Kena Upanisad is the first volume of our Shri Anirvan Upanisad Series. It is the English translation of the third volume of the Upanisad Prasanga Series, written in Bangla by Shri Anirvan and published by the Burdwan University.
Kena Upanisad consists of the four sections of the fourth chapter of the Jaiminiya Brahmana Upanisad of the Samaveda, It begins directly with Brahman as its subject matter and tells us in first two parts how it is impossible to know or attain Brahman by our ordinary senses including mind. To realize Brahman we have to open ourselves to higher intuitive levels of mind. In the third and fourth parts, the Upanisad beautifully speaks about the unknowable Brahman and about the subjective and objective ways of its realization through an allegorical story about Gods led by Indra on one side and Yaksha and Uma Haimvati on the other. Brahman has to be meditated upon and realized as “Tad Vanam” - "That most Delightful Dear One”.
Shri Anirvan was born on July 8, 1896 in the town of Mymensingh (now in Bangladesh). At the age of eleven he knew the Astadhyayi of Panini by heart and daily recited a chapter from the Gita. He went for his college studies to Dhaka and later on to Calcutta. After completing his studies, Sri Anirvan took Sanyasa and became Nirvanananda Saraswati. But a few years later he dropped the ochre robes and changed his name to Anirvan, by which name he became known to the world at large.
Between 1930 and 1942, he lived with a friend at Allahabad, Lucknow, Delhi and Ranchi. Later on, he moved to Lohaghat in Almora where Madame Lizelle Reymond, a Swiss lady, spiritual seeker joined him and literally took him to the West through her books. Shri Anirvan moved to Shillong in Assam and finally to Calcutta in 1965. He fell ill in July 1971 and passed away on 31 May, 1978, at the age of 82.
His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine which was published in 2 vols. during 1948-5 J. But the centre of his studies was the Vedas on which subject he acquired a rare mastery over the years. His great work, Veda Mimamsa, was published in 3 vols. in 1961, 1965 and 1970. Meanwhile, several other works on the Upanisads, the Gita, Vedanta and Yoga had also been published.
Kena Upanisad is included in Sarnaveda. Saman means' Svar' or 'Sura', i.e. light, sound or a musical note.' The Rik Mantras were sung with musical notes only in Soma sacrifice, the best of the sacrifices. The Mantras of the Vedic prayers, which were sung in the Soma sacrifice, were called the womb of Sama. Samaveda is the compendium of all the Samas with musical notes. The Brahrmana, the ritual portion of the Veda, explains and expands their use and mystic meanings. The chief of the priests who sing the Sama-prayers is called Udgata, those who sing the Mantras loudly (mystically meaning those who raise the sacrifice to the higher regions or to the state of higher consciousness through their singing)-and the whole work of singing was called Udgatra Karma. The Brahmana portion of the Veda describes the works and the Aranyaka and Upanisad portions expand the philosophy and mysticism behind these works. Soma represents the bliss-principle Singing is the Nandana Shilpa (bliss-bestowing art) dependent on Vak, the word, the speech. The highest point of bliss in the Sama song is called Udgitha:" In Aitareya Upanisad we have seen that the main Sadhana (discipline) of Rgveda is that of Uktha-the highest or ultimate sabda or aksara (word or letter). Similarly the Sadhana of Sarnaveda consists of Udgitha. We should always keep in mind that the Rsis had realised this bliss-principle propounded in the Upanisads of this (Sama) Veda through music-bliss-songs.
Out of the many branches of Samaveda, only three survive-Kauthumi in Gurjardesha (Gujarat) as well as in Bangla, jaimini in Karnataka, and 'Ranayani' in Maharashtra. According to Carana Vyuha Sutra, Kauthumi and jaimini are just another type or way of Ranayani. At present, we mainly know about the Kauthumi branch.
The book of the jaimini branch has been published recently. The jaiminiya Brahmana of this branch holds a very important position in the Brahmana literature like the Satapatha Brahmana. No other Brahmana has such high amount of mystic expressions. It is an unparalleled storehouse of Vedic thought and discipline. And yet no good commentary is found till now on this Brahmana.
Tandya, Chandogya and jaiminiya are the three main Brahmanas of Samaveda that we have at present. But the Tandya and Chandogya are the Brahmanas of the same Tandi School and it is said that together their name was 'Catvarinsa Brahmana' because of its forty books or chapters." Thus, the main two Brahmanas are 'Catvarinsa' and 'jaiminiya'. The first twenty five books of Catvarinsa Brahmana are called 'Pancavimsa' or Tandya Brahmana. Five books after that continue the same ideas in the 'Sadvimsa Brahmana'. Ten books after that are called Chandogya or Mantra or Upanisad Brahmana, The last eight chapters of this Brahmana make the famous Chandogya Upanisad.
