Category Archives: Bhagavadgita

Bhagavad Gita – The Way of Life!

Bhagavad gita is the Holy book which will teach us the way to live life. I have heard it many times from my childhood. But there was always this urge in me of interpreting it myself which remained unfulfilled till now. Now I have decided to embark upon this journey of reading the Gita and interpreting it. This category I will be interpreting each sloka everyday and share the same with you all!

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 18

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 18

Satkaaramaanapoojaartham tapo dambhena chaiva yat;Kriyate tadiha proktam raajasam chalamadhruvam.

The austerity which is practiced with the object of gaining good reception, honour and worship with hypocrisy, is here said to be Rajasic, unstable and transitory.

Interpretation

This shloka talks about the austerities that a Rajasic mind prefers. We have seen in the previous shloka how a steadfast mind practices Sattwik austerities. The Rajasic austerities are aimed at gaining a good reception, which actually means that whatever work the person undertakes, he is expecting an appreciation for the same. Apart from that Rajasic person’s austerities are also aimed at giving him honor and worship of people around and the person also becomes a hypocrite who in the process, says one and does another. Also, Lord tells that this Rajasic behaviour exhibited by the person is unstable and transitory.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

Why is Lord Krishna saying that the Rajasic nature of an individual is unstable and transitory? Here we have to understand the true nature of a Rajasic person. A Rajasic person is someone who strives for excellence in everything he does. He is hardworking and fulfills all his responsibilities without any delay. But the problem is, as the person completes his work and achieves success and takes rewards, he starts attributing them to himself. He feels that only because of his abilities he was able to achieve success. That builds a sense of over confidence in him and gives him false sense of invincibility and superiority, which in the due course becomes the reason for his downfall.

Take a look at any businessman or a political leader or a community head, we have seen that many of them steadily rise to glory and then go through a sharp decline to depths of degradation. It happens because from a lazy and easy going and static tamasic state a person becomes dynamic and hardworking, taking him to the Rajasic state. Till that point he is alright. But one aspect of his personality has to undergo a change to take him to sattwik stage, but that doesn’t happen. That is, whatever was achieved was mandated and charted by Almighty and he is just a doer. This process gets delayed because he believes in self and becomes a hypocrite also, by saying one thing and doing another. 

All this he does only to keep his success and name and even resorts to rituals to prevent himself from any kind of a downfall to his glory. Till this feeling remains he is a Rajasic person. Lord calls it transitory because like the way he changed from tamsic to Rajasic, one day he will realise that nothing was his achievement alone, and that takes him to sattwik stage. Thus whatever he is doing in the Rajasic stage is just temporary and like the way he came from Tamasic to Rajasic, he has to one day progress from Rajasic to Sattwik.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 17

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 17

Shraddhayaa parayaa taptam tapastattrividham naraih;Aphalaakaangkshibhiryuktaih saattwikam parichakshate.

This threefold austerity practised by steadfast men with the utmost faith, desiring no reward, they call Sattwik.

Interpretation

After talking about the three fold path or the austerities of body, speech and mind Lord Krishna in this shloka is talking about how it can be connected to the three gunas of Sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic. This shloka focuses on Sattwik alone. Lord Krishna again talks about a steadfast mind adopting this three fold austerity because a mind which doesnt waver at all can only take this. Faith is the other point that Lord is mentioning saying that a person who has utmost faith and the one who doesn’t desire any kind of reward practice these austerities then he is called as a sattwik person. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

The shloka reminds me Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s iconic film Anand, where the protagonist Anand, the role essayed by legendary Rajesh Khanna, exhibits the characteristics portrayed in this shloka. Anand is a cancer patient left with few months to survive in this world and so he decides to use this time to lead a simple life, speak good about others and good about things which brings happiness with a mind which is serene and pure. It is very difficult for a person to have a control on himself and his emotions when he knows that he is dying in few months. This austerity of body, speech and mind has only made him to have that state of mind. 

