Gita essays 32
In Chapter 17, Lord Krishna, after answering Arjuna’s question on sraddaha, voluntarily discussed four more subjects, namely aahara, yajna, tapas and daanam classifying them guna-wise. After the classification of all the four subjects, Lord Krishna started explaining the significance of the famous mantra ‘Om Tat Sat’, which is used in the beginning or end of their activity by spiritual seekers, as this powerful mantra can by its utterance with sraddaha convert even the rajasic and tamasic activities into satvic activities. In verse 23 Lord calls it as the ‘three-fold designation of Brahman’. Swami Chinmayananda calls, Om,Tat and Sat as three apects of Reality; Om representing the transcendental and pure Self, Tat indicating the eternal Goal, changeless and ever-perfect and Sat standing for the principle of Existence functioning through all things. We shall see three Upanishad vakhyas where in each one of the vakhyas, one of the words of the mantra ‘Om Tat Sat’ figures.
The first and second mantras of Mandukya Upanishad talks about ‘OM’ thus; “Omityetadakṣaraṃ idagṃ sarvaṃ tasyopavyakhyanaṃ bhutaṃ bhavad bhaviṣyaditi sarvamonkara eva । sarvagṃ hyetad Brahma (Om, the word, is all this [i.e. the whole universe]. A clear explanation of it is as follows: All that is past, present, and future is, indeed, Om. And whatever else there is, beyond the three-fold division of time, that also is truly Om. All this is indeed Brahman”.) Chandogya Upanishad in chapter 6 refers to Brahman as ‘Tat’ nine times in Uddalaka Aruni’s teaching to Svetakethu, in the mahavakhya, ‘Tat tvam asi” (You are that (Brahman)). The same Upanishad also refers to Brahman as Sat in 6-2-1: “Sadeva soumya Idam agra asit ekameva advidhiyam” (In the beginning, my dear, ‘Sat’ alone was there as one only without a second) As we can see from the above references the three words Om, Tat and Sat independently and together reveal Brahman. Invoking this mantra purifies not only all activities and the motives behind the activities; it also removes all defects in worship as well. As it represents Brahman, it is the source of all, including Vedas and Yajnas.
Lord goes on to explain the context in which the words - Om, Tat, Sat - is to be used. Lord says that when the acts of sacrifice, gift and austerity as enjoined in the scriptures are undertaken by the seekers the mantra OM is to be uttered to cherish in the mind the divine awareness of the supremacy of the Infinite. This adds purpose and meaning to all acts of sacrifice, charity and austerity by freeing the mind from the egocentric attachments. Thus liberated from its physical, emotional and intellectual attachments, the liberated mind functions more efficiently in all austerities, more selfless in all yajnas, and more liberal in all charities.
To work in the field of Yajna or Tapas or Daana by tuning the mind to the meaning of the word `Tat' i.e. the spiritual truth of universal oneness of all living creatures, is to work without ego and the resultant freedom from attachments. With the utterance of `Tat', all acts of sacrifice, penance and gifts are undertaken by the seekers of liberation without expecting any reward. Liberation means liberation of one's personality from its physical, emotional and intellectual attachments. With the liberated mind, one can easily realize the Divinity in oneself. One who endeavours to liberate oneself must perform all one's activities in such a way that the causes that create the attachments -vasanas- are completely eliminated or under control.
The word `Sat' means both Reality and goodness. It is also used for all praiseworthy actions. It indicates steadfastness in yajna, tapas ans daana. In our daily contact with the world of objects we more often believe that this world, as physically observed, is the reality although it is only relatively real in comparison to the unchanging substratum, the `Sat', the Absolute Reality. The mantra `Sat' is used to indicate man's faith and devotion in sacrifice, austerity and gift and also remind one that all these are relative realities and have the same substratum, Sat, the Absolute Reality.
Lord Krishna emphasises in the concluding verse of this chapter that faith makes man and even if anyone performs most glorious acts without faith they are of no use either here or hereafter. Actions create effects depending on the faith behind the actions. The Lord states that whatever sacrifice is made, whatever penance is performed or whatever charity is given it is called `Asat' only if they are undertaken without faith as they are mere barren actions. Such faithless actions will produce no spiritual results. Whatever sacrifice, austerity or charity done without being dedicated to the Lord will be of no avail to the doer in this earthly life here or in the life beyond hereafter. The Lord thus indicates that the spirit of faith is very much necessary and that without faith no spiritual progress or evolution can ever take place. This is true in this life and the life after death. Both in the secular activities as well as in the sacred performances of the religion, the factor that determines the quality and quantity of the result is our own goodness and our faith in the field of activity undertaken.
If the activities of Yajna, Tapas and Daana are undertaken with the chanting of OM - the Supreme, TAT - the Universal and SAT - the Real (the Infinite Brahman), with faith and sincerity, the seeker's mind gives up all its selfishness, arrogance and ego. The principle behind this advice is that actions create reactions depending upon the motive and attitude of the performer while undertaking such actions.
For the transformation from tamas and rajas to satva, chanting of Om Tat Sat is important. This mantra can be chanted in the beginning or it can be chanted at the end as well and so every chapter of Gita is ended with Om Tat Sat.