Enjoy this Sounds True podcast of an interview with Stephen Cope as they discuss the wisdom found in the Bhagavad Gita and the many ways this ancient parable can be applied to modern life.
They speak about discovering and living out your dharma—the true purpose of your life. They discuss the wisdom found in the Bhagavad Gita and the many ways this ancient parable can be applied to modern life. Stephen explains why “missing by an inch is the same as missing by a mile,” as well as why we need to decide what not to do in order to bring our gifts to life. Finally, Tami and Stephen talk about the concept of being a warrior and what this means as we bring our unique skills to bear in a world that needs them more than ever.
Stephen Cope is the scholar emeritus at Kripalu Yoga Center and the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living, as well as the bestselling author of The Wisdom of Yoga and The Great Work of Your Life. With Sounds True, Stephen has produced an eight-week online course titled Your True Calling: Essential Teachings of Yoga to Find Your Path in the World.
The Great Work Of Your Life
Stephen’s excellent book The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling brings the Bhagavad-Gita, a classic Hindu spiritual text, to life. The Bhagavad-Gita, the cornerstone of the yogic tradition, has Arjuna the greatest warrior of his era being counseled by Krishna his divine charioteer.
Arjuna is struggling and is prone laying down on his chariot can’t get himself to go to war. Lots of drama going on in the scene and Krishna advises him on how to live his Dharma.
The Four Pillars of Dharma
Dharma is what Krishna is advising Arjuna about in the Bhagavad-Gita and Stephen helps us bring that to life in our modern lives and many shares stories of extraordinary people who have discovered and most fully lived their Dharma. Everyone from Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau to Susan B. Anthony and Ghandi. An extraordinary array of individuals whose stories he uses to help us understand how we can discover and live our sacred calling.
The Sanskrit word Dharma is impossible to translate into one English word. The basic idea in terms of this book is basically your vocation, your sacred duty, your calling, what are you here to do. It also means the essence of who you are, the truth of your being, that part of you that makes you, you.
The book is about understanding the four pillars of Dharma.
The First Pillar: Look to your Dharma (Discover)
You need to discover your Dharma, know your unique gift/vocation. We all have a seed of potential, a gift that we’ve been giving, our duty is to bring that to life. We need to discover, not create, what that is.
You have gifts and possibilities that no one else has. What’s the special offering that you can make in the current difficulty that no one else can make.
Here are actions you can do to help discover and live your Dharma:
- List what is in your life right now that is most lighting you up. (prioritize your list and keep the top three)
- List what you think your deepest duty in your life, what is it that if you do not do it that you will feel a profound sense of self betrayal. (prioritize your list and keep the top three)
- List the challenges and difficulties that you are facing in your life. (prioritize your list and keep the top three)
- Take the prioritized list from the first three steps and write down the five words that best describe your Dharma.
- Write down the things/actions that support you which you want to enhance moving forward.
- Write down the things/actions that are unnecessary, that may work against your Dharma, that you want to stop doing and let go.
The Second Pillar: Do It Full Out (All In)
Once you discover your Dharma, what your ultimate calling, your sacred duty, you need to go all-in. You need to dedicate your entire life to your Dharma.
When you decide to go all-in on anything in your life, you cut off other options. Now that’s really challenging to do because that requires a level of courage. You can’t hedge your bets, which means you say no to a lot of other things.
On a macro level you need to decide what you’re going to commit your life force, your soul force as Steven describes it. On a micro level we need to say no to all the distractions that get in the way.
Structured all the conditions of your life so that you can most fully give yourself. Created the conditions for your life to flourish.
Our job is to cultivate and create the conditions through which our gift can reach its potential. Have you created the conditions of your life in such a manner that you can flourish?
Know when your energy is at its best. How can you optimize your conditions?
The Third Pillar: Let Go of the Fruits
Focus on the process over results. Let go of outcomes and focus on doing your best, day in and day out. Let go of the fruits of your labor is how Krishna puts it.
Look for the open doors instead of spending your efforts trying to open ones that are not open.
The Fourth Pillar Turn it Over To God (You to Zero)
Turn your entire life over to God. Gandhi described it as reducing himself to zero.
Something magical happens when you’re able to get out of the way and let God take over and shine through. Releasing the God within, reducing ourselves to zero such that God can be fully present.
Develop your fundamentals, develop your core practices that allow you to be a healthy human being such that you can actualize and then move beyond your ego and transcend yourself.
Abraham Maslow describes in the hierarchy of needs start at the basic level and moved up to self-actualization. But that wasn’t the end. After you self actualized, you self transcended. You reduced yourself to zero and you gave your life to something bigger than yourself.