Chapter 17The Threefold Divisions of Material ExistanceVerse 23


Sanskrit Vocal





Commentaries of the Four Authorized Vaisnava Sampradayas

as confirmed in the Garga Samhita Canto 10, Chapter 61, Verses 23, 24, 25, 26
Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Sridhara Swami's Commentary

OM TAT SAT is renowned by the spiritually cognizant as the three fold manifestation of the brahman the spiritual substratum that pervades all existence representing potencies of the Supreme Lord Krishna. This is well established from the Vedic scriptures such as Taittiriya Upanisad I:VIII:I beginning om iti brahman om iti sarvam states: OM is synonymous with the Brahman. OM is understood to be the vibratory cause and spiritual substance of existence. OM is the transcendental sound vibration chanted before commencing every Vedic activity. TAT also is synonymous with the brahman as it signifies infallible, perfection and auspiciousness. SAT is as well synonymous with the brahman for it denotes the ultimate reality containing all realities. These three designations OM TAT SAT are profusely praised to exemplify that the have the potency to redeem and rectify any defects made while performing yagnas or acts of propitiation and worship to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures. These threefold designations were manifested by the Supreme Lord to represent the Brahmanas, the Vedas and Vedic yagnas. OM represented the Brahmanas, TAT represents the Vedic scriptures and SAT represents the performance of Vedic yagnas for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Therefore the three words OM TAT SAT are paramount in creation and eternally praiseworthy.

Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Madhvacarya's Commentary

Once again the Supreme Lord Krishna discourses on the modalities of performance of prescribed duties and the activities that are required to be performed by mentioning OM TAT SAT which is veritably the transcendental sound vibration and names of the Supreme Lord in His abstract form. In all creation His transcendental sound vibration OM is the root of all sounds and all pervasively always vibrating within and without. Since all the Vedic scriptures refer to the Supreme Lord with such veneration and reverence He is TAT and because the Supreme Lord is perfect without any defect and always auspicious He is SAT. In the subsidiary chapter of the Rig Veda the word OM is referred to His potency of the brahman which is the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. TAT refers to Himself as the source of the Brahman and SAT denotes that He is the original creator of all existence. The elevated Vaisnavas and Brahmins from one of the four sampradaya's or authorised channel of disciplic succession as revealed in Vedic scriptures are ordained to vibrate these transcendental sound vibrations when commencing, executing and concluding all Vedic rites.

Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Ramanuja's Commentary

Up until this time Lord Krishna has elaborated upon the distinctions between yagna or propitiation, tapah or austerities and dana or charity and how they are categorised in the three gunas or modes of material nature. Now the Supreme Lord will illustrate how yagna, tapah and dana become spiritualised by being unified with the pranava OM. The term pranava refers to first breath which is first vibrated as OM commencing all Vedic rites. It is derived from the root word prana meaning breath and is properly pronounced AAH with mouth open OOH with lips puckered and MMMM by pursing them together.

The triplicate formula OM TAT SAT is used in reference to the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence which is the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord. The brahman also refers to the Vedas which also originally emanated from the Supreme Lords prana. The Vedas denote Vedically ordained activities of which yagna, tapah and dana are essential. All Vedically ordained yagnas, rituals and ceremonies are only bonafide and valid if prefaced with the pranava OM at its commencement accompanied by its auxiliaries TAT and SAT. The absence of the transcendental sound of OM vibrating from the very inception of any Vedic activity automatically disqualifies it and renders it invalid even if subsequent rituals are performed perfect and perfunctory. The pranava OM is an eternal prerequisite for every expiatory rite prescribed in the Vedic scriptures and thus indispensable. The pranava OM is the transcendental sound vibration personally representing the Supreme Lord Krishna. The auxiliary TAT denotes complete perfection and auspiciousness and the auxiliary SAT denotes the source of all creation.

