Three Kinds of Faith – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 17, Vs 1-10



Arjuna spoke:
What is the status of those who sacrifice without consideration of scriptural injunctions but sacrifice with
faith? Is it sattva, rajas or tamas?

  • Sacrifice – surrender; letting go of something and giving it to God.
  • Sattva, rajas or tamas – the three gunas of material Nature: sattva – ease, light, peace; rajas – excitement, color, passion; tamas – dullness, darkness, ignorance.

2 – 3
The Blessed Lord spoke:
The faith of embodied beings is of three kinds according to their nature as sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. Of this now hear: All beings have some kind of faith according to their nature. 
What one wants to believe, is what he has faith in, and who he is.

“What one wants to believe, is what he has faith in, and who he is.” Lord Krishna is saying that faith ordinarily comes from what one wants to believe, and marks the nature of the individual. In this way, it can be said that everyone has some kind of faith according to their predominant guna — sattva, rajas or tamas.

“According to their nature.” The nature of each of us is most inclined toward one of the three gunas, and that this colors our characteristics, personality and actions, and consequently, our beliefs will also be of this nature.

“What one wants to believe is what he has faith in.” He becomes identified with, and invested in, what he believes to be true. He is uncomfortable outside of this, and only comfortable within it. He sees this as “who he is.”

“Who he is” is what he identifies himself to be as a human being according to his predominant guna — his mind, body, personality and behaviors are predominantly sattvicrajasic or tamasic.

Considering what you now know about faith, Lord Krishna is saying that your essential nature as a human being will be predominately sattivic, rajasic or tamasic, and as such, will reflect your nature as a human being.

The following verses address this by explaining how your predominate guna affects what you surrender (sacrifice), open up to, or let go of, in life or meditation, and what you sacrifice it to.

Those who are sattvic sacrifice to the gods, the rajasic to the yakṣhas and rākṣhasas, and others, the tamasic, sacrifice to ghosts and departed spirits.Offerings to the gods 

  • Gods – I think we can take the word ‘gods’ to mean Divine Individuals who have not come into being in this world, but exist on a higher plane than our human selves.
  • Yakṣhas – demigods; those who covet power and great wealth.
  • Rākṣhasas – demigods; those who passionately embody great power, sensual pleasure and wrath.

Sattvic Sacrifice. Sattva is the guna that is the easy-going characteristic of purity and goodness. This guna is closest to your Real Self, so it gets ranked as the best of the three qualities. Sattvic sacrifice then, is the best sacrifice (surrender), until one reaches Absolute God and attains God-realization.

5  Rajasic Sacrifice
Those who perform severe austerities not enjoined by the scriptures, do so out of pride and egoism, impelled by the force of desire and attachment.

Rajas is the guna of passion, and actions done for the purpose of fulfilling desires. It is taught in scriptures that these self-motivated actions must be abandoned in order to reach Divine Union, for they are the backbone of attachment, the real obstacle. These kinds of sacrifices are not in accordance with scripture, for they do not allow for Divine Union and Liberation, the ultimate purpose of Life.

Egoismahamkara in Sanskrit, literally means, “I do,” or “I am the doer.” But what you really are is not a doer of action, but a Divine Individual entity. So as a rajasic human being, you are not aligned with the Divine Individual that you really are, and your sacrifice, your surrender, is made from this position.

Enlightenment. There are those who deem the realization of WHO they are to be the ultimate enlightened state. But the realization of non-doership, which stems from knowing WHAT you really are, is the highest enlightenment. 

6  Tamasic Sacrifice
Ascetics who imprudently cause torment and emaciation of the physical body, also torment Me within the body. Know them to be demonically resolved.

In other words, when you force or resist (that’s what it would take to do these things), you are not only not being nice to yourself, you are also not being very nice to God. The only practical solution is to surrender yourself to God, and let That deal with everything.

Mortification of the flesh is not in accordance with any scriptural injunction, and is thus considered ‘demonic’ and tamasic

Demonic. The word in Sanskrit is āsura. Asuras are powerful superhuman demigods with both good and bad qualities, who battle constantly with the devas (gods). They are sometimes regarded as nature spirits.

Tamas is the state of darkness. In this case, darkness is meant as ignorance. Actions that are harmful to oneself or others are also tamasicTamasic sacrifices are done from a position of doership and motivated by evil or misguided purposes: “demonically resolved.”

Imprudently. The word in Sanskrit for ‘imprudent’ also means ‘unconscious’, or the ‘subconscious actions of the unenlightened, the ignorant’. 

The way you can resolve the effects of the gunas running your life and determining who you are, is by surrendering yourself and your will to Absolute God with complete abandon, and leaving everything to That during this time. This is the ultimate leap of faith that will produce the ultimate pay-off.

As risky as this may seem, I can personally attest to the veracity of this surrender when done correctly under the proper conditions. As Yogeshwar used to say…

“God is not a cheat.” — Yogeshwar Muni

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma

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