Jaiminiya Brahmana consists of eight books. The first three books or Kandas (trunks) describe works or rituals. The subject matter of these books is like the first thirty-two books of 'Catvarinsa Brahmana'. From the fourth to seventh books are called 'Upanisad Brahmana' which is very similar to Chandogya Upanisad. The last book is called 'Arseya Brahmana'. Kenopanisad is the fourth chapter of the seventh book of jaiminiya Brahmana (the fourth chapter of the Upanisad Brahmana). It runs from eighteenth to twenty-first section. We can call this Upanisad the essence of the Upanisad Brahmana and it will be more beneficial if we discuss it keeping that Brahmana in the background. Some call it jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana, and others call it jaiminiya Upanisad. This is very appropriate indeed because it is very much like the Chandogya Upanisad. Both of them are of the nature of Aranyaka.
There is a great similarity in the subject matter and its arrangement of two Brahmanas-Catvarinsa and jaiminiya. It is worth noting that the Upanisadic portions are predominant in both of them. But the way of exposition of the two Upanisads is in no way similar. The exposition of Chandogya is very compact and well-arranged. But the exposition of the jaiminiya is much more mystic, though the exposition of Kena Upanisad in it is very compact. We can easily understand from the way of exposition that the propounder of the Kena Upanisad is a mystic who loves to keep himself always in the background. It was perhaps because of the excess of mysticism or mystic language that in due course of time the jaiminiya slowly lost its prominence, but Kenopanisad, which is a part of it, still continues to exist predominantly because of its comparatively better clarity. 'If we see in this light, we can say that the rationale of those who say that Kenopanisad is much modern because its first two chapters are in poetry is not very strong. In fact, the poetic portion is nothing but the collection of very ancient slokas describing the knowledge of Brahman. We find such slokas even in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad as well. Two of its slokas are exactly similar to that of Kenopanisad. 8 Even in Brahmanas we find many such gathas, Riks or slokas. Kenopanisad is in no way different from them- it is indeed compiled and composed in the climate of the jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana.
Another name of jaiminiya Brahmana is 'Talavakara'Brahmana. Talavakara was a Rsi. We can know only this much about him from the Cana Path of Panini's Sutras and jaiminiya Guhyasutra. What was his relation with jaiminiya, we cannot know from this very little information. We find in Madhyandin Samhita a Sutra 'Anandaya Talavam'-which means Talava is one of the animals of Purusa Medha sacrifice. It has to be sacrificed to the Bliss-god. Sayana says in his commentary on Taittiriya Brahmana that "a Talava is a drum beater or plays an instrument like Galavadya (mouthorgan)." It is possible that the word is applied to some musical instrument. Thus the meaning of the word 'Talava Kara' will be a player of some musical instrument, which bestows joy or bliss. His association with Somayajna or Samagana is worth noting. Talava Kara or jaimini is a propounder of a whole and complete Brahmana-Like Rsi Mahidas Aitareya. The name Talavakara is gone in the background. The name of Jaimini gained prominence. We find the name of jaimini in the Carana Vyuha Sutra of Saunaka, but there is no mention of Talavakara. Even in Bhagavata Purana, we find that Krsna Dwaipayana taught Samaveda or Chandoga Samhita to jaimini. So here too we will consider jaimini alone as the authentic Rsi of Kenopanisad even though another name of Kenopanisad is Talavakara Upanisad.
We have already said that Kenopanisad consists of four sections of the fourth chapter of Jaiminiya Upanisad. It is called Kenopanisad because like Isopanisad it begins with the word 'Kena'. It is also called 'Talavakara Upanisad' following the name of its author or teacher. The Upanisad begins directly with Brahman as the subject matter. It talks about rituals at the end.
The Upanisad mainly expounds and elaborates the knowledge of Brahman. In the first section, we find some resemblance to 'Neti Vada'-the Vedantic Doctrine of "Not This, Not This". It is said that we cannot know or attain Brahman by means of speech, mind, the eyes, the ear or Prima. Brahman is more than what can be known by these; It is the basis as well of all that cannot be known.
Continuing the subject, it is said in the second section, just as we cannot say that we know It, similarly we cannot also say that "We know It not". In fact, we can know It by reflective perception or awakened consciousness. Moreover, we have to know it, otherwise there is great perdition.
That which cannot be known and again that, which can be known as well, is indeed an indescribable mystery. This is expounded in the third section through a story about Daemon (Yaksa), Uma, Indra and other gods.
In the fourth section, we have some aphoristic consideration about the Reality of Brahman and the discipline necessary for its attainment. Brahman is "That Delight", the Friend or the Lover. It is attained like the flash of the lightening.
In the Upanisad, we do not have any definite description or qualities of Brahman. Everywhere we find the halo of Its Mystery. Indescribability of the mystic experience is wonder- fully conveyed by this Upanisad.'
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