Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā – chapter 17 (śraddhā-traya-vibhāga-yoga)

Post By: Published on: December 12, 2016 Reading time: 36 minutes


School of Yoga is profoundly grateful to Saṃskṛta scholars and academics Pijus Kanti Pal (pal.pijuskanti@gmail.com) and Dolon Chanpa Mondal for their support in Saṃskṛta transliteration and quality control.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17 – śraddhā-traya-vibhāga-yoga (yoga delineating the three types of śraddhā).

Introduction to śraddhā.

Śraddhā is the quality of dedication, sincerity, steadfastness and desire for perfection that a person exhibits when performing any action (karma). Also, Śrī Kṛṣṇa clarifies that śraddhā 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 śraddhā that Śrī Kṛṣṇa clarifies, is that capability or quality of outcome are not key drivers in any activity. It is śraddhā that matters. Hence, Śrī Kṛṣṇa delinks quality of outcome from quality of input, clearly asserting the ascendancy of effort over outcome.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17, verse (1-15).

Relationship between attributes (guṇa), sacrifice (yajña) and śraddhā.

Arjuna said: What is the nature of those that do not follow the scriptures, but perform sacrifice with devotion and sincerity? Is it sāttvika, rājasika or tāmasika? The devotion and sincerity of any person is determined by his innate nature (svabhāva – sva = self + bhāva = expression), which could be sāttvika, rājasika or tāmasika. 

  • Sāttvika people worship the divine, rājasika people worship the greedy (yakṣa and rākṣasa) and tāmasika people worship decadence (pretas or spirits and hosts of the bhūtas).
  • 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.
  • Sāttvika 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. 
  • Rājasika people prefer food which is bitter, sour, saline, pungent, dry and acrid. 
  • Tāmasika people like stale, tasteless, stinking, cooked overnight, refuse and impure.
  • When performing a sacrifice sāttvika people desire no fruit and perform the yajña for its sake only; however, rājasika people perform yajña for selfish reason and reward; finally, yajña where there is no discipline, sincerity or sharing is tāmasika.
  • Ideal persons are those who worship the divine, twice born, teachers, and those with awareness (prajñā). 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 (svādhyāya-abhyāsanam) and controlled speech.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

Svabhāva (personality traits).

  • When we meet someone, we either like or dislike the person.
  • If there is congruence between atmas (souls), puruṣa (experiencer) pulls the object towards itself because it wants continued engagement (rāga). If there is dissonance, puruṣa pushes the object away to avoid discomfort (dveṣa). 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 (svabhāva sva = self + bhāva = 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 when the proportion of the three guṇa’s (tamas = delusion / rajas = passion / satva = harmony) reside harmoniously within our self-worth (asmitā).
  • When fresh stimulus comes in through the senses (indriyas), it is collated by the centre of cognition (manas) and compared with svadharma (our personal natural state). This changes puruṣa (experiencer) which expands in happiness or contracts in anxiety and fear. Consequently, this disturbs the guṇa proportion and balance.
  • So, our behaviour (svabhāva) emerges from our conditioning (svadharma). We behave in our own very unique manner because of our natural state which conditions our responses to stimulii.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

The underlying principle driving svadharma and svabhāva 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 (puruṣa), which functions in a specific manner (prakṛti) and responds to stimulus in a particular manner indicating that each has an independent soul (ātman) which is driven by the availability of a consciousness (citta) and has a unique
  • There is movement of nutrients in and out of the body and this brings prāṇa (motility), the result of a weave of puruṣa and prakṛti.
  • Since each of these entities such as heart, lungs etc have a Soul (ātman), it stands to reason that these organs get diseased and die on account of fulfilment of debt (ṛṇa) 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.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

Is there a way in which we can act without creating karma? 

Of course! that is the essence of Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā and everything Śrī Kṛṣṇa is trying to say. Let us look at karma from first principles.

