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Bhagavad Gita Chapter 17 On Shraddha

In the Bhagavad Gita one whole chapter — Chapter 17 — is dedicated to expounding the types of shraddha and their implications. It starts with Arjuna’s question to Sri Krishna about the faith of those who, without following scriptural injunctions, offer sacrifices with faith. What is the nature of their faith? Is it sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic? Sri Krishna answers:

The shraddha of the embodied beings, born of their own nature, is threefold — born of sattva, rajas, and tamas. Hear about it. O scion of the Bharata dynasty, the faith of all beings is in accordance with their minds. This person is made up of faith as the dominant factor. He is verily what his shraddha is. (Bhagavad Gita, 17.2–3.)

A person’s shraddha is in accordance with his or her temperament; one is verily what one’s shraddha is!

The rest of the chapter explains the functions of these three types of shraddha:

The Shraddha of embodied beings is three-fold. It is born of individual svabhava or the latent disposition of man; it is not imposed from outside. It is produced by the tendencies (samskaras) that are the result of his actions in previous life or lives. Under the influence of these tendencies the individual is dominated by one or the other of the gunas of prakriti. Thus, according to the respective individual qualities, Shraddha is either sattvik, rajas or tamas. And the actions of individuals reveal corresponding characteristics.

For example, if sattva guna is predominant in a man, he has sattviki Shraddha, he is pure and altruistic. He aspires after salvation. If rajas is predominant, he has rajasi Shraddha and he runs after inferior pleasures and works for limited and selfish goals. If tamas is predominant, he has tamasi Shraddha, a tamasa man has no idea of a definite spiritual goal nor does he feel the need for resorting to any prescribed means. Tamasi Shraddha is actually the negation of Shraddha.

Sattvic shraddha is spiritual, rajasic shraddha is present in the performance of karma, and tamasic shraddha is unrighteous. These three types of shraddha are in the domain of the gunas. Apart from these, there exists nirguna shraddha, which is faith in service to God. (Bhagavata, 11.25.27.)

Source – excerpts from article titled ‘Shraddha’ by Swami Utsargananda published in Prabuddha Bharata January 2010 issue.