arjuna uvāca
atha kena prayukto ‘yaḿ
pāpaḿ carati pūruṣaḥ
anicchann api vārṣṇeya
balād iva niyojitaḥ

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.36

Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrishni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?

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

A living entity, as part and parcel of the Supreme, is originally spiritual, pure, and free from all material contaminations. Therefore, by nature he is not subject to the sins of the material world. But when he is in contact with the material nature, he acts in many sinful ways without hesitation, and sometimes even against his will. As such, Arjuna’s question to Krishna is very sanguine, as to the perverted nature of the living entities. Although the living entity sometimes does not want to act in sin, he is still forced to act. Sinful actions are not, however, impelled by the Supersoul within, but are due to another cause, as the Lord explains in the next verse.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Referring to verse 34 about raga and dvesa, in this verse Arjuna asks about the attachment to the objects of the senses such as enjoyment with others’ wives even though it is forbidden by scripture.

Though without desire to engage in sin because of knowledge of the rules and prohibitions of the scriptures (anicchan), by what influence (kena prayuktah) does one engage in the act as if by force. This means that the desire for the object strongly arises under the influence of the object’s stimuli.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

3.36 Arjuna said — Impelled by what does a man practising Jnana Yoga commit sin in the form of experiencing the objects of the senses, as if constrained by force, even against his own will not to experience the objects of the senses.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna has stated in verse thirty-four that one should not come under the influence of attraction and aversion. Arjuna considering this to be impossible poses this question as it is seen that a person who is able to restrain and control their senses through discrimination can at any moment revert back to committing sinful activities. So Arjuna is enquiring is about the main cause for such flagrant inconsistency in people.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

There exists numerous reasons why a person is impelled to sinful activities. Here the word atha denotes which others. Some are desire and anger. Arjuna wants to know which is the strongest impetus in provoking one to do unrighteous acts and which should by all means be avoided in order of priority.

Now begins the summation.

After the Supreme Lord the demi-gods are the most powerful mediums of influence. Now Arjuna wants to know what other influences are next in importance.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

By stating another’s duty is fraught with danger Lord Krishna was indicating that fear of hellish births wa the fear in question. Arjuna understood this; but now he is enquiring if there is another reason sins are committed. It is known that sins lead one to hell and no fear is greater then the fear of going to hellish regions; so what is it that compels beings to commit sins even against their better judgement as though driven by force.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

3.36 Atha, now then; varsneya, O scion of the Vrsni dynasty; being prayuktah, impelled; kena, by what acting as the cause; as a servant is by a king, does ayam, this; purusah, man; carati, commit; papam, sin, a sinful act; api, even; anicchan, against his wish, though not himself willing; niyojitah, being constrained; balat, by force; iva, as it were-as if by a king, which illustration has already been given? The Lord (Bhaga-van) said: ‘You hear about that enemy, the source of all evil, of which you ask-.’ ‘Bhaga is said to consist of all kinds of majesty, virtue, fame, beauty, detachment as well as Liberation [Liberation stands for its cause, Illumination.], (V.P.6.5.74). That Vasudeva, in whom reside for ever, unimpeded and in their fullness, the six qualities of majesty etc. and who has the knowledge of such subjects as creation etc., is called Bhaga-van. ‘He is spoken of as Bhaga-van who is aware of creation and dissolution, gain and loss, [Gain and loss stand for future prosperity and adversity.] ignorance and Illumination of all beings’ (ibid. 78).

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

3.36 Atha etc. The question is this : Eventhough a man knows a sin to be a sin, why does he proceed on it ? The idea in raising this question is this : If one’s own duty cannot be (or should not be) given up, because it does not vanish from one’s own heart, then how to account for the sinful acts of these men [of the world] ? This amounts to say : What is one’s own duty by which the creature is never deserted ? Eventhough one’s own duty rests in one’s heart, the confusion (or evil) is created by the interruption (or covering) of an intruder, and it is not created by the absence of that duty-with this purport in mind, an answer to the above question-

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

arjuna uvaca
atha kena prayukto ‘yam
papam carati purusah
anicchann api varsneya
balad iva niyojitah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

arjunaḥ uvāca — Arjuna said; atha — then; kena — by what; prayuktaḥ — impelled; ayam — one; pāpam — sins; carati — does; pūruṣaḥ — a man; anicchan — without desiring; api — although; vārṣṇeya — O descendant of Vṛṣṇi; balāt — by force; iva — as if; niyojitaḥ — engaged.