India is the only civilization to elevate kama—desire and pleasure—to a goal of life. Kama is both a cosmic and human energy, animating life and holding it in place.
Gurcharan Das weaves a compelling narrative filled with philosophical, historical and literary ideas in the third volume of his trilogy on life’s goals—India Unbound was the first,
on artha, ‘material well-being’; The Difficulty of Being Good was the second on dharma, ‘moral well-being’. Here, in his magnificent prose, he examines how to cherish desire in order
to live a rich, flourishing life, arguing that if dharma is a duty to another, kama is a duty to oneself.
This fascinating account of love and desire sheds new light on love, marriage, family, adultery, and jealousy as it wrestles with questions such as these: How to nurture desire
without harming others or oneself? Are the erotic and the ascetic two aspects of our same human nature? What is the relationship between romantic love and bhakti, the love of god?
Desire is a lack of something and once fulfilled, it declines inevitably: how do we prepare for the day when it disappears and turns bitter?