Geeta Chapter 17 : Sraddhatraya Vibhag Yog

The Bhagavad Geeta, one of the most revered texts in Hindu philosophy, offers profound insights into the nature of faith and its impact on human life. In the chapter “Sraddhatraya Vibhaga Yoga” (Chapter 17), God Krishna elaborates on the three types of faith corresponding to the three modes of material nature: Sattva (goodness), Rajas (passion), and Tamas (ignorance). This chapter highlights how the quality of faith influences the character and actions of individuals, ultimately determining their spiritual progress or regression.

Lord Krishna begins by explaining that faith, or “Sraddha,” is inherent in every human being and is influenced by their intrinsic nature. This intrinsic nature is shaped by the three Gunas, or modes of material nature, which pervade all aspects of life. The threefold division of faith—Sattvik, Rajasik, and Tamasik—corresponds to these modes and dictates the nature of one’s beliefs, actions, and ultimate destiny.

Sattvik faith is characterized by purity, wisdom, and harmony. Individuals with Sattvic faith worship the gods and engage in actions that are selfless, righteous, and aligned with scriptural injunctions. Their faith leads them to perform sacrifices, austerities, and charitable acts with a sense of duty and without any expectation of reward. This pure faith purifies the heart, elevates the soul, and leads to spiritual liberation.

Krishna describes the food preferred by those with Sattvik faith as that which promotes health, strength, cheerfulness, and longevity. Such food is fresh, wholesome, and naturally flavorful. Similarly, Sattvik sacrifices are performed with a sincere heart, adhering strictly to scriptural guidelines, and without any ulterior motives. The austerities practiced by Sattvik individuals involve physical, verbal, and mental disciplines that are carried out with utmost sincerity and without seeking recognition or praise.

Rajasik faith is driven by desires, ambitions, and attachment to the fruits of actions. Those who possess Rajasik faith worship powerful beings such as Yakshas and Rakshasa, seeking material benefits and personal gains. Their actions are often motivated by the desire for recognition, power, and wealth. The faith of Rajasik individuals leads them to perform sacrifices and austerities with an eye on the rewards they can reap, rather than out of a sense of duty or devotion.

The food favoured by those with Rajasik faith tends to be overly spicy, bitter, salty, or otherwise stimulating, often leading to discomfort and disease. Rajasik sacrifices are performed with great pomp and show, aiming to impress others and gain social standing. The austerities practiced by Rajasik individuals are driven by ego and the desire for honour and prestige, rather than genuine spiritual aspiration.

Tamasik faith is marked by ignorance, delusion, and darkness. Individuals with Tamasik faith worship spirits, ghosts, and lower entities, often engaging in harmful or superstitious practices. Their actions are guided by confusion, laziness, and disregard for moral and scriptural principles. This type of faith leads to degradation, suffering and bondage.

Tamasik individuals prefer food that is stale, tasteless or impure, which dulls the mind and degrades the body. Their sacrifices are performed without any regard for proper rituals, often devoid of any genuine spiritual intent. The austerities practiced by Tamasik individuals are harsh and self-destructive, motivated by a desire to harm themselves or others.

According to Lord Krishna, faith is not merely a religious or philosophical concept but a fundamental aspect of human existence that shapes one’s entire life. The nature of one’s faith determines their thoughts, actions, and interactions with the world. It influences their choices, relationships, and overall approach to life. Therefore, understanding and cultivating the right kind of faith is crucial for spiritual growth and fulfilment.

The type of faith one holds leads to corresponding actions, which in turn produce specific outcomes. Sattvik faith results in actions that purify the heart and elevate the soul, leading to peace, happiness, and ultimate lliberation. Rajasik faith, driven by desires and attachments, results in actions that bring temporary pleasure but eventually lead to frustration, dissatisfaction, and bondage. Tamasik faith, rooted in ignorance and delusion, results in actions that cause suffering, degradation, and spiritual stagnation.

The influence of faith extends to all aspects of spiritual practice, including sacrifice, austerity, and charity. Sattvik individuals perform these practices with sincerity and selflessness, focusing on the higher purpose and inner transformation. Rajasik individuals perform them with a desire for recognition and reward, often missing the deeper spiritual significance. Tamasik individuals perform them in a misguided or harmful manner, leading to negative consequences.

Lord Krishna emphasizes the importance of following scriptural guidance in cultivating the right kind of faith. Scriptures provide a clear roadmap for spiritual growth, outlining the principles and practices that lead to purification and enlightenment. Disregarding these guidelines and acting according to one’s whims can lead to confusion, suffering, and spiritual downfall.

Krishna introduces the triple designation of Brahman—”Om Tat Sat”—as a means to sanctify and guide all spiritual activities. “Om” represents the Supreme Reality, the ultimate source of all existence. “Tat” signifies the act of offering without seeking rewards, focusing on the higher purpose. “Sat” refers to truth, reality, and goodness, ensuring that actions are aligned with divine principles. By invoking these sacred syllables, practitioners can ensure that their sacrifices, austerities, and charitable acts are performed in the right spirit and lead to spiritual elevation.

Krishna warns against the three gates to hell—lust, anger, and greed—which are closely associated with Rajasik and Tamasik faith. These negative tendencies corrupt the mind, distort judgment, and lead to actions that cause suffering and bondage. To attain spiritual progress, one must overcome these vices and cultivate virtues such as purity, self-control, and compassion.

Ultimately, Krishna teaches that true liberation comes from transcending the three modes of material nature and attaining a state of pure, divine consciousness. This transcendence is achieved through unwavering devotion, selfless actions, and steadfast faith in the Supreme. By aligning one’s faith with the principles of goodness, one can rise above the limitations of material existence and experience the eternal bliss of spiritual realization.

“Sraddhatraya Vibhaga Yoga” offers profound insights into the nature of faith and its impact on human life. Lord Krishna’s teachings emphasize that faith is a fundamental aspect of existence that shapes one’s character, actions, and destiny. By understanding and cultivating the right kind of faith—Sattvik faith—individuals can purify their hearts, elevate their souls, and attain spiritual liberation. This chapter serves as a guiding light for all seekers, encouraging them to align their faith with divine principles and pursue the path of righteousness and truth.