Sraddhatrayavibhaga Yoga

We should notice first a difference of approach between this
chapter on patterns of faith and the previous chapter, where
endowments were the suject. We revert here to the theory of
the three modalities of nature, discussed in Chapter xiv.
The modalities were theoretically discussed there, and
then in Chapter xv the two purushas (spirits, persons) were
discussed, and the modalities entered into the treatment
only indirectly and partially, i.e. in so far as the changing
aspect of the Absolute was concerned. We have already
noticed the equal relation between the two purushas
(spirits, persons) and the asymmetrical relation between the
kshetra (field or actual) and the kshetrajna (knower of the
field or perceptual) of Chapter xiii, at least insofar as the
latter related to prakriti (nature) and purusha (spirit)

In giving an equal, symmetrical status to the two
purushas or persons of Chapter xv, their complexion and
character changed. They became value-factors rather than
philosophical entities. These value-factors formed the basis
of Chapter xvi, where divine and demonic, or high and low
endowments were contrasted. We have already noticed that,
for purposes of contrast, in Chapter xvi the picture of each
type involved represented extreme limits, omitting any
reference to intermediate cases where both kinds of
endowments entered in.

In the latter half of Chapter xvi we noticed further that
instead of dealing with subjective endowments, the
repercussions in the world of men, especially of demonic
types, was discussed. This present chapter naturally passes
onwards from that point by revolving round a subject which
is named sraddha (faith).

Faith is not a matter which is wholly subjective. The faith
of a person is expressed by his life and interests and what
might be called his pattern of behaviour. There might even


conformity of patterns of behaviour based on the faith
belongings to groups who behaved according to some
common single pattern. Such are popularly known as
religious groups. The observances that the members of such
groups adopt mark them out from others.

In India, religious observances of this kind have conformed
to three different kinds which have been mentioned in
various parts of the Gita. These are: the observances of
sacrifices, bestowing gifts, and austerity or penances. Each
of these has a recognized discipline in their particular

Here the express question of Arjuna is about those who
fall outside the pale of orthodoxy, which includes the greater
mass of people in the whole world. Consistent with the
thoroughly catholic and non-exclusive character of the Gita
teaching, as revealed in such verses as iv, 11, Krishna here
enunciates a kind of rule of thumb by which faith could be
judged to be good, bad or indifferent, without resorting to
technical details relating to each scripture. This kind of
simplified appraisal of scriptural norms of faith is an applied
corollary of the theory of the three modalities of nature so
carefully developed in Chapter xiv.

After leaving out the subject of the three modalities of
nature in the previous two chapters, the present reversion to
it is further understandable because of the fact that,
beginning from this chapter and up to Verse 53 of the next
and last chapter, the author proposes to deal with overt
expressions of spirituality in group or in individual life, so as
to be able, degree by degree, to come to the necessary action
of Arjuna in a pointed manner as applied to the harsh and
mechanistic fixed context of a war situation.

The charge that Krishna is going to make finally against
Arjuna in xviii, 59, is that Arjuna's egoism would be
detrimental to his wisdom. We have thus two factors: the ego
of Arjuna on the one hand, and the necessary action that he is
impelled to do by a conspiracy of natural circumstances on
the other hand. The action is outward, and the ego of Arjuna
belongs to an inner philosophical order. The whole problem
of the Gita is to make these two factors come together
unitively without leading to absurdities in life.

With a view to leading up to such a culminating discussion,
there is a gradual emphasis on the outward aspects of the
ego or Self in its various modalities, conditionings or
dispositions. Modalities of nature and conditionings have
been covered already.


Now in the present chapter we come to dispositions vis-a-vis
factors called faith.

Even a man's attraction to a certain type of food can reveal
his pattern of interest in life. In the observances of
many religions great stress is laid on foods that are taboos
or considered sacred, and on others that are permitted. Hindus
will not touch beef and Muslims and Jews ban pork. The
inclusion of such a seemingly trivial subject in this list of
faiths which are good, bad or indifferent, must be intended
to serve diagnostic purposes.

By finally referring to the maha-vakya (Great Utterance, i.e.
a philosophical formula of Vedanta), Aum-tat-sat
(Absolute-Word-That is Real), the author here is able
to find one supreme formula for correlating all forms of
spiritual expression or faith wherever found. This follows
the Upanishadic pattern of revaluation. It cannot be
considered as exclusive even of Vedism, against which the
Gita has many times had to speak disparagingly. Note that
the Vedas are brought into the context of this revalued
spirituality in Verse 23 later.


Arjuna uvacha
ye sastravidhim utsrijya
yajante sraddhaya 'nvitah
tesham nishtha tu ka krishna
sattvam aho rajas tamah

Arjuna said:
What is the status in faith, 0 Krishna, of those who,
discarding scriptural injunctions, sacrifice with faith,
pure-clear (sattva), affective-active (rajas) or
inert-dark (tamas) ?


The catholicity of the Gita teaching as a whole is
unmistakably evident in iv, 11. where it states that all
men without exception walk the path of the Absolute
represented by Krishna. In the light of such a statement
it is unwarranted for us to doubt that the Gita teaching
is confined in any way to any set of orthodox scriptures,
without which the salvation or the goal would be denied to
any person. To so deny would detract from the Gita's
universal appeal. After the insistence on the scriptures at
the end of the previous chapter, which seemed to suggest
that the ordinances of the scriptures were binding on


all people aspiring for emancipation, it is natural for
Arjuna to ask the question which opens this chapter.
Whether the ordinances of the scriptures here cover
Upanishadic and philosophical aspects has been already settled
in vii, 20, and more pointedly in ix, 23, where it is stated
that those who worship other gods and even go to the extent
of doing so without conforming to the requirements of the
scriptures, are not excluded from the path of the Absolute as
envisaged in those philosophic chapters.

Here, however, it is no more a philosophic question to be
decided. The Vedas, at least in the brahmana portion, are full
of taboos and obligatory injunctions in connection with what
is permissible or not in sacrifices, recitations, etc. The Vedas
belong to the context of the Purva Mimamsa (Critique of
Ritual) and are well known to be different from Vedanta
which is based on artha-vada (free philosophical criticism
and exegesis) while the Vedas are based on viddhi nisheda
(injunctions and prohibitions). The reference here to sastra
viddhi (scriptural obligations) cannot therefore be to

It is the changing purusha (spirit, person) of Chapter xv
who is affected by the three gunas (modalities of nature).
Arjuna's question refers to these modalities. From this we can
legitimately deduce that the sastra here meant is the Vedas.
Thus it is to a very limited and relativist field that Arjuna's
question applies and the answer also should be understood as
limited to actual religious practices seen in this world, and
not to spirituality in general.


Sribhagavan uvacha
trividha bhavati sraddha
dehinam si svabhavaja
sattviki rajasi chai 'va
tamasi cha ti tam srinu

Krishna said:
The faith of the embodied is of three kinds, born of
their proper nature; the pure-clear (sattva), the
affective-active (rajas), and the inert-dark (tamas).
About it hear:


The leading nature of Arjuna's question becomes evident
here, by which we see that this verse explains the title.



sattvanurupa sarvasya
sraddha bhavati bharata
sraddhamayo yam purusho
yo yachchhraddhah sa eva sah

Shaped according to one's true nature the faith of
everyone happens to be, 0 Bharata (Arjuna); man is
made of his faith; of what faith a man is, even that
he is.


Here the dialectical counterparts we have so often spoken
about are exposed in clear relief. Faith is equated to the
inner or true nature of a man. Faith on the objective side
is the counterpart of his true nature which is subjective.
When it is stated here that a man consists of his faith,
there is an equation of these counterparts. Shakespeare's
saying that "apparel oft proclaims the man" states the same
type of verity in somewhat the same dialectical form. A tree
is known by its fruit; its true nature depends on its
counterpart, the fruit.

We have said that faith refers to an outward expression of
tendencies resulting in a pattern of behaviour which is
overtly visible. The overt nature of the values to be
discussed in this and the greater part of the next chapter
is already evident in the value called faith here.
The phrase sattvanurupa (shaped according to one's own
nature) has the term sattva (true, existent) in it which is
employed in a sense particular in this context, and not as
merely one of the modalities of nature. A man holds a form
of faith dear to him because it corresponds with a subtle and
essential aspect of his own nature. This may be called his
true nature as distinguished from a nature pretended or
artificially worn. The term sattva here has some affinity
with the word satya (truth). That aspect of the ego which is
transparent to truth may be said to be what is meant here.


yajante sattvika devan
yaksharakshamsi rajasah
pretan bhutaganams cha 'nye
yajante tamasa janah

Pure-clear (sattvik) men worship the divinities;active-
passionate (rajasik) the gods of eating and wealth
(yakshas) and the gods of ferocity and violence
(rakshasas); the others, the inert-dark (tamasik)
the spirits of the dead (pretas) and the hosts of
elemental beings (bhutas).


The diagnosis of the varieties of worship which come under
faith is first stated here for general guidance. When it
is said that sattvika (pure-clear modality) men worship the
devas (divinities) the converse is more true. We can
recognize from their worship of the divinities that they are
pure types. They conform to the pure-clear types in
accordance with the modalities of nature of Chapter xxv. In
every verse below the statements with their converse
propositions are meant for purposes of diagnosis. It does not
mean that by purposely worshipping the gods, taking this
diagnosis as an injunction, that such a worshipper turns out
to be pure merely by that simple fact. This absurdity will be
more striking when applied to food.

Food is much talked of by persons who are inclined to
think of taboos and bans, as even Sankara tends to view
these indications. A man who, by nature, likes pungent food,
just by switching over to an oily bland kind of food which is
here called sattvika (pure-clear) in Verse 8, by that simple
artificial change, could then legitimately claim to become a
sattvika (pure-clear) type of person.

The indications in this chapter are to be used for diagnostic
purposes only, although it must be added that trying to conform
uniformly to the higher standard meant in this chapter need not
be ruled out as futile. But holding on to single items would
be fetishism or idolatry, which can only be called tamasik
(inert-dark) as stated in Verse 22 later.

Those who worship the devas (divinities) resemble the
Vedic worshippers who may be said to tread the devayana
(divine path). At the other extreme we have those who may
be called by contrast pitriyanis (ancestral worshippers).
They are likely to be steeped in negative or regretful states
of mind implied in a retrospective spirit when thinking of
forefathers. The word preta (spirit of the dead) indicates
this. What is stated here corresponds to what has already
been stated in ix, 25. In the middle position the rajasik
(affective-active) natures and the worship of the rakshasas
(fierce demons) form natural counterparts, the former
subjective and the latter objective, representing active,
passionate values. Each attracts or repels the other.


We see that diagnosis as employed in this chapter not only
helps to determine objectively a type of faith, but also
the type of person who corresponds to the faith. A double
diagnosis is thus accomplished in these verses. It would
be too much to enter into all their implications.


asdstravihitam ghoram
tapyante ye tapo jandh
dambhdhamkara samyuktah
kama raga balan vitah

karsayantah sarirastham
bhiitagrimam achetasah
mtfm chai 'va 'ntaksariraitham
tan viddhy asuranischayan

Those men who practise terrible austerities not enjoined by the scripture, given to hypocrisy and egoism, lust, passion and power, torturing all the organs of the body and (harassing) me seated in the body; know them to be of demonic resolves.


By the strong tone employed here, these verses condemn a certain
severe type of tapas (austerity, self-discipline). Self-torture,
self-immolation, sleeping on nails, fasting and other such
forms of popular austerity with which historic India was replete,
often did not have any philosophical or psychological validity.
Such irrational and spurious forms of spirituality, lacking any
raison d'être, are condemned here.

When the question of Arjuna itself referred to those who
discard scriptural injunctions, it was not strictly necessary to
mention the matter again or to condemn spiritual expressions of
this type in such downright language. The complaint is that God,
living in the body of such men, is himself tortured. This can only
apply to the relativist purusha (person, spirit) and then only
through the gunas (modalities of nature); for it is indicated in
iv,14 that the spirit is left untouched by any possible taint coming
from nature. An indirect relation with such modalities of nature is
however implied in vii, 12, where it is stated that the spirit is not
in the gunas (modalities of mature) but that they are in the spirit.
How a thing which is


not outside can still hurt a spirit is problematic, but we have
noticed in Chapter xv that a certain mystery was still left
regarding psycho-physical interaction which, as we have
said, depended on a form of occasionalism. It is therefore
admissible in principle that spirit itself suffers from the
tortures of wrong austerities, because the more objectively
the problem is discussed, the Absolute implied in such a
discussion has also by necessity to become correspondingly
objectively conceived. Such, as we have said, is the scheme
according to which these chapters are written.

Further, this type of austerity would come under pretension,
because it belongs neither to the person's own nature nor to
scriptural indications. It is this type of absurdity which
is referred to as para-dharma (alien pattern of behaviour)
in iii, 35 and repeated in xviii, 47 and 48, the close
examination of which we shall reserve for the next chapter.
Notice that the triple elements of evil of xvi, 21 are
included, with egoism and strength added on, in connection
with these types. The egoistic tendencies mentioned in
different chapters tend to converge together more
objectively here. Balam (power or strength) is reminiscent
of the mailed fist, though here it is only austerity which is
the subject and not politics. The tortures of the Inquisition
may be thought of as coming under such power employed in
the name of faith, although the context is somewhat different
as belonging to history.

Note: Some have taken the compound kama roga balan vitah
(of lust, passion and power) as tritiya-tat-purusha (i.e.,
with the first two members of the compound having an
independent status) but we agree with Sankara in giving an
independent status to the word balam (power) as also to the
words kama (lust) and roga (passion).

The term karsayantah (harassing) means disturbing rather
than direct torture and applies more to the bhutagramam
(all the organs of the body). This distinction has been
retained as far as possible in our translation in keeping
with our comments. The language of the author does not
give room strictly to any deviation from his previous
theory of psycho-physical relationship.


adharas tv api sarvasya
trividho bhavati priyah
yajnas tapas tatha danam
tesham bhedam imam srinu


Even the food which is dear to everyone is of three kinds;
as also the sacrifices, austerities and gifts.
Hear you of the distinction between them.


Each temperament has its corresponding food. As we can
tell the character of a person by the company he keeps or
by his dress; it is possible to distinguish different
temperaments on the basis of the kind of food each prefers.
The words priyah (dear) here or ishta (liked) in Verse 9,
refer to this preference by which the corresponding
temperament is to be ascertained.


rasyah snigdhah sthira
hridya dharah sattvikapriyah

The foods which promote life, vitality, strength, health,
joy and cheerfulness and which are (in themselves) tasty,
rich, substantial and appealing, are dear to the pure-clear
(sattvik) types.


The kind of food preferred by pure-clear types is what
prolongs life or vitality, when looked upon from the standpoint
of its effect. In itself the food mentioned is tasty, rich,
substantial and appealing. These qualities of food can
exist only when a person has the right attitude towards food
in general. A gourmandiser interested in stuffing himself
does not really enjoy food in the sense of the last epithet.
Only a clear-minded, refined person capable of enjoying a
good dinner as it ought to be enjoyed, can choose such
items that have good effects and enjoy them properly. Some
have made the mistake of translating snigdhah (rich) as
meaning bland or tasteless. Such a meaning would only
indicate a dietetic fad.


ahara rajasasye 'shta


Foods that are strongly-flavoured, sour, saline, excessively
hot, pungent, hardened and burning, are liked by the
active-passionate (rajasik) and are producers of pain,
unhappiness and indisposition.


Active people like certain foods selected, not on the basis
of their good effects, but mainly on the basis of pampering
to ordinary taste. Such foods might have bad effects about
which they do not care. These can be pain, unhappiness and
indisposition as mentioned here.

