The Reality of Greatness and Nothingness

Belief in the world’s illusory nature gives rise to belief in the reality and greatness of nothingness. AN understanding of nothingness relates to the understanding of mathematics which embodies the concept of zero. At the same time, belief in nothingness is a significant aspect of Hindu belief in God. Nothingness is greater than creation which comes and goes as worlds appear and disappear in cycles. Nothingness existed before God undertook creation and God alone transcends nothingness. Devout Hindus seek to attain enlightenment which is akin to becoming lost in the supreme blissfulness of God who is as much nothing as He is everything.

Some people revere God as an infinite force requiring no further definition. But others find it difficult to work the idea of an intangible, unfathomable, all powerful God into worship or life. Thus, Hinduism facilitates faith by giving God a multitude of physical forms that represent his multiple attributes. It is next to impossible to know these countless forms and names. In ritual ceremonies, priests recite as many names as the worshipers have the patience to repeat or hear while they toss a leaf or a petal for each name into a vessel as a symbol of their acknowledgment.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Read more from Irina or learn where to buy the book at www.irinaspage.com.

What Is the Core Message of the Bhagavad Gita?

 

The Bhagavad Gita’s or the Gita’s core message can be stated in a single sentence. It is this: Overtime and lifetimes, each of us can elevate ourselves to a higher plane until we become one with God. On one hand, this is a simple goal and the Gita tells how we can accomplish it. But on the other, it requires an appreciation of the Hindu view of God, virtue, reincarnation, and karma as well as of how these elements interact. While such appreciation comes naturally to Hindus, it requires others unfamiliar with Hinduism to ponder with an open mind.

The Gita answers questions that human beings have about matters we cannot fathom. Most of us have the same questions but not all of us agree upon the answers that religions and philosophies offer. Yet many of us feel that these answers given by preachers, teachers, scholars, and thinkers touch us and make some sense. Teachings proposed over millennia across the globe have often coincided and resulted in civil societies based on customs, laws, and traditions derived from religious or philosophical principles.

Ancient Hindu writings are classified as “Smriti” and “Sruti.”  Myths, legends, and the like that were passed on from person to person are Smriti, or recollections.

Sacred writings that are believed to have come directly from God are Sruti or revelations. The Gita, constructed as a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjun, is Sruti and contains the essence of Hindu belief. It explains and seeks to persuade all who read or hear its words that life’s purpose is to attain the ultimate ecstasy of merging into God.

Considerable debate exists about the date that the Gita was crystalized and recorded in its present form. Though some allege it dates back to earlier than 5000 B.C.E. [before the common era], it was most plausibly written shortly before 500 B.C.E. By this time Hindu philosophy, thought, and culture were well established on the Indian subcontinent. Ideas regarding matters like the nature of God, of truth, of duty, and of the spirit were generally accepted. For example, most people believed in karma, in reincarnation, and in the existence of multiple planes with differing dimensions of time and space. These ideas or theories are rooted in the Vedas, the rich body of Hindu scriptures that antedate the Bhagavad Gita.

The Gita itself is part of the Mahabharata, the great epic which culminates on the battlefield known as Kurukshetra. God in the form of Lord Krishna is Arjun’s charioteer. He explains why Arjun’s duty is to fight bravely even if it leads to killing or being killed. In the course of eighteen chapters, the Gita persuades Arjun to act vigorously in fulfillment of his duty as a warrior. God explains that Arjun’s karma and the karma of his allies and enemies is determined, that the soul is eternal, and that for these reasons Arjun should put his faith in God and do his best without considering the consequences of his actions.

Lord Krishna concludes with these words:

 

No one is dearer to Me than a person

                                                    who loves Me.

                                                And whoever has heard or read My words

                                                        in this conversation with you, Arjun

                                                      loves Me.

                                             Whoever has thought about my words

                                                          carefully, worships Me with wisdom.

                                                Whoever understands these words          

                                                       I have just spoken to you, is wise.

                                                Whoever has listened, full of faith to My

                                                         message

                                                 will be sure to get goodness and happiness.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, verse 70, 71,72

 

See On Hinduism and The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Is Hinduism a Monotheistic Religion?

