nādatte kasyacit pāpaḿ
na caiva sukṛtaḿ vibhuḥ
ajñānenāvṛtaḿ jñānaḿ
tena muhyanti jantavaḥ

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 5.15

Nor does the Supreme Lord assume anyone’s sinful or pious activities. Embodied beings, however, are bewildered because of the ignorance which covers their real knowledge.

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

The Sanskrit word vibhu means the Supreme Lord who is full of unlimited knowledge, riches, strength, fame, beauty and renunciation. He is always satisfied in Himself, undisturbed by sinful or pious activities. He does not create a particular situation for any living entity, but the living entity, bewildered by ignorance, desires to be put into certain conditions of life, and thereby his chain of action and reaction begins. A living entity is, by superior nature, full of knowledge. Nevertheless, he is prone to be influenced by ignorance due to his limited power. The Lord is omnipotent, but the living entity is not. The Lord is vibhu, or omniscient, but the living entity is anu, or atomic. Because he is a living soul, he has the capacity to desire by his free will. Such desire is fulfilled only by the omnipotent Lord. And so, when the living entity is bewildered in his desires, the Lord allows him to fulfill those desires, but the Lord is never responsible for the actions and reactions of the particular situation which may be desired. Being in a bewildered condition, therefore, the embodied soul identifies himself with the circumstantial material body and becomes subjected to the temporary misery and happiness of life. The Lord is the constant companion of the living entity as Paramatma, or the Supersoul, and therefore He can understand the desires of the individual soul, as one can smell the flavor of a flower by being near it. Desire is a subtle form of conditioning for the living entity. The Lord fulfills his desire as he deserves: Man proposes and God disposes. The individual is not, therefore, omnipotent in fulfilling his desires. The Lord, however, can fulfill all desires, and the Lord, being neutral to everyone, does not interfere with the desires of the minute independent living entities. However, when one desires Krishna, the Lord takes special care and encourages one to desire in such a way that one can attain to Him and be eternally happy. The Vedic hymns therefore declare, esa u hy eva sadhu karma karayati tam yam ebhyo lokebhya unninisate. esa u evasadhu karma karayati yam adho ninisate: “The Lord engages the living entity in pious activities so that he may be elevated. The Lord engages him in impious activities so that he may go to hell.” (Kausitaki Upanishad 3.8)

ajno jantur aniso ’yam
atmanah sukha-duhkhayoh
ishvara-prerito gacchet
svargam vasv abhram eva ca

“The living entity is completely dependent in his distress and happiness. By the will of the Supreme he can go to heaven or hell, as a cloud is driven by the air.”

Therefore the embodied soul, by his immemorial desire to avoid Krishna consciousness, causes his own bewilderment. Consequently, although he is constitutionally eternal, blissful and cognizant, due to the littleness of his existence he forgets his constitutional position of service to the Lord and is thus entrapped by nescience. And, under the spell of ignorance, the living entity claims that the Lord is responsible for his conditional existence. The Vedanta-sutras (2.1.34) also confirm this. Vaisamya-nairghrnye na sapeksatvat tatha hi darsayati: “The Lord neither hates nor likes anyone, though He appears to.”

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Since the Lord does not make the jiva do either good or bad actions, he does not experience the results in the form on suffering or enjoyment. He does not accept (na adatte) them. However, one of his associates, his sakti called ignorance (ajnanena) covers the inherent knowledge of the jiva. Because of this (tena), the jivas are bewildered (and hence acting and suffering and enjoying their karma).

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:5.15 Because, It, the Atman is ‘all-pervading’, i.e., is not limited to particular area or space included in the bodies of gods, men etc.; It is not the relative or the enemy of any one. For this reason It does not take away or remove the evil or suffering of anyone such as a son who is related and therefore dear to one; nor does It take away, i.e., remove the happiness of anyone whom It deems with aversion. All this is the effect of Vasanas or subtle impressions of Prakrti. How does do these contrary Vasanas originte in the case of one whose intrinsic nature is a described above? In answer it is said that knowledge is enveloped by the darkness of ignorance. The Atman’s knowledge is enveloped, i.e., contracted by preceding Karmas which are opposed to knowledge, so that a person may be qualified to experience the fruits of his own Karma. It is by this Karma, which contracts knowledge, and can join the Jiva with the bodies of gods etc., that the misconception that the bodies are the selves is produced. Consequently there will originate the Vasanas or the unconscious subtle impressions born of such misapprehension of the self and the inclination to undertake actions corresponding to them. Sri Krsna now brings into proper sequence what has been taught before in the following verses: ‘You will completely cross over the sea of all your sins with the boat of knowledge’ (4.36), and ‘The fire of knowledge reduces all Karmas to ashes in the same way’ (4.37), and ‘For there is no purifier here equal to knowledge’ (4.38).

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The sublime, transcendental Supreme Lord although the energiser and controller of all living beings in creation does not partake of the merits of piety or the demerits of sins from any living entity. The reason being He is all pervasive, omniscient, eternal and thus He is always completely fulfilled directing the living entities precisely according to their previous actions by His external potency known as Maya the inscrutable illusory energy.

A question may be raised that it is seen that the Supreme Lord is merciful to His devotees and blesses them; but is unmerciful to non-devotees and chastises them which denotes partiality. So how does this exemplify that He is always completely fulfilled. Lord Krishna clarifies this doubt with the word jnanam meaning knowledge. Cognisance is the intrinsic nature of a human being and without it discrimination cannot manifest and the knowledge that the Supreme Lord is equal to all will be enveloped in ignorance. Thus one enveloped in ignorance is unable to discern that chastisement from the Supreme Lord for sinful activities is also His mercy and a blessing as well. Because of misconceptions beings become deluded from time immemorial and attribute partiality to the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The Supreme Lord being completely transcendental and independent to the material existence does not accept the pious merits or the sinful demerits of any human being and although He energises all of their activities He is never affected by them. This is because human beings are endowed with freewill and viveka or a sense of discrimination and this unlike the animals gives them a limited independence regarding their own actions and the choice of their activities. But when their sense of discrimination becomes shrouded by ignorance in the absence of Vedic knowledge their awareness becomes obscured and they become deluded and assume responsibility or authorship for their individual actions and thus they assume also the reactions that accompany their actions binding them tightly to samara or the cycle of birth and death. If by chance an awareness arises in their consciousness that they are enveloped and shrouded in the delusion of illusion they do not consider that they have the ability to change anything because they do not realise that it is Supreme Lord who initiates all actions. The resplendent Supreme Lord Krishna is like the sun in the sky illuminates His light on the noble and the vile, the sinful and the pious impartially. And as although sunlight touching the Earth is not affected by events that happen in the world similarly the Supreme Lord is not affected by the events which transpire in the life of human beings or any other being.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna begins stating nadatte kasyacit papam meaning that He never accepts the sins of any being. He also never accepts the piety of any being either. So He is not connected to any merit or demerit they may incur by their actions. But as the energising principle of all creation naturally all beings are impelled according to their own natures by Him. If the Supreme Lord, the impeller of all beings is not involved in the doership and activities of the embodied beings and He is not a recipient of any of their merits and demerits then why is it that embodied beings perform actions that bind them to material existence. The word jnanam or knowledge denoting cognisance is used here. One’s natural cognisance and spiritual discrimination is enveloped in ignorance since time immemorial and so the embodied being is infatuated by delusion. Hence they perform sinful activities believing them to be good and when they receive severe repercussions as reactions for such sinful activities they blame the Supreme Lord for injustice or for being partial and by making offences they sink further into nescience.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

5.15 Vibhuh, the Omnipresent; na adatte, neither accetps; kasyacit, anybody’s-even a adevotee’s; papam, sin; na ca eva, nor even; does He accept sukrtam, virtue offered by devotees. Why then are such virtuous acts as worship etc. as also sacrifices, charity, oblation, etc. worship etc. as also sacrifices, charity, oblation, etc. offered by devotees? To this the Lord says: Jnanam, knowledge, discriminating wisdom; remains avrtam, covered; ajnanena, by ignorance. Tena, thereby; jantavah, the creatures, the non-discriminating people in the world; muhyanti, become deluded thus-‘I do; I make others do; I eat; I make others eat.’

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

5.15 Nadatte etc. The sinful acts and the like have been effected not by the Soul; but they have been effected by the Illusion belonging to It, just as a poison is effected in the nectar by a doubt. Therefore-

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

nadatte kasyacit papam
na caiva sukrtam vibhuh
ajñanenavrtam jñanam
tena muhyanti jantavah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

na — never; ādatte — accepts; kasyacit — anyone’s; pāpam — sin; na — nor; ca — also; eva — certainly; su-kṛtam — pious activities; vibhuḥ — the Supreme Lord; ajñānena — by ignorance; āvṛtam — covered; jñānam — knowledge; tena — by that; muhyanti — are bewildered; jantavaḥ — the living entities.