Significant Expositions from
the Kenopaniṣat-Svāminārāyaṇa-bhāṣya

by Sadhu Aksharananddas

The Kenopaniṣat-Svāminārāyaṇabhāṣya (henceforth, KSB) provides a reading of the Kenopaniṣad in light of the principles of the Akṣara-Puruṣottama Darśana advocated by Bhagavān Svāminārāyaṇa. In doing so, it presents numerous both interpretive and darśanic insights on the revelations of the Kenopaniṣad. This short work will highlight only a few of these contributions as they pertain to two trajectories or perspectives by which the Upaniṣad is analyzed. The first perspective from which this work will investigate the KSB’s noteworthy contributions to darśanic thought will be from a linguistic and literary trajectory. Discussion from this point of view will highlight commentarial elaborations on significant grammatical expositions, stylistic elements, and referential methods. Following thereafter is an analysis of the commentary’s important darśanic expositions. For self-evident reasons, this latter investigation is presented under the darśanic trajectory section of this work. Although there are many notable characteristics within each trajectory, this work will focus on presenting only a few.

Linguistic and Literary Trajectory

Viewed from a linguistic and literary trajectory, the KSB presents several noteworthy expositions. This work presents discussions on these elaborations as they pertain to the following three major categories: discussions pertaining to (1) grammatical elaborations, (2) literary style, and (3) referential methods.

Although the KSB is a Vedānta work, it presents numerous grammatical elaborations at different points in its exposition. Among these elaborations, it provides a grammatical basis of some of the terms found within the base text. For instance, its exposition of ‘iṣitam’ from the first mantra (aphorism) states: “iṣataṃ chāndasoyaऽmaḍāgamaḥ.”1 Later in its elaboration of ‘amahīyanta’ the commentary clarifies the base root from which the term is derived along with its associated meaning: “mahīṅ pūjāyām.”2 The KSB also provides clarification on the pratyaya (suffix) affixed to generate a term and its affiliate meaning. For example, its elaboration of ‘nyamīmiṣad’ in Kena. 4.4 explains: “nyamīmiṣad svārthe ṇic.”3 The same analysis is also provided later in the term’s reappearance in Kena. 4.5.4

In addition to providing analyses of word generations, the commentary is also forthright in specifying when the base text deviates from Pāṇinian grammatical norms. Aware of the missing visarga after ‘vidma,’ it meticulously states: “visargalopaśchāndasaḥ.”5 The commentary also identifies variation in case (vibhakti or kāraka). With regards to the nominative case of ‘yuṣmat’ used in Kena. 2.1, it clarifies: “tvaṃ tvayītyarthaḥ ।  chāndasatvāt saptamyarthe prathamā ।”6 The KSB is even conscientious in identifying variations in gender (liṅga). For example, the commentary of ‘prathamaḥ’ of Kena. 4.2 states: “prathamaḥ prathamam । chāndaso liṅgavyatyayaḥ ।”7 Variations in number (vacana) are also identified and clarified within the commentary. For instance, the deviation of the number of ‘vidāñcakāraḥ’ of Kena. 4.2 is explained by the commentary by: “vidāñcakrurjñātavanta ityarthaḥ । vacanavyatyayaśchāndasaḥ ।”8 Similarly, the commentary of Kena. 4.4’s ‘vidyuto vyadyutad’ explains the departure of number with: “chāndaso vacanavyatyataḥ।”9 Noteworthy among all of these expositions is that the commentary never states that the base text is incorrect. Instead, it takes a reverential approach by identifying such variances as chāndasa-prayoga—a distinctive Vedic usage.

