pravṛttiḿ ca nivṛttiḿ ca
janā na vidur āsurāḥ
na śaucaḿ nāpi cācāro
na satyaḿ teṣu vidyate
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 16.7
Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
In every civilized human society there is some set of scriptural rules and regulations which is followed from the beginning. Especially among the Aryans, those who adopt the Vedic civilization and who are known as the most advanced civilized peoples, those who do not follow the scriptural injunctions are supposed to be demons.
Therefore it is stated here that the demons do not know the scriptural rules, nor do they have any inclination to follow them. Most of them do not know them, and even if some of them know, they have not the tendency to follow them. They have no faith, nor are they willing to act in terms of the Vedic injunctions. The demons are not clean, either externally or internally. One should always be careful to keep his body clean by bathing, brushing teeth, shaving, changing clothes, etc. As far as internal cleanliness is concerned, one should always remember the holy names of God and chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The demons neither like nor follow all these rules for external and internal cleanliness.
As for behavior, there are many rules and regulations guiding human behavior, such as the Manu-samhita, which is the law of the human race. Even up to today, those who are Hindu follow the Manu-samhita. Laws of inheritance and other legalities are derived from this book. Now, in the Manu-samhita it is clearly stated that a woman should not be given freedom. That does not mean that women are to be kept as slaves, but they are like children. Children are not given freedom, but that does not mean that they are kept as slaves. The demons have now neglected such injunctions, and they think that women should be given as much freedom as men.
However, this has not improved the social condition of the world. Actually, a woman should be given protection at every stage of life. She should be given protection by the father in her younger days, by the husband in her youth, and by the grownup sons in her old age. This is proper social behavior according to the Manu-samhita. But modern education has artificially devised a puffed-up concept of womanly life, and therefore marriage is practically now an imagination in human society. Nor is the moral condition of woman very good now. The demons, therefore, do not accept any instruction which is good for society, and because they do not follow the experience of great sages and the rules and regulations laid down by the sages, the social condition of the demoniac people is very miserable.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Pravrttim means dharma and nivrttim means adharma.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
16.7 The demoniac men do not know the ‘path of action and renunciation,’ viz., the Vedic Dharma that leads to prosperity and final release. ‘Cleanliness’ is the competence for performing Vedic rites as established in the Sastras. That ‘cleanliness,’ be it external or internal, is alien to the demoniac. Nor ‘right conduct,’ viz., that right conduct such as twilight prayers (Sandhya-vandana) etc., by means of which this internal and external cleanliness arises — even that right conduct is alien to them. For it is declared in: ‘He who does not perform twilight prayers, is always unholy and is unfit for any rites’ (Daksha Sm., 2.23). Likewise, ‘truth’ is not found among them, viz., that truthful speech, which is conducive to the welfare of beings and which is in accordance with one’s actual knowledge, does not characterise them. Moreover:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Those of demoniac nature do not know how to perform righteous actions neither do they know how to refrain from unrighteous activities. Therefore Lord Krishna discloses that they are completely void of any purity, righteous behaviour and truthfulness.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Those of demoniac nature includes devils and demons. What is privritti or right actions such jivas or embodied beings cannot comprehend. Hence out of the four goals of life they are only able to achieve two: kama which is lust for sense gratification and artha which is greed for wealth and positions of great power. But they are unable to achieve dharma which is righteous propriety and without dharma it is impossible to attain moksa or liberation from material existence. This is because the demoniac are unable to understand nivritti which is the cessation of material activities for the benefit of spiritual activities and such renunciation is the path leading to moksa. As the demoniac do not possess purity internally or externally they are never qualified to perform spiritual activities and so the demoniac resort to diabolically, degraded activities with discarnate ghosts, spirits and demons involving blood sacrifices, torture and death which do not depend upon inner and outer purity to receive their decadent results. Contrarily those of the divine nature have no desire to enjoy the results of worship because it is offered for the sublime satisfaction of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations as revealed in Vedic scriptures and is a pure offering of devotion to Him. But the demoniac conduct their depraved, diabolical rituals explicitly for physical, personal and material gain for themselves and the resultant karma or the corresponding reactions to previous actions sinks them deeper and deeper into lower and lower degraded forms of material existence birth after birth.
The demoniac are completely oblivious to the knowledge which would frees them from the enslavement of samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death due to ignorance of spiritual knowledge that lead to moksa. The demoniac are vile, impure, perverse, cruel, diabolical, untruthful, untrustworthy, bereft of all righteousness and evil. Those jivas possessing such qualities are to be known irrefutably as demons.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
16.7 Na, niether; do the asurah, demoniacal; janah, persons; viduh, understand; pravritim, what is to be done with regard to that which is a means to the human ends; and nivirttim, what is not to be done, the opposite of that (former) and from which source of evil one should desist. Nor only do they not know what is to be done and what is not to be done, na, nor; does saucam, purity; na api, or even; acarah, good conduct; or satyam, truthfulness; vidyate, exist; tesu, in them. The demons are verily bereft of purity and good conduct; they are deceitful and given to speaking lies. Further,
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
16.7 Pravrttim etc. Origin : i.e. wherefrom this [universe] is born. Withdrawal : i.e. into what this gets dissolved.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
pravrttim ca nivrttim ca
jana na vidur asurah
na saucam napi cacaro
na satyam tesu vidyate
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
pravṛttim — acting properly; ca — also; nivṛttim — not acting improperly; ca — and; janāḥ — persons; na — never; viduḥ — know; āsurāḥ — of demoniac quality; na — never; śaucam — cleanliness; na — nor; api — also; ca — and; ācāraḥ — behavior; na — never; satyam — truth; teṣu — in them; vidyate — there is.