The Kena Upanishad forms part of the Sama Veda. It takes it's name from the first word with which it opens, "Kena" meaning "By whom ?". The Upanishad starts with the seeker's question, "By whom is the mind directed to dwell on an object ?"
a profound question, the
starting point of an inquiry
into the ultimate basis of
perception. The eye registers
an image of the object
and transmits it to the
mind. The mind receives the
signals from the eye, and
records them. But what faculty
to do this and later
makes sense of the signals
so received ? The eye and
the mind are obviously physical
instruments directed by and serving
a higher faculty of understanding.
It is clear then, that
it is not the eye,
but a higher "I" that
sees. The Upanishad thus starts
with the question "Who is
that I ?"
The Upanishad presses this inquiry to it's logical conclusion, which points to an ultimate Consciousness which is not to be identified with any physical component of the body, something that is beyond physical limitations of any kind.
Like all the Upanishads, the Kena quickly traverses the limited ground covered by modern psychology, and presses the inquiry further with uncompromising logic, till it leads to an ultimate, eternal, all pervasive consciousness that pervades all existence, including our own. It is the One that pervades the many, and becomes the "I" within each of us, that directs the physical insruments of which our bodies are made. It is this "I" that sees, hears, tastes, feels, thinks and directs whatever our bodies do.
The Kena Upanishad is set in 35 slokas, spread over 4 Parts. Despite it's brevity, it is considered one of the more important Upanishads, because of the beauty and depth of it's content. Indeed
the measure of it's importance is the fact that Sankara dealt with
it in, not one, but two separate commentaries.