The Bhagavad Gita (7.16)
describes four kinds of people who worship God: the afflicted, those
desiring prosperity, the seekers of knowledge, and the knowers of God.
The afflicted pray to God
for relief from physical and mental problems. These could range from
anxiety or stress to complicated diseases of body and mind. Finding other
means inadequate, such devotees pray to God, placing their trust in Him.
Devotees of the second kind
pray to God for worldly prosperity: wealth and enjoyment, name and fame,
power and position, and so on.
What is the meaning and
purpose of human life? How are we to deal with evil? Does God exist? Is
there a soul behind the body and the mind? What happens at death? These
are questions that all of us encounter sometime or other, after we have
had our share of pleasure and pain, success and failure, and praise and
blame in the world. Most people brush aside these thoughts and continue
with their humdrum life. There are some, however, who take them seriously.
They turn to God for answers. They are seekers of knowledge, and belong to
the third kind of devotees.
And there is the fourth
kind—those who have known God. Why do they worship God? “He who knows the
Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman,” says the Mundaka Upanishad
(3.2.9). Such devotees see God, the supreme Spirit, in others as well as
in themselves. Their lives are a blessing to humanity, and everything they
do is worship of God.
Sri Krishna says that all
four kinds of devotees are noble-hearted, but He considers the knowers of
God to be His very Self (Bhagavad Gita, 7.18). The first two kinds of
devotees turn to God to realize their worldly ambitions, instead of merely
relying on their ego to manipulate things. And, in due course, turning to
God can become a habit with them, helping them to turn to Him for devotion
and Knowledge. When they become seekers of devotion and Knowledge, they
long to love God and know God alone. True religion, true devotion, begins
at that stage.
Swami Vivekananda’s words
are most appropriate here: “One that wants to love God, to be a Bhakta,
must discard all such [worldly] prayers. He who wants to enter the realms
of light must first give up this buying and selling, this ‘shopkeeping’
religion, and then enter the gates. It is not that you do not get what you
pray for; you get everything, but such praying is a beggar's religion.
‘Foolish indeed is he who, living on the banks of the Ganga, digs a little
well for water. A fool indeed is the man who, coming to a mine of
diamonds, seeks for glass beads.’ This body will die some time, so what is
the use of praying for its health again and again?...We are striving to
come into the presence of the King of kings. We cannot get there in a
beggar's dress....Shopkeepers never have admission there; buying and
selling have no place there....Do not pray for little things. If you seek
only bodily comforts, where is the difference between men and animals?
Think yourselves a little higher than that.”
— Swami Yuktatmananda
Meditation & Its Practices