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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 Why should we be good How should we be good And how might we deeply understand the moral and ethical failings splashed across today s headlines that have not only destroyed individual lives but caused

  • Title: The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma
  • Author: Gurcharan Das
  • ISBN: 9780199754410
  • Page: 298
  • Format: Paperback
  • Why should we be good How should we be good And how might we 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 seeWhy should we be good How should we be good And how might we 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 meaningful life The Difficulty of Being Good shines the light of an ancient poem on the most challenging moral ambiguities of modern life 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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    1 thought on “The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma

    1. Why be good when being bad is considered to be cool?Why does always bad things happen to good people?In a society where people get away by doing bad things, why should people still believe in Non-Violence and Dharma?Is a "bad person" never good? Does not the "good" sometimes become bad?Ultimately what is good and bad?The above questions might have passed through your mind at least once in your lifetime. Thus, what does being good mean? Why be good? It is at this juncture that this book tries to [...]

    2. Gurcharan Das operates from a very grand perspective of the epic of Mahabharata: that the Mahabharata War and its characters are the prototypes and presiding spirits of all crises in Human natures and cultures. Every great political and moral incident, into the grand stage of history or the everyday drama of life, can be looked at as an imitation of it. Of course, Mahabharata is an epic that asserts this itself and without irony: claiming to contain all, fully confident of being understood by pe [...]

    3. Non-fiction at its best. The Difficulty Of Being Good is written by Gurucharan Das( Harvard boy, Procter and gamble CEO , now retired writer for a bunch of newspapers). The book is scintillating and simple Basically the author decided on a break decided to pursue kama -desire,arth-material satisfaction, karma-work ,dharma-righteousness and moksha aka salvation.He wanted to pursue these basic tenets of hinduism using famed books on the suject so behold THE Mahabharata , my favourite epic and the [...]

    4. I think that the Mahabharata should be read by everyone. It's full of wisdom but also of helpful advices for everyday life. It isn't easy to understand always the meaning of many behaviors or events in the Mahabharata, and Gurcharan Das' book helps to understand better what dharma means and why the characters behaved as they did. He explains everything in an easy and understandable way (though of course, in my opinion, it's important to already have read the Mahabharata in order to know what it [...]

    5. This knowledge I have taughtis more arcane than any mystery-consider it completelythen act as you choose.Towards the end of the Gita, this is what Krishna told Arjuna. That defines Krishna for me. And to see Gurcharan Das, grudgingly admire him in ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’ (of course he is not ready to accept him as God with a capital G), it indeed put me off.To tell you the truth, even before I started reading the book, I was hugely biased. 1) My father vehemently supports Krishna, who [...]

    6. An awesome book ( in my opinion). After reading the book I felt that Mahabharat should be considered a literary and a philosophical work rather than a religious one. The book concludes as in the Mahabharat, that dharma is subtle. Thus, how and why to be good are difficult questions but goodness, compassion, forgiveness would ultimately be needed for the orderly world.It appears to me that the purpose of the philosophical ideas behind every religious beliefs is to promote the overall goodness of [...]

    7. "Why be good when being bad is considered to be cool?Why does always bad things happen to good people?In a society where people get away by doing bad things, why should people still believe in 'Dharma'?Is a "bad person" never good? Does not the "good" sometimes become bad?Ultimately what is good and bad? What exactly is our Dharma?Isn't there a certain degree of good in all evil and a certain degree of evil in all good?How does one come to terms with the uncertain ethics of the world around us?W [...]

    8. This is an excellent book in many ways. Das picks up situations and characters in The Mahabharata, interprets them using arguments and theories from philosophy, evolutionary biology, economics and other fields of study, and then tries to apply these interpretations to more recent events such as controversial government policies, wars and scams.He largely succeeds. The passages he selects from The Mahabharata make for lovely reading. His interpretations of them, mainly using philosophical argumen [...]

    9. Shallow. Eg opening sentence - "The Mahabharata is the story of a futile and terrible war" Futile? How? Another eg pg 7 which tries to analyse why Yudhishthira played the disastrous game of dice. Inaccurate. Eg Pg xvi seems to indicate that Pandu waged wars after his sons were born and then left for the forest! It's the other way: he waged wars, went to the forest and then had sons. Does not talk about the second game of dice that the Pandavas lost and as a result had to go on exile.Pg xviii fir [...]

    10. Books are timeless because it allows the reader to pour in the values and wisdom of the present and allows the reader to judge. This reading of Mahabaratha as a non-religious handbook on dharma that is proclaimed subtle is the book for our times of moral conflicts. The book is extremely well researched and analyses the layers of the characters in depth. Much like the post modern books, it judges the merit of the action than the actors. Hence the tone of the book moves from black and white to sha [...]

    11. The Mahabharata is one heck of an amazing work and any attempt to over-analyze something of its magnificence risks falling flat on its face. The Difficulty of Being Good succeeds and succeeds splendidly.An engrossing, thought provoking book that makes one revisit the word dharma and its significance in our lives. The different connotations and interpretations of the word 'dharma' are enlightening for the average reader.The organization of chapters by the characteristics of the lead characters is [...]

    12. The author relies excessively on western sources for translations and for interpretations. This is perhaps because he studied the Mahabharata at Harvard and naturally, more western sources would have been available to him than Indian ones. Apart from that, what struck me most is the critical look that Gurcharan Das takes at Krishna's role in the whole epic, without looking at him as God always. The concept of 'Nishkama Karma' (doing one's duty without thinking of the fruits of it) baffles the au [...]

    13. This book reads a little bit like Gurucharan Das's freshman Intro to Philosophy essay. There's a lot of I feel and I agree with which seems a tad sophomoric. All said and done I always did think that the Mahabharata was a fun story and I am grateful that Gurucharan introduced me to the more subtler nuances of this epic. I really enjoyed Das' discussions on personal dharma versus societal dharma and unmotivated karma. Das does a great job of explaining why the concept of dharma in the context of [...]

    14. I have admired Gurucharan Das in various arenas and his mythos and manners of presenting his view point whether it is the present book or the previous ones. The dynamic pitch keeps one glued and interested in the book till the last page. This book was special as the coherences of anecdotes from current times make believes that history does repeat itself and if things keenly understood, many errs could have been annulled. Duryodhana’s Envy towards the prosperity of his cousin’s pandavas has [...]

    15. What is Dharma?This question has been raised by time to time by various scholar or philosopher of world. People who studied Hinduism has create variable definition of this world according to their understanding about Hinduism. As hinduism, don’t have centre authority of creating and controlling definition, the clusters of various experience through various sages define the perimeter of Dharma.But still Scholars run from one scripture to another scripture to define Dharma. According to some pro [...]

    16. A concise but scholarly review of moral dilemmas the characters in Mahabharata face in the epic.As we gradually realize that the epic is far from the simplistic good vs evil story that we had learnt in our childhood, it leads us into the realms of moral philosophy, discussing the merits of consequential-ist ethics (Utilitarianism) and the contradictions between the different moral duties laid down in the earlier moral texts like Vedas, Manusmriti etc; all of which come into conversations between [...]

    17. "It is always tempting to see the human beings as 'good' and 'bad', but this is not the Mahabharata way. It never makes the choice easy."One unique aspect of this book is that it doesn't make Duryodhana seem completely evil, which the other books written about Mahabharata tend to do. Das also shows that there was some logic behind Duryodhana's intentions of usurping Indraprastha. Duryodhana believed that satisfaction with one's endowment makes one a complacent ruler. It is essential for a king t [...]

    18. Unlike many biased and simplistic renditions of the Mahabharata, the Difficulty of Being Good is a refreshing examination of the moral and ethical issues dealt with in the epic with commendable poise. This book, as the author says, is an account of his quest for understanding “dharma” through one of the greatest literary works known to mankind – the Mahabharata. Though the chapter on envy stands out as superficial and even childish at a point, the rest of the book is engaging and thought p [...]

    19. Makes you think by going deep into the dilemmas faced by the characters in Mahabharat. Explores different dimensions of Dharma without being too philosophical or preachy. Worth a read.

    20. A very fascinating book about the author's journey to understand the concept of "Dharma" by reading and studying Mahabharata. Very well written!! Loved it!!

    21. A great convulsion of spirituality and economics, “The Difficulty of Being Good” traces how as rational beings we are bound to interrogate conservatisms, ancestors, customs and consciousness. Set on the backdrop of the epic Mahabharata, the author Gurcharan Das writes intriguingly, drawing comparisons to today's worldly characters of uncertainty, malice, envy, greed and filthy politics with an uncanny resemblance to the epic. What is dharma, does anyone ever practice it, what is morality, wh [...]

    22. After a long time spent in reading mediocre books, I was searching for an ideal book to revive my reading habit. This fantastic book, "The Difficulty of Being Good - On the Subtle Art of Dharma" by Gurcharan Das, was recently as a part of low-priced popular Penguin initiative. Gurcharan Das was an Ex-CEO of Procter & Gamble India. He took an early retirement to concentrate more on his literary contributions. He is mostly known for his other famous book called "India Unbound" which promotes c [...]

    23. The story of the Mahabharata has always fascinated me. Though the other Vishnu epic, the Ramayana raises a number of questions on Kingship, friendship and society at large, I have realized that the Mahabharata to be deviously layered and the more you peel at it, the more you find ensconced in it - almost like a circular reference to Draupadi's divine garment which was layered to infinity.Thus, a lot has been written about the Mahabharata and the various elements in and around it. Gurcharan Das, [...]

    24. Gurucharan Das with his masterpiece “The difficulty of being good” tries to answer the moral issues of present times by relating them to the Mahabharata. It talks about nature of Dharma in length and its subtlety. The author insists that the story of Mahabharata is not of war but of peace. The pessimist ending of the 1,00,000 verses long Mahabharata leaves its reader wondering about the nature of Dharma which has still not been demystified even by the highest minds. Author suggests that ther [...]

    25. I haven't read a book so difficult and yet amazing in the past couple of years. I had read Das' earlier book - India Unbound - and quite liked it, but this book is better still. The prelude is extravagantly long - and rightly so, since the author details the exact reason that spawned this book. The intent is simple - to explore the great epic of Mahabharata in order to understand the moral dilemmas that we face in our daily lives. I've always been told that the Mahabharata is more than a semi-re [...]

    26. When one thinks of Great Writings on/from India, one thinks of some landmark books. Gurcharan Das's 'The Difficulty of Being Good' is not always an instinctive choice on the list. My suggestion is that this should change. Combining insights from the many ethical schools of Western Philosophy - from the Greeks to the Medieval Catholic Saints to the more Modern Utilitarians and Immanuel Kant - yet keeping the Mahabharata and its concerns on morality right at the center of the book, Gurcharan Das h [...]

    27. I have had this book on my to read list for a long time - maybe close to a decade. I am really glad I finally got to reading it. Gurcharan Das analyzes characters in the Mahabharata from the perspective of 'dharma', and the whys, whats, hows of they behaved through the epic, and at times draws parallels with today's world and how lessons from those times can be applicable now.He puts forth his thoughts as an 'Hindu liberal' as distinct from the Hindu right as well as the secular liberal that is [...]

    28. Let me confess that I have rejected the idea of borrowing this book from just books after going through first few pages. It was giving me impression that this book was yet another critic on Mahabharata.But curiosity killed the cat they sayAmid speculation of a great philosophy, I started discovering if it has something closer to my heart. In the very first chapter i read I found following texts.“Duryodhanaya is not ashamed of his envy because it is part of a larger and consistent egoistic phil [...]

    29. One of the best books. while reading , just don't agree with the author but pose your own questions on yourself. Get answers and figure out what Mahabharatha can teach you and why it is one of the famous philosophical scriptures ever. In one line "Dharma is Subtle". But to understand that, read it.

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