Chapter 2: The Thirst for the Deathless
Small children stand on chairs near their fathers and say, “I am taller than you!” This is another form of keeping the national flag high. If the father is intelligent he will smile. Otherwise he may feel hurt; he may also stand up high and say that he is taller than the child.
The very search to prove that you are great is childish. But the old people have rationalizations for their childish ideas. They say it in a roundabout way; they don’t say directly, “I am a great man.” That would sound too egoistic. They say, “My country is great.” But why is my country great? - because I have been born in this country, because of me! If I had been born in Pakistan then Pakistan would be the great country. If I had been born in Afghanistan then Afghanistan would be the great country. Wherever I am, that country is great. My religion is great - my scriptures, my Gita, my Purana, my tirthankara, my God, my incarnation - they are the greatest. Behind these facades you become great. This madness is prevalent all over the world, in everybody.
It seems that humanity has not yet become mature. The average mental age of the present humanity is only about ten years old. This is why there have been so many wars, so many stupid incidents. The whole behavior of the world is full of just sheer ignorance.
Just as old people behave childishly, sometimes a child behaves with the dignity and wisdom of an old man. This second possibility is at the core of this story of Nachiketa.
Now we will enter into the sutras.
Of his third wish, Nachiketa said, “There is so much uncertainty about death. Some say that the soul lives on after death and others say it does not. I want to finally understand this through your teaching. This is my third wish.”
This is the search of all the religions. The innermost core of all the religions is focused on this one point: is the death of the body also the death of the man? Does everything die after death or does something remain? This is such a profound question that everything depends on it.
All the values of life, the whole meaning and purpose of life, all dignity, the poetry and the glory of life, everything depends on one thing - whether or not all is finished with the death of the body. If everything ends with the death of the body then there is no meaning in being moral, no meaning in being religious. Then nothing is virtuous and nothing is evil because after death good people dissolve into the earth and bad people also dissolve into the earth. There is no qualitative difference in their bones. There is no difference between the dead body of a thief and that of a saint. And if a thief and a saint both end in the same place, in the dust, they both become the same. Then the differences between their lives were just illusions because death has exposed all the differences as illusory. Whether you were good or bad did not really matter at all.