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
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Avatara – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 9, Vs 11-14

“When I assume human form, the ignorant deride Me, not knowing My highest existence as Maheśhvara. The ignorant, whose hopes, actions and knowledges are ineffectual, are harmful, as they cling like demons to whatever enthralls them. But those Great Souls who have attained My divine nature through their singleminded devotion to Me, know Me as the origin of all creation, the Imperishable Absolute. Always engaged in yoga, their continuous practice and devotion glorifies Me. Worshipping Me thus, they are united with Me.” — Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9, Verses 11-14 

Lord Krish
Lord Krishna, Avatara of Vishnu, Sustainer of LIfe

11
When I assume human form, the ignorant deride Me, not knowing My highest existence as Maheśhvara.  

  • Ignorant – at a loss about, stupefied, bewildered, perplexed, confused, a fool.
  • Deride – treat as unworthy of serious consideration, dismiss, despise, disesteem, treat with contempt, look down on. 

Lord Krishna is an avatara, a temporary human manifestation of an eternally existent God. As a manifestation, an avatar looks and acts like a human being, but by calling Himself Maheshvara, Lord Krishna is telling us that He is actually Absolute God, even though He has taken up residence in a human body in the relative realm of this world.

  • Maheśhvara – Great God, great lord, sovereign. From maha (great, mighty, strong) and ishvara (another name of God meaning master or lord). Maheśhvara is God in the highest sense, Absolute God (See “God is One and Two” regarding the nature of God).

The Absolute is the source of creation but not an acting agent. Absolute God does nothing at all, yet an avatara comes to earth from time to time to take bodily form for a reason. According to the Gita, the purpose of an avatara is to mitigate the prevalence of suffering. Aside from any specific mission, an avatara’s mere presence alone is a tonic to the world. 

“The ignorant deride Me”
An avatara is usually not known for what he or she is, but is hated, insulted, completely missed by the ordinary person. The ordinary person sees only the body and is thus unable to recognize an avatara.  

No one who isn’t one can recognize one.

There are descriptions of avataras, but they are not correct but apply to the Divine Bodies of yogis who have succeeded in Yoga. An avatara will fit all of the following descriptions, even though they are not always easy to see:

  • Unusual circumstances surround their birth
  • They are born with an unusual degree of awareness of their surroundings
  • They are born with an identifying mark on the body
  • They do not see the body as the self, but as a place to be
  • An avatara has genius and multiple talents and abilities
  • An avatara has strong empathy, awareness of the suffering in the world, and takes on that suffering to mitigate it
  • They remember coming to this world, and they remember the experience
  • They come with a mission
  • They have special powers not possessed by most humans, but rarely expose them

12
The ignorant, whose hopes, actions and knowledges are ineffectual, are harmful, as they cling like demons to whatever enthralls them.

Lord Krishna is shedding some light on the ordinary person’s inability to discern an avatara by further describing ignorance: Even though what they want, what they do and what they know are ineffectual and harmful, they continue to cling to them. 

Alternate translation
The ignorant, those whose hopes, actions and knowledges are useless, are seduced by attaching demonic entities that delude them and cause harm.

There are thought to be many levels of existence, some better than our own, and some worse. Entities of the lower worlds are considered to be demonic in nature, and have a vested interest in bringing us down to their own level.

I’m not talking about ghouls and ghosts that go bump in the night, but entities that can attach themselves to humans and cause trouble. They particularly like deterring people from any spiritual progress toward liberation and knowing God/Truth. They do this primarily by seducing humans to chase after the glitter of the attractions the senses provide. They have enough knowledge to know that this will work.

This is not a subject that should be dwelt upon, but it should also not be ignored or denied, for secrecy only gives a thing more power.

13-14
But those Great Souls who have attained My divine nature through their singleminded devotion to Me, know Me as the origin of all creation, the Imperishable Absolute. 
Always engaged in yoga, their continuous practice and devotion glorifies Me. Worshipping Me thus, they are united with Me.

