sadṛśaḿ ceṣṭate svasyāḥ
prakṛter jñānavān api
prakṛtiḿ yānti bhūtāni
nigrahaḥ kiḿ kariṣyati
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.33
Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What can repression accomplish?
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Unless one is situated on the transcendental platform of Krishna consciousness, he cannot get free from the influence of the modes of material nature, as it is confirmed by the Lord in the Seventh Chapter (7.14). Therefore, even for the most highly educated person on the mundane plane, it is impossible to get out of the entanglement of maya simply by theoretical knowledge, or by separating the soul from the body. There are many so-called spiritualists who outwardly pose as advanced in the science but inwardly or privately are completely under particular modes of nature which they are unable to surpass. Academically, one may be very learned, but because of his long association with material nature, he is in bondage. Krishna consciousness helps one to get out of the material entanglement, even though one may be engaged in his prescribed duties in terms of material existence. Therefore, without being fully in Krishna consciousness, one should not give up his occupational duties. No one should suddenly give up his prescribed duties and become a so-called yogi or transcendentalist artificially. It is better to be situated in one’s position and to try to attain Krishna consciousness under superior training. Thus one may be freed from the clutches of Krishna’s maya.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“Would they not be afraid of not following your instructions, the instructions of the Supreme Lord, or the instructions of a king?”
“No, they are not afraid.”
“Those who engage their senses for enjoyment, even if they are intelligent, cannot consider the orders of the king, the Supreme Lord. This is because of their nature.” The Lord explains this in this verse.
If the person of knowledge engages in sin, he will receive hellish punishment, just as a king punishes. And he will also bear infamy. Still, even the person of discrimination performs actions : which yield a burden of suffering, following his previous sinful habits.
Therefore all follow after their natures. The instructions oil scripture (nigrahah) made by me or the king, in the form oil niskama karma yoga, are able to purify and enlighten the impurel hearted, and in the form of jnana yoga, are able to purify and enlighten the pure hearted. But neither can purify the extremely impure (nigrahah kim karisyati).
But bhakti yoga arising from my unpredictable mercy can deliver even those most sinful persons. As the Skanda Purana says:
aho dhanyo ‘si devarse krpaya yasya te ksanat
nico ‘py utpulako lebhe lubdhako ratim ucyate
My dear friend Narada Muni, you are glorified as the sage among the demigods. By your mercy, even a lowborn person like this hunter immediately became ecstatic. This is called bhava or rati.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
3.33 Such and such is the nature of the self, which is different from the Prakrti — this has to be always contemplated upon: thus declare the Sastras. Even a person who knows this, acts in relation to material objects only according to his own nature, i.e., guided by his old subtle impressions. How is this? ‘All beings follow their nature.’ Beings in conjunction with non-conscient matter, all follow only subtle impressions which have continued to come from time immemorial. What can the control enjoined by Sastras, do to these beings who follow their subtle impressions? Sri Krsna expounds the way by which individuals are overpowered to follow their respective natures:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
It may be submitted that if follow the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita yields so much why isn’t everyone following their prescribed duties, free from desires and attachment. Lord Krishna answers that even a person of Vedic wisdom acts according to the nature received from samskara or impressions from past life actions. One always follows without fail their own disposition and nature. So it goes without saying that an ignorant person is even more dominated by their nature and will act ignorantly in all matters. So understanding in this light what can restraint of the senses accomplish with prakriti or material nature being so powerful? This is the meaning.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
A question may be raised that if it is so beneficial to follow the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita then why is not everyone following them. Lord Krishna explains that it is according to their own nature determined by samskaras or impressions from past lifetimes and because of the influence of prakriti or material nature interacting with the three gunas, or the modes of goodness, passion and nescience.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
If such a hopeless situation exists as given in the previous verse why does everyone not follow the sublime teachings of Bhagavad-Gita? Why are so many living entities hostile and antagonistic to the Bhagavad-Gitaâ€™s pristine instructions? In answer to this Lord Krishna states that all creatures follow accordingly to whatever nature they have attained and that nature shapes their actions. This nature is acquired from activities performed in past lives which ripen in this life as impressions of positive of negative acts. Even persons of wisdom in Vedic knowledge do not act contrary to their own natures. So what to say of the ignorant? They must follow there nature also acting in ignorance. The purport is that although it may be possible for such persons to abandon desires and attachment, the necessary purity of mind does not manifest to evoke feelings of dedication to the Supreme Lord Krishna and His impeccable treatise of Bhagavad-Gita.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
3.33 Api, even; jnanavan, a man of wisdom-what to speak of a fool!; cestate, behaves; Sadrsam, according to;-what? svasyah, his own; prakrteh, nature. Nature means the impressions of virtue, vice, etc. [Also, knowledge, desires, and so on.] acquired in the past (lives) and which become manifest at the commencement of the present life. All creatures (behave) according to that only. Therefore, bhutani, beings; yanti, follow; (their) prakrtim, nature. Nigrahah kim karisyati, what can restraint do, be it from Me or anybody else? If all beings behave only according to their own nature-and there is none without his nature-, then, since there arises the contingency of the scriptures becoming purposeless owing to the absence of any scope for personal effort, therefore the following is being stated:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
3.33 Sadrsam etc. There is hardly any difference in the wordly activities like eating etc., of him who is a man of wisdom. But he too acts only in conformity to the Sattva, etc., just knowing in this manner : ‘Because the elements like the Earth etc. get absorbed into the prakrti; and the Self is also a non-doer and ever-freed; therefore the erradication of birth etc., are for whose sake ?’ Then how can there be bondage at all [for a man of worldly life] ? That is as follows, it is said :
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
sadrsam cestate svasyah
prakrter jnanavan api
prakrtim yanti bhutani
nigrahah kim karisyati
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
sadṛśam — accordingly; ceṣṭate — tries; svasyāḥ — by his own; prakṛteḥ — modes of nature; jñāna-vān — learned; api — although; prakṛtim — nature; yānti — undergo; bhūtāni — all living entities; nigrahaḥ — repression; kim — what; kariṣyati — can do.