It's no accident that Patrick Duffy plays the good-hearted brother on the longtime CBS nighttime drama, "Dallas."

The show is really a modernized version of the Cain and Abel conflict and in real life Duffy is almost as kind and gentle a soul as his biblical counterpart.It's not that he's perfect, but it takes some charity to say that he wishes no evil on the men who murdered his parents in a robbery attempt two years ago.

And, while Duffy has become a major director of the series, he is quick to credit his co-workers for his growing expertise, singling out the show's star and executive producer, Larry Hagman, for encouraging and inspiring him.

Duffy thinks that goodness is within everyone - it's just a matter of finding it.

"It's not like I just woke up and said, "Gee, I'm going to be this altruistic little Mother Teresa and go through life with a smile on my face," he says during a break in filming.

"I didn't. I think it's inherent in everybody to really want to take care of people."

The truth is that Duffy, 41, isn't like most actors who burn for their careers and measure their worth in ratings points or the number of figures on their paychecks.

It's the value you find in your chosen field, whatever it is, that gives satisfaction, he says. And for Duffy it doesn't have to be acting or directing, though he has now directed 30 episodes of the series.

"When I was waiting tables in New York, I think I was a GREAT waiter," he says. "If that were my chosen profession it would give me the satisfaction of being a great artist. It's the production of value within your chosen field that gives you satisfaction. The problem is that in our society we think there are certain things that are artistically rewarding and there are other things that are menial labor. "

Duffy isn't afraid of any shift in lifestyle. That puts him at an advantage.

"I can be fulfilled doing a good job at whatever I want to do. Sometimes it has been the bane of people who negotiate with me," he says with a smile. "They can't hold the threat, `You'll never work in this town again' over my head because that really doesn't matter to me. "

If all that sounds a little Zen, it is. Duffy has been a practicing Buddhist since he first met his wife, Carlyn, nearly 20 years ago. It was the Nichiren Shoshu branch of Buddhism that guided her and it was his introduction to the discipline that healed his ruptured vocal cords after doctors had told him he never would be able to perform again.

That was 1971, a low point in his life, he remembers.

"I was just about to graduate from the University of Washington and ruptured my vocal cords through lack of wisdom, vocal abuse, no rest, drinking too much. That was the end of my career."

Even then Duffy didn't suffer deep depression. He enrolled in a puppet-making class and started working with his hands. When he regained his ability to talk he worked out a deal with the state to narrate visiting performances.

Then he met Carlyn who introduced him to Buddhism and daily vocal chanting - precisely what the doctors had warned against - and within five months he was back on the stage.

He and Carlyn have been married 19 years, they have two sons, Padraic, 16, and Connor, 10.

It all sounds so pat. But it wasn't. When Duffy met Carlyn, who is 10 years his senior, she was already married and a successful ballet dancer.

She challenged him to go to New York to find out if he REALLY could act. The decision to meet her challenge meant he had to inform his Montana-bred parents.

"In one letter I said, `Dear Mom and Dad: I'm moving to New York with a married woman 10 years older than I am and oh, by the way, I'm a Buddhist.' As a parent now if I can imagine what my reaction would be if my son wrote a similar letter. I'd just fall down."

He says his parents never really reconciled to his being a Buddhist. "But the effects of doing it are undeniable."

In 1985 Duffy left the now 13-year-old series. He wanted to test his wings, he says. But the ratings sagged and Hagman urged Duffy to return the following year. Now he says he's lodged in "Dallas" for the duration.

"Most of us on the show now see the dark at the end of the tunnel," he says. "It has been a long, wonderful job but I have a feeling it's almost over."