Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Four Types of People who worship God

The Four Types of People who worship God

This is my Krishna Jayanti (23-08-2008) gift to all of you.

Right now I am in the seventh chapter ( Gnana Vignana Yogam) of Srimad Bhagavad Gita in my daily parayana. I have already read the 16 th sloka at least thrice before. I thought it as a plain sloka that tries to classify Bhaktas.

Only after I studied Swamy Ramsukhdas ji Maharaj’s commentary (Sadhak Sanjeevani) my perception of this sloka changed. Swamiji deals with this sloka ver very subtly. The sloka is

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(Please download the Sanskrit font here )

chaturvidha bhajante mAm, janA: sukrutino (a)rjuna |

Artho jignAsur arthArthi, gnAni cha bharatarshabha ||--- 7/16

The sloka means

“Oh best of Bharatas ! Four types of Men of virtuous deeds worship me. They are the one who is grieved, the one who desires worldly things, the one who seeks knowledge and the man of wisdom.”

Let us analyze what and who these four are.


Arhta: - This is the classical grieved person who remembers God in the midst of his predicament. Imagine a man, whose son is in the ICU of a hospital and to whom the physician says 'nothing is in his hands'. He now stands there alone, torn by grief. He then sees the small temple there and prostrates in front of God begging for his son’s life. He worships God for release from grief. He is the Artha.

Artharthi: This man is the one seeking material from God. When someone of us need a car, we turn to God for this.

Jignasu: He is the man full of curiosity of the nature of self, the world and God. And this person turns to none other than God to get cleared of this.

Gnani: He is divine wisdom personified. Krishna inserts a conjunction ‘cha’ to denote the speciality of this worshipper. He is a man of God.

You might want to grade these people. The Gnani comes first , followed by Jignasu, Artharthi and finally Artha. But the common thread among these all is that they all worship the Lord . Krishna also says that these are men of good deeds meaning they are devoid of demonic tendencies.

Now please read on to enjoy Swamy Ramsukhdasji’s brilliant explanation of this sloka. For some it might be boring, but press on. It is worth the effort.


The three excepting the Gnani has the desire as a driving force for their worship. This desire is of two types The first for this present life and the other for the after life. The latter is all about mukti. The Jignasu yearns to know the truths about mukti (emancipation). Thinking deeper here this yearning is a need and not a desire per se. The search for truth is a fundamental need. Such needs, once satisfied never rise again unlike desires which rise again and again and are never satiated. This ‘need’ belongs to the ‘sat’ (truth) category. But 'desire' belongs to the ‘asat’ (untruth)

The other yearning is for the Lord’s love. Though this Love is a priceless one, the benefits of such Love is never one’s own. They are God’s only. The seeker surrenders himself to God totally. We can instantly say that these two are not desires at all.


Now let us see the other desire. That is, the desire for this present life. This desire is one directed towards the world. They are of two types. The first is for seeking pleasures in this life and the other is for removal of pain from this life.

The pleasure seeking expresses itself in seeking fame, material comfort, physical comfort, sensual gratification, sexual satisfaction and so on. Secondly, there is that desire that wants pains or obstacles removed. What are these pains ? They are of three types. Adi Daivikam, Adi Boudikam, and Adhyatmikam.

The pain or grief arising out of flood, draught, earthquakes, wind and cold form the Adi Daivikam.

The grief arising due to animals, birds and evil people are called Adi Boudikam.

The grief produced due to the body and the anta: karanas ( senses, mind and ahankara) is called Adhyatmikam. Adhyatmikam is further divisible into two. They are Adi and Vyadi. Worry is Adi. Bodily disease is Vyadi. Adi is of two types. First is mental disease. Second is due to worry, grief, shock, and suppressed emotions. The second is due mainly to ignorance and wisdom (gnana) dispels them. But mental disease per se is due to karma and will remain as long as the fruits of Karma remain.


The above text marked in blue show the technical or scriptural aspect of desires and their effect , grief.

For one who can see through the four different people who worship God, a simple difference can be ascertained. The first three , namely Artharthi, Artha and Jignasu are clinging lesser and lesser to the world in their given order. In other words they represent different aspects or levels of worship. When they reach the stage of the Gnani, the world no longer exists for them.

By this, I do not degrade the the first three. The Artharthi is not contented with his possessions. The Artha cannot tolerate grief. Jignasu cannot satisfy his curious intellect. But the great aspect that differentiates from mere money mongers and knowledge seekers is that they seek help from God himself.

They are burdened by matters of the world since sensual pain, matter and intellect are all connected with the jagat or world or the ‘asat’ category. As long as they carry the world with them they are variously called Artha, Artharthi and Jignasu. Once they cease to carry it, they become true Gnanis instantly.

To the Gnani, the realization of ‘Vasudeva: Sarvam’ happens.The Gnani no longer carries the world in his consciousness. He has transcended the above three to attain that stage where he sees God only everywhere. Bhagavan acknowledges this Gnani in the sloka 7-18 where he says gnAni tvAtmaiva me matam” ( my view is that this Gnani is verily of my nature)

Hare Krishna

Tuesday, August 5, 2008



This is in continuation of my previous post on 'Icon worship in Hinduism'.

I have always pondered whether or not Gita was the starting point of worship of forms! Such has been my thinking all along. And when I went into the Gita in such an angle, I found that Gita is indeed the fountainhead of icon worship in Bharat. Before the Mahabharata period ,we did not have temple worship.

Icon Vs Idol or Love Vs Fear

Before we begin, let us look closely. In Hinduism we have 'icons' (Vigrahas or Murthys) and never an 'idol'. Wherever you see the word 'icon' you may interchange it with Vigraha or Murthy.

It will be worthwhile to differentiate between an idol and an icon. A lay person in the ancient times , suddenly saw the full view of a big mountain from a clearing in a valley and was awed by it. Over a period of time his awe gave way to a kind of devotion and he started worshipping it. Similarly many people in Europe worshipped Sun for its attributes. This is idol worship. That is worshipping a revered (or feared or respected or useful) object.

But imagine a learned person who knows by his intellect and perception about the reality and existence of God. This man, out of love for Him, personifies Him in many forms and images of his liking and creation. This is Icon worship. An icon is a superimposition whereas an idol is an object of existence to which man fearfully submits.

Icon worship created forms such as the elephant faced Ganapathy, the Linga, Kali etc. The same forms are worshipped for the attributes of God which are superimposed on them. Ganapathy symbolizes the Pranava, Linga denotes the philosophy of creation, Kali denotes the energy of cosmos, Vishnu symbolizes the Yoga Nidra where the Kundalini has arisen (sleeping on snake bed). Worship or Upasana or Pooja is never possible without a form of God and Love towards Him.

In another way of expression, the fundamental aspect of Idol worship is fear. In icon worship, the fundamental aspect is love or Bhakti(devotion). My mother, who studied in a British run Christian school in Coonoor, used to say that the arch at the entrance read ,” Fear in God is the beginning of Wisdom”. The religions which shout against idol worship are having all the fundamental qualities of idol worship. They simply have adapted the earlier(pagan) religion !

In idolation, we only pray. But we worship the icons. Prayer is begging for things earthly and heavenly. Worship is honouring God through a chosen icon. We honour Him in love and in unbearable longing of the separation from Him.

Bhagavad Gita and Worship of Form

Coming back to the Gita , one is struck at its very presentation. That of God giving upadesa (advice) to his friend turned disciple. A God in form !

1. Then one sees in Chapter 2- 61 , where we see the words 'matpara:' (meaning- who takes refuge in me) for the first time.

tani sarvani samyamya yukta asita mat-parah |
vase hi yasyendriyani tasya prajna pratisthita ||
After keeping his sense under his full control, the striver should meditate and fix his heart and soul upon Me. One who has control on his senses has a stable wisdom.)

2. In Chapter 6, (Dhyana Yoga), sloka 14 , we see one of the most explicit commands of Sri Krishna to meditate on Him ! This meditation is one on His form only as many commentators pause at this sloka to give a detailed explanation and even list out the forms most suitable for meditation.

prashantatma vigata-bhir brahmacari-vrate sthitah
manah samyamya mac-citto yukta asita mat-parah

(Thus, with completely calm and subdued mind, without any fear, devoted in Me and firm in the state of sexual abstinence, the Yogi should mediate on Me as the Supreme Goal.)

3. In Chapter 4, slokas 6, 7, and 8 Sri Krishna gives the most potent statement that he in fact is born in this world again and again.

4. And in the 11 th chapter, sloka 54 Krishna assures Arjuna that he is indeed perceivable in FORM !

bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya aham evam-vidho ’rjuna|
jnatum drastum ca tattvena pravestum ca parantap ||

(But O Subduer of enemies! Only by undivided devotion, one can understand, see and know the reality of this form of Mine. O Pandava! Those who engages in My work (surrendering all this actions to Me), is whole occupied by Me, devoted to Me, is without any attachment, and is free from malice, attains Me)

This is by far the direct acknowledgement of His Saguna nature. Krishna also assures that He goes to his devotees in the same manner as they perceive Him ! The 10 th chapter 'Vibhooti Yogam' is nothing but Krishna's self explanation of His attributes IN TERMS OF OBJECTS OF EXISTENCE !- a clear foundation for icon worship.

5. In chapter 9, 26 th sloka He says he be worshipped with 'Leaf, Flower, Fruit or water' clearly setting a precedent for today's temple worship.

patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati |
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnami prayatatmanah ||

(The thoughtful devotee who offers Me one leaf, flower, fruit, water with devotion, I accept the offerings of this effortful devotee.)

Someone may argue based on sloka 24 of chapter 7

avyaktam vyaktim apannam manyante mam abuddhayah
param bhavam ajananto mamavyayam anuttamam ||

(Unintelligent men, who do not know My Supreme, inimitable and immortal form, assume My imperceptible form as manifested.)

that what Krishna means is after all his transcendental nature. But the entire seventh chapter is devoted to the sadhak who wants to know the real nature of Krishna and the context in this sloka is one where Krishna is thought as being born and died in the normal sense as applicable to mortals. So it is not a valid argument.

Whenever we think of a Vigraha, we need develop Bhakti only and not a feeling of guilt.

Jai Sanatana Dharma