Article Index


Bhagavad Gita: Chapters 17 - 18

Chapter 17: Yoga of the Threefold Faith

Arjuna said: What is the nature of the devotion of those who perform spiritual practices with faith but without following the scriptural injunctions, O Krishna? Is it Sattva, Rajas, or Tamas? (17.01)

The Lord said : The natural faith of embodied beings is of three types: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Hear this from Me. (17.02)

O Arjuna, the faith of each is in accordance with one’s own nature or natural disposition. A person is known by the faith they hold to. One can become whatever one wants to be (if one constantly contemplates on the object of desire with faith). (17.03) 212

The Sattva persons worship Deities, the Rajas people worship demigods fashioned to their own desires, and the Tamas persons worship energies and spirits according to their likes. (17.04)

Those who practice severe austerities without following the Scriptures, with hypocrisy and egotism, impelled by lust, and attachment; (17.05)

Senselessly torturing the elements in their body and also Me who dwell within the body; know these ignorant persons to be of demoniacal nature. (17.06)

The food preferred by all is also of three types. So are the sacrifice, humility, and charity. Now hear the distinction between them. (17.07)

The foods that promote longevity, virtue, strength, health, happiness, and joy; are juicy, smooth, substantial, and agreeable to the stomach. Such foods are dear to the Sattva persons. (17.08)

Foods that are bitter, sour, salty, very hot, pungent, dry, and burning; and cause pain, grief, and disease are liked by Rajas persons. (17.09) 213

The foods liked by Tamas persons are half cooked, tasteless, rotten, stale, refuse, and impure. (17.10) 214

Sacrificial Service (Yajna) instructed by the Scriptures, performed with a firm belief that it is a duty, and without the desire for the fruit thereof, is Sattva Service. (17.11)

Sacrificial Service (Yajna) which is performed for show, or aiming for fruit, know that to be Rajas Service, O Arjuna. (17.12)

Sacrificial Service (Yajna) that is performed without following Scripture, in which no food is distributed, which is devoid of mantra, faith, and gift, is said to be Tamas Service. (17.13)

The worship of Deities, of the twice-born, of teacher, and of the wise; purity, honesty, continence, and non-injury; these are said to be the restraint of the body and control of deeds. (17.14) 215

Speech that is causes no excitement, that is truthful, pleasant, beneficial, and is use for the regular reading of Scriptures is called he restraint of word. (17.15) 216

The serenity of mind, gentleness, silence, self-restraint, and the purity of mind are called the restraint of thought. (17.16)

This threefold restraint (of thought, word and deed) practised by yogis with supreme faith, without a desire for the fruit, is said to be Sattva humility. (17.17)

humility that is done for gaining respect, honour, reverence, and for show, is said to be Rajas, unsteady, and impermanent. (17.18)

humility performed without proper understanding, or with self-torture, or for harming others, is declared as Tamas humility. (17.19)

Charity that is given as a matter of duty, to a deserving candidate who gives nothing in return, and at the right place and time, is called Sattva charity. (17.20) 217

Charity that is given willingly, or to get something in return, or looking for some fruit, is called Rajas charity. (17.21)

Charily that is given at a wrong place and time, to unworthy persons, without paying respect or with contempt, is said to be Tamas charity. (17.22)

AUM TAT SAT” is said to be the threefold name of God. This was the basis of the Scriptures and Selfless Service doctrines of ancient times. (17.23) 218

Therefore, acts of sacrifice, charity, and humility prescribed in the scriptures are always commenced by uttering “AUM” by the knowers of God. (17.24)

Various types of sacrifice, charity and humility are performed by the seekers of ecstatic liberation by uttering “TAT” (or He is all) without seeking a reward. (17.25)

SAT is used in the sense of reality and goodness. The word “SAT” is also used for a favourable act, Arjuna. (17.26)

Faith in sacrifice, charity, and humility is also called SAT. The action for the sake of the Supreme is verily termed as SAT. (17.27)

