Skip to content

Essence of Kena Upanishad (KENOPANISHAD)


Essence of Kena Upanishad: 


  • ☆The article is purely based on my studies, my thoughts, my concept, my beliefs, my experiences and self-realization.
  • ☆I found some link between modern science (Quantum mechanics) and teachings of ancient sages as mentioned in Vedanta, regarding Universe, Supreme Consciousness or the Ultimate truth, the Ultimate Reality whatever we say.
  • ☆ The term “MAN” wherever used in this entire text is intended to consider as “HUMAN” irrespective of gender differences.
  • ♡ Having gone through the Vedanta/ancient texts, commentaries, translated by different writers, translators, publishers on the same topic, I have tried my best to share the subject matter as I understood and convinced too. My intention is to reach to you with the topic that I found very useful for human lives. I am not good in English literature. Please give your valuable suggestions for the improvement and valuable inputs to make the text beneficial for mankind. 
  • ☆ The Spiritual context is purely based on ancient sacred texts. Sanskrit slokas are taken from books and websites. There may be little variation in the translations and commentaries. I have shared my own views and explanations according to my concept gathered in the subject through experience and intuitions. There is no discrimination against any religion, race, cast or creed. 

Introduction: – 

Kena Upanishad, part of Sama Veda, is one among the Ten Principal Upanishads and comes next to Isha Upanishad in list (Serial number 2). Kena Upanishad is presented in the form of a dialogue between “Guru” and “Shishya”. Deals primarily with the nature of the Self, the path to its realisation which gives aspirant a knowledge of Brahman” the ultimate reality. (Brahma-Gyan). 

This Upanishad has profound analytical and metaphysical presentation, which leads our mind from gross to subtle with a logic. Upanishad delivers a conceptual knowledge on “Brahman”.  It has four chapters. First two chapters gives us knowledge of nature of individual. Third chapter has a story in the form of a moral lesson and continues up to half of the fourth chapter. Fourth chapter ends with contemplation. In this post, I will discuss on few slokas (verses).  

Shanti Path:  

OM! apyayantu mamangani vakpranascaksuh srotramatho balamindriyam ca sarvani                                  sarvam brahmopanisadam. 
maham brahma nirakuryam ma brahma nirakarodanirakaranam astvanirakaranam me’stu. Tadatmani nirate ya upanisatu dharmaste mayi santu te mayi santu. OM shantih santih santih. 

 Beginning Shanti Mantra: [Prayer]: – May my limbs, Speech, prana, eyes ears, life, energy, come to my help. All is the pure Brahman of the Upanishads. I shall never deny that Brahman, nor that Brahman desert me! Let me be in union, communion with Brahman. Let the virtues recited in the Upanishads be rooted in me. May they repose in me! OM! Peace. Peace. Peace! 

 Sloka-1: “Om kenesitam patati presitam manah kena pranah prathamah praitiyuktah. kenesitam vacamimam vadanti caksuh srotram ka u devo yunakti” 

Sloka-1.ओं केनेषितं पतति प्रेषितं मनः केन प्राणः प्रथमः प्रैति युक्तः ।
केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति चक्षुः श्रोत्रं क उ देवो युनक्ति ॥ १ ॥ 

First Sloka:  OM! By whose will be directed does the mind light on its subjects. At whose, command does prana, the foremost, move? By whose will do men speak this speech? What Intelligence directs the eye and the ear? (1.1) 

The student asked teacher with the intention to know, what is that other than body and mind, which makes it possible. To understand well, let us concentrate on our day to day and even moment to moment experiences means entire conscious experiences. We will examine what makes these possible? By whose will or command? We all know Consciousness makes it possible. Example: How eye sees? Function of eye, optic nerve network, neurons then finally image of that ….an impression. But apart from the mechanism of seeing through eye, one such experience is known as qualia, according to modern science. Hard problem of consciousness. We experience through inputs received by sense organs. Consciousness is not the product of body mind system. Neither body, nor mind (brain) is producing Consciousness. Even the mind is regarded as matter. Because mind is influenced by matters. Then what is it?  Let us investigate Sloka -2.  

