By Sri Swami Sivananda
The Yoga of the Division of the Threefold Faith
Summary of Seventeenth Discourse
This discourse is termed the “Yoga of the Division of the Three Kinds of Faith”. The theme of this discourse arises out of the question asked by Arjuna in Verse 1 with reference to the final and closing advice of Lord Krishna in the previous discourse, contained in the last two verses therein (Verses 23 and 24). Arjuna asks, “What about those who, even though setting aside scriptural injunctions yet perform worship with faith?”
The Lord replies and states that the faith of such men who ignore the injunctions of the scriptures could be either Sattwic, Rajasic or Tamasic. This would be in accordance with the basic nature of the person himself. And, conversely, as is the kind of faith, so develops the nature of the man.
Thus, in all things like sacrifice, worship, charity, penance, etc., these qualities become expressed in accordance with the kind of faith in which the person concerned is based. They produce results in accordance with the quality of the doer’s faith. These acts done with right faith lead to supreme blessedness. When done without any faith whatsoever, all these actions become barren and useless.
1. Those who, setting aside the ordinances of the scriptures, perform sacrifice with faith, what is their condition, O Krishna? Is it that of Sattwa, Rajas or Tamas?
COMMENTARY: This discourse deals with the three kinds of faith, according to one’s inherent nature—Sattwic, Rajasic or Tamasic.
The Blessed Lord said:
2. Threefold is the faith of the embodied, which is inherent in their nature—the Sattwic (pure), the Rajasic (passionate), and the Tamasic (dark). Do thou hear of it.
3. The faith of each is in accordance with his nature, O Arjuna! The man consists of his faith; as a man’s faith is, so is he.
4. The Sattwic or pure men worship the gods; the Rajasic or the passionate worship the Yakshas and the Rakshasas; the others (the Tamasic or the deluded) worship the ghosts and the hosts of nature-spirits.
5. Those men who practise terrific austerities not enjoined by the scriptures, given to hypocrisy and egoism, impelled by the force of lust and attachment,
6. Senseless, torturing all the elements in the body and Me also, who dwells in the body,—know thou these to be of demoniacal resolves.
7. The food also which is dear to each is threefold, as also sacrifice, austerity and alms-giving. Hear thou the distinction of these.
COMMENTARY: A man’s taste for a particular food is determined according to the Guna prevalent in him.
8. Foods which increase life, purity, strength, health,joy and cheerfulness, which are oleaginous and savoury, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the Sattwic people.
9. The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, dry, pungent and burning, are liked by the Rajasic and are productive of pain, grief and disease.
10. That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the Tamasic.
11. That sacrifice which is offered by men without desire for reward as enjoined by the ordinance (scripture), with a firm faith that to do so is a duty, is Sattwic (or pure).
12. The sacrifice which is offered, O Arjuna, seeking a reward and for ostentation, know thou that to be a Rajasic Yajna!
13. They declare that sacrifice to be Tamasic which is contrary to the ordinances of the scriptures, in which no food is distributed, which is devoid of Mantras and gifts, and which is devoid of faith.
14. Worship of the gods, the twice-born, the teachers and the wise, purity, straightforwardness, celibacy and non-injury—these are called the austerities of the body.
15. Speech which causes no excitement and is truthful, pleasant and beneficial, the practice of the study of the Vedas, are called austerity of speech.
COMMENTARY: It is said in the Manu Smriti: “One should speak what is true; one should speak what is pleasant; one should not speak what is true if it is not pleasant, nor what is pleasant if it is false. This is the ancient Dharma”. To be an austerity speech should combine all the attributes mentioned in the above verse.
16. Serenity of mind, good-heartedness, purity of nature, self-control—this is called mental austerity.
17. This threefold austerity practised by steadfast men with the utmost faith, desiring no reward, they call Sattwic.
18. The austerity which is practised with the object of gaining good reception, honour and worship and with hypocrisy, is here said to be Rajasic, unstable and transitory.
19. The austerity which is practised out of a foolish notion, with self-torture, or for the purpose of destroying another, is declared to be Tamasic.
20. That gift which is given to one who does nothing in return, knowing it to be a duty to give in a fit place and time to a worthy person, that gift is held to be Sattwic.
21. And, that gift which is made with a view to receive something in return, or looking for a reward, or given reluctantly, is said to be Rajasic.
22. The gift which is given at the wrong place and time to unworthy persons, without respect or with insult, is declared to be Tamasic.
COMMENTARY: At the wrong place and time—at a place which is not holy, where irreligious people and beggars assemble, where wealth acquired through illegal means such as gambling and theft, is distributed to gamblers, singers, fools, rogues, women of evil reputation; wealth that is distributed at an inauspicious time. This does not discourage the giving of alms to the poor.
23. “Om Tat Sat”: this has been declared to be the triple designation of Brahman. By that were created formerly the Brahmanas, the Vedas and the sacrifices.
24. Therefore, with the utterance of “Om” are the acts of gift, sacrifice and austerity as enjoined in the scriptures always begun by the students of Brahman.
25. Uttering Tat, without aiming at the fruits, are the acts of sacrifice and austerity and the various acts of gift performed by the seekers of liberation.
26. The word Sat is used in the sense of reality and of goodness; and so also, O Arjuna, it is used in the sense of an auspicious act!
27. Steadfastness in sacrifice, austerity and gift, is also called Sat, and also action in connection with these (or for the sake of the Supreme) is called Sat.
28. Whatever is sacrificed, given or performed, and whatever austerity is practised without faith, it is called Asat, O Arjuna! It is naught here or hereafter (after death).
COMMENTARY: Whatever sacrifice, austerity or charity done without being dedicated to the Lord will be of no avail to the doer in this earthly life here or in the life beyond hereafter.
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, ends the seventeenth discourse entitled:
“The Yoga of the Division of the Threefold Faith”
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