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भयादिन्द्रश्च वायुश्च मृतुर्धावति पञ्चम: ||३||

Kathopanishad Chapter 2 valli (shloka/verse) 3


From fear of bramhan fire burns, from fear(of bramhan) the sun shines, from fear Indra, Vayu, Death, and the fifth, run.

What I think 'The fifth' means :

The fifth element here might represent, Akasha (Ether/space) because agni(fire), vayu(air) are explicitly mentioned and from Indra -> varuna (water) is indirectly mentioned and bhoomi (earth) cannot run. So this is what I conclude on basis of omnipotence and importance of akasha element.

I think there is more to the fifth in this verse, so I ask you(reader) to convince and prove(with literature) meaning of "The Fifth".

1 Answer 1


The meaning is much simpler than that: the fifth refers to Death. Here is what the verse says:

From terror of Brahman fire burns, from terror the sun burns, from terror Indra and Vâyu, and Death, as the fifth, run away.

The verse is listing five things: fire, the Sun, Indra, Vayu, and Death. So all it's saying is that Death is the fifth item in the list.

Adi Shankaracharya says the same thing in this excerpt from his commentary on the Katha Upanishad:

How the world lives from fear, of him, is explained. The fire burns from fear of him, the lord of all; the sun shines from fear; from fear, Indra and Wind; and Death, the fifth, runs; for, if Brahman did not exist as controller of the competent protectors of the world, like one with the thunderbolt uplifted in his hand, their well-regulated activity, as that of the servants trembling from fear of the master would not be possible.

By the way, on a side note, in this verse Yama is actually paraphrasing a quote from this chapter of the Taittiriya Upanishad.

  • why is same thing repeated in Taittiriya Upanishad? Adi Shankara's Commentry is awesome! :D thanx for a good commentry
    – Yogi
    Mar 26, 2015 at 12:35
  • 1
    @Creator The Taittiriya Upanishad already existed at the time of Nachiketa, so Yama is just paraphrasing an existing source of wisdom. (Although even the Taittiriya Upanishad introduces it by saying "On this there is also this Sloka", so maybe the Taittiriya Upanishad is quoting an even older source...) By the way, to give you a rough idea of the chronology of the Upanishads, the Isha Upanishad is timeless (because it's part of the Yajur Veda Samhita). Then comes the trio of Brihadaranyaka, Taittiriya, and Chandogya. Mar 26, 2015 at 14:27
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    @Creator In fact, Vyasa's original purpose in composing the Brahma Sutras was to show that the Brihadaranyaka, Taittiriya and Chandogya Upanishads are consistent with one another. In any case, after that comes the Kena Upanishad and then the other Mukhya Upanishads, and then after that the rest of the Upanishads. Mar 26, 2015 at 14:30
  • @Creator By the way, here are Adi Shankaracharya's commentaries on other Upanishads: hinduebooks.blogspot.com/2010/11/… Note that they're written from the perspective of Advaita, so you might want to also read commentaries written from other perspectives, like Visistadvaita. Mar 26, 2015 at 15:14
  • Isha upanishad literally means from Ishan (bramhan) ishwara?? that is why it is considered untouched by human nature??
    – Yogi
    Mar 26, 2015 at 18:26

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