 

We find the answer to this question by understanding how Hindus perceive God. God in Hindu scripture and in mythology takes on many forms. Yet, Hinduism understands that all of these forms are aspects of the single unfathomable power that has created, preserved, and destroyed worlds at its will. Thus, Hindus have no doubt that God is One.

It is difficult for outsiders looking into Hindu belief to wrap their heads around the pantheon of God’s appearances, God’s incarnations, and lower gods who are worshipped but are not God. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says:

 

“Look! I am in hundreds of thousands

of different forms and colors and shapes.

Arjun, see in my body the whole world

and anything else you want to see.”

(Gita 11:5,7)

This verse invites each of us to envision God in any way we choose. The Hindu perception is that the Lord is an infinite force like a flame that emits countless sparks. He or She or It materializes as any aspect of the world, or worlds, or of the universe, or multiverses. God is beyond dimensions we know of and dimensions we have not yet understood. The Lord is not only real, but is the only reality.

The Hindu understanding of God gives rise to a distinctive worldview. For example, while Western philosophy views reality as that which can be measured and quantified, Hindu philosophy views scientific reality as illusory because it is transitory. Hinduism views true reality as that which is eternal and timeless, which transcends our understanding and which is willed in and out of existence by God who is present even in nothingness.

While Hinduism is analytically complex, it is practically simple. It is rich, colorful, and flexible. If we by-pass analysis, we can describe Hindu belief as to the overall sense that order and chaos in life exist under the auspices of a singular higher force. Through our behavior over multiple lifetimes, we can achieve enlightenment or oneness with this force called God. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna repeatedly assures us that if we believe in Him, He will love us in return and we will merge into Him.

See On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar, Chapter 2, Monotheism.

What Do Hindus Believe?

 

Hindus hold specific beliefs that are clear but hard to define. It is even harder to pinpoint who is or isn’t a Hindu. In my view, any person who identifies as a Hindu, who subscribes to the general beliefs Hindus hold, and who does not belong to another religion is a de facto Hindu. Others may use other criteria if they seek to pinpoint who is or is not a true Hindu.

It is hard for those who have not experienced Hinduism to understand its powerful tenets because they are subject to interpretation and evolution. For example, Hinduism is premised on a belief in God, but it does not mandate this belief. Thus, an atheist can be a Hindu. Moreover, the idea of God is somewhat fluid, given varying notions of what the supreme spirit is or is not, the Lord’s avatars or incarnations, and the presence of a pantheon of lesser gods.

The essence of Hindu belief derives from its goal, to attain oneness with God and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This attainment is viewed as nirvana, the state of ultimate bliss. Ways to reach such oneness are described in scripture.  Mythology also contains tips on becoming good enough to achieve nirvana. Goodness attaches to the soul which is a spark of God’s divinity and power.

Like the existence of God, the reality of karma and reincarnation is taken for granted by Hindus. These beliefs comprise a fundamental world view which is considered the truest and most sensible explanation for how life, death, and the universe work. The Hindu worldview is not a subject of debate but rather is a starting point for debates on derivative themes such as how best to accrue good karma or how God and karma interact.

Hindus tend to disengage both from defending the validity of their faith and from trying to persuade others of its merit. Their understanding negates arguments like reincarnation cannot exist because the earth cannot accommodate so many people and their remains. They do not feel a need to explain that Hinduism acknowledges the many planes of our universe which transcend the limits of time and space.

Hindu belief encourages philosophy, mythology, and rituals to flourish. It accepts science. It embraces differences in individual perspectives. It produces a rich medley of customs and traditions. It provides harmony in the face of the unknowns that confine human understanding. It gives balance throughout the trials and tribulations that we all endure and it gives enhanced meaning to our journey through life.

Please see Chapter 1 of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar for further discussion of this topic. We welcome your views and thoughts.

Seeing, Knowing, and Understanding God

Although God cannot be understood by the mind, God can be known by the spirit. In chapter seven of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that he will understand God after knowing Him. God says the He knows all beings, but they do not know Him. People cannot see God because confusion and desire cover their minds, but they can reach God by seeking Him.

