Katha Upanishad

About 1400BC
A Selection of Verses from Ancient India

An Ancient Model of Inner Man

Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia in the Southern Autumn of 1996


The body of writings from ancient India, known as the Upanishads, were written sometime during the period from 1400BC to 800BC - the sometime relating to various theories which have been outlined in the article on the Rig Veda. The resource links relating to this controvery over the actual dating of Vedic History are also included in this document. The purpose of this article is to present one of the most ancient metaphors concerning the nature of Inner Man, one which is outlined in various forms and guises throughout most of the various religious and mystical records since time immemorial.

In the introduction to the "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966), and which is used for the following translation of selections of the Katha Upanishad, we find written:

The Katha Upanishad narrates a conversation between a sage by the name of Naciketas and Yama, the god of death, in which much concerning the nature of the Inner Nature of Man is presented. The first section of this article deals with the presentation of this Nature of the Inner man as being like the arrangement of a horse-drawn chariot, while the second section of the article provides the background text of the Katha Upanishad from which this instruction is drawn.

It is to this particular ancient model of the Inner World of man that I referred in the abstract submitted to the Arizona University's "Towards a Science of Consciousness - Tucson II - 1966. In every indigenous culture of all the terrestrial lands and in all of the Ages under the sun, there are often found the remnants of a great wealth of knowledge and wisdom concerning their understanding of Nature. In particular, with the ancient Indian culture and literature, there is remarkable illustration that not only did these ancestors have a great understanding of the Outer World but that they indeed possesed extemely developed notions and knowledges concerning the Inner World of Man.

The scattered remnant of writings from the pre-Socratic ancient Greeks, such as those of Thales and Heraclitus, and the record of Pythagoras indicate that the culture of ancient India was quite advanced even before the western world was young. There are very little cross cultural comparisons available from such ancient times, over two and a half millennia ago, however one such account is to be found in a book entitled The Life of Apollonius of Tyana which was first published in 220AD and concerns the journey of the Greek Philospher/Sage Apollonius to the land of India "to converse with the Brahmins" in the time of Jesus Christ. [This "buried" classic - by Philostratus - should be available in any major library].

Perhaps the most apt introduction to the upanishads should be made by Sri Aurobindo (1872 - 1950), and the following extract is from his own collection of Upanishadic translations:

The Katha Upanishad is therefore now presented for your webulous edification.


PRF Brown
BCSLS {Freshwater}
Mountain Man Graphics, Australia

Perhaps in the world today the concept of a chariot is not immediately evident to those who are not familiar with such horse-drawn contrivances, but in the ancient lands of three millenia ago, the reliance upon natural means was implicit. Neverthess, I find it a reasonably clear metaphor concerning the arrangement of the Inner World - one which is not in fact singular and monolithic, but one which relies on the interaction and common management of a number of elemental parts.

In a further article entitled "The Nature of Nature" or The EcoSystem of the Soul, I explore the derivation of a model which uses the earth, the sun and the moon to "stand-in" for the concepts used above in the model of the chariot, for it is clear we are now approaching the Space Age.

The ancients of both the East and West knew that we lived in a natural terrestrial ecosystem in which the elements of nature (earth, water and air) were vital. However the nature of the cosmic environment was not immediately perceivable to the ancient man who walked the miles of the earth, for he invariably believed it to be the center of creation. Thus, with a few notable exceptions, the ancients of the planetary earth/moon system did not derive the actual cosmology of things until after the Dark Ages, and in the western realms. Only at that time was it generically accepted that the sun did not orbit the earth once each day, and that the night sky was not in fact a depthless shroud upon which, without any great conception of distance or of solar-heat, were strung the stars.

Katha Upanishad

Katha Upanishad

Editorial Notation

These ancient texts are an inheritance to the student of life which have been passed down to us in this Age from an earlier age. Although these writings are from a culture which may not be the same as that into which you were born, it is up to the integrity of the student and indeed his lateral thinking ability, to enable the imagination to envisage the ancient life and environment of these ancient times of the Indian SubContinent some three to four thousand years in the past.

As to whether the reader of this document is from the west or from the east is of no regard to the editor, for it is my opinion that it is mandatory that the student of life seek out those teachings and truths, those writings of peace and of great souls, which are in fact "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" for we are talking about a global understanding here, and not one which was designed to be restricted to terrestrial horizons.

