Kena Upanishad – Who moves this Universe?

The Upanishads are an acknowledgement of the systematic and relentless pursuit of truth. They embrace the realization that in order to know the truth, we have to understand both the medium of knowing and the identity of the knower.

This acknowledgement turns mere knowing into realization and objective science into mystical awareness.

The literal meaning of Kena is – by whom? “By whose mere presence does that desire arise that moves this universe”?

What is the nature of Brahman?

The message of the Kena is that it is through brahman that all action – including that of the mind – is possible. We may think that all action is being performed by us through our sense organs or our indriyas, it is not so. The sense organs are under the control of the mind, which is under the control of Brahman. So, the Kena implores us to use our mind to meditate on the Brahman.

Sometimes (and particularly in times of extreme troubles), we are not sure whether our prayers to God are being heard or not. The Kena reminds us that it is Brahman himself that provides us the power to pray – so, we need not be concerned! It is not possible for the one who is giving us the power to pray to ignore our prayers.

We are not the doers of our actions – we are the instruments through which the energy of Brahman is manifested. Yes, the victory of good over evil is guaranteed – but not by the doer. Mahatma Gandhi said – “….we need to make ourselves zero…” – and let Brahman be in control of our lives. That indeed is the path to eternal peace, knowledge and realization.

Lord Vishnu Lord Vishnu

What is spiritual wisdom?

Meditation, control of the senses and passions, and service to all – these three constitute the body of spiritual wisdom ; the scriptures are its limbs ; and truth is its heart.

Those who realize Brahman shall conquer all evil and enter the supreme state. Those who meditate upon him will be dear to all.

The light of Brahman flashes in lightning,

The light of Brahman flashes in our eyes.

It is the power of Brahman that makes the mind to think, desire and will.

So use this mind to meditate on Brahman!

Chapter IV, Verse 4-6

What is the nature of the Self?

That which makes the tongue speak, but cannot be spoken;

That which makes the eyes see, but cannot be seen;

That which makes the ears hear, but cannot be heard;

That which makes the mind think, but cannot be thought of;

That which makes you draw breath, but cannot be drawn by your breath –

That is the nature of the Self. It is not someone other than you.

How does one know the Self?

Those who say they know the Self really do not know it. The Self cannot be known by the intellect because it is beyond the duality of the knower and the known.

What is the goal of life?

The shining goal of life is to know the Self. The Self is beyond the body and beyond birth and death. When one sees the Self in all, he goes beyond death.

Conclusion of the Kena Upanishad

The Upanishad concludes with this prayer which teaches the ideal relationship between the guru (teacher) and the shishya (student).

AUM sah nAvavatu sah nau bhunaktu, sah vIryaM karvAvahai
tejasvi nAvadhItamastu, mA vidviShAvahai.

ॐ सह नाववतु सह नौ भुनक्तु, सह वीर्यं कर्वावहै.
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु, मा विद्विषावहै..

This mantra states that the transference of mental, spiritual and intellectual energies from the teacher to the student can be achieved through a mutually nourishing relationship which is based on (mutual) respect, joy (of giving and receiving), and absence of malice or negative thoughts.

Detailed translation and audio of the sahana-vavatu mantra


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