The Sanskrit language distinguishes between spiritual knowledge (seeing, knowing) and rational knowledge (understanding). We can come to know God only by seeking Him. Trying to understand God is a path to knowing Him, yet we cannot understand God without knowing Him. This is an apparent paradox, not a real one. It means that we must take steps toward understanding God in order to experience God. While the absolute cannot be understood by our finite mind, it can be known by our infinite soul. However, the soul can only experience the truth if the mind strives for it to do so. Reason or understanding is a path that leads to spiritual knowledge, but only spiritual knowledge has the power to reveal God.

Read more from On Hinduism or buy the book at Amazon.com.

 

The Shaivites

Hindu homes often contain an altar which is generally dedicated to the deity worshipped by the family, most usually Lord Krishna, Shiva, or one of the many manifestations of the female God force that has various names, like Durga Lakshmi, or Devi. Shrines and temples dedicated to particular deities may also become regular pilgrimage destinations for devotees. Yet other mainstream Hindus exercise their religion within the frameworks like eclecticism, atheism, or secularism without leaving Hinduism’s embrace.

Shaivites worship Lord Shiva above other aspects of God. Shiva, the awesome and frightening aspect of God, represents destruction, the force that leads to regeneration. Shiva’s energy is also Shakti, the force which is inseparable from female creativity. Shiva Shakti is often perceived as one impersonal, genderless power. Shaivism is monistic or Advaita meaning that matter and consciousness are viewed as one in God.

Shiva is probably the earliest manifestation of God that existed in Hinduism. Lord Shiva has been identified with the Rigvedic God of wind and storm who was described as benevolent and kind. The Sanskrit meaning of Shiva is “auspicious.” Shiva is thought to have also been worshipped in the Indus Valley Civilization which flourished before the predominance of Aryan culture in India.

Tune in next week to learn about the Vaishnavites in another excerpt from On Hinduism from Irina Gajjar. To purchase the book, visit our Amazon link.

Fourteen Worlds

Vedic scriptures speak of fourteen worlds. Seven of the worlds exist of three higher planes: Bhuloka, the first world or earthly plane; Antarloka, the second world or the subtle, astral plane, and Brahmloka, the third world or the causal plane of God. These three planes can also be viewed as dimensions.

Bhuloka is the dense outermost dimension of being and consciousness. It is the physical world perceived by the senses. Antarloka is the intermediate dimension, the sphere of gods and higher beings, that exists in between the earthly plane and God’s plane. It is a subtle, astral dimension of consciousness. Brahmaloka belongs to Lord Brahma, the Creator. It is both the highest and the innermost dimension. It is pure spirit. Brahmaloka is also known as Karanaloka, the causal plane or as Sivaloka, the plane of Lord Siva the Destroyer who, through destruction, causes a new cycle of creation. To reach this plane is to become entirely absorbed or dissolved in the Divine Spirit and to merge into or become One with the eternal God. To enter Brahmaloka is to end the cycle of birth and death.

The seven lower worlds described in the Vedas are located in Naraka, the netherworld belonging to demons and souls that have become distanced from goodness and God. Naraka is the plane of lower consciousness. Its regions are temporary hells of the mind and the universe. They are places where souls way wander for many ages or for just moments. Ancient scriptures accepted the relativity of time and space. Thus, according to Vedic literature, the duration of any soul’s existence in any world depends upon whether the time experienced by a particular soul expands or contracts and upon the time scales that are in play when souls migrate from world to world.

 

 

What Is Your Ideal in Life?

 

In Romania, where I was born, there is a description of philosophical conversations, or semi philosophical conversations. They are called discussions of the philosophy of a matchstick. My father loved such conversations in which participants inevitably wanted to show that their notions had more profundity and nobility than their friends’ notions.

My father thought up questions and he had a few favorites. One was, “What is your ideal in life?”  One afternoon this came up and when it was my father’s turn to state his answer, he said, “I want to grow.” Clearly, he meant he wanted to grow intellectually and in other good ways. However, his friend came up with a disparaging retort. He said, “How absurd! Even a garbage pile grows.”

