yadi hy ahaḿ na varteyaḿ
jātu karmaṇy atandritaḥ
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.23
For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Partha, certainly all men would follow My path.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
In order to keep the balance of social tranquillity for progress in spiritual life, there are traditional family usages meant for every civilized man. Although such rules and regulations are for the conditioned souls and not Lord Krishna, because He descended to establish the principles of religion He followed the prescribed rules. Otherwise, common men would follow in His footsteps, because He is the greatest authority. From the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is understood that Lord Krishna was performing all the religious duties at home and out of home, as required of a householder.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Anuvartante (they do follow) is used with the meaning anuvarteran (they would follow).
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
3.23 If I, the Lord of all, whose will is always true, whose sport consists in creation, sustentation and dissolution of universe at My will, even though I am born at My pleasure as a man to help the world — if, I thus incarnating in the family of Vasudeva who is the foremost among virtuous men, did not contine to work unwearied at all times suitable to that family, then, these men with incomplete knowledge would follow My path, thinking that the way adopted by the son of virtuous Vasudeva alone is the real way. And in place of winning the self, they would go to Naraka because of their failure to do what ought to be done and also because of the sin arising from non-performance of duty.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The imperishable nature of the eternal soul is being explicitly proven by showing the impossibility of any means to slay it by these examples in answer to the previous statement of how can the eternal soul be slain in any way?
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
In the normal course of events in the material existence although there is no destruction there may appear that some being is destroyed like in the case of Daksa losing his head due to the wrath of Siva. To avoid misinterpretations in this way the Supreme Lord mentions the fact that the soul can not be pierced in any way.
Now begins the summation.
As there is no means for the destruction of the Supreme Lord there is also no means of destruction for the immortal soul.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
It could be interjected that just as in a burning house the occupants of the house are burned along with it, so also in the case of the soul if the physical body is burnt or cut might not the soul be burnt or cut as well. To annihilate this misconception the Supreme Lord Krishna expains that never can the soul be cut by weapons, never can the soul be burned by fire, never can the soul be moistened by water and never can the soul be withered by air. Although only one use of the word na meaning never would have been sufficient to establish the premise of utter futility in trying to destroy the soul, it is used four times to strengthen the empasis insuring there is not even the slightest vestige of doubt.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
3.23 Again, O Partha, yadi, if; jatu, at any time; aham, I; an, do not; varteyam, continue; atandritah, vigilantly, untiringly; karmani, in action; manusyah, men: anuvartante, willl follow; mama, My; vartma, path; sarvasah, in every way, I being the Highest. And if that be so, what is the harm? In reply the Lord says: [Ast. omits this sentence completely.-Tr.]
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
3.23-25 Yadi etc. upto loka-sangraham. Further, if a well-in-formed person were to abandon action, that would create in the society, a split for bad in the form of being illrooted, becuase of the binding force – viz., the regard for a particular well-known theroy-being loosened. For, they are able neither to cast off their tendency of action nor to accupy the tradition (or stream) of wisdom. Consequently they become weak. Because these (common men) are not purified correct knowledge, therefore to break i.e., to shake their mind would be highly harmful for them. Hence, for their benefit, one should not disturb their mind. This [the Lord] says :
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
yadi hy aham na varteyam
jatu karmany atandritah
manusyah partha sarvasah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
yadi — if; hi — certainly; aham — I; na — do not; varteyam — thus engage; jātu — ever; karmaṇi — in the performance of prescribed duties; atandritaḥ — with great care; mama — My; vartma — path; anuvartante — would follow; manuṣyāḥ — all men; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; sarvaśaḥ — in all respects.