The Story of Nachiketa - Intensity on the Spiritual Path
This Nachiketa and Yama story is from the Upanishads, one of the oldest and most revered Indian scriptures. Sadhguru highlights the essence of the story and explains how it is relevant for a spiritual seeker.
Sadhguru: Nachiketa is supposed to have been the first seeker in the world, maybe the first significant one. One of the Upanishads starts with him. Nachiketa was a small boy. His father took a certain vow to perform a yaga, a sacred ritual where all the material possessions that you have – including your wife, your children, your house, your everything – you have to give it away as dana to all the rishis, the brahmins and the other people. Then you’ll attain to spiritual bliss. This is a device somebody has set up in the tradition.
So a few people take this vow for spiritual attainment. Nachiketa’s father took this vow and he gave away all the sick cows, the useless property and everything that he didn’t want, which was a burden in one way or another, and made a big show of it, but he kept everything else that he really needed, including his two wives and children. Nachiketa saw this and he was very hurt. He saw that his father was not being sincere. His father made a vow that he will give away everything and attain spiritual bliss, but that man is playing tricks like everybody else. So Nachiketa went to his father and started talking about this to him. A small boy about five years of age, physically he was five years of age, but the boy had tremendous maturity.
Nachiketa told his father, “What you have done is not right. If you didn’t want to give away everything, you shouldn’t have taken the vow. Once you took the vow, you better give it away. You have to give away everything. You tell me to whom are you going to give me?” His father got angry, and he said, “I am going to give you to Yama.” Yama is the Lord of Death. So the boy took it very seriously and he prepared himself to go to Yama, and he went. Don’t start thinking in terms of, “How could he have gone, with the body or without the body?” That’s not the point. He went.
Yama was not there. He had gone visiting. He makes house calls. So he had gone visiting. For three days Nachiketa waited. A small boy, without food, without water, he waited at Yama’s doorstep. After three days Yama came back and he saw this little boy totally famished and tired, but fully determined. He was just sitting there not moving. He had not even gone searching for food here or there. He was just sitting there waiting for him. So Yama was very moved by this boy’s determination, waiting for three days without anything. So he said, “It is great you’ve been waiting for three days. What do you want? I’ll grant you three boons. What do you want?”
The first thing Nachiketa said was, “My father is in extreme greed. He wants material possessions right now. So you bless him with all the material possessions that he can have. Let him become a king.” Okay, it was granted. The second boon he asked for was, “I want to know what kind of karmas, what kind of yagas I have to do to attain.” The Vedic literature always talks in terms of yagnas and yagas. The whole literature is like that; everything is in terms of yagas and yagnas. So Yama taught him what he had to do.
Then Nachiketa asked him, “What is the secret of death? What happens after death?” So Yama said, “No, this question you take back. You can ask me anything you want. You ask me for a kingdom, if you want. I’ll give it to you. Riches if you want, I’ll give you. All the pleasures in the world, I’ll give you.” He goes on offering, “What do you want, you tell me; all the pleasures in the world, I’ll give you. You take them but this one question, you withdraw.” Nachiketa says, “What will I do with all of them? You’ve already told me, all these things are transient. I have already understood that all activity, everything people are involved in, is meaningless. Simply it seems to be there. It is not the reality. So what is the point in you giving me more riches? It will just be a trap for me. I don’t want anything, you just answer my question.”
In many ways Yama tried to avoid this question. He said, “Even the gods do not know the answer for this question. I cannot give it to you.” Nachiketa said, “If that is so, if the gods do not know this answer and only you know, then you must definitely give me the answer.” He wouldn’t leave him. So once again Yama left him there and went visiting for months. He just wanted to avoid this boy somehow. He wanted to get rid of him, but the boy just stuck around for many, many months; and they say, right on the doorstep of Yama’s domain, he attained to his full enlightenment. He got the answers for everything he had to know in the existence and dissolved himself. He was the first seeker. And he is always used as the best example. A five-year-old boy with that kind of determination, who didn’t fall for a chocolate or a visit to Disneyland or anything. He wanted that and that’s all it is.
When a person is like that there is no need for a path for him because the end is here itself. It is not on the top of Velliangiri Hills. Only when it is not here, it is on Velliangiri Hills and we have to slowly climb it. When you are like Nachiketa, there is no need for a path for you. It is already here. There is nowhere to go. It is very much here. Now the whole purpose of doing everything that we are doing here is to create the intensity. That craving should become so strong, so powerful, that God cannot stay away, and the Divine cannot avoid you anymore. It is not that the Divine tries to avoid you, but this mind and ego tries to screen the reality from your eyes in so many millions of ways. Millions of tricks are played.
No Intensity, No Transformation
Whether you walk the path of karma, gnana, kriya, or bhakti, it is your intensity which keeps you going, not the path itself. No practices or kriyas will do anything when there is no intensity. In turn, when there is intensity, the practices have the power to move you into a different dimension.
It is not the kriya as such which will transform you – it is your intensity. When you have this intensity, the kriya is a tremendous support that enhances it more and more. That is the whole purpose of doing the practices. Whichever path you walk, by itself, the practice is not going to make you realize anything unless you have intensity.
If you half-heartedly love someone, there is no love. It is either 100% or zero. If you think you can love someone 99%, you have not known love at all. The same goes for any kind of action. If you do not perform your action 100%, it is meaningless. It is not going to produce anything great. At the most, it will earn you food. Unless your action is 100%, it cannot transform you. Unless your kriya is 100%, it cannot transform you. Unless your love is 100%, it cannot transform you. It may be a device to get something, like a barter system, but in existential terms, nothing happens.
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