The Second Boon of Nachiketas: the Teaching of the Celestial Fire

Sri Aurobindo translates Katha Upanishad, First Cycle, First Chapter, Verses 14-16:  “Yama speaks: ‘Hearken to me and understand, O Nachiketas; I declare to thee that heavenly Flame, for I know it.  Know this to be the possession of infinite existence and the foundation and the thing hidden in the secret cave of our being.  Of the Flame that is the world’s beginning (1) he told him and what are the bricks to him and how many and the way of their setting; and Nachiketas too repeated it even as it was told; then Death was pleased and said to him yet farther; Yea, the Great Soul was gratified and said to him, ‘Yet a farther boon today I give them; for even by thy name shall this Fire be called; this necklace also take unto thee, a necklace (2) of many figures.’ ”

(1) “The Divine Force concealed in the subconscient is that which has originated and built up the worlds.  At the other end in the superconscient it reveals itself as the Divine Being, Lord and Knower who has manifested Himself out of the Brahman.”

(2) “The necklace of many figures is Prakriti, creative Nature which comes under the control of the soul that has attained to the divine existence.”

Sri Kapaly Sastry notes:  “{Yama} expounds to him the nature of the Celestial Fire, for he knows it.  He describes it as the possession of infinite existence, the foundation of all things and the thing concealed in the secret cave of our being.”  “{The significance} lies in the fact that the soul which has gained the initial release from the net of the physical consciousness and earth-bound life and has maintained contact with the God, the higher Power administering the Cosmic Law, could through it gain the further knowledge of the Divine Being that presides over the Cosmic constitution of the Universe which begins with Heaven above and rests on Earth at this end.  That Divine Being is called here the celestial Fire …, the source and foundation of world existence.  He is not the Brahman beyond, but born of Brahman, he is the Divine Being Omniscient, resides in Heaven, rules over the Cosmos.  High above and therefore superconscient to us he transcends the earthly nature.  But here, within the mortal human being he is concealed in the secret cave, in the subliminal parts.  By kindling him, by lighting that Fire, hidden in the subconscience and by the proper arrangement of teh various parts and building him in right order in tune with the Cosmic law, he is revealed as the Divine manifested out of the Brahman.  At his revelation the soul attains to a surpassing peace.  Once he is intensely realised, in the three Soul-states, on the three levels (or on the three world-planes of the Vedic order), effecting points of contact in the triple being unified with him (tri-nachiketas), one crosses beyond birth and death.  Therefore when a man has gained access to this triple Nachiketas, the cords of mortality are loosened and drop altogether.”

“To such a soul as attained to the Divine existence the power of Prakriti, creative Nature, comes unasked and falls under its control.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Katha Upanishad, pp. 213-241, and Kapali Sastry, Lights on the Upanishads, pp.  104-129