Uma Instructs the Gods (Kena Upanishad)

Anthology: Poems on How to Live Human Voices Wake Us

Tonight I read a handful of poems on the theme of How to live, what to do? How to get by in the world as a devotee of culture, solitude, ritual, beauty, tradition and individuality? There is of course no one answer, and anyway, poetry should stay as far away from direct “advice,” or proscription of any kind. Still, when I sit back and think about the kind of poems that help me through the day – and the months, and the years – these are some of them. Let me know the poems you rely on in this way: send me a message at humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com. As I also mention, after this episode I’ll be taking a break from Human Voices Wake Us for at least a month. The best way to support the podcast is to preorder my book Notes from the Grid (coming out February 23), or check out any of my other books: To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, Bone Antler Stone The poems I read are: Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), How to Live What to Do Galway Kinnell (1927-2014), Tillamook Journal Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), Things That Matter Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), #2 from Lightenings Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Joy Louise Glück (1943-), Summer Night W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), A Prayer on Going into My House Emily Brontë (1818-1848), “Often rebuked, yet always back returning” Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), Man Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here.  — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/humanvoiceswakeus/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/humanvoiceswakeus/support
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And heres one of my favorite bits from the Hindu Upanishads, chapters three and four from the Kena Upanishad. From the translation of Swami Nikhilananda:

Brahman, according to the story, obtained a victory for the gods; and by that victory of Brahman the gods became elated. They said to themselves: “Verily, this victory is ours; verily, this glory is ours only.”

Brahman, to be sure, understood it all and appeared before them. But they did not know who that adorable Spirit was.

They said to Agni (Fire): “O Agni! Find out who this great Spirit is.” “Yes,” he said, and hastened to It. Brahman asked him: “Who are you?” He replied: “I am known as Agni; I am also called Jataveda.” Brahman said: “What power is in you, who are so well known?” Fire replied: “I can burn all-whatever there is on earth.” Brahman put a straw before him and said: “Burn this.” He rushed toward it with all his ardour but could not burn it. Then he returned from the Spirit and said to the gods: “I could not find out who this Spirit is,”

Then they said to Vayu (Air): “O Vayu! Find out who this great Spirit is.” “Yes,” he said, and hastened to It. Brahman asked him: “Who are you?” He replied “I am known as Vayu; I am also called Matarisva.” Brahman said: “What power is in you, who are so well known?” Vayu replied: “I can carry off all-whatever there is on earth.” Brahman put a straw before him and said: “Carry this.” He rushed toward it with all his ardour but could not move it. Then he returned from the Spirit and said to the gods: “I could not find out who this Spirit is,”

Then the gods said to Indra: “O Maghavan! Find out who this great Spirit is.” “Yes,” he said and hastened to It. But the Spirit disappeared from him. Then Indra beheld in that very region of the sky a Woman highly adorned. She was Uma, the daughter of the Himalayas. He approached Her and said: “Who is this great Spirit?”

She replied: “It is, indeed, Brahman. Through the victory of Brahman alone have you attained glory.” After that Indra understood that It was Brahman.

Since they approached very near Brahman and were the first to know that It was Brahman, these devas, namely, Agni, Vayu, and Indra, excelled the other gods.

Since Indra approached Brahman nearest, and since he was the first to know that It was Brahman, Indra excelled the other gods.

This is the instruction about Brahman with regard to the gods: It is like a flash of lightning; It is like a wink of the eye.

Now the instruction about Brahman with regard to the individual self: The mind, as it were, goes to Brahman. The seeker, by means of the mind, communes with It intimately again and again. This should be the volition of his mind.

That Brahman is called Tadvana, the Adorable of all; It should be worshipped by the name of Tadvana. All creatures desire him who worships Brahman thus.

The disciple said; “Teach me, sir, the Upanishad.” The preceptor replied: “I have already told you the Upanishad. I have certainly told you the Upanishad about Brahman.”

Austerities, self-restraint, and sacrificial rites are Its feet, and the Vedas are all Its limbs. Truth is Its abode.

He who thus knows this Upanishad shakes off all sins and becomes firmly established in the infinite and the highest Heaven, yea, the highest Heaven.

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