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#Gita Chapter 17 (English translation)

November 14, 2017

Introduction, Acknowledgements, Translation notes

Chapter 17





Arjuna speaks:

But, Krishna, what is the temperament of those who perform sacrifices with implicit faith, though not as ordained in the scriptures? Is it sattva, rajas, or tamas? II17.1II


Sri Krishna Bhagavan speaks:

Faith born of (the) inherent nature (of embodied beings) is of three kinds–saattvic, raajasic, and taamasic. Now hear (what I say). II17.2II


The faith of every man conforms to his nature. By nature he is full of faith. He is in fact what his faith makes him, Bhaarata (Arjuna). II17.3II

(Verbatim from Purohit Swami)


The saatvic worship the gods. The raajasic worship the demi-gods and ogres. And the taamasic worship ghosts and the hosts of spirits. II17.4II


Those persons who undertake severe austerities not sanctioned by the scriptures, given to ostentation and ego, propelled by the force of passion (for desired objects)… II17.5II


…they are of diabolic resolve who senselessly torture all the elements in the body and Me, who dwells in the body. II17.6II


Food, which is dear to us, is also of three kinds. And so are sacrifice, austerity, and charity. Listen to their classification. II17.7II


Foods that augment life, purity, strength, health, joy, and cheerfulness, and which are flavorful, succulent, smooth, substantial, beneficial, and agreeable are dear to those endowed with sattva. II17.8II


Foods that are (very) bitter, (very) sour, (very) salty, very hot, pungent, dry, and burning and which produce pain, sorrow, and disease are dear to those endowed with rajas. II17.9II


Foods that are stale, bereft of taste, putrid, rotten, and which are unfit and impure are dear to those endowed with tamas. II17.10II


That sacrifice is saatvic which is in accordance with scripture, performed without thought of the result, with implicit faith that it is a selfless-effort. II17.11II


That sacrifice is raajasic which is performed for the sake of the result, with ostentation, Bharatashreshta (Arjuna). II17.12II


That sacrifice is taamasic which is contrary to scripture, in which no food is distributed, is devoid of mantras, no offering is made to the priest, and done without faith. II 17.13II


Worship of the gods, the venerable, teachers, and the wise, done with purity, uprightness, asceticism, and non-injury–these are called physical austerities. II17.14II


Inoffensive speech and speaking the truth which is beneficial and pleasant; and also the practice of self-study and recitation of the scriptures–these are called austerities of speech. II17.15II


Serenity, gentleness, reticence, self-control, and purity of nature–these are called mental austerities. II17.16II


That austerity (physical, verbal, and mental) which is observed with faith by men who do not desire the fruit (of their actions) is said to be born of sattva. II17.17II


That austerity which is observed with ostentation for name and fame, is said to be born of rajas, and yields unpredictable results that are temporary. II17.18II


That austerity which is observed with delusion by causing pain to oneself or another is declared to be born of tamas. II17.19II


That charity given with the understanding that it is a duty, without expectation in return, at the proper place and time to one who deserves is considered to be born of sattva. II17.20II


That charity given with the expectation of reciprocation, with a view to the fruit (of the action), or given reluctantly is considered to be born of rajas. II17.21II


That charity given at the wrong place and time, to undeserving persons, with disrespect and contempt, is declared to be born of tamas. II17.22II


Vedanta regards Om Tat Sat to be the three-fold indication of Brahman from which the Brahmanas, the Vedas, and sacrifices were ordained in the days of yore. II17.23II


Therefore, students of the Highest always begin acts of sacrifice, austerity, and charity as enjoined in the scripture with the syllable Om. II17.24II


Seekers of liberation perform acts of sacrifice, austerity, and action (charity) without aiming for the fruits (of the action), “tuned” to Tat. II17.25II

(Quote from Swami Chinmayananda, The Holy Geeta)


The word Sat is used in the sense of reality and goodness; and so also, Partha (Arjuna), the word Sat is used in the sense of an auspicious act. II17.26II

(Verbatim from Alladi Mahadeva Sastry)


Steadfastness in sacrifice, austerity, etc. is called Sat. So, too, is an action done surrendered to the Supreme! II17.27II


Sacrifice, charity or austerity performed without faith is called A-sat. It serves no purpose now, nor can it produce any effect later. II17.28II


Concluding verse:

Om! Such is the Truth in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. This is the knowledge of Supreme Consciousness. It is a scripture of union; a dialogue between Sri Krishna (the teacher) and Arjuna (the student). The seventeenth discourse ends, titled “Yoga of the Three Distinct Faiths–Shraddha Traya Vibhaaga Yoga”.

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