ye tv akṣaram anirdeśyam
sarvatra-gam acintyaḿ ca
kūṭa-stham acalaḿ dhruvam
te prāpnuvanti mām eva
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 12.3-4
But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, unchanging, fixed and immovable—the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth—by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last achieve Me.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Those who do not directly worship the Supreme Godhead, Krishna, but who attempt to achieve the same goal by an indirect process, also ultimately achieve the same goal, Sri Krishna. “After many births the man of wisdom seeks refuge in Me, knowing that Vasudeva is all.” When a person comes to full knowledge after many births, he surrenders unto Lord Krishna. If one approaches the Godhead by the method mentioned in this verse, he has to control the senses, render service to everyone and engage in the welfare of all beings. It is inferred that one has to approach Lord Krishna, otherwise there is no perfect realization. Often there is much penance involved before one fully surrenders unto Him.
In order to perceive the Supersoul within the individual soul, one has to cease the sensual activities of seeing, hearing, tasting, working, etc. Then one comes to understand that the Supreme Soul is present everywhere. Realizing this, one envies no living entity—he sees no difference between man and animal because he sees soul only, not the outer covering. But for the common man, this method of impersonal realization is very difficult.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Those who worship my impersonal svarupa brahman are inferior because of their state of suffering. This the Lord states in two verses. Those who worship the brahman (aksaram) which is not possible to designate (anirdesyam), because it is without form or other qualities (avyaktam), which is spread everywhere (sarvatra gam), beyond logic (acintyam) and extending over all time (kutastham), devoid of increase or other change (acalam) and eternal (dhruvam), attain me in the form the impersonal brahman. He says that they attain “me” because the brahman is non-different from the Lord. Amara Kosa says that kutasha means that which pervades time with one form.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
12.3 – 12.5 The individual self meditated upon by those who follow the path of the ‘Aksara’ (the Imperishable) is thus described: It cannot be ‘defined’ in terms indicated by expressions like gods and men etc., for It is different from the body; It is ‘imperceptible’ through the senses such as eyes; It is ‘omnipresent and unthinkable,’ for though It exists everywhere in bodies such as those of gods and others, It cannot be conceived in terms of those bodies, as It is an entity of an altogether different kind; It is ‘common to all beings’ i.e., alike in all beings but different from the bodily forms distinguishing them; It is ‘immovable’ as It does not move out of Its unique nature, being unmodifiable, and therefore eternal. Such aspirants are further described as those who, ‘subduing their senses’ like the eye from their natural operations, look upon all beings of different forms as ‘equal’ by virtue of their knowledge of the sameness of the nature of the selves as knowers in all. Therefore they are not given ‘to take pleasure in the misfortune of others,’ as such feelings proceed from one’s identification with one’s own special bodily form. Those who meditate on the Imperishable Principle (individual self) in this way, even they come to Me. It means that they also realise their essential self, which, in respect of freedom from Samsara, is like My own Self. So Sri Krsna will declare later on: ‘Partaking of My nature’ (14.2). Also the Sruti says: ‘Untainted, he attains supreme equality’ (Mun. U., 3.1.3). Likewise He will declare the Supreme Brahman as being distinct from the freed self which is without modification and is denoted by the term ‘Imperishable’ (Aksara), and is described as unchanging (Kutastha). ‘The Highest Person is other than this Imperishable’ (15.16 – 17). But in the teaching in Aksara-vidya ‘Now that higher science by which that Aksara is known’ (Mun. U., 1.5) the entity that is designated by the term Aksara is Supreme Brahman Himself; for He is the source of all beings, etc. Greater is the difficulty of those whose minds are attached to the unmanifest. The path of the unmanifest is a psychosis of the mind with the unmanifest as its object. It is accomplished with difficulty by embodied beings, who have misconceived the body as the self. For, embodied beings mistake the body for the self. The superiority of those who adore the Supreme Being is now stated clearly:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The question might arise why is not the impersonal path superior. Lord Krishna answers this in this verse and the next. Although those who contemplate, reflect upon, meditate on and worship the abstract, impersonal, imperishable brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence can eventually attain Lord Krishna as well; it is extremely difficult to do so. This is because the characteristics of the brahman are beyond the ability of the mind to comprehend. Why so? Because although it is a reality the brahman is avyaktam or devoid of material qualities and attributes. Thus it is acintyam or inconceivable and not possible to be conceptualized. It is anirdesyam or indescribable and cannot be expressed by words because it is unable to be conceived. Although it is sarvatra-gam or all pervading it is unmanifest possessing no form and cannot be perceived, As it is kuta-stham it is unchanging and thus never changing it is dhruvam or eternal and everlasting. The rest is clear.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
So it has been established that the devotees who with full faith focus their minds on the Supreme Lord Krishna and offer bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Him are the most superior. But what about the other votaries of the Vedic culture who follow the path of worshipping the imperishable brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence which is unmanifest being imperceptible? What are there rewards? This Lord Krishna elucidates in these two verses.
