Kena Upanishad

‘Keneshitam’ or by whom is this directed to and the inevitable answer is that the directive is to ‘Manas’ or the Mind by the Outstanding Instructor Parameshvara Himself. What is the purport and message of the Instruction:- the contents of the Teaching are two folded viz. the Paraa Vidya and Aparaa Vidya. The former Knowledge is intended to ‘Sadyo Mukti’ or of the short term Liberation and Aparaa Vidya aims at Superior Learning to accomplish ‘Krama Mukti’. The Paraa Vidya seeks to overcome desires by of withdrawal of Mind from the pulls and pressures of material desires by way of abstinence and Sacrifices, Charities and such other ‘Karma Kaanda’ or KarmaYoga, while Aparaa Vidya necessarily involves elevated levels of ‘Atma Samskaara’ or purification of mind and focus on Innner Consciousness by the demolition of of the thick blanket of Ignorance and by way of ‘Samyak Drishti’ or Inward Vision as reflected into unification with the Supreme, leading up to the ladder of Krama Mukti. Kena Upanishad has three parts:- 13 verses in the first part composed as a metric poem, 15 prose paragraphs in the second part, and 6 prose paragraphs in the epilogue. These are distributed in four khaṇḍas (खण्ड, sections or volumes). The first Khanda has 8 verses, the second has 5 verses. The third Khanda has 12 paragraphs, while the fourth khanda has the remaining 9 (3 paragraphs of main text and 6 paragraphs of the epilogue). This edition of Kena Upanishad uses English Translation and Shankara’s Commentary from the translation By S. Sitarama Sastri [Kena Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary (1905)].

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Shanti Mantra

॥ केनोपनिषद् ॥

ॐ आप्यायन्तु ममाङ्गानि वाक्प्राणश्चक्षुः

श्रोत्रमथो बलमिन्द्रियाणि च सर्वाणि ।

सर्वं ब्रह्मौपनिषदं

माऽहं ब्रह्म निराकुर्यां मा मा ब्रह्म

निराकरोदनिराकरणमस्त्वनिराकरणं मेऽस्तु ।

तदात्मनि निरते य

उपनिषत्सु धर्मास्ते मयि सन्तु ते मयि सन्तु ।

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

oṃ āpyāyantu mamāṅgāni vākprāṇaśchakṣuḥ

śrotramatho balamindriyāṇi cha sarvāṇi

sarvaṃ brahmaupaniṣadaṃ

māhaṃ brahma nirākuryāṃ mā mā brahma

nigakāgedanirakāraṇamastvanirākaraṇaṃ me'stu

tadātmani nirate ya

upaniṣatsu dharmāste mayi santu te mayi santu

oṃ śāntiḥ | śāntiḥ | śāntiḥ |

Sloka : 1.1

॥ अथ केनोपनिषद्॥

॥अथ प्रथमः खण्डः॥

ॐ केनेषितं पतति प्रेषितं मनः

केन प्राणः प्रथमः प्रैति युक्तः ।

केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति

चक्षुः श्रोत्रं क उ देवो युनक्ति ॥ १॥

oṃ keneṣitaṃ patati preṣitaṃ manaḥ

kena prāṇaḥ prathamaḥ praiti yuktaḥ |

keneṣitāṃ vācamimāṃ vadanti

cakṣuḥ śrotraṃ ka u devo yunakti || 1 ||

By whom willed and directed does the mind light on its subjects? By whom commanded does prana, the first, move? By whose will do men speak this speech? What Intelligence directs the eye and the ear?

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘Kena,’ ‘by what agent ‘Ishitam,’ ‘desired or directed.’ ‘Patati,’ ‘goes,’ i.e., ‘goes towards its objects.’ As the root Ish cannot he here taken in the sense of ‘repeat’ or ‘go,’ it must be understood to he used in the sense of ‘wish.’ The It suffix in Ishitam is a case of Vedic license. The word Preshitam is derived from the same root, with pra before it, when it means ‘direct.’ If the word Preshitam were alone used without the word Ishitam, questions as to the nature of the director and direction might arise, such as, by what sort of a director and by what sort of direction. But the use of the word Ishitam sets these two questions at rest, for then the meaning clearly is:- “By whose mere wish is it directed, etc.” It may be objected, that if this meaning were what was intended to ho conveyed, the use of the word Preshitam is rendered superfluous, as the meaning intended is conveyed by Ishitam alone. It may he also objected that as the use of more words should convey more meaning, it is only reasonable to interpret the text as meaning ‘By what is it directed, by mere will, by act or by word?’ Both these objections are unsound. From the mere fact of the question having been asked, it is apparent that the question is asked by one who is disgusted with the ephemeral conglomeration of causes and effects, such as the body, etc., and who seeks to know something other than that—something unchangeable and eternal. Were it otherwise, the question itself, seeing how notorious in the world is the fact that the body directs by means of will, act or word, would be meaningless. If it be objected that even on this view there is nothing gained in the sense, by the use of the word Preshitam, we say no. The word Preshitam adds to the sense when we think that a questioner really entertains a doubt. To show that the question is prompted by a doubt in the questioner’s mind, as to whether, as is notorious, the body—the collection of causes and effects—directs the mind, etc., or whether the mind, etc., is directed by the mere will of anything other than these combinations of causes and effects and acting independently, the use of both the words Ishitam and Preshitam is justifiable. If. however, it lie urged that the mind itself, as every body knows, independently lights on its own object, and that the question is itself irrelevant, the argument is untenable. If the mind were independent in the pursuit of its objects or in desisting from pursuit, then it is not possible for any one to contemplate evil; but man, conscious of evil results, wills evil, and the mind though dissuaded, attempts deeds of serious evil consequences. Therefore the question Keneshitam, etc., is certainly appropriate. By whom directed does Prana go, i.e., about its own business? Prathama is an appropriate adjective of Prana, as the activity of all the sensory organs presupposes it. By whom prompted is the speech which men in the world make use of? And what Intelligence directs the eye and the ear towards their respective objects?

Translation By Max Müller

1. THE Pupil asks:- 'At whose wish does the mind sent forth proceed on its errand? At whose command does the first breath go forth? At whose wish do we utter this speech? What god directs the eye, or the ear?'

Sloka : 1.2

श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद्

वाचो ह वाचं स उ प्राणस्य प्राणः ।

चक्षुषश्चक्षुरतिमुच्य धीराः

प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादमृता भवन्ति ॥ २॥

śrotrasya śrotraṃ manaso mano yad

vāco ha vācaṃ sa u prāṇasya prāṇa |

ścakṣuṣaścakṣuḥ atimucya dhīrāḥ

pretyāsmāllokādamṛtā bhavanti || 2 ||

It is the ear of the ear, mind of the mind, tongue of the tongue, and also life of the life and eye of the eye. Being disabused of the false notion, the wise, having left this body, become immortal.

Commentary of Shankara

Com.—To the worthy (disciple) who had thus questioned him, the preceptor in reply says:- “Hear what you ask for—what intelligent Being directs the mind and the other senses towards their respective objects, and how it directs them.” Ear is that by which one hears, i.e., the sense whose function is to hear sounds and distinguish them. He, you asked for, is the ear of that. May it not be objected that while the reply ought to run in the form, ‘So-and-so, with such-and-such attributes, directs the ear, etc.,’ the reply in the form ‘He is the ear of the ear, etc.,’ is inappropriate? This is no objection; for he (the director) cannot otherwise be particularized. If the director of the ear, etc., can be known by any activity of his own, independent of the activity of the ear, etc., as a person who directs another to give, then, indeed, would this form of answer become inappropriate. But we do not here understand a director of the ear, etc., having any activity of his own, like a mower. The director is inferred by logical necessity from the activity manifested by the ear and others combined, such as deliberation, volition, determination enuring for the benefit of something distinct from them all (the ear, etc.). As things combined necessarily exist for the use of some other thing not so combined, we argue that there is a director of the ear, etc., distinct from the ear, etc., and for whose use the whole lot—the ear, etc.,—exists in the same manner as a house exists for somebody’s use. Hence the reply ‘It is the ear of the ear, etc.,’ is certainly appropriate. Again it is asked what is the meaning of the expression:- “It is the ear of the ear, etc.” And it is said that one ear does not want another, just as one light needs not another. This objection has no force. The meaning here is this. The ear has been found capable of perceiving objects and this capability of the ear depends upon the intelligence of the Atman, bright, eternal, intact, all-pervading. Therefore the expression ‘It is the ear of the ear, etc.,’ is correct. To the same effect also, the Srutis say, “He shines by his own brightness.” “By his light is all this Universe illumined.” “By that light illumined, does the sun shine, etc.,” and so on. The Bhagavad Gita says “As the light in the sun illumines the whole world, so does the Atman (Kshetri) O Bharata! illumine all the body (Kshetrum).” The Katha also says, “He is the eternal among the non-eternal and the intelligence among the intelligent.” The ‘ear, etc.,’ have been by all confounded with the Atman and this false notion is here dispelled. The reply of the precepter:- there is something indescribable, cognisable only by the intelligence of the wise, occupying the deepest interior of all, unchangeable, undecaying, immortal, fearless, unborn and ‘the ear of the ear, etc.’—the source of all their functional capacity, is appropriate and the meaning also. Similarly it is the mind of the mind. It is evident that the mind, if not illumined by the bright intelligence within, will he incapable of performing its functions of volition, determination, etc. It is, therefore, said that it is the mind of the mind. Both the conditioned intelligence and mind are together contemplated by the word ‘mind’ in the text. The word yat in ‘Yadvâchôhavâcham’ means ‘because’ and should he read along with the words Srôtra (ear), manah (mind), etc., thus:- ‘because it is the ear of the ear,’ ‘because it is the mind of the mind,’ etc. The objective case (vâcham) in ‘Vâchôhavacham'’ should he converted into the nominative case, for we next read ‘Prânasyaprânah.’ It may be said that conformably to the expression ‘Vâchôhavacham’ the following ‘Pranasya-pranah’ may as well be read as ‘Pranasyapranam.’ It cannot be, for conformity to the majority is desirable. So ‘vacham, should be read as ‘vak’ in conformity to ‘Sah’ and ‘Pranah,’ in ‘Sa?u?pranasya-pranah.’ because it then conforms with two words and conformity to the majority is preferred. Besides, the substance asked about can be best denoted by a noun in the nominative case. The substance asked about by you is the prana of prana, i.e., it is that substance which endows prana, with the capacity to discharge its functions, i.e., to infuse activity; for there can possibly be no activity where the Atman does not preside. “Who could live and breathe if there were not the self-luminous Brahman and “He leads Prana up and Apana down” say the Srutis. It will also be said in this Upanishad, “You know that to be the Brahman which infuses activity into Prana.” It may lie said that, in a context speaking of the ear and other senses, the mention of Breath would be more appropriate than that of Prana. Truly so; but in the use of the word Prana. breath is meant to be included. The Sruti thinks thus:—the gist of this portion is that that is Brahman for whose use the aggregation of the senses exerts its combined activity. Similarly it is the eye of the eye, &c. The capacity of the eye to perceive form is found only where the intelligence of the Atman directs it. Therefore it is the eye of the eye. After this expression in the text, the expression ‘having understood the Brahman as above defined, i.e., as the ear of the ear, &c.,’ must he supplied by the reader, as the questioner should be supposed to be anxious to know what he asked about. Another reason why the expression should be supplied is the enunciation of the result ‘they become immortal;’ for it is only by wisdom that immortality is attained and it is only by knowledge one can attain emancipation. Having given up all the sensory organs; (It is by confounding the ear and other sensory organs with the Atman that man is born subject to these conditions, dies and thus rotates) means ‘having learnt that the Atman is the Brahman defined as the ear of the ear, &c.’ Atimuchya means ‘having given up the false notion that the ear, &c., is the Atman; for, without the aid of the highest intelligence, it is impossible for one to give up the notion that the ear, &c., is the Atman. ‘Pretya’ means ‘having turned away’, ‘Asmallokat’ means ‘from this world’, where the talk is always of ‘my son,’ ‘my wife,’ ‘my kith and kin.’ The drift is ‘having renounced all desires.’ ‘Become immortal’ means ‘enjoy immunity from death.’ The Srutis also say “Not by deeds, not by offspring, not by wealth, but by renunciation did some attain immortality”; “The senses were made to perceive only external objects;” “Having turned his senses inwards for desire of immortality”; “When all desires are driven forth, here they attain the Brahman” &c. Or, seeing that the word Atimuchya necessarily implies ‘renunciation of all desires,’ the expression ‘Asmallokat pretya” may be interpreted as ‘having left this mortal body.’

