1. ‘The better is one thing, the pleasanter another:
Both bind a man, to different ends.
Of the two, it is well for the one who chooses the better.
The one who chooses the pleasanter fails of his end.
2. ‘When both have examined the better and the pleasanter human course,
The wise one chooses the better over the pleasanter;
The foolish one chooses the pleasanter, for the sake of getting and enjoying.’
3. ‘You, Naciketas, contemplating desires
Both pleasant and pleasant-appearing, have let them go.
You have not taken on this chain made of wealth
Into which many human beings have plunged.’
4. ‘These two are far apart, disparate,
Ignorance and what is called wisdom.
I think Naciketas is a seeker of wisdom:
Many desires have not distracted you.’
5. ‘Living in the midst of ignorance,
Wise in their own view, thinking themselves learned,
The foolish rush about,
Like blind men led by one who is blind.’
6. ‘Intoxicated, deluded by the glamour of riches,
The childish one does not see that he must pass away:
Thinking, This is the world: there is no other,
Again and again he comes into my power.‘
7. ‘What many will not get the change even to hear of,
What many, though hearing, do not know
Wonderful is the speaker of it, skilled the winner of it,
Wonderful the knower of it, taught by skilled one.
8. ‘Through the teaching of an inferior man it cannot easily be known,
Though it be thought about in many ways:
There is no way to it without another’s teaching,
For it is subtler than the subtle, not to be reasoned out.
9. ‘This thought, which cannot be grasped by reasoning,
Yet is easily known when taught by another,
You, my dear, have grasped. How steadfast in truth you are!
May we find another questioner like you!’
10. ‘I know that what is called treasure is impermanent,
That what is constant cannot be got through inconstant means,
So I have built the Naciketa fire:
Through impermanent objects I have won the permanent.’
11. ‘Fulfilment of desire, a firm foundation in the world,
Infinity of power, the further shore of fearlessness,
Greatness of praise, a wide-ranging foundation,
Naciketas, you have seen, and, being wise, have steadfastly let go.