 Sloka-2: Srotrasya srotram manaso mano yadvaco ha vacam sa u pranasya pranascaksusascaksu. Atimucya dhirah pretyasmallokadamrta bhavanti (1.2) 

 Sloka-2.  श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद्वाचो ह वाचं स उ प्राणस्य प्राणश्चक्षुषश्चक्षुः ।
अतिमुच्य धीराः प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादमृता भवन्ति ॥ २ ॥ 

Second Sloka: The teacher replied: It is the Ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of the speech, the Life of the life and the Eye of the eye. Having detached, the Self, from the sense organs and renouncing the world, the Wise attains immortality. (2) 

From second sloka we learn, it is the Atman, the spirit, by whose power the ear hears, the eye sees, the tongue speaks, the mind understands and life functions. The wise man separates the Atman from these faculties, rises out from the cycle of birth and death, attains immortality. 

Guru’s (Teacher) reply implies that, It is Consciousness, which enables everything. Knowing this entity, the wise person transcends the limitations of human life. Transcends the world and attain immortality. Advaita (Non-Dualism) teaches that I am not the body, not the mind. What is then? I am Atman. I am awareness. 

The significance of the reply is to bring that it is not the mind and sense organs, but it is Consciousness which functions behind the scenes. Thereby mind and other organs perform their respective functions. Self only impels the mind and other sense organs work. 

Sloka-3: na tatra caksurgacchati na vaggacchati no mano na vidmo na vijanimo yathaitadanusisyadanyadeva tadviditadatho aviditadadhi. iti susruma purvesam ye nastadvyacacaksire (1.3) 

Sloka3.   न तत्र चक्षुर्गच्छति न वाग्गच्छति नो मनो न विद्मो न विजानीमो यथैतदनुशिष्यादन्यदेव तद्विदितादथो अविदितादधि |
इति शुश्रुम पूर्वेषां ये नस्तद्व्याचचक्षिरे ॥ ३ ॥ 

Third Sloka: The eye does not reach there, nor speech, nor the 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 known. We have heard it so stated by preceptors who taught us that. (3) 

Guru signifies that Self cannot be known by the mind or other sense organs. Self is different from the known and beyond the unknown. But we are beyond that. That, which is illumining all this is Consciousness. Knower of everything. This is the real you. So, something apart from eye, ear, mind, speech that which…. That you are. [   Tat TVAM ASI…]  

All problems and sufferings happen in the body and mind. When mind is not active, say deep sleep. All problems disappear. Next time in awakening state, they become active again. These body and mind are apart from Consciousness, which is our own reality. The sufferings are all appearances in Consciousness which are of changing nature.  

Knower and known. 

Consider Universal knowledge as super set of all knowledges. It has two subsets that are: 1) That which is known.  2) That which is unknown. There is some knowledge in the unknown subset which cannot be known objectively. Can be known only subjectivity(intuitively). Means we cannot objectify as in the case of eye or ear or mind. Knowledge gained is through objects. But some knowledge can be gained through intuition, through realisation. 

 Sloka-4:  yadvacanabhyuditam yena vagabhyudyate. tadeva brahma tvam viddhi nedam yadidamupasate.(1.4) 

Sloka4. यद्वाचानभ्युदितं येन वागभ्युद्यते ।
तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ४ ॥ 

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

After explaining the nature of Brahman, Guru warns shishya against thinking that he knows Brahman very well. Guru says that one who thinks he knows the Brahman well doesn’t know it in reality. ” It is known to him who does not know it and unknown to him who knows it.” 

Upanishad mentioned, how Brahman can be realised intuitively. Knower of Brahman knows that Brahman exists in everything, in all beings and in experiences as “Sakshi Chaitanyam” (witness consciousness). The wise who knows this becomes immortal. 

Story in short. Third part: 

There was a war between Devas (God’s) and Asuras (Demons). Devas got victory and they thought that it was their glory. 

