By Andre Haralyi M.A., C-IAYT

The word svadharma is commonly translated as own norm or own moral duty, but is better understood as the normative behavior arising from one’s own-being (svabhāva). This concept plays a very important role in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gītā.

“Better is one’s own dharma, even when not done perfectly than another’s dharma well performed. By performing the action prescribed by one’s own own-being (svabhāva), one does not accumulate guilt.”

Bhagavad-Gītā  XVIII.47

The idea behind the concept of svadharma is that everyone must be true to one’s innate essence. Everyone has his or her own duty or path to follow. Once one realizes this, every action will be an expression of their true Self, where the person is not acting anymore, but instead, just being. This highlights the psychological and ethical importance of finding one’s own path. According to these teachings, it is better to strive in one one’s dharma, than to succeed in another’s. Nothing is ever lost by following one’s own dharma.

“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.”

Erich Fromm

Every righteousness action that arises from one’s own-being (svabhāva) is an opportunity to fulfill the svadharma and thus attain liberation. However, the knowledge of the svadharma and the nature of the Self is said to remain obscure, like fire enveloped by smoke or as a mirror enveloped by dust, until the senses are under control.

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