Whatever is done without faith; whether it is sacrifice, charity, humility, or any other act; is called Asat. it has no value here or hereafter, O Arjuna. (17.28)219

Chapter 18: Yoga of Liberation through Renunciation

Arjuna said: I wish to know the nature of Sanyasa220 and Tyaga221 and the difference between the two, O Lord Krishna.(18.01)

The Lord said: The sages call Sanyasa the renunciation of selfish work. The wise define Tyagaas the renunciation of attachment to the fruits of all work. (18.02)222

Some philosophers say that all work is full of fruits and should be given up, while others say that acts of sacrifice, charity, and humility should not be abandoned. (18.03)

O Arjuna, listen to My conclusion about Tyaaga. Tyagais said to be of three types. (18.04)

Acts of sacrifice, charity, and humility should not be abandoned, but should be performed, because sacrifice, charity, and humility are the purifiers of the wise. (18.05)

Even these (obligatory) work should be performed without attachment to the fruits. This is My definite supreme advice, O Arjuna. (18.06)

Renunciation of obligatory work (or duty) is not proper. The abandonment of duty is due to delusion, and is declared to be Tamas Tyaga(18.07)

One who abandons duty merely because it is difficult, or because of fear of bodily trouble, does not get the benefits of Tyaga by performing such Rajas Tyaga. (18.08)

Obligatory work performed as duty, renouncing attachment to the fruit, is alone regarded as Sattva Tyaga, O Arjuna. (18.09)

The relinquisher in Sattva, and with a steady mind, and doubts dispelled, hates not a disagreeable work nor is attached to an agreeable one. (18.10)

Human beings cannot completely abstain from action. Therefore, the one who completely renounces the attachment to the fruits of all actions is considered a Tyagi (or renunciant). (18.11)

The threefold fruit of actions (karma) – evil, good and mixed – comes to a non-renunciant after death but never to a renunciant.(18.12)

Learn from Me, O Arjuna, the five factors in accomplishment of all actions, as described in the Samkya doctrine.(18.13)

The physical body, the agent of Cause & Effect, the various instruments or organs, various Pranas (or subtle energy bio-impulses), and the fifth is the presiding deity (or the Jivatman). (18.14)

Whatever action, whether right or wrong, one performs by thought, word, and deed; these are its five causes.(18.15)

This being the case; the ignorant person who considers himself as the sole agent due to imperfect understanding does not understand. (18.16)

The one who is free from the notion of egoism and whose understanding is not befouled – even though he kills these people, he kills not and he is not bound (by the act of killing). (18 .17)

Knowledge, the object of knowledge and the knower of knowledge, form the threefold stimulant to action; and the instrument, the object and the agent are the three elements of action.(18.18)

Knowledge, action, and actor (or agent) are said to be of three types according to the Guna doctrine. Hear duly about these also. (18.19)

Knowledge by which one sees a single Imperishable Reality in all beings, undivided in the divided, such knowledge is considered to be Sattva (18.20)

Knowledge by which one sees different entities of various types in all beings, as separate from one another, consider that knowledge to be Rajas. (18.21)

Knowledge by which one clings to one single effect (such as the either body or the soul) as if it is the whole, and which is irrational, without rational base, and trivial; such knowledge is declared to be Tamas.(18.22)

Obligatory duty performed without likes, dislikes, and attachment by the one who does not desire fruit is said to be Sattva. (18.23)

Action performed with ego, with selfish motives, and with much effort; is declared to be Rajas. (18.24)

Action that is undertaken because of delusion; disregarding consequences, loss or injury to others, as well as one’s own ability is said to be Tamas action. (18.25)

The agent who is free from attachment, is non-egotistic, endowed with resolve and enthusiasm, and unperturbed in success or failure, is called Sattva . (18.26)

One who is passionate, desires the fruits of action, who is greedy, cruel, impure, and is affected by joy and sorrow; such an agent is proclaimed to be Rajas. (18.27)

