The Difficulty of being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma

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Overview

Why should we be good? How should we be good? And how might we more deeply understand the moral and ethical failings—splashed across today's headlines—that have not only destroyed individual lives but caused widespread calamity as well, bringing communities, nations, and indeed the global economy to the brink of collapse?
In The Difficulty of Being Good, Gurcharan Das seeks answers to these questions in an unlikely source: the 2,000 year-old Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata. A ...

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The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma

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Overview

Why should we be good? How should we be good? And how might we more deeply understand the moral and ethical failings—splashed across today's headlines—that have not only destroyed individual lives but caused widespread calamity as well, bringing communities, nations, and indeed the global economy to the brink of collapse?
In The Difficulty of Being Good, Gurcharan Das seeks answers to these questions in an unlikely source: the 2,000 year-old Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata. A sprawling, witty, ironic, and delightful poem, the Mahabharata is obsessed with the elusive notion of dharma—in essence, doing the right thing. When a hero does something wrong in a Greek epic, he wastes little time on self-reflection; when a hero falters in the Mahabharata, the action stops and everyone weighs in with a different and often contradictory take on dharma. Each major character in the epic embodies a significant moral failing or virtue, and their struggles mirror with uncanny precision our own familiar emotions of anxiety, courage, despair, remorse, envy, compassion, vengefulness, and duty. Das explores the Mahabharata from many perspectives and compares the successes and failures of the poem's characters to those of contemporary individuals, many of them highly visible players in the world of economics, business, and politics. In every case, he finds striking parallels that carry lessons for everyone faced with ethical and moral dilemmas in today's complex world.
Written with the flair and seemingly effortless erudition that have made Gurcharan Das a bestselling author around the world—and enlivened by Das's forthright discussion of his own personal search for a more meaningful life—The Difficulty of Being Good shines the light of an ancient poem on the most challenging moral ambiguities of modern life.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Das (India Unbound) retired early from his top position at Procter & Gamble Worldwide to become something of an Indian public intellectual, writing regular columns for the Times of India and other newspapers. By 2002, however, distressed by the ubiquitous corruption infecting India's public and private sectors, he decided to spend two years on "academic holiday" at the University of Chicago, working with Sanskrit scholars and the impressive South Asian collection "to recover a meaningful ideal of civic virtue from [one of] India's foundational texts…," the Mahabharata, which contains the perhaps better-known Bhagavad Gita. Now, Das gives us this highly readable exploration of the classic text's abundant moral contradictions. Das frequently taps the wisdom of Western thinkers such as Plato, Freud, Nietzsche, Adam Smith, and Aristotle, making the Indian classic somewhat more familiar. VERDICT With a superb bibliographic essay, this is highly recommended to all seekers of wisdom and especially to students of Indian philosophy.—James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670083497
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/23/2009
  • Pages: 434
  • Sales rank: 711,588
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gurcharan Das is the author of the much-acclaimed India Unbound, which has been translated into many languages and filmed by the BBC. He writes a regular column for six Indian newspapers, including the Times of India, and occasionally for Newsweek, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. His other books include the novel A Fine Family; a book of essays, The Elephant Paradigm; and an anthology, Three English Plays, consisting of Larins Sahib, 9 Jakhoo Hill, and Mira.

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Table of Contents

Prelude: I Take an Academic Holiday
1. Duryodhana's Envy: ''What man of mettle will stand to see his rivals prosper and himself decline''
2. Draupadi's Courage: ''Who did you lose first, yourself or me?''
3. Yudhisthira's Duty: ''I act because I must''
4. Arjuna's Despair: ''There are no victors in war''
5. Bhishma's Selflessness: ''Be intent on the act, not its fruits''
6. Karna's Status Anxiety: ''How could a doe give birth to this tiger?''
7. Krishna's Guile: ''That is the way it is!''
8. Aswatthama's Revenge: ''Now I feel the whirligig of time''
9. Yudhisthira's Remorse: ''This victory looks more like defeat to me''
10: Mahabharata's Dharma: ''Great king, you weep with all creatures''
Conclusion: The Difficulty of Being Good Appendix: Dharma, the Story of a Word A Short Bibliographic Essay Notes Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2013

    Brilliant!

    Gurucharan Das does a great job of bringing a sacred religious work into modern context. A highly worthwhile read whatever your faith may be. He essentially delineates how the social dilemmas faced in the Mahabharata are timeless dilemmas and how the nature of doing "right" or "being good" is never so clear. A Masterful work!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2011

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    Posted June 26, 2011

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