The Divisions of Faith

The Divisions of Faith Plate 40

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Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 1972 Edition
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Chapter Seventeen

The Divisions of Faith


arjuna uvāca

ye śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya
yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ
teṣāṁ niṣṭhā tu kā kṛṣṇa
sattvam āho rajas tamaḥ

arjunaḥ uvāca—Arjuna said; ye—those; śāstra-vidhim—the regulations of scripture; utsṛjya—giving up; yajante—worships; śraddhayā—full faith; anvitāḥ—possessed of; teṣām—of them; niṣṭhā—faith; tu—but; kā—what is that; kṛṣṇa—O Kṛṣṇa; sattvam—in goodness; āho—said; rajaḥ—in passion; tamaḥ—in ignorance.


Arjuna said, O Kṛṣṇa, what is the situation of one who does not follow the principles of scripture but worships according to his own imagination? Is he in goodness, in passion or in ignorance?


In the Fourth Chapter, thirty-ninth verse, it is said that a person faithful to a particular type of worship gradually becomes elevated to the stage of knowledge and attains the highest perfectional stage of peace and prosperity. In the Sixteenth Chapter, it is concluded that one who does not follow the principles laid down in the scriptures is called an asura, demon, and one who follows the scriptural injunctions faithfully is called a deva, or demigod. Now, if one, with faith, follows some rules which are not mentioned in the scriptural injunctions, what is his position? This doubt of Arjuna is to be cleared by Kṛṣṇa. Are those who create some sort of God by selecting a human being and placing their faith in him worshiping in goodness, passion or ignorance? Do such persons attain the perfectional stage of life? Is it possible for them to be situated in real knowledge and elevate themselves to the highest perfectional stage? Do those who do not follow the rules and regulations of the scriptures but who have faith in something and worship gods and demigods and men attain success in their effort? Arjuna is putting these questions to Kṛṣṇa.


śrī-bhagavān uvāca

tri-vidhā bhavati śraddhā
dehināṁ sā svabhāva-jā
sāttvikī rājasī caiva
tāmasī ceti tāṁ śṛṇu

śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; tri-vidhā—three kinds; bhavati—become; śraddhā—faith; dehinām—of the embodied; sā—that; sva-bhāva-jā—according to his mode of material nature; sāttvikī—mode of goodness; rājasī—mode of passion; ca—also; eva—certainly; tāmasī—mode of ignorance; ca—and; iti—thus; tām—that; sṛṇu—hear from Me.


The Supreme Lord said, according to the modes of nature acquired by the embodied soul, one’s faith can be of three kinds—goodness, passion or ignorance. Now hear about these.


Those who know the rules and regulations of the scriptures, but, out of laziness or indolence, give up following these rules and regulations, are governed by the modes of material nature. According to their previous activities in the modes of goodness, passion or ignorance, they acquire a nature which is of a specific quality. The association of the living entity with the different modes of nature has been going on perpetually since the living entity is in contact with material nature. Thus he acquires different types of mentality according to his association with the material modes. But this nature can be changed if one associates with a bona fide spiritual master and abides by his rules and the scriptures. Gradually, one can change his position from ignorance to goodness, or from passion to goodness. The conclusion is that blind faith in a particular mode of nature cannot help a person become elevated to the perfectional stage. One has to consider things carefully, with intelligence, in the association of a bona fide spiritual master. Thus one can change his position to a higher mode of nature.


sattvānurūpā sarvasya
śraddhā bhavati bhārata
śraddhā-mayo ’yaṁ puruṣo
yo yac-chraddhaḥ sa eva saḥ

sattva-anurūpā—according to the existence; sarvasya—of everyone; śraddhā—faith; bhavati—becomes; bhārata—O son of Bhārata; śraddhā—faith; mayaḥ—full; ayam—this; puruṣaḥ—living entity; yaḥ—anyone; yat—that; śraddhaḥ—faith; saḥ—that; eva—certainly; saḥ—he.


According to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.


Everyone has a particular type of faith, regardless of what he is. But his faith is considered good, passionate or ignorant according to the nature he has acquired. Thus, according to his particular type of faith, one associates with certain persons. Now the real fact is that every living being, as is stated in the Fifteenth Chapter, is originally the fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Therefore one is originally transcendental to all the modes of material nature. But when one forgets his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and comes into contact with the material nature in conditional life, he generates his own position by association with the different varieties of material nature. The resultant artificial faith and existence are only material. Although one may be conducted by some impression, or some conception of life, still, originally, he is nirguṇa, or transcendental. Therefore one has to become cleansed of the material contamination that he has acquired in order to regain his relationship with the Supreme Lord. That is the only path back without fear: Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one is situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then that path is guaranteed for his elevation to the perfectional stage. If one does not take to this path of self-realization, then he is surely to be conducted by the influence of the modes of nature.

