saktāḥ karmaṇy avidvāḿso
yathā kurvanti bhārata
kuryād vidvāḿs tathāsaktaś
cikīrṣur loka-sańgraham

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.25


As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

A person in Krishna consciousness and a person not in Krishna consciousness are differentiated by different desires. A Krishna conscious person does not do anything which is not conducive to development of Krishna consciousness. He may even act exactly like the ignorant person, who is too much attached to material activities, but one is engaged in such activities for the satisfaction of his sense gratification, whereas the other is engaged for the satisfaction of Krishna. Therefore, the Krishna conscious person is required to show the people how to act and how to engage the results of action for the purpose of Krishna consciousness.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

He summarizes here that action should be done even by a person established in jnana.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:3.25 ‘The ignorant’ are those people who do not know the entire truth about the self; ‘attached to their work’ means they are inseparably yoked to work. Because of their incomplete knowledge of the self, they are not qualified for Jnana Yoga which is of the nature of practising knowledge of the self. They are qualified for Karma Yoga only. As they should practise Karma Yoga for the vision of the self in the same manner Karma Yoga should be practised by one who is recognised as virtuous, who is unattached to work by reason of the vision of the self, and who wishes that his conduct should give guidance to others in virtuous conduct. In this way he should protect the world from chaos by his example. Such a person, even though qualified for Jnana Yoga, should practice Karma Yoga.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Analysing the subject further it is known as avyaktah or unmanifest not being able to be perceived by the eye or any other of the senses, acintyah or inconceivable not being able to be perceived by the mind. The word avikaryah meaning unchangeable is in the sense of not being modifiable by any of the organs of action. The word ucyate meaning it is said thus indicates that authoritative testimony corroborates the validity of the immortal soul being eternal and everlasting as given in the previous verse. The word tasmat means therefore and by its use it is shown that this is a concluding statement.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The Supreme Lord is verily the manifestation of the inconceivable Himself.

Now begins the summation.

It might be questioned that if the Supreme Lord is all pervading why is He not visible? The reason is because He is inconceivable. It may be further queried how does He appear so endowed? Because of His power of remaining unthinkable; but this power does not come from any outside source but is contained solely within Himself. Whatever forms He exhibits in all these He alone manifests fully. To emphasise words like enam and ayam indicating the eternal soul are used in different contexts. In the case of the living entities it is to show that their eternal soul has qualitatively the same essence and attributes as the Supreme Lord but infinitesimal quantitatively. This is further confirmed in various Vedic scriptures.

In the Paingi Struti it is stated:

The physical body, pleasures and fragrances, light of wisdom, impeccable bravery; these things reflect the best of all wisdom, the best of all pleasures and bravery which find their source within the Ultimate Supreme Personality the Supreme Lord Krishna.

In the Parama Sruti it is stated:

The Supreme Lord Krishna is known to be both possessing a body and devoid of body. This is because He possesses a spiritual transcendental body but he is not possessing a physical body. Because His body is not constituted from the elements of material nature it is said to be a-dehah. The head, the feet, the arms and other parts of this spiritual, transcendental body are made up of the Supreme Lord Himself. There exists nothing which is distinctive from this spiritual, transcendental nature which can be called His body therefore He is called a-dehah without body. He Himself is His form and this spiritual, transcendental form is eternally existing beyond the scope of material existence.

Other than the Supreme Lord Krishna, none else is competent to comprehend this form. There is never for the Supreme Lord the creation or separation or destruction of His spiritual, transcendental body. He and His body are one and the same spiritual, transcendental essence. All of His beauty and all of His wonderful and phenomenal attributes are recorded only to understand that He is the source, the original repository of all attributes. The awareness that I am this physical body is an experience common to all living entities. Even though such a distinct awareness is normal it is perceived as special. Even though it is special, one does not perceive it as being separate from one’s own individual consciousness. So how can there ever be a manifestation of the resplendent Supreme Lord for one who cannot even first perceive their own individual consciousness within themselves?

Although attributes may which appear contradictory in normal, mundane human behaviour, it should be understood without a doubt that no such discrepancy ever exists in regard to the Supreme Lord when spoken of in various scriptures. Discrepancies imagined during reflection or speculated due to non-reflection are all a product of ignorance. They do not exist as a reality. These attributes are self revealed.

