utsīdeyur ime lokā
na kuryāḿ karma ced aham
sańkarasya ca kartā syām
upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.24
If I did not perform prescribed duties, all these worlds would be put to ruination. I would be the cause of creating unwanted population, and I would thereby destroy the peace of all living beings.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Varna-sankara is unwanted population which disturbs the peace of the general society. In order to check this social disturbance, there are prescribed rules and regulations by which the population can automatically become peaceful and organized for spiritual progress in life. When Lord Krishna descends, naturally He deals with such rules and regulations in order to maintain the prestige and necessity of such important performances. The Lord is the father of all living entities, and if the living entities are misguided, indirectly the responsibility goes to the Lord. Therefore, whenever there is general disregard of regulative principles, the Lord Himself descends and corrects the society. We should, however, note carefully that although we have to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, we still have to remember that we cannot imitate Him. Following and imitating are not on the same level. We cannot imitate the Lord by lifting Govardhana Hill, as the Lord did in His childhood. It is impossible for any human being. We have to follow His instructions, but we may not imitate Him at any time. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.33.30–31) affirms:
naitat samacarej jatu
manasapi hy anishvarah
vinasyaty acaran maudhyad
yatha ’rudro ’bdhi-jam visam
ishvaranam vacah satyam
tesham yat sva-vaco-yuktam
buddhimams tat samacaret
“One should simply follow the instructions of the Lord and His empowered servants. Their instructions are all good for us, and any intelligent person will perform them as instructed. However, one should guard against trying to imitate their actions. One should not try to drink the ocean of poison in imitation of Lord Shiva.”
We should always consider the position of the ishvaras, or those who can actually control the movements of the sun and moon, as superior. Without such power, one cannot imitate the ishvaras, who are superpowerful. Lord Shiva drank poison to the extent of swallowing an ocean, but if any common man tries to drink even a fragment of such poison, he will be killed. There are many pseudo devotees of Lord Shiva who want to indulge in smoking ganja (marijuana) and similar intoxicating drugs, forgetting that by so imitating the acts of Lord Shiva they are calling death very near. Similarly, there are some pseudo devotees of Lord Krishna who prefer to imitate the Lord in His rasa-lila, or dance of love, forgetting their inability to lift Govardhana Hill. It is best, therefore, that one not try to imitate the powerful, but simply follow their instructions; nor should one try to occupy their posts without qualification. There are so many “incarnations” of God without the power of the Supreme Godhead.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Taking me as an example, the people, not performing dharma, would be destroyed. Mixed castes would result. I would be the cause of this. I would pollute the progeny.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
3.24 If I do not do the work suitable to My station in life, likewise all the virtuous men also, neglecting their duties by following My example, would be destroyed on account of not performing their duties. That is, they will become lost. Thus I would be bringing about chaos among all virtuous men on account of My failure to conduct Myself as prescribed in the scriptures. Therefore I would be destroying all these people. Even so, if you, Arjuna, a son of Pandu and a brother of Yudhisthira and the foremost of the virtuous, claim to be qualified for Jnana Yoga, then the virtuous aspirants, who do not know everything and who follow your way, without knowing their own competency, would give up practising Karma Yoga and will be lost. Therefore work should be done by one who is recognised as learned and worthy.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
What would happen then? Lord Krishna states that the world would degenerate and decay due to the absence of prescribed Vedic activities and that He would be the cause of the pollution of traditional values of the masses and the destruction of society.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
It is proper that people who follow the example of Lord Krishna are correct in their actions as He is omniscient and the creator of all. But because He is the Lord of all what would be wrong if He was not to engage Himself in actions. Explaining this Lord Krishna uses the words ime lokah utsideyuh meaning the inhabitants of all the worlds will be destroyed. If Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord and foremost on the path in knowledge of yoga or the uniting of the individual consciousness with the ultimate consciousness; if He would refrain from performing prescribed Vedic activities, people would follow His example and refrain from performing such actions also and they would deviate from their duty and deviate from dharma or righteousness. Then Lord Krishna would be to blame as by the example of renouncing actions is not inspiring and beneficial for the worlds. When the duties of society are ommitted there is confusion in society and such confusion leads to a lax in moral standards resulting in the mixture of different castes and unwanted children. The purport is that great harm would be caused to the people and socitey if Lord Krishna were to refrain from actions and so He always performs responsible actions for the welfare and benefit of the world.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
3.24 Cet, if; aham, I; na kuryam, do not perform; karma, action; all ime, these; lokah, worlds; utsideyuh, will be ruined, owing to the obsence of work responsible for the maintenance of the worlds. Ca, and, futher; syam, I shall become; karta, the agent; sankarasya, of intermingling (of castes). Consequently, upahanyam, I shall be destroying; imah, these; prajah, beings. That is to say, I who am engaged in helping the creatures, shall be destroying them. This would be unbefitting of Me, who am God. ‘On the other, if, like Me, you or some one else possesses the conviction of having attained Perfection and is a knower of the Self, it is a duty of such a one, too, to help others even if there be no obligation on his own part.’
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:
utsideyur ime loka
na kuryam karma ced aham
sankarasya ca karta syam
upahanyam imah prajah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
utsīdeyuḥ — would be put into ruin; ime — all these; lokāḥ — worlds; na — not; kuryām — I perform; karma — prescribed duties; cet — if; aham — I; sańkarasya — of unwanted population; ca — and; kartā — creator; syām — would be; upahanyām — would destroy; imāḥ — all these; prajāḥ — living entities.