People love three kinds of food according to their respective taste just as there are three kinds of faith; and there are likewise three kinds of yagya, penance, and charity.
Lord Krishn sings:
“Listen to me, the distinction between the three kinds of yagya,
penance, and alms, that are like the three kinds of food
relished according to individual taste.”
The first to be categorized is food.
“Food that is naturally pleasing and conducive to life,
intellect, strength, sound health, happiness, and satisfaction
besides being savoury, tender, and durable is loved by the virtuous.”
Apparently, according to Lord Krishn, food that is naturally agreeable and good for strength, sound health, and intellect, and thus for longevity, is good. And such food is dear to the righteous.
It is thus clear that no food as such has the property of ennobling or of stimulating, or of depressing. So neither is milk perfect nor onions inflaming, nor garlic a generator of baser instincts.
As for food that is conducive to good physique, healthy mind, and sound health, the choice of people all over the world varies widely according to environment and geographical condition and, of course, according to individual taste. Whereas rice is staple food of some, others in other regions prefer bread made from wheat-flour.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, food that is tasteful, tender, and nutritious is sattwik. That food is good which is congenial and favourable to long life, strengthening of both body and mind, and to sound health. But it is also laid down that food that is naturally relished is good. So there is no use saying that this food is pious while that is impious. The only tenable view is that, that food is good which is in keeping with the local situation, surroundings, place, and time, and which provides the required nourishment.
The use of an object, rather than the object itself, is what makes it good, morally objectionable, or evil. So it is that food and drinks such as meat and alcoholic beverages are uncongenial to a person who has renounced the home and family, and taken up the life of a sanyasi renunciate engaged in meditation upon God.
Experience demonstrates that such victuals result in a state of mind that is inimical to spiritual discipline. There is always a possibility that such food and drinks will lead the seeker astray from the way of attainment. So they who have chosen a life of seclusion because of their disenchantment with worldly passions had better keep in mind the advice about food that Lord Krishn has offered. The proper thing to do is to eat and drink only that which is favourable to worship and adoration of God.
“Bitter, sour, salty, too hot, pungent, rough,
and acidic food that gives rise to sorrow, worries, and illness,
is preferred by the passionate.”
“Food that is half-cooked, unsavoury, odorous,
stale, leftover, and defiled is liked by men with a dull sensibility.’’
The discussion of food is now closed and that of the next subject, namely, yagya, taken up.
Lord Krishn sings:
“Yagya that has scriptural sanction
and the performance of which is an obligation, is fitting
and auspicious when it is practiced by persons with intent minds
who aspire to no reward.”
The Bhagavad Gita approves of such yagya. Lord Krishn named yagya and said:
“Since the conduct of yagya is the only action, and all other business in which people are engaged are only forms of worldly bondage, O son of Kunti, be unattached and do your duty to the Supreme Spirit well.”
Then, he went on to explain the character of the unique action called yagya: that it is an act of sacrifice in which the practicer of yog offers the incoming and outgoing breath (pran and apan) to each other and in which the two vital winds are regulated by offering them as oblation to the fire of self-restraint to achieve serenity of breath.
There were thus enumerated fourteen steps of yagya, which are all but varying stages of the same action that bridges the gulf between individual Soul and the Supreme Spirit.
In brief, yagya has been imaged as that unique process of contemplation which leads the worshiper to the eternal, immutable God and ultimately effects his dissolution in that Supreme Being.
“And, O the unequalled among Bharat,
be it known to you that the yagya which is embarked upon
for mere ostentation, or even with a view to some reward,
is contaminated by passion and moral blindness.”
The one who sets about thus is versed in the precept of yagya, but he is, in fact, unrighteous and obsessed because he performs yagya either to flaunt his virtue and win admiration, or with the design of securing some profit.
Lord Krishn then points out the features of the most inferior kind of yagya.
“Devoid of scriptural sanction and powerless
to invoke the Supreme Spirit as well as to restrain the mind,
the yagya that is engaged in without a sense of total sacrifice
and faith is said to be demoniacal.”
Unsupported by scriptural authority and incapable of generating even food-the lowest form in which God is manifested-and of restraining the mind to the Self, and possessed of neither the urge to make sacred offerings-the will for total self-surrender-nor true devotion, this form of yagya is rightly said to be of the most inferior kind.
Therefore, the person who undertakes it does not have even the faintest glimmering of true yagya.
Lord Krishn next remarks upon the question of penance.
“Adoration of God, the twice-born, the teacher-preceptor,
and of the learned, along with having the qualities of innocence,
uprightness, chastity, and disinclination to violence-are said
to be penance of the body.”
The body ever strays towards its desires. So chastening it to make it abide by the predisposition of the Soul is physical penance.
“And utterance that does not agitate but is soothing,
propitious, and truthful, and which is but an exercise
in the study of Ved, in remembrance of the Supreme Being,
and in Self-contemplation, is said to be the penance of speech.”
Articulation is also resorted to in order to give expression to thoughts that have a leaning towards objects of sensual gratification. Restraining it from this and steering it deliberately in the direction of God is the penance of speech.
The last form we are apprised of is penance of the mind.
“Affable temperament, tranquility, silent meditation,
self-possession, inner purity, and the like are said
to be penance of the mind.”
Simultaneous practice of the three kinds of penance – of body, speech and mind-is the truly worthwhile penance.
“The threefold types of penance undergone
with utmost faith by selfless persons who do not desire
any fruit thereof is said to be truly righteous.”
The other kind of self-mortification is that which is indulged in by persons whose temperament is that of rajas, or passion.
“And if undergone with the purpose of gaining homage,
honour, and adoration, or for mere display,
penance is unsteady and ephemeral,
and is said to have the property of rajas.”
And so we now come to the penance of the most depraved kind-the one which is deemed evil, which is of the nature, or property, of tamas.
” The penance that is undertaken out of mere
stupid stubbornness or to hurt others is said to be diabolical.’’
Thus, as we have seen, the purpose of penance that is good and virtuous is to mould the body, mind, and speech in harmony with the cherished end. The mode of impulsive penance is similar, but it is taken up with the vainglorious desire for worldly honour.
Sometimes even exceptional souls who have renounced the world fall prey to this infirmity. The third kind of penance, that which is called demoniacal, is not only done wrongfully but also with the malicious intention of causing harm to others.
Lord Krishn next takes up the question of alms.
“And the alms that are given to the right person
at the right place and time,
and in the spirit that charity is a bounden duty done
without any expectation, are said to be good.”
However, charity that is grievous because it is done under coercion, or with expectation of some favour or reward, is of the impassioned kind.
“And alms which are offered grudgingly
and for a good turn in exchange,
or with some recompense in view, is said to be
impulsive and morally improper.”
The basest kind of gifts are, however, those that are offered with disrespect and scorn to the undeserving at an inopportune place and time.
“And the alms which are dispensed without deference
or contemptuously to unworthy recipients
at an inappropriate place and time are said to be diabolical.”
The revered Gurudev would always tell us, “Bear it in mind that the donor is wrecked if he gives alms to the undeserving.” Similar to this is Lord Krishn’s observation that charity is worthwhile only if it is directed, at a suitable place and time, at the meritorious with true generosity and without any desire for a reciprocal favour.
Gifts that are offered reluctantly and with an eye on some profit in return are morally flawed, while alms that are given irreverently and with scorn to the undeserving are positively evil.
Though generically they are all gifts, alms-giving by persons who renounce their desires, home, and all, and place their trust in God alone, is of a higher order, for charity of this kind implies a total surrender by a mind that has been purged of all cravings.
Lord Krishn approves of this form of charity as an indispensable necessity.
~Revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans~