Gita Chapter 7, Verse 16 – Four types of Divine seekers

The Bhagavad Gita in Chapter 7, Verse 16 defines the four types of people who seek the Divine.


catur-vidha bhajante mam
janah sukritino ‘rjuna
arto jijnasur artharthi
jnani ca bharatarsabha

Translation: Four types of people seek Me – the distressed, the seekers of Knowledge, those desirous of good and the men of wisdom.

There are any number of competing and somewhat misleading explanations of this verse on the Internet. Here we present Sri Aurobindo’s explanation of this verse as gathered from various works.

The Gita distinguishes between four types of people who seek the Divine:

  1. The ārta : A person of vital-emotional and affective nature who seeks refuge from the sorrow and suffering experienced in the world.(“God, please save me from my troubles.”)
  2. The arthārthī : A person of practical and dynamic nature who approaches the Divine as the giver of good in the world, who sees God as a means to fulfill his/her worldly ambitions.  Politicians, businessmen, military personnel fall into this category.
  3. The jijñāsu : A person of intellectual nature who comes to the Divine with the desire for knowledge.  This category includes the philosophers who seek to understand the phenomenal world.
  4. The jñānī : The man of wisdom who combines Bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (knowledge) in order to attain complete unity with the Divine.

The first three types may be regarded as preparatory movements whose completion is found in the fourth. All types are approved by the Gita, but only on the last does it lay the seal of its complete sanction. All these movements without exception are high and good, udārāh sarva evaite, but the bhakti with knowledge excels them all, viśisyate.


    1. Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga – II: The Godward Emotions
    2. Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga – II: Love and the Triple Path
    3. Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Synthesis of Devotion and Knowledge
    4. Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Synthesis of Devotion and Knowledge

11 thoughts on “Gita Chapter 7, Verse 16 – Four types of Divine seekers

  1. Pingback: Obsessive-compulsive spirituality by Dr Ramesh Bijlani | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  2. Sandeep Post author

    Sri Aurobindo was involved in India’s freedom struggle, overtly from 1906-1910 and covertly for a few years before that. He had taken up the practice of Yoga in order to gain the strength needed to liberate the country from British rule. In the context of the above post, he was an Artharthi.

    The following conversation is from A.B. Purani’s Evening Talks.

    Disciple : The Gita speaks of four kinds of Bhaktas – devo­tees. – ārta, – distressed, jijñāsu – seeking knowledge, arthārthi – one who wants to serve some purpose and jñāni, the man of knowledge. What is the meaning of arthārthi ?

    Sri Aurobindo : When you want God for serving some of your aims.

    Disciple : For instance, when you wanted God for the liberation of India.

    Sri Aurobindo : Then I was an arthārthi Bhakta.

    Disciple : A mixture of jnani and arthārthi.

    Sri Aurobindo : No. I had no knowledge. I did not know what God was. It was two years before I met Lele that I began yoga seriously. Deshpande at that time was doing Hatha Yoga, Asanas and other practices and as he had a great proselytising tendency he wanted to convert me to his view. But I thought that a yoga which requires me to give up the world was not for me. I had to liberate my country. I took it up seriously when I learnt that the same Tapasya which one does to get away from the world can be turned to action-learnt that yoga gives power and I thought : why should I not get power and use it to liberate my country.

    Disciple : God very cleverly exploited your desire to liberate India,

    Sri Aurobindo : It was the time of country first, humanity afterwards and the rest nowhere. It was something behind that got the idea accepted by the mind ; mine was a side-door entry into the spiritual life.

  3. ipi

    Sri Ramakrishna said once that Jnana is like a man who is allowed into the drawing room of the Lord while Bhakti is like a woman who can enter the Lord’s inmost chamber.
    Sri Aurobindo has said that Love is the Divine’s power of self-creation. Without Love, we can enjoy a featureless peace, a self-absorbed Bliss but we cannot experience the wonderful totality of the Divine. Therefore the endeavour to approach the Divine through the way of Love will bring us the highest success. Sri Ramakrishna said once that Jnana is like a man who is allowed into the drawing room of the Lord while Bhakti is like a woman who can enter the Lord’s inmost chamber.


  4. Mike-3

    This is very interesting. Started out as number 3, slowly became number 2 and now want to become number 4 but that is extremely difficult! I don’t understand how people can speak so easy about Bhakti as if it is something that you just do. I find it very difficult to fully concentrate on the Divine because I want to feel it from my hearth and not let my mind come up with some theory that would at the moment of devotion induce the required emotion.

    I find it for example difficult to wake up in the morning and pray because then it would feel forced and artificial, like you are more doing it out of obligation then trough sincere devotion (and sincerity is of course very important). Each time the idea that there might be an insincere element involved I tend to abort out of fear and guilt. Doesn’t mean that it is insincere, just the possibility alone ruines the moment. Is there perhaps a way to continuously increase the ‘Bhakti state of mind’ or is this just something you as an individual need to accomplish for yourselve on an emotional level? Like an inner selfconfidence of your sincerity or something of that nature.

    1. Yuyutsu (nickname)

      Mike, there is nothing like “wanting to become number 4” – if you want to unite with the Divine, then you are ALREADY a number 4!

      Of course this is hard, but you are on the path and the rest will be accomplished in due course.

  5. Sandeep Post author

    Mike : Is there perhaps a way to continuously increase the ‘Bhakti state of mind’ or is this just something you as an individual need to accomplish for yourselve on an emotional level?

    I guess that is one advantage of growing up in India 🙂
    It was easier for me to open up to God in the form of Krishna, Vishnu, Saraswati, etc.

    You can try a couple of approaches to develop Love:
    1) Read mystic poems by Wordsworth, Rumi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Kabir, George Russell (aka A.E) and Sri Aurobindo.
    2) Gaze at the galaxies in the night sky, the oceans, the verdant forests, the majestic mountains and feel the Divine Love permeating His Creation.

    As you progress, the relation or mood (bhava) with which you view the Divine will also change. There are five moods which have been enumerated by seers of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement

    1) Master-Servant (dasya): This is probably the stage you are in now (stage 2 as you call it) in which you view the Divine as the Master of your work. He is the one to whom you surrender.
    2) Father-son : One sees the Divine as one’s Father.
    3) Mother-son (vatsalya): One feels the Divine as one’s Mother who protects and nurtures.
    4) Friend (sakha) : One begins to feel the Divine as friend and guide.
    5) Lover (madhura): One senses the Divine as one’s lover whose delicate touches spark joy in the being.

    (see also:

    Ramakrishna Paramahansa adopted these relations during the Vaishnava phase of practice.

    Sri Aurobindo has discussed these five approaches in Part 3 of the Synthesis of Yoga in the chapter on “Godward Emotions” (and in other chapters in Part 3). I quote a couple of passages:

    “The relations which arise out of this attitude towards the Divine, are that of the divine Father and the Mother with the child and that of the divine Friend. To the Divine as these things the human soul comes for help, for protection, for guidance, for fruition, — or if knowledge be the aim, to the Guide, Teacher, Giver of light, for the Divine is the Sun of knowledge, — or it comes in pain and suffering for relief and solace and deliverance, it may be deliverance either from the suffering itself or from the world-existence which is the habitat of the suffering or from all its inner and real causes. In these things we find there is a certain gradation. For the relation of fatherhood is always less close, intense, passionate, intimate, and therefore it is less resorted to in the Yoga which seeks for the closest union. That of the divine Friend is a thing sweeter and more intimate, admits of an equality and intimacy even in inequality and the beginning of mutual self-giving; at its closest when all idea of other giving and taking disappears, when this relation becomes motiveless except for the one sole all-sufficing motive of love, it turns into the free and happy relation of the playmate in the Lila of existence. But closer and more intimate still is the relation of the Mother and the child, and that therefore plays a very large part wherever the religious impulse is most richly fervent and springs most warmly from the heart of man. The soul goes to the Mother-Soul in all its desires and troubles, and the Divine Mother wishes that it should be so, so that she may pour out her heart of love. It turns to her too because of the self-existent nature of this love and because that points us to the home towards which we turn from our wanderings in the world and to the bosom in which we find our rest.

    But the highest and the greatest relation is that which starts from none of the ordinary religious motives, but is rather of the very essence of Yoga, springs from the very nature of love itself; it is the passion of the Lover and the Beloved. Wherever there is the desire of the soul for its utter union with God, this form of the divine yearning makes its way even into religions which seem to do without it and give it no place in their ordinary system. Here the one thing asked for is love, the one thing feared is the loss of love, the one sorrow is the sorrow of separation of love; for all other things either do not exist for the lover or come in only as incidents or as results and not as objects or conditions of love. All love is indeed in its nature self-existent because it springs from a secret oneness in being and a sense of that oneness or desire of oneness in the heart between souls that are yet able to conceive of themselves as different from each other and divided. Therefore all these other relations too can arrive at their self-existent motiveless joy of being for the sake of love alone. But still they start from and to the end they, to some extent, find a satisfaction of their play in other motives. But here the beginning is love and the end is love and the whole aim is love. There is indeed the desire of possession, but even this is overcome in the fullness of the self-existent love and the final demand of the Bhakta is simply that his Bhakti may never cease nor diminish. He does not ask for heaven or for liberation from birth or for any other object, but only that his love may be eternal and absolute.”

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  9. Rajkumar Trikannad

    Many thanks .
    Very good and easy to understand you.
    Request – can you elaborate on Artharti as many views seen here . Artha as economics and a Bhakta using for benefits of others is one .pl clarify
    CaptTR (Retd)

    1. Sandeep Post author
              An <em>Artharthi</em> is someone who seeks Divine Power to achieve material goals.

      It’s like doing a commercial transaction with the Divine: “I will love you if you do this/that for me and if you don’t, then I will be disappointed or angry“. That’s what most people are thinking when they visit the temple to pray.

      In the passage seen in the comment above, Sri Aurobindo gives an example of himself as an Artharthi.

      Disciple…What is the meaning of arthārthi ?
      Sri Aurobindo : When you want God for serving some of your aims.
      Disciple : For instance, when you wanted God for the liberation of India.
      Sri Aurobindo : Then I was an arthārthi Bhakta.


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