Among the virtuous, four kinds seek me: the distressed, the seekers of knowledge, the seekers of wealth and the wise (7:16).
Now a great deal of people think they are religious, that they “seek the face of God,” but Krishna is presenting us with four broad categories of seekers.
The distressed. The Artas means those who are intensely troubled–bereft, afflicted, distressed, or suffering. Wisely they seek for relief in God, rather than try to distract themselves or deny their problems. Nor do they fool themselves with the false answers and delusive things of the deluded world.
The seekers of knowledge. The Jijnasus are those who desire knowledge and understanding, who really want to find the answers to the why and wherefore of themselves and their life, past, present, and future. They both think and realize that there is more to themselves and to life than they presently know. Like Socrates, they know that they know virtually nothing. But they yearn to know, realizing that without spiritual knowledge they are adrift on the ocean of relative existence without any sure hope. They will be satisfied with nothing less.
The seekers of wealth. The Artharthi are those who seek attainment and welfare, but not the temporary and changeable things of the world. They want something that lasts and cannot be lost. Right now they may not know it, but inevitably they will come to realize that they are really looking for God alone.
The wise. A jnani is one in whom true wisdom has arisen in the form of spiritual intuition, and who now consciously and very actively seeks the knowledge of Brahman which is itself Brahmanirvana, the state of enlightenment in Brahman. In Krishna’s listing the jnani is not a perfect knower of Brahman, otherwise he would not be a seeker, but he is a knower who is impelled by what he knows to seek Supreme Knowledge and the Supreme Knower. It is only natural that Krishna would continue, saying:
The highest seeker
Of them, the wise man, ever united, devoted to the One, is pre-eminent. Exceedingly dear am I to the man of wisdom, and he is dear to me (7:17).
It is obvious from this verse that the jnani is a yogi, for he is devoted to God and to no other for two reasons. First, he values God above all else. Second he knows that God alone is real, that all else is unreal and therefore unworthy of his dedication. But his valuation is not an impersonal factoid. Rather, God is dear to him and he is dear to God. Priya means both “dear” and “beloved.” Actually, Krishna uses two words: atyartham priya: “exceedingly dear”–even “extraordinarily dear.” So God fills the heart and mind of the jnani, just as God is fully intent on him. As Solomon sang: “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16. See also 6:3 and 7:10).
Then Krishna tells us:
All these indeed are exalted, but I see the man of wisdom as my very Self. He, with mind steadfast, abides in me, the Supreme Goal (7:18).
The jnani does not love God because of what he can get from him. He loves God because he alone is worthy of his love. Our English word “worship” was originally “worthship”–accounting someone worthy. We do not love God for any trait or deed, but for what he is in his essence. He is the ultimate and only Goal of all sentient beings. And devoted hearts alone reach that Goal.
Just a bit more:
At the end of many births the wise man takes refuge in me. He knows: All is Vasudeva [He Who Dwells in All Things]. How very rare is that great soul (7:19).
Vasudeva is the Universal, All-Pervading God. The jnanis have ripened throughout many dedicated lives in which God alone has been their goal and refuge. For they know that God is all, the beginning and end. Rare indeed are such great ones. Yet, all of us are destined to be rare like them. Happy destiny!
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Those Who Worship God and the Gods