A determined Nachiketas…

Ankur picks up a twig and places it on the branch of a tree.  There is a breeze and the twig falls down.  He and his friend Kala, the crow were trying to place the twigs on top of the tree to make a nest. It has been three hours since they have started this effort but could not place even one twig on the branch.

“Ankur, see this! see this!” exclaimed Kala.

He had been finally able to place the twig in the right position so that it does not fall.  They quickly started gathering more twigs and started giving the nest a shape.  Finally, by the dusk they were able to complete building the nest.

nest

Rishi had been silently observing this all through the day.  He was amazed by the effort taken by these two little birds to build a nest.

He congratulates the friends…  “Ankur and Kala, Congratulations. You both have done a wonderful job.”

They both smiled in acknowledgment.

“Where is Ankita?  She is not to be seen.  Why did you not call her for help?” asked Rishi.

“She is off to a picnic along with her friends” replied Ankur.

“Oh! I See. Why you did not join her?” asked Rishi.

“I stayed back to help my friend, Kala build the nest.  She wanted to start her family soon.”

“Wow!  This is wonderful.  You remind me of Nachiketas” Rishi expressed happily.

“Nachiketas?  Who is this?”, Ankur enquired.

“He is a small little boy. The hero of Kathopanishad”

“Whaw!  So, he is a young hero.  I would like to know his story” Ankur expressed interest. Rishi started narrating the story.

“Nachiketas is the son of Vajrashravas, a great sage.  Once he performed a great yagna. At the end of the yagna, as is customary, he invites the poor and needy and starts giving away his cows and other wealth. Little Nachiketas was observing all this with great enthusiasm.  He observed that his father is giving away only old clothes, unusable things, old and dry cows retaining with him all the new and healthy ones.  Nachiketas was worried.

nachiketa2

He felt this type of donation would only invite worry and misery to his father.  He somehow mustered courage to question his father. He went and asked him “Whom would you give me away to?”

His father laughed, kissed his son on the forehead, hugged and said “You are my dearest son.  Whom would I give you away to?  You would be always with me.  You don’t worry” said Vajrashravas.

“But father, you are supposed to give away all your possessions.  I am also your possession.  So you need to give me away” Nachiketas insisted.

“Oh! stop this nonsense Nachiketas.  I am not going to give you to anyone” shouted Vajrashravas.

“But father, if you do not give me away how will you get the benefit of performing this Yagna” Nachiketas doesn’t relent.

Vajrashravas was tried with all activities related to Yagna.  He could not be patient with Nachiketas anymore.  He shouts “I would give you away to death and now get away from here”

nachiketa1

Nachiketas is happy that his father has taken the right path by choosing to give him away – his best possession, even though it means pain for Nachiketas.  He was glad that his father had taken the right path instead of a pleasurable one.  He wanted to follow the path of his father – the path of right and proceeds to Yamaloka.”

“This act of yours Ankur, reminded me of Nachiketas. You did not make a choice that is easy and pleasurable – to go with your sister on a holiday, but decided to stay back to help your friend and put in a long day of tiresome work to build the nest.  I admire your perseverance and your friend’s too”

“Thank you Rishi.  But what happens to Nachiketas after that?  Does he reach Yamaloka?  What happens over there” Ankur’s questions won’t stop.

Rishi smiles.  “I know you won’t let go, just like Nachiketas”

He continues with the story… “Nachiketas proceeds to yamaloka. At the entrance of yamaloka he comes to know that Lord Yama has gone out and would take time to be back.  Nachiketas waits near the gate for three days and three nights till Lord Yama arrives. On his arrival, Lord Yama enquires about Nachiketas and was surprised to note the strong will of the little boy.

He felt bad that a small little boy had to wait at his door steps for three days and nights.  After serving him well, he asks Nachiketas to ask for three boons which he would grant in lieu of the three days he had to wait at the gate.

Nachiketa first asks for happiness and wellbeing of his father.  Yama grants him the same.

yama-nachiketa

He then enquires about the fire rituals to be practiced to attain swarga (heaven) and be happy over there. Yama notices that the child is not asking anything for himself.  He is impressed. He then grants to him the second boon by answering Nachiketas’ doubts.

As the third boon, Nachiketas seeks to know about the secret of, ‘what happens after death’. Yama is taken for a shock. He is surprised at the inquisitiveness of such a young child. Wanting to test his determination, Yama says, “Death is a mystery even to the Gods and so cannot explain the same to you. You may ask for any other boon.”

He offers him a very long life, lots of wealth, pleasures, power, etc.  But Nachiketas is intelligent.  He knows that, all these had no value when compared to the knowledge he had sought. As a last attempt, Yama tries offering him the boon to live as long as he wants and the power to rule the entire world.

But Nachiketas insists to know what happens after death.  Convinced of the determination of the young boy to stick to the right path and not get distracted by anything that is less interesting, Yama finally shares the secret to Nachiketas.

Ankur exclaims, “Oh! So twice Nachiketa makes the right choice and on both occasions he sticks to the right decision. What perseverance!  But Rishi, my decision to stay back and help my friend is such a small thing compared to what Nachiketas has done. I think it is inappropriate to compare me with Nachiketas.

Rishi smiles again.  “I agree with you.  I said, you reminded me of Nachiketas.  To make right choices in smaller aspects of life and showing perseverance to follow through the choice, is the first step to develop determination and perseverance, like Nachiketas.

“Whaw! we started loving Nachiketas. Thanks for sharing the story Rishi. We shall strive to emulate him… Ankita should have been back by now from the picnic. Need to catch up with her. Bye! Rishi.”

P.S: Ankur acknowledges and thanks the artists of the images and the internet for making them available on-line…

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