If you see him, he makes people around him so happy that people develop an instant attachment towards him. That is only possible when you have no desires left in you. You only work for the betterment of the society and people around you and thats when people gets emotionally attached to you. He fixes up the marriage of his best friend and in the process teaches some valuable lessons in life about attachment and detachment to various people around him. Faith is the bedrock of everything that happens in his life and his faith alone has given him that energy. Cant think of a more sattwik person than Anand to give as an example. Watch the movie and you will understand what he is and what sattwik personality can do. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 16

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 16

Manahprasaadah saumyatwam maunamaatmavinigrahah; Bhaavasamshuddhirityetat tapo maanasamuchyate.

Serenity of mind, good-heartedness, purity of nature, self-control—this is called mental austerity.

Interpretation

After talking about the austerities of the body and austerity of the speech, Lord Krishna in this shloka is talking about the austerity of mind. The first aspect that He is touching upon is the serenity of mind. The mind can do many things and a disturbed mind can make many things worse, thus a serene or a calm mind can prevent such damages, and channelise in doing things that are productive. Then the Lord also talks about the good-heartedness and purity of nature which is required for someone to have a serene mind. Lastly, Lord mentions self-control as an important thing for mental austerity. Self-control can prevent many wrong things from occurring and a mind which has control on itself will automatically have a serene mind, a good heart and purity of nature.  

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

The most important thing that one needs to understand here is self-control. There are many things that mind wants to do, it always runs behind things which you don’t have leaving things that are within your control. We also have a saying “The grass always appears greener on the other side” which directly means that something which you don’t have always appears attractive than a much superior thing you already have. This is where the self-control of a person comes into the picture. People get bored of things easily and want newer things and newer experiences, which also comes under the realm of self-control. So, how exactly one develops this self-control?

Satisfaction and having a realistic view of one’s abilities are very important for a person to have self-control. This is where it is linked to the serenity of mind, good-heartedness and purity of nature. Good heart thinks about others and is bestowed with the ability to do things selflessly. When someone comes to you for seeking advice, do you keep them in mind or do you keep yourself in mind, while advising them? If you want to be popular as a good adviser you will promote your interest and advise him, else you will not even allow your name to appear anywhere and advise him discretly. This requires a good heart and pure nature. When you do that it gives a lot of happiness to your mind. A person who goes in that direction keeps doing things that are selfless and that according to Lord Krishna is the serenity of mind. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 15

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 15

Anudwegakaram vaakyam satyam priyahitam cha yat;
Swaadhyaayaabhyasanam chaiva vaangmayam tapa uchyate.

Speech which causes no excitement and is truthful, pleasant and beneficial, the practice of the study of the Vedas, are called austerity of speech.

Interpretation

After talking about the austerity of the body in this shloka Lord Krishna narrates what exactly is declared as the austerity of speech. He says that those words that never cause any distress to others should always be spoken. Then those words have to be truthful because pleasant words that are not truthful should never be spoken. The third point that Lord mentions here is that one should always speak beneficial words and stay away from speaking harsh, negative and distressful words. Apart from all this Lord also says that those words which are spoken during the practice of Vedas also comes under the austerity of speech. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

There is this famous quote from Manusmriti which I read a few years ago, that fits aptly to interpret this shloka. Manu says “One should only speak what is true. One should only speak what is pleasant. But one should not speak the truth if it is not pleasant, nor one should speak an untruth which is pleasant. This is the ancient dharma”. This I think I read somewhere at the beginning of 2015 and from then on it has become the cornerstone of the philosophy of my speech. The purpose of our speech is to communicate and we need to always keep the purity of our communication. The austerity of speech can be attain only if you follow this philosophy. 

Lord is telling two things here. First is you should always speak good. You should always speak things that motivate others, makes them positive and brings something good out of them. Second is one should always tell the truth. If you say anything which is untrue, it takes away your credibility and makes you a person who is seen as an untrustworthy liar. The underlying thing is, we speak for our benefit and we also speak for our dharma. We need to align these two, our dharma is our benefit and thus what we speak, if we align with our dharma then automatically we get benefitted out of it. But if we look at only our benefit, side-stepping dharma, then we might end up speaking things that are lies and that if caught, will take away the trust and credibility that we carry. 

