Katopanishad Session 6

Inspirations from Talks by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda

Om Namo bhagavate  vaivasvatAya mrityave brahmavidyAchAryAya nachiketase cha

1.1.20 – The third boon

येयं प्रेते विचिकित्सा मनुष्ये -

ऽस्तीत्येके नायमस्तीति चैके


वराणामेष वरस्तृतीयः २०॥

When a person dies there is a doubt (vichikitsa), some people say there exists something beyond the body (asti) and some say there is nothing (nasti). I would know (vidyAm) this instructed (anushishtah) by you. Of the three boons this is the third boon.

This very doubt suggests something exists beyond this body. This is an age old question which fascinates many and there are many views on it as well.

One view is that there is nothing before the birth of body and nothing remains after death. With death of body all is gone. But this is not a tenable view. Nothing can come from nothing. Something just cannot vanish into nothing.

Also is body alone the person? For we see, that even if body is there, we cannot transact any business with just the body; for example, when one is in sleep. So there is someone, the experiencer, within the body who is conducting this business of knowing, doing, enjoying, etc.

Nachiketas cannot have this doubt because he is already directly present in Yamaloka. It is clear there is a subtle entity, the mid-intellect beyond the body. Besides, there is also a sense of individuality, the ego (ahankara); for the body does not say ‘I am this’.

About whose existence is there a doubt? It can’t be of (gross) body or mind-intellect (subtle body)

Proof & logic of rebirth

Proof: Parapsychology researches this. And some people have near death experiences. So experiences of mind/ individuality independent of the body can be known.

Logic 1: There cannot be effect without cause. This birth must have a cause. We experience so many things for which we do not find any preceding cause with in this birth.

Logic 2: There cannot be cause without effect. In this birth, we do not experience all the results for all the actions that we do. The experiencer cannot be different from doer. So we must somehow enjoy/suffer the consequences.

Logic 3: We see so many varieties in creation, some as plants, animals, humans, born with disability, born in a rich house and so on. What is the reason for these differences? We cannot posit partiality on Ishwara.

Conclusion: So all this is proof that there is a subtle body which is the aggregate of mano-buddhi-ahankarawhich goes from one body to another, to different worlds of experiences according to one’s deep convictions and past actions.

Now, is there anything even after the disappearance/dissolution of mind-intellect and ahankara? That is something we cannot know with our mind-intellect. Our only means of knowledge is direct perception through sense organs. Inference is also based on perception. Now the question is when body, mind and senses are not there, how will we know?

With microscope and telescope we can see very small and very far things but how can we see that which is beyond senses? Where pratyaksha pramAna cannot be used, there comes of use, VedapramAna (Agama or Shruti). Therefore shraddhA for Shruti and Guru is of utmost importance.

The very doubt indicates there must be something. About an existent object that is perceivable there is no doubt. About something totally non-existent also there cannot be any doubt like horns of hare. Sine there is something existent but beyond direct perception the quest goes on from time immemorial.

na pratyakshEna nApi vA anumAnEna nirnaya-vigjnAnam etad

VedAntO nAma Upanishad pramAnamWe don’t need Veda or vedanta pramAnam for telling us perceivable things such as fire is hot or even how to go to moon. But for Self Knowledge that is the only valid source.

But why should we be concerned about it at all? This is the million dollar question. We can just live our life this way. Whether something is or not beyond our body and mind, what difference does it make?

We can just go on like other beings, mosquitoes and bugs and then die. But we are crown of creation. How? Because we want to know what was before and what will be after. Some even try to contact the dead. All this is because ‘We can’t accept death as end of everything’.

If we say, we are not just here to be born and die, we do have a purpose; we want to learn, earn power, money, position and status. From Pauranictimes so many have tried that. Our history show how many kings and emperors came and went. Only cockroaches occupy their palaces now. From Vedic period people even strived to go to heaven.

We feel we are great achievers, self-made. Even if we have achieved great things by fair means, how long can they last?  Why so much struggle then? Even celestial realm is not eternal. Continuously everything is changing /perishing.

So all that we accomplish/experience is bound by time and space. If something is beyond the framework of time/space/objects; beyond cause /effect relationships, then, that will be truly infinite. And if we realize that to be our true nature. Then what will be our realization?

Bhagavan BhashyakAra says etad vigjnAna-adhIno hi parah purushArtha iti| Dependent on this knowledge is our ultimate goal and purpose of human life paramapurushartha. Our fulfilment lies in it alone, therefore we must know. All other accomplishments / worldly success is relative only.

So after death, physical body also remains in some form or other as elements. Subtle body (the transmigrating soul – jIva) also remains. And beyond all this, though beyond our perception, there remains One Truth and that is ME. This truth, my real nature cannot be known without Guru and Vedanta.

Will this knowledge help? What difference does it make? Should I know? If I think myself to be my shadow and identify with it and suppose a truck runs over it and I am affected by it; should I not know I am not the shadow? tarati shOkam Atmavit This Knowledge gives complete freedom from all sorrow and sufferings; helps attain Absolute Bliss which is our nature.

Key takeaways:

  1. There exists a subtle body (mind-intellect-ahankara) beyond this gross body which is the actual doer/experiencer transacting business with outside world.
  2. That this subtle body transmigrates can be known through proof and logical reasoning besides Veda pramAna. 
  3. If something exists beyond subtle body too, it cannot be known through perception or rationalization. 
  4. Something that exists beyond the framework of time/space/objects; it will be truly infinite. 
  5. This Infinite Truth is my real nature and this cannot be known without Guru and Vedanta. 
  6. Our fulfillment lies in this realization alone, therefore we must know. All other accomplishments / worldly success is relative only. 
  7. Since our achievement of goal of human life depends on this Self Knowledge which is beyond our perception and rationalization, we need a Guru to teach Vedanta to give us Atma jnAnam.