Easwaran on the Katha Upanishad: The Razor's Edge

[In 2013, we launched an experimental project sharing mp3 talks, which we described below. The talk referenced here is no longer available, but we'll continue sharing other mp3 talks via the blog in 2014.]

Over the past months we’ve shared two audio talks from Eknath Easwaran on the Katha Upanishad. These talks were given in the 1970s to his close students, mostly YAs at the time. We’re pleased to be able to share a third talk from this series with you!

Easwaran dives right into the Katha Upanishad at the opening of this talk sharing a long excerpt from the third canto, known to many passage meditators as the passage titled “The Razor’s Edge”.

In the secret cave of the heart, two are seated by life’s fountain. The separate ego drinks of the sweet and bitter stuff, liking the sweet, disliking the bitter, while the supreme Self drinks sweet and bitter neither liking this nor disliking that. The ego gropes in darkness, while the Self lives in light. So declare the illumined sages, and the householders who worship the sacred fire in the name of the Lord.

May we light the fire of Nachiketa that burns out the ego, and enables us to pass from fearful fragmentation to fearless fullness in the changeless Whole.


In his commentary on this passage, Easwaran uses a great deal of Sanskrit, reciting short excerpts of the original text and using special Sanskrit terms to explain his points. Don’t let this discourage you! Easwaran will either provide translations, or you’ll find that the context of a word is usually enough to convey its meaning.

This talk also captures much of the spirit of the interaction between Easwaran and his students – he calls them by name, or asks  them to remind him of shared anecdotes to help illustrate a point. Although these in-jokes may not be totally clear to a modern audience, this talk really gives you the feeling of being “in the room”.

As with the other talks, we are very interested to get your feedback on the audio talk.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or by email (young.adults@easwaran.org) on any, or all, of the following questions:

  1. Do you have any observations on the content of the talk that you'd like to share?
  2. Do you have any observations on the audio experience of the talk that you'd like to share?
  3. How might we help you interact with this content better?
  4. Anything else?

We leave you with the last three stanzas of the third canto to inspire you to hit play!

Get up! Wake up! Seek the guidance of an illumined teacher and realize the Self. Sharp like a razor’s edge is the path, the sages say, difficult to traverse.

The supreme Self is beyond name and form, beyond the senses, inexhaustible, without beginning, without end, beyond time, space, and causality, eternal, immutable. Those who realize the Self are forever free from the jaws of death.

The wise, who gain experiential knowledge of this timeless tale of Nachiketa narrated by Death, attain the glory of living in spiritual awareness. Those who, full of devotion, recite this supreme mystery at a spiritual gathering are fit for eternal life. They are indeed fit for eternal life.