If this is about speaking good thing and things which are true, there can be a situation where we have to tell a truth which causes a lot of distress and which is unpleasant. Should you tell that truth and fulfil your dharma? This is where we are in “Dharam sankat” or “dilemma of truth”. Here, Lord says don’t speak the truth which spreads unpleasantness even if it is your dharma. Let time decide the way and means for the truth to come out. You should not be the reason for spreading that unpleasantness. The other part is people feel that they should always speak pleasant things so, in that process, they feel that speaking something pleasant but which is an untruth is allowed. But according to scriptures, it is not allowed. The question is why?

A unpleasant truth makes the person unhappy and demotivates him from the path that is why it should not be spoken. But a pleasant thing which is not a truth creates unrealistic expectation and over estimation of one’s abilities. Though it is pleasant it should never be spoken. Encourage people realistically, don’t make promises or give them something which is unrealistic and beyond their reach. Such a thing can damage them and their confidence forever. Thus we have permission to speak positive, good and motivating things, but those which are truthful only. If one takes this and practices in his life, his words will become so powerful that it will have the power to change millions of people around him. That’s the power of austerity of speech.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 14

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 14

Devadwijagurupraajna poojanam shauchamaarjavam;
Brahmacharyamahimsaa cha shaareeram tapa uchyate.

Worship of the gods, the twice-born, the teachers and the wise, purity, straightforwardness, celibacy and non-injury—these are called the austerities of the body.

Interpretation

In this shloka, Lord Krishna is talking about the austerities that a person who is on the spiritual path should follow. These austerities are the guidelines for every individual who wants to lead a happy, spiritual and fulfilling life without any unnecessary desires and cravings. Belief in God and His worship is the primary thing prescribed here. Apart from that, one should worship people who are sages, teachers and other wise men who have a purity of thought and straightforwardness in their actions. Then Lord tells a person to be celibate and believes in Ahimsa or non-injury. These are the austerities that one needs to follow for one’s body. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

We have already learnt from the previous chapters that there are 3 kinds of austerities, austerities of body, speech and mind. Lord in this shloka was talking about the austerities of the body. When we worship or admire or do service to good people, the goodness of them spreads to you. God created this universe and there is His element in every being. But some people are able to enhance it and bring it out and those people are called wise people and teachers. The second word in the shloka is “Jaguru” who is a teacher. According to Krishna, teaching is one activity that a person undertakes only when he has the supreme sense of sacrifice in him.

Why is a teacher so important in life?

Imparting knowledge selflessly is the purest thing that anyone can do. When you acquire a skill you would want to use that for your benefit with an intention to earn wealth or name and fame. But would you prefer imparting that knowledge selflessly for others and don’t use that knowledge for your own benefits?

Here I would like to give an example of a person who learnt stock markets and had the intention of earning some money from it, but at the same time, he also became a teacher. When he was selflessly teaching he was not able to trade or the trades that he took were not giving him any satisfaction. That is when he decided to stay away from trading and concentrate only on teaching. It happens to many teachers who selflessly undertake the activity of spreading knowledge.

When you set out on this path your thoughts become pure and your actions become selfless. Purity according to the Lord comes only when one is celibate and follows the tradition of non-injury. Celibate here means staying away from desires of lust. Non-injury is when you do not cause any kind of physical and mental harm to anyone, which includes staying away from physically abusing and hitting anyone. It also includes non-usage of derogatory and abusive language against people as well as staying strictly vegetarian. This, if practised by an individual then he would have achieved austerities of the body.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 13

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 13

Vidhiheenam asrishtaannam mantraheenam adakshinam;Shraddhaavirahitam yajnam taamasam parichakshate.

They declare that sacrifice to be Tamasic which is contrary to the ordinances of the scriptures, in which no food is distributed, which is devoid of Mantras and gifts, and which is devoid of faith.

Interpretation

This shloka is concentrating on the Tamasic sacrifices that a person commits. We have already seen the Sattwik and the Rajasic sacrifices in the previous two shlokas. Lord in this shloka says that Tamasic people usually undertake sacrifices which are exactly opposite to the rules and regulations specified in the Vedic scriptures. They misinterpret what is said in the scriptures and that is the reason why they do the opposite of what is mentioned. There are three points that Lord talks here. One is the absence of any kind of alms, second is the absence of any kind of offering and Vedic chants and third is the absence of any kind of faith or belief in the sacrifices being performed by Tamasic people. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

The major difference between Rajasic and Tamasic people is, Rajasic people depend on their own worth and doesn’t get into any rituals for accomplishing anything, but Tamasic people resort of all sorts of rituals that are either twisted or taken out of context and perform them to get the results. Anything that gives an instant result or benefit, a tamasic person doesn’t hesitate to do. Many categories of pujas and rituals which are linked to tantra, Vashikaran and Shanti pooja that is done for the benefit of the person comes under this tamasic category. Another type of ritual that is observed in many of the households which are tamasic in nature is “drishti” or “nazar utaarna” or remedy for an “evil eye cast”.

Many people believe that we fall ill or a work that is supposed to happen does not happen or you develop a dislike or hate for a particular food or set of activities because of this “drishti” or “evil eye”. In reality, there is no such thing called an evil eye. Karma theory propounds that we reap what we sow and many of the results that come are due to the result of acts that we committed in the past. Forgetting that we blame it on evil eye cast and we do remedies for that and transfer it out so that it goes to someone else! Am sure you would have seen lemons and vermilion thrown on the roads and you get scared to cross them. How can you even think that there will be rituals for transferring your bad luck to some other person? All these are the ills that a Tamasic person follows and unless he gets out of all this, he can never understand the plan of God and the law of Karma and its effects in one’s life. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 12

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 12

Abhisandhaaya tu phalam dambhaarthamapi chaiva yat; Ijyate bharatashreshtha tam yajnam viddhi raajasam.

The sacrifice which is offered, O Arjuna, seeking a reward and for ostentation, know thou that to be a Rajasic Yajna!

Interpretation

The previous shloka talked about the desire-less work that people with a Sattvik mind would do. This shloka is talking about the offering that a person with a Rajasic mindset would undertake. We already know that Rajasic people are usually goal driven and are extremely ambitious. Lord Krishna says that if a Rajasic person performs any sacrifice with an intention of getting any reward or benefit out of it, it is considered to be a Rajasic Yajna. Here Lord also uses the word Ostentation, which means a blatant display of one’s wealth. Even the sacrifice that’s done displays one’s wealth is also considered to be a Rajasic act. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

If you do a survey on what people want from their jobs, the answer which 99% of the time you get is career growth and better salary package. We all work for growth and all our efforts are in that direction. But there will be a very small section of people, less than 1% who say that they work for the company’s growth which is more important for them than their growth. They won’t come under the Rajasic category. Rajasic people seek reward for everything that they do and the reward sought here is career promotion and growth. The work that you do is like your yajna and it is completely reward oriented and directed at your own benefits. But is it wrong?

When you are looking at growth of your senses and not your soul, then it is not wrong. People want to earn because they want to show off. They want to wear branded products and display their wealth in public. Another point one needs to understand here is there is nothing called pure Sattvik or pure Rajasic person existing. A sattvik person also might have some desires towards wealth and enjoyment. That is what is described in this journey towards moksha. Slowly he needs to get over them and start working towards desire-less tasks and goals. This is a very difficult process and Lord Krishna is telling Rajasic way of life so that the person can understand it and live it and slowly come out of it because the only sattvik way of life can give the salvation that he is looking for.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 11

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 11

Aphalaakaangkshibhiryajno vidhidrishto ya ijyate;Yashtavyameveti manah samaadhaaya sa saattwikah.

That sacrifice which is offered by men without desire for reward as enjoined by the ordinance, with a firm faith that to do so is a duty, is Sattwik.

