Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 17 (Shraddhatraya Vibhaga)

The Bhagavad-Geeta Chapter 17: Shraddhatraya-vibhaga Yoga (Yoga delineating the 3 types of Shraddha)

School of Yoga explains shraddha:

Shraddha is the quality of dedication, sincerity, steadfastness and desire for perfection that a person exhibits when performing any action (karma). Also, Sri Krishna clarifies that shraddha is the ability to focus on the task at hand with all attention, without worrying excessively about the outcome of the sacrifice.

Another critical aspect of shraddha that Sri Krishna clarifies, is that capability, competence or quality of outcome is not relevant in any activity. It is shraddha that matters. Hence, Sri Krishna delinks quality of outcome from quality of input and clearly asserts the ascendancy of effort over outcome.

The Bhagavad-Geeta Chapter 17 (1 to 15) – Sri Krishna said:

Arjuna said: What is the nature of those that do not follow the scriptures, but perform sacrifice with devotion and sincerity? Is it sattvic, rajasic or tamasic? The devotion and sincerity of any person is determined by his innate nature (svabhaavasva = self + bhaava = expression), which could be sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. 

  • Sattvika people worship the divine, rajasic people worship the greedy (yakshas and rakshasas) and tamasic people worship decadence (pretas or spirits and hosts of the bhutas). 
  • Those that practice extreme austerities not authorised by scripture, are attached to hypocrisy and feeling of doer-ship, lust and ownership. So, when people subject themselves to unauthorised austerities, they punish not just themselves, but the divine that resides therein.
  • Sattvic people maintain a balanced diet which increases vitality, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness; one which is full of taste, having a marrow, substantial and agreeable. 
  • Rajasic people prefer food which is bitter, sour, saline, pungent, dry and acrid. 
  • Tamasic people like stale, tasteless, stinking, cooked overnight, refuse and impure.
  • When performing a sacrifice sattvic people desire no fruit and perform the yagna for its sake only; however, rajasic people perform yagna for selfish reason and reward; finally, yagna where there is no discipline, sincerity or sharing is tamasic.
  • Ideal persons are those who worship the divine, twice born, teachers, and those with awareness (pragnya). Also, these people are upright, practice continence and non-injury to themselves and others. This is the highest possible austerity or self-restraint (tapas).
  • Also, their way of speaking is calm and causes no excitement, are truthful, pleasant, seeking win-win, constantly practicing self-improvement (svadhyaya-abhyasanam) and controlled speech.

School of Yoga explains svabhaava:

  • When we meet someone, we either like or dislike the person.
  • If there is congruence between atmas (souls), Purusha (experiencer) pulls the object towards itself because it wants continued engagement (raaga). If there is dissonance, Purusha pushes the object away to avoid discomfort (dwesha). This results in a give-take movement or a transaction, which is karma (action). 
  • But, how do we decide that we like or dislike the object? What is the standard by which we compare stimulus from any object?
  • We compare the behaviour of the other person (svabhaava: sva = self + bhaava = expression) with our svadharma (sva = self + dharma = natural state) to decide our position of like or dislike. 
  • Dharma is our natural state, where we experience a sense of peace. This state occurs happens when the proportion of the three guna’s (tamas = delusion / rajas = passion / satva = harmony) reside harmoniously within our self-worth (asmita).
  • When fresh stimulus comes in through the senses (indriyas), it is collated by the center of cognition (manas) and compared with svadharma (our personal natural state). This changes Purusha (experiencer) which expands in happiness or contracts in anxiety and fear. Consequently, this disturbs the guna proportion and balance.
  • So, our behaviour (svabhaava) emerges from our conditioning (svadharma). We behave in our own very unique manner because of our natural state which conditions our responses to stimulii.

The underlying principle driving svadharma and svabhaava in the Human Body

  • The human body consists of many sub-systems such as the circulatory system, digestive system, musculo-skeletal system etc. Also, each of these systems are unique and have specific characteristics and functions with are independent of other systems, but related with each other.
  • Next, within each system are specific organs which have specific functions, such as the heart, lungs, stomach, liver etc. These are also independent and their function cannot be interchanged.
  • Also, each of these systems and entities have their own operational range and they operate best within this range. This is called homeostasis or dharma (natural state)
  • Hence, each of these systems as well as organs can be considered as an independent entity functioning within a macro-system, the human body which has its own natural state.
  • Since each of these systems and organs is unique, each has a unique identity (Purusha), which functions in a specific manner (Prakriti) and responds to stimulus in a particular manner indicating that each has an independent soul (atma) which is driven by the availability of a consciousness (chitta) and has a unique dharma.
  • There is movement of nutrients in and out of the body and this brings prana (motility) in the form of Purusha and Prakriti. 
  • Since each of these entities such as heart, lungs etc have a Soul (atma), it stands to reason that these organs get diseased and die on account of fulfilment of debt (rinn) with the body.
  • One can force continuation of functioning by use of medicines, but there comes a point when even this is exhausted and the system fails. There is no other logical explanation for ageing.
Is there a way in which we can act without creating karma? 

