Nachiketas, a young student raised in the study of traditional Upanishadic wisdom regarding the nature of reality, offers to be sacrificed by his father who is giving away all his possessions. He is sent to Yama, the god of death, who tests Nachiketas for his qualifications to seek wisdom. He is led eventually by Yama on a gradual path to enlightenment. The story, as related in the Katha Upanishad begins as follows:
Usan, the son of Vajasravas, once gave away all his possessions. He had a son named Nachiketas.
Young as he was, faith took hold of him while the cows were being led away, and he reflected:
“They’ve drunk all their water, eaten all their fodder,
they have been milked dry, they are totally barren –
Joyless are those worlds called,
to which a man goes who gives them as gifts.”
So he asked his father: “Father, to whom will you give me? He repeated it for a second time, and again for a third time. His father yelled at him: “I’ll give you to Death”.
I go as the very first of many
I go as the middlemost of many.
What’s it that Yama must do,
that he will do with me today?
Look ahead! See how they have gone
those who have gone before us!
Look back! So they will go,
those who will come after us.
A mortal man ripens like grain,
and like grain he is born again.