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September 08, 2007

Bhagavad-gita Chapter 17

Chapter 17
The Divisions of Faith

One’s modes determine one’s activities: Faith and worship in the modes (17.1-7)

Main Theme:
When one does not base his faith in sastric inunctions, his faith becomes based upon his mentality, which is a product of his particular conditioning by the modes.

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Sub Points:

A. One can elevate himself from lower modes to goodness by the association of a bona fide spiritual master (17.2).
1. While covered by the lower modes, one’s vision becomes clouded by the influence of passion and ignorance. Therefore, it is necessary to have the guidance of the bona fide spiritual master, whose vision is clear. His direction can lead one to goodness.

B. Faith (sraddha) is born of goodness, but becomes mixed due to the influences of the modes of nature (17.3).
1. Srila Prabhupada states that, “The real principle of religious faith is situated in the mode of pure goodness but because the heart is tainted we find different kinds of religious principles.” The constitutional position of every living being is to have full faith in the Lord based upon realization. As the enjoying spirit dilutes pure faith and attraction for Krishna, it becomes filtered through the other modes and varieties of religion are created as pure love of God is compromised by various degrees of selfishness.
Food in the modes (17.8-10)
Sacrifice in the modes (17.11-13)
Austerity in the modes (17.14-19)
Charity in the modes (17.10-13)
Main Theme:
These sections describe how the modes condition a living entity.
Sub points:
The mode of goodness is characterized by dutiful, detached activity (17.11-20).

The conclusion: Om Tat Sat (17.23-28)

Main theme:
Activities directed toward the satisfaction of Lord Krishna take one out from the influence of the three modes and lead to eternal life.

Sub points:
A. "Om tat sat' describes activities done for the sake of Krishna (17.23-28).
1. "Om" means Visnu. It is placed at the beginning of Vedic hymns to indicate the
supreme goal.
2. "Tat” describes detached work for the sake of liberation. These activities are done
with disregard for material results.
3. "Sat” means eternal. Activities done for the service of the Lord reveal the true
spiritual nature. In such activity, the performer of actions becomes eternal, the
activities partake of the eternal and the benefits of the activity are eternal.

B. Activities done without faith in the Supreme are ultimately worthless.
1. Activities done without faith in the Supreme are simply within the realm of the
modes of nature and are temporary. Therefore, in the perspective of reality, they
are useless.
2. There is a process for gradual elevation through the modes, but one who has
contacted the bona fide spiritual master is eligible to transcend the modes all
together by taking directly to pure devotional service.