CHAPTER 17

Shraddha-Traya-Vibhaga-Yoga 

            Shradda means Faith. Traya means three, Vibhaga means division.

            After understanding the divine and the demoniac qualities with which people are born, and the Karmas performed according to them, Arjuna has a question. Krishna has said that one should act as per rules prescribed in scriptures. But it may not be possible for everybody to do so. There are various reasons for not being able to do so. Some may not be able to read, some may read yet find it difficult to comprehend. Others may be so much involved in their work that they may not have time to think. And some others may have very poor intellect to judge between right and wrong. Their actions may be based purely on the need of the hour. So Arjuna asks Krishna,

Three types of faith

            "What about those people who do not follow the rules given in scriptures but worship God according to their faith? How would you call their faith, Sattwic (based on goodness), Rajas (with passion), Or Tamas (with ignorance)?"

            Krishna has emphasised on Faith in preceding chapters. Faith can work miracles. Devotion is based on faith and we are told that one should have a very strong faith in God. So if a person has such faith, yet his Karma is not as per scriptural rules, what would happen to him? In answer to this question, Krishna explains the three types of faith and elaborates on them. "In verse nos. 2 to 6 we learn about these three types. Krishna says,

            "According to one's nature, the Atma in each one holds a particular type of faith. It could be Sattwic, Rajas or Tamas. Depending upon the degree of Sattwa guna content, the type of faith is formed. The living being's nature becomes as per type of faith he has. Those with Sattwic faith usually worship demigods, those with Rajas faith worship demons and those with Tamas faith worship ghosts and spirits. Those who undergo severe austerities and penances without following their rules and perform them only out of pride and ego, who are prompted to do so by lust, attachment and their own power, who foolishly torture their bodies as well as the Atma within, are known to be demons."

            Faith is always based on the divine quality of Sattwa guna. Each of us has all the three gunas in us in different proportions. Hence we have the roots of faith. People with a high percentage of "Sattwa" will have strong faith in good things. But those having very little Sattwa content will find their faith ruled by the other two gunas. As Sattwa guna directs us on the path of self realisation, and when we are on that path, it becomes necessary to develop it to a very high degree and later to its full quantum, it is clear that people with high content of this guna ill have Sattwic faith. They will worship demigods because they do not know what is God. For them, their demigod is everything. He is the creator, preserver, destroyer. They, have faith that this form of God will take care of all their needs, solve their problems and finally grant Moksha. As they advance in worship, God almighty strengthens their faith in the demigod they worship. In times to come, they advance, and in next human life come to know more about unmanifested God and His vibhutis. They are on the right track. Even God does not change their faith from demigod to Himself. Because ultimately, all their worship goes to Him and faith must never be argued.

            Those whose lives are dominated by Raja guna, tend to worship demons. In society we find some people who acquire some powers, which are out of reach for a common man, by severe penance and austerities. Even if they perform these without observing rules, they do get some powers which impress general public. These sadhus, Yogis, as they are called by their disciples can perform miracles on a small scale. Overcome by them, people start worshipping them. They are not real demons but their deeds are not Sattwic. Common people with Rajas faith are attracted to them and so worship them.

            There are yet another type of people who follow devil's path. They frequent burial places and perform certain austerities. They please demons and spirits. They also acquire some Mantra powers. These powers are used most of the times for harming others. It is also called Black magic. Because what they do is magic. Because the deeds performed by using these magical powers are not good, they are termed Black deeds and the process is called Black magic. Many common people, especially coming from rural areas where they have no education, become devotees of such magicians. Their faith is Tamas faith. Tama guna personifies ignorance, lust, greed and laziness. People with these qualities have Tamas faith. We can see such people in India on the banks of holy rivers or at places of pilgrimage. They pierce all parts of their body with long pointed nails and tolerate the pain on the strength of demoniac powers acquired. Some even bury themselves underground for days and remain alive. Commoners believe them to be Godmen. These so called Godmen are not bad at all. They do believe that what they do is right and their path is taking them to God. This is their Tamas faith born out of ignorance.

            Besides the three types of people i.e. those who worship demigods, demons, and spirits and ghosts, there are others with superior devotion. Of them, some worship the manifested form of His incarnations while others pray and meditate on His unmanifested form. Some of them believe that the unmanifested God Himself does not come down on earth but He sends His son or angels and prophets to educate and guide people to follow the right path. They have Sattwic devotion. But they do not come in the category of those who are not exposed to or not wellversed with spiritual rules. These people are educated in their own way and they strictly follow the scriptures as taught them by God's messengers, priests, prophets or saints. Krishna is talking about those who do not follow scriptures but have faith.