  • Karma occurs on account of puruṣa/ Śiva experiencing existential anxiety (do I exist? How do I prove that I exist?).
  • So, puruṣa/ Śiva establishes a bond with another puruṣa/ Śiva 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 (rāga) or dislike (dveṣa) of each other, and this results in an unbalanced give-take relationship and debt (ṛṇa) which becomes prārabdha-karma.
  • This debt which comes as prārabdha-karma has to be liquidated. This is why we have saṃsāra or the cycle of birth and death, to enable debt to be liquidated.
  • This means that, for as long as puruṣa/ Śiva experiences existential anxiety, this cycle will continue.
  • For this cycle to be disrupted, the existential anxiety of identity of puruṣa/ Śiva’s needs to be nullified.
  • When this happens, puruṣa/ Śiva experiences no existential anxiety, therefore, even when prārabdha-karma or debt is being liquidated, puruṣa/ Śiva continue to act in the situation but do not experience existential anxiety, so do not accumulate fresh debt (ṛṇa).
  • For puruṣa/ Śiva to stop experiencing existential anxiety, they must first become aware of their existence and Identity (prajñā).
  • Then, puruṣa/ Śiva must slowly increase their control over response in a way that reduces and finally eliminates all evidence of identity, after existential anxiety exists because the identity is experience. Eliminate the identity and the experience will go away as well.
  • This effort is free-will (saṅkalpa) and also the crux of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s message throughout Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

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. That is your svabhāva. Stop! take a deep breath and allow the urge to react to pass.
  2. Recognise the temporary nature of all situations. This is viveka (ability to discriminate temporary from permanent / value and loss of value).
  3. Next, view the situation dispassionately. This capability is called vairāgya.
  4. Then, think win-win. Negotiate with śraddhā and vairāgya. Avoid dualities such as like-dislike, good-bad, right-wrong etc.
  5. Sacrifice without expecting credit. Practice sama-dṛṣṭi (equal sightedness – treating everything equally and without bias).

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17, verse (16-28).

Quality of austerity (tapas), sacrifice (yajña) and śraddhā.

  • 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 sāttvika.
  • Next, austerity which is ostentatious and practiced with the intent of gaining respect, honour or reverence is called rājasika. 
  • Lastly, austerity practiced with foolish and obstinate intentions, with torture to the self or another is tāmasika.
  • 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 sāttvika; however, a gift given grudgingly and with a view of return is rājasika; a gift given at the wrong time or place, without respect or with insult is tāmasika.
  • 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 śraddhā, that would be a complete sacrifice.

The three types of dedication (śraddhā-traya-vibhāga).

  • Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that a person’s behaviour is influenced by his innate nature or personality trait (svabhāva).
  • This innate nature is a combination śraddhā (sincerity, dedication, patience and focus) and yajña (their sacrifice for the cause). Yajña is possible only when a person has the ability control yearning (tapas), hence this is an important yardstick.
  • Śrī Kṛṣṇa delineates śraddhā, tapas and yajña by guṇa (attributes). Importantly, the guṇa mix changes continuously depending on our insecurities, desires and delusion. Hence, qualities given below are based on the guṇa that is predominant.
  • It’s important to realise guṇa is a manifestation of puruṣa (identity or experiencer) as prakṛti.
  • Both prakṛti and puruṣa weave with each other, without puruṣa there is no prakṛti and without prakṛti, puruṣa cannot manifest or experience. 

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17, verse (16-28).

What are the qualities of śraddhā, yajña and tapas of people with different guṇas?

Sāttvika people.
  • Generally, sāttvika people are matured and don’t feel the need to prove themselves.
  • A sāttvika person likes the company of people who are honest, level headed, calm, forgiving, solution seeking and peaceful.
  • Sāttvika 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 win-win solution.
  • Sāttvika 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. 

Rājasika and tāmasika people.

  • Generally, rājasika 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. 
  • Rājasika people can go into extremes when they get passionate. They have enormous lust for life, food, sex and possessions.
  • Rājasika 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. 
  • Tāmasika 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.
  • Tāmasika 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 susceptible to substance abuse.

Self-improvement suggestions.

  • It is very important for us to reflect on our own svabhāva (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 (viveka), dispassion (vairāgya), sincerity and dedication (śraddhā), austerity (tapas) and ability to sacrifice (yajña).
  • When we begin the practice, we begin to experience resistance from puruṣa (experiencer) because asmitā (self-worth) becomes threatened by non-existence. The weakest link is our vāsanās (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 prāṇayama (control over prāṇa).
    • There is increased control over reaction to stimulus (pratyāhāra).
    • Dhyāna (meditation) becomes steady.
    • We become non-threatening and get a steady awareness (sthitaprajña).

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

Does yoga have an easy method for implementation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s ideas in Chapter 17?

Rāja-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 Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā. The first two steps of Rāja-yoga are yama (behaviour control) and niyama (self-control or internal discipline) which are very useful in improving the qualities of sincerity and dedication (śraddhā) 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 (ekāgratā). The state of awareness, called vijñāna (cognition of sentience in any situation) covers reception, comparison with conditioning and response. Any drop of awareness creates error in estimation and expectation or māyā, both, in the manifesting and receiving individual (puruṣa). This can generate stress, especially if the situation calls for a high degree of adjustment and is difficult to cope. Also, one 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.

Patañjali-yoga-sūtra recommends six key elements in yama that cover most aspects of behaviour with the external environment, these being non-violence (ahiṃsā), truth or integrity (satya), sexual continence (brahmacaryam), non-stealing (asteya), equanimity (aparigraha) and diet control (mitāhāra).

Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā recommends – non-violence (ahiṃsā), truth or integrity (satya), sexual continence (brahmacarya), forgiveness (kṣamā), self-discipline (drīti), compassion (dayā), frankness or being straightforward (ārjava), diet control (mitāhāra) and cleanliness (śauca).

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

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

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

Yama can be defined as the ability to react in a non-threatening manner to stimulus contrary to one’s dharma (conditioning), controlling anger, frustration, and giving positive feedback.

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 (ahiṃsā)tāmasika (confused/ delusional), rājasika (passionate) & sāttvika (balanced).

Tāmasika violence comes out of lack of knowledge and is driven primarily by inertia, fear and confusion. Rājasika violence primarily out of passion and is driven by emotions such as anger, lust, greed, ambition etc. Sāttvika 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 tāmasika. However, when the parent tries to superimpose his or her own expectations/ ambitions on the child is rājasika. Finally, when the parent scolds the child for deviation of a value that has been explained often, then the reason is sāttvika, 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.

There is only one truth, the imperishable Brahman or (paramarth-sathya). Everything else is materiality (māyā) or (samvritti-sathya), which is driven by the senses (indriyas) and shrouds the intellect (buddhi) as well as cognition (manas), constantly impacting sense of self-worth (asmitā) and conditioning (dharma).

But, as absolute truth (paramarth-sathya), while being the ultimate goal of yoga is hard to understand, cognise and experience, a more easily implementable derivative of absolute truth, called conditional truth (samvritti-sathya) is better suited for daily use. Samvritti-sathya comprises empirical truth (vyāvahārika-satya) or truth that is supported by evidence and perceptual truth (prātibhāsika-satya), one that is not backed by evidence.

We can see that 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 (asmitā), which is based on our conditioning (dharma). So, 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 (brahmacarya) is the ability to control seminal discharge. However, it does not mean stoppage of sexual activity. Therefore, one can conclude that brahmacarya 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 (mitāhāra)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 (prāṇāya-svāhā), let food be consumed for excretion (apānāya-svāhā), let food be consumed for healthy energy and aura (vyānāya-svāhā), let food be consumed for good outward flowing demeanour (udānāya-svāhā), let food be consumed for assimilation of resources (samānāya-svāhā) and let food be consumed for alignment with the source (brahmane-svāhā)”. Very pragmatic benediction, after that covers every reason for eating…

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

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 our sense of self-worth (asmitā). So, niyama and yama increase harmony between our sense of self-worth (asmitā) and awareness of the Self (jñāna) within the stimuli-response cycle.

Hatha Yoga Pradeepika (Chapter 1) – the 10 rules of niyama are – austerity (tapas), contentment (santoṣa), belief in the Vedas (āstikya), charity (dāna), prayer to God (īśvara-pūjana), listening to spiritual teaching (siddhānta-vākya), modesty (hrī), repetition of sacred word (japa), and sacrifice with fire (hūta).

Patañjali-yoga-sūtra (Chapter 2) – recommends cleanliness, (śauca), contentment (santoṣam), introspection (svādhyāyam), austerity (tapas), surrender to a God (īśvarapraṇidhānam)

Let’s look at the six most suitable niyama elements – hygiene (śauca), contentment (santoṣa), introspection (svādhyāya), austerity (tapas),  sincerity and dedication (śraddhā), and charity (dāna).

Śauca consists of bāhya-śauca (external hygiene) and āntara-śauca (internal hygiene).
  • External Hygiene (bāhya-śauca)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 – snāna (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.

Example – 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 (āntara-śauca) is continuous discarding of baggage so that the person feels light, clear headed and free from anxiety of self-worth (asmitā).

Contentment (santoṣa) – 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 (svādhyāya) literally means, “to get close to something”. Consequently, it means to study oneself through meditation or contemplation (mīmāṃsā).

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 (mīmāṃsā) 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 need 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 (āntara-śauca) – continuously cleaning self-worth of baggage ensures that we are able to deal with fear, anxiety and frustration that the practice of austerity (tapas)

Charity (dāna) – 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-dāna               (giving food as charity)
  • Vastra-dāna             (giving clothes as charity)
  • Vidyā-dāna            (giving knowledge as charity)
  • Kriyā-dāna              (giving effort as charity)
  • Lakṣmī-dāna          (giving money as charity)

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

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

Dedication (śraddhā) – 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 (sahāna) – the ability to start and maintain an activity till its logical conclusion despite the obstacles, delays, stumbles and constraints. 
  • Modesty (hrī) – 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 asmitā 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 śraddhā.

  • 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 Śrī Kṛṣṇa’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-guṇa. Procrastination is not doing that which needs doing. 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-guṇa (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 Sīta, they returned to Sugrīva 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 Sugrīva ordered Hanuman to be brought in, the first words that he uttered to Rama were “I saw Sīta”; 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”, meaning, 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, don’t 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 Śrī Kṛṣṇa speaks throughout Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, when he refers to a person acquiring steady awareness (sthitaprajña), a person of high experience (puruṣottama), one who cognises his physical state (kṣetrajña) or one who has optimised his guṇa 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 (mahānubhavamahā = great + anubhavu = those with experience). So, the person bows to the knowledge of the Self (kṣetrajña) acquired by the person through experience, which is usage of wisdom.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

Some contradictions to accepted positions

  • Śraddhā has often been termed as faith. Śraddhā is not faith, in fact, it has no direct translation in English. Śraddhā 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 svapna-avasthā (dream state), a state that is not real and should be transcended (asat).
  • Do guṇa ratios change over time? What makes them change? Is it your karma? Once a debt (ṛṇa) 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 repayment may not be available. This lightens the Self. This also allows awareness (prajñā) the freedom to increase discrimination (viveka) and dispassion (vairāgya). So, this is an opportunity for the Soul to increase awareness, reduce creation of fresh debt and merge with brahma

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17.

Lessons learned in Chapter 17.

  • There are two primary states, permanent and impermanent.
  • Prārabdha-karma drives personality traits (svabhāva) and these manifest through attributes (guṇa).
  • From awareness (prajñā) comes the ability to increase discrimination (viveka) and dispassion (vairāgya). 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 brahmān (Om) is cognised every time sacrifice (yajña) is performed (tat) with the sole intention of adding value (sat).
  • To achieve Om-tat-sat, śraddhā is required.

The transliteration and translation of Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 17 follows.

The Sanskrit diacritic words are in red italics.

अर्जुन उवाच –

ये शास्त्रविधिमुत्सृज्य यजन्ते श्रद्धयान्विताः ।

तेषां निष्ठा तु का कृष्ण सत्त्वमाहो रजस्तमः ॥ १७-१॥

Arjuna said (1) 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 śāstravidhimutsṛjya yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ । teṣāṃ niṣṭhā tu kā kṛṣṇa sattvamāho rajastamaḥ ॥ 17-1॥).

श्रीभगवानुवाच –

त्रिविधा भवति श्रद्धा देहिनां सा स्वभावजा ।

सात्त्विकी राजसी चैव तामसी चेति तां श‍ृणु ॥ १७-२॥

सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत ।

श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्धः स एव सः ॥ १७-३॥

Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied (2-3) Now, hear the threefold dedication of the embodied which is inherent in sāttvika, rājasika and even tāmasika (trividhā bhavati śraddhā dehināṃ sā svabhāvajā । sāttvikī rājasī caiva tāmasī ceti tāṃ śa‍ṛṇu ॥ 17-2॥). Conformance of nature in everyone is as per his dedication. Śraddhā determines the person, truly he is what his dedication is (sattvānurūpā sarvasya śraddhā bhavati bhārata । śraddhāmayo’yaṃ puruṣo yo yacchraddhaḥ sa eva saḥ ॥ 17-3॥).

यजन्ते सात्त्विका देवान्यक्षरक्षांसि राजसाः ।

प्रेतान्भूतगणांश्चान्ये यजन्ते तामसा जनाः ॥ १७-४॥

(4) Those of sāttvika qualities worship the deities, rājasika people worship demi-gods and demons, tāmasika people worship ghosts and myriad nature spirits (yajante sāttvikā devānyakṣarakṣāṃsi rājasāḥ । pretānbhūtagaṇāṃścānye yajante tāmasā janāḥ ॥ 17-4॥).

अशास्त्रविहितं घोरं तप्यन्ते ये तपो जनाः ।

दम्भाहङ्कारसंयुक्ताः कामरागबलान्विताः ॥ १७-५॥

कर्षयन्तः शरीरस्थं भूतग्राममचेतसः ।

मां चैवान्तःशरीरस्थं तान्विद्ध्यासुरनिश्चयान् ॥ १७-६॥

(5-6) Those people not following proper procedures, practicing terrible austerity, given to feeling of doer-ship, hypocrisy, desire, attachment and power (aśāstravihitaṃ ghoraṃ tapyante ye tapo janāḥ । dambhāhaṅkārasaṃyuktāḥ kāmarāgabalānvitāḥ ॥ 17-5॥). Senselessly torturing all the elements in the body and me who dwells in the body, these are known to be of demonic resolve (karṣayantaḥ śarīrasthaṃ bhūtagrāmamacetasaḥ । māṃ caivāntaḥśarīrasthaṃ tānviddhyāsuraniścayān ॥ 17-6॥).

आहारस्त्वपि सर्वस्य त्रिविधो भवति प्रियः ।

यज्ञस्तपस्तथा दानं तेषां भेदमिमं श‍ृणु ॥ १७-७॥

आयुःसत्त्वबलारोग्यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धनाः ।

रस्याः स्निग्धाः स्थिरा हृद्या आहाराः सात्त्विकप्रियाः ॥ १७-८॥

(7-8) Indeed, of all, food is critical in the three paths of sacrifice, austerity and charity, hear the distinction between them (āhārastvapi sarvasya trividho bhavati priyaḥ । yajñastapastathā dānaṃ teṣāṃ bhedamimaṃ śa‍ṛṇu ॥ 17-7॥). Those that promote life, value, strength, health, happiness, amicability, are tasty, viscous, substantial, agreeable foods are dear to sāttvika people (āyuḥsattvabalārogyasukhaprītivivardhanāḥ । rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛdyā āhārāḥ sāttvikapriyāḥ ॥ 17-8॥).

कट्वम्ललवणात्युष्णतीक्ष्णरूक्षविदाहिनः ।

आहारा राजसस्येष्टा दुःखशोकामयप्रदाः ॥ १७-९॥

यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत् ।

उच्छिष्टमपि चामेध्यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम् ॥ १७-१०॥

(9-10) Food that is bitter, sour, salty, very pungent and fiery, dry, burning are liked by rājasika people and bring pain, grief and disease (kaṭvamlalavaṇātyuṣṇatīkṣṇarūkṣavidāhinaḥ । āhārā rājasasyeṣṭā duḥkhaśokāmayapradāḥ ॥ 17-9॥). That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, left-overs and also impure foods are liked by tāmasika (yātayāmaṃ gatarasaṃ pūti paryuṣitaṃ ca yat । ucchiṣṭamapi cāmedhyaṃ bhojanaṃ tāmasapriyam ॥ 17-10॥).

अफलाकाङ्क्षिभिर्यज्ञो विधिदृष्टो य इज्यते ।

यष्टव्यमेवेति मनः समाधाय स सात्त्विकः ॥ १७-११॥

अभिसन्धाय तु फलं दम्भार्थमपि चैव यत् ।

इज्यते भरतश्रेष्ठ तं यज्ञं विद्धि राजसम् ॥ १७-१२॥

विधिहीनमसृष्टान्नं मन्त्रहीनमदक्षिणम् ।

श्रद्धाविरहितं यज्ञं तामसं परिचक्षते ॥ १७-१३॥

(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 sāttvika (aphalākāṅkṣibhiryajño vidhidṛṣṭo ya ijyate । yaṣṭavyameveti manaḥ samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ ॥ 17-11॥). Those seeking fruits by fraudulent means and also which is offered as sacrifice, that is rājasika (abhisandhāya tu phalaṃ dambhārthamapi caiva yat । ijyate bharataśreṣṭha taṃ yajñaṃ viddhi rājasam ॥ 17-12॥). 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 tāmasika (vidhihīnamasṛṣṭānnaṃ mantrahīnamadakṣiṇam । śraddhāvirahitaṃ yajñaṃ tāmasaṃ paricakṣate ॥ 17-13॥).

देवद्विजगुरुप्राज्ञपूजनं शौचमार्जवम् ।

ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसा च शारीरं तप उच्यते ॥ १७-१४॥

अनुद्वेगकरं वाक्यं सत्यं प्रियहितं च यत् ।

स्वाध्यायाभ्यसनं चैव वाङ्मयं तप उच्यते ॥ १७-१५॥

मनः प्रसादः सौम्यत्वं मौनमात्मविनिग्रहः ।

भावसंशुद्धिरित्येतत्तपो मानसमुच्यते ॥ १७-१६॥

(14-16) Those that worship the deities, twice-born, teachers, awareness, purity, straight-forwardness, celibacy, non-injury is called austerity of the body (devadvijaguruprājñapūjanaṃ śaucamārjavam । brahmacaryamahiṃsā ca śārīraṃ tapa ucyate ॥ 17-14॥). Causing no excitement in speech, truthful, pleasant and beneficial which comes from self-study is austerity of speech (anudvegakaraṃ vākyaṃ satyaṃ priyahitaṃ ca yat । svādhyāyābhyasanaṃ caiva vāṅmayaṃ tapa ucyate ॥ 17-15॥). Serenity of cognition, good-heartedness, silence, self-control, clean sentiment, this is called tapas of the cognition (manaḥ prasādaḥ saumyatvaṃ maunamātmavinigrahaḥ । bhāvasaṃśuddhirityetattapo mānasamucyate ॥ 17-16॥).

श्रद्धया परया तप्तं तपस्तत्त्रिविधं नरैः ।

अफलाकाङ्क्षिभिर्युक्तैः सात्त्विकं परिचक्षते ॥ १७-१७॥

सत्कारमानपूजार्थं तपो दम्भेन चैव यत् ।

क्रियते तदिह प्रोक्तं राजसं चलमध्रुवम् ॥ १७-१८॥

मूढग्राहेणात्मनो यत्पीडया क्रियते तपः ।

परस्योत्सादनार्थं वा तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥ १७-१९॥

(17-19) These threefold austerity, when practiced with dedication my men united with no desire for the fruit are called sāttvika (śraddhayā parayā taptaṃ tapastattrividhaṃ naraiḥ । aphalākāṅkṣibhiryuktaiḥ sāttvikaṃ paricakṣate ॥ 17-17॥). When hypocrisy is practiced in austerity with the object of gaining praise, honour or wealth, that is said to be rājasa and this is unstable and transient (satkāramānapūjārthaṃ tapo dambhena caiva yat । kriyate tadiha proktaṃ rājasaṃ calamadhruvam ॥ 17-18॥). When the self is encased in delusion and includes practice of torture in the austerity or is for destroying another, that is declared as tāmasika (mūḍhagrāheṇātmano yatpīḍayā kriyate tapaḥ । parasyotsādanārthaṃ vā tattāmasamudāhṛtam ॥ 17-19॥).