The KSB also uses grammatical analysis to present innovative and hermeneutically instructive descriptions of well-known terms. The commentary discussion of ‘Upaniṣad’ and ‘Vedānta’ in its exposition of Kena. 4.7 provides a broad survey of the content of the Upaniṣads and the interests of the Vedānta darśana by offering an analysis of their grammatical components. It deconstructs ‘Upaniṣad’ by stating: “ma upaniṣadaṃ brūhi upa + ni ityupasargadvayapūrvakaṣadlṛdhātoḥ kvipi siddhoऽyamupaniṣacchabdaḥ ।”10 It then connects this analysis with brahmavidyā: “tathā copaniṣadyate prāpyate jñāyate brahmavidyāऽnayetyupaniṣacchabdārthaḥ ।”11 Thereafter, the commentary cites the Muṇḍakopaniṣad aphorism: “yenāऽkṣaraṃ puruṣaṃ veda satyaṃ provāca tāṃ tattvato brahmavidyām । (Mu. 1.2.13)”, to offer an exposition of brahmavidyā. By identifying the Upaniṣads as brahmavidyā and brahmavidyā as the means by which one truly realizes both Akṣarabrahman and Parabrahman, the commentary explains: “Akṣaraṃ Brahma… Parabhūtaśca yaḥ pratyakṣaḥ Puruṣottamastadadhikamastattvato yayā sopaniṣaditi tātparyam।”12 In addition to the above analysis, the commentary provides the following alternative deconstruction of the same term: “nipūrvakasya ṣadlṛdhātoḥ āsanārthatvāccopaniṣadityasyopāsanamarthaḥ। tathā sati svātmabrahmarūpatvapūrvakaṃ Parahabrahmopāsanaṃ tattvato mahyamupadiśetyupaniṣadaṃ bho brūhītyasyārthaḥ ।”13

Having identified the knowledge of Akṣarabrahman and Parabrahman as the primary subjects of the Upaniṣads, the commentary then analyzes ‘Vedānta.’ It reveals: “vedānta iti copaniṣadoऽparābhidhānam। vedānāmantaḥ siddhānto rahasyaṃ nirṇayo vā sākṣādakṣarapuruṣottamopāsanātmako brahmavidyākhyaḥ, sa ca yatra pritapādyate tadupaniṣadityarthaḥ ।”14 As the essence or “anta” of the Upaniṣads, the commentary reveals that ‘Vedānta’ becomes, like ‘Upaniṣad’, synonymous with ‘brahmavidyā.’ By making this semantic shift, the commentary expresses that the knowledge of Akṣarabrahman and Parabrahman is central to not only Upaniṣadic revelation, but also Vedānta thought.

In addition to the commentary’s grammatical discussions, the KSB also has noteworthy literary stylistic elements. For instance, its explication of a referent’s upalakṣaṇa—the implication of object(s) that have not been expressed or the implication of any analogous object where only one is specified—allows for a semantic extension of the explicit referent found within the base text. For example, the commentary of the very first aphorism of the Upaniṣad expands ‘iṣitaṃ’ as:
“iṣṭamabhimataṃ prati ।  idamaniṣṭasyāpyupalakṣaṇam, aniṣṭānāmapi manogocaratvopalabdheḥ ।  tathā ceṣṭamaniṣṭaṃ vā viṣayaṃ pratītyarthaḥ ।”15 Within this example, the extension allows for a term to even express the antonym of the base referent; hence, ‘iṣitaṃ’ serves as a referent of both that which is desired and that which is not desired. The commentary of the same aphorism extends question regarding the mind (manas) to also refer to the four inner faculties (antaḥkaraṇa) and the questions regarding the two senses: vāk and cakṣus, to be extended to the remaining three senses. It states, “atra mana iti buddhyādyantaḥkaraṇopalakṣaṇam”16 and then later adds, “cakṣuḥśrotramiti ca nāsikādibāhyakaraṇopalakṣaṇam 17 Similar extensions are seen in the commentary of Kena. 1.3. Here, ‘cakṣus’ is extended to also refer to the outer senses (“cakṣu—sakalabāhyāntaḥkaraṇānāmupalakṣaṇamataḥ”18) and ‘vāk’ is extended to refer to all worldly testimony (śabda-pramāṇa) (“vāgiti padaṃ laukikaśabdapramāṇupalakṣayati”19). The commentary of Kena. 4.4 extends ‘nyamīmiṣat’ to include all action (vyāpāra) when it explains: “idaṃ copalakṣaṇaṃ prapañcaniṣṭhasarvavyāpāravargasya 20 The use of upalakṣaṇa presents an important hermeneutical tool that allows for such semantic extensions of signifiers found within the base text.

