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How can we interpret Bhagavad Gita Verse 18:47 in today's world ?

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BG 18:47 - "It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another's occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one's nature are never affected by sinful reactions."

 

How should we interpret this verse in today's world. There are so many career options, how do we decide which is our duty?

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Guest RajeshP

Do these verses try to instruct us that once a person takes up an occupation they shouldn’t change it? Quite simply, no! This would be an incorrect interpretation. Swadharma is “one’s own law of being”; it is a complex concept that needs a fair bit of reflection to truly understand. Certainly it is not the meaning of the Gita that a person can’t change his/her occupation if circumstances so demand. If that was the case then people and society could never adapt to new situations. At any given time, people may have to do a different type of occupation dependent on circumstances. Taking an example from the Mahabharata, Arjuna himself had to learn to dance and then work as a dance teacher for a year due to peculiar circumstances. He did this in aid of the greater cause and mission of his life, and this didn’t constitute him giving up his swadharma. This is a striking example of how doing a different work for a period of time is a very different thing to giving up one’s swadharma. 

 

In the context of Krishna to Arjuna- it is Krishna saying you are a man of arms by inward nature. You, Arjuna, are thinking to yourself at this moment “my work which is about to involve me fighting my relatives is so bad and sinful compared to being a farmer or a monk seeking salvation”, but you are psychologically a natural leader and also a warlike man, and for you to abandon this in totality is a sin against your nature and not conducive to your good or society’s good. Live a life in accordance with your inward nature – in a spirit of worship. Work and duties which expresses the inner nature is the best. No work is low or mean – any work is made sacred if it corresponds to one’s swabhava (self-nature) and done in the spirit of devotion and surrender, and it even becomes a fit means of Godward endeavour, merging yourself with the Supreme Being who permeated the entire cosmos.

 

One way of glimpsing how the concept of swadharma works is as follows: If you are naturally attracted to doing particular type of work (broadly speaking), even if somewhere along the line you realise that the type of work has flaws, it is better to do the type of work that in in conformity with your psychological nature and capacities. All work in the world has some ethical faults or defects in it, you shouldn’t see your role as something deficient – your role is to give your contribution as part of the whole, and done in the right spirit your role in the world is a means of travelling towards spiritual liberation (from the lower nature).

 

To see how this could apply outside of the context of the Mahabharata, we could take the example of a successful entrepreneur who had shown a natural flare and motivation for business. For a moment such a person may see a science documentary and be in awe of researchers making new scientific discoveries, and think of them as doing a more important job, and for a moment may feel that the life of the scientist is a life more worth living. But being mindful the work that is natural to them, they should not neglect their own dharma. The business person can still respect and contribute to science through their contribution, as there is a deep interrelationship in all roles of society.

 

When one lives out a life that is in harmony with one’s true nature, which is an expression of their swadharma, it is more natural, less forced and cumbersome than a work which is not in resonance with the inner being. An endeavour that is not in resonance with one’s inner being is strenuous, less joyful, and in struggling to do such work, even if I do it well, it incurs “sin”, which is negative tendencies. What is sin?

 

What does it mean? Find a work to express your inner nature. If someone is naturally a fighter, adventurous, risk taker – it may bore the hell out of them to do otherwise. Someone may say, please be gentle and refined, but it would be a sin.

 

It’s not so much about your profession or occupation; it is about the “bhava” with which you live. Embrace it and express it. Even if you end up in a job different, keep expressing your nature.

 

A big question arises; what if a person genuinely changes from within; to a different calling in life? A total transformation of purpose and character, which is different to a momentary longing to be something you’re not. Would the Gita tell the person to stick with what they were doing before?

 

An example of this could be Mahatma Gandhi or Gautama Buddha. It is said that the Vedic sage Vishwamitra underwent a permanent change of character such that he went from being a king to a Brahmin.

 

As per my contemplation on the teachings of the Gita, as well as contemplation on the complexity of life, it  certainly can be the case that a person has a profound inward change, perhaps long prepared by other factors, but a transformation set-off rapidly by life events. If is commonly said that people change Varna in different lives through karma. But karma is dynamic and its transforming effects can take place within life itself.

 

In the Gita, it does not say that swadharma cannot change; it says that swadharma should not be abandoned. I feel this means that a person should “know themself” and live accordingly. Swadhyaya – study of the self and the help of a true teacher – reveals the truth of your being which may change irrevocably. But you should not take up a way off life which is a deception against your true psychological nature, which is what would have been the case if Arjuna had at that moment tried to give up his responsibility.  

 

The interpretation of Swadharma which I have given here so far may appear to create a problem by underplaying the importance of duty and upholding the social order which is usually understood to be the import of the verse. However, as per my reflection, this the meaning and relevance of these verses. The concept of discharging your duty towards society in an unselfish spirit is also a teaching which is important in the Gita, but it is not what is implied by swadharma. From the point of 18:47, it is more about the law of being of a person.

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I believe that it is a most fortunate person who finds their individual dharma but when it is found it is easily identifiable because there is bliss and being found it should be followed fearlessly. As I understand the verse Krishna is telling Arjuna to follow his dharma/ duty and not to dwell on the killing because as Krishna also said "They are already." 

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It is one of the toughest verse of the Gita. It helps in creating and maintaining employment, promoting an equilibrium between intellectual and physical workers and selflessness when performing job and  last but not least, courage even when faced with the most difficult and dangerous jobs.

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BG 18:47 - "It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another's occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one's nature are never affected by sinful reactions."

 

How should we interpret this verse in today's world. There are so many career options, how do we decide which is our duty?

Gita is 5000 years old. Its society is not ours. Krishna is speaking to an Aryan, we are born candala or sudra. The context is completely different. We have to be realistic. In kali-yuga there is no more choice and if you want to survive you may have to take a job which is not suitable for you. Caitanya Mahaprabhu was so humble that he considered the instruction of his spt master topmost. He said to him that he was unfit to read the scriptures and it was better for him just to chant Hare Krsna. I guess this is good also for each of us if we want to follow Krsna's instruction. sarva dharman parityajya, just surrender to me, he says. Me, means guru. You must approach a guru, who is not different from God (living God) and he will give you the right decision concerning your duty. Any other way will bring you more confusion. Take care.

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Gita is 5000 years old. Its society is not ours. Krishna is speaking to an Aryan, we are born candala or sudra. The context is completely different.

 

This is the proper answer.

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 Caitanya Mahaprabhu was so humble that he considered the instruction of his spt master topmost.

He said to him that he was unfit to read the scriptures and it was better for him just to chant Hare Krsna.

 

I didn't know that Ishvara Puri or Keshava Bharati (His sanyasi guru) said to Sri Caitanya,

He would be unfit to read the scripture, and therefore He should chant Hare Krishna.

Can you please give the source of your informations (your guru or the book/chapter/verses)?

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Knowledge based on two 1 Teacher (mother,father and Guru) 2 taught.Language (mother tongue) is a platform for any kind of knowledge to perform.Ones own mother tongue is the basis of all kinds of translations,interpretations and explanations. Whatever told stands as a guiding principle all along.Even if one learns new languages got to be interpreted in ones own mother tongue. This is what swadharma means.

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Can you please give the source of your informations (your guru or the book/chapter/verses)?

I'am sorry I don't have it under the hand. But it is a Srila Prabhupada' saying. Recently I heard it in a lecture, again. It will be easy to get it but you have to be patient a little bit.

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I'am sorry I don't have it under the hand. But it is a Srila Prabhupada' saying. Recently I heard it in a lecture, again. It will be easy to get it but you have to be patient a little bit.

Ok.

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Ok.

Meanwhile, if you don't mind, I have a question if you or someone else can answer. I want to know how many times Krsna showed his universal form and to whom. Thanks for the reply.

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Thank you.

I am not used to consult Wiki form my researches.

For example it was not mentioned about Krishna opening his mouth so that his mother can see an universal form. ...

You welcome.

Such knowledge is available in wiki.

Mother Yashoda didn't see the vishva-rupa (so called universal form) but the universe in the mouth of child Krishna.

 

 

I'am sorry I don't have it under the hand.

But it is a Srila Prabhupada' saying.

Recently I heard it in a lecture, again. It will be easy to get it ...

 

Please don't  forget me.

 

gaura premanande

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I didn't know that Ishvara Puri or Keshava Bharati (His sanyasi guru) said to Sri Caitanya,

He would be unfit to read the scripture, and therefore He should chant Hare Krishna.

Can you please give the source of your informations (your guru or the book/chapter/verses)?

This is the reference: SB 5-06-06   Vrndavana  1976-11-28. Title of the lecture (Krishna's Criminal Department)

You go to minute 9. A sannyasi in Benares is criticizing Caitanya for his dancing and chanting instead of studying the scriptures. That was Caitanya's answer.

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This is the reference: SB 5-06-06   Vrndavana  1976-11-28. Title of the lecture (Krishna's Criminal Department)

You go to minute 9. A sannyasi in Benares is criticizing Caitanya for his dancing and chanting instead of studying the scriptures. That was Caitanya's answer.

Thank you for your answer.

 

In my opinion, if one takes into account that, as recorded in CC 1.17.271 

Kesava Bharati addressed Sri Caitanya

"You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul.

I must do whatever You cause me to do. I am not independent of You.",

one may understand that it is impossible that Kesava Bharati have told Sri Caitanya,

He would be "unfit to read the scriptures and it was better for him just to chant Hare Krsna"

as you previously stated.

 

The fact that Sri Caitanyas said to Prakasananda Sarasvati, that His guru would have said:

"My guru considered Me a fool, and therefore he chastised Me:

"You are a fool, You are not qualified to study Vedanta. and therefore You must always chant the holy name of Krishna.""

was meant sarcastically and to teach the maya-vadis, who study the Vedanta of Shankar-acarya, the importance of the holy name of the Lord.

