Bhakti Sandarbha 208: There is No Possibility of Knowledge Without Guru

See Appendix to the commentary.
Sri Jiva Prabhu returns to the necessity of a śravaṇa-guru.

Anuccheda 208

There is No Possibility of Knowledge Without Guru

तत्र श्रवणगुरुसंसर्गेणैव शास्त्रीयविज्ञानोत्पत्तिः स्यात्, नान्यथेत्याह (भा. ११.१०.१२)—

आचार्योऽरणिराद्यः स्यादन्तेवास्युत्तरारणिः।
तत्सन्धानं प्रवचनं विद्या सन्धिः सुखावहः॥

Knowledge of scripture can manifest only by hearing from a śravaṇa-guru, and not otherwise, as Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa said:
The ācārya is the first araṇi ; the disciple, the corresponding one; recitation, the place where they meet; and knowledge, their joy-giving combination. (SB 11.10.12)
आद्योऽधरः। तत्सन्धानं तयोर्मध्यमं मन्थनकाष्ठं। प्रवचनमुपदेशः। विद्या शास्त्रोक्तज्ञानं तु सन्धौ भवोऽग्निरिव।

The "first" means the lower piece of wood used for kindling fire. "The place where they meet" (tat-sandhānam) means “the middle churning wood”; "recitation" (pravacanam) means the instruction. "Knowledge" (vidyā) is the knowledge spoken in the scripture; it is is generated like fire at the juncture of these three.

तथा च श्रुतिः—"आचार्यः पूर्वरूपम्" (तै.उ. १.३.५) इत्यादि। अत एव "तद्विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगच्छेत्" (मु.उ. १.१.१२) इति, "आचार्यवान् पुरुषो वेद" (छा.उ. ६.१४.२) इति, "नैषा तर्केण मतिरपनेया प्रोक्तान्येनैव सुज्ञानाय प्रेष्ठा" (क.उ. १.२.९) इति॥

A similar statement is found in the śruti:

athādhividyam | ācāryaḥ pūrva-rūpam | antevāsy uttara-rūpam | 
vidyā sandhiḥ | pravacanaṁ sandhānam | ity adhividyam |

Now with regard to knowledge: The ācārya is the prior form, the disciple, the posterior; knowledge, their junction; and instruction, the medium. (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.3.3)

Therefore, the necessity of receiving knowledge from a guru is stressed in these further statements of the śruti:

tad-vijñānārtham sa gurum evābhigacchet

To understand the Supreme Reality, one should certainly approach a guru. (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.12)

ācāryavān puruṣo veda

One who has accepted an ācārya knows the Absolute. (Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.14.2);

naiṣā tarkeṇa matir āpaneyā proktānyenaiva sujṣānāya preṣṭha

O dearest one, this wisdom pertaining to the Absolute cannot be obtained by logic. Only when knowledge is received from a guru does it lead to the proper understanding. (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 1.2.9)

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaja

In the olden days, the fire to perform yajña was produced by churning a special piece of wood called araṇi. There were no matchboxes or lighters and thus there was no other way of producing fire. In the same way, there is no other way of getting knowledge except by approaching a guru. One may object that one can get knowledge by reading books oneself. These days most books are available in print form or on the internet. The guru was formerly needed when these were not available. So why take the trouble to approach a guru?

In response to this doubt, Śrī Jīva cites the present verse to convey the absolute necessity for taking a guru. In the Mahābhārata there is a story to illustrate this point. There was a brāhmaṇa boy who refused to go to the traditional school called a gurukula where one has to go and live with a guru. When he grew up he realized that he could not function as a brāhmaṇa without an education. Therefore, he decided to get knowledge. But he did not want to go to a teacher because he would feel shy to be with much younger students. He had heard that one can get anything by doing penances. So he went into the deep forest and engaged in severe penances in the hope of getting knowledge. Many years passed but there was no result.

One day he went to the nearby river to take a dip and he saw an old man sitting and pouring sand from the bank into the river with his hands. The brāhmaṇa man became curious to know what the old man was trying to achieve. He approached him and asked him the reason for pouring sand into the river. The old man replied very seriously, “I need to cross the river. I do not how to swim, and there are no boats available so I decide to build a bridge across it.”

When the young brāhmaṇa heard it he could not control his laughter. The old man asked him, “What makes you laugh? Do you think there is an easier way to cross the river?”

