The Secret to the Source of All Energy
The Kena Upanishad is encompassed in the Sãma-Veda. The Sãma-Veda comprises of a brãhmana (chapter) called the ‘Tavalakãr’. The tenth anuvãk (sub-section) of the fourth adhyãy (sub-chapter) of this Tavalakãr Brãhmana is the Kena Upanishad. This Upanishad starts with the question ‘केन?’ – ‘Kena?’ ‘By whom?’ Hence it is called the ‘Kena’ Upanishad. This Upanishad, which is in the form of a guru-disciple dialogue, is spread over four parts or khands with a total of 35 mantras. The text of the Veda prior to the Kena Upanishad contains a detailed explanation of karma.
The point at which the Veda talks about the inspirer of all karmas marks the beginning of the Kena Upanishad.
A DISCIPLE’S CURIOSITY
The Kena Upanishad begins with a question from an inquisitive disciple: ‘केनेषितं पतति प्रेषितं मनः केन प्राणः प्रथमः प्रैति युक्तः। केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति चक्षुः श्रोत्रं क उ देवो युनक्ति॥’ – ‘Keneshitam patati preshitam manaha kena prãnaha prathamaha praiti yuktaha. Keneshitãm vãchamimãm vadanti chakshuhu shrotram ka u devo yunakti’ (Kena Upanishad: 1/1). Each phrase of this mantra is of great importance.
‘केनेषितं पतति प्रेषितं मनः।’ – ‘Keneshitam patati preshitam manaha.’ The mana – mind – contemplates. It is a part of the antahkaran, which comprises four aspects – mana, buddhi, chitt and ahamkãr – collectively called the four antahkarans. Here, the word ‘mana’ implies all four antahkarans. So, the meaning of this phrase is, ‘O Gurudev! Who is the inspirer who gives these four antahkarans their faculty to function.’
‘केन प्राणः प्रथमः प्रैति युक्तः।’ – ‘Kena prãnaha prathamaha praiti yuktaha.’ Prãna (breath) is predominantly air. It is needed even when we are in our mother’s womb. We unconsciously continue to breathe without any intervention. Association with breath has become synonymous to life. One who no longer breathes is considered dead. Moreover, it is this prãna that propels the actions of our bodies. Prãna moves our hands. Prãna moves our feet. Our eyes can see, but it is prãna that opens our eyelids. Prãna is of great importance in our bodies. Here, prãna (breath) implies all five types of prãna – prãna, apãna, vyãna, samãna and udãna. Meaning: ‘Who is it that breathes this prãna into our lives? Who gives prãna the faculty to sustain life?’
‘केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति।’ – ‘Keneshitãm vãchamimãm vadanti.’ Speech can be heard everywhere in creation. Birds chirp, and animals roar, neigh, shriek, creak, bellow or growl. Man has an extensive ability to speak. We can sing various tunes and speak in different languages. Here, speech implies all five organs of action – speech, hand, feet, anus and genitalia. Meaning: ‘O Gurudev! Who inspires the faculty of these organs of action?’
‘चक्षुः श्रोत्रं क उ देवो युनक्ति।’ – ‘Chakshuhu shrotram ka u devo yunakti.’ Chakshu means eyes. They can see various objects. They can decipher millions of colours. They can perceive shape, quantity and distance. The eyes have many such capabilities. Shrotra means ears. They contain 30,000 sensitive points and can recognize over 300,000 sounds. Here chakshu and shrotra imply all five organs of knowledge – the eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin. Meaning: ‘Who inspires the faculty of these five amazing organs of knowledge?’
Thus, the first mantra is a presentation of a disciple’s curiosity.
Now let us see the guru’s answer.
