naiva tasya kṛtenārtho
na cāsya sarva-bhūteṣu
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.18
A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
A self-realized man is no longer obliged to perform any prescribed duty, save and except activities in Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness is not inactivity either, as will be explained in the following verses. A Krishna conscious man does not take shelter of any person—man or demigod. Whatever he does in Krishna consciousness is sufficient in the discharge of his obligation.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
By performance of action there is no accrual of desired results. And by not performing the action there is no loss, because nothing in the whole universe, from Brahma down to the inanimate objects, is worth taking shelter of for his purpose.
The word vyapasraya is used similarly in the Puranas as follows:
vasudeve bhagavati bhaktim udvahatam nrnam
jnana-vairagya-viryanam neha kascid vyapasrayah
Persons engaged in devotional service to Lord Vasudeva, Krishna, have naturally perfect knowledge and detachment from this material world. Therefore such devotees are not interested in the so-called happiness or so-called distress of this world. SB 6.17.31
abhira-sumbha yavanah khasadayah
ye ‘nye ca papa yad-apasrayasrayah
sudhyanti tasmai prabhavisnave namah
Kirata, Huna, Andhra, Pulinda, Pulkasa, Abhira, Sumbha, Yavana, members of the Khasa races and even others addicted to sinful acts can be purified by taking shelter of the devotees of the Lord, due to His being the supreme power. I beg to offer my respectful obeisances unto Him. SB 2.4.18
argo ‘syatha visargas ca vrtti-raksantarani ca
vamso vamsanucaritam samstha hetur apasrayah
O brahmana, authorities on the matter understand a Purana to contain ten characteristic topics: the creation of this universe, the subsequent creation of worlds and beings, the maintenance of all living beings, their sustenance, the rule of various Manus, the dynasties of great kings, the activities of such kings, annihilation, motivation and the supreme shelter. SB 12.7.9
From these statements it is seen that the addition of apa to asraya has the meaning of “perfect shelter.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
3.18 Thus, for such a one there is no purpose, i.e., nothing to be gained from work done as a means for the vision of the self, nor is he subject to any evil or calamity from work left undone, because his vision of the self does not rest on any external means. To such a person who has turned by himself away from non-intelligent matter which is different from the self, there is nothing acceptable as a purpose to be gained from the constituents of Prakrti and their products; only if there were such a purpose, there would be the need for the means of retreat therefrom. For, the adoption of the means is only for effecting such a retreat. But he is verily liberated. Non-pursuit of the means for vision of the self is only for that person whose vision of the self no longer depends on any means. But Karma Yoga is better in gaining the vision of the self for one who is in pursuit of the means for that vision, because it is easy to perfom, because it is secure from possible error, because the contemplation of the true nature of the self is included in it, and because even for a Jnana Yogin the performance of minimum activity is necessary. For these reasons, Karma Yoga is better as a means for the vision of the Atman.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Now the reason for the previous verse is being explained in this verse by Lord Krishna and that is that such a spiritually advanced person has already passed the test achieving atma-tattva or soul realisation which is the ultimate goal of human existence. So such a one being irrevocably anchored in spiritual consciousness without any worldly ego consciousness has no actions to perform and thus has no merits or demerits attaching themselves; for such a person has transcended all injunctions and prohibitions of the Vedic scriptures. Yet it is seen in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad I.IV.X that the demi-gods do not like that men attain divine knowledge. So it has been recorded that the demi-gods put obstacles on the path of moksa or liberation to block one’s success. So for preventing such obstacles the demi-gods should be worshipped by ritualistic activities. Anticipating some doubt Lord Krishna declares that a liberated being in atma-tattva or soul realisation has not to depend upon any living being from Brahma who was the creator of the material manifestation down to an inanimate microbe. Thus no need to perform any action and the demi-gods are powerless to affect and influence the failure of a liberated being because such a person in atma-tattva has already transcended the material manifestation. This is the meaning of text I.IV.X quoted above. The obstacles put in one’s path from the demi-gods are exclusively in relation to a human aspiring for moksa or liberation and such obstacles are only possible before atma- tattva is attained never after as after that person is above and beyond their jurisdiction.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
For one situated is atma-tattva or soul realisation if one were to chant the Vedic mantras while performing yagna or worship there would be no greater or similar happiness other than the delight one having communion internally with their eternal soul. Also for a person so transcendentally situated there are no demerits accruing to such a one for not performing the prescribed actions in the Vedic scriptures due to samadhi or being rapt in meditation on the soul within. During samadhi there would be no danger of incurring any demerits for any offense or merits for any benefits for any being. Only whatever benefit one receives from direct darshan or perception of the Supreme Lord Krishna within his heart will be obtained during samadhi of such a person. If by knowledge alone there would not be any diminution in merits then that would also be the case for Arjuna who was instructed to perform actions on the side of dharma or righteousness. For a person who has attained self-realisation and moksa or liberation and is in the state of samadhi meditating blissfully on the soul within. Such a person is considered by Vedic authorities to be doing a very great thing similar to performing a great action like saving the world from destruction. Consequently it is indicated by understanding of prarabda karma or acquired results of activities that the performance of great actions are due to the will of the Supreme Lord.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna has declared previously that the performer of yagna prospers and flourishes and the ommiter of yagna fails to prosper and flourish but now He confirms that in this world the knower of atma-tattva or soul realisation has no need for prosperity or necessity for performing any action precsribed in the Vedas; nor is there any fault or defect in the ommision of any such action. What is done or what is not done is all the same to the perfectly equiposed realised being because such a person is indifferent to everything except the eternal soul within which is the only medium to the Supreme Lord. Thus completely satisfied within such a person has no dependance on any living being including the demi-gods. The purport is that such a person depends on nothing from anyone because such a person has no desire for anything from any being.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
3.18 Moreover, tasya, for him, who rejoices in the supreme Self; na, there is no; artham, concern; eva, at all; krtena, with performing action. Objection: In that case, let there be some evil called sin owing to non-performance! Reply: Iha, here, in this world; na, nor is there; for him kascana, any (concern); akrtena, with nonperfromance. Certainly there is no evil in the form of incurring sin or in the form of self-destruction. Ca, moreover; asya, for him; na asti, there is no; kascit artha-vyapasrayah sarva-bhutesu, dependence on any object, from Brahma to an unmoving thing, to serve any purpose. Vyapasrayah is the same as vyapasrayanam, dependence, which is possible of being created by action promted by necessity. (For him) there is no end to gain by depending on any praticular object, due to which there can be some action for that purpose. ‘You (Arjuna) are not established in this fullest realization which is comparable to a flood all around.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
3.18 See Comment under 3.19
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
naiva tasya krtenartho
na casya sarva-bhutesu
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
na — never; eva — certainly; tasya — his; kṛtena — by discharge of duty; arthaḥ — purpose; na — nor; akṛtena — without discharge of duty; iha — in this world; kaścana — whatever; na — never; ca — and; asya — of him; sarva-bhūteṣu — among all living beings; kaścit — any; artha — purpose; vyapāśrayaḥ — taking shelter of.