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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Shrimad Bhagavad Gita > Gita By Acharyas > Gita 17 Sraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga

Ch 17. Sraddha-Traya-Vibhaga Yoga

Yoga Through Discerning the Three Types of Faith

This chapter explains the three types of sraddha. A person develops sraddha in that which is sattvic, rajasic or tamasic, according to his association and the nature he has acquire fom his previous samskaras (impressions). Nirguna sraddha appears in the jiva's heart when he has the association of suddha-bhaktas of Hari. He can then perform bhajana o Shri Hari who is nirguna. Such bhaktas are the real sadhus.

The Glories of Chapter Seventeen (Mahatmya)

Lord Siva said, “My dear Parvati, you have heard the unlimited glories of the Sixteenth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. Now, kindly hear the nectarian glories of the Seventeenth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita.

King Khadgabahu’s son had a servant by the name of Dushasan who was very crafty and exceptionally foolish. Dushasan made a bet with the prince that he could ride the elephant, at which time he jumped upon the elephant and after going a few steps, the people there started requesting him, not to ride that dangerous elephant. But foolish Dushasan started to prod that elephant and used strong words to urge him on. Suddenly, that elephant became very angry and started to run wildly here and there. Unable to hold on, Dushasan fell to the ground. The elephant stomped on him and Dushasan died. After that he attained the body of an elephant in Simbaldwip, where he stayed in the king’s palace.

The king of Simbaldwip was a close friend of King Khadgabahu. One day the king of Simhaldwip decided to send that elephant as a present to his friend, King Khadgabahu, who in turn presented that elephant to one poet, who pleased him with his beautiful poetry.

Thereafter, that poet sold that elephant for one hundred gold coins to the king of Malva. After some time, that elephant contracted a terminal disease. When the elephant-keepers saw that the elephant had stopped eating and drinking, they reported the matter to the king. When the king found out, he went to the place of the elephant, along with the best of doctors. At that time, to the surprise of that king, the elephant started to speak, “My dear king you are very pious, and a strict follower of the Vedas. You always worship the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. So you should know, that at this time, these medicines and doctors will be of no use. Neither any kind of charity of sacrifice will help at the time of death. If you care for me and want to help me, then bring someone, who daily recites the Seventeenth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita.”
As requested by that elephant, the king brought one great devotee, who regularly recited the Seventeenth Chapter of the Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. That devotee, while chanting the Seventeenth Chapter, sprinkled water on the elephant at which time he gave up his elephant body and attained a four-armed form, similar to that of Lord Vishnu. He immediately sat down in a flower airplane, which had been sent to take him to Vaikuntha. While sitting in that airplane, the king inquired from him about his previous birth, and Dushasan, after telling him everything, left for Vaikuntha. After which, that best of men, the king of Malva, started regularly reciting the Seventeenth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. After a short time he attained the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.


arjuna uvaca
ye shastra-vidhim utsrijya / yajante shraddhayanvitah
tesham nishtha tu ka krishna / sattvam aho rajas tamah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.1 <>

arjuna uvaca---Arjuna said; krishna---O Krishna; ka---what?; tu--- indeed (is); nishtha---the attachment; tesham---of those; ye--- who; utsrijya---giving up; shastra-vidhim---the injunctions of shastra; yajante---worship; shraddhaya anvitah---with faith; (is it?) sattvam---goodness; rajah---passion; aho---or; tamah--- darkness.

Arjuna inquired: O Krishna, what is the position of those who ignore the injunctions of shastra, but still perform worship with faith? Are they sattvika, rajasika or tamasika?


In this Seventeenth Chapter, Shri Bhagavan gives an explanation about that which is sattvika, rajasika and tamasika, in response to Arjuna's question. Arjuna says, "After You described the nature of the asuras, You said that those who transgress the injunctions of shastra and act whimsically do not attain perfection, happiness, or the supreme destination (Gita 16.23). Now I have a question. What is the nishtha (basis of faith) of those who stop following the injunctions of the shastra and whimsically perform yajnas such as tapa, jnana and japa, with a mood that is free from enjoyment and endowed with faith? What is their nishtha? Is it sattvika, rajasika or tamasika? Please explain this."


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura comments that upon hearing the conclusion of the last chapter, Arjuna said, "O Krishna, I have a doubt. Previously (in Gita 4.39), You said that only men with faith achieve jnana. Then (in Gita 16.23), You said that those who give up following the injunctions of shastra and engage in karma, impelled by mundane desires. do not attain perfection, happiness, or the supreme goal. My question is: what is their position if the faith they cultivate is opposed to shastra? Do people whose faith is so whimsical achieve sattva-samshuddhi (the purification of their existence), which is the result of jnana-yoga and other yogic processes? Please tell me clearly about the nishtha of those who give up the injunctions of shastra, but who worship with faith. Is it sattvika, rajasika or tamasika?.


shri bhagavan uvaca
tri-vidha bhavati shraddha / dehinam sa svabhava-ja
sattviki rajasi caiva / tamasi ceti tam shrinu

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.2 <>

shri bhagavan uvaca---the all-opulent Supreme Lord said; shraddha---the faith; dehinam---of embodied beings; bhavati---is; tri-vidha---of three kinds; (in) sattviki---goodness; rajasi---passion; ca---and; eva---certainly; tamasi---ignorance; sa---that (faith); (is) svabhava-ja---born of one's own nature; ca---and; shrinu---now hear; iti---about; tam---that.

Shri Bhagavan said: The faith of embodied beings is of three types: sattvika, rajasika or tamasika. It is determined by past life impressions. Now hear about this.


"O Arjuna, first hear about the nishtha of those who perform bhajana in accordance with the codes of shastra. I will then speak about the nishtha of those whose worship is in violation of those rules. The word sva-bhava-ja means shraddha which is born of past impressions. It is also of three types."