Translation By Max Müller

2. The Teacher replies:- 'It is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of speech, the breath of breath, and the eye of the eye. When freed (from the senses) the wise, on departing from this world, become immortal [1].


1. This verse admits of various translations, and still more various explanations. Instead of taking vâkam, like all the other words, as a nominative, we might take them all as accusatives, governed by atimukya, and sa u prânasya prânah as a parenthetical sentence. What is meant by the ear of the ear is very fully explained by the commentator, but the simplest acceptation would seem to take it as an answer to the preceding questions, so that the car of the ear should be taken for him who directs the ear, i. e. the Self, or Brahman. This will become clearer as we proceed.

Sloka : 1.3

न तत्र चक्षुर्गच्छति न वाग्गच्छति नो मनः ।

न विद्मो न विजानीमो यथैतदनुशिष्यात् ॥ ३॥

अन्यदेव तद्विदितादथो अविदितादधि ।

इति शुश्रुम पूर्वेषां ये नस्तद्व्याचचक्षिरे ॥

na tatra cakṣurgacchati na vāggacchati no mano

na vidmo na vijānīmo yathaitadanuśiṣyād

anyadeva tadviditādatho aviditādadhi

iti śuśruma pūrveṣāṃ ye nastadvyācacakṣire || 3 ||

The eye does not go there, nor speech, nor mind. We do not know That. We do not know how to instruct one about It. It is distinct from the known and above the unknown. We have heard it so stated by preceptors who taught us that.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—For the reason that the Brahman is the ear of the ear, i.e., the Atman of all. the eye cannot go to the Brahman; for it is not possible to go to one’s own self. Similarly speech does not go there. When a word spoken by the mouth enlightens the object denoted by it, then the word is said to go to that object. But the Atman of that word and of the organ that utters it is the Brahman. So the word does not go there. Just as fire that burns and enlightens things does not either enlighten or burn itself, so the mind, which wills and determines in respect of external objects, cannot will or determine in respect of its self, because its Atman is also the Brahman. A thing is cognised by the senses and the mind. We do not, therefore, know the Brahman, because it cannot be an object of perception to these; and we do not, therefore, know what the Brahman is like, so as to allow us to enlighten the disciple about the Brahman. Whatever can be perceived by the senses, it is possible to explain to others by epithets denoting its class, its attributes and modes of activity; but the Brahman has no attributes of class, etc. It, therefore, follows that it is not possible to make the disciple believe in the Brahman by instruction. The portion of the text beginning with ‘Navidmah’ (we do not know) shows the necessity of putting forth great exertion in the matter of giving instruction and understanding it, in respect of the Brahman. Considering that the previous portion of the text leads to the conclusion that it is impossible by any means to instruct one about the Atman, the following exceptional mode is pointed out. Indeed it is true that one cannot be persuaded to believe in the Brahman by the evidence of the senses and other inodes of proof; but it is possible to make him believe by the aid of Agamas (Scriptures). Therefore the preceptor recites Agamas for the purpose of teaching about the Brahman and says:- ‘It is something distinct from the known and something beyond the unknown, etc.’ ‘Anyat,’ ‘something distinct’; ‘Tat,’ ‘the present theme i.e., that which has been defined to be the ear of the ear, etc., and beyond their (ear. eye, etc.,) reach. That is certainly distinct from the known. ‘The known,’ means ‘whatever is the object of special knowledge;’ and as all such objects can be known somewhere, to some extent and by some one and so forth, the whole (manifested universe) is meant by the term ‘the known;’ the drift is, that the Brahman is distinct from this. But lest the Brahnan should be confounded with the unknown, the text says:- ‘It is beyond the Unknown.’ ‘Aviditat’ means ‘something opposed to the known;’ hence, unmanitested illusion (avidya) the seed of all manifestation. ‘Adhi’ literally means ‘above’ but is here used in the derivative sense of ‘something different from for, it is well known that one thing placed above another is something distinct from that other. Whatever is known is little, mortal and full of misery and, therefore, fit to be abandoned. Therefore when it is said that Brahman is distinct from the Known, it is clear that it is not to be abandoned. Similarly, when the Brahman is said to be distinct from the Unknown it is in effect said that the Brahman is not fit to be taken. It is to produce an effect that one seeks for a cause. Therefore there can be nothing distinct from the knower, which the knower could seek for, with any benefit. Thus, by saying that the Brahman is distinct from both the Known and the Unknown and thus disproving its fitness to be abandoned or to be taken, the desire of the disciple to know anything distinct from Self (Atman) is checked. For, it is clear that none other than one’s Atman can be distinct from both the Known and the Unknown; the purport of the text is that the Atman is Brahman. The Srutis also say:- “This Atman is Brahman:” “this Atman who is untouched by sin.” “This is the known and the unknown Brahman;” “This Atman is within all;” etc. The preceptor next says how this meaning of the text, that the Atman of all, marked by no distinguishing attributes, bright and intelligent, is the Brahman, has been traditionally handed down from preceptor to disciple. And Brahman can he known only by instruction from preceptors and not by logical disquisitions, nor by expositions, intelligence, great learning, penance or sacrifices, etc. We have beard this saying of the preceptors who clearly taught us the Brahman.

Translation By Max Müller

3. 'The eye does not go thither, nor speech, nor mind. We do not know, we do not understand, how any one can teach it. 4. 'It is different from the known, it is also above the unknown, thus we have heard from those of old, who taught us this [1].


1. Cf. Îsa Up. II; 13.

Sloka : 1.4

यद्वाचाऽनभ्युदितं येन वागभ्युद्यते ।

तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ५॥

yadvācānabhyuditaṃ yena vāgabhyudyate |

tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 4 ||

What speech does not enlighten, but what enlightens speech, know that alone to be the Brahman, not this which (people) here worship.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—When by the text “It is something distinct from both the known and the unknown,” the preceptor conveyed that the Atman is Brahman, the disciple doubted how the Atman could be Brahman. The Atman, as is well known, being entitled to perform Karma and worship (of the gods) and being subject to births and re-births seeks to attain Brahma or other Devas, or heaven, by means of Karma or worship. Therefore, somebody other than the Atman, such as Vishnu, Isvara, Indra or Prana, entitled to be worshipped, may well be Brahman; but the Atman, can never be; for it is contrary to popular belief. Just as logicians contend that the Atman is distinct from Isvara, so the votaries of Karma worship Devas, other than the Atman, saying:- ‘Propitiate this Deva by sacrifice’ and ‘Propitiate that Deva by sacrifice.’ Therefore it is only reasonable that what is known and entitled to worship is Brahman and that the worshipper is other than that. The preceptor inferred this doubt running in the disciple’s mind either from his looks or from his words and said:- ‘Do not doubt thus.’ Yat means ‘that which is intelligence itself.’ Vale is the organ presided over by Agni (Fire) occupying eight localities in the body, such as the root of the tongue, &c. The letters are intended to express the meaning to be conveyed and are subject to laws as to their number and order. The word which is produced by them is called Vak (speech.) The Sruti says “The letter a is all speech, which being produced by the use of letters, divided into sparsa, antastha and ushma becomes diverse and assumes many forms.” The Rik, Yajur, Sama and truth and falsehood are its modifications. By such speech, enclosed in words and conditioned by the organ of speech, Brahman is not illumined or explained. ‘Yena,’ ‘by the Brahman.’ Brahman by its brightness illumines speech, and its organ. It has been said here that, That (Brahman) is the speech of speech. The Vajasaneyaka says ‘Brahman is within the speech and directs it.’ Having said ‘Speech in man is the same as that in the letters and that some Brahmin knows it,’ the Upanishad, in answer to a question anticipated, says “That is speech, by which one speaks in dreams.” The speakers power of speech is eternal, and is by nature of the same essence as Intelligence. The power of speech of the speaker knows no decay. So says the Sruti. Know this Atman to be the Brahman, unsurpassable, known as Bhuma. Brahman, because it is big, all-pervading; know this through its conditions of speech, etc. The following expressions ‘speech of speech,’‘eye of the eye,’ ‘ear of the ear,’ ‘mind of the mind,’ ‘doer,’ ‘enjoyer,’ ‘knower,’ ‘controller,’ ‘governor,’ ‘Brahman is knowledge and bliss,’ etc., are used in popular language of the unspeakable Brahman, devoid of attributes, highest of all, unchangeable. Disregarding these, know the Atman itself to be the unconditioned Brahman. This is the meaning. Brahman is not what people here worship, such as Isvara, which is not the Atman, and which is conditioned and referred to as ‘this.’ Though it had been said ‘know That to be Brahman,’ still it is again said:- “and not this, etc.,” thus repeating the idea that what is not Atman is not Brahman. This is either to lay down a Niyama (a rule restricting the choice to a stated alternative when several others are (possible) or for Parisankhyana (exclusion).