In the Suparna section of the Rig Veda it is stated:

The one only, without a second, before which there was nothing else whatsoever. Death was enveloped by death. Nothing else was visible. Like the waters which emanate from the mountains flow down in various rivers, whoever sees the attributes of the Supreme Lord in various manifested forms loses merit. Whoever sees even the slightest difference in the descents of the Supreme Lord Krishna’s multifarious and variegated incarnations such as Narasingha, Kurma and others from His attributes and actions and also a difference in these manifestations will go to the world of nescience. Therefore living entities who desire to learn about the Supreme Lord should start by knowing Him as indivisible.

Even if there appears to be some special difference it should be understood to be so due to time and circumstance. For example there is no difference between His special attributes and His special strength. There is as well no factual difference whatsoever between any special attribute and any of His special incarnation and His supreme distinctive and indivisible aspect. There is complete and absolute continuity and similarity in all respects in His original two armed form as the Supreme Lord Krishna and all of His unlimited incarnations and expansions.

There are six categories of incarnations of the Supreme Lord Krishna. The Four Kumaras, Hamsa, Varaha, Narada, Nara-Narayana, Kapila, Yagna, Dattatreya, Hayagriva, Prsnigarbha, Rsabha, Prithu, Matsya, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Vyasa, Rama, Balarama, Buddha and Kalki are known as Lila Avatars. The three manifestations of Visnu are known as Purusa Avataras of the Supreme Lord Krishna. Brahma and Shiva are known as Guna Avatars, incarnations such as Hari and Ajita are known as Manvantara Avatars, incarnations such as Anantadeva and Sesha Naga are known as Saktyavesa Avatars and incarnations such as Sukla, Rakta, Shyama and Pita are known as Yuga Avatars.

In the Varaha Purana it is stated:

All these avatars are bonafide incarnations of the Supreme Lord Krishna and then there are still all of His numerous, authorised expansions and His unlimited associates who descend to a material world with Him to assist in His pastimes. Those who have been blessed to know the Supreme Lord in this manner, onto them is the love of the Supreme Lord Krishna bestowed. Those who think otherwise due to misguided false conceptions, lack of opportunity for learning the Ultimate Truth or the inherent limitations of their own mind will fall permanently into the worlds of nescience.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

In this verse Lord Krishna gives additional reasons why one should never grieve for the soul. Because the soul is unmanifest it is not able to be cut or burned like objects which are manifest in this world and being unmanifest it is inconceivable as it is not possible to equate it with the form or nature of anything that one could imagine in the material existence. Being unable to imagine the constitution of the soul indicates it is immutable because it is devoid of any process of modification for example milk transforming to youghurt. Therfore comprehending the nature and quality of the soul as enunciated above one should not be under the delusion of lamentation.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

3.25 O scion of the Bharata dynasty, yatha, as; some avidvamsah, unenlightened poele; kurvanti, act. saktah, with attachment; karmani, to work, (thinking) ‘The reward of this work will accrue to me’; tatha, so; should vidvan, the enlightened person, the knower of the Self; kuryat, act; asaktah, without attachment, remaining unattached. [Giving up the idea of agentship and the hankering for the rewards of actions to oneself.] Whay does he (the enlightened person) act like him (the former)? Listen to that: Cikirsuh, being desirous of achieving; lokasamgraham, prevention of people from going astray. ‘Neither for Me who am a knower of the Self, nor for any other (knower of the Self) who wants thus prevent people from going astray, is there any duty apart from working for the welfare of the world. Hence, the following advice is being given to such a knower of the Self:’

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:

saktah karmany avidvamso
yatha kurvanti bharata
kuryad vidvams tathasaktas
cikirsur loka-sangraham

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

saktāḥ — being attached; karmaṇi — in prescribed duties; avidvāḿsaḥ — the ignorant; yathā — as much as; kurvanti — they do; bhārata — O descendant of Bharata; kuryāt — must do; vidvān — the learned; tathā — thus; asaktaḥ — without attachment; cikīrṣuḥ — desiring to lead; loka-sańgraham — the people in general.