yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya
vartate kāma-kārataḥ
na sa siddhim avāpnoti
na sukhaḿ na parāḿ gatim

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 16.23

He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.

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

As described before, the shastra-vidhi, or the direction of the shastra, is given to the different castes and orders of human society. Everyone is expected to follow these rules and regulations. If one does not follow them and acts whimsically according to his lust, greed and desire, then he never will be perfect in his life. In other words, a man may theoretically know all these things, but if he does not apply them in his own life, then he is to be known as the lowest of mankind. In the human form of life, a living entity is expected to be sane and to follow the regulations given for elevating his life to the highest platform, but if he does not follow them, then he degrades himself. But even if he follows the rules and regulations and moral principles and ultimately does not come to the stage of understanding the Supreme Lord, then all his knowledge becomes spoiled. And even if he accepts the existence of God, if he does not engage himself in the service of the Lord his attempts are spoiled. Therefore one should gradually raise himself to the platform of Krishna consciousness and devotional service; it is then and there that he can attain the highest perfectional stage, not otherwise.

The word kama-karatah is very significant. A person who knowingly violates the rules acts in lust. He knows that this is forbidden, but still he acts. This is called acting whimsically. He knows that this should be done, but still he does not do it; therefore he is called whimsical. Such persons are destined to be condemned by the Supreme Lord. Such persons cannot have the perfection which is meant for the human life. The human life is especially meant for purifying one’s existence, and one who does not follow the rules and regulations cannot purify himself, nor can he attain the real stage of happiness.

Thus the Lord has described the nature of the asura in detail. The Lord has also said, “Do not worry, O Arjuna, you are of the divine nature.” Then he says that there are only three basic tendencies of the asuras in this verse.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

In this verse the Lord expresses that it is beneficial for a person to follow the scriptures. He speaks of the person who does not follow scripture, and does whatever he wants (kama karatah).

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

16.23 Here Sastra means Vedas. Vidhi stands for injunction. He who abandons My injunction called Vedas and acts under the influence of desire, viz., takes the path according to his own wishes, does not attain perfection, He does not reach any Siddhi in the next world, nor does he find the slighest happiness in this world, let alone the attainment of the supreme state. It is not possible for him to do so. Such is the meaning.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

It is not possible to renounce lust without performing authorised spiritual activities. Lord Krishna declares that that those who whimsically ignore or spitefully disregard the ordinances and injunctions prescribed in the Vedic scriptures expressly for the benefit of all beings and contrarily act frivolously impelled by the impulses of desire will achieve neither knowledge of truth, perfection nor moksa or liberation from material existence. Such offenders who ignorantly or purposely transgresses the eternal prohibitions of the Vedic scriptures will never be able to maintain any permanent happiness and tranquillity.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

In order to conclusively establish the evidence and justification for abandoning all demoniac vices and evils by permanently avoiding lust, greed and anger which so forcefully takes one directly to hell; Lord Krishna irrevocably reveals the reason. Any jiva or embodied being in a physical body or subtle body, who whimsically ignores the ordinances of the Vedic scriptures or who foolishly disregards the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and instead transgresses the prohibitions prescribed therein that are for the welfare and benefit of all creation; can never achieve any good for themselves or any good for others. Such foolish miscreants obstruct all possibilities for their own best interests and ostracize all their opportunities for spiritual advancement. Those who transgress the Vedic scriptures and are slaves to their senses, controlled by the base urges of the physical body, and who indiscriminately follow every desire of the mind; will never achieve perfection, happiness or the ultimate goal of existence even if one strives for that for millions of lifetimes. The use of the relative pronoun yah meaning he who symbolises the jivas in general who are qualifed enough for this to apply to. The word sastra applies exclusively to the Vedic scriptures and is explained etymologically as eternal and universal instructions for the benefit of all creation. This includes the four Vedas, Vedanta Sutra, Srimad Bhagavatam, the Puranas, the Upanisads, the Itithasas along with their auxiliaries and Mahabharata, Ramayana, Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, etc. which are all under the pantheon of the Vedic scriptures

The injunctions of the Vedic scriptures are in the form of: One should perform this. The prohibitions of the Vedic scriptures is in the form of: One should not perform that. An example of an injunction is that: One should perform ahimsa which is not causing harm to any living being by thought, word or action. An example of a prohibition is that: One should not eat grains on Ekadasi the 11th day of the waxing and waning moon. An example of an injunction and a prohibition is that: Cows are inviolable and should never be killed. The inference of the word should is derived from the usage of the verb in the potential mood.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

16.23 Utsrjiya, ignoring, setting aside; sastra-vidhim, the precept of the scriptures, which is th source of the knoweldge of what is duty and what is not-called injunction and prohibition; yah, he who; vartate, acts; kama-karatah, under the impulsion of passion; sah, he; na, does not; avapnoti, attain; siddhim, perfection, fitness for Liberation; nor even sukham, happiness in this world; nor even the param, supreme best; gatim, Goal-heaven or Liberation.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

16.23-24 Yah sastravidhim etc. Tasmat etc. On the other hand, a fall into the hell is [inevitable] for a person who rejects the scriptural injunctions and makes, using his own intellect, an analysis as to what is to be done and what is not to be done. Therefore, don’t make a decision with your intellect about what is to be done and what is not to be done.-This is what is intended to be conveyed here.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya
vartate kama-karatah
na sa siddhim avapnoti
na sukham na param gatim

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

yaḥ — anyone who; śāstra-vidhim — the regulations of the scriptures; utsṛjya — giving up; vartate — remains; kāma-kārataḥ — acting whimsically in lust; na — never; saḥ — he; siddhim — perfection; avāpnoti — achieves; na — never; sukham — happiness; na — never; parām — the supreme; gatim — perfectional stage.