Translation By Max Müller

5. 'That which is not expressed by speech and by which speech is expressed, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

Sloka : 1.5

यन्मनसा न मनुते येनाहुर्मनो मतम् ।

तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ६॥

yanmanasā na manute yenāhurmano matam |

tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 5 ||

What one cannot think with the mind, but by which they say the mind is made to think, know That alone to be the Brahman, not this which (people) here worship.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘Manah,’ ‘mind.’ By the word ‘Manah’ here, both mind and intelligence are meant. ‘Mauah’ means ‘that by which one thinks.’ The mind is equally connected with all the sensory organs, because its sphere includes all external objects. The Sruti says:- ‘Desire, volition, deliberation, faith, negligence, boldness, timidity, shame, intelligence, fear, all these are mind.’ The modes of activity of the mind are desire, etc. By that mind, none wills or determines that intelligence which enlightens the mind, because as enlightener of the mind, that is the mind’s controller, the Atman being in the interior of everything, the mind cannot go there. The capacity of the mind to think exists, because it is enlightened by the intelligence shining within, and it is by that, that the mind is capable of activity. Those who know the Brahman say that the mind is pervaded by the Brahman. Therefore know that to be the Brahman which is the Atman, the interior intelligence of the mind. ‘Nedam, etc.,’ has already been explained in the commentary on the last verse.

Translation By Max Müller

6. 'That which does not think by mind, and by which, they say, mind is thought [1], that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

Sloka : 1.6

यच्चक्षुषा न पश्यति येन चक्षूँषि पश्यति ।

तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ७॥

yaccakṣuṣā na paśyati yena cakṣūm̐ṣi paśyati |

tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 6 ||

What cannot be seen by the eye, but by which the eyes are able to see. That alone know thou to be the Brahman; not this which (people) here worship.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘See’ means ‘perceive as an object.’ By the light of the Atman, connected with the activities of the mind, man perceives the activity of the eye, varying with the activity of the mind.

Translation By Max Müller

7. 'That which does not see by the eye, and by which one sees (the work of) the eyes, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.


1. The varia lectio manaso matam (supported also by the commentary) is metrically and grammatically easier, but it may be, for that very reason, an emendation.

Sloka : 1.7

यच्छ्रोत्रेण न शृणोति येन श्रोत्रमिदं श्रुतम् ।

तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ८॥

yacchrotreṇa na śṛṇoti yena śrotramim̐śrutam |

tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 7 ||

What cannot be heard with the ear, but by which the ears are able to hear, That alone know thou to be the Brahman; not this which (people) here worship.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘What cannot be heard with the ear’ means ‘which the world does not perceive as an object with the organ of hearing, presided over by Digdevata, produced in Akas and connected with the activity of the mind.’ By which the ears are able to hear,’ it is well known that it is perceived as an object by the intelligence of the Atman. The rest has been already explained.

Translation By Max Müller

8. 'That which does not hear by the ear, and by which the ear is heard, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

Sloka : 1.8

यत्प्राणेन न प्राणिति येन प्राणः प्रणीयते ।

तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ९॥

॥ इति केनोपनिषदि प्रथमः खण्डः ॥

yatprāṇena na prāṇiti yena prāṇaḥ praṇīyate |

tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 8 ||

What none breathes with the breath, but by which breath is in-breathed, That alone know thou to be the Brahman; not this which (people) here worship.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘What none breathes with the breath’ means ‘what none perceives, like odour, with the earthly breath filling the nostrils and connected with the activity of the mind and life.’ ‘But by which, etc.,’ means ‘by the enlightening intelligence of the Atman, breath is made to move towards its objects.’ All the rest ‘tadeva, etc,’ has already been explained.

Translation By Max Müller

9. 'That which does not breathe by breath, and by which breath is drawn, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.'

Sloka : 2.1

॥अथ द्वितीयः खण्डः॥

यदि मन्यसे सुवेदेति दभ्रमेवापि

नूनं त्वं वेत्थ ब्रह्मणो रूपम् ।

यदस्य त्वं यदस्य देवेष्वथ नु

मीमाँस्येमेव ते मन्ये विदितम् ॥ १॥

yadi manyase suvedeti daharamevāpi

nūnam tvaṃ vettha brahmaṇo rūpam

yadasya tvaṃ yadasya deveṣvatha nu

mīmām̐syemeva te manye viditam ॥ 9 ॥

If thou thinkest ‘I know well’ it is certainly but little—the form of the Brahman thou hast known, as also the form in the Devas. Therefore I think that what thou thinkest known is still to be ascertained.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—The preceptor, fearing that, the disciple persuaded to believe that lie is the Atman, i.e., the Brahman not fit to be abandoned or acquired, might think ‘I certainly am the Brahman, I know myself well,’ says for the purpose of dispelling that notion of the disciple Yadi, etc. Then, is not an accurate conviction ‘I know (Brahman) well’ desirable? Certainly it is desirable. But an accurate conviction is not of the form ‘I know (Brahman) well.’ If what should be known becomes an object of sense-perception then it is possible to know it well, just as an inflammable substance can be consumed by the consuming fire. But the essence of fire cannot itself be so consumed. The well-ascertained drift of all Vedanta is that the Self (Atman) of every knower is the Brahman. The same has been here explained in the form of question and answer by the text ‘It is the ear of the ear, etc.’ The same has been still more clearly determined by the text:- “What is not enlightened by speech, etc.” The traditional theory of those who know the Brahman has also been declared by tbe text:- “It is something different from both the known and the unknown.” This Upanishad will also conclude by saying “It is unknown to those who know, and known to those who do not know.” It is, therefore, certainly proper that the notion of the disciple, ‘I know Brahman well’ should be dispelled. It is evident that the knower cannot be known by tbe knower, just as fire cannot be consumed by fire. There is no knower other than th e Brahman, to whom the Brahman can be a knowable, distinct from himself. By the Sruti:- “There is no knower other than that,” the existence of another knower is denied. The belief, therefore, ‘I know Brahman well’ is an illusion. Therefore well did the preceptor say ‘Yadi, etc.’ ‘Vadi’ means ‘if perchance.’ ‘Suveda’ means ‘I know Brahman well.’ Because some one whose sins have been purged and who is really intelligent may properly understand what is taught and others not, the preceptor begins with a doubt ‘Yadi, etc.’ Such cases have also been found to occur. When he was informed ‘This purusha who is seen in the eye, this is the Atman; this is the immortal, fearless self,’ Virochana, the son of Prajapati and the lord of the Asuras, though intelligent, misinterpreted this instruction, on account of his natural defects and understood that the body was the Atman. Similarly, Indra, the lord of the Devas, not being able to comprehend the Brahman, at the first, second and third instructions, did, at the fourth, his natural faults having been removed, comprehend the very Brahman that he was first taught. It has been found in the world also, that, of disciples receiving instruction from the same preceptor, some understand him properly, some misinterpret his teaching, some interpret it into the exact contrary of the teacher’s view and some do not understand it at all. What more need we say of the knowledge of the Atman which is beyond the reach of the senses. On this point, all logicians, with their theories of Sat and Asat, are in conflict. The doubt, therefore, expressed in ‘Yadi manyase,’ etc., with which the preceptor begins his discourse is certainly appropriate, considering that the disciples, in spite of the instruction that the Brahman is unknowable, might have misunderstood him. ‘Dahara’ means ‘little’; ‘Vettha’ Means ‘knowest’; i.e., thou knowest surely little of Brahman’s form. Has Brahman then many forms, great and little, that it is said ‘daharam, etc.’? Quite so; many, indeed, are the forms of Brahman produced by conditions of name and form, but none in reality. By nature, as the Sruti says, it is without sound, touch, form, destruction; likewise, tasteless,odourless, and eternal. Thus with sound, etc., form is denied. But it may be said that, as that by which a thing is defined, is its rupa or form, the peculiar attribute of Brahman by which it is defined, may be said to be its form. We thus answer:- Intelligence cannot be the quality of the earth, etc., either of one or all of them together, or under any modifications. Similarly, it cannot he the quality of the sensory organs, like the ear, etc., or of the mind. ‘Brahmano rûpam,’ Brahman is defined by its intelligence. Hence it is said:- “Brahman is knowledge and bliss;’ ‘Brahman is dense with knowledge’; ‘Brahman is existence, knowledge and infinity’; thus the form of Brahman has been defined. Truly so; but even there, the Brahman is defined by the words ‘knowledge, etc.,’ only with reference to the limitations of mind, body and senses, because of its apparent adaptations to the exapansion, contraction, extinction, etc., of the body, etc., and not on account of its own essence. According to its essence it will be concluded in the subsequent portion of this Upanishad that it is unknown to those who know, and known to those who do not know. The expression ‘Yadasya brahmano rupam’ should be read along with what precedes it. Not only dost thou know little of the form of Brahman. when thou knowest it, as conditioned in man, but also when thou knowest it as conditioned in the Devas; so I think. Even the form of Brahman as it exists in the Devas is little, because it is limited by condition. The gist is that the Brahman limited by no conditions or attributes, passive, infinite, one without a second, known as Bhûma, eternal, cannot be known well. This being so, I think that you have yet to know Brahman by enquiry.’ ‘Atha nu,’ ‘therefore.’ ‘Mimamsyam,’ ‘worthy of enquiry.’ Thus addressed by the preceptor, the disciple sat in solitude all composed, discussed within himself the meaning of the Agama as pointed out by his Guru (preceptor), arrived at a conclusion by his reasoning, realised it in himself, approached the preceptor and exclaimed “I think I now know Brahman.”

Translation By Max Müller

1. The Teacher says:- 'If thou thinkest I know it well, then thou knowest surely but little, what is that form of Brahman known, it may be, to thee [1]?'


1. In order to obtain a verse, we must leave out the words tvam yad asya deveshv atha nu mîmâmsyam eva. They were probably inserted, as an excuse for the third khanda treating of the relation of Brahman to the Devas. There is considerable variety in the text, as handed down in the Sâma-veda and in the Atharva-veda, which shows that it has been tampered with. Daharam for dabhram may be the older reading, as synezesis occurs again and again in the Upanishads.

Sloka : 2.2

नाहं मन्ये सु वेदेति नो न वेदेति वेद च ।

यो नस्तद्वेद तद्वेद नो न वेदेति वेद च ॥ २॥

nāhaṃ manye suvedeti no na vedeti veda ca |

yo nastadveda tadveda no na vedeti veda ca || 10 ||

I do not think I know well; I know too; not that I do not know. He of us who knows that, knows that as also what is meant by ‘I know too; not that I do not know.’

