Book Review: Difficulty of Being Good- Gurucharan Das

“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 prominent writers and scholars of Hinduism, Dharma is “righteous way of living”, for few of them its “Duty imposed by Indian social structure” and for few of them “Dharma is conduct of self-styled duty”. ironically, there is various translation from various scholars [western and eastern] about the concept. This book is similar attempt to understand the dharma through world largest epic “Mahabharata”.

Gurucharan das is one of the influence writer with his strong support of neheruvian socialism and capitalism. His panjabi back ground give good tadaka (spice) to this non fictional attempt to understand dharma through Mahabharata. Gurucharan, works enormously over subject to illustrate and confined it into definition through lenses of western philosophy and their understanding of current model of human societies.

The Only problem which I feel Gurucharan did is using western lenses for Dharmic understanding and his misrepresent characterisation of Krishna based on his understanding of events of war. I would say, he cherry pick various incident to put Krishna into negative shade and done enormous slurring for giving Duryodhana and Karna a free pass.

Well many people might question of this assessment on the writer. I would have two link into that, Gurucharan das was enormously attached to group like Sheldon pollock and Wendy Doniger. Her assessment on Hinduism is more or less is sexiest and misogynist view. I would say, I find her Hinduphobic, her whole argument about hinduism dance around sex, misogyny and philology of the Indian concept. nevertheless, I found Sheldon pollock into the same category. The renounce scholar of hinduism actually “Ramayana” in end 80’s for babri demolition. [1] He simply used a pre convince notion of western analysis according to which Bible and others religious texts actually help to foundation of totalitarian state by church. My disagreement with pollock was that, his assumption that Ramayana actually help to demolish temple is superficial. Case of babri masjid was pre independent and it has been reported.

One of the accusation by Chief ASI Officer, Dr. KK Mohammad said that Communist Historian and writers actually meet with many waqf board members (Shia and Sunni) to ask them fight when they decided to spare the space for temple after seeing riots over land [2]

The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think…Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…. The Gita is a dishonest book …”

— Wendy Doniger, Professor of History of Religions, University of Chicago.Quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 November, 2000 [3]

Well, many can question is that “ what is the relationship of Gurucharan Das and Wendy and Sheldon?“. My argument is not about intellect of Gurucharan das, but influence over his free intellect by such scholars who has been given such stature in hinduism with lots of hinduphobia. Actually there is book name “Academic Hinduphobia [4]” which exposes Wendy and his followers bigotry about Hinduism. Gurucharan seems to playing same tune when he characterised “Krishna” into gully-men by passing all atrocities done by Kauravas. He simply says “Duryodhana” was right to take throne because its envy which actually control a rural. He simply says “Yudhisthar” is in question when decided to play game of dice. well, I can agree with his position on “Draupadi” and “Krishna divinity” but simply jumping events and atrocities from one side and blaming relentlessly other side for their bleak behavior about Non violence and once they decided to rebuttal than purely slammed them with using mischievous tools is highly irrational.

Gurucharan das, bluntly attack Krishna for using unethical act even being stature of God who conduct the righteous behaviour and he drive his theory that “Dharma is subtle”. it is also astonished me that how das chose to become devil advocate for Duryodhana, Aswathama and Karna while ignoring their relentless atrocities on Pandavas.

Dhuryodhan has natural envy for Pandavas

according to writer, Dhuryodhan envy is very well legitimise because envy actually help sometime to get goal with precise dedication. He simply put his life example where he forced himself to achieved corporate goal driven by envy and another example of a girl who has become IAS officer out of envy to her brother. I wouldn’t reject Mr. Das argument over envy. Sometime its help to get greater achievement that is why its one of natural guns (natural characters) of human behaviour. But My point of disagreement is that, You can put yourself and Duryodhana at same side. because Duryodhana envy raise from an ego which is given by his greedy father Dhritarashtra. Dhuryodhan was neither been treated low (except by Dhronacharya who has blind love for Arjuna and Aswathama) nor he faced atrocities from Pandavas. He was simply jealous to Pandavs due to their divine birth and their behaviour inline with righteous action. His jealousy took him to do heinous crime like giving them Poison, burning them alive and throwing them exodus and even trying to rape queen Droupadi. Still the Gurucharan das claim that he was innocent because Krishna actually killed him with a trick. Seriously !!