Coming to the foods themselves, katu (strongly-flavoured)
which is the first quality mentioned, often mistakenly
translated "bitter", refers rather to the biting flavours
of foods like chillies, garlic and ginger. The other
items are gradations of the same category, all of them being
stimulating to the palate. The eater here does not take
account of their evil consequences to himself. This is the
distinguishing feature of the rajasik (active-passionate)


yatayamam gatarasam
puti paryushitam cha yat
uchchhishtham api cha 'medhyam
bhojanam tamasapriyam

That which is left over, which has lost its taste, which
is putrid, stale, which is refuse and unfit for consumption,
such alimentary items are welcome to the inert-dark (tamasik)


Here there is no choice on the part of the eater. The items
are conditioned by necessity, and it would be wrong
therefore to take the expression priyah (dear) too literally.
All the items are distinguished by being bhojanam (general
alimentary items, food of some sort or another). The term
amedhyam (unfit to be eaten) suggests all items which have
to be eaten by force of necessity only, though without
virtue in themselves because of taste etc., or because of
desirable after-effects. They might even verge on what is
poisonous. Stray dogs are seen to have no choice in food
and stray humans likewise. To call them as consciously
conforming to any type would be a travesty of truth. By
long conditioning it is perhaps possible to find persons
who prefer stale or putrid food when they could have a
better choice.

aphalakinkshibhir yajno
vidhidrishto ya ijyate
yashtavyam eve 'ti manah
samadhaya sa sattvikah


That sacrifice is pure-clear (sattvik) which is offered
by those desiring no gain, having injunctional
recognition on the mind, being tranquilized by (their
saying to themselves) sacrifice is necessary.


Three kinds of sacrifices are mentioned in this and the
two verses that follow. The main distinction between good
and bad sacrifices lies in the fact that while the good does
not have immediate results in view, the bad is definitely
prompted by gain-motive.

The tamasik (inert-dark) kind is devoid of value in itself
because it is not based on any recognized indications in
scripture, and also because beneficial items like distribution
of food or recitation of exalting spiritual texts are absent.
Such sacrifices have to be counted as meaningless or without
value. The persons who perform such sacrifices are unable to
think in any rational way and are blind people led by other
blind people whom they imitate.

All the three conditions mentioned here may not be
violated in any particular instance. When it is so violated the
whole sacrifice has to be considered absurd, not only as
being ineffective spiritually, but as being useless in the more
ordinary sense of the term.

In Verse 11 we should imagine a person who, because he
is a rationalist or a philosopher, tends to minimize the
importance of ritualistic sacrifices altogether. He does not
desire heaven as a result of sacrifice. He is capable of doing
without sacrifice for his own sake, but he resorts to it after
giving due thought, as implied in samadhaya (having come
to decision), saying to himself that sacrifice is necessary and
will do some good, though not to himself directly, but by
inducing a favourite atmosphere generally in his life, or even
to set a good example to those who may be addicted to absurd
behaviour. The various arguments that can pass through the
mind of such a man are implied in ii, 20 to 29. In short,
he feels the urge for such sacrifice both on the grounds
of his own type of philosophy and by common necessity.
Although the philosophy of such a man may not reach
transcendental heights, it constitutes the counterpart of
necessary action as he is able to understand it. Such an
interpretation becomes admissible in the light of ii, 17.


The word yashtavyam (must sacrifice) here corresponds to
datavyam (must give) of Verse 20. Both have a moral,
imperative character.


abhisamdhaya tu phalam
dambhartham api chai 'va yat
ijyate bharatasreshtha
tam yajnam viddhi rajasam

That (sacrifice) which is offered with expectation of
return, or for egoistic show, know, 0 Best of Bharatas,
(Arjuna) that sacrifice to be active-passionate (rajasik).


Usurers lend money in the hope of a larger return. The
good Samaritan on the other hand, has no such thought.
The usurer approximates to the rajasik (active-passionate)
type here. What is more, the sacrifice is ostentatious.


vidhihinam asrishtannam
mantrahinam adakshinam
sraddhavirahitam yajnam
tamasam parichakshate

The sacrifice which does not conform to scriptural rules,
without food distribution, without sacred chants and token
gift meant for the Guru, and devoid of faith, they declare
to be inert-dark (tamasik).


