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BG 17 (1968)

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada



1:     ARJUNA INQUIRED: What is the situation of one who does not follow the principles of scripture, but worships according to his own imagination? Is he in goodness, in passion, or in ignorance?


IN THE FOURTH CHAPTER, thirty-ninth verse, it is said that a person faithful to a particular type of worship gradually becomes elevated to the stage of knowledge, and thus attains the highest perfection of peace and prosperity. In the Sixteenth Chapter, it was concluded that one who does not follow the principles laid down in the scriptures is called asura, demon, and one who follows the scriptural injunctions faithfully is called deva, or godly. Now, if one with faith follows some rules which are not mentioned in the scriptural injunction, what is his position?

2:     The Supreme Personality of Godhead answered: According to the modes of Nature acquired by the embodied soul, there are three kinds of faith: that in the mode of goodness, that in passion, and that in ignorance.

3:     According to one's existence under the various modes of Nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. And the living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.


EVERYONE HAS A particular type of faith, regardless of what he is. But his faith is considered good, passionate, or ignorant according to the nature he has acquired. Therefore, according to his particular type of faith, he associates with certain persons. Now the real fact is that every living being, as is stated in the Fifteenth Chapter, is originally the fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Therefore, he is originally transcendental to all the modes of material Nature. But when he forgets his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and comes into contact with this material Nature in conditional life, he generates his own position by association with the different varieties of material Nature. This artificial faith and existence is only material. Although one may be conducted by some impression or conception of life—still, originally, he is nirguna, or transcendental. Therefore, one has to become cleansed of the material contamination that he has acquired, in order to get back his relationship with the Supreme Lord. That is the only path without any fear: Krishna consciousness. If one is situated in Krishna consciousness, then his elevation to the perfectional stage is guaranteed.

4:     Those who are in the mode of goodness worship the demigods, those in the mode of passion worship the demons, and those in the mode of darkness worship the dead and the ghosts.


IN THIS VERSE the Supreme Personality of Godhead is describing different kinds of worshipers, according to their external activities. According to scriptural injunction, only the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshipable; but those who are not very conversant with, or faithful to, the scriptural injunctions, worship different objects, according to their specific situations in the modes of material Nature. So those who are situated in goodness in the modes of material Nature generally worship the demigods. The demigods begin from Brahma and Shiva, and others such as Indra, Chandra, and the Sun-god. There are various demigods. So those in goodness may worship a particular demigod for a particular purpose. Similarly, those who are in the mode of passion worship the demons. We have experience that in the Second World War, a man in Calcutta was worshiping Hitler, because, on account of that war, he had amassed a large amount of wealth, dealing in the black market. So he became a worshiper of Adolf Hitler. Similarly, those in the modes of passion and ignorance generally select a fanciful man to be God. They think that anyone can be worshiped as God, and the same results will be obtained.

Now, it is clearly stated here that those who are in the mode of passion worship and create such gods, and those who are in the mode of ignorance, in darkness, worship the dead spirits. Sometimes we find that people go and worship at the tomb of the dead men. Sexual service is also calculated to be in the mode of darkness. Similarly, there are some worshipers, in remote villages, of ghosts. We have experienced, in India, that the lower-class people sometimes go to the forest when they have knowledge that a ghost lives in some tree, and they worship that tree and offer sacrifices. These different kinds of worship are not actually God-worship. God-worship is subject matter for persons who are transcendentally situated in pure goodness. In The Srimad Bhagwatam it is said that when you are on the plane of purified goodness, you worship Vasudeva.

The impersonalists are supposed to be situated in the mode of goodness; and they worship five kinds of demigods: They worship the impersonal Vishnu, or Vishnu Form in the material world, which is known as philosophized Vishnu. Vishnu is the expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But the impersonalists, because they do not ultimately believe in the Supreme Person, imagine that the Vishnu Form is another aspect of the impersonal Brahman; and, similarly, they imagine that Brahma is the impersonal Form, in the material Nature, of passion. So they sometimes describe five kinds of gods worshipable at the start. But at the end, they think that the actual truth is impersonal Brahman, and they finish with all worshipable objects at the ultimate end. But these different qualities of the material modes of Nature can be purified through the association with persons who are in the modes of transcendental Nature.

5:     There are those who undergo severe penances and austerities not mentioned in the scriptural injunctions; this they do out of pride, egoism, lust, and attachment. They do such things impelled by passion.

6:     Those who parch the material elements of this body, and the Supersoul within it, are to be known as demons.

