The kenopaniShat – Part 7
इह चेदवेदीदथ सत्यमस्ति न चेदिहावेदीन्महती विनष्टिः । भूतेषु भूतेषु विचित्य धीराः प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादमृता भवन्ति ।
इह here चेत् if अवेदीत् knows अथ then सत्यम् the true अस्ति is there न चेत् if not इह here अवेदीत् knows महती great विनष्टिः loss. भूतेषु भूतेषु in every being विचित्य realizing धीराः the wise ones प्रेत्य departing अस्मात् from this लोकात् world अमृताः immortal भवन्ति they become.
If a man knows the Atman here, he then attains the true goal of life. If he does not know It here, a great destruction awaits him. Having realised the Self in every being, the wise relinquish the world and become immortal.
Here is a powerful warning from the upaniṣad. If only a man, endowed with all the requisite preparations comes to have the realization of the Self of the stated nature and in the taught manner, then he has truly accomplished the purpose of the human life. Then alone he can be said to really exist having realized his true nature. On the other hand if one fails to realize the Self even while alive, then infinite is his loss undoubtedly. What is this loss? The perpetuation of the samsāra characterized by repeated births, experience of old age, death etc.
Knowing thus the utility and the disaster (of knowing the Self and remaining ignorant of the Self), the brāhmaṇa-s, the wise ones, having discerned the One Self which is the Truth in every being, moving and unmoving, with this direct realization, having transcended the world of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ notions that characterize ignorance, rest in the knowledge of being the self-of-all which is the non-dual Truth. Thus remaining they become immortal, that is, they become verily Brahman. This is taught by the Muṁḍakopaniṣat 3.2.9 ‘he who knows that Supreme Brahman becomes verily Brahman’.
Here ends the second section of the Kenopaniṣat.
In the third section is presented a narrative of an incident. The purpose of the narrative is to ward off the notion that ‘since Brahman is not known, It is non-existent.’ This notion arises from the declaration of this very upaniṣad: ‘It (Brahman) is not known by those who have known It and It is known by those who have not known It.’ (2.3). The story has for its purport ‘That is verily Brahman that is the Ruler by all means, greater than even the celestials, deva-s, the Supreme Lord of all other lordly ones, extremely difficult to comprehend who is the cause of the victory of the deva-s, the cause of the defeat of the asura-s’. How indeed could such a One be non-existent? The replies conducive to positively answer this question exist in this story.
Or the story could be to eulogise the knowledge of Brahman, brahmavidyā. How? Only due to their knowledge of Brahman did the celestials Agni, etc. attained supremacy over the other deva-s. Indra excelled even them (due to his knowledge of Brahman). Or it is to present the extreme difficulty involved in apprehending Brahman since the celestials Agni, etc. despite their superior capabilities could get to know Brahman only with great effort and so also Indra, despite his being the Lord of the deva-s. Or the narrative is to enjoin an injunction regarding the secret teachings of meditations aimed at helping the less-advanced aspirants in their attempt to realize Brahman. This is because the direct teaching of Brahman has already been done in the foregoing which the advanced aspirant will find most useful. Yet another reason for the incorporation of the story in the upaniṣad is to show that apart from the knowledge of Brahman, all notions of agency, etc. that beings possess, characterized by the conceit the gods engendered owing to their victory over the asura-s, are false, mithyā.
Now begins the actual story.
ब्रह्म ह देवेभ्यो विजिग्ये तस्य ह ब्रह्मणो विजये देवा अमहीयन्त ॥ १ ॥
ब्रह्म ह Brahman according to the story देवेभ्यो विजिग्ये secured the victory for the gods तस्य ह ब्रह्मणो विजये by that Brahman’s victory देवाः the deva-s अमहीयन्त became elated
Brahman, according to the story, secured a victory for the gods; and by that victory of Brahman the gods became elated.
Brahman, characterized in the foregoing parts of the upaniṣad, is Supreme in relation to the deva-s, for their benefit, accomplished victory in the battles between the deva-s and asura-s. Brahman defeated the asua-s who are the enemies of the world and those who transgress the dictates of dharma that holds the world in place. Thus Brahman vouchsafed victory and its fruit to the deva-s for ensuring the stability of the world. However, the deva-s became elated on the victory which truly belongs to Brahman.
