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:
Now Lord Krishna gives the defects in not believing and following prescribed Vedic activities. Those who are inimical to the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita and are antagonistic to the injunction of the Vedas that all activities should be performed in yagna or worship for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Such people should be known as fools and lacking in discrimination and all of their activities contrary to this are doomed to failure.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
In these verses Lord Krishna is speaking about the merits one receives from following the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita. Those who perform prescribed Vedic activities with renunciation gradually achieve moksa or liberation by jnana yoga the path of cultivating Vedic knowledge. Who then can calculate the position of one who has attained atma-tattva or soul realisation. Now karma yoga the path of performing prescribed Vedic actions is not given as another medium of attainment. Renunciation and dedication of one’s actions are solely for the sake of realising the Supreme Being only. For realisation of the Supreme Being, liberation does not depend upon one particular path. In the Narayana Shataksara it is stated that: All paths may or may not award moksa to the dedicated aspirant treading upon them depending upon their level of renunciation in the performance of unattached actions. But renunciation by itself, not being dependent upon anything else is capable of awarding moksa to those who fully perform it. Therefore the contention that jnana yoga and karma yoga alone are sufficient to award moksa is not correct.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Here Lord Krishna points out that those persons who disrespect and ignore and refuse to follow the edicts and injunctions of the Bhagavad-Gita that are for the benefit of all mankind are fools, bereft of spiritual knowledge and in such a state of ignorance all their activities are fruitless and they hopelessly revolve in the cycle of birth and death, birth and death, birth and death, ad infinitum.
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.