Kena Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary

by S. Sitarama Sastri | 1905 | 13,003 words

The Kena Upanishad is a collection of philosophical poems discussing the attributes of Brahman: the unchanging, infinite universal spirit. Brahman is further proposed as the cause for all the forces of nature, symbolized as Gods. This commentary by Shankara focuses on ‘Advaita Vedanta’, or non-dualism: one of the classical orthodox philosophies o...

verse 16-19

तेऽग्निमब्रुवन् जातवेद एतद्विजानीहि किमेतद्यक्षमिति तथेति ॥ १६ ॥
तदभ्यद्रवत्तमभ्यवदत्कोऽसीत्यग्निर्वा अहमस्मीत्यब्रवीज्जातवेदा वा अहमस्मीति ॥ १७ ॥
तस्मिँस्त्वयि किं वीर्यमित्यपीदँसर्वं दहेयं यदिदं पृथिव्यामिति ॥ १८ ॥
तस्मै तृणं निदधावेतद्दहेति तदुपप्रेयाय सर्वजवेन तन्न शशाक दग्धुं स तत एव निववृते नैतदशकं विज्ञातुं यदेतद्यक्षमिति ॥ १९ ॥

te'gnimabruvan jātaveda etadvijānīhi kimetadyakṣamiti tatheti || 16 ||
tadabhyadravattamabhyavadatko'sītyagnirvā ahamasmītyabravījjātavedā vā ahamasmīti || 17 ||
tasmim̐stvayi kiṃ vīryamityapīdam̐sarvaṃ daheyaṃ yadidaṃ pṛthivyāmiti || 18 ||
tasmai tṛṇaṃ nidadhāvetaddaheti tadupapreyāya sarvajavena tanna śaśāka dagdhuṃ sa tata eva nivavṛte naitadaśakaṃ vijñātuṃ yadetadyakṣamiti || 19 ||

16. They addressed the Fire thus “O Jataveda! Find out what this Great Spirit is.” He said “yes.”

17. He ran to That. That said to him “who art thou?” He replied “I am Agni or I am Jataveda.”

18. That said “what power, in thee so named, is lodged.’ He replied “I can burn even all this, on the earth.”

19. That placed a straw before him and said: ‘Burn this.’ He approached it with all haste but was not able to burn it. He immediately returned from thence to the Devas and said I was not able to learn what this Great Spirit is.”


Shankara’s Commentary:

Com.The Devas not knowing what that Spirit was, being afraid of it, and desirous to know what it was, thus addressed Agni who went before them and who was little less than omniscient. “O Jataveda, learn well what this Great Spirit now in our view is. You are the brightest of us all.” “Be it so” said Agni and ran towards the Spirit. Seeing him approach near, with a desire to ask questions of it, but overawed into silence in its presence, the Spirit asked him: “who art thou?” Thus questioned by Brahman, Agni replied: “I am Agni well known also as Jataveda”; as if in self-complaisance at being so well known by two names, Brahman said to Agni who had thus replied: “what power is in thee who ownest such well-known and significant names.?” He replied: “I could reduce to ashes all this universe and all immoveables, etc., on this earth.” The word ‘earth’ is illustratively used; for, even what is in the air is burnt by Agni [Fire]. The Brahman placed a straw before Agni who was so vain-glorious, and said: “Burn but this straw in my presence. If thou art not able to burn this, give up thy vanity as the consumer of all.” Thus addressed, Agni approached the straw with all the speed of overweening confidence but was not able to burn it. So he. Jataveda, being unable to burn it, covered with shame and bathed in bis resolution, returned in silence from the presence of the Spirit and told the Devas: “I was not able to learn more, concerning this Spirit.”

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