7:     There are differences in eating, in the forms of sacrifice, and in austerity and charity as well, according to the three modes of material Nature. Now hear of these:

8:     Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify existence, give strength, and increase health, happiness, and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy and fatty. And they are very conducive to the healthy condition of the body.

9:     Food that is too bitter, too sour, too salty, too pungent, too dry, or too hot causes distress, misery, and disease. Such food is very dear to those in the mode of passion.

10:     Foods prepared more than three hours before being eaten, which are tasteless, juiceless, decomposed, and have a bad smell, consisting of remnants and untouchable things, are very dear to those in the mode of darkness.


THE PURPOSE OF FOOD is to increase the duration of life, purify the mind, and aid bodily strength. This is its only purpose. In the past, great authorities selected those foods that best aid health and increase life's duration, such as milk products, sugar, rice, wheat, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are very dear to those in the mode of goodness. Some other foods, such as baked corn and molasses, while not very palatable in themselves, can be made pleasant when mixed with milk or other foods. They are then in the mode of goodness. All these foods are pure by nature. They are quite distinct from untouchable things like meat and liquor. Fatty food, as mentioned in the eighth verse, has no connection with animal fat obtained by slaughter. Animal fat is available in the form of milk, which is the most wonderful of all foods. Milk, butter, cheese, and similar products give animal fat in a form which rules out any need for the killing of innocent creatures, and it is only through brute mentality that this killing goes on. The civilized method of obtaining needed fat is by milk. Slaughter is the way of subhumans. And protein is amply available through peanuts, splitpeas, dal, whole wheat, etc.

Foods in the mode of passion, which are bitter, too salty or too hot, cause misery by producing mucus in the stomach, leading to disease. Foods in the mode of darkness are essentially those that are not fresh. Any foodstuff cooked more than three hours before it is to be eaten (except prasadam, food offered to the Lord), is considered to be in the mode of darkness. Because they are decomposing, foods in the mode of darkness frequently emanate a bad smell, which often attracts people in these modes, but repulses those in the mode of goodness.

Remnants of food may be eaten only when they are part of a meal that was first offered to the Supreme Lord, or first eaten by saintly persons, especially the spiritual master.

11:     The performance of sacrifice without desire for any result, done in terms of the directions of the scripture as a matter of duty, is said to be in the mode of goodness.

12:     Any sacrifice performed for some material benefit, with pride, for material welfare, O chief of the Bharatas—know that that is in the mode of passion.

13:     Any sacrifice performed without the direction of scriptural injunction, without any Vedic hymns, without any priestly remuneration, and without faith, must be considered in the mode of darkness.

14:     Austerity of the body is to offer worship to the Supreme Lord, to Brahmins, to the spiritual master, and to superiors like the father and mother. Cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy, and non-violence are also the austerities of the body.

15:     Austerity in relation to the tongue means to say such things as are dear and truthful, and not to agitate others, and to engage in the study of the Vedas.


ONE SHOULD NOT speak in such a way as to cause agitation in the minds of others. Of course, when a teacher speaks, he can speak the truth for the instruction of his student; but even such a teacher should not speak to others who are not his students, if he will be agitating their minds. This is called the practice of penance so far as talking is concerned. Besides that, one should not talk nonsense. The process of speaking in spiritual circles is to say something which is upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from the scriptural authority to back up what he is saying. At the same time, such talk should be very pleasurable to the ear. By such discussions, one may derive the highest benefit, and elevate human society. There is a limitless stock of Vedic literature, and one should study this. That is called penance pertaining to the utilization of the voice.

16:     Austerity in relation to the mind is satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, purity, and control. This is the nature of austerity of the mind.


TO MAKE THE MIND austere is to detach it from sense gratification. It should be so trained that it can be always thinking of doing good for others. The best training for the mind is to become grave. One should not deviate from Krishna consciousness, and must always deviate from sense gratification. To transform one's nature into purity is to become Krishna conscious. Satisfaction of the mind can be obtained only by taking the mind away from thoughts of sense enjoyment. The more we think of sense enjoyment, the more we lose the satisfaction of the mind. In the present age we unnecessarily engage the mind in so many different ways for sense gratification, and so there is no possibility for the mind to be satisfied. The best thing is to divert the mind to the Vedic literature. The Vedic literature is full of satisfactory stories, as in the Puranas and The Mahabharata; and one can take advantage of this knowledge, and thus become purified. The mind should be devoid of duplicity. Every mind should think of the welfare of all. Silence means that one is always thinking of self-realization. The person in Krishna consciousness is to be understood as observing perfect silence in this sense. All these qualities together are austerity in the matter of mental activities.

