chinnābhram iva naśyati
vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 6.38
O mighty-armed Krishna, does not such a man, who is bewildered from the path of transcendence, fall away from both spiritual and material success and perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
There are two ways to progress. Those who are materialists have no interest in transcendence; therefore they are more interested in material advancement by economic development, or in promotion to the higher planets by appropriate work. When one takes to the path of transcendence, one has to cease all material activities and sacrifice all forms of so-called material happiness. If the aspiring transcendentalist fails, then he apparently loses both ways; in other words, he can enjoy neither material happiness nor spiritual success. He has no position; he is like a riven cloud. A cloud in the sky sometimes deviates from a small cloud and joins a big one. But if it cannot join a big one, then it is blown away by the wind and becomes a nonentity in the vast sky. The brahmanah pathi is the path of transcendental realization through knowing oneself to be spiritual in essence, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, who is manifested as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. Lord Sri Krishna is the fullest manifestation of the Supreme Absolute Truth, and therefore one who is surrendered to the Supreme Person is a successful transcendentalist. To reach this goal of life through Brahman and Paramatma realization takes many, many births (bahunam janmanam ante [Bg. 7.19]). Therefore the supermost path of transcendental realization is bhakti-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, the direct method.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Kvacit indicates only a question. Having failed on both sides, having given up the path of karma and taken completely to the path of yoga and given that up, does he disappear like a cloud which separates from the original cloud, and does not become another cloud, but instead disappears in the middle of the sky? The difficulty is that from having entered the path of yoga, one develops a desire of give up enjoyment of material objects, and because of lack of real detachment also, has a desire to enjoy those objects. Because of not doing activities leading to svarga loka and also not completing the practice of yoga leading to liberation, he attains neither svarga nor liberation. Thus, becoming bewildered in the method of attaining brahman, not having achieved the goal (apratisthah), does he get destroyed or not? This I ask you.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
6.37 – 6.39 Arjuna said — What way does he go, who has embarked on Yoga endowed with faith, but who by inadequacy of exertion in practice, does not gain success in Yoga and has his mind wandering from Yoga? Does he not perish like a small piece of cloud torn from a large mass of cloud — perish without reaching another large mass of cloud? Now does he not fall away from both (sides)? He has no support and is confused on the path leading to the Brahman. He is without any support in the sense that Karma or rituals which constitutes the means of heaven etc., does not give support for a person who is devoid of attachment to fruits; for Karma is the means for generating its own fruits. He is also confused in the path leading to the Brahman on which he has just begun to traverse; He has lost his way. Does he then get lost by falling down from both sides, these being attainment of heaven on the one hand and liberation on the other. Does he not thus perish? You should remove this doubt altogether from my mind; for there is no other remover of this doubt than You, who always perceive directly all matters simultaneously.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The import of the question is now being delineated. Firstly an aspirant having exclusively offered all activities unto the Supreme Lord without having performed any activities for attaining svarga loka or the heavenly spheres does not arrive there. Secondly failing to obtain success in yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness by dhyana or meditation one does not attain moksa or liberation from the material existence either. Thus not qualified for both and deluded on the path leading to the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence and atma tattva or realisation of the soul. Does such a one perish or does such a one escape death? This is the question posed to Lord Krishna. A metaphor concerning the destrution of such a one is given by the example of a detached cloud in the sky being disconnected from the mass and unable to attach to another is dissolved in the interval is it not so for such a one.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Now before Lord Krishna answers him. Arjuna also wishes to know what becomes of the person who is performing actions for the Supreme Lord without any consideration of personal gains and does not succeed in perfecting yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness. Because such a person was not performing any actions for entering heaven they will subsequently be unqualified for access to heaven and hence not connected anywhere. This is what Arjuna is meaning in his analogy of a cloud split off from a greater cloud but unable to join an even greater cloud. The purport is that the yogi abandoned karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities to become established in the highest path of yoga by dhyana or meditation; but subsequently failed to perfect it in their life. So missing the chance to enter svarga loka or the heavenly worlds and also failing to attain atma tattva or realisation of the soul do they perish?
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
6.38 Mahabaho, O Mighty-armed one; ubhaya-vibhrastah, fallen from both, having fallen from the Path of Action and the Path of Yoga; apratisthah, without support; vimudhah, deluded-having become deluded; brahmanah pathi, on the path of Brahman, on the path leading to Brahman; kaccit na, does he not; nasyati, get ruined; iva, like; a chinna-abhram, scattered cloud? Or is it that he does not?
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
6.37-39 Ayatah etc. upto na hyupapadyate. Even if his mind has moved away from the Yoga, he had reached, the faith in [his] mind is not lost. for, a person – even if he has achieved the Yoga – makes all [achievements] useless, if his faith is completely lost. That has been said :- ‘Even after attaining the perfect knowledge, if it gets vitiated due to the caprices of mind, that very moment it perishes soon, just as a heap of cotton does due to fire’. If a complete success in the Yoga has not been achieved, then having come out of this [material] world, and having not yet got himself absorbed in the Brahman, would he get lost ? Or, because he has not yet got established in the Brahman, does he permanently get destroyed as the other world (heaven) is [also] ruined for him ? This is the question. On this [question], the conclusion –
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
chinnabhram iva nasyati
vimudho brahmanah pathi
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
kaccit — whether; na — not; ubhaya — both; vibhraṣṭaḥ — deviated from; chinna — torn; abhram — cloud; iva — like; naśyati — perishes; apratiṣṭhaḥ — without any position; mahā-bāho — O mighty-armed Kṛṣṇa; vimūḍhaḥ — bewildered; brahmaṇaḥ — of transcendence; pathi — on the path.