Bhagavad Gita - Chapter XVII Print E-mail

In Chapter 16 Krsna says that a person who merely pursues desire and ignores the advice of the scriptures attains neither success nor happiness and does not evolve spiritually. Here Arjuna asks what is the fate of a person who disregards the mandate of the scriptures but sacrifices with sraddha? Sraddha is translated as faith but has a far deeper meaning. It is a combination of devotion and intellectual focus that is maintained with clarity until the goal is achieved. It is the ability to conceive a goal and constantly put in effort towards it until the mission is accomplished.


Sraddha is the most important determinant of success in any field of endeavour, material or spiritual. You are defined by your sraddha. U may be exceptionally talented, well educated and have all the opportunities but unless you consistently apply your effort wholeheartedly the goal will remain elusive.


Sraddha is an aspect of one’s nature, vasanas. Vasana is one’s intrinsic nature, inherent tendency or innate disposition. Also referred to as guna. Guna is of three kinds – sattva, rajas and tamas - pure, passionate and ignorant. The ancient Indian sages analysed the mind and went to the very root, vasana. Thus their prescription for inner development is scientific and rational. There are no grey areas.


Sattvika sraddha is worship of the gods, the divine manifestations, higher ideals. Rajasika sraddha is worship of the gods as ends in themselves or pursuit of material, self-centred goals. Tamasika people are totally oblivious of the transcendental and live a lazy, laid-back life of ignorance. They worship ghosts and spirits. They are unwilling to work hard and instead resort to bizarre methods in the vain hope of achieveing success.


Krsna then goes on to describe the classification of ahara food, yajna sacrifice, tapa austerity and dana charity into sattva, rajas and tamas. The analysis of these into the three gunas helps get an idea of one’s inner nature. Every aspect of one’s personality is coloured with the particular combination of gunas you possess.


Sattvika foods are tasty, wholesome, nutritious and give long life, vigour, health and happiness. The common misconception is that you will become spiritual if you eat sattvika food. Here Krsna clearly says sattvika people tend to like such types of food. However foods classified as sattvika are conducive for spiritual pursuit. Rajasika people like excessively bitter, pungent, sour, salty food that causes discomfort and disease. Stale, tasteless, unclean food and leftovers are the natural choice of tamasika people.


Sattvika sacrifice is that made in accordance with the scripture because it ought to be done, without desiring a reward. When sacrifice is undertaken with an ulterior motive for personal gain, reputation, name and fame it becomes rajasika. That sacrifice performed against scriptural mandate with no sharing of wealth, no higher ideal or charity is tamasika in nature.


Krsna details three kinds of penance – that of body, speech and mind. This three-fold austerity performed steadfastly and with sraddha faith, desiring no fruit is sattvika. Rajasika austerity, temporary and unstable, is done selfishly with the purpose of gaining respect, honour and reverence. That misguided, self-torturing austerity practised with deluded obstinacy, and to hurt others is tamasika.


We are constantly given opportunities to give. But the heart must give, not the hand. Acts of charity give immense benefit to the donor as well as recipient. A gift given without expectation of reward, to a worthy person at the right time and place is sattvika charity. Given grudgingly to gain something in return is rajasika. And a gift given contemptuously to an unworthy person at an inappropriate time and place is tamasika.


Brahman, God, is indicated by the three words Om Tat Sat. They represent the path to the Truth. Om is the subtlest symbol of God, the most powerful mantra used in meditation. Tat is ‘That’, the supreme state of Enlightenment. Sat means goodness, Reality. Sat also means steadfastness in the pursuit of yajna sacrifice, tapa austerity and dana charity. Asat is these three practices performed without sraddha faith.



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