Vagasravasa, desirous (of heavenly rewards), surrendered
(at a sacrifice) all that he possessed. He had a son
of the name of Nakiketas.
When the (promised) presents were being given (to the
priests), faith entered into the heart of Nakiketas,
who was still a boy, and he thought:
'Unblessed, surely, are the worlds to which a man goes
by giving (as his promised present at a sacrifice) cows
which have drunk water, eaten hay, given their milk,
and are barren.'
He (knowing that his father had promised to give up
all that he possessed, and therefore his son also) said
to his father: 'Dear father, to whom wilt thou give
said it a second and a third time. Then the father replied
shall give thee unto Death.'
father, having once said so, though in haste, had to
be true to his word and to sacrifice his son.)
The son said: 'I go as the first, at the head of many
(who have still to die); I go in the midst of many (who
are now dying). What will be the work of Yama (the ruler
of the departed) which to-day he has to do unto Me?
'Look back how it was with those who came before, look
forward how it will be with those who come hereafter.
A mortal ripens like corn, like corn he springs up again.'
enters into the abode of Yama Vaivasvata, and there
is no one to receive him. Thereupon one of the attendants
of Yama is supposed to say :)
'Fire enters into the houses, when a Brahmana enters
as a guest . That fire is quenched by this peace-offering
;-bring water, O Vaivasvata!
'A Brahmana that dwells in the house of a foolish man
without receiving food to eat, destroys his hopes and
expectations, his possessions, his righteousness, his
sacred and his good deeds, and all his sons and cattle.'
returning to his house after an absence of three nights,
during which time Nakiketas had received no hospitality
from him, says:)
'O Brahmana, as thou, a venerable guest, hast dwelt
in my house three nights without eating, therefore choose
now three boons. Hail to thee! and welfare to me!'
Nakiketas said: 'O Death, as the first of the three
boons I choose that Gautama, my father, be pacified,
kind, and free from anger towards me; and that he may
know me and greet me, when I shall have been dismissed
Yama said: 'Through my favour Auddalaki Aruni, thy father,
will know thee, and be again towards thee as he was
before. He shall sleep peacefully through the night,
and free from anger, after having seen thee freed from
the mouth of death.'
Nakiketas said: 'In the heaven-world there is no fear;
thou art not there, O Death, and no one is afraid on
account of old age. Leaving behind both hunger and thirst,
and out of the reach of sorrow, all rejoice in the world
'Thou knowest, O Death, the fire-sacrifice which leads
us to heaven; tell it to me, for I am full of faith.
Those who live in the heaven-world reach immortality,-this
I ask as my second boon.'
Yama said: 'I tell it thee, learn it from me, and when
thou understandest that fire-sacrifice which leads to
heaven, know, O Nakiketas, that it is the attainment
of the endless worlds, and their firm support, hidden
Yama then told him that fire-sacrifice, the beginning
of all the worldS , and what bricks are required for
the altar, and how many, and how they are to be placed.
And Nakiketas repeated all as it had been told to him.
Then Mrityu, being pleased with him, said again:
The generous, being satisfied, said to him:
give thee now another boon; that fire-sacrifice shall
be named after thee, take also this many coloured chain.'
'He who has three times performed this Nakiketa rite,
and has been united with the three (father, mother,
and teacher), and has performed the three duties (study,
sacrifice, almsgiving) overcomes birth and death. When
he has learnt and understood this fire, which knows
(or makes us know) all that is born of Brahman, which
is venerable and divine, then he obtains everlasting
'He who knows the three Nakiketa fires, and knowing
the three, piles up the Nakiketa sacrifice, he, having
first thrown off the chains of death, rejoices in the
world of heaven, beyond the reach of grief.'
'This, O Nakiketas, is thy fire which leads to heaven,
and which thou hast chosen as thy second boon. That
fire all men will proclaim . Choose now, O Nakiketas,
thy third boon.'
Nakiketas said: 'There is that doubt, when a man is
dead,-some saying, he is; others, he is not. This I
should like to know, taught by thee; this is the third
of my boons.'
Death said: 'On this point even the gods have doubted
formerly; it is not easy to understand. That subject
is subtle. Choose another boon, O Nakiketas, do not
press me, and let me off that boon.'
Nakiketas said: 'On this point even the gods have doubted
indeed, and thou, Death, hast declared it to be not
easy to understand, and another teacher like thee is
not to be found:-surely no other boon is like unto this.'
Death said: 'Choose sons and grandsons who shall live
a hundred years, herds of cattle, elephants, gold, and
horses. Choose the wide abode of the earth, and live
thyself as many harvests as thou desirest.'
'If you can think of any boon equal to that, choose
wealth, and long life. Be (king), Nakiketas, on the
wide earth'. I make thee the enjoyer of all desires.'
'Whatever desires are difficult to attain among mortals,
ask for them according to thy wish;-these fair maidens
with their chariots and musical instruments,-such are
indeed not to be obtained by men,-be waited on by them
whom I give to thee, but do not ask me about dying.'
Nakiketas said: 'These things last till tomorrow, O
Death, for they wear out this vigour of all the senses.
Even the whole of life is short. Keep thou thy horses,
keep dance and song for thyself.'
'No man can be made happy by wealth. Shall we possess
wealth, when we see thee? Shall we live, as long as
thou rulest? Only that boon (which I have chosen) is
to be chosen by me.'
'What mortal, slowly decaying here below, and knowing,
after having approached them, the freedom from decay
enjoyed by the immortals, would delight in a long life,
after he has pondered on the pleasures which arise from
beauty and love?'
'No, that on which there is this doubt, O Death, tell
us what there is in that great Hereafter. Nakiketas
does not choose another boon but that which enters into
the hidden world.'