Reading the Upanishads: Kena Chapter Two

We are doing a scripture study together: reading along through some scriptures and discussing the passages. Today is the second post on the Kena Upanishad. The previous scripture was the Isha Upanishad (find all Scripture posts here)

Here are a few different translations of the second section of the Kena Upanishad…

1)

Chapter II

1

The teacher said: If you think: “I know Brahman well,” then surely you know but little of Its form; you know only Its form as conditioned by man or by the gods. Therefore Brahman, even now, is worthy of your inquiry.

The disciple said: I think I know Brahman.

2

The disciple said: I do not think I know It well, nor do I think I do not know It. He among us who knows the meaning of “Neither do I not know, nor do I know”—knows Brahman.

3

He by whom Brahman is not known, knows It; he by whom It is known, knows It not. It is not known by those who know It; It is known by those who do not know It.

4

Brahman is known when It is realized in every state of mind; for by such Knowledge one attains Immortality. By Ātman one obtains strength; by Knowledge, Immortality.

5

If a man knows Ātman here, he then attains the true goal of life. If he does not know It here, a great destruction awaits him. Having realized the Self in every being, the wise relinquish the world and become immortal.

 2)

Chapter II 

1     The teacher said: If you think: “I know Brahman well,” then surely you know but little of Its form; you know only Its form as conditioned by man or by the gods. Therefore Brahman, even now, is worthy of your inquiry. 

2     The disciple said: I think I know Brahman. The disciple said: I do not think I know It well, nor do I think I do not know It. He among us who knows the meaning of “Neither do I not know, nor do I know”—knows Brahman. 

3     He by whom Brahman is not known, knows It; he by whom It is known, knows It not. It is not known by those who know It; It is known by those who do not know It. 

4     Brahman is known when It is realised in every state of mind; for by such Knowledge one attains Immortality. By Atman one obtains strength; by Knowledge, Immortality 

5     If a man knows Atman here, he then attains the true goal of life. If he does not know It here, a great destruction awaits him. Having realised the Self in every being, the wise relinquish the world and become immortal. 

 

3)

The website seems to be down right now for my third source! So, you can find the Sanskrit text with individual word translation here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/59198760/Kena-Upanishad-Translated-with-notes-by-Swami-Sharvananda

 ***

Apparently here the teacher is becoming concerned about the ego of the disciple. Does the student think that he is the one who acts under his own power? In some ways it seems as though the student believes he already knows it all, already has the answers, and does not need to continue to strive to understand Brahman.

The commentaries speak to the idea that it is easy to confuse our ego with Atman or Brahman. They suggest that this student has not yet delved far enough to actually know Brahman. They also point out that “knowing” can be an intellectual exercise, but knowing Brahman in an intellectual way is only a part of actually knowing Him. In many ways, Brahman is unknowable by the mind.

This section reminds me of hearing that Socrates said that the wise man knows that he knows nothing.

On the other hand, the student does make the point that we cannot say we do not know Brahman at all: He is within our very soul.

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What is the Kena Upanishad?  There are hundreds of Upanishads, but ten are considered principle texts, the most important ones. These were written approximately 1000 years BCE. The word translates to “by whom,” which refers to the opening question of the text.

 

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • TruthSeeker

    It was tough one. But good efforts from your side to make us understand.

    • Ambaa

      Thanks! I don’t know that I understand it myself! I find that the scriptures are things to be read over and over and over and new meaning is always revealing itself :)

      • TruthSeeker

        Agree with you. These scripture are very abstract in nature, mere translation will not work unless we have some context.


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