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Making the Arguments, Term Paper Example

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The Katha Upanishad comprises a narration that mainly features Yama, and Nachiketa. Therefore, it elicits an ethical position. Yama is the god of death; thus, he is a spiritual being. On the other hand, Nachiketa is a young boy, granted permission to visit Yama by Vajrashravas, his father. At Yama’s place, Nachiketa gives three wishes, referred also known as boon. Nachiketa makes the first two wishes, which Yama does not contest. However, his third wish involves questioning Yama about what happens to the spirit once death occurs.[1] From this third wish, a dialogue ensues between Yama and Nachiketa. The conversation illustrates the ethical position of Katha Upanishad. Ideally, the fundamental claim is that worldly possessions should not receive higher priority than developing the inner self. Shankara’s commentary on the Katha Upanishad claims that a specific relation between senses, the body, and the mind is essential in producing positive outcomes. While referring to the ethical position in Katha Upanishad, this paper will show how Shankara’s commentary is agreeable.

The third wish granted to Nachiketa by Yama holds the fundamental themes that illustrate the ethical position of the story. Nachiketa uses his third wish to ask Yama about the secret of death.[2] Yama is not happy with the third wish from Nachiketa, and he, therefore, dismisses the boy’s questions claiming that not even the gods comprehend the whole truth about death. The values and principles of Nachiketa distinguish him from other people since it appears from his persistence on his third wish. Despite, the god of death not being happy with the boy’s question, he still asks for his request. Nachiketa tells Yama that he cannot ask for another wish since no one else can make him understand death as the god himself, and because ‘there’s no other wish that is equal to it.’[3] Besides that, he still refuses to disclose the secrets of death to Nachiketa.

Yama does not want to disclose the truth about the secrets of death to Nachiketa to a point he offers him other alternatives. The persistence of Nachiketa leads to a different response from Yama since his words and stern warnings do not yield any change on the boy’s third wish. Yama offers Nachiketa the opportunity to disregard his first wish to know the secrets of death and instead use his boon to choose to grow his generation that would live hundreds of years. Yama also promises to give Nachiketa wealth in different forms, such as plenty of livestock, horses, and gold. Besides, Yama he adds that Nachiketa can also ‘choose wealth together with long life.’[4] Nachiketa declines all these offers and instead insists on his initial wish of knowing the truth about death. Yama put Nachiketa on trial to see whether he would change his opinions.[5] Eventually, the god of death agrees to disclose the truth to the young boy.

Yama praises Nachiketa for the persistence on his third wish, where he distinguishes between good and pleasant. According to Yama, good and gratifying are similar because they both make humankind. However, they also exhibit immense differences. Humankind has the opportunity to choose between the two different concepts. However, Yama says that ‘the wise assesses them, note their differences and choose the good over the gratifying.’[6] It also emerges that foolish people choose gratification over good. Through this theme, Yama praises Nachiketa because of not choosing wealth and long life as his third wish, but instead choice indicates him as one who yearns to gain knowledge. Yama explains to Nachiketa that ignorance is the primary reason that makes people think life on earth is the only one. Besides, the god of death suggests that for one to understand the cycle of life and death, various conditions are a requirement, such as an efficient teacher and the will to learn.

Yama describes the ideal ranking of the metaphysical aspects in the universe to Nachiketa. According to Yama, the highest state is the person, followed by unmanifest then immense self. The immense self precedes the intellect, then the mind, senses, and objects, respectively.[7] The ranking follows this order since there is the acknowledgment that this is not the only world, making it essential to focus more on the person rather than senses. The outlook of the self, therefore, varies between different individuals, such as the wise as well as the unwise. The knowledgeable people pursue the inward perspective of the person, and they then discover the inner self. On the other hand, the unwise and ignorant only pursue outward desires without acknowledging the immoral, which leads to death.

Adi Shankara has written a commentary about the Katha Upanishad. Adi Shankara’s analysis of the Katha Upanishad focuses on the theme of the chariots. Using the analogy of the chariots, Adi Shankara illustrates how knowledge and ignorance have varying outcomes.[8] Additionally, she posits that the human body is the same as chariots because it receives directions from senses the way the horses drive the chariots. Similar to Yama’s sentiments while he was addressing the young boy, Adi Shankara also agrees with the fact that knowledge and ignorance are essential in determining outcomes. The primary purpose of using the analogy of the chariots is for providing a more fundamental understanding of how metaphysical components in the universe serve different purposes. Precisely, Adi Shankara differentiated between the user and used as well as the goer and the objective.

