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The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma by Gurcharan Das Review

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

Author: Gurcharan Das

First published January 1, 2009

488 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9780670083497 (ISBN10: 0670083496)

Rating: 4.11


Gurcharan Das has penned an insightful book that delves into the complexities of morality and ethics – The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma. Using the Mahabharata as a foundation, Das explores the universal question of why it’s important to be good.

He uncovers that the epic’s portrayal of moral ambiguity and uncertainty is more reflective of our human experience than the rigid and dogmatic positions that dominate modern-day debates. The Mahabharata is consumed by the concept of dharma – doing what is right.

Whenever a character falters, the action halts, and everyone weighs in with their interpretation of dharma, which is often contradictory. Despite the characters’ flaws, their incoherent experiences shed light on our own dilemmas.

In his first book in seven years, Das examines the goal of dharma, which is moral well-being, and how we can use this doctrine to make better decisions in our businesses, politics, and personal lives. The Difficulty of Being Good compels us to look within, confront our illusions and biases, and live a more examined life.

About the Author

Meet Gurcharan Das – an Indian author, commentator and public intellectual. He was born on October 3, 1943 and is known for his thought-provoking books.

His book, The Difficulty of Being Good: On the subtle art of dharma, delves into the epic, Mahabharata. Another popular book, India Unbound, is an international bestseller that narrates India’s journey from Independence to the global Information Age.

It has been translated into many languages and even filmed by BBC.

Gurcharan Das is a regular columnist for six Indian newspapers and also writes for international publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, and Newsweek.

He graduated from Harvard University with honors in Philosophy and later attended Harvard Business School (AMP), where he is featured in three case studies. He has worked as the CEO of Procter & Gamble India and later as the Managing Director, Procter & Gamble Worldwide (Strategic Planning).

In 1995, he took early retirement to become a full-time writer. He currently serves on many boards and frequently speaks to top managements of the world’s largest corporations.

Apart from his popular books, Gurcharan Das has also authored a novel titled A Fine Family, a book of essays called The Elephant Paradigm, and an anthology named Three English Plays.

Editoral Review

Gurcharan Das’ The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma is a philosophical book that explores the meaning of Dharma and its relevance to modern-day society. Published in 2009, the book has gained considerable acclaim for its lucid prose, insightful analysis, and engaging storytelling.

Its author, Gurcharan Das, is a well-respected Indian author, commentator, and public intellectual who is known for his works on Indian history, culture, and society. The book is set against the backdrop of the ancient Indian epic, Mahabharata, which tells the story of a great war between two sets of cousins that ultimately results in many deaths and the destruction of families.

Drawing on this background, Das explores the concept of Dharma, which can be loosely defined as the ethical and moral code that guides an individual in their actions and decisions. He argues that the Mahabharata remains relevant today because it raises important questions about the nature of power, responsibility, and justice.

The book is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of Dharma. Part One focuses on the nature of Dharma, with Das discussing its meaning, evolution, and relevance.

Part Two examines the challenges of Dharma, looking at the dilemmas faced by individuals when confronted with ethical and moral choices. Part Three explores the rewards and punishments of Dharma, highlighting the benefits of following it and the consequences of ignoring it.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its ability to weave complex philosophical concepts into a compelling narrative. Das uses examples from the Mahabharata to illustrate his points, drawing on characters such as Arjuna, Yudhishthira, and Draupadi to show how their actions were guided by Dharma.

He also brings in contemporary examples from Indian society, such as the corruption scandals that have plagued the country, to draw parallels with the era of the Mahabharata. Another strength of the book is Das’ ability to present nuanced arguments that address both the strengths and limitations of Dharma.

He acknowledges that Dharma can be a difficult concept to put into practice, especially when faced with conflicting duties and obligations. Yet, he also argues that by following Dharma, individuals can find meaning and purpose in their lives, and contribute to the greater good of society.

However, the book does have a few weaknesses. For one, it can be overly academic at times, with Das relying heavily on quotes and references to other works.

This may make it difficult for some readers who are not familiar with the philosophical concepts that he discusses. Additionally, the book can be quite dense and may require multiple readings to fully understand.

Overall, The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma is an excellent work that is sure to appeal to readers who are interested in Indian philosophy and culture. Its insights and observations are relevant not just to India, but to society as a whole, making it a valuable contribution to the wider discourse on ethics and morality.

The book is well-written, engaging, and thought-provoking, and is sure to stimulate further discussion and debate on the subject. Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended for: readers interested in Indian philosophy, ethics, and morality.

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