The Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 17

Devotion As Regards the Three Kinds of Faith

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ARJUNA:

“What is the state of those men who, while they neglect the precepts of the Scriptures, yet worship in faith, O Krishna? Is it of the sattva, the rajas, or the tamas quality?”

KRISHNA:

“The faith of mortals is of three kinds, and is born from their own disposition; it is of the quality of truth — sattva, action —rajas, and indifference — tamas; hear now what those are.

From the Judge rendition

“The faith of each one, O son of Bharata, proceeds from the sattva quality; the embodied soul being gifted with faith, each man is of the same nature as that ideal on which his faith is fixed. Those who are of the disposition which ariseth from the prevalence of the sattva or good quality worship the gods; those of the quality of rajas worship the celestial powers, the Yakshas and Rakshasas; other men in whom the dark quality of indifference or tamas predominates worship elemental powers and the ghosts of dead men. Those who practice severe self-mortification not enjoined in the Scriptures are full of hypocrisy and pride, longing for what is past and desiring more to come. They, full of delusion, torture the powers and faculties which are in the body, and me also, who am in the recesses of the innermost heart; know that they are of an infernal tendency.

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Regarding the three fold faith: 17.2;

त्रिविधा भवति श्रद्धा देहिनां सा स्वभावजा । सात्त्विकी राजसी चैव तामसी चेति तां शृणु
Three fold is that faith born of the individual nature of the embodied,- Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic.  Do thou hear of it.

What can one draw from this?  What does this individual nature represent in this sloka and what is its importance regarding the threefold faith?

A commentary by Sankaracarya reads;
"... It is born of the individual nature (svabhava स्वभाव*) : i.e., the samskara or tendency made up of the self-reproducive latent impressions of the acts- good or bad, Dharma and Adharma-which were done in the past births and which manifested themselves at the time of death.

[*own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity.]

The discussion in the Art of Living, " Purity and Pollution" may directly relate to this topic.  Further, in the third sloka, Sri Krsna mentions that the faith of each individual is in accordance with their own nature, is this perplexing for anyone?  What is it that comes first, dare I ask,-  Faith or character?  

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Nice connection.  Perhaps faith (devotion) follows our predominate thoughts (character or nature).  What do you think?

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With close observation ot myself and others, I do recognize a constant fluctuation regarding the predominance of one of the three particular Gunas...  I suppose under an influence of any given combination, the thoughts/adopted temporary character might be a different derivative of ones own nature.

Though, there really seems to appear one constant and established predominating quality.  I recognize this, and can see how it is woven into Faith/Devotion.  Perhaps one might call it the Devotional or Faith driven Will of the individual?  A lens of a particular quality perhaps.

Thoughts? 


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Good points.  The gunas in various combinations constitute what we call personality. It it is like a canvass where we are creating a painting.  We are not the painting, but in some mysterious way the Painter.  The analogy breaks down in regards to control. The lower mind believes it is the painting and wants to make the choices.  The Painter, who persists from life to life, is a silent witness of sorts and the influence it has upon the painting is dependent upon how much the lower mind (maybe analogous to the paint brush perhaps) is willing to cede control to the Painter. For that control to be relinquished the sattva or balance quality must be made predominate.  Faith or devotion, to be the highest perhaps must be funneled through sattva.

Please feel free to critique that point of view.

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Your Painter analogy works very well, thanks for this.

"The Painter, who persists from life to life, is a silent witness of sorts and the influence it has upon the painting is dependent upon how much the lower mind (maybe analogous to the paint brush perhaps) is willing to cede control to the Painter"

For the student, devotee, or whomever, as the words of Light on the Path state [p.55], "...always stands in advance of himself."  That is, unless one is able to master the natures of the lower mind- as you pointed out, is the brush of Human Nature,- one may constantly fall to its obedience, serving the many lives and powers belonging to churning torrent of that Threefold nature.  

There is a difference between painting objects and painting the reflection and qualities of light.  Ask any artist.  You have hinted at this Gerry by saying a very important rule;

" Faith or devotion, to be the highest perhaps must be funneled through sattva."

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From the Johnston rendition

AR]UNA SAID:

They who, neglecting the scripture ordinance, nevertheless sacrifice full of faith, what is their basis, is it Substance, Force or Darkness?

