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:
This verse continues the theme of the previous verse that if Lord Krishna did not perform prescribed Vedic actions with vigilance and attention when the need arose then lesser great personalities would follow His example and it would bring ruin to the world.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna appeared as the son of King Vasudeva from the Vrishni dynasty, the foremost of the righteous. If Lord Krishna was to fail to perform prescribed Vedic activities then so many lesser personalities would follow in His footsteps thinking that is the standard. Lord Krishna is stating that He would be at fault for leading them falsely in the wrong way.
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.