How the tamasik (inert-dark) type of sacrifice can be
wholly or partially absurd has been already explained under 
Verse 11. From Sankara's comment on this verse, he states
that the gift here is meant for priests, and the food
distribution should be for brahmins. It is clear he is
thinking of a non-brahmin sacrifice in the usual context of
orthodoxy in India which, as we have said, he connives at.
If we understand the Gita teaching as belonging to the
world generally, Sankara's remarks sound somewhat
parochial and out of date.


deva dvija guru prajna-
pujanam saucham arjavam
brahmacharyam ahimsa cha
sariram tapa uchyate

Worship offered to the gods, to wisdom-initiates, (dvijas),
to spiritual teachers (gurus) and the wise (generally),
cleanliness, straightforwardness, the chaste ways of a
wisdom-novice, non-hurting, are said to constitute
austerity of the body.


anudvegakaram vakyam
satyam priyahitam cha yat
svadhyayabhyasanam chai 'va
vanmayam tapauchyate

Inoffensive speech, which is truthful, pleasant and
beneficial, contemplative self-study, are named the
austerity of speech.


mahahprasadah saumyatvam
maunam atmavinigrahah
bhuvasamsuddhir ity etat
tapo manasam uchyate

Mental happiness, gentleness, silence, self-restraint,
an imagination of creative transparency, are named
the austerity of the mind.


sraddhaya parayi taptam
tapas tat trividham naraih
aphalakankshibhir yuktaih
sattvakam parichakshate

This threefold austerity, practised with transcendent
faith by unitively balanced men without desire of
gain, is named pure-clear (sattvik).


tapo dambhena chai 'va yat
kriyate tad iha proktam
rajasam chalam adhruvam

That austerity which is practised for gaining respect,
honour, reverence, and for the sake of show, is named
active-passionate (rajasik); changeful and insecure.


mudhagrahena 'tmano yat
pidaya kriyate tapah
parasyo 'tsadanartham va
tat tamasam udahritam

That austerity which is practised out of foolish
obstinacy, with self-torture or for the detriment of
another, is named inert-dark (tamasik).


These Verses, 14 to 19, form a section on tapas (austerity).
in the first three verses of this section, self-discipline with
body, speech and mind are described. In the three verses that
follow body, speech and mind are taken together and
distinguished as belonging to modality types. The guiding
principles in all these verses have been mentioned already in
speaking of sacrifices, and they require no further comment.


datavyam itiyad danam
diyate 'nupakarine
dese kale cha patre cha
tad danam sattvikam smritam

That gift which (clearly) ought to be made, given to
one from whom no return is expected, in (the right)
place and time and to a deserving person, that gift
is pure-clear (sattvik).


The next three verses deal with gifts pertaining to the
three faith-types. In the pure type of Verse 20 we find as
before that there is due deliberation and choice involved. It
is not haphazard but reasonably arrived at. The need for it
must first be sufficiently clear to the donor. Next the person
who gets it must be considered, whether he will benefit by
the gift or whether it will hurt him. Then there are
considerations about place and time. A gift made to a
prodigal son when his prodigality was on the increase would
not be so effective as when made on his return. Then the
good Samaritan touch is there in the phrase anupakarine
(one from whom no return is expected).


yat tu pratyupakarartham
phalam uddisya va punah
diyate cha pariklishtam
tad danam rajasam smritam


And what is given with a view to return benefit, or with
gain in view, reluctantly, that gift is held to be
active-passionate (rajasik).


The term pariklishtam (reluctantly) suggests that the giver
is undecided and also that he would still like to keep the
gift himself. This wavering quality indicates the active-
passionate type.


adesakale yad danam
apatrebhyas cha diyate
asatkritam avajnatam
tat tamasam udahritam

The gift that is given at a wrong place or time, disdainfully
and patronizingly, to persons unfit to receive it, affords
an example of the inert-dark (tamasik).


Promiscuous gift-making into which no study of the
situation enters, and gifts made disdainfully and
patronizingly, ignoring the suitability of place and
occasion, is described here. Most of the charities of a
public character come under this category, as for example
in India where rich people give doles to assembled beggars
who are often seen quarrelling and fighting among
themselves before receiving a pittance.


aum tat sad iti nirdeso
brahmanas trividhah smritah
brahmanas tena vedis cha
yajnas cha vihitah pura

Aum tat sat (Absolute Word, That is Real), this has been
known in the past as designating the Absolute. The scriptures
(called) Brahmanas, the Vedas and sacrifices also by this
were prescribed of old.


