na māḿ karmāṇi limpanti
na me karma-phale spṛhā
iti māḿ yo ‘bhijānāti
karmabhir na sa badhyate
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 4.14
There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
As there are constitutional laws in the material world stating that the king can do no wrong, or that the king is not subject to the state laws, similarly the Lord, although He is the creator of this material world, is not affected by the activities of the material world. He creates and remains aloof from the creation, whereas the living entities are entangled in the fruitive results of material activities because of their propensity for lording it over material resources. The proprietor of an establishment is not responsible for the right and wrong activities of the workers, but the workers are themselves responsible. The living entities are engaged in their respective activities of sense gratification, and these activities are not ordained by the Lord. For advancement of sense gratification, the living entities are engaged in the work of this world, and they aspire to heavenly happiness after death. The Lord, being full in Himself, has no attraction for so-called heavenly happiness. The heavenly demigods are only His engaged servants. The proprietor never desires the low-grade happiness such as the workers may desire. He is aloof from the material actions and reactions. For example, the rains are not responsible for different types of vegetation that appear on the earth, although without such rains there is no possibility of vegetative growth. Vedic smriti confirms this fact as follows:
yato vai srjya-saktayah
“In the material creations, the Lord is only the supreme cause. The immediate cause is material nature, by which the cosmic manifestation is made visible.” The created beings are of many varieties, such as the demigods, human beings and lower animals, and all of them are subject to the reactions of their past good or bad activities. The Lord only gives them the proper facilities for such activities and the regulations of the modes of nature, but He is never responsible for their past and present activities. In the Vedanta-sutra (2.1.34) it is confirmed, vaisamya-nairghrnye na sapeksatvat: the Lord is never partial to any living entity. The living entity is responsible for his own acts. The Lord only gives him facilities, through the agency of material nature, the external energy. Anyone who is fully conversant with all the intricacies of this law of karma, or fruitive activities, does not become affected by the results of his activities. In other words, the person who understands this transcendental nature of the Lord is an experienced man in Krishna consciousness, and thus he is never subjected to the laws of karma. One who does not know the transcendental nature of the Lord and who thinks that the activities of the Lord are aimed at fruitive results, as are the activities of the ordinary living entities, certainly becomes entangled himself in fruitive reactions. But one who knows the Supreme Truth is a liberated soul fixed in Krishna consciousness.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“Let all that be, but now you have appeared in a ksatriya family, and daily perform activities obligatory to the ksatriya. It seems you are subsisting as a ksatriya.”
“But these activities do not contaminate me as they do for jiva. Nor do I have desire for results of those actions such as svarga. Being full of my own bliss because I am the Supreme Lord, the only reason for my doing these actions is to encourage mankind. He who knows this is not bound, but he who does not know is bound by karma.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
4.14 These actions of varied nature like creation etc., do not contaminate Me i.e., do not bind Me. For the distinctions of gods, men etc., are not brought about by Me, but by the particular Karmas, good and evil, of created beings. Therefore by the process of discriminating between the acquired and the inherent, it will be found that I am not the author of this varied creations etc. The created or embodied selves, who are endowed with bodies and organs at the time of creation in accordance with their own Karmas springing from attachment to fruits etc., experience all enjoyments available in creation. Thus for them (embodied selves) alone there is desire for the results of creation etc., and for the results of their Karmas. There is no desire in Me for it. The Sutrakara says to the same effect: ‘No partiality or cruelty on account of there being dependence (on the Karma of souls for inequalities’ (Br. S., 2.1.34). Bhagavan Parasara also says so: ‘He (the Lord) is only the operative cause in the creation of beings. That from which the creative forces spring constitutes the material cause. Leaving aside the material cause, the being that becomes embodied does not require the help of any other thing whatever. A thing is led into the condition in which it is, O best of ascetics, only by its own potentiality’ (V. P., 1.4.51-2). The Supreme Person is only the operative cause with regard to the creation of those to be created, i.e., the selves in the bodies of gods etc. The material cause for the differences into gods etc., is the potentiality in the form of previous Karmas of the selves to be created. Therefore, leaving aside the operative cause, i.e., the Supreme Person, the creator, the embodied beings do not require anything else for causing difference into conditions of gods etc. For these selves are led to take the forms of gods etc., by the potentiality of their own old Karma with which they are connected. Such is the meaning. He who knows Me thus to be the agent of creation etc., and still a non-agent, i.e., as one who has no desire for the results of the acts of creation etc., — such a person is not tied by previous actions, i.e., he is freed from the old Karmas which obstruct the undertaking of Karma Yoga by causing attachment to results. Such is the purport.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The very nature of transcendentalism is being shown here by Lord Krishna declaring that actions of any type never affect Him even if they are for the protection of the universe because He is not touched by egoism and although He is the origin of all He is unattached and desireless. What is the use of saying Lord Krishna is not touched by them when even His devotees who know He is free from desire to fruits of any action are not bound by their actions as well. This is because one who knows the cause of Lord Krishna’s being untouched by actions is due to the absence of all egoism, desires and attachments subsequently has their own egoism, desires and attachments evaporated.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna is declaring that actions do not bind Him as He has no desires to the rewards of any actions. This is not to imply that He does not want the best for creation but only He is equipoise to prakriti or material nature. Even though the Supreme Lord wills the creation into existence and always is the protector of dharma or eternal righteousness and out of His causeless mercy has the best wishes for its development He is not attached to it. This knowledge of this attribute of the Supreme Lord removes one’s own misconceptions of attachment and craving for rewards to the point where one’s desires are not binding by performing prescribed Vedic activities exclusively. In this way a person of Vedic knowledge so inclined would able to attain moksa or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. It is not that moksa comes to everyone automatically in due course of time in that case the whole world would be attaining liberation without the prerequisite knowledge. Therefore one should realise the atma or soul within the heart by knowledge in the mind. By this eternal life is achieved by the spiritually wise. How is this eternity to be understood? As the atma is without beginning or ending , kala or time is without beginning or ending.
Now begins the summation.
To emphasise the distinction between Lord Krishna and other living entities He twice uses the word mam karmani meaning actions do not bind Me and mam abhijanati meaning one who knows Me in truth.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
One may wonder how is it possible that Lord Krishna is not implicated by any actions and that reactions to actions are not applicable to Him? To understand this one should look at it in the following way. Although the growth of mangoes, rice and papayas are undoubtedly supported by rain showers, the rain has no attachment not having any desire for tasting and enjoying the fruits. Similarly in this creation containing various human beings characterised by divine and demoniac natures, possessing good and evil propensities, performing righteous or unrighteous actions and receiving the bestowal of their reactions it is the Supreme Lord Krishna who sanctions these rewards. But there is no partiality or injustice coming from Him every human being creates their own karma or reactions to actions defined by the actions they have been performing life after life since time immemorial. In Brahma Sutras II.III.XXXIV written by Vedavyasa it states that: Partiality and injustice can never be attributed to the Supreme Lord as there are other considerations that must be taken into account and this is because the Vedic scriptures have declared it so. Lord Krishna confirms here that even those who know Him as the origin of creation and all the worlds and know that He is not implicated by any activity being transcendental to prakrit or material nature; these individuals also have their desires and worldly attachments terminated and are not bound by their actions.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
4.14 Because of the absence of egoism, those karmani, actions; na limpanti, do not taint; mam, Me, by becoming the originators of body etc. And me, for Me; na sprha, there is no hankering for the results of those actions. But in the case of transmigrating beings, who have self-identification in the form, ‘I am the agent’, and thirst for actions as also for their results, it is reasonable that actions should taint them. Owing to the absence of these, actions do not taint Me. Anyone else, too, yah, who; abhijanati, knows; mam, Me; iti, thus, as his own Self, and (knows), ‘I am not an agent; I have no hankering for the results of actions’; sah, he; na badhyate, does not become bound; karmabhih, by actions. In his case also actions cease to be the originators of body etc. This is the import.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
4.13-14 Catur-varnyam etc. Na mam etc. How can there be taint of actions in Me Who remain like the ether ? The comparison with ether is due to the absence of desire [in both]. As such etc. : whosoever, with this sort of thought, takes refuge in the Bhagavat i.e. contemplates everywhere at all times on the Bliss-dense Supreme Lord as ‘There exits nothing othe than Vasudeva [the Absolute]’ – for him can there be any bondage by actions ?
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
na mam karmani limpanti
na me karma-phale sprha
iti mam yo ’bhijanati
karmabhir na sa badhyate
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
na — never; mām — Me; karmāṇi — all kinds of work; limpanti — do affect; na — nor; me — My; karma-phale — in fruitive action; spṛhā — aspiration; iti — thus; mām — Me; yaḥ — one who; abhijānāti — does know; karmabhiḥ — by the reaction of such work; na — never; saḥ — he; badhyate — becomes entangled.