THE MASTER SAID:

Faith is of three kinds; it is according to the innate character of embodied beings, either of Substance, or of Force, or of Darkness. Hear it thus:

Everyone is according to the nature of his faith, O descendant of Bharata. For man is formed of faith; what his faith is, that verily is he.

Those of Substance worship bright deities; those of Force, deities greedy and passionate; the others, the men of Darkness, worship the hosts of darkness, the spirits of night.

They who submit themselves to penance not appointed by scripture, and terrible, their hearts full of hypocrisy and vanity, following after lust, rage, violence, (5)

Foolishly afflicting the lives that dwell within their bodies, and Me also within their inner selves, know these to be of demoniac mind.

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Next section from Judge Rendition

“Know that food which is pleasant to each one, as also sacrifices, mortification, and alms-giving, are of three kinds; hear what their divisions are. The food which increases the length of days, vigor and strength, which keeps one free from sickness, of tranquil mind, and contented, and which is savory, nourishing, of permanent benefit and congenial to the body, is that which is attractive to those in whom the sattva quality prevaileth. The food which is liked by those of the rajas quality is over bitter, too acid, excessively salt, hot, pungent, dry and burning, and causeth unpleasantness, pain, and disease. Whatever food is such as was dressed the day before, that is tasteless or rotting, that is impure, is that which is preferred by those in whom predominates the quality of tamas or indifference.

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Next Section from Johnston

And the favorite food of each is also divided threefold, and likewise the sacrifice, penance, gifts. Learn the divisions of these:

Foods that increase the life-force, power, strength, health, well-being, happiness, foods that are savory, mild, strengthening, vigorous, are dear to the men of Substance.

Foods that are acrid, bitter, salt, over-hot, sharp, stinging and burning, are the foods dear to the men of Force, and bring pain and sorrow and sickness.

Foods that are stale, whose savor has departed, which are decayed and corrupt, things that are leavings and impure are the choice of the men of Darkness. (10)

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What is the difference between faith and devotion?

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I dont think there is any difference here Alex, between Faith/Devotion.  To me they are different words describing the same inner pull towards the center, from the circumference as it were.  

Every line in the Bhagavadgita is said to be relaying something deeper in meaning.  The above verses regarding food, can one understand this as the effects it might have on the astral bodies adhering natures?

The matter we are so well acquainted with only becomes active by a subtle impulse/force.  The food we take in and physically digest, must be also digested and absorbed by the astral body.  It appears as being quite clear that Krsna is speaking of the elemental kingdoms found in food, which become woven into the astral body by means of physical and psychic ingestion.  Any thoughts to this?

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You may well be right.  The two words may be synonyms.  Faith has been harmed by its association with blind belief.  It should mean something more like confidence in something based on experience and testing perhaps.  Devotion on the other hand points to a heart quality, a commitment to something built on love and gratitude.  I think we use them very differently in English at least.  Devotion is less sullied than faith in my opinion.

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Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 25, 2015 at 5:15pm
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"Faith has been harmed by its association with blind belief.  It should mean something more like confidence in something based on experience and testing perhaps"

True enough.  Faith does seem to carry some baggage with it.

"Devotion on the other hand points to a heart quality, a commitment to something built on love and gratitude"

Agreed.  Observing the imposed and associated ideas attached with the two words brings some thoughts to mind. 

Devotion is less sullied than faith in my opinion.

However, like faith, devotion can easily deteriorate under psychological pressure.  So many times do we meet people that have "given up their faith" because their prayers weren't heard or bad events have happened.  Or the devoted student becomes exhausted because their efforts turned out no visible and measurable growth. 

As long as the two limiting factors of personality and a Personal God notion prevail, I believe, Faith or Devotion are at risk.  I truly think that with these two aside,there is no limiting condition of devotion/faith.  Perhaps they will be seen at this stage as the very power that makes the heart beat, or the "force", rather Law of Love. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 26, 2015 at 12:24pm
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If you consider the three main yogas to be Bhakti (Devotion), Jnana (Knowledge) and Karma (Action) Theosophy would point to a synthesis of all three.  Putting them together provides protections I believe.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 19, 2015 at 12:44pm
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Next Section: Judge rendition

“The sacrifice or worship which is directed by Scripture and is performed by those who expect no reward but who are convinced that it is necessary to be done, is of the quality of light, of goodness, of sattva. But know that that worship or sacrifice which is performed with a view to its results, and also for an ostentation of piety, belongs to passion, the quality of rajas, O best of the Bharatas. But that which is not according to the precepts of Holy Writ, without distribution of bread, without sacred hymns, without gifts to brahmans at the conclusion, and without faith, is of the quality of tamas.

