The quality of omnipresence is always linked to the quality of control. So, since Paramatma controls all, he is also omnipresent. Explaining this, Yama Raja says: ‘अणोरणीयान् महतो महीयानात्मास्य जन्तोíनहितो गुहायाम्’ – ‘Anoraniyãn mahato mahiyãnãtmãsya jantornihito guhãyãm’ – ‘This Paramatma is subtler than an atom and pervades and resides even within the atom. Paramatma is greater than the greatest. By his antaryami powers he pervades and resides everywhere’ (Katha Upanishad 2/20).
Yama Raja explains the pervasive quality of Paramatma through various examples. He says: ‘अग्निर्यथैको भुवनं प्रविष्टो रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बभूव। एकस्तथा सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बहिश्र्च॥’ – ‘Agniryathaiko bhuvanam pravishto roopam roopam pratiroopo babhuvaÐ Ekastathã sarvabhootãntarãtma roopam roopam pratiroopo bahishcha – ‘Just as the one fire enters various subjects of the world and appears in those forms, similarly, Paramatma pervades and resides in the entire world’ (Katha Upanishad 5/9).
RESIDENT IN ALL; SEPARATE FROM ALL
By residing in all, the possibility of being affected by that association arises. It is generally experienced that one is affected by that in which one resides. For example, one who falls in water will get wet. Does this not also apply to Paramatma? Paramatma resides in all animate and inanimate things, so does that association affect him? The answer to this question is in the Katha Upanishad.
Yama Raja gives the analogy of the sun and resolves all doubts: सूर्यो यथा सर्वलोकस्य चक्षुर्न लिप्यते चाक्षुषैर्बाह्यदोषैः। एकस्तथा सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा न लिप्यते लोकदुःखेन बाह्यः॥’ – ‘Suryo yathã sarvalokasya chakshurna lipyate chãkshushairbãhyadoshaihi Ekastathã sarvabhootãntarãtmã na lipyate lokdukhena bãhyaha’ – ‘The sun is the eyes of all. Through its rays it enters everyone’s eyes, yet this contact with the eyes does not affect the sun in any way. Similarly, Paramatma is the indweller in all, yet he is not affected at all by miseries of the world’ (Katha Upanishad 5/11).
This is a special attribute of Paramatma in which he resides in all, yet is separate from all.
INDWELLER OF ALL, YET HAS HUMAN FORM
Yama Raja also explains that Paramatma is all pervasive, yet is not formless – nirakar – but is sakar – has a definite form. How does Yama Raja explain this? By using the word purush. Repeatedly in the Katha Upanishad, Yama Raja uses the word पुरुष’ – purusha to refer to Paramatma.
पुरुषः परः’ ‘Purushaha paraha’ (Katha Upanishad 3/11), ‘पुरुषो मध्य आत्मनि’ – ‘Purusho madhye ãtmani (Katha Upanishad 4/12), ‘पुरुषो ज्योतिरिवाऽघूमकः’ – ‘Purusho jyotirivã’dhoomakaha’ (Katha Upanishad 4/13) and so on.
In this way, Yama Raja explains to Nachiketa that Paramatma, the all-pervasive indweller of all is sakar – has a form. And his form is not like an animal or bird or round, oval or square, but he has a human form.
Yama Raja continues to describe Paramatma’s qualities. Paramatma is the doer and cause of all creation.
Yama Raja says: एको वशी सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा एकं बीजं बहुघा करोति यः’ – ‘Eko vashee sarvabhootantarãtmã ekam beejam bahudhã karoti yaha’ – ‘The indweller of all, Paramatma, is the controller of the all creation and merely by the power of his divine wish, Prakruti, which is in a seed form at the time of dissolution, takes countless forms and this visible creation takes form’ (Katha Upanishad 5/12).
One who creates is also the destroyer. Yama Raja, the god of death, himself describes the Great Destroyer. Actually, Yama Raja has a close association with all who die, since all who take birth are destined to die. However, Yama Raja reveals to Nachiketa the truth about where even he has no influence. He says: ‘यस्य ब्रह्म च क्षत्रं च उभे भवत ओदनः। मृत्युर्यस्योपसेचनम्’ – ‘Yasya brahma cha kshatram cha ubhe bhavat odanaha! Mrutyuryasyopasechanam – ‘O Nachiketa! These bodies of the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and other communities and whatever creation you see spread around you is all food for Paramatma; that is, at the time of dissolution Paramatma consumes (destroys) them all’ (Katha Upanishad 2/25).
Also, for Paramatma I, (Death), am ‘upasechanam’. Upasechanam refers to the accompanying items, such as, chutney, sauce, pickles, etc. which add taste to the main food item, such as, dhokla, fafda, etc. Similarly, when Paramatma consumes the countless brahmands and destroys them, Death serves as the accompanying (or subsidiary) item, upasechanam. So, Paramatma consumes even that which is the consumer of others, Death, and hence is the Great Destroyer. Thus, Yama Raja frankly describes Paramatma as the all-doer and destroyer of all. Therefore, Paramatma is the supreme of all entities.
