Gita Series – 158: Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVII. Verse 18 – 22

Those austerities practiced for the purpose of getting noticed, for pride, for egoistical gains and for hypocrisy are momentary and pompousness in nature. Such austerities are said to be rajasic. Austerities performed out of ignorance and with foolish notions by troubling the self and others are said to tamasic in nature. Charities done at the right time and place to the right persons, considering them as one’s duty, not expecting anything in return are said to be sattvic in nature. On the contrary, charities given with a view to receive something in return, with intent on the fruits of such charities and with grudges are said to be rajasic. Charities given at wrong time, wrong place and to a wrong person and with reluctance are said to be tamasic.”

Austerities refer to non-indulgence in worldly pleasures. Undoubtedly, austerities lead to perfect spiritual life. But, austerities should not be practiced for publicity. A typical example is the robe. A true yogi does not require orange coloured clothing. A person should command respect and should not demand respect. The concept of spiritual masters is undergoing significant changes. A true spiritual master is the one, who imparts spiritual knowledge directly to his disciples. Without direct interaction with his disciple, a true spiritual master cannot take his disciple in the right path. There is no necessity for such spiritual masters to get noticed and they do not resort to austerities for satiating their unfounded ego and hypocritical fame. Such austerities are rajasic in nature. These rajasic activities do not last long and are momentary in nature and exposes the true nature of the hypercritic person.

Austerities performed out of ignorance and with falsified notions are said to be tamasic in nature. No amount of hurting one’s body will eradicate one’s sins. For example, piercing one’s mouth with rods or walking on fire, etc can be classified under this category. There is no other way for anyone, except to undergo one’s karmic afflictions. Such self-mortifications can never absolve a person from his karmic afflictions. One should remember that body is the encasement of the Lord within. Those who indulge in such actions not only put themselves to trouble, but inflict pain on others. These types of activities are condemned by Kṛṣṇa and are classified as tamasic. Thus, Kṛṣṇa had explained about the three types of austerities.

Kṛṣṇa now begins to explain the three types of charities or gifts. Like three types of austerities, there are three types of charities. The most important factor for any charity is the quality of the person to whom, the gift is offered. Whatever is given as a gift or as charity should be useful to the recipient and he should have the necessary qualification to receive the gift. Gift given at an appropriate time is more valuable than a gift given when the need is not there. A gift given without expecting anything is considered as sattvic in nature. But, on the contrary, if the gift is given with some expectation is considered as rajasic in nature. Gifts or charities given to appease planetary afflictions and gifts given with grudges come under this category. Charities given to wrong persons are considered to be tamasic in nature. Any gift or charity given to the right person at the time of need and with magnanimity, generosity and whole heartedness is considered as extremely virtuous and sanctified.

Further Readings:

Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVII. 11 - 13

Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVII. 14 - 17

Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVII. 23 - 28