tasmāc chāstraḿ pramāṇaḿ te
karma kartum ihārhasi
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 16.24
One should therefore understand what is duty and what is not duty by the regulations of the scriptures. Knowing such rules and regulations, one should act so that he may gradually be elevated.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
As stated in the Fifteenth Chapter, all the rules and regulations of the Vedas are meant for knowing Krishna. If one understands Krishna from the Bhagavad-gita and becomes situated in Krishna consciousness, engaging himself in devotional service, he has reached the highest perfection of knowledge offered by the Vedic literature. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu made this process very easy: He asked people simply to chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare and to engage in the devotional service of the Lord and eat the remnants of foodstuff offered to the Deity. One who is directly engaged in all these devotional activities is to be understood as having studied all Vedic literature. He has come to the conclusion perfectly. Of course, for the ordinary persons who are not in Krishna consciousness or who are not engaged in devotional service, what is to be done and what is not to be done must be decided by the injunctions of the Vedas. One should act accordingly, without argument. That is called following the principles of shastra, or scripture.
Sastra is without the four principal defects that are visible in the conditioned soul: imperfect senses, the propensity for cheating, certainty of committing mistakes, and certainty of being illusioned. These four principal defects in conditioned life disqualify one from putting forth rules and regulations.
Therefore, the rules and regulations as described in the shastra—being above these defects—are accepted without alteration by all great saints, acaryas and great souls.
In India there are many parties of spiritual understanding, generally classified as two: the impersonalist and the personalist. Both of them, however, lead their lives according to the principles of the Vedas. Without following the principles of the scriptures, one cannot elevate himself to the perfectional stage. One who actually, therefore, understands the purport of the shastras is considered fortunate.
In human society, aversion to the principles of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the cause of all falldowns. That is the greatest offense of human life.
Therefore, maya, the material energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is always giving us trouble in the shape of the threefold miseries. This material energy is constituted of the three modes of material nature. One has to raise himself at least to the mode of goodness before the path to understanding the Supreme Lord can be opened.
Without raising oneself to the standard of the mode of goodness, one remains in ignorance and passion, which are the cause of demoniac life. Those in the modes of passion and ignorance deride the scriptures, deride the holy man, and deride the proper understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They disobey the instructions of the spiritual master, and they do not care for the regulations of the scriptures. In spite of hearing the glories of devotional service, they are not attracted. Thus they manufacture their own way of elevation. These are some of the defects of human society which lead to the demoniac status of life. If, however, one is able to be guided by a proper and bona fide spiritual master, who can lead one to the path of elevation, to the higher stage, then one’s life becomes successful.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
This chapter has described how those who follow the scripture attain the supreme goal and those who do not follow scripture go to hell.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
16.24 Hence, the Sastra is to be the only authority for you in determining what should be done and what should not be done, viz., in deciding what ought to be accepted and what ought not be accepted. You should know, i.e., understand, neither more nor less than what constitutes the truth and the work enjoined in the injunctions of the Sastras which the Highest Reality called the Supreme Person revealed in the Vedas. The Vedic injunctions are supplemented by the Dharma-sastras, the Itihasas and the Puranas. The acts enjoined by them are the means for reaching Him and for pleasing Him. You should perform them; you should accept them alone.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The irrevocable conclusion given by the Supreme Lord Krishna is that the Vedic scriptures are the sole, absolute authority in ascertaining the applicability of all activities. What is prescribed in the Vedic scriptures is the determining agent for what is righteous and what is unrighteous, what is to be done and what is not to be done, what is right and what is wrong. The whole pantheon of the Vedic scriptures including the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas, the Puranas including Srimad Bhagavatam, the Upanisads, Vedanta Sutra, Mahabharata, Ramayana and all their auxiliaries such as Manu Samhita, Narada Pancaratna, Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Tattva Sandarbhas, Hari Bhakti Vilas etc. and such scriptures authorised by bonafide disciplic succession in one of the four authorised sampradayas which are Brahma, Sri, Rudra and Kumara are also to be considered as part of the Vedic scriptures. The Vedic line is living and eternal.
