The Difficulty of Being Good

On The Subtle Art of Dharma
The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma
ISBN: 9780670083497
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780199754410
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New York

Most of us spend our lives wrestling with day-to-day questions of right and wrong and these either unanswered or have no easy answer. This book turns to the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, in order to answer the question, ‘why be good?’ and it discovers that the epic’s world of moral haziness and uncertainty is closer to our experience as ordinary human beings rather than the narrow and rigid positions that define most debate and discussion today after 9/11.

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 contradictory take on dharma. The epic’s characters are flawed; they stumble. But their incoherent experiences throw light on our day to day emotions of envy, revenge, remorse, status anxiety, compassion, courage, duty and other moral qualities. As the Mahabharata’s story unfolds in each chapter (and the author lets the epic speak as far as possible), the focus moves to a single character and his or her ethical problem–and its significance for our lives.

Tamil Edition Hindi Edition
Tamil Edition
ISBN: 9788184763010
Hindi Edition
Scheduled to be
published in August 2011

The classical Indian life has four aims. Gurcharan Das’ earlier book, India Unbound, examined the aim of artha, material well being. This one 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 to us and forcing us to confront the many ways in which we deceive ourselves; how we are false to others; and how we oppress fellow human beings. Its premise is that ordinary human life does not have to be so cruel and humiliating.

The author studied moral philosophy with John Rawls and Sanskrit with Daniel Ingalls at Harvard.

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