Take also from me this beautiful chain.

1.17. He who has performed this Nachiketā fire sacrifice three times, has read the three Vedas and also has performed his three duties (Dharma, Artha and Kāma), overcomes birth and death. Having known this fire-sacrifice disclosed to me by the omniscient, luminous and adorable Brahman, one attains supreme peace.

1.18. He who has performed the Nachiketā sacrifice three times; becomes free from fear of death in this life, overcomes grief and rejoices in Heaven.

1.19. This, O Nachiketā, is your fire-sacrifice, which leads to Heaven and which you have chosen as your second wish. People will call this Fire by your name. Now, O Nachiketā, choose the third wish.

Nachiketā’s Third Wish:

Knowledge of life after death

1.20. Nachiketā said: There is this doubt about a man when he is dead: Some say that he exists; others say he does not exist. This I would like to know from you. This is the third of my wishes.

Yama tests Nachiketā again

1.21. Yama said: On this subject even the gods formerly had their doubts. It is not easy to understand. The nature of Ātmā is very subtle. Therefore, choose another wish, O Nachiketā! Do not press me. Release me from this favor.

1.22. Nachiketā said: O Death, even the gods have their doubts about this subject; and you have also declared it to be not easy to understand. But another teacher like you cannot be found and surely no other wish is comparable to this.

1.23. Yama said: Choose sons and grandsons who shall live a hundred years; choose elephants, horses, herds of cattle and gold. Choose a vast empire on earth; live there as many years as you wish.

1.24. If you deem any other wish equal to that, choose it; choose wealth and a long life. Be the king, O Nachiketā, of the wide earth. I will make you the enjoyer of all desires.

1.25. Whatever desires are difficult to satisfy in this world of mortals, choose them as you wish: these fair maidens, with their chariots and musical instruments—men cannot obtain them. I give them to you and they shall wait upon you. But do not ask me about death.

1.26. Nachiketā said: But, O Death, all these material enjoyments are very transient. Furthermore, they wear out the vigor of sense organs. Even the longest life is short indeed. Keep your horses, dances and songs for yourself.

1.27. Man never gets satisfied with wealth. Moreover, since I have seen you, I shall certainly obtain wealth; I shall also live as long as you rule. But, no wish will be accepted by me other than the one I have asked for.

1.28. Who among the mortals of the world—having reached the Imperishable—would rejoice a long life, after he has pondered over the temporary pleasures from beauty and song?

1.29. Tell me, O Death, of that supreme life after death about which a man has doubts. I do not choose any wish other than that incomprehensible one.


Nachiketā passes the test

2.01. Yama said: The beneficial path is one thing and quite different is the path of sensual pleasures. Both of these, serving different needs, bind a man. Blessed is he who chooses the beneficial path. He who chooses the path of sensual pleasures misses the goal of human life.

     The path of Self-knowledge is beneficial and the path of material and sensual pleasure is harmful. Any desire is bondage. Thus both—the desire for sense pleasure and liberation—are bondages, although the latter is absolutely necessary as it ultimately relieves one from the bondage.  

     Sensual pleasures are, in fact, the source of misery in the end and have a begin­ning and an end. Therefore, the wise, O Arjuna, do not rejoice in sensual pleas­ures. (BG 5.22)

     The pleasure that appears as poison in the beginning, but is like nectar in the end, comes by Self-knowledge and is in the mode of goodness. (BG 18.37) Sensual pleasures that appear as nectar in the beginning, but become poi­son in the end, are in the mode of passion. (BG 18.38)

     The wise constantly reflect on the futility of sensual pleasures that inevitably become the cause of misery; therefore, they do not become victims of sensual crav­ings.

     One who enjoys the ocean of the nectar of devo­tion has no use for the sensual pleasures that are like water of a pond. The river of material joy dries up quickly after the rainy season if there is no perennial source of spiritual water. Material objects are like straws to the wise.

2.02. Both the beneficial  and the pleasant paths present themselves to a man. The calm soul, (in the mode of goodness) examines them well and prefers the beneficial over the pleasant; but the fool, (in the modes of passion and ignorance) chooses the pleasant out of greed and attachment.

2.03. O Nachiketā, after pondering well the pleasures that seem to be delightful, you have renounced them all. You have not taken the road to wealth, where many perish.

