Sunday 31 August 2014


2014-35    Katha Upahishad : The Story of Nachiketa - The Ideal Student

Nachiketa learning from Yama 
The Katha Upanishad belongs to the Katha saka [branch] of the Krishna Yajur Veda, according to orthodox commentators.  It is the most widely known among all the Upanishads.

This Upanishad consists of two main parts divided into six chapters. In the first chapter, one finds the story of Naciketa and the three boons he got from Yama, the Lord of Death. 

The second chapter mentions the characteristics required of a liberation aspirant and about the path to liberation. 

The third chapter contains the relation between the Jivatma and the Paramatma and the manner in which the Jiva can overcome death successfully. 

Tthe fourth, fifth and sixth chapters reinstate the contents of the earlier chapters in a much authoritative way and also relate about re-birth, the way in which a Yogi should leave his body behind, etc. 

We shall see in this posting, the Story of Nachiketa with which the Katha Upanishad starts, and in the next, two important teachings of the Upanishad.

The Story of Nachiketa, the Ideal Student

Once, long ago, Vajasravasa, desirous of heavenly rewards, gave away all his possessions at the Viswajit Sacrifice. He had a son named Nachiketa who, though only a boy, was full of sraddha [reverential faith] in the scriptures.
Nachiketa thought when the offerings were made: "What merit can one obtain by giving away cows that are too old to give milk?" To help his father understand this, Nachiketa said: "To whom will you offer me?" He asked this again and again. "To death I give you!" said his father in anger.
Nachiketa went to Yama's abode. He waited there for three days and three nights without food, as the Lord of Death was not there. When Yama returned, he granted Nachiketa three boons to atone for the three inhospitable nights he spent at his abode.
Nachiketa asked as the first boon that his father’s anger should be pacified and he should recognize and receive Nachiketa with love, when he was sent back home by Yama. The boon was granted.
As the second boon, Nachiketa wanted Yama to teach him the fire sacrifice that leads to heaven where there is no hunger nor fear of death.  Then the king of death taught Nachiketa in detail how to perform the fire sacrifice that leads to heaven and sustains the world. He added a special boon that it would be called Naciketa sacrifice, thereafter.
Then Nachiketa asked as his third boon that he be taught the truth about death. Yama replied that the secret of death was very subtle and difficult to comprehend. Even the gods of old had doubts on this point.  Yama tried to dissuade Nachiketa from asking this one boon, tempting him with the grant of all the riches of the world and all the pleasures of life. 
Nachiketa replied that all the riches and pleasures were transient.  He wanted to know only about the supreme life after death. Having tested young Nachiketa and found him fit to receive spiritual instruction, Yama, king of death, praised him and taught him the great secret of the Beyond.

Please don't miss to see the following brief and beautiful video on the illuminating story of Nachiketa, worth seeing again and again.

YouTube Video on Katha Upanishad - The Story of Nachiketa [Click Here] 8:35 min

For an accurate, brief and clear audio presentation of the summary of the entire Katha Upanishad, [by Svayam Prakash Sharma] please follow these links:


Sunday 24 August 2014


2014-34  The Star Thrower - Original - Loren Eiseley
Loren Eiseley [1907-1977]
Loren Corey Eiseley [1907-1977] was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher and natural science writer. Eiseley’s worldwide reputation was established mainly through his books such as The Immense Journey [1957], The Firmament of Time [1960], The Unexpected Universe [1969], and All the Strange Hours [1975]. 
Referred to as "the  modern Thoreau," he was a scientist who could "write with poetic sensibility and with a fine sense of wonder and of reverence before the mysteries of life and nature.  "An astonishing breadth of knowledge, infinite capacity for wonder and compassionate interest for everyone and everything in the universe."

The original story of the "The Star Thrower" was written by Loren Eiseley. It was first published in "The Unexpected Universe" [1969] and later republished in a collection of stories that carries its name "The Star Thrower" [1978]. 

In Loren Eiserley's original story, the star thrower is not a boy but a weather beaten man and the visitor who encounters him is the writer, Eiserley, himself. Presented below is a summary of "The Star Thrower", in Eiseley's own words:

"The Star Thrower" - Original - Loren Eiseley
The beaches of Costabel are littered with the debris of life. Along the strip of wet sand that marks the ebbing and flowing of the tide, death walks hugely and in many forms. Even the torn fragments of green sponge yield bits of scrambling life striving to return to the great mother that has nourished and protected them. In the end the sea rejects its offspring. They cannot fight their way home through the surf which casts them repeatedly back upon the shore. The rising sun shrivels the sticky bodies of the unprotected. The sea beach and its endless war are soundless. 

One can see in the hour before dawn on the ebb tide, electric torches bobbing like fireflies along the beach. After a storm one can see the professional shellers hurrying along with bundles of gathered starfish, clutching bags of living shells. Following one such episode I met the star thrower. As soon as the ebb was flowing, I arose and proceeded on my morning walk up the shore. Now and then a stooping figure moved in the gloom or a rain squall swept past me with light pattering steps. There was a faint sense of coming light somewhere behind me in the east.

Soon, the sun behind me was pressing upward at the horizon's rim -- an ominous red glare amidst the tumbling blackness of the clouds. Ahead of me, over the projecting point, a gigantic rainbow of incredible perfection had sprung shimmering into existence. Somewhere toward its foot I discerned a human figure standing. He was gazing fixedly at something in the sand.

Eventually he stooped and flung the object beyond the breaking surf. I labored toward him over half a mile of uncertain footing. By the time I reached him the rainbow had receded ahead of us, but something of its color still ran hastily in many changing lights across his features. He was starting to kneel again.

