Food, Sacrifice, Tapas & Giving – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 17, Vs 11-22

Faith

In these verses Lord Krishna is answering Arjuna’s question on Faith. He began His answer with Sacrifice in verses 2 – 10. The following verses are expansions on this answer and include not only sacrifice, but foods, kinds of austerities (tapas) and giving.

Previously:
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?” — chapter 17, verse 1.

Foods

7 – 10
Like sacrifices, austerities and gifts, the foods preferred by all are of three kinds. Now hear of these distinctions:

The kinds of foods mentioned in these three verses have their roots in times before the Indus Valley Civilization.Sattvic Foods

(8) Foods that are sweet, succulent, juicy, nourishing and promote life, energy, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction, are dear to the sattvic.

Foods that are sweet, etc. Refined sugar is not what is meant by ‘sweet’, but is considered to be ‘stale’.

Rajasic Foods(9) Foods that are very bitter, very sour, very salty, very hot, very pungent, very dry and burning, are dear to the rajasic, are unpleasant and cause misery and disease.

Too much bitterness, etc. In moderation, these kinds of foods are anti-inflammatory and healing. The admonition is to not take it too far and cancel their positive effects, as rajasic persons are inclined to do. 

(10) Foods that are stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, foul, impure, and also the leavings of others, are dear to the tamasic.Tamasic Foods

Stale, etc. You may wonder how anyone could even eat these kinds of foods. Anandamayi Ma insisted that no food be left at the end of the day in Her ashram. On one occasion, She was found in the night eating left over flour to make her point. Old foods are dead foods. 

Sacrifice 

11 – Sattvic Sacrifice
Sacrifice that is offered according to scriptural injunction with the only thought, “this is given.” This sacrifice is sattvic.

Sacrifice offered without the purpose of fruits (without using your will to fulfill desires) is sattvic.

12 – Rajasic Sacrifice
But sacrifice offered out of pride and deceit, with the intent of personal benefit, that sacrifice is rajasic

13 – Tamasic Sacrifice
Sacrifice offered without faith and contrary to scriptural injunction, with no food offered, and with no mantras or giving, that sacrifice is tamasic.

Austerity (Tapas)

Austerity of Body

14
Honoring God, the twice-born (Brahmanas, God-people), gurus and sages, through purity, goodness, continence and non-violence, is austerity (tapas) of the body.

  • Twice-born – ‘born again’ or ‘reborn’.

Today, the usual translation of Brahmanas means priests. However, God-people are those who live in harmony with the Real. It is the purpose of their lives. Brahmanas (or Brahmins, temple priests) have more recently (a few thousand years ago) been set aside as the highest caste, but also rightly include scholars, teachers, gurus and sages.

Purity, goodness, continence and non-violence in all your actions is Tapas of Body. 

Austerity of Speech

15
The practice of reciting sacred texts, and the use of words that do not cause distress and are truthful, inoffensive and beneficial, is austerity (tapas) of speech. 

Tantric yogi reciting mantra then drinking whiskey from a skull.
Tantric yogi reciting mantra and drinking whiskey from a skull.

Reciting sacred texts also means reading and study of sacred texts. This was written at a time when not everyone could read and the memorization and recitation of scriptures was customary.

Tapas refers to purification by fire (energy). This is different than the elimination of impurities.

When you are careful not to cause distress when speaking, reciting or teaching, and being truthful in an inoffensive manner that is also beneficial, this is the Tapas of Speech.

Austerity of Mind

16
Clear-mindedness, gentleness, monitoring speech, self-restraint and pure-heartedness, is austerity of mind.

Clear-minded also means peaceful or serene. Monitoring speech also means silence. Self-restraint is self-control. Pure-heartedness is sincerity and empathy. 

Austerities of Body, Speech and Mind

17 – 19
(17) These three austerities — body, speech and mind — practiced with ardent faith by those without expectation of return benefit, are sattvic austerities that last.

(18) Austerities undergone with pride and for the purpose of gaining honor, respect and adoration, are rajasic, unsteady and impermanent.

(19) Austerities performed out of ignorance that torture oneself, or for the purpose of destroying or overpowering others, are tamasic.

Giving

20 – 22
Feeding the needy(20) Gifts given at the proper time and place, without expectation of reward, to worthy persons who have done no prior favor, with the only idea, “this is given,” is sattvic giving.

(21) But gifts given grudgingly, with the aim of personal benefit or the expectation of reward, is rajasic giving.

(11) Gifts given at the wrong time and place to the unworthy without paying respect, but with contempt, is said to be tamasic giving.

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

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Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of reaching a true meditative state without any effort and without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were eventually derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga, Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

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The Sustainer of Life – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 15, Vs 12-15

Light Illumines Sight

12
The light of the sun that illumines all living beings, and which is also in the moon and fire, know that light to be Me.

  • Light – tejas, the heating and strengthening faculty of the body as a whole. As an energy, it is called Prana (Life Energy).
  • Fire – agni, the faculty of digestion and assimilation of food. As an energy, it is called prana (warming energy).
  • Moon chandra, the cooling and eliminating faculty by which impurities leave the body. As an energy it is called apana (cooling energy).

A faculty is a specific, inherent power.
An energy is the manifestation of the power to act.

Tejas is called ‘the light of the sun’ because the sun makes the body visible in the physical world. As an energy, it is Prana, the Life Energy in the body that maintains and sustains the life of the body. As ‘fire’, it is the prana acting in the capacity of heating to ‘cook’ or digest. As the ‘moon’, it is the cooling and eliminating energy of apana in the body. Lord Krishna, avatara of Vishnu, the Sustainer of Life, is saying that He is all these.

13
Entering the earth and all living beings, I am the energy that sustains all living beings and plants. And I am the fluid essence of the body becoming the juice of life.

  • Energy ojas, the overall physical energy of the body.
  • Fluid essence – rasa, essential fluids of the body related to the tongue and taste, and also affection and feelings.
  • Juice of Life – soma, the ‘fluids’ of certain endocrine glands that, when purified, become amrita, the Nectar of Immortality.

14
I am the digestive fire in all living beings, the Prana in the body as both prana and apana, and I cook four kinds of food.

He is the Life Energy (Prana) in the body as a whole and therefore is also the fire (energy) of digestion, so it is He who cooks (digests) the four kinds of food utilizing both prana to cook, and apana to eliminate the refuse and filter out toxins.

By now we are beginning to see that God is in us, as us, in every way possible! 

The Four Kinds of Food

The “four kinds of foods” are what is taken into the body, and ‘cooked’ by the digestive fire (agni).

1. Bhojya – foods chewed with the teeth, such as bread. Enjoying foods that are digested, or ‘cooked’, in the body.

2. Peya – foods that are swallowed, such as juice. Enjoying drinking certain kinds of fluids that are digested, or ‘cooked’, in the body.

3. Kośhya* – foods that are sucked, such as sugarcane. Kośhya also refers to the vessel for holding certain fluids in the body, and is also known as ‘the treasury’ of the five sheaths encasing the five bodies.

4. Lehya – foods that are licked, such as honey. Lehya is the nectar sipped by the tongue entering the pharynx (khechari mudra) wherein the soma (nectar of the moon) becomes amrita (nectar of immortality)

*Kośhya, from kośha – sheaths or bodies. The five sheaths from grossest to subtlest are the physical body, the energy body, the mental body, the wisdom body, and the bliss body. It is said that being aware of the subtle influences of the elements within each kosha, one can discern the True Self.

This will give you an overall feel for the process that is kicked off in advanced stages of yoga sadhana. For instance, enjoying food (bhojya) has to do with what is ingested into the body; drinking (peya) has to do with the seeping of certain hormones through ductless (endocrine) glands, causing the soma (moon-juice) to ultimately become amrita, the nectar (lehya) of immortality. 

In these verses (12-14) you have been initiated into one of the ‘secrets’ of Yoga, and discovered its ultimate purpose.

15
I am seated in the hearts of all, and from Me come knowledge, memory and forgetfulness. I alone am the knower of the Vedas, and I alone am the author of the Vedanta.

Alternate translation:
I am the feelings (emotions) seated in the heart and the ally of all, and from Me come knowledge, memory and reasoning (understanding). I am known in all the Vedas, and I am the author of Vedanta.

Radha & Krishna in the Moonlight
Radha & Krishna in the Moonlight
  • Vedas – ‘sacred knowledge’, the most ancient Hindu scriptures containing hymns, philosophy, and guidance on ritual for the priests of Vedic religion. The Vedas are believed to have been directly revealed and preserved by oral tradition. The four chief collections are the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda.
  • Vedanta – ‘Veda-end’, or ‘after the Vedas’, is the name of a division of Hindu philosophy as either teaching the ultimate scope of the Vedas, or as explained in the Upanishads (‘sitting near; sitting at the feet of the guru‘), which came after the Vedas.

Alternate translation:
I am seated in the core of all beings, and from Me come knowledge, the memory of what is known, and the understanding of it. I am known in all the ancient scriptural texts on Truth (the Vedas), and I am the maker of all that came after them (Vedanta).

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

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of reaching a true meditative state without any effort and without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were eventually derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga, Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

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The Field of the Body – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 13, Vs 4-7

Abstract of the Human Body
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The Field of the Body: What It Is and What It Does

4 – 5
Now I shall tell you briefly about the Field: what it is, its characteristics, what and how modifications take place within it, its origin, and who the knower of the Field is, and his powers. 

