By Whom ? – A Story from Kenopanishad

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More than 2700 years ago, a student asked his/her teacher the following important questions:

– By whose inspiration (or power) my mind thinks many things?

– By whose power my vital forces (including breathing) function?

– By whose power I can speak? and

– By whose power my eyes can see and my ears can hear?

The teacher gave the following answer:

“It is the Ear of the ears, Mind of the minds, Speech of the speeches, Vital Force of all vital forces, and the Eye of the eyes. By knowing It wise people become immortal.

Eyes cannot see It, speech cannot describe It, and mind cannot comprehend It fully.

I don’t know how to teach about It. No one showed me how to teach about It.

Wise people have told us that It is different from what we know and above the unknown.

We call It as Brahman.

Brahman is the One, whom

– speech cannot describe, but because of whom we can speak,

– mind cannot comprehend It, but because of whom mind can comprehend,

– eyes cannot see It, but because of whom eyes can see,

– ears cannot listen to It, but because of whom ears can listen and

– vital forces cannot move It around, but because of whom vital forces function.

Whom people worship is only a symbol of Brahman.

Now the teacher talks about “knowing Brahman.”

– If you think that you have known Brahman fully, then definitely you have understood very little about Brahman.

– If you think that ‘Brahman is a part in me and in all others,’ then you have to rethink about Brahman.

– I cannot say that “I have known Brahman fully” and I cannot say that “I do not know Brahman at all” because I know Brahman. Among us, those who have known Brahman know why I say, “I don’t know Brahman and I know Brahman.”

– In the case of Brahman, one who realizes that “I cannot know Brahman fully” knows It and one who thinks that “I have understood Brahman fully” does not know It.

– Brahman is known when It is realized in every state of mind. One who realizes Brahman attains immortality. Through Brahman one gets mental strength to know Brahman and through that knowledge one attains immortality.

– If you know Brahman in this life, then your life becomes meaningful and blessed. If you do not know Brahman, then you face Brahman in Its terrible form such as obstacles, suffering, frustration, helplessness, stress, old age, disease, and death.

– Wise people see that Brahman has become everything and with that knowledge they acquire infinite inner power to face all the challenges of life including death and become immortal.

Teacher tells a story to enhance his teachings about Brahman:

Once demons (human weaknesses) and devas (angles or stronger people among humans) had a fight and the devas won the battle. They were all proud of themselves and boasting about their strength. They probably had a party to celebrate their victory.

At that time, a stranger appeared at a distance. No one could recognize the stranger. They probably were suspicious and worried. All asked the fire god to go and find out who the stranger was.

The fire god ran to the stranger. The stranger asked, “Who are you? The fire god was surprised to find out that the stranger did not know him. He said, “I am Agni! (The fire god) and I am also known in the world as “Jataveda.”

The stranger asked, “What is your power?” The fire god said, “I can burn everything on this earth.”

The stranger threw a little piece of straw and asked the fire god to burn it. The fire god tried with all its power, but could not burn the piece of straw. He was embarrassed. He looked down and with a heavy heart returned to the devas and said, “I could not find out who that stranger was.”

All the devas then asked the wind god to find out who the stranger was. The wind god ran to the stranger. The stranger asked, “Who are you? The wind god was surprised to find out that the stranger did not know him. He said, “I am Vayu! (The wind god) and I am also known in the world as “Matarishwa.”

The stranger asked, “What is your power?” The wind god said, “I can blow everything that exist on this earth.”

The stranger threw a little piece of straw and asked the wind god to blow it. The wind god tried with all its power, but could not blow the piece of straw. He was embarrassed. He looked down and with a heavy heart returned to the devas and said, “I could not find out who that stranger was.”

(One can relate to the sholkas of Kathopanishad and Bhagavd Gita: Fire cannot burn Atman (individual soul), wind cannot blow it up, water cannot drown it, and weapons cannot destroy it.)

All the devas asked their leader Indra to find out who the stranger was. As Indra approached the stranger, the stranger disappeared. Then, Indra saw in the sky the Goddess of the Universe, Mother Uma with all her glories. Indra asked, “Mother! Who was the stranger?” Mother Uma said, “It was Brahman by whose power you have become victorious.”

Thus, Indra understood that everything is happening because of the power of Brahman.

Since the fire god, the wind god and Indra were in close proximity of Brahman, they attained more respect than other gods. Among these three Indra is considered superior because he understood that It was Brahman.

Concluding remarks and a peace chant:

The realization of Brahman happens like a flash of a lightening or within a blink of an eye.

When our mind starts understanding Brahman, then it gets attracted to It and makes a resolve to realize It.

Brahman is a great attractor. It is blissful. One who realizes Brahman becomes blissful and all beings adore such a person.

After listening to these teachings, a student requested the teacher, “Please tell us what Upanishad is.” The teacher said, “This is what Upanishad is. It is the knowledge of Brahman. What I said is this profound knowledge of Brahman.”


The knowledge of Brahman is supported by three pillars: austerity (joyfully bearing all the suffering and facing the difficulties that come to realize Brahman), control of the senses and mind, and performing one’s responsibilities as an offering to Brahman.

Brahman is the abode of the Truth (the Ultimate Reality). One who realizes Brahman attains the highest state in this life.

Peace chant of Kenopanishad:

Om! May my speech, vital forces, eyes, ears, and all senses get fully nourished (so, I become fit to realize Brahman)!   May I do not deny Brahman which has been described in the Upanishad! May Brahman does not deny me! May my relationship with Brahman remains unbroken! I am committed to realize Brahman. May I acquire all the virtues which have been described in the Upanishads (which are needed to realize Brahman)!

Om Peace! Peace! Peace!


12 thoughts on “By Whom ? – A Story from Kenopanishad

  1. Thank you Uncle for this wonderful post!
    This post reminded me of the story of Nachiketa and Lord Yama. It definitely emphasized the point of realizing Brahman during the lifetime and also accentuates the meaning of “Om” (“Aum”): That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. If you subtract the infinite from the infinite, the infinite remains alone.
    Thank you again Uncle!
    – Rashmi Ketha

    1. Thanks Rashmi. You connected all the right ideas. It is amazing that how in the Upanishad’s time Rishis and their students reflected upon the most fundamental questions of life and found their solutions which are relevant now. As science develops the solutions are becoming more convincing. We have to realize these truths in our lives. I am very happy that you are understanding and appreciating these ideas.

  2. Thank you for this post. Here you have written what we have discussed many times across various classes in Vidyapith. Brahman is a concept no human can fully understand, but at the same time is the reason things are as they are in the present day. I find it peculiar that the teacher told the student that knowing Brahman causes one’s immortality. Is this because believing in Brahman means believing the soul is never-dying and “recycled”?

    1. Hi Kushal: Thanks for your comment. Yes, once we realize that our true identity is Atman which is Brahman relative to a person, then one becomes immortal because Atman is.

  3. This post helped me understand more about the infinite power of Brahman. It was interesting to see that even the gods attain their power by Brahman, and since Indra realized that the stranger was Brahman he was held superior. It helps me realize that without Brahman, we would be nothing. We cannot fully understand Brahman, but it is incorporated into our daily activities and lives.

    1. Thanks Shivani for your comments. Yes, we have to incorporate this knowledge of Brahman, meaning knowledge of Vedanta in our everyday life. With that knowledge our life will be more meaningful and we will be able to live a better life.

  4. Thank you Uncle for posting this. I really liked this post because normally Brahman is explained vaguely, and this post explains why we are unable to comprehend Brahman. The story about the Gods and their confrontation with Brahman also put this difficult concept to grasp in a more relatable manner. I am glad this post answered most of my questions about a difficult idea to understand in Hinduism.

    1. Thanks Samir. I am glad that this post helped you to find answers to most of your questions. Upanishads teachers were amazing to explain difficult things in direct and simple terms and many times through stories.

  5. Hello Uncle, thank you posting this post because i learned a lot about Brahman. In first period we have recently learned about the Upanishads and Brahman. I was very interested while reading this because i knew a lot of the facts that you have posted. But there were a couple things that i was not aware of. For example i did not know the story that you shared with us and i did not know that the knowledge of the Brahman was supported by three pillars. I very much enjoyed the essence of the story and how Indra was superior because out of all he was the one who understood Brahman. Once again thank you for sharing your knowledge on Brahman and the Upanishads.

  6. Thank you Uncle for this informative post! I learned about the power of Brahman, how he is infinite and yet it is confusing why we can never see/understand Brahman. And however, without Brahman nothing would be possible– and even though Brahman is not tangible, it is still a part of our daily lives.

    1. Hi Bhoomi: Thanks for your comments. We are so much engrossed with our little selves like the devas that we do not realize the power of Brahman working through us.
      More we realize it more our lives become meaningful and we go closer to the Truth or the Ultimate Reality.

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