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The four Types of Devotees

True devotion does not merely refer to the performance of various religious rituals like singing devotional songs, repeating incantations, engaging in silent or communal prayers or sitting for meditation. Devotion refers to this deep unshakable faith in the Lord. There are four types of devotees: the seekers of boons to relieve their suffering, the seekers of blessings for a full and happy life, the inquirers into the deeper meaning of life, and the knowers of the highest spiritual wisdom.

The first type is one who prays to the Lord when he is in difficulty or undergoing trials and tribulations. It is only at such times that he thinks of the Lord and worships him.

The second type is one who entreats the Lord for the blessings of wealth, position and power. He prays to the Lord for progeny and long life and yearns to gain houses, property, cattle, gold, jewels and such things to serve his fellow man. Most people hanker after worldly boons, not realizing that true wealth is wisdom, that real property is a noble character, that the most valuable jewel is to be immersed in God's love. They are anxious to acquire worldly objects, but do not understand the subtle meaning and deeper significance of all these outer symbols of worldly wealth.

The third type of devotee is ever engaged in inquiry into truth. He constantly seeks to know, 'Where is God? Who is God? How can I reach God? What is my relationship to God? Who am I?' When you enter this stage, you become engaged in all these inquiries in order to gain spiritual knowledge. In the first place, you must try to find out, 'Who am I? Where did this world come from? What is my goal?' You puzzle over these three important queries and try to gain some understanding. You approach great people, listen to their teachings, serve them, and study the sacred scriptures. Through this process, indirect knowledge gets turned into direct knowledge, as the teachings you have heard and studied become your direct inner experience.

Finally, when you have fully absorbed the teachings within yourself, you leave this stage behind and become the fourth type of devotee, the highest knower of truth, the one of abiding wisdom. This wisdom is true spiritual knowledge, the transcendental knowledge. It refers to the experience of unity, the experience of the One without a second.

Dwelling only on external things will cause you endless sorrow. If you base your experiences on worldly knowledge alone, you will have to suffer the reactions that result from this knowledge. For example, suppose you hit a table very hard and feel a sense of pride in doing this. You can boast that you have given it a good smack and that you surely must have hurt it with your blow. But, immediately afterwards, to your dismay, you discover that the object has hit you back with the same intensity and you end up being equally hurt by it. In knowledge of the world there will always be this response. Whatever you do will react back on you; whatever you say will resound back to you; whatever you think will reflect back to you. Everything in the world involves reaction, reflection and resound.

But in the spiritual domain there is no reaction, no reflection and no resound. Within this domain, there is only transcendental knowledge; that is the true knowledge. There you will find nothing separate, no objects which can react, nothing that can reflect or resound, because in the spiritual domain, there will be no other. There, all is one. Whenever there is a second entity there will be a wish to either possess it or to escape it; in other words, there will arise a feeling of desire or a feeling of fear. But when you are immersed in real knowledge, you will experience nothing else and no one else; there will be no second. Then neither desire nor fear can arise. That state can best be described as wisdom, the highest knowledge. In that exalted state, you do not see anything separate from self and you will not hear anything separate from self. You will only be immersed in supreme bliss. This is the eternal joy of the divine.