Still we are at the stage of the Acharya and the pupil. There is mere transmission of information between the two. It is called ‘information’ because it creates a form in you—information. Gradually, drop by drop, these bits and pieces fall into you and take form. If you are quite satisfied with the form you are lost, because you build an image with this information and treat that image as the truth, as self-realisation. In your study of the Isavasya Upanishad you must have come across a puzzling Mantra: “They who are devoted to ignorance go to hell. They who are devoted to knowledge go to a greater hell.” How is that? If you are devoted to the image that has been formed in you when the theory was imparted you are stuck forever, there is no way out of it.
You have devotedly and devoutly built it up and the whole being resists any change in that image, so you are lost. But once this image is formed, if you realise that it is only information about Atma-jnana—it is not Atma-jnana itself but merely a description then it is possible that you are inspired to go further. The ‘Jijnasu’ stage is over and you are creeping into the Jnani stage. Then someone else appears, and that is the Guru.
If you read the first chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita very carefully you will see that Arjuna thinks he is the Guru. He boldly and arrogantly teaches Krishna what is right, what is wrong. When he discovered that Krishna refused to be his disciple (!) he collapsed, and as he collapsed the words ascribed to him are very inspiring:
Destroyed is my delusion, as I have gained my knowledge (memory) through Thy grace, O Krishna. I remain freed from doubts. I will act according to Thy word.
Tvam prapannam—“I have surrendered myself at your feet because I don’t know the truth. I thought I knew, but looking at the way you are unimpressed by my teaching, I feel maybe I am wrong. So I surrender myself at your feet.” Sishyas-te—“I am your disciple.” yacchreyah syannischitam bruhi tanme,—“Tell me what might lead me to Sreyas.” This word ‘Sreyas’ is extremely difficult to translate. It has been taken to mean ‘your ultimate good or spiritual good, enlightenment, liberation’. That is where Arjuna says: “I am your disciple.” Krishna is still not the Guru. It is only in the eleventh chapter that Arjuna bursts out: “Oh! you are the Lord of the whole universe.”
What is the state of the disciple when he has found the Guru—not the Acharya? It is beautifully described towards the end of the Bhagavad-Gita:
nashto mohah smritir-labdha tvatprasadan maya ’chyuta
sthito’smi gatasandehah karishye vachanam tava. (XVIII. 73)
All these are vitally important. Nashto mohah—“my confusion, my delusion has gone.” There was a confusion to begin with, but that has completely disappeared. If that happens you are an enlightened disciple, you have found the Guru. Smrtir-labdha—it is not merely gaining or regaining memory but… Normally, you remember what others did to you and you remember what happened to you so far, but you don’t remember yourself. You don’t know yourself, but you know everybody else; you don’t know who you are, but you know the entire world! Even when you try to recall a past experience all that you remember is what others did and what others said. The self is completely ignored in knowledge, as well as memory. So smrtir-labdha means: “Now I remember who I am.” Tvatprasadanmaya’chyuta—“By your Grace,” not by your instruction! The Acharya is gone. The Acharya merely put up a structure within and the student became aware of that structure. The structure knocked down false notions and deluded ideas that were entertained before, and created the climate for enlightenment.
It is the Guru’s Grace alone that brings about this enlightenment. No amount of theory and no amount of knowledge can ever bring about enlightenment. If the cloth is dirty you put it in a bucket of water with a lot of soap in it. Has the cloth been cleaned? You hope so. When you take that cloth out it is full of soap. That’s not clean—the cleaning happens afterwards. In order to get rid of the rubbish called worldly knowledge you may need a spiritual instructor who gives you knowledge about the self, but in order to gain self-knowledge none of these would do. It is only the Grace of the Guru that flows directly into your heart without the interference of your mind that can bring about this self-knowledge, Atma-jnana. Gatasandehah—“There is no doubt,” the mind and the heart are free from doubt, and therefore whatever has to be done is done without hesitation. That is what is called ‘spontaneous action’. The shock of the vision of this cosmic form probably brought that about in the case of Arjuna, because a similar expression occurs even at the beginning of the eleventh chapter:
yat tvayo’ktam vachas tena moho’yam vigato mama (XI. 1)
By this word (explanation) of the highest secret concerning the Self which Thou hast spoken, for the sake of blessing me, my delusion is gone.
The above is an excerpt from Swami Venkatesananda’s “Sivananda Yoga”