Brahman, knowing this, appeared as Yaksha (Venerable being). Devas could not find out who the Yaksha was. So, Agni was asked to find out. Yaksha asked Agni, “Who are you and what do you do?”

Agni replied, “I am fire, and I can burn everything.” Then Yaksha placed a straw before Agni and asked him to burn that. Agni could not do and returned to the Devas.

Next, Vayu was sent to Yaksha and same question he repeated.  “Who are you and what do you do?”. Vayu replied,’ I am Vayu, and I can blow away anything” Again, Yaksha placed the straw before Vayu and asked him to blow that. Vayu could not do that and returned as well.

Finally, Indra himself went to find out who the Yaksha was. But as he neared, Yaksha disappeared and, in his place, appeared Goddess Uma. She explained that in fact, Yaksha was Brahman and because of Brahman, the war was won by the Devas. Moral of the story is that: Brahman made Devas realise that they were not the doers of any function, but they can do it is because of presence of Brahman. It is because of Brahman, the whole Universe functions. Brahman is the Substratum and the reality of everything. 

 That real essence of me, which is my true identity, must be realized and once that is realized, then I am free from all the personalities I possess. In essence, we are pure Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. With this understanding, we can continue with the personalities we possess and do our duties as advised in Isha Upanishad. 

  The fundamental question: Who we are ⁉️ 

Vedanta philosophy gives an answer to the question. (Vedanta namah Upanishad pramana) and if we can know the answer, then we will overcome all sufferings and sorrows.  

The answer is: We are pure Existence, Consciousness, Bliss (Sacchidanand) and not a limited mortal being, as we see in this present body of flesh and blood. Essence of all Upanishads is that our true nature is pure Existence, Consciousness, Bliss (Sacchidanand)  

“Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya Jivo Brahmaivanaparah.”  Famous Verse from “Vivek Chudamani” a prakarana grantha (Text) 

“Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya” : It means Brahman is the only truth (the ultimate reality), the world is illusory, neither true, nor false (Mithya). Means the world is changing and what we see is just appearance. 

“ Jivo Brahmaiva naparah”:  Adi Shankaracharya is conveying that the realization of the individual Self, Atman, Life energy in its purest form (without the ego) is nothing but realizing brahman only. 

 Now, we will refer DRIG-DRISHYA VIVEKA, which is a prakarana grantha, believed to be composed by Eminent author, scholar about 700 years back, known as Vidyaranya Swami. Some says author was Bharati Tirtha. The text has another name as Vakya Suddha. The text has 46 slokas. But we will see first sloka to the context of Kena Upanishad. 

This text will help, to understand the essence of first three mantras. This text specifically establishes the identity of Jiva and the infinite Reality using a technique for discrimination between the Seer (Drik) and the seen (Drishya). In this text “Vivekah” is a medium to differentiate Real from unreal. Three levels of Seer-seen relationship is discussed. 

 First sloka of DRIG-DRISHYA VIVEKA: – 

“roopam drishyam lochanam drik, tat drishyam drik tu maanasam; drishyaa dhee-vrittayah saakshee drishya dhee-vrittayah saakshee.” 


1  roopam drishyam lochanam drik  Formis the seen, the eye is the seer. 
tat drishyam drik tu maanasam  that eye is the seen, and mind is its seer. 
drishyaa dhee-vrittayah saakshee  thoughts in the mind are seen by the Witness. 
drishya dhee-vrittayah saakshee.  which alone is the Seer but can never be the seen. 

 We see the world through eyes. Eyes are distinct from what it sees. Here eyes are the seer. I am aware of the eyes, that eyes are object. Mind is seer and eyes are now object. Eyes and mind are separate. Let us investigate deeply. Mind is the observer of the body, because it observes through all sense organs. It is seer here. Let us observe Mind now. Mind itself which constitutes our thoughts, feeling, emotions, ideas are changing, which are never static. 

