saha-jam karma kaunteya
sa-dosam api na tyajet
sarvarambha hi dosena
Word for word:
saha-jam — born simultaneously; karma — work; kaunteya — O son of Kunti; sa-dosam — with fault; api — although; na — never; tyajet — one should give up; sarva-arambhah — all ventures; hi — certainly; dosena — with fault; dhumena — with smoke; agnih — ﬁre; iva — as; avrtah — covered.
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Every endeavor is covered by some fault, just as ﬁre is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work born of his nature, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of fault.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
In conditioned life, all work is contaminated by the material modes of nature. Even if one is a brahmana, he has to perform sacriﬁces in which animal killing is necessary. Similarly, a ksatriya, however pious he may be, has to ﬁght enemies. He cannot avoid it. Similarly, a merchant, however pious he may be, must sometimes hide his proﬁt to stay in business, or he may sometimes have to do business on the black market. These things are necessary; one cannot avoid them. Similarly, even though a man is a sudra serving a bad master, he has to carry out the order of the master, even though it should not be done. Despite these ﬂaws, one should continue to carry out his prescribed duties, for they are born out of his own nature.
A very nice example is given herein. Although ﬁre is pure, still there is smoke. Yet smoke does not make the ﬁre impure. Even though there is smoke in the ﬁre, ﬁre is still considered to be the purest of all elements. If one prefers to give up the work of a ksatriya and take up the occupation of a brahmana, he is not assured that in the occupation of a brahmana there are no unpleasant duties. One may then conclude that in the material world no one can be completely free from the contamination of material nature. This example of ﬁre and smoke is very appropriate in this connection. When in wintertime one takes a stone from the ﬁre, sometimes smoke disturbs the eyes and other parts of the body, but still one must make use of the ﬁre despite disturbing conditions. Similarly, one should not give up his natural occupation because there are some disturbing elements. Rather, one should be determined to serve the Supreme Lord by his occupational duty in Krishna consciousness. That is the perfectional point. When a particular type of occupation is performed for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, all the defects in that particular occupation are puriﬁed. When the results of work are puriﬁed, when connected with devotional service, one becomes perfect in seeing the self within, and that is self-realization.