essays – 12
The virtuous people who offer worship to the Lord are termed bhakthas and they are classified into four categories by Lord Krishna (7-16). They are:
1) Aartha bhaktha – Swami Paramarthananda calls him as 'crisis bhaktha'. He thinks of the Lord intensely when he faces a crisis and at normal times thinks of God only at his convenience. For him God is a means to get his problem solved and not the end, end being resolution of the problem be it economical, physical, personal or social. He is a sadhana bhaktha, whose knowledge of Lord is limited to Apara Prakrithi only.
2) Artharthi bhaktha – He worships Lord for material prosperity, which includes progeny, position etc. He is a regular worshipper, no doubt, and not crisis-driven like Aartha bhaktha but he has always a demand for fulfillment in his prayers. For him too, God is not the end but only the means to achieve material gains. He is also a sadhana bhaktha, whose knowledge of Lord is limited to Apara prakrithi only.
3) Jijnasu bhaktha – He has no personal axe to grind in his prayers and he is interested in acquiring total knowledge of God that will add strength to his worship. For him Lord is the means as well as the end. He is a sadhya bhaktha as Lord is not sadhanam, the means but sadhyam, the end as well, but his knowledge also is limited to Apara Prakrithi only and he is seeking the total knowledge of the Lord.
4) Jnani bhaktha – He has knowledge of both Para prakriti and Apara prakrithi and for him God is neither the means nor the end but his real Self and his worsip is out of fulfillment of all wants, not for fulfillment of any wants. He is a Siddha bhaktha.
Aartha bhakthi and Artharthi Bhakthi are called sakama bhakthi, as both are for personal benefit and material gains. Jijnasu bhakthi and Jnani bhakthi are termed nishkama bhakthi, as the worship is not motivated by personal gains or material benefits.
After giving the four categories of bhakthas, Lord mentions that all of them are noble, no doubt, but among them all, the Jnani Bhaktha is the best as he has steadfast and single pointed devotion to the Lord and he holds the Lord very dear to him. He also knows the Lord is His own Self and what is dearer to one than his own Self. As sage Yajnavalkya tells his wife Maitreyi in Brihadaranyaka Uanishad (2-4-5) “न वा अरे सर्वस्य कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति (Na va are sarvasya kamam sarvam priyam bhavati, atmanastu kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati.)” meaning “Verily all is not dear not for the sake of all but it is for one’s own sake that all is dear.” Lord also reciprocates Jnani’s ananya bhakthi by holding the Jnani bhaktha dear to him and declares he is not different from Him. Narada Bhakthi Sutra in its sutra 67 echoes Lord’s words: “भक्ता एकान्तिनो मुख्याः(bhakta ekantino mukhyah)” which means “Devotees, whose single goal is the Lord Himself and whose single-pointed devotion towards the Lord is for its own sake, are the best” Lord also tells that such Jnani bhakthas having ananya bhakthi for the Lord with the advaitic Jnanam of Jiva Brahma Ikyam are rare as this maturity of Athma Jnanam is reached only after many Janmas in which one may be passing through several stages of aartha, artharthi, jijnasu bhakthi before his steadfastness is rewarded through Lord’s Grace and he blossoms into a jnani bhaktha with the knowledge of Lord’s Para prakrithi as well. As a Jnani bhaktha, he becomes Jivan muktha, attaining videha mukthi after death.
After discussing Jnani bhaktha, Lord talks about the sakama bhakthas who have only knowledge of Lord’s Apara prakrithi and worship Him in His various forms to get their wants and desires fulfilled. In whatever form they worship the Lord with full faith and sincerity, Lord sustains their faith in that form by answering their prayer in that form Itself. They do not know that all forms are only forms of the one Supreme Lord, Brahman, as His Apara prakrithi and all the fruits they seek are only of finite and limited nature, keeping them firmly in samsara. Only knowledge of Para prakrithi, Brahma Jnanam, is the ultimate reward one should seek as it is totally fulfilling and satisfying and also liberating from samsara and they know not of this knowledge. They are ignorant of the Lord’s superior nature which is changeless and transcendent and in their ignorance they consider Him as the Unmanifest that has assumed manifestation. They mistake the changeless One behind the many as the One among the many in their ignorance. Lord then diagnoses the cause for their ignorance as Avarana sakthi, the veiling power, of Maya, which Lord now calls as Yogamaya ( he earlier referred to it as ‘My Maya’). This power of the Lord that is keeping them ignorant of the eternal, birthless, unsurpassed nature of the Lord as Para prakrithi, can be overpowered only when they curb their extrovert nature and shift their attention from the objects and pleasures of the world to the lotus feet of the Lord and surrender to Him seeking sincerely His Grace. Lord alone knows fully and completely the past, present and future of everyone and everything and has no problem of ignorance about anything. As Maya is under His control Avarana Sakthi does not affect Him. But Jiva is under Maya’s control and under the spell of Maya does not know of Lord’s Para prakrithi and suffers from samsara.
This ignorance starts from birth itself due to delusion of the pairs of opposites arising from desire and aversion. Not knowing the source of the unlimited real happiness within themselves due to this delusion they seek it in the outside world and spend their entire lifetime running after it. This Sri Sankara beautifully portrays in Bhaja Govindam (verse 7) thus:
तरुणस्तावत्तरुणीसक्तः ।( taruṇastavattaruṇisaktaḥ)
परे ब्रह्मणि कोऽपि न सक्तः (pare brahmaṇi ko'pi na saktaḥ)
The childhood is spent in attachment to playfulness. Youth is spent in attachment to women.
Old age is spent in thoughts (of past events or present helplessness). And there is hardly
anyone who gets attached to Parabrahman.
Some noble person with enough punyam starts to think of the Lord in crisis and starts as an aartha bhaktha. When this becomes a habit, with increase in punyam he turns into an artharthi bhaktha. Later in that life itself or in succeeding lives he grows into a jijnasu bhaktha, as his punyam grows. For the fortunate few all this growth can happen even in one or two lives. And then seeking to end samsara and get Liberated, he seeks a Guru and studies sastras with his help and he is well on the road to become a Jnani bhaktha. When he surrenders to the Lord with Vijnanam, he totally gets rid of his delusion with dualities, with his mind becoming free of raga and dwesha, and his desires changing into preferences. He becomes jnani bhaktha knowing all about the Para prakrithi and Apara prakrithi of the Lord. Being established in this knowledge, he does not lose sight of the Lord even at the time of death and enjoys both Jivanmukthi and Videhamukthi.