This is a very interesting book by Eknath Easwaran who was a professor of English literature in India but later emigrated to US. In the US he taught in Uni of California, the spiritual text of ancient Indian scriptures. Upanishads deal with the subject matter of death. Nearly in one thousand BCE when India hardly had any major connections with the rest of the world the sages there were reflecting on various matters of spiritual interest. The major outcome were four books of Vedas and Upanishads are the later part of Vadic text. Death and mortality are discussed in the texts with suggestions that what to focus on in life to set oneself free of the illusion of Maya (magic) of this material world.

Naciketas is a prince who approaches the god of death named Yama seeking knowledge about death and how he should prepare himself for death. Yama then teaches Naciketas several concepts and terms that have spiritual meaning for humans and explains to him that how these concepts relate to human life and the inevitable death. Some concepts for example include Maya, Sansara, Barhamana, Parana and most importantly Karma. The worldly glittering Maya disillusions humans and prompts them to follow desires. Humans keep following desires endlessly ignoring the Karma that the pursuits of desires generate leading to suffering. Acceptance of death, meditating and getting control of ever demanding, desire-pursuing mind is something that can bring unison of a human being with real universe beyond the illusion of Maya.

Elkhart has approached entire text in the form of a cognitive behavioural therapy like approach. He picks on one topic for example the topic of ‘dialogue with death’ or of ‘the journey of self discovery’ and then relates it to the modern human dilemmas that we are expericing in human life (personal and social). He then offers the alternative spiritual explanation of the matter in the light of Upanishad text and encourages the reader/listener to think differently. Mostly it’s all psychological save for some aspects where he gets help from religious dogma which is understandable in view of nature of the subject. Overall it’s a very nice read/listen. There is not a single trace of hatred or discrimination expressed towards anyone. It’s all about owning and loving humanity unconditionally.