Noting that most Americans make strong distinctions between work and their private time, tending to regard work as a burdensome necessity rather than as an opportunity for growth and accomplishment, Tarthang Tulku introduced Skillful Means as a way to help readers find greater satisfaction in work and life. For Dharma students, work can be an effective spiritual exercise, a practice in mindfulness and the means of perfecting six spiritual qualities, from generosity to discipline and patience, foundation of vigor, concentration, and wisdom. Skillful Means points out how the discipline of work develops awareness, strengthens concentration, and stimulates energy.
Published in 1976, Skillful Means may have been the first book to bring a spiritual perspective to the American work ethic. Empowering individuals with ways to build meaning into daily life, Skillful Means set forth a new philosophy of work. It has been adopted for required reading in college and university classes throughout the United States. Its principles inspired the formation of Skillful Means Press, a commercial printing company, and its successor, Dharma Enterprises, which instituted training programs in Skillful Means. Continued successfully over nearly ten years, these programs became the basis for MasterWork, the latest exposition of Skillful Means, written by the company's director.