Swami Chinmayananda

Swami Chinmayananda

Commentaries on Kena Upanishad

from Discourses on the Kenopanisad
by Swami Chinmayananda
6th Edition, Bombay, 1965

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

Preface: I first met Swami Chinmayananda in Cambridge, Massachusetts in late 1972. He was giving a series of ten evening lectures on Chapter 12 of Bhagavad Gita on the "Art of Devotion" at Boston University. Since the theme of Bhakti Yoga with its chanting and prayer is not to my taste, I wondered whether I would be interested in attending so many lectures on this topic. There was an introductory talk at Harvard Geology Building, so I decided to check him out. Because of a dinner engagement, I got to the lecture when it was over. I noticed that all the audience members were Indians, unlike the predominant Americans at previous talks by gurus. I asked one of the Indians about Chinmayananda, and was told "He's the real McCoy. We Indians know the true gurus." When Swamiji was finished talking to his many well-wishers, I told him that jnana yoga (path of knowledge) was my spiritual discipline, and that I follow the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. Swamiji said "Good for you. Ramana is a great teacher." He said after his talk on devotion in Gita 12, he will cover karma yoga in Gita 2 next year. I decided to attend all his talks since it was free unlike the fees charged by other guru's lectures. After three years, Swamiji said we were ready for the Upanishads. So in addition to his evening lectures on the Gita at MIT, he proposed early morning talks on Kena Upanishad at 5 am. I checked my bus schedule and told Swamiji, that public buses don't start that early, the earliest I could get to MIT is 6 am. So Swamiji pushed his talks back to 6 am for my sake. I attended over 100 lectures by Chinmayananda on the Gita and Upanishads in Boston and New York. When I was invited to the University of Paris in 1979 for a six-weeks "Protein Workshop", I went to Zurich one weekend to listen to Swamji lecture on Narada Bhakti Sutra. I've learned much from Chinmayananda over the years, and am typing his commentaries on Kena Upanishad below.

The disciple said: I do not think that 'I know it well'
But not that I do not know; I know too.
Who amongst us comprehends It both as
the Not known and as the Known— he comprehends It.

— Swami Chinmayananda,
Discourses on the Kenopanisad II.2
Govindas B. Parikh for Chinmaya Book Trust
Madras, India, 6th Edition, 1965 (pp. 97-98)

