manuṣyāṇāḿ sahasreṣu
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāḿ
kaścin māḿ vetti tattvataḥ

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 7.3

Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.

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

There are various grades of men, and out of many thousands, one may be sufficiently interested in transcendental realization to try to know what is the self, what is the body, and what is the Absolute Truth. Generally mankind is simply engaged in the animal propensities, namely eating, sleeping, defending and mating, and hardly anyone is interested in transcendental knowledge. The first six chapters of the Gita are meant for those who are interested in transcendental knowledge, in understanding the self, the Superself and the process of realization by jnana-yoga, dhyana-yoga and discrimination of the self from matter. However, Krishna can be known only by persons who are in Krishna consciousness. Other transcendentalists may achieve impersonal Brahman realization, for this is easier than understanding Krishna. Krishna is the Supreme Person, but at the same time He is beyond the knowledge of Brahman and Paramatma. The yogis and jnanis are confused in their attempts to understand Krishna. Although the greatest of the impersonalists, Sripada Shankaracarya, has admitted in his Gita commentary that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his followers do not accept Krishna as such, for it is very difficult to know Krishna, even though one has transcendental realization of impersonal Brahman.

Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes, the primeval Lord Govinda. Ishvarah paramah krishnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah/ anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam. It is very difficult for the nondevotees to know Him. Although nondevotees declare that the path of bhakti, or devotional service, is very easy, they cannot practice it. If the path of bhakti is so easy, as the nondevotee class of men proclaim, then why do they take up the difficult path? Actually the path of bhakti is not easy. The so-called path of bhakti practiced by unauthorized persons without knowledge of bhakti may be easy, but when it is practiced factually according to the rules and regulations, the speculative scholars and philosophers fall away from the path. Srila Rupa Gosvami writes in his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.101):

pancaratra-vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir
utpatayaiva kalpate

“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upanishads, Puranas and Narada-pancaratra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.”

It is not possible for the Brahman-realized impersonalist or the Paramatma-realized yogi to understand Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the son of mother Yashoda or the charioteer of Arjuna. Even the great demigods are sometimes confused about Krishna (muhyanti yat surayah). Mam tu veda na kascana: “No one knows Me as I am,” the Lord says. And if one does know Him, then sa mahatma su-durlabhah. “Such a great soul is very rare.” Therefore unless one practices devotional service to the Lord, one cannot know Krishna as He is (tattvatah), even though one is a great scholar or philosopher. Only the pure devotees can know something of the inconceivable transcendental qualities in Krishna, in the cause of all causes, in His omnipotence and opulence, and in His wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge and renunciation, because Krishna is benevolently inclined to His devotees. He is the last word in Brahman realization, and the devotees alone can realize Him as He is. Therefore it is said:

atah sri-krishna-namadi
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah

“No one can understand Krishna as He is by the blunt material senses. But He reveals Himself to the devotees, being pleased with them for their transcendental loving service unto Him.” (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.234)

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Knowledge of me and realization of me are rare for the jnanis and yogis who were described in the previous six chapters. First, the Lord speaks of the rarity of realizing the sweetness of the Lord (vijnana) among them.

Among the countless jivas, one may be a human being. Among thousands of humans, one of them may work for spiritual progress. Among thousands who work for spiritual progress, only one will know me, directly realize me, truly, in the form of Syamasundara. This implies that the bliss from realization of personal brahman is thousands of times great than the bliss from realization of the impersonal brahman.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

7.3 ‘Men’, i.e., those who are qualified for observing the commands of the Sastras — among thousands of such men, only some one strives till the attainment of perfection. Among thousands who strive till the attainment of perfection, some one only, understanding Me, strives to attain success through Me (i.e., through My grace). Among thousands of those who might know Me, some one only knows Me in reality, as I am. In other words, there is no one who is capable of knowing Me as I am, i.e., as distinguished from all other entities, as implied in the expression Vijnana. Sri Krsna will declare later on: ‘It is very hard to find such a great-souled person’ (7.19), and ‘But no one knows Me’ (7.26).

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Without devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna, transcendental knowledge about Him is impossible to assimilate, understand or intuit. Amongst innumerable living beings specifically means humans as all other beings have neither the inclination or the qualification for moksa or liberation from the material existence. Yet among hundreds of thousands of humans only one due to great merit ever endeavours for moksa and among the hundreds of thousands who endeavour for moksa perchance one will actually achieve it due to extraordinary activities from a previous birth and of the hundreds of thousands who actually achieve moksa and reach perfection perchance only one by the mercy of the Supreme Lord will know Him in reality. Yet even though this transcendental knowledge is very confidential Lord Krishna will reveal it to His devotee. This is the purport.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Extremely rare is transcendental knowledge regarding the Supreme Lord Krishna received.

Now begins the summation.

Hari OM! The paramount nature of the Supreme Lord is specially emphasised in this verse. Of innumerable living entities existing in creation less then one-tenth of 1% attempt to endeavour for perfection. Of the minuscule amount of living entities who do endeavour less then one-tenth of 1% percent actually achieve perfection. The Padma Purana states that even among those perfected only a few such as Brahma and Shiva actually really know the Supreme Lord is Krishna. As far as others are concerned knowledge alone of Lord Krishna is sufficient enough to grant them moksa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the material existence. In the Bhagavat Purana it states that even among 100,000 liberated beings only less then one-tenth of 1% factually comprehend that Lord Krishna is the ultimate creator of all. Every being who has achieved moksa in the past and those who are achieving moksa in the present all without exception have been and are devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna and His Vedically authorised incarnations. This also applies as well to all beings who will achieve moksa in the future. Amongst all these eternal devotees Brahma the architect of all beings in the material creation is the foremost and thus it has been stated in the Sat Tattva text that the devotees of Lord Krishna are the very best of all living entities.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna is speaking in this way to emphasise that the knowledge He is prepared to reveal is very rarely achieved and difficult to acquire. Out of innumerable, countless souls some have attained human status and amongst them hardly one in thousands of humans is qualified in Vedic scriptures and strives for atma tattva or realisation of the soul. Of those few endeavouring for atma tattva hardly one in thousands actually achieves it and out of thousands who after having achieved atma tattvae and finally attained moksa or liberation from the material existence, amongst this group some very rare personalities are actually aware of Lord Krishna’s paramount position and divine glories in reality. This is because without bhakti or loving devotion unto Lord Krishna it is not possible to know and perceive Him. This Lord Krishna confirms Himself at the conclusion of chapter eighteen, verse fifty-five when He declares, That only through devotion does one come to the platform of communion with Him.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

7.3 Sahasresu manusyanam, among thousands, among a multitude of men; kascit, a rare one; yatati, endeavours; siddhaye, for perfection. [For perfection: for the rise of Knowledge through the purification of the mind.] Siddhanam api, even of the perfected one; yatatam, who are diligent-they (those diligent ones themselves) being (considered to be) verily perfect because they are striving for Liberation; of them-; kascit, one perchance, indeed; vetti, knows; mam, Me; tattvatah, in truth. Having drawn the attention of the hearer by arousing interest, the Lord says:

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

7.3 Manusyanam etc. All [persons] are not fit for this subject. By this statement, [the Bhagavat] has declared that, as the subject is difficult to grasp, it is to be learnt with effort.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

manusyanam sahasresu
kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam
kascin mam vetti tattvatah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

manuṣyāṇām — of men; sahasreṣu — out of many thousands; kaścit — someone; yatati — endeavors; siddhaye — for perfection; yatatām — of those so endeavoring; api — indeed; siddhānām — of those who have achieved perfection; kaścit — someone; mām — Me; vetti — does know; tattvataḥ — in fact.