Shreyaanswadharmo vigunah paradharmaat swanushthitaat; Swabhaavaniyatam karma kurvannaapnoti kilbisham.
Do what you love, and love what you do! This slogan seems silly…like it’s meant for the extreme optimist, or the lucky ones who actually have jobs that are fun.
But what if I told you that you are, at this very moment, living your best life? And have the potential to make it better? Simply by reading this article, you are making connections in your brain that can create powerful changes in the way you think, interact with others, and eventually, impact your environment.
Patajanili’s Yoga Sutra Chapter 18: Verse 47 states “Better is one’s own duty destitute of merits, than the duty of another well performed. He who does the duty ordained by his own nature incurs no sin.”
So what does this mean, exactly? Let’s start by asking the following question:
Are You Living Your Dharma?
Dharma is your duty. It refers not only to your overall purpose in this life, but the small stuff too. Your interactions with others, the way you carry yourself, and your attitude towards the stuff that comes up during a typical day. Do you find yourself making excuses for some of the decisions that you make? Are there parts of your life that are not serving you, or that force you to compromise what you know is right?
The shloka stimulates us to think about such things, explaining that it is better to perform one's own duty imperfectly than to perfectly perform a duty that is not yours. For example, I knew a neurosurgeon who was really good at her job. She arrived at work at the crack of dawn, micromanaged her patients, and stayed late to see consults and check up on her postoperative patients.
She was well-liked and respected. But her life was lopsided. It was nothing but work, and compromised her two young kids at home. Although she felt deep down that she really loved her work, she often had to make excuses for the long hours and tedious tasks required from her at the hospital and in the clinic.
There was always an underlying nagging, pulling at her heartstrings to make more time for her family and pay closer attention. Although her work was selfless and she was able to perform it perfectly, it was just not right.
Making Difficult, But Necessary, Transitions
No one could quite understand her sudden impulse to leave her job and house behind. But she didn’t have to explain herself to anyone else, because she knew what was right. And after a year of adjustments and downsizing, she has a stronger bond with her children, greater job satisfaction working only 20 hours a week in a small clinic, and lots of time to study and practice yoga, on and off the mat.
The transition wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. People’s lives may seem glamorous and perfect from the outside, but that may not necessarily be the case. Unless you are being true to yourself and performing your dharma, even if it is imperfect, genuine contentment and happiness cannot be found.
Is there something in your life that you are questioning? Is there something tugging at your heartstrings, or causing you to feel lopsided? Try to meditate on Yoga Sutra 18:47 and see what happens. Maybe your life is perfect. Or maybe it just looks perfect. Perhaps you would be happier to live with some imperfections in order to follow the path of dharma.