karma brahmodbhavaḿ viddhi
tasmāt sarva-gataḿ brahma
nityaḿ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.15
Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Yajnartha-karma, or the necessity of work for the satisfaction of Krishna only, is more expressly stated in this verse. If we have to work for the satisfaction of the yajna-purusha, Vishnu, then we must find out the direction of work in Brahman, or the transcendental Vedas. The Vedas are therefore codes of working directions. Anything performed without the direction of the Vedas is called vikarma, or unauthorized or sinful work. Therefore, one should always take direction from the Vedas to be saved from the reaction of work. As one has to work in ordinary life by the direction of the state, one similarly has to work under direction of the supreme state of the Lord. Such directions in the Vedas are directly manifested from the breathing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said, asya mahato bhutasya nisvasitam etad yad rg-vedo yajur-vedah samavedo ’tharvangirasah. “The four Vedas—namely the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda—are all emanations from the breathing of the great Personality of Godhead.” (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 4.5.11) The Lord, being omnipotent, can speak by breathing air, for as it is confirmed in the Brahma-samhita, the Lord has the omnipotence to perform through each of His senses the actions of all other senses. In other words, the Lord can speak through His breathing, and He can impregnate by His eyes. In fact, it is said that He glanced over material nature and thus fathered all living entities. After creating or impregnating the conditioned souls into the womb of material nature, He gave His directions in the Vedic wisdom as to how such conditioned souls can return home, back to Godhead. We should always remember that the conditioned souls in material nature are all eager for material enjoyment. But the Vedic directions are so made that one can satisfy one’s perverted desires, then return to Godhead, having finished his so-called enjoyment. It is a chance for the conditioned souls to attain liberation; therefore the conditioned souls must try to follow the process of yajna by becoming Krishna conscious. Even those who have not followed the Vedic injunctions may adopt the principles of Krishna consciousness, and that will take the place of performance of Vedic yajnas, or karmas.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The cause of this action is the Veda (brahma). The actions related to the yajna arise from hearing the statements of the rules enunciated in the Vedas. The cause of the Vedas is brahman (aksaram), as the Vedas arise from the Lord. The sruti says:
asya mahato bhutasya nihsvasitam etad rg-vedo yajur-vedah sama-vedo’ thangirasah
The Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas are the breathing of the Supreme Lord. Brhad Aranyaka Upanisad 2.4.10
Therefore the all pervading (sarva gatam) Lord is present in the yajna. This means that by performance of the yajna one attains the Lord. Though, by cause and effect, from food to the Lord, many items have been mentioned, among them all, the yajna is mentioned by the scriptures as obligatory.
This process is mentioned in the smrti as well.
agnau prastahutih samyag adityam upatisthate adityaj jayate vrstir vrster annam tatah prajah
The offering to the fire goes to the sun. From the sun arise rain, food and bodies of the living entities. Manu Smrti 3.76
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
3.15 Here ther term, ‘Brahman’ connotes the physical body consisting of modifications of the Prakrti; for the Prakrti is denoted here by the term ‘Brahman’, as in the scriptural text: ‘From Him arises, this Brahman and this ‘Brahman’ becomes name, form and food’ (Mun. U., 1.1.9). Here also it will be said by Sri Krsna: ‘This great ‘Brahman’ is my womb’ (14.3). Therefore, the words that ‘Activity springs from ‘Brahman’ teaches that activity is produced by the physical body which is of the nature of the modification of Prakrti. The ‘Brahman’ arises from the imperishable self. Here the term, ‘imperishable’, indicates the individual self. The physical body, which is inhabited by the self who is satisfied by food and drink, is fit for action; hence the physical body which constitutes the instrument of activity is said to be from the imperishable. Therefore the ‘all-pervading Brahman’ means here the bodies of all persons of diverse kinds which are the products of Prakrti which comprises all material entities, and is hence all-pervading. They, the bodies, are established in sacrifice. The meanig is that the bodies have roots in sacrifice.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
So it is explained very clearly that actions originate from the prescribed instructions of the Vedic injunctions and these actions put forth to accomplish these actions are called yagna or worship and appeasement. Brahman clearly refers to the Vedas here and the Vedas come from the Supreme Brahman, the imperishable source of Brahman, the Supreme Lord Krishna. The Brihad II.IV.X states that the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda etc. are the infinite breath of the Supreme. So comprehending this, the knowledge found within the Vedas and the performance of the injunctions and instructions is certainly for humanities highest good. As the Supreme is attained by yagna it is known to rest in yagna. Therefore it should be understood that the imperishable Supreme Brahman although all-pervading, eternally, always resides in yagna. Also as action is the basis of the worlds revolving therefore Brahman known through the Vedas although all pervading, by the use of mantras chanted by brahmins and Vaisnavas with explanations of Vedic scriptures as well as historical examples; it can be clearly perceived that yagna is connected to all events of the past that originated and reached maturity and fulfilment by worship or appeasement as well as all existing things in the present that flourish and prosper whether for short or long duration. All these things were successful only due to yagna or worship and appeasement. So the idea here is that the injunctions of the Vedas are mandatory for the benefit of all living entities and that yagna should always be performed everyday of ones life.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
