aśraddhayā hutaḿ dattaḿ
tapas taptaḿ kṛtaḿ ca yat
asad ity ucyate pārtha
na ca tat pretya no iha

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 17.28

Anything done as sacrifice, charity or penance without faith in the Supreme, O son of Pritha, is impermanent. It is called asat and is useless both in this life and the next.

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

Anything done without the transcendental objective—whether it be sacrifice, charity or penance—is useless. Therefore in this verse it is declared that such activities are abominable. Everything should be done for the Supreme in Krishna consciousness. Without such faith, and without the proper guidance, there can never be any fruit. In all the Vedic scriptures, faith in the Supreme is advised. In the pursuit of all Vedic instructions, the ultimate goal is the understanding of Krishna. No one can obtain success without following this principle. Therefore, the best course is to work from the very beginning in Krishna consciousness under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. That is the way to make everything successful.

In the conditional state, people are attracted to worshiping demigods, ghosts, or Yakshas like Kuvera. The mode of goodness is better than the modes of passion and ignorance, but one who takes directly to Krishna consciousness is transcendental to all three modes of material nature.

Although there is a process of gradual elevation, if one, by the association of pure devotees, takes directly to Krishna consciousness, that is the best way. And that is recommended in this chapter. To achieve success in this way, one must first find the proper spiritual master and receive training under his direction. Then one can achieve faith in the Supreme. When that faith matures, in course of time, it is called love of God. This love is the ultimate goal of the living entities. One should therefore take to Krishna consciousness directly. That is the message of this Seventeenth Chapter.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

“I have heard about sat actions (those indicating brahman). What about asat actions?”

Whatever oblation is offered, whatever charity is given, whatever austerity is undertaken, whatever other actions is performed, is asat if performed without faith. If there is no faith, whether oblations are offered or not offered, whether charity is given or not, whether austerity is performed or not, in either case everything is asat, since one obtains no results in the next world or in this world.

This chapter describes how sattvika actions of various types, performed with faith, lead to liberation.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

17.28 Offerings etc., when performed without faith, are Asat (i.e., unreal, bereft of efficiency), although they might be what has been enjoined by the Sastras. Why so? Because it is naught here or hereafter; it will not lead to release nor to any desirable result in Samsara.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Now to emphasise the paramount position and fundamental importance of undertaking all Vedic activities with sraddha or resolute faith, Lord Krishna condemns offering propitiation and worship, executing austerities and giving charity without requisite faith in the activity performed. All activities performed without faith denotes nothingness for no such activity will give any results in the present life or in future reincarnations. How can any Vedic activity devoid of sraddha cause anything to manifest in the material existence or bestow anything in this life or the next life? It is not even remotely possible. Furthermore the blemish and defect accompanying asraddha or lack of faith brings with it condemnation and ill repute is known as asat the very antithesis of SAT.

So in conclusion it has been established and determined that a jiva or embodied being who completely renounces raja guna the mode of passion and tama guna the mode of ignorance and takes exclusive recourse in sattva guna the mode of goodness is qualified to realise atma tattva realisation of the immortal soul, the ultimate truth and communion with the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Since the performance of all Vedic activities are exclusively for the propitiation and worship of the Supreme Lord Krishna and any of His avatars or authorised incarnations and expansions such activities are known as SAT. The Supreme Lord is celebrated and glorified by His triplicate names of OM TAT SAT. The Vedic hymns and mantras gain power when OM TAT SAT are vibrated at their commencement and lose power if they are omitted at the end. Any hymns, chants or mantras sacred incantations recited without first uttering OM TAT SAT are known as a-sura or void of light and non- luminous. Also recitation of OM TAT SAT without comprehensively understanding its meaning bestows little faith and has meagre value. Similarly chanting Vedic mantras without knowing their meaning is worthless because Vedic mantras protect those who know the meaning reciting them as well as those who know the meaning and hear them and because of this they are known as mantras. Therefore an aspirant for advancement should always be cognizant of the meaning of the mantras during chanting and hearing. This has been revealed in the Paingi scripture. The performance of Vedic activities and the chanting of Vedic mantras while cognizant of their meaning without any expectation of reward are known as sura or luminous and enlightened. Therefore only activities performed in devotion and connected to the Supreme Lord are deemed SAT and are of the nature of perpetual goodness. All other actions contrary to this are known as asat.

Activities in raja guna the mode of passion are also included as asat due to the defect of self-motivated desires which keeps one in samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death. Actions in tama guna the mode of ignorance are situated in asat as well due to a comatose state of nescience and causes one to descend into the inferior hellish worlds.

Only by being established and situated in sattva guna the mode of goodness is a jiva or embodied being redeemed which leads to atma tattva realisation of the immortal soul, moksa freedom from material existence and attaining communion with the Supreme Lord. Therefore to receive salvation one should eternally perform prescribed Vedic actions in sattva guna which always pleases the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

In order to firmly establish that all Vedic activities should be performed with full faith denoting with spiritual knowledge acquired by humbly enquiring from the bonafide Vaisnava spiritual preceptor in one of the four authorised sampradayas or channels of disciplic succession revealed in Vedic scriptures. The Supreme Lord Krishna emphasises the utter futility and worthlessness of prescribed Vedic activities executed without inherent sraddha or resolute faith. Whatever is offered regardless of how perfectly, whatever is performed regardless of how austere, whatever is donated regardless how opulent; if devoid of inherent, resolute faith it has no value whatsoever in this world or the next, in the present life and in future lives and is known as a-sat the antithesis to SAT perpetual goodness. Without faith the supporting cause is absent and does not create an effect in time affecting future reincarnations.

The Vedic scriptures explicitly state that the actions of the righteous become pure by faith. Therefore meticulously eschewing all activities characterised by raja guna the mode of passion which due to self-motivated desires keeps one locked in samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death and fastidiously avoiding all activities characterised by tama guna the mode of ignorance which due to nescience degrades one into existence in the inferior hellish planets are the instructions one must steadfastly adhere to.

An aspirant should remain permanently situated in sattva guna the mode of goodness and with full faith in the Supreme Lord, the Vedic scriptures and the Vaisnava spiritual master, performing prescribed Vedic activities to the best of one’s ability to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures. The performance of all activities for sake of the Supreme Lord is designated as righteousness and bequeaths inner purity, spiritual wisdom and devotion; guiding a jiva or embodied being to atma tatvva or realisation of the immortal soul, moksa or liberation from material existence and final beatitude and communion with the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

17.28 O son of Prtha, whatever is hutam, offered in sacrifice, poured as oblation; and dattam, given in charity to Brahmanas,without faith; whatever tapah, austerity; is taptam, performed without faith; so also, whatever is krtam, done without faith, e.g. praise, salutation, etc.; all that ucyate, is said to be; asat iti, of no avail, since it is outside th course of discipline leading to Me. Ca, and, although involving great effort; na ca tat, it is of no consequence; pretya, after death, for producing (some) result; na, nor even for any result; iha, because it is condemned by the wise. [Thus it is established in this chapter that, among persons who are not at all versed in the scriptures, but are possessed of (either of the) three characterisitcs of sattva, (rajas) etc., only those shall attain to Liberation who steadfastly resort to sattva alone by partaking of sattvika food, (performing sattvika) sacrifices) etc. to te exclusion of rajasika and tamasika food etc., who destroy any defect that might arise in sacrifice etc. by uttering the names of Brahman, who have fully purified their intellect, and who have attained to the realization of Truth arising from one’s being endowed with such disciplines as hearing and and thinking (sravana, manana) of, and meditation (nididhyasana) on Brahman.]

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

17.28 Asradhaya etc. ASAT : not praiseworthy (or inauspicious). Therefore Happiness just easily arises for those who exert in the prasieworthy (or auspicious) act.\

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

asraddhaya hutam dattam
tapas taptam krtam ca yat
asad ity ucyate partha
na ca tat pretya no iha

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

aśraddhayā — without faith; hutam — offered in sacrifice; dattam — given; tapaḥ — penance; taptam — executed; kṛtam — performed; ca — also; yat — that which; asat — false; iti — thus; ucyate — is said to be; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; na — never; ca — also; tat — that; pretya — after death; na u — nor; iha — in this life.