Kena Upanishad

Kena Upanishad manuscript page, verses 1.1 to 1.4, from Samaveda (Sanskrit, Devanagari script)

The Kena Upanishad (Kenopaniṣat) is a Vedic Sanskrit text classified as one of the primary or Mukhya Upanishads that is embedded inside the last section of the Talavakara Brahmanam of the Samaveda.[1][2] It is listed as number 2 in the Muktikā, the canon of the 108 Upanishads of Hinduism.

The Kena Upanishad was probably composed sometime around the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. It has an unusual structure where the first 13 are verses composed as a metric poem, followed by 15 prose paragraphs of main text plus 6 prose paragraphs of epilogue.[2] Paul Deussen suggests that the latter prose section of the main text is far more ancient than the poetic first section, and Kena Upanishad bridged the more ancient prose Upanishad era with the metric poetic era of Upanishads that followed.[2]

Kena Upanishad is notable in its discussion of Brahman with attributes and without attributes, and for being a treatise on "purely conceptual knowledge".[2] It asserts that the efficient cause of all the gods, symbolically envisioned as forces of nature, is Brahman.[2] This has made it a foundational scripture to Vedanta school of Hinduism, both the theistic and monistic sub-schools after varying interpretations. The Kena Upanishad is also significant in asserting the idea of "Spiritual Man", "Soul is a wonderful being that even gods worship", "Atman (Soul) exists", and "knowledge and spirituality are the goals and intense longing of all creatures".[2][3]


Kena (Sanskrit: केन) literally means, depending on the object-subject context, "by what, by whom, whence, how, why, from what cause".[4] This root of Kena, in the sense of "by whom" or "from what cause", is found the inquisitive first verse of the Kena Upanishad as follows,

केनेषितं पतति प्रेषितं मनः
केन प्राणः प्रथमः प्रैति युक्तः ।
केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति
चक्षुः श्रोत्रं उ देवो युनक्ति ॥ १ ॥[5]

Sent by whom, flies out thither the mind?
Harnessed by whom, roves thither the first breath?[6]
Who sends out the speech which we speak?
Who is the Deva (deity, god) that harnesses the ears and eyes?

—Kena Upanishad 1.1 —Translated by Paul Deussen[7]

The Kena Upanishad belongs to the Talavakara Brahmana of Sama Veda, giving the etymological roots of an alternate name of Talavakara Upanishad for it, in ancient and medieval era Indian texts.[2][8]

The Kena Upanishad is also referred to as the Kenopanishad (Sanskrit: केनोपनिषत्, Kenopaniṣat).