Kena upanishad (Madhva commentary)

by Srisa Chandra Vasu | 1909 | 11,760 words | ISBN-13: 9789332869165

This page relates ‘Madhva’s commentary of the Third Khanda’ of the Kena-upanishad (Kenopanishad), the English translation and commentary of Madhva (Madhvacharya) called the Bhasya. The Kena Upanishad deals with topics such as Brahman and Atman (soul) and also discusses the symbolic representation of the Gods as forces of nature. It is an important text in the Vedanta schools of Hindu philsophy.

Madhva’s commentary of the Third Khaṇḍa

(Note: This page represents the commentary of the third Khaṇḍa of the Kena-upaniṣad:—an English translation of the bhāṣya called the Īśāvāsyopaniṣadbhāṣya or Īśopaniṣadbhāṣya written by Madhva or Madhvācārya from the 13th-centry. The commentary is largely an extract of the Brahma-Sāra.)

(The Brahma-Sāra—continued.)

“Now I shall tell thee a story, listen to it attentively, O Maheśvara! That Brahman abiding in the Devas, conquered the Daityas and the Dānavas: and thus obtained victory for the sake of the Devas. But the Devas being obsessed by the Asuras, thought that the victory was theirs, and not of Brahman. The Sifter of men assuming the form of a Yakṣa, appeared before them in order to teach them a lesson and give them enlightenment. He was accompanied by Umā and Śiva and Brahmā, in order to show to the Devas that He was higher than even these, and that these were also His servants and members of His hierarchy and household, and under His dominion. Another reason of His being so accompanied was to tell to the Devas:—“Ye Devas cannot know even these members of my household, how can you know me?”

The Fire and the Air successively went to find out who was this Yakṣa: and lastly, Indra also went, but were unable to understand that Yakṣa. The Lord Janārdana thought when Indra approached him: “This Indra has greater intelligence than the other Devas: and will ask me questions as Agni and Vāyu did, but he is not in a fit state of mind now to be taught by me or by Śiva or by Brahmā so I must disappear from his sight.” Thus thinking Brahman became invisible along with Śiva and Brahma: leaving behind Uma alone, in order to intimate to Indra that she was the proper person to instruct him and not Viṣṇu, Śīva [Śiva?] or Brahma.

Note.—This parable is given here to strengthen the statement already made before that Brahman is not fully and completely cognisable by the Devas even. The Brahman, as the Inner Ruler of the Devas, obtained the victory for the Devas. Had he obtained victory by an incarnation like that of Rāma or Kṛṣṇa, then there could not have arisen any question as to whom the glory of the victory should belong. It is only when the lord does not incarnate, but uses jīvas—whether Devas or men—as his instruments, and accomplishes some great work, that these jīvas become vain-glorious and attribute the success to themselves and not to the Lord within them.

The Devas are generally wide awake, but in the parable it is said that they were obsessed by the Asuras, and hence they fell into the natural error of thinking that the victory was theirs and not of the Lord within them. These Asuras or Dark Powers throw such glamour over the brightest intellects, even those of the Devas. All the Devas, however, had nob fallen into this error. Brahmā, Siva, Umā and the consort of Brahmā were free from such error. The Upaniṣad clearly states that Umā had not fallen into this error, for she taught the truth to Indra. When Uma was free from this misconception, it is easily inferred that Brahmā and Siva, who are higher them Umā in the cosmic scale, were also free from this error. Therefore Madhva says that the Lord appeared accompanied by Umā, Śiva and Brahmā. There were two reasons why the Lord appeared along with these three. The first was to prove to the Devas that He was greater than these even, and that they were merely His ministers and servants and a fortiori the Devas also were His servants: and thus the victory was really His and not of the Devas who were merely His tools. The second was to teach them humility—that they who were ignorant even of Uma, Śiva and Brahmā should not be vain enough to attribute all glory of the victory to themselves.

The Upaniṣad says when Indra approached the Yakṣa, he vanished. Why did Brahman vanish at his approach? The Brahman thought “Indra is the wisest of all and he would ask questions and so let me vanish.” But what harm was there if Indra asked those questions? Indra was not so advanced as to be taught the true nature of Brahman by Brahman himself: nor was he advanced enough to be taught by Śiva and Brahmā. Not only this, but owing to Indra’s being obsessed by Asuras, he was still more unfit to be taught by these. Therefore Brahman vanished along with Brahmā and Śiva: leaving Umā behind, to answer all questions of Indra.

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