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Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seventeen: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith

The Bhagavad Gita, the Song of God
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Arjuna said:

Those who cast aside the prescriptions of the scriptures, doing sacrifice with faith, what is their condition: sattwa, rajas or tamas? (17:1)

The Holy Lord said:

Threefold is the embodied ones’ faith inherent within their nature: the sattwic, the rajasic and the tamasic. So hear of this. (17:2)

The faith of each one is according to his nature. A man consists of his faith–he is what his faith is. (17:3)

The sattwic worship the gods; the rajasic worship yakshas and rakshasas;* the others, the tamasic men, worship the spirits of the departed and hosts of nature spirits. (17:4)

Those who practice extreme austerities not ordained by the scriptures, accompanied by hypocrisy and egotism along with the force of desire and passion, (17:5)

Senselessly torturing in the body the entire aggregates of the elements, and me within the body, know them to be of demonic resolves. (17:6)

The food also liked by each one is threefold, as is sacrifice, tapasya, and almsgiving. Hear the distinction of them. (17:7)

Foods increasing life, purity, strength, health, happiness, cheerfulness, flavorful, smooth, firm and substantial are liked by the sattwic. (17:8)

Foods that are pungent, sour, salty, excessively hot, harsh, astringent and burning, producing pain, grief, and disease are liked by the rajasic. (17:9)

That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, leftover to the next day,** the remnants of food eaten by others and impure, is the food the tamasic like. (17:10)

Sacrifice which is offered, observing the scriptures, by those who do not desire the fruits, concentrating the mind only on the thought: “This is to be offered;” that is sattwic. (17:11)

But sacrifice which is offered with a view for the fruit and for the purpose of ostentation, know that to be rajasic. (17:12)

Sacrifice devoid of faith, disregarding the scriptures, with no food offered,*** without mantras, without gift or fee**** is declared to be tamasic. (17:13)

Reverence for the gods, the twice-born, teachers and the wise; purity, straightforwardness, brahmacharya and non-injury: these are called tapasya of the body. (17:14)

Speech which causes no distress or vexation, truthful, pleasant, beneficial, instruction in the knowledge of the Self: these are called tapasya of speech. (17:15)

Tranquility of mind, kindliness, silence, self-control and purity of the mental state: these are called tapasya of the mind. (17:16)

This threefold tapasya practiced with the highest faith by those without desire for fruits and steadfast, is considered to be sattwic. (17:17)

Tapasya which is practiced with hypocrisy to gain acceptance, honor and reverence, is declared to be rajasic, unstable, and transitory. (17:18)

Tapasya which is practiced with deluded notions of the Self, and self-torture, or for the purpose of harming another, is declared to be tamasic. (17:19)

That gift which is given with the thought: “It is to be given,” to a worthy person, one who has done no prior favor to the giver, in a proper place at a proper time: that gift is considered sattwic. (17:20)

But that gift which is given with the aim of recompense, or with regard to the giving’s fruit, or is given reluctantly, is considered rajasic. (17:21)

The gift which is given at the wrong place or time, to unworthy persons, without respect or with disdain, is declared to be tamasic. (17:22)

“Om, Tat, Sat;” this is known as the triple designation of Brahman. By this were created of old the Brahmanas, Vedas, and Sacrifice. (17:23)

Therefore the acts of sacrifice, gift and tapasya prescribed by the scriptures are always begun uttering “Om” by the Brahmavadins (those who walk the path to Brahman). (17:24)

Uttering “Tat” without interest in fruits, acts of sacrifice, tapasya and the various acts of gift are performed by the seekers of liberation. (17:25)

“Sat” is used in its meaning of Reality and Goodness; so also the word “Sat” is used in the sense of an auspicious act. (17:26)

Steadfastness in sacrifice, tapasya and gift is called “Sat.” And action in connection with these is designated as “Sat.” (17:27)

Whatever is sacrificed, given or done, and whatever tapasya is practiced without faith is called “Asat.” It is naught here or hereafter (after death). (17:28)

* In this verse, “yakshas and rakshasas” refers to the benevolent, semidivine beings, not the negative beings of the same name.

** Since there was no refrigeration in ancient India, no food was considered fit to eat if it sat overnight.

*** The sponsors of sacrifice or worship are considered obligated to offer food of some kind (at least sweets) to all those who attend.

**** Gifts are often given to spiritual dignitaries who attend a sacrifice or worship, and a fee is always to be given to those who perform the sacrifice or worship. Not giving a sufficient fee would also be considered “without fee.”

Om Tat Sat

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 Threefold Faith.

Read Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

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Chapters for The Bhagavad Gita–The Song of God

Introduction: The Bhagavad Gita–The Book of Life

  1. Bhagavad Gita Chapter One: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Two: Sankhya Yoga
  3. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Three: The Yoga of Action
  4. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Four: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Five: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Six: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seven: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eight: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Nine: The Yoga of the Royal Science and Royal Secret
  10. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Ten: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eleven: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Twelve: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fourteen: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Sixteen: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonic
  17. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seventeen: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Also: The Bhagavad Gita Arranged for Singing

  1. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 1: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga
  3. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action
  4. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 6: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 7: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 8: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 9: The Yoga of the Kingly Science and Kingly Secret
  10. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 10: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 11: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 12: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 13: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 14: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 16: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demoniacal
  17. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

Read the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening, a full commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

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