The young brāhmaṇa replied, “I am laughing at your ignorance. You cannot build a bridge by pouring sand into the water. Any fool will know this much.”

The old man retorted, “If you can get knowledge without approaching a guru, then I can also build a bridge in this way. I will do it my way.”

The brāhmaṇa was shocked to hear this. Then the old man revealed his identity as Indra who had come out of compassion on the brāhmaṇa. Indra asked him to find a qualified guru and study the Vedas from him.

Added commentary:

The metaphor used in this verse requires a bit of explanation. The following is taken from Hindupedia.

Araṇi literally means "that which is turned round."fire in which Vedic sacrifices are performed, should be generated by attrition. The two pieces of wood is used for this purpose are called araṇis.

  • Adharāraṇi: The lower piece is rectangular in shape and has an indentation called devayoni, the origin of the god of fire. It should be made of aśvattha (Ficus religiosa) wood, which is softer, the size being 16 aṅgulas long, 12 aṅgulas wide and 4 aṅgulas in height.
  • Uttarāraṇi: The upper piece is in the form of a drill, which is inserted into the indentation of the adharāraṇi. It should be made from the wood of the śamī tree (Prosopis specigera) which is hard.
  • Fire is generated by vigorous churning while chanting of appropriate ṛks. The lower araṇi is sometimes figuratively called the "mother," the upper araṇi the father and agni, the fire, as the offspring.
Here is Max Muller's translation of the Taittiriya passage:

Next, with regard to knowledge. The teacher is the former element, The pupil the latter, knowledge their union. That union takes place through the recitation of the Veda. So much with regard to knowledge.

Mahadeva Shastri translation: Now as to knowledge : master is the first form, pupil the second form, knowledge the junction, instruction the medium. Thus far as to knowledge.

NOTE Knowledge stands for the text which has to be taught by the master and learnt by the pupil.

Anyway, since the SB parallels TU, medium = the place between (madhyamam), pace Shridhara. There is no third piece of wood.

Bhakti Sandarbha 207 : Dīkṣā Guru is Only One
Bhakti Sandarbha 206 : The śravaṇa- and bhajana-śikṣā-gurus are usually the same person
Bhakti Sandarbha 204-5: Proper Deliberation on Śāstra Brings About Śraddhā in Bhajana
Bhakti Sandarbha 203: The Guru Should not be Greedy
Bhakti Sandarbha 202 : The Necessity of Guru : Different Types of Sadhus Give Different Types of Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 202: The two devotional proclivities and taking a Guru
Bhakti Sandarbha 201 : The Ananya Bhakta is Superior to the Jñānī Bhakta
Bhakti Sandarbha 200 : The Intermediate Devotee Renounces Karma
Bhakti Sandarbha 199 : Divisions of Devotees on the Basis of their Spiritual Practice
Bhakti Sandarbha 198 : Bhagavān is Bound to the Heart of an Uttama Bhāgavata


Anonymous said…

अर्जुन (árjuna) → अ (a) + राज् (rāj) + उ (u) + न (na)

“Aum, 0h! (You who are not) of Viṣṇu, (you who are) not (a) shining (one), (who has not) cried out (roaring like a Lion), (who is not whole and) unbroken (who does not [yet] perceive the primordial light) (or unstruck sound).”


अ (a) 3. “Not.” According to Pāṇ. vi, 2, 161, the accent may be optionally either on the first or last syllable in certain compounds formed with a (as á-tīkṣṇa or a-tīkṣṇá, á-śuci or a-śucí, án-anna or an-anná ); the same applies to stems ending in tṛ accentuated on the first syllable before a is prefixed; cf. also á-tūrta and a-tū'rta, á-bhinna and a-bhinná, etc.; A vocative particle; o, oh; An interjection of pity; ah or oh; 6. as, m., N. of Viṣṇu, L. ( especially as the first of the three sounds in the sacred syllable om ).

राज् (rāj) see 1 & 2 “to be illustrious or resplendent, shine, glitter; to appear as or like; to illuminate, make radiant; shining, radiant.”

उ (u) 4. cl. 5. P. unoti (see vy-u, RV. v, 31, 1) : cl. 2. Ā. ( 1. sg. uvé, RV. x, 86, 7) : cl. 1. Ā. avate, Dhātup to call to, hail to roar, to bellow (see also ôta = ā-uta ).