17:     When penance is performed by man without any expectation of material benefit, only for the sake of the Supreme, it is called penance in goodness.

18:     Penance performed as a matter of gaining respect, honor, and worship, and out of pride, is in the mode of passion. It is neither stable nor permanent.

19:     Penance performed out of foolishness, with self-torture or through the frustration of others, is said to be in the mode of darkness.

20:     Charity made to a select person, in the proper place and time, and as a matter of duty, without consideration of any benefit to be derived, is said to be in the mode of goodness.

21:     Charity performed with the desire for getting some return, performed with much trouble for future results, is in the mode of passion.


CHARITY IS SOMETIMES performed in order to be elevated to the heavenly Kingdom, and sometimes with great trouble, and with repentance after—"Why have I spent so much in this way?"—or charity is sometimes made under some obligation, under the request of a superior. These kinds of charity are said to be made in the mode of passion. There are many charitable foundations which offer their gifts to institutions where sense gratification is performed. Such charities are not recommended in the Vedic scripture. Only charity in the mode of goodness is recommended.

22:     Charity made in an unpurified place, at an unpurified time, to unsuitable persons; without any attention, and without respect—this is said to be in the mode of darkness.


CONTRIBUTIONS FOR INDULGENCE in intoxication and gambling are not encouraged here. That sort of contribution is in the mode of ignorance. This kind of charity is not beneficial; but, rather, sinful persons are encouraged. Similarly, if a person makes charity to a suitable person without any respect, and without any attention, that sort of charity is also said to be in the mode of darkness.

23:     From the beginning of the creation, the three words "Om Tat Sat" were used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth. Therefore, these three symbolic representations were used by Brahmins when chanting the hymns of the Vedas, for sacrificing, and for satisfaction of the Supreme.


NOW IT HAS BEEN explained that penance, sacrifice, charity, and eating—everything—is divided into three categories: the mode of goodness, the mode of passion, and the mode of ignorance. But whether first class, second class, or third class—all of them are conditioned, contaminated by the material Nature. When they are aimed at the Supreme—Om Tat Sat, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Eternal—such performances of charity and sacrifice are meant for spiritual elevation. In the scriptural injunctions, such an objective is indicated. These three words, Om Tat Sat, particularly indicate the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Vedic hymns, the word Om is always found. And anyone who acts without the regulation of the scripture will not be aimed at the Absolute Truth. He will get some temporary result, but not the ultimate end of life. Therefore, the conclusion is that the performance of charity, sacrifice, and penance must be done in the mode of goodness. Performed in the mode of passion or ignorance, they are certainly inferior in quality.

24:     Thus the transcendentalists undertake sacrifices, charities, and penances, beginning always with Om—for attaining the Supreme.

25:     One should perform sacrifice, penance and charity with the word Tat. The purpose of such transcendental activities is to get free from the material entanglement.

26-27:     The Absolute Truth is the objective of devotional sacrifice, indicated by the word Sat. And these works of sacrifice, of penance, and of charity, true to the Absolute Nature, are meant to please the Supreme Person, O son of Pritha.

28:     Anything done as a sacrifice, as charity or as penance, without faith in the Supreme, is not permanent. O son of Pritha, such things are useless both in this life and in the next.


ANYTHING DONE WITHOUT a transcendental objective—whether it be sacrifice, charity, or penance, is useless. Therefore, in this verse, it is declared that such activities are abominable. Everything should be done for the Supreme, in Krishna consciousness. Without such faith, and without the proper guidance, there can never be any fruit. In all the Vedic scriptures, this faith in the Supreme is advised. In the pursuit of all Vedic instructions, the ultimate goal is to understand Krishna. No one can obtain success without following this principle. Therefore, the best thing is to work from the very beginning in Krishna consciousness, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. That is the way to make everything successful. In the conditional state people are attracted to worship the demigods, the ghosts, or the yaksas, like Kuvera. The mode of goodness is better than the modes of passion and ignorance, but one who takes directly to Krishna consciousness is transcendental to all these three modes of material Nature. Although there is a process of gradual elevation, if somebody, by the association of pure devotees, takes directly to Krishna consciousness, that is the best way. And that is recommended in this chapter. To achieve success in this way, the first thing is to find the proper spiritual master and to be trained under his direction, in order to achieve faith in the Supreme. When that faith becomes mature, in course of time it is called love of God. This is the ultimate goal of the living entities. One should, therefore, take to Krishna consciousness directly. That is the objective of this Seventeenth Chapter.

Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Seventeenth Chapter of The Srimad Bhagavad Gita, in the matter of the Divisions of Faith.