Are the jnanis mentioned in Gita 7.16-18 impersonalists as the example of Kumaras suggests or devotees as Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakura’s commentary states?
The Spiritual Scientist Q&A
Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath Mataji
Question: So If I understand the question right it is that we have two understandings of the Jnani in Bhagavad Gita 7.16-18, one is that they are simply impersonalists like the Kumaras, as from the example, but from the commentary it seems that they are Jnanis in name only, they are Bhaktas.
Answer: So two points are there in this. First is that, when scripture gives principles, it is never that any particular example will accurately apply to a particular principle, because principles are abstract, it’s like we say that, ok this person is in goodness, this person is in passion, and this person is in ignorance. But in the real life, practically every person has combination of all modes. So this is a standard problem in philosophy, it is called the problem of taxonomy, that means we have conceptual categories, but things in the real world don’t always fit very neatly into the conceptual categories. So just like, for e.g. we say the Bhagavatam is a “Amala Purana”, but then the Bhagavatam also has sections, for e.g. where Shiva is worshiped, now Brahmaji goes and offers prayers to Shiva in the fourth canto. So of course now we understand from the transcendental point of view why it is there, but the simple point is that it is a broad philosophical principle; that what is there in the real world and what is there in the conceptual category, they will not match always in an accurate way. That is the first point. So now if we see the four categories of people Krishna talks about, when He talks about Jnani, the primary contrast between this person and the others is primarily like a “seeking for the spiritual truth”, Artho and Artharthi are simply trying for relief at the material level, Jijnasu is just inquisitive, it is more or less at the mental level, it is not a serious search for the absolute truth. So now Krishna also says later in 18.54 that
brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
So actually, devotion, or pure devotion can be attained, once one is not materially contaminated or materially motivated. So the primary qualification of this person is that this seeker is not materially contaminated or motivated. And once the person comes in contact with Krishna then, naturally the person becomes attracted to Krishna.
teṣāṁ jñānī nitya-yukta eka-bhaktir viśiṣyate
. So Prahalada Maharaja also gives that example that just as iron filing is attracted to magnet, so I am attracted to you, so now our Acharyas explain that we are also like that iron filing, but we are covered over, we are rusted iron, there is cover of rusting or contamination, because of which we do not feel attracted. So that rusting when it is not there in the seeker, then as soon as there is introduction to Krishna, soon there is a strong devotion and attraction to Krishna and that is what we see in the Kumaras also. Irrespective of whatever their previous conception was, yes they were impersonalists, but at-least they were free from material contamination and motivation, as soon as they got the just the fragrance of the Tulsi of the lotus feet of Lord, they were immediately attracted to Krishna, and we see that also in some of the illustrious followers of Srila Prabhupada, who were already in one sense seeking the absolute truth and when they got connected with Krishna, Krishna just captured their heart. So in that sense Krishna is talking about seekers who are not materially motivated or contaminated, who are primarily seeking the spiritual truth, and then once they come to Him they become attracted and they become devotees, so they are dear to Him for both reasons. In the Bhagavatam tenth canto there is a verse that Krishna is conquered by the devotee who has conquered his senses, so that means that at one level, just the fact that they have renounced the material world in search for Him, pleases Krishna. At another level, because they are also developing positive attraction to him, that also pleases Krishna, and that’s how there is a bond of love that is formed between them and those Jnanis become dear to him. So these devotees, they are initially approaching Krishna, so they are seekers, so initially they may not have devotion, but soon they develop that devotion, and in that sense, they are dear to Krishna. So the Jnana Misra, where we talk about the contamination, that is basically that the initial approach to Krishna is not with the devotional intention, it is more of seeking knowledge and from that seeking knowledge, they eventually become lovers of Krishna. So the Jnana Misra aspect is simply how they are approaching Him, how and why they are approaching Him, initially they are not approaching him for the purpose of loving him, they are just approaching him as seekers of knowledge, but soon the seekers of knowledge become lovers of the Supreme Lord and in that way they grow, now all of them have the potential to do devotion. Actually 7.19 describes how others can take a long time, so bahūnāṁ janmanām ante is not primarily applying to those who are already dear to Krishna, if they are so dear to Krishna, they will go back immediately, not after many life times. So in one sense 17 and 18 describe the category of Jnani and 19 describes the remaining 3 categories. ārto jijñāsur arthārthī, those who approach Krishna, after many life-times will become jñānavān and they will become vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti and then they will return back to him, they will attain Krishna completely. So now depending on their intellectual orientation or their devotional disposition, the progress from being intellectual seekers of the absolute truth to the devotional lovers of the absolute truth, that journey will be slower or faster, depending on how much is the Jnana element and how much is the Bhakti element. So teṣāṁ jñānī nitya-yukta eka-bhaktir viśiṣyate, eka-bhaktir, actually if you have seen in the 14th chapter, Krishna uses the work Avyabhichaari Bhakti, now Avyabhichaari Bhakti is uninterrupted devotional service, so uninterrupted devotional service or undistracted devotional service is Eka Bhakti. So undistracted does not necessarily mean pure devotional service, just by being determined to practice Bhakti, by being determined to attain the absolute truth, one can become undistracted, whereas pure devotional service means, it is completely unselfishly motivated, it is simply for the pleasure of Krishna. So that’s why we say that in 14th chapter, those who practice Avyabhichaari Bhakti, they become brahma-bhūyāya kalpate, they reach Brahman platform. Normally if Avyabhichaari would be pure devotional service then that would lead to Bhagavan, to Krishna , and not to brahma-bhūyāya, so Avyabhichaari Bhakti can also be practiced by other seekers who are using Bhakti as a tool to rise to the Brahman platform; so they also fix their mind on Krishna, and they also practice Bhakti without any distraction, but it is not for the pleasure of Krishna, it is for the sake of their own liberation. So here eka bhaktir vishisyate, this does not necessarily mean that they are pure devotees, it simply means that they are one pointed in their devotion. It does not mean that they are pure in their devotion. they are focused, now if you see again, vyavasāyātmikā buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana Krishna says in 2.41, that is not necessarily not a description of pure devotion, it is actually a recommendation for a Sadhaka that one should be one pointed like that. So similarly here, because the seekers don’t have any material motivation or contamination, so they are fixed in the devotional path, and that’s why their spiritual growth is much faster than the others; so in that sense, because they are uncontaminated and now they are not materially motivated in the sense that they do not want material gain. But then sometimes our Acharyas says that the desire for liberation is also material desire only, so they may not be free from this desire, so eventually when they become free from that desire also.