The commentary about the Katha Upanishad by Adi Shankara explains the perspective of the essential things in the metaphysical universe. Adi Shankara’s view of the self is that of a universal and Supreme Being, and not the human personality that associates with names and relationships.[9] The self that Adi Shankara addresses is not the limited one to various conditions such as liking and disliking as well as dying. All these components in the metaphysical universe are essential in developing the self that he addresses. Nonetheless, these components work together to build the self. The rider of the chariot, according to Adi Shankara, is the inner self that he describes. The components that include, the body, mind, intellect, as well as the senses, are essential in steering the self. Indisputably, this perspective is right because, as Yama argues, they are higher in ranking compares to objects. Besides, wise people comprise individuals that tend to use these essential components of the metaphysical world.

The commentary about the Katha Upanishad by Adi Shankara claims that knowledge is vital in discovering the self. The use of components prevalent in the metaphysical universe that include the body, mind, intellect as well as the senses distinguishes between the wise and ignorant. Adi Shankara’s claim is similar to that of the god of death in Katha Upanishad, who ranks the self as the highest level and the objects as the lowest.[10] Therefore, it is indeed agreeable that the physical objects cannot reveal the inner self of individuals. Instead, the intellect of the individual is the closest to revealing the inner self, and it is influenced by the mind, which is above senses and objects, respectively. Additionally, focus is a key aspect in life because distractions can result in the failure to reach a person’s intended destination. Just like the horses which guide the chariot, senses are crucial in the body and without them, one is likely to be misled by various distractions in life. Intelligence determines an individual’s rate of success and probability of reaching the destination because it acts as the main controller.

Conclusively, the ethical position in the Katha Upanishad compares to the commentary about the Katha Upanishad by Adi Shankara. The god of death in Katha Upanishad posits that knowledge and ignorance are the ultimate determinants of discovering the self. The reason for this observation is that a body cannot function without senses and it has to rely on the mind’s intelligence. However, most of the people often prioritize pleasant things rather than good and concrete ideals. Resultantly, this causes the death of their inner self. The lack of intelligence makes it difficult to make ethical decisions; thus, it is easier to get distracted while on the journey to heaven. It is vital to understand that one is the rider of his/her body and soul, and has the responsibility of ensuring that the horse remains on the right path and follows the required routes and speed towards the destination. Adi Shankara also posits an agreeable analysis of Katha Upanishad. Besides, his analogy of the chariot and its relation to the self is similar to ethical positions elicited from conversations between the young boy and Yama. Knowledge emerges as a vital contributor to harnessing the components in the metaphysical universe for individuals to realize their inner selves.

 

Bibliography

Kumar, Updesh. Handbook of Suicidal Behaviour. Basingstoke: Springer, 2017.

Olivelle, Patrick. The early Upanishads: Annotated text and translation. Oxford University Press, 1998.

Rosen, Steven J. The Agni and the Ecstasy: Collected Essays of Steven J. Rosen. Budapest: Arktos, 2012.

Swami Krishnananda. “Nachiketas’ Third Boon – The Esoteric Significance of the Katha Upanishad – Chapter 3.” Swami Krishnananda. Last modified 2020. https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/esoteric.katha/esoteric.katha_3.html.

Wisdom Library. “The Katha Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary.” Wisdom Library. Last modified February 16, 2018. https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/katha-upanishad-shankara-bhashya/d/doc145204.html.

[1] Patrick Olivelle, The early Upaniṣads: annotated text and translation (Oxford University Press, 1998), 379.

[2] Steven J. Rosen, The Agni and the Ecstasy: Collected Essays of Steven J. Rosen (Budapest: Arktos, 2012), 62.

[3] Olivelle, The early Upaniṣads, 379.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Swami Krishnananda, “Nachiketas’ Third Boon – The Esoteric Significance of the Katha Upanishad – Chapter 3,” Swami Krishnananda, last modified 2020, https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/esoteric.katha/esoteric.katha_3.html.

[6] Olivelle, The early Upaniṣads, 381.

[7] Olivelle, The early Upaniṣads, 389.

[8] Wisdom Library, “The Katha Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary,” Wisdom Library, last modified February 16, 2018, https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/katha-upanishad-shankara-bhashya/d/doc145204.html.

[9]  Updesh Kumar, Handbook of Suicidal Behaviour (Basingstoke: Springer, 2017), .

[10] Olivelle, The early Upaniṣads, 389.

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