te?a? jñani nitya-yukta
priyo hi jñanino ’tyartham
aha? sa ca mama priya?
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 7.17
Of these, the one who is in full knowledge and who is always engaged in pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Free from all contaminations of material desires, the distressed, the inquisitive, the penniless and the seeker after supreme knowledge can all become pure devotees. But out of them, he who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth and free from all material desires becomes a really pure devotee of the Lord. And of the four orders, the devotee who is in full knowledge and is at the same time engaged in devotional service is, the Lord says, the best. By searching after knowledge one realizes that his self is different from his material body, and when further advanced he comes to the knowledge of impersonal Brahman and Paramatma. When one is fully purified, he realizes that his constitutional position is to be the eternal servant of God. So by association with pure devotees the inquisitive, the distressed, the seeker after material amelioration and the man in knowledge all become themselves pure. But in the preparatory stage, the man who is in full knowledge of the Supreme Lord and is at the same time executing devotional service is very dear to the Lord. He who is situated in pure knowledge of the transcendence of the Supreme Personality of God is so protected in devotional service that material contamination cannot touch him.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Among these four types who are qualified with bhakti, who is the best? Among them the jnanl is the best. He is absorbed in me constantly (nitya yukta). This means that because his consciousness has been brought under control by practice of jnana, he has full concentration in the mind. The other three types do not have this quality.
“But does the jnani just worship you out of fear that his jnana will be ineffective without bhakti?”
No, he has bhakti predominantly (eka bhaktih), not like other jnanis who have a predominance of jnana or he has great attachment to the process of bhakti alone, and is a jnani in name only. I, in the form of Syamasundara, am exceedingly (atyartham) dear to such a jnani. He cannot give me up either in the stage of sadhana or perfection. I also hold him very dear. This is according to the reasoning that in proportion of surrender to me, I respond to them.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
7.17 Of these four, ‘the man of knowledge’ is the foremost. Why? Because of being ever with Me in Yoga and devoted to the One only. To the man of knowledge the attainment of Myself being the only end in view, he is ever with Me. As for the others, they contemplate on Me only until the fulfilment of their desires. But to the man of knowledge, there is single-minded devotion to Me only. Unlike him, the others, want only the objects of their desire and they are devoted to Me only as a means for gaining them. Hence he, the man of knowledge, alone is the foremost. Further I am very dear to the man of knowledge. Here the term ‘artha’ in relation to the expression ‘athyartham’ denotes ‘what cannot be expressed adequately.’ That is, even I, the omniscient and omnipotent, is unable to express how much I am dear to the Jnanin, since there is no such limit as ‘this much’ for this love. Such is the meaning. As in the case of Prahlada, the foremost among men of knowledge, it is said: ‘But he with his thoughts firmly fixed on Krsna while being bitten by the great serpents, felt no pain from the wounds, being immersed in rapturous recollections of Him’ (V. P., 1.17.39). I reciprocate this love infinitely.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna states that from the previous four classes the jnani or knower of the Supreme Lord is the best. This is because such a jnani is nitya yukta or eternally in communion and eka bhaktir or exclusively devoted to the Supreme Lord. Only a person endowed with spiritual intelligence and no other is it possible to be immersed in communion with the Supreme Lord with one-pointed devotion. This is because such an evolved being totally free from all ego conceptions and identifications of the physical body has no mental disturbances and physical disruptions to unbalance their equilibrium. Due to this the Supreme Lord is very dear to them and they are also very dear to the Supreme Lord. Thus for these reasons the jnani excels above the rest.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Devotion only to the Supreme Lord Krishna alone is considered to be exclusive devotion. This is confirmed in the Garuda Purana where it states: Devotion to the Supreme Lord only and nothing else is considered to be singular devotion.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
But of all the previous four types Lord Krishna confirms that the jnani or those of spiritual wisdom are the elite. The jnani excels the others and is superior by dint of their knowledge of the ultimate truth which makes them nitya-yukta or eternally connected and eka-bhaktir or continuously focused on the Supreme Lord. Like ordinary humans are exclusively attached to their family members, or as a poor man is exclusively attached to a rich man for his maintenance. The jnani is not attached to others nor does he serve others because they are solely possessed of exclusive devotion to the Supreme Lord in the forms of hearing about, speaking about, singing to, meditating on, worshipping and informing others. In the Vishnu Purana the prince Prahlad who recognised the Supreme Lord as boundlessly dear, has said: The unrelenting desire for objects of the senses which the sensually attached possess; may that same never ending desire reside in my heart to always be devoted to the Supreme Lord. The great sage Parasara praised Prahlad thus: With his mind totally absorbed in the Supreme Lord when Prahlad was bitten by poisonous serpents he did not feel a thing because he was immersed in remembering the Supreme Lord Krishna who swiftly appeared for his rescue as the incarnation Narasimha-deva.
