This book is the first critical edition of a comprehensive Sanskrit version of the Nasiketa myth with a full translation into English. The text is composed of several manuscripts belonging to the same branch of the story development and is compared to the printed Sanskrit versions and to some others still in manuscript form.
The introduction presents a short analysis of the religious philosophic ideas conveyed by the Naciketa Story throughout the generations based on the author’s Ph.D. Dissertation. It divides the Naciketa Story Corpus into three patterns and leaves extensive scope for further research literary religious philosophic etc.
Amos Nevo was born in Israel and is living in Jerusalem. He graduated the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Middle Eastern Studies and in philosophy of Education. He served for 30 years as supervisor at the Israeli Ministry of Education both in the Arab and Hebrew sectors. His main field of interest is Advaita Vedanta.
His first encounter with the Naciketa story was in the early 1960’s at the Hebrew University and later on he wrote a thesis about the educational implications of Kathopanisad. His Ph.D. dissertation is about the Naciketa Story on which he also wrote a few articles.
This book is the outcome of my long term relationship with Naciketas. I first encountered Naciketas in the early 1960’s in Dr. T. Gelblum’s course about Kathopanisad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was so intrigued by his story that over the next 30 years I repeatedly returned to it. In 1994 I decided to write a thesis about the educational implications of Kathopanisad and then a Ph.D. dissertation on Naciketas.
Neciketas is the human hero of the Kathopanisad story. The narrative serves as the framework for presenting a new philosophic message the idea of Moksa liberation achieved by spiritual efforts by knowledge Naciketas is a very attractive young boy. Seized with a sudden enigmatic spirit of faith Sraddha he confronts his father trying to save him form the disastrous results of what he considers an erroneous sacrifice. When his father curses him to death he obediently goes to meet Yama the lord of death. Naciketas is easily sympathized with conceived as the innocent victim of his father’s excessive rage. He is attractive also because of his strong personality as a young child he resists Yama’s temptations relinquishing the world’s most desirable pleasure for the sake of spiritual knowledge a model for any seeker of absolute truth.
Neciketas character has undergone many changes in the various versions of the story and so had my attitude towards him. While examining all aspects of Neciketas behavior in the different scriptures my initial fascinated attraction to the poor heroic child has become a more balanced attitude. In the later versions Neciketas is no more a seeker of spiritual truth but rather the representative of Dharma reporting his experiences in Yama’s realm. Moreover in Varadha Purana and even more so in Nasiketopakhyana Neciketas conduct towards his father is portrayed in a way that may arouse a doubt as to his total innocence in the curse scene. Nevertheless the story remains fantastic and fascinating attractive to Hindus and non-Hindus alike to modern scholars and artists as well as to common people.
This presentation of the Nasiketopakhyana is the first academic work dealing comprehensively with all the Sanskrit versions of the Neciketas/Nasiketa story and the first translation into English of a critically edited text based on several manuscripts and printed versions.
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