Different types of devotion to God

CHENNAI, FEB. 1. Among human beings those who turn to God right from childhood are a class apart. Sage Suka is a classic example of such a man of wisdom (Jnani). But the majority have desires which makes them engage in the world and hence have to consciously strive for liberation. The Bhagavad Gita says that there are four types of pious people because they worship God for different reasons. The first is the one who remembers God only when he is distressed. His immediate concern is amelioration of his suffering and when he gets relief, devotion takes root in his heart and he evolves slowly towards adoring God for His own sake.

The second class of devotees worships God out of desire for spiritual knowledge because he is unable to get this wisdom from others. The third type is the seeker of wealth since the Supreme Being is the bestower of the fruit of man's meritorious deeds. These three kinds of devotees seek something from God and Lord Krishna says that all of them are certainly noble, but the fourth type, the man of wisdom, is very dear to Him because he is devoted to God for His own sake. A Jnani exists only for the sake of God and sees Him everywhere.

In his discourse Swami Gautamananda said Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's life exemplified this kind of supreme devotion - the man of wisdom according to the Gita. The Gayatri mantra enables one to visualise the Sun as a visible manifestation of God and once Sri Ramakrishna went into an exalted state of ecstasy on hearing the recitation of this mantra. Devotion (Bhakti) and wisdom (Jnana) are treated as different ways to realise the goal of liberation in the scriptural texts. A doubt was once raised by a devotee to this saint whether it was possible for a person to adopt both these paths. The saint replied that one could at the highest level of spiritual awareness when knowledge and devotion merge in the oneness of God experience.

The objective of both the paths is to get rid of the ego (I) which is the cause of one's identification with the body and mind. A devotee looks upon himself as a vassal of God and the ego thereby gets obliterated; whereas, a man of wisdom identifies himself with the all- pervading Reality and hence the individuality gets effaced. Though these two approaches may seem diametrically opposite as they approach God from different perspectives, the ultimate experience is one and the same. So a spiritual aspirant initially will have a natural inclination for devotion or the path of knowledge.

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