The Mundakopanisad [1-2-12] says, त्व्तद्विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगत्व्छेत्’ – ‘Tadvignãnãrtham sa gurumevãbhigachchhet’, to know brahman, one should go to a teacher. One should not pursue the contemplation of the self on one’s own. Explaining this verse, Sri Sankaracarya says, even if one is very learned, one should not independently pursue the enquiry into the nature of the self. That is, one should always seek this knowledge from the teacher. This sounds very convenient for the gurus or teachers; everybody is required to go to a guru!
What one wants to know is the nature of the self. It is a very peculiar subject. We already know ourselves, but wrongly; we entertain a number of false notions and do not ‘know that the notions are wrong. We are quite convinced about the conclusions and opinions we have about ourselves, such as, ’I am a human being’; ’I am subject to birth and death’; ’I am limited’; ’I am a seeker,’ or ’I am needy.’ The ego entertains all these false notions about itself. Therefore, What we now need to do is to inquire into the nature of the ego-Are these notions true or are they false? Is this the true nature of the self?
We should be objective in order to determine the reality of anything. We should be able to maintain an emotional distance, like a scientist who is objective with reference to whatever he is investigating. He has no preconceived notions about the object of inquiry or any agenda regarding ‘what the investigation’ reveals. The investigation into the nature of the self would also require us to be objective with reference to ourselves and objective with reference to our own present notions and conclusions. Objectivity means detachment. It means that we do not have any agenda with reference to what we should be. It means having an open mind. It is very difficult for the ego to inquire “into its own nature. Therefore, it becomes necessary for us to. stand on another platform from where we can l00k at the ego, enquire into the ego. That is the platform of the scriptures. The Upanisads are, in fact, an investigation into the nature of the self. Therefore, we must identify with the Upanisads and examine ourselves from the perspective of the Upanisads. Then alone can we recognize what is false as false. Then alone can we see that the various notions that we entertain are not correct and then let them go. That is called having an Open mind, a learning mind, which is willing to let go of anything that is discovered to be false.
We cannot go to the Upanisads directly, however, because they need to be interpreted. Therefore, we seek ‘ the help of a teacher. The teacher is one who has studied the Upanisads from his teacher and gained the vision of the Upanisads. He epitomizes the Upanisads.