The Bhagwad-Gita’s Three Fold Classification


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There is no conflict in human mind that goes unanswered in the Bhagavad Gita.


Indian philosophy is often projected as personified pessimism. The Western view of Indian Philosophy is that it is about next birth and not the present life. It is absurd because the base of any philosophy is betterment of humanity. The Gita is not about east and the west; it believes in the whole word in totality and unfolds the path towards divine bliss. It imparts the supreme wisdom, acquiring which a man can attain highest perfection.

Chapter 14 of the Bhagavad Gita explains in detail the threefold classification of all actions – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

Sattva is flawless, Rajas is born of passion and Tamas of ignorance. Sattva guides the man towards happiness, Rajas to attachment and action, and Tamas urges towards error.

A Satvik has control over body, mind and senses, divinity is predominant. A Rajasik has no control over sense and action, thus undertaking actions with selfish motive and is restless. A Tamasik is inactive, careless and arrogant with ignorance.

Faith, that constitutes the very existence of man, is also threefold. The Satvik worship Gods, Rajasik worship demons and the Tamasik worship Ghosts.

Food, which is the core element of existence, is also of three kinds. Food that is sweet, bland, nourishing, agreeable, promotes strength, health and delight stimulating divine thoughts is Satvik food. Food that is bitter, acidic, salted, very hot, pungent, dry, burning, will give rise to illness, craving and heaviness stimulating materialistic thoughts is Rajasik food. Food that is half-cooked, insipid, putrid, stale, polluted, impure and born of killing another creature is Tamasik. It stimulates erotic, lethargy, dullness and intoxication of mind.

The threefold classification can also be made for sacrifice, penance and charity. Actions done with no desire for the outcome of duty are Satvik. Those performed with a view of return are Rajasik. The actions of sacrifice, penance and charity done devoid of faith and with violence, torture or by causing injury to others are Tamasik. Charity if done with a sense of honour or blessing of divine to be in a position to give to others, with regard to place, time and the recipient is Satvik. Buying a drink for a person is no charity while offering food for the hungry is. The same, which is made in a grudging

mood, with the object of getting some service in return, or with

view to gain materialistically, is said to be Rajasik. The charity, which is made at an improper place and time, in an insulting manner, to undeserving persons, is Tamasik. It is the selfish motive and ego behind the gift that makes it Tamasik.

Renunciation is also threefold. An action enjoined by the scriptures, which is done as a duty, renouncing the outcome and with a sense of detachment, is Satvik. An action or duty forsaken for fear of bodily discomfort or done for some personal benefits is Rajasik renunciation. An action or duty not performed through proper manner, abandoned through ignorance, without real objective and with no importance to the ‘self’ is Tamasik renunciation.

Duty performed without a sense of doership, without passion or prejudice, unaffected by the result is Satvik. Duty performed involving much strain, done for enjoyment, prompted by egoism, with greed, violence and impure conduct is Rajasik. Duty performed with ignorance, without involvement, injuring others, with lack of self-control, arrogance, deceit, sloth and done after delaying for long time is Tamasik.

The reason, which knows what is right action and what is right cessation of action, and that which controls the activities of the mind and senses is Satvik. The reason, which cannot distinguish between the right action and right cessation of action, doing with extreme fondness for virtue, prosperity and pleasure is Rajasik. The reason enveloped in ignorance steeped with fear, grief, despondency and sloth is Tamasik

The joy born of placidity of mind, brought about by meditation, peace and serenity is Satvik. The joy derived from contact of senses is Rajasik. The joy derived from sleep, indolence, carelessness and influence of intoxicants is Tamasik.

When a man dies during the preponderance of Sattva, he attains ethereal world, when he dies during Rajas he is reborn as a species of action, when he dies during Tamas he is reborn as a deluded species.

A person who, sitting like a witness, is not disturbed by the Sattva, Rajas or Tamas, one who takes pain and pleasure alike, who regards stone and gold with equal value, one who is equipoised in honour or anonymity, is alike towards a friend or an enemy, and has renounced the sense of doership in all undertakings is said to have transcended the threefold classification. The Bhagavad Gita proclaims that a person who transcends these threefold classifications reaches self-attainment and his soul attains supreme bliss.

Thus, the threefold classification of actions forecast the end result of each, enabling the man to make the right choice. One need not go to the woods or to the mountains to achieve Sattva. The threefold classification of Gita focuses on the present actions, not the next birth.

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