Type of faith an food habits

            According to the type, the food habits, austerities and sacrifices which these people perform also differ. In verse nos. 8 to 10, we learn about their food habits.

            Sattwic: Sattwic devotees like food items which give more life, purity, strength, good health, happiness and contentment. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome and pleasing to the heart. Such items are milk and its products, rice wheat, sugar, vegetables and fruits. Other foods such as corn, molasses are also included in this category. All that is needed for a good healthy diet such as proteins, carbohydrates, fat etc., is available in these items, which increase Sattwa guna.

            Rajas: Rajas devotees like above food items but in a different form. They like to have too much salt, too many spices and even bitter food. The additions of spices to the food is for taste only. They are not good for health. These foods and varieties of items made with distress, unhappiness and disease.

            Tamas: Tamas food is generally stale food and food that has become cold because not eaten when it is cooked. Tamas people like meat and flesh of animals. They generally do not like milk and vegetables because Tama is opposite of Sattwa. They like to eat remnants of food items as well as unholy food. This type of food is injurious to physical as well as to subtle body and harms spiritual progress.

            In verses nos. 11 to 13, Krishna tells us about three kinds of sacrifices according to the three types mentioned above.

            Sattwic Sacrifice (Yagnya): Any yagnya performed as per rules laid down in scriptures, but as a duty only, and not with any desire gratification.

            Raja Sacrifice (Yagnya): When any such yagnya is performed for material benefit or for the sake of pride it loses its Sattwa and becomes Rajas type.

            Tamas Sacrifice (Yagnya): Any yagnya performed without following the scriptures, without distribution of food to people, without chanting of mantras, without giving remuneration to the priests and without faith is called Tamas Yagnya.

Three types of Yagnyas

            Yagnyas, we know from scriptures are not performed by everybody in Kaliyuga. In the previous yugas, performing yagnyas was considered duty according to one's Dharma. However, in Kaliyuga the Dharma is different. More details about yagnya and austerities to be performed in Kaliyuga are mentioned in chapter 18. Still yagnyas are performed as per Vedic scriptures even now at some places. Generally they are done with some object in mind. Many times the objective is for the good of all people. e.g. In times of draught, people do perform particular yagnaya to please the demigod Varuna. Such Yagnya is a Sattwic sacrifice because no personal benefit is sought. Also, some people perform sacrifices to harm others. This may happen once in a while but if it does happen, it is a Tamas sacrifice. Some people with money to spare also perform yagnyas on a small scale at home. When they are done for any material benefit they come in the category of Rajas, and if they are performed because the host believes in scriptures and feels happy to do them, they become Sattwic. However, as said before, it not is possible for common people to perform such yagnyas because, all said and done, one needs money to perform such sacrifices.

Three types of Austerities

            In verses nos. 14 to 19, we learn about the three types of austerities. As a rule the austerities are of three kinds besides being classified into three types. The kinds are (i) one done with the body, (ii) one done with the speech, and (iii) one performed with the mind.             Body austerity: It consists in worship of God, priests, Gurus, (spiritual masters, learned people. Also, observing cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and non-violence is regarded as austerity of the body.

            The worship of elders does not necessary mean applying sandalwood paste on their body, offering garlands etc. as is done in idol worship. It means respect, not flouting the advice given by them, spending one's energy to do some of their work with reverence. Cleanliness includes keeping the body clean from outside as well as inside. Celibacy means not indulging in sex outside married life.

            Speech austerity: It consists in speaking truth; not using words which will hurt other's feelings; talking words that are pleasing, beneficial as well as reciting spiritual literature.

            In society, we do utter words that would hurt others, when something goes against our desire and we feel that somebody else was a cause for it. Such a behaviour is bad Karma. When you show tolerance to insults and rebukes, and do not utter harsh and hurting words to others, you are doing austerity of speech. Pleasing words does not mean false praise. Appreciation of good done by others, even if the doer is not on speaking terms with you, by praising him; giving beneficial advice to others, amount to speech austerity.

            Mind Austerity: It consists in being contented, simple, self controlled, pure in mind, and silence.                          

            When you do not get agitated when something goes wrong, when your thoughts are simple i.e. they do not get complicated due to unworthy desires, when you restrain yourself from thinking ill about others, when your thoughts are not tarnished by selfish interests, with disregard to others and when you can prevent any kind of thoughts coming in the mind, you are performing the austerity of mind.

            Sattwic Austerity (Tapa): Above austerities when performed with faith in God without expecting or wishing any material benefits, and performed purely for His sake, they are called Sattwic.

            Rajas Austerity (Tapa): When performed with pride, with the desire to gain respect, honour and worship by others, it becomes Rajas authority. It does not remain stable and is not permanent. It means, it does not help the doer.

