The Kathopnishad: A Commentary (Part III)

The Vedic literature talks about the two types of Truth, viz, Absolute Truth and Relative Truth. The latter changes with the change in circumstances but the Absolute Truth never changes.

Dr.Sheeba Rakesh.
“Fools pursue desires outside themselves,
Fall into the snares of widespread death:
But wise men, discerning immortality,
Seek not the stable here among unstable things.”
― Katha Upanishad

It is clearly stated that people who adhere to ritualism only because, they think, that these rituals (of worship etc) will take them to the Absolute Truth are highly mistaken. Knowledge of human relationships, renunciation etc are the actual rituals to propel human life towards the Absolute Truth.

The soul

The soul has been likened to a chariot owner, while the body has been called a chariot; our wisdom or intellect is the driver; our feelings are the reins of the senses that are the horses in this entire comparison…while our desires are the ways trodden upon by these horses. When all of these work together, the human being becomes the ignorant being madly desirous of feeling joys. On the other hand, the truly learned being would know, that life has been given for a purpose, that of integrating one’s faculties of speech, thinking and feeling with the being of wisdom and calm, both within and without. To differentiate between what is real knowledge and what is not; and then further, to shun artifice and embrace the real. Eventually, it is in this course of progression that the soul attains wisdom, greatness and calm.
It is said, that this path of decisive renunciation, in the world offering so much to feed, is not easy. Yet, the all knowing soul proceeds unhindered towards the all pervasive Absolute Truth, with the help of the much ahead thinking and feeling wisdom, finally reaching its destination….a place where there is no touch, no form, no smell, no birth and no death. It is Absolute and Eternal only and only, reaching this place, weans away Life from the clutches of Birth and Death!

The need for introspection

The Kathopnishad tells us that the human soul needs to be introspective, rather “inward looking” instead of seeking pleasures in the outer world/senses. That is how, one reaches immortality.

One must understand that beauty, taste, smell, speech, sex are all powered or “sponsored” by the Supreme power, who has vested in each individual His own spark. All the knowledge of the world about us, comes to us because of His will. S/He and not us, is the ultimate reality. The ambrosia of eternity and freedom lies in understanding that the sweetness of the senses is only transient and slowly killing in nature. One who knows, that the real progression of the human self is in focusing on the never changing constant power, in this Universe, is the one who stands to gain the knowledge of the past, the future and the eternity. No guilt touches such a  soul, because he understands that senses are powerless, it is the soul that lends them power. 

Penance is the penultimate force in this Creation. The Kathopnishad tells us, that any action in its more dynamic form is penance. This dynamism is what is required for creation. The concepts of Absolute Truth and Relative Truth are the results of this dynamic action. The Creation, initially, was in a gaseous state, whereafter there came the fiery state. Life could not have survived in both of these. Then came the aqueous state. Thus, all the creation of the static and the life giving universe, all of this evolution was the result of the penance on the part of the Supreme Being. Evolution gradually resulted in Life. However, the Supreme Being or “Brahma” IS/WAS the life force that existed prior to the will of creation, the penance for it and the five elements, which are nothing but the reflection; the manifestation of His power. The rest though “real” to our eyes, is His play. The human Self should elevate itself to be able to realize this play and the player.


“Yoga” or the communion of the Self with the Super Soul is the easy medium to realize the power operating in the Universe. As the wood carries invisible fire and the womb carries the invisible foetus, similarly the outer scenes are empowered by an inner power, unseen to the eyes. People who realize the existence of this invisible supremacy offer the oblation of their Self and their ego on the altar of renunciation. Unattached with the world, they blaze forth in complete knowledge and get to the ultimate reality in all the ease, shunning difference, embracing equanimity. This nature, about us, with powers like the Sun, the Moon and the planets operate by His will, not of their own. The rule of the Universe is never flouted and it goes to prove that these powers have unanimously agreed to pay their obeisance at the feet of that Supreme Being, who exists within each of us, in the shape of a thumb, as if to say, “a child catches the father by the thumb for protection…similarly when you realize me, you will not have any cause for worry!”

Suffice it to say, that the water from atop a mountain divides itself into various streams but that does not change its source or basic nature. Similarly, humans and rest of the natural life, in all its diversity cannot change its source. The sooner one recognizes it, the better. It is, at the end of the day about choices and company. Just like pure water mixed up with impure water becomes impure, the human self getting lost in sensuality and pleasures stands to lose itself…the only way out is to retain one’s purity….and recognize the source of all life as the ultima thule of life!

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Author`s name Sheeba Rakesh