International Forum for NeoVedantins

Gita for the Beginners: Part 17
Chapter XVI and Chapter XVII

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVI deals with the division between divine and demoniacal properties or qualities in a human nature. The lord repeats the qualifications like fearlessness, purity, self-control, charity, devotion, equanimity, kindness towards all creatures, forgiveness, fortitude etc., etc., these are all the marks of one who is naturally endowed with divine qualities.
And what are the contrary or demoniacal properties? Hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, anger, harshness, and ignorance these are the marks of the one who is born with demoniacal propensities.

Divine virtues are regarded as conducive to liberations, while evil tendencies lead to bondage and downfall. The world would always have both types of men. Most of us do not know what is right activity and where to stop; therefore, we do not possess purity, or good conduct, or truth. We delude ourselves by taking falsehood as truth, and unreal as real, and lead to personal as well as collective destruction, chaos, and sorrow. Most of us are given to sensuous pleasure alone, believing that the highest and limit of joy consists only in this. When our crude hedonistic expectations are thwarted we give way to anger and unlawful conduct to hold power, privilege, and wealth.

'Passion, anger, and greed, these three constitute the triple gate to hell leading to damnation of soul. Therefore, one should shake off all these three,' says the Lord. "Let the scripture be your authority in determining what aught to be done, and what aught not to be done. Knowing this, you should do here only such actions as is sanctioned by the scriptural ordinance." 16/24

Chapter XVII

In this chapter the Lord describes what is right faith, charity, penance, and sacrifices, and also tells us which are the better religious and social activities that one should seek to perform. He says, just as there are three kinds of men, sattvik, rajasik, and tamasik, on the similar lines one can differentiate or group faith, charity, disciplines, austerities, etc. in these three types. For instance,
"Men of sattvik disposition worship the gods, those of rajasik disposition worship, yakshas and lower gods, and even demons. While persons of tamasik nature worship spirits and ghosts." 17/4

It is not always virtuous or religious when people perform austere penances or torment their bodies against the injunctions of scriptures or out of hypocrisy and egoism. They do not progress on the path of god realization. There is also the question of food; some food is sattvik, other is rajasik, and lastly there is food for tamasik people to enjoy. The food which promotes longevity, intelligence, strength and happiness and which is simple, sweet and bland is sattvik food. Rajasik people enjoy acid, bitter, hot pungent food, which might cause pain or illness, while stale, putrid and/or polluted food comes under the category of tamasik disposition.

Sacrifices and penances performed as per the scriptural injunctions and with selfless motive are sattvik, while performed for personal or family or any gains are rajasik, and when ignorant and inefficient people perform these without faith and without proper procedure are said to be tamasik. Austerities of the body are worship of gods, elders and wise, purity and continence, when the speech is non-offensive, truthful, and agreeable it is called austerities of speech, and cheerfulness, serenity, habit of mediation, and self control are the austerities of the mind.

'Om Tat Sat' is declared to be the threefold designation of the Absolute. 'Om' is primal word, 'Tat' is pronounced with the idea that everything belongs to Him (Tat), and the divine name 'Sat' is employed in the sense of truth, goodness, and praiseworthy act. Our all activities including spiritual disciplines should conform to this principle of 'Om Tat Sat', and should be all sattvik.
Continued Next Part 18 ...

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