sad-bhāve sādhu-bhāve ca
sad ity etat prayujyate
praśaste karmaṇi tathā
sac-chabdaḥ pārtha yujyate

yajñe tapasi dāne ca
sthitiḥ sad iti cocyate
karma caiva tad-arthīyaḿ
sad ity evābhidhīyate

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 17.26-27

The Absolute Truth is the objective of devotional sacrifice, and it is indicated by the word sat. The performer of such sacrifice is also called sat, as are all works of sacrifice, penance and charity which, true to the absolute nature, are performed to please the Supreme Person, O son of Pritha.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

The words prasaste karmani, or “prescribed duties,” indicate that there are many activities prescribed in the Vedic literature which are purificatory processes, beginning from the time of conception up to the end of one’s life. Such purificatory processes are adopted for the ultimate liberation of the living entity. In all such activities it is recommended that one vibrate om tat sat. The words sad-bhave and sadhu-bhave indicate the transcendental situation. Acting in Krishna consciousness is called sattva, and one who is fully conscious of the activities of Krishna consciousness is called a sadhu. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25) it is said that the transcendental subject matter becomes clear in the association of the devotees. The words used are satam prasangat. Without good association, one cannot achieve transcendental knowledge. When initiating a person or offering the sacred thread, one vibrates the words om tat sat. Similarly, in all kinds of performance of yajna the object is the Supreme, om tat sat. The word tad-arthiyam further means offering service to anything which represents the Supreme, including such service as cooking and helping in the Lord’s temple, or any other kind of work for broadcasting the glories of the Lord. These supreme words om tat sat are thus used in many ways to perfect all activities and make everything complete.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Text 26: Because the word sat indicating brahman, is present in the most auspicious things, it should be used in all auspicious activities whether material or spiritual. That is explained in two verses.

The word sat indicates brahman (sad bhave) and the seekers of brahman (sadhu bhave).

Text 27: Sat is situated (sthitih) in sacrifice and other works by being the goal of those works. Any work suitable for serving brahman (tad arthiyam) such as cleaning the Lord’s temple, is called sat.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

17.26 The word Sat is applied in Vedic and common usage, in respect of all contexts to express existence (Sadbhava) and auspiciousness (Sadhubhava). Similarly, in relation to any praiseworthy worldly act, viz., auspicious undertaking by someone, the word Sat is applied to express, ‘This is a good act.’

17.27 Therefore, devotion of persons of the first three stations who follow the Vedas in respect of sacrifices, austerities and gifts is called Sat, since it is auspicious. So the Vedas, Vedic acts and the three stations, expressed by the term ‘brahmana,’ since they are characterised by their connection with the words ‘Om Tat Sat,’ are to be distinguished from what are not the Vedas and Vedic.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The auspiciousness of the word SAT is being glorified by Lord Krishna. SAT is the sound vibration representing the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and to exemplify eternal goodness and the purity of creation. For any Vedic rite enjoined to be performed under the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures by authorised Vaisnavas and brahmanas; SAT will also be vibrated in conjunction with OM and TAT. Steadiness and concentration in yagnas or propitiation and worship is also deemed as SAT. All activities directly performed for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord such as collection of articles for offering like ghee or clarified butter from a cow, sweeping and cleaning the temple of the Supreme Lord, singing devotional songs in glorification of the Supreme Lord, making flower garlands for Lord Krishna or any authorised incarnation and expansion as revealed in Vedic scriptures, etc. All these direct activities are deemed as SAT. Even indirect activities that assist in accomplishing the direct activities such as establishing flower gardens and agricultural fields, harvesting fruits, rice and grains, acquiring wealth to be donated to the Vaisnava brahmana devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna, all these indirect activities are also deemed to be SAT. Therefore since OM TAT SAT are transcendental nomenclatures connected to the Supreme Lord and eternally auspicious they are recited at all Vedic rites by duly initiated Vaisnavas and brahmanas from one of the four sampradayas or authorised channels of disciplic succession as revealed in Vedic scriptures and by their efficacy perfect any defects or errors. To consider SAT as only a mere laudatory evocation is not consistent with the ultimate reality. SAT denotes creation, the eternal existence of the atma or immortal soul and perpetual goodness. SAT is understood to be an injunction with the maxim: SAT is eternally auspicious and always to be praised, honoured and glorified.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The word SAT denotes creation and eternal goodness. The pranava refers to the first breath OM which is vibrated at the commencement of all Vedic rites from the root word prana meaning breath. Properly pronouncing the pranava OM as AH–OOOH–MMMMM while comprehensively understanding its meaning without the slightest desire for rewards, by performing yagnas or propitiation and worship to the Supreme Lord with devotion and tapah or austerities and danam or charity as matter of duty, by japa chanting the holy names of the Supreme Lord Krishna: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare With great respect and love as well as the names of any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures are all considered SAT. Thus by duly initiated Vaisnava brahmanas evoking the sacred sound vibrations OM TAT SAT, the Supreme Lord is verily propitiated and worshipped.

The Rig Veda confirms that yagnas that are performed for the exclusive satisfaction of the Supreme Lord without the slightest trace for expectation of rewards and are designated OM TAT SAT. The Vedas call these three divine sounds the performers of Vedic rites due to the fact that the potency of vibrating OM TAT SAT perfects any defects, insures success and pleases the Supreme Lord granting communion with Him.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna now reveals the glories of the divine sound SAT which is also a name for the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. SAT is well established throughout the Vedic scriptures as the epitome of the ultimate truth and always recited in Vedic rituals. SAT confirms the ultimate reality and extinguishes any doubt or misconception about the non- existence of that ultimate reality which manifests all realities. SAT represents perpetual goodness in the eternal spiritual worlds as well as the temporary material worlds. The performance of all prescribed Vedic activities such as marriage or birth ceremonies is known to be SAT. SAT is also devotion to the Supreme Lord in the form of planting Tulasi and offering her leaves unto the Supreme Lord, picking flowers for garlands for the Supreme Lord. Constructing temples for the Supreme Lord, collecting wealth for the Supreme Lord, cleaning the temple floor for the Supreme Lord, singing, dancing and playing musical instruments before the diety form of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His aurthorised incarnations as revealed in Vedic scriptures is all SAT as well. Any activity directly or indirectly related to the service, pleasure and satisfaction of the Supreme Lord as revealed in Vedic scriptures is also deemed as SAT. During yagna or propitiation and worship by the Vaisnavas and brahmanas the priestly class, tapah or austerities by the ksatriyas the royal warrior class and the danam or charity by the merchant class the absence of the conception of rewards for services rendered is SAT.

Here the particles sa iti ca referring to SAT is used twice. The first usage denotes limitation by the words karma ca eva meaning matter of duty. The second usage denotes unlimited by the words tad-arthyiam meaning for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. Thus it has been established by the parallel logic of opposites that activities devoted to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions always follow sanatan dharma or eternal righteousness and can never be unrighteous. Whereas activities not devoted to the Supreme Lord Krishna regardless of how noble and well meaning they may be are never situated in righteousness because they exclude Him.

The Chandogya Upanisad VIII.I.VI beginning tad yatheha karmajito lokah states: Those who at the time of death depart their bodies without realising the atma or immortal soul which is the goal of human existence for them moksa or liberation does not exist anywhere. But those who depart their physical body at the time of death having realised the atma have achieved the goal of human existence and experience moksa everywhere in all worlds. What could be more pathetic and sorrowful then performing prodigious austerities for impermanent results and wasting one’s life in the pursuit and acquisition of temporary materialistic rewards which have absolutely no value longer then the moment of death in a brief span of life not even reaching 100 years.

So even by performing prescribed Vedic activities perfectly while harbouring desires for fame, wealth, power and dominion in this life; or performed for entry into the heavenly planets in the next life to enjoy without the burdens of old age and disease and fully satisfy the senses with exquisite and beautiful heavenly maidens who want to enjoy fully as well. All these thingy are as ephemeral as mist in the sun. When the merits of such activities are exhausted such jivas or embodied beings incarnate again in the material worlds of mortals to reap what they sow. In this way addicted to the rituals of the Vedic scriptures and attached to the rewards of the heavenly planets they remain revolving in the orbit of samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death incessantly. Contrarily all activities dedicated to the Supreme Lord for His exclusive satisfaction without the slightest desire for any reward are of an eternal nature and bestow immeasurable benefit. Lord Krishna confirms in chapter 18 verse 56 beginning: sarva-karmanyapi sada meaning: Although always performing unlimited activities, by the mercy of the Supreme Lord and protected by Him one assuredly achieves the eternal, imperishable spiritual realm.

Thus it has been established that vibrating the divine and transcendental sounds of OM TAT SAT at the commencement of all Vedic activities comprised in the ordinances and injunctions prescribed in the Vedic scriptures is eternally auspicious; if performed with devotion for the exclusive satisfaction of the Supreme Lord Krishna with full faith in Him or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions. In this way by the power and potency invested in OM TAT SAT all Vedic activities are insured success and confer eternal benedictions for the highest good of creation and all living entities.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

17.26 Etat, this; sat iti, word sat, a name of Brahman; prayujyate, is used, is uttered; sad-bhave, with regard to (something) coming into being-with regard to coming into existence of something that was not there, as for instance the birth of a son who was not there before; so also sadhu-bhave, with regard to (someone) becoming good-sadhu-bhava means coming to possess good conduct by an evil person who had bad behaviour; with regard to that. Tatha, so also, O Son of Prtha; the sat-sabdah, word sat; yujyate (-which is the same as prayujyate-), is used; prasaste karmani, with regard to an auspicious rite, such as mirage etc.