In the Bhagavat Purana, the attribute of imperceptibility has been ascribed to illusion because it is acintyam or inconceivable and incapable of being rationalized although it is able to be perceived by some advanced beings. The word aksaram is not referring directly to the Supreme Lord but rather to His impersonal unmanifest aspect known as the imperishable brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. In the very beginning there was neither existence or non-existence, there was neither superior elements or inferior elements. Then there existed only tamas or the obscurity of darkness and within this obscurity alone was the unmanifest, inconceivable, ever renewable and was none other then prakriti the material substratum pervading physical existence which is imperceptible, possessing no distinctive atributes to distinguish her by.
Similarly it has been stated in the Moksa Dharma: That being supported by the attributes of the Supreme Lord, Sri Laxsmi is ever fresh and inaccessible to the senses. Beyond the mind, unborn, existing even after universal dissolution are her special subsidiary attributes. The Manu Samhita states that Sri Laxsmi is: Harmful to none, unaffected by time, without enmity to any, immutable, without loss of form, manifested in everything, performing every action, she is always existing, symbolizing the principles of tamas and inactivity, dormant during dissolution, beyond the scope of logic and reason, unknowable and passive in all activities.
Later in chapter 15, verse 16 Lord Krishna states: kutastho ‘ksara ucyate meaning those who are personal associates of the Supreme Lord are eternal and infallible like the atma or soul. The Rig Veda states: That which is abiding within that space is kutastho of an eternal nature. So Sri Laxsmi is eternal because she abides there within that space. The Gautama section of the Sama Veda states: The consort of the Supreme Lord is Sri Laxsmi and she is all pervading, immutable, inscrutable, the progenitor and support of creation the same as the Supreme Lord which is accomplished without any influence of rajas or passion. According to the Agni Purana as Sri Laxsmi is never leaving her place at the feet of the Supreme Lord, she is achala or stationary. The Narada Purana states that: Sri Laxsmi and the Supreme Lord are unperceivable, unmanifest and beyond the scope of the mind.
Now begins the summation.
It has been shown how the Supreme Lord and His sakti or spiritual feminine potency known as Sri Laxsmi are both unborn and eternal. When all else ceases to exist at the time of universal dissolution the Supreme Lord and His sakti being unaffected facilitate the next cycle to start creation anew. The Supreme Lord is called akshara the absolute and ultimate source of all. His sakti is called kshara who is limited to the extent that she remains dormant until the Supreme Lord begins creation. At that time the dual nature of the Supreme Lord and His sakti activates the creative energy by which such interaction causes the phenomena in the material nature for unlimited plethora’s of species, forms and names of beings pouring into existence. The internal unified form of the Supreme Lord and Sri Laxsmi are known as akshara and kshara and their external manifestations are know as Purusha the Supreme Personality and prakriti the material substratum pervading all physical existence.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
One should not consider that those votaries of the impersonal unmanifest brahman which is the spiritual substratum pervading all existence or seekers of the imperceptible atma or eternal soul who without requisite faith do not propitiate the Supreme Lord Krishna are in any way superior to those who perform bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Him. In these two verses Lord Krishna explains that even those adherents of the Vedic culture who are not His devotees that rigidly control their senses from pursuing their objects of attraction with equanimity of mind towards all because they behold everything as part of the brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. This understanding makes them sympathetic to the well being of all jivas or embodied beings: plants, animals, humans and demigods while meditating incessantly upon the imperceptible atma or eternal soul within themselves and within all sentient beings. Such aspirants also reach unto the brahman and are released from samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death achieving moksa or liberation from material existence. Because the atma is eternal it is imperishable and different from the physical body which is perishable. Because the atma has a spiritual form it is immutable and changeless whereas the physical body is changing from birth to death. The conclusion is that the votaries of the impersonal brahman who worship the imperishable unmanifest attain that which they meditate upon being the impersonal brahman which is the effulgence of the Supreme Lord’s energy and this affirms the ancient Vedic aphorism: As one worships the Supreme Lord so does one become.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
