Gita Saar, Chapter – 17
Lord Krishna explains in the previous chapter 16 that to succeed on the spiritual path the simplest way is to avoid the triple gates of hell-lust anger and greed and to live as per the injunctions of the scriptures. Yet for most people, in their daily living, the lines of right actions as opposed to wrong action is not clear.
This is the confusion that Arjuna addresses in chapter 17.
He asks lord Krishna on how to decide whether a persons actions are Sattvika-balanced, Rajasic-desire driven or Tamasic-ignorance driven?
Arjuna asks this key question since he knows that the motive behind a persons actions are the key to their spiritual progress.
For example, if we act out of Sattva, our spiritual journey will go in the right direction, while if we act in rajasic or tamasic manner, our journey will go downwards- towards further bondage.
Lord Krishna answers Arjuna’s question by saying that all men who act out of faith or belief, could be acting out of either Rajas, Tamas or Sattva. (Men who act without faith and conviction act out of fear) Once a man acts out of faith of any kind, it is usually aligned to the mode of action that is suited to the mental disposition of such a man.
Lord Krishna then points out ways to find out the mental disposition of an average person.
A straightforward way is by checking which god a person worships.
A man of Sattvika faith worships the gods. The man of Rajasic disposition worships the demi-gods since the demigods are known to grant boons and grant worldly desires and the people of tamasic disposition prefer to worship ghosts, spirits and such things.
Lord Krishna further says that those who needlessly torture their bodies by over fasting and denial, such people are of actually demonic disposition since such people are only torturing and denying the very body temple where the in-dwelling supreme Brahman resides.
The nature of people can also be detected by the kind of food that they prefer to eat and also by the nature of sacrifices, charities and penance that people perform.
Lord Krishna describes this in more detail.
He describes foods that promote health, longevity, vigor, intelligence, happiness and cheerfulness as Sattvika Such foods are usually juicy, succulent, substantial and naturally agreeable in character. Such foods are liked by people of Sattvika nature.
Foods that are salty, bitter, sour, over hot, pungent, dry and burning and which cause suffering, grief and sickness, such foods are liked by the people of Rajasic nature.
And finally food that is ill cooked, nor fully ripe, insipid, putrid, stale and polluted and which is impure is liked by the people of Tamasic nature.
Lord Krishna then explains that sacrifices that are made as per scriptures for no personal gains but simply as duty-such sacrifices are called Sattvika in nature.
He further explains that sacrifices that are made for show or for personal worldly gain, such sacrifices are called rajasic in nature. And those sacrifices that are made without scriptural sanction, without the offering of food or sacrificial fee and without good faith, such sacrifices are called tamasika.
Lord Krishna then goes on to explain the nature of penance.
When gods, Brahmins, elders, gurus are worshiped and purity, continence, straightforwardness and non-violence is practiced in one’s daily life, such behavior is called penance of the body.
Words that are healing in nature, cause no annoyance, are truthful, beneficial and agreeable as well as those words that are chanting gods name or reading the scriptures, these are called penance of speech.
Cheerfulness, placidity, habit of God contemplation, control of mind and purity of inner being, all this is called penance of the mind.
Those people who perform the above three penances-body speech and mind, such people are said to be Sattvika in nature.
But those same penances when performed for pomp and show or for worldly gains, such people are said to be of Rajasic nature.
And when penances are performed due to obstinacy, or leads to self mortification or harming others, such penances are considered tamasika
Lord Krishna also describes the nature of a gift that is given. A gift that is given as a duty without expectations, to a deserving person, at an appropriate occasion, such a gift is considered Sattvika in nature while a gift given grudgingly or with expectation of a gain or reward, such a gift is considered a Rajasic gift while gifts given with mean spirit to undeserving people is considered a tamasika gift.
Lord Krishna then describes the meaning of the words OM TAT SAT.
He says clearly that – “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 Brahmins while chanting Vedic hymns and during sacrifices, for the satisfaction of the Supreme. Thus the transcendentalists undertake sacrifices, charities, and penances, beginning always with Om, to attain the Supreme. One should perform sacrifice, penance and charity with the word Tat to get free from the material entanglement and 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.”
Lord Krishna cautions that such sacrifices, austerities and charities performed without faith in the Supreme are non permanent and are called Asat. They are useless both in this life and the next.