Some think that it is painful and difficult to follow the injunctions of shastra, while others give up following them out of laziness and whimsically worship various devas with laukika-shraddha (mundane faith) which has arisen from past life impressions. The faith of these people is of three types: sattvika, rajasika and tamasika. However, faith which is aimed at cultivating bhagavad-bhakti under the guidance of shuddha-bhaktas, who are well versed in shastra, is nirguna. There is something to consider in this regard. In the initial stages, the faith of a bhakti-sadhaka may be in sattva-guna, but by the influence of sadhus, it very quickly becomes firmly fixed as nirguna-shraddha. At that time, while meticulously following the rules and regulations of shastra, if one engages with strong faith in shravana, kirtana and smarana of harin ama and hari-katha, he begins his progress on the path of bhakti.


sattvanurupa sarvasya / shraddha bhavati bharata
shraddha-mayo'yam purusho / yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.3 <>

bharata---O scion of Bharata; shraddha---faith; bhavati---is (determined); anurupa---in accordance; sattva---with the state of existence; sarvasya---of all beings; ayam---the; purushah---person (soul); (is known as) shraddha-mayah---filled with faith; (he) yah---who; (has) yat-shraddhah---whichever object of faith; sah---he; (has) eva sah---that very same (nature).

O Bharata, everyone's faith is determined by the disposition of his mind. All people possess faith, and in whatever worshipable object they place that faith, they develop a corresponding disposition.


Sattvam refers to the internal sense, citta (the heart). It is of three types: sattvika, rajasika and tamasika. The faith of a person whose citta is sattvika is also sattvika; the faith of one whose citta is rajasika is rajasika, and one whose citta is tamasika has tamasika faith. Yac-chraddhah means that one's nature develops according to his worshipable object. This means that a person.s nature corresponds with the nature of those he worships, be they devas, asuras or rakshasas.


A jiva's inherent asset is the shraddha or rati he has in his shuddha-svarupa (constitutional position). That inherent shraddha in his svarupa is related to Bhagavan only, and is unquestionably nirguna. However, in the bound state, the constitutional nature of the jiva becomes distorted. When the jiva associates with prakriti, the result is that he performs either auspicious or inauspicious activities. That distorted faith, known as sattvika, rajasika or tamasika, corresponds to whichever worshipable deity his faith is directed toward. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "O Bharata, everyone has faith. A person expresses his faith according to the disposition of his mind, and his nature develops according to the nature of the deity he has placed his faith in. The reality is that because the jiva is constitutionally My amsha (part), he is therefore, nirguna. That jiva who has forgotten his relationship with Me has become saguna (bound by the gunas). He has acquired that saguna nature as a result of his aversion to Me since time immemorial. It is this aversion which forms the nature or disposition of his citta (heart). This citta is called sattva, and when it is purified, fearlessness results. The faith of the purified citta is the seed of nirguna-bhakti. The faith of the impure heart is saguna, bound by the modes. As long as this faith does not become nirguna or aim at nirguna (Bhagavan), it is called kama, or passion, which is saguna. I am now explaining saguna- shraddha (faith within the gunas symptomised by material desires). Please listen."


yajante sattvika devan / yaksha-rakshamsi rajasah
pretan bhuta-ganamsh canye / yajante tamasa janah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.4 <>

sattvikah---those in goodness; yajante---worship; devan---the devas; rajasah---those in passion; (worship) yaksha-rakshamsi--- witches and demons; janah---persons; ca---and; anye---others; tamasah---in darkness; yajante---worship; pretan---ghosts; (and) bhuta-ganan---spirits.

Persons in sattva-guna worship the devas, who are of a similar mode. Those in rajo-guna worship the yakshas and rakshasas, who also have similar passionate natures, and those in tamo-guna worship ghosts and spirits, who are similar in nature to themselves.


Now Shri Bhagavan is explaining the gunas in detail. Previously, He only briefly mentioned them. Those with a sattvika citta (mind) are endowed with sattvika shraddha and worship the sattvika devatas according to the injunctions of sattvika shastras. They have faith in the devas and for this reason they are also called devatas (because they develop the same nature and qualities). The same principle applies to those whose minds are rajasika and tamasika.


In this shloka, Shri Bhagavan is explaining the varieties of laukiki (mundane) shraddha of persons who worship the various devas. According to shastra, Shri Bhagavan is the only worshipable entity. However, the faith of those who wor ship various devas and other entities is impelled by various types of laukiki desires, and is of three kinds: sattvika, rajasika and tamasika. Those who have sattvika shraddha worship devas such as Brahma, Shiva, Indra, Candra and Surya. Similarly, those whose shraddha is rajasika worship Durga, yakshas, rakshasas and so on, and those who possess tamasika shraddha worship ghosts and spirits. Sometimes it is seen that the three types of people in the three different modes worship the same deva. For example, Markandeya Rishi's worship of Lord Shiva at the time of devastation was sattvika. Kagabhushundiji's worship of Shiva was also sattvika. As a result of their sattvika worship, Markandeya Rishi remained alive for one kalpa and acquired knowledge of the creation of the universe, etc., and Kagabhushundi attained bhakti unto Bhagavan Shri Ramacandra. The worship of Lord Shiva performed by Banasura and Ravana, etc., is rajasika, and the worship by Bhasmasura, etc., is tamasika. Durga devi is also worshipped by those with sattvika, rajasika or tamasika shraddha. However, by the influence of saintly association, tamasika shraddha can be transformed into rajasika shraddha, rajasika into sattvika and sattvika into nirguna shraddha.

The shraddha of nirvishesha-vadis is also sattvika. They consider brahma to be formless and featureless. Therefore, they accept the forms of five devatas to be imaginary and worship them. In this way, they endeavour to purify their citta and attain jnana.


ashastra-vihitam ghoram / tapyante ye tapo janah
dambhahankara-samyuktah / kama-raga-balanvitah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.5 <>

karshayantah sharira-stham / bhuta-gramam acetasah
man caivantah sharira-stham / tan viddhy asura-nishcayan

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.6 <>

janah---persons; ye---who; (are) samyuktah---engaged; dambhaaha nkara---in pride and false ego; (and) anvitah---absorbed in; kama---desire; raga---attachment; bala---strength; acetasah--- who are not discriminating; tapyante---perform; ghoram---terrible; tapah---austerity; ashastra-vihitam---not enjoined in shastra; karshayantah---they inflict pain; bhuta-gramam---on the elements; sharira-stham---situated within the body; ca---and; mam---to Me; antah sharira-stham---situated within the body; eva---certainly; viddhi---you should know; tan---those; (to be) asura-nishcayan--- certified as demons.

