Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 17

Chapter 17
Śraddhā-traya-vibhāga Yogaḥ
The Three Classifications of Conviction.

Summary of the Teaching

In the [previous] chapter, after expounding the division [of beings] into two classes —Divine and Non-divine, it was revealed that the knowledge of Reality and the means for acquiring it have their source in the Vedas alone.

Now [in this chapter] it will be taught that whatever is not enjoined by the Scriptures is ineffectual, because it is ‘non-divine’, furthermore, actions enjoined by the Scriptures are categorised into three kinds according to the Guṇas.

The definition of what [exactly] is established in the Scriptures will also be given.

Arjuna, unable to understand why works not enjoined by the Scriptures are futile, sincerely asks about the different kinds of results, in terms of the three Guṇas, arising from works such as sacrifices that are not enjoined in the Scriptures, but are done with conviction: —

arjuna uvāca
ye śāstra vidhim utsṛjya yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ|
teṣāṃniṣṭhātu kākṛṣṇa satvam āho Rājas tamaḥ|| 1 ||

Arjuna said

1. What is the position O Krishna of those who disregard the injunctions of the Shastra, yet worship with conviction (śraddhā)? Is it Sattva, Rājas or Tamas'?

śrībhagavān uvāca
trividhābhavati śraddhādehināṃsāsvabhāvajā|
sātvikīrājasīcaiva tāmasīceti tāṃ śṛṇu || 2 ||

The Blessed Lord said:

2. Threefold is the conviction of embodied beings, inherent in their own nature, classified as Sāttvic, Rājasic and Tāmasic —listen to the teaching about it.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The guṇas or three modes of material nature are sattva guṇa the mode of goodness, raja guṇa the mode of passion and tama guṇa the mode of ignorance.

They are singularly inherent within the faith of all mankind and they conform to the characteristics and disposition particular to each jīva or embodied being.

The impressions from past life incarnations arise as tendencies pursued in a present life correspondent to one's mood and taste and from that mood and taste ones' faith arises.

Displays of enthusiasm are indications of faith, where underlying is the belief that the effort will be successfully fulfilled.

Tendency, taste and faith are actually properties of the ātma or immortal soul; but they are only evoked when the ātma happens by chance to come in contact with the guṇas.

It has been deduced that when there is tranquillity in the mind there is control of the senses and peacefulness of the body and such effect manifests the chance contact between the ātma and the guṇas resulting in sattva guṇa.

Agitation of the mind, unbridled senses and over indulgence of the body results in raja and tama guṇa.

Thus effectively the experiences from past lives manifest into one of the three guṇas.

sattvānurūpāsarvasya śraddhābhavati bhārata |
śraddhāmayo’yaṃpuruṣo yo yacchraddhaḥsa eva saḥ|| 3 ||

3. The conviction of each person, O Arjuna, is in accordance with one's character. A person consists of conviction, and whatever one's conviction is, that verily one is.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word sattvānurūpā means - according to the mental characteristics.

The qualities of the mind saturate every jīva or embodied being and correspondingly determines the faith they are endowed with. Whatever state the mind exists in, faith naturally arises from that very state. This also implies the desires of the body and the attraction of the senses.

The word śraddhāmayo means inundated with one of the three types of faith situated from either sattva guṇa, the mode of goodness, raja guṇa the mode of passion or tama guṇa the mode of ignorance.

In whatever mode of faith one is united with into that mode of faith one is transformed.

If such a jīva is imbued with faith for performing spiritual activities one will achieve spiritual results.

Contrarily if one is attracted with faith to perform demoniac activities, one will achieve demoniac results both in accordance with their faith.

yajante sātvikādevān yakṣa rakṣāṃsi rājasāḥ|
pretān bhūtagaṇāṃścānye yajante tāmasājanāḥ|| 4 ||

4. The Sāttvic types worship the gods. The Rājasic types worship Yakṣas and Rākṣasas, and the others, classified as Tāmasic, worship Pretas and the host of Bhūtas.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those who are imbued with sattva guṇa, the mode of goodness become attracted to activities in purity and goodness and they are devoted to worshipping the Supreme Lord with full faith,

concerned only with the transcendental bliss derived from bhakti or exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna, which is completely transcendental to material existence and untainted by darkness and suffering.

Those in raja guṇa or mode of passion offer diabolical rituals to demoniac entities from the physical and astral realms to gain pleasure, power, wealth and fame.