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—On being asked how, the disciple says:- “Listen. I do not think I know Brahman well.” “Then is the Brahman not known by thee?” Thus questioned, the disciple says “Not that I do not know, I know too;” the word too in ‘I know too’ means ‘I do not know too.’ Is it not contradictory:- ‘I think I know not Brahman well etc.?’ If thou dost not think thou knowest well, how then dost thou think thou knowest also? If again thou thinkest thou certainly knowest, then how dost thou think thou knowest not well? To say that a thing is not known well by the man who knows it is a contradiction, the cases of doubt and false knowledge being left out of consideration. Nor is it possible to lay down a restrictive rule that the knowledge of Brahman should be doubtful or false. It is well known that under any circumstances, doubtful or false knowledge works great evil. Though thus attempted to be shaken in his conviction by the preceptor the disciple was not shaken. From the tradition which his master had explained to him, i.e., that the Self is something other than both the known and the unknown, from the reasonableness of the doctrine and from the strength of his own experience, the disciple loudly exclaimed, showing the firmness of bis knowledge of the Brahman. How lie exclaimed is thus stated. ‘He of us,’ i.e., my co-disciple, who correctly understands what I have said, knows That (Brahman). The words he referred to are ‘not that I do not know. I know too.’ What was defined by the expression ‘that is something other than both the known and the unknown’, the disciple discussed and decided from inference and from experience; and in order to see whether the preceptor’s views agreed with his own and to counteract any false conclusion, which dull persons may have arrived at, he expressed the same in different words:- ‘not that I do not know; I know too.’ The confident exclamation of the disciple ‘He of us. etc.,’ is accordingly appropriate.

Translation By Max Müller

2. The Pupil says:- 'I do not think I know it well, nor do I know that I do not know it. He among us who knows this, he knows it, nor does he know that he does not know it [1].


1. This verse has again been variously explained. I think the train of thought is this:- We cannot know Brahman, as we know other objects, by referring them to a class and pointing out their differences. But, on the other hand, we do not know that we know him not, i. e. no one can assert that we know him not, for we want Brahman in order to know anything. He, therefore, who knows this double peculiarity of the knowledge of Brahman, he knows Brahman, as much as it can be known; and he does not know, nor can anybody prove it to him, that he does not know Brahman.

Sloka : 2.3

यस्यामतं तस्य मतं मतं यस्य न वेद सः ।

अविज्ञातं विजानतां विज्ञातमविजानताम् ॥ ३॥

yasyāmataṃ tasya mataṃ mataṃ yasya na veda saḥ |

avijñātaṃ vijānatāṃ vijñātamavijānatām || 11 ||

It is Known to him to whom it is Unknown;. he knows it not to whom it is known. (It is) Unknown to those who know, and Known to those who do not know.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—Turning from the concurring views of the preceptor and the disciple, the Sruti speaking for itself conveys in this text the view about which there is no disagreement. The purport is that to the knower of the Brahman whose firm conviction is that the Brahman is unknowable, the Brahman is well known. But he, whose conviction is that the Brahman is known by him, certainly knows not the Brahman. The latter half of the text only states those two distinct conclusions of the wise and ignorant man more emphatically. To those who know well, the Brahman is certainly (a thing) unknown; but to those w ho do not see well, i.e., who confound the Atman with the sensory organs, the mind and the conditioned intelligence [ Buddhi ], Brahman is certainly not known, but not to those who are extremely ignorant; for, in the case of these, the thought ‘Brahman is known by us’ never arises. In the case of those who find the Atman in the conditioned organs of sense, mind and intelligence, the false notion ‘I know Brahman’ is quite possible, because they cannot discriminate between Brahman and these conditions and because the conditions of intelligence, etc., are known to them. It is to show that such knowledge of the Brahman is fallacious that the latter half of the text is introduced. Or, the latter half ‘Avijnatam, etc..’ may be construed as furnishing a reason for the view propounded in the former.

Translation By Max Müller

3. 'He by whom it (Brahman) is not thought, by him it is thought; he by whom it is thought, knows it not. It is not understood by those who understand it, it is understood by those who do not understand it.

Sloka : 2.4

प्रतिबोधविदितं मतममृतत्वं हि विन्दते ।

आत्मना विन्दते वीर्यं विद्यया विन्दतेऽमृतम् ॥ ४॥

pratibodhaviditaṃ matamamṛtatvaṃ hi vindate |

ātmanā vindate vīryaṃ vidyayā vindate'mṛtam || 12 ||

(The Brahman) is known well, when it is known as the witness of every state of consciousness; for (by such knowledge) one attains immortality. By his Self he attains strength and by knowledge, immortality.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—It has been settled that it is unknown to those who know. If Brahman he not known at all, it will then come to this, that there is no difference between the worldly-minded and those who know the Brahman. To say that It is unknown to those who know is also a contradiction, flow then could that Brahman he well-known? This is explained in this text, ‘Pratibôdhaviditam’ means ‘known in respect of every state of consciousness.’ By the word ‘bôdha’ is meant ‘mental perception.’ That by which all states of consciousness are perceived like objects is the Atman. He knows and sees all states of consciousness, being by nature nothing hut intelligence and is indicated by these states of consciousness, as blended with every one of them. There is no other way by which the inner Atman could be known. Therefore when the Brahman is known as the witness of all states of consciousness, then it is known well. Being the witness of all states of consciousness, it will he clear that it is intelligence in its essence, subject to neither birth nor death, eternal, pure, unconditioned, and one in all things, because there is no difference in its essence, just as in the essence of the Akas, in a vessel or mountain cave, etc. The drift of the passage from the Agamas [traditions] is that the Brahman is other than both the known and the unknown. It is this pure Atman that will be described at the close of the Upanishad. Another Sruti says “He is the seer of the eye, the hearer of the ear, the thinker of thought, and the knower of knowledge.” But some explain the expression ‘Pratibôdhaviditam’ in the text as meaning ‘known by its defining attribute of knowledge,’ on the view that Brahman is the author of the act of knowing and that Brahman as such author is known by its activity in knowing,’ just as the wind is known as that which shakes the branches of the trees. In this view the Atman is an unintelligent substance having the power to know and not intelligence itself. Consciousness is produced and is destroyed. When consciousness is produced, then the Atman is associated with it; but when it is destroyed, the Atman, dissociated from consciousness, becomes a mere unintelligent substance. Such being the case, it is not possible to get over the objection that the Atman is rendered changeable in its nature, composed of parts, transient, impure, etc. Again according to the followers of Kanada consciousness is said to be produced by the combination of the Atman and the mind and to adhere to the Atman. Therefore, the Atman possesses the attribute of knowledge but is not subject to modifications. It simply becomes a substance just like a pot made red. Even on this theory the Brahman is reduced to an unintelligent substance and therefore, the Srutis ‘Brahman is knowledge and bliss, etc.,’ would be set at naught. Moreover the Atman having no parts and being omnipresent and, therefore, ever connected (with the mind), the impossibility of laying down a law regulating the origin of recollection is an insurmountable objection. Again that the Atman can be connected with any thing is itself repugnant to the Srutis, Smritis and logic. ‘The Atman is not connected with anything else; ‘The Atman unconnected with anything supports everything; so say both the Sruti and the Smriti. According to logic, too, a thing having attributes may be connected with another having attributes and not with one dissimilar in class. To say, therefore, that a thing having no attribute, undifferentiated and having nothing in common with anything else, combines with another unequal in class is illogical. Therefore, the meaning that the Atman is, by nature, knowledge and light, eternal and undecaying, can be arrived at, only if the Atman be the witness of all states of consciousness, and not otherwise. Hence the meaning of the expression ‘Pratibôdhaviditam matam’ is just what we explained it to be. Some, however, explain that the drift of this portion of the text is that the Atman is knowable by itself. There the Atman is thought of as conditioned and people talk of knowing the Atman by the Atman, distinguishing as it were, the unconditioned Atman from the Atman conditioned by intelligence, etc. Thus it has been said “He sees the Atman by the Atman” and “O Best of men! know the Atman by the Atman, thyself.” It is clear that the unconditioned Atman, being one, is not capable of being known either by itself or by others. Being itself the knowing principle, it cannot stand in need of another knowing principle; just as one light cannot possibly require another light. So here. On the theory of the followers of Buddha that the Atman is known by itself, knowledge becomes momentary and no Atman as its knower is possible. It is well known that the knowledge of the knower knows no destruction, being-indestructible. Again the Srutis:- ‘Him who is eternal, omnipresent and all-pervading,’ ‘This is He, great, unborn, Atman, undecaying, deathless, immortal and fearless,’ etc., would be set at naught. Some, however, construe the word ‘Pratibodha’ to mean ‘causeless perception’ as that of one who sleeps. Others yet say that the word ‘Pratibôdha’ means ‘knowledge of the moment.’ (We answer) whether it has or has not a cause, whether it occurs once or is often repeated, it is still Pratibôdha itself or knowledge itself. The drift is that the Brahman known as the witness of all states of consciousness is well-known, because by such knowledge, one attains immortality, i.e., being centred in one’s self, i.e., emancipation. The knowledge that the Atman is the witness of all states of consciousness is the reason for immortality. Immortality cannot possibly be the fact of the Atman becoming something other than itself. The immortality of the Atman, consisting in being Atman, is causeless; thus the mortality of the Atman consists in the mistaken belief of no ‘Atman’ induced by ignorance. How again, it may be asked, does one attain immortality by the knowledge of the Atman as already explained? It is therefore, said as follows:- ‘Atmana’ means ‘by one’s own nature;’ ‘Vindate’ means ‘attains;’ ‘Viryam’ means ‘strength or capacity.’ The strength gained by wealth, retinue, mantras, medicinal herbs, devotion and yoga cannot overcome mortality, because that is produced by things themselves mortal. The strength gained by the knowledge of the Atman can be acquired by the Atman alone and not by any other means. Because the strength produced by the knowledge of the Atman does not require any other aid, that strength alone can overcome death. And because one acquires by bis Atman alone the strength produced by the knowledge of the Atman, therefore he attains immortality by the knowledge of the Atman. The Atharvana Upanishad says “This Atman cannot be attained by one devoid of strength.”

Translation By Max Müller

4. 'It is thought to be known (as if) by awakening, and (then) we obtain immortality indeed. By the Self we obtain strength, by knowledge we obtain immortality.

Sloka : 2.5

इह चेदवेदीदथ सत्यमस्ति

न चेदिहावेदीन्महती विनष्टिः ।

भूतेषु भूतेषु विचित्य धीराः

प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादमृता भवन्ति ॥ ५॥

॥ इति केनोपनिषदि द्वितीयः खण्डः ॥

iha cedavedīdatha satyamasti

na cedihāvedīnmahatī vinaṣṭiḥ |

bhūteṣu bhūteṣu vicitya dhīrāḥ

pretyāsmāllokādamṛtā bhavanti || 13 ||

If one knows (That) here, then there is truth. If one knows not (That) here, there will be great loss. The wise, seeing the on e Atman in all created things, having turned away from this world, become immortal.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com:—It is, indeed, hard to suffer birth, old age, death, sickness, etc., owing to ignorance, being one of the crowd of living beings, such as Devas, men, beasts. (pretas), etc., full of the miseries of Samsara. Therefore if a man, even in this world being authorised and competent, knows the Atman as defined, in the manner already explained, then there is truth; i.e., there is in this birth as a mortal, immortality, usefulness, real existence. But if one living here and authorised does not know the Brahman, then there is long and great misery for him, i.e., rotation in Samsara—one continuous stream of births and deaths. Therefore the Brahmins who know the advantages and the disadvantages as above pointed out, perceive in all things in the universe, immoveable and moveable, the one essence of the Atman, i.e., the Brahman, turn away with disgust from this world, the creature of ignorance consisting in the false notion of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and having realised the principle of unity, the oneness of the Atman in all, become immortal, i.e., become Brahman itself; for, the Sruti says “He who knows that highest Brahman becomes Brahman itself.”

Translation By Max Müller

5. 'If a man know this here, that is the true (end of life); if he does not know this here, then there is great destruction (new births). The wise who have thought on all things (and recognised the Self in them) become immortal, when they have departed from this world.'

Sloka : 3.1

॥ अथ तृतीयः खण्डः॥

ब्रह्म ह देवेभ्यो विजिग्ये तस्य ह ब्रह्मणो विजये देवा अमहीयन्त

त ऐक्षन्तास्माकमेवायं विजयोऽस्माकमेवायं महिमेति ।

brahma ha devebhyo vijigye tasya ha brahmaṇo vijaye devā amahīyanta |

ta aikṣantāsmākamevāyaṃ vijayo'smākamevāyaṃ mahimeti || 14 ||

The Brahman won a victory for the Devas and in that victory of the Brahman the Devas attained glory. They thought ‘the victory is ours and this glory is ours alone.’

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—From the passage that ‘It is not known to those who know,’ some fools may argue that whatever is, can be known by proofs, and whatever is not cannot be so known and is, therefore, non-existent, as the horns of a hare, and Brahman, being unknown, does not exist. In order that they may not fall into that error this parable is introduced; for, the subsequent passages clearly show the folly of thinking that that Brahman who is controller of all in every way, Deva, even superior to all Devas, Lord over lords, not easily known, the cause of the victory of the Devas and of the defeat of the Asuras does not exist. Or (it is related) for eulogising the knowledge of Brahman. How? By showing that it was, indeed, by the knowledge of the Brahman that Fire, etc., attained pre-eminence among the Devas; and Indra specially more than the rest. Or. it shows how difficult it is to know Brahman, because even Fire, etc, with all their great powers, and even Indra. lord of the Devas knew the Brahman only with considerable difficulty. It may be that the whole Upanishad to follow is intended to lay down an injunction (to know the Brahman) or the story may have been intended to show the fallacious nature of the notion of doer, etc., found in all living beings, by contrasting it with the knowledge of the Brahman—fallacious like the notion of the Devas that the victory was theirs. The Brahman already defined won a victory for the benefit of the Devas; the Brahman in a battle between the Devas and the Asuras defeated the Asuras, the enemies of the world and the violators of the limitations imposed by the Lord and gave the benefit of the victory to the Devas for the preservation of the world. In this victory of Brahman the Devas, Fire, etc., attained glory, and not knowing that the victory and glory belonged to the Paramatman, seated in then own Atman, the witness of all perceptions, Lord of the universe, omniscient, the dispenser of the fruits of all Karma, omnipotent, and desirous of securing the safety of the world, looked upon the victory and the glory, as achieved by themselves—the Atman enclosed within the limitations of their own forms, Fire. etc.; that the glory—their being Fire, Air, Indra and the like, resulting from the victory—was theirs and that neither the victory nor the glory belonged to the Lord, over all the Atman within them. So they cherished this false notion.

Translation By Max Müller

1. Brahman obtained the victory for the Devas. The Devas became elated by the victory of Brahman, and they thought, this victory is ours only, this greatness is ours only.

Sloka : 3.2

तद्धैषां विजज्ञौ तेभ्यो ह प्रादुर्बभूव तन्न व्यजानत

किमिदं यक्षमिति ॥ २॥

taddhaiṣāṃ vijajñau tebhyo ha prādurbabhūva tanna vyajānata

kimidaṃ yakṣamiti || 15 ||

He knew this notion of theirs and appeared before them. What that Great Spirit was they did not know.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—The Brahman evidently knew this false notion of theirs. Brahman being omniscient and director of the senses of all living beings knew of the false idea of the Devas and in order that the Devas might not be disgraced like the Asuras by this false notion, out of pity for them and intending to bless them hy dispelling their false notion, appeared before them for their benefit in a form assumed at will, in virtue of its power—a form unprecedentedly glorious and astonishing and capable of being perceived by the senses. The Devas did not at all know the Brahman that appeared before them. Who is this Yaksham, i.e., this venerable Great Spirit.

Translation By Max Müller

2. Brahman perceived this and appeared to them. But they did not know it, and said:- 'What sprite (yaksha or yakshya) is this?'

Sloka : 3.3

तेऽग्निमब्रुवन् जातवेद एतद्विजानीहि

किमेतद्यक्षमिति तथेति ॥ ३॥

te'gnimabruvan jātaveda etadvijānīhi

kimetadyakṣamiti tatheti || 16 ||

They addressed the Fire thus “O Jataveda! Find out what this Great Spirit is.” He said “yes.”

Translation By Max Müller

3. They said to Agni (fire):- 'O Gâtavedas, find out what sprite this is.' 'Yes,' he said.

Sloka : 3.4

तदभ्यद्रवत्तमभ्यवदत् कोऽसीत्यग्निर्वा

अहमस्मीत्यब्रवीज्जातवेदा वा अहमस्मीति ॥ ४॥


ahamasmītyabravījjātavedā vā ahamasmīti || 17 ||

He ran to That. That said to him “who art thou?” He replied “I am Agni or I am Jataveda.”

Translation By Max Müller

4. He ran toward it, and Brahman said to him:- 'Who are you?' He replied:- 'I am Agni, I am Gâtavedas.'

Sloka : 3.5

तस्मिस्त्वयि किं वीर्यमित्यपीद सर्वं

दहेयं यदिदं पृथिव्यामिति ॥ ५॥

tasmim̐stvayi kiṃ vīryamityapīdam̐sarvaṃ

daheyaṃ yadidaṃ pṛthivyāmiti || 18 ||

That said “what power, in thee so named, is lodged.’ He replied “I can burn even all this, on the earth.”

Translation By Max Müller

5. Brahman said:- 'What power is in you?' Agni replied:- 'I could burn all whatever there is on earth.'

Sloka : 3.6

तस्मै तृणं निदधावेतद्दहेति तदुपप्रेयाय सर्वजवेन तन्न शशाक दग्धुं स तत एव

निववृते नैतदशकं विज्ञातुं यदेतद्यक्षमिति ॥ ६॥

tasmai tṛṇaṃ nidadhāvetaddaheti tadupapreyāya sarvajavena tanna śaśāka dagdhuṃ sa tata eva

nivavṛte naitadaśakaṃ vijñātuṃ yadetadyakṣamiti || 19 ||

That placed a straw before him and said:- ‘Burn this.’ He approached it with all haste but was not able to burn it. He immediately returned from thence to the Devas and said I was not able to learn what this Great Spirit is.”

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—The Devas not knowing what that Spirit was, being afraid of it, and desirous to know what it was, thus addressed Agni who went before them and who was little less than omniscient. “O Jataveda, learn well what this Great Spirit now in our view is. You are the brightest of us all.” “Be it so” said Agni and ran towards the Spirit. Seeing him approach near, with a desire to ask questions of it, but overawed into silence in its presence, the Spirit asked him:- “who art thou?” Thus questioned by Brahman, Agni replied:- “I am Agni well known also as Jataveda”; as if in self-complaisance at being so well known by two names, Brahman said to Agni who had thus replied:- “what power is in thee who ownest such well-known and significant names.?” He replied:- “I could reduce to ashes all this universe and all immoveables, etc., on this earth.” The word ‘earth’ is illustratively used; for, even what is in the air is burnt by Agni [Fire]. The Brahman placed a straw before Agni who was so vain-glorious, and said:- “Burn but this straw in my presence. If thou art not able to burn this, give up thy vanity as the consumer of all.” Thus addressed, Agni approached the straw with all the speed of overweening confidence but was not able to burn it. So he. Jataveda, being unable to burn it, covered with shame and bathed in bis resolution, returned in silence from the presence of the Spirit and told the Devas:- “I was not able to learn more, concerning this Spirit.”

Translation By Max Müller

6. Brahman put a straw before him, saying:- 'Burn this.' He went towards it with all his might, but he could not burn it. Then he returned thence and said:- 'I could not find out what sprite this is.'

Sloka : 3.7

अथ वायुमब्रुवन् वायवेतद्विजानीहि

किमेतद्यक्षमिति तथेति ॥ ७॥

atha vāyumabruvanvāyavetadvijānīhi

kimetadyakṣamiti tatheti || 20 ||

The Devas then said to Vayu:- “Learn O Vayu! what this Great Spirit is” He said:- “yes.”

Translation By Max Müller

7. Then they said to Vâyu (air):- 'O Vâyu, find out what sprite this is.' 'Yes,' he said.

Sloka : 3.8

तदभ्यद्रवत्तमभ्यवदत्कोऽसीति वायुर्वा

अहमस्मीत्यब्रवीन्मातरिश्वा वा अहमस्मीति ॥ ८॥

tadabhyadravattamabhyavadatko'sīti vāyurvā

ahamasmītyabravīnmātariśvā vā ahamasmīti || 21 ||

He ran to That. That said:- “who art thou”? lie replied:- “I am Vayu or Matarisva.”

Translation By Max Müller

8. He ran toward it, and Brahman said to him:- 'Who are you?' He replied:- 'I am Vâyu, I am Mâtarisvan.'

Sloka : 3.9

तस्मिस्त्वयि किं वीर्यमित्यपीद सर्वमाददीय यदिदं पृथिव्यामिति ॥ ९॥

tasmim̐stvayi kiṃ vīryamityapīdam̐sarvamādadīya yadidaṃ pṛthivyāmiti || 22 ||

That said “what power is in thee; so well known?” He replied:- “I can blow away all the universe and all that is on the earth.”

Translation By Max Müller

9. Brahman said:- 'What power is in you?' Vâyu replied:- 'I could take up all whatever there is on earth.'

Sloka : 3.10

तस्मै तृणं निदधावेतदादत्स्वेति

तदुपप्रेयाय सर्वजवेन तन्न शशाकादतुं स तत एव

निववृते नैतदशकं विज्ञातुं यदेतद्यक्षमिति ॥ १०॥

tasmai tṛṇaṃ nidadhāvetadādatsveti

tadupapreyāya sarvajavena tanna śaśākā''datuṃ sa tata eva

nivavṛte naitadaśakaṃ vijñātuṃ yadetadyakṣamiti || 23 ||

That placed a straw before him and said “Blow it away.” He approached it with all speed but was not able to blow it. He returned immediately from there and told the Devas “I was not able to learn who this Great Spirit is.”

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—They next addressed Vayu thus:- ‘know this, etc.’ The vest bears the same meaning as in the last passage. Vayu [ Air ] is so named from the root which means ‘to go’or ‘to smell.’ Vayu is also called ‘Matarisva’ because it travels [ svayati ] in space [ matari ], ‘Adadiyam’ means ‘can take.’ The rest is explained as in the previous passage.

Translation By Max Müller

10. Brahman put a straw before him, saying:- 'Take it up.' He went towards it with all his might, but he could not take it up. Then he returned thence and said:- 'I could not find out what sprite this is.'

Sloka : 3.11

अथेन्द्रमब्रुवन्मघवन्नेतद्विजानीहि किमेतद्यक्षमिति तथेति

तदभ्यद्रवत्तस्मात्तिरोदधे ॥ ११॥

athendramabruvanmaghavannetadvijānīhi kimetadyakṣamiti tatheti

tadabhyadravattasmāttirodadhe || 24 ||

Then they said to Indra:- “Maghavan! learn what this Great Spirit is.” He said “yes” and ran to That. That vanished from his view.

Translation By Max Müller

11. Then they said to Indra:- 'O Maghavan, find out what sprite this is.' He went towards it, but it disappeared from before him.

Sloka : 3.12

स तस्मिन्नेवाकाशे स्त्रियमाजगाम बहुशोभमानामुमां

हैमवतीं ता होवाच किमेतद्यक्षमिति ॥ १२॥

॥ इति केनोपनिषदि तृतीयः खण्डः ॥

sa tasminnevākāśe striyamājagāma bahuśobhamānāmumām̐

haimavatīṃ tām̐hovāca kimetadyakṣamiti || 25 ||

He beheld in that very spot a woman, Uma, very beautiful and of golden hue, daughter of Himavat. He said to her “What is this Great Spirit?”

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—Atha, etc., has already been explained. Indra, lord of the Devas, Maghavan, (being the most powerful of them) said yes, and ran to That. Hut That vanished from his sight, when he was near the Brahman and did not even talk to him, because it wished to crush altogether his pride at being Indra. In the very spot where the Spirit showed itself and from which it vanished and near the place where Indra was at the moment the Brahman vanished, Indra stood discussing within himself what that Spirit was, and did not return like Agni and Vayu. Seeing his attachment to that Spirit, knowledge in the form of a woman and of Umu appeared before him. Indra beheld knowledge. fairest of the fair,—this epithet is very appropriate in the particular context—as if adorned in gold. ‘Himavatim’ may mean ‘the daughter of Himalaya’ and being ever associated with the Lord (Siva) the omniscient, and having approached her, asked:- “Who is this Spirit that showed itself and vanished?”

Translation By Max Müller

12. Then in the same space (ether) he came towards a woman, highly adorned:- it was Umâ, the daughter of Himavat [1]. He said to her:- 'Who is that sprite?'


1. Umâ may here be taken as the wife of Siva, daughter of Himavat, better known by her earlier name, Pârvatî, the daughter of the mountains. Originally she was, not the daughter of the mountains or of the Himâlaya, but the daughter of the cloud, just as Rudra was originally, not the lord of the mountains, girîsa, but the lord of the clouds. We are, however, moving here in a secondary period of Indian thought, in we see, as among Semitic nations, the manifested powers, and particularly the knowledge and wisdom of the gods, represented by their wives. Umâ means originally flax, from vâ, to weave, and the same word may have been an old name of wife, she who weaves (cf. duhitri; spinster, and possibly wife itself, if O. H. G. wîb is connected with O. H. G. wëban). It is used almost synonymously with ambikâ, Taitt. Âr. p. 839. If we wished to take liberties, we might translate umâ haimavatî by an old woman coming from the Himavat mountains; but I decline all responsibility for such an interpretation.

Sloka : 4.1

॥ अथ चतुर्थः खण्डः॥

सा ब्रह्मेति होवाच ब्रह्मणो वा एतद्विजये महीयध्वमिति

ततो हैव विदाञ्चकार ब्रह्मेति ॥ १॥

sā brahmeti hovāca brahmaṇovā etadvijaye mahīyadhvamiti

tato haiva vidāñcakāra brahmeti || 26 ||

She said “It is Brahman indeed. Attain glory in the victory of Brahman.” From her words only, he learned that it was Brahman.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—The particle ‘Ha’ means ‘verily.’ Glory in the victory of the omnipotent Lord (for the Asuras were defeated only by Brahman). Etat modifies the predicate. Your notion that the victory and the glory are yours is false. From her words alone Indra learned that it was Brahman. The force of ‘only’ is that Indra did not know of himself.

Translation By Max Müller

1. She replied:- 'It is Brahman. It is through the victory of Brahman that you have thus become great.' After that he knew that it was Brahman.

Sloka : 4.2

तस्माद्वा एते देवा अतितरामिवान्यान्देवान्यदग्निर्वायुरिन्द्रस्ते

ह्येनन्नेदिष्ठं पस्पर्शुस्ते ह्येनत्प्रथमो विदाञ्चकार ब्रह्मेति ॥ २॥

tasmādvā ete devā atitarāmivānyāndevānyadagnirvāyurindraste

hyenannediṣṭhaṃ pasparśuste hyenatprathamo vidāñcakāra brahmeti || 27 ||

These Devas Agni, Vayu and Indra therefore much excel others, because they touched the Brahman nearest. They it was who first knew the Spirit to be Brahman.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—Because these Devas, Agni, Vayu and Indra approached the Brahman nearest by conversing with and seeing That, they surpass the others considerably in the matter of power, quality and affluence. The particle ‘Iva’ either has no meaning or has the force of ‘certainly.’ Because these Devas, Agni, Vayu and Indra approached nearest the most desirable Brahman, by such means as the conversation aforesaid, and because they were the first who knew the Brahman, they are foremost.

Translation By Max Müller

2. Therefore these Devas, viz. Agni, Vâyu, and Indra, are, as it were, above the other gods, for they touched it (the Brahman) nearest [1].


1. The next phrase was borrowed from § 3, without even changing the singular to the plural. As Indra only found out that it was Brahman, the original distinction between Indra and the other gods, who only came near to it, was quite justified. Still it might be better to adopt the var. lect. sa hy etat in § 2.

Sloka : 4.3

तस्माद्वा इन्द्रोऽतितरामिवान्यान्देवान्स

ह्येनन्नेदिष्ठं पस्पर्श स ह्येनत्प्रथमो विदाञ्चकार ब्रह्मेति ॥ ३॥

tasmādvā indro'titarāmivānyāndevānsa

hyenannediṣṭhaṃ pasparśa sa hyenatprathamo vidāñcakāra brahmeti || 28 ||

Therefore also does Indra considerably excel other Devas because he approached Brahman nearest and because he first knew the Spirit to be Brahman.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—Because even Agni and Vayu knew Brahman from the words of Indra and because Indra first heard of the Brahman from the words of Uma, therefore does Indra so excel the other Devas. He approached Brahman nearest because he was first who knew the Brahman.

Translation By Max Müller

3. And therefore Indra is, as it were, above the other gods, for he touched it nearest, he first knew it.

Sloka : 4.4

तस्यैष आदेशो यदेतद्विद्युतो व्यद्युतदा३

इतीन् न्यमीमिषदा३ इत्यधिदैवतम् ॥ ४॥

tasyaiṣa ādeśo yadetadvidyuto vyadyutadā u

itīn nyamīmiṣadā u ityadhidaivatam || 29 ||

Thus is That inculcated by illustration—that it flashed like lightning—that it appeared and vanished as the eye winketh. This is the illustration of the Brahman used in respect to the Devas.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—Of the Brahman the subject discussed, this is the Adesa. Adesa is instruction by means of illustrations. The illustration by which the Brahman, the like of which does not exist, is explained is said to-be its Adesa. What is It? That which is well-known in the world as the flash of lightning. To add ‘kritavat’ is inconsistent. Therefore we understand it to mean ‘the flash of lightning’. The particle ‘A’ means ‘like.’ The meaning is ‘like the flash of lightning.’ We find another Sruti saying ‘As if a lightning flashed.’ It just showed itself to the Devas like lightning and vanished from their view—or the word ‘Tejas’ [bright] should be supplied after ‘Vidyutah’ [of lightning]. The meaning then is that It shone for a moment like a dazzling flash of lightning. The word ‘iti’ shows that it is an illustration. The word ‘ith’ is used in the sense of ‘and’ or ‘else’. This is another illustration of it. What is it? It winked as the eye winks. The nich suffix has no distinct meaning from the meaning of the root. The particle ‘a’ means ‘like’. The meaning is that it was like the eye opening and closing to see and to turn from its objects. This illustration of the Brahman is taken from the activity of the deities.

Translation By Max Müller

4. This is the teaching of Brahman, with regard to the gods (mythological):- It is that which now flashes forth in the lightning, and now vanishes again.

Sloka : 4.5

अथाध्यात्मं यदेतद्गच्छतीव च मनोऽनेन

चैतदुपस्मरत्यभीक्ष्णं सङ्कल्पः ॥ ५॥

athādhyātmaṃ yaddetadgacchatīva ca mano'nena

caitadupasmaratyabhīkṣṇam saṅkalpaḥ || 30 ||

Next illustration, from the Atman within the body—as speedily as the mind goes to Brahman—as speedily as one thinks of Brahman hy the mind, and as speedily as the mind wills.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘Atha’ means‘next’. We offer illustrations from the Atman within the body. ‘Goes to’ means ‘perceives as an object’. As speedily as one (worshipper) thinks of the Brahman as near. ‘Abhikshnam’ means ‘very much’. ‘Wills’, i. e., about the Brahman. By the volition, recollection of the mind, the Brahman as hounded by the mind is perceived as an object. Therefore this is an illustration of the Brahman taken from within the body, as lightning and winking from the activity of the powers. And as those illustrations show that Brahman flashes instantaneously, so these illustrations show that Brahman’s appearance and disappearance are as quick as the perceptions of the mind. These illustrations of the Brahman are given because it can be understood by dull persons only if so illustrated. It is well-known that the unconditioned Brahman can be known by persons of inferior intellect.

Translation By Max Müller

5. And this is the teaching of Brahman, with regard to the body (psychological):- It is that which seems to move as mind, and by it imagination remembers again and again [1].


1. I have translated these paragraphs very differently from Saṅkara and other interpreters. The wording is extremely brief, and we can only guess the original intention of the Upanishad by a reference to other passages. Now the first teaching of Brahman, by means of a comparison with the gods or heavenly things in general, seems to be that Brahman is what shines forth suddenly like lightning. Sometimes the relation between the phenomenal world and Brahman is illustrated by the relation between bubbles and the sea, or lightning and the unseen heavenly light (Mait. Up. V 1, 35). In another passage, Kh. Up. VIII, 12, 2, lightning, when no longer seen, is to facilitate the conception of the reality of things, as distinct from their perceptibility. I think, therefore, that the first simile, taken from the phenomenal world, was meant to show that Brahman is that which appears for a moment in the lightning, and then vanishes from our sight.