Even, writer tried hard to dismissed the fact that before War of Mahabharata, Krishna actually tried to avoid it by minimum repression against atrocities. But ironically, Dhuryodhan chose to not giving them an inch piece of land which they owned rightfully. Moreover, writer blame Krishna that his stature as God actually works as fuel for war. Irrespective of Dhuryodhan misconduct, writer also credit Dhuryodhan bluntness for Krishna gully but simply topple the fact that actually dhurodhan was himself responsible of all these gullies played with him.

Dhuryodhan envy for Pandavas was created out of egoistic nature of his character where he himself was self-proclaimed King of Bharata. Even, after mutual splitting over land – hasthinapur for Pandav and others kingdom for Dhuryodhan. He simply put his jealous to extreme level of eradication of Pandavas clan which writer legitimise as natural envy. It’s simply dishonesty to me.

Arjuna despair for Fight

Gurucharan das also argue that Arjuna despair was simply a carving for Non violence world where war shouldnt be done. I disagree with writer position, writer simply ignore the fact that Arjuna was actually a ruthless worrier, he had killed many people in war before reaching to middle ground of Mahabharata war with Krishna. He was simply become too emotional in front of his family. according to writer, Krishna used many arguments with him to get him back into fight for his right.

  1. It’s his kshatriya duty to fight. – Fight for social structure.
  2. The person who follow his duty go to heaven – Fight for heaven
  3. And he should do that fight without thinking of consqence.- Nishakama karma

Writer argument that Krishana simply used Dharmic argument with Arjuna and tried to get back him into fight. I would say, Krishana indeed used these theological position to teach him but what was really struck down Arjuna is Nishakama karma and Dharma. My position for this chapter is quite matching with writer argument that, Indeed Arjuna was into emotional trap to avoid fight. But still in my opinion he was wrong initially. Writers put emotional argument that How God [Krishna] can agree to kill another family member. I would say it in plain words, Krishna told Arjuna to be not Politically Incorrect. 

Krishna argument was that When you look at your enemies [let it be your relatives]. You must think for righteousness of action. An action can be righteous when it propagate rationality, equality, sensitivity and last righteousness in all sense. failure of such action led by Human Gunas [natural characters] or ignorance shall not be dealt with forgiveness. Infinite act of forgiveness against blunt act of evil actually increase evilness by misunderstand as weakness.

Arjun position can be represented by current state of world acceptance on religious extremism. Religious extremism bluntly hitting every innocent on every country. We are seeing in front of us trending changes in social ethics of Britain, India, United state, Africa, Middle east and Europe. But still we are numbed upon the destruction of very culture we harbours since ages, which is reflect scientific rationality and equal rights amongst religious zealots. We are in position where pseudo liberals and secular actually turning face away from growing religious extremism in west and far east. They simply trying to closed eyes and putting their head into sand. So that storm can pass. But I would say. it’s not that simple. A baffling reply to religion and religious extremism can not be avoided. A small repression of asked by Liberals and secular societies been denied by religious extremism in form of forcing religious laws on society and abusing the rights given to them.

Are not we acting like Arjuna?

I think, we are.

Krishana Gullies

This portion of writer actually argue that, how Krishna used unethical trick to win the game of war. I would say, writer simply imposed a blind perception of dharma on Krishna. One one side writer claim that “Krishna divinity was self-created myths by Vaishnavas over period of time through various interpretation” but on other side writer want him to act like impeccable god. Here again I have disagreement with writer. The concept of god has been taken from western idea of God [5] which

1.(in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

2.(in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

Vedas simply defined god as “Brahman” which is highest Universal Principle [6], Here writer tried to digest Vedic meaning into western meaning of god. Krishna indeed a highly spiritually conscious person in Politics and Vedic dharma but he was not supreme principle. In Bhagwat gita he himself said that he is bounded under law of karma.

Chapter 3, Verse 22

O son of Prtha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything—and yet I am engaged in work.

