Having gone through various experiences and seen the purposelessness and hollowness of life, one approaches a Teacher, upa, with nishcaya. What exactly does nischaya mean? It indicates that the student must approach the Teacher with the firm determination that he or she has to gain this knowledge at any cost and is willing to make any sacrifice to do so. This attitude is called nishcaya and is indicated by ‘ni’ in the word ‘Upanishad’. It is a very important qualification.
A Fit Student
Unless one is ready to renounce and sacrifice, no progress is possible – in any field of life. Often, the words ‘renounce’ and ‘sacrifice’ frighten people. But if the advantages are pointed out, they may not seem so fearful. Sacrifice and renunciation take us to prosperity and growth. Nothing can be gained without giving up what one was holding on to earlier. If we insist on retaining our false notions, it will not be possible to know the Truth. They must be rejected.
Maximum courage is required to face the truth. A student once approached a master and requested initiation. The master asked, ‘If I tell you that this Truth is bitter and will destroy your present life, will you still be willing to know it? Do you want to know the Truth for its own sake or to gain worldly success? The student responded that he was eager to know the Truth, even though it would destroy his life in its existing form.
A person who has such intense longing and is ready to pay any price is a qualified student.
Generally, people are interested in the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures only to benefit in worldly matters. For example, a man thought that by attending Gita study classes, he would get a promotion. When he did not get it, he stopped attending the class! Success occurs if one works sincerely in the spirit of the Gita – not by not working and just coming to classes!
During exams, we see many students praying at the neighbourhood temple. They pray that they may pass, even though they have not studied for it. This is how the mind works.
Humility and Service
The Guru is a jnani, an enlightened person established in his Knowledge, and the student is a jignyasu, a seeker of Knowledge, eager to know. The student sits at the feet of the Teacher – shad. Even in life it is observed that water flows easily from a higher to a lower level; to pump water up to a higher level is difficult.
Sitting at the feet of the Guru represents an attitude of humility, service and devotion. The flow of knowledge becomes easier. When the student sits humbly at the feet of the Teacher, serves him and is eager to know, the Teacher teaches and the student gains knowledge.
Upanishad as Knowledge
The word ‘Upanishad’ itself means vidya, knowledge and not a particular book. Since the book, which is in the form of words, also reveals that Knowledge, it is called Upanishad. This is a simple explanation of the word.
Now let us see the deeper meaning. The word ‘shad’ also means destruction. This Knowledge results in avidya nasha – destruction of ignorance and all bondage that is created as a result of it. All false notions and concepts are eliminated .
The other meaning is that all bondages are loosened (visharana). The enlightened person seems to live like an ordinary person and also goes through physical suffering.
Hanumanji appeared to be was bound by Meghnada in Lanka; when he wanted to escape, he cast off his bonds and set about burning the city. In the same way, an enlightened person appears to be bound by the body or by society and seems to be suffering, but in reality, he is not bound.
With the dawn of knowledge, ignorance is destroyed, bondages are loosened and the person ‘sees’ his own true nature – his ananda svarupa.