The results are bitter sweet when succeeding and bitterly painful when failing because one has to give something physical in return such as the death of a family member or one's health.

Those in tama guṇa or mode of ignorance pay homage to the ghosts and spirits which give no joy and is filled with pain and anguish.

The results of these three guṇas or modes of material nature are determined directly by whichever one is situated in along with the quality of the faith in which the worshipper is performing, even if it is in accordance with the Vedic scriptures.

Lord Krishna has categorically emphasised and declared that not even the most miniscule modicum of happiness is derived from any activity which is contrary and opposed to the Vedic scriptures; which embody all that is for the highest good for all.

Those who are inimical to the Vedic scriptures which benefit all creation are evil and possess a demoniac nature.

aśāstra vihitaṃghoraṃtapyante ye tapo janāḥ|
dambhāhaṅkāra saṃyuktāḥkāma rāga balānvitāḥ|| 5 ||

5. Those who practice severe self-discipline (tapas) not enjoined by the Śāstras, through ostentation and egoism, and impelled by the force of passion and attachment;

karṣayantaḥ śarīrasthaṃbhūta-grāmam acetasaḥ|
māṃcaivāntaḥ śarīrasthaṃtān viddhyāsura niścayān || 6 ||

6. These foolish people, torture the material components of their bodies and Me also who dwell within the body — know them to be non-divine in their faith.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word acetasaḥ means indiscriminate.

Such indiscriminate jīvas or embodied beings torture and afflict their own body and the bodies of others in the pursuit of fulfilling their depraved and macabre rituals for dominion over material existence.

The words rāga balānvitāḥ means by ostentatious displays of mental control and bodily power in such extremes that even the Supreme Lord feels tormented in His all-pervasive form as the ātma or immortal soul within all living entities.

The words mam eva ca refers specifically to His inner presence.

Hence whosoever executes rituals that are contrary to the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and engages in sacrifices that are prohibited in the Vedic scriptures,

or practices penances which cause great pain and suffering upon themselves and others, molest the very elements contained within the body for its welfare to be abused and the ātma to be disrespected

are verily to be known as possessing the demoniac nature.

The demoniac transgress the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and are known as asuras which means without light denoting without the light of divine consciousness.

Due to their bellicose and belligerent disposition of opposing the Supreme Lords commands, the demoniac purposely act contrary in defiance.

Because of this they are unable to derive even the most miniscule satisfaction and lasting happiness for their immense efforts.

All they derive from their scheming conjures of evil actions is accommodation in the hellish planets direct at the conclusion of their life cycle. By their own demoniac actions and sinful activities they have voluntarily hurled themselves into such a dire predicament without relief.

Next Lord Krishna will explain how natures differ according to the qualities of the three guṇas or modes of material nature that a jīva is situated in and influenced by.

The three guṇas are directly affected by the food a jīva chooses to eat and helps determine their present birth.

The threefold nature of foods as they are situated in one of the three guṇas of sattva guṇa, raja guṇa and tama guṇa corresponding to the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of ignorance will be described first.

This is confirmed in the Chāṇḍogya Upaniṣad VI.V.IV beginning anna-mayam hi sommya manah it states:

“The mind is verily composed of the food that is eaten”,

is further confirmed in verse VII.XXVI.II beginning rahara shudda sattva shuddhi which states:

Taking pure food in pure condition after it has been first offered to the Supreme Lord. As the purity of the food eaten so is the purity of the mind for pure food enhances the mind with purity.

āhāras-tvapi sarvasya trividho bhavati priyaḥ|
yajñās tapas tathādānaṃteṣāṃbhedam imaṃ śṛṇu || 7 ||

7. The food which is preferred by each, is threefold, as are the sacrifices, self-discipline and philanthropy. Now listen to their differentiation.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Food, the support of life, is also of three types - by food's relationship with the three guṇas or modes of material nature. Similarly yajñas or propitiation and worship by rituals is also of three types corresponding to the three guṇas; as well as austerities and charity.

The distinct gradations and variances found in the quality of each and every activity commences next.

