sattvānurūpā sarvasya
śraddhā bhavati bhārata
śraddhā-mayo ’yaḿ puruṣo
yo yac-chraddhaḥ sa eva saḥ

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 17.3

O son of Bharata, according to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.

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

Everyone has a particular type of faith, regardless of what he is. But his faith is considered good, passionate or ignorant according to the nature he has acquired. Thus, according to his particular type of faith, one associates with certain persons. Now the real fact is that every living being, as is stated in the Fifteenth Chapter, is originally a fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Lord.

Therefore one is originally transcendental to all the modes of material nature. But when one forgets his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and comes into contact with the material nature in conditional life, he generates his own position by association with the different varieties of material nature. The resultant artificial faith and existence are only material. Although one may be conducted by some impression, or some conception of life, originally he is nirguna, or transcendental.

Therefore one has to become cleansed of the material contamination that he has acquired, in order to regain his relationship with the Supreme Lord. That is the only path back without fear: Krishna consciousness. If one is situated in Krishna consciousness, then that path is guaranteed for his elevation to the perfectional stage. If one does not take to this path of self-realization, then he is surely to be conducted by the influence of the modes of nature.

The word shraddha, or “faith,” is very significant in this verse. Shraddha, or faith, originally comes out of the mode of goodness. One’s faith may be in a demigod or some created God or some mental concoction. One’s strong faith is supposed to be productive of works of material goodness. But in material conditional life, no works are completely purified. They are mixed. They are not in pure goodness. Pure goodness is transcendental; in purified goodness one can understand the real nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As long as one’s faith is not completely in purified goodness, the faith is subject to contamination by any of the modes of material nature.

The contaminated modes of material nature expand to the heart. Therefore according to the position of the heart in contact with a particular mode of material nature, one’s faith is established. It should be understood that if one’s heart is in the mode of goodness his faith is also in the mode of goodness. If his heart is in the mode of passion, his faith is also in the mode of passion. And if his heart is in the mode of darkness, illusion, his faith is also thus contaminated. Thus we find different types of faith in this world, and there are different types of religions due to different types of faith. The real principle of religious faith is situated in the mode of pure goodness, but because the heart is tainted we find different types of religious principles. Thus according to different types of faith, there are different kinds of worship.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Sattvam here means the heart or internal sense organ (antah karana). There are three types of antah karana: in the mode of sattva, rajas and tamas. Accordingly, those who have sattvika antah karana have sattvika faith. Those with rajasic antah karana have rajasic faith, and those with tamas antah karana have tamasic faith. He becomes similar to whatever he faithfully worships – deva, asura or raksasa (yac sraddhah).

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

17.2 The Lord said — ‘Threefold is the faith among all’ embodied beings. And it arises from their ‘inborn nature.’ What is called Svabhava is the state unique to one’s own nature. It is the special taste or predilection caused by previous subtle impressions, ‘Vasanas.’ To whatever one’s predilection is directed, there faith is born in respect of it. For ‘faith’ is zeal or eagerness about any means in the belief that it is the way of action to achieve one’s own desired object. Vasana (subtle impression), Ruci (taste) and Sraddha (faith) are the qualities of the self born from its association with the Gunas. The Sattva and the other Gunas are the qualities of the body, the senses, the internal organs and sense-objects. They bring about their qualities in the self associated with them. These are the Vasanas. These Gunas can be described only by their effects. These (i.e., Vasanas etc.) originate from experiences with the body etc., having origination in Sattva and other Gunas. Thus faith is threefold as marked by Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Listen about this faith.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The sraddha or faith in the Supreme Lord of one who acts in accordance with the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures is always situated in sattva guna the mode of goodness. The sraddha existing in the other two modes of raja guna the mode of passion and tama guna the mode of ignorance are the results of one’s nature by the impressions lingering in their consciousness from past life activities in such modes. Only absolute knowledge from the Vedic scriptures duly instructed by the Vaisnava spiritual master has the potency to affect change in the nature of a jiva or embodied being. But those in raja guna and tama guna who have no faith in the Vedic scriptures or who have no interest in the Vedic scriptures will not be able to change their natures to sattva guna by any other process. Hence their faith arises from whatever characteristics they possessed in the previous life and this manifests in their actions.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Consciousness is verily determined by faith. Hence the very nature of faith is indicative by the manner and way in which they worship. The word sattvanurupa means according to the mentality and characteristics arising from one’s faith which manifests from one of the three gunas or modes of material nature..

