Kena Upanishad | by Shankara | II 3-5


yasyāmataṁ tasya mataṁ mataṁ yasya na veda saḥ |
avijñātaṁ vijānatāṁ vijñātamavijānatām || 3 ||

He who thinks he knows It not, knows It.
He who thinks he knows It, knows It not.
The true knowers think they can never know It (because of Its infinitude),
while the ignorant think they know It.

To that knower of Brahman, yasya, to whom; amata, unknown; whose view, conviction, is that Brahman is not known; tasya, to him; mata, is known. Brahman is fully known —that is the meaning.

Again, yasya, he to whom; mata, known; he who has the conviction, "Brahman is known to me"; saḥ, he; na veda, does not know; to be sure.

The 2 views of the man of knowledge and the man of ignorance, which are thus presented, are being distinctly affirmed (in the second line) avijñātaṁ vijānatāṁ etc.

Avijñātaṁ, not known; Brahman is in fact unknown to vijānatāṁ, to the people who know that is to say, to those who have fully realised.

Brahman, is vijñātaṁ, known; avijñātaṁ, to those who do not know, to those who have not got full realisation—

- that is to say, to those who identify the Self merely with the senses, the mind, and the intellect,

but not to those whose intelligence is extremely primitive, (these latter being left out of consideration), for the latter do not have the consciousness, "Brahman is known by us".

The error involved in the idea, “Brahman is known to us”, is possible for those, however,

who, by reason of non-discrimination between Brahman and the limiting adjuncts and because of their familiarity with the limiting adjuncts such as the intellect,

- consider the senses, the mind, and the intellect as the Self.

Hence the incomplete knowledge is presented as a view to be refuted in the text,
"known to those who do not know".

Or the latter half (of the verse, viz.) avijñātaṁ etc., is adduced as a reason (for the first half).

It has been ascertained that Brahman is unknown to those who know.

If Brahman be wholly unknown, then there remains no distinction between the ordinary people and the knowers of Brahman.

Besides, the statement, "unknown to those who know", is self-contradictory.

How then can Brahman be known adequately?
To explain this the Upaniṣad says:


pratibodha-viditaṁ matamamṛtatvaṁ hi vindate |
ātmanā vindate vīryaṁ vidyayā vindate'mṛtam || 4 ||

It (Brahman) is known,
when It is known in every state of consciousness.
(Through such knowledge) one attains immortality.
By attaining this Self, man gains strength;
and by Self-knowledge immortality is attained.

Pratibodha-viditaṁ, known with reference to each state of intelligence. By the word bodha are meant the cognitions acquired through the intellect.

The Self, that encompasses all ideas as Its objects, is known in relation to all these ideas:

Being the witness of all cognitions, and by nature nothing but the power of consciousness, the Self is indicated by the cognitions themselves, in the midst of cognitions, as non-different from them. There is no other door to Its awareness.

Therefore when Brahman is known as the innermost Self (i.e. witness) of cognitions, then is It matam, known, that is to say, then there is Its complete realisation.

Only by accepting Brahman as the witness of all cognitions can it be established that

It is by nature a witness that is not subject to growth and decay, and is eternal, pure in essence, the Self, unconditioned, and one in all beings,

just as it is in the case of ākāśa (space) because of the non- difference of its characteristics despite its existence in pots, caves, etc.

The purport of that very traditional text,
"It is different from the known, and again It is above the unknown" (Ke. 1. 4)
which is thus clarified, is concluded here.

For (in support of this) there is the other Vedic text:

"The Witness of vision, the Hearer of hearing,
the Thinker of thought, the Knower of knowledge
" (Brih. III. IV. 2).

On the other hand, the explanation may run like this:

The Self being the agent of the act of knowing, one infers It to be the agent of the action from the fact of the cognitive act itself, just as one knows that to be the wind which moves a tree”;

- if this be the explanation, then the Self is a substance possessed of the power of knowing, but It is not the knowledge itself; and as for knowledge, it originates and dies;

when knowledge originates, the Self becomes modified by it;  and when knowledge dies, the Self becomes nothing but an unmodified substance with Its intelligence destroyed.

In such a case, one cannot avoid the objection that the Self (thereby) becomes changeable, composed of parts, non-eternal, impure, etc.

As for the (following) view of the school of Kaṇāda,

"Knowledge, arising from the contact of the soul and the mind, inheres in the soul; hence is the soul endowed with knowership. But it is not changeable; it is merely a substance just like a pot in which colour inheres"

- since according to this view, too, Brahman is a mere substance without consciousness, it contradicts such Vedic texts as,

Knowledge, Bliss, Brahman” (Br. III. ix. 28.7),
"Brahman is Consciousness" (Ai. V. 3).

And as the soul is partless and hence has no locality in it, and as the mind is ever in contact with it, the consequent illogicality of admitting any law regarding the origination of memory becomes insurmountable.

Besides, one has to imagine that the Self can have the attribute of coming in contact with others, which idea is repugnant to the Vedas and the Smṛti; for such are the Vedic and Smṛti texts:

"Unattached, for It is never attached" (Br. III. ix. 26),
"it is unconnected, and is the supporter of all" (G. XIII. 14).

