Kena Upanishad

aka Kenopanishad

"The Kena Upanishad is divided into four chapters. The first two are in the form of a dialogue between a disciple and his spiritual preceptor. The first chapter states that the sense-organs and the mind, which are material entities, cannot perform their functions intelligently without the help of Atman, or Pure Consciousness. Atman Itself cannot be comprehended by any of them. It remains for ever unknown to and unknowable by the senses and the mind. If an unillumined person, we read in the second chapter, boasts that he has known Brahman, he really knows very little of It. But the truly wise man realizes that the infinite and attributeless Brahman can never be an object of knowledge. A finite object may indicate some of the attributes of Brahman but can never reveal Its true nature. On the other hand, the analysis of mental states points to the presence of Pure Consciousness in man. The mind itself is an inert, material entity; but it is transparent and on that account reflects the light of Pure Consciousness. Through the help of this light it is able to reveal objects. Therefore, according to the instruction of the Kena Upanishad, Brahman should be meditated upon as the Pure Intelligence underlying every mental state. Through practice of the proper spiritual disciplines, a seeker can realize Brahman in this very life. It need not be only an after-death experience."

- Swami Nikhilananda

"Like the Ishavasya, this Upanishad derives its name from the opening word of the text, Kena-ishitam, “by whom directed.” It is also known as the Talavakara Upanishad because of its place as a chapter in the Talavakara Brahmana of the Sama-Veda. Among the Upanishads it is one of the most analytical and metaphysical, its purpose being to lead the mind from the gross to the subtle, from effect to cause. By a series of profound questions and answers, it seeks to locate the source of man's being; and to expand his self-consciousness until it has become identical with God-Consciousness."

- Swami Paramananda

"This Upanishad is so named because it begins with: the word Kena; it is also called Talavakara-Upanishad as it forms, according to Sankara and other commentators, the ninth chapter of Talavakara Brahmana; but according to Dr. Burnell’s MS. of the Brahmana (which is also sometimes known as Jaiminia Brahmana), the Upanishad forms the tenth Anuvak of the fourth chapter. The most interesting and peculiar characteristic of this Upanishad lies in its subtle psychological analysis which is so suggestive that any one who would follow it closely, is sure to find himself, at last taken to the very gate of the transcendent.

The book is divided into four parts. The first two parts are in a dialogic form and explain in an indicative way the phenomena of perception, and apperception of the Soul. They suggest that the Atman or the absolute consciousness can be apperceived by detaching it from the functions of the mind and the Senses. It can be done only by the intuitive faculty of the Atman itself, for the senses are utterly incapable to perceive it. In the third part, the assumptions of the first two parts are only described in an allegorical form. There the devas stand for the senses. In the fourth part, the Upanishad speaks in a general way how Brahman should be meditated upon, either subjectively or objectively, and also of the results of
such meditation."

- Swami Sharvananda

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