श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय: परधर्मो भयावह: || 35||
śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
swa-dharme nidhanaṁ śhreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ
śhreyān—better; swa-dharmaḥ—personal duty; viguṇaḥ—tinged with faults; para-dharmāt—than another’s prescribed duties; su-anuṣhṭhitāt—perfectly done; swa-dharme—in one’s personal duties; nidhanam—death; śhreyaḥ—better; para-dharmaḥ—duties prescribed for others; bhaya-āvahaḥ—fraught with fear
One’s own duty, ill-performed and without merit, is better than the duty of another well-discharged. Better is death in discharging one’s own duty. Another’s duty is fraught with fear.
Arjuna is a Kshatriya. It is his duty to fight a righteous war though he may face death in the attempt. To neglect his duty and adopt the duty of another is dangerous because it would upset the order of the world, and create confusion and chaos in society. In the First Discourse, Arjuna spoke in a mood of despondency that he would prefer to live on alms like a mendicant than kill his relations and friends in battle. The Lord here states the law for a Kshatriya and the danger of neglecting it and adopting the life of another.
The word Svadharmah may be taken to mean the law of the Self and paradharma may mean the law of the objective world (i.e.) the pleasure of the senses and the physical body. Whatever is conducive to Self-realisation should be followed, even it causes death in the attempt. Whatever draws away from Atma-dhrama should be avoided. Fasting, penance and other sadhanas though irksome in the beginning confer great merit finally. They constitute Atma-dhrama. On the other hand worldly pleasures though enjoyable at first, lead to pain and suffering. So the seeker should hold on to the Self and go on practicing the prescribed duties. Sometimes the seeker may feel that he is not making any progress and that his sadhana is futile. In these moments of doubt, the seeker should be cautious and firm. He should not abandon his practices. If he dies in the midst of his Yoga-Sadhana, he does not perish. He attains to higher world and would come to act again into the human body to continue his work. So the Lord exhorts the seeker not to give up Svadharma, Atma-dhrama under any circumstances.
Swami Vivekananda Says —
Shri Krishna says: “Better die in your own path than attempt the path of another.” This is my path, and I am down here. And you are way up there, and I am always tempted to give up my path thinking I will go there and be with you. And if I go up, I am neither there nor here. We must not lose sight of this doctrine. It is all [a matter of] growth. Wait and grow, and you attain everything; otherwise there will be [great spiritual danger]. Here is the fundamental secret of teaching religion.[Source]
Therefore, better die working out your own natural religion than following another’s natural religion, however great it may appear to you.[Source]
Every man should take up his own ideal and endeavour to accomplish it. That is a surer way of progress than taking up other men’s ideals, which he can never hope to accomplish. For instance, we take a child and at once give him the task of walking twenty miles. Either the little one dies, or one in a thousand crawls the twenty miles, to reach the end exhausted and half-dead. That is like what we generally try to do with the world. All the men and women, in any society, are not of the same mind, capacity, or of the same power to do things; they must have different ideals, and we have no right to sneer at any ideal. Let every one do the best he can for realizing his own ideal. Nor is it right that I should be judged by your standard or you by mine. The apple tree should not be judged by the standard of the oak, nor the oak by that of the apple. To judge the apple tree you must take the apple standard, and for the oak, its own standard.[Source]
Question: Between Svadharma and Paradharma which is better and why?
Answer: Svadharma is better though difficult to practice. Paradharma is fraught with fear, though easy to follow. By performing one’s own duty, man realises God. Though one dies in the attempt, it is good for him.