The Bhagavad Gita – Capsule 17

The Bhagavad Gita in Capsules – Chapter 17

The book “The Prasthānatraya – An Introduction” by Revered Swami Harshananda, President of Ramakrishna Math, Bengaluru was published in 2001. The Swami has bestowed on us a summary of the 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita of Lord Krishna. I bow my head in reverence and in praise of Swamiji and pray for his blessings in my taking the liberty of retyping the summary from the book and posting it in my blog.

This is the Summary of the seventeenth chapter, Sraddhātraya Vibhaga Yoga


Arjuna now raises an interesting question: Whether the Sraddhā (faith) of the people who worship the various deities, but without following the injunctions of the sāstras (holy books), is sāttvik, rājasik or tāmasik. Srīkrishna replies that such sraddhā can be anyone of these three, depending upon the nature of such persons, their mental make-up. The sāttvik persons worship gods, the rājasik ones worship the demigods like yakshas and rākshasas, whereas the tāmasik ones try to appease the bhūtas or the lower spirits.

Like sraddhā or faith, āhāra or food also is of three types; so also yajna (sacrifice), tapas (austerity) and dāna (gifts). Food conducive to health, strength and purity of mind, and is pleasant is sāttvika. Foods that are very bitter, sour or saltish, pungent and produce diseases are rājasik. Old and stale food, food that has lost its taste and flavour, petrified, spoiled and impure is tāmasik.

Yajnā (sacrifice) done as a duty and according to the injunctions of the sāstras or scriptures is sāttvik. If done with show and pomp, and for the fruits thereof, it is rājasik. The tāmasik one is bereft of all the prescribed rules, is done without sraddhā or faith and lacks in respect of mantras (Vedik chants) and dakshinā (gifts).

Tapas or austerity is of three types – sārīra, vānmaya and mānasa (pertaining to the body, speech and mind respectively). Worship of gods, brāhmanas and preceptors as also observing purity and continence, is tapas of the body. Truthful and unoffensive speech as also the study of one’s branch of the Vedas is tapas of the speech. Peace of mind, control of thoughts and speech, and a pleasant demeanor is tapas of the mind. When this threefold tapas is performed with faith and without the desire for its fruits, it is sāttvik. If it is done in an ostentatious manner for name and fame, it is rājasik. If done without regard to one’s capacity and for harming others it is tāmasik.

Dāna or gifts given as a matter of duty to persons of the right type and in the right manner belong to the sāttvik type. If given with the desire for future rewards and not very willingly, it becomes rājasik. Gifts given in disdain to unworthy persons transgressing the rules, are tāmasik.

Then Srīkrishna declares that the three words ‘Om tat sat’  which form a threefold designation for Brahman, act like a magic formula if uttered during yajna (sacrifices), tapas (austerities) and dāna (giving gifts), correcting all the deficiencies if any.


Courtesy: Swami Harshananda  (emphases, if any, are mine. – nytanaya)

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