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Kena Upanishad

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The Kena Upanishad (kenopaniṣad), is one of the older, "primary" Upanishads commented upon by Shankara. It is associated with the Samaveda. It figures as number 2 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads.

About the Upanishad

Kenopanishad derives its name from the first word Kena , meaning ‘by whom’. It belongs to the Talavakara Brahmana of Sama Veda and is therefore also referred to as Talavakara Upanishad. It has four sections, the first two in verse and the other two in prose. Adi Shankara who has written commentaries on 12 Upanishads, chose to write two commentaries on Kenopanishad. One is called Kenopanishad Pada Bhashya and the other is Kenopanishad Vakya Bhashya.

Brief Content

The One Power that illumines everything and every one is indivisible. It is the Ear behind the ears, Mind behind the mind, Speech behind speech, Vital Life behind life. The ears cannot hear it; it is what makes the ears hear. The eyes cannot see it; it is what makes the eyes see. You cannot speak about it; it is what makes you speak. The mind cannot imagine it; it is what makes the mind think. It is different from what all we know; yet it is not known either. Those who feel they know Him know Him not. Those who know that anything amenable to the senses is not Brahman, they know it best. When it is known as the innermost witness of all cognitions, whether sensation, perception or thought, then it is known. One who knows thus reaches immortality.

Story part

Once the divines won a victory over the evil forces. The victory must have been credited to the power of the Absolute Brahman. Instead the divines thought it was theirs. Brahman appeared before them in a visible form of a spirit (yaksha) but they did not recognize the Absolute. One by one, Agni the God of fire and Vayu the God of air, came to challenge this new appearance in and tried to show off their powers. The God of Fire could not burn even the straw placed before him. The God of air could not blow even the straw placed before him. Finally Indra the God of all the divines came nearest to that spirit to find out who it is that is presenting these challenges to the divines. And before him stood a highly adorned woman in the name and form of Uma who finally reveals to Indra that the Spirit is the Absolute Brahman.

Final Lesson

This is the truth of Brahman in relation to nature and Man. Whether it is the flash of lightning, or the wink of the eyes or the thinking of the mind, the power that is shown is the power of Brahman. For this reason should a man meditate upon Brahman all the time. The sudden Reality that strikes Man as the power behind everything, must be transformed into a permanent Realization.


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