17.27 And sthitih, steadfastness; that is yajne, in sacrifice, in the act of sacrifice; the steadfastness that is tapasi, in austerity; and the steadfastness that is dane, in charity; that ucyate, is spoken of; sat iti, as sat, by learned persons. And eva, even; the karma, action; tad-arthiyam, meant for these-for sacrifice, charity and austerity, or for Him whose names are under discussion, i.e. for God; is eva, verily; abhidhiyate, called; sat iti, as sat (good). Thus, in this way, the acts of sacrifice, austerity, etc., even when they are devoid of sattva and goodness, become good and endued with sattva by he use of the three names of Brahman with faith. And as regards those (sacrifice etc.), since in all cases everything is performed with a predominance of faith, therefore-

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

17.23-27 Om etc. upto abhidhiyate. An indication of the Brahman i.e., an act of facing (or aiming at) the Brahman is made by these three words viz., OM, TAT and SAT. Of them, Om indicates that ‘This purport of the scriptures is [to be ?] accepted as long as one has bodily connection’. The pronoun TAT, which denotes generality and which is incapable of denoting exclusively a particular, mentions, as far as the Brahman is concerned, the absence of intention for fruit. An intention is not possible without reference to something particular. No doubt [TAT] may denote all particulars [in general]. But it would lead to intending the fruits and the doer-ship with regard to all [in general]. Even then [the Brahman] cannot have connection with any particular fruit. The Vedic word SAT denotes ‘prasie’. The act, like this sacrifice etc., though perormed, truns out to be an act of the Tams (evil act) if it is performed with the idea, ‘It is an evil act’. Further, what is performed with an intention for a particular fruit is not praiseworthy, and it causes nothing but bondage. Therefore, those, who bear in mind, ‘This is a thing to be performed’ – they are not fettered, even though they perform acts like sacrifice etc. With this idea only, it has been said in the Adiparvan as – ‘The austerity is not dirt, nor the [Vedic] study, nor the natural ritual enjoined by the Vedas, and nor the act of earning wealth by all efforts. But, if they are struck by mind, they themselves become dirt.’ (MB, Adi. i, 210). [Here in this passage] dirt that which fetters. Natural : [That is, ordained ], such as – ‘Without expecting anything, a Brahman should learn the Vedas etc., together with their six subsidiaries’ etc. By all effort : by the act that is suitable and is well known in the scriptures and in the worldly practice. By mind : by the mind that is yoked to the traid of the Strands, Sattva etc. [Those actions that] have been simply ruined [by that mind], are binding and not otherwise. This is the idea here. Therefore, the acts like sacrifice etc., and the acts, like acquiring [Wealth] etc., for that purpose, have to be perfored as being inevitable as long as the body exists. Or, perhaps, the word OM conveys [with regard to the Brahman] the idea of That in Which the entire universe has been totally calmed down. TAT conveys the idea of That of the nature of Sovereign Independence of Will, which is nothing but comprehending the rising waves in the form of the universe. And the word SAT denotes the act of manifestation by the Brahman – even though It is complete in Itself – as [the universe] having varied nature, a manifestation that causes differences (or duality) expanding under the weight of its Sovereign Independenc of Will. Hence it has been said ‘In the sense of manifesting as beings and in the sense of manifesting perfectly [SAT is employed].’ Thus, having is front [as a casue] that aspect (the Soul) of highly tranquil nature; and having in the centre that aspect which is well connected with desire-waves viz., the desire to make gift, the desire to perform sacrifice and the desire to observe penance; this final body radiates (or dances) filled with a group of activities, such as offering gift, performing sacrifice and observing austerity, and of what are conducive to them. This triad is indeed simultaneously the inherent nature of the Unhindered One (the Soul). So, what fruit could be there ? And to whom ? How ? Whence ? Where ? And by what means ? The act of person, with no faith, is an act of the Tamas and bears no fruit in any way and bears fruit which is nothing but the labour undertaken in bringing together the band of means [of those acts]. Hence one should not on any account remain faithless. This is being said now :

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

sad-bhave sadhu-bhave ca
sad ity etat prayujyate
prasaste karmani tatha
sac-chabdah partha yujyate

yajñe tapasi dane ca
sthitih sad iti cocyate
karma caiva tad-arthiyam
sad ity evabhidhiyate

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

sat-bhāve — in the sense of the nature of the Supreme; sādhu-bhāve — in the sense of the nature of the devotee; ca — also; sat — the word sat; iti — thus; etat — this; prayujyate — is used; praśaste — in bona fide; karmaṇi — activities; tathā — also; sat-śabdaḥ — the sound sat; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; yujyate — is used; yajñe — in sacrifice; tapasi — in penance; dāne — in charity; ca — also; sthitiḥ — the situation; sat — the Supreme; iti — thus; ca — and; ucyate — is pronounced; karma — work; ca — also; eva — certainly; tat — for that; arthīyam — meant; sat — the Supreme; iti — thus; eva — certainly; abhidhīyate — is indicated.