Kena Upanishad | by Shankara | II 1-2



yadi manyase suvedeti daharamevāpi
nūnaṁ tvaṁ vettha brahmaṇo rūpam |
yadasya tvaṁ yadasya deveṣvatha nu
mīmāṁsyameva te manye viditam || 1 ||

If thou thinkest “I know It well,”
then it is certain that thou knowest but little of the Brahman (Absolute Truth),
or in what form He (resideth) in the Devas (minor aspects of Deity).
Therefore I think
that what thou thinkest to be known is still to be sought after.

Fearing that the disciple, to whom has been brought home the conviction,

You are the Self,
which is opposed to the acceptable and the unacceptable, and which is Brahman

may jump to the conclusion,
I know myself well enough that I, indeed, am Brahman”,

the teacher, with a view to dispelling that notion of the disciple, says,
If you think...” etc.


Is not such a firm conviction as, “I know well enough”, desirable?


True, a firm conviction is desirable but not such a one as, “I know It well enough.”

That knowable thing alone that falls within the range of cognition can be known thoroughly, just as an inflammable substance becomes consumable to a fire that burns it, but not so the essence itself of the fire.

The well-ascertained purport of all the Upaniṣads is that the personal Self of each Knower is Brahman:

Here, too, the same fact has been established in the form of an answer to questions, in the text beginning with, “That which is the Ear of the ear“ etc. (I. 2);

and the same has been specifically affirmed in the text,
That which is not uttered by speech“ (1. 5).

Besides, the positive conclusion of the (traditional) line of knowers of Brahman has been adduced in the text: “That is surely different from the known; and again, It is above the unknown“ (1. 4).

And the topic will be concluded thus:

It is unknown to those who know well, and known to those who do not know“ (II. 3).

Hence it is proper to dispel the disciple's notion: “I know well enough.“

For the knower cannot be known by the knower,
just as fire cannot be consumed by the consuming fire;
and there is no other knower different from Brahman
to whom Brahman can become a separate knowable.

A separate knower is denied by the Vedic text:
There is no other knower but this“ (Brih. III. viii. 11).

Therefore the conviction, “I know Brahman well enough“, is certainly false.

Hence the teacher has justifiably said, “if you think“ etc.
Yadi, if perchance; manyase, you think; Su veda iti, “I know Brahman well enough.“

Although the entity may be inscrutable, yet someone who is possessed of real wisdom and who is free from defects, may at some time comprehend It, whereas someone else may not;

hence the teacher says with hesitation, “If you think” etc.

And it has been noticed that when it was declared,

“‘The person that is perceived in the eye—this is the Self’, so said he (Prajāpati),
‘This is immortal, fearless - this is Brahman’
” (Ch. VIII. vii. 4).

Virocana, though he was a son of Prajāpati, and a scholar, and a king of the demons, still, owing to his natural defects, understood, contrary to what was taught, an opposite object, viz. the body, to be the Self.

Similarly, Indra, the king of the gods, who could not comprehend when instructed once, twice, and thrice, did, at the 4th stage, when his natural defects had been removed, realised the same Brahman that was spoken of at the very initial stage (Ch. VIII. vii-xii).

In ordinary life also it is seen that, of the disciples hearing from the same teacher, someone understands accurately, someone inaccurately, someone contrarily, and someone nothing at all.

What more need one speak with regard to (the knowledge of) the real nature of the Self which is beyond the senses?

In this matter, indeed, all dialecticians, whether they believe in (the) existence or non-existence (of the Self), have got their misconceptions.

Therefore though the statement, “Brahman has been realised“, has been made with firm conviction, still the teacher's apprehensive remark, “If you think“ etc., is quite appropriate in view of the unwarranted comprehensions.

Tvam, you; vettha, know; nūnaṁ certainly; daharam rūpam eva api, the very little form (i.e. expression); brahmaṇaḥ, of Brahman.


Are there many forms of Brahman, great and small,
because of which it is said, “very little form“ etc.?


Quite so: Many, indeed, are the aspects of Brahman created by conditions of name and form, but not naturally.

From Its own standpoint, forms, together with words, are denied thus:

That which is without sound, touch, form, and destruction;
likewise tasteless, everlasting, and odourless
“ (Ka. I. iii. 15; Nṛ. 9: Muk. II. 72).


Is it not a fact that the very attribute by which a thing is determined is its own nature?
Therefore that very distinctive feature by which Brahman is defined must be Its nature.

Hence it is argued that since consciousness cannot be an attribute of any one of (the elements) earth etc., nor can it be of all of them in their transformation (as body),

and as it is not an attribute of either of (the senses such as) the ear etc., or of the internal organ (mind), therefore it is a feature of Brahman; and thus is Brahman defined by consciousness.

Thus it has been said,

Knowledge, Bliss, Brahman“ (Brih. III. ix. 28.7)
Pure intelligence only“ (Brih. II. iv. 12),
Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, Infinite“ (Tai. II. i. 1),
Brahman is consciousness“ (Ai. V. 3)

-thus, too, is the feature of Brahman determined in the Vedic texts.


Truly this is so.

But even so, that aspect is indicated, not from the intrinsic point of view, but merely with reference to the limiting adjuncts -mind, body, and senses;

and this is because of Its correspondence with those things, in accordance as the body etc. undergo expansion, contraction, disruption, etc., or are destroyed.

But in reality, the conclusion will be:
unknown to those who know well, and known to those who do not know“ (Ke. II. 3).

The expression, yat asya, should be construed with the expression, brahmaṇaḥ rūpam (the aspect of Brahman), that preceded it, (meaning thereby: that form of Brahman which).

Not only do you know little of the expression of that Brahman that is conditioned by the human personality, but the expression of Brahman as conditioned by divine adjuncts, which you deveṣu vettha, know among the gods, that too, as known to you, is very little indeed.

This is how I think:

Whether the expression be in the human personality or whether it be among the gods, it does not become freed from insignificance, since it is conditioned by adjuncts.

The purport is that the Brahman, that is free from all distinctions, that is one without a second, and that known as Bhūmā (great) and eternal, cannot be known as a fully comprehended object.

Since this is so, atha nu, therefore; manye, I think; te, for you; even now. Brahman is mīmāṁsyameva eva, certainly to be deliberated on.

The disciple having been told so by the teacher, sat in solitude with his mind concentrated, discussed the traditional teaching, as imparted by the teacher, together with its purport, ascertained it by a process of reasoning, made it a matter of personal experience, approached the teacher, and said,

Manye, (now) I think; (Brahman) is viditam known.“
(Teacher): “How (is Brahman known to you)?“
(Disciple): “Listen!“ –


nāhaṁ manye suvedeti no na vedeti veda ca |
yo nastadveda tadveda no na vedeti veda ca || 2 ||

I do not think I know It well,
nor do I think that I do not know It.
He among us who knows It truly,
knows (what is meant by) “I know”
and also what is meant by “I know It not.”

No aham manye suveda iti, I do not think, ”I know Brahman well enough."

Being told (by the teacher), “Then Brahman is not certainly known by you",

(the disciple) replies, ‘

No na veda iti, veda ca, not that I do not know Brahman: and I know, too."

From the use of the word ca (and), in the expression veda ca, we are to understand,
Na veda ca, and I do not know, as well.”


is it not contradictory (to say),

‘‘I do not think, ‘I know (Brahman) well enough,'" and
Not that I do not know: I know and I do not know as well"?

If you do not consider, “I know well enough",
then how can you consider, “I know too"?

Again if you consider, “I do know",
then why do you not consider, "I know well enough"?

Leaving out of consideration doubt and false knowledge, it is a contradiction to say that the very same thing which is known by a man is not known well enough by him.

Nor can a restrictive rule be laid down to the effect that Brahman is to be known as an object of doubt or false knowledge. For doubt and false knowledge are, indeed, everywhere known to be the causes of harm.

Though the disciple was thus given a shaking by the teacher, he remained unmoved:

Moreover, revealing his own firm conviction in the knowledge of Brahman, he boldly declared with the strength derived from the traditional knowledge as imparted by the teacher in the sentence,

"It is different from the known and is also above the unknown",

- as also from the strength derived from reasoning and (personal) realisation.

How (did he declare)? That is being said:

"Ya, anyone who; na, among us, among my co-disciples; veda, knows in reality; tat, that, that sentence uttered by me; he veda, knows; tat, Brahman."

(Teacher): "What again is your assertion?"

To this he answers:

"No na veda iti veda ca, not that I do not know: I know and I do not know as well."

With a view to showing his concurrence with the idea of the teacher and counteracting the comprehension of people of dull intellect, the disciple repeated with conviction in another language, viz.

"Not that I do not know: I know and I do not know as well",

the very same thing which was presented in the sentence,
"It is different from the known and it is above the unknown";

- and in doing so, he associated with this his own inference and realisation.

Thus the exclamation,
"He among us who understands that utterance knows that Brahman",
- becomes justifiable.

Stepping aside from the dialogue between the teacher and the taught,

the Upaniṣad, speaking for itself, presents in these words, yasyāmataṁ etc., the whole of the conclusion arrived at through the dialogue: