Chapter Seventeen: The Divisions of Faith
Bg 17.1 — Arjuna inquired: O Kṛṣṇa, what is the situation of those who do not follow the principles of scripture but worship according to their own imagination? Are they in goodness, in passion or in ignorance?
Bg 17.2 — The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: According to the modes of nature acquired by the embodied soul, one’s faith can be of three kinds – in goodness, in passion or in ignorance. Now hear about this.
Bg 17.3 — O son of Bharata, according to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.
Bg 17.4 — Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods; those in the mode of passion worship the demons; and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits.
Bg 17.5-6 — Those who undergo severe austerities and penances not recommended in the scriptures, performing them out of pride and egoism, who are impelled by lust and attachment, who are foolish and who torture the material elements of the body as well as the Supersoul dwelling within, are to be known as demons.
Bg 17.7 — Even the food each person prefers is of three kinds, according to the three modes of material nature. The same is true of sacriﬁces, austerities and charity. Now hear of the distinctions between them.
Bg 17.8 — Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.
Bg 17.9 — Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.
Bg 17.10 — Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.
Bg 17.11 — Of sacriﬁces, the sacriﬁce performed according to the directions of scripture, as a matter of duty, by those who desire no reward, is of the nature of goodness.
Bg 17.12 — But the sacriﬁce performed for some material beneﬁt, or for the sake of pride, O chief of the Bhāratas, you should know to be in the mode of passion.
Bg 17.13 — Any sacriﬁce performed without regard for the directions of scripture, without distribution of prasādam [spiritual food], without chanting of Vedic hymns and remunerations to the priests, and without faith is considered to be in the mode of ignorance.
Bg 17.14 — Austerity of the body consists in worship of the Supreme Lord, the brāhmaṇas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother, and in cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and nonviolence.
Bg 17.15 — Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneﬁcial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.
Bg 17.16 — And satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control and puriﬁcation of one’s existence are the austerities of the mind.
Bg 17.17 — This threefold austerity, performed with transcendental faith by men not expecting material beneﬁts but engaged only for the sake of the Supreme, is called austerity in goodness.
Bg 17.18 — Penance performed out of pride and for the sake of gaining respect, honor and worship is said to be in the mode of passion. It is neither stable nor permanent.
Bg 17.19 — Penance performed out of foolishness, with self-torture or to destroy or injure others, is said to be in the mode of ignorance.
Bg 17.20 — Charity given out of duty, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person is considered to be in the mode of goodness.
Bg 17.21 — But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood is said to be charity in the mode of passion.
Bg 17.22 — And charity performed at an impure place, at an improper time, to unworthy persons, or without proper attention and respect is said to be in the mode of ignorance.
Bg 17.23 — From the beginning of creation, the three words oṁ tat sat were used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth. These three symbolic representations were used by brāhmaṇas while chanting the hymns of the Vedas and during sacriﬁces for the satisfaction of the Supreme.
Bg 17.24 — Therefore, transcendentalists undertaking performances of sacriﬁce, charity and penance in accordance with scriptural regulations begin always with oṁ, to attain the Supreme.
Bg 17.25 — Without desiring fruitive results, one should perform various kinds of sacriﬁce, penance and charity with the word tat. The purpose of such transcendental activities is to get free from material entanglement.
Bg 17.26-27 — The Absolute Truth is the objective of devotional sacriﬁce, and it is indicated by the word sat. The performer of such sacriﬁce is also called sat, as are all works of sacriﬁce, penance and charity which, true to the absolute nature, are performed to please the Supreme Person, O son of Pṛthā.
Bg 17.28 — Anything done as sacriﬁce, charity or penance without faith in the Supreme, O son of Pṛthā, is impermanent. It is called asat and is useless both in this life and the next.