Moreover, since logic demands that a thing that has attributes, and is not of a different category, can come into contact with another having attributes,

therefore it is illogical to hold that the Self which is attributeless, undifferentiated, and distinct from everything else, can come into contact with anything whatsoever that does not belong to the same category.

Hence if the Self is the witness of all cognitions, then and not otherwise is established the idea that the Self, which is an effulgence that is in reality eternal and undecaying knowledge, is Brahman.

Therefore the expression pratibodha-viditaṁ has the meaning as explained by us.

As for the explanation,
"The expression, pratibodha-viditaṁ means that the Self is known to oneself",

it is possible in a context where the Self appears as a conditioned thing through identification with the limiting adjunct, intellect, so as to have such apparent activities as knowing the Self by the self (referred to in the texts):

"Sees the Self in his own self" (Br. IV. iv. 23),

"O Puruṣottama, (lit. Supreme Puruṣa, i.e. Being)
you yourself know your Self through the self" (G. X. 15).

But in a context where the unconditioned Self is one,
there can neither be knowing by oneself nor by another.

Besides, It being by nature Consciousness Itself, there can be no dependence on another consciousness, just as a light does not depend on another light.

If the fact of being known to oneself is held in accordance with the Buddhist theory, then knowledge becomes momentary and is left without a Self (Reality);

and this will contradict such Vedic texts as:

"For the knower’s function of knowing can never be lost, because it is immortal" (Br. IV. iii. 30),

"Eternal, multi-formed, all-pervading" (Mu. I. i. 6),
"That great birthless Self is undecaying, immortal, undying, fearless" (Br. IV. iv. 25).

Others, again, imagine that by the word pratibodha is meant uncaused knowledge, as in the case of a sleeping man, while according to still others it is the knowledge that flashes but once:

(To this we say): Whether it be caused or uncaused, and whether it flashes once or twice, it is pratibodha to be sure.

Hi, because; vindate, (one) attains; amṛtatvaṁ, immortality, existence in one's own Self, emancipation

-by virtue of the aforesaid pratibodha, i.e. from the knowledge of the Self as appearing with reference to (i.e. as the witness of) each state of consciousness,

- therefore the Self is truly known when It is known along with each state of consciousness.

Besides, consciousness, as having the indwelling Self as its content, is alone held to be the cause of immortality, immortality does not surely consist in the Self becoming a non-Self.

Immortality being the very nature of the Self, it is certainly without any cause. And thus mortality consists in the Self being perceived as the non-Self through ignorance.

How, again, is immortality attained through the afore-said knowledge of the Self?
This is being answered:

Ātmanā, through one’s own Self; vindate, (one) attains; vīryaṁ, strength, capacity.

The strength got from wealth, friend, incantation, medicine, austerity, or Yoga cannot conquer death, for it is produced by impermanent things.

But the strength, consequent on the knowledge of the Self,
is acquired through the Self alone and not through anything else.

Thus, since the strength resulting from the knowledge of the Self is independent of any means of acquisition, that strength alone is able to conquer death.

Since the strength produced by the knowledge of the Self is thus attained through the Self, therefore, vidyayā, through knowledge about the Self; (one) vindate, attains; amṛtam, immortality.

In the Upanishad of the Atharva-Veda it is said,

This Self is not to be attained by one who has no strength,
(resulting from steadfastness in the Self)“ (Mu. III. ii. 4).

Therefore the statement of the reason, “because thereby one attains immortality“, is quite appropriate.

Pitiable, indeed, it is to suffer through ignorance, birth, old age, death, disease, etc., among multitudes of beings such as gods, men, animals, ghosts, etc., in whom there is an abundance of misery natural to transmigratory existence.



iha cedavedīdatha satyamasti
na cedihāvedīnmahatī vinaṣṭiḥ |
bhūteṣu bhūteṣu vicitya dhīrāḥ
pretyāsmāllokādamṛtā bhavanti || 5 ||

If one knows It here, that is Truth;
if one knows It not here, then great is his loss.
The wise seeing the same Self in all beings,
being liberated from this world, become immortal.

Cet, if—a man having scriptural sanction and ability; avedit, has known—the Self as defined and in the manner already explained;

iha, here, indeed; atha then; asti satyam, there is truth, there subsist in this human birth the values consisting in long life, wealth, and holiness, or supreme reality.

Iha, here, even while living, cet, if; a competent man na avedit, has not realised;

then there is mahatī, great, interminable; vinaṣṭiḥ destruction, transmigratory existence consisting in non-cessation of a continuous succession of birth, old age, death, etc.

Therefore the dhīrāḥ, wise, Brāhmaṇas (the knowers of Brahman), who are thus familiar with merits and demerits; vicitya, having known, realised, the one reality of the Self; bhūteṣu bhūteṣu, in all beings moving and unmoving;

pretya, turning away from, desisting from this world of ignorance—the world consisting of “I and mine”—i.e. having attained the non-dual state consisting in becoming identified with the Self of all; amṛtāḥ bhavanti, become immortal, become Brahman indeed—

- this is the idea; as it has been said in the Vedic text:

He who knows that supreme Brahman becomes Brahman indeed“ (Mu. III. ii. 9).

|| iti kenopaniṣadi dvitīyaḥ khaṇḍaḥ ||

It was second part of Kena Upanishad.