THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Chapter 17

Reference: Course on The Bhagavad Gita

English Translation By Swami Purohit Swami

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Chapter 17

अर्जुनउवाच
येशास्त्रविधिमुत्सृज्ययजन्तेश्रद्धयाऽन्विताः।
तेषांनिष्ठातुकाकृष्णसत्त्वमाहोरजस्तमः।।17.1।।

17.1 Arjuna asked: My Lord! Those who do acts of sacrifice, not according to the scriptures but nevertheless with implicit faith, what is their condition? Is it one of Purity, of Passion or of Ignorance?

श्रीभगवानुवाच
त्रिविधाभवतिश्रद्धादेहिनांसास्वभावजा।
सात्त्विकीराजसीचैवतामसीचेतितांश्रृणु।।17.2।।

17.2 Lord Shri Krishna replied: Man has an inherent faith in one or another of the Qualities—Purity, Passion and Ignorance. Now listen.

सत्त्वानुरूपासर्वस्यश्रद्धाभवतिभारत।
श्रद्धामयोऽयंपुरुषोयोयच्छ्रद्धःसएवसः।।17.3।।

17.3 The faith of every man conforms to his nature. By nature he is full of faith. He is in fact what his faith makes him.

Every person has faith, which shows up as his nature. A person is pure, passionate or ignorant because of his faith. He commits acts of sacrifice out of that faith and not necessarily because he is following scriptures.

यजन्तेसात्त्विकादेवान्यक्षरक्षांसिराजसाः।
प्रेतान्भूतगणांश्चान्येयजन्तेतामसाजनाः।।17.4।।

17.4 The Pure worship the true God; the Passionate, the powers of wealth and magic; the Ignorant, the spirits of the dead and of the lower orders of nature.

अशास्त्रविहितंघोरंतप्यन्तेयेतपोजनाः।
दम्भाहङ्कारसंयुक्ताःकामरागबलान्विताः।।17.5।।

17.5 Those who practice austerities not commanded by scripture, who are slaves to hypocrisy and egotism, who are carried away by the fury of desire and passion,

कर्षयन्तःशरीरस्थंभूतग्राममचेतसः।
मांचैवान्तःशरीरस्थंतान्विद्ध्यासुरनिश्चयान्।।17.6।।

17.6 They are ignorant. They torment the organs of the body; and they harass Me also, Who lives within. Know that they are devoted to evil.

It is interesting to observe that scriptures do not support austerities that may hurt organs of the body. Discipline must be well devised to accomplish a beneficial purpose. One should not be devoted to things that are based on illusion. One should have one’s feet planted solidly on the ground.

आहारस्त्वपिसर्वस्यत्रिविधोभवतिप्रियः।
यज्ञस्तपस्तथादानंतेषांभेदमिमंश्रृणु।।17.7।।

17.7 The food which men enjoy is also threefold, like the ways of sacrifice, austerity and almsgiving. Listen to the distinction.

आयुःसत्त्वबलारोग्यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धनाः।
रस्याःस्निग्धाःस्थिराहृद्याआहाराःसात्त्विकप्रियाः।।17.8।।

17.8 The foods that prolong life and increase purity, vigour, health, cheerfulness and happiness are those that are delicious, soothing, substantial and agreeable. These are loved by the Pure.

कट्वम्ललवणात्युष्णतीक्ष्णरूक्षविदाहिनः।
आहाराराजसस्येष्टादुःखशोकामयप्रदाः।।17.9।।

17.9 Those in whom Passion is dominant like foods that are bitter, sour, salty, over-hot, pungent, dry and burning. These produce unhappiness, repentance and disease.

यातयामंगतरसंपूतिपर्युषितंचयत्।
उच्छिष्टमपिचामेध्यंभोजनंतामसप्रियम्।।17.10।।

17.10 The Ignorant love food which is stale, not nourishing, putrid and corrupt, the leavings of others and unclean.

Food may also be categorized based on the three Qualities (Gunas) as described above. Eating the right food is very much a part of a clean, spiritual life.

अफलाकाङ्क्षिभिर्यज्ञोविधिदृष्टोयइज्यते।
यष्टव्यमेवेतिमनःसमाधायससात्त्विकः।।17.11।।

17.11 Sacrifice is Pure when it is offered by one who does not covet the fruit thereof, when it is done according to the commands of scripture, and with implicit faith that the sacrifice is a duty.