12.3 Ye, those; tu, however; who, pari-upasate, meditate in every way; aksaram, on the Immutable; anirdesyam, the Indefinable-being unmanifest, It is beyond the range of words and hence cannot be defined; avyaktam, the Unmanifest-It is not comprehensible thrugh any means of knowledge-. Upasana, meditation, means approaching an object of meditation as presented by the scriptures, and making it an object of one’s own thought and dwelling on it uniterruptedly for long by continuing the same current of thought with regard to it-like a line of pouring oil. This is what is called upasana. The Lord states the characteristics of the Immutable [Here Ast. adds ‘upasyasya, which is the object of meditation’.-Tr.] : Sarvatragam, all-pervading, pervasive like space; and acintyam, incomprehensible-becuase of Its being unmanifest. For, whatever comes within the range of the organs can be thought of by the mind also. Being opposed to that, the Immutable is inconceivable. It is kutastham, changeless. Kuta means something apparently good, but evil inside. The word kuta (deceptive) is well known in the world in such phrases as, ‘kuta-rupam, deceptive in appearance,’ ‘kuta-saksyam, false evidence’, etc. Thus, kuta is that which, as ignorance etc., is the seed of many births, full of evil within, referred to by such words as maya, the undifferentiated, etc., and well known from such texts as, ‘One should know Maya to be Nature, but the Lord of Maya to be the supreme God’ (Sv. 4.10), ‘The divine Maya of Mine is difficult to cross over’ (7.14), etc. That which exists on that kuta as its controller (or witness) is the kuta-stha. Or, kutastha may mean that which exists like a heap [That is, motionless.]. Hence it is acalam, immovable. Since It is immovable, therefore It is dhruvam, constant, i.e. eternal.
12.4 Samniyamya, by fully controlling, withdrawing; indriya-gramam, all the organs; and sarvatra, always at all times; sama-buddhayah, being even-minded-the even-minded are those whose minds remain equipoised in getting anything desirable or undesirable; te, they, those who are of this kind; ratah, engaged; sarva-bhuta-hite, in the welfare of all beings prapnuvanti, attain; mam, Me; eva, alone. As regards them it needs no saying that they attain Me, for it has been said, ‘…but the man of Knowledge is the very Self. (This is) My opinion’ (7.18). It is certainly not proper to speak of being or not being the best among the yogis with regard to those who have attained identity with the Lord. But,
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
12.3-5 Ye tu etc. upto avapyate. On the other hand, those, who contemplate on the Self as the motionless Brahman – by them also all the attributes of Absolute Lord are superimposed on the Self – the attributes that are indicated by the adjectives ‘omni-present’ etc. Therefore even the contemplators of the [attributeless] Brahman reach nothing but Me, of course. However, the trouble they undergo, is much more. For, they [first] superimposed on the Self the actonary of attributes like absence-of-sin etc., and then comtemplate on It. Thus, while without any effort [on the part of the contemplator] the Lord is readily available with the greatness due to the host of self-accomplished attributes, these persons undergo two-fold trouble.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
ye tv aksaram anirdesyam
sarvatra-gam acintyam ca
kuta-stham acalam dhruvam
te prapnuvanti mam eva
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
ye — those who; tu — but; akṣaram — that which is beyond the perception of the senses; anirdeśyam — indeﬁnite; avyaktam — unmanifested; paryupāsate — completely engage in worshiping; sarvatra-gam — all-pervading; acintyam — inconceivable; ca — also; kūṭa-stham — unchanging; acalam — immovable; dhruvam — ﬁxed; sanniyamya — controlling; indriya-grāmam — all the senses; sarvatra — everywhere; sama-buddhayaḥ — equally disposed; te — they; prāpnuvanti — achieve; mām — Me; eva — certainly; sarva-bhūta-hite — for the welfare of all living entities; ratāḥ — engaged.
Useful site. Good to read different interpretations