Nachiketa was a great scholar. His father wanted to donate everything to everybody and start a fresh life.(sarvasva dana-this is form of vrata which in olden days every able persons confident of their abilities and to reiterate their dependence on notion that everything is given by God and taken away by him at his will,) But while donating one must donate only those which we would like to use ourselves and not those that would be useless to us.
Nachiketa’s Father was about to donate two old sick cows, when Nachiketa objected and advised his father ,”oh my father giving such dana would get you a place in santanik loka which does not have peace ” Father furious at son’s disobedience says” even you are useless to me and i have donated you to Yama ” .
Adhering to Father’s words Nachiketa sets his journey for Yama Loka . Father after having his anger settled ,repents but words are words. Nachiketa after long journey to the land of dead (alive),with his tapobala reaches Yamapuri to the south of Meru. But Yama was not at his residence , his wife Shyamala devi having a Bramhin at the doorstep , rushes to invite him with respect. But Nachiketa refuses to step inside as shastras prohibit entering of a house when the owner is not present. Hence Nachiketa spends next three days fasting, at the doorsteps of Yama.
Yama arrives and having seen a Bramhin lad fully engrossed at his doorstep is immensely pleased ,after feeding him , agrees to grant three boons. Nachiketa asks for Bramha vidya , Yama offers wealth of a golden city ,kingship of a ethereal world and 1000 apsaras to a young boy , he rejects and sticks to learning Bramha vidya,Finally convinced of his capacity ,Yama gives discourse to Nachiketa on Bramha vidya ,what is known as popularly Kathopanishad .
As a second boon Nachiketa preferred to know the different kinds of Karma a man does and their subsequent fruits/effects he experiences in the subsequent births. Yama explains to him the theory of karma in what is known as Karma Vipaka . This is a discourse on
- what are the different kinds of actions a man undertakes.
- How these actions can be classified.
- what are the ramifications of this action.
- How are planets responsible in bringing out this ramifications.
- What are different experiences of soul in different worlds
- why does one take birth in one particular combination of planets
- What are importance of birth in a particular nakshatra as per karma
- Who determines the karma and who keeps record of it .
- what is the process of Vipaka
- How can one come out of this cycle of birth and death after knowing ones Karma and its Vipaka.
Nachiketa as a third boon asks for forgivance to his father’s folly , To which Yama says ,Blessed are the 21 generations of forefathers in which a son like NACHIKETA is born. Nachiketa was an extraordinary lad who had the capacity to face the lord of Death in his own city alive.