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Monday, July 23, 2012

Gurcharan Das: Envy a formidable foe

(Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra)
When acclaimed author Gurcharan Das spoke at
Emory University in 2010 regarding The Difficulty
Of Being Good, he was describing an all-too-human
dilemma that we all face.

Although Das explained that he certainly doesn’t have an answer key to the age-old struggle between good and evil, he nevertheless presented a number of intriguing guideposts upon which people can hang their ethical inquiries.  These guideposts were mostly drawn from the Mahabharata, an ancient Sanskrit epic that has been compared in scope and impact to the Bible and the Qur’an.

Within this epic tale, the Pandavas (“good guys”) and Kauravas (“bad guys”) are engaged in an all-out battle.  Although the causes of such bloodshed are often complex, Das focused upon the envy factor when analyzing the roots of this Kurukshetra War.  When the Pandavas were repeatedly successful despite their many difficulties, the raging envy (envy, not jealousy – jealousy is when you’re afraid of losing that which you already have, whereas envy is when you begrudge others their successes) of Duryodhana went a long way toward precipitating the hostilities.

Bravely and authentically, Gurcharan Das disclosed that he, too, has (as have we all) been fraught with envy at times.  He talked of a childhood companion whose toy was one that Das wished to have.  Envy drove Das to eventually break this toy. 

Das also stated that he had often wondered why the goodhearted citizens of Germany participated in a vicious Nazi campaign against the Jews.  In light of his research and experience concerning envy’s destructive potential, Das then theorized that it was envy (of the Jews’ prominence in professional German society, even though Jews only comprised 5% of the German population at that time) which had fueled this extreme hatred.

Copyright July 23, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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