            Tama Austerity (Tapa): Such austerities performed with foolishness, with self torture or with the intention to injure or destroy others, they are termed Tamas.

            We may not keep a record of what actions we take, what we think and what we speak but in doing all these things, unknowingly we either perform some austerity in any one of the three types, or go against it. It is good to perform sattwic austerity of all the three kinds because it goes a long way to benefit us. We must also avoid the last type, the Tamas one, as it is not only not good, it is harmful to us.

            One need not do anything conscientiously in this regard. It is enough if you follow certain basic rules as under.

Good thinking and action

            The keyword is "Good Thinking". Thoughts form the basis for speech and physical action. If your thinking is straight, honest and benevolent, your speech and physical actions would also be good. So what should you do?

1.   If anybody talks ill about you or does something to hurt your feelings and aspirations, leave him or her alone. Do not give that person any place in your mind. Stop thinking about the person. You will avoid useless and bad thoughts. This itself is good thinking.

2.   When you hear anybody known to you wins a tournament, stands first or secures very good marks in examination, gets a job, buys a house or does any commendable act, appreciate the efforts of that person and praise. Do it in person. If it is not possible, do it in writing. It does not matter whether your personally known the person or not.

            In your locality there are many residents. You do not know all of them personally. One day you hear, that a guy staying four blocks away has merited some honour. The  person is not personally known to you, but you have seen him often walking on street, or in supermarket. When you see him next, stop and congratulate him sincerely. If he wonders who you are, introduce yourself. That's all you need to do. You do not need to be friendly with the guy. Do not lose such opportunities.

3.   If there is an opportunity to be of use to somebody elder to you in knowledge, status or age etc., do it without any expectations.

4.   Give up crooked thinking and learn to drop out from your mind any desires which are not conducive to healthy thinking and good Karma.

Three types of Charity

            In verses no. 20 to 22 we learn about the three types of charity.

            Sattwic Charity (Dana): Any charity given as duty, with no expectation of returns of any kind, at the proper time and proper place and also to a worthy person is termed Sattwic.

            There are many people who live below poverty line. They have no decent place to live, not enough clothes to wear, and they have to go hungry many times because they cannot get food. These people suffer dire hardships because of their own past Karma. But they are also God's children. If you have compassion for them and if you give something in the name of charity to such people it is a good charity. You may give money, clothes, accommodation, or food. But you have to take care of two things, (i) the person to benefit is deserving and (ii) you do it purely out of love and no return expectation of any kind.

            The proper time and proper place means, help given must be at the time of need and at the location where it is needed. There is a sudden fire in your city and a few houses are completely burnt. Some people died, some injured and most of all, they all have no homes to live. Local social organisations and the government take measures to help them. But that may not be enough. Social workers come to you asking to donate whatever you can. You want to help but you are not sure how much of what is given by you will actually reach the needy people and when. Still, you want to give some money and clothes, as you do not wish to spend your time and energy to visit the people in person and help. You give whatever you can and forget, or tell proudly to your friends that you have given so much money to help those poor affected people. You have done good thing but this is not a good way of giving charity.

            If your mind is disturbed on hearing the plight of these unfortunate people and if you really wish to help them, you can visit the site personally, talk to the people and make your own judgement as to who needs what. Forget about what others or the government is planning to do. You decide what you can do. Instead of shelling out money, provide somebody - maybe just one person - with clothes or temporary accommodation or arrange for food. Do it as long and as much as you can. You are giving away something you have earned and instead of using it for yourself or your family, you are using it for others who need it. You are doing this at the right place and at the right time. This is Sattwic charity.

            Also in normal circumstances, if you wish to help some poor person, find out personally if anyone lacks food, shelter and clothing. See if the person is a lazy bum or is really working hard but is not getting success. You may find a student in a poor family who sits on the pavement under a lamppost and reads his lessons because there is no enough light in his one room house where he lives with his parents and brothers and/or sister. He has no place at home to study in quiet peace. You make further enquiries and learn that the boy is clever and studious. He is also honest and sincere, He is shy to ask any body's help. Here is a deserving case. you can find out what he needs at that time. Maybe he needs a small room with enough light, to study. If you provide him that, you are giving a deserving person what he needs, at the time he needs it and at the place, he should have it. There is a lot one can do in this regard, if one has extra amenities and has the will to give. Yes, do not expect anything in return when you give anything in charity.

            Rajas Charity: Charity performed with some return expectation or with some desire for benefits or with a grudge is called Rajas.

            Some people give money to build a House of Gods, to repair holy buildings, to institutions doing social work, and expect to get their names proclaimed or permanently recorded in stone slabs, so that al the world will know who the donor was. Such charity is good but it is called Rajas. Sometimes the giver expects pardon from God for some sin he has committed before. Whether God does pardon him or not is a different issue but such a charity is called Rajas.