अभिसंधायतुफलंदम्भार्थमपिचैवयत्।
इज्यतेभरतश्रेष्ठतंयज्ञंविद्धिराजसम्।।17.12।।

17.12 Sacrifice which is performed for the sake of its results, or for self-glorification – that, O best of Aryans, is the product of Passion.

विधिहीनमसृष्टान्नंमन्त्रहीनमदक्षिणम्।
श्रद्धाविरहितंयज्ञंतामसंपरिचक्षते।।17.13।।

17.13 Sacrifice that is contrary to scriptural command, that is unaccompanied by prayers or gifts of food or money, and is without faith – that is the product of Ignorance.

Sacrifice may also be characterized based on the three Qualities (Gunas) as described above. Offering sacrifice the right way is also a part of a clean, spiritual life. Pure sacrifice requires the firm conviction of spiritual faith, and it is part of one’s duty.

देवद्विजगुरुप्राज्ञपूजनंशौचमार्जवम्।
ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसाचशारीरंतपउच्यते।।17.14।।

17.14 Worship of God and the Master; respect for the preacher and the philosopher; purity, rectitude, continence and harmlessness – all this is physical austerity.

अनुद्वेगकरंवाक्यंसत्यंप्रियहितंचयत्।
स्वाध्यायाभ्यसनंचैववाङ्मयंतपउच्यते।।17.15।।

17.15 Speech that hurts no one, that is true, is pleasant to listen to and beneficial, and the constant study of the scriptures – this is austerity in speech.

मनःप्रसादःसौम्यत्वंमौनमात्मविनिग्रहः।
भावसंशुद्धिरित्येतत्तपोमानसमुच्यते।।17.16।।

17.16 Serenity, kindness, silence, self-control and purity – this is austerity of mind.

These verses describe physical austerity, austerity in speech, and austerity of mind. In the sense used, austerity is same as strict discipline.

श्रद्धयापरयातप्तंतपस्तत्ित्रविधंनरैः।
अफलाकाङ्क्षिभिर्युक्तैःसात्त्विकंपरिचक्षते।।17.17।।

17.17 These threefold austerities performed with faith, and without thought of reward, may truly be accounted Pure.

सत्कारमानपूजार्थंतपोदम्भेनचैवयत्।
क्रियतेतदिहप्रोक्तंराजसंचलमध्रुवम्।।17.18।।

17.18 Austerity coupled with hypocrisy or performed for the sake of self-glorification, popularity or vanity, comes from Passion, and its result is always doubtful and temporary.

मूढग्राहेणात्मनोयत्पीडयाक्रियतेतपः।
परस्योत्सादनार्थंवातत्तामसमुदाहृतम्।।17.19।।

17.19 Austerity done under delusion, and accompanied with sorcery or torture to oneself or another, may be assumed to spring from Ignorance.

The way austerities are performed by a person may characterize him or her by Quality (guna). These verses describe that characterization beautifully.

दातव्यमितियद्दानंदीयतेऽनुपकारिणे।
देशेकालेचपात्रेचतद्दानंसात्त्विकंस्मृतम्।।17.20।।

17.20 The gift which is given without thought of recompense, in the belief that it ought to be made, in a fit place, at an opportune time and to a deserving person – such a gift is Pure.

यत्तुप्रत्युपकारार्थंफलमुद्दिश्यवापुनः।
दीयतेचपरिक्लिष्टंतद्दानंराजसंस्मृतम्।।17.21।।

17.21 That which is given for the sake of the results it will produce, or with the hope of recompense, or grudgingly – that may truly be said to be the outcome of Passion.

अदेशकालेयद्दानमपात्रेभ्यश्चदीयते।
असत्कृतमवज्ञातंतत्तामसमुदाहृतम्।।17.22।।

17.22 And that which is given at an unsuitable place or time or to one who is unworthy, or with disrespect or contempt – such a gift is the result of Ignorance.

These verses describe the gifts as affected by the Qualities (guna).

