Bhagavad Gita, ch. 17

Krsangi Dasi - June 19, 2005 2:09 pm

Dear devotees


Only the true remain: due to different reasons only Bhrigu, Kamalaksa and I were present at our seventeenth Gita meeting. Nevertheless we had an interesting discussion about the three gunas.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Seventeen: Yoga of Discerning Threefold Faith


In the previous chapter Krishna talked about the godly and the ungodly, and now he concentrates on those in between these two groups.


We especially liked the way Krishna describes faith in the third verse: "One is whatever his faith is." Our faith directs our actions, and at the same time challenges us to act fully in accordance to our faith, to avoid action that goes against our highest goal.


Krishna then speaks about the different aspects of sattva, rajas and tamas. Bhrigu pointed out that from a spiritual point of view they're actually all equal, except for the fact that from sattva you can rise to sudha-sattva.


It's not so difficult to find examples of the three gunas in our surroundings. In verse four it's said that the sattvic worship the gods, the rajasic demoniac spirits, and the tamasic nature spirits and ghosts. These descriptions correspond quite well with to multitude of beliefs modern people have: there are large religious movements that do a lot of charity work and can be seen as sattvic, and also small underground movements interested in witchcraft that could be seen as rajasic. And satanism is quite clearly tamasic.


In verses 5-6 Krishna interestingly states that people who torture the body also torture him within it. People commonly claim that their bodies are theirs to freely do whatever they like with. As a result some of them end up mutilating their bodies in a way that shocks even those who usually worship individualism. This seems to me like yet another example of people first stating that they don't believe in any absolute rules and then becoming deeply disturbed when someone acts against those rules. A lot of people say there's nothing wrong with cosmetic surgery and everyone is fully free to decide how they want to look, but still these same people are appalled with what Michael Jackson has done to himself.


Bhrigu and Kamalaksa, who firmly believe that food can only get better by adding more ghee, were a bit alarmed when reading Guru Maharaja's purport to verse 8. Guru Maharaja writes there that the word "Snigdha" refers to foods that are not excessively fatty, but contain some oil. I don't think that Bhrigu and Kamalaksa have ever found any food to be "excessively fatty". :P


As people in general tend to find the food devotees cook to be really spicy and hot it's a bit embarrassing to read verse 9 where it's said that excessively hot foods are rajasic. Later on in verse 13 the importance of distributing prasadam is pointed out by stating that a sacrifice where no food is offered of distributed is tamasic. It's interesting how prasadam is considered such an essential part of religious life.


In verses 14-16 Krishna describes the three levels of austerity: austerities of the body, speech and mind. Each austerity is more difficult that the previous one, and even if one performs all these austerities, but in the wrong mood, they will be considered tamasic.


Krishna ends this section by explaining how even gifts can be given in different moods. Then he moves on from the gunas and starts talking about transcending them by the sacred mantra "om tat sat". We were left wondering why we so seldom here devotees say these words even though Krishna promises here that uttering them will eventually bring one perfection.

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - June 20, 2005 8:40 pm
large religious movements that do a lot of charity work and can be seen as sattvic, and also small underground movements interested in witchcraft that could be seen as rajasic. And satanism is quite clearly tamasic

It's interesting to think about it from perspective of guna-avataras Visnu, Brahma and Mahesvara (Siva) and principles of sustenance, creation and destruction. For example large religious movement can be under influence of a different guna during different periods of its evolution. For example, Islam currently is the fastest-growing religion in the world, so it's safe to assume that as a mission it's functioning under rajo-guna, within the movement you can see prophets and theologists working under influence of sattva-guna and fundamentalist terrorists who are under tamo-guna. So by itself pious act, such as doing charity work, does not position movement in a particular guna.


Please explain why do you think that witchcraft (wicca?) is rajasic and satanism is tamasic? Satanism is a very general term for example. Are we talking about worshiping Christian devil? Or pre-Christian Pagan forms? Being deferent (if a person does not worship my God, then they must be worshiping Satan)? Or worshiping of a principle of Evil as a living entity? Deification of the human race?


So a lot of generalizations but a very interesting subject.

Krsangi Dasi - June 22, 2005 6:53 am

Dear Nanda-Tanuja


I'm glad to see that someone still reads my Gita reports. :P


When I wrote about sattvic religious movements I was thinking about the Christian movements we have here in Finland, who are doing a lot of charity work. They help out people who have somehow ended up outside of the society's "safety net". They also send a lot of help to abroad. Naturally all their work is not so sattvic if you look at it more closely, for instance when they give food to the needy they certainly also give them meat. But nonetheless there are a lot of people involved in these movements who are working very hard and selflessly for the well-being of others, so I thought that their attitude is sattvic in the sense that they're not looking for personal gain.


