What is My Duty? Am I in Right Career? How to Convert Actions to Karma-Yoga? (185)


Lesson 185 answers questions about our career/profession and our nature. Are we in the right profession? What is your duty (svadharma)?

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47


  • VERSE 37: Sattvic Happiness (Sukham):
    • It's effortless. You didn't do any action to attain it (as in case of Raja guna). 
    • It produces cheerful poise. A sense of well-being.
    • It's like poison at start, because requires to look into one's limiting beliefs, or our narratives that's holding us back. Like: I'm not ready. I'm too young/old. I may embarrass myself.
      • SOLUTION: Ask, “Is it really true? What evidence is there?”. Attack it with questions.
    • What prevents Sattvic Happiness? Setting up rules that are impossible to fulfill. Two most common:
      • I'll be happy when ____.
      • I can't be happy because ____.
  • VERSE 38: Rajasic Happiness (Sukham):
    • Originates between 5-sense-organs and external objects.
    • 4 factors must come together to feel happy: Object, Environment, Body, Mind.
    • If attain object of desire: Joy + Greed (lobha; I want one more time!).
    • If fail to attain object of desire: Anger (krodha; towards Object/Environment).
  • VERSE 39: Tamasic Happiness (Sukham):
    • Happy when sees someone fail.
    • Happy with vulgarity (EG: some modern rappers).
    • Happy to self-harm.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 41:

brāhmaṇa-kṣatriya-viśām śūdrāṇām ca parantapa ।
karmāṇi pravibhaktāni svabhāva-prabhavaiḥ guṇaiḥ ॥ 18-41॥
The duties of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras – are divided according to qualities born of svabhāva (Īśvara’s māyā manufacturing one’s nature and unfolding their destiny).  (Swami Dayananda)

  • What is the varṇa (Caste-System)?
    • Universal categorisation of mankind according to: Birth / Aptitude / Personality / Body parts.
  • It’s 4-fold:
    • Brāhmaṇas: thinkers, guides.
    • Kṣatriyas: managers, leaders, implementers, protectors.
    • Vaiśyas: producers of wealth and resources.
    • Śūdras: labourers and workers.
    • Not only people fall into these 4 categories, but communities, nations.
      • EG: Jews are predominantly a business community (vaiśya), or Mārwari’s of Rajasthan (business-oriented).
  • Birth:
    • According to Vedas, you’re not put in a family out of random chance. But family closely matches the varna of the jiva’s state-of-mind in previous incarnation.
      • EG: Suppose now until death, you continue contemplating, but never attain moksha. Which implies Brahmana. Next life, your mind will inherit a body which will be born to Brahmanas (thinkers, value religion).
    • This also means, in this life, you can change your varna with effort.
  • Aptitude / Personality / Profession:
    • One’s profession is chosen based on their natural aptitude. EG: Good musician would fail as businessman.
    • If take up profession NOT in accord with one’s aptitude, results in:
      • (a) individual feels frustrated/dissatisfied frequently; meaning mental-maturity is never developed.
      • (b) Prosperity of nation suffers.
    • How to choose a profession?  (best to worst way)
      1. Inclination towards what you love. MOST EFFECTIVE.
      2. Birth based. EG: Follows family path.
      3. Which profession pays best. Disintegrates the guna-based society.
    • Visual:

  • Body parts:
    • Head (brāhmaṇa): Has big responsibility of guiding the entire body. Thus has to be self-controlled, alert, poised, knowledgeable.
      • Price for being on the top is everyone at bottom complains if high standards are not maintained. Similarly, nation expects exemplary behavior from its leaders.
    • Hands (kṣatriya): Expected to work hard, execute the head’s plans, and protect the whole body.
    • Stomach (vaiśya): Generates the energy through the food it digests to run the body.
    • Legs and feet (śūdra): Serve and carry the body.
    • Visual:

  • NEXT 3 VERSES: Krishna will show us whether our duty (in form of profession) is congruent with our nature…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 42:

śamaḥ damaḥ tapaḥ śaucam kṣāntiḥ ārjavam eva ca ।
jñānam vijñānam āstikyam brahma-karma svabhāvajam ॥ 18-42॥
Mental composure (śamaḥ), sense-control restraint (damaḥ), austerity or religious discipline (tapaḥ), inner and external cleanliness (śaucam), accommodation or patience (kṣāntiḥ), straightforwardness (ārjavam), knowledge (jñānam), assimilated knowledge (vijñānam), and faith (āstikyam) are the duties of the brāhmaṇas born of (their) nature.  (Swami Da./Pa.)

  • Since these qualities are Sattvic oriented, verse can be looked at from 2-standpoints…
  • Standpoint of Sattvic profession:
    • Work is a delight. It doesn’t bore. It invigorates. You’d do it even when physically uncomfortable.
  • Standpoint of Brahmana profession:
    • Brahmana nature takes to a teaching/informing profession for sake of educating ethics, religion/culture/spiritual knowledge. Without Brahmana, skills would be misused.
    • Brahmans sort, organize and demystify text like:
      • 4 Vedas / Religious texts.
      • 6 sub-sections of Vedas (six angas): Candaḥ (prosody; meter/rhythm); Jyotiṣam (astronomy-astrology); Kalpa (manual of rituals); Nirukta (etymology; history of words);  Śikṣa (Phonetics; sound of pronunciation), Vyākaraṇam (grammar).
      • Mīmāṁsa: methodology of analysing the Veda.
      • Nyāya: science of logical thinking.
      • 18 puranas: Bhāgavatam alone is 18,000 verses.
      • Dharma śāstra: the science of values, what are ethics?
      • Brahmacāri dharma, gṛhasta dharma, vānaprastha dharma, saṃnyāsi dharma.
    • Lives a simple life, adhering to principles such as:
      • Tapaḥ: Religious discipline.
      • Kṣāntiḥ: Spirit of accommodation/patience, knowing process of change in people is slow.
      • Jñānam: Well informed intellectually.
      • Vijñānam: Understood the topics.
      • Āstikyam: Faith. Takes Veda as 6th sense organs and by assimilating it’s knowledge, inspires others to follow.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 43:

śauryam tejaḥ dhṛtiḥ dākṣyam yuddhe ca api apalāyanam ।
dānam īśvara-bhāvaḥ ca kṣātram karma svabhāvajam ॥ 18-43॥
(Andre)  Rajasic fortitude (determination/commitment/will) is that which makes one pursue dharma (religious merit), artha (security) and kāma (pleasure) – craving for their benefits because of attachment.

  • Excess Rājasika in profession:
    • Person may not work in alignment with one’s nature (aptitude) because fame/position/money comes first. Result is less work satisfaction. For this reason tediousness, boredom, fatigue creeps in.
    • EG:
      • Gaining degrees/courses to gladly list them out on social media.
      • Meditating longer then anyone else to be noticed as “accomplished yogi”.
      • Acquiring many skills just to be acknowledged and impress others in future.
    • They may not fancy simplicity in simplicity. It’s about sophistication, skills, experience.
  • Standpoint of Kṣatriya Personality:
    • Śauryam: Maintains law-order of society. Thus a man of courage/hero. The kind whose first to jump into ocean to save you.
    • Tejaḥ: A charisma, glow, self-confidence that’s noticeable, attractive.
    • Dākṣyam: Resourcefulness/skillfulness. Improvises solutions from large repertoire of skills.
    • Apalāyanam yuddhe: Doesn’t shy away from conflict, but remains like a rock, until point of view is stated.
    • Dānam: Ensures everyone gets their fair share of resources.
    • Īśvara-bhāvaḥ: Overlordship. Oversees the well-being of his/her clients, and takes leadership (like Īśvara for that niche).

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 44:

kṛṣi-gaurakṣya-vāṇijyam vaiśya-karma svabhāvajam ।
paricaryā-ātmakam karma śūdrasya api svabhāvajam ॥ 18-44॥
Agriculture, tending cattle, and commerce are the natural duties of vaiśya. The natural duty of śūdra is in the form of service.  (Swami Dayananda)

  • Excess Tāmasika in Profession:
    • Follows baser values, and easily prone to violating ethics while working. Thus creates mental/physical discomfort to others.
      • EG:
        • Employee starts making uncalled for sexual advances.
        • Gossip in workplace.
        • If someone’s wallet/phone was found, would gladly take advantage of it.
        • If released from workplace, could revenge.
        • Online: Will auto-generate articles, stuffed with keywords, just to attract traffic and make money with Google Adsense. Intentional negative-reviews.
  • Standpoint of Vaiśya Personality:
    • Maintains the economy-wellbeing. Money movers. Entrepreneurs. Real-estate.
  • Standpoint of Śūdra Personality:
    • Assists the top 3.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 45:

sve sve karmaṇi abhirataḥ saṃsiddhim labhate naraḥ ।
svakarma-nirataḥ siddhim yathā vindati tat śṛṇu ॥ 18-45॥
Oh Arjuna! Now, listen from Me to the threefold happiness in which one indulges because of habit and comes to the end of pain.

  • Krishna says there are several ways to pursue your existing profession: From least to most evolved…
    • L1: Work according to your aptitude. Ethics are followed out of fear of losing job. Earning is done for sake of personal comfort and financial security.
      • This will give material/monetary prosperity only.
    • L2: Add sense of ethical responsibility. Adds purity of mind.
    • L3: Add sense of duty for sake of others well-being (family, noble cause, prosperity of company/nation). Adds personal satisfaction.
      • EG: When Sportsmen plays for himself (L1), gets name/fame/wealth. But when plays as duty to represent his country, he gets name/fame/wealth, and must greater satisfaction.
        • Higher the goal, greater the returns.
    • L4: It is all done as my glad fee/payment to the Creator, Sustainer, Changer of the Universe (Lord). Spirit of Karma-Yoga.
      • This gives benefits of all prior levels (material prosperity, purity of mind, personal satisfaction). But most importantly, sensitive/subtle mind open to higher teachings that lead to Siddhim (purity in one’s heart-intellect where the self-evident “I” is ever-Known, except with much more distinctness from the changing-BMI).
  • NEXT VERSE: Krishna teaches HOW to convert karma > Karma-yoga.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 46:

yataḥ pravṛttiḥ bhūtānām yena sarvam idam tatam ।
svakarmaṇā tam abhyarcya siddhim vindati mānavaḥ ॥ 18-46॥
A person attains success by worshipping, through his own duty, that (Lord) from whom (is) the origination of all beings and by whom all this is pervaded.

  • What is the most ideal attitude with which our professional & personal work is to be performed for rest of our life?
    • Change attitude towards your ACTIONS (produced by 5-organs-of-action): Karma.
      • What is the usual attitude when one does actions? I’m doing this for myself. This individualistic thinking reinforces the very smallness one is trying to free oneself from.
      • When remind yourself that your actions are always going into the TOTAL field, it has several advantages:
        1. It forces your intellect to think about the interconnectedness of the WHOLE.
        2. It let’s your mind tap into creativity (which only comes when mind’s focus changes from small to large).
          • EG: Wright Brothers wanted to see man fly in their lifetime (their vision was large). This made them tap into the creativity, like observing bird angling their wings for balance, so they added to wings, “wing warping”. Then added Elevator on back (to stabilize flight further). And none had a college degree nor technical training.
        3. You’re concerned less about “getting it done”, thus removes anxiety of getting it perfect. Less anxiety = higher satisfaction in work.
        4. You (Self) are already eternal and accomplished! What’s the hurry?
    • Change attitude towards WHAT-RESULTS-COME-BACK-TO-YOU: Karma-phalam.
      • Attitude is, this limited mind with limited memory and vision, can not even remember what it did 18 years ago. Let alone what it did lifetimes ago.
        • Therefore it’s irrational to judge the fairness of the results received because it’s coming from karma-phala-data.
      • The TOTAL gives not what you WANT (as that would deny others their right) or NEED (as that implies a scripted universe)… but what you DESEVE based on past actions.
        • If you don’t like to hear this, only choice is attain moksha and end this compensatory Order that’s neither fair nor unfair.
      • Reality is, others may not even notice your extraordinary work. For strength, think of the anonymous Upanishad Through them, the greatest wisdom came through, and they didn’t even want acknowledgement.
      • Karma-phala is FEEDBACK what needs to change/improve.
  • tam yataḥ pravṛttiḥ bhūtānām yena sarvam idaṃ tatam; Keeping in mind (while performing actions), the Lord from whom all beings originate, and by which all is pervaded.
    • Meaning Īśvara cannot be any one form. Because if Īśvara (intelligence principle that sustains the whole universe) was one form, then all other forms would fall apart. Meaning the Intelligence principle has to be dispersed all throughout, and be present at all times, for universe of sentient-insentient objects to EXIST (and thus perform their function/purpose).
      • EG: Existence of “space” (the subtlest element) implies Intelligence which “thought of ‘space’, and that space has to be attributeless in order to accommodate grosser elements such as quantum-particles,
        • In otherwords, everything we ever speak of or discover, already EXISTS because it was ALREADY thought-of (by the Intelligence).
    • Accordingly, Īśvara is called: jagat-kāraṇam which means: Cause of the universe of names-forms. OR that because of which names-form enjoy their individuality/function/purpose.
      • For example, what was purpose of cyanobacteria microbes in the oceans 2.45 billion years ago? To conduct photosynthesis using sunshine, water and carbon dioxide. Thereby producing oxygen. What is purpose of oxygen? To fill the atmosphere. Purpose of atmosphere? Etc…
        • …until the plant can eventually give way to beings with a free-will (thus highest purpose of universe is accomplished).
      • Meaning cyanobacteria, water, heat from sun, carbon dioxide, atmospheric pressure and altitude… each with it’s own individual function/purpose. And each interconnected with another name-form.
      • All this must mean, there is a greater Overseer (Lord) who has knowledge of all names-forms.
    • Summary:
      • Put on Vedanta-googles and attempt to see things as a product/effect of the putting-together-Intelligence called Ishvara.
      • Continue to worship a personal deity, but also remember it’s a mere symbol of this putting-together-Intelligence.
  • NEXT VERSE: Doing your own duty vs. doing another’s duty (which is seemingly more rewarding and easier). Which is better?

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 47:

śreyān svadharmaḥ viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt ।
svabhāva-niyatam karma kurvan na āpnoti kilbiṣam ॥ 18-47॥
One’s own duty improperly performed, is better than another’s duty properly performed. Doing the duty, determined by (one’s) nature, one does not incur sin.

  • We tend to romanticise other’s profession over ours. Krishna says, stick with the profession that’s compatible with your nature, and work on improving it.
  • In Arjuna’s case, it’s better to kill then to turn into a peaceful Rishikesh sannyasin (which will actually incur papam).
    • Eg:
      • Guilt and Arjuna abandoned those who need his guidance on in the field of action.
      • Someone must deliver the lethal injection / stand a post in army and fire. Neither incur papam. Whereas if Brahmana took job of being in army (as did Drona), it would incur papam
  • Why does one incur papam if they take up another’s duty? Because…
    • One will eventually become dissatisfied with their work, self-confidence will fade, and take it out externally with himsa thoughts, words, actions… or even on themselves.
    • One will hesitate to act in critical decisions, or display negligence (making small innocent mistakes).
  • NEXT VERSE: Krishna reassures each profession has plus/minus. Thus no need to compare/complain.


Keywords:  canda, jyotisham, shiksha, siksa, vyakaranam, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra

Resources:  L185 Mind-Map

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 27 Sept, 2022


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