The Guru's kind and critical warning was that the Self is not known as an object other than the knower himself, and that all such understandings are but the comprehensions of the Intellect and Mind and not the true Experience of Truth through the Divine-Eye, the Intuition. The disciple's answer as contained in the stanza is quite revealing and expressive.
    There is an entire drama packed in this single Mantra: a drama of the student's inner mind. In utter obedience to his teacher, he first admits that he does not think, 'I know It well'. But, when he looks within, it is a lie and so he confesses 'but not that I do not know'. By the time he has finished this much of a true confession, he has become overwhelmed by his own intimate personal experience and, therefore, he emphatically asserts 'I know too'. These statements would look like the mad-ravings of one who is not right in his senses. This language of confusing contradictions alone can be employed in dramatising the feelings of the student who has really risen above the ordinary planes of experiences and has come to live the transcendental Divine Consciousness.
    The student admits with reference to the memories of his own Transcendental Experiences of Pure Self, that certainly, his knowledge of it is not similar to his knowledge of chairs and tables. An object other than yourself can be known by you as 'well' or 'not so-well', etc. But your knowledge of yourself is not the same as your knowledge of your son or wife. I know myself through and through better than anything else in this world. The Self-Knowledge is a million times more subjective and, hence, the Knowledge of Self-awareness is too deep to express is words.
    Words, after all, can express and convey knowledge only through a series of references to known experiences. In short, language must break in its attempts to express the Inexpressible, because the Experience of Truth is not an impression received by the mind of an 'object', but is the Self-awareness of Pure Consciousness, gained when the mind of the Sadhaka gets annihilated through his Yoga Sadhana. Language plays only in the field of the mind and intellect and their death-dances!
    The more the intensity of an experience, the subtler become the words and the more loose the construction of the sentences. Hence, we have in this sacred Mantra a statement seemingly self-contradictory but in fact an expressive representation of the feelings experienced. The student comparing his intuitive experience of Truth with his ordinary sense experiences of the world says, 'I do not think I know well'. His knowledge of Truth, though complete and full, is not, he feels, anything like his knowledge of a table or a chair. The knowledge of the objects of the world is gained through the functionings of the sense-organs and through a process of estimating the mental reactions caused by them. But the student has gained, certainly, a very intimate knowledge of the Self in him, and yet it is not as 'an object other than himself'. That the Self is recognized as one's own real nature, is the uniform experience of all Masters.
    Though strange be the student's discovery, stranger seems to be his mental condition after his self-discovery. He has realized that he is Knowledge Itself. And yet, his difficulty is in that his realization is not in the knowledge of, but it is in the knowledge as: that is, he has not realized the Self as we realize, for example, our thoughts in us, but he has realized the Knowledge as such.
    To the Western philosophers such an experience is so strange and abnormal that they cannot understand or appreciate the student's mental situation. Thus, in the foreigner's unsympathetic approach, he reads in the Upanishadic Mantra nothing more intelligible than, 'mere blabberings of a humanity in its childhood'. And indeed, even to the modern educated Hindus, this Mantra is but the mad ravings of a youngster suffering from hysteria and melanchoia!
    Though he admits that his experience is something novel, strange and unparalled, yet, he is not ready to accept it, because, his awareness of It is so intimate and full. The only way in which the poor mortal in him could express the Immortal he is, is by quoting (or with reference to) others who have experienced intuitively the same Truth., 'Who amongst us comprehends It, both as the not-known and as the known, he comprehends It.'
    Agama (tradition of Masters) is the only evidence with reference to which one can express transcendental experiences. Even the Scriptures adopt this means and often put statements into the mouth of some ancient Master or other. The same method is adopted here by the disciple in Kenopanishad when he tries to discuss his inner intuitive experience of Truth with his Guru. 'Who among us comprehends It... comprehends It, both as the not-known and as the known, he comprehends It.' (pp. 98-100)

He understands It who comprehends It not;
and he understands It not who feels he has comprehended It.
It is the unknown to the Master of True Knowledge
but to the ignorant It is the known.

— Swami Chinmayananda,
Discourses on the Kenopanisad II.3
Govindas B. Parikh for Chinmaya Book Trust
Madras, India, 6th Edition, 1965 (pp. 100-101)

    This Mantra is a direct statement of Mother Sruit explaining the Truth for the benefit of Her students. The maximum that the words can do in explaining the Infinite is to state as she has done in the second line of the Mantra.
    The moment we comprehended a thing, it is always through the instruments of our comprehension and understanding. They being limited, they cannot but fail in grasping the whole. Whatever words can express must necessarily be something grasped earlier by our understanding. Thus, as we have already noted, Truth expressed can be but the conditioned or the limited Truth.
    The stanza may also be considered as the declaration of the Teacher himself. When the best of his disciples, after listening to the first chapter, answered the teacher in a confused self-contradictory statement as contained in the previous Mantra, the lesser students in the class must have either felt stunned by it, or giggled to bully the boy. Here the Teacher endorses that what was stated by the pupil is quite acceptable and that it is the only way in which the transcendental experience can be expressed.
    Language of intuition alone can soar to the Realms of Pure Consciousness. Truth defined in words is Truth defiled. The Supreme Reality when experienced shall be known as our real Self. A pen in a dark room when brought into the verandah may be considered as illumined by the sun. But it would be absurd to say that a thing in the sun is illumined by the sun: illumination being the very substance of the sun. The function of illuminating can have a play only where there is darkness. The Self which is Knowledge Absolute cannot be known by another knower other than Itself. The sun never illuminates itself since it is light itself. (pp. 100-101)

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