Thinking of an example of a rajasic religion I felt that the essence of rajas is that you're trying to gain some result with your actions. I don't know Wicca very well, I was thinking more of tribal religions which use different spells, like voodoo. I'm under the impression that "primitive" (I'm sorry I can't come up with a better English word) religions often include quite violent rituals, but still there's an underlying religious goal in them, it's not just senseless violence.


My understanding of tamas is action that only causes suffering. Satanism, in the general form it's usually seen here, is very self-destructive and violent, including drug abuse, vandalism and self-mutilation. I don't think that there's much philosophy/theology involved, it seems that it's more about people who are trying to cope with their suffering in this world by hurting themselves and others. I'm afraid I don't know that much about different, more sophisticated forms of Paganism and Satanism, I was only referring to the kind of senseless Satanism I've heard about in Finland.


I hope this helps!

Citta Hari Dasa - June 22, 2005 6:52 pm

As Nanda-tanuja pointed out, these types of things are a mixed bag. The example of Christian groups doing philanthropic work is a case in point: the Christian conception in general is rajasic in nature, due to its not having a clear conception of what matter and spirit are. But the philanthropic work, if genuinely done with no motive for personal gain, wouid of course be sattvic. I guess one would have to determine that on an individual basis, though, so it gets further complicated!


Voodoo is a mix of rajas and tamas. The rites may be aimed at increasing one's position or power, but there is violence (animal sacrifice) involved, which is of course tamasic in the extreme.


Satanism as Krsangi described it is pretty tamasic, and from what little I've read even the more liberal-minded, nonviolent ones are as well since they are interested in not in power or control of others but in making their material situation better, i.e., sense gratification. They don't seem to be too concerned about an afterlife (if indeed they even believe in such a thing--many don't), so it's basically the "you get one go at life so do it the way you want" attitude.

Jason - June 23, 2005 4:49 pm

Alaister Crowley is often considered "in league" with the modern day Satanists. I was told, as a young Christian, that his creed was something along the lines of "Do what thou wilt" and that this was purely evil and carried a "no morals" sort of attitude. Later, I met a really nice guy (my body piercer in Chicago) who seemed to have a sikha? We got to talking and I found out that he follows an actual movement/faith who studies Mr. Crowley's teachings. For the life of me I can't remember what the religion was called.....but there were apparently many who followed. The men actually have "sikhas" and the creed that I was misinformed about was actually, "Do thou will".


Hank (my friend) explained that they believe that everyone has a "will", or an inborn desire to serve people/mankind in some way. He suggested that Crowley encouraged people to seek out that vision as their way to reach out to people. He explained a bit about the history of the movement and it was quite eye-opening.


Though he was an amazingly friendly guy (well spoken and all smiles), I got the impression that it's really sentimental with no emphasis on a Supreme person. They all just answer to themselves. Philanthropic work in the mode of goodness at best.


The similar sikha thing was crazy! I want to say that Crowley had some affiliation with the Templars but that might not be correct?



Nanda-tanuja Dasa - June 23, 2005 6:00 pm
I want to say that Crowley had some affiliation with the Templars but that might not be correct?

The Knights Templars (Pauvres Chevaliers du Temple) military order was founded around 1118, prosecuted starting 1307 and publicly burned in 1310. So there is no connection to Crowley.


Aleister Crowley was a leader of a group called Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO -- founded around 1895 by Karl Kellner and Theodore Reuss) and member of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and A.·.A.·.(Argentinum Astrum). OTO was claiming to integrate "Freemasonic, Rosicrucian and Illuminist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, the crusading Knights Templar of the middle ages and early Christian Gnosticism and the Pagan Mystery Schools." So you might say there is a very thin connection, because I'm sure they would not be able to find any Templar manuscripts even if they still existed which I'm not aware of. A funny tidbit -- L. Ron Hubbard was a memeber of OTO.


Crowley was all over the place from Enochian magic and Buddhism to Sex Magick, but in my opinion he probably relates more to Masonry then to Satanism.


The movement you are talking about is Thelema (Θελημα in Greek, means will), it's basically a form of libertarianism based on mystical initiatory system. It uses Liber Legis, or The Book of the Law written by Aleister Crowley as a main treatise but borrows freely from other traditions (Qabalah, Vamachara Tantra, etc). The book according to Crowley was a channeled dictation.


Crowley died in 1947 in a boarding house bankrupt and heroin addict.


Bhrigu - June 23, 2005 8:36 pm

Nandatanuja already stated most of the relevant facts. Crowley is a very important person in the development of modern versions of ceremonial religious magic (coining for example the term magick to distinguish it from "stage magic"). I didn't know about the sikhas though. But that is just an external thing: Crowley, OTO, Thelema and so on have nothing to do with Vaishnavism, and very little indeed with sattvaguna either (sattva being primarily defined as detachment and selflessness).

Jason - June 24, 2005 4:34 am

Thelemites....I think that was the word. Thanks!