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Four Kinds of Bhaktas

by Swami Sivananda

Bhaktas or devotees of God are of four types. Arta, Jijnasu, Artharthi and Jnani. Arta is the distressed devotee who is suffering very much and who craves for the grace of God, in order to get himself relieved from pain and sorrow, Jijnasu is the seeker after knowledge, who feels that he is ignorant, and who wants the grace of God in order to have Wisdom. Artharthi is the seeker of wealth, who longs for earthly possessions, money, land, etc., in order to enjoy a happy life, and who propitiates God to get His grace to amass wealth. Jnani is the wise, the sage who is satisfied with the Self, who is contented in the Self, who has no desires, who is freed from desires, who has fulfilled all desires, whose only desire is the Self; who considers his own Self as the All-inclusive God.

The distressed is he who is suffering from a chronic incurable disease, whose life is in jeopardy on account of earthquake, volcanic eruption, thunder, attack by a dacoit or enemy, tiger etc. Draupadi and Gajendra are examples of Arta-Bhaktas. When Dussasana dragged her before the court of the Kauravas and pulled her sari, Draupadi cried for Krishna in order to guard her respect. Gajendra called on Narayana when a crocodile was dragging him in water.

Jijnasu is the enquirer. He is dissatisfied with the world. There is a void in his life. He always feels that sensual pleasure is not the highest form of happiness and there is yet pure eternal bliss unmixed with grief and pain, which is to be found within. Uddhava was a Jijnasu. He was dissatisfied with the world and got wisdom from Sri Krishna. This is recorded in the Bhagavata.

The seeker after wealth craves for money, wife, children, position, name and fame. Sugriva and Dhruva were Artharthi-Bhaktas. Sugriva wanted to drive away Vali and get his kingdom. Vibhishana wanted to put an end to Ravana and get Lanka. Dhruva wanted a kingdom where his step mother would not trouble and ill-treat him.

The Jnani is a man of knowledge who has attained Self-illumination. Suka-Maharshi was a Jnani-Bhakta. He was a Brahma-Jnani of the highest type. He realised that everything was his own Self. He taught the Srimad-Bhagavata to Parikshit.

There is another type of Bhaktas, called Vaira Bhaktas. These Bhaktas are negative Bhaktas. They do not have positive devotion for God. They hate God and thus remember Him always. Hatred also requires a constant remembrance of the enemy. So these also are a kind of Bhaktas only. They attain salvation through Vaira-Bhakti. Kamsa, Sisupala and others thought of the Lord constantly on account of their deep hatred for Him. Thus they attained Salvation.

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