I am aware that whether, 

  • I am happy or not. 
  • I understand or do not understand. 
  • I like or do not like.
  • I love or do not love. 
  • I hate or do not hate. 
  • I am angry or not angry. 

All the above are expressions of my mind. These are wave of thoughts. So, I am aware of all the changes in my mind. Therefore, I am the witness of the mind. Hence mind is seen by Me. Evidently, I am distinct from the MIND. I am not the mind, but witness of the mind. Seer and seen are different. I am that who illumines my MIND. 

 Now the logic is that:  I must not forget that I, the witness of the mind, whatever I am, I am distinct from the mind. I am thus aware and conscious of the mind, the variations in mind. Generally, we identify ourselves most closely with our minds that I am this person who thinks, feels and has a personality (my personality-that i am proud of) 

But this mind is that one, whom I think I am and where I am being told, I am aware of the contents of my mind, then I cannot be the mind, I am that=> which is aware of the mind, that which is witness of the mind. This witness, this awareness is Consciousness.  Mind being observed by Consciousness. Therefore, we have first crossed bodily self to a sense of mental self and then finally to a sense of witness. Now I have become the witness of my Body and Mind. Now that I am distinct from this Body and Mind. So, who am I?  Answer is: — I am the Consciousness. I am the witness of the Body and Mind. This Consciousness self, this pure subject, is not an object. It cannot be known. I AM always Awareness, Consciousness, not something else. 

 The idea that Consciousness is not an object is fundamental insight going all the way back to the “Upanishads”. According to teachings of Upanishads, Consciousness is not an object. Whatever we are aware of is not Consciousness. What we see, hear, smell or taste, or think of, or understand, or objectify in any manner, whatsoever, none of these is Consciousness. These are objects shinning in Consciousness. 

What is Consciousness?  For that let us see the text “Nirvana shatakam” composed by Shri Adi Shankaracharya.

When young boy of eight,Shri Shankara, while wandering in the Himalayas, seeking to find his Guru, he encountered the sage Govinda pada Aacharya who asked him” who are you”.  The boy reply replied with these stanzas which is known as Nirvana shatakam. The Sage was indeed his teacher he was looking for. 


“Mano BuddhyA-hankara chittani naaham. Nacha shrotra jihve na cha Ghrana netra. Nacha vyoma bhoomir na tejo na vayuh. Chidananda Rupa Shivoham” 

  I am not mind, intellect, ego and the memory. I am not the sense of organs (ears, tongue, nose, eyes and skin). I am not the five elements (sky or ether, earth, light or fire, the wind and the water). I am supreme bliss and pure consciousness, I am Shiva, I am all auspicious, I am Shiva. 

 “Na cha prana sangto na vai pancha vayu. .Na vaa sapta dhatur na vaa pancha koshah. Na vak pani Padam na chopastha payu. Chidananda rupah Shivoham Shivoham.” 

 I am not prana (vital force) nor five vital airs(panchvati), Nor the seven essential material (sapta dhatu),nor the five Sheaths of the body (pancha kosha). I am not the organs of speech, nor hand nor the leg, Nor the organs of procreation or the elimination (payu-anus). I am Supreme bliss and pure consciousness, I am Shiva, I am all auspicious, I am Shiva. 

 “Na Me Dvesha Ragau Na Me Lobha Mohai. Mado Naiva Me Naiva Maatsarya Bhavah. Na Dharmo Na Chatthi Na Kamo Na Mokshah.Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham 

 I have no hatred or dislike, neither greed nor liking, no delusion, I have no pride or haughtiness, nor jealousy. I have no duty to perform (dharma), no desire for any wealth or pleasure (kama), I have no liberation (moksha) either. I am Supreme bliss and pure consciousness, I am Shiva, I am all auspicious, I am Shiva. 