The word sattva, or faith, is very significant in this verse. Sattva or faith always comes out of the works of goodness. One’s faith may be in a demigod or some created God or some mental concoction. It is supposed to be one’s strong faith in something that is productive of the works of material goodness. But in material conditional life, no works of material nature are completely purified. They are mixed. They are not in pure goodness. Pure goodness is transcendental; in purified goodness one can understand the real nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As long as one’s faith is not completely in purified goodness, the faith is subject to contamination by any of the modes of material nature. The contaminated modes of material nature expand to the heart. Therefore according to the position of the heart in contact with a particular mode of material nature, one’s faith is established. It should be understood, that if one’s heart is in the mode of goodness, his faith is also in the mode of goodness. If his heart is in the mode of passion, his faith is also in the mode of passion. And if his heart is in the mode of darkness, illusion, his faith is also thus contaminated. Thus we find different types of faith in this world, and there are different types of religions due to different types of faith. The real principle of religious faith is situated in the mode of pure goodness, but because the heart is tainted, we find different types of religious principles. Thus according to different types of faith, there are different kinds of worship.

Brahma, Siva, Vishnu Plate 40


yajante sāttvikā devān
yakṣa-rakṣāṁsi rājasāḥ
pretān bhūta-gaṇāṁś cānye
yajante tāmasā janāḥ

yajante—worship; sāttvikāḥ—those who are in the mode of goodness; devān—demigods; yakṣa-rakṣāṁsi rājasāḥ—those who are in the mode of passion worship demons; pretān—dead spirits; bhūta-gaṇān—ghosts; ca anye—and others; yajante—worship; tāmasāḥ—in the mode of ignorance; janāḥ—people.


Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods; those in the mode of passion worship the demons; and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits.


In this verse the Supreme Personality of Godhead describes different kinds of worshipers according to their external activities. According to scriptural injunction, only the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshipable, but those who are not very conversant with, or faithful to, the scriptural injunctions worship different objects, according to their specific situations in the modes of material nature. Those who are situated in goodness generally worship the demigods. The demigods include Brahmā, Śiva and others such as Indra, Candra and the sun-god. There are various demigods. Those in goodness worship a particular demigod for a particular purpose. Similarly, those who are in the mode of passion worship the demons. We recall that during the Second World War, a man in Calcutta worshiped Hitler because thanks to that war he had amassed a large amount of wealth by dealing in the black market. Similarly, those in the modes of passion and ignorance generally select a powerful man to be God. They think that anyone can be worshiped as God and that the same results will be obtained.

Now, it is clearly described here that those who are in the mode of passion worship and create such gods, and those who are in the mode of ignorance, in darkness, worship dead spirits. Sometimes people worship at the tomb of some dead man. Sexual service is also considered to be in the mode of darkness. Similarly, in remote villages in India there are worshipers of ghosts. We have seen that in India the lower class people sometimes go to the forest, and if they have knowledge that a ghost lives in a tree, they worship that tree and offer sacrifices. These different kinds of worship are not actually God worship. God worship is for persons who are transcendentally situated in pure goodness. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said, sattvaṁ viśuddham vāsudeva-śabditam. “When a man is situated in pure goodness, he worships Vāsudeva.” The purport is that those who are completely purified of the material modes of nature and who are transcendentally situated can worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The impersonalists are supposed to be situated in the mode of goodness, and they worship five kinds of demigods. They worship the impersonal Viṣṇu, or Viṣṇu form in the material world, which is known as philosophized Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu is the expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the impersonalists, because they do not ultimately believe in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, imagine that the Viṣṇu form is just another aspect of the impersonal Brahman; similarly, they imagine that Lord Brahmā is the impersonal form in the material mode of passion. Thus they sometimes describe five kinds of gods that are worshipable, but because they think that the actual truth is impersonal Brahman, they dispose of all worshipable objects at the ultimate end. In conclusion, the different qualities of the material modes of nature can be purified through association with persons who are of transcendental nature.


aśāstra-vihitaṁ ghoraṁ
tapyante ye tapo janāḥ

karṣayantaḥ śarīra-sthaṁ
bhūta-grāmam acetasaḥ
māṁ caivāntaḥ śarīra-sthaṁ
tān viddhy āsura-niścayān

aśāstra—not mentioned in the scriptures; vihitam—directed; ghoram—harmful to others; tapyante—undergo penances; ye—those; tapaḥ—austerities; janāḥ—persons; dambha—pride; ahaṅkāra—egotism; saṁyuktāḥ—engaged; kāma—lust; rāga—attachment; bala—force; anvitāḥ—impelled by; karṣayantaḥ—tormenting; śarīra-stham—situated within the body; bhūtagrāmam—combination of material elements; acetasaḥ—by such a misled mentality; mām—to Me; ca—also; eva—certainly; antaḥ—within; śarīra-stham—situated in the body; tān—them; viddhi—understand; āsura—demons; niścayān—certainly.