NONE GREATER THAN PARAMATMA
One who is the controller of all, the doer of all and destroyer of all is naturally the supreme among all. Still, Yama Raja felt it necessary to state this fact explicitly. And his presentation of this also brings delight to the mind. Yama Raja says: ‘इन्द्रियेभ्यः परा ह्यर्था अर्थे?यश्र्च परं मनः। मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्बुद्धेरात्मा महान् परः॥ महतः परमव्यक्तम्’ – Indriyebyaha parã hyarthã arthebhyascha param manaha Manasastu parã buddhirudherãtmã mahãn paraha॥ Mahatha paramvyaktam’ – ‘The parchvishays are superior to the indriyas. Superior to the panchvishays is the mind. The buddhi is superior to the mind. The atma is superior to the buddhi. And superior to the buddhi is ‘Avyakta’. And superior to Avyakta is Purush or Purushottam or Paramatma’ (Katha Upanishad 3/10-11). Thus, showing one thing to be superior to be preceding, Yama Raja shows that Paramatma is superior to all.
Now, is there anything superior to Paramatma? To quell any doubts regarding this, Yama Raja says: ‘पुरुषान्न परं किञ्चित्। सा काष्ठा सा परा गतिः।’ ‘Purushãnna param kinchit Sã kãshthã sã parã gatihi – ‘There is nothing superior to this Purushottam or Paramatma. This Paramatma is the supreme of all. Paramatma is the highest attainment’ (Katha Upanishad 3/11). Thus Yama Raja firmly establishes the supremacy of Paramatma.
So far, we have learnt that Paramatma is eternal, the controller of all, all pervasive, separate from all, the all-doer, the destroyer of all and is supreme among all.
Thus, Yama Raja has described the nature of atma and Paramatma to Nachiketa. However, these two are not the only entities described in the Katha Upanishad. So now, he describes another divine entity that is distinct from both atma and Paramatma.
INTRODUCTION OF AKSHARBRAHMAN
One of the discussion points regarding what happens after death is about the existence of a divine place. After shedding its body does a liberated atma roam aimlessly or does it go to a specific location? Is there is a place on this earth where it can go and stay forever?
Nachiketa realized the importance of this point and was eager to get an answer. Yama Raja was also keen and first pledges that he will give the answer. And in the answer, Yama Raja identifies the ‘Aksharbrahman’ entity and clearly its glory so that inquisitive spiritual seekers do not overlook it.
THAT ABODE IS AKSHARBRAHMAN
Yama Raja says: ‘सर्वे वेदा यत्पदमामनन्ति तपांसि सर्वाणि च यद्वदन्ति। यदित्व्छन्तो ब्रह्मचर्यं चरन्ति तत्ते पदं सङ्ग्रहेण ब्रवी?योमित्येतत्॥ एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ब्रह्म एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं परम्। एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ज्ञात्वा यो यदित्व्छति तस्य तत्॥ एतदाल?बनं श्रेष्ठमेतदाल?बनं परम्। एतदाल?बनं ज्ञात्वा ब्रह्मलोके महीयते॥’ – ‘Sarve Vedã yatpadamãmananti tapãnsi sarvãni cha yadvadanti Yadichchhanto brahmacharyam charanti tatte padam sangrahena bravbhyomityetat॥ Etadhyevãksharam Brahma etadhyevãksharam Param Etadhyevãksharam jnãtvã yo yadichchhanti tasya tat॥ Etadãlambanam shresthametadãlambanam param Etadãlambanam jnãtvã brahmaloke maheeyate॥ – ‘That place whose glory is sung in the Vedas – to attain which rishis and munis perform countless varieties of austerities and observe brahmacharya – such a place I will briefly describe to you. It is known by the name ˙, Aum. Nachiketa! That place is known as the eternal entity, ‘Akshar’. So, it is called Akshardham. Also, it is called ‘Brahma’. So, it is also known as Brahmadham. Thus, Aksharbrahman itself exists in the form of this abode. O Child! This Akshardham is the highest place. Those who know Aksharbrahman in this way attain whatever they desire. Also, this Aksharbrahman is the best support. One who knows about this support, that brahmajnani, enjoys the divine bliss of Brahmalok, Akshardham’ (Katha Upanishad 2/15-17).
Why is so much glory of this place sung? Yama Raja says: ‘तद् विष्णोः परमं पदम्’ – ‘Tad Vishnoho paramam padam’ – ‘It is the abode of Paramatma’ (Katha Upanishad 3/9). What is that abode like? Yama Raja says: ‘न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विद्युतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्निः। तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति॥’ – ‘Na tatra suryo bhãti na chandrakãrakam nemã vidyuto bhãnti kuto’yamagnihi Tameva mãntamanubhãti sarvam tasya mãsã sarvamidam vibhãti॥ – ‘In that Akshardham the sun is unable to shine; the moon and stars are unable to shine; this lightning is also unable to shine; so, in this realm, how can an ordinary flame give light. Truly, the sun, moon, stars, lightning and whatever else in this world is luminous, shines because of the luminence of Akshardham. Since, Akshardham is the source of all light’ (Katha Upanishad 5/15).
Thus, Yama Raja praises the Aksharbrahman entity. Nachiketa, too, listens attentively and eagerly to these amazing attributes.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas