Nachiketa is a young man who was said to have such shraddha (unwavering faith) that he was sent, by his father, to be a student of Lord Yama, the King of Death. When Nachiketa arrives at death’s door, he finds no one to welcome him, and so he waits for three days for Yama’s arrival. Death is said to pride himself on his hospitality, and he apologetically offers three wishes to make amends for the three days Nachiketa spent alone.
Nachiketa first wishes to amend the relationship with his father. His great faith had been seen as arrogance, and even though Nachiketa was a sincerely humble and devoted young man, his father had sent him to Yama as a lesson. Death grants the first wish. Nachiketa’s second wish is to learn the fire sacrifice to appease the Gods and gain access to the Heavens. Yama is so impressed with the young man and his devotion that he changes the name of the fire sacrifice to honer his young pupil; it becomes Nachiketa’s sacrifice.
For his third and final wish, Nachiketa asks to learn the secret of immortality. He longs to understand how he can escape the cycle of samsara (life and death and rebirth) in order to attain ever lasting eternity. Yama had not expected Nachiketa to make such a bold request, and he implores him to make a different wish. Yama warns Nachiketa than many of the Gods of old had sought a similar wish, but that all of them failed. This, he warned, would be a challenging task for which Nachiketa would most assuredly need a great teacher. “The path is sharp like a razor and challenging to navigate. Choose women, riches, fame,” implores Yama, “but do not pursue this request. Choose anything else.”
Nachiketa persists in his determination to learn this secret, and this excites Yama. In Nachiketa he sees a great pupil and a wise sadhu. Yama tells Nachiketa that in the beginning, the Eternal Self turned all of his senses outward and in this way created the world of separation. The seeker, in order to learn the truth of eternity, must direct the senses inward. The great seeker, says Death himself, must learn to single pointedly focus upon “the Lord of Love in the heart center”. Only when one has established himself in this Eternal Lord of Love, will one know the secret of immortality.
In this story, Death, the great equalizer, teaches us that we are all ultimately one being. Though we appear separate, we must use our lives to see the love self in all beings. We must, at all times, focus upon the oneness in ourselves and in one another. It is only when we establish ourselves in Oneness, the Lord of Love, the true “one-self”, can we fold back into the infinite. Through meditation, we move beyond the world of words to the world of thoughts, beyond thoughts to pure unadulterated consciousness, to the oneness of all beings. Like taking off a pair of glasses that have been scratched and smudged, through meditation on the love that we all share, we can discover the God we all are.