[Translation]

By whom commanded does the mind go forth? By whom compelled does the first life go forth? By whom commanded do they put forth creative voice? What bright one rules the eye, the ear?

It is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the voice of the voice, the life of the life, the eye of the eye. The wise man set free, rising above this lower world, becomes immortal.

The eye goes not thither, nor voice, nor mind; we know not, we understand not, how any can apprehend it. It is other than the known. It is other than the unknown.

Thus have we heard from those of old who taught us.

That which is not spoken by voice, but that by which voice is spoken; know that as the Eternal, not the god they worship here.

That which is not thought by mind, but that by which mind is thought; that know as the Eternal, not the god they worship here.

That which is not beheld by the eye, but that by which the eye is beheld, that know as the Eternal, not the god they worship here.

That which is not heard by hearing, but that by which hearing is heard; that know as the Eternal, not the god they worship here.

That which does not live by life, but that by which life lives, that know as the Eternal, not the god they worship here.

If thou thinkest ‘I know it well’, thou knowest but little; knowest thou that form of the Eternal? Is that form to be known among the bright ones?

Yet I think it is known to thee.

I think not that I know it well, nor do I know that I know it not. He among us who knows: ‘I know not that I know it not’; he indeed knows.

By whom it is unthought, by him verily it is thought. It is unknown of the knowing, and known of the unknowing.

It is thought to be known by awakening; and thus a man attains immortality. By the Self he obtains valor; by knowing he obtains immortality.

If a man knows this here, this is the real; if he knows it not here, there follows the great tribulation.

Having discerned this among all creatures, the wise, leaving this world, become immortal.

The Eternal won victory for the bright ones; in the victory of the Eternal, the bright ones magnified themselves, and declared:

‘This is our victory; this is our might!’

The Eternal knew this, and became manifest to them. But they could not discern what power it was.

They spoke to Fire: ‘Thou knower, discern for us what this power is’, said they.

‘Be it so!’ said he.

He ran to it. It addressed him, saying, ‘Who art thou?’

‘I am Fire’, said he; ‘I am the knower’.

‘Then what valor is in thee?’

‘I could burn up the whole world’, said he; ‘whatever there is on earth’.

Then the Eternal laid down a grass before him; saying ‘burn this!’ And Fire came up to it with all his might, but was not able to burn it. Therefore he turned back again; ‘I could not discern what power this is’, said he.

So they addressed Breath; ‘Oh Breath! discern what power this is’, said they.

‘Be it so!’ said he.

He ran to it. It addressed him, saying, Who art thou?’

‘I am Breath’, said he; ‘I am he who sleeps in the Mother’.

Then what valor is in thee?’

‘I could take up the whole world’, said he, ‘whatever there is on earth’.

Then the Eternal laid down a grass before him; saying, ‘Take up this’. And Breath came up to it with all his might, but was not able to take it up. Therefore he turned back again; ‘I could not discern what power this is’, said he.

So they addressed the Sky-lord; ‘Mighty One, discern what power this is’, said they.

‘Be it so’, said he.

He ran to it, but it vanished from before him.

But there, in shining ether, he met a woman. resplendent, golden-colored Wisdom; he addressed her: ‘What power is this?’ said he.

And she replied: ‘This is the Eternal; and in the victory of the Eternal, you have magnified yourselves’. And thus he knew that it was the Eternal.

Therefore these bright ones are above the other bright ones, as it were,—Fire, Breath, and the Sky-lord, because they touched the Eternal most nearly. And as he first knew that it was the Eternal, the Sky-lord is above the other bright ones; for he touched it most nearly, and he first knew that it was the Eternal.

And this is the teaching that gleamed forth as from the lightning, and flashed forth, as it were. This is the teaching as to the bright ones. Then as to the Self. This it is that the mind approaches, and the imagination remembers it again and again. This verily is the adorable; and by the name of adorable it is to be worshipped.

Thou hast said ‘Declare to me the hidden wisdom!’ That hidden wisdom is declared to thee; we have declared to thee the hidden wisdom of the Eternal. For this wisdom exist fervor, dominance, and works; all wisdoms with their members are its resting-place; and the real is its lasting home.

He who has learned this hidden wisdom, putting away all darkness, he enters and dwells in the endless heaven, the world that is the prize of victory.

[Here ends the Kena Upanishad]


Commentary: A Question, A Riddle, and A Fable

This ‘book of hidden wisdom’ contains three things: a question, a riddle, and a fable; and after these an epilogue. First, the question. By whom commanded do mind, life, voice, eye, and ear go forth into being? In this question there are exactly the same elements as in the story of Life and the lives. ‘I’ said Life, ‘dividing myself fivefold, support this ray, establishing it.’

