chatur-vidha bhajante mam janah sukritino ’rjuna
arto jijnasur artharthi jnani cha bharatarshabha
O best amongst the Bharatas! Four kinds of pious people engage in my devotion—the distressed, the aspirants for wisdom, the seekers of worldly possessions, and those who are the enlightened ones.
(Chapter 7, Verse 16)
Here, Sri Krishna describes the four kinds of people who take refuge in Him. Since Krishna was a very methodical and orderly teacher, he loves to categorise entities into various groups in order to clarify his thoughts for the benefit of the disciple.
The first type of devotee is the aarta, i.e., the distressed or the tormented. These troubled devotees may have a health affliction, a financial worry, they may be anxious about the well-being of a near and dear one; when they feel totally helpless, they take refuge in God. In the absence of their problems, these devotees would probably not have sought God. Regardless, He accepts them as His own, His devotees.
When Draupadi’s honour was at stake in the court of Hastinapur, she expected her husbands to come to her rescue. But, they disappointed her so she beseeched the elders of the family to deliver her from humiliation. When they also remained mute, Draupadi, having reached the end of the road, called out to Sri Krishna for help. She completely surrendered unto Him, heart and soul, and He used His divine benevolence to save Draupadi’s honour. Such was the power of God’s protection, but it came only when Draupadi had surrendered completely to Him.
2.The aspirants of wisdom
The second type of devotee is the jigyaasu or the inquisitive. Such people seek knowledge in all of its variety—economic, scientific, creative, and spiritual. These are people who have heard about the opulence of God and His spiritual realm. Thus, they are curious to know all about God and try to seek Him through knowledge. They desire self-realisation.
3.The seekers of worldly possessions
The third type of devotee is the arthaarthee. Traditionally this category has been interpreted as one who is desirous of artha, i.e., material gains. This is a person of practical and dynamic nature who approaches the Divine as the giver of good in the world, who sees God as a means to fulfill his/her worldly ambitions.
4.The enlightened ones
Finally, the fourth type of devotee is the gyani or the enlightened one. He realises that Param Brahma is the highest state of existence and there is absolutely nothing beyond. There are no other desires or ulterior motives in such a devotee.
How are the words of Krishna relevant in today’s time?
It is thus clear from the exposition of Sri Krishna that in the modern context, painstaking rituals and yagnas are not the only means to seek Him. It is also not necessary to undertake arduous meditation, or offer difficult sacrifices to seek Him.
A clear conscience, a soul devoid of avarice, and dutiful performance of karma are alternative paths to seek His refuge. To focus on these, in essence, is to focus on Krishna.
To read more of Krishna’s teachings, own your own copy of the Bhagavad Gita.