I’m starting a new thing here at EADC, for now it’s called “Books I’m Reading.” I started over reading the Upanishads recently, and plan on posting what occurs to me each day that I read it. Today’s verse comes from the Katha Veda. I’m reading the version translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester.
This verse strikes me where I’ve been lately. This dude has a chance to ask Yama, the god of departed spirits, for whatever he wants. He says he wants him to explain the meaning of death- and that really shakes the god. He tries to offer him chicks, money, everything BUT the secret of death- but the dude just won’t accept them.
Celestial maidens, beautiful to behold, such indeed as were not meant for mortals—even these, together with their bright chariots and their musical instruments, will I give unto thee, to serve thee. But for the secret of death, O Nachiketa, do not ask!”
But Nachiketa stood fast, and said: “These things endure only till the morrow, O Destroyer of Life, and the pleasures they give wear out the senses. Keep thou therefore horses and chariots, keep dance and song, for thyself I How shall he desire wealth, O Death, who once has seen thy face?
All my life I’ve searched for the meaning of everything, and death has always been where I looked to find the meaning. My whole foray into religion was spawned from this night spent along on the couch, tripping balls, when I came to the conclusion that we’re all just futily keeping ourselves alive until we die. Coincidentally, I don’t recommend taking 2 hits of acid and hanging out alone playing Super Mario unless you want to do some serious soul searching.
I spent the next couple years chasing after anything that could distract me from the thought of death.
Anyway, it’s not like I obsess over death anymore, but I do think about it a lot. I’d like to think that if presented with what Nachiketa gets offered, that I’d ask that same thing- knowledge. As of now, I think of my inevitable death as the motivator to make the most of my life, and nothing more. I do know, though, that all the things he was offered are usually what we turn to in order NOT to think about death- how fitting that death would do the same thing and try to distract him with them.
What he seems to be asking is more about understanding the nature of life, really. We don’t figure that out by living distracted; as fun as all the things are that he was offered, they are potential obstacles to figuring ourselves and everything around us. As Nachiketa says, “the pleasures they give wear out the senses.” Lately I’ve felt a little worn out from chasing some of that, but I’m refocusing a bit. Part of that is by reading this- I can’t wait to see what comes of it.