Nachiketa goes in search for Death

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Osho relates the story of a young brahmin who angers his father so much with his questions, that he gives him to Death. Once found, Death confesses: “I have never killed anyone!”


In the Upanishads there is a very beautiful story:

An old man, a very rich man, a super-high-caste brahmin, very learned in scriptures, is distributing to other brahmins gifts, because he knows he is going to die soon.

His small son, whose name is Nachiketa, looks at the things that he is distributing. They are all rotten junk; people give these things as gifts.

I have been watching gifts; they go on moving from one hand to another hand. Nobody uses them; they are so useless that the moment you get them you start looking for somebody to give them to.

He had thousands of cows – in those days in India cows were the symbol of richness. How many cows you have – that was your bank balance. But he has chosen the oldest cows, which no longer give milk. And in India an old cow is a burden. You cannot kill it, because it is your mother. It does not give you milk, but you cannot keep your mother starving. That is irreligious.

You will not believe what Manu says in his scripture, which dominates Hindu society even today after five thousand years. It says, “To kill a cow is almost equal to killing one hundred untouchables, the sudras.” The cow is so valuable that if you can kill one hundred sudras – the untouchables, the poor, the poorest of the earth – the crime will be the same. And you can be forgiven by God if you kill one hundred sudras, but you cannot be forgiven if you kill a single cow.

So he was giving old cows to other brahmins and, as that boy was innocent, he could not see the point.

He asked his father, “What are you doing? These people are already poor and starving and you are giving them old cows, which I know perfectly well don’t give any milk. These poor brahmins cannot manage to find themselves two meals a day. How are they going to feed these cows?”

And he was so persistent, again and again that the father became angry. He said, “Be careful, I will give you away too!”

He said, “To whom will you give me?”

In anger, the father said, “I will give you to Death.”

So he waited, while all the brahmins passed. The ceremony of giving things was over and he asked the father, “But death has not come and you were going to give me to death. I will have to go in search of death, because, in a way, in your anger you have already given me to death.”

The father knew … “Where can he search for death?” He said, “Okay, go and search. If you can find him, I will give you …”

The story is very beautiful, although from this point it becomes allegorical.

The little Nachiketa – one of the most beautiful names, as far as seekers are concerned – goes on and on asking everybody where he can find Death. And finally he ends up at the house of Death.

But Death has gone to take a few people, whose time has come.

So he meets the wife. The wife, seeing a high-caste brahmin – and such an innocent child – asks him to come in.

He said, “No, unless Death invites me I will not come in. I will sit outside.” The wife brings food for him, something to drink.

He refuses. He says, “I will fast until Death comes.”

Three days have passed and the wife is very concerned: the little boy has not eaten anything, has not drunk anything.

Finally Death comes and Nachiketa says, “My father has given me to you.”

Death says, “But you are too young. Your time has not come and your father has no right to give you. When your time comes, I will come myself. You took such a long journey, unnecessarily, and then you have been fasting. Even I feel sad for you. What can I do for you? You just tell me – I will allow you three wishes. You can have all the money that you want, you can have a great kingdom if you want, if you have any desire for a beautiful woman, you can have her. Whatever you want, just say and I will do it.”

Nachiketa says, “If I am a king, will you come or not?”

And Death says, “Strange questions you are asking. I will have to come one day finally, whatever you are, whether a king or a beggar.”

He says, “Then there is no point in asking for a kingdom. And certainly death will be the same for the richest man. So there is no point in asking for money. Since you are going to come, I don’t see any point in asking anything of the world. I will ask you only one question: When you come, am I going to die really, or is it just a facade? Am I just going to change bodies like houses? You have to tell me the truth.”

Death is at a loss, because this is his secret. But the promise has been given, so Death says, “It is very difficult for me to answer you, but I have to be truthful to such an innocent inquiry. I have never killed anyone. I have simply changed their old, rotten bodies, their old, rotten minds and given them new bodies. And there are a few who have lived so totally and so consciously that they don’t need to come back into the world as a separate entity. They don’t get another body again. To them I give the whole of existence to disappear into. They will be in this cosmos, not as separate units, but one with the whole…”

And Nachiketa says, “Then there is no problem. I don’t have to be afraid of you. You are just a fiction and nothing else. Those who are unconscious believe you are a reality; those who are conscious know that you are a fiction, just an appearance.”

Osho, Sat Chit Anand, Ch 29, Q 1 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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