The divisions of faith

C L Kaloo

In the Holy Bhagwat Gita, it’s revealed in the 4th Adhyay (Shloka-39) that a person faithful to a worship gradually becomes elevated to the stage of knowledge and attains the highest perfectional stage of peace and prosperity. In the 16th Adhyay, it is concluded that one who does not follow the principles laid down in the scriptures is called an “asura” (demon); and one who follows the scriptural injunctions faithfully is called a “deva” (demigod). Now, if one with faith follows some rules which are not mentioned in the scriptural injunctions-what is his position? In this context, Arjuna enquired from the Lord as is narrated in Adhyay 17th, Shloka I (17:1) BG.
“ye sastra-vidhim utsrrya-yajante sraddhayanvitah tesam nistha tu ka krsna-sattvam aho rajas tamah”
Means: Arjuna said, “Those who set aside the scriptural rules, but who perform sacrifices with devotion-what is their status, O Krishna? Are they of sattavic, rajasic or tamasic nature?”
It may be stated here that the scriptures are the repository of the man’s highest experience and soul wisdom, and as such, are priceless aid to all spiritual aspirants, who have the options of three patterns of worship as per the canon of the Holy Gita.
A devotee, though, having faith and deep respect of the scriptures, yet may not always understand them or be able to study them carefully. Even great scholars sometimes disagree on the meaning and interpretation of various sacred texts. Many persons, ignorant of scriptural injunctions, prohibitions and rituals; nevertheless, possess great faith or devotion (shraddha)-the natural inclination of the heart towards righteousness and thus, lead deeply religious lives. In the last two “shlokas” of the Adhyay 16th, the lord told Arjuna, “To take the scriptures as your guide in determining what should be done and what should be avoided? With intuitive understanding of the injunctions declared in holy writ be pleased to perform thy duties here.” Thus, the lord advised Arjuna to take scriptures as his guide and to act accordingly. The devotee questions whether this applies to all the edicts, including many ceremonial rites (yajnas), for the attainment of phenomenal experiences. Arjuna, representing the highly advanced yogi who has attained many wondrous states of inner perception, thus seeks further process of enlightment concerning spiritual experiences, through various patterns of worship with sattavic, rajasic and tamasic inherence of attraction.
Arjuna wanted to acquaint fully with the grace of the Lord about all manner of phenomena and the holy rites to attain them, as chronicled in the “shastras”. He questioned the value of these and enquired whether the prescribed ceremonial rituals and their results are necessary part of one’s spiritual endeavours? Is one considered tamasic, rajasic or sattavic if he chooses to bypass the formal observance of rituals that offer phenomenal realizations, and out of devotion (shraddha) performs instead only those spiritual actions and methods, that take the consciousness directly to God? It may be classified here that a disciple’s query and Lord’s (Guru) reply are with a basic view to the concept of “shraddha”, faith and Divine devotion. “Shraddha” is the natural inclination within every being that is attracted to its source-spirit.
This inherence of attraction as will be seen in the succeeding shlokas is dull and inert in the tamasic individual, active but with self-interest in the rajasic person; and fully expressive as devotion and faith in the sattavic person (persevering yogi). He, who has deep feeling and “shraddha” is consistent in the highest form of spiritual endeavour because he is motivated by an intense spiritual longing that has its basis in the conviction of faith. Explaining further and to remove any doubt in the mind of his disciple, the Lord said, in Adhyay 17th, Shloka-2 (17:2) BG.
“tri vidha bhavati sraddha-dehinam sa svabhava-ja sattviki rajasi caiva-tamasi cetitam srnu”
Means: The Lord 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.”
The Lord explains that those who knew the rules and regulations of the scriptures but give up to follow these rules are governed by the words of material nature. According to their previous activities in the mode of goodness, passion or ignorance, they acquire a nature which is of a specific quality. The association of the living entity is in contact with material nature, he acquires different types of mentality according to his association with the material modes. But this nature can be changed if one associate with a bona fide spiritual master and abides by his rules and the scriptures.
Concludingly, it may be stated that gradually one can change his position from ignorance to goodness or from passion to goodness. A blind faith in a mode of nature cannot help a person become elevated to the perfectional stage. One must consider things carefully, with intelligence, in the association of a bonafide spiritual master who can change an aspirant’s position to a higher mode of nature.