It is only in the final stages of spiritual attainment that an individual is able to surrender to God shedding all traces of ego. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of the different types of people who seek Him according to the nature of their wants. “Four kinds of people who have done virtuous deeds worship Me — the distressed person (Artha) the seeker of wealth (artharthi), the aspirant after knowledge (Jijnasu) and the wise man (Jnani). Of these, the Jnani remains ever devoted to Me and is also very dear to Me”. In a lecture, Swami Omkarananda pointed out that these types of people also represent the various stages/steps of spiritual advancement that are likely to take place in any individual who strives to attain salvation.
People in distress seek the Lord. It is natural for human beings to pray to God for help from the various predicaments that they have to face in their course of life. There are others who seek God for material benefits. Some others seek Him for gaining knowledge while the wise man who has realised God seeks Him for His sake. The first three kinds of propitiation have a particular end in sight (Sakama), while the Jnani’s Bhakti is free from desires (Nishkama).
In this transient world that is full of sorrow, fulfilment of all other desires leaves one always dissatisfied while the desire to seek God with the purpose of attaining Him alone leads to no further wants. So, we should rise above this level — seeking God for granting our materialistic wishes — and seek salvation from Him. God alone is capable of granting the highest goal of mankind, liberation. It is inevitable that each one of us gradually strives to practise Nishkama Bhakti. It is difficult for the Jivatma to surmount the divine illusion (Lord’s Maya) that is constituted by the Gunas. This enormous task can be accomplished by the Jivatma only with the Lord’s grace.
The Lord’s subtle presence lies behind the differences of form, name, quality, etc., that characterise all the objects of creation in the universe. The formless and undifferentiated presence (Nirguna) of the Supreme Brahman is not to be grasped by many who are yet to gain Jnana.