Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/237

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the Fathers to the moon, whence they return to earth, being born again as men. Others become birds, beasts, and reptiles.

The view of the Kaushītaki Upanishad (i. 2-3) is somewhat different. Here all who die go to the moon, whence some go by the "path of the Fathers" to Brahma, while others return to various forms of earthly existence, ranging from man to worm, according to the quality of their works and the degree of their knowledge.

The Kāṭhaka, one of the most remarkable and beautiful of the Upanishads, treats the question of life after death in the form of a legend. Nachiketas, a young Brahman, visits the realm of Yama, who offers him the choice of three boons. For the third he chooses the answer to the question, whether man exists after death or no. Death replies: "Even the gods have doubted about this; it is a subtle point; choose another boon." After vain efforts to evade the question by offering Nachiketas earthly power and riches, Yama at last yields to his persistence and reveals the secret. Life and death, he explains, are only different phases of development. True knowledge, which consists in recognising the identity of the individual soul with the world soul, raises its possessor beyond the reach of death:—

When every passion vanishes
That nestles in the human heart,
Then man gains immortality,
Then Brahma is obtained by him (vi. 14).

The story of the temptation of Nachiketas to choose the goods of this world in preference to the highest knowledge is probably the prototype of the legend of the temptation of Buddha by Māra or Death. Both by resisting the temptation obtain enlightenment.