2.04. Wide apart and leading to different ends are these two: the pleasant path of material and sensual enjoyment and the path of Knowledge. I regard you, O Nachiketā, an aspirant of Knowledge; for even many pleasures could not tempt you away.

2.05. Intellectuals dwelling in darkness—but thinking themselves to be wise—have to undergo many cycles of birth and death by following various difficult paths of rituals. Like a blind person led by a priest who is also blind, they miss the goal of human life.

     Those who are dominated by material desires, consider the attainment of heaven as the highest goal of life. They engage in specific rites for the sake of material prosperity and enjoyment. Rebirth is the result of their action. (BG 2.43)

2.06. The Self never reveals itself to a person devoid of differentiation between the Real and the unreal, careless and perplexed by the delusion of wealth. "This world alone exists," he thinks, "and there is no other." Such a person comes under  control of death and re-birth, again and again.

2.07. There are many who have not heard of Ātmā; though hearing of Him, many still do not understand it. It’s rare to find the man who is able to teach the Self; and how blessed is the one who comprehends the Self, when taught by an able master.

2.08. Ātmā can never be comprehended when taught by an inferior teacher, because it can be diversely explained and argued. But when it is taught by him who has become one with Ātmā, no more doubt remains. Ātmā is subtler than the subtlest and not to be known by logic, but by sincere enquiry (Brahma-Jignāsā) and contemplation.

2.09. This Knowledge cannot be obtained by reasoning. Ātmā becomes easy to comprehend, O dear one, when taught by another awakened soul. You have attained this Knowledge now. You are, indeed, a man of firm resolve. May we always get an inquirer like you!

The Requirement of Renunciation and Reflection

2.10. Yama said: I know that the fruit of action (such as Nachiketā sacrifice and other rituals) is not eternal; for Eternal Self is never attained by non-eternal means. Yet I have performed the Nachiketā sacrifice with the help of non-eternal means and attained this position which is only relatively eternal.

2.11. The fulfillment of desires, the foundation of the universe; and the fruits of rituals: freedom from fear of death and obtaining wide heavenly pleasures—all these you have seen; and being wise you have rejected them with firm resolve.

2.12. The wise man gives up both joy and sorrow after having realized—by means of contemplation on the inner Self —that ancient, effulgent, un-manifest, hard to be seen (hidden by the veil of maya) and residing in the body.

2.13. The mortal—who has heard this and comprehended the subtle Self as the source of Dharma, who has differentiated Ātmā from body mind and all physical objects—rejoices, because he has obtained the Source of Bliss, the Abode of Brahman. I believe the Supreme Abode is open for Nachiketā.

2.14. Nachiketā said: That which you know as beyond Dharma and Adharma, different from cause and effect, and different from past and future—tell me all about That.

Know Om as Brahman

2.15. Yama said: The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of celibacy, I will tell you that briefly: it is Om!

2.16. This monosyllable Om is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the Highest. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires.

2.17. Om is the best means of Self-realization; this is the highest method. Whosoever knows this Om is adored in the world of Brahman.

The Eternal Indestructible Soul

2.18. Know that the Spirit (Soul, Ātmā, Jivātmā or Jiva) is neither born nor does it ever die. It is not born from anything and nothing is born from it. It is birthless, eternal, everlasting and ancient, it is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.

     The Spirit is neither born, nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being nor cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and pri­me­val. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. (BG 2.20)

2.19. If the killer thinks he kills and if the killed thinks he is killed, neither of these has the right Knowledge. The Self neither kills, nor is killed.

     One who thinks that the Spirit is a slayer, and one who thinks the Spirit is slain are both ignorant because the Spirit neither slays nor is slain. (BG 2.19)

Characteristics of the Supreme

2.20. Ātmā is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest. It is hidden in the causal hearts of all living beings. A man who is free from desires beholds the majesty of the Self by equanimity of mind and senses and becomes free from all grief.

2.21. Though sitting still, it travels far; though lying down, it goes everywhere. Who, but advanced souls, can know that luminous Ātmā who rejoices as a jiva and also does not rejoice as a witness? (Also see MuU 3.1.01 and ShU 4. 06)

2.22. The wise one does not grieve, having known the bodiless, vast, immortal and all-pervading Ātmā dwelling in all mortal bodies.

Lord Krishna said: You grieve for those who are not worthy of grief and yet speak words of wisdom. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. (BG 2.11)

The Conditions for Knowing Brahman

2.23. Ātman is not attained through discourses or through intellect or through much learning. It is gained by one who seeks it diligently (and qualifies for it). To such a person the Ātman reveals its true nature. (The same as MuU 3.2.3)

     This four-armed form of Mine that you have just seen cannot be seen even by study of the Vedas or by austerity or by acts of charity or by the performance of rituals. (BG 11.53) But by unswerving devotion (or Knowledge), I can be seen in this form, can be known in essence, and also can be reached, O Arjuna. (BG 11.54)

2.24. Neither those who have not turned away from wickedness, nor the unrestrained or the un-meditative, nor the one whose mind is not at peace, can attain this Ātman even by Knowledge.

God is called the All Mighty!

2.25. He to whom the good and mighty people such as the Brāhmanas and the Kshatriyas classes are (as it were) but food, and the lord of Death a condiment (chatani), how can one know where He is? (Thus Self or God is the mightiest of the mighty and is called the All Mighty!)


The Universal and Individual Soul

3.01. Two beings (jivātmā and Paramātmā) dwell within the body, in the intellect and in the supreme space of the causal heart. Jivātmā tastes the fruits of his own deeds. The knowers of Brahman—as well as well as those householders who have offered oblations in the Five Fires and also those who have performed the Nachiketā fire sacrifice three times—describe Paramātmā as the light and jivātmā as the shadow or reflection of the light.

Nachiketā Sacrificial Fire as an Aid

3.02. We know how to perform the Nachiketā sacrifice, which is the bridge to heaven for sacrificers. We also know the Supreme, imperishable Brahman, which is sought by those who wish to cross over to the spiritual shore where there is no fear of death.

Homeward Journey of the jiva in a Chariot


Also read:

3.03. Know that the Paramātmā is the owner of the chariot, Jivātmā or jiva is the passenger in the chariot; the body is the chariot; the intellect is the charioteer; and a well-controlled mind is the rein.

3.04. The senses, they say, are the horses; the sense objects, the roads. The wise call Lord as the enjoyer, when He is united with the body, the senses and the mind by becoming a jiva.

3.05. If one is of unrestrained mind, devoid of differentiation between the Real and the unreal, his senses become uncontrollable, like the wicked horses of a charioteer.

3.06. But one who has control over the mind and possesses differentiation between the Real and the unreal, then the senses come under control, like the trained horses of a charioteer.

Note 3: The mind is the rein to control the senses, but mind itself has to be reined by a strong intellect. Only a controlled mind can control the sense-horses as mentioned below:

Control of the mind is Necessary

3.07. One who is devoid of Knowledge, thoughtless and impure never attains the goal, but enters into the rounds of birth and death.

3.08. But one who is intelligent, pure and has control over his mind, verily reaches the goal and is not born again.

3.09. A man who has a purified (or strong) intellect as his charioteer and a well-controlled mind—he reaches the goal, the Supreme abode of Vishnu.

Order of Progression to the Supreme

3.10−11. Superior to the senses are the sense-objects; superior to the sense-objects is the mind; superior to the mind, the intellect; superior to the intellect is Knowledge, superior to Knowledge is Brahman; superior to Brahman is the ParaBrahman (Purusha or the Absolute). Beyond the Absolute there is nothing: this is the end, the Supreme Goal.

         (Also see KaU 6.07-08, MB 12.204.10, and BG 3.42)

The Method of Yoga

3.12. That Self hidden inside all beings does not reveal itself to all. It is seen only by the seers through their one-pointed and sharp intellect.

3.13. The wise man should drown his speech in his mind and his mind in his intellect and his intellect in the Cosmic Mind and the Cosmic Mind in the Universal Self.

Here reference seem to be the yogic practice of samyama (concentration, reflection and trance) to submerge the mind in the Self.

A call to the Way of Liberation from Death

3.14. Arise! Awake! Approach a Sad-guru and learn. Like the sharp edge of a sword is that path to God, so the wise say: Hard to walk and difficult to cross and reach the goal.