Lets back to the notion that weather Krishna used gullies or not. I would say he didn’t used gullies but he made karma as weapon to destruct Pandavas’ enemy like Bhisma, Karna, Dhuryodhana and Dronacharya. Lets me briefly explain :

Bhishama died because of his vow to not fighting with a women and transgender. But Once he was young he capture three women (Amba. Ambika and Ambalika) for Kuru clan so they can start a new generation. Two out of three accepted the Kings of Kuru but One of them was in love with another king. After knowing her story Bhisma apologised to her and left her to her lover kingdom. Her lover simply reject her and she self immolate her self by taking plead to become instrument of Bhishma death. The same women born as Shinkandi which was in Pandavas side. Only Krishna told this to Arjuna so they can eradicate bhisma.

Karna was elder son of Kunti which later left by her because she was unmarried. He known as “Suta putra” which means “son of chariot holder” while many pseudo liberal pronounce it as “shudra putra” which means son of lower caste to used against Brahmins communities. Moreover, Karna lied to his guru that he is not kshatriya for learning archery which later become curse on him that whenever he needed his skill utmost he forget. irrespective of this Karna direct envolvement into disrobe [rape attempt] of droupdai [pandav queen]  in public. later he simply killed by his consequence of action when he forget his art of fight when needed most and his chariot fall into mud as duropadi curse him. Irrespective of this, Krishna praise karna in front of Arjuna and Pandvas. Krishana told them to regard as highest throne holder after war. 

Dronacharya He was teacher of kuravas and pandavs. But his love for his manic son aswathama was beyond limit. It was his son demand for milk [which he fail to comply due to poverty] which took him to drupad and ask for half kingdom as promised by King drupad  [his childhood friend]. Droupad simply denied and abuse him. Later Dronacharya used his students [Pandavas and Kurvas] to humiliate him and snatch his half kingdom. Insulted by this behaviour he invoke son from yagna which later in fight beheaded dhorna. irrespective of that angle, Dronacharya was blind lover of his son, he tought him how to invoke, use and cancel Brahmastra. while he simply denied to Arjuna. These two factors Blind love for his son and unwanted humiliation of drupad become tools of his death. Krishna only suggest to used blind love of Asawathama by lying to him about asawathama death.

 Dhuryodhana list of atrocities can’t be confined. From relentless jealous, blind greed for throne, attempt to rape with Queen Droupadi, invoking relatives against panvadas, throwing pandvas into exodus and beyond that, his stupid and childish argument about gullies to Krishna at the end shows how self centric and egoistic he was. He simply reject the pledge of giving five village to pandvas and when his legs broken by Bheema [which is actually promise took by Bhima during droupadi disrobe], he started complaining atrocities done by pandavas. its like a terrorist who killed thousand of people in war asking for Human rights for himself. well, beyond that during last fight, Yudhisthar has given him choice to fight one of them. He chose Bhima for his own.

At last I would not says that book pleased me. This book has puts some really rational argument on Droupadi position when she asked “Where is Dharma?”, when book asked Bhisma wisdom being numbed during disrobe of queen, argue well how “Yudhisthar” pacifist nature become painful experience for his family.


  1. 1.

LinkTwenty statements from Sheldon Pollock on India, Hinduism and Sanskrit

“In the face of substantial political uncertainty, then, and consonant with other kinds of cultural representations, the Ramayana was repeatedly instrumentalized by the ruling Indian elites of the middle period to provide a theology of politics and a symbology of otherness.

2.  Twenty four years after the demolition of Babri Masjid, a former archaeologist has come out with the allegation that Left historians like Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar had thwarted an amicable settlement to the Babri Masjid issue. The allegation made by Dr KK Muhammed, former Regional Director(North) of Archaeological Survey of India, in his autobiography titled Njan Enna Bharatiyan (I an Indian) in Malayalam also claim that remains of a Hindu temple were found during the excavation made by a team of archaeologists headed by Professor BB Lal, then director general of the Archaeological Survey of India during 1976-77, in which he was also a member.

Link Left historians prevented resolution of Babri Masjid dispute, says KK Mohammed, former ASI regional head

3. Wendy Child Syndrom by Rajiv Malhotra

4. Academic Hinduphobia by Rajiv Malhotra

5. God as per Merriam Webster Dictionery

6. Brahman as per Hinduism