“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)
चतुर्-विधा भजन्ते मां
जनाः सुकृतिनो ऽर्जुन
आर्तो जिज्ञासुर् अर्थार्थी
ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ
catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
Friend1: Alright, so I understand that bhakti is supposed to be love and devotion. Juxtaposed with other kinds of worship to show a clear contrast.
Friend2: Where even what we refer to as “atheism” is a kind of worship.
Friend1: Because there is respect of the reflection. Paying honor to the illusory energy of maya, the living entity thinks that there is no controller behind the amazing nature.
Friend2: Or they worship nature itself. Taking the senses to be paramount, they are still connected to the Divine in some way.
Friend1: In bhakti you are not supposed to really ask for anything. By chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” you are asking God the person and His direct energy to let you engage in their service.
Friend2: Yes, and nothing else. Bhakti for bhakti. Devotion for devotion. That is the highest stage, which is not easily achieved. Just knowing that God is a person comes after considerable time.
बहूनां जन्मनाम् अन्ते
ज्ञानवान् मां प्रपद्यते
वासुदेवः सर्वम् इति
स महात्मा सु-दुर्लभः
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)
Friend1: Let me ask you this. Say a loved one is in trouble. They need a lifesaving surgery.
Friend2: Like a heart operation?
Friend1: Sure. Should we not pray for their wellbeing? Should we not ask Bhagavan to make everything go smoothly?
Friend2: I’m surprised you have to ask. What makes you think it is wrong to pray in that way?
Friend1: It’s not bhakti. It falls into the realm of material life. Praying for someone’s health is asking the higher authorities to ensure that the sick person remains in their body, which is known to be temporary.
Friend2: What is the alternative? You want that person to suffer from bad health?
Friend1: I think you shouldn’t do anything. Let the higher forces governing this world take over.
Friend2: That will occur regardless. Praying or not, the proper outcome will arrive.
Friend1: Okay, so then prayer is meaningless. People shouldn’t approach God in such circumstances?
Friend2: Just the opposite. They should approach God in all circumstances.
Friend1: You are confusing me.
Friend2: I’m sure you are aware of that Bhagavad-gita verse describing the four kinds of people who approach Krishna initially.
Friend1: Yes. The distressed. The person who wants wealth. The inquisitive and the person who already has knowledge, jnana, but wants to go further.
Friend2: Then? The distressed fits this situation, do they not?
Friend1: We should advance past those four categories, though.
Friend2: I’m saying there is no harm. You should be the same in consciousness no matter the outcome, but this does not mean you throw away all emotion. Praying for their wellbeing is a good thing. In fact, the Vaishnava, the devotee of the personal side of God, offers prayers for every person suffering. That is why they engage in prachara, in popularizing the teachings of the Vedas. They know that every person can benefit, irrespective of their health condition. Whether recently entering this world or close to their way out, connecting with Krishna will provide the best benefit.
Friend1: What about praying to someone like Shri Hanuman?
Friend2: What is wrong with that?
Friend1: He is not Bhagavan.
Friend2: He is just as good. The dedicated servant, who is like a spiritual master, is simply a different side of God. They are the Divine in service, while Krishna or Rama is the Divine accepting the service.
Friend1: Hanuman is amazing.
Friend2: Absolutely. Anyone who remembers him, especially during times of distress, is eternally blessed.
Hanuman so dedicated is he,
Most amazing servant to see.
Especially in times distressing,
His memory fortunes blessing.
Like when family member ill,
Time for God remembrance better still.
Since purification from the move,
His shelter best option to choose.