The path of spiritual life is very slippery and has to be trodden very care­fully to avoid falls. It is not a joyous ferryboat ride, but a very difficult path. It is like treading on the sharp edge of a sword.

3.15. Having realized Ātmā as soundless, intangible, formless, imperishable, tasteless, eternal, odorless, without beginning or end and unchanging—one is freed from the jaws of Death.

The Immortal Value of this Teaching

3.16. The wise one having heard and imparted this ancient story of Nachiketā, as told by the lord of Death, to others is glorified in the world of Brahman.

3.17. And he who, practicing self-control, recites this supreme secret in an assembly of devotees or at an after-death ceremony (Shrāddha) obtains immortality.


The Self cannot be Sought Through the Senses

4.01. Yama said: The self-existent Supreme has made the senses such that they go outward, and hence man sees the external objects only and not the internal Self. But a wise man with his senses averted from sense-objects and desirous of immortality, beholds the Self within.

4.02. The ignorant pursue sensual pleasures and fall into the net of wide spread transmigration. But the wise, having known the immortal amidst all mortals, do not desire anything in this world.

Ātmā is working in All the Senses, in All states

4.03. Through Ātmā one sees, knows, tastes, smells, hears, touches and enjoys sensual pleasures. Is there anything that remains unknown to Ātmā? This is That knower you wanted to know.

4.04. It is through Ātmā that one perceives all objects in waking and dream states. Having known the vast, all-pervading Ātmā, the wise does not grieve.

Universal Soul is same as the Individual Soul

4.05. He who knows this Ātmā as the enjoyer of the fruits of action by becoming jiva, the sustainer of life and the Lord of the past, present and the future, and as very near (within the body)—he has no fear of death.

4.06. He who knows that Brahman came first before creation began and dwells inside the body made up of the five basic elements (earth, water, fire, air, and the subtle Ethereal substance or Ākāsha), actually knows Brahman. This is verily That.

4.07. The soul of gods (Brahmā)—who manifested in the form of Prāna with its five major components—enters the body and abides in the cavity of the causal heart. One who knows this knows Brahman, indeed. This is verily That.

4.08. Agni, hidden in the wood-sticks and well-guarded—like a child in the womb by its mother—is worshipped day after day by wise men and by those who offer oblations in the sacrifices. This is verily That.

4.09. That from which the universe comes out and into which it merges again, on which all Devas depend, and no one can ever surpass. This is indeed That.

The Cause of Rebirth

4.10. What is here, the same is there and what is there, the same is here. He goes from death to death who sees any difference between Brahman and the world.

    The wise see no difference between the microcosm and macrocosm. This is a very important key verse.

4.11. By the mind and intellect alone Brahman is realized; then one does not see any difference, whatsoever, between the creator and the creation. He goes from death to death who sees any difference between the creator and the creation.

The Eternal Lord Abides In One's Body

4.12. The Purusha, the size of a thumb, dwells in the body. He is the Lord of the past, present and the future. After knowing Him, one does not have any fear of death. This is indeed Brahman.

4.13. The Purusha, the size of a thumb, is like a bright white flame of the lamp without smoke. The Lord of the past, present and the future, is the same today and tomorrow. This is indeed Brahman.

The Results of Seeing Diversity in Unity

4.14. As the rainwater falling on a mountain top, when distracted by some external forces, runs down the slope in all directions and does not reach the ocean; similarly, those who see the creation as different from the Creator, verily run after the distractions of creation (or maya) and do not reach the goal of human birth.

4.15. As pure water poured into pure water becomes one with it, so also, O Nachiketā, does the pure soul of the sage who knows the Truth becomes one with the Self. (An impure soul cannot merge in pure Brahman).


The Individual soul and the creation

5.01. There is a city with nine gates belonging to Ātmā as His residence. He who meditates on Him as such grieves no more; liberated from the bonds of ignorance, becomes free. This is indeed Brahman.

     The human body has been called the City of Nine Gates (or openings) in the scriptures. The nine openings are: Two openings each for the eyes, ears, and nose; and one each for the mouth, anus, and urethra. The Lord of all beings and the universe resides in this city with the individual soul (Jiva) performing and directing all action. (Also see BG 13.22)

     A person, who has completely renounced the attachment to the fruits of all work from his mind, dwells happily in the City of Nine Gates, neither performing nor directing action. (BG 5.13)

5.02. He is the sun dwelling in the sky. He is the air in the sky. He is the fire. He is the guest dwelling in the house. He dwells in men, in the gods, in truth, in the space. He is born in the water, on earth and as a river on the mountains. He is the Truth (Knowledge) and He is Great.

