Early readers have given it a warm welcome!
“Audacious and brilliant . . . Stephen Cope is at the height of his considerable powers.”
“Brilliant, and more importantly, necessary…”
“Charming and introspective…”
“Inspiring and beautifully written…”
“A wonderful reminder of human greatness…”
My Dear Friends:
COVID has changed the world forever. I think we all sense this. Our lives going forward will simply not be the same—in ways of which we’re not even yet aware.
We know as practitioners of yoga, of course, that “everything changes.” Anitya is the Sanskrit word used by the ancient yogis to describe this phenomenon. It means “impermanence.” This very impermanence is understood by these ancient seekers to be one of the three “defining marks of human existence.” Everything changes all the time!
Okay. Change happens every day. Every hour. But in the course of human events there is, every now and then, an epic change, an evolutionary crossroads, a “sea change” if you will—a change such as the one we’re experiencing. Every such sea change brings confusion, suffering, and resistance. But it also brings with it new possibilities, new ways of seeing the world, new solutions to old problems.
How will each of us respond to the challenges and opportunities of this transformed world? I know that this question has been on our collective minds throughout the past two years. I’ve talked with many of you about it over the past year and a half—in online courses, on podcasts, and in person.
Here is the question I’m asked most frequently: How do our yoga traditions inform our response to our current dilemmas? Where in the great treasure trove of yoga scriptures do we find wisdom that speaks directly to our time?
For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a book entitled The Dharma in Difficult Times, in which I wrestle with these very questions. I’m so happy (and relieved!) to announce that the book was finished in January of 2022, and the paperback edition is now widely available.
If you dig into the book, you’ll see that I’ve returned to the Bhagavad Gita as the centerpiece of my inquiry. Why? Because this is the one yoga scripture that speaks most urgently to our times. It is the one scripture that addresses the crucial intersection between personal fulfillment—or Self-Realization, which the yoga tradition has always privileged—and the renewed and urgent calls in our world for social justice, and enhanced concern for the common good—which we might call “collective fulfillment”. How do we balance retreat into the deepest recesses of the mind and heart, and advance into the public square that needs us so badly? How do these two work in tandem to produce an optimal world for all?
Among the world’s great wisdom literature, the Bhagavad Gita makes perhaps the most forceful argument that personal fulfillment and the common good MUST arise together, or they will not arise at all. This is the argument I pursue in The Dharma in Difficult Times, attempting to wrest from the Gita its precious gems on this topic.
I will tell you candidly that no book project has kicked my butt harder than this one. These questions force us to dig deep, don’t they? I hope that you’ll find my own personal wrestling match with these great questions of some use to you and your community.