Monday, 27 August 2018

Katha Upanishad Triads

In the Katha Upanishad Naciketas’s father says a true thing which seems an irascible flash of irritation at his son’s correction of him. “Daddy”, says he, “ You’re giving away those more dead than alive cows as daana, where’s the merit in that. Who are you going to give me to?”

As any parent will be know ethical correction by an offspring rankles. That’s our job. Poppa replies - “I give you to death” which is perfectly true because by having children we put them in the queue for Yama’s (Death) place. Some thinkers, overthinkers really, have asserted that having the choice of not doing so, one of the benefits of science, we ought not to indulge our desire for progeny and the human world should gracefully die out.

Coming from David Benatar, a South Aftican, I am reminded of what his country’s immigration officer said to Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon when he enquired about emigration:

- But you’re black.

In the Afrikaans accent that sounded like ‘bleak’.

So Benatar, both bleak and black without a remedy for that sting.

Corinthians 15:55-56 King James Version (KJV)

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

In the Katha Upanishad there is proposed as treatment multiple triads:

Ka.Up. I.17:
The three-fold Nachiketas, being united with the three doing, the three-fold Karma, crosses birth and death, knowing the adorable, the bright, the omniscient fire born of Brahman and realising him, attains thorough peace. (17)

Commentary by Shankara:— Again he praises Karma ; the three-fold Nachiketas, . i.e., he by whom the Nachiketa fire has been kindled thrice ; or, he who knows, studies and performs in, the Nachiketa fire. United with the three, i.e., who united with his mother, father and preceptor, i.e., having duly received instruction from them ; for, that such instruction is a source of authority, is inferred from other Srutis, such as 'he who has a mother ' and ' he who has a father,' etc. ;. or, the three may refer to ' direct perception,' inference' and 'agamas '; or to the vedas,' the Smritis' and ' good men '; for, knowledge of virtue from these sources is an obvious fact. Doing the threefold karma, i.e., performing sacrifices, reciting the vedas, and making gifts. Who so does these, crosses or travels beyond birth and death ; again Brahmajagnam : Brahmaja means born of Brahma, i.e., Hiranyagarbha ; he who is born of Brahma and is omniscient is Brahmajagnam. Devam, so called because shining, i.e having ; the qualities of knowledge, etc. Idyam, worthy of praise. Knowing such fire, from the Sastras and having realised him as his own atman one attains this absolute renunciation which is realized in his intellect. The meaning is that one attains the place of the virat, by the continued practice of Upasana and Karma.
(trans: Sitarama Sastri: Katha

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