5.03. He is the One who sends Prāna upward and leads Apāna downward. All Devas (gods) worship that adorable One seated in the causal heart.

5.04. When the soul—the owner of the body and dwelling in the body as jiva—is separated from the body after death and is freed from the body, what remains are the five basic elements. This is, verily, That.

5.05. No mortal ever lives by Prāna alone, which goes up, nor by Apāna, which goes down. Men live by the Spirit of Brahman on which Prāna and Apāna also depend.



Embodiment of the Reincarnating Soul

5.06. Well then, Nachiketā, I shall tell you again about this mysterious eternal Brahman and also about what happens to the Ātmā after meeting death.

5.07. Some souls enter the womb to have another human body, others go to animals, plants and insects according to their Karma and Knowledge.

(Read more in the Gita Chapter 14 verses: 14, 15, 18 and 19)

One's Real Self is the Same as the Universal Self

5.08. He, the Purusha, who remains active and a witness while the sense-organs are asleep or shaping one lovely form after another in a dream world, that indeed is Brahman and that alone is called the immortal. All worlds are contained in Him and none can outshine Him. This, indeed, is Brahman.

5.09. As one fire, after entering the world of woods, assumes different forms according to the type of wood it enters, similarly one Ātman that exists in all beings appears different according to the forms of the objects it enters. It also exists outside all forms in its original transcendental form.

5.10. As one water after entering a container, assumes different forms according to the vessel it enters, similarly the one Ātman that exists in all being appears to have different forms according to the bodies it enters. It also exists outside all forms in its original transcendental form.

5.11. As the sun, the Eye of the whole world, is not affected by the blemishes of the eyes or by the objects lighted by the sun, similarly one and the same Ātmā, dwelling in all beings, is un-affected by the miseries of the world, being beyond the world. (Just as the rope is not affected by the appearance of snake-in-the rope.)

Indescribable Bliss of Self-Realization

5.12. There is only one Supreme Ruler, the innermost Self of all beings, who makes His one form manifold. Eternal happiness belongs to the wise—who perceive Him within themselves—and not to others.

5.13. There is One eternal Reality among non-eternal objects, the consciousness in the conscious objects and who, though One, fulfils the desires of many. Eternal peace belongs to the wise—who perceive Him within themselves—and not to others.

5.14. The sages realize that indescribable Supreme Joy as "This is That.” How shall I know That? Is it self-luminous or does it shine by another’s light? The answer comes:

The Self-Luminous Light of the World

5.15. The sun does not illumine Him, nor the moon and the stars, nor these lightning or the fire. Everything (sun, moon, stars, lightning, fire etc.) shines by His energy (or light, power). By His light all this is lighted.

    The Supreme Abode is self-luminous, not illumined by any other source. He illumines the sun and the moon as a luminous lamp illumines other objects. Similar verses appear in other Upanishads (See MuU 2.2.10, ShU 6.14) and the Bhagavad-Gita:

 The sun does not illumine My Supreme Abode, nor does the moon, nor the fire. Having reached there, people attain permanent liberation (Moksha) and do not come back to this temporal world. (BG 15.06) The light energy of the sun which illumines the entire world, which is in the moon and in the fire, know that light to be Mine. (BG 15.12).

      Abode of the Supreme Being is self-luminous, not illumined by any other source. He illumines the sun and the moon as a luminous lamp illumines other objects. Transcendental light of Brahman (Divine Light, Brahma Jyoti) is the source of all light energy and is called the light of all lights in BG 13.17. The Supreme Being existed before the sun, moon, and fire came into existence during creation, and it will exist even after everything gets dissolved into unmanifest Nature during complete dissolution. The word ‘light’ has also been symbolically used to indicate the light of Knowledge.


