Kena Upanishad | by Shankara | III



brahma ha devebhyo vijigye tasya ha brahmaṇo vijaye devā amahīyanta || 1 ||

The Brahman once won a victory for the Devas.
Through that victory of the Brahman, the Devas became elated.

After hearing the text, “unknown to those who know well, and known to those who do not know” etc. (Ke. 11. 3), some people of dull intellect may have this kind of delusion:

It is seen that whatever exists is known through the valid means of cognition; and whatever does not exist remains unknown, is like the horns of a hare, and is absolutely non-existent.

Similarly, this Brahman, being unknown, is certainly non-existent";

- lest there be this delusion, this story is begun.
For the subsequent passages are seen to be leading to this conclusion:

Since that very Brahman is the ruler in every way, the supreme Deity of even the deities, the supreme Lord over the lordly beings, inscrutable, the cause of victory of the gods, and the cause of the defeat of the devils,

- therefore, how can It be non-existent?"

Or the story is meant to eulogise the knowledge of Brahman. How?

By saying that it was surely by virtue of the knowledge of Brahman, that Fire and other gods attained supremacy over the gods, and Indra got greater pre-eminence still.

Or (through the story) it is shown that Brahman is inscrutable, inasmuch as Fire and others, powerful though they are, knew Brahman with sheer difficulty, and so also did Indra, even though he is the ruler of the gods.

Or the whole thing is meant to enjoin an injunction regarding the secret teachings (about meditations) that will follow (Ke. lV. 4-7).

Or the story is meant to show that apart from the knowledge of Brahman all notions of agentship etc. that creatures possess, as for instance the conceit of the gods with regard to victory etc., are false.

Brahman, the supreme Brahman already spoken of; ha, verily; devebhya, for the sake of the gods; vijigye, achieved victory, in a fight between the gods and the devils.

Brahman, after conquering the devils, the enemies of the world and transgressors of divine rules, gave to the gods the victory and its results for ensuring the stability of the world.

Tasya ha Brahmaṇaḥ vijaye, in that victory which was, indeed, Brahman’s; devaḥ the gods, Fire etc.; amahīyanta, became elated.


ta aikṣantāsmākamevāyaṁ vijayo'smākamevāyaṁ mahimeti
taddhaiṣāṁ vijajñau tebhyo ha prādurbabhūva
tanna vyajānata kimidaṁ yakṣamiti || 2 ||

They thought, “This victory is ours. This glory is ours.”
The Brahman perceived this and appeared before them.
They did not know what mysterious form it was.

Then not knowing that this victory and this glory belonged to God who sits in the hearts as the indwelling Self—omniscient, dispenser of the fruits of all works of all creatures, omnipotent, and desirous of encompassing the stability of the world—

- te, they, those gods; aikṣanta, thought:

Ayam Vijaya, this victory, achieved by those who identify themselves with such limited beings as Fire etc.; is asmākam eva, ours indeed:

Asmākam eva, ours indeed, and not of God who is our indwelling Self; is ayam mahimā, this glory evidenced by such states as of Fire, Air, Indra, etc., which are experienced by us as the result of victory.

This has not been achieved by God who is our indwelling Self.”

Brahman ha, surely; vijajñau, knew; tat, that, that deliberation of those whose thoughts were being directed by a false self-conceit; for Brahman is omniscient by virtue of being the director of the senses of all creatures.

Noticing this false pride of the gods, and thinking,

In order that the gods may not be thus defeated like the devils, as a consequence of their vain-glory, I shall, out of grace for them, favour the gods by removing their presumptuousness”;

tebhya, to the gods, for their sake; ha, indeed; through an unprecedentedly wonderful and astonishing form created by Brahman’s own power of Māyā; prādurbabhūva, appeared as an object of perception to the senses of the gods.

The gods na vyajānata, did not comprehend; tat, that, the Brahman, as appearing; kiṁ iti, as to what; idam yakṣam, this venerable great Being, might be.


te'gnimabruvañjātaveda etadvijānīhi
kimidaṁ yakṣamiti tatheti || 3 ||

They said to Fire: “O Jātaveda (All-knowing)!
Find out what mysterious spirit this is.”
He said: “Yes”

Te, they—those gods who failed to know It, and were desirous of knowing It, but had fear in their hearts; agnim, to Fire, (lit.) who goes ahead (of all); and who is jātaveda, almost omniscient; abruvan, said:

O Jātaveda, you being powerful among us vijānīhi, thoroughly find out about; etat, this Yakṣa that is in our view; kim etat yakṣam iti, as to what this Yakṣa (venerable Being) is.


ahamasmītyabravījjātavedā vā ahamasmīti || 4 ||

He ran towards it
and He (Brahman) said to him: “Who art thou?”
“I am Agni, I am Jātaveda,” he (the Fire-god) replied.

Saying, "Tathā, so be it”, iti, this much; Fire tat, towards that Yakṣa; adrāvat, approached; Fire moved towards it.

Tam, to him, to Fire, who had approached and was desirous of asking, but had become silent because of absence of arrogance in its presence, the Yakṣa, abhyavadat, said;

Kaḥ asi iti, who are you?”

Thus being asked by Brahman, Fire said,
Agniḥ vai, I am Fire (agṇi) by name, and am also familiarly known as Jātaveda“,
- showing thereby his self-importance consisting in his being well known through the 2 names.


tasmiɱstvayi kiṁ vīryamityapīdaɱ sarvaṁ
daheyaṁ yadidaṁ pṛthivyāmiti || 5 ||

Brahman asked: “What power resides in thee?”
Agni replied: “I can burn up all whatsoever exists on earth.”