The next illustration is purely psychological. Brahman is proved to exist, because our mind moves towards things, because there is something in us which moves and perceives, and because there is something in us which holds our perceptions together (saṅkalpa), and revives them again by memory.

I give my translation as hypothetical only, for certainty is extremely difficult to attain, when we have to deal with these enigmatical sayings which, when they were first delivered, were necessarily accompanied by oral explanations.

Sloka : 4.6

तद्ध तद्वनं नाम तद्वनमित्युपासितव्यं स य एतदेवं वेदाभि

हैन सर्वाणि भूतानि संवाञ्छन्ति ॥ ६॥

taddha tadvanaṃ nāma tadvanamityupāsitavyaṃ sa ya etadevaṃ vedābhi

hainaṃ sarvāṇi bhūtāni saṃvāñchanti || 31 ||

The Brahman should be worshipped by all and is hence called Tadvana. As Tadvana, It must be worshipped. Who thus knows Brahman, is loved by all living beings.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘Tat’ means ‘Brahman’. ‘Ha’ means ‘as is well-known’. ‘Tadvanam’ is a compound of tat and vanam. It means ‘which deserves to be worshipped as the one Atman of all living things’. The Brahman is well-known as Tadvanam and should, therefore, be worshipped as Tadvana, a word denoting its virtue. ‘Worshipped’ means ‘contemplated.’ The Sruti next declares the fruit attained by one who contemplates the Brahman by this name. He who contemplates the Brahman already defined as possessed of this virtue, him (this worshipper) all living things love, i.e., pray to him as they would to Brahman. Thus instructed, the disciple addressed the preceptor in the following manner.

Translation By Max Müller

6. That Brahman is called Tadvana [1], by the name of Tadvana it is to be meditated on. All beings have a desire for him who knows this.


1. Tadvana, as a name of Brahman, is explained by 'the desire of it,' and derived from van, to desire, the same as vâñkh.

Sloka : 4.7

उपनिषदं भो ब्रूहीत्युक्ता त उपनिषद्ब्राह्मीं वाव त

उपनिषदमब्रूमेति ॥ ७॥

upaniṣadaṃ bho brūhītyuktā ta upaniṣadbrāhmīṃ vāva ta

upaniṣadamabrūmeti || 32 ||

(The disciple). (O Preceptor!) “Teach me the Upanishad”. (The preceptor). “We have told thee the Upanishad.” We have certainly told thee the Upanishad about Brahman”

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—When the disciple said “O holy one! Teach me the secret that should he thought of,” the preceptor replied “the Upanishad has been taught thee.” “What is that Upanishad?” The preceptor replied “The Upanishad treating of Brahman, the supreme Self, has been taught thee who excel in knowledge”. The latter half is introduced for decisively asserting that the knowledge of the supreme Pramatman, the Brahman already explained, is the Upanishad. Now what is the real significance of the disciple, who has already heard, explained to him, the knowledge of the Brahman, asking the preceptor to tell him the Upanishad? If the question was about what was already explained, then the question itself becomes redundant and meaningless like Pishtapeshana. If, however, the Upanishad had been only partially explained, then the concluding it by reciting its fruits:- “Having turned away from this world they become immortal,” is not reasonable. Therefore, the question, if asked about the unexplained portion of the Upanishad is also unsound, because there was no portion yet to be explained. What then is the meaning of the questioner. We answer thus:- The disciple meant to say:- “Does the Upanishad already explained stand in need of anything else which should combine with it to secure the desired end, or does it not stand in need of any such thing? If it does, teach me the Upanishad about what is so required. If it does not, assert emphatically like Pippalada in the words—There is nothing beyond this—.” The preceptor’s emphatical assertion, “The Upanishad has been told thee” is but proper. It may be said that this cannot be construed as an emphatic assertion, as already explained, for something yet had to be said by the preceptor. It is true that the preceptor adds ‘Tasyi’, etc., but that is not added as a portion combining with the Upanishad, already explained, in accomplishing the desired end, nor as a distinct aid for achieving the end with the Upanishad, but as something intended as a means to the acquisition of the knowledge of the Brahman; for, tapas, etc., are apparently of the same importance with the Vedas and their supplements, being mentioned along with them. It is well known that neither the Vedas nor the supplements are the direct complements of the knowledge of the Brahman or concomitant helps to it. It is urged that it is only reasonable to assign different offices according to merit, even to many mentioned in the same breath. Just as the mantras for invoking the gods, where more than one is named, are used to perform the function of different deities according as the god to be invoked is this or that; it is urged it is to be inferred that tapas, peace, karma, truth, etc., are either complements or concomitant helps to the knowledge of Brahman, and that the Vedas and their supplements, elucidating meanings, are only helps to the knowledge of Karma and Atma. They urge that this distribution is only reasonable from the reasonableness of the applicability of their purport to this distribution. This cannot be, for it is illogical. This distinction is impossible to bring about. It is unreasonable to think that the knowledge of the Brahman, before which all notions of distinctions of deed, doer, fruit, etc., vanish, can possibly require any extraneous tiling as its complement or concomitant aid in accomplishing it. Nor can its fruit, emancipation, require any such. It is said:- “One desirous of emancipation should always renounce karma and all its aids. It is only by one that so renounces that the highest place (can he reached). Therefore, knowledge cannot consistently with itself require karma as its concomitant help or its complement. Therefore, the distribution on the analogy of the invocation in Suktavaka is certainly unsound. Therefore, it is sound to say that the question and answer were intended only to make sure. The meaning is “what was explained is all the Upanishad, which does not require anything else for ensuring emancipation.”

Translation By Max Müller

7. The Teacher:- 'As you have asked me to tell you the Upanishad, the Upanishad has now been told you. We have told you the Brâhmî Upanishad.

Sloka : 4.8

तस्यै तपो दमः कर्मेति प्रतिष्ठा वेदाः सर्वाङ्गानि

सत्यमायतनम् ॥ ८॥

tasai tapo damaḥ karmeti pratiṣṭhā vedāḥ sarvāṅgāni

satyamāyatanam || 33 ||

Devotion, self-control and Karma are its pedestal, as also the Vedas and their supplements. Truth is its abode.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—Of the Upanishad about Brahman which has been already taught, devotion, etc., are helps to the acquisition. ‘Tapas’ means, ‘control of the body, the sensory organs and the mind.’ ‘Dama’ means ‘freedom from passions.’ ‘Karma’ is Agnihotra, etc. It has been seen that knowledge of the Brahman arises indirectly through the purification of the mind in the person, who has been refined by these. Even when Brahman is explained, those who have not been purged of their faults, either disbelieve or misbelieve in it, as in the cases of Indra, Virochana, etc. Therefore, knowledge as inculcated arises only in him who has, by tapas, etc., performed either in this birth or in many previous ones, purified his mind. The Sruti says:- “To that high-souled man whose devotion to the Lord is great and whose devotion to his preceptor is as great as that to the Lord, these secrets explained become illuminated.” The Smriti says:- “Knowledge arises in men by annihilation of sinful deeds.” The word ‘iti’ is used to show that the mention of tapas, etc., is only by way of illustration; for it will show that there are other aids than those mentioned to the acquisition of knowledge, as freedom from pride, hatred of pomp, etc. ‘Pratishta’ means ‘legs.’ For, when they exist, knowledge is firmly seated just as a person goes about with his legs, the four Vedas, all the six supplements, i.e., Siksha, etc. The Vedas being the enlighteners of the knowledge of karma and the supplementary scriptures being intended for their protection are called ‘legs’ of the knowledge of Brahman. Or the word ‘Pratishta’ having been construed as legs, the Vedas must be understood as all other parts of the body than the legs, such as the head, etc. In this case it should be understood that in the mention of Vedas, the Angas, siksha, etc., are in effect mentioned. When the trunk [ angi ] is mentioned, the limbs [ angas ] are included; because the limbs live in the trunk. The place where the Upanishad rests is Truth. ‘Satyam’ (Truth) means ‘freedom from deceit and fraud in speech, mind or deed’; for knowledge seeks those who are good-natured and free from deceit and not men of the nature of the A suras and the deceitful; for, the Sruti says:- ‘Not in whom there is fraud, falsehood or deceit.’ Therefore, it is said that Truth is the resting place of knowledge. The mention again of Truth as the resting place of knowledge, notwithstanding its implied mention as ‘the leg on which knowledge stands’ along with devotion, etc., is to indicate that Truth excels others as a help to knowledge; for, the Smriti says:- “If a thousand Asvamedha sacrifices and Truth were weighed in the balance, one Truth spoken will outweigh the thousand sacrifices.”

Translation By Max Müller

8. 'The feet on which that Upanishad stands are penance, restraint, sacrifice; the Vedas are all its limbs [1], the True is its abode.


1. It is impossible to adopt Saṅkara's first rendering, 'the Vedas and all the Aṅgas,' i.e. the six subsidiary doctrines. He sees himself that sarvâṅgâni stands in opposition to pratishthâ and âyatana, but seeing Veda and Aṅga together, no Brahman could help thinking of the Vedâṅgas.

Sloka : 4.9

यो वा एतामेवं वेदापहत्य पाप्मानमनन्ते स्वर्गे

लोके ज्येये प्रतितिष्ठति प्रतितिष्ठति ॥ ९॥

॥ इति केनोपनिषदि चतुर्थः खण्डः ॥

yovā etāmevaṃ vedāpahatya pāpmānamanante svarge

loke jyeye pratitiṣṭhati pratitiṣṭhati || 34 ||

He who knows this thus, having shaken off all sin, lives firmly seated in the endless, blissful and highest Brahman. He lives firmly seated.

Commentary of Shankaracharya

Com.—‘This’ means ‘the knowledge of Brahman as explained in ‘keneshitam’, etc., and highly eulogised in the text ‘Brahmaha Devebhyo,’ etc., and the source of all knowledge. Although it has been already said that by such knowledge one attains immortality, the fruit of the knowledge of Brahman is again stated at the end. ‘Sin’ means ‘the seed of Samsara whose nature is ignorance, desire and karma’ ‘Anante’ means ‘boundless.’ ‘Svarye loke’ means ‘in the Brahman who is all bliss’ and not ‘in heaven because of the adjunct ‘boundless.’ It may be said that the word ‘boundless’ is used in its secondary sense. Therefore the Sruti adds:- ‘Jyeye,’ ‘highest of all.’ The purport is that he is firmly seated in the unconditioned Brahman, i.e., does not again revert to Samsara [worldly existence].

Translation By Max Müller

9. 'He who knows this Upanishad, and has shaken off all evil, stands in the endless, unconquerable [1] world of heaven, yea, in the world of heaven.'


