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The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith

Arjuna said:
Those who set aside prescriptions
Of scriptures, doing sacrifice
With faith, what is their condition:
Sattwa, or rajas, or tamas? (1)

The Holy Lord said:
Threefold is the embodieds’ faith
Inherent within their nature–
The sattwic, rajasic, and the
Tamasic. Do you hear of it. (2)

Each one’s faith is according to
His natural disposition.
Yea, the man consists of his faith;
In truth, he is what his faith is. (3)

The sattwic men worship the gods;
Rajasic: Yakshas, rakshasas;
The others–the tamasic men–
The pretas1 and hosts of bhutas.2 (4)

Those of extreme austerities–
Unscriptural–given to show
And egoity, impelled by
The force of lust and attachment, (5)

Do torture, senseless as they are,
All the organs in the body,
And Me, the body’s indweller.
Know them as of demonic will. (6)

The food also liked by each one
Is threefold, as is sacrifice,
Austerity, and almsgiving.
Hear from Me now their distinction. (7)

Food building life, purity, strength,
Health, joy, cheerfulness, appetite,
Savory, agreeable, and
Substantial–such the sattwic like. (8)

Foods that are bitter, sour, salty,
Excessively hot, pungent, dry,
And burning, the rajasic like–
Producing pain, grief, and disease. (9)

That which is stale, tasteless, stinking,
Cooked overnight, refuse, impure,
Is the food the tamasic like.
This is the truth, O Arjuna. (10)

That sacrifice which is offered
Without desire for reward and
According to scriptures’ command,
Intent, as duty, is sattwic. (11)

That which is performed, Arjuna,
Seeking for fruit, and for vain show,
Know that to be a sacrifice
Rajasic in its character. (12)

Sacrifice unscriptural and
Without the offering of food,
Without mantras, or gifts,3 or faith,
Is tamasic in character. (13)

Worship of gods, twice-born, teachers,
The wise; purity, continence,
Straightforwardness, non-injury–
Are austerity of body. (14)

Unvexing speech, agreeable,
True, beneficial, practice of
Self-study–these are said to form
What is austerity of speech. (15)

Steady serenity of mind,
Kindliness, silence, self-control,
Honesty of motive–all this
Is called mental austerity. (16)

This threefold austerity done
With highest faith by those without
Desire for fruit, also steadfast
Is considered to be sattwic. (17)

Austerity practiced to gain
Welcome,4 honor, worship, and with
Ostentation, is rajasic,
Unstable, and transitory. (18)

Austerity with self-torture,
Done out of a foolish notion,
Or for the purpose of harming
Another, is called tamasic. (19)

That gift which is given to one
Who does no service in return,
In a fit place, to one worthy–
That gift is held to be sattwic. (20)

And what is given with a view
To receiving in return, or
Looking for the fruit, or again
Reluctantly, is rajasic. (21)

The gift given at the wrong place
Or time, to unworthy persons,
Without respect or with disdain,
That is declared as tamasic. (22)

“Om, Tat, Sat;” this has been declared
The triple title of Brahman.
By That were created of old
Brahmins, Vedas, and Sacrifice. (23)

Sacrifice, gifts, austerities
According to the scriptures, are
Begun with utterance of “Om,”
By the expounders of Brahman. (24)

Uttering “Tat,” without desire
For fruits–thus are sacrifice, gift,
And austerity then performed
By seekers of liberation. (25)

“Sat” is used with the meaning of
Reality and of goodness;
So also the word “Sat” is used
In the sense of auspicious acts. (26)

Steadfastness in sacrifice, gift,
And austerity is called “Sat:”5
Also action in connection
With these is designated “Sat.” (27)

Whate’er is sacrificed, given,
Or done, whate’er austerity
Is practiced without faith, is known
Here or hereafter as “Asat.”6 (28)

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 the next Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation


1) Pretas are ghosts, spirits of the dead. [Go back]

2) Bhutas are ghosts and also various kinds of low-evolved spirits. [Go back]

3) That is, without offering to the priests. [Go back]

4) Satkara–hospitality with honor. [Go back]

5) Real or true. [Go back]

6) Unreal or false. [Go back]

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Text of the Bhagavad Gita 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

The Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God A new Translation by Abbot George Burke

  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

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

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

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