“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17)
teṣāṁ jñānī nitya-yukta
priyo hi jñānino ‘tyartham
ahaṁ sa ca mama priyaḥ
Friend1: Who is the most dear to Shri Krishna?
Friend2: That’s easy. Shrimati Radharani. She is the pleasure potency, known as hladini-shakti. Radha and Krishna are actually one. We just see them as different aspects to the singular Divine Supreme. Radha is the female and Krishna the male. One is the enjoyed, while the other is the enjoyer.
Friend1: Are you done?
Friend2: A person can never finish discussing the glories of Shrimati Radharani. Every good quality is found in her. She is the perfection of devotion. One should be eager to get even a single drop of her mercy, for the benefit of such a blessing can never be properly measured.
Friend1: Thank you for the lecture, but my original question was more generic, like among groups of people. Of the different kinds of devotees, who is the best?
Friend2: I see. Well, you know there is an answer given in the Bhagavad-gita. You don’t have to rely on just me to tell you.
Friend1: Good, because that is what I was getting to. There is that verse where Krishna describes the four kinds of people that render devotional service to Him.
Friend2: The distressed, the person who desires wealth, the inquisitive, and the person who is already in knowledge but wants to know more.
Friend1: In the very next verse, he says that the last category is the best.
Friend2: The jnani.
Friend1: Right. Isn’t that term usually translated as “mental speculator.”
Friend2: Yes, but that’s in terms of how the behavior typically goes for the group in general. The root definition is a person who is in jnana, which is knowledge.
Friend1: So why is that group the most dear? I know there are stipulations, that they should be in full knowledge of Krishna and follow devotion.
Friend2: Exactly. You should be mindful to understand the meaning of the term “best” in this situation.
Friend1: Okay. How should I view that?
Friend2: Think of it like favorable versus unfavorable. The jnani is in the position most favorable for continuing in devotional service. Are you familiar with the large class sizes for introductory biology in colleges?
Friend1: Yes. I think in my school the class was around five hundred people. It filled up a big lecture hall.
Friend2: Do you know why the class is so big? Are there that many people trying to become biologists?
Friend1: No, it’s because of the many people who are pre-med or at least thinking of becoming a doctor.
Friend2: And you know that the class is rather difficult, right?
Friend2: There is a reason. The school wants to weed out the pretenders. Better for the students who aren’t fit for a career in medicine to find out sooner rather than later. In the same way, you can think of the jnani as someone who has proceeded through different stages where there are more distractions for devotional service.
Friend1: They’re in a position where it’s easier to continue in devotion. Is that why they are best in devotional service?
Friend2: Exactly. Also, there is no motive in the jnani in bhakti. They are not really after anything from Krishna. They can practice pure devotional service. They’re not viewing Him as an order supplier. They’re not approaching Him only in times of distress. They know better.
Friend1: I see. Can you elaborate more on pure devotion versus impure?
Friend2: One way to understand is the birthday. Do you ever wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook?
Friend1: Yeah. All the time.
Friend2: Is it just for family and friends? Or do you also wish it for people you hardly know?
Friend1: Pretty much everyone in my friends list.
Friend2: Do you remember all of their birthdays?
Friend1: No way. On Facebook they put up a little reminder that today is so and so’s birthday.
Friend2: Right. And that is the catalyst for wishing them.
Friend2: Okay, so you can think of pure devotional service as the equivalent of remembering someone’s birthday on your own and genuinely wishing them well. It’s more than writing a few words and then going back to what you were doing before. Pure devotional service is uninterrupted and unmotivated. You’re associating with Krishna because you don’t want anything else. For Shrimati Radharani, it is impossible to have any other desire or occupation. The pure devotee is like a fish and devotional service their pond, their home. When taken out of the water, they can’t survive.
Of devotional service so fond,
Like the fish living in its pond.
Not chance to survive when taken out,
Never a thought of service to go without.
Jnani like birthday wish sending,
Genuine sentiment, not just pretending.
Having knowledge that Krishna the source,
Not asking anything, proceeding steady in course.