“Every endeavor is covered by some sort of fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work which is born of his nature, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of fault.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.48)
सह-जं कर्म कौन्तेय
स-दोषम् अपि न त्यजेत्
सर्वारम्भा हि दोषेण
saha-jaṁ karma kaunteya
sa-doṣam api na tyajet
sarvārambhā hi doṣeṇa
Friend1: There is an interesting section of the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna explains that it is better to follow your occupation, even incorrectly, than to imitate someone else’s.
Friend2: Think about it. Totally makes sense. Let’s say that I am skilled at computer programming. Sitting in isolation. Accepting a requirements document and translating that into relevant code to adjust the application for the end-users.
Friend1: There is a certain stereotype to that kind of professional, for sure.
Friend2: Nerdy. Geeky. Whatever word you want to use, it is not a criticism. That behavior goes together with the kind of work necessary to be done. Imagine, then, if I suddenly want to be the leader of the company. The qualities required are completely different. Face-time. Personal interaction. Illogical behavior.
Friend1: A manager has to be illogical?
Friend2: Not consistent. I have to treat some employees a certain way and others a different way.
Friend1: Oh, that’s true. Coaches in professional sports are always talking about that. The need to motivate in different ways. You can’t yell at the sensitive people and you can’t be soft on the ones always causing trouble.
Friend2: According to the principles followed in coding, that is illogical. The discipline is entirely literal. If programmers did not follow directions literally, there would be chaos. Managing is something different. It would be better if I stuck to what I was born to do. Even if there are some faults, it is not a big deal.
Friend1: Yes, and the context in the Bhagavad-gita was this proposal of Arjuna renouncing the battlefield in order to retreat to the forests for meditation.
Friend2: Abandoning the occupation of kshatriya [warrior] in favor of brahmana [priest].
Friend1: Which we must mention has occurred before. Vishvamitra Muni is a famous example.
Friend2: But certainly an exceptional case.
Friend1: Listen, I am not here to argue the merits. Who am I to go against Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The comparison to fire and its smoke makes sense to me. Keep it simple. Don’t get too cute. You can’t do everyone’s work.
Friend2: Right. Krishna always simplifies things for us, though in providing the explanation He is willing to introduce as much detail as we need to be convinced.
Friend1: The obvious question is how to determine the proper occupation. Someone working in a butcher shop could say that they were born for that occupation. Valmiki Muni was a highway robber prior to writing the sacred Ramayana. The image we have of Valmiki is sitting down, composing Sanskrit verses. He has the look typical of a brahmana.
Friend2: Valmiki is originally a brahmana, but it is still a good question. Carefully study the two situations. Arjuna is receiving instruction from Krishna. The highway robber corrected his ways through contact with Narada Muni.
Friend1: Okay, but last I checked the Supreme Lord has not come knocking on my door to tell me what to do.
Friend2: Well, He always leaves the option up to you. He does not compel, but I understand your point.
Friend1: How will I determine the proper karma? I don’t want to risk a wasted endeavor.
Friend2: Meeting the representative is just as good as meeting Shri Krishna. If that weren’t the case, the teachings would have no potency. The message is so powerful that someone other than the source relaying it has the ability to purify souls.
Friend1: I should meet the guru, then? They will tell me the proper work?
Friend2: For sure, but even lacking a direct meeting the same effect can come from connection through teachings. That is why the acharyas of the modern day emphasize published works and their distribution. Even if you are unable to meet the author personally, have your mind opened to the timeless wisdom of Vedanta, which is the conclusion of knowledge. At the very least, you can stay in your occupation and introduce devotional culture through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.