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

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

Paperback

By (author) Gurcharan Das

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 434 pages
  • Dimensions: 154mm x 234mm x 34mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 1 October 2010
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199754411
  • ISBN 13: 9780199754410
  • Sales rank: 134,983

Product description

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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Author information

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.

Review quote

''The book is a wonderful combination of the scholarly and the personal, the academic and the meditative. The basic plan works beautifully, building a rich mix of his very, very careful and detailed reading of the text, his other wide reading, and his life in business; an extraordinary blend. I found the use of evolutionary biology and the Prisoner's Dilemma to explain the pragmatism of the Mahabharata absolutely brilliant.'' --Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago ''The book is a remarkable tour de force that connects an ageless philosophical epic to the travails of contemporary society. This book is for the liberal Hindu who does not want his religion co-opted, for the modern Indian who wants to build a fair and inclusive society and for the global citizen who is rendered asunder by moral absolutism. The dharmic challenges we face every day resonate throughout Gurcharan's book. Reading this book has been an enriching experience!'' --Nandan Nilekani, author of Imagining India ''Through a series of bravura readings of the Mahabharata, Gurcharan Das makes a learned and passionate attempt to inform how the great Indian epic might illuminate our present-day moral dilemmas. Readers will find his analyses of dharma insightful, challenging, and honest--doing full justice to the world's most complex, exciting and honest poem. This admirable book offers precisely the kind of reflection that the epic itself invites--moral, political and public. It shows why the Mahabharata is a classic: because it is ever timely. This superb book is knowledgeable, passionate, and even courageous. Grounded in a secure knowledge of the narrative, it raises key moral problems--from the doctrine of just war to affirmative action to the nature of suffering--and it makes striking attempts to link these with contemporary discussions and issues, both public and personal.'' --Sheldon Pollock, William B