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

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Item Code: IHF071
Author: Gurcharan Das
Publisher: Penguin
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9780143418979
Pages: 486
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.4" X 6.0"
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Most of us spend our lives wrestling with day-to-day questions of right and wrong that are either left unanswered or have no easy answers. The Difficulty of Being Good turns to the Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, in order to answer the question, 'why be good?' and discovers that the epic's world of moral haziness and uncertainty is closer to our experience as ordinary human beings than the narrow and rigid positions that define most debate in this fundamentalist age of moral certainty.

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 gets on with it; when a hero falters in the Mahabharata, the action stops and everyone weighs in with a different and often contradictory take on dharma. The epic's characters are flawed; they stumble. But their incoherent experiences throw light on our familiar emotions of anxiety, courage, despair, remorse, envy, compassion, vengefulness and duty. As the Mahabharata's story unfolds in The Difficulty of Being Good, the focus shifts from character to character-Bhishma, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Draupadi, Duryodhana Karna, Ashwatthama and Krishna-their ethical problems, and the significance of these issues for our lives.

Gurcharan Das's best-selling book India Unbound examined the classical aim of artha, material well-being. This, his first book in seven years, dwells on the goal of dharma, moral well-being. It addresses the central problem of how to live our lives in an examined way-holding a mirror up to us and forcing us to confront the many ways in which we deceive ourselves and others. What emerges is a doctrine of dharma that we can apply to our business decisions, political strategies, and interpersonal relationships-in effect, to life itself.

About 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.

Gurcharan Das graduated from Harvard University where he studied philosophy with John Rawls and Sanskrit under Daniel Ingalls. He was CEO of Procter & Gamble India before he took early retirement to become a full-time writer. He lives in Delhi.

 

Contents

 

  Acknowledgments xiii
  A Note on Rendering Sanskrit into English xiv
  The Central Story of the Mahabharata xiv
  Dramatis Personae xvi
  Genealogical Table xxviii
  Chronology xxix
  Prelude xxxi
  I take an academic holiday  
1 Duryodhana's Envy 1
  'What man of mettle will stand to see his rivals prosper and himself decline?'  
2 Draupadi's Courage 33
  'Whom did you lose first, yourself or me?'  
3 Yudhishthira's Duty 63
  'I act because I must'  
4 Arjuna's Despair 88
  'There are no victors in war'  
5 Bhishma's Selflessness 117
  'Be intent on the act, not on its fruits'  
6 Karna's Status Anxiety 151
  'How could a doe give birth to a tiger?'  
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