Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 4, sloka 34, part 2

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath
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Sloka 34


Know that by full prostration, question and service, the sages who have realised the truth will instruct you in that knowledge.


***   continued from last week   ***

Sevaya:  By service.

The seeker is also expected to take up some of service needed by the guru. The seeker looks after the physical needs of the guru and his ashrama where all the seekers are staying. In return the guru takes care of the spiritual needs of the seeker.

As mentioned already, this system of basic and higher education was unique to the land where there were no universities and educational institutions as we know of today. It was not a business transaction where the student pays a fee and demands returns for the fees paid. In those days the guru did not demand any fees except humility on the part of the student and an interest to learn the Vedas and Upanisads.

When we read some of the Puranas and mythological stories, we come across instances where there was a division of labour on the part of all the students in a particular ashrama.

a)  All students took up the task of going to the forest sometime in the day and bring in “samidha” (barks of certain plants) needed for the homa.

b)  Some students went to the river/wells to get water needed for drinking and washing the clothes/utensils.

c)  Some others went to collect root vegetables / fruits / flowers for the ashrama.

d)  Few cleaned all parts of the ashrama.

e)  Some took the cattle for grazing and looked after the cowshed. They collected the milk from the cows that was needed for all the inhabitants of the ashrama.

f)  Advanced/senior students were allowed to enter into the personal residence of the ashrama and assist the “Gurupatni” (wife of the preceptor) in all the household chores.

g)  Special students who made exceptional progress were allowed to press the feet of the guru and let him gradually doze off to sleep. This has a special significance also. During those moments before going to sleep the guru imparted higher spiritual knowledge to the selected disciple and helped him in making rapid progress in his studies.

This sort of seva does not apply to the present system of education. In India, in village set ups, (sometimes there are no basic needs that are lacking) the sincere teacher who resides to teach the students of the village needs help and the students/community of the village are morally expected to do some service to the teacher.

Whereas the guru is the one who dispels spiritual darkness, teacher is he who gives/assists in knowledge which is mostly secular.

Total dedication of the body/mind/speech to the guru is offered via this method of prostration/questioning/seva. There is no commercial motive on part of the guru. Let us also make it clear that the guru assists only in expelling the ignorance from the mind of the student. The Hindu philosophy believes that there is inherent knowledge in every individual but it is masked by ignorance in the form the three basis gunas of Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

The Lord ends this sloka with a special word:
Tatva darshinaha: those who have realised the “Eternal Truth.”

It is a must condition for the guru. The guru must have:
Realised the Truth,
Must have a perfect knowledge of the scriptures.
Should be well above the needs to fulfil worldly pleasures and should be living the life of a simpleton.

Finally they are not just masters in theory but followers of what they preach. The master teaches the seeker “Brahma Jnana” in quest of which the seeker travels sometimes hundreds of miles, leaves the luxury of his homeland and comes to live the humble life in the ashrama of the respected guru.

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