Friday, March 16, 2012
I picked up "The Difficulty of Being Good" on the recommendation of a colleague. And I had no idea what the book was about. But two people recommended it in two days and coincidentally, I found it in my library – all of which was too much of a universal coincidence for me to ignore. So, I picked it up.
The book is a take on the Mahabharata.
What impressed me first was the scholarly levels that Gurcharan Das has gone to before writing this book. I was really impressed that he took early retirement, learnt Sanskrit at a US university and went through the Mahabharata and different versions of it and wrote this book. *Respect*
Gurcharan does a fantastic job of the book. The book goes character by character rather than by chapter. Each of these chapters has gems in them – gems of both what the Mahabharata says and what the author interprets it as. Minor quibble, I wish the Sanskrit original were there as well – but that’s minor, really.
At the end of each character, one needs to pause and reflect as to whether they were good and bad. Turns out, it is not that simple. Was Duryodhana was really bad and was Yudhisthira really good? Was Krishna all good in his goodness and Arjuna was great through and through? Karna, well, is one of the better loved characters as the underdog, but he has his shades of grey as well, as does the venerable Bheeshma.
Few words that will ring in my mind. “Dharma is subtle”. “Action is better than Inaction”. Also coming close on the heels of "Being Different", this book also has some of the Dharmic traditions and differences that "Being Different" spoke about. Gurcharan lays out similar arguments - though not expounded at length as in Rajivs book. Thats a win too.
Also, I personally thought that the comparison of the past to the present broke the line of thought in the book.
The title ultimately also seems to be the answer of the book – which is that “It is difficult to be good”. In my interpretation, it is more “It is impossible to be perfect”, but even with those imperfections there is a path to right and ethics and dharma is my take on it.
I like the fact that books like these are being written - I had recently read Being Different as well. Both of these fall in the category of writing of making our dharmic traditions more accessible to people like us.And in turn inspire us to do better as well...