It is declared in the Vedic scriptures that: Devotion is serving the Supreme Lord Krishna with speech, mind, body and activities because the root bhaja-bhajati means to serve. Therefore the spiritually intelligent have explained that bhakti or devotion is exclusive loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in the Vedic scriptures. If reference to the Supreme Lord is not found to be revealed in the Vedic scriptures with name, form and qualities and pastimes; then never can such an erroneous and illusory conception of the Supreme Lord be ever considered to be factual and authentic.
To the enlightened devotees who know the reality of Lord Krishna as the Supreme Lord, He is extremely dear to them and they are also extremely dear to Him. It is also cited in the Bhagavat Purana where Narayana states: Just as parents are happy with their children, just as Rudra is happy with his entourage and just as I am happy with Goddess Laxsmi; in the same way Lord Krishna’s devotee is always extremely happy with Him. The Supreme Lord has nothing else dearer to Him then His loving devotees.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
7.17 Tesam, of them, among the four; jnani, the man of Knowledge, the knower of Reality, is nitya-yuktah, endowed with constant steadfastness as a result of being a knower of Reality; and he also becomes eka-bhaktih, endowed with one-pointed devotion, because he finds no one else whom he can adore. Consequently, that person of one-pointed devotion visisyate, excels, becomes superior, i.e. he surpasses (the others). Hi, since; I, the Self, am priyah, dear; jnaninah, to the man of Knowledge; therefore aham, I; am atyartham, very much; priyah, dear to him. It is indeed a well known fact in the world that the Self is dear. The meaning, therefore, is that Vasudeva, being the Self of the man of Knowledge, is dear to him. And sah, he, the man of Knowledge, being the very Self of Me who am Vasudeva; is very much priyah, dear; mama, to Me. ‘If that be so, then the other three-the afflicted and the others-are not dear to Vasudeva?’ ‘This is not so!’ ‘What then?’
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
7.16-19 Caturvidhah etc., upto sudurlabhah. Those who worship Me are men of good action. They are of four types. All these are noble ones. For, other persons, mean-minded as they are, beg a cure of their affliction, and money etc., from persons who have hands, feet, stomach, body and intelligence (or bodily strength) that are equal to their (the beggers) own, or even from those who are very much inferior. But, by comparison with the man of wisdom, [the other three under question] are of inferior intelligence. For, they entertain, at that sage too, a sense of duality. Becuase, a sense of duality ‘I seek this from the Bhagavat’ is clearly discernible in them. On the other hand, the man of wisdom hangs on Me alone with a sense of identity [of him with Me]. Hence, I am verily indentical with him. It is I alone, and not [any other] gain, that is dear to him. That is why he is having a mind purified by the firm conviction ‘All is nothing but Vasudeva’.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
tesam jñani nitya-yukta
priyo hi jñanino ’tyartham
aham sa ca mama priyah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
te?am — out of them; jñani — one in full knowledge; nitya-yukta? — always engaged; eka — only; bhakti? — in devotional service; visi?yate — is special; priya? — very dear; hi — certainly; jñanina? — to the person in knowledge; atyartham — highly; aham — I am; sa? — he; ca — also; mama — to Me; priya? — dear.