Out of pride and egotism, some people perform severe austerities which are not recommended in shastra. Motivated by lust, mundane attachment and desire for power, they inflict pain not only on the elements of the body, but also upon Me situated within. Such persons are to be recognised as asuras.


Krishna said, "O Arjuna! You have asked about the status of those who discard the injunctions of shastra, yet perform worship endowed with shraddha; are they sattvika, rajasika or tamasika? Now hear My reply in the two shlokas beginning with the word ashastra. Faith and the renunciation of selfish desires are visible in those who perform severe, tortuous austerities, which create fear within all living beings, and other acts such as unauthorised japa-yajna, but such people are bereft of tattva-jnana. Those who are proud and egotistical will surely violate the rules of shastra. Kama refers to desires such as remaining young forever, being immortal and desiring a kingdom. Raga means attachment to one's austerities, and bala means the capacity to perform austerities like Hiranyakashipu. From the very beginning of their austerities, such persons torture the bhuta-gramam (group of elements such as earth) which are situated in the body, and cause unnecessary pain to Me as well as to My amsha, the jiva. Such persons have asurika dispositions."


Here Shri Krishna is telling Arjuna that those who disregard shastra and perform severe austerities, such as fasting to fulfil their material desires, are not included amongst those who perform the sattvika, rajasika and tamasika activities explained previously. Such people are very unfortunate. Being influenced by the association of pretenders, they perform severe austerities which intimidate common people, and which are not recommended in the shastra. Austerities such as worthless, painful fasts, offering one's body or flesh in yajna, offering a human being in yajna (nara-bali), offering animals in yajna (pashu-bali) and other such violent acts cause pain to one's self (atma) and also to Paramatma. Such people who possess a cruel nature should be considered asurika. At the present time, some people observe fasts which are not recommended in shastra out of selfish or political interests. The provision for fasts given in the shastra is only for the purpose of attaining the transcendental goal, and not for political or social purposes. On ekadashi, there is a provision to fast from everything, even from water (nirjala-vrata), and to remain awake performing harik irtana throughout the night (ratri-jagarana). Nowadays, people perform ratri-jagarana by eating flesh, drinking wine and singing vulgar and contemptible songs. In this way, they violate the rules of shastra. Such ratri-jagarana is not included within the three types of shraddha, and is miserable. These fasts and jagaranas do not benefit anyone. In fact, such activities are performed out of the pride and ego born from excessive attachment to material desires and sense enjoyment. They also cause unnecessary pain to the body and disturb one's inner peace as well as the peace of others. Sometimes persons even die from performing these fanatical austerities and fasts. While wandering repeatedly in the asurika species of life, they receive only misery. But, if by the will of providence, they receive the association of a shuddha-bhakta, they can receive some benefit. Examples of this are Nalakuvera and Manigriva.


aharas tv api sarvasya / tri-vidho bhavati priyah
yajnas tapas tatha danam / tesham bhedam imam shrinu

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.7 <>

tu---indeed; api---even; aharah---the food; sarvasya---of all living beings; bhavati---is; priyah---dear; tri-vidhah---according to the three qualities; (this is) tatha---also; (true of) yajnah---sacrifice; tapah---austerity; (and) danam---charity; shrinu---now hear; imam---this; bhedam---division; tesham---of them.

The food which different people like is of three kinds, depending on their qualities. The same is true of sacrifice, austerity and charity. Now hear of the distinctions between them.


Those who discard the injunctions of shastra and act whimsically enter the asurika species of life. This was mentioned in the previous chapter. Those of an asurika nature who worship yakshas, rakshasas and spirits, also enter the asurika species of life as stated in this chapter. One can categorise people as divine or demoniac according to the type of food they eat. This will be explained in thirteen consecutive shlokas beginning here with the words aharas tu.


Having explained the three categories of shraddha, Bhagavan Shri Krishna describes specific food, yajnas and so forth corresponding to each of them. Those who are of a particular mode are inclined to food, sacrifices, austerities and charities in the same mode. Nowadays, some people imagine that food has no relationship with dharma, while others think that protecting and maintaining the body is the basis of all dharma: shariram adyam khalu dharma sadhanam. Hence, one should note that those who accept sense enjoyment as the only purpose of human life feel great satisfaction in drinking wine and eating meat, eggs and even cow-flesh. Fortunately, some people have understood that the tendency for sense enjoyment has caused the jivas. bondage to maya, and because of it they are undergoing so much misery, life after life. For those who want to become free from all miseries, it is imperative that they give up their desire to indulge in sense enjoyment. Only people who have developed such awareness in this human life understand the need to accept pure, sattvika food. In order to cross beyond the three gunas of maya, they first try to overcome tamogu na with rajo-guna, then rajo-guna with sattva-guna, and finally mundane sattva-guna with nirguna (shuddha-sattva).

Sadhu and shastra state that control of the mind is indeed the root of all dharma. The body's nearest relative is the mind, and thus one's inclination of mind becomes good or bad depending on the type of food one takes. This is visible everywhere. Most people in the world today consume inedible and asurika foodstuffs and indulge in acts of illicit sex, cheating, duplicity and violence. At present, proper moral conduct (sad-acara) is rarely seen. Therefore, after careful consideration, those who are wise should only accept such foodstuffs which nourish the body and the function of the pure intelligence. For this reason, Shri Bhagavan has described the three types of foodstuffs which represent the three modes. Those who aim to adopt sattva-guna, are seen to become disinterested in rajasika and tamasika food and interested in sattvika foods only.

