The Search for a Meaning
The post is not as profound as the title might perhaps suggest. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Wikipedia, indeed carried an explanation of what my name means. Since it was a question that every new person I meet asks me at some point, I am posting the extract here :
Nachiketa (Sanskrit:नचिकेता, IAST: Naciketā) was son of a cowherd of the name Vājashrava, who was offered to Yama to find a place in Heaven by his father. Nachiketa with his wits learnt the wisdom taught by death, found the Brahman and was freed from death.
The story of Nachiketa and Yama is mentioned in Kathopanishada. There was cowherd of the name Vājashrava; desiring a gift from the gods, he made offerings of all he owned. But the kine he had were old, yielding no milk and worthless; not such a might buy the worshipper a place in Heaven. Vājashrava had a son; he would have his father make a worthier offering. To his sire he spoke: “To which god wilt thou offer me?” “To Death I give thee”.
Nachiketa thought: “I shall be neither the first nor last that fares to Yama. yet what will he do with me? It shall be with me as with others. So Nachiketa went his way to death’s wide home, and waited there three days; for Death was on a journey. When Death returned, his servants said: ” A Brahman guest burns like a fire; Nachiketa waits three days unwelcomed; do thou soothe him with an offering of water, for all is lost to him in whose abode a Brahman waits unfed.”
Then Death spoke to Nachiketa: ” Since thou, an honoured guest, hast waited in my house three days unfed, ask of me three boons in return, I shall grant them”. Then first he prayed: ” Grant to my father peace and to know and welcome me when I return.” Yama answered: “Be it so.” Nachiketa asked again: ” In Heaven-world the folk are quit of thee; there is neither hunger, nor eld, nor fear of death. Reveal to me the sacred fire that leads to Heaven.” Then Yama described the sacred fire- what stones for its altar, and how disposed; and Nachiketa said it over, learning the lesson taught by Yama. Yama spoke again: ” I grant thee, furthermore, that this sacred fire be known for ever by thy name; thine is the fire that leads to Heaven, thy second boon.”
Nachiketa asked again: ” The great mystery of what cometh after death; he is, some say; others say, he is no more. This great doubt I ask thee to resolve.” Yama replied: ” Even the gods of old knew not this; this is a matter hard to be learnt; ask me any other boon only ask not of death.” But Nachiketa insisted to resolve mystery after death and no other boon. Yama explained that the goal of sacred wisdom, of goodly works and faith, is Om! This word is Brahman, the supreme. He who doth comprehend this word, whatever he desires is his.
Thus having learnt the wisdom taught by Yama, and finding Brahman, Nachiketa was freed from death.
There is more about the name Nachiket. Nachiket means ‘the Fire’ which is a source of light at the dark hours of day. Nachiket stands as the source of knowledge. He was the only one who is appreciated so much by the god of death the ‘Yama’ that he offered him Greatest Knowledge the ‘Bramha Gyaan’.