Verses of the Kena Upanishad

The Invocation

Lead me from the unreal to the real.
Lead me from darkness to light.
May I recognize the real*
So that the real may express itself through me.

Let there be peace within me,
Let there be peace around me,
Let there be peace throughout the world.

Part I

Verse 1

The student asks:

What makes my mind think?
What gives life to my body?
What makes me able to speak?
What is it that sees through my eyes
And hears through my ears?

Verse 2

The rishi replies:

It is that which is the ear of the ear.
It is that which is the eye of the eye.
It is that which is the mind of the mind.
It is that which is the sound of sound.
It is that which is the movement of movement.
Yet it is other than each of these.  

Verse 3

The eyes can’t see it.
The words can’t touch it.
The mind can’t grasp it.
Your senses cannot reach it.
It is beyond expression,
And there is no method by which it can be reached.

Verse 4

The real is neither the known
Nor the unknown.
This is what we have heard
from the illumined.

Verse 5

That which makes you talk
But which cannot be described by you
Know that to be the real.
The real is not revealed
Through anything you might do.

Verse 6

That which makes you think
But which cannot be thought of,
Know that to be the real.
The real is not captured
Through anything you might think. 

Verse 7

That which causes you to see
But which cannot be seen by the eye,
That is the real.
It is not other than you.

Verse 8

That which causes you to hear
But which cannot be heard by the ear,
That is the real.
It is not other than you.

Verse 9

That which allows you to breathe
But which cannot be known through the breath,
That is the real.
It is not other than you.

Part II

Verse 1

The rishi says:

If you consider that you know the real
You are mistaken.
You have only touched the surface.

Verse 2

The Student says:

I have understood that
One who says I know, does not know.
And the one who says I do not know, knows.

Verse 3

The teacher says:

He who thinks he knows
Has not understood.
He who says that he does not
Remains open to the real.

Verse 4

It is only through understanding
That immortality is attained.
Through awareness
There is communion with the real
And so vitality blossoms.

Verse 5

If in this human form
You recognize the divinity in life,
Then you will be in communion with the real –
But if you don’t you will live in darkness.
Those who are patient
Recognize the divinity in life
And so they transcend death.

Part III

Verse 1

The deities defeated the asuras in battle.
And though Brahman was behind their success
They boasted loudly of their achievement.

Verse 2

Seeing their pride
Brahman decided to make an appearance
But they didn’t recognize him.

Verse 3

So they asked Agni,
“What is this mysterious presence?”
And Agni replied,
“Leave it to me. I’ll find out.”

Verse 4

So Agni approached the mysterious presence
and the mysterious presence asked,
“Who are you?”
Replied Agni, “I am Agni. Everybody knows me.”
Said the mysterious presence,
“You say you’re Agni but I’ve never heard of you.
What power do you have?”

Verse 5

Replied Agni:
“I can consume anything.”

Verse 6

The mysterious presence
Placed a blade of grass in front of Agni
And said, “Consume this!”
Agni tried but the grass would not ignite.
Crestfallen, Agni returned to the deities and said,
“I don’t know what the mysterious presence is.”

Verse 7

So they said to Vayu,
“You go and find out
what is this mysterious presence.”
And Vayu replied,
“Leave it to me. I’ll find out.”

Verse 8

So Vayu approached the mysterious presence
and the mysterious presence asked,
“Who are you?”
Replied Vayu, “I am Vayu. I am the emptiness of space.”

Verse 9

Said the mysterious presence,
“What power do you have?”
Said Vayu, “I can blow all away.”

Verse 10

So the mysterious presence
Placed a blade of grass in front of him and said,
“Blow that away then.”
So Vayu huffed and puffed
But the blade of grass didn’t move.
Crestfallen, Vayu returned to the deities and said,
“I don’t know what the mysterious presence is.”

Verse 11

So the deities begged Indra,
“Go and find out what the mysterious presence is.”
So Indra said, “Alright, I will.”
And so he approached the mysterious being.

Verse 12

The mysterious being instantly disappeared.
In his place appeared Uma
The most beautiful daughter of the Himalaya
And Indra asked her,
“What was that mysterious presence?”

Part IV

Verse 1

Uma replied, “That was Brahman
from whom your achievements all come.”
And so the deities realized
That it was Brahman that was the cause
Of their victory over the asuras. 

Verses 2-3

The three Agni, Vayu and Indra
Excel among the deities
Because they have come near
To Brahman.

Verse 4

Just as lightning flashes across the sky instantly
So the real is revealed in the blinking of an eye.

Verse 5

When through grace the real reveals itself
The mind imagines that it has attained Brahman.

Verse 6

If you live in consciousness
Of the indwelling essence of life
That is in all things,
If you see the divinity in all of life
And love all of life for its divinity –
Then life will shower you with its love.

Verse 7

The student says:
Tell us the secret of how all this happens.

The rishi replies:
I have told you the secret.
I have already revealed it to you.

Verse 8

The recognition of the real
Is stabilized through
Unity, balance and awareness.
These are the limbs –
Integrity is one’s abode.

Verse 9

Those who understand all this
Become established in non-duality.
All imbalances are washed away
And they live in the highest dimension of bliss.

Om santih Om santih Om santih
Om santih Om santih Om santih
Om santih Om santih Om santih

* Brahman means the real. In this translation, Brahman has been rendered as both Brahman and the “real”. Brahman should not be confused with the god that is called Brahma in Indian religious mythology.