While commenting on this shloka, Shri Ramanujacarya has cited two evidences from shruti.
1) Annamayam hi saumyamana h. "One who eats grains will have a peaceful mind."
2) Ahara-shuddhau sattva-shuddhih. "If one's food is pure, then one's existence becomes purified."
The shrutis have also cautioned us that the purity of the mind depends upon the purity of the food. This can be easily understood by these proofs. We must, therefore, give up all food which shastra prohibits. Shri Krishna Himself has explained this very clearly in Shrimad- Bhagavatam (11.25.28):

pathyam putam anayas tam / aharyam sattvikam smritam
rajasam cendriya-preshtham / tamasam cartti-dashuci
Food which is wholesome, pure and obtained without difficulty is sattvika. That which is very pungent, sour and salty and meant only for the gratification of the senses is rajasika, and food which is impure is tamasika. But that food which is approved of by shastra and offered to Me is nirguna.

From the word ca in this shloka (11.25.28), both Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Shrila Shridhara Svami have concluded that food which is offered to Bhagavan is nirguna. Those who violate these instructions and accept any type of impure food based on their fancy must be in the asurika class.


ayuh-sattva-balarogya / sukha-priti-vivarddhanah
rasyah snigdhah sthira-hridya / aharah sattvika-priyah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.8 <>

aharah---foods; vivarddhanah---which augment; ayuh---life; sattva---enthusiasm; bala---strength; arogya---good health; sukha---happiness; priti---satisfaction; (and which are) rasyah--- tasty; snigdhah---fattening; sthirah---sustaining; (and) hridyah--- heartening; (are) sattvika-priyah---dear to those situated in goodness.

Foods which augment life, enthusiasm, strength, good health, happiness and satisfaction, which are tasty, fattening, substantially nourishing and agreeable to the heart and stomach, are dear to sattvika people.


In this world, it is a well-known fact that by eating sattvika food, one's duration of life increases. The word sattvam means enthusiasm. Rasya refers to substances like guda (gur) which although tasty (rasya) are dry. Shri Bhagavan then refers to foods like milk and cream, which are both tasty (rasya) and fatty (snigdha) but not solid (sthirah). He then refers to foods that are rasya, snigdha and sthirah, such as jackfruit. Although jackfruit fits into the above categories, it is not good for the heart and stomach; therefore, Shri Bhagavan specifically mentions food that is beneficial for the heart as well as the belly. Cow products like milk and yogurt, as well as wheat, sugar and rice have the characteristics of sattva and are liked by sattvika people. This should be understood. Sattvika people do not like impure food, even if it has the above-mentioned characteristics, so the adjective pavitra (pure) applies to this shloka. In Gita (17.10), the adjective amedhya (impure) is used for people who like food in tamo-guna.


In the present shloka, Shri Bhagavan is informing Arjuna that according to the grade of foodstuffs consumed, there is a corresponding guna. Generally, a person who desires his own welfare accepts only sattvika food. Sattvika food is favourable for the execution of dharma because it is pure. It is not only good for the health but it increases the duration of life. Such pure food is auspicious in every respect as it purifies the body and mind. It is easy to distinguish the difference between the effect on the mind of drinking milk and that of drinking wine. People are giving up taking sattvika food due to bad association, improper knowledge and lack of proper samskaras.


katv-amla-lavanaty-ushna- / tikshna-ruksha-vidahinah
ahara rajasasyeshta / duhkha-shokamaya-pradah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.9 <>

aharah---foods; (that are very) katu---bitter; amla---sour; lavana---salty; aty-ushna---very hot; tikshna---pungent; ruksha---dry; vidahinah---burning; pradah---they give; duhkha---pain; shoka--- grief; (and) amaya---disease; ishtah---dear; rajasasya---to the person in passion.

Foods which are very bitter, sour, salty, spicy, pungent, dry and burning, and which give rise to pain, grief and disease, are liked by people of a rajasika nature.


The word ati (very) is used with seven words, the first being katu. Foods that are very bitter (like neem), very sour, very salty, very spicy and very pungent (like radish), spices such as black pepper or those which are very dry (like asafoetida), or very burning (like roasted black gram) are the cause of pain, disease and grief. Here, the word duhkha (pain) refers to the instant misery caused to the eyes, throat and so forth while eating, and the word shoka (grief) refers to the anxiety about reactions to come. The word amaya means disease.


One immediately gets a burning sensation in the tongue, throat and belly by eating rajasika foodstuffs, and wind and indigestion follow. Later, the mind becomes restless due to unpleasant thoughts and anxiety, and various types of diseases develop. In this way, life becomes miserable. Aside from this, the mind becomes distracted from dharmika activities and disinterested in them as a result of eating these rajasika foodstuffs. People of a sattvika nature, therefore, do not accept such food.


yatayamam gata-rasam / puti paryushitan ca yat
ucchishtam api camedhyam / bhojanam tamasa-priyam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.10 <>

bhojanam---food; yat---which; (is) tamasa-priyam---dear to those in the quality of darkness; (is) yata-yamam---spoiled; gatarasam ---without taste; puti---putrid; paryushitam---stale; ca---and; ucchishtam---partly eaten; api ca---and also; amedhyam---impure.

Tamasika people like food which is cooked more than three hours before being eaten and which is cold, tasteless, putrid, stale, partly eaten or rejected and impure.


The word yata-yamam means food that has been cooked three hours prior to being eaten and that has become cold. Gata-rasam means that which has lost its natural taste, or that from which the juice has been extracted, like the peel or stone of a mango. Puti means putrid. Paryushitam means that which was cooked the previous day. Ucchishtam means someone's remnants. This does not refer to the remnants of highly respected people such as those in the guru-varga. Amedhya means that which is not fit to be consumed, like meat or tobacco. Therefore, those who are concerned about their own welfare should eat only sattvika food. Vaishnavas, however, should not even accept sattvika food if it is not offered to Bhagavan. It is understood from Shrimad- Bhagavatam that food which is offered to Bhagavan is nirguna. This alone is dear to the bhaktas.