Thus having understood the eternal directives prescribed in the Vedic scriptures one should engage in them to the best of one’s ability in full faith without duplicity for the achievement of one’s best interests according to one’s inherent nature and qualification. Purification of the mind, perfection in spiritual knowledge and moksa or liberation from material existence all manifest by securing that. By comparing and differentiating between the divine nature and the demoniac nature, sufficient evidence has proven conclusively that the demoniac nature is only qualified for damnation in lower and lower species in hellish existences and that only the divine nature is qualified and eligible for higher consciousness, the ultimate truth and eternal communion with the Supreme Lord.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Hari Om! The distinctive differences between the divine nature and the demoniac nature have been delineated in detail. Those deluded fools who imagine themselves as exercising the power of the Supreme Lord; who foolishly consider that creation manifested without a supreme consciousness, who deviously speculate and hypothecate that creation manifested on its own and so there is no Supreme Lord, who despite knowledge of the actual reality of the Supreme Lord’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence; still spitefully oppose Him and vindictively seek to undermine and destroy His creation. All these degraded jivas or embodied beings, verily are born of the demoniac nature and will descend into hellish existences in worlds of darkness. These unrepentant demoniac jivas in wharever form they appear in, thinking of themselves as superior never surrender to the Supreme Lord or offer reverence to Him. Instead they blaspheme the Supreme Lord, ridicule His absolute instructions in the form of the Vedic scriptures and deride His devotees. Those who propagate that the Supreme Lord does not exist and is just an illusion are of the demoniac nature. Those who challenge the divine instructions of the Supreme Lord Krishna, those who contradict the eternal truths of the Vedic scriptures and those who dispute the eternal knowledge taught by the devotees of Lord Krishna are all also irrefutably possessed of the demoniac nature.
The birth of a jiva as a demigod, a demon or a human being is due to an inherent resonance towards beings such based upon previous activities in past lives. Because by possessing the attributes of any of them there is a natural affinity leading back towards them from from whence they came and hence there never can be any artificial change in disposition. Although it is possible for one to be born in the family of a demoniac line due to a curse like Prince Prahlad taking birth as the son of the demon king Hiranyakasipu; but this is not true demoniac nature manifesting and Prahlad heard the glories of the Supreme Lord from Narada Muni while in his mothers womb and right from early childhood exhibited his divine nature to the great chagrin and disappointment of his father. Like a crystal which appears dark when seen in the darkness those of the divine nature may appear to be demoniac because of circumstances. But it is only temporary and not even permanently present in a single life because such situations cannot alter the inherent divine attributes.
Therefore those of the divine nature quickly revive it within that selfsame life even if
born in inauspicious situations. Thus wherever and under whatever conditions those of the divine nature take birth there inherent divine attributes quickly fructify and activate them to quickly become eligible for association with a Vaisnava spiritual master who bestows devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna and become qualified for communion with Him. That eligibility comes quickly is evidenced that Prahlad’s inherent divine attributes were so potent that He did not even have to wait until he was born but received instructions while in the womb. There are many blissful levels of communion with the Supreme Lord that those of the divine nature may partake of as there are various gradations within moksa or liberation from material existence. Thus devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna are incapable of not being grateful and joyous.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
So now the Supreme Lord Krishna gives the final conclusion for this chapter. Because absolutely no benefit is ordained for those who do not adhere to and follow the injunctions and ordinances of the Vedic scriptures it has been unequivocally determined that only by the Vedic scriptures exclusively and their corroborative adjuncts such as Puranas, Upanisad etc. which are endowed with knowledge of the Supreme Ultimate truth, cognition of the Ultimate reality and realisation of the Supreme Ultimate Being are the only authority to be used in understanding what is proper to be performed and what is improper and not to be performed. Knowing this one should perform activities in material existence which correspond and are in harmony with the axioms and instructions of the Vedic scriptures according to time, circumstances and qualification.
Thus in the sixteenth chapter the Supreme Lord Krishna after first avidly describing the qualities and attributes of those endowed with the divine nature; He emphatically instructed complete avoidance of all aspects of the demoniac nature, explaining its root causes as lust, greed and anger. He also described numerous characteristics and examples that indicate one of a demoniac nature possess. His conclusion is that one should only perform actions authorised by the Vedic scriptures and never act contrary.
I take full refuge in the Supreme Lord Krishna, He who is the most worthy of knowing and the goal of the Vedas, who in Srimad Bhagavad-Gita became the spiritual master and taught the conclusions of the Vedic scriptures.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
16.24 Tasmat, therefore; sastram, the scripure; is te, your; pramanam, authority, the means of knowledge; karya-akarya-vyavasthitau, as regards the determination of what is to be done and what is not to be done. Therefore, jnatva, after understanding; that which is your own karma, duty; sastra-vidhana-uktam, as presented by scriptural injunction-vidhana is the same as vidhi, precept, in the form, ‘you should do’, ‘you should not do’; as presented by that; arhasi, you ought; kartum, to perform; it iha, here. ‘Here’ is used for pointing out the sphere in which one is intitled to perform his duties. F:gitadataR.K.GitaCHAPTER16.doc Page 1 of 1
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:
tasmac chastram pramanam te
karma kartum iharhasi
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
tasmāt — therefore; śāstram — the scriptures; pramāṇam — evidence; te — your; kārya — duty; akārya — and forbidden activities; vyavasthitau — in determining; jñātvā — knowing; śāstra — of scripture; vidhāna — the regulations; uktam — as declared; karma — work; kartum — do; iha — in this world; arhasi — you should.