Stylistic elements used by the commentary offer variety to the way that expository content is presented. For instance, the commentary of Kena. 1.3 presents Upaniṣadic revelation in the form of an objection. The base text simply reveals that Paramātman is unknowable, presumably by worldly means. The commentary places this elaboration within the response to a hypothesized question posed by the disciple to the guru. It states, “nanu vaividhyasabhare prapañceऽsmin vidyamānaṃ kimapi viśiṣṭaṃ vastūdāhṛtya viśeṣataḥ Paramātmā kathaṃ nopadiśyata iti śiṣyāśaṅkāyām…”21 The commentary cites the Upaniṣadic text: “na vijānīma,” as if in response to this postulated question and continues to explain that despite the diversity of beings within the world, Paramātman remains unknowable because nothing resembles him.

Literary diversity, in addition to scholarly aptitude, is further demonstrated by the commentary’s presentation of opposing points of view and its responses to them. For example, in Kena. 1.3, the commentary presents numerous references to śruti revelations that, prima facie, advocate that Paramātman can be realized with the senses.22 The KSB then clarifies that all beings perceive Paramātman when it is Paramātman’s desire for them to do so; however, such perception is incomplete, especially when he is perceived with worldly faculties.23

Darśanic Trajectory

A survey of the KSB from a darśanic trajectory also reveals numerous noteworthy and distinctive elements. First, a survey of the commentary demonstrates that its expositions are based on darśanic revelations given by Bhagavān Svāminārāyaṇa in the Vacanāmṛta. The commentary reminds the reader of this by both explicitly and implicitly referencing readings from the Vacanāmṛta. For example, in the exposition of Kena. 1.2, the commentary explicitly quotes a passage from GP. 65 to explain Parabrahman’s eminence. In addition to such explicit references, the commentary also presents implicit references to particular readings of the Vacanāmṛta by utilizing terms or phraseologies that are characteristic to Svāminārāyaṇa’s usage in particular “Vacanāmṛtas.” For instance, the commentary clarifies: “Paramātmā svayameva saṅkalpya kṛpayā svabhaktamanorathasaṃpūraṇādiprayojanena svasvarūpasāmarthyādyajahannevāvatarati, tadā svayameva saṅkalpayati jñāninojñāninaśca māṃ pratyakṣīkurvantviti।”24 A homologous exposition in like terms is provided by Svāminārāyaṇa in GP. 78.25 The commentary’s usage of ‘naranāṭyasvīkāre’ in: “evaṃ tasya naranāṭyasvīkārepi tatsvabhāvaguṇādīnāmapāratvādeva manaṣyarūpopyayaṃ Paramātmā na sampūrṇatayā jñātuṃ śkaya iti…”26 is reminiscent of Svāminārāyaṇa’s teaching in P. 7.27 Its mention of ‘nirvighnā bhaktiḥ’ in “nirvighnā bhaktiḥ ātyantikamokṣasthitiḥ…”28 is used by Svāminārāyaṇa in GM. 32.29 Similarly, ‘viparitadeśakālādyupasthitāvapi’30 from KSB’s elaboration of ‘dhīrāḥ’ in Kena. 2.5 is found in Svāminārāyaṇa’s teachings in L. 17.31 Finally, the commentary’s use of ‘nirāśaṅkaḥ’, ‘nirutthānacha’, and ‘śāśvataḥ’ as qualifiers of ‘nirvikalpaniścayaḥ’ within the exposition: “nirāśaṅko nirutthānaḥ śāśvataśca pratyakṣaparamātmasvarūpaguṇasvabhāvaiśvaryādyuttamanirvikalpa-niścayo bhavati।”32 is reflected in many “Vacanāmṛta,” including L. 12.33

