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Bhagavad Gītā Lesson 17

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Lesson XVII

(Sanskrit terms and names can be clicked for explanation)


Arjuna said:

“They who casting away the injunctions of scripture yet worship, filled with faith – what is their condition, O Krishna ? Sattva, or rajas, or tamas ?” (1)

The Holy One said:

“Threefold is faith among imbodied [beings]: it is born of [their individual] dispositions. It is of sattva [quality], of the rajas [quality], of the tamas [quality] also. Hear thou them now. (2)

“The faith of everyone, O son of Bharata, is according to natural character [sattvānurūpā]. A man [purusho] is full of faith: whatsoever one believes in, that he is. (3)

“They of the sattva [quality], worship the gods [devān]; they of the rajas [quality] the Yakshas and Rakshas; and others, the people of the tamas [quality] worship pretas [the departed] and the multitude of bhūtas [literally: ‘has-beens’: ghosts]. (4)

“Those people who practice terrible [ascetic] penance unordained by scripture: who are given up to deceit and egoism, and full of desire, passion, and severity, (5)

“Torturing the group of elemental beings [bhūtagrāmam] residing in the body and without discrimination; and me also seated within the body: know these to be of demoniac tendencies. (6)

“The food which is dear to all is of three kinds, as are also sacrifice, penance, and gift-giving. Of these, hear thou their divisions: (7)

“Foods that increase life, well-being, strength, health, pleasure, and joy, which are savory, bland, nutritious, and pleasant are dear to these of sattva quality. (8)

“Foods desired by them of the rajas [quality] are bitter, sour, salt, too hot, pungent, astringent, and burning, producing pain, distress, and disease. (9)

“The nutriment dear to them of tamas [quality] is whatever is stale, tasteless, ill-smelling, and insipid; even leavings and impurities. (10)

“That sacrifice is of the sattva [quality] which is performed according to ordinance by those not desiring results, having determined in the mind that it is to be performed as a religious duty. (11)

“But that which is performed in expectation of results, or even for the sake of ostentation, O best of the descendants of Bharata, know that sacrifice to be of the rajas [quality]. (12)

“The sacrifice without [scriptural] ordinance, in which no food is distributed, without mantras, in which no gifts are given [to the priests], devoid of trust is called of the tamas [quality]. (13)

“Reverence for gods, Brāhmanas, preceptors, and the wise, purity, rectitude, and the Brahmacharya practices, harmlessness [to all beings], are said to be ascetism [tapas] of the body. (14)

“The speech which offended not, which is truthful, pleasing, and beneficial, also repetition in reading [sacred texts], are said to be the ascetism of speech. (15)

“Tranquility of mind, mildness, silence, self collectedness, purity of disposition: this is said to be the ascetism of the mind. (16)

“That threefold ascetism performed with highest trust by men who desire no results [from it] and who are intent on it, is called of the sattva [quality]. (17)

“That ascetism which is performed on account of [gaining] respect, honor, and reverence respect, honor, and reverence, and with pride, is said here to be of the rajas [quality], transient, unstable. (18)

“The ascetism performed from a deluded conviction, with suffering of oneself, or for the overthrow of another, is declared to be of the tamas [quality]. (19)

“The gift which is given because it ought to be given, to one who makes no return, in [proper] place and time to a [proper] person, is held to be of the sattva [quality]. (20)

“That which is given with an eye to a return, or gains with an expectation of fruit[results from it], and unwillingly, is held to be of rajas [quality]. (21)

“The gift that is given in an unfit time and place, and to unworthy persons, with disrespect and with contempt, is declared to be of the tamas [quality]. (22)

Om: Tat: Sat: this is held to be the threefold designation of the Brāhmanas, the Vedas, and the sacrifices were established of yore. (23)

“Hence, always begin after uttering ‘Om!,’ the sacrifices, gifts, asceticisms, and rites of the declarers of the Brahman, said to be enjoyed [by scripture]. (24)

“The various sacrifices, asceticisms, rites, and the ritual of gifts, are performed by those desiring moksha, without expecting fruit [results] after uttering ‘Tat!’ (25)

“ ‘Sat!’ is employed to express Truth and Holiness; and, O son of Prithā, the word ‘Sat’ is used in acts of laudation. (26)

“Constancy in sacrifice, asceticism, and gifts, is also called ‘Sat.’ And action too, for the sake of That, is called ‘Sat’. (27)

“Whatever is done without trust, be it sacrifice offered, gifts, asceticism, or action, it is called ‘Asat,’ O son of Prithā, and it is naught, either after death or now [literally ‘gone away and here’].” (28)


Thus in the Holy

Bhagavad-Gītā: the Seventeenth

Address, by name —


(Union by distinguishing the three kinds of Trust).