Now it appears that not every one of us is ignorant or chasing after glitter that is not gold. There are Great Souls among us. These two verses give us a picture of these Great Souls: They know the Absolute to be the origin of creation, and they are single-mindedly devoted to the Absolute and to the constant God-practice of yoga. Glorifying God through this practice, they are with God, sitting at the right hand of God.

  • Glorify – to make clear by one’s actions; to venerate, worship, and be grateful to, etc. 

What Lord Krishna has taught Arjuna, this ‘profound secret’, glorifies God, making God/Truth more clear to Arjuna (and to us). This ‘secret yoga‘ is a demonstration of gratitude that goes beyond the norm, and is the worship that brings one into union with the worshipped: God, Truth, the Absolute. It is the tonic of the avatara mitigating the sorrows of the world.

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com


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Purusha and Prakriti – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 9, Vs 8

Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 8:
“Relying on My own Prakṛti, I spontaneously send forth this entire multitude of beings again and again, according to Her wish.”

From Krishna and Radhana, Purusha and Prakriti, Creation is Spontaneously Brought Forth
From Krishna and Radhana, Purusha and Prakriti, Creation is Spontaneously Brought Forth

Creation is not done by Krishna—He has already identified Himself as actionless and Absolute—but comes about because of Him … and His Prakṛiti.

Purusha and Prakriti

  • Puruṣha – Masculine. The divine individual with a view-point.
  • Prakṛiti – Feminine. Another divine individual when viewed by Purusha. (When viewed, this other divine individual appears as nature, so the word prakṛiti is often used to mean ‘nature’.)

Prakriti is the Divine Mother, the Creator and Divine Other-Than-You. She is Shakti, the impeller of action, and Divine Energy, the sustainer of life in your body also known as Prana. She is Kundalini, the accelerated and intensified evolutionary force in your body. She is the mother, the nurturer, and the destroyer of obstacles to your liberation, fulfillment and eternal happiness. She is the Divine Goddess. You wouldn’t be here without Her.

  • Relying on Prakṛiti  leaning, resting or depending on Prakṛiti
  • According to Her wish – spontaneously and not against the will, wish or pleasure of Prakṛiti

As a divine individual in the Absolute, Krishna’s original state, the first Other known to Him is His Prakṛiti. 

This original knowledge of Otherness is the cause, or source, of Creation. In this way, Krishna is the source of all beings but does not create them by his will. It is because of His Prakṛiti that creation occurs spontaneously. 

There is Krishna and Prakṛiti; there is You and Other-than-You. Creation relies on Self and Other than Self, and because there are two, Creation is of a dualistic nature. Consider Noah saving all those pairs in his ark in order to preserve Life.

Krishna has previously identified Himself as Absolute, so His state, or condition, is actually Highest Purusha. He has taken the whole journey and is fully conscious and accepting of all others, of all that is. But He is still Prakriti to Arjuna (and to us) until we have reached this same state. So he is reminding Arjuna of what he (and we) can achieve through yoga practice because of its consistency with the Truth of the way things really are.

Purusha and Prakriti, Adam and Eve, masculine and feminine, the one who sees and the one who is who is seen, You and Other-than-you.

So now we have put the pieces together, and it all comes down to Purusha (the Real You with a viewpoint) and Prakriti (Divine Otherness which you ‘view’). But Lord Krishna has told us this before. Is He repeating it so we might finally get the message this time? Or is He repeating it to present something new?

We must not lose track of the fact that this entire chapter is about this mysterious Highest Secret, and remember that a secret can easily be something we already know but do not realize for what it is. So we can think on this with the help of the previous post, The Secret of Yoga.

Until next time…

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

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Shaktipat Diksha & Initiation 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Optional

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Space is very limited

Location:
Creative Living Fellowship, Emerson Room

6530 North 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85014
Read more >>>

Bhagavad Gita & Mindfulness Classes

Monday evening classes with Durga Ma beginning March 13

Reserve or take a chance and drop-in.
Click a class for reservations and more information.
Bhagavad Gita – Messages from God to You about You
6:30-7:30 PM
Mindfulness – Life Mastery and Meditation
7:30-8:30
$10 per class

Location:
Creative Living Fellowship, Emerson Room

6530 North 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85014