Krishna classifies faith into three types; good people (sattvic) worship the gods, the passionate (rajasic) worship the demigods and demons, and the tamasic worship ghosts and spirits of the dead. Those who do terrific austerities which are not ordained by the-scriptures without renouncing lust, greed and anger, torturing the body in the name of penance, are people of rajasic faith. They emaciate the body, and do not show proper respect to the indwelling Supreme Spirit. Actions, sacrifice, charity, penance including food are also divided into sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. Sacrifice performed according to scriptural injunctions, without expectation of result, is sattvic. Sacrifices performed with expectation, for display, are rajasic. Sacrifice with no respect for scriptural injunctions, wherein food and gifts are not distributed, performed for the sake of name and fame is tamasic.
Speech which is truthful, pleasant and beneficial, study of the scriptures and repetition of the Divine Name are called the austerity of speech. Cheerfulness, gentleness, silence, self-control and purity of motive, are the sattvic austerities of mind. Austerity practiced with the motive of gaining respect, honour and show is rajasic, unstable and momentary. Austerity practiced with a foolish notion, with self-tortures, or for causing injury to others, is tamasic.
Charity with no expected return, feeling that it is one's duty to give, in a fit place and time, to a worthy person, is sattvic. If the charity is done grudgingly, with the object of getting something in return, or if it hurts while being given, is rajasic. Charity given at a wrong place and time, to an unworthy person, without respect, or with insult, is tamasic. To perform sacrifice, austerity and charity in a compassionate manner, feeling God's presence is sattvic. It is best to do these acts with the utterance of 'OM Tat Sat'. 'OM' is the symbol of God. Tat' gives the feeling that everything belongs to God, removes the sense of l-ness and mine-ness. 'Sat' represents the eternal and essential character of God, removes the selfish interest of the doer and enables him to realize God.
Chapter 17 teaches that all actions (mental and physical) when done with a discriminative mind and faith lead one to the supreme good.
IMPORTANT VERSES OF CHAPTER 17
2. Threefold is the faith of the embodied, which is inherent in their nature - Sattvic (pure), the Rajasic (passionate), and the Tamasic (dark). Do thou hear of it.
3. The faith of each is in accordance with his nature, 0 Arjuna. The man consists of his faith; as a man's faith is, so is he.
7. The food also which is dear to each is threefold, as also sacrifice, austerity and alms-giving. Hear thou the distinction of these.
8. The foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness (good appetite), which are savoury and oleaginous, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the sattvic people.
9. Foods that are bitter, sour, saline, very hot, pungent, dry and burning, are liked by the rajasic people, and are productive of pain, grief and disease.
10. That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the tamasic people.
1. What are the characteristics of the three gunas?
2. Explain the three kinds of worship and the three kinds of renunciation.
3. Give examples of sattvic pleasures.
4. Give examples of rajasic pleasures, and show why they always end in pain and suffering.