āsurīḿ yonim āpannā
mūḍhā janmani janmani
mām aprāpyaiva kaunteya
tato yānty adhamāḿ gatim
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 16.20
Attaining repeated birth amongst the species of demoniac life, O son of Kunti, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
It is known that God is all-merciful, but here we find that God is never merciful to the demoniac. It is clearly stated that the demoniac people, life after life, are put into the wombs of similar demons, and, not achieving the mercy of the Supreme Lord, they go down and down, so that at last they achieve bodies like those of cats, dogs and hogs. It is clearly stated that such demons have practically no chance of receiving the mercy of God at any stage of later life. In the Vedas also it is stated that such persons gradually sink to become dogs and hogs. It may be then argued in this connection that God should not be advertised as all-merciful if He is not merciful to such demons. In answer to this question, in the Vedanta-sutra we find that the Supreme Lord has no hatred for anyone. The placing of the asuras, the demons, in the lowest status of life is simply another feature of His mercy. Sometimes the asuras are killed by the Supreme Lord, but this killing is also good for them, for in Vedic literature we find that anyone who is killed by the Supreme Lord becomes liberated. There are instances in history of many asuras—Ravana, Kamsa, Hiranyakasipu—to whom the Lord appeared in various incarnations just to kill them. Therefore God’s mercy is shown to the asuras if they are fortunate enough to be killed by Him.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Not attaining me, the asuras attain low births. However, those asuras in the form of Kamsa and others attained me, Krishna, who appeared at the end of dvapara yuga in the twenty eighth cycle of Vaivasvata Manu’s reign. Though hating me, they attained me in the form of liberation. Because I am an ocean of mercy, I give even such sinful asuras liberation, which is only attained by the perfection of bhakti and jnana. The Personified Vedas say:
nibhrta-marun-mano’ksa drdha-yoga-yujo hrdi yan munaya upasate tad-arayo’pi yayuh smaranat
Simply by constantly thinking of Him, the enemies of the Lord attained the same Supreme Truth whom sages fixed in yoga worship by controlling their breath, mind and senses. SB 10.87.23
This widens the scope of my supreme attractive position which I mentioned previously.
But as the Bhagavatamrta Karika says:
mam krsna-rupinam yavan napnuvanti mama dvisah
tavad evadhamam yonim prapnuvantiti hi sphutam
In as much as those who hate me do not attain me in my form as Krishna, it is clear that they attain the lowest births.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
16.20 ‘These deluded men,’ viz., those entertaining perverse knowledge about Me, attain repeatedly births that tend them to be antagonistic to Me. Never ‘attaining Me,’ viz., never arriving at the knowledge that Vasudeva, the Lord and the ruler of all, truly exists, they go farther and farther down, from that birth, to the lowest level. Sri Krsna proceeds to explain the root-cause of the ruin to the self of demoniac nature:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Those who take birth possessing the demoniac nature are obstructed by their own mentalities from ever approaching the path of righteousness that leads to association of the devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna and thus it is impossible for them to ever attain the mercy of the Supreme Lord or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions except when they are occasionally eradicated. Otherwise the demoniac continue their descent into lower and more degraded life forms such as worms and maggots as a just reward for their abominable and sinful activities.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
The demoniac are hurled into lower and lower degraded wombs that are receptacles for vile, despicable, diabolical activities and abominable conduct. The demoniac are also overtly antagonistic to the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures which constitute the absolute truth and are the directives of the Supreme Lord Krishna for the benefit of all creation. The born of the demoniac nature are devoid of any spiritual discrimination whatsoever. Locked in ignorance and nescience they are continuously unable to have the slightest spiritual impulse to even approach the devotees of Lord Krishna and learn from them submissively. Hence without the devotees mercy it is not possible to approach the Supreme Lord and thus the demoniac are forever barred from attaining the Supreme Lord who is the ultimate bestower of all results. Without the mercy of Lord Krishna’s devotees it is not possible to get the spiritual understanding necessary to enable one to approach the Supreme Lord. Thus the demoniac descend deeper and deeper into lower and lower species of degraded life such as reptiles, insects, worms and maggots.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
16.20 Apannah, being born, having acquired; (births) asurim, among the demoniacal; yonim, species; janmani janmani, in births after births; the mudhah, fools, non-discriminating ones; being born in every birth into species in which tamas prevails, and going downwards, aprapya eva, without ever reaching, approaching; mam, Me, who am God; O son of Kunti, yanti, they attain; gatim, conditions; tatah adhamam, lower even than that. Since there is not the least possibility of attaining Me, what is implied by saying, ‘without ever reachin Me’, is, ‘by not attaining the virtuous path enjoined by Me.’ This is being stated as a summary of all the demoniacal qualities. The triplet-under which are comprehended all the different demoniacal qualities though they are infinite in number, (and) by the avoidance of which (three) they (all the demaniacal qualities) become rejected, and which is the root of all evils- is being stated:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
16.17-20 Atmasambhavitah etc. upto gatim. They pretend to perform sacrifices : The meaning is that their sacrifice is fruitless. Indeed all is ruined because of their anger. Or, namayjna [may mean] ‘the sacrifices which are in name only’. Or, it [may denote] those sacrifices that are performed for one’s name sake i.e., for one’s reputation, because of which one gets the appellation as ‘He is performer of [such and such] sacrifices’ These sacrifices, performed out of hypocricy alone, do not , however fetch any fruit. Becasue these persons are rugged with anger etc., they hate people and by that they hate Me only [in fact]. For, I, the Vasudeva (the Universal Soul), dwell every-where. Entertaining hatred towards their own Soul, they perform action, that is hostile to themselves, and responsible for their own fall into the hells. These persons I hurl into nothing but the demoniac wombs.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
asurim yonim apanna
mudha janmani janmani
mam aprapyaiva kaunteya
tato yanty adhamam gatim
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
āsurīm — demoniac; yonim — species; āpannāḥ — gaining; mūḍhāḥ — the foolish; janmani janmani — in birth after birth; mām — Me; aprāpya — without achieving; eva — certainly; kaunteya — O son of Kuntī; tataḥ — thereafter; yānti — go; adhamām — condemned; gatim — destination.