In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3, verse 35, the concept of swadharma is addressed:
श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय: परधर्मो भयावह: || 35||
śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
swa-dharme nidhanaṁ śhreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ
Better one’s own ‘duty’, though devoid of merit, than the ‘duty’ of another well-discharged. Better is death in one’s own ‘duty; the ‘duty of another is fraught with fear (is productive of positive danger).
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is himself debating a “career” transition - moving from a kshatriya to a renunciate. He is afraid that in doing his duty as a warrior, he is going to cause devastation and harm. And instead of Krishna giving him a career transition plan, the Lord tells him he MUST do his swadharma, and it’s ok if he doesn’t do it perfectly or well. The alternative is far worse.
From this, we can glean a critical message: Swadharma is so important that it is better to do our swadharma badly or even to die doing it, than it is to do another person’s swadharma.
This runs counter to our wiring as a society, particularly as an Asian community, because we tend to focus on security, rather than purpose. The verse tells us our innate tendencies are what we need to be focusing on, and that is paramount. And this shifts how we look at the world of work because we have to shift our identity from being a job seeker to a seeker.
We have to ask ourselves what identity we are prioritizing. Are we first seekers and then job-seekers or is it the other way round? This is an important inquiry because your primary identity shifts the conversation you have about your career, and this will open the path to deeper clarity about your swadharma.
It’s important to ask ourselves the right questions; if not, it will be hard to become aligned with our swadharma. We will find ourselves held back by fear of failure, insecurity and rejection.
Vedanta urges us to inquire deeply into ourselves to understand the True Reality. We can similarly follow the process of inquiry to uncover our swadharma. The above list of questions can be the starting point for digging into our purpose so that we can more fully use our potential to serve the world.