Seva means service. Not that "Oh, I have inquired so many things from such and such person. Oh, I have not rendered any payment or any service, so I have gained." No. Without service, your inquiry will be futile

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"Oh, I have inquired so many things from such and such person. Oh, I have not rendered any payment or any service, so I have gained"

Lectures

Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures

Sevā means service. Not that "Oh, I have inquired so many things from such and such person. Oh, I have not rendered any payment or any service, so I have gained." No. Without service, your inquiry will be futile. So three things here. Praṇipāta, paripraśna and sevā. Praṇipāta. Praṇipāta means you must have the qualification to, at least to find out a person who is actually qualified to give you real instruction. That you have to do. That remains on you.
Lecture on BG 4.34 -- New York, August 14, 1966:

We have got... Everyone, we are puffed up with whatever knowledge we have got. Everyone is puffed up: "Oh, who can give me knowledge?" There is regular propaganda that "For spiritual realization there is no need of spiritual master." But so far Vedic literature is concerned, so far Bhagavad-gītā is concerned, so far Bhāgavata is concerned, so far the Upaniṣads and Vedic literatures are concerned, they do not say. They say that there is need of a spiritual master.

Take for example the Upaniṣads, the Vedic Upaniṣads. In the Vedic Upaniṣads it is said, tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet, śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham (MU 1.2.12), this mantra, that "If you want to learn that transcendental subject, then..." First word is that if you are eager to learn that subject.

In the material world also, suppose if I want to learn the art of music. Then I have to find out somebody who is a musician. Without having the association of a musician, nobody can learn the art of music. Or any art. Suppose if you want to become an engineer. So you have to enter yourself in an engineering college or technical college and learn there. Nobody can become a medical practitioner simply by purchasing book from the market and reading at home. That is not possible. You have to admit yourself in a medical college and undergo training and practical examination, so many things. Simply by purchasing book, it is not possible.

Similarly, if you want to learn Bhagavad-gītā or any transcendental subject matter, here is the instruction by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself. Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, because He is the speaker of this Bhagavad-gītā, He says that tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā (BG 4.34). You must go to a person where you can surrender yourself. That means you have to check, "Who is the real person who can give me instruction on Bhagavad-gītā or any Vedic literature, or any scripture, right?" And not that, to search out a person as a, whimsically. No. You have to search out a person very serious that, who is actually in the knowledge of the thing. Otherwise why you shall surrender? No. There is no necessity of surrender. But here it is said clearly that "You have to surrender to a person." That means you have to find out such a person where you can voluntarily surrender. Without finding, your mission will not be fulfilled. Because very word, first thing, is...

Just like Arjuna in the beginning. We have discussed that point. Arjuna was talking with Kṛṣṇa in friendly terms just like friend. He was... Kṛṣṇa was saying some discussed that point. Arjuna was talking with Kṛṣṇa in friendly terms just like friend. He was... Kṛṣṇa was saying something, "Oh, you cannot... You are a kṣatriya. You are a military man. How can you give up the fighting?" Just like friendly talks. But when Arjuna saw it, that "Our friendly talk will not make a solution," so he surrendered unto Kṛṣṇa that "I'll..." Śiṣyas te 'haṁ śādhi māṁ prapannam: (BG 2.7) "I just become surrendered disciple unto You. Please instruct me what is my duty." So this is the process.

Here also, Kṛṣṇa advises that "If you have to learn," say, for Bhagavad-gītā, "then you have to go to a person where you can surrender." Not only surrender, not blindly surrender. You must be able to inquire. Paripraśna. The next qualification is paripraśna. Paripraśna means inquiry. Without inquiry, you cannot make advance. Just like a student in the school who inquires from the teacher, he's very intelligent. Even a boy, a child, if he inquires from the father, "Oh, father, what is this? What is this?" that child is very intelligent. Very intelligent. So inquiry is required, not only praṇipāta... "Oh, I have found out a very good spiritual master, very learned and very good, saw. All right. I have surrendered. Then all my business finished." No. That is not...

You may have a very good spiritual master, but if you have no power to inquire, then you cannot make progress. Inquiries must be there. But inquiry, how inquiry? Not to challenge. Inquiry, not that "Oh, I shall see what kind of spiritual master he is. Let me challenge him and put some irrelevant questions and talk nonsensically, this way and that way." Oh, that will not make... Inquiry on the point. Paripraśna means inquiry on the point, and that inquiry should be sevā.

Sevā means service. Not that "Oh, I have inquired so many things from such and such person. Oh, I have not rendered any payment or any service, so I have gained." No. Without service, your inquiry will be futile. So three things here. Praṇipāta, paripraśna and sevā. Praṇipāta. Praṇipāta means you must have the qualification to, at least to find out a person who is actually qualified to give you real instruction. That you have to do. That remains on you.

Suppose you have to purchase some gold or jewelries, and if you do not know where to purchase, if you go to a grocer shop to purchase a jewel, oh, then you'll be cheated. If he says, go to a grocer shop and ask, "Oh, can you give me diamond?" he will understand that "Here is a fool. So let him (me) give him something. This is diamond." "Oh. What is the price?" He can charge anything and when you come home, your relatives say, "What you have brought?" "This is diamond. I went to the grocer shop." So that kind of finding spiritual master will not do. You have to become a little intelligent. Because without being intelligent nobody can make any spiritual progress.

Athāto brahma... In the Brahma-sūtra, in the Vedānta-sūtra, it is stated, athāto brahma jijñāsā. Brahma-jijñāsā. Brahma-jijñāsā means to inquire, inquire about the supreme subject matter Brahman. That requires a qualification. Atha. Atha means those who have become experienced of this miserable life of this material world. They can inquire. Then can inquire what is Absolute Truth, what is spiritual life. Athāto brahma jijñāsā. Similarly, in the Bhāgavata also it is stated, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam (SB 11.3.21).

Śreya uttamam. Uttamam means the udgata-tamam. That is transcendental. Tama means darkness. Anything of this material world, that is in darkness because this material world is dark. You know that the whole world, whole universe, is dark. Therefore there is requisition of the sunlight, moonlight, electricity. It is dark. So uttamam means which is beyond this darkness, beyond this darkness. That means transcendental subject, spiritual subject. In the spiritual world there is no darkness. So if anyone is desirous of inquiring about the spiritual world, then he requires to find out a spiritual master. Otherwise there is no necessity. For a man who wants to remain in this darkness, for material benefit...

Suppose I want some spiritual master or I want to study Bhagavad-gītā or Vedānta-sūtra so that I may make some material improvement. Oh, that is not required. For material improvement you can work just so many people are working. They are making, trying industry or something like... That is prescribed. But if you are at all interested about the Brahman subject, the spiritual subject, then you require a spiritual master. That is clearly stated. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta (SB 11.3.21). Tasmāt means "Therefore one has to surrender unto the spiritual master."

Who? Who is jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam: "who is very much eager to understand about the transcendental subject matter." So any Vedic literature the same instruction you'll find, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā,

tad viddhi praṇipātena
paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
(BG 4.34)

Jñāninaḥ means jñānī, or a man who is in perfect knowledge. Perfect knowledge means one who has perfect vision or the perfect, not theoretical, but actual vision of the spiritual subject matter. He is called jñānī. Jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ.