When Gurcharan Das took an early retirement from his corporate job he decided to pursue a “full-time career as a writer.” And that change in direction from a corporate life to a scholarly pursuit was greeted with a fair amount of surprise. How could this be? He was a “box-wallah“ or a corporate executive. Mr.Das was the CEO of Proctor and Gamble, India who later became the Managing Director, Procter & Gamble Worldwide.
That was in 2002 and since then he has published “India Unbound,” and writes regular columns for a handful of Indian newspaper. The Satyam Scandal, dubbed as the largest corporate scandal in India prompted Das to ask how could this be? What induced this moral failure on the part of a well-known Indian entrepreneur? How do you maintain your moral compass under difficult and trying circumstances?
He turned to the Mahabharata, the old Indian epic and wondered if this “dark and epic” tale could provide answers to his question about moral failure in business, government and human beings? He spent time at the University of Chicago learning Sanskrit and reading the Mahabharata.
The result of his reflection and studying the Mahabharata resulted in is his latest book “The Difficulty of Being Good: On The Subtle Art of Dharma.” In it Das writes that the Indian epic “is unique in engaging with the world of politics.” What is more he points out the epic is “suspicious of ideology.”
“The Mahabharata is about our incomplete lives, about good people acting badly, about how difficult it is to be good in this world,” writes Das.
LISTEN: Gurