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Katha Upanishad Quotes - A Collection Of Teachings From Katha Upanishad

The teaching in the Katha Upanishad is a dialogue between young Nachiketa and Yama. These Quotes are collected from various sources mostly on the translation and interpretation of the Katha Upanishad.

Know the Self (atma) as the master sitting within the chariot which is the body (sarira), know again the understanding (buddhi) as the charioteer and the mind (manas) as the reins.

The senses, they say, are the horses; the objects of sense, what they range over..

He who is ever of unrestrained mind, devoid of true understanding, his sense-desires then become uncontrollable like the wild horses of a charioteer.

But he who is ever of controlled mind, and has true understanding, his sense-desires then are controllable like the good horses of a charioteer . . .

The desires are superior to the senses, the mind is superior to the desires, the intuition (understanding) is superior to the mind, the great Self is superior to the intuition.
Katha Upanishad (I.3.3-6, 10)

This same chariot, the charioteer and the man sitting within the chariot was much later presented to us in the Mahabharata by Sage Vyasa and their conversation is the immortal Bhagavad Gita.

When the wise man knows, that the material sense do not come from the Self, that their rise and fall belong to their own nature, he grieves no more.
Katha Upanishad (Chapter II Section 3 Verse 8)

A Collection Of Teachings From Katha Upanishad

People living in ignorance think themselves to be wise and move about wandering in search of reality like blind men following the blind. Their ignorance is serenely ignorant of it and so assumes the appearance of wisdom.

He who is filled with selfish desires and attracted by worldly possessions becomes subject to the law of karma which leads him from birth to birth and so he is under the control of Yama. (Katha Upanishad I.2.4)

Childish are those who are deluded by the attractions and temptations of the world, and consequently they fail to comprehend the higher truth. To them this world is the only reality: beyond this, nothing exists. One who is convinced of this false belief falls in my trap—the trap of birth and death, again and again.

Perennial joy or passing pleasure. This is the choice one is to make always. Those who are wise recognize this, but not The ignorant.

It is but few who hear about the Self. Fewer still dedicate their lives to its realization.

Wonderful is the one Who speaks about the Self. Rare are they who make it the supreme goal of their lives.

The means for the attainment of the other world does not become revealed to the non-discriminating man who blunders, being befooled by the lure of wealth. One that constantly thinks that there is only this world, and none hereafter, comes under my [death’s] sway again and again.

Youth and beauty vanish, life and wealth vanish, name and fame vanish, even the mountains crumble into dust. Friendship and love vanish. Truth alone abides.

Every sense-activity results in a reaction. Everything is evanescent (that which vanishes like vapor). Enjoyment, misery, luxury, wealth, power, and poverty, even life itself, are all evanescent.

When you have realised what you are—that infinite spirit, deathless, birthless. Him no fire can burn, no instrument kill, no poison hurt.

When all the sense are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not – then is known the highest state of Divinity.

The calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as Yoga. He who attains it is freed from delusion.

This world is full of mystery. This mystery can be unveiled only upon entering the cave of one’s heart. What people call spirituality or spiritual science simply refers to the process of lifting the veils that cover the cave of the heart. Deep in the heart resides the self effulgent light of the soul, the light of absolute truth. Unless we lift all these veils one by one, face the light directly, and become one with the reality that shines eternally, we will continue manufacturing endless questions, and those questions will continue demanding answers.

There are many in the world, who, puffed up with intellectual conceit, believe that they are capable of guiding others. But although they may possess a certain amount of worldly wisdom, they are devoid of deeper understanding; therefore all that they say merely increases doubt and confusion in the minds of those who hear them. Hence they are likened to blind men leading the blind.

The Hereafter does not shine before those who are lacking in the power of discrimination and are easily carried away therefore by the charm of fleeting objects. As children are tempted by toys, so they are tempted by pleasure, power, name and fame. To them these seem the only realities. Being thus attached to perishable things, they come many times under the dominion of death. There is one part of us which must die; there is another part which never dies. When a man can identify himself with his undying nature, which is one with God, then he overcomes death.

He who is without discrimination and whose mind is always uncontrolled – the mind of such a person is unmanageable like the vicious horses of a driver.

The body that is at the command of the Mind sans Buddhi simply follows the dictates of the mind.

The mind which is nothing but the desires, fears, accumulated prejudices has nothing to offer to the Supreme Lord except what it is made of – i.e, thoughts.

No God would accept the fruits offered by the mind because, the fruits of the mind are misery and ignorance, and being the servant of the ego, only the self-promotion. This no God would accept.

Look back to those who lived before and look to those who live now. Like grain the mortal decays and like grain again springs up (is reborn).

All things perish, Truth alone remains.

The good and the pleasant approach man; the wise examines both and discriminates between them; the wise prefers the good to the pleasant, but the foolish man chooses the pleasant through love bodily pleasure.

There are two paths one leading Godward, the other leading to worldly pleasure. He who follows one inevitably goes away from the other; because, like light and darkness they conflict. One leads to the imperishable spiritual realm; the other to the perishable physical realm. The discerning man distinguishing between the two, chooses the Real and Eternal, and he alone attains the highest, while the ignorant man, preferring that which brings him immediate and tangible results, misses the true purpose of his existence.

The soul is not liable to birth nor to death; neither does it take its origin from any other or from itself; hence it is unborn, eternal without reduction and unchangeable; therefore the soul is not injured by the hurt which the boy may receive.

If anyone ready to kill another imagines that he can destroy his soul, and the other thinks that his soul shall suffer destruction, they both know nothing, for neither does it ill  nor is it killed by another.

The soul is the smallest of the small, and greatest of the great. It resides in the heart of all living and nonliving. The soul, although without motion, seems to go to farthest space; and though it reside in the body at rest, yet it seems to move everywhere.

A man cannot know him by learning, if he does not desist from evil, if he does not control his senses, if he does not quieten his mind and if he does not practice meditation.

Ignorance and knowledge lead to different ends. I look upon one who aspires after knowledge.

To the thoughtless youth, deceived by the vanity of earthly possession, the path that leads to the eternal abode is not revealed. This world alone is real; there is no hereafter – thinking thus, he falls again and again, birth after birth, into the jaws of death.

Many do not hear about the Self. Many those that hear about Self do not understand it. Wonderful is he who speaks about it. Intelligent is he who learns of it. Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to understand it.

Having pondered the good and the pleasant, O Nachiketa, you turned away from those desires and objects of desire that are so dear to most people. Unlike many, you did not weigh yourself down with worldly possessions and pleasures.

There is a big difference between ignorance and knowledge. And they lead to two entirely different ends. There is also a vast difference between the knower of truth and the ignorant. I consider you, O Nachiketa, a true seeker of knowledge because that which deludes others does not affect you.

Dwelling in the darkness of ignorance, the ignorant believe themselves to be wise and balance. Like the blind led by the blind, they stagger round and round.

Childish are those who are deluded by the charms and temptations of the world, and consequently they fail to comprehend the higher truth. To them this world is the only reality: beyond this, nothing exists. One who is convinced of this false belief falls in my trap, the trap of birth and death, again and again.

Body Chariot Symbolism in Katha Upanishad

Imagine yourself to be the master of a chariot; your body is the chariot; buddhi (the decision-making faculty and the seat of discrimination) is the charioteer; manas (loosely translated as mind, the deliberative faculty in man that examines the pros and cons of various options) is equivalent to the reins; the sense organs are the horses drawing the chariot; and the sense objects, the road on which the horses move. KathaUpanishad (1.3.3-9)

The ‘I’-buddhi-manas-senses complex is called the enjoyer—the experiencer of pleasure and pain in the ‘misery-go-round’ of life. If the horses are not broken (the senses are not controlled) and the charioteer is asleep (the faculty of discrimination is dull), the chariot does not reach its destination (the goal of human life is not attained). The chariot just follows the horses, possibly straying into a ditch and spelling the master’s death.

Katha Upanishad stresses the need to rein in the horses so that the master could reach his destination. But this reining in needs to be done by the charioteer, who needs to be wide awake all the time; he cannot afford to be sleepy or sloppy. Unbroken horses and a sleeping charioteer can only spell disaster for the master. Controlled senses and a widea wake buddhi help one reach the goal of human life, which is God-realization or Self-realization.

Source – Prabhuda Bharata Magazine – February 2004 and March 2004

Katha Upanishad – Wise words of Nachiketa to his father

I understand, Father, the value of power and wealth. People salute money. Money commands honor. Money can buy comforts and conveniences. But I also know that money breeds vanity. Hunger for money erects walls between us. The more intense this hunger becomes, the higher and thicker the walls. What good is the money that splits apart our family? What good is the money that takes away our love and respect for each other? What good is the money that works against our basic needs of peace and happiness.

I also see money as a source of fear. The more we have, the greater the fear of losing it. How can a person run by fear be happy? Our family is a living example of that. It pains me even more when I see the members of our prestigious family teaching others the lesson of fearlessness, whereas they themselves live under fear.

We are believed to be the upholders of a spiritual tradition, but I see us simply as hypocrites. I do not want to kill my conscience by contributing by contributing to a tradition that I know lacks purity.

Sir Edwin Arnold on Katha Upanishad

The subtle thought, the far-off faith,
The deathless spirit mocking Death,
The close-packed sense, hard to unlock
As diamonds from the mother-rock,
The solemn, brief simplicity,
The insight, fancy, mystery
Of Hindu scriptures all are had
In this divine Upanishad.
Sir Edwin Arnold
(Source: The Secret of Death – Page 1 Introduction section)