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Four Kinds of Men Who Seek God: Which Are You?

“Among benevolent men, four kinds worship Me: the distressed, those who desire wealth, those who desire knowledge, and the man of wisdom” (Bhagavad Gita 7:16).

4 types of men who seek GodNow a great deal of people think they are religious, but Krishna is presenting us with four broad categories of those who can be said to genuinely be seeking God. All others are only seeking their egos in some form and need not be seriously considered, such as those who are only cultivating the approval of others (or themselves) or who want to make a positive impression to cover their intentional negativity. We can look at each of the “real four” in turn.

1. The distressed

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 “answers” and “good things” of the deluded world.

2. Those who desire wealth

Artharthi are those who seek attainment and welfare. They do fool themselves with the “answers” and “good things” of the deluded world. 

3. Those who desire knowledge

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.

4. The man of wisdom

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 man of wisdom [jnani], eternally steadfast, devoted to the One alone, is preeminent. I am indeed exceedingly dear [priya] to the man of wisdom, and he is dear to Me” (Bhagavad Gita 7:17).

It is obvious from this verse that the jnani is a yogi, for he is continually united (nityayukta) with God through his yoga practice. 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 are indeed noble, but the man of wisdom is considered to be My very Self. He, indeed, whose mind is steadfast, abides in Me, the supreme goal” (Bhagavad Gita 7:18).

The jnani does not love God because of what he can get from Him, he loves God because He is worthy of his love. How different that is from the motivations of the worldlings. 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 man of wisdom resorts to Me, thinking, ‘Vasudeva is all.’ Such a great soul is hard to find” (Bhagavad Gita 7:19).

Vasudeva is a title of God, meaning: “He who dwells in all things”–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–Beginning and End. Rare indeed are such great ones. Yet, all of us are destined to be rare like them. Happy destiny!

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