THE GURU’S ANSWER
‘श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद् वाचो ह वाचं स उ प्राणस्य प्राणश्र्चक्षुषश्र्चक्षुः।’ – ‘Shrotrasya shrotram manaso mano yad vãcho ha vãcham sa u prãnasya prãnashchakshushashchakshuhu’ (Kena Upanishad: 1/2). Paramãtmã is the giver of all strength. What is that Paramãtmã like? He is ‘manaso manaha’ – the mind of the mind. Thus, he gives the mind the faculty to think and contemplate. He is ‘prãnasya prãnaha’ – the breath of even breath. Thus, he gives breath the faculty to sustain the body. He is ‘chakshushashchakshuhu’ – the eye of the eyes. Thus, he gives the eyes the faculty to see. He is ‘shrotrasya shrotram’ – the ear of the ears. Thus, he gives the ears the faculty to hear.
Hence, it has been clearly stated that Paramãtmã is the root inspirer of all knowledge, desires and actions. It is Paramãtmã who mobilizes the organs of knowledge and action, and the antahkaran.
Parabrahman Bhagwan Swaminarayan also says in his discourses, “God awakens the jiva from unconsciousness through his ‘jnãn-shakti’ and makes it aware of its actions. This is known as ‘jnãn-shakti’, the faculty of cognition. Furthermore, whatever action a jiva engages in, it does so with the support of what is known as God’s ‘kriyã-shakti’, the faculty of conation. Finally, whatever object a jiva desires is acquired with the help of what is known as God’s ‘ichchhã-shakti’, the faculty of volition” (Vachanamrut Gadhada I-65).
Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami has also said, “God is the all-doer. If we want to sleep now we cannot, and once asleep even if a thief comes and robs us, we are unable to wake up. Thus, God is the all-doer” (Swamini Vato: 1/201).
With this background, the Upanishad then sheds light on another matter.
PARAMÃTMÃ IS AXIOMATIC AND OF INFINITE ENERGY
Someone may question that if Paramãtmã gives the eyes, ears, mind and other organs and antahkaran their faculty, where does Paramãtmã get that faculty from? Is there anyone else who gives faculty? Such doubts are clarified here explicitly: ‘यन्मनसा न मनुते येनाऽऽहुर्मनो मतम्’ – ‘Yanmanasã na manute yenãhurmano matam’ (Kena Upanishad: 1/5), ‘यत्व्चक्षुषा न पश्यति येन चक्षूंषि पश्यन्ति’ – ‘Yachchakshushã na pashyati yena chakshoonshi pashyanti’ (Kena Upanishad: 1/6), ‘यत्व्छ्रोत्रेण न शृणोति येन श्रोत्रमिदं श्रुतम्’ – ‘Yachchhrotrena na shrunoti yena shrotramidam shrutam’ (Kena Upanishad: 1/7), ‘यत्प्राणेन न प्राणिति येन प्राणः प्रणीयते’ – ‘Yatprãnena na prãniti yena prãnaha praneeyate’ (Kena Upanishad: 1/8).
The meaning of this is that we need tools such as our eyes, ears and mind in order to see, hear and think; we need breath to breathe; we cannot see, hear, think or live without these; but this does not apply to Paramãtmã. His energy is not dependent on anything. Although Paramãtmã’s form is complete in all ways, with all divine organs, he is not dependent on tools like the eyes and ears to see or listen. If he wishes, he could see and hear without utilizing any organs, because he is all-capable. Nevertheless, he is also omniscient. For someone who knows all, what remains to be known? He always has an axiomatic, eternal and infinite energy. Also, despite the fact that he gives countless jivas and ishwars the organs and faculty to see, listen, etc., his reservoir of energy can never be exhausted. No matter how much you give from infinity, infinity remains infinity.
Thus, the primary teaching is that Paramãtmã is the all-doer.
Even though Paramãtmã is the all-doer, one who, due to one’s arrogance, does not believe him to be so, and believes oneself to be the doer is ignorant and foolish. This is like a dog that walks under a cart thinking that it is he who is moving it. To explain this, this Upanishad features a conversation between the devtas and a yaksha.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas