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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Chapter 10: God’s Glories

June 19, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 10, God’s Glories  

In Chapter 10 of The Gita, God describes Himself as the best essence of His creation and the cause of all that exists in the universe, leaving Arjun in awe.

Lord Krishna explains that not even the wisest people really understand the extent of His greatness and His power. They do not understand that He is the source of everything. Truth, wisdom, forgiveness, self control, happiness, unhappiness, bravery, fear, peacefulness, fame, and shame all emanate from Him. Yet the good know that the Lord has no birth and no beginning.

God continues saying that the great sages of the world were born because He willed them to be. The world moves because of Him and the wise and good worship Him and are happy because they know this to be true. In return, God gives them wisdom and pushes away darkness by shedding the light of truth upon them.

Arjun asks to know more about God’s glories and God says they are endless. He says He is in the heart of all living things and that he is their beginning, their middle and their end. He is the elite of beings and qualities.

The Lord tells us He is Vishnu (The Preserver), He is the sun and the wind, and He is the moon. He is Indra (the King of the gods). He is mind and energy. He is the destroyer and He is richness and fire. He is the tallest mountain, the chief priest, the strongest general, and the ocean. He is Om, the infinite, absolute spirit of God. Om is the most powerful word in Hindu philosophy. The phrase “Om Tat Sat” encapsulates the totality of Hindu belief. Om represents the highest energy that transcends existence and non-existence. Tat, literally meaning that in this context means God is reality. Sat means truth. Thus “Om Tat Sat” can be translated as God is the Truth, provided we appreciate the expansiveness of this concept.

The Lord further says He is the holiest of trees, the musician of heaven, and the wisest of men. He is the wonderful snow-white horse (named Ucchaisravas) born when the ocean was mixed with honey, the white elephant, the heavenly cow, and the cause of love and procreation. He is the snake god, the water god, and Yama, the god of death.  He is time.

He is the lion of beasts, the Garuda of birds on whom Lord Vishnu rides, the alligator and the holy Ganges of rivers. He is the letter A. He keeps the world alive and He is death and the future. He is the feminine qualities of fame, richness, speech, memory, smartness, consistency and forgiveness. He is music, spring, victory, Arjun, and all of us. He is everything and He is endless. Nothing can exist without God.  Just a fraction, a spark, of His splendor sustains the world.

See the beautiful descriptions of God’s glories in Chapter 10 below.

Chapter 10: God’s Glories

Bhagvan said: Arjun, listen to Me again. I talk to you because you love Me. I talk to you for your own good.

No one knows the secret of My power. Not even the wisest people know the secret of My origin. I, God, am the cause of everything in the universe.

I am God, the Lord of the world. I have no birth and no beginning. People who know this are good.

Everything comes from Me, only from Me, truth, wisdom, forgiveness, self control, happiness, unhappiness, bravery, fear, peacefulness, fame and shame all come from God.

All the great makers of the world were born because I wanted them to be. I started the world. The world moves because of Me. Wise, good people worship Me because of Me.

The wise think Me; give up their lives Me; each other about God and are happy because of Me.

I love those who worship Me and I give them wisdom. I live in their heart and push away darkness and shine the light of truth on them.

Arjun said to God: You are the great everlasting God. Saints say You are God and You are blessing me by telling me all about Yourself.

Krishna, I believe everything You tell me.

Oh Lord, how can I know You? How can I pray to You? How can I imagine You?

Please Krishna, tell me again exactly about Your strength and about Your glory because I can never stop wishing to hear more about You, Oh God.

Bhagvan said: Arjun, I will tell you more about my glories. They are endless.

Oh Arjun, I am in the heart of all living things. I am their beginning, their middle, and their end.

I am Vishnu. I am the sun and the wind. I am the moon.

I am Indra. I am the mind. I am energy.

I am what destroys things. I am richness. I am fire. I am the tallest of mountains.

I am the chief priest and the strongest general. I am the ocean. I am a mind reader. I am Om.

I am the holiest of trees, the musician of heaven, the wisest of men.

I am the horse that was born when the ocean was mixed with honey. I am the white elephant. I am the King.

Of weapons, I am the most powerful thunderbolt. I am the heavenly cow. I make men and women love each other and have children.

I am the snake god and the water god. I am Yama, the god of death. I am Time.

Of beasts, I am the lion and of birds, I am Garuda on whom Lord Vishnu rides.

I am the wind that purifies the air. I am Rama.

I am the alligator. Of rivers, I am the holy Ganges. I am the letter A. I keep the world alive. My face is on all sides. And I am death. And I am the future.

I am the feminine qualities of fame, richness, speech, memory, smartness, steadiness, and forgiveness.

I am divine songs and verses. I am spring. I am victory and I am the goodness in all that is goof. I am you, Arjun, of the Pandavas.

I am the secret keeper. I am truth in those who know. I am the seed of everything. Nothing alive or lifeless exists without Me.

Oh Arjun, there is no end to all that I am. There is no end to My divine forms.

Everything that is glorious or brilliant or strong is a spark of My brightness.

I stand and hold the whole world by just a spark of My magic.

 

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The Essence of Hinduism

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The three words Om Tat Sat represent the essence of Hindu philosophy.

Om means the absolute, endless, eternal spirit of God and Truth. It is a powerful term in meditation. Sometimes in meditation we can feel this word ringing within. Hindus assert that the word Om has the power to wake up our spirit and reveal our inner light.

Tat is a complex word meaning simply that or more deeply “That” that is. In the phrase Om Tat Sat, the word Tat implies that God is a truth or a force.

Sat means true or real. Sat says that what is true is real and what is real is true. Pure Sat is light and happy and lasts forever. Hindu philosophy views the temporal world we perceive as illusionary or as maya. Although the world of perception is measurable and verifiable, it is not real because it is mutable and subject to destruction.  Sat transcends the universe.