Perhaps it was with this thought in mind that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

It has been eloquently stated that "All things are connected", and while everyone knows this it true, the understanding of the connectivity is not immediately apparent to the students of Life. It is my firm belief that in the recorded wisdom of the ancient cultures [and in the new !] there are many many references to the one fundamental and natural understanding of both the Inner and Outer worlds.

Scientific and technological development, in being driven (as with most other endevours) with the reins of commerce, is almost exclusively turned to seek out rewarding results from the Outer World environment, and in doing so, the so-called "Laws of Nature" which have been crystalised from this research are expressed in a typically materialistic sense.

However, I have sound faith in the fact that the future will change thic course of events, and that there will come a time when collaborative research in the fields of the Life Sciences, will commence to engender a less material groundwork for the foundation of their doctrine.

At this time, research will be directed at the reason NOT why and how the apple falls from the appletree, but why and how it made it up there in the first place.

I will conclude by re-quoting one of the verses above which resonates strongly with the simple philosophy of nature expressed - or attempted to be expressed - at this website:

Sun-In-Sky-Image Just as the sun, the eye of all the world,
Is not defiled by the eye's outward blemishes,
So the One Inmost Self of every being
Is not defiled by the suffering of the world,-
[But remains] outside [it].

Further References ...

Vedic History - Resource Documents:

In reference to the controversy surrounding the true & correct History of India:

The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India - By David Frawley

A History of India and Hindu Dharma - A clear outline of the New and the Old Models of Indian History, with very good references, maintained by Ms. Neha K. Desai at the universtiry of Manitoba in Canada.

Ancient India in a New Light - By C.J.S. Wallia, a review of two interesting books: Vedic "Aryans" and the Origins of Civilization by Navaratna Rajaram and David Frawley, World Heritage Press, 1995 and In Search of the Cradle of Civilization by Georg Feuesrstein, Subhash Kak, & David Frawley - Wheaton, Illinois Quest Books, 1995

Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization (c. 3000 B.C.) - A thoroughly researched article by Dr. S. Kalyanaraman of Mylapore, Madras, India which, in the words of the author, has the objective "to promote an understanding of and further researches into delineating the courses of the `lost' Sarasvati river from Siwalik ranges to the Rann of Kutch (sAgara) and to gain deeper insights into an ancient civilization that flourished on the Sarasvati and Indus river valleys circa 3000 BC."

Demise of Aryan Racial/Invasion Theory - A very interesting article retained during November 1995 consisting of a post by Dinesh Agrawal, of the State College, PA, USA which provides excellent references, discussion, bibliography and resource notes for the interested research student. This archive site is worth exploration, and is managed by the Soc.Religion.Hindu Newsgroup.

Further resources on the Upanishads:

Upanishhadic Philosophy An excellently presented resource concerning the philosophy of the Upanishads. "The ideal which the thinkers of the upanishhads pursued, the ideal of man's ultimate beatitude, the perception of the Real in which the religious hunger of the mystic for divine vision and the philosopher's ceaseless quest for Truth are both satisfied, is still our ideal." This site is maintained by Sreedhar Chintalapaty (Sree), from the University of Memphis.

The Mundaka Upanishad - A textual literature reference giving from the Spirit-WWW site

Other Ancient Hindu Writings on the Web

The Vedas: : Outline of the literature known as the Vedas, specifically the Rig Veda.

The Ramayana: : one of the largest epics in the world, comparable to the Illiad and Odyssey.

The Mahabharata: : the largest epic in the history of mankind, and includes the Bhagavad-Gita.

General Information on Hindu WWW Resources

WWWVL: Religions: Hinduism - Part of the World Wide Web Virtual Library - one of the original and well established resource indices and material covering the Hindu Religion.

Global Hindu Electronic Networks: The Hindu Universe - Extensive resource, hosts of the above links for The Ramayana and Mahabharata and other literature available in many formats and languages.

Soc.Religion.Hindu Newsgroup HomePage - Extensive archived resources of articles, posts and other information discussed within this newsgroup for quite some time - host to a number of excellent pages.

Alt.Hindu Newsgroup Home Page - A further set of archived articles, posts and other information gathered from 1994.

There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth,
beyond us all,
beyond the heavens,
beyond the highest,
the very highest heavens.
This is the light that shines in our heart.

- Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7


Katha Upanishad

About 1400BC
A Selection of Verses from Ancient India

An Ancient Model of Inner Man

Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia in the Southern Autumn of 1996