तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया |
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिन: || 34||
tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśhnena sevayā
upadekṣhyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśhinaḥ
tat—the truth; viddhi—try to learn; praṇipātena—by approaching a spiritual master; paripraśhnena—by humble inquiries; sevayā—by rendering service; upadekṣhyanti—can impart; te—unto you; jñānam—knowledge; jñāninaḥ—the enlightened; tattva-darśhinaḥ—those who have realized the truth
Know that (Knowledge) by long prostration, question, and service (to the master). The sages who have realised the truth will instruct you in that knowledge.
In the previous verse, the excellence of Jnana is declared. The question of how and from whom such knowledge could be obtained is answered here.
The seers of truth: Brahma jnana can be obtained only from the sages who have directly perceived the Truth. They are men who have realised the Self and transcended all the doubts and complications of earthly life. They have seen the Truth of the Vedas and Sastras. They have gone beyond them. Such men indeed are very rare. But they alone are qualified to instruct the aspirant in Self – Knowledge. The Lord uses the term ‘tattvadarsinah’ (The seers of Truth) to distinguish these from others who have only read about Truth in books. Such book learning is far different from actual Self-realisation. Truth is a direct experience. For such men, Truth is as clear as material objects are clear to us. When one speaks of sages who have seen the Truth, he should not imagine that Truth is something external to them like a pole or wall or tree. Truth is not different from one’s own Self which is also the Self in every being. Thus, sages who are directly experiencing the Self-state are world-teachers from whom the sincere aspirants obtain Knowledge of Atma.
What are the qualifications of the aspirant and under what conditions would they receive the blessing of the Master? Three conditions are prescribed.
(1) The seeker should approach the Master in all humility and prostrate himself at the feet of the Master (Pranipatena). Pride and egotism should be utterly crushed when the seeker stands in the presence of the Master. The seeker may be a King ruling over millions of people, but the pride of position counts for nothing when he stands before the Knower of Brahman. The seeker may be an intellectual giant, but the supremacy of learning counts for nothing before the Knower of Brahman. The seeker may belong to a high caste, but the superiority of caste counts for nothing before a Knower of Brahman. In short, all power and position, all wealth and nd treasure, are not in the least helpful to obtaining that Knowledge which brings man face to face with Truth.
From the Upanishads and Puranas we get several illustrations of such humility on the part of learned Kings and Emperors who desired to know the Truth. They have walked bare-footed to some mountain – cave where the sage lived with only a loin cloth to cover his nakedness, with only roots and leaves to sustain his mortal body. Humility is the first condition imposed. Does the all-renouncing sage expect any honour from those who go to him? Not at all. He is indifferent to honour and dishonour. It is for the benefit of the seker that humility is prescribed as a condition, and not to confer honour on the sages. By such humility, the seeker overcomes the first and last obstacle on the path of Self-realisation, (i.e.) egotism, a clinging to the little self which produces a sense of false pride and greatness. So humility is the role of conduct for all seekers in the presence of the Master.
Brahma Jnana is superior to everything else in the world. Let us recall to mind the great combative encounter between Vasishta and Viswamitra. Viswamitra used all the weapons against Vasishta who defended himself with his lone Brahmadanda. All the weapons were swallowed up by the Brahmadanda, as the ocean swallows up all the floods in the world. Viswamitra then understood the superior power of Brahman.
The knower of Brahman has such power but he never uses it. Against whom and for what purpose should he use it? The sage is embodied wisdom, is God Himself in the embodied state. So the seeker of knowledge should prostrate himself before the Master with a deep feeling of humility and obedience. According to ordinary custom, people remove their footwear and head-dress when they go to the temple. Pride and egotism which cling to the body should be given up when one meets a great Master from whom he hopes to receive spiritual illumination.
(2) By question: Having prostrated himself before the Master, the seeker should then humbly ask the Guru to teach him, to clear his doubts, to lift him from the mine of delusion, to give him peace, and to help him to realise the Truth. The aim of the seeker should be to receive light and not to test the Master’s capacity to argue with him, or examine the depth of his scholarship. Such an arrogant attitude is futile. The Master is not disturbed or perturbed by the puzzles and riddles of the questioner. But the seeker loses the very aim of his quest by foolish argumentation. The Master knows by a single glance at the seeker what type of man he is, what doubts he has, what obstacles there are for him to overcome, and gives him suitable instructions. But he does so only when he is convinced about the sincerity of the seeker. Otherwise, the Master can do nothing to communicate his knowledge to the disciple. So it is prescribed as the second condition that the seeker should humbly place his doubts before the Master and accept his guidance.
(3) By service: Service to the Master is the third condition. Blessed are those who have opportunities of such divine service. To wash the Master’s clothes, dry them and keep them ready for his use, to massage his feet, to prepare food for him, to bring fruits and flowers for his worship, in these ways to serve the Master and win his grace is the duty of the aspirant. It should be remembered that the Master is not in need of somebody’s service. It is meant only for the benefit of the disciple. It is an act of devotion. If the Master employs him in some work, it is a blessing that the Master confers on the aspirant. We come across instances of utterly literate persons rising to the heights of spiritual glory by simple devoted service to the Master. Their love for the Guru is the open secrect of Self-realisation, and service works the miracle.
When the seeker fulfills these conditions, the Master out of his mercy instructs him in Brahmajnana. The right approach of the seeker induces the right spirit of the Master. It is the duty of the Master to help the aspirant in his quest for Truth, and he does so out of compassion and not for any material reward. Those great Masters are naturally full of pity for suffering humanity, and when people come to them loaded with sorrow and crushed by suffering, they are moved by cosmic compassion and do everything possible to save the stricken souls from sorrow and delusion.
What is that the Master teaches? Truth, which they have known and seen, in which they have their life and being.
This verse explains clearly the relationship between the Master and the disciple and the duties of each in relation to the other. We understand how the Masters and disciples lived in ancient hermitages. Even today there are Masters of this type if only the seeker is keen about his quest. The very power of the disciple’s aspiration for knowledge will draw to him the right type of Master from the unknown regions of the earth. This is the simple law of magnetism and no real aspirant need to be disheartened that he is not able to get the proper Guru (master). The Guru is always there if the seeker’s aspiration is sufficiently intense to draw him into orbit.
Here a doubt may be created about why Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to seek out a Master and learn the Truth. (1) It may be that the Lord wants Arjuna to confirm his realisation by instructions from a Guru. (2) It may be that the Lord is just describing the normal mode of spiritual instruction in the world.
Swami Vivekananda Says —
Swamiji began to speak to the disciple [Sharat Chandra Chakravarty], enjoining him to be reverential to the Math members: “These children of Shri Ramakrishna whom you see, are wonderful tyagis (selfless souls), and by service to them you will attain to the purification of mind and be blessed with the vision of the Atman. You remember the words of the Gita: ‘By interrogation and service to the great soul’. Therefore you must serve them, by which you will attain your goal; and you know how much they love you.”[Source]
Question: From whom is Knowledge obtained?
Answer: From the great Masters who have seen the Truth.
Question: What is the code of conduct for the seeker?
Answer: He should prostrate himself at the feet of the Master, ask him for instruction in a humble manner, and serve him in all possible ways.