BG CH17 Summary – 3 Types of Giving – Om Tat Sat Mantra (176)


Lesson 176 gives birds-eye-view of Chapter 17, then elaborates on best and worst type of giving, and significance of mantra “om tat sat”.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28



  • SOLUTION: CH13-15 has power to shift “I” from single entity to the whole. One way it does is by showing Existence-Awareness is the WHOLE. And it’s inherent maya power has capacity to seemingly individuate it into infinite forms. One of the forms is you (the 3-bodies jiva).
    • Owing to ignorance the jiva knew itself as a mere collection of desires, thus bound to samsara (life of becoming, struggle to be different emotionally/intellectually).
  • PREPARATION: To end the mundane samsara cycle, the jiva needs to be prepared/mature; after which self-knowledge is absorbed like a sponge.
    • If immature, (a) resistance to self-knowledge (b) won’t seem relevant (c) can’t retain.
    • Preparation called: sādhana catuṣṭaya sampathi (per Tattva Bodha), daivi-sampat (CH16), sattvic state of mind (CH17).

VERSE 1-6: Arjuna's question and three types of faith

  • Arjuna asks Krishna Q based on last verse of CH16; Krishna stating “Scriptural guidance is needed”.
  • Arjuna Q: What of people who are religious, but scripturally illiterate; but don't know basics like meaning of festivals and symbolism of deities?
  • Krishna A: Faith of any person can be divided into Sattva-Rajas-Tamas, based on their:
    1. Deity
    2. S: turned inward. R: extroverted. T: violent worship.
    3. S: interested in self-growth. R: external growth (money, position). T: harming. 

VERSE 8-10: Three types of food

  • Determines mental state. Keep track of food effects on your body-mind.
  • Sattvic: Avoid non-vegetarian diet, intoxicants, over-eating, in-between.

VERSE 11-13: Three types of yajna (worship or devotion)

  • S: Religious activities used for inner growth. R: External growth. T: Regressive worship.
  • S: Beneficiaries are more in num. R: Beneficiaries are less.

VERSE 14-19: Three types of tapas

    1. Willful self-denial.
    2. Introducing extra discipline in life through spiritual methods, to maintain the PRIMARY relationship (Lord).
      • CAUTION: Never blindly follow acarya/shastra. Desire for any practice should come from within yourself.
  • 5 Tapas for making mind more sattvic. EASY > HARD.
    1. Prayer (Prārthanā): [1] Ask Lord to give healthy-virtues. [2] By association, mind starts admiring Bhagavan's virtues.
    2. Association to virtuous: EG satsanga.
    3. Sankalpa (auto-suggestion): Gradually cultivate 1 value you feel would benefit you, by applying daily.
      • EG: Value 13 (asaktiḥ): Absence of sense of ownership. “My fortune” > “Lord’s blessing”.
    4. Pratipaksha-bhavana: Immediately convert criticism into praise.
      • EG:
        • Australia has no real culture, except barbecue. > Australia's culture is friendly and allows others to peacefully thrive.
        • If find it easier to invent negatives about someone, then find 2 positives for 1 neg.
    5. Emotional Mastery: GROSS > SUBTLE: Emotions > Thoughts > Samskaras.  

— End of Chapter 17 Summary —


VERSE 20-22: Three types of charity:


  • What is dānam (charity)?
    • Charity is to give money, material, knowledge, or time where there is a need. It’s to extend a helping hand to those who are not where you’re at yet.
    • It’s also one of most effective prayaschitta-karmas, which mitigates the wrongs committed in past.
  • Why is charity given significance in shastra?
    • Right from birth, owing to ignorance, person feels separate, thus insecure. Consequently makes 2 false conclusions:
      1. “I am insecure”. When in fact “I am not different to the entire universe”. 
      2. “Because I am insecure, world has to give me security because I am born in the world”. When in fact world itself is insecure since it’s perishable.
    • Consequence of 2 False Conclusions:
      • Both conclusions are product of delusions (moha). Which naturally generates greed (lobha) for acquisition, to appease one’s delusion of insecurity.
      • After individual has acquired, one wants to cling (kārpanyam: neediness), to sustain one’s sense of security.
      • In short, majority of decisions are subconsciously motivated by an inner angst of insecurity.
  • What is purpose of dānam?
    • It breaks the 2 deeply rooted false conclusions. It’s so rooted, that even siblings don’t want to share parent’s inheritance with their brother/sister.
  • How does danam break the 2 false conclusions?
    1. It re-establishes you in harmony with nature (īśvara-sṛṣṭi), which never holds onto anything, but flourishes only because it continues to let go. EG: Water in unmoving pool is contaminated.
    2. Spirit of charity helps to relinquish false sense of my-ness/ownership. In reality, you don’t own anything. You’re only borrowing.
  • Giving is built into Vedic culture.
    • EG: Kanyā-dāna in Hindu Tradition. Highest giving is giving away daughter in marriage. Traditionally, parents would not even eat in daughter’s house after marriage.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 20:

dātavyam iti yat dānam dīyate anupakāriṇe ।
deśe kāle ca pātre ca tat dānam sāttvikam smṛtam ॥ 17-20॥
That charity which is given (with an attitude) that giving is a duty, to a person who may not reciprocate (and which is given) at the proper place, at the proper time and to a proper person is considered to be sattvic charity.

  • What does sāttvika dānam look like?
    1. Healthy Giving:
      • Person gives out of compassion and consideration for other’s wellbeing, or a noble-cause.
      • Has an innocent need to help, a sense of duty, or motivated by the sheer joy of giving.
      • Giver is grateful that he/she has chance to give.
      • General rule when giving:
        • 1/3 of earnings for sustenance, comfort. 1/3 for generating more wealth. 1/3 for benefitting others.
        • Only give according to your capacity. Never more.
    2. Gives to Deserving Person / Right Time:
      • Sattvic giving is giving to a deserving person, and at the right time.
      • EG:
        • Common mistake is family owner passes business to an unqualified family member.
        • Or giving knowledge to an unqualified/immature listener. Else used irresponsibly.
        • Even giving inheritance to a child just because they’re blood related is non-sattva.
      • If don’t know person’s credentials, nothing wrong in refusing to give. Rather give to institution you’ve researched into.
  • SUMMARY: Sattvika charity gives fulfilment to the giver and benefits the receiver.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 21:

yat tu prati-upakārārtham phalam uddiśya vā punaḥ ।
dīyate ca parikliṣṭam tat dānam rājasam smṛtam ॥ 17-21॥
That charity which is reluctantly given for the sake of something in return, or expecting a result, is considered to be Rajasic.

  • What does rājasika dānam look like?
    • Perceives charity as MEANS to an end. Meaning, expects punyam in future (either from God or person).
      • Actually doesn’t matter because still increases punya balance, and leads to sattvic charity.  If don’t give at all, then next life nothing to give. Greater chance of poverty, more chance of violating dharma, hence more papa. Thus to get out of cycle of misfortune, danam is prescribed.
    • Gives miserably/reluctantly because hadn’t fully appreciated value of giving. Regrets afterwards.
    • Keeps track how much given.
    • Give little, but talk of it a lot.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 22:

adeśa-kāle yat dānam apātrebhyaḥ ca dīyate ।
asatkṛtam avajñātam tat tāmasam udāhṛtam ॥ 17-22॥
That charity which is given at the wrong place and time to unworthy people, without honoring, and with contempt, is said be Tamasic.

  • What does tāmasika dānam look like?
    • Charity given to undeserving or ignoble causes.
    • Gives away the useless/unusable. EG: winter clothes to children in tropics.
    • Looks down on the receiver (verbally, mentally). EG: Giving to beggar, but having pity for him. Don’t insult the receiver because they’re already feeling small.
  • Tamasika charity incurs papam (only if done deliberately). It has no effect if done out of ignorance.

VERSE 23-28: Significance of “Om Tat Sat” and conclusion:

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 23:

Om̃tat sat iti nirdeśaḥ brahmaṇaḥ trividhaḥ smṛtaḥ ।
brāhmaṇāḥ tena vedāḥ ca yajñāḥ ca vihitāḥ purā ॥ 17-23॥
“Om TAT SAT” is considered to be the threefold designation of Brahman. By uttering this the brahmins, the Vedās and the Yajñās were created long ago.

  • NOTE: Verse 23 will provide all the points between Verse 23-28. 
  • Power of God’s name gives us strength, hope, enthusiasm and inspiration to continue. While all names are valid, Krishna recommends name of God, by name of “Om-tat-sat”. He makes 5 points about this name…
    • POINT 1:
      • Om tat sat is made up of 3 names of God.
        1. Om: Protector of world. Derived from √av (protect, guard, maintain). Otherwise the universal name of the non-negatable Truth. (BG, CH8.11/13).
        2. Tat: All knowledge-power that’s given you this body, using which, you can attain this very All-knowledge-power. (Mentioned in Chandogya-upanishad, CH6).
        3. Sat:
          • Verse 26:
            • Eternal Substance/Content from which everything borrows it’s existence.
            • The goodness (dharma) that makes actions good/beneficial to living beings.
            • The goodness (dharma) that makes people good.
          • Verse 27:
            • Commitment in regard to yajna, tapas, danam.
            • Any other activity which promotes yajna, tapas, danam.  
              • EG:
                • If earning money at expense of hurting competitors / environment, can offset via prayaschitta-karma.
                • Age care (induces compassion), forgiveness (leads to turning to a higher alter), flood relief help (turns your attention on suffering of others, thus turn to dānam/giving).
      • Hence om tat sat means: Eternal protector of universe. One who accommodates all.
    • POINT 2:
      • Mantra has been used by brahmaji Himself when He undertook the creation of world. 
    • POINT 3:
      • Because brahmaji Himself used the mantra, it become the convention of spiritual seekers to chant also in Vedic tradition. Just like first word uttered by telephone creator was “hello”, thereafter we say “hello”.
    • POINT 4:
      • Power of the mantra can gradually convert rajasic/tamasic karmas into Sattvica.
    • POINT 5:
      • As “Om tat sat” was chanted by Creator – 3 orders were incorporated for sake of survival of universe and living beings: Yajna, Veda, Brāhmaṇaḥ.
        1. Yajna: Constructive, healthy and intelligent way of life. Way of conduct that fulfils the original purpose of Brahmāji’s creation, IE: harmony with all beings.
          • Refers to panca maha yajna per BG CH3.
        2. Veda: Important at time of creation because they’re the only means by which living beings can discover the yajna.
          • Veda promotes yajna. And yajna sustains creation (since no need for creation unless self-conscious living beings exist).
        3. Brahmana: any human being (irrespective of cast, gender, nationality) who preserves and promotes the Creators word (scriptural authority). The Brahmana promotes by teaching the Vedas and living them.
      • Order: Brahmana sustains the Veda > Veda sustains Yajna > Yajna sustains Beings with self-aware intellect > Humanity sustains purpose for universe to exist.  
        • If any of the 3 were to disappear, humanity would quickly fall.
  • Line 1: By chanting Om tat sat, the 3 orders were created (Yajna, Veda, brahmana).

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 24:

tasmāt Om̃iti udāhṛtya yajña-dāna-tapaḥ-kriyāḥ ।
pravartante vidhāna-uktāḥ satatam brahma-vādinām ॥ 17-24॥
Therefore for those who are well-versed in the Vedās the activities in the form of yajñās, charities and austerities which are mentioned by the scriptural injunctions take place after the utterance of ‘Om’.

  • Om is highlighted.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 25:

tat iti anabhisandhāya phalam yajña-tapaḥ-kriyāḥ ।
dāna-kriyāḥ ca vividhāḥ kriyante mokṣa-kāṅkṣibhiḥ ॥ 17-25॥
After uttering the word TAT, various activities in the form of Yajñas, austerities, and charities are undertaken by the seekers of liberation without expecting the result.

  • Tat is highlighted.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 26:

sat-bhāve sādhu-bhāve ca sat iti etat prayujyate ।
praśaste karmaṇi tathā sat śabdaḥ pārtha yujyate ॥ 17-26॥
The word ‘SAT’ is used in the sense of existence and goodness. Further, the word ‘SAT’ is used in the sense of good actions, Oh Arjuna !

  • Sat is highlighted.
  • 3 meanings of sat are given.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 27:

yajñe tapasi dāne ca sthitiḥ sat iti ca ucyate ।
karma ca eva tat-arthīyam sat iti eva abhidhīyate ॥ 17-27॥
Steadfastness in yajña, austerity, and charity is also termed as ‘sat’. Again any action for the sake of the Lord is indeed said to be ‘sat’.

  • 2 meanings of sat are given.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 28:

aśraddhayā hutam dattam tapaḥ taptam kṛtam ca yat ।
asat iti ucyate pārtha na ca tat pretya no iha ॥ 17-28॥
Whatever is offered as oblation, given as charity, practiced as austerity and done as worship without faith is said to be ‘asat’, It fructifies neither here nor hereafter, Oh Arjuna!

  • Any spiritual or worldly activity,  charity or austerity done WITHOUT sincerity/faith (means to an end), is called asat karma, which will have greater proportion of papam then punyam.
  • Bhagavan is urging us to do everything with sattvika faith, convert rajasika to sattvika, and eliminate tamasika.



Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 5 July, 2022


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