These days schools, colleges, business houses, corporate, government and public sector organisations religiously arrange elaborate orientation sessions at the start of a new project, semester or term. These sessions aim at making newcomers comfortable with their forthcoming years in the varsity. In other words these assemblies reiterate the message found in Upanishads – Uththishta, Jaagratha, Praapaya Varannibodhita.
This dictum has been beautifully put across in the story of a young boy called Nachiketa. It is said the boy knocked the door of Yama in a bid to fulfil his father’s words who said he would give away his son Nachiketa to the lord of Death in a fit of anger. Yama, generally feared by the mortal world, was pleasantly surprised to see the earnest young man at his doorstep and engaged him in conversation. Yama was even more surprised when the young boy wanted to know about the secret of Death that has been puzzling humankind ever since the beginning of time. Yama tried to talk the boy around and away from his questions. Nachiketa was very clear about his goals. He wanted supreme knowledge hitherto unknown to anyone, including the very gods. Yama was reluctant to disclose the niche knowledge to the boy because he was not very sure if the question rose out of sheer curiosity or was it a genuine thirst for knowledge. Therefore, he tempted Nachiketa with worldly riches like having a hundred noble sons and grandsons who would live to be a hundred years, as many milch cows, elephants, horses, gold, wealth, land or anything else that he fancied. Surprisingly the boy was not tempted by any of them. He refused the worldly bounties of Preyas and opted for Shreyas, which is eternal knowledge. Eventually, Yama felt obliged to satiate the boy’s inquisitiveness.
Vivekananda once said if he had a dozen students like Nachiketa, he could turn the minds of Indians towards exploring themselves and arriving at discovering the Brahman.
At a practical level, spiritual awakening would automatically help people upgrade themselves physically, economically and politically.
It is interesting to note that Vivekananda was actually echoing the Upanishadic concept when he said, “Arise, awake stop not till your goal is reached.”