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The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling Paperback – December 15, 2015
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“Keep a pen and paper handy as you read this remarkable book: It’s like an owner’s manual for the soul.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
“A masterwork . . . You’ll find inspiration in these pages. You’ll gain a better appreciation of divine guidance and perhaps even understand how you might better hear it in your own life.”—Yoga Journal
“I am moved and inspired by this book, the clarity and beauty of the lives lived in it, and the timeless dharma it teaches.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
“A rich source of contemplation and inspiration [that] encourages readers . . . to discover and fully pursue their inner self’s calling.”—Publishers Weekly
“Fabulous . . . If you have ever wondered what your purpose is, this book is a great guide to help you on your path.”—YogaHara
“With ringing clarity, Cope gets his main point across: that seeking is all and that dharma will allow you to bear life’s suffering. . . . An engaging exploration into living fully.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The Great Work of Your Life is itself a great work. This is a wonderfully passionate book about finding one’s true calling. The stories within are inspiring and moving. I believe it will be of great benefit to all who read it.”—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
“One rarely thinks of a dharma book as a page-turner, but this one is indeed that. This is a great read and a great revitalizing breath of fresh air.”—Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job
“This is an important book—West and East informing each other. It was a joy to read.”—Natalie Goldberg, author of Old Friend from Far Away
About the Author
Stephen Cope has been for many years the Senior Scholar-in-residence at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. He is the author of a number of bestselling books, including Yoga and the Quest for the True Self and The Wisdom of Yoga.
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The original meaning of dharma is right or selfless action (taken without attachment to the outcome) while karma is selfish action (taken with attachemnt to the outcome). The Bhagavad Gita is, perhaps, the best source of how to bring joy and bliss into your life through the practice of dharma.
Stephen Cope seems to be aware dharma is very difficult for Westerners (just as it is very difficult for Hindus) as being selfless is a most difficult practice. However, instead of being true to The Bhagavad Gita and describing the strategies for achieving dharma, selfless action, Mr. Cope, instead invents a new definition of dharma which is pursuing your passion (i.e. karma, the pursuit of self-serving transient pleasures), the exact opposite. He then pays lip service to serving the greater good, but true dharma starts with selfless actions at its core not as an apology for the pursuit of selfish transient pleasure.
For example, Mr. Cope advises that a priest who is effective at helping his parishioners and who is sorely needed by his parishioners but is drawn to a pursuit of music, should abandon his parishioners and pursue his passion for music, a self serving transient pleasure. By the same logic a householder responsible for young children but with a desire to be a circus performer should abandon his family and kids to be a circus performer. According to The Bhagavad Gita and numerous other texts, this is a sure fire path to misery and suffering as transient pleasures can not provide contentment, joy or bliss. Selfless devotion to your current duties (i.e. being the best householder that you can) can provide the contentment and joy we desire if approached with wisdom and devotion. This is what the The Bhagavad Gita is all about.
However, I was disappointed that none of Mr. Cope's examples of people who found their dharma included people with real family or financial obligations. Most of us cannot walk in the woods or near a pond for a couple years (while our mother brings us cookies) and just write poetry and reflect on nature. We must also support and care for our families. I would very much like to find inspiration from people who were able to meet their obligations and still find a way to find their dharma tat does not make anyone else suffer.
I became an engineer solely for the reason that it was a secure way to provide for my family. For a long time my dharma was simply just that, to support and care for my family. Being able to do so made me very happy. Now that my children are grown or gone (one died in a car accident) I understand that life is very short and I want to grow as a person before it's my time to go as well. Yet I still have an obligation to my husband and don't want him to feel like he has to bear the complete burden of maintaining our life just so I can "find myself". It wouldn't be fair to him.
I would have also liked more examples of people who didn't know what their calling was. Most of Mr. Cope's examples were people that always knew they wanted to be a poet or a writer or had a very strong drive to do something very specific. I, on the other hand, am not so clear. I have lots of interests, many of which I obsess over,,,,, for a very brief period of time. Then another interest catches my eye. Perhaps the journey is part of the process and the mere act of looking is teaching me what I need to know. Still, it would be nice to find something that makes me feel like I'm not just treading water waiting out the second half of my life.