Shri Krishna ended the previous chapter with the message that our actions should be prompted by scripture, and not by our selfish desires. Arjuna, foreseeing that not many people will have access to the scriptures in the future, wanted to know about the state of those people who use faith to guide their actions instead of scriptures. Shri Krishna replied that faith comes from svabhaava, from one’s stock of past samskaaraas or impressions. In this chapters, he analyzes svabhaava through studying what food we eat, what actions we perform, and with which attitude do we perform those actions.
The bulk of the chapter is the analysis of food, sacrifice, charity and penance. Yajnya or sacrifice represents our duty towards Ishvara. Daana or charity represents our duty towards our fellow human beings. Tapas represents our duty towards ourselves. All of these are classified into three types: saattvic, raajasic and taamasic. Penance is broken down into three components: bodily, mental and speech. A warning against extreme and harsh penance is also given so that we do not harm ourselves or others.
Through this chapter, we are urged by Shri Krishna to reduce and ultimately stop raajasic and taamasic actions, and cultivate saattvic actions. This will purify our mind and make us fit for imbibing the knowledge of the eternal essence. However, even our saattvic actions may still have some defects or errors, which can be removed with the chanting of the purifier Om Tat Sat. In fact, as long as our steadfastness, our sthiti, is in Ishvara, all actions will automatically become saattvic.