त ऐक्षन्तास्माकमेवायं विजयोऽस्माकमेवायं महिमेति | तद्धैषां विजज्ञौ तेभ्यो ह प्रादुर्बभूव तन्न व्यजानत किमिदं यक्षमिति ॥ २ ॥
ते ऐक्षन्त they thought to themselves अस्माकम् एव ours alone अयं विजयः is this victory अस्माकम् एव ours alone अयं महिमा this glory इति thus तत् that Brahman ह indeed एषां these विजज्ञौ knew तेभ्यः in front of then ह indeed प्रादुर्बभूव It appeared तत् that न व्यजानत did not know किम् what इदं this यक्षम् इति effulgent being
They said to themselves: “Verily, this victory is ours; verily, this glory is ours alone.” Brahman, to be sure, understood it all and appeared before them. But they did not know who that adorable Spirit was.
When the victory was had, the deva-s did not comprehend that the victory was really that of the Supreme Self that dwells in their being as the innermost Self, the Lord, Omniscient, the dispenser of the fruits of actions of all beings, the omnipotent who is always desirous of maintaining the stability of the world. Thus, deluded, the deva-s Agni, and others, thought to themselves ‘this victory is indeed ours who are identified with the finite self as Agni, etc. This is our glory alone who are named Agni, Vāyu, Indra, etc. that we are experiencing now as the fruit of the victory. And it is not that wrought by the Lord who is our innermost Self.
Brahman comprehended this erroneous identification of these deva-s who are elated. Being the witness of all and the impeller of all the instruments of all beings in creation, deliberating ‘these deva-s ought not to be deluded in revelling in this erroneous thinking like the asura-s. Let Me bless them by eradicating their deluded thinking.’ And Brahman for the sake of the deva-s appeared before them perceivable by them as a very unprecedently wonderful and amazing form produced by Its own power of māyā. The deva-s, however, did not know the identity of this adorable effulgent being.
तेऽग्निमब्रुवन् जातवेद एतद्विजानीहि किमेतद्यक्षमिति तथेति ॥ ३ ॥
ते they अग्निम् अब्रुवन् instructed Agni जातवेद Oh Jātaveda एतत् this विजानीहि know किम् what एतत् this यक्षम् adorable being इति is तथा इति (Agni replied), ‘So be it.’
They said to Agni (Fire): “O Agni! Find out who this great Spirit is.” “Yes,” he said.
The deva-s could not identify the effulgent being that had appeared before them. They were perplexed and also smitten by fear internally. However, they were intent on knowing the identity of the resplendent object. They addressed Agni (‘who goes ahead of all’, etymologically, the Lord of Fire, virtually omniscient): ‘Oh, Jātaveda, you being powerful among us, find out clearly as to who this entity that appears before us is’.
तदभ्यद्रवत्तमभ्यवदत् कोऽसीत्यग्निर्वा अहमस्मीत्यब्रवीज्जातवेदा वा अहमस्मीति ॥ ४ ॥
तत् अभ्यद्रवत् Agni hastened to It तम् अभ्यवदत् Brahman asked him कः असि इति ‘who are you?’ अग्निः वा अहम् अस्मि ‘I am Agni’ इति अब्रवीत् thus he replied जातवेदा वा अहम् अस्मि इति ‘I am jātavedā’
Agni hastened to It. Brahman asked him: “Who are you?” He replied: “I am known as Agni; I am also called Jātavedā.’
Agni, in obedience to the other devas’ instruction approached the Effulgent Being, Yakṣa. Agni, intending to ask about the identity of the Yakṣa, however, was baffled by the stature thereof and remained silent without asking. So, the Yakṣa himself asked Agni ‘Who are you?’ Thus questioned by Brahman, Agni replied ‘I am Agni, well known by this name. I am Jātavedā too.’ Thus, by this twin-name Agni boastfully replied.
तस्मिंस्त्वयि किं वीर्यमित्यपीदं सर्वं दहेयं यदिदं पृथिव्यामिति ॥ ५ ॥
(Brahman asked Agni) तस्मिंन् त्वयि किं In you what वीर्यम् इति power is there? अपि इदं सर्वं all these दहेयं I can burn यत् इदं whatever is there पृथिव्याम् on this earth इति thus replied Agni.
Brahman said: “What power is in you, who are so well known?” Fire replied: “I can burn all— whatever there is on earth.”
Hearing the twin-name uttered by Agni, Brahman, the Yakṣa, asked ‘In such a popular named one, you, what capacity is there?’ He replied, ‘I can burn down to ashes whatever is there in this earth that is moving and unmoving.’ The word ‘earth’ is only representative since what is in the heavens also can be burnt by Agni.