istan bhogan hi vo deva
dasyante yajna-bhavitah
tair dattan apradayaibhyo
yo bhunkte stena eva sah

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.12

In charge of the various necessities of life, the demigods, being satisfied by the performance of yajna [sacrifice], will supply all necessities to you. But he who enjoys such gifts without offering them to the demigods in return is certainly a thief.

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

The demigods are authorized supplying agents on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu. Therefore, they must be satisfied by the performance of prescribed yajnas. In the Vedas, there are different kinds of yajnas prescribed for different kinds of demigods, but all are ultimately offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For one who cannot understand what the Personality of Godhead is, sacrifice to the demigods is recommended. According to the different material qualities of the persons concerned, different types of yajnas are recommended in the Vedas. Worship of different demigods is also on the same basis—namely, according to different qualities. For example, the meat-eaters are recommended to worship the goddess Kali, the ghastly form of material nature, and before the goddess the sacrifice of animals is recommended. But for those who are in the mode of goodness, the transcendental worship of Vishnu is recommended. But ultimately all yajnas are meant for gradual promotion to the transcendental position. For ordinary men, at least five yajnas, known as panca-maha-yajna, are necessary.

One should know, however, that all the necessities of life that the human society requires are supplied by the demigod agents of the Lord. No one can manufacture anything. Take, for example, all the eatables of human society. These eatables include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, sugar, etc., for the persons in the mode of goodness, and also eatables for the nonvegetarians, like meats, none of which can be manufactured by men. Then again, take for example heat, light, water, air, etc., which are also necessities of life—none of them can be manufactured by the human society. Without the Supreme Lord, there can be no profuse sunlight, moonlight, rainfall, breeze, etc., without which no one can live. Obviously, our life is dependent on supplies from the Lord. Even for our manufacturing enterprises, we require so many raw materials like metal, sulphur, mercury, manganese, and so many essentials—all of which are supplied by the agents of the Lord, with the purpose that we should make proper use of them to keep ourselves fit and healthy for the purpose of self-realization, leading to the ultimate goal of life, namely, liberation from the material struggle for existence. This aim of life is attained by performance of yajnas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratification and become more and more entangled in material existence, which is not the purpose of creation, certainly we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy, because they have no aim in life. The gross materialist thieves have no ultimate goal of life. They are simply directed to sense gratification; nor do they have knowledge of how to perform yajnas. Lord Caitanya, however, inaugurated the easiest performance of yajna, namely the sankirtana-yajna, which can be performed by anyone in the world who accepts the principles of Krishna consciousness.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

To make this point clearer, he speaks of the fault of not performing this activity. He who enjoys what is given by the devatas, such as food through the rain, without giving anything to them through performance of the panca maha yajna and other rites is a thief.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

3.12 ‘Pleased by the sacrifice,’ i.e., propitiated by the sacrifice, the gods, who have Me as their Self, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire. Whatever objects are desired by persons keen on attaining release, the supreme end of human endeavour, all those will be granted by gods previously worshipped through many sacrifices. That is, whatever is solicited with more and more propitiation, all those enjoyments they will bestow on you. Whoever enjoys the objects of enjoyment granted by them for the purpose of worshipping them, without giving them their due share in return — he is verily a thief. What is called ‘theft’ is indeed taking what belongs to another as one’s own and using it for oneself, when it is really designed for the purpose of another. The purport is that such a person becomes unfit not only for the supreme end of human endeavour, but also will go down towards purgatory (Naraka). Sri Krsna expands the same:

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna reveals the positive results in performing yagna or worship to the devas or demi-gods in receiving prosperity and abundance and the negative results in not first offering what one is about to partake to the demi-gods in reciprocation. Therefore one who enjoys food which was originally placed on Earth by the demi-gods and which mankind uses for their life preservation and sustenance without offering it first to them in yagna or worship is a thief . This is for ordinary people. For duly initiated Brahmins in one of the four authorised disciplic successions the five daily yagnas must be performed as well.

1) Brahma yagna- Study of the Vedic scriptures 2) Pitri yagna- Offering vegetarian foods to the anscestors 3) Deva yagna- Offering of oblations to the demi-gods 4) Bhuta yagna- Offering blessings to all created being 5) Nri yagna- Showing hospitality to any guest that comes by.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Evaluating the previous verse Lord Krishna points out the offense in not performing yagna or worship and first offering of the fruits of yagna.before enjoying them. One who enjoys before first offering worship and appeasement and prayers is undoubtedly a thief and will be punished like a thief at the end of their life by Yamaraja the minister of death.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

3.12 ‘Yajna-bhavitah, being nourished, i.e. being satisfied, by sacrifices; devah, the gods; dasyante hi, will indeed give, will distribute; among vah, you; the istan, coveted; bhogan, enjoyments, such as wife, childeren and cattle. Sah, he; is eva, certainly; a stenah, thief, a stealer of the wealth of gods and others; yah, who; bhunkte, enjoys, gratifies only his own body and organs; with dattan, what enjoyable things have been given; taih, by them, by the gods; apradaya, without offering (these); ebhyah, to them, i.e. without repaying the debt [The three kinds of debt-to the gods, to the rsis (sage), and to the manes-are repaid by satisfying them through sacrifices, celibacy (including study of the Vedas, etc.), and procreation, respectively. Unless one repays these debts, he incurs sin.] to them.’

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

3.12 Istan etc. [The deities of] the senses, gratified by the necessry actions, bind [the aspirant’s mind] to the state of remaining firm on some object of meditation. Therefore when they are at work, the things, i.e., the objects are granted [to him] by none but the [deities of the] senses, through recollection, resolution, meditation etc., of their objects. If these objects are not offered for the enjoyment of the deities, then it would amount to the status of a theif i.e., to an act of thief, because he is acting deceitfully. Indeed it has already been declared by the Bhagavat that ‘He is called a man of deluded action’. Therefore the idea in the passage [under study] is this : Whosoever is desirous of attaining by easy means, the supernatural power [like anima etc.], or of attaining emancipation, he should enjoy the objects as and when they are brought, [and enjoy] just with the aim of simply alliviating the impatience of the [deities of the] senses.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

istan bhogan hi vo deva
dasyante yajna-bhavitah
tair dattan apradayaibhyo
yo bhunkte stena eva sah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

iṣṭān — desired; bhogān — necessities of life; hi — certainly; vaḥ — unto you; devāḥ — the demigods; dāsyante — will award; yajña-bhāvitāḥ — being satisfied by the performance of sacrifices; taiḥ — by them; dattān — things given; apradāya — without offering; ebhyaḥ — to these demigods; yaḥ — he who; bhuńkte — enjoys; stenaḥ — thief; eva — certainly; saḥ — he.