It should be known that actions have its origins in the Brahman meaning the Vedas. Lord Krishna by stating the Brahman wants to emphasise the all-pervading substratum of all existence that is revealed by the Vedas and transforming from the mantras of the Vedas, the actions prescribed by the Vedas, the forces of nature, sun and clouds and rain, food and living beings. Although nature is seen as a force of action actually it is supported fully by the underlying energy of the Supreme Brahman. Actions though appearing to have a force of their own are only manifested through the instrument of matter in humans it is the physcial body. The Vedas as has been described earlier emanated from the imperishable Supreme Brahman, Lord Krishna. The words sarva-gatam means all-pervading or indestructible. This is indicative of the Supreme Brahman as well as the soul within every living entity. The soul is known to be indestructible and all pervading. Through the auspices of the soul the physical body through the manifestations of nature partakes of food and gains strength becoming fit for performing actions authorised by the Vedas. The word udbhavan meaning originates from is used to illustrate that this fitness comes from the source from which one manifests from. Even nature is only able to operate from the substratum through the utilisation of sun, rain, wind, fire etc. and by no other means. Therefore the all pervading and indestructible atma or soul utilises a physical body which is its substratum in the same way as the material nature to perform actions and that without a physical body performing the activities prescribed in the Vedas, then yagna or worship is not possible.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
3.15 Again, [a different reading in place of this is: ‘Tat ca vividham karma kuto jatamityaha, From where did those various kinds of action originate? In reply the Lord says…’ Still another reading is: ‘Tat ca karma brahmodbhavam iti aha, And the Lord says: That action has the Vedas as its origin.’-vide A.A., 1936, p. 116). Astekar’s reading is: Tat ca evam vidham karma kuto jatamityaha, And from where has this kind of aciton originated? The answers this.’-Tr.] viddhi, know; that karma, action; is brahmodbhavam, it has Brahma, the Veda, as its udbhavam, origin. [Here Ast. adds ‘revealer’-Tr.] Further, Brahma, called the Veda, is aksara-samudbhavam, it has aksara, the Immutable, Brahman, the supreme Self, as its source. This is the meaning. Since the Veda came out, like the breath of a man, from the supreme Self Itself, called the Immutable, therefore the Veda, being the revealer of everything, is sarva-gatam, all pervading. Even though all-pervading, the Veda is nityam, for ever; pratisthitam, based; yajne, on sacrifice, because the injunctions about sacrifices predominate in it.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
3.14-15 Annat etc. Karma etc. The things, that are born and are of diversified nature, arise from the food viz , the one which is of the nature of being undifferentiated objct of enjoyment, and which is somehow called by different synonyms like maya, vidya, kala etc. The said food also [arises] from the ‘rain-cloud’ i.e., the Self, which is of the nature of uninterrupted Consciousness. For, the state of being an object of enjoyment gains its existence depending on the enjoyer. That ‘rain-cloud’ too viz., the enjoyer, [arises] from the sacrifice (yajna) i.e., the act of enjoying. For, the state of being an enjoyer depends on the act of enjoying. And the act of enjoying [arises] from action, i.e., from the strength of freedom of action-energy (freedom in assuming any and every from). The said freedom also, though it is uninterrupted, [arises] due to the good touch of the Brahman Which is full of freedom and of forms that are conditioned and are many, (or which is full of freedom and of many forms and is not conditioned); and which is the Supreme Soul, Brahman assuming the beings (tattvas), viz., the mighty Isvara (or Mahesvara) [and the Sadasiva] skipping high on It (Brahman). That Brahman, having the rising Lord-ship (or might) that is pure and unvieled, arises from what does not stream forth viz., the pure Supreme Consciousness in which the entire waves of might and Lordship have totally calmed down. Thus, the sacrifice well established [as an exil] in this manner, causing a six spoked wheel to rotate , spins the [two-fold] yarns – the yarn of emancipation by employing that part fitted with three spokes, and the yarn of [birth-and-death] activity by looming with the part of the [other] three spokes. Thus, the Brahman Which is charming with rolling waves of wisdom and ignorance, is established on nothing but the sacrifice. But certain other commentators [interpret the passage as ] : The food is indeed the cause of beings through its graded chages into semen verile and blood; the food arises from the rain-cloud through the rains; that rains too arises from the [Vedic] sacrifice according to the principle : ‘The oblation offered into the [sacrificial] fire, pro- perly reaches the sun etc. (Manu. III, 76). The sacrifice [arises] from the action; the action follows the knowledge, and the knowledge is from the Imperishable. Still others [explain] differently : The food that is being enjoyed is the pentad of sense-objects; depending on it, the bhutas (elements) i.e., the sense-organs, act; the objects are of the nature of the sparkles of the Self. Therefore, it is only the Self that is being nourished by enjoying sense-objects. Hence the all-pervading Brahman is established in action. For It is identical with that.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
karma brahmodbhavam viddhi
tasmat sarva-gatam brahma
nityam yajne pratisthitam
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
karma — work; brahma — from the Vedas; udbhavam — produced; viddhi — you should know; brahma — the Vedas; akṣara — from the Supreme Brahman (Personality of Godhead); samudbhavam — directly manifested; tasmāt — therefore; sarva-gatam — all-pervading; brahma — transcendence; nityam — eternally; yajñe — in sacrifice; pratiṣṭhitam — situated.