The purpose of food is to keep the body healthy and strong, make the mind pure, increase the lifespan and engage a person in his spiritual welfare. In ancient times, those who were learned and wise would accept only food that kept them healthy and increased their life span. Milk, yogurt, sugar, rice, wheat, fruit and vegetables are dear to sattvika people. Many people think that there is no harm in eating foods such as meat and wine that they have offered in their worship of the devatas. Although shastra makes provision for such acts, people do not perform them in accordance with these provisions. The provision in shastra for killing animals or drinking wine in yajna is actually for extremely tamasika people who are completely attached to sense indulgence. It is a temporary arrangement to expertly bring them to the platform of abstention from such acts. This is also confirmed in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.11):

loke vyavayamisha-madya-seva
nitya hi jantor na hi tatra codana
vyavasthitis teshu vivaha-yajna
sura-grahair asu nivrittir ishta

It is seen that people in the material world have a natural inclination towards drinking wine, eating meat and having sex. Yet shastra never encourages these activities. To some extent, provision has been granted for sex-life within a sanctified marriage, and for eating meat and drinking wine in a yajna called shautramani. The purpose is to control such people's unrestrained natures, and fix them within the boundary of morality. The actual, deep import of the Vedas is to encourage people to completely give up these activities.

Furthermore, Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.13) says:

yad ghrana-bhaksho vihitah surayas
tatha pashor alabhanam na himsa

Shastra ordains the smelling of wine at the time of a yajna, but not the drinking of it, and only for the above-mentioned purpose of gradually attaining complete renunciation. In the same way, shastra does not authorise anyone to kill an animal and eat meat. It permits one to touch the animal only and then release it.

Some people think that, although it is sinful to eat meat, no sin is incurred in eating fish because fish are like the flowers or fruits of the water. However, Manu-samhita completely forbids the eating of fish:

yo yasya mamsam ashnati / sa tan-mamsad ucyate
matsyadah sarva-mamsadas / tasman matsyan vivarjayet

Those who eat the meat of a particular animal are known as eaters of that particular animal, but those who eat fish eat the meat of everything, because a fish eats the meat of all living entities such as cows and pigs. It even consumes rotten things. Those who eat fish actually eat the meat of all beings. Eating fish should, therefore, be abandoned entirely.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.14) further states:
ye tv anevam-vido 'santah / stabdhah sad-abhimaninah
pashun druhyanti visrabdhah / pretya khadanti te ca tan

Intoxicated by their false ego, those who are ignorant of dharmika principles are not perceptive. Such tamasika people who fearlessly eat animals after killing them will be eaten by those same animals in their next life.

Regarding the meaning of the word mamsa (meat), Manusa mhita says:

mam sa bhakshayitamutra / yasya mamsam ihadmy aham
etan mamsasya mamsatvam / pravadanti manishinah

The word mamsa means: "That which I am eating here, will eat me in my next life." For this reason, the learned say that meat is called mamsa (a repeated act: I eat him; he eats me).

Here it should also be understood that eating sattvika food enhances one's sattva, goodness. But even this mode is not completely free from sin, because there is also life in creepers, vegetables, plants and trees. A touch of sin also remains in the preparation of vegetarian food because, to some degree, it involves violence. For this reason, shuddha-bhaktas accept only food which has been offered to Bhagavan (mahaprasada). Mahaprasada is the only food fit to be eaten, because it is nirguna and completely free from sin. Food that has not been offered should be shunned totally. This is also written in the Brahma-vaivarta and the Padma Purana: annam vishtha jalam mutram yad vishnor anivedanam.

"Taking food and water which is not offered to Shri Vishnu is compared to eating stool and drinking urine."


aphalakankshibhir yajno / vidhi-dishto ya ijyate
yashtavyam eveti manah / samadhaya sa sattvikah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.11 <>

sah---that; yajnah---sacrifice; yah---which; ijyate---is performed; samadhaya---resolving; (in) manah---the mind; iti---that; yasht- avyam---sacrifice is obligatory; vidhi-dishtah---which is directed by the injunctions of shastra; (and) aphala-akankshibhih---without desires for results; (is) eva---certainly; sattvikah---in goodness.

The performance of yajna is obligatory. With such resolution of mind, yajna which is executed according to the direction of shastra, and without expectation of reward, is sattvika.


Now Shri Bhagavan is describing the three types of yajna. If one questions how one will engage in yajna without expecting the results, then Shri Bhagavan says, "He performs the yajna by concluding that because it is his duty and is also prescribed in the shastra, its performance is imperative."


abhisandhaya tu phalam / dambhartham api caiva yat
ijyate bharata-shreshtha / tam yajnam viddhi rajasam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.12 <>

tu---however; bharata-shreshtha---best of Bharata's line; viddhi--- you should understand; tam---that; yajnam---the sacrifice; yat---which; ijyate---is performed; abhisandhaya---with attachment; phalam---for the results; api ca---and also; dambhaartham ---out of pride; (is) eva---certainly; rajasam---in the quality of passion.

O best of the Bharata dynasty, that yajna which is executed with the desire for its fruit, and which is pretentiously and pompously performed, is rajasika.


vidhi-hinam asrishtannam / mantra-hinam adakshinam
shraddha-virahitam yajnam / tamasam paricakshate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.13 <>

yajnam---that sacrifice; vidhi-hinam---disregarding the precepts of shastra; asrishta---where there is no distribution; annam---of grains (prasadam); mantra-hinam---without the utterance of mantras; adakshinam---where no gifts are given to the priests; shraddha- virahitam---which (is performed) without faith; paricakshate---is condemned; tamasam---in the quality of darkness.

That yajna which disregards the injunctions of shastra, where no prasadam is distributed, no Vedic mantras are chanted, no gifts are given to the priests, and which is performed without shraddha, is condemned by the learned as tamasika.