Those who undergo severe austerities and penances not recommended in the scriptures, performing them out of pride, egotism, lust and attachment, who are impelled by passion and who torture their bodily organs as well as the Supersoul dwelling within are to be known as demons.


There are persons who manufacture modes of austerity and penances which are not mentioned in the scriptural injunctions. For instance, fasting for some ulterior purpose, such as to promote a purely political end, is not mentioned in the scriptural directions. The scriptures recommend fasting for spiritual advancement, not for some political end or social purpose. Persons who take to such austerities are, according to Bhagavad-gītā, certainly demoniac. Their acts are against the scriptural injunction and are not beneficial for the people in general. Actually, they act out of pride, false ego, lust and attachment for material enjoyment. By such activities, not only are the combination of material elements of which the body is constructed disturbed, but also the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself living within the body. Such unauthorized fasting or austerities for some political end are certainly very disturbing to others. They are not mentioned in the Vedic literature. A demoniac person may think that he can force his enemy or other parties to comply with his desire by this method, but sometimes one dies by such fasting. These acts are not approved by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He says that those who engage in them are demons. Such demonstrations are insults to the Supreme Personality of Godhead because they are enacted in disobedience to the Vedic scriptural injunctions. The word acetasaḥ is significant in this connection—persons of normal mental condition must obey the scriptural injunctions. Those who are not in such a position neglect and disobey the scriptures and manufacture their own way of austerities and penances. One should always remember the ultimate end of the demoniac people, as described in the previous chapter. The Lord forces them to take birth in the womb of demoniac persons. Consequently they will live by demoniac principles life after life without knowing their relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If, however, such persons are fortunate enough to be guided by a spiritual master who can direct them to the path of Vedic wisdom, they can get out of this entanglement and ultimately achieve the supreme goal.


āhāras tv api sarvasya
tri-vidho bhavati priyaḥ
yajñas tapas tathā dānaṁ
teṣāṁ bhedam imaṁ śṛṇu

āhāraḥ—eating; tu—certainly; api—also; sarvasya—of everyone; trividhaḥ—three kinds; bhavati—there are; priyaḥ—dear; yajñaḥ—sacrifice; tapaḥ—austerity; tathā—also; dānam—charity; teṣām—of them; bhedam—differences; imam—thus; śṛṇu—hear.


Even food of which all partake is of three kinds, according to the three modes of material nature. The same is true of sacrifices, austerities and charity. Listen, and I shall tell you of the distinctions of these.


In terms of different situations and the modes of material nature, there are differences in the manner of eating, performing sacrifices, austerities and charities. They are not all conducted on the same level. Those who can understand analytically what kind of performances are in what modes of material nature are actually wise; those who consider all kinds of sacrifice or foods or charity to be the same cannot discriminate, and they are foolish. There are missionary workers who advocate that one can do whatever he likes and attain perfection. But these foolish guides are not acting according to the direction of the scripture. They are manufacturing ways and misleading the people in general.


rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛdyā
āhārāḥ sāttvika-priyāḥ

āhārā rājasasyeṣṭā

yāta-yāmaṁ gata-rasaṁ
pūti paryuṣitaṁ ca yat
ucchiṣṭam api cāmedhyaṁ
bhojanaṁ tāmasa-priyam

āyuḥ — duration of life; sattva — existence; bala — strength; ārogya — health; sukha — happiness; prīti — and satisfaction; vivardhanāḥ — increasing; rasyāḥ — juicy; snigdhāḥ — fatty; sthirāḥ — enduring; hṛdyāḥ — pleasing to the heart; āhārāḥ — food; sāttvika — to one in goodness; priyāḥ — palatable; kaṭu — bitter; amla — sour; lavaṇa — salty; ati-uṣṇa — very hot; tīkṣṇa — pungent; rūkṣa — dry; vidāhinaḥ — burning; āhārāḥ — food; rājasasya — to one in the mode of passion; iṣṭāḥ — palatable; duḥkha — distress; śoka — misery; āmaya — disease; pradāḥ — causing; yāta-yāmam — food cooked three hours before being eaten; gata-rasam — tasteless; pūti — bad-smelling; paryuṣitam — decomposed; ca — also; yat — that which; ucchiṣṭam — remnants of food eaten by others; api — also; ca — and; amedhyam — untouchable; bhojanam — eating; tāmasa — to one in the mode of darkness; priyam — dear.


Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry and hot, are liked by people in the modes of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance.


Thc purpose of food is to increase the duration of life, purify the mind and aid bodily strength. This is its only purpose. In the past, great authorities selected those foods that best aid health and increase life’s duration, such as milk products, sugar, rice, wheat, fruits and vegetables. These foods are very dear to those in the mode of goodness. Some other foods, such as baked corn and molasses, while not very palatable in themselves, can be made pleasant when mixed with milk or other foods. They are then in the mode of goodness. All these foods are pure by nature. They are quite distinct from untouchable things like meat and liquor. Fatty foods, as mentioned in the eighth verse, have no connection with animal fat obtained by slaughter. Animal fat is available in the form of milk, which is the most wonderful of all foods. Milk, butter, cheese and similar products give animal fat in a form which rules out any need for the killing of innocent creatures. It is only through brute mentality that this killing goes on. The civilized method of obtaining needed fat is by milk. Slaughter is the way of subhumans. Protein is amply available through split peas, dhall, whole wheat, etc.

Foods in the mode of passion, which are bitter, too salty, or too hot or overly mixed with red pepper, cause misery by producing mucous in the stomach, leading to disease. Foods in the mode of ignorance or darkness are essentially those that are not fresh. Any food cooked more than three hours before it is eaten (except prasādam, food offered to the Lord) is considered to be in the mode of darkness. Because they are decomposing, such foods give a bad odor, which often attracts people in this mode but repulses those in the mode of goodness.

Remnants of food may be eaten only when they are part of a meal that was first offered to the Supreme Lord or first eaten by saintly persons, especially the spiritual master. Otherwise the remnants of food are considered to be in the mode of darkness, and they increase infection or disease. Such foodstuffs, although very palatable to persons in the mode of darkness, are neither liked nor even touched by those in the mode of goodness. The best food is the remnant of what is offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bhagavad-gītā the Supreme Lord says that He accepts preparations of vegetables, flour and milk when offered with devotion. Patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyam. Of course, devotion and love are the chief things which the Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts. But it is also mentioned that the prasādam should be prepared in a particular way. Any food prepared by the injunction of the scripture offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be taken even if prepared long, long ago, because such food is transcendental. Therefore to make food antiseptic, eatable and palatable for all persons, one should offer food to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.


aphalākāṅkṣibhir yajño
vidhi-diṣṭo ya ijyate
yaṣṭavyam eveti manaḥ
samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ

aphala-kāñkṣibhiḥ—devoid of desire for result; yajñaḥ—sacrifice; vidhi—accordingly; dṛṣtaḥ—direction; yaḥ—anyone; ijyate—performs; yaṣṭavyam—must be performed; eva—certainly; iti—thus; manaḥ—mind; samādhāya—fixed in; saḥ—he; sāttvikaḥ—is in the mode of goodness.


Of sacrifices, that sacrifice performed according to duty and to scriptural rules, and with no expectation of reward, is of the nature of goodness.


The general tendency is to offer sacrifice with some purpose in mind, but here it is stated that sacrifice should be performed without any such desire. It should be done as a matter of duty. Take, for example, the performance of rituals in temples or in churches. Generally they are performed with the purpose of material benefit, but that is not in the mode of goodness. One should go to a temple or church as a matter of duty, offer respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offer flowers and eatables. Everyone thinks that there is no use in going to the temple just to worship God. But worship for economic benefit is not recommended in the scriptural injunction. One should go simply to offer respect to the Deity. That will place one in the mode of goodness. It is the duty of every civilized man to obey the injunctions of the scriptures and offer respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.


abhisandhāya tu phalaṁ
dambhārtham api caiva yat
ijyate bharata-śreṣṭha
taṁ yajñaṁ viddhi rājasam

abhisandhāya—desiring; tu—but; phalam—the result; dambha—pride; artham—material benefits; api—also; ca—and; eva—certainly; yat—that which; ijyate—worship; bharata-śreṣṭha—O chief of the Bhāratas; tam—that; yajñam—sacrifice; viddhi—know; rājasam—in the mode of passion.


But that sacrifice performed for some material end or benefit or performed ostentatiously, out of pride, is of the nature of passion, O chief of the Bhāratas.


Sometimes sacrifices and rituals are performed for elevation to the heavenly kingdom or for some material benefits in this world. Such sacrifices or ritualistic performances are considered to be in the mode of passion.


vidhi-hīnam asṛṣṭānnaṁ
mantra-hīnam adakṣiṇam
śraddhā-virahitaṁ yajñaṁ
tāmasaṁ paricakṣate

vidhi-hīnam—without scriptural direction; asṛṣṭa-annam—without distribution of prasādam; mantra-hīnam—with no chanting of the Vedic hymns; adakṣiṇam—with no remunerations to the priests; śraddhā—faith; virahitam—without; yajñam—sacrifice; tāmasam—in the mode of ignorance; paricakṣate—is to be considered.


And that sacrifice performed in defiance of scriptural injunctions, in which no spiritual food is distributed, no hymns are chanted and no remunerations are made to the priests, and which is faithless—that sacrifice is of the nature of ignorance.


Faith in the mode of darkness or ignorance is actually faithlessness. Sometimes people worship some demigod just to make money and then spend the money for recreation, ignoring the scriptural injunctions. Such ceremonial shows of religiosity are not accepted as genuine. They are all in the mode of darkness; they produce a demoniac mentality and do not benefit human society.


pūjanaṁ śaucam ārjavam
brahmacaryam ahiṁsā ca
śārīraṁ tapa ucyate

deva—the Supreme Lord; dvija—the brāhmaṇa; guru—the spiritual master; prājña—worshipable personalities; pūjanam—worship; śaucam—cleanliness; ārjavam—simplicity; brahma-caryam—celibacy; ahiṁsā—nonviolence; ca—also; śārīram—pertaining to the body; tapaḥ—austerity; ucyate—is said to be.


The austerity of the body consists in this: worship of the Supreme Lord, the brāhmaṇas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother. Cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and nonviolence are also austerities of the body.


The Supreme Godhead here explains the different kinds of austerity and penance. First He explains the austerities and penances practiced by the body. One should offer, or learn to offer, respect to God or to the demigods, the perfect, qualified brāhmaṇas and the spiritual master and superiors like father, mother or any person who is conversant with Vedic knowledge. These should be given proper respect. One should practice cleansing oneself externally and internally, and he should learn to become simple in behavior. He should not do anything which is not sanctioned by the scriptural injunction. He should not indulge in sex outside of married life, for sex is sanctioned in the scripture only in marriage, not otherwise. This is called celibacy. These are penances and austerities as far as the body is concerned.


anudvega-karaṁ vākyaṁ
satyaṁ priya-hitaṁ ca yat
svādhyāyābhyasanaṁ caiva
vāṅ-mayaṁ tapa ucyate

anudvega—not agitating; karam—producing; vākyam—words; satyam—truthful; priya—dear; hitam—beneficial; ca—also; yat—which; svādhyāya—Vedic study; abhyasanam—practice; ca—also; eva—certainly; vāṅmayaṁ—of the voice; tapaḥ—austerity; ucyate—is said to be.


Austerity of speech consists in speaking truthfully and beneficially and in avoiding speech that offends. One should also recite the Vedas regularly.


One should not speak in such a way as to agitate the minds of others. Of course, when a teacher speaks, he can speak the truth for the instruction of his students, but such a teacher should not speak to others who are not his students if he will agitate their minds. This is penance as far as talking is concerned. Besides that, one should not talk nonsense. When speaking in spiritual circles, one’s statements must be upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from scriptural authority to back up what he is saying. At the same time, such talk should be very pleasurable to the ear. By such discussions, one may derive the highest benefit and elevate human society. There is a limitless stock of Vedic literature, and one should study this. This is called penance of speech.


manaḥ-prasādaḥ saumyatvaṁ
maunam ātma-vinigrahaḥ
bhāva-saṁśuddhir ity etat
tapo mānasam ucyate

manaḥ-prasādaḥ—satisfaction of the mind; saumyatvam—without duplicity towards others; maunam—gravity; ātma—self; vinigrahaḥ—control; bhāva—nature; saṁśuddhiḥ—purification; iti—thus; etat—that is; tapaḥ—austerity; mānasam—of the mind; ucyate—is said to be.


And serenity, simplicity, gravity, self-control and purity of thought are the austerities of the mind.


To make the mind austere is to detach it from sense gratification. It should be so trained that it can be always thinking of doing good for others. The best training for the mind is gravity in thought. One should not deviate from Kṛṣṇa consciousness and must always avoid sense gratification. To purify one’s nature is to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. Satisfaction of the mind can be obtained only by taking the mind away from thoughts of sense enjoyment. The more we think of sense enjoyment, the more the mind becomes dissatisfied. In the present age we unnecessarily engage the mind in so many different ways for sense gratification, and so there is no possibility of the mind’s becoming satisfied. The best course is to divert the mind to the Vedic literature, which is full of satisfying stories, as in the Purāṇas and the Mahābhārata. One can take advantage of this knowledge and thus become purified. The mind should be devoid of duplicity, and one should think of the welfare of all. Silence means that one is always thinking of self-realization. The person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness observes perfect silence in this sense. Control of the mind means detaching the mind from sense enjoyment. One should be straightforward in his dealing and thereby purify his existence. All these qualities together constitute austerity in mental activities.


śraddhayā parayā taptaṁ
tapas tat tri-vidhaṁ naraiḥ
aphalākāṅkṣibhir yuktaiḥ
sāttvikaṁ paricakṣate

śraddhayā—with faith; parayā—transcendental; taptam—executed; tapaḥ—austerity; tat—that; tri-vidham—three kinds; naraiḥ—by men; aphala-ākāṅkṣibhiḥ—without desires for fruits; yuktaiḥ—engaged; sāttvikam—in the mode of goodness; pari-cakṣate—is called.


This threefold austerity, practiced by men whose aim is not to benefit themselves materially but to please the Supreme, is of the nature of goodness.


tapo dambhena caiva yat
kriyate tad iha proktaṁ
rājasaṁ calam adhruvam

satkāra—respect; māna—honor; pūjā-artham—for worship; tapaḥ—austerity; dambhena—with pride; ca—also; eva—certainly; yat—which is; kriyate—performed; tat—that; iha—in this world; proktam—is said; rājasam—in the mode of passion; calam—flickering; adhruvam—temporary.


Those ostentatious penances and austerities which are performed in order to gain respect, honor and reverence are said to be in the mode of passion. They are neither stable nor permanent.


Sometimes penance and austerity are executed to attract people and receive honor, respect and worship from others. Persons in the mode of passion arrange to be worshiped by subordinates and let them wash their feet and offer riches. Such arrangements artificially made by the performance of penances are considered to be in the mode of passion. The results are temporary; they can be continued for some time, but they are not permanent.


mūḍha-grāheṇātmano yat
pīḍayā kriyate tapaḥ
parasyotsādanārthaṁ vā
tat tāmasam udāhṛtam

mūḍha—foolish; grāheṇa—with endeavor; ātmanaḥ—of one’s own self; yat—which; pīḍayā—by torture; kriyate—is performed; tapaḥ—penance; parasya—to others; utsādanārtham—causing annihilation; vā—or; tat—that; tāmasam—in the mode of darkness; udāhṛtam—is said to be.


And those penances and austerities which are performed foolishly by means of obstinant self-torture, or to destroy or injure others, are said to be in the mode of ignorance.


There are instances of foolish penance undertaken by demons like Hiraṇyakaśipu, who performed austere penances to become immortal and kill the demigods. He prayed to Brahmā for such things, but ultimately he was killed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To undergo penances for something which is impossible is certainly in the mode of ignorance.


dātavyam iti yad dānaṁ
dīyate ’nupakāriṇe
deśe kāle ca pātre ca
tad dānaṁ sāttvikaṁ smṛtam

dātavyam—worth giving; iti—thus; yat—that which; dānam—charity; dīyate—given; anupakāriṇe—to any person irrespective of doing good; dese—in place; kāle—in time; ca—also; pātre—suitable person; ca—and; tat—that; dānam—charity; sāttvikam—in the mode of goodness; smṛtam—consider.


That gift which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness.


In the Vedic literature, charity given to a person engaged in spiritual activities is recommended. There is no recommendation for giving charity indiscriminately. Spiritual perfection is always a consideration. Therefore charity is recommended to be given at a place of pilgrimage and at lunar or solar eclipses or at the end of the month or to a qualified brāhmaṇa or a Vaiṣṇava (devotee) or in temples. Such charities should be given without any consideration of return. Charity to the poor is sometimes given out of compassion, but if a poor man is not worth giving charity to, then there is no spiritual advancement. In other words, indiscriminate charity is not recommended in the Vedic literature.


yat tu pratyupakārārthaṁ
phalam uddiśya vā punaḥ
dīyate ca parikliṣṭaṁ
tad dānaṁ rājasaṁ smṛtam

yat—that which; tu—but; prati-upakāra-artham—for the sake of getting some return; phalam—result; uddiśya—desiring; vā—or; punaḥ—again; dīyate—is given in charity; ca—also; parikliṣṭam—grudgingly; tat—that; dānam—charity; rājasam—in the mode of passion; smṛtam—is understood to be.


But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood, is said to be charity in the mode of passion.


