Man has always been perplexed with the 'now' and 'hereafter' of his worldly existence. The enigma, called life, with all its attendant uncertainties and everyday strifes and irritants, continues to defy experimental/realistic investigation -- despite all the exciting advances in science. We still age, we still die. We are as mortal as ever. Life remains a mystery. And death remains, in Shakespearean phraseology, "the undis-covered country".
A masterpiece among the writings of its genre, Katha Upanishad attempts to unravel the mystery of death -- though, in its totality, it is an insightful exposition of brahmavidya: Knowledge of the Absolute/Supreme Reality. In a well-devised dialectical situation, the Upanishad shows how a young seeker, calling upon Yama, none other than the God of Death himself, insists on knowing the "secret of all secrets", with specific questions, like: What is death? Why people fear death when they know it to be inevitable? What happens at death? And what, if anything, continues to exist after death, and how? -- the questions which the deity answers, amidst widely-ranged "wisdom teachings". Swami Muni Narayana Prasad here offers a lucid English version of this time-honoured Upanishad, together with exhaustive commentary, the original Sanskrit text and its Roman transliteration.
Written at a time when the profoundly symbolic Vedic yajnas/rituals had degenerated into crass priestcraft, the Katha Upanishad not only has its historical importance, but counts among the landmark writings that have shaped India's heritage of spirituality and philosophic thought.