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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. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 9

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 9

Katvamlalavanaatyushna teekshna rooksha vidaahinah;Aahaaraah raajasasyeshtaa duhkhashokaamayapradaah.

The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, dry, pungent and burning, are liked by the Rajasic and are productive of pain, grief and disease.

Interpretation

After talking about the type of Sattvik food one should eat, Lord Krishna in this shloka is talking about the type of food that Rajasic people eat and the results of eating such foods. Lord talks about the taste of the food that is consumed. He says that Rajasic people like food that is bitter and sour. They also add a lot of salt and other related ingredients into the food. The third type of food that Rajasic people consume are foods that are very spicy, which are pungent in smell and those which create a burning sensation in the stomach. Rajasic people like these type of foods that usually create pain, grief and many other diseases. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

What we eat speaks about what we are. When you are suffering from some chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension or any lever and kidney related ailments there are a number of restrictions that are imposed on the food that we consume. There are foods which taste bitter and sour, there are foods which are high on salt, pepper and other spices and thirdly there are foods that have excess masala content with a spicy taste. All these types of food has to be avoided if you are intending to turn sattvik and attain enlightenment. 

The bitter foods that have excessive tamarind and other related ingredients should always be avoided. Salt is something that many doctors say to avoid. Excessive spicy foods also irritate the stomach and cause indigestion, ulcers and many other gastrointestinal problems. A person who is Rajasic is very ambitious and he loves the third variety of food that has a lot of spice and masala in them, which is mostly the non-vegetarian food. The purpose of eating is not to relish or get a happy feeling or to derive satisfaction but it is to keep the body healthy and strong. “Eat to live, do not live to eat.” Thus we should take food that only helps in maintaining good health, and has a positive impact on the mind, which is possible only through sattvik foods.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 1

Chapter 17 Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 1

Arjuna Uvaacha:
Ye shaastravidhimutsrijya yajante shraddhayaanvitaah;
Teshaam nishthaa tu kaa krishna sattwamaaho rajastamah.

Arjuna said:
Those who, setting aside the ordinances of the scriptures, perform sacrifice with faith,  what is their condition, O Krishna? Is it that of Sattwa, Rajas or Tamas?

Interpretation

This is the beginning of the 17th Chapter in Gita called “Shraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga” or “Religion by three kinds of faith”. In the 14th Chapter which is called Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga we have studied about the three gunas of sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasic and this yoga is the extension of that where Lord talks about the thoughts, deeds and food habits of the people who are Sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasic in nature. The Yoga starts with Arjuna asking a question to Lord where he says, what if a person doesn’t follow the rules as listed in the scriptures, but still worships God with faith? What would be the condition of that person? Is it Sattvik, Rajasic or Tamasic is what Arjuna asks Lord Krishna. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

The question that Arjuna asks Lord Krishna comes from the discourse he gave in the previous chapter about demonic people and how when they disregard the rules of the scriptures are pushed into the womb of hell by the Lord. Arjuna in a way understands the fact that he also at times had disregarded the faith and behaved opposite to what scriptures have prescribed and did things that are prohibited under the rule of scriptures. So, he is naturally worried about the results of all those actions. So, this question is a no surprise as the worry in him made him to ask this question to the Lord.

Similarly we also in our lives would have bent the rules or even would have violated them. When we don’t know the result of our actions, we would not be bothered but once we know the consequences, there is a worry that is there in our minds about the outcome of such actions. This chapter primarily deals with these kind of situations and Lord takes us back to the Guna Traya Vibhaga Yoga where He talked about the nature of the Sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasic natured people. Arjuna himself brings back those things and asks a question that if a person after breaking the rules realises his mistakes and performs his duties and worship God, then what condition is it called is what Arjuna asks. Let us now see what Lord Krishna replies.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 18

Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 18

Oordhwam gacchanti sattwasthaa madhye tishthanti raajasaah;Jaghanyagunavrittisthaa adho gacchanti taamasaah.

Those who are seated in Sattwa proceed upwards; the Rajasic dwell in the middle; and the Tamasic, abiding in the function of the lowest Guna, go downwards.

Interpretation

After explaining the nature of qualities that arise from Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasic gunas Lord Krishna in this shloka is talking about the journey that people who follow these three gunas would make in their lives. He starts talking about the sattvik person first. He says that those people who are immersed in doing sattvik activities in their lives, tend to proceed upwards in their spirituality. Those who are engaged in the Rajasic activities tend to remain where they are in their spiritual endevour. Finally talking about the Tamasic nature he says that those who follow the tamasic nature because of it being the lowest guna go downwards in their spirituality.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

As we all know life is a journey. The journey of life is different for the body and the soul. For a body life is all about satisfying the needs and luxuries that it wants to satisfy. Like your eyes see a beautiful looking house and wants to own it, then your body works very hard to find out the ways and means through which you can acquire that. The same is the case with other luxuries and comforts that our body wants. The entire life of an individual goes in acquiring them and creating himself safety for situations, where your body is not capable of working hard to earn those comforts. This in short is the journey of body. 

The journey of soul is very different. It wants to increase its spirituality. It is in constant quest for understanding everything around it and sees them as the creation of God. It wants to know them, connect them and find the meaning of that connection which ultimately takes himself closer to the Almighty. A person also spends his life in understanding and fulfilling the needs of his soul and thus it becomes a journey of his life. In this journey he hardly pays any attention to the needs of the body and sacrifices his bodily needs to the needs of the soul. Thus the journey of life satisfying the needs of the body and the needs of the mind is quite different.

Now if we apply the above shloka into this context, a sattvik person listens to the voice of the soul in his journey by sacrificing the needs of the body, satisfy the needs of the soul. Thus his soul receives knowledge through his body and thus he starts going up spiritually. Compared to this a Rajasik person always puts the needs of the senses or the body ahead of the needs of the soul. Thus he earns lot of money and power but since his soul did not learn anything, spiritually it remains where it was. A tamasic person wastes all his time doing nothing and lives in ignorance. This attitude takes away whatever little he had learnt also and thus he starts to go down spiritually. Thus a Sattvik person has positive spirituality, Rajasik person neutral spirituality and a Tamasic person negative spirituality, which means he loses his existing spirituality also. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 16

CHAPTER 14 GUNA TRIYA VIBHAGA YOGA VERSE 16

Karmanahsukritasyaahuh saattwikam nirmalam phalam; Rajasastuphalam duhkham ajnaanam tamasah phalam.

The fruit of good action, they say, is Sattwic and pure; the fruit of Rajas is a pain, and ignorance is the fruit of Tamas.

Interpretation

Lord Krishna after talking about the kind of birth that a Rajasic and Tamasic soul will take in the previous shloka,  is talking about the fruits of actions of different gunas in this shloka. It is needless to say that every Guna that we exhibit bestows us with some result or the other. We have learnt previously also that every action, as well as intention, has some result attached to it. Lord Krishna here says that the fruit of good action is considered to be always sattvik and is said to be very pure. The fruit of Rajas is always painful and difficult to bear while the fruit of Tamasic action is nothing but ignorance.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

When you read this shloka you get a lot of thoughts and leaves you confused at times too. Are good actions only link to sattvik? AreRajasik and Tamasic actions bad and undesirable? Here we need to understand what is a good action and why it is always sattvik. A good action is something that is always beneficial to the opposite person and the doer doesn’t expect any result from it. Such kind of actions can only be done by a Sattvik person because he does things only to gain knowledge and knowledge once acquired, spreads across. That is why we are calling it pure, as there is no malice or ill-will hidden in it. So, good actions are always compared and attributed to sattvik nature, it doesn’t mean that only sattvik people commit good actions.

If we look at the actions of rajasic nature and their fruits, it’s always painful. Painful for the other person also, not necessarily only for you. Anything which is linked to power, prestige and wealth can only be acquired at the cost of others, compared to knowledge which is acquired by involving others. If you become the most powerful person, it is only after defeating people who are also aspiring for the same and thus leaving pain to them. If you fail to acquire that position and if it goes to your competitor then it is at the cost of your pain the other person is enjoying. So, the fruit of any Rajasik activity is attached to pain, either you are giving it or taking it. Finally, if you look at a fruit of tamasic actions, it’s is nothing but ignorance. A person who doesn’t do anything doesn’t react to anything will not get anything other than ignorance. Thus Lord explains the fruits of all the three gunas in this shloka.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 11

Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 11

Sarvadwaareshu dehe’smin prakaasha upajaayate;
Jnaanam yadaa tadaa vidyaa dvivriddham sattwamityuta.

When, through every sense in this body, the wisdom-light shines, 
then it may be known that Sattwa is predominant.

Interpretation

After talking about the Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik gunas in an individual and how they would be predominant, Lord Krishna in this shloka shifts His attention back to the Sattvik Guna. He attaches a lot of importance to the senses in holding that sattvik energy. He says that a person becomes wise only when he bestows himself with the sattvik energy. That sattvik energy can enter into his system only through the senses. Once it enters into the body of a person the light of his wisdom shines and only through that light of wisdom one can understand that the Sattvik guna is predominent in him. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

This is a three-part shloka that clearly explains the sattvik nature in an individual. The first shloka talks about how the sattvik energy that gets into an individual shines like wisdom-light. Wisdom-light in an individual is nothing but the illumination that results from a person acquiring wisdom. Wisdom is the result of knowledge and only sattvik energy can make you to learn more and acquire that wisdom. Like I have mentioned previously, you would feel like watching a business channel or a serious news channel only when you have the inclination to learn new things. This inclination to learn things only happens when sattvik energy is there. 

There is no end to knowledge and learning and a wise person will never allow himself to be limited to any area. As the knowledge level increases the person connects different things and gets varied perspectives about situations which lead to wisdom. For example, you will find people who can resolve any crisis or tell you how to handle any situation by just extrapolating the solutions for different problems. This is the result of hard work that the soul has put up and the sattvik energy in him helps to further that wisdom and his self will start glowing with the wisdom-light. The individuals who have this wisdom-light are the ones filled with sattvik energy.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 10

Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 10

Rajastamashchaabhibhooya sattwam bhavati bhaarata;
Rajah sattwam tamashchaiva tamah sattwam rajastathaa.

Now Sattwa prevails, O Arjuna, having overpowered Rajas and Tamas;
now Rajas, having overpowered Sattwa and Tamas; and now Tamas, having overpowered Sattwa and Rajas!

Interpretation

After explaining the nature of all the three Gunas Lord Krishna in this shloka talks about the prevalence of one Guna over the other. He says that when Sattvik Guna prevails in an individual then it overpowers the Rajasik and Tamasic nature and stands ahead. In the same way Rajasic Guna overpowers an individual, when passion takes over the reasoning power in him and he becomes obsessed about things. Then the third situation is when the Tamasic guna prevails over an indidvidual when he becomes lazy, then sattvik and Rajasi Gunas take a back seat. Lord Krishna says that all these three Gunas prevail in an individual at one point or the other as dominant force. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

Your mood swings explain very clearly what Guna is dominant in you. All the three are inside you and you exhibit them at different times in different proportions. There are times when you want to be calm, peaceful, helpful and generous and that is when you have sattvik quality is dominating you. You don’t feel like saying ill about anyone and would want to be with yourself in your own world reading or doing meditation. Then another mood swing is suddenly you get ambitious, passionate and wants to do something big. You feel that you should achieve something and people around you should appreciate you for that. This is nothing but the Rajasik guna in you which is pushing you to achieve something. 

Another quality of Rajasik guna is when you feel jealous and envy of others. Suppose if your best friend is appreciated for what he has done and if part of the activity you have also done, but no one realises it, you will feel bit envy and jealous about that person. A sattvik natured person never experiences that. Tamasic is when you feel lazy, sleepy and doubt everything around. You are asked to do a particular task and you doubt whether its essential or not. You feel lazy and postpone it. If you are scolded for your inaction you get angry. All these are the qualities of a Tamasic person. Thus all these three qualities exist in every individual and the proportion of that forms his personality, says Lord Krishna.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 9

Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 9

Sattwam sukhe sanjayati rajah karmani bhaarata;
Jnaanamaavritya tu tamah pramaade sanjayatyuta.

Sattwa attaches to knowledge, Rajas to action, O Arjuna, 
while Tamas, shrouding knowledge, attaches to heedlessness only!

Interpretation

The last three shlokas explained the nature of Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasic guna in an individual, in this shloka Lord Krishna tries to connect all the three gunas and explains them in one single shloka. He says that Sattvik guna is attached to knowledge and the happiness that is derived from that knowledge. The Rajasik guna is attached to the actions that one performs as the part of their quest to success and achieved. Then Lord Krishna reiterates the point He said in the previous shloka that Tamasic guna in a person is the result of leaving the path of knowledge and going in the path of stubbornness and ignorance. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

We have already discussed the fact that every human being has all the three gunas of Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasic embedded in him. Depending on the situations and the influences of the people around, the quantity of these gunas present in an individual keeps changing. If a person is kept in the company of sattvik people, he imbibes a lot of sattivik characteristics and same is the case with other gunas. We usually have a lot of tamasic guna people around because we live in a country which has mostly ignorance in it. Strange it is that this is the land of Buddha, Swamy Vivekanada and Adi Shankaracharya but the maximum number of people are deeply ignorant. 

When you have ignorant people around, the ignorance is spread across and the people get those characteristics only. They will stay away from seeking any knowledge and thus will spend all their lives in seeking pleasure. If you are in the company of achievers like MS Dhoni or Milkha Singh or Saina Nehwal or Mukesh Ambani or JRD Tata you would see the competitive spirt and this is the  Rajasik guna of an individual. The simple example is how the Rajasik nature of Gopichand has created many great Badminton stars for India. So, the bottom line here is keeping the right kind of company is very essential and knowing each type of guna and the qualities associated with it helps us to choose the right company.

Bhagavadgita Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 6

Chapter 14 Guna Triya Vibhaga Yoga Verse 6

Tatra sattwam nirmalatwaat prakaashakam anaamayam;
Sukhasangena badhnaati jnaanasangena chaanagha.

Of these, Sattwa, which from its stainlessness is luminous and healthy, 
binds by attachment to knowledge and to happiness, O sinless one!

Interpretation

After telling that the Gunas in an individual are indestructible and present in every individual in different proportions just like the colours in the nature, Lord Krishna in this shloka goes on to explain the nature of Sattvik Guna in an individual. Lord Krishna says that the Sattvik Guna is self illuminating and healthy which is originated by the stainlessness. Stainlessness is the ability of a person who does not have any bad mark on his personality. Then Lord Krishna in the second part of the shloka goes on to say that Sattvik Guna in an individual binds itself by the attachment to the knowledge which in turn leads to the happiness in an individual. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

Two points are very important here. First is that Sattvik nature is stainless. It means that the person who is having sattvik nature in him will never do anything that brings a mark to his character. But the question is, in today’s world is it possible? In today’s world, anything you do people will always criticize you or point out your mistake or say that you have done it with an ulterior motive. So, it is not possible for anybody to have a stainless character. What Lord Krishna is saying here is stainlessness comes from the attachment to ones dharma and doing it with utmost dedication. May thousand people misunderstand you or criticize you or you are punished for your work by humans, but if the work you did is linked to your dharma then your character is stainless. Nobody except God can judge you and your actions.

The Second aspect that you need to understand here is the linkage of knowledge and happiness and how a Sattvik person enjoys it. Not everyone enjoys knowledge or getting knowledge. Many people run away when you start sharing information with them on any disciplines like biology, history, economics, physics or medicine. This is because knowledge for many is burden-some and for few its pleasurable. That is why more than 90% of people either watch sports, music or entertainment or commercial news channels on TV. But for a sattvik person knowledge is divine and it alone brings him the happiness. Thus a sattvik person is always in pursuit of knowledge and excellence and that alone brings him the satisfaction says Lord Krishna.