दातव्यमिति यद्दानं दीयतेऽनुपकारिणे ।

देशे काले च पात्रे च तद्दानं सात्त्विकं स्मृतम् ॥ १७-२०॥

यत्तु प्रत्युपकारार्थं फलमुद्दिश्य वा पुनः ।

दीयते च परिक्लिष्टं तद्दानं राजसं स्मृतम् ॥ १७-२१॥

अदेशकाले यद्दानमपात्रेभ्यश्च दीयते ।

असत्कृतमवज्ञातं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥ १७-२२॥

(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 sāttvika (dātavyamiti yaddānaṃ dīyate’nupakāriṇe । deśe kāle ca pātre ca taddānaṃ sāttvikaṃ smṛtam ॥ 17-20॥). Indeed, when it is given with an expectation of return favour and reluctantly, that charity is called rājasika (yattu pratyupakārārthaṃ phalamuddiśya vā punaḥ । dīyate ca parikliṣṭaṃ taddānaṃ rājasaṃ smṛtam ॥ 17-21॥). A gift that is given without heeding place or time and given without respect, even insult, that charity is called tāmasika (adeśakāle yaddānamapātrebhyaśca dīyate । asatkṛtamavajñātaṃ tattāmasamudāhṛtam ॥ 17-22॥).

ॐतत्सदिति निर्देशो ब्रह्मणस्त्रिविधः स्मृतः ।

ब्राह्मणास्तेन वेदाश्च यज्ञाश्च विहिताः पुरा ॥ १७-२३॥

तस्मादोमित्युदाहृत्य यज्ञदानतपःक्रियाः ।

प्रवर्तन्ते विधानोक्ताः सततं ब्रह्मवादिनाम् ॥ १७-२४॥

(23-24) Om-tat-sat (pranavabrahman-value creation), thus is the designation for brahman, the threefold brahman, Veda and sacrifices have been created by the ancients (oṃtatsaditi nirdeśo brahmaṇastrividhaḥ smṛtaḥ । brāhmaṇāstena vedāśca yajñāśca vihitāḥ purā ॥ 17-23॥). 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 (tasmādomityudāhṛtya yajñadānatapaḥkriyāḥ । pravartante vidhānoktāḥ satataṃ brahmavādinām ॥ 17-24॥).

तदित्यनभिसन्धाय फलं यज्ञतपःक्रियाः ।

दानक्रियाश्च विविधाः क्रियन्ते मोक्षकाङ्क्षिभिः ॥ १७-२५॥

सद्भावे साधुभावे च सदित्येतत्प्रयुज्यते ।

प्रशस्ते कर्मणि तथा सच्छब्दः पार्थ युज्यते ॥ १७-२६॥

(25-26) Tat is the act of sacrifice, austerity and charity without desire for fruits in any action generated by seekers of liberation (tadityanabhisandhāya phalaṃ yajñatapaḥkriyāḥ । dānakriyāśca vividhāḥ kriyante mokṣakāṅkṣibhiḥ ॥ 17-25॥). Sat is the sentiment of reality, sentiment of goodness and thus, sat word is thus used in auspicious acts also (sadbhāve sādhubhāve ca sadityetatprayujyate । praśaste karmaṇi tathā sacchabdaḥ pārtha yujyate ॥ 17-26॥).

यज्ञे तपसि दाने च स्थितिः सदिति चोच्यते ।

कर्म चैव तदर्थीयं सदित्येवाभिधीयते ॥ १७-२७॥

अश्रद्धया हुतं दत्तं तपस्तप्तं कृतं च यत् ।

असदित्युच्यते पार्थ न च तत्प्रेत्य नो इह ॥ १७-२८॥

(27-28) In sacrifice, in austerity, in charity and steadfastness, sat is thus called and action undertaken for anything is called sat (yajñe tapasi dāne ca sthitiḥ saditi cocyate । karma caiva tadarthīyaṃ sadityevābhidhīyate ॥ 17-27॥). Without dedication, when sacrifice is given, austerity is performed and the outcome is called asat and has no value here or hereafter (aśraddhayā hutaṃ dattaṃ tapastaptaṃ kṛtaṃ ca yat । asadityucyate pārtha na ca tatpretya no iha ॥ 17-28॥).

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