Asrishtannam means without distribution of prasadam.


deva-dvija-guru-prajna- / pujanam shaucam arjavam
brahmacaryam ahimsa ca / shariram tapa ucyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.14 <>

tapah---austerity; shariram---of the body; ucyate---is said to be; pujanam---worship; deva---of the gods; dvija---the brahmanas; guru---the spiritual preceptors; prajna---the wise; shaucam---cleanliness; arjavam---simplicity; brahmacaryam---celibacy; ca---and; ahimsa---non-violence.

Austerities related to the body include worship of the devatas, the brahmanas, gurus, persons with a thorough understanding of the Absolute, and observance of cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and non-violence.


Tapasya is of three types. To explain this, Shri Bhagavan first explains sattvika tapasya in three consecutive shlokas, the first beginning with deva-dvija.


anudvega-karam vakyam / satyam priya-hitan ca yat
svadhyayabhyasanam caiva / van-mayam tapa ucyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.15 <>

vakyam---speech; yat---which; anudvega-karam---does not cause agitation; satyam---which is true; ca---and; priya-hitam---beneficial; ca---also; abhyasanam---the practice; svadhyaya---of recitation of the Vedas (and related shastra); eva---certainly; ucyate---is said to be; tapah---austerity; van-mayam---of speech.

Words which cause no agitation and which are truthful, pleasing and beneficial, as well as the practice of reciting the Vedas, are all said to be austerities of speech.


Anudvega-karam means speech which does not cause agitation to others.


manah-prasadah saumyatvam / maunam atma-vinigrahah
bhava-samshuddhir ity etat / tapo manasam ucyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.16 <>

etat---the; tapah---austerity; manasam---of the mind; ucyate---is said to be; iti---as follows; manah-prasadah---satisfaction of the mind; saumyatvam---gentleness; maunam---silence; atmavinigraha h---discipline of the mind; bhava-samshuddhih---purity of behaviour.

Austerities of the mind consist of satisfaction, gentleness, gravity, mental discipline and purity of behaviour.


shraddhaya paraya taptam / tapas tat tri-vidham naraih
aphalakankshibhir yuktaih / sattvikam paricakshate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.17 <>

iha---in this world; tat---this; tri-vidham---threefold; tapah--- austerity; taptam---executed; naraih---by men; yuktaih---connected with the Supreme Lord; aphala-akankshibhih---without desire for results; paraya---through transcendental; shraddhaya---faith; paricakshate---is said to be; sattvikam---in the quality of goodness.

This threefold austerity performed by men with transcendental faith, who are free from the desire for any mundane reward, is said to be sattvika.


The word tri-vidham refers to austerities of body, speech and mind endowed with the symptoms described above.


satkara-mana-pujartham / tapo dambhena caiva yat
kriyate tad iha proktam / rajasam calam adhruvam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.18 <>

tat---that; tapah---austerity; yat---which; kriyate---is performed; dambhena---with pride; ca---and; artham---for the purpose of achieving; satkara---recognition; mana---honour; (and) puja--- adoration; eva---certainly; proktam---is declared; (to be) rajasam---in the quality of passion; (it is) calam----temporary; (and) adhruvam---unstable.

That austerity which is performed with pride for the sake of recognition, honour and adoration is called rajasika. It is both temporary and uncertain.


The word satkarah means to worship someone by flattery, by telling them that that they are saintly, or honouring them with flowery words. Mana means bodily worship, such as standing up to greet a person when he arrives and following him to the door when he leaves. Puja means manasi puja i.e. when someone accepts one as a sadhu within his mind, seeing his austerities and thus worships him by offering wealth, gifts, etc. The austerities which are performed for these purposes with pride, are rajasika. The word calam means that which stays only for a short period, and adhruvam means that which is temporary.


mudha-grahenatmano yat / pidaya kriyate tapah
parasyotsadanartham va / tat tamasam udahritam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.19 <>

tat---that; tapah---austerity; yat---which; kriyate---is performed; mudha-grahena---foolishly; pidaya---by giving pain; atmanah--- to one's self; va---or; artham---with the purpose; utsadana---of bringing ruin; parasya---to another; udahritam---is said to be; tamasam---in the quality of darkness.

That austerity which is performed foolishly, which gives pain to the self, or is intended to cause another's ruin, is known as tamasika.


Mudha-grahena means foolishly performed. Parasya utsadan-artham means that the tapasya which is performed to destroy others is tamasika.


datavyam iti yad danam / diyate'nupakarine
deshe kale ca patre ca / tad danam sattvikam smritam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.20 <>

danam---charity; datavyam---should be given; iti---thus; tat--- that; danam---charity; yat---which; diyate---is given; anupakarine---to one who gives nothing in return; deshe---at a (proper) place; ca---and; (proper) kale---time; ca---and; patre--- to a worthy recipient; smritam---is considered; sattvikam---in the quality of goodness.

"Charity should be given as a matter of duty." With this resolve, charity given with no expectation of return, at a holy place, at an auspicious time and to a worthy person, is considered to be sattvika.


The word datavyam means charity given out of a sense of duty to a qualified person at the proper time. Charity given with expectation of return is not charity.


In the present shloka, Shri Bhagavan explains the three types of charity. He says that charity is sattvika if it is given out of duty and without expectation of any reward to a person who is selfless and who never performs activities for his own welfare, or who does not have the ability to perform welfare for others. In this regard, it is also necessary to consider the proper time, place, and person.


yat tu pratyupakarartham / phalam uddishya va punah
diyate ca pariklishtam / tad danam rajasam smritam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.21 <>

tu---but; tat---that; danam---charity; yat---which; diyate---is given; artham---with the purpose; pratyupakara---of getting a return; va---or; uddishya---demanding; phalam---some benefit; ca---and; punah---furthermore; pariklishtam---begrudgingly; smritam---is said to be; rajasam---in the quality of passion.

But that charity which is offered with the expectation of gaining some return or benefit, or which is given begrudgingly, is said to be rajasika.


