Upanishads - Kena and Katha

The Upanishads

See my previous post on the Brihadaranyaka and Mandukya Upanishads.

Kena, the title and opening word of the text, means "by whom?" - that is, by whom impelled do all the motions of life stir? Shankara gave this question a suitably profound interpretation: "By whose mere presence does that desire arise which moves the universe?" [page 66]

I.3 The ignorant think the Self can be known
By the intellect, but the illumined
Know he is beyond the duality
Of the knower and the known
I.4 The Self is realized in a higher state
Of consciousness when you have broken through
The wrong identification that you are
The body, subject to birth and death.
To be the Self is to go beyond death.

I.5 Realize the Self, the shining goal of life!
If you do not, there is only darkness.
See the self in all, and go beyond death.
... the Kena contains one of the two mysterious Upanishadic names for God which have no (or almost no) literal meaning... The name, an answer to the opening question of the text, is Tadvanam, explained as the coming from tatam and vananiya, meaning "the all pervading lover" or "beloved". (The other mysterious name occurs at Chandogya III.14.1)
If there is one Upanishad that can be called a favorite in all ages, it is the Katha. [page 75]
1.1.22 Nachiketa: This doubt haunted even the gods of old;
For it is hard to know. O Death, as you say.
I can have no greater teacher than you.
And there is no boon equal to this.

2.2.21 Though one sits in meditation in a
particular place, the Self within
Can exercise his influence far away.
Though still, he moves everything everywhere.

2.2.23 The Self cannot be known through study
Of the scriptures, nor through the intellect,
Nor through hearing learned discourses.
The Self can be attained only by those
Whom the Self chooses. Verily unto them
Does the Self reveal himself.

2.3.3 Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as charioteer,
And the mind as reins.

2.3.4 The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the roads they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow.

2.1.14 As the rain on a mountain peak runs off
The slopes on all sides, so those who see
Only the seeming multiplicity of life
Run after things on every side.

2.2.15 There shines not the sun, neither moon nor star,
Nor flash of lightning, nor fire lit on earth.
The Self is the light reflected by all.
He shining, everything shines after him.

This famous model of human life as the conduct of a chariot recurs in the framework of the Gita, where Krishna himself drives as Arjuna's charioteer... [page 102]
Book Details:
  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Nilgiri Press; 1 edition (June 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0915132397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0915132393
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.5 x 1 inches
Tales from these two Upanishads have also found their way into two Amar Chitra Katha comics:

- Tales from the Upanishads

- Nachiketa and Other Stories

Books on the Upanishads