Chapter 2: The Thirst for the Deathless
“A man can never be fulfilled through wealth. Now that I have set my eyes on you, I have already attained abundant wealth. As long as your compassion rules there can be no death for me. It is meaningless to ask for those other things. The only wish that is worth asking for is the one that I have already said: the knowledge of the soul.”
“Man is subject to decay and death. Knowing this reality, where is the man living in this world who, after having met you, an immortal and noble being, would continue to long for the beauty of women, for the pleasures of the senses and to yearn for a long life?”
“Oh, Lord of Death, reveal to me the ultimate truth of this most wondrous and otherworldly subject - the destiny of the soul. Man does not know if the soul lives after death. I wish only for this most mysterious knowledge.”
There is one thing to keep in mind about little Nachiketa, only then will we be able to understand his exploration into death: as young as Nachiketa may be, as little as the age of his body may be, the age of his soul is eternal.
No child is just a child. No child is merely like a blank slate: the story of his innumerable lives is recorded in his mind. A child has also been an old man many times. Hence, children also have to be treated with deep reverence.
This body is new, but the consciousness hidden within the body is not new. The age of this world is also the age of this consciousness. Thousands of times this consciousness has been born in bodies and has left them. The pleasures and pains, the problems and comforts of life, the miseries and joys of life, the illusions and realities of life - all this has been experienced by this consciousness.
This is why Nachiketa’s deep search is not puzzling to the Indian mind. But Western thinkers will certainly wonder how such a small boy can raise such profound questions. Christianity, Islam and Judaism, these three religions have been born outside of India; the other important religions have been born in India. The three religions which were born outside of India believe that there is only one birth, one death and that afterwards there is no reincarnation. Hence, according to their conception, children cannot raise such questions and a child cannot contemplate so deeply. According to their understanding such contemplative thoughts are possible only in old age. But this Nachiketa story is not merely a story: many thousands of other children have shown this amount of maturity. In the West there are also many instances of this.