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna now elaborates on how sraddha differentiates itself under the auspices of one of the three gunas or modes of material nature which are sattva guna the mode of goodness, raja guna the mode of passion and tama guna the mode of ignorance. These three archetypes apply to all beings and all things within the material nature. Those who have no knowledge of the Vedic scriptures and are indifferent to them languish in tama guna. Those who have some knowledge of the Vedic scriptures yet chose to disrespect and oppose them due to insidious motives and nefarious intrigues are bewildered in raja guna. Those who faithfully follow the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures are safely situated in sattva guna due to having performed pious activities in innumerable past lives without selfish motivations. There faith is directed to the worship of the Supreme Lord and as such is conducive for moksa or liberation from material existence.

The inherent characteristics one possesses in present life are determined by activities performed in previous lives that were voluntarily followed. These innate characteristics catapult a jiva or embodied being into one of the three gunas and the corresponding type of faith one possesses is in accordance to the guna they are situated in. Such faith regardless of which guna gives the confidence that by it one will accomplish their desired goal. When there is confidence in accomplishing successfully any undertaking, a jiva will engage wholeheartedly in it. This is a sign of faith. But there are gradations and differences of quality in various undertakings and these distinctions are what determines whether an activity is in sattva, raja or tama guna. Those who have no knowledge of reincarnation, no knowledge of karma or reactions to actions, no knowledge of the Vedic scriptures, nor knowledge of the paramount position of the Supreme Lord Krishna; are helplessly indulging themselves only in transitory, mundane activities. Such activities no matter how great, noble and well intentioned award no opportunity to free oneself from samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death and achieve moksa.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

17.2 Sa, that; sraddha, faith, the state about which you ask; dehinam, of the embodied beings; svabhavaja, born of their own nature-by svabhava (nature) is meant that latent impression of virtuous acts etc. acquired in the past lives, which becomes manifest at the time of death; what arises out of that is svabhavaja-; is trividha, threefold, of three kinds; sattviki, born of sattva, and related to worship of gods, etc.; rajasi, born of rajas, concerning worship of Yaksas (a class of demi-gods, Kubera and others), Raksas (ogres, Nairrti and others); and tamasi, born of tamas, concerning worship of ghosts, goblins and others. Thus it is of three kinds. Srnu, hear; tam, about it, that faith, as it is being stated. That (faith) is threefold as follows:

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

17.2 Trividha etc. Here the ideas is this :- What is termed scripture is indeed the one which is not created by the intellect soiled by any partisan spirit; further it is of the form of the firmness of the recollection; and it is firmly recollected because of the sovereign freedom of the awareness; likewise it is also of the nature of fruit etc., i.e. the nature of the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate purport of speech, a flow of the pure Self-Consciousness; because of its free course, it starts from the internal nature of awareness and goes as for as the external flow, beginning from the subtlest hymn (Om), down to the series of popular saying well-known in the worldly activities. ‘What [the sage] says – ‘Also the [injunctions based on] remembrance and the virtuous conduct of the knowers of that [constitute authority]’. (Gautamadharmasutra, I, 2). That scripture, by its own nature, distinguishes what is to be done and what is not to be done, in order to teach what is beneficial and what is not beneficial. [Further], he whose heart is very tender by nature, because of the excess of the Sattva (i.e., godness) – in whatever way he behaves, that has certainly a scriptural authority. But other person who is made dirty by the Rajas or the Tamas (i.e., desire and ignorance) does not act rightly, even while performing what is enjoined in the scriptures. For, he does not follow the purport (the spirit) of the scripture in its entity. The scripture (or what is enjoined in the scripture) bears fruits only in the case of men of the Sattva (goodness) This has been declared by the scripture itself as : ‘He [alone] enjoys the fruit of the scripture (or holy bathing place) whose arms and feet and also mind, learning, austerity and conduct are controlled properly’. (MB, Aranyaka, Ch. 80, verse 30). Any other person does not enjoy [the fruit], because the rmains unsubdued [in his mind]. Therefore, what is prescribed in the scripture bears fruit in the case of those who have abandoned desire, anger and delusion. This is the purport of the present chapter; and it is being elaborated [throughout]. But it is not explained [in every place by us (Ag.), because the idea is clear enough. But [the concerned verses] are simply written only to remove doubts regarding the readings [of the passages concerned].

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

sattvanurupa sarvasya
sraddha bhavati bharata
sraddha-mayo ’yam puruso
yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

sattva-anurūpā — according to the existence; sarvasya — of everyone; śraddhā — faith; bhavati — becomes; bhārata — O son of Bharata; śraddhā — faith; mayaḥ — full of; ayam — this; puruṣaḥ — living entity; yaḥ — who; yat — having which; śraddhaḥ — faith; saḥ — thus; eva — certainly; saḥ — he.