 

Previously Prakasananda Sarasvati addressed Sri Caitanya saying:

"I understand that Your name is Sri Krishna Caitanya. You are a disciple of Śri Kesava Bharati, and therefore You are glorious.

"You are a sannyasi. ...Meditation and the study of Vedabta are the sole duties of a sannyasi. Why do You abandon these to dance with fanatics?

 

Bringing his guru as an authority in the discussion he pretended that his instruction would have been about the importance of the holy name:

 

kṛṣṇa-mantra haite habe saḿsāra-mocana - Krishna mantra relieves one from the cycle of rebirth

kṛṣṇa-nāma haite pābe kṛṣṇera caraṇa - the name of Krishna brings one to the feet of Krishna

.....

 

Afterwards Sri Caitanys has also criticised very heavy  the vedanta of Sankar-acarya and taught transcendental knowledge.

 

In my opinion these pastimes do not uphold your ideas:

1. Caitanya Mahaprabhu was so humble that he considered the instruction of his spt master topmost (you may also follow the treand about the discusssion between Sri Caitanya and Ramananda Raya for a better understanding of this issue).

2. He (guru of Sri Caitanya) said to him that he was unfit to read the scriptures and it was better for him just to chant Hare Krsna. I guess this is good also for each of us...

 

We don't need to study Vedanta but we need to study the gaudya vaishnava scriptures,

to properly understand what Sri Caitanya wanted to give us.

First we have to built the foudation of all philosophycal principles about jiva, bhagavan, maya, sadhana, sadhya...

And than we may built the castle of rasa-tattva.

 

gaura premanande

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Thank you for your explanation. I don't have any opinion, I just repeat what I have heard from a Krishna's devote. My point was that if someone wants to comprehend his dharma in such difficult state of times than ours, the best way is to approach a spiritual master. There are lot of contradictions for someone who like to philosophize and it is true that it is better to know the scriptures if you want to preach instead of being a baba chanting all day long. Like you say, we have to put the incident in its context. We know perfectly well that Nimaï was a pandit at very young age and that his followers were great masters of Vedic literature. According to his closed servants, he was God himself, therefore there was no need for him to study or have a program for chanting, neither he needed a spiritual master.

Thank you again for you intervention, I appreciate. Take care!

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Thank you for your explanation. I don't have any opinion, I just repeat what I have heard from a Krishna's devote.

 

Well, as long as you say or write something,

that what you say or write

it is the opinion you have, because you subsribe to it.

 

It was your choice to repeat, what a devotte said, because you belive it, and that was your belief (opinion).

The problem is that there are dífferent kinds of devotees, that also heard something, from other devotees

but not really studied the shastra by themselves,

and this kind of knowledge is not first rate knowledge.

 

One should come to the platform to study the scripture by himself,

after he heard different opinions of different devotees which may belong

even to different vaishnava schools or associations,

because according to the most basic vedic principle, the scriptures are the highest evidence,

as Sri Rupa says in his Laghu Bhagavat-amritam.

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Well, as long as you say or write something,

that what you say or write

it is the opinion you have, because you subsribe to it.

Good morning, Anadi (6.30 AM here in Montréal)

To my understanding, an opinion is the personal idea we have of something.

For example, I don't know much about Krishna and how to please him. If I say I think he likes better to eat bread with chocolate instead of bread with butter, this is a opinion. If I say he likes to eat sweets cooked by his friends or his devotees, because my guru told me, it is not my opinion, it is my spt master's instruction.

I used that meaning of the world.

Thank you for intervention.

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...If I say he likes to eat sweets cooked by his friends or his devotees, because my guru told me, it is not my opinion, it is my spt master's instruction.

 

I used that meaning of the world.

 

Hare Krishna

Maroud,

 

from your writing, I understood that the opinions you presented, are others opinions.

 

You don't agree that if you follow somebody's opinions (like that of a guru)

it means you agree with them (giving all support) and using them as evidence in your argument,

it means it is also your opinion.

 

There are many gurus, devotees and associations which teach

that one should preach as a brainlesss loud speaker,

which you try to deliniate hear by saying that the instructions of the guru is not also your opinios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Gita, it does not say that swadharma cannot change; it says that swadharma should not be abandoned. I feel this means that a person should “know themself” and live accordingly. Swadhyaya – study of the self and the help of a true teacher – reveals the truth of your being which may change irrevocably. But you should not take up a way off life which is a deception against your true psychological nature, which is what would have been the case if Arjuna had at that moment tried to give up his responsibility.  

 

The interpretation of Swadharma which I have given here so far may appear to create a problem by underplaying the importance of duty and upholding the social order which is usually understood to be the import of the verse. However, as per my reflection, this the meaning and relevance of these verses. The concept of discharging your duty towards society in an unselfish spirit is also a teaching which is important in the Gita, but it is not what is implied by swadharma. From the point of 18:47, it is more about the law of being of a person.

 

See please the opinion of Sri Caitanya regarding sva-dharma:

 

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