  “Na Punyam Na Papan Na Saukhyam Na Dukhan.Na Mantro Na Teertham Na Veda Na Yajnaha. Aham Bhojanam Naiva Bhojyam Na Bhokta. Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham 

  I have neither virtue, nor vice,nor pleasure or pain, I do not need mantras (sacred chants), nor pilgrimages. nor scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yajnas). I am neither the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, nor enjoyment. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the form of consciousness-bliss( chidananda Rupah). I am the auspiciousness. I am Supreme bliss and pure consciousness, I am Shiva, I am all auspicious, I am Shiva. 

 “Na Me Mrityu Shanka Na Me Jati Bhedah. Pita Naive Me Naiva Mata Na Janma. Na Bandhur Na Mitram Gurur Naiva Shishya. Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham 

  I have no fear of death, nor do I have death. No doubt about my existence, nor distinction of caste. I have no father or mother, I have no birth. I have no relatives, nor friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple. I am pure knowledge and supreme bliss, I am Shiva, I am all auspiciousness, I am Shiva. 

  “Aham Nirvikalpo Nirakaara Roopah. Vibhur Vyapya Sarvatra Sarvendriyanaam.                                                                                     Sada Me Samatvam Na Mukthir Na Bandhah.  Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham”. 

  I am formless and devoid of all dualities. I exist everywhere and pervade all senses. Always I am the same, I am neither free nor bonded. I am pure knowledge and supreme bliss, I am Shiva, I am all auspiciousness, I am Shiva. 

 Vedanta defines Consciousness very precisely. ” Neti, neti” Whatever we can be aware of, either directly through our senses or through our mind or thoughts, or indirectly through scientific instruments, all of these are objects. 


That which is aware of all these objects is Consciousness. It is purely subjective. Consciousness is uniquely distinct from the objective Universe.

The common name is I or Self. Religious name is / Brahman (Infinite being)…according to Vedanta. All these refer to  “THAT “in which experience appears. With which ,it is known and out of which it is made. Conventional view is that our thoughts and feelings appears in ourselves. The experience of body like sensations appears in ourselves is also consciousness. Perceptions also appears in same consciousness, in the same field thoughts etc appears. But these are not pure consciousness. Pure Consciousness is that Consciousness, where there is no thought.(Consciousness-thoughts=Pure Consciousness). State of “No Mind”. Chitta Vritti nirodah……. 

 *** Note: The term Brahman, Atman, Self or Consciousness, Witness, Reality, each word refers to the same ONE Reality, known as Brahman in all Upanishads. Advaita Vedanta philosophy believes in one Supreme being, because of which all this exists. All these terms are interchangeable. 

Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite.
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. DRIG-DRISHYA VIVEKA by Swami Gurubhaktananda
  4. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.
  5. You are the Universe; Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why it Matters: By Deepak Chopra & Menas Kafatos.
  6. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentry By Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  7. Information available on internet.

It is my sincere request to the esteemed readers to share their opinion or queries if any. Suggestions to make the site attractive will be highly helpful for me.  Readers are requested to read all the posts to have continuation of the topic from the beginning. My mail ID is : 



2 thoughts on “Essence of Kena Upanishad (KENOPANISHAD)”

  1. आत्मा मध्ये
    जीवनाचे पुस्तक आहे
    सर्व देवांकडून
    सर्व शहाणपणा

    प्रत्येक मानवामध्ये
    त्याच्या सूक्ष्मदर्शी पासून
    त्याच्या स्वप्नांच्या माध्यमातून
    जर तुम्हाला ऐकायचे असेल तर

    1. Arun Singha – Kolkata, India – Retired from AIRPORTS AUTHORITY OF INDIA as Dy. General Manager (CNS). BSc (Mathematics Honours). Age 63years. Studying ancient Indian Philosophy along with modern physics and modern Biology. Write articles on Upanishads, Advaita Vedanta, Cosmology and other ancient Indian Texts. Wish to work for the society to help people through personal guidance, motivation. Self has work experience of 36 years in the field of Air Navigation Service at different Airports in India.

      Thank you so much for your beautiful comments. Regards. Namaste

Comments are closed.

Discover more from ARUNSINGHA

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading

Exit mobile version