न (na) 3 ( cf. L. ), mfn. thin, spare; vacant, empty; identical; unvexed, unbroken; m. band, fetter; jewel, pearl; war; gift; welfare; N. of Buddha; N. of Gaṇeśa; = prastuta; = dviraṇḍa(?); (ā), f. the navel; a musical instrument; knowledge.

Monier-Williams dictionary entry for अर्जुन (árjuna):

Proto-Indo-European h₂r̥ǵn̥tóm:

From h₂erǵ- ‎(“white (shining), argent (silver), glittering”‎). Probably entered the vocabulary with the meaning 'white (shining) metal, silver' around 3,500 BC.

Proto-Indo-European h₂erǵ “white (shining), argent (silver); glittering,” cognates with Sanskrit अर्जुन ‎(árjuna‎); from Proto-Indo-Aryan Hárȷ́unas, from Proto-Indo-Iranian Hárĵunas, from Proto-Indo-European h₂erǵ- ‎(“white, shining”‎). Cognate with Latin argentum ‎(“silver [shining, sparkling, glttering”‎]):
Anonymous said…

श्रवण (śrávaṇa):

श्रुति (śrúti) heard (from oral transmission; i.e., “from the mouth of the Guru”):
Anonymous said…

Taittirîyaka Upanishad, Third Anuvâka (Page 46) Translated by Friedrich Max Müller:
Parikshit said…
I think Jiva would have written differently had he composed this Annuchheda in the 21st century. Approaching a guru in person was the only option available to students of yore before mass printing of books and internet arrived. There was no other alternative to getting knowledge. With the discovery of the internet, another potentiality in the material world has been actualized.

Books and talks are readily available in the times we live and it depends on the individual will to use this facility for spiritual gains. The story of the brahmana boy quoted above does not say anything about the necessity of a guru. It simply says that one needs a source and a desire in order to get knowledge. One need not take a leap of blind faith and accept a guru, to whose authenticity and internal world one is largely unaware, and cannot know about.

Having said that I strongly believe that if somebody is pleased with you, there is a great chance that you would acquire the good that person already possesses.
Anonymous said…

Dear Parikshit,

Books will only take you so far...

The liberating teaching from a गुरु (guru) → गुर् (gur) + उ (u) is transmitted in a very poweful and direct way. The Guru initiates his disciple by piercing (vedha) his inner centre with the energy of kuṇḍalinī that he raises within him with great force simply by gazing upon him.

There are few people who, without this special grace, would be fit to receive and practice teachings.
Parikshit said…
Dear Anonymous, I neither deny nor accept what you said. I'm interested in evidence if you would like to direct me to any, digital or physical.
Anonymous said…

In truth परिक्षित् (parī-kṣit), why do you waste time looking everywhere for evidence of the truth, when the truth can only be known by direct experience (which is to be found within yourself)?

Direct experience, there is no other way. Find your Guru who will point the way!


परिक्षित् (parī-kṣit) see pari- √ 2. -kshit:

√ क्षि (kṣi):
Parikshit said…
Dear Anonymous, I'm surprised at your ignorance. Evidence is a valid means of knowing truth. Do you even know anything about me as you use the word "everywhere"?

By the way, you spelled Parikshit incorrectly in Sanskrit. I look for evidence because I'm not of your club --those masquerading behind Anonymity and spitting nonsense.
Anonymous said…

The truth is to be found within, there is no other answer; one hopes the simple truth of these words finds you.
Parikshit said…
Dear Anonymous, the vague language you employ -- "the truth is to be find within" -- is a sign of your seeming inability to engage in a meaningful dialogue. This is what religious fanatics have been doing throughout history: hiding behind vague broad terms and blindly accepting a guru. And then rationalizing their delusions in fancy 'kundalini' terminology. Get educated.
Anonymous said…

O my beloved, be kinder to yourself; find and take shelter at the feet of your Guru.
Parikshit said…
Beloved Anonymous, Internet is my Guru and I'm already worshipping its feet. It seems that the Guru's gaze sent your sleeping kundalini further downward than raising it up.
Anonymous said…

One forgives you; and prophesises that there will come a time when you will likewise weep for forgiveness.


When the yogi remains like one asleep, yet in a state of wakefulness, he is certainly free. He has abandoned breathing in and breathing out.

People who belong to mundane existence, experience sleep and wakefulness, the yogis who have embraced the highest reality, do not wake and do not sleep.

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