Brahman is the source of the Cosmos

6.01. This cosmos is like an eternal Ashvattha tree with its root above (in Brahman) and branches (Cosmos) below. That Brahman is bright. That is Brahman and That alone exists and is immortal. In Brahman all worlds are contained and nothing is beyond That. This is indeed Brahman (Also see BG 15.01)

The Great Fear of Brahman

6.02. This whole universe evolved from it and is supported by Brahman’s energy, the Prāna. Brahman is very stern and a just controller with a thunderbolt. No one can escape from His laws. Those who thus know Him become immortal.

6.03. From fear of Brahman, fire burns, the sun shines, Indra, Vāyu and the fifth: the lord of Death perform their respective duties.

Degrees of Perception of the Self

6.04. If a man is able to comprehend or know Brahman before death, he is liberated; if not, one has to take birth again and again in the created worlds.

6.05. On the earth, Brahman can be very clearly seen—as in a mirror—in one’s own inner psyche. In the World of the forefathers (manes), it can be seen like one sees objects in dream; In the world of the Gandharvas, it’s seen like one sees an image in water; and in the abode of Brahmā, it is seen as light and shade.

The Gradation Up To the Cosmic Being

6.06. Having known that the senses have their separate origin from Prakriti and they are distinct from Ātmā and also that their actions belong to senses alone and not to Ātmā, a wise man is no more bothered by sense objects.

6.07. Superior to the senses is the mind, superior to the mind is the intellect, higher than the intellect is the avyakta (or the unmanifest) Brahman, higher than unmanifest Brahman is the Brahman.

6.08. Superior to the Brahman is the all-pervading and imperceptible Supreme Being—Paramātmā, the highest Absolute. Having realized Him, the embodied soul becomes liberated and attains immortality.

     The senses are said to be superior to the body; superior to senses are the sense objects; superior to sense objects is the mind; superior to mind is the intellect; superior to intellect is the Self-Knowledge; and the Self is the highest. (BG 3.42)

     Thus, knowing (your true nature as) the Self to be the highest, and controlling the mind by the intellect (that is purified and made strong by Self-knowledge), one must kill this mighty enemy, lust (with the sword of true Knowledge of the Self), O Arjuna. (BG 3.43)

6.09. His transcendental form is not within the field of our vision; none can see Him with the physical eyes. One can know Him when He is revealed by the intuition of purified intellect that is free from all doubts; and by constant contemplation. Those who know Him become immortal.

The Method of Yoga

6.10. When the five senses of perception lie still, together with the mind; and when the intellect does not work, that is the Supreme or Super-conscious state of mind.

6.11. The firm Control of the mind and senses is called yoga. Then the yogi becomes free from the erratic behavior of mind. But, one must be very vigilant, for the yoga can be acquired only with great difficulty and lost easily (but the Self-knowledge, once obtained, can never be lost!).

The Self is attained by faith in Scriptures

6.12. Ātmā can never be understood by mind or by speech, nor by eyes. It is only realized by faith in the words of sages who have realized it and say: He exists. (Also see BG 13.25)

6.13. He is to be realized first in manifest aspect, and then in His true transcendental, un-manifest aspect. Of these two aspects, Ātmā realized as manifest leads the knower to the realization of His true un-manifest aspect. (Also see IsU 14)

Requires Renunciation of Desires, Attachments

6.14. When all the desires that dwell in the heart go away at the dawn of Knowledge, then the mortal becomes immortal and immediately attains Brahman.

   By transcendental Knowledge one truly understands what and who I am in essence. Having known Me in essence, one immediately becomes one with Me. (BG 18.55)

6.15. When all the ties (desires, attachments, ego etc.) are severed by Knowledge, then the mortal becomes immortal—in this very body on the earth. This alone is the summary of all the Vedāntic teachings.

6.16. There are one hundred and one arteries (nādis) of the heart, only one of them—the Sushumnā nādi—pierces the crown of the head. Going upward by it, a man at death attains immortality. But when his Prāna passes out by any other arteries, one is reborn in the world.

6.17. The Spirit, not larger than a thumb, is always seated in the causal heart of all beings. One should distinguish Spirit from the body as one distinguishes grain from the husk. One must know that the Self (or Spirit) is pure and immortal.

This Teaching: A Way to Immortality

6.18. Having received this wisdom taught by the King of Death and the entire process of yoga, Nachiketā became free from impurities and fear of death and attained Brahman. Thus, it will be also with any other who knows the inner Self as described above.