Pariklishtam means that after giving in charity a person repents, "Why have I given so much?" It also means to give on the order of superiors, such as the guru, although not willing to give. Here the word pariklishtam means that a charitable object or act which is tainted by such unbeneficial feelings is rajasika.


adesha-kale yad danam / apatrebhyash ca diyate
asat-kritam avajnatam / tat tamasam udahritam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.22 <>

tat---that; danam---charity; yat---which; diyate---is given; adeshak ale---at an improper place and time; ca---and; apatrebhyah---to unworthy recipients; asat-kritam---without respect; (and) avajnatam---with contempt; udahritam---is said to be; tamasam. in the quality of darkness.

Charity given at an impure place and an improper time to an unworthy recipient, in a mood of contempt and disrespect, is said to be tamasika.


Asat-karah means the result of disrespect.


Charity which is given at an impure place and improper time to an unqualified person, like a dancer or prostitute, to one who does not need it, or to a sinful person, is tamasika. Charity which is disrespectfully given to a worthy person is also tamasika.


om tat sad iti nirdesho / brahmanas tri-vidhah smritah
brahmanas tena vedash ca / yajnash ca vihitah pura

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.23 <>

tasmad om ity udahritya / yajna-dana-tapah-kriyah
pravarttante vidhanoktah / satatam brahma-vadinam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.24 <>

smritah---it is considered; iti---that; om tat sat---om, tat and sat; (are) tri-vidhah---a threefold; nirdeshah---indication; brahmanah---of Supreme brahma; pura---in ancient times; brahmanah---the brahmanas; vedah---the Vedas; ca---and; yajnah---sacrifices; vihitah---were created; tena---by this utterance; tasmat---therefore; brahma-vadinam---for those who preach the Vedic version; kriyah---activities; yajna---of sacrifice; dana---charity; tapah---and austerity; vidhana-uktah---as proclaimed according to ancient precept; iti---thus; satatam---always; pravarttante---take place; udahritya---while uttering; om--- om.

It is said that om, tat and sat are the three words used to indicate brahma, the Supreme Absolute Reality. Brahmanas, the Vedas and yajnas were originally created from these three words. Therefore, dedicated followers of the Vedas always commence the performance of sacrifices, charities, austerities and activities prescribed in shastra by uttering the sacred syllable om.


It is generally explained that every human being can perform one of the three types of yajna, tapasya, etc., according to his adhikara. Those who are sattvika and those who are brahma-vadis, begin their performance of yajna with an invocation to brahma. Therefore, Shri Bhagavan says that the sadhus remember and honour Him by the threefold invocation of brahma: om, tat, sat. The renowned sacred syllable om is prominent amongst these invocations in all the Vedas, and is certainly the name of brahma. Tat (brahma) is well known as the cause of the universe and it also removes atat (maya). Sat is described in the shruti (Chandogya Upanishad 6.2.1) as follows: "O gentle one, in the beginning there was only sat (The Supreme Absolute Eternal Reality)." The brahmanas, Vedas and a host of yajnas were created solely from brahma who is represented by the names om, tat and sat." Consequently, the current followers of the Vedas perform yajnas by uttering the sacred syllable om.


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "Please listen as I explain the import of these shlokas. Tapasya, yajna, dana and food are each of three types: sattvika, rajasika and tamasika. The faith with which the conditioned jivas perform these activities may be first, second or third class, but it remains contaminated by the modes and is worthless. These activities only become purposeful in attaining the stage of fearlessness (the purification of sattva, existence) when they are performed with nirguna-shraddha, that is, with that shraddha which gives rise to bhakti. It is ordained throughout shastra that prescribed duties should be performed with such transcendental shraddha. In shastra there are three principles which indicate brahma: om, tat and sat. These three names, which are indicative of brahma, also describe the brahmanas, the Vedas and yajnas. Shraddha in which one neglects the codes of shastra is saguna (contaminated by the modes). It does not aim at nirguna-brahma in any way and will only give a material result. Therefore, the essence of shastra is transcendental shraddha. Your doubt about shastra and shraddha is born of ignorance. Followers of the Vedas perform all their activities as prescribed in shastra, such as yajna, tapasya and dana, by chanting the sacred syllable om which indicates brahma."


tad ity anabhisandhaya / phalam yajna-tapah-kriyah
dana-kriyash ca vividhah / kriyante moksha-kankshibhih

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.25 <>

iti---thus; (uttering) tat---tat; moksha-kankshibhih---those desirous of liberation; vividhah---various kinds; kriyah---of practices; yajna-tapah---of sacrifice, austerities; ca---and; dana-kriyah--- charity; kriyante---are done; anabhisandhaya---without attachment; phalam---to the fruit.

Thus uttering the word tat, those desirous of attaining moksha perform various types of yajna, tapasya and dana, renouncing the fruits of their activities.


The activities of yajna, etc., should be performed by uttering the word tat as described in the previous shloka. The word anabhisandhaya means that one should perform various prescribed duties without desiring their fruits.


The word idam refers to this visible world, and tat refers to brahma (reality) which is beyond this world. Yajnas must only be performed for the purpose of attaining para-tattva.


sad-bhave sadhu-bhave ca / sad ity etat prayujyate
prashaste karmani tatha / sac-chabdah partha yujyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.26 <>

partha---O son of Pritha; etat---this (word); sat---sat; prayujyate--- is used; iti---thus; sat-bhave---in the sense of brahma (the Supreme Absolute Truth); ca---and; sadhu-bhave---in the sense of the sadhu, the devotee of brahma; tatha---also; sat-shabdah---the word sat; yujyate---is used; prashaste---in auspicious; karmani--- activities.

O Partha! The word sat (eternality) refers to the Supreme Absolute Truth and to the worshippers of brahma. In the same way, the word sat is also used in connection with auspicious acts.


The word sat represents brahma, and is used in auspicious or praiseworthy acts. It can also be used in all auspicious acts which are material as well as transcendental. Shri Bhagavan is speaking these two shlokas, the first beginning with the word sad-bhave to explain this. Sad-bhave (having the nature of eternal reality) is an appropriate meaning for brahmatva (spiritual quality) and brahmavaditva (worshippers of brahma).