āyuḥsattva bal-ārogya sukha prīti vivardhanāḥ|
rasyāḥsnigdhāḥsthirāhṛdyā āhārāḥsātvika priyāḥ|| 8 ||

8. A diet which promotes longevity, intellectual alertness, energy, health, pleasure and cheerfulness and those that are succulent, nutritional, substantial and agreeable, are preferred by Sāttvic people.

kaṭvamla lavaṇāty-uṣṇa tīkṣṇa rūkṣa vidāhinaḥ|
āhārāḥrājasasyeṣṭāduḥkha śokāmaya pradāḥ|| 9 ||

9. Foods that are bitter, sour, very salty, very hot, very sharp, astringent and heating, are all dear to Rājasic people, they produce pain, discomfort and disease.

yāta-yāmaṃgata-rasaṃpūti paryuṣitaṃca yat |
ucchiṣṭam api cāmedhyaṃbhojanaṃtāmasa priyam || 10 ||

10. Foods which are stale, tasteless, foul, putrid, left-over and impure, are loved by Tāmasic people.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

To those who are situated in sattva guṇa the mode of goodness, foods that are of the nature of sattva or goodness such as milk, fruits, grains and vegetables are very dear.

Such foods promote long life, invigorating the body and elevating the mind in its function of intelligence.

As was confirmed earlier in chapter XIV verse XVII:

“From the quality of sattva guṇa knowledge arises”.

Sattva guṇa facilitates spiritual knowledge and likewise food that is sattva also facilitates spiritual intelligence as well as good health, strength, happiness and relish.

The word sukha meaning happiness refers to the pleasure experienced while ingesting the food and afterwards when it is digesting and assimilating within the body.

The word prīti means satisfaction that is derived from the intake of pure foods inspiring congenial interest in spiritual activities.

The word rasyāḥ means succulent, delectable. Snigdhāḥ means oleaginous, unctuous. Sthirāh means nourishing, sustaining. Hṛdyā means agreeable, pleasing.

These are the qualities of sattva foods which are very much appreciated by those in sattva guṇa.

Foods that are acidic, bitter, salty, sour, spicy, pungent, dry, hard or burning are the foods that those in raja guṇa are very much attracted to.

The word Tīkṣṇa refers to food of no value because they are either to cold or to hot. Rakṣa are foods which are to dry and hard. Vidāhinaḥ are those foods that cause a burning sensation in the body.

These foods produce pain, distress, sickness and misery and decreases longevity of life and increase desires for more and more Rājas or passion.

The foods liked by those in tama guṇa the mode of ignorance are yāta-yāmaṃ meaning stale, foods that are old from the previous day, foods cooked more than a yama which is literally three hours before.

Gata-rasa means those foods which have lost their original flavour and have become tasteless.

Pūti means putrid, possessing a foul smell. Paryuṣitaṃ means decomposed, unrecognisable. Ucchiṣṭam means eating the remains of others, food after they have eaten.

This does not apply to honouring the remnants of mahā Prasādam or sanctified food first offered to Lord Krishna and then eaten by the spiritual preceptors who mercifully leaves some for their devotees which is then glorified by them as mahā Prasādam.

Amedhyaṃ means unsanctified foods, due to not having been consecrated by first offering it to the Supreme Lord and thus impure.

Partaking of foods in tama guṇa such as meat, fish, fowl, eggs, wine, alcohol, etc. breeds dark nescience and great ignorance.

So in conclusion those fortunate jīvas or embodied beings with spiritual insight should absolve themselves from the intake of foods in raja guṇa and tama guṇa and resort exclusively to foods in sattva guṇa.

aphalā-kāṅkṣibhir yajño vidhi dṛṣṭo ya ijyate |
yaṣṭavyam eveti manaḥsamādhāma sa sātvikaḥ|| 11 ||

11. The Sāttvic yajña (sacrifice) is one that is offered by one without a desire for reward and with the conviction that it should be performed as enjoined in the Śāstras.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna explains the three fold nature of yajña or performing rituals of propitiation and worship. He begins with sattva guṇa the mode of goodness.

The words aphalā-kāṅkṣibhi means performing yajña to the Supreme Lord without a desire for any reward.

Vidhi dṛṣṭa means performing it in accordance with the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures.

Yaṣṭavyam eveti means performed as a matter of duty or as bhakti, exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised avatars or incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures.

Such yajñas must be performed by duly initiated Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas chanting prescribed Vedic mantras for the exclusive satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.

When such a resolve manifests a yajña into reality in this manner, it is to be known as situated in sattva guṇa.

abhisandhāya tu phalaṃdambhārtham api caiva yat |
ijyate bharata-śreṣṭha taṃyajñāṃviddhi rājasam || 12 ||

12. That yajña which is offered, O Arjuna, with an expectation of reward and for the sake of ostentation, know that to be Rājasic.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

That yajña or acts of propitiation and worship which may follow the Vedic scriptures, but is ostentatiously enacted out of desire for prestige, with a secret, greedy longing for enjoying the effects of rewards is known to be situated in raja guṇa the mode of passion.

vidhi hīnam asṛṣṭānnaṃmantra-hīnam adakṣiṇam |
śraddhāvirahitaṃyajñāṃtāmasaṃparicakṣate || 13 ||

13. That yajña which is not based upon Scriptural authority, with unsanctioned offerings, devoid of the recitation of mantras, lacking in gifts of appreciation and faith—that is considered to be Tāmasic.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Any religious ritual or ceremony of any kind that is vidhi hīnam or devoid of following the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and without being conducted by Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas, who are pre-eminent both in precept and in practice, is recognizably known to be fully situated in tama guṇa the mode of ignorance.

The words asṛṣṭa annaṃ means without the sanctified food and ingredients required to perform a bona fide yajña or propitiation and worship.

The prohibition is that no ingredient may be acquired from those without faith in Lord Krishna; so it is a mandatory requirement that all ingredients are to be received only from devotees.

Those situated in tama guṇa cannot fulfil this mandate.

So in conclusion whatever religious activity that is performed without adhering to the authority of the Vedic scriptures,

without Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas chanting Vedic mantras and without adoration of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions

is not valid and being bogus is totally situated in tama guṇa.

If such activities were anyway somehow or other able to be clandestinely orchestrated by unqualified schemers it would still have no efficacy due to the absence of devotion to Lord Krishna and lack of faith in the absolute authority of the Vedic scriptures.

deva dvija guru prājñāpūjanaṃ śaucam ārjavam |
brahmacaryam ahiṃsāca śārīraṃtapa ucyate || 14 ||

14. Adoration of the gods, the twice-born, the preceptors, the enlightened ones, purity, rectitude, chastity and non-injury, these are said to be the physical disciplines.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now in order to explain the three types of austerities incorporated in and corresponding to the three guṇas or modes of material nature;

Lord Krishna describes their character first as that of bodily austerity, that of verbal austerity and that of mental austerity from each of the three guṇas from where tapas manifests.

Worship of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions in their installed deity forms after being duly initiated in the prescribed mantras,

worship of the singular dīkṣā guru, the initiating spiritual master and the elevated Śikṣā gurus or instructing spiritual masters.

The word śaucaṃ means internal and external cleanliness. Ārjavam means no duplicity, the intention of the mind and the action does not differ. Brahmacaryam is celibacy, the absence of thinking about engaging in sexual relations. Ahimsa is not causing harm to any living entity by thought, word or deed.

- All these activities constitute austerity of the physical body in sattva guṇa the mode of goodness.

anudvega-karaṃvākyaṃsatyaṃpriya-hitaṃca yat |
svādhyāyābhyasanaṃcaiva vāṅmayaṃtapa ucyate || 15 ||

15. Speech that does not cause distress and which is true, agreeable and beneficial, and also the recitation of the Vedas are called the verbal disciplines.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna states that what is known as austerity of speech is svādhyā or the recitation of Vedic mantras, after first being duly initiated by the Vaiṣṇava spiritual master.

Words which consist totally of truth, yet do not offend those spoken to and which are imbued with sweet and pleasing words that are inspiring and beneficial are austerities of speech in sattva guṇa the mode of goodness.

manaḥprasādaḥsaumyatvaṃmaunam ātma vinigrahaḥ|
bhāva saṃśuddhir ityetat tapo mānasam ucyate || 16 ||

16. Peace of mind, benevolence, silence, self-restraint, perfect mindfulness —these are called mental disciplines.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The austerities of the mind are manaḥ prasādaḥ or self-satisfaction and serenity free from mental imbalances.

The word saumyatvaṃ means serenity and benevolence to others. Maunam is silence externally and reflecting internally. Ātma- vinigrahaḥ is self-controlling the mind to stay focused on realisation of the ātma. Bhava-saṃśuddhi is purity within and purity of purpose.

These austerities of mind are confirmed by Lord Krishna to be in sattva guṇa the mode of goodness.