To him, who had spoken thus, Brahman said,

Tasmin tvayi, in you who are such, who possess such famous names and attributes, kim vīryam what power, what ability, is there?“

He replied, “daheyaṁ, I can burn up, reduce to ashes, idam sarvam, all this creation that moves and does not move; prithivyām, on this earth.”

The word prithivyām is used illustratively (to indicate everything), for even things that are in the region above the earth are surely consumed by fire.


tasmai tṛṇaṁ nidadhāvetaddaheti |
tadupapreyāya sarvajavena tanna śaśāka dagdhuṁ sa tata eva
nivavṛte naitadaśakaṁ vijñātuṁ yadetadyakṣamiti || 6 ||

Brahman placed a straw before him and said: “Burn this.”
He (Agni) rushed towards it with all speed, but was not able to burn it.
So he returned from there and said (to the Devas):
“I was not able to find out what this great mystery is.”

Tasmai, for him, who had such presumption:
Brahman tṛṇaṁ nidadhau, placed a straw, in front of Fire.

Being told by Brahman,

Etat, this, mere straw; daha, burn, in my front. If you are not able to burn it, give up your vanity as a consumer everywhere.”

(Fire) tat upapreyāya, went near that straw; sarvajavena, with the speed born of the fullest enthusiasm. Going there, tat, that thing; na śaśāka dagdhuṁ, he could not burn.

That Fire being unable to burn the straw and becoming ashamed and foiled in his promise, tataḥ eva, from that Yakṣa; silently nivavṛte, withdrew, and went back towards the gods (to tell them),

Na aśakaṁ, I did not succeed; vijñātuṁ, in knowing fully, etat, this Yakṣa: yat etat Yakṣam, as to what this Yakṣa is.”


atha vāyumabruvanvāyavetadvijānīhi
kimetadyakṣamiti tatheti || 7 ||

Then they said to Vāyu (the Air-god):
“Vāyu! Find out what this mystery is.”
He said: “Yes.”


tadabhyadravattamabhyavadatko'sīti vāyurvā
ahamasmītyabravīnmātariśvā vā ahamasmīti || 8 ||

He ran towards it and He (Brahman) said to him: “Who art thou?”
“I am Vāyu, I am Mātariśva (traveller of Heaven),” he (Vāyu) said.


tasmiɱstvayi kiṁ vīryamityapīdaɱ
sarvamādadīya yadidaṁ pṛthivyāmiti || 9 ||

Then the Brahman said: “What power is in thee?”
Vāyu replied: “I can blow away all whatsoever exists on earth.”


tasmai tṛṇaṁ nidadhāvetadādatsveti
tadupapreyāya sarvajavena tanna śaśākādatuṁ sa tata eva
nivavṛte naitadaśakaṁ vijñātuṁ yadetadyakṣamiti || 10 ||

Brahman placed a straw before him and said: “Blow this away.”
He (Vāyu) rushed towards it with all speed,
but was not able to blow it away.
So he returned from there and said (to the Devas):
 “I was not able to find out what this great mystery is.”

Atha, after that, they said to Air, “O Air, find out” etc. bears the same meaning as before.

Vāyu (air) is so called because it blows, goes, or carries smell.
Mātariśvā means that which travels (śvayati) in space (mātari).

Idam sarvam api, all this, ādadīya, I can take up, blow away.

Yad idam prithivyām etc., is just as explained earlier.


athendramabruvanmaghavannetadvijānīhi kimetadyakṣamiti tatheti
tadabhyadravattasmāttirodadhe || 11 ||

Then they said to Indra:

“O Maghavan (Worshipful One)!
Find out what this mystery is.”
He said: “Yes”; and ran towards it,
but it disappeared before him.

Atha indram abruvan, maghavan etat vijānīhi etc., is to be explained as before.

Indra who is a great Lord, and is called Maghavā, because of strength; tat abhyadravat, approached that Yakṣa.

Tasmāt, from him, from Indra who had approached Itself (Yakṣa):
that Brahman, tirodadhe, vanished from sight.

Brahman did not so much as grant him an interview, so that India’s pride at being Indra might be totally eradicated.


sa tasminnevākāśe striyamājagāma bahuśobhamānāmumāɱ
haimavatīṁ tāɱhovāca kimetadyakṣamiti || 12 ||

Then he saw in that very space a woman,
beautifully adorned, Umā of golden hue,
daughter of Haimavatī (Himālayā).

He asked: “What is this great mystery?”

The space, or the part of the space, where that Yakṣa vanished after revealing Itself, and the space where Indra also was at the time of the disappearance of Brahman,

tasmin eva ākāśe, in that very space; saḥ, he, Indra, stayed on, deliberating in his mind, “What is this Yakṣa?” He did not return like Fire etc.

Understanding his devotion to Yakṣa, Knowledge (of Brahman) made Her appearance as a woman, in the form Umā.

Sa he, Indra; ājagāma, approached; bahuśobhamānām, superbly charming; tām. Her, Umā;

Knowledge being the most fascinating of all fascinating things, the attribute ‘superbly charming’ is appropriate for it—he approached haimavatīṁ, one who was as though attired in dress of gold, i.e. exquisitely beautiful. Or Uma Herself is Haimavatī, the daughter of Himavat (Himalayas).

Thinking that, since She is ever in association with the omniscient God, She must be able to know, Indra approached Her; (and) tām, to Her, to Uma; uvāca, said,

“Tell me, kim etat yakṣam iti, what is this Yakṣa—that showed Itself and vanished?”

|| iti kenopaniṣadi tṛtīyaḥ khaṇḍaḥ ||

It was the Third part of Kena Upanishad.