The Bhagavadgita on Perfection in Duty
sve sve karmany abhiratah samsiddhim labhate narah
svakarmaniratah siddhim yathā vindati tac chrnu
sve sve = one's own; karmani = duty; abhiratah = following, taking delight; samsiddhim = complete perfection, excellence, success; labhate = attains; narah = a person, human being; sva-karma = by his own duty; niratah = following; siddhim = perfection, success; yatha = how, in what manner; vindati = attains; tat = that; srnu = here listen.
"By following one's own duty a human being attains complete perfection. Hear how that perfection is achieved by following one's own duty.
Siddhi means perfection. It refers to a state that is completely free from desires, mental disturbances, impurities, ignorance, delusion, bondage, attachment, egoism, vice and duality...You achieve that state by performing your duties selflessly.
Your duty depends upon your gunas. Your primary duty is to serve God. You should do it with whatever you have, making use of whatever opportunities you may get. Some of it you inherit from your past lives and some of it you cultivate in this life.
Do not think of what you can get from your religious observances or spiritual practices. That is a selfish approach. It gets you nowhere, except keeping you in the circle of births and deaths.
Think of what you can give, and what you can do within the limitations and circumstances in which you live and the inherent qualities that exist in you.
That sets you apart and establishes a firm foundation upon which you can journey easily to the world of absolute freedom.
Remember, you can sacrifice what you have and that is yourself. In the sacrifice of your life, you become the sacrificed. Without sacrifice, you will remain stuck in a limited life, with a limited vision.
If sattva is predominant in you, you offer God your knowledge and devotion. You serve Him by spreading His knowledge among His devotees and by performing sacrificial ceremonies and offering sacrificial food to the gods who depend upon us for nourishment.
With your knowledge and devotional service, you uphold the order and regularity of the world and contribute to peace and harmony among people. You open yourself to the light of God and you let that light spread around touching others who come into its presence.
If rajas is predominant in you, you serve God by offering your power and prestige. You serve Him by throwing your weight around for religious causes, by protecting His devotees, by promoting and upholding His law (dharma) and protecting it from His enemies.
By nature, if you have rajas and tamas and drawn to wealth building activities, you serve God with your wealth, by donating money to religious causes and helping the poor and the helpless with charity.
If tamas is predominant in you, you offer God your physical strength, your time and energy. You serve Him by serving others with humility and compassion. You become a true servant of God, and in his service, you overcome your inner darkness and lethargy.
This is how human beings have to achieve perfection, living in harmony with their gunas, giving what they have and doing what they can, without any expectations.
Lord Krishna declared in this verse that the best way to achieve salvation was to follow one's own duty, according to one's own essential nature.
In other words, if you give expression to what is in you by engaging in actions that are in harmony with your basic nature, you are likely to achieve perfection in your duty, which will eventually lead to perfection in everything else. How one can accomplish it, He explained next.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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