Additionally, the commentary of Kena. 1.3 highlights the impotence of pratyakṣa pramāṇa, laukika śabda pramāṇa, and anumāna pramāṇa in realizing Parabrahman’s form (svarūpa). It makes these inferences from the base text’s use of ‘cakṣu’, ‘vāk’, and ‘manas.’ Specifically, the KSB disavows pratyakṣa pramāṇa by stating, “tathā cātra cakṣuriti padaṃ pratyakṣajñānakaraṇātmakasya pratyakṣapramāṇasyopalakṣaṇam;”34 laukika śabda pramāṇa by “vāgiti padaṃ laukikaśabdapramāṇupalakṣayati;”35 and anumāna pramāṇa by “manaḥpadaṃ mananaśiraskamanumānupalakṣayati.”36

How then is Paramātman realization attained? The KSB is consistent to reveal that the only means for attaining Paramātman realization is through the association with the brahmasvarūpa guru. Whenever there is a description of acquiring knowledge or attaining Akṣarabrahman or Parabrahman realization, the commentary is sure to mention the brahmasvarūpa guru. For example, when attaining Paramātman realization is mentioned in Kena. 2.1, 1.4, and 2.2, the commentary states: “evaṃ gurūpadeśavākyāni yathāvad viśrutyāvadhārya ca saśraddho jijñāsuḥ śiṣya…”37 “evameva vedādisacchāstrasatpuruṣopadeśavedyatvād…”38 and “gurostavopadeśānugrahavaśāt kiñcittu jānāmyeveti bhāvaḥ,”39 respectively. In elaborating Kena. 2.4’s ‘pratibodhaniditaṃ’ the commentary offers the following distinctive exposition: “pratibodhaviditaṃ pratibuddhyate jñāyate brahmasvarūpaguroḥ sakāśāt Paramātmasvarūpādyaneneti pratibodho hyupadeśaḥ tathā hi Paramātmasvarūpaniścayāya śiṣyeṇa jijñāsite taṃ prati brahmasvarūpeṇa guruṇā dīyamāna upadeśa eva pratibodhaḥ, tena viditamiti pratibodhaviditamiti40 and then proceeds by detailing what the guru’s teachings (upadeśa) are like.41 The KSB, once again in its exposition of Kena. 2.4, highlights the central role of the brahmasvarūpa guru in attaining both qualitative oneness with Akṣarabrahman and Paramātman realization by revealing: “sākṣādbrahmasvarūpasya guroḥ sākṣātprasaṅgena tadupadeśaśravaṇādinā tanmananādinā ca tadanugraheṇa svayamapi brahmasvarūpatvaṃ prāpya Paramātmavijñānavīryavibhūṣitaḥ san sabalo bhavatīti tātparyam.”42 In addition to these descriptions, the commentary is specific in detailing who the brahmasvarūpa guru is when it states: “yathā sāmpratamasmadguroḥ prakaṭabrahmasvarūpaśrīnārāyaṇasvarūpadāsaśrīpramukhasvāmi-mahārājānām 43 In all of these readings the KSB uniformly emphasizes the significance of associating with the Akṣarabrahman (brahmasvarūpa) guru.

From a darśanic perspective, the KSB also emphasizes the role of the Akṣarabrahman guru by centralizing spiritual endeavor (sādhana) around him. Within its descriptions of ‘tapaḥ’, ‘damaḥ’, and ‘karmaḥ’ as they appear in 4.8, the commentary reveals: “tapaḥ gurvājñāpūrvakaṃ śāstroktataptakṛcchacāndrāyaṇādi sacchāstrānuśīlanarūpaṃ vā tapaḥ;”44 “damaḥ gurumārgadarśanānusāraṃ sarvendriyanigrahaḥ;”45 and “karmaḥ sacchāstrasatpuruṣādiṣṭaṃ svavarṇāśramādyucitaṃ sarvamapi sevārūpaṃ karmaḥ।”46 Whether it is asserted that spiritual endeavor is to be performed according to guru’s commands, according to his counsel, or by his direction, within all descriptions the guru plays a central and determining role.

Although this work focuses its discussion on a number of darśanic positions that are characteristic of the Akṣara-Puruṣottama Darśana’s reading of the Kenopaniṣad, there are many other significant contributions of the commentary that have been left unexplored. Additionally, this article investigates the commentary’s insightful expositions from only two perspectives or trajectories—a linguistic and literary trajectory and a darśanic trajectory. There are numerous other perspectives that may be considered to further comprehend not only the work’s significance but also its immense contribution to darśanic thought. This article serves only to provide direction for other similar investigations.


GM.                “Vacanāmṛta Gaḍhaḍā Madhya”
GP.                 “Vacanāmṛta Gaḍhaḍā Prathama”
Kena.              Kenopaniṣad
KSB.               Kenopaniṣad-Svāminārāyaṇabhāṣyam
L.                    “Vacanāmṛta Loyā”
Mu.                 Mu. Muṇḍakopaniṣad
P.                   “Vacanāmṛta Pañcālā”

Works Cited

Sādhu, Bhadreśadāsa. Īśādyaṣṭopaniṣatsvāminārāyaṇabhāṣyam.Swaminarayan Aksharpith, 2009.

Svāminārāyaṇa, Bhagavāna. Vachanamrut. Edited by Gopalanand Swami et al., 26th ed.,
Swaminarayan Aksharpith, 2009.

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  38. ”एवमेव वेदादिसच्छास्त्रसत्पुरुषोपदेशवेद्यत्वाद्…” (Sādhu 38)
  39. ”गुरोस्तवोपदेशानुग्रहवशात् किञ्चित्तु जानाम्येवेति भावः।” (Sādhu 43)
  40. ”प्रतिबोधविदितं प्रतिबुद्ध्यते ज्ञायते ब्रह्मस्वरूपगुरोः सकाशात् परमात्मस्वरूपाद्यनेनेति प्रतिबोधो ह्युपदेशः। तथा हि परमात्मस्वरूपनिश्चयाय शिष्येण जिज्ञासिते तं प्रति ब्रह्मस्वरूपेण गुरुणा दीयमान उपदेश एव प्रतिबोधः, तेन विदितमिति प्रतिबोधविदितमिति।” (Sādhu 44)
  41. (Sādhu 44–45, 46–47)
  42. ”साक्षाद्ब्रह्मस्वरूपस्य गुरोः साक्षात्प्रसङ्गेन तदुपदेशश्रवणादिना तन्मननादिना च तदनुग्रहेण स्वयमपि ब्रह्मस्वरूपत्वं प्राप्य परमात्मविज्ञानवीर्यविभूषितः सन् सबलो भवतीति तात्पर्यम्।” (Sādhu 46)
  43. ”यथा साम्प्रतमस्मद्गुरोः प्रकटब्रह्मस्वरूपश्रीनारायणस्वरूपदासश्रीप्रमुखस्वामिमहाराजानाम्।” (Sādhu 47)
  44. ”तपः गुर्वाज्ञापूर्वकं शास्त्रोक्ततप्तकृच्छचान्द्रायणादि सच्छास्त्रानुशीलनरूपं वा तपः।” (Sādhu 59)
  45. ”दमः गुरुमार्गदर्शनानुसारं सर्वेन्द्रियनिग्रहः।” (Sādhu 59)
  46. ”कर्मः सच्छास्त्रसत्पुरुषादिष्टं स्ववर्णाश्रमाद्युचितं सर्वमपि सेवारूपं कर्मः।” (Sādhu 59)