He who sends forth the five lives, the five outward powers, is Life, the Real, the Higher Self.

This Self, the one knower, Consciousness, is the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear.

This Self, the One Being and Bliss, the real Will, is the voice of voice, the life of life.

The eye goes not thither, nor voice, nor mind, because this Self is the reality under mind and voice and eye; and mind and voice and eye are but the transient forms taken by the Self, in the glamor of the world.

How then can the forms of glamor reach and know the reality that stands behind them?

It is other than the known, it is other than the unknown. It is other than the known, because it is the Knower; because Consciousness is other than the object of Consciousness. It is other than the unknown, again because it is the Knower; because Consciousness is other than things not objects of Consciousness.

As it is the Self, the Real, the Eternal, the Will, it is not spoken by voice; but through its reality is all voice and all speaking possible. Know that this divine Self of all beings is the Eternal; not the god they worship here, the prince of this world, the baser self.

As it is the Self, Consciousness, the essence of all knowing; it is not known by mind, but through its reality mind knows. Mind is the veil through which the divine Self shines. Know this Self as the enduring; not the god they worship here.

As this Self is the Knower, the Seer, it is not beheld by the eye, but through its power the eye beholds; this is the being invisible, that looks out through the visible windows. Know this Seer to be the Eternal; and not the god they worship here.

As the Self again is the Knower, it is not known by hearing, but through its power, hearing springs into being. When the Self is withdrawn, the ear hears no more forever. Know this divine Self whose heart is Bliss as the Eternal; not the god they worship here.

And as this Self is eternal Life, it lives not by life; but through it life lives. Know this Life to be the Eternal, not the baser life they worship here. Thus the question and its answer.

Then comes the riddle; and its answer is the same. The Self is eternal Being; eternal Life. It is also eternal Will, the essence of all happiness. And, thirdly, it is eternal Consciousness, the Knower.

If, therefore, thou thinkest ‘I know the Knower’, thou knowest but little, for the subject of all knowledge cannot be the object of any knowledge. The enduring ‘I am I’ cannot be outwardly known; for it is the inmost Self, the Knower in all knowing.

Yet, in a sense, it is known to thee; for thou art that Self, thyself; and therefore it is ever present with thee. I think not that I know it well; for I am that Self, the Knower; and yet myself is an eternal mystery to me.

This Self I can never know. Is the case then hopeless and without help? No! for though I cannot know that Self, I can be that Self; have, indeed, been that Self from the eternities. And that eternal identity with the heart of all joy I shall know by awakening; by the awakening to the Self.

For him who knows it here, it is well; he who knows it not, falls into the long tribulation of unknowledge; of a fancied apart-ness from the heart of all joy. But having discerned this in all creatures, as the Self of all that is, the wise man leaves the world of fancied apartness; he wins the heart of all joy; the immortal. Thus the riddle and its solution.

Then follows the parable of the Eternal and the powers. And to make this parable transparent and lucid, we need only remember the teaching of another ‘book of hidden wisdom’, the teaching of the four steps of the Self.

The lowest and outermost self is the self that stands in the coarse vesture, the vesture of waking. And this self is called Fire, common to all men.

The next, and midmost of the three unenduring selves, is the self that stands in the finer vesture, the vesture of dreaming. And this self is called the Radiant, the self of mind and emotion.

The highest of the three unlasting selves is the self that stands in the causal vesture, the vesture of union and will. And this self is called the intuitional, the wise.

And above these three unenduririg selves is the Self that endures, the vestureless, unveiled Eternal.

And of this enduring Self, this heart of joy, the three selves are the modes, the passing moods, the phantasmal children. But they cannot know their oneness with the Self, and so enter the heart of joy, until Wisdom, the gold-colored, the resplendent, rises up within them, and brings awakening and freedom for evermore.

In the fable of golden Wisdom that reveals the Eternal, the three bright ones have each two names; a name for each of the unenduring selves and a name for their vestures.

Fire is the outermost of the three unlasting selves, the vital fire of physical life; and its vesture is the knower, the garment of sense.

Breath is the midmost of the three unlasting selves; it is the Radiant, the emotional; and its vesture is the mother, the love and loving of all the worlds.

The Sky-lord, king of the azure sphere of heaven that arches over the earth, is the highest of the three unlasting selves. Its vesture is the causal vesture, the mighty.

And the causal vesture is woven of the ineffable, beginningless illusion of apartness from the Eternal; and when this illusion fades before the awakening of Wisdom, the golden, the resplendent, then the immemorial oneness with the Eternal is once more known.

And this awakening Wisdom gleams forth as from the lightning, and flashes forth. And he who has learned this hidden wisdom, putting away all darkness, enters and dwells in the endless heaven, the world that is the prize of victory.