The sacred syllable om is the name of para-tattva brahma. He is also called tat. In the same way, the word sat indicates that He exists eternally and that He is the cause of everything. He alone is sad-vastu, or the real entity. This is also stated in the Vedas: sad eva saumya idam agra asita. .O gentle one, previously this material world existed in the form of sat, one without a second, and before the creation there was only sat. (Chandogya Upanishad 6.2.1). Sadhus are those in whose hearts only this sat exists. It is also said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25): satam prasangan. Here also the word sat is used for those bhaktas of Shri Bhagavan who have realised the Absolute Truth. In general, auspicious acts in this material world are also known as sat-karya, blessed acts. In Sat-kriya-sara-dipika, Shrila Gopala Bhatöa Gosvami, a prominent Gaudiya Vaishnava Acarya and the protector of Gaudiya Vaishnava conceptions, defines sat as follows: "The one-pointed bhaktas of Shri Govinda are devoted to sat thoughts. Since all their activities are performed for the pleasure of Bhagavan, their activities are called sat. All other activities are asat, and are forbidden." In this regard, Bhagavan Shri Krishna is explaining the meaning of the word sat in these two shlokas, the first beginning with the word sad-bhave. "O Partha, the word sat is used for sad-bhava (that which aims at brahma) and sadhu-bhava (the supremely virtuous nature and activities of the onepointed surrendered bhaktas of Krishna). In the same way, the word sat is also used for auspicious acts."

The word sat is used for brahma. Vrajendra-nandana Shri Krishna who is omnipotent, the cause of all causes and the support and basis of all rasa, is Himself the complete sat entity. The word sat is also used for His associates, His dhamas, all His avataras, the dhamas of those avataras, His aikantikabhaktas, the presiding Deity of the gayatri-mantra, brahmanas, bhakti and so forth. It is also used for Shri Bhagavan's nama, guna, rupa, lila, etc. Om tat sat is uttered while giving diksha to a faithful person, or while giving him the sacred thread. Shri Gurudeva who bestows the gayatri-mantra and hari-nama is also called sat (sad-guru). The disciple who accepts these mantras is called sat-shishya, and the process of diksha is called sat (sad-anushöhana), meaning spiritual rite or ceremony. In this way, shastra approves the use of the word sat in all objects, services, activities and manifestations of Bhagavan Shri Krishna.


yajne tapasi dane ca / sthitih sad iti cocyate
karma caiva tad-arthiyam / sad ity evabhidhiyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.27 <>

sthitih---steadiness; yajne---in sacrifice; tapasi---austerity; ca--- and; dane---charity; ca ucyate---is also described; iti---as; sat--- sat; ca---and; eva---certainly; karma---action; tat-arthiyam---for the sake of tat (the Supreme Lord); eva abhidhiyate---is certainly described; iti---as; sat---sat.

Being steadfast in the performance of yajna, tapasya and dana, and knowing their real purpose, is called sat. And activities such as cleaning the temple to please brahma (Shri Bhagavan), are also called sat.


Sthitih means being steadfast in the performance of yajna, etc., after knowing their real purpose. Tad-arthiyam karma means activities such as cleaning the temple as service to brahma (Shri Bhagavan).


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "The import of the word sat can also be applied to yajna, tapasya and dana, because all these activities become sat when they are performed for the satisfaction of brahma, otherwise, they are all asat (useless). All mundane activities are contrary to the svarupa of the jiva. When one resolves to serve the very cause of brahma, one engages in those activities which arouse para bhakti. They then become useful in purifying the jiva's existence, sattva- samsuddhi. In other words, they become useful in bestowing krishna-dasyam upon the jiva. This is the perfection of his svarupa."


ashraddhaya hutam dattam / tapas taptam kritan ca yat
asad ity ucyate partha / na ca tat pretya no iha

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 17.28 <>

tapah---austerity; taptam---undergone; (sacrifice) hutam---offered; (charity) dattam---given; ashraddhaya---without faith; ucyate---is described; iti---as; asat---impermanent; partha---O son of Pritha; ca---and; tat---that (has benefit); no---neither; iha--- in this world; na---nor; pretya---in the next.

Yajna, dana, tapasya or any other actions performed without faith are called asat, O son of Pritha. Such activities have no benefit, either in this world or the next.


"I have heard about sat-karma, but what is asat-karma?" Expecting this question from Arjuna, Shri Bhagavan is speaking this shloka beginning with the word ashraddhaya. All fire yajnas (hutam), charity (dattam), penances (tapah), and anything else which is done without shraddha, is asat. This means that although yajna may be performed, it is not actually a yajna; charity may be given, but it is not charity; tapasya may be performed, but it is not tapasya, and whatever else may be done is in fact useless, if performed without faith. It does not even give good results in this world, what to speak of it fructifying in the other world: tat na pretya no iha.

Various types of prescribed activities that are performed with sattvika shraddha lead to moksha. This is explained in the present chapter.

Thus ends the Bhavanuvada of the Sarartha-Varshini Tika, by Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, on the Seventeenth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, which gives pleasure to the bhaktas and is accepted by all saintly persons.


All activities performed with the purpose of serving Bhagavan, guru and Vaishnavas, such as collecting alms, digging wells and ponds, making flower and Tulasi gardens, planting trees and building temples are tad-arthiyam karma, activities done for His satisfaction, and they are sat. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "O Arjuna, all activities, yajnas, dana, tapasya, etc., that are performed without nirguna-shraddha are asat (temporary and useless). Such activities never bring any benefit either now in this world, or in the future, in the next world. Therefore, shastra instructs us in nirguna-shraddha. If one discards the injunctions of shastra, it means that he has given up nirguna- shraddha. Nirguna-shraddha is the only seed of the bhakti-lata."

Thus ends the Sarartha-Varshini Prakashika-vritti, by Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, on the Seventeenth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita.