Chapter 3: Karma-yoga
sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah
sva-dharme nidhanam sreyah
çreyän—far better; sva-dharmaù—one's prescribed duties; viguëaù—even faulty; para-dharmät—from duties mentioned for others; svanuñthität—than perfectly done; sva-dharme—in one's prescribed duties; nidhanam—destruction; çreyaù—better; para-dharmaù—duties prescribed for others; bhaya-ävahaù—dangerous.
It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another's duties. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.
One should therefore discharge his prescribed duties in full Kåñëa consciousness rather than those prescribed for others. Prescribed duties complement one's psychophysical condition, under the spell of the modes of material nature. Spiritual duties are as ordered by the spiritual master, for the transcendental service of Kåñëa. But both materially or spiritually, one should stick to his prescribed duties even up to death, rather than imitate another's prescribed duties. Duties on the spiritual platform and duties on the material platform may be different, but the principle of following the authorized direction is always good for the performer. When one is under the spell of the modes of material nature, one should follow the prescribed rules for particular situations and should not imitate others. For example, a brähmaëa, who is in the mode of goodness, is nonviolent, whereas a kñatriya, who is in the mode of passion, is allowed to be violent. As such, for a kñatriya it is better to be vanquished following the rules of violence than to imitate a brähmaëa who follows the principles of nonviolence. Everyone has to cleanse his heart by a gradual process, not abruptly. However, when one transcends the modes of material nature and is fully situated in Kåñëa consciousness, he can perform anything and everything under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master. In that complete stage of Kåñëa consciousness, the kñatriya may act as a brähmaëa, or a brähmaëa may act as a kñatriya. In the transcendental stage, the distinctions of the material world do not apply. For example, Viçvämitra was originally a kñatriya, but later on he acted as a brähmaëa, whereas Paraçuräma was a brähmaëa, but later on he acted as a kñatriya. Being transcendentally situated, they could do so; but as long as one is on the material platform, he must perform his duties according to the modes of material nature. At the same time, he must have a full sense of Kåñëa consciousness.