śraddhayāparayātaptaṃtapas tat trividhaṃnaraiḥ|
aphalākāṅkṣibhir yuktaiḥsātvikaṃparicakṣate || 17 ||

17. This threefold self-discipline, practiced with firm conviction by those who desire no reward and are devoted —is called Sāttvic self-discipline.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The words aphalā akāṅkṣibhi means those who have no desire for rewards.

Those devout and evolved jīvas or embodied beings with ardent faith, who are imbued with the consciousness that all their actions are humble,

offering a worship rendered to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorized incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures;

performing the three aforementioned types of austerity of the physical body, speech and mind

are known to be in sattva guṇa the mode of goodness.

satkāra māna pūjārthaṃtapo dambhena caiva yat |
kriyate tad iha proktaṃrājasaṃcalam adhruvam || 18 ||

18. Discipline, practiced with ostentation for the sake of gaining respect, praise and reverence, is considered to be Rājasic. It is unstable and transient.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna describes the austerities that are situated in raja guṇa the mode of passion are those that are enacted with the expectance of praise, prestige, acclaim and with the hope of receiving adulation and adoration from others is in raja guṇa,

along with any Vedic activity that is impelled by hidden motives of garnishing rewards or desire for recognition and worship from others, even if enacted according to the Vedic scriptures.

mūḍha-grāheṇa ātmano yat pīḍayākriyate tapaḥ|
parasyotsādanārthaṃvātat tāmasam udāhṛtam || 19 ||

19. That self-discipline which is practiced with foolish obstinacy by means of self-torture or in order to injure another is declared to be Tāmasic.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now Lord Krishna explains the austerities that are of tama guṇa or mode of ignorance.

The word mūḍha means foolish. The word grāheṇa means endeavour.

Those who foolishly endeavour are the ignorant. Those who torture and give pain to themselves and diabolically cause injury and suffering to others are depraved and their dark resolves are at the pinnacle of nescience.

Whatever activity they enact by such convoluted resolves regardless of success or failure is in the darkness of tama guṇa.

The Three Kinds of Charity

dātavyam iti yad-dānaṃdīyate’anupakāriṇe |
deśe kāle ca pātre ca tad-dānaṃsātvikaṃsmṛtam || 20 ||

20. The charity that is dispensed from a sense of duty, to one who does not reciprocate, at the proper place and time to a deserving person —that is said to be Sāttvic.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

It is a duty to offer dānaṁ or charity to worthy recipients.

Lord Krishna explains that dānaṁ that is offered without expectation of reward, hopes for services or wishing anything in return, that is offered at an auspicious place, at an auspicious time,

to spiritually enlightened Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇas steeped in the conclusive knowledge of the Vedic scriptures,

is to be understood as the best of dānaṁ and situated in sattva guṇa the mode of goodness.

yattu pratyupakārārthaṃphalam uddiśya vāpunaḥ|
dīyate ca parikliṣṭaṃtad-dānaṃrājasaṃsmṛtam || 21 ||

21. But that which is given as a consideration for something received or in expectation of future reward, or grudgingly, is considered to be Rājasic

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna clarifies that dānaṁ or charity that is bequeathed with an inner desire and expectation for reward or dānaṁ that is proffered reluctantly,

or dānaṁ that is inferior due to damage or spoilage, or dānaṁ that is undamaged and perfectly good and fresh unspoiled articles are stingily given grudgingly are all known to be situated in raja guṇa the mode of passion.

adeśakāle yad-dānam apātrebhyaśca dīyate |
asat-kṛtam avajñātaṃtat-tāmasam udāhṛtam || 22 ||

22. That gift which is given at the wrong place and wrong time to unworthy recipients, without due respect and with derision, is considered to be Tāmasic.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now Lord Krishna states that dānaṁ or charity given at an inauspicious location such as in cities where cows are slaughtered, at inauspicious times such as dark of night and to inauspicious persons such as meat eaters are situated in tama guṇa the mode of darkness.

Also showing disrespect by failing to properly welcome a worthy recipient such as a Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa who knows ātma tattva or knowledge of the immortal soul.

As also showing disdain by failing to wash his feet and drink the water, showing dishonour by failing to offer ceremonial etiquette by performing āratī of waving lamps, incense and flowers, etc.,

are all considered to be in tama guṇa, the mode of ignorance even if accompanied with opulent gifts.

oṃ tat sad iti nirdeśobrahmaṇas trividhaḥsmṛtaḥ|
brāhmaṇas tena vedāśca yajñaśca vihitāḥpurā|| 23 ||

23. “Aum Tat Sat” —this threefold expression designates Brahman. By this were the Knowers of Brāhman (Brāhmaṇas), the Vedas and yajñas ordained in the past.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Up until this time Lord Krishna has elaborated upon the distinctions between yajña or propitiation, tapaḥ or austerities and dāna or charity and how they are categorised in the three guṇas or modes of material nature.