The Vaisnavas and the brahmanas are those who have the sole right and exclusive authority to vibrate these transcendental sound vibrations audibly and inaudibly during all rituals prescribed in the Vedic scriptures. Brahmanas are those seminally born in India in the topmost caste of Brahmin families. Vaisnavas are devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures, who are born in any caste, in any country, in any planetary system and who are so attracted to the Supreme Lord Krishna that they make themselves available to receive twice born Brahmin initiation from a Vaisnava acarya or bonafide spiritual master from one of the four authorised sampradaya or bonafide channel of disciplic succession. Only duly initiated Vaisnavas and Brahmins are ordained to perform Vedic rites, no others have this authority and in this matter there is no exception. The Brahmins and the Vaisnavas were originally created by the Supreme Lord along with the Vedas and yagnas to harmoniously evolve and perfect all creation.

Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Kesava Kasmiri's Commentary

In this manner the three gunas or modes of material nature in relation to Vedic sctivities has been explained by Lord Krishna emphasising that aspirants for moksa or liberation from material existence should only perform activities characterised by sattva guna or mode of goodness and should avoid activity that is characterised by raja guna the mode of passion and tama guna the mode of ignorance. During the performance of yagna or propitiation, tapah or austerities and dana or charity; if by chance there is any mistake or error in the subservient components regarding time, place, ingredients and recitation of prescribed mantras or Vedic chants. Such qualified devotees firmly situated in sattva guna possessing purity of heart derived from eating sanctified foods situated in sattva guna and due to performing all activities with bhakti or exclusive loving devotion and also because they are not expectant of any reward for the yagnas they perform and therefore free from any karmas or reactions to actions. Even if such a one commits the sin of improper execution of Vedic rites or incurs the demerits of lapse in attention or forgetfulness of ingredients or inappropriate recitation of Vedic mantras. The most merciful Supreme Lord Krishna in order to protect and safeguard His devotees from acquiring such sins and demerits instructs the utterance of the three divine syllables OM TAT SAT which bestows all virtues and blessings and insures protection, and is glorified by the enlightened sages and liberated muni's and by knowers of the Vedic scriptures. The enlightened agree unanimously that OM TAT SAT are threefold based on similarity of qualities and attributes related to the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence, related to the Vedic scriptures and related to the Supreme Lord.

We find that the Taittiriya Upanisad I.VIII.I beginning om iti brahman om iti sarvam states: OM is the brahman and OM is the ultimate. The Mundaka Upanisad II.II.VI beginning: om ityevam dhyavatha atmanam states: One should meditate upon OM as representing the Supreme Lord. The Chandogya Upanisad VI.VIII.I beginning sa ya esho anima itad states: That which is the fundamental cause of all existence, which is the spiritual substratum of all existence, which is referred to as Thou art that, is the brahman which manifests from OM whose source is the Supreme Lord. The pranava OM is declared to be the name for the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord. Pranava means first breath mad is the transcendental sound vibration OM commencing all Vedic rites. It is from the root prana meaning breath. TAT is declared to be perfection aspect of the brahman and SAT is declared to be the creational aspect of the brahmin. They are all supremely auspicious and all Vedic rites begin and end with OM.

At the dawn of creation the Supreme Lord emanated the Vedic scriptures, the Vaisnava and brahmanas and yagna to evolve and protect creation. All prescribed Vedic rites were originated and ordained by the Supreme Lord. By remembering the threefold syllables OM TAT SAT and by vibrating their transcendental sound frequency, the potency to neutralise and eradicate any inauspiciousness or error in the performance of any prescribed Vedic rite is activated and no sin is committed nor demerit incurred. This potency is perpetual throughout all eternity and is solely available exclusively to the duly initiated Vaisnavas and brahmanas from one of the four authorised sampradayas or channels of disciplic succession as revealed in Vedic scriptures.

Thus ends commentaries of chapter 17, verse 23 of the Srimad Bhagavad-Gita.

Verse 23

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