Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 7, Verse 18

उदारा: सर्व एवैते ज्ञानी त्वात्मैव मे मतम् |
आस्थित: स हि युक्तात्मा मामेवानुत्तमां गतिम् || 18||

udārāḥ sarva evaite jñānī tvātmaiva me matam
āsthitaḥ sa hi yuktātmā mām evānuttamāṁ gatim

udārāḥnoble; sarveall; evaindeed; etethese; jñānīthose in knowledge; tubut; ātmā evamy very self; memy; matamopinion; āsthitaḥsituated; saḥhe; hicertainly; yukta-ātmāthose who are united; māmin me; evacertainly; anuttamāmthe supreme; gatimgoal

Translation

BG 7.18: Indeed, all those who are devoted to me are indeed noble. But those in knowledge, who are of steadfast mind, whose intellect is merged in me, and who have made me alone as their supreme goal, I consider as my very self.

Commentary

Having stated in verse 7.17 that the jñānī bhakt (devotee situated in knowledge) is the highest, Shree Krishna now clarifies that the other three kinds of devotees are also blessed souls. Whoever engages in devotion for whatever reason is privileged. Still, the devotees who are seated in knowledge do not worship God for material reasons. Consequently, God gets bound by the selfless, unconditional love of such devotees.

Parā bhakti, or divine love, is very different from worldly love. Divine love is imbued with the desire for the happiness of the Divine Beloved; worldly love is motivated by the desire for self-happiness. Divine love is imbued with the giving attitude, and sacrifice in service of the Beloved; worldly love is characterized by the receiving attitude, where the ultimate goal is to receive something from the beloved. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu describes:

kāmera tātparya nija-sambhoga kevala

kṛiṣhṇa-sukha-tātparya-mātra prema ta’ prabala

ataeva kāma-preme bahuta antara

kāma andha-tamaḥ, prema nirmala bhāskara

(Chaitanya Charitāmṛit, Ādi Leela, 4.166 & 171)[v16]

“Lust (worldly love) exists for self-happiness; divine love is harbored for Shree Krishna’s happiness. There is tremendous difference between them—lust is like darkness and ignorance, while divine love is pure and illuminating.” Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj states this very beautifully:

brahma lok paryanta sukh, aru muktihuñ tyāg,

tabai dharahu paga prema patha, nahiṅ lagi jaiheñ dāg.

(Bhakti Śhatak verse 45)[v17]

“Give up the desires for worldly pleasures and that of liberation if you wish to walk the path of devotion. Else the pure waters of divine love will get tainted with selfishness.” Sage Narad defined pure devotion in this manner:

tat sukha sukhitvam (Nārad Bhakti Darśhan, Sūtra 24)[v18]

“True love is for the happiness of the Beloved.” The materially motivated devotees cannot engage in such devotion but the devotee who is in knowledge rises to this level of selflessness. When someone learns to love God in this manner, he becomes a slave of that Devotee. The highest quality of God is bhakta vatsaltā (his love for his devotees). The Puraṇas state:

gītvā cha mama nāmāni vicharenmama sannidhau

iti bravīmi te satyaṁ krītohaṁ tasya chārjuna (Ādi Purāṇ 1.2.231)[v19]

Shree Krishna says: “I become the slave of those devotees of mine, who chant my names and keep me close to them in their thoughts. This is a fact, O Arjun.” God feels so indebted toward his selfless devotees that in this verse he goes to the extent of saying he looks upon them as his very self.