Charity is sometimes performed for elevation to the heavenly kingdom and sometimes with great trouble and with repentance afterwards. “Why have I spent so much in this way?” Charity is also sometimes made under some obligation, at the request of a superior. These kinds of charity are said to be made in the mode of passion.

There are many charitable foundations which offer their gifts to institutions where sense gratification goes on. Such charities are not recommended in the Vedic scripture. Only charity in the mode of goodness is recommended.


adeśa-kāle yad dānam
apātrebhyaś ca dīyate
asat-kṛtam avajñātaṁ
tat tāmasam udāhṛtam

adesa—unpurified place; kāle—unpurified time; yat—that which is; dānam—charity; apātrebhyaḥ—to unworthy persons; ca—also; dīyate—is given; asatkṛtam—without respect; avajñātam—without proper attention; tat—that; tāmasam—in the mode of darkness; udāhṛtam—is said to be.


And charity performed at an improper place and time and given to unworthy persons without respect and with contempt is charity in the mode of ignorance.


Contributions for indulgence in intoxication and gambling are not encouraged here. That sort of contribution is in the mode of ignorance. Such charity is not beneficial; rather, sinful persons are encouraged. Similarly, if a person gives charity to a suitable person without respect and without attention, that sort of charity is also said to be in the mode of darkness.


oṁ tat sad iti nirdeśo
brahmaṇas tri-vidhaḥ smṛtaḥ
brāhmaṇās tena vedāś ca
yajñāś ca vihitāḥ purā

om—indication of the Supreme; tat—that; sat—eternal; iti—that; nirdeśaḥ—indication; brāhmaṇāḥ—of the Supreme; tri-vidhaḥ—three kinds; smṛtaḥ—consider; brahmaṇaḥ—the brāhmaṇas; tena—therefore; vedāḥ—the Vedic literature; ca—also; yajñāḥ—sacrifice; ca—also; vihitāḥ—sacrifice; purā—formerly.


From the beginning of creation, the three syllables—om tat sat—have been used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth [Brahman]. They were uttered by brāhmaṇas while chanting Vedic hymns and during sacrifices, for the satisfaction of the Supreme.


It has been explained that penance, sacrifice, charity and foods are divided into three categories: the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. But whether first class, second class or third class, they are all conditioned, contaminated by the material modes of nature. When they are aimed at the Supreme—om tat sat, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the eternal—they become means for spiritual elevation. In the scriptural injunctions such an objective is indicated. These three words, om tat sat, particularly indicate the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Vedic hymns, the word om is always found.

One who acts without following the regulations of the scriptures will not attain the Absolute Truth. He will get some temporary result, but not the ultimate end of life. The conclusion is that the performance of charities, sacrifice and penance must be done in the mode of goodness. Performed in the modes of passion or ignorance, they are certainly inferior in quality. The three words om tat sat are uttered in conjunction with the holy name of the Supreme Lord, e.g., om tad viṣṇoḥ. Whenever a Vedic hymn or the holy name of the Supreme Lord is uttered, om is added. This is the indication of Vedic literature. These three words are taken from Vedic hymns. Om ity etad brahmaṇo nediṣṭaṁ nāma indicates the first goal. Then tattvamasi indicates the second goal. And sad eva saumya indicates the third goal. Combined they become om tat sat. Formerly when Brahmā, the first created living entity, performed sacrifices, he spoke these three names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The same principle holds by disciplic succession. So this hymn has great significance. Bhagavad-gītā recommends, therefore, that any work done should be done for om tat sat, or for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When one performs penance, charity, and sacrifice with these three words, he is acting in Krṣna consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a scientific execution of transcendental activities which enables one to return home, back to Godhead. There is no loss of energy in acting in such a transcendental way.


tasmād oṁ ity udāhṛtya
pravartante vidhānoktāḥ
satataṁ brahma-vādinām

tasmāt—therefore; om—beginning with om; iti—thus; udāhṛtya—indicating; yajña—sacrifice; dāna—charity; tapaḥ—penance; kriyāḥ—performances; pravartante—begins; vidhāna-uktāḥ—according to scriptural regulation; satatam—always; brahma-vādinām—of the transcendentalists.


Thus the transcendentalists undertake sacrifices, charities, and penances, beginning always with om, to attain the Supreme.


Om tad viṣṇoḥ paramaṁ padam. The lotus feet of Viṣṇu are the supreme devotional platform. The performance of everything on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead assures the perfection of all activity.


tad ity anabhisandhāya
phalaṁ yajña-tapaḥ-kriyāḥ
dāna-kriyāś ca vividhāḥ
kriyante mokṣa-kāṅkṣibhiḥ

tat—that; iti—they; anabhisandhāya—without fruitive result; phalam—result of sacrifice; yajña—sacrifice; tapaḥ—penance; kriyāḥ—activities; dāna—charity; kriyāḥ—activities; ca—also; vividhāḥ—varieties; kriyante—done; mokṣa-kāṅkṣibhiḥ—those who actually desire liberation.


