sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah
kurvan napnoti kilbisam
Word for word:
sreyan — better; sva-dharmah — one’s own occupation; vigunah — imperfectly performed; para-dharmat — than another’s occupation; su-anusthitat — perfectly done; svabhava-niyatam — prescribed according to one’s nature; karma — work; kurvan — performing; na — never; apnoti — achieves; kilbisam — sinful reactions.
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
One’s occupational duty is prescribed in Bhagavad-gita. As already discussed in previous verses, the duties of a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra are prescribed according to their particular modes of nature. One should not imitate another’s duty. A man who is by nature attracted to the kind of work done by sudras should not artiﬁcially claim to be a brahmana, although he may have been born into a brahmana family. In this way one should work according to his own nature; no work is abominable, if performed in the service of the Supreme Lord. The occupational duty of a brahmana is certainly in the mode of goodness, but if a person is not by nature in the mode of goodness, he should not imitate the occupational duty of a brahmana. For a ksatriya, or administrator, there are so many abominable things; a ksatriya has to be violent to kill his enemies, and sometimes a ksatriya has to tell lies for the sake of diplomacy. Such violence and duplicity accompany political affairs, but a ksatriya is not supposed to give up his occupational duty and try to perform the duties of a brahmana.
One should act to satisfy the Supreme Lord. For example, Arjuna was a ksatriya. He was hesitating to ﬁght the other party. But if such ﬁghting is performed for the sake of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there need be no fear of degradation. In the business ﬁeld also, sometimes a merchant has to tell so many lies to make a proﬁt. If he does not do so, there can be no proﬁt. Sometimes a merchant says, “Oh, my dear customer, for you I am making no proﬁt,” but one should know that without proﬁt the merchant cannot exist. Therefore it should be taken as a simple lie if a merchant says that he is not making a proﬁt. But the merchant should not think that because he is engaged in an occupation in which the telling of lies is compulsory, he should give up his profession and pursue the profession of a brahmana. That is not recommended. Whether one is a ksatriya, a vaisya, or a sudra doesn’t matter, if he serves, by his work, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even brahmanas, who perform different types of sacriﬁce, sometimes must kill animals because sometimes animals are sacriﬁced in such ceremonies. Similarly, if a ksatriya engaged in his own occupation kills an enemy, there is no sin incurred. In the Third Chapter these matters have been clearly and elaborately explained; every man should work for the purpose of Yajna, or for Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Anything done for personal sense gratiﬁcation is a cause of bondage. The conclusion is that everyone should be engaged according to the particular mode of nature he has acquired, and he should decide to work only to serve the supreme cause of the Supreme Lord.