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From here:

Garuda Purana says:

tAvattapO vrataM tIrthaM japahOmArchanAdikaM
vEdashAstrAgamakathA yAvattattvaM na vindati

So long as one has not achieved atma jnana, one should perform nitya karmas and observe vratas, tirthATana, japa, homa and svadhyaya. One should never throw these to winds.

Is this shlokha really from the Garuda Purana? If so, which chapter is it taken from and what's the context?

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Yes the sloka is from Garuda Puranam (2.49.98).

The following images(& texts) are from the book called Garuda Purana Saaraam(The essence of Garuda Purana).

tŸvat tapo vrataÄ t rthaÄ japa homŸrcanŸdikam |
veda ÀŸstrŸgama kathŸ yŸvat tattvaÄ na vindati || 2.49.98 ||


Penances, vows, pilgrimage, prayers, sacrifice, worship, scriptural study and discussion on scriptural injunctions are only meaningful when one is mindful of the Ultimate Reality.

enter image description here

The context is of letting everyone know the importance of a Guru in one's life.Lord Vishnu is saying that it is only by a Guru's teaching & blessings one may attain the Highest Truth and liberation(Moksha).It is also stated that by mere self study of Scriptures and Philosophies one achieve absolutely nothing, if done without Guru's guidance.

For example:

na vedŸdhyŸyanŸn-muktiÅ na ÀŸstra pa¢hanŸd-api | j†ŸnŸd-eva hi kaivalyaÄ nŸnyathŸ vinatŸtmaja || 2.49.87 || One cannot obtain Liberation by simply chanting Vedas nor by self-study of the Scriptures. Liberation comes from the dawning of pure wisdom alone, not otherwise O Garuda.

and,

praj†Ÿ-h nasya pa¢hanaÄ yathŸndhasya ca darpa®am | ataÅ praj†ŸvatŸÄ ÀŸstraÄ tattvaj†Ÿnasya lakŒa®am || 2.49.82 || For the un-realized person the self-study of scriptures is useless — like a mirror to the blind. But for the Self-realized person the same is the means of true knowledge.

The essence of this whole discourse by Lord Vishnu is summed up very well in the following verse from the same chapter:

tasmŸt j†ŸnenŸtma tattvaÄ vij†eyaÄ Àr guror-mukhŸt |
sukhena mucyate jantuÅ ghora saÄsŸra bandhanŸt || 2.49.101 ||


Therefore one should obtain the True Knowledge of the Atman from a worthy preceptor. From following the teaching of a Guru, one may easily attain liberation from this awesome ocean of rebirth.

enter image description here

In short,the message is,unless one obtains a Guru Diksha ,(his)Japa,Tapa,Homa ,Puja or Tirtha are more or less futile.

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