In a pool of sand and silt a starfish had thrust its arms up stiffly and was holding its body away from the stifling mud. "It's still alive," I ventured. "Yes," he said, and with a quick yet gentle movement he picked up the star and spun it over my head and far out into the sea. It sank in a burst of spume, and the waters roared once more.

"It may live," he said, "if the offshore pull is strong enough." He spoke gently, and across his bronzed worn face the light still came and went in subtly altering colors.

"There are not many come this far," I said, groping in a sudden embarrassment for words. "Do you collect?"

"Only like this," he said softly, gesturing amidst the wreckage of the shore. "And only for the living." He stooped again, oblivious of my curiosity, and skipped another star neatly across the water. "The stars," he said, "throw well. One can help them." He looked full at me with a faint question kindling in his eyes, which seemed to take on the far depths of the sea. 

"I do not collect," I said uncomfortably, the wind beating at my garments. "Neither the living nor the dead. I gave it up a long time ago. Death is the only successful collector." I nodded and walked away, leaving him there upon the dune with the great rainbow ranging up the sky behind him.

I turned as I neared a bend in the coast and saw him toss another star, skimming it skillfully far out over the ravening and tumultuous water. For a moment, in the changing light, the sower appeared magnified, as though casting larger stars upon some greater sea. He had, at any rate, the posture of a god. He is a man, I considered sharply, bringing my thought to rest.

Silently I sought and picked up a still-living star, spinning it far out into the waves.  I spoke once briefly. "I understand," I said. "Call me another thrower." Only then did I allow myself to think, he is not alone any longer. After us there will be others.

To read the full 16-page story of "The Star Thrower" in four parts, click here 
or on the picture below 

Further References on "The Star Thrower:

1]  "The Star Thrower" - A Study Guide by Tony Guetersloh [Click Here] 


Sunday 17 August 2014


2014-33  The Star Thrower - One step towards changing the world
Peter Straube writes in his blog --  "You may have heard this one, but I find that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it every once in a while.  First let me tell you the story, and then we can talk about it."
An elderely man was walking on a deserted beach at dawn.  He saw a youth throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. 

He asked the youth why was he doing it.  The youth replied that the sun was coming up and the tide was going out.  If the starfish were not thrown back, they would die.

"But, the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish" said the elderly man, "How can your efforts ever make any difference?"

The young person listened politely, knelt down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, and said...
"It makes a difference to this one." 


One of the most common reasons we procrastinate is because we see the challenge before us as overwhelming. A good way to counter that is to break the big challenge down to smaller bits and then take them one at a time–like one star at a time.  And to that one star, it can make a world of difference."


You should not miss this wonderful 5-minute video on the Star Thrower Story 
and its lessons on your Star and Vision with Action!

The star thrower story is widely known and is narrated in diverse forms in different countries.  It is repeatedly used in motivational seminars and workshops and on the Internet, often without reference to Eiseley.  What we read here was just one such adaptation.  We shall see the oringal "Star Thrower"  and its uncommon author Loren Eiseley  in the next posting.


Sunday 10 August 2014


2014-32  David Bates' "Speak gently"

David Bates [1809-1870]
David Bates [1809-1870]   was an American poet. He was born at Indian Hill, Ohio, educated in Buffalo and then in a mercantile house in Indianapolis, Indiana. Eventually he rose in the company to be a full member and its buyer, and then settled in Philadelphia. 

He contributed as a man of letters to journals and published a volume of poetry, Eolian, in 1849. Two of his poems, "Speak Gently" and "Childhood" have attained a world-wide reputation; while the former of these, by translation into other languages, has become almost a universal hymn. 

"Speak Gently"  by David Bates

Speak gently! -- It is better far
To rule by love, than fear --
Speak gently -- let not harsh words mar
The good we might do here!

Speak gently! -- Love doth whisper low
The vows that true hearts bind;
And gently Friendship's accents flow;
Affection's voice is kind.

Speak gently to the little child!
Its love be sure to gain;
Teach it in accents soft and mild: --
It may not long remain.

Speak gently to the young, for they
Will have enough to bear --
Pass through this life as best they may,
'T is full of anxious care!

Speak gently to the aged one,
Grieve not the care-worn heart;
The sands of life are nearly run,
Let such in peace depart!

Speak gently, kindly, to the poor;
Let no harsh tone be heard;
They have enough they must endure,
Without an unkind word!

Speak gently to the erring -- know,
They may have toiled in vain;
Perchance unkindness made them so;
Oh, win them back again!

Speak gently! -- He who gave his life
To bend man's stubborn will,
When elements were in fierce strife,
Said to them, 'Peace, be still.'

Speak gently! -- 't is a little thing
Dropped in the heart's deep well;
The good, the joy, which it may bring,
Eternity shall tell. 


David Bates' "Speak Gently" Audio [Click Here] 1:49 min


Sunday 3 August 2014


2014-31 Rudyard Kipling's If---

Rudyard Kipling [1865-1936]
Joseph Rudyard Kipling [1865-1936]In 1896, thirty-one-year-old Rudyard Kipling was an internationally-renowned poet and story-teller when he wrote a poem with a one-word title: "If."  

The poem was inspired by "The Jameson Raid," an 1895 military action in the Boer War in South Africa. Kipling's poem was not published until 1910, when it appeared in Rewards and Fairies, a collection of short stories and verse. 

Almost overnight, the poem was hailed as a magnificent tribute to many of humankind's greatest virtues—staying composed under stress, remaining humble when victorious, never despairing when defeated, and always retaining honor and authenticity.

The well-known Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh claims that Kipling's If is "the essence of the message of The Bhagavad Gita in English."

IF--- by  RudyardKipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

YouTube Audio of IF with text: [Click Here]