One should perform sacrifice, penance and charity with the word tat. The purpose of such transcendental activities is to get free from the material entanglement.


To be elevated to the spiritual position, one should not act for any material gain. Acts should be performed for the ultimate gain of being transferred to the spiritual kingdom, back to home, back to Godhead.

TEXTS 26–27

sad-bhāve sādhu-bhāve ca
sad ity etat prayujyate
praśaste karmaṇi tathā
sac-chabdaḥ pārtha yujyate

yajñe tapasi dāne ca
sthitiḥ sad iti cocyate
karma caiva tad-arthīyaṁ
sad ity evābhidhīyate

sat-bhāve—in the sense of the nature of the Supreme; sādhu-bhāve—in the sense of the nature of devotion; ca—also; sat—the Supreme; iti—thus; etat—this; prayujyate—is used; praśaste—bona fide; karmaṇi—activities; tathā—also; sat-śabdaḥ—sound; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; yujyate—is used; yajñe—sacrifice; tapasi—in penance; dāne—charity; ca—also; sthitiḥ—situated; sat—the Supreme; iti—thus; ca—and; ucyate—pronounced; karma—work; ca—also; eva—certainly; tat—that; arthīyam—are meant; sat—Supreme; iti—thus; eva—certainly; abhidhīyate—is practiced.


The Absolute Truth is the objective of devotional sacrifice, and it is indicated by the word sat. These works of sacrifice, of penance and of charity, true to the absolute nature, are performed to please the Supreme Person, O son of Pṛthā.


The words praśaste karmaṇi, or prescribed duties, indicate that there are many activities prescribed in the Vedic literature which are purificatory processes beginning from parental care up to the end of one’s life. Such purificatory processes are adopted for the ultimate liberation of the living entity. In all such activities it is recommended that one should vibrate om tat sat. The words sad-bhāve and sādhu-bhāve indicate the transcendental situation. One who is acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is called sattva, and one who is fully conscious of activities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is called svarūpa. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that the transcendental subject matter becomes clear in the association of the devotees. Without good association, one cannot achieve transcendental knowledge. When initiating a person or offering the sacred thread, one vibrates the words om tat sat. Similarly, in all kinds of yogic performances, the supreme object, om tat sat is invoked. These words om tat sat are used to perfect all activities. This supreme om tat sat makes everything complete.


aśraddhayā hutaṁ dattaṁ
tapas taptaṁ kṛtaṁ ca yat
asad ity ucyate pārtha
na ca tat pretya no iha

aśraddhayā—without faith; hutam—performed; dattam—given; tapaḥ—penance; taptam—executed; kṛtam—performed; ca—also; yat—that which; asat—falls; iti—thus; ucyate—is said to be; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; na—never; ca—also; tat—that; pretya—after death; no—nor; iha—in this life.


But sacrifices, austerities and charities performed without faith in the Supreme are nonpermanent, O son of Pṛthā, regardless of whatever rites are performed. They are called asat and are useless both in this life and the next.


Anything done without the transcendental objective—whether it be sacrifice, charity or penance-is useless. Therefore, in this verse, it is declared that such activities are abominable. Everything should be done for the Supreme in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Without such faith, and without the proper guidance, there can never be any fruit. In all the Vedic scriptures, faith in the Supreme is advised. In the pursuit of all Vedic instructions, the ultimate goal is the understanding of Kṛṣṇa. No one can obtain success without following this principle. Therefore, the best course is to work from the very beginning in Kṛṣṇa consciousness under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. That is the way to make everything successful.

In the conditional state, people are attracted to worship demigods, ghosts, or Yakṣas like Kuvera. The mode of goodness is better than the modes of passion and ignorance, but one who takes directly to Kṛṣṇa consciousness is transcendental to all three modes of material nature. Although there is a process of gradual elevation, if one, by the association of pure devotees, takes directly to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, that is the best way. And that is recommended in this chapter. To achieve success in this way, one must first find the proper spiritual master and receive training under his direction. Then one can achieve faith in the Supreme. When that faith matures, in course of time, it is called love of God. This love is the ultimate goal of the living entities. One should, therefore, take to Krṣṇa consciousness directly. That is the message of this Seventeenth Chapter.

Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Seventeenth Chapter of the Śrīmad-Bhagavad-gītā in the matter of the Divisions of Faith.

Text pasted from; Prabhupadagita

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