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.
To purchase The Gita, visit our Amazon Link.