Undisciplined, vulgar, stubborn, wicked, malicious, lazy, depressed, or procrastinating; such an agent is called a Tamas agent. (18.28)

Threefold division of Buddhi

Now hear the threefold division of Buddhi (or intellect) and firmness, according to the Gunas, as explained by Me fully and severally, O Arjuna. (18.29)

O Arjuna, the intellect by which one understands the path of work and the path of renunciation, right and wrong action, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation, that intellect is Sattva. (18.30)

The intellect (or Buddhi) that makes a distorted grasp of dharma and adarma, of what ought to be done, and ought not to be done – that, is Rajas, O Arjuna.(18.31)

O Arjuna, the intellect which, obscured by ignorance regards adharma as dharma and views all things in a perverted way, that is Tamas intellect. (18.32)

Three divisions of resolve (firmness of mind)

The unwavering resolve by which, through yoga, one regulates the activities of mind, Prana (or the bio-impulses), and the senses, that resolve is Sattva, O Arjuna.(18.33)

But the resolve by which a person craving for the fruits of work, clings to Dharma or righteous deeds, Artha or accumulation of wealth, and Kama of enjoyment of sensual pleasures with great attachment; that resolve, O Arjuna, is Rajas. (18.34)

That resolve by which a dull (stupid) person does not give up sleep, fear, grief, despair; and arrogance; that resolve is Tamas, O Arjuna. (18.35)

Three divisions of happiness

And now hear from Me, O Arjuna, about the threefold happiness. That happiness in which a person comes to rejoice after long practice and in which one reaches the end of sorrow; (18.36)

that happiness, which appears as poison in the beginning but is like nectar in the end, born of the grace of spirit-knowledge and clarifies the intellect; is good or Sattva. (18.37)

That happiness which arises from sensual enjoyment of objects, which is like nectar in the beginning but like poison in the end – it is held to be Rajasika. 223 (18.38)

That happiness which deludes the self both at the beginning and at the end, and which arises from sleep, sloth and mis-comprehension – that is declared to be Tamas. (18.39)

There is no being, either on the earth or in heaven or among the Deities, who is free from these three Gunas of Creative Energy, the material nature. (18.40)

Fourfold division of labour-duty explained

The division of labour into the four categories are according to the Gunas; and to each is allotted that according to their natural inherent tendencies (and not only because of the birth they achieved), O Arjuna. (18.41) 224

Those who have serenity, self control, humility, purity, patience, honesty, knowledge, spirit-realisation, and belief in God are called (Brahmanas) the Intellectuals. (18.42)

Those having the qualities of heroism, vigour, firmness, resourcefulness, not fleeing from battle, charity, and administrative skills are called (Kshatriyas), the Protectors. (18.43)

Those who are good in cultivation, cattle rearing, business, trade, and industry are known as (Vaishyas) Social Servants. Those who do service and labour type work are classed as (Shudras) Labourers. (18.44)

Devoted to one’s own duty, one attains the highest perfection. How one should engage in one’s own duty (dharma), to attain perfection, you will now hear. (18.45) 225

The One from whom all beings originate and by whom all this universe is pervaded; worshipping the One by performing ones natural duty for God, one attains perfection. (18.46) 226

Better is one’s own dharma, though imperfectly performed, than the dharma of another, well performed. One who does the duty incurred by one’s own nature incurs no sin (or karmic reaction).(18.47) 227

One should not abandon, O Arjuna, the duty to which one is born, even though there is evil in it; because, all undertakings are enfolded by evil, as fire by smoke. 228

The person whose mind is always free from attachment, who has subdued the mind and senses, and who is free from desires, attains the supreme perfection of freedom from (the bondage of) Cause & effect through renunciation. (18.49)

Learn from Me briefly, O Arjuna, how one who has attained such perfection realizes God, the supreme state of knowledge. (18.50)