Now the Supreme Lord will illustrate how yajña, Tapaḥ and dāna become spiritualised by being unified with the Prāṇava OM.

The term Prāṇava refers to first breath which is first vibrated as OM commencing all Vedic rites. It is derived from the root word Prāṇa meaning breath and is properly pronounced AAH with mouth open OOH with lips puckered and MMMM by pursing them together.

The triplicate formula OM TAT SAT is used in reference to the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence, which is the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord.

The Brāhman also refers to the Vedas, which also originally emanated from the Supreme Lords Prāṇa.

The Vedas denote Vedically ordained activities, of which yajña, tapaḥ and dāna are essential.

All Vedically ordained yajñas, rituals and ceremonies are only bona fide and valid if prefaced with the Prāṇava OM at its commencement, accompanied by its auxiliaries TAT and SAT.

The absence of the transcendental sound of OM vibrating from the very inception of any Vedic activity, automatically disqualifies it and renders it invalid even if subsequent rituals are performed perfect and perfunctory.

The Prāṇava OM is an eternal prerequisite for every expiatory rite prescribed in the Vedic scriptures and thus indispensable.

The Prāṇava OM is the transcendental sound vibration personally representing the Supreme Lord Krishna. The auxiliary TAT denotes complete perfection and auspiciousness and the auxiliary SAT denotes the source of all creation.

The Vaiṣṇavas and the brāhmaṇas are those who have the sole right and exclusive authority to vibrate these transcendental sound vibrations audibly and inaudibly during all rituals, prescribed in the Vedic scriptures.

Brāhmaṇas are those seminally born in India in the topmost caste of Brahmin families.

Vaiṣṇavas are devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures,

who are born in any caste, in any country, in any planetary system and who are so attracted to the Supreme Lord Krishna

that they make themselves available to receive twice born Brahmin initiation from a Vaiṣṇava āchārya or bona fide spiritual master from one of the four authorised sampradāya or bona fide channel of disciplic succession.

Only duly initiated Vaiṣṇavas and Brahmins are ordained to perform Vedic rites, no others have this authority and in this matter there is no exception.

The Brahmins and the Vaiṣṇavas were originally created by the Supreme Lord along with the Vedas and yajñas to harmoniously evolve and perfect all creation.

tasmād om-ity-udāhṛtya yajña dāna tapaḥkriyāḥ|
pravartante vidhān-oktāḥsatataṃbrahmavādinam || 24 ||

24. Therefore, all acts of worship, charity and self-discipline enjoined in the Vedas begun after the utterance of “Om” by the religious scholars.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna elaborates the ontology of OM TAT SAT and how they are interrelated.

The words brahma vādinam are those who follow the injunctions and ordinances of the Vedic scriptures and refer to the three higher varṇas or castes,

beginning with the brāhmins or priestly class, kṣatriyas - the royal and warrior class and Vaiṣyas the merchant class.

Yajña or propitiation and worship to the Supreme Lord is performed exclusively by the Vaiṣṇavas and Brahmins.

Tapah or austerities is performed by the Vaiṣṇava Brāhmiṇs and the kṣatriyas.

Dānaṁ or charity is performed by the kṣatriyas and Vaiṣyas and is offered to the Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas to be utilised for the service of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His avatars or authorised incarnations and expansions according to Vedic scriptures.

Thus the relationship between the three higher varṇas has been clarified.

All prescribed Vedic rituals must be performed exclusively by the Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas and always commence with the transcendental sound vibration OM.

The Vedas begin with OM as well. Thus the eternal connection between OM and the Vedas and OM and yajñas has been demonstrated and firmly established

as only in conjunction with the transcendental sound of OM at the commencement are the Vedas recited and the performance of yajñas is bona fide.

tad-ity-anabhisandhāya phalaṃyajña-tapaḥkriyāḥ|
dāna kriyāśca vividhāḥkriyante mokṣa-kāṅkṣibhiḥ|| 25 ||

25. Uttering “Tat” —without expectation of reward, those who seek Liberation perform acts of sacrifice, of self-discipline and of various kinds of charity.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Whatever prescribed Vedic activities performed by the Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas, such as study of the Vedic scriptures and yajña or propitiation and worship by ritual to the Supreme Lord,

tapaḥ or austerities by the kṣatriyas or royal warrior class and dānaṁ or charity by the Vaiṣyas or merchant class - are all done out of devotion and dedicated to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures without the slightest desire for material rewards.

