Bhag Gita- Ch17 Shraddhaa Traya Vibhhaaga Yogah- Yoga of the Division of the Threefold Faith


At  the end of the previous Chapter it was stated that he who discards the scriptural  injunctions and acts according to the promptings of his desires cannot attain  the highest knowledge. Arjuna had a doubt about the fate of those who worship  with faith but who do not know the scriptures or are indifferent to their  rules. For an average man it is difficult to be proficient in the knowledge of  scriptural codes to guide his living although he has sufficient faith or Shraddhaa  to lead a nobler way of life as enunciated in the scriptures.

Hence  this Chapter deals with the questions whether it is sufficient if one lives  with faith for a life of good conduct or is it necessary that he must know the  scriptures in order that his faith will be subservient to the injunctions laid  down in the scriptures. In short, the question raised by Arjuna is whether even  without the knowledge of the Sastras, blind faith alone can take the seeker  far.

Shraddhaa  is that powerful force from within propelled by which all the faculties of a  person act in their respective fields. It gives direction to a man's  determination and endows him with character.

Instead  of giving a direct clarification to Arjuna’s doubts, Sri Krishna gives an  analysis of the concept of `faith' as obtained in the various fields of man's endeavors  viz. 
•his physical indulgence (Ahara) 
•his dedicated activities (Yagna) 
•his self-denial (Tapas) 
•his charity (Dana)

He  explains that faith is of three different types depending upon the nature of  temperaments (Gunas) which an individual entertains in him. He concludes that  the actions of those who are devoid of faith are as good as not done.

Since  three types of faith have been expounded in this chapter it is called “Yoga of the Division of the Threefold Faith”.

The  Text

arjuna uvaacha
    ye shaastravidhimutsrijya yajante shraddhaayaanvitaah
    tesham nishthaa tu kaa krishna sattvamaaho rajas  tamah // 17.1 //

Arjuna  said
    O  Krishna, what is the condition of those who, neglecting the ordinances of the  scriptures, perform sacrifices with faith? Is it that of Sattva, Rajas, or Tamas?

Neglecting  the ordinances of the scriptures: To an ordinary man who is ever full of  anxieties and confusions of daily activities, planning his life as directed in  the scriptures is somewhat difficult. But a sincere seeker may have a faith in  the higher way of life and devotion to ideals preached in the scriptures.

Perform  sacrifice with faith: The word sacrifice includes all selfless activities  undertaken by an individual for the general welfare of the society.

What  Arjuna wants to know is whether these selfless activities undertaken with  detachment and faith by those who do not willfully defy the rules of scriptures  but are ignorant of them, come under the category of unactivity (Sattva) or of  activity (Rajas) or of inactivity (Tamas).

The  answer given by The Lord is an exhaustive analysis of the three types of faith  involved in all human endeavors.


sri bhagavaan uvaacha
    trividhaa bhavati shraddhaaa dehinaam saa  swabhaavajaa
    saatvikee raajasee chaiva taamasee cheti taam  shrinu // 17.2 //

Sri  Bhagavan said
    Threefold  is the faith of the embodied, which is inherent in their nature - the Sattvic,  the Rajasic and the Tamasic. Hear now about it.

Faith inherent in nature: The nature of man  consists of his latent tendencies created by his actions, good or bad, in his  previous lives. The faith of each man takes the shape, color, and quality given  to it by his nature, svabhava, the stuff of his being, his innate  substance. Man acts according to his nature; he cannot easily change it. One  can transform a worldly nature into a spiritual nature only with the help of  insight gained through the study of the scriptures with an indomitable  determination. This faith is of three types viz.,the Sattvic, the  Rajasic and the Tamasic.

sattvaanuroopaa sarvasya shraddhaaa bhavati  bhaarata
    shraddhaaamayo'yam purusho yo yacchraddhah sa eva  sah // 17.3 //

The  faith of every individual is in accordance with his nature, O Bharata. Man is  the nature of his faith; as a man's faith is, so is he.

The  Lord says that faith is of three kinds viz. Sattva - the divine, the good,  Rajas - the undivine, the passionate and Tamas - the diabolic, the dull. Faith  is not acceptance of a belief. It is striving after self- realization by  concentrating the powers of the mind on a given ideal. It governs our view of  life which in turn conditions our desires, thoughts and actions. It is the  pressure of the Spirit on humanity. It is the force that urges humanity towards  what is better, not only in the order of knowledge but in the whole order of  spiritual life.

The  goals which religions offer prove effective according to one's faith in them.  Hence an individual's physical activities, psychological behavior and  intellectual maturity are controlled by the kind of faith entertained by him.  If one's faith is of wrong type the expressions of his personality would also  be erroneous.

The  word ‘shraddhaaa’  usually translated as ‘faith’ is not a mechanical belief or acceptance of the  words of a holy man or a book. It is an affirmative and reverent attitude  toward supersensuous truths. Through faith a man is intuitively convinced of  the existence of the Reality underlying the universe and his capacity for  realizing that Reality. It is not imposed from outside, but is produced by the  tendencies that are the results of his past actions. The intensity of this  faith accounts for the passion he pursues an undertaking. This faith is a man’s  appeal to himself or to something present and compelling in him or in universal  reality for his way to fullness and perfection.

So a man is made of his  faith; he is that faith and that faith is he. The truth he sees is determined  for him by his faith. If a man’s innate tendencies are characterized by sattva,  then his faith will direct him to the pursuit of knowledge and happiness. If  they are characterized by rajas, then his faith will direct him to the pursuit  of action ending in pain and suffering. If it is characterized by tamas, then  his faith will lead him to ignorance and delusion.

yajante saatwikaa devaanyaksharakshaamsi raajasaah
    pretaan bhootaganaamshchaanye yajante taamasaa  janaah // 17.4 //

The  Sattvic or pure men worship the gods; the Rajasic or the passionate worship the  Yakshas and the Rakshasas; the others (the Tamasic or the deluded) worship the  ghosts and the hosts of nature-spirits.

Worship  means offering one's devotion at some altar or the other and seeking a  fulfillment from the benefit accrued from his invocations.

Men  of Sattvic temperament, because of their serene composure and tranquil  disposition seek their fulfillment at an altar of Divinity indicating their  impulses.

Rajasic  people who are men of action and ambition worship the demi-gods.

The  Tamasic people worship the dead spirits to satisfy their lower urges.

Thus  the choice of an altar depends upon the quality of urges or the kind of Shraddhaa  in a devotee and this Shraddhaa is the effect of his own Guna or temperament  predominating in him.

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