“Honoring the gods, the brahmans, the teachers, and the wise, purity, rectitude, chastity, and harmlessness are called mortification of the body. Gentle speech which causes no anxiety, which is truthful and friendly, and diligence in the reading of the Scriptures, are said to be austerities of speech. Serenity of mind, mildness of temper, silence, self-restraint, absolute straightforwardness of conduct, are called mortification of the mind. This threefold mortification or austerity practiced with supreme faith and by those who long not for a reward is of the sattva quality.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 20, 2015 at 2:27pm
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Physical Austerity, Austerity in Speech, and finally, Mental Austerity- these seem to be the three avenues one may gradually advance regarding the devotional Path, are they not?

Often, we see the Trinity represented in almost every aspect of the Wisdom Schools.  Time and time we are reminded that Nature is Triune.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 20, 2015 at 3:28pm
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It seems to me that all forms of austerity are secondary to mental austerity.  If you refrain from eating but brood on it for hour upon hour eventually you will go back overeating.  Shifting the focus is what mental austerity seems to be about, the same goes for asceticism. Krishna calls those who are austere on the outside but brooding on the inside "False pietist of bewildered soul."

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 21, 2015 at 4:12pm
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"If you refrain from eating but brood on it for hour upon hour eventually you will go back overeating."

Good point, yet has one really refrained from any action, such as overeating, if they continually brood upon it?  Is not thought an action? Are we not responsible for every thought, action, and deed?

I personally see that thought is the first phase of action, I cannot draw a distinction between a thought, and a physical action.  By the time one has thought of doing something, an impression as already been made, thence- we are responsible for the karmic repercussions.  A strong enough thought can have the same impact as a physical action.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 19, 2015 at 12:46pm
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Next Section from Johnston

The sacrifice that is offered according to law, by those who are not seeking reward, but whose only thought is, that it is right to sacrifice, is the offering of the men of Substance.

But what is offered through desire of reward, or through hypocrisy, know this, O best of the Bharatas, to be the sacrifice of Force.

The sacrifice that is offered contrary to law, at which no food is distributed, where there are no chants nor gifts, the sacrifice that is without faith, is declared to be of Darkness.

Reverence for divine beings, for the twice born, the spiritual teacher, the wise, purity, righteousness, chastity, gentleness, this is declared to be the true penance of the body.

Speech that brings peace, true, friendly and kind, and assiduous study are declared to be the true penance of word. (15)

Quietness of heart, amiability, silence, self-control, purity of nature, this is declared to be the true penance of the mind.

This threefold penance, offered with perfect faith by men who seek no personal reward, who are joined in union, is declared to be the penance of Substance.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 23, 2015 at 12:37pm
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Question:  Is the sattva guna a balance point between Rajas (busyness, desire, frantic energy) and Tamas (lethargy, tiredness, sloth) or something all together different?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 23, 2015 at 4:00pm
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Good one.  

I would assume, if Sattva Gunam would be a balance point, wouldn't it be of a neutral nature?  Sattva is said to have a condition to it, just like any other Gunam, though perhaps its inherent nature, being pure and truthful, could in turn be said to be that of a balanced state...




Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 24, 2015 at 10:10am
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Is one of the ways sattva guna manifests is through the quality of calmness?

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on August 25, 2015 at 8:10am
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The Gita uses the expression "tranquility of mind". The Voice of the Silence uses the imagery of a still mountain lake, a perfect reflector.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 25, 2015 at 5:01pm
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Is one of the ways sattva guna manifests is through the quality of calmness?

How can one figure an individual is able to attain the state of calmness without sattva guna being present?

Calmness, peacefulness, purity, etc., are all qualities of sattvagunam, and no other guna.  Though, it would be hard to believe anything is without this quality- being a part of Nature- it must consist of the triple gunas; sattva, rajas and tamas. Though, the dominant and subordinate expressions might suggest otherwise. 

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Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 26, 2015 at 12:28pm
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Other words we use for calmness are serenity and tranquility which both indicate balance and harmony to me.  It seems appropriate to associate sattva with those ideas.  I like the image of the still mountain lake too.  When ruffled it reflects poorly. A windy day makes for unclear waters in the mountains.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on August 25, 2015 at 8:09am
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Maybe when you reach a balance state between tamas and rajas there is a transcendence to a new place in consciousness that might be considered "something new all together." So the answer to Gerry's question might be yes to both.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on August 25, 2015 at 8:06am
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S. Radhakrishnan calls Chapter 17: Three Modes Applied to Religious Phenomena

Eknath Easwaran: The Power of Faith

Stephhen Mitchell: Three Kinds of Faith

Sir Edwin Arnold: Of Religion by Threefold Kinds of Faith

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 27, 2015 at 3:04pm
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Last Section Judge Edition

“But that austerity which is practiced with hypocrisy, for the sake of obtaining respect for oneself or for fame or favor, and which is uncertain and belonging wholly to this world, is of the quality of rajas. Those austerities which are practiced merely by wounding oneself or from a false judgment or for the hurting of another are of the quality of tamas. Those gifts which are bestowed at the proper time to the proper person, and by men who are not desirous of a return, are of the sattva quality, good and of the nature of truth. But that gift which is given with the expectation of a return from the beneficiary or with a view to spiritual benefit flowing therefrom or with reluctance, is of the rajas quality, bad and partaketh of untruth. Gifts given out of place and season and to unworthy persons, without proper attention and scornfully, are of the tamas quality, wholly bad and of the nature of darkness.

“OM TAT SAT: these are said to be the threefold designation of the Supreme Being. By these in the beginning were sanctified the knowers of Brahman 1, the Vedas, and sacrifices. Therefore the sacrifices, the giving of alms, and the practicing of austerities are always, among those who expound Holy Writ, preceded by the word OM. Among those who long for immortality and who do not consider the reward for their actions, the word TAT precedes their rites of sacrifice, their austerities, and giving of alms. The word SAT is used for qualities that are true and holy, and likewise is applied to laudable actions, O son of Pritha. The state of mental sacrifice when actions are at rest is also called SAT. Whatever is done without faith, whether it be sacrifice, alms-giving, or austerities, is called ASAT, that which is devoid of truth and goodness, O son of Pritha, and is not of any benefit either in this life or after death.”

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 27, 2015 at 3:07pm
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Last Section Johnston

“But that austerity which is practiced with hypocrisy, for the sake of obtaining respect for oneself or for fame or favor, and which is uncertain and belonging wholly to this world, is of the quality of rajas. Those austerities which are practiced merely by wounding oneself or from a false judgment or for the hurting of another are of the quality of tamas. Those gifts which are bestowed at the proper time to the proper person, and by men who are not desirous of a return, are of the sattva quality, good and of the nature of truth. But that gift which is given with the expectation of a return from the beneficiary or with a view to spiritual benefit flowing therefrom or with reluctance, is of the rajas quality, bad and partaketh of untruth. Gifts given out of place and season and to unworthy persons, without proper attention and scornfully, are of the tamas quality, wholly bad and of the nature of darkness.

“OM TAT SAT: these are said to be the threefold designation of the Supreme Being. By these in the beginning were sanctified the knowers of Brahman 1, the Vedas, and sacrifices. Therefore the sacrifices, the giving of alms, and the practicing of austerities are always, among those who expound Holy Writ, preceded by the word OM. Among those who long for immortality and who do not consider the reward for their actions, the word TAT precedes their rites of sacrifice, their austerities, and giving of alms. The word SAT is used for qualities that are true and holy, and likewise is applied to laudable actions, O son of Pritha. The state of mental sacrifice when actions are at rest is also called SAT. Whatever is done without faith, whether it be sacrifice, alms-giving, or austerities, is called ASAT, that which is devoid of truth and goodness, O son of Pritha, and is not of any benefit either in this life or after death.”