Such activities devoid of motivation for mundane results are designated as TAT signifying that such acts are for ātma tattva or realisation of the immortal soul, perception of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and attaining communion with the Supreme Lord.

The Vishnu Sahasrasa confirms that: saḥ, vah, kah, klim, and tat denote the Supreme absolute.

Hence the ontology of TAT has been demonstrated to signify its connection to transcendental and eternal activities, which independently bestow Mokṣa or freedom from material existence and promotion to the eternal spiritual realms.

sad-bhāve sādhu-bhāve ca sad-ity-etat prayujyate |
praśaste karmaṇi tathāsacchabdaḥpārtha yujyate || 26 ||

26. The term “Sat” is used in the sense of existence and goodness, and so also, O Arjuna, the word “Sat” is to describe any action deserving of praise.

yajñe tapasi dāne ca sthitiḥsad-iti cocyate |
karma caiva tadarthīyaṃsad-ityevābhidhīyate || 27 ||

27. Perseverance in sacrifice, self-discipline and charity is also called “Sat”; and so also any action for the sake of these is termed “Sat”.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Supreme Lord Krishna explains that the word SAT denotes eternal existence and perpetual goodness. The words sad-bhave exemplifies eternal existence and the words sadhu-bhave exemplifies perpetual goodness.

This is the correct understanding in which SAT is to be comprehended in the Vedas as well as its utilisation by the recitation of SAT in prescribed Vedic rituals performed exclusively by the Vaiṣṇavas and brāhmaṇas.

Similarly the transcendental sound of SAT may be evoked for any auspicious activity ordained by the Vedic scriptures by duly initiated Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇas in any of the 480,000 types of humans existing throughout creation.

To follow the prescribed Vedic duties of yajña or propitiation and worship by the Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇas, tapaḥ or austerities by the kṣatriyas, the royal warrior class, and dānaṁ or charity by the Vaiṣyas or merchant class,

are all considered in sattva guṇa or mode of goodness because they are conscientiously following the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures.

Thus all such activities are known as SAT denoting perpetual goodness and due to being dedicated to the Supreme Lord they possess auspicious attributes of an eternal nature and for this they are also known as SAT.

Thus the relationship of OM TAT SAT to the Vedas, the performance of prescribed Vedic activities performed by Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇas and protected by the kṣatriyas while supported by the Vaiṣyas,

clearly and succinctly demonstrates what is factually Vedic in society and what is actually situated in sattva guṇa,

while simultaneously clarifying comprehensively by the logic of opposing parallels what is not Vedic in society and thus doomed to the perdition of exclusion from the ascending orbit of sattva guṇa.

aśraddhayāhutaṃdattaṃtapas taptaṃkṛtaṃca yat ||
asad ity-ucyate pārtha na ca tat pretya no iha || 28 ||

28. Whatever is offered or donated, whatever self-discipline is practiced and whatever action is performed without conviction — is called “Asat”, O Arjuna. It is worthless here and in the hereafter.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna concludes this chapter by emphasizing that even if prescribed Vedic activities are performed meticulously according to the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures;

if they are devoid of śraddhā or resolute faith they have absolutely no value and are known as a-sat the antithesis of SAT or perpetual goodness.

Without the prerequisite faith in the Supreme Lord Krishna, in the absolute authority of the Vedic scriptures, in the Vaiṣṇava spiritual preceptor;

the performance of prescribed Vedic activities bestow no rewards in this life or in subsequent reincarnations.

For all time and energy, all efforts are wasted for nothing is obtained in the present life and nothing is attained in a future life for the practitioner of prescribed Vedic activities who is devoid of śraddhā.

So the indispensable value of resolute faith cannot be overestimated.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavad gītāsūpaniṣatsu
brahma-vidyāyāṃ
yoga-śāstre śrīkṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde
śraddhā-traya-vibhāga-yogo nāma
saptaḍaśo’dhyāya

Thus in the Upanishads of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the seventeenth discourse entitled
“The Three Divisions of Conviction”