The most important thing is the standard, and that must come from a real plane, not a vitiated plane, an ordinary plane, a vulnerable plane. Tad viddhi praṇipātena, paripraśnena sevayā – jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ. It must come from a plane where these two qualifications exist: jñānī and tattva-darśi, the conception and also the practical application. Both qualifications must be there to derive the standard of what is right and what is wrong.
Our attitude also should be of such type – praṇipātena, paripraśnena, sevāyā. Praṇipāt means to surrender to such knowledge. That is not an ordinary class of knowledge that we can objectify – it is super-subjective. Praṇipāt, we must surrender. We want something that is superior to us. We want Him, the Absolute Subject, not an objective thing.
Praṇipāt also means that we are finished with the experience of the world outside. We have no more interest for anything in the plane where we have traveled already. Praṇipāt, we offer ourselves exclusively at His altar, and we want to have His grace. In this mood we approach the higher knowledge.
Paripraśna, honest inquiry, is always allowed. But inquire sincerely, not with the inclination to discuss in the mood of tarka, argument. All our efforts should be concentrated on understanding in a positive direction, leaving behind the state of doubt or suspicion. With all attention we shall try to understand, because it is coming from a higher plane.
Sevayā, this is the most important thing. We will not receive that knowledge simply to utilise the experience for our benefit. That plane won’t come to serve this lower plane. We must pledge to serve that plane. With this attitude we approach that plane, that sort of knowledge. We shall serve Him, that higher knowledge, and we won’t try to make Him serve our lower plane. That selfish desire won’t allow us to enter His domain, the knowledge won’t descend. It won’t come to serve this lower plane. Rather we shall have the fullest conviction that we must offer ourselves to be utilised by Him, and not that we shall try to utilise the received knowledge in our own way to satisfy any lower purpose. If we receive that knowledge, we must serve.
Praṇipātena, paripraśnena, sevāyā – with the sevā-vṛtti (service tendency) we shall dedicate ourselves to Him, not that He will dedicate Himself to satisfy our lower animal purpose. With this attitude we shall seek the plane of real knowledge, a proper estimation of our environment. Praṇipāt, paripraśna, sevayā. This is Vedic culture. It is always imparted only in this process and never by intellectual approach. Our Prabhupāda used this analogy – the honey is in a bottle, the bottle is sealed, and the bee is trying to lick the honey through the glass. Foolish people may think the bee is licking the honey. Similarly, the intellect cannot approach ātma, spirit. It may think that it is capable, but it is not possible. The barrier is there, like a glass. Intellectual achievement is not real achievement of higher knowledge of the higher plane.
Only through faith, through sincerity, through dedication to His agents, can we approach that higher plane. If they admit us, then we can enter that land, that plane of higher living, divine living. Praṇipāt, paripraśna and sevā, the candidate must have these three qualifications before approaching the Truth. We must approach with humility, sincerity and dedication. This is mentioned in the Gītā many times, and also in the Bhāgavatam there is a particular passage:
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy-upaśamāśrayam
One who seeks the Absolute Truth must take shelter of a true guru. Such a spiritual preceptor has full knowledge of the Vedas and the Supreme Lord and is deatched from material affairs. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.3.21)
In the Upaniṣads also:
tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyam brahma-niṣṭham
To understand these things properly, one must approach, with firewood in hand, a spiritual preceptor who is learned in the Vedas and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth. (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.12)
Gurum eva – we must approach the spiritual master. Abhigacchet means to approach without hesitation. We should go with a clear heart, an honest heart. Gurum evābhigacchet – with a full heart we must approach him.
In our Prabhupāda’s language, we should not purchase a round-trip ticket when approaching the guru. He used to say always, “You have come here with your return ticket? Do not come like that. Come for all time” – sa gurum evābhigacchet. We must say in our hearts, “I have seen; I have full experience of this mortal world. I have nothing to aspire for here. With this clear consciousness, I must go. This is all mortal, no one can live here. No means to live here, no possibility, so I only want to live, and to save myself, my life. I am running to the shelter, the real shelter, with this earnestness.”Abhigacchet, samitpāṇiḥ, the disciple should bring the necessary materials, we should not trouble the guru. With our own resources we should go – abhigacchet samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyam brahma-niṣṭham.
Praṇipāt means to bid adieu to all the experience of the material world. That is the meaning of praṇipāt. “I am finished with this place. I have no attraction for any material aspiration. All my hopes may be granted from above – I am finished here. I have taken leave from any sort of prospect from this mundane world. I don’t want it. This is finished. I have come with an expectant attitude.”
Janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha doṣānudarśanam. The whole kingdom, the whole material realm may be offered, but we should reject it. We should despise bad association, mortal association, the association with mortality, disease, and all these things. With full attention we have to come to investigate whether it is possible for us to have this hope. Praṇipāt, then paripraśna. Honest inquiry is allowed – it is not that blind faith will take us anywhere. But our inquiry must be sincere.