1. Might we read agyeye for gyeye? cf. Satap. Brâhm. XI, 5, 7, 1.

Shanti Mantra (END)

ॐ आप्यायन्तु ममाङ्गानि वाक्प्राणश्चक्षुः

श्रोत्रमथो बलमिन्द्रियाणि च सर्वाणि ।

सर्वं ब्रह्मौपनिषदं

माऽहं ब्रह्म निराकुर्यां मा मा ब्रह्म

निराकरोदनिराकरणमस्त्वनिराकरणं मेऽस्तु ।

तदात्मनि निरते य

उपनिषत्सु धर्मास्ते मयि सन्तु ते मयि सन्तु ।

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

॥ इति केनोपनिषद्॥

oṃ āpyāyantu mamāṅgāni vākprāṇaśchakṣuḥ

śrotramatho balamindriyāṇi cha sarvāṇi

sarvaṃ brahmaupaniṣadaṃ

māhaṃ brahma nirākuryāṃ mā mā brahma

nigakāgedanirakāraṇamastvanirākaraṇaṃ me'stu

tadātmani nirate ya

upaniṣatsu dharmāste mayi santu te mayi santu

oṃ śāntiḥ | śāntiḥ | śāntiḥ |


The Kena Upanishad (Kenopaniṣat) is embedded inside the last section of the Talavakara Brahmanam of the Samaveda.

The Kena Upanishad is a collection of philosophical poems discussing the attributes of Brahman:- the unchanging, infinite universal spirit. Brahman is further proposed as the cause for all the forces of nature, symbolized as Gods.

Kena Upanishad is notable in its discussion of Brahman with attributes and without attributes. It asserts that the efficient cause of all the gods, symbolically envisioned as forces of nature, is Brahman. This has made it a foundational scripture to Vedanta school of Hinduism, both the theistic and monistic sub-schools after varying interpretations.

Introduction By Shankaracharya

By S. Sitarama Sastri [Kena Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary (1905)]



This ninth chapter is begun for the purpose of publishing the Upanishad beginning with Keneshitam etc., and, treating of the Brahman. Before the beginning of the ninth chapter, all Karma has been explained and the different forms of worshipping Prana, the source of all activity, have been laid down and all about the Sarnaus (songs) preliminary to the rituals have been given. Next the Gayatra Saman has been explained and the genealogical list of preceptors and disciples has been given. All this Karma and Knowledge (of the deities) properly observed, as enjoined, tend to purify the mind of one who being-free from desires, longs for emancipation. In the case of one who cherishes desires and has no knowledge, Karma by itself as laid down by the Srutis and the Smritis secures for him the southern route and return to Samsara. Activity following natural impulses and repugnant to the Sasiras entails degradation into low births from beasts down to immovables.

The Sruti says:

“Travelling by neither of these two paths, these small creatures are constantly returning, of whom it may he said: ‘Be born and die.’ This is the third course.”

Another Sruti says

“The three kinds of living beings (going by neither of these two paths) reach this miserable state.”

The desire to know the Brahman springs only in the person whose mind is pure, who is free from desires and who, free from deeds done in this birth or in previous ones, becomes disgusted with the external, ephemeral medley of ends and means.

This Brahman is depicted in the Upanishad beginning with Keneshitam. etc., appearing in the form of questions and answers. Kataka says

“The self-existent has made the senses external in their activity and man therefore looks outward, not at the self within.”

Some wise man having turned his eyes inward and being desirous of immortality saw the inner self.

“Having examined the worlds reached by Karma, let the Brahmin grow disgusted (and learn to think that) nothing which is not made can be reached by Karma. In order to know that, let him, Samidh (sacrificial sticks) in hand, approach a preceptor, who is well read in the Vedas and who is centred in Brahman.”

Thus in the Atharvanopanishad. In this way, and not otherwise, a man free from desires becomes qualified to hear, contemplate and acquire knowledge of the inner self. By the knowledge of the inner self, ignorance, which, is the seed of bondage, and the cause of Karma performed for the realisation of desires, is entirely removed.

The Srutis say:

“There is no grief or delusion to one who sees this unity.”

“He who knows the Atman overcomes grief.”

“When He. that is both high and low, is seen, the knot of the heart is cut, all doubts are resolved and all Karma is consumed.”

If it be urged that even by knowledge coupled with Karma this result is attained, we say no; for the Vajasaneyaka shows that that combination produces different results.

Beginning with “Let me have a wife,” the texts go on to say,

“by a son should this world be gained, not by any other means: by Karma, the abode of the manes (Pitris); and by Knowledge, the world of the deities;”

thus showing how the three worlds different from the Atman are reached. In the same place we find the following reason urged for one becoming a Sanyasin: “What shall we, to whom this world is not the Atman, do with offspring?” The meaning is this: What shall we do with offspring, Karma, and Knowledge combined with Karma, which are the means to secure the world of the mortals, the world of the manes, and the world of the Gods; and which do not help us in securing the world of the Atman? For, to us none of the three worlds, transitory and attainable by these means, is desirable. To us that world alone which is natural, unborn, undecaying, immortal, fearless and neither augmented nor diminished by Karma, and eternal, is covetable; and that being eternal cannot be secured by any other means than the removal of ignorance. Therefore, the renunciation of all desires preceded by the knowledge of the Brahman who is the inner Self should alone be practised by us. Another reason is that the knowledge of the inner Self is antagonistic to Karma and cannot therefore coexist with it. It is well known that the knowledge of the Self, the one Atman of all, which abhors all perception of difference, cannot possibly co-exist with Karma whose basis is the perception of the difference of agent, results, etc. As knowledge relating to the reality, the knowledge of the Brahman is independent of human efforts. Therefore, the desire of a person, who is disgusted with visible and invisible fruits achievable by external means, to know the Brahman which is connected with the inner Self, is indicated by the Sruti beginning with Keneshitam, etc. The elucidation of the Brahman in the form of a dialogue between the preceptor and the disciple is, considering the subtle nature of the theme, for the easy understanding thereof. It will also be clearly pointed out that this knowledge is not to be attained solely by logical discussion.

The Sratis say

“This state of mind cannot be obtained by logical discussion.”

“He knows who lias studied under a preceptor.”

“Such knowledge only as is acquired by studying under a preceptor does good.”

The Smriti lays down also “Learn That by prostration.”

It should be inferred that some one duly approached a preceptor centred in Brahman and finding no refuge except in bis inner Self and longing for that which is fearless, eternal, calm and unshakable, questioned the preceptor as expressed in ‘Keneshitam. etc.’

Introduction by Max Müller

The Upanishads, Part 1 [1879],

THIS Upanishad is best known by the name of Kena-upanishad, from its first word. The name of brâhmî-upanishad (IV, 7) can hardly be considered as a title. It means ‘the teaching of Brahman,’ and is used with reference to other Upanishads also[1]. Saṅkara, in his commentary, tells us that this Upanishad forms the ninth adhyâya of a Brâhmana, or, if we take his words quite literally, he says, ‘the beginning of the ninth adhyâya is “the Upanishad beginning with the words Keneshitam, and treating of the Highest Brahman has to be taught.”’ In the eight preceeding adhyâyas, he tells us, all the sacred rites or sacrifices had been fully explained, and likewise the meditations (upâsana) on the prâna (vital breath) which belongs to all these sacrifices, and those meditations also which have reference to the fivefold and sevenfold Sâmans. After that followed Gâyatra-sâman and the Vamsa, the genealogical list. All this would naturally form the subject of a Sâma-veda-brâhmana, and we find portions corresponding to the description given by Saṅkara in the Khândogya-upanishad, eg. the fivefold Sâman, II, 2; the sevenfold Sâman, II, 8; the Gâyatra-sâman, III, 12, I.

Ânandagñâna tells us that our Upanishad belonged to the Sâkhâ of the Talavakâras.

All this had formerly to be taken on trust, because no Brâhmana was known containing the Upanishad. Dr. Burnell, however, has lately discovered a Brâhmana of the Sâma-veda which comes very near the description given by Saṅkara. In a letter dated Tanjore, 8th Dec. 1878, he writes: ‘It appears to me that you would be glad to know the following about the Kena-upanishad, as it occurs in my MS. of the Talavakâra-brâhmana.

‘The last book but one of this Brâhmana is termed Upanishad-brâhmana. It consists of 145 khandas treating of the Gâyatra-sâman, and the 134th is a Vamsa. The Kena-upanishad comprises the 135-145 khandas, or the tenth anuvâka of a chapter. The 139th section begins: âsâ vâ idam agra âsit, &c.

‘My MS. of the Talavakâra-brâhmana agrees, as regards the contents, exactly with what Saṅkara says, but not in the divisions. He says that the Kena-upanishad begins the ninth adhyâya, but that is not so in my MS. Neither the beginning nor the end of this Upanishad is noticed particularly.

‘The last book of this Brâhmana is the Ârsheya-brâhmana, which I printed last February.

‘Among the teachers quoted in the Brâhmana I have noticed both Tândya and Sâtyâyani. I should not be surprised to find in it the difficult quotations which are incorrectly given in the MSS. of Sâyana’s commentary on the Rig-veda. The story of Apâlâ, quoted by Sâyana in his commentary on the Rig-veda, VIII, 80, as from the Sâtyâyanaka, is found word for word, except some trivial var. lectiones, in sections 220-221 of the Agnishtoma book of the Talavakâra-brâhmana. The Sâtyâyanins seem to be closely connected with the Talavakâra-sâkhâ.’

From a communication made by Dr. Burnell to the Academy (1 Feb. 79), I gather that this Talavakâra-brâhmana is called by those who study it ‘Gaiminîya-brâhmana,’ after the Sâkhâ of the Sâma-veda which they follow. The account given in the Academy differs on some particulars slightly from that given in Dr. Burnell’s letter to me. He writes: ‘The largest part of the Brâhmana treats of the sacrifices and the Sâmans used at them. The first chapter is on the Agnihotra, and the Agnishtoma and other rites follow at great length. Then comes a book termed Upanishad-brâhmana. This contains 145 sections in four chapters. It begins with speculations on the Gâyatra-sâman, followed by a Vamsa; next, some similar matter and another Vamsa. Then (§§ 135-138) comes the Kena-upanishad (Talavakâra). The last book is the Ârsheya. The Upanishad forms the tenth anuvâka of the fourth chapter, not the beginning of a ninth chapter, as Saṅkara remarks.’

The Kena-upanishad has been frequently published and translated. It forms part of Dârâ Shukoh’s Persian, and Anquetil Duperron’s Latin translations. It was several times published in English by Rammohun Roy (Translations of Several Principal Books, Passages, and Texts of the Veda, London, 1832, p. 41), in German by Windischmann, Poley, and others. It has been more or less fully discussed by Colebrooke, Windischmann, Poley, Weber, Röer, Gough, and Regnaud in the books mentioned before,

Besides the text of this Upanishad contained in the Brâhmana of the Sâma-veda, there is another text, slightly differing, belonging to the Atharva-veda, and there are commentaries on both texts (Colebrooke, Misc. Essays, 1873, II, p. 80).

Footnotes by Max Mullar

  1. lxxxix:1 See before, p. lxxxiii.

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