तत्सदितिनिर्देशोब्रह्मणस्त्रिविधःस्मृतः।
ब्राह्मणास्तेनवेदाश्चयज्ञाश्चविहिताःपुरा।।17.23।।

17.23 Om Tat Sat’ is the triple designation of the Eternal Spirit, by which of old the Vedic Scriptures, the ceremonials and the sacrifices were ordained.

तस्मादोमित्युदाहृत्ययज्ञदानतपःक्रियाः।
प्रवर्तन्तेविधानोक्ताःसततंब्रह्मवादिनाम्।।17.24।।

17.24 Therefore all acts of sacrifice, gifts and austerities, prescribed by the scriptures, are always begun by those who understand the Spirit with the word Om.

तदित्यनभिसन्धायफलंयज्ञतपःक्रियाः।
दानक्रियाश्चविविधाःक्रियन्तेमोक्षकाङ्क्षि।।17.25।।

17.25 Those who desire deliverance begin their acts of sacrifice, austerity or gift with the word Tat’ (meaning That’), without thought of reward.

The deeper understanding of spirit is imparted here. Ordained is something ordered, arranged or appointed per the natural law. This applied to the Vedic scriptures and ceremonials. It also applies to all sacrifices, gifts and austerities. This Eternal spirit is designated by ‘Om Tat Sat.’ Such ordination is begun by those who understand the Spirit with the word ‘Om.’ Those who desire liberation begin their acts of sacrifice, austerity or gift with the word Tat’, without thought of reward. ’Tat’ means ‘That’, which points to the ultimate foundation of all existence.

सद्भावेसाधुभावेचसदित्येतत्प्रयुज्यते।
प्रशस्तेकर्मणितथासच्छब्दःपार्थयुज्यते।।17.26।।

17.26 Sat’ means Reality or the highest Good, and also, O Arjuna, it is used to mean an action of exceptional merit.

यज्ञेतपसिदानेचस्थितिःसदितिचोच्यते।
कर्मचैवतदर्थीयंसदित्येवाभिधीयते।।17.27।।

17.27 Conviction in sacrifice, in austerity and in giving is also called Sat.’ So too an action done only for the Lord’s sake.

अश्रद्धयाहुतंदत्तंतपस्तप्तंकृतंचयत्।
असदित्युच्यतेपार्थनचतत्प्रेत्यनोइह।।17.28।।

17.28 Whatsoever is done without faith, whether it be sacrifice, austerity or gift or anything else, as called Asat’ (meaning Unreal’) for it is the negation of Sat,’ O Arjuna! Such an act has no significance, here or hereafter.

Sat’ is the reality (as the result of natural laws), and the complete harmony of action with that reality (the highest good). ‘Sat’ is also the conviction in sacrifice, in austerity, in giving and in being non-judgmental about it all. When it is done without faith or conviction, it is ‘Asat’ (unreal) and has no significance.

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Final Comment

Every person has faith, which shows up as his nature. A person is pure, passionate or ignorant (the three Qualities) because of his faith. He commits acts of sacrifice out of that faith and not necessarily because of the scriptures. It is interesting to observe that scriptures do not support austerities that may hurt organs of the body. Discipline must be well devised to accomplish a beneficial purpose. One should not be devoted to things that are based on illusion. One should have one’s feet planted solidly on firm ground.

Food, Sacrifice and austerities may also be categorized based on the three Qualities (Gunas). Eating the right food and offering sacrifice the right way, are very much a part of a clean, spiritual life. Pure sacrifice requires the firm conviction of spiritual faith, and it is part of one’s duty.

Ordained refers to something ordered, arranged or appointed per the natural law. This concept was used in the context of Vedic scriptures and ceremonials. It also applies to all sacrifices, gifts and austerities. Such ordination is begun by those who understand the Spirit with the word ‘Om.’ Those who desire liberation begin their acts of sacrifice, austerity or gift with the word ‘Tat’, without thought of reward. ’Tat’ means ‘That’, or the ultimate foundation of all existence. ’Sat’ is the reality (outcome of the natural laws), and the complete harmony of action with that reality (the highest good). ‘Sat’ is also the conviction in sacrifice, in austerity, in giving and in being non-judgmental about it all. 

‘Om Tat Sat’ is the designation for the Eternal spirit.

When ordination is done without faith or conviction, it is ‘Asat’ (unreal) and has no significance.

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