            Sometimes a person comes to you, with an intention of receiving some donation. You do not want to give, yet he persuades. Some friend of yours puts a pressure on you and you give in. You give him some money for which he gives you a legal receipt in the name of the institution. He goes away. You do not feel happy about it. Your charity was done grudgingly. This is Rajas.

            Tamas Charity: Any charity performed at an improper time and improper place to unworthy persons or with disrespect and without proper attention is called Tamas.

            You are a wealthy person, highly respected in society. You are contesting an election to a post in local assembly. you ask people to secure votes for you. Some people come to you and ask for some charity. You hate to give but you just tell your secretary to give them some money and let them go. You show disrespect to them and are not interested to know what the charity is for. The charity is not needed at that place and at that time. Some people are just taking advantage of the fact that since you need their votes, you will give them money if they ask for charity. They are right. You give in. This is Tamas charity.

            Charity does fetch you a reward. Sattwic charity is written in your Karma as something very good and you will receive its reward in next life, even though you did not wish for it. So if you have anything spare i.e. anything which is in good condition, but your need for it is over, look out for somebody who may be really needing that thing. Check out if the person is deserving and then give. It will stand in good stead for you. The yardstick to apply is, if the person really deserves to be helped, and if so what he needs at what time and where.

Three Sacred words "AUM Tat Sat"

            In verses no. 23 we are told that from the beginning of the creation, three sacred words are used to indicate Brahma or God. These words are AUM, Tat, Sat. These three words were always used during any sacrificial rites.

            In verse nos. 24 to 26 we learn about them. Worshippers of Brahman perform their actions for Yagnya, austerity and charity by saying AUM at the beginning of each Mantra. Because Aum is the first manifestation of Brahma in sound energy. This sound, as we have seen before, is the original one and it is the source of all spoken words. It is also called "Pranava" and is the life force in every being. By pronouncing it correctly, the Brahmins invite the "Brahma" (God) to enjoy the sacrificial offerings and be the recipient of all charity as well as the beneficiary, of all austerities.

            The word "Tat" signifies actions of Yagnya, austerity and charity done without any return expectation. The objective in doing these special Karma is to get free from material bondage.

            The word "Sat" stands for Absolute Truth. It also refers to the performer of such Karma as well as all the three Karmas, Yagnya, austerity and charity. "Sat" indicates that all these are performed to please God who is "Sat".

            When threse words are pronounced while performing any of the above Karmas, at the beginning of the chanting of Mantras, the Karma is said to be offered to God. The performer does it out of love and considering it as his duty according to scriptures. He does not want any benefit for himself or his family and friends out of this Karma. When such a Karma is done as per rules, it affains the highest quality.

            In the verse no. 28 of this chapter, we are told that any Karma performed as a sacrifice, austerity or charity, without faith is not permanent. It is called "asat" as against "sat" and is of no use in this or the next life.

            "Sat" means ever permanent. God is Sat. So Karma performed in His name, for Him is called Sat. The rest is asat.

Summary

            In this chapter we have seen how the three gunas have spread their net. We cannot escape Karma because of them. They compel us to do Karma. They act together yet at any given time one or two dominate. Raja guna mixes and works hand in hand with both Sattwa and Tama; but the latter two cannot see eye to eye. We have seen that their influence is so great that each Karma is branded by their name and bears different fruit.

            We have seen that there are two types of people, those who have faith and those who lack faith. Then there are people who follow scriptures and others who do not. Yet those others have faith. In this chapter we have seen how this faith is branded. There are three types and each one gets name of one guna.

            Out of all the Karmas an individual can do, three are considered important. They are the sacrifices, austerities and charity. Even these three are classified into three different types, each being given the name of one guna. Accordingly, their methods of performance and the result obtained differ.

            All that you have to learn is that if you wish to come back to earth with good living conditions and a better life than the one you live now; or if you wish to go to heaven in next life to enjoy heavenly pleasures, whatever they are, for sometime before you come back on earth; if you do not wish to go anywhere near hell, then you must be "SATTWIC" by  nature. Your food intake, your habits, entertainments, associations must be such where Sattwa guna will develop. You must stay away from conditions which will increase your Tama guna.

            Now we realise the importance of chapter 14 which gives a detailed account of the three gunas which affect our life. In the first verse of that chapter, Krishna told Arjuna "Now, I will tell you the best Dnyana, knowing which sages have got rid of Karmic bondage and attained Moksha."

            If you can grasp the importance of these gunas and the influence they exercise on you, it will be easy for you to sort out and get rid of many of your problems. All that you need to do is to grasp, understand and act. The ball is in your court now.

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