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Kena Upanishad

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Title: Kena Upanishad  
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Kena Upanishad

Part of a series on the
aum symbol
Bṛhadāraṇyaka  · Īṣa
Taittirīya  · Kaṭha
Chāndogya · Kena
Muṇḍaka ·Māṇḍūkya ·Praśna
Other Major Upanishads
Shvetashvatara ·Kaushitaki ·Maitrayaniya

The Kena Upanishad (Sanskrit: केन उपनिषत्, Kena Upaniṣat), or the Kenopanishad (Sanskrit: केनोपनिषत्, Kenopaniṣat) is one of the earlier, "primary" Upanishads, a genre of Hindu scriptures, commented upon by Shankara and Madhvacharya. It is associated with the Samaveda where it is found inserted into the last section of the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana. It figures as number 2 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads.


The Kenopanishad derives its name from the first word Kena, meaning ‘by whom’. It belongs to the Talavakara Brahmana of Sama Veda and is therefore also referred to as Talavakara Upanishad. It has four khaṇḍas (sections), the first two in verse and the other two in prose. Adi Shankara, who has written commentaries on 12 Upanishads, is believed to have written two commentaries on Kenopanishad. One is called Kenopaniṣad Padabhāṣya and the other is Kenopaniṣad Vākyabhāṣya.


Not that which the eye can see, but that whereby the eye can see: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore; Not that which the ear can hear, but that whereby the ear can hear: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore; Not that which speech can illuminate, but that by which speech can be illuminated: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore; Not that which the mind can think, but that whereby the mind can think: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore.

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


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

Final lesson

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

Further reading

  • Upadhyaya, Ganga Prasad (translation) (1904). Kena-Upanishad. Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi, Delhi. 


External links

  • Kena Upanishad recited by Pt. Ganesh Vidyalankar (with instrumental music)
text and translation
  • Kena Upanishad in Sanskrit with english translations
  • Multiple translations (Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Johnston, Nikhilānanda)
  • Kena Upanishad in Sanskrit
  • Kena Upanishad
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