Of course! that is the essence of the-Bhagavad-Geeta and everything Sri Krishna is trying to say. Let us look at karma from first principles.

  • Karma occurs on account of Purusha/ Siva experiencing existential anxiety (do I exist? How do I prove that I exist?).
  • So, Purusha/ Siva establishes a bond with another Purusha/ Siva to confirm and ensure confirmation of existence.
  • However, since the awareness of each of the two entities is different, there is an awareness imbalance which results in congruence/ lack of congruence between the two entities.
  • Consequently, the two entities experience like (raaga) or dislike (dwesha) of each other, and this results in an unbalanced give-take relationship and debt (rinn) which becomes prarabda-karma.
  • This debt which comes as prarabda-karma has to be liquidated. This is why we have samsaara or the cycle of birth and death, so that debt is liquidated.
  • This means that, for as long as Purusha/ Siva experiences existential anxiety, this cycle will continue.
  • For this cycle to be disrupted, the existential anxiety of identity of Purusha/ Siva’s needs to be nullified.
  • When this happens, Purusha/ Siva experiences no existential anxiety, therefore, even when prarabda-karma or debt is being liquidated, Purusha/ Siva continue act in the situation but do not experience existential anxiety, so do not accumulate fresh debt (rinn).
  • For Purusha/ Siva to stop experiencing existential anxiety, they must first become aware of their existence and Identity (pragnya).
  • Then, they must slowly increase their control over response in a way that reduces and finally eliminates existential anxiety. This is free-will (sankalpa) and also the crux of Sri Krishna’s message throughout the-Bhagavad-Geeta.

What are the steps that we need to understand so that we avoid creation of karma when acting?

  1. First, do not react. Do no give in to impulse reaction. That is your svabhaava reacting. Stop! take a deep breath and allow the urge to react to pass.
  2. Recognise the temporary nature of all situations. This is vivekam (ability to discriminate temporary from permanent / value and loss of value).
  3. Next, view the situation dispassionately. This capability is called vairagyam. 
  4. Then, think win-win. Negotiate with shraddha and vairagyam. Avoid dualities such as like-dislike, good-bad, right-wrong etc.
  5. Treat every action as a sacrifice (yagnya) and act without expecting credit. Practice sama-drishi (equal sightedness – treating everything equally and without bias).

Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 17 (16 – 28) – Quality of austerity (tapas), sacrifice (yagnya) and shraddha

  • Finally, serenity of mind, gentleness, silence, self-control and purity of disposition is cognitive austerity. Thus, the above austerity when practiced with no desire for fruit is called sattva.  
  • Next, austerity which is ostentatious and practiced with the intent of gaining respect, honour or reverence is called rajasic. 
  • Lastly, austerity practiced with foolish and obstinate intentions, with torture to the self or another is tamasic.
  • A gift given with the pure intent of giving, with a feeling that it is a duty to give, given at the right time, place and to the right person is sattvic; however, a gift given grudgingly and with a view of return is rajasic; a gift given at the wrong time or place, without respect or with insult is tamasic.
  • However, no matter what the sacrifice, if a person were to utter “Om Tat Sat”, meaning that all actions reside in the reality of Brahman and perform the sacrifice with shraddha, that would be a complete sacrifice.

School of Yoga explains shraddhatraya-vibhaga:

  • Sri Krishna says that a person’s behaviour is influenced by his innate nature or personality trait (svabhaava). 
  • This innate nature is a combination shraddha (sincerity, dedication, patience and focus) and yagnya (their sacrifice for the cause). Yagnya is possible only when a person has the ability control yearning (tapas), hence this is an important yardstick.
  • Sri Krishna delineates shraddha, tapas and yagnya by guna (attributes). Importantly, the guna mix changes continuously depending on our insecurities, desires and delusion. Hence, qualities given below are based on the guna that is predominant.
  • It’s important to realise guna is a manifestation of Purusha (identity or experiencer) as Prakriti.
  • Both Prakriti and Purusha weave with each other, without Purusha there is no Prakriti and without Prakriti, Purusha cannot manifest or experience. 
What are the qualities of shraddha, yagnya and tapas of people with different gunas?
Sattvic people:
  • Generally, sattvic people are matured and don’t feel the need to prove themselves.
  • A sattvic person likes the company of people who are honest, level headed, calm, forgiving, solution seeking and peaceful.
  • Sattvic people generally prefer the company of teachers, wise, learned and level headed people.
  • When performing any activity, they do it without selfish intent, they do it because it is right. They are straight-forward, honest, diplomatic and seek a wi-win solution.
  • Sattvic people exhibit enormous self-restraint and give without expectation of return. They speak in a calm manner and do not excite others. 
  • Also, they generally prefer fresh food and eat moderately. 
Rajasic and Tamasic people:
  •  Generally, rajasic people are passionate, ambitious, aggressive and enjoy power. These are people who are constantly updating their resume, discussing office politics 24×7, playing up to the boss, sensitive to power equations etc. Typically, they are Type A personalities.
  • They like the company of passionate people, and always seek to win in any negotiation. Also, they love the spotlight and will try to ensure that they get credit for anything they do. 
  • Rajasic people can go into extremes when they get passionate. They have enormous lust for life, food, sex and possessions.
  • Rajasic people prefer acting for personal gain. They get satisfaction from material gain such as wealth, property, promotions etc.
  • Lastly, they like heavy and pungent food like meats. Susceptible to high alcohol usage. 
  • Tamasic people are those that do not act. They have excuses for everything; why something should not be done or was not done, is not being done right, that too much is being spent, process is incorrect and that everyone is against them.
  • Such people do not choose their friends. They will listen to anyone who is able to control them at the moment. When they give anything, it tends to be inappropriate because they do not empathise or understand.
  • Their decision making tends to be vacillatory, they waver and change direction without reason.
  • Tamasic people do not understand sacrifice. Hence, their effort in any situation is without reason, understanding or reverence. As a result, their expectation of outcome also becomes one of chance and hope due to which they adopt different kinds of superstitious and occult practices.
  • They eat without restraint or control and are unable to differentiate between what they eat. Also, they are also susceptible to substance abuse.

School of Yoga explains self-improvement lessons and offers suggestions:

  • It is equally important for us to reflect on our own svabhaava (personality traits) and recognise those of others in various situations. 
  • To develop and evolve, we need to improve our capabilities in the following areas – discrimination between permanent and impermanent (vivekam), dispassion (vairagyam), sincerity and dedication (shraddha), austerity (tapas) and ability to sacrifice (yagnya).
  • When we begin the practice, we begin to experience resistance from Purusha (experiencer) because asmita (self-worth) becomes threatened by non-existence. The weakest link is our vasanas (memories of past knowledge) which force us to behave in particular manner.
  • When we evolve in this practice;
    • Slowly, a stillness begins to set in. This stillness brings pranayama (control over prana).
    • There is increased control over reaction to stimulus (pratyahaara).
    • Dhyana (meditation) becomes steady.
    • We become non-threatening.

Does Yoga have an easy method for implementation of Sri Krishna’s ideas in Chapter 17?

Raja-Yoga is a stream of Yoga that tries to allow a person to live in the world while trying to improve his or her capability to live the Bhagavad-Geeta. The first two steps of Raja-Yoga are yama (behaviour control) and niyama (self-control or internal discipline) are very useful in improving the qualities of sincerity and dedication (shraddha) in a person. What are these methods?

Yama: Generally, stimulus comes from more than one source, hence it is rare that the stimulus is received with complete attention (ekagrath). The state of awareness, called vijnana (cognition of sentience in any situation) covers reception, comparison with conditioning and response. Any drop of awareness creates error in estimation and expectation or maya, both, in the manifesting and receiving individual (Purusha). This can generate stress, especially if the situation calls for a high degree of adjustment and is difficult to cope. Also, one also gets stressed if the situation results in confrontation, or there is an insensitive or irrelevant response. Ones reactions to stimulus and ability to work with others in harmony or bring balance into his or her tasks and relationships are fundamental building blocks for a sustainable solution to stress.

Yama can mean “rein, curb, or bridle, discipline or restraint” when dealing with the environment. Therefore, yama means exercising restraint in reaction to stimulus.

Patanjali-yoga-sutra recommends six key elements in yama that cover most aspects of behaviour with the external environment, these being non-violence (ahimsa), truth or integrity (satya), sexual continence (brahmacharyam), Non-stealing (asteya), equanimity (aparigraha) and diet control (mitahara).

Hath-yoga-pradeepika recommends – non-violence (ahimsa), truth or integrity (satya), sexual continence (brahmacharyam), forgiveness (kshama), self-discipline (drithi), compassion (daya), frankness or being straightforward (arjava), diet control (mitahara) and cleanliness (shoucham).

Let us look at some of the elements of behaviour control (yama):

Non-Violence (ahimsa): To understand non-violence, one must understand violence and its relationship to anger, fear, frustration, sexuality, ambition and power.

To begin, violence can be defined as any act which physically or psychologically harms another.

We know that violence covers a vast spectrum – from internet abuse and bullying to genocide, where entire populations are exterminated. There are 3 types of violence (himsa): tamasic (confused), rajasic (passionate) & sattvic (balanced).

Tamasic violence comes out of lack of knowledge and is driven primarily by inertia, fear and confusion. Rajasic violence primarily out of passion and is driven by emotions such as anger, lust, greed, ambition etc. Sattvic violence is very difficult to achieve and is characterized by high communication and patience.

Example: A case of a parent scolding a truant child. When the parent scolds the child because he or she is afraid of what society will say that it is, then it is tamasic. However, when the parent tries to superimpose his or her own expectations/ ambitions on the child rajasic. Finally, when the parent scolds the child for deviation of a value that has been explained often, then the reason is sattvic, this is characterized by the parent trying to separate the person from the problem.

Truth or SatyaTruth or satya is one of the most difficult but vital elements of behaviour control or yama.

In fact, truth in this world of illusion is difficult to define and easy to deflect. It is also hard to understand, interpret, experience and perform due the shroud of perceptions always surrounding it which comes from our sense of self-worth (asmita), which is based on our conditioning (dharma). Therefore, since truth is so difficult to achieve consistently, an interim and more easily implementable aspect called integrity is better suited for daily use. Integrity is the ability to work according to the requirements of the situation without fear, favour or disproportionate personal gain.

Non-stealing (asteya)Stealing or theft is taking anything which does not belong to us without permission. This can be expanded to include effort. Some examples might be:

  • Taking stationery from the office for personal work.
  • Not paying taxes
  • Ticketless travel
  • Not contributing to household chores.
  • Not sharing an inheritance.

Sexual continence or control (brahmacharyam) is the ability to control seminal discharge. However, it does not mean stoppage of sexual activity. Therefore, one can conclude that Brahmacharyam is the responsible management of sexual activity with no wastage of seminal discharge.

Procreation is deeply embedded in our psyche and need for sexual activity is natural. However, it is easily possible for one to lose control and engage in indiscriminate activity, thus losing seminal fluid.

Especially today, as more people and business cross countries and continents, sensitivity and awareness needs to be integrated with removal of sexual bias to each other’s cultural and racial background  in all relationships.

Controlled diet (mitahaara)Traditional belief is that we are what we eat. Food is a major source of nutrition. Nutrients that nourish the body can only come from diet. Therefore, it is important that we not only eat the right foods but also adopt correct eating habits. Poor food habits lead to ill-heath and stress. Some suggestions on eating right;

  • Food is broken down into manageable pieces in the mouth and mixed with enzymes for digestion. This is why chewing of the food and mixing it with saliva is so important. The food is then swallowed and goes into the stomach. As the food enters the stomach, signals are sent so that more enzymes are released into the stomach.
  • Additional blood is sent to the stomach muscles to enable it to churn and mix the food and enzymes completely. So, the stomach should not be overloaded with food. There should be adequate space for the stomach to squeeze the gases out. Also, there should be sufficient water in the stomach to ensure elastic movement of the stomach muscles to squeeze, churn and break up the food.
  • The half-digested food then moves into the intestines where the nutrients are absorbed while food breaks up and churn continues. Food with adequate roughage ensures that food does not stick to the walls of the intestines but moves forward for absorption and evacuation.
  • Expulsion of waste is a very important element of digestion and often determines the health of the person. We should ensure that choice of food which we eat, keep this requirement in view.
  • Stay within the recommended weight range. It is the starting point for good health.
  • Most religions prescribe a benediction before a meal is started. In South Asian cultures, the benediction translates to “let food be consumed for ingestion (pranaya-svaaha), let food be consumed for excretion (apanayo-svaaha), let food be consumed for healthy energy and aura (vyanaya-svaaha), let food be consumed for good outward flowing demeanour (udanaya-svaaha), let food be consumed for assimilation of resources (samanaaya-svaaha) and let food be consumed for alignment with the source (brahmane-svaaha)”. Very pragmatic benediction, after that covers every reason for eating…

Niyama (self-control) is the process of increasing our internal discipline and self-control. While yama is the process of harmonising our relationship with our environment, niyama is the practice of assimilating impact of stimulus with self-worth (asmita). So, niyama and yama increase harmony between our sense of self-worth (asmita) and awareness of the Self (jnana) within the stimuli-response cycle.

Hatha Yoga Pradeepika (Chapter 1) – The 10 rules of niyama are – austerity (tapas), contentment (santosham), belief in the Vedas (aasthikyam), charity (daanam), prayer to God (eeshwara-poojanam), listening to spiritual teaching (siddhanta-vaakyam), modesty (hreemath), repetition of sacred word (japa), and sacrifice with fire (hutam).

Patanjali Yoga Sutra (Chapter 2) – Cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study/ reflection, surrender to a God comprises niyama.

School of Yoga recommends six niyama elements: hygiene  (soucham), contentment (santhosham), introspection (svadhyeyam), austerity (tapas),  sincerity and dedication (shraddha), and charity (daana).

Soucham consists of Bahirasoucham (External Hygiene) and Antarasoucham (Internal Hygiene).

External Hygiene (Bahirasoucham)This aspect consists of performance of ablutions regularly, maintaining a clean body and clean environment, all of which are required to ensure external hygiene. For example: In India – snaanam (head-bath) requires wetting the body completely so that the nine apertures on the body (mouth, eyes, ears, nostrils, anus and genitals) are thoroughly cleaned. The act of water falling on the body + rubbing action of the hands on the body increases blood flow to the skin resulting in a feeling of increased freshness and awareness.

Environmental hygiene is also very important – Almost all major illnesses which result in lost time and cost come from lack of awareness of the criticality of hygiene. In fact, spitting, defecation, urination and other practices such as smoking chewing tobacco etc. result in water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, leptospirosis and air-borne diseases such as throat infection etc. Clearly, an individual is responsible, not just for his own health, but also for the health of his neighbor and society at large.

Some examples: 

In 1330s, a plague hit China and spread to Europe in 1347 and by 1351 had reached all corners of Europe and the Middle East. It had the effect of killing around 35% of Europe’s population (35 million people in 2 years). Overall, it reduced the world’s population from 450 million to between 350 and 375 million.

During this time, it was noticed that Jews, living in Ghettos away from the village suffered lower deaths. This was on account of strict Rabbinical Laws on cleanliness followed by them. The water that they used was from wells in their backyard and not community wells leading to greater control over bacterial infection. Also, injunctions on personal hygiene and disposal of waste ensured that the carriers, such as rats were less likely to infect the community. Clearly, this ritual practice protected Jews long before antiseptics and understanding of germs.

Similarly, in India, there are strict rules for cleanliness, especially when eating. Indian’s eat only with the right hand. Eating from another person’s plate, something that has come in contact with your mouth, your saliva or your plate is not allowed and called ‘jootha’ (in North India), ‘ushth’ (in Western India), ‘etho’ (in Bengal), ‘aitha’ (in Orissa), ‘echal’ (in Tamil Nadu), ‘enjulu’ (in Karnataka), or ‘engili’ (in Andhra Pradesh).

In many parts of India, one is not allowed to touch lacto based ghee, milk, curds etc. after touching any food that has been cooked, unless hands have been washed, so as to avoid contamination of vegetable-based dishes with animal products and vice-versa.

It is also normal in many parts of India to use separate utensils for cooking, storing raw ingredients and for eating and to clean them separately.

Internal cleanliness (aantara-soucham) is continuous discarding of baggage so that the person feels light, clear headed and free from anxiety of self-worth (asmita).

Contentment (santosham) – Any feeling of happiness is fleeting, but the sense of peace is more lasting. Also, contentment increases calmness. As a result, there is increased clarity of thought and reduced conflict. This leads to greater productivity without agitation within, and in the environment. Finally, contentment increases positive energy in us. But, how does one recognize this & more importantly, imbibe it?

  • We accept that which comes to us – this means that we neither resist change.
  • We avoiding opposites, such as happy/ sad, good/ bad, like/ dislike, right/ wrong with any outcome. We get our gratification from quality of input (that which we are supposed to do in that situation).

Self-inquiry or examination (svadhyaaya) literally means, “to get close to something”. Consequently, it means to study oneself through meditation or contemplation (mimamsa).

Learning has two components – a hard component and a soft component. So, when we review any situation, both hard and soft components are reviewed, as a result there is learning. This is reflection (mimamsa) and is an element of introspection.

Austerity (tapas) is the exercise of increasing awareness of the Self by practice of austerities. Austerities come from self-denial of wants and suppression of desire. Tapas requires 2 qualities: denial and internal cleaning.

Denial – The world has the ability to continuously engage us. However, to increase self-control, material interactions needs control. This includes;

  • Reducing interactions with the world, including social media. This reduces distraction / mental clutter and allows one to engage in greater analysis of oneself.
  • Reducing personal possessions such as clothes, jewellery etc. As a result, this reduces attraction to impermanent or ephemeral possessions.

Internal cleansing (aantara-soucham) – continuously cleaning self-worth of baggage ensures that we are able to deal with fear, anxiety and frustration that the practice of austerity (tapas) brings.

Charity (daana) – means giving without expectation of return.

There are many types of sacrifices or selfless giving and the most important, in order of significance are;

  • Anna-daana                (giving food as charity)
  • Vastra-daana              (giving clothes as charity)
  • Vidya-daana               (giving knowledge as charity)
  • Kriya-daana                (giving effort as charity)
  • Lakshmi-daana           (giving money as charity)

Of all forms of charity (daana), those where there is direct benefit to another such as anna-daana (feeding others) are considered higher forms of charity (daana), especially because food is life. This is followed by any charity which requires sacrifice of one’s personal time or energy such as kriya (effort), vidya (knowledge sharing) and vastra-daana (giving clothes to the needy). Finally, on the list of charities that increase altruistic sensitivities are those where there is no direct involvement, giving is often impersonal and there is no control over the outcome, such as lakshmi-daana (money).

But this is not to take the sheen away from any form of sacrifice or giving. All forms of giving and sacrifice result is a feeling of goodness and altruism which opens the sense of identity to awareness and introspection (jnaana).

Dedication (shraddha) – is the ability to complete a chosen task to the best of one’s ability with sincerity, focus on result, patience, dedication and willingness subsume personal preferences to complete the task. Often, this may mean working with severe constraints, with no assistance or support, maybe in adverse conditions, with no recognition or resources – including money and having to overcome failure as well as frustration. The qualities that one requires in these circumstances are;

  • Patience (sahana) – The ability to start and maintain an activity till its logical conclusion despite the obstacles, delays, stumbles and constraints. 
  • Modesty (hrimati)Modesty and humility allow us to accept other people’s suggestion and reach the goal. This also applies to the quality of giving credit to others and keeping asmita in check.

Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production system penned “The 10 precepts to think, act and win”. These are actually simple and valuable rules for implementing shraddha.

  • You are your own resource, reduce waste and optimise yourself. Resource is time, energy, ideas, capability, creativity, self-worth etc. These are the constraints that impede us from perfection.  Yogacharya Sundaram used to say “only a busy man finds time”; this is true for everything; you generally find the resource when you optimise yourself and stop waste.
  • Don’t be negative. First say – “I can do it” and try to complete the activity. Refer to Sri Krishna’s advice in Chapters 3 & 4. Perform activity with focus on the goal, but without hankering for the fruits.
  • Your environment is your teacher. You can learn from every situation if you are open to change.
  • Start any activity immediately. This is rajo-guna. Procrastination is tamas. When you linger, one of two things happen; another urgent activity comes up which pushes this activity down. As a result, this activity festers and suddenly becomes a crisis when you are unprepared.
  • When you start the activity, persevere. It is the nature of activity (karma) that you will encounter obstacles. Consequently, when you persevere and overcome it you will experience sattva-guna (harmony).
  • Explain things in an easy-to-understand manner. Also, confirm that people have understood what you are saying by repeating it and seeking confirmation. Seek to understand before trying to be understood.

This is something many people forget, to tell the most important thing first and give details later. For example – after Hanuman and team visited Lanka and met Seeta, they returned to Sugreeva to inform him. However, they did not come in immediately, but wasted an orchard. This distracted Rama, Lakshmana and Sugreeva from the anxiety they would have experienced when waiting for Hanuman to come in from the time the forward posts reported that Hanuman was sighted. When angry Sugreeva ordered Hanuman to be brought in, the first words that he uttered to Rama were “I saw Seeta”; not how they went, how they overcame obstacles etc., just the most critical strategic information! How often people beat around the bush and forget that the information is more important than the details.

  • Waste is hidden, be transparent. We hoard information, possessions and ideas. The tragedy is that as a result, none of these ideas are used and wasted. So, share, because when you share, you grow as well.
  • Valueless motion is equal to shortening one’s life. In South Asia, people say “OM Tat Sat”, in Brahman there is value (sat). When a person performs non value adding activity, he not only destroys intrinsic value of the activity, but also increases tamas within and forces others to waste their time and energy on the same activity. This is equivalent to reducing one’s life. In the words of Northcote Parkinson – work expands to fill the time available, dont do that!
  • Improve everything, including that which has already been improved – perfection is an iterative process. it is not necessary that this be achieved in one go. For example – once a friend visited Michelangelo when he was sculpting and found him sculpting a nose. When he visited the famous artist a few weeks later, he found him working on the same nose! Surprised, he remarked “But Michael, tis but a trifle” to which Michelangelo replied “Aye, tis but a trifle, but trifles make perfection”!
  • Everyone has wisdom, it is in the usage that the differences emerge. This is similar to what Sri Krishna speaks throughout the Bhagavad-Geeta, when he refers to a person acquiring steady awareness (sthithapragnya), a person of high experience (purushottama), one who cognises his physical state (kshetrgnya) or one who has optimised his gunas. Everyone has the capability to add value, but only those that use it and change emerge as valuable. For example – In South Asia, there is a common practice of younger people touching the feet of older people. This show of respect is not for the age of the person, it is for the wisdom acquired through experience by the person, which makes the elder a (mahanubhavumaha = great + anubhavu = those with experience). So, the person bows to the knowledge of the Self (kshetragnya) acquired by the person through experience, which is usage of wisdom.

School of Yoga posits views that may be contrary to accepted positions: 

  • Shraddha has often been termed as faith. Shraddha is not faith, in fact, it has no direct translation in English. Shraddha is a mix of dedication, patience and perseverance, all of which are real and measurable (sat). In fact, faith is considered an affliction because it is a state of swapna-avastha (dream state), a state that is not real and should be transcended (asat).
  • Do guna ratios change over time? What makes them change? Is it your karma? Once a debt (rinn) has been paid off, the identity no longer has that load to carry. Also, once a debt is paid off, other debts may not immediately come up for repayment because the framework and players for repaymant may not be available. This lightens the Self. This also allows awareness (pragnya) the freedom to increase discrimination (vivekam) and dispassion (vairagyam).  So, this is an opportunity for the Soul to increase awareness, reduce creation of fresh debt and merge with Brahman.

School of Yoga explains the lesson learned in Chapter 17

  • There are two primary states, permanent and impermanent.
  • Prarabda-karma drives personality traits (svabhaava) and these manifest through attributes (guna). 
  • From awareness (pragnya) comes the ability to increase discrimination (vivekam) and dispassion (vairagyam).  When this happens, there is a reduction in the creation of fresh debt and this allows the Soul to merge with Brahman.
  • Om-tat-sat means the Brahman (Om) is cognised every time sacrifice (yagnya) is performed (tat) with the sole intention of adding value (sat).
  • To achieve Om-tat-sat, shraddha is required.

The Transliteration of The Bhagavad Geeta – Chapter 17 follows:

The Sanskrit words are in red italics and meaning, before the words, are in black.

(1) Arjuna said – What about those that abandon operating procedures and simply perform sacrifices with dedication? What becomes of them? What are the conditions of sattva, rajas and tamas (ye-shaastra-viddhim-utsrjya-yajaate-shraddhaya-anvitaaha-teshaam-nishta-tu-ka-sattvam-aho-rajaha-tamaha).

(2-3) Sri Krishna replied – Now, hear the threefold dedication of the embodied which is inherent in sattvika, raajasika and even taamasika (trividha-bhavati-shraddha-dehinaam-saa-svabhaavajaa-saatviki-raajasi-cha-eva-taamasi-cha-iti-taam-shrNu). Conformance of nature in everyone is as per his dedication. Shraddha determines the person, truly he is what his dedication is (sattva-anuroopa-sarvasya-shraddha-bhavati-shraddhamaya-ayam-purushaha-yaha-yat-shraddhah-saha-eva-sah. Those of sattvika qualities worship the deities, raajasa people worship demi-gods and demons, tamasika people worship ghosts and myriad nature spirits (yajante-saatvikaaha-deivaan-yaksha-rakshaasi-raajasaha=pretaan-bhoota-gaNaan-cha-anye-yajante-taamasaaha-janaha).

(5-6) Those people not following proper procedures, practicing terrible austerity, given to feeling of doer-ship, hypocrisy, desire, attachment and power (ashaastra-vihitam-ghoram-tapyante-ye-tapaha-janah-dambha-ahamkaara-samyuktaha-kaama-raaga-bala-anvitaaha). Senselessly torturing all the elements in the body and me who dwells in the body, these are known to be of demonic resolve (kaaryantah-shareerashtam-bhoota-graamam-achetasaha-maam-cha-eva-antah-shareerastham-taan-viddhi-aasuri-nischayaan).

(7-8) Indeed, of all, food is critical in the three paths of sacrifice, austerity and charity, hear the distinction between them (aahaar-tu-api-sarvasya-trividaha-bhavati-priyaha-yagnya-tapaha-tatha-daanam-teshaam-bhedam-imam-shrNu). Those that promote life, value, strength, health, happiness, amicability, are tasty, viscous, substantial, agreeable foods are dear to saatvik people (aayuh-sattva-bala-aarogya-sukha-preety-vivardanaha-rasyaaha-snigdaaha-sthiraaha-hridyaaha-aahaaraaha-saatvika-priyah).

(9-10) Food that is bitter, sour, salty, very pungent and fiery, dry, burning are liked by raajaika people and bring pain, grief and disease (katuhu-amlaha-lavaNaha-atyushNaha-teekshaNaha-rakshaha-vidaahi-aahaara-raajasya-ishtaaha-dukha-shokha-aamaya-pradah). That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, left-overs and also impure foods are liked by taamasika (yaat-yaaman-gatarasam-pooti-paryushitam-cha-yat-ucchishtam-api-cha-ameghyam-bhojanam-taamasa-priyam).

(11-13) Those not longing for fruits of sacrifice that is performed as per process, which is offered as it should be, with their cognition steady is sattvika (aphala-aakaanshibhihi-yagnya-vidhishtaha-yaha-ijyate-yashtavyam-eva-iti-manaha-samaadhaaya-saha-saatvikaha). Those seeking fruits by fraudulent means and also which is offered as sacrifice, that is raajasika (abhisamdhyaay-tu-phalam-dambhaartham-api-cha-eva-yat-icchyate-tam-yajnyam-viddhi-rajasam). Any effort that does not follow process, food is not shared, no mantras are chanted, no emoluments are made and there is no dedication, that sacrifice is called taamasika (vidhi-heenam-asrshta-heenam-mantra-heenam-adakhiNam-shraddha-virahitam-yagnyam-taamasam-parichakshate).

(14-16) Those that worship the deities, twice-born, teachers, awareness, purity, straight-forwardness, celibacy, non-injury is called austerity of the body (deva-dvija-guru-prajnya-poojanam-shoucham-aarjavam-brahmachaaryam-ahimsa-cha-shareeram-tapah-uchhayate). Causing no excitement in speech, truthful, pleasant and beneficial which comes from self-study is austerity of speech (anudvegakaram-vaakyam-satyam-priyahitam-cha-yat-svaadhyaaya-abhyasanam-cha-eva-vaanmayam-tapaha-ucchayate). Serenity of cognition, good-heartedness, silence, self-control, clean sentiment, this is called tapas of the cognition (manaha-prasaadaha-soumyatvam-mounam-aatma-vinigrahah-bhaava-samshuddhihi-iti-etat-tapah-maanasam-ucchayate).

(17-19) These threefold austerity, when practiced with dedication my men united with no desire for the fruit are called sattvika (shraddhya-parayaa-taptam-tapah-tat-trividham-nare-aphala-aakaankshibhihi-yukte-saathvikam-parichaskate). When hypocrisy is practiced in austerity with the object of gaining praise, honour or wealth, that is said to be raajasam and this is unstable and transient (satkaara-maana-pooja-artham-tapah-dambena-cha-eva-yat-kriyate-tat-iha-proktam-raajasam-chalam-adhruvam). When the self is encased in delusion and includes practice of torture in the austerity or is for destroying another, that is declared as taamasam (moodh-graaheNa-aatmanaha-yat-peedaya-kreeyate-tapaha-parasya-utsaadana-artham-va-tat-taamasam-udaahrtam).

(20-22) When charity is given without expectation of return, in a proper place, at the correct time and to a worthy person, that charity is deemed saatvic (daathavyam-iti-yat-daanam-deeyate-anupakaariNe-deshe-kaale-cha-paatre-cha-tat-daanam-saatvikam-smrtaam). Indeed, when it is given with an expectation of return favour and reluctantly, that charity is called rajasika (yat-prathyupakaararth-phalam-uddisya-va-punaha-deeyate-cha-pariklisht-tha-daanam-raajasam-smrtham). A gift that is given without heeding place or time and given without respect, even insult, that charity is called tamasika (adesha-kaale-yat-daanam-apaatrebhyaha-cha-deeyate-asatkrit-avagnyaatam-tat-taamasam-udihrtam).

(23-24) Om-Tat-Sat (pranava-sacrifice-value creation), thus is the designation for Brahman, the threefold Brahmanaa, Veda and Sacrifices have been created by the ancients (om-tat-sat-iti-nirdesah-brahmaNaha-trividaah-smritaha-brahmaNaaha-tena-vedaaha-cha-yagnyaaha-cha-vihitaaha-pura). So, as enjoined in the scriptures, OM is thus uttered every time by the students of Brahman when acts of sacrifice, charity and austerity are begun (tasmaat-Om-iti-udaahrtya-yagnya-daana-tapah-kriya-pravartante-vidhaan-uktaaha-satatam-brahma-vadinaam).

(25-26) Tat is the act of sacrifice, austerity and charity without desire for fruits in any action generated by seekers of liberation (tat-iti-anabhisanghaaya-phalam-yagnya-tapah-kriyaaha-daana-kriyaaha-cha-vividha-kriyante-moksha-kaansibhihi). Sat is the sentiment of reality, sentiment of goodness and thus, Sat word is thus used in auspicious acts also (sad-bhaave-saadhu-bhaave-cha-sat-iti-etat-prayujyate-prasaste-karmaNi-thatha-sat-shabda-yujyate).

(27-28) In sacrifice, in austerity, in charity and steadfastness, sat is thus called and action undertaken for anything is called sat (yagnye-tapasi-daane-cha-sthithihi-sat-iti-cha-ucchayate-karma-cha-eva-tadarthiyam-sat-iti-eva-abdhidhiyate). Without dedication, when sacrifice is given, austerity is performed and the outcome is called asat and has no value here or hereafter (ashraddhaya-hutam-dattam-tapah-taptam-kritam-cha-yat-asat-iti-ucchayate-na-cha-tat-pretya-na-iha).

Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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[…]  So, any society that wishes to develop its personality must develop the finer qualities of behaviour control (yama) and self-restraint (niyama) as detailed in Raaja-yoga (check the-Bhagavad-Geeta, chapter 17 for more on yama and niyama). […]

[…] shraddha (sincerity in effort), (read what Sri Krishna says about shraddha in the Bhagavad-geeta) […]

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