श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |
स्वभावनियतं कर्म कुर्वन्नाप्नोति किल्बिषम् || 47||
śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
svabhāva-niyataṁ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣham
śhreyān—better; swa-dharmaḥ—one’s own prescribed occupational duty; viguṇaḥ—imperfectly done; para-dharmāt—than another’s dharma; su-anuṣhṭhitāt—perfectly done; svabhāva-niyatam—according to one’s innate nature; karma—duty; kurvan—by performing; na āpnoti—does not incur; kilbiṣham—sin
Better is one’s own duty though destitute of merits or incomplete than the duty of another well performed; the man who performs action ordained by his own nature does not incur sin.
The Lord declares that one should not give up his prescribed duty though it appears difficult to perform it fully and completely. The duties of another man appear easy and attractive, but the true seeker should stick to his own method and way of life. This is certainly better than abandoning one’s own duty and taking up another’s and doing it even meritoriously. We have to refer this statement to Arjuna’s original plea to abandon fighting and to live the life of a mendicant. Arjuna is a Kshatriya and his duty born of his own nature is to fight. He should not give up this duty. He should perform it in the true spirit of a Karma-Yogi. By doing so, he does not incur sin. The principle holds good to all men engaged in various forms of work each according to his nature.
The verse may be interpreted in another way. ‘Svadharma’ may be taken to mean Atma dharma’. To think of Atma and meditate on that may appear difficult, and living the life of the senses in the objective world may be easy. But the real seeker should continue the ‘Atma-dharma’ in spite of difficulties and failures. In fact, Atma-dharma’ is the real state of man, and life in the senses and the objective world is an alien imposition,- ‘paradharma‘. Though ‘paradharma‘ appears easy and pleasing for the time being, it leads to bondage and sorrow in the end. ‘Atma-dharma’ on the other hand, though appearing to be difficult and troublesome in the beginning, leads to bliss and liberation in the end. So ‘Atma-dharma’ is infinitely better than ‘Paradharma‘. in the end.
Question: What ‘Dharma’ is better for man?
Answer: That which is born of his own nature and pertains to his own state is better than the functions of another state.
Question: By what does the man escape from sin?
Answer: By performing one’s own duties in a spirit of surrender to the Lord, man does not incur sin.
Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 18 🔻 (78 Verses)