I have not zeroed in on my ideal in life. The Bhagavad Gita promises that union with God brings us ultimate liberation and bliss. But I cannot quite focus on the ultimate. Mostly I seek avoidance of pain to my loved ones and myself along with avoidance of discomfort. Since these objectives do not qualify as ideals, I guess I don’t have any ideal in life.

How about you?

 

Chapter 18: Giving Yourself Up to God

August 14, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 18, Giving Yourself Up to God   

Arjun asks God in Chapter 18, the final chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, what giving everything up for Him means. The Lord answers that some people think it means giving up action altogether while others think it means doing your duty but giving up attachment. Those people believe that we should continue doing good things without considering the outcome or worrying about how things will turn out.

The Lord then says He will tell Arjun what He Himself believes. He says Arjun should not give up helping others or perfuming rituals but should do the things holy books say are good and will purify him. He should do these things for the sake of God without considering what the result will be. This is means giving up the fruit of your actions. Surrendering the fruit of your actions for God brings freedom and happiness. It is giving yourself up to God. Wise people do their duty without caring about whether it is enjoyable or disagreeable. Doing your best will make you Godlike. It will make you sinless, unselfish, strong and calm.

People who act focused on the outcome of their actions are greedy. They do not do things for God, but for a reward. Such people are happy one moment and unhappy the next. Their mood keeps changing and they often get angry. But by doing your duty, even by killing you do not sin.

The Lord, Bhagvan, describes three kinds of action, three kinds of knowledge, three kinds of reason, three kinds of firmness and three kinds of joy. These things have qualities like those of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas which are good, passionate and dull, respectively. He tells Arjun that the best action is performed for God’s sake, that action performed for selfish pleasure is bad, and that the worst action which hurts the doer and others is done out of ignorance and foolishness. Knowledge is also of three types. The best knowledge sees God as One in all beings. Lower knowledge thinks that all beings are separate. The worst knowledge, which is false, believes that beings exist without God.

God explains that reason means choosing between right and wrong. The best kind of reason understands that things like goodness, bravery and freedom are right. Reason that confuses right and wrong is bad. The worst reason is dull. It idiotically insists that good is bad and bad is good.  Similarly, firmness or determination is good when it steadily focuses on prayer and thoughts of God and goodness. It is passionate and bad when it sticks to the quest for riches and pleasures. But the worst firmness arrogantly sticks to unhappiness, fear and anger. Joy or happiness can also be good or bad. It is good when it comes to prayer and devotion but not when it comes from getting what you want. The worst joy comes from laziness and fooling yourself.

It may be challenging to think that anyone could or would fool themselves into happiness or cling to unhappiness. However, when our happiness is superficial and merely the result of satisfying a material desire, it will end up in anger and discontent. Thus, seeking to hold on to such joy is delusional and dull. It is fooling yourself and being unwilling to pursue deeper and lasting happiness. The Lord explains that while the pursuit of fun and pleasures seems appealing at first, it becomes bitter as we find the true and beautiful happiness that comes from the pursuit of goodness and God.

As the Gita comes to its conclusion, it references and justifies the duties of the four castes into which Hindus were divided at the time of its formulation. While the duties are ranked in favor of the higher castes, the Gita acknowledges that the spirituality of the Brahmans, the bravery of the Kshatriyas, the agriculture and trade provided by the Vaisyas and the service of the Sudras are all needed for the functioning of society. The problem of the caste system was not so much in the allocation of responsibilities but in the total absence of mobility and the terrible disparagement of the lower castes. However, the Gita acknowledges that the duties performed by all the castes can lead to perfection and the attainment of oneness with God.

The perfect person eats lightly, lives quietly, controls her mind by fixing it on God, controls her body, is calm, and is not selfish, angry, greedy or proud. The perfect person is cheerful, wants for nothing and loves God. He keeps on doing his duty and gives up the fruit of his actions. God will always come to help those who do these things. But those who do not will come to destruction and ruin.

The Gita ends as it begins, with an exhortation to Arjun to fight as demanded by his nature and his duty, to trust God and to go to Him for protection and peace.  God reminds Arjun that He lives in the heart of all beings and asks him to think about the secret words he repeats out of love. He says:

Think of Me, love Me, worship Me,

bow down to Me

and you will surely reach Me.

I promise you.

Give yourself up to Me

and I will forgive all your mistakes.

Do not worry.

My secret should not be told to anyone

who does not love God or to anyone

who does not want to hear it.

But whoever tells it to people who

love Me, God, will be sure to come to Me.

 

The Lord continues telling us all that no one is dearer to Him than a person who loves him and that whoever hears or reads His conversation with Arjun will love Him. Whoever has thought about this conversation and understood it is wise. Whoever has listened with faith to His message will get goodness and happiness.

God asks Arjun if he kept his mind on His words, if he understood their significance, if he now knows the Truth and if his confusion and unhappiness have gone away. Arjun replies that, thanks to God’s mercy, he knows the truth and will fight.

Sanjay, who related the Gita to King Dhritarashtra, expresses his joy at having heard the Gita and says that wherever there is Lord Krishna and brave Arjun, there will be happiness, victory, glory and truth.

OM TAT SAT

Please enjoy Chapter 18 Below.

Chapter 18: Giving Yourself Up to God

Arjun said: Oh Mighty God, I want to know what giving everything up for You means.

Bhagvan answered: Some people believe it means giving up doing things altogether. They think you should give up action completely because action is bad.

But otherwise men think it means doing good things for God. They believe you should do your duty without attachment. Without attachment is without thinking or worrying about how everything will turn out.

Now I will tell you what I, God, believe.

Oh Arjun, listen. You should not give up helping others. You should not give up religious ceremonies like pujas and only sit doing nothing. You should not give up things which the holy books say are good. Those things make you pure and good.

You should not give up your duty just because it is hard. That is wrong.

You should do your duty and not think about how the things you do will turn out. Just do your best and do not worry about anything. This is called giving up the fruit of your action. This is very good. Giving up the fruit of your action will make you free and happy. Giving up the fruit of your action is giving yourself up to God.

Wise people do their duty without caring whether it is enjoyable or disagreeable.

The things you do may turn out to be good or bad. But if you have done your best and do not care about how your actions turn out, you will be happy and free. You will be like God. You will be sinless. You will be unselfish, strong, and calm.

But people who care about what their actions will get them are greedy. They do not do things for God. They do them for a reward. Their mood keeps changing. They are happy one moment and unhappy the next. They are often angry.

If you do your duty wisely for God’s sake alone, even by killing you do not sin.

Oh Arjun, there are three kinds of action. The best action is done for God’s sake. Action done for selfishness or only for pleasure is bad. The worst is action done out of ignorance or foolishness. The worst thing to do is to act without understanding. Such action hurts others and hurts yourself.

There are also three kinds of knowledge. The best kind sees God as One in all beings. Knowledge which thinks that all beings separate is lower. But the worst knowledge is thinking that beings can exist without God. Such knowledge is false.

And there are three kinds of reason. Reason means choosing between right and wrong and understanding what is good. The best kind of reason understands goodness, bravery and freedom. Reason that mixes up right and wrong is bad. But the worst reason is sure that wrong is right and that right is wrong. It stupidly says that good things are bad and that bad things are god. There are also three ways of being firm and sticking to what you do. The best way is being firm and steady about praying and thinking of God. Another way of being firm is sticking to riches and to pleasure. That is bad. But the worst way is sticking to unhappiness, fear and anger.

Now, Oh brave Arjun, I will tell you about three kinds of joy.

The best comes from praying and thinking about God. The second kind of joy is not as good. It comes from getting things you like. And the third kind of joy is bad. It comes from fooling yourself and from laziness.

At first, praying and thinking quietly of God seems boring and bitter as poison. Having fun and getting things you like seems wonderful. But later, thinking of God, loving Him, and understanding Him are wonderful and beautiful. Then just getting what you want seems bitter and foolish.

And Arjun, there are different kinds of duties in life for different kinds of people.

The Brahmin’s duty, for which he is born, is self control. The Brahmin’s duty is studying holy books and concentrating on God. The Brahmin should be peaceful, pure, forgiving, wise, honest and full of faith in God.

The Kshatriya’s duty is to be a soldier. It is to be a good warrior and a good ruler. The Kshatriya’s nature is to be brave and generous. His duties fit the Kshatriya’s nature.

The Vaishya’s duty is to plant food, to protect cows and to do business. These jobs are right for the Vaishya.

The Shudra’s duty is doing work for the other groups. This is his duty for which he is born.

Each and every person can reach God by doing her own duty well. Each person can become perfect simply by doing her duty. It is better to do you own simple duty than someone else’s greater job.

No one should give up her duty, whatever it may be.

Now I will tell you what a perfect person is like.

The perfect person eats lightly and lives quietly. She controls her mind and keeps it thinking of God. She controls her body and is calm. She is part of God. She and God are joined. They are One.

The person who is good enough to join God is not selfish, angry, greedy or proud.

The perfect person is cheerful. She is never sad. She never wants or needs anything. By loving God she gets to know God and becomes part of God.

The perfect person keeps on doing his duty. He keeps on doing things. He does not give up action. He only gives up the fruit of action. This means he does everything for God’s sake.

So, you see, you should do everything for Me. Give up your actions to e. Give yourself up to Me. Concentrate on Me all the time.

If your mind is always on God, I will always help you when you need help. But if you do not listen to Me, you will be destroyed. You will be completely ruined.

You are proud and silly, Arjun, if you, a Kshatriya, say, “I will not fight.” Fighting is your nature. It is your duty and your own nature will make you fight.

Oh Arjun, remember God lives in the hearts of all beings and makes them act. Trust God. Go to God for the protection and peace.

Oh Arjun, this is My secret. Now I have given it to you. Think about it and do whatever you wish.

Arjun, listen again to My final most secret words. I will tell them to you for your own good because I love you.

Think of Me, love Me, worship Me, bow down to Me and you will surely reach Me. I promise you.

Give yourself up to Me and I will forgive all your mistakes. Do not worry.

My secret should not be told to anyone who does not love God or to anyone who does not want to hear it.

But whoever tells it to people who love Me, God, will be sure to come to Me.

No one is dearer to Me than a person who loves Me.

And whoever has heard or read My words in this conversation with you, Arjun, loves me. Whoever has thought about My words carefully, worships Me with wisdom. Whoever understands these words I have just spoken to you is wise. Whoever has listened, full of faith to My message will be sure to get goodness and happiness.

And now, Oh Arjun, son of Kunti, did you keep your mind on everything I have said to you? Did you understand My message? Do you now know the Truth? Have your confusion and your unhappiness gone away?

Arjun said: Lord Krishna, because of your mercy I know the Truth. I will be firm and do what you wish. I will fight!

Sanjay said: And so I heard the marvelous exciting conversation between Krishna Bhagvan and Arjun. Through God’s grace I heard this most secret Yoga. I think, Oh King, of this wonderful holy conversation and I am happy. I rejoice again and again.

I keep remembering how wonderful Lord Krishna looked and I am happy delighted again and again.

Wherever there is Lord Krishna and brave Arjun, there will be happiness, victory, glory and truth.

OM TAT SAT

To purchase The Gita, by Irina Gajjar, visit our Amazon Link.

 

 

 

Chapter 17: Three Kinds of Faith

Aug.7, 2020, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 17, Three Kinds of Faith

Chapter 17 of the Gita describes three kinds of faith and worship as well as acts like speaking or performing penance. It is worth mentioning here that the Sanskrit chapters of the Gita do not contain titles, subtitles or headings, but they end with a sentence summarizing the subject of the chapter. Some translators and commentators, including myself, have created chapter titles and subtitles based on their own views of the content and thrust of each chapter and on the chapter endings. For example, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s brilliant annotated translation of The Bhagavadgita, first published in 1948, entitles Chapter 17 “The Three Modes Applied to Religious Phenomena.” I have named it “Three Kinds of Faith” considering the original conclusion which reads, “This is the seventeenth chapter entitled The Yoga of the Threefold Division of Faith.”

Arjun begins this chapter asking the Lord about people who have faith and love and trust God but who do not do what the holy books tell them. “What kind of people are they?” Arjun asks. Rather than answering directly, Bhagvan says that every person loves God in his own way and that loving and trusting God and having faith is everything. But He also says that there are three kinds of faith depending on nature of the persons who are faithful. Like food, faith can be sweet, salty or bitter.

The faith of those who love God and do their duty to the best of their ability without thinking of results is sweet. The faith of those who worship God and pray expecting a reward or outcome is salty. The faith of those who worship God falsely, merely for show, is bitter like rotten food.

The best worship is sweet. It is performed by persons with a pure body, pure speech and a pure mind. A pure body which belongs to a person with self control is peaceful. Pure speech is that which speaks kind, beautiful things and recites holy prayers and stories learned from scripture. A pure mind is one that is cheerful, calm and thinks of God.

Penance is sometimes performed by persons who try to understand God by undergoing physical suffering like fasting. Sweet penance done just for God’s sake is like Sattva which is the quality of pureness and goodness. Salty penance performed for appearance is Rajas, which is the quality of passion and activity. Bitter penance done foolishly to cause hurt and harm is impure like Tamas, the quality of darkness, laziness and ignorance.

Next the Lord describes three types of gifts. Sattva gifts, which are the best, are given with care and out of duty and not in order to receive something back in return. They must be given lovingly, at the appropriate time and place and to the right recipient. Rajas gifts are given grudgingly in order to receive a benefit in return. The worst gifts are Tamas gifts which are given insultingly with no respect. Such gifts are given at the wrong time, in the wrong place and to wrong persons.

Chapter 17 continues with a discussion of the holy phrase Om Tat Sat as it pertains to worship and faith. Om means God. Tat means everything in the world is God’s. Sat means truth and goodness. Persons who wish to reach God repeat Om Tat Sat to understand the Lord. These words are a reminder that all our devotions and actions must be undertaken sincerely, with love and with faith. Otherwise they are asat which means untrue and unreal. That which is asat is worthless as it is nothing at all.

Chapter 17: Three Kinds of Faith

Arjun said: Some people have faith. They love and trust God but they do not always worship the way the holy books tell them to. Oh Lord, what kind of people are they?

Bhagvan said: each person loves God his own way. He loves God according to his nature. Loving and trusting God is everything. Faith in God is everything.

There are three kinds of faith just like there are three kinds of food: sweet, salty and bitter.

The best kind of first is like sweet food. It is the faith of people who do their duty. They love and worship God. They do their very best and they do not think of how things will turn out.

 

The second kind of faith is like salty food. It is worshipping God and praying for a reward, instead of praying just because you love God.

The third kind of faith is not real. It is like bitter, rotten food. It is pretending. False spoiled faith is worshipping God just for show, without real prayers and without love.

The best kind of worship, the sweet kind, is having a pure body, pure speech, and pure mind.

Have a pure body means being peaceful and having self control. Having pure speech means saying only kind and beautiful things and studying holy prayers and stories. Having a pure mind means being cheerful and calm and thinking of God.

Some people try to understand God by making their bodies suffer so they can realize that the body doesn’t matter. This is called tup or penance.

There are three kinds of penance. Penance done for God’s sake is sweet. It is like Sattva.

Penance which is done just to show off has no value. It is like Rajas or like food which is salty or sour.

Penance which is done foolishly to hurt the body or to hurt others is harmful. It is impure like Tamas.

There are also three kinds of gifts. Gifts which are Sattva are given with care and out of duty, not because you want something back in return. Gifts to be Sattva should be giving with love, at the right time, in the right place, and to the right persons.

Gifts which are given to get something back in return are Rajas. They are given with a grudge, not freely.

The worst kind of gifts are Tamas. They are given at the wrong time, in the wrong place and to the wrong persons. Tamas gifts are made without respect in an insulting way.

Then the Lord said: Listen to the words Om Tata Sat. They are holy words. Om means God. Tat means everything in the world is God’s. Sat means truth and goodness.

Those who want to reach God say Om Tat Sat. These three words explain God.

Oh Arjun, worshipping God just for show and not for love is not real. Worshipping God without faith is false.

It doesn’t count at all. It is Asat which means not real. It is nothing, nothing at all.

 

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