  • The Field – The body
  • The Knower of the Field – You

Pleasingly sung in many different ways by different sages, with evidence coming from founded proofs as revealed in the scriptures:

  • Founded proofs – direct experience of Truth in meditation
  • Revealed in the scriptures – written texts on founded proofs

All this was known to the sages in ancient times. In those days, when not everyone could read, this information was recorded by means of chant and song and passed down to preserve it and be easily remembered. Once these teachings were written down, they were called shastras, what we westerners would call ‘scriptures’. We read them and are able to understand them to some degree through contemplating them, and prove them to ourselves through meditation. 

6 – Characteristics of the Field
The five great elements, ego, intelligence, the imperceptible, and also the eleven senses and the five objects of sense…

7 Modifications of the Field
A
ttraction and aversion, ease and dis-ease, the body as a whole, consciousness and will, constitute the Field and its modifications. 

The Field

The Body

Five elements are earth, water, energy, air and space.

Ego, the core of the mind, ahamkara in Sanskrit, which means “I do”. 

Intelligence is buddhi, the ability of the mind to differentiate, discriminate and make judgements.

The imperceptible refers to anything that exists that cannot be perceived by means of the senses, and anything in a potential, undeveloped state.  

The eleven senses are the five sense organs (eyes, ears, etc.), the five organs of action (hands, feet, etc.) and the mind.

The five fields of action of the senses are the sense objects (anything you can smell, taste, touch, see or hear).

Modifications of the Field

Changes that take place within the Field of the body

Attraction and aversion – like and dislike.

Ease and dis-ease – happiness and misery.  

The body itself – The actions of the body.  

Consciousness – attention, the ability to perceive, to know. 

Will – intention; using your inherent power of choice to make choices; holding on to something or trying to get or keep it. 

Modifications are changes (actions) within the Field of the body. Today we look to science, but the sages of old knew to keep things simple if they were going to try to talk about it to others. And that is what they did—they taught, and they were not ignorant of science. (There is a word in Sanskrit that can only be translated as discrete, or ‘as small as an atom’.)

Will

The will is always motivated by desire and attachment, creates both good and bad karma, and imbalances the body.

Willpower = grasping

Associating ‘will’ with the body is suggestive of its association with ‘doing’. The Sanskrit word here also means ‘holding, seizing, or keeping’, as well ‘intention, resolution and command’. It is easy to see that they are all connected. 

Willpower‘Will’ is using your inherent power of choice to make choices, resolutions, determinations, decisions, intentions. We make choices in order to make satisfactory determinations based on what we think will fulfill a desire. Desires are always the result of attraction or aversion. You use your will to get or avoid. This is what a desire is and does. 

Desires are always the result of attraction or aversion.
Will is always associated with a desire.

The Field is the body, so we can’t assume that these actions are limited to the mind, so they must be actions that occur with or in the body or the brain. This will make more sense if you remember that you have a brain because you have a mind (it’s not the other way around):

Willpower

As a Divine Individual you have the power of choice, or free will. When this power is engaged you are in a state of choosing to choose. This is ‘will’. The only purpose of will, choosing to choose, is to get or keep something or someone that you are attracted or attached to. You have the intention to do this, and you use resolution and command to succeed at it. It is all “will”. Remember these?:

  • Attraction and aversion, like and dislike.
  • Ease and dis-ease, happiness and misery.

These are what motivate you to engage your power of choice to get what you want so that you can be happy. But here’s the rub: You can’t keep your success in place indefinitely because of the dual nature of this world. Attraction and aversion, and ease and dis-ease, are pairs of opposites and are therefore bound to change.

Surrender

Natural Surrender Meditation is active meditation.

Swami Kripalu in MeditationThrough our efforts to advance spiritually we eventually understand this, and begin to try to rise above this trap. No matter how you phrase it, the only solution is to stop choosing to choose — stop using your will to try to get what you want. You must choose not to chose, and surrender to Absolute God (by any name) in meditation.

Surrender Yoga

I say “in meditation” because you won’t succeed at this on the street (if you think you can, you are kidding yourself), and this isn’t the place for it anyway. So you surrender to God/Truth in meditation, and That will meditate you and gradually bring you out of this trap.

By practicing this for an hour or two a day, you will come to see not only God, but your Real Self, and discover that the bliss you experience is the nature of Absolute God and the Real You. And it is always Good, for Absolute God is Absolute Goodness, and will always make you Happy. The question is: Are you willing to take the time for yourself every day in order to achieve this Happiness? How could you not?

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