NACHIKETA was the dutiful, obedient son of Rishi Vajasravas. One day his father decided to perform the ‘Viswajit’ sacrifice, which included giving away all his wealth. His son Nachiketa saw his father is giving away gifts (cows) which are of no use to anyone. He was really concerned and trying to dissuade his father, he asks his father to whom will he give away his own son as he is part of his father’s wealth. The father, furious at being interrupted, said without realizing, ‘to death’. Being a dutiful son, Nachiketa repaired to Yama’s world. Yama was away when Nachiketa reached the place. He waited patiently for three nights till Yama returned. When he was informed that a young boy was waiting for him for three days without partaking anything as a guest, Yama was suitably impressed and offered Nachiketa three boons for the three nights he had waited.
After thinking for some moments, Nachiketa asked to be made aware of the Fire sacrifice; for the second boon, he asked his father be freed of anxiety and be a happy man again. Yama readily granted the first two boons. Finally, for his third boon, Nachiketa requests knowledge about what happens after a man leaves his earthly abode. Alarmed, Yama tries hie best to dissuade him with all sorts of earthly pleasures. ‘You can have anything you like,’ Yama said, ‘but this is something even the devas do not know. Don’t ask for this rash answer-ask anything else.’ But Nachiketa was determined to know about the hereafter and would not budge from his place.
Finally, Yama begins telling Nachiketa the secret which even the gods do not know. He tells him the importance of ‘Om’, the most sacred word in the cosmic ethos. Yama explains that after death, those who understood the atman attain true liberation while others go to different lives based on their karma. They are forever trapped in the cycle of samsara, and they continue the endless cycle of birth and death. Nachiketa learns that a person who thinks, understands, and realizes the atman within will never be sorrowful for anything. He is free from birth and death and attains mukti.
Yama expatiates on the Being who remains awake while all sleep or dream, calling him a pure being-the Brahman. He alone is said to be immortal. As the sun, the eye of the world, is not defiled by the impurities of the eye that sees it, the Self of all is untouched by the miseries of the body occupied by it or the miseries of the world.
Nachiketa was greatly enlightened and after receiving Yama’s blessings, he returned to his father, who was overjoyed to have him back.