Interpretation

After talking about the food that a person in Sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasic state of mind eat, Lord Krishna in this shloka is talking about the sacrifices that a person who has the sattvik characteristics offers or performs. He says that a person when he is offering sacrifices should do it without any kind of a desire for any reward. He also has to do things that are prescribed in the scriptures with total and complete faith in God. The most important thing here is, he should believe that performing a particular sacrifice is his duty and that has been mandated by God, hence he has to perform it without a reward attached to it. Such kind of people are said to be of sattwik nature, tells Lord Krishna. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

We usually hear these phrases like “I have sacrificed my whole life for the sake of family”, “I have done so many sacrifices for you, is this what you give me in return”, “Life is full of sacrifices” etc etc. What is the meaning of sacrifice? English dictionary gives two meanings. In the noun form, it is “An act of surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity”, in verb form it is “giving up something valued for the sake of other considerations”. What Lord Krishna said in this shloka is the combination of both. Thus the meaning of sacrifice is “Any work/activity done for the sake of only God and giving up things that come in the way of performing such activities is considered to be sacrificed”.

Sacrifice is not a religious ritual alone. It is done for the sake of God by which the entire humanity gets benefited. Anybody who sacrifices his wealth for the sake of the poor is actually serving God. Anybody who sacrifices his own urges and wishes to work for the larger benefit of the people around him sacrifices in the name of God. Order of importance of looking at things plays a very important role in deciding for whom we are sacrificing what.  For a Tamasic and Rajasic person, the order of importance is I, we, my family, my relatives, my community, my religion, my motherland and last comes the entire humanity. 

But for a sattwik person it’s exactly the opposite. For him the entire humanity comes first, country comes next, followed by that religion, community, relatives, family, we and last comes “I”. A sattwik person gives more importance to humanity than to himself or his family. All his activities and rituals are centered around this concept only. Thus when a person works for the humanity, he never expects any reward for himself, but if he works for himself or his family, he always expects rewards and when those rewards don’t come he gets disheartened and abandons the sattwik path. But the person who is sattwik rewards for his work is never a criterion. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 10

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 10

Yaatayaamam gatarasam pooti paryushitam cha yat; Ucchishtamapi chaamedhyam bhojanam taamasapriyam.

That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the Tamasic.

Interpretation

After talking about the Sattvik and Rajasic foods, Lord Krishna in this shloka is narrating the characteristic of the Tamasic foods. He starts by saying that all the stale foods which we keep in deep freezers and frozen foods that stay for a longer time are the Tamasic foods. Apart from that He also says that the foods which are tasteless, which decompose and decay over the period of time and become rotten are also classified as Tamasic foods. Also, the impure refuse of any fruit or an animal is classified as the tamasic food. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

By the time you finish reading the interpretation, you would have already concluded that most of the foods that were mentioned here are so disgusting that you would never ever eat them. But to your surprise more than 50% of the food that many people living in cities and urban areas in the country actually consume this food. Let’s take, for example, cow’s milk which is stored in the tetra pack and which is 2-3 months old, is it a sattvik food? Definitely not. Tetra pack prevents it from decaying but the positive and vibrant energy that fresh milk used within one day can never be obtained from the milk consumed from tetra packs.

Let’s take the fruit juices that you drink from Tropicana or Real or any other brand, they are all 3-6 months old and are considered to be Tamasic as they can never substitute a fresh fruit juice extracted and consumed within 24 hours. The preservatives used in those juices prevent it from decaying but the benefits you get from them, are totally absent. Wine and Alcohol are the natural examples of Tamasic food as the wine gets tastier as it gets older. Apart from that we also have the examples of frozen foods that are stored for days together under sub-zero temperature conditions also come under Tamasic foods, just look at them when you visit a supermarket next.

These Tamasic foods by nature lose all their taste and become tasteless. We add artificial tasters to it to make it tasty. Such kind of foods will only serve your taste buds but it never does any good to the kind of energy you get. We should here recollect what Lord Krishna said at that the beginning of this yoga, that eats food to live but not lives to eat. Foods give us energy and eating Sattvik food gives sattvik energy, Rajasic food gives you Rajasic energy and consuming Tamasic food gives you Tamasic energy. All our actions are dependent on these energies.