Don’t be misled, though written by Senior Scholar in-Residence and Ambassador of Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling, has little to do with yoga poses, seated meditation, and chanting; it has everything to do with self-discovery in-action.
Cope writes with a friendliness and ease that is not only interesting, but captivating, as he takes readers through a contemporary template of the two-thousand-year-old text known as the Bhagavad Gita. Rather than a scholarly overview, readers enjoy a more philosophical look at what the Bhagavad Gita presents as dharma- vocation, or sacred duty.
Cope introduces readers to what he calls “The Four Pillars of Dharma”, taking select text from the Hindu scripture and then examining how it relates to well-known and admired individuals; such as Harriet Tubman, Walt Whitman, and Gandhi, as well as the lives of ordinary people he knows personally. By presenting these well-known individuals, as well as relationships within the author’s personal life, and displaying them within The Four Pillars of Dharma, readers get a better understanding of what the Four Pillars are, how it relates to them, and how discovering one’s true self has less to do with just being, and everything to do with actual doing.
“It’s impossible to understand the living truth of dharma without getting close to the lives and experiences of real practitioners.”
At its heart, like the Gita, this book is a great story, and Cope is a masterful story-teller. Each story he tells as he goes through the Four Pillars of Dharma felt personal, and was portrayed like I, myself, actually knew the individual intimately. It is lovely in sentiment, and powerfully moving.
“Its purpose is simple: to awaken the mainstream reader to the genius of this magnificent text and to elucidate – through stories – some of it’s most important principles for living.”
You need not be familiar with the Bhagavad Gita, or even yoga philosophy to feel a connection and ultimately benefit from this call to awaken Self. In fact feeling a little lost may even be helpful as you embark on this journey.
“Bring your fears and neuroses and doubts; do not leave that excellent fodder behind. Bring your desperation and your most ardent wishes for a full life. Gather ’round the fire with the rest of us ordinary human beings, as we investigate the not-so-far-fetched possibility of becoming fully alive.”
If this book sparks your interest, you may also enjoy Max Strom’s, A Life Worth Breathing, or Brené Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations; 9 mild obscenities; 1 scatological word.
Violence/Gore: Report of mythical battle; mention of mass murder; report of past war and slavery; mention of individual’s injury incurred during battle; comment on Lincoln’s assassination; mention of connection between (men’s) consumption of alcohol and abusing others, namely women; report of deaths; report that individual threatened to kill themselves; individual chases a family member with knife; character is recorded as being suicidal, wrestles with suicidal thoughts; report of alcoholic father who abused his children; mention of atomic bomb; individual is threatened with being hanged; threat of violent death; report of assassination of Gandhi.
Sex/Nudity: Remark about transgender; comment on sexuality; implication man slept with other man; man refers to his significant other as his partner; remark on sex; mention of sexual scandals and a man having mistresses (2x); artist refers to his/her act of painting as making love; remark on craving sex (2x); mention of prostitutes.
Mature Subject Matter:
Physical sickness, mental illness, death, war(s); slave trade, women’s rights, civil disobedience.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A few mentions of individuals smoking tobacco and partaking in alcohol; discussion of temperance movement; mention of connection between (men’s) consumption of alcohol and abusing others, namely women; report of alcoholic father who abused his children.