Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


We shall read few ideas from the holy book “Shrimad Bhagavad Gita”. Let’s discuss faith. This is the Seventeenth Chapter, the very beginning. This chapter is called “The division of faith”.

Faith is a very essential part of a human being. Now I am talking in a very general sense. Faith in the success of this year or faith that my boss will pay my salary; and so many other types of faith we have. But faith proper is the faith in the divine blessings of God.

We might think that faith is only one type, but faith is very much different according to the ideas and nature of human beings. And this is what Krishna discusses in this chapter after the question of Arjuna. Arjuna inquired: ye sastra-vidhim utsrjya yajante sraddhayanvitah tesam nistha tu ka krsna sattvam aho rajas tamah“O Krishna, what is the situation of those who do not follow the principles of scripture but worship according to their own imagination? Are they in goodness, in passion or in ignorance?”[1]

Of course it is very difficult to pick one verse from “Gita”, because here Arjuna reflects back the previous answers of Krishna. Because previously Krishna has said that “if people do not follow the advice of the scriptures, they cannot attain Me”. And now, Arjuna is a good partner to discuss, right? He does not say: “Yes, my Lord!” He says: “Yes, but…” So I think sometimes you are very proper followers of Arjuna: “Yes, but…” Because Arjuna is living with the thoughts that Krishna is giving to him. So, Krishna says: “Follow the scriptures”, but what happens to those, who do not follow the scriptures? – this is the question of Arjuna. Is it good, is it proper, is it passionate, is it tamasic – what is the type? And after such a good question Krishna, the almighty God, can give a proper answer. Of course He could give a proper answer even without being asked; but for the sake of the beauty of the story inspires Arjuna in such a way that he puts proper questions so that He could tell what He wants. Sri-bhagavan uvaca tri-vidha bhavati sraddha dehinam sa svabhava-ja sattviki rajasi caiva tamasi ceti tam srnu– “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: According to the modes of nature acquired by the embodied soul, one’s faith can be of three kinds – in goodness, in passion or in ignorance. Now hear about this.”[2]

Three is a good number. One is also a good number. One is Krishna. Two, what about two? Is that good? Yes! Always two, right! So this (sign for “victory”) is not the invention of Winston Churchill, but this is coming from a very ancient tradition. Two is coming from Madhva, it is coming from a thousand years old tradition. Because Madhva Acharya was a very ancient and very powerful teacher in the vaishnavism. And he always suggested that there is the soul and the Supersoul. He always completed this sentence. He never said: “There is God!” He said: “There is God and there is the soul.” Always two. So “victory” comes from this. One and two both are good numbers. Three is also a very good number.

Well, we can go on discussing the numbers, but now we have to discuss the faith, different types of faith. Then in the next verse He says: “O son of Bharata, according to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.”[3]

So what are these three powers, give me the names? Shyam?

Shyamasundara: There is tama-guna, raja-guna and sattva-guna.

Tirtha Maharaj: Yes. But just imagine, if somebody is sitting here for the first time and we speak in codes: “What are these three powers? “ “Sattva-guna, raja-guna and tama-guna”, what will he understand? Please, give some explanation!

Shyamasundara: So these are the modalities of material nature. One general mode is ignorance, second is passion and third is goodness. And these frames include everything we came upon in material nature as the food we eat as well as everything else, connected to our conditioning.

Tirtha Maharaj: Mhm. But if we want to give a general understanding what these three powers are, we can say that the first one is weight or heaviness, the second is energy, and the third is light. So if there is some mass, plus there is some energy, plus there is some light, then the picture will be complete.

So from this we can easier understand what these powers are. You see that there is a mass for everything – for our understanding, for our life, for our bodily existence, for the planets – there is a mass. If energy is added to the mass, it will start to move, to work, function. So the activating power is energy. And if I say that you are so much full of rajas, it is not a complaint, it is a compliment. That means you are full of energies. But in order to use our energies for the proper purpose, we have to add some light to the picture. So if you have a big, big mass of mass, plus a lot of energies, but without the light – this is a catastrophe. But if we can add some light, then all the energy and all the body will function in a proper way.


(to be continued)

[1] Bhagavad Gita 17.1

[2] Bhagavad Gita 17.2

[3] Bhagavad Gita 17.3

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