Endowed with purified intellect, subduing the mind with resolve, turning away from sound and other objects of the senses, giving up likes and dislikes; and (18.51)

living in solitude after mastering the gregarious life, eating lightly, controlling the thought, word, and deed; engaged in meditation an contemplation, and taking refuge in dispassion; and (18.52)

abandoning egoism, violence, pride, lust, anger, and desire for possession; free from the notion of “my”, and peaceful; one becomes fit for attaining oneness with God. (18.53)

Absorbed in God, the serene one neither grieves nor desires; becoming impartial to all beings, one obtains supreme devotion to God. (18.54)

By devotion one knows me in truth, what and who I am; the having known Me in essence, one immediately merges into Me. (See also 5.19) (18.55)

One attains the eternal imperishable abode by My grace, even while doing all duties, just by taking refuge in Me. (18.56)

Mentally offering all actions to Me, be devoted to Me. Resorting to yoga of the intellect, always fix your mind on Me. (18.57)

The harm of egoism

When your mind becomes fixed on Me, you shall overcome all difficulties by My grace. But, if you do not listen to Me due to your ego, you shall perish.(18.58) 229

If due to your ego you think: “I shall not fight”; this resolve of yours is vain. Your own nature will compel you (to fight). (18.59)

Bound by your own karma from before, which now fashions your nature; that which you whish not to do out of ignorance, that you will be compelled to do by your inherent nature, helplessly against your will, O Arjuna. (18.60)

The Lord abides in the heart of all beings, O Arjuna, causing all beings to act (or work out their Cause & Effect) by His power of Illusion as if they are (puppets) mounted on a machine. (18.61)

Seek refuge in the Lord alone with all your heart, O Arjuna. By grace you shall attain supreme peace and the Eternal Abode.(18.62)

Thus the wisdom that is more secret than the secret has been explained to you by Me. After fully reflecting on this, do as you wish. (18.63) 230

Hear again My supreme word, the most secret of all. You are very dear to Me, therefore, I shall tell this for your benefit. (18.64)

Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. I promise you because you are very dear to Me. (18.65)

Setting aside all noble deeds, just surrender completely to the will of God (with firm faith and loving contemplation). I shall liberate you from all sins (or bonds of Cause & Effect). Do not grieve. (18.66)

Who is competent to be taught the Gita?

This (knowledge) : should never be spoken by you to one who is devoid of humility, who is without devotion, who does not desire to listen, or who speak ill of Me (18.67)

The one who shall circulate this supreme mystical philosophy amongst My devotees shall be performing the highest devotional service to Me and shall certainly attain (or come to) Me. (18.68)

No other person shall do a more pleasing service to Me, and no-one on the earth shall be more dear to Me. (18.69)

I shall be worshipped with Jnana-Yajna (selfless service of knowledge sacrifice) by those who shall study this sacred dialogue of ours. This is My promise. (18.70)

Whoever hears this with faith and without pettiness becomes free from sin and attains the higher regions reserved for the righteous of pure actions. (18.71)

O Arjuna, did you listen to this with single-minded attention? Has the delusion born of your ignorance been destroyed? (18.72)

Arjuna said: By Your grace my delusion is destroyed, I have regained my memory, my confusion (with regard to body and spirit) is dispelled, I am firm, and I shall obey Your command.(18.73)

Sanjaya said: Thus I heard this wonderful dialogue between Lord Krishna and the high-souled Arjuna, causing my hair to stand on end. (18.74)

By the grace of teacher Vyasa, I heard this most mystical and supreme yoga directly from Krishna, the Lord of yoga, Himself speaking before my very eyes. (18.75)

O King, as I recall again and again this wonderful and holy dialogue between the Lord and Arjuna I rejoice again and again. (18.76)

And as often as I recall that most wondrous form of the Lord, great is my astonishment, O king, and I rejoice again and again. (18.77)

Wherever the Lord of Yoga is, wherever is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there are Happiness, prosperity, victory, growth, and sound policy – this is my conviction.231 (18.78)