Having referred to three types of faith corresponding to
the three kinds of persons who adopt such faiths, it is still
not clear whether the Gita is orthodox or heterodox.
Arjuna's question was expressly put to get a definite answer
to this. The only apparently definite or strong answer so
far given is contained in Verses 5 and 6, where a man of
asuric (demonic) nature is


roundly condemned for aspiring to perform austerities. Such
a man resembles a Sudra-Muni (proletarian sage) like
Shambuka, who was killed by Rama, or like Ravana of the
Ramayana who was also noted for his wilful austerities. The
Upanishads contain the spirituality which revalued such
early forms of popular spirituality in the light of which this
strong condemnation could be historically understood.
This last section of the present chapter attempts a
supreme synthesis of faith-values implied in Veda and
Vedanta together. The author does not wish in the next
chapter to limit himself to values belonging strictly to the
domain of relativity and into which the three modalities of
nature infuse their own particular coloration. Abandoning,
therefore, the frame of reference hitherto used, the author
now in the present verse resorts to a scheme of correlation
of values which would bridge and extend beyond relativistic
or Vedic values, both downwards into the field of necessity
and upwards into the contingent.

The maha-vakya (Great Utterance, contemplative philosophical
formula) Aum tat sat (Absolute Word, Logos, "That which is Real,
Good, Existent") which is respected both by the Vedists and
the Vedantins, is chosen to afford a formula around which
such a correlation of values could most easily and simply
be effected.

Wisdom-values of a transcendental order and of an idealistic
nature art related to the syllable AUM (Logos or Word).
In the word tat (that) practical ontological values of
everyday life are included so as to fall under the category
of the eternal. Sat (the Real, Good or Existent) refers to
the existential, necessary and immanent aspects of reality.
From this value represented by Aum (the Word) to the value
represented by Sat (Real, Existent) we can imagine a scale
of values extending from those belonging to the remotest
past to those pertaining to the furthest future where the
goal of destiny of man lies. Eternity is therefore comprised
within the amplitude of these three words, and all
gradations of values can be fitted into this scale which
reaches from earth to heaven like a ladder as in Jacob's

The Brahmanas represent elaborated Vedic injunctions
arising out of Vedic worship. The sacrifices themselves,
which are forms of worship normal to the Vedas, consist of
ritualistic actions. The three values: Brahmanas, Vedas and
sacrifices, themselves represent three rungs, as it were, of
this golden ladder of values. The scope of this chapter
being limited to values


lying within the subject of faith or religion or type of
religionist, these three levels of value of the Vedic context
are for the present referred to first in Verse 23.

All ritualistic values irrespective of these three levels, it
is said here, could be related to their corresponding syllables
in the sacred formula given here. It is at the same time a
maha-vakya (formula or Great Utterance) of the Vedanta,
thus enjoying a sacred status even in the eyes of the
orthodox, at least on a level with the Vedic Gayatri (sacred
verse repeated by brahmins at their morning and evening
devotions), which perhaps marks the highest point as a
sacred formula within the relativist framework of Vedic
spiritual life.

By resorting to this contemplative formula Aum tat sat,
the author has succeeded in lifting the values of spirituality
almost out of their nature-modality limitations which pertain
to the changing aspect of the Absolute, and has thus
prepared the way for a full-dress discussion of spiritual
values cleared of this particular scaffolding.


tasmad aum ity udahritya
yajna dana tapah kriyah
pravartante vidhanoktah
satatam brahmavdinam

Therefore uttering Aum (Absolute Word), sacrifice, giving,
austerity and action enjoined by scriptural ordinance always
begin for those who represent the ,doctrine of the Absolute.


The reference to brahmavdinah (those representing the
doctrine of the Absolute) shows that the Absolute itself
could be the ultimate value for both the relativist Veda-
religionist as well as more properly to the Vedantin.
Aum (the Word, Logos, Absolute) as representing the
knowledge or wisdom of the Absolute, which itself is a
supreme value, is the first word to be uttered as laid down in
scripture even for necessary ritual within the scope of the
Vedas. It thus forms a common value-link between both
Veda and Vedanta. Only knowers of the Absolute use the
Aum in the manner as stated here. Others might not realize
such a significance.


tad ity anabhisamdhaya
phalam yajnatapahkriyah
danakriyas cha vividhah
kriyante mokshakankshibhih


With tat (That) excluding all values of gain, acts of
sacrifice and austerity, as also acts of giving of
various kinds are performed by those who desire


The expression mokshakankshibhih (those who desire liberation)
indicates those who are one degree inferior to those who
understand the doctrine of the Absolute in terms of wisdom,
of the last verse.

Liberation implies the recognition of necessity. The tat,
(That) in referring to such a value as liberation, is described
here as being exclusive of all other lesser values such as
lust, etc., spoken of earlier, which are related to the active-
passionate modality of nature (rajas guna). When lesser
values are thus excluded, the value of tat is the same as the
value of Aum of the previous verse.


sadbhave sadhubhave cha
sad ity etat prayujyate
prasaste karmani tatha
sachchhabdah parthayujyate

This (term) sat (the Real) is used in the sense of
existence and of goodness and likewise, 0 Partha
(Arjuna), to all laudable actions, the expression sat
is usually applied.


This verse accomplishes the equation of the notion of
existence with the notion of value. Value can belong to
something which is good, whether abstract or concrete
entities are concerned, or values can be implicit in actions
which are beneficial and in keeping with truth or
conforming to the Absolute value of Aum (the Word) itself.
In terms of value the connotation of the three syllables
tend to unite.


yajne tapasi dine cha
sthitih sad-iti cho'chyate
karma chai-'va tadarthiyam

Steady loyalty in sacrifice, austerity and giving is
also called sat (good and existing) and so also
action so intended is called sat.


Constancy or continued affiliation to what constitutes the
faith-value of sacrifice, austerity and gift-bestowing, which
are the three items dealt with in this chapter, is itself a
spiritual value. The man who is thus steady and loyal to the
outward values, represents in himself a certain high value.
Conversely, if we should swing to the objective side of the
situation implied in an act of faith, inasmuch as all these
acts refer to the value of the Absolute through what is
connoted by the word tat (That), the status of the crude
actions themselves can in principle be equated to the
Absolute itself, and thus become both existent and good,
as stated in the last verse.

Thus the four rungs of the ladder of values, the lowest
referring to action, the next to existence and goodness at
once, the one following which is the passionless goal of
liberation, and the fourth and highest which consists of
the pure wisdom-value of the Absolute as the Word, Aum,
are seen as a ladder series each enjoying an equal status

The crudest form of this outward necessary aspect of
spirituality is seen in the context of warfare, from which
background the Gita discussion emerged and to which it
returns in xviii, 59 and 60. The next chapter has to deal in
the meantime with the question of how action can be
renounced or, if accepted as an inevitable or necessary
factor in life, how the yogi harmonizes it with high values
of wisdom on the one hand and on the other hand with
deep-seated factors of necessity which are equally eternal.
From an ontological discussion of values we pass on, in
the next chapter, to a teleological discussion centering
around action as a key-word. Necessary action alone brings
us finally to the scene of warfare, fitting philosophy
correctly into the context of inevitability in life.


asraddhaya hutam dattam
tapas taptam kritam cha
yat asad ity uchyate partha
na cha tat pretya no iha

Whatever is sacrificed, given or done, and whatever
austerity is gone through, without faith it is called
asat (non-existent, no good), 0 Partha (Arjuna); it
has no value here or hereafter.



Sraddha (faith), in this verse, can be dependent or independent
of scriptural injunctions. What is more, it can belong at once
to Vedism or to the higher way of the Upanishads. It is a factor
which affiliates the individual with whatever is valuable in
spiritual life. Without establishing a relation of the kind
implied in the word faith, all outward observances or expressions
in the name of spirituality are absurd or meaningless. They
have no place in a real scheme of existence and they have no
value in any properly understood scale of values. This verse
says that such a false front of sraddha (faith) can make no

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
sraddharayavibhagayogo nama saptadaso 'dhyayah

Thus ends in the Upanishads of the Songs of God,in the Science
of the Wisdom of the Absolute, in the Dialogue between Sri
Krishna and Arjuna the Seventeenth Chapter entitled the Unitive Recognition of the Three Patterns of Faith.

This final important chapter has the task of gathering up
loose ends of the discussion from various chapters,
especially Chapter iii on Karma-Yoga (Action Transcended