by Kashinath Trimbak Telang | 1882 | 125,859 words

Volume 8, The Sacred Books of the East. This part Contains the english translation of the Bhagavad-gita....

Chapter XVII

Arjuna said:

What is the state of those, O Kṛṣṇa! who worship with faith, (but) abandoning scripture ordinances--goodness, passion, or darkness?

The Deity said:

Faith is of three kinds in embodied (beings), it is produced from dispositions[1]. It is of the quality of goodness, of the quality of passion, and of the quality of darkness. Hear about it. The faith of all, O descendant of Bharata! is conformable to the heart[2]. A being here is full of faith, and whatever is a man's faith, that is a man himself[3]. Those of the quality of goodness worship the gods; those of the quality of passion the Yakṣas and Rakṣases[4]; and the others, the people of the quality of darkness, worship departed (spirits) and the multitudes of Bhūtas. Know those to be of demoniac convictions, who practise fierce penance[5] not ordained by scripture; who are full of ostentatiousness and egoism, and of desire, attachment, and stubbornness; who are without discernment; and who torment the groups of organs in (their) bodies, and me also seated within (those) bodies. The food also, which is liked by all, and likewise the sacrifice, the penance, and gifts, are of three kinds. Listen to the distinctions regarding them as follows. The kinds of food which increase life, energy, strength, health, comfort, and relish, which are savoury, oleaginous, full of nutrition, and agreeable, are liked by the good. The kinds of food which are bitter, acid, saltish, too hot, sharp, rough, and. burning, and which cause pain. grief, and disease, are desired by the passionate. And the food[6] which is cold, tasteless, stinking, stale, impure, and even leavings, are liked by the dark. That sacrifice is good which, being prescribed in (scripture) ordinances, is performed by persons not wishing for the fruit (of it), and after determining (in their) mind that the sacrifice must needs be performed. But when a sacrifice is performed, O highest of the descendants of Bharata! with an expectation of fruit (from it), and for the purpose of ostentation, know that sacrifice (to be) passionate. They call that sacrifice dark, which is against the ordinances (of scripture), in which no food is dealt out (to Brāhmaṇas, &c.), which is devoid of Mantras[7], devoid of Dakṣiṇā presents, and which is without faith. Paying reverence to gods, Brāhmaṇas, preceptors, and men of knowledge; purity[8], straightforwardness, life as Brahmacārin, and harmlessness, (this) is called the penance bodily. The speech which causes no sorrow, which is true, agreeable, and beneficial, and the study[9] of the Vedas, (this) is called the penance vocal. Calmness of mind, mildness, taciturnity[10], self-restraint, and purity of heart, this is called the penance mental. This threefold penance, practised with perfect faith, by men who do not wish for the fruit, and who are possessed of devotion is called good. The penance which is done for respect, honour, and reverence[11], and with ostentatiousness, and which is uncertain and transient[12], is here called passionate. And that penance is described as dark, which is performed under a misguided conviction, with pain to oneself, or for the destruction of another. That gift is said (to be) good, which is given, because it ought to be given, to one who (can) do no service (in return), at a (proper) place and time, an d to a (proper) person. But that gift which is given with much difficulty, for a return of services, or even with an expectation of fruit[13], is said to be passionate. And that gift, is described as dark, which is given to unfit persons, at an unfit place and time, without respect, and with contempt. Om, Tad, and Sat, this is said (to be) the threefold designation of the Brahman. By that[14], the Brāhmaṇas and the Vedas and sacrifices were created in olden times. Hence, the performance by those who study the Brahman, of sacrifices, gifts, and penances, prescribed by the ordinances (of scripture), always commence after saying 'Om[15].' Those who desire final emancipation perform the various acts of sacrifice and penance, and the various acts of gift, without expectation of fruit, after (saying) 'Tad[16].' 'Sat' is employed to express existence and goodness; and likewise, O son of Pṛthā! the word 'Sat' is used to express an auspicious act. Constancy in (making) sacrifices. penances, and gifts, is called 'Sat;' and (all) action, too, of which that[17] is the object, is also called 'Sat.' Whatever oblation is offered, whatever is given, whatever penance is performed, and whatever is done, without faith[18], that, O son of Pṛthā! is called 'Asat,' and that is nought, both after death and here[19].

Footnotes and references:


I. e. the result of the actions in a former birth, cf. p. 56 supra.


The hearts of gods are said to be good, those of Yakṣas &c. passionate, those of men mixed, and so forth.


Faith is the dominant principle in man, and he is good, passionate, or dark, as his faith is.


Goldstücker, Remains, I, 154.


Troublesome to oneself and others, as standing on heated stones, &c. 'Egoism' (Ahaṅkāra) = the feeling that one is worthy of honour, Nīlakaṇṭha.


Cf. Sutta Nipāta, p. 109, and Āpastamba, p. 31 (p. 62 in this series).


Texts from the Vedas which ought to be recited on such occasions. Presents (Dakṣiṇā) to Brāhmaṇas are insisted on in Bṛhad-āraṇyaka-upaniṣad, p. 661; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya I, 23, 14.


Cleanliness of body; straightforwardness = not doing prohibited acts; harmlessness = not injuring any living beings. These are 'bodily,' because the body is the main instrument in these actions.


I. e. recitation of the Vedas.


This is part of the 'mental penance,' because the government of the tongue is a consequence of mental restraint; the effect being, according to Śaṅkara, put here for the cause.


Respect = people rising to receive one, &c.; honour = people saying 'this is a holy man,' &c.; reverence = people washing one's feet. &c.


The fruit of which is uncertain or perishable.


Heaven &c. as a reward for liberality.


I. e. the Brahman, according to Śrīdhara.


Cf. Āpastamba, p. 21 (p. 49 in this series). Nīlakaṇṭha cites texts to show that this and the other two words are used to designate the Brahman. The texts are from the Taittirīya, Aitareya, and Chāndogya-upaniṣads.


Nīlakaṇṭha says, 'after "Tad"' means considering the act and all are Brahman, and cites p. 61 supra.


I. e. either the Brahman itself, or sacrifice, penance, and gift.


Cf. Sutta Nipāta, p. 69.


The meaning of this whole passage seems to be that these three words, which designate the Brahman, have distinct uses, as specified. 'Om,' says Nīlakaṇṭha, is employed whether the action is done with any special desire or not. Those who study the Brahman there means 'study the Vedas.' 'Tad' is employed in case of actions without desires only. 'Sat' is employed, according to Śaṅkara, in case of existence, such as the birth of a first son; I goodness,' the reclamation of a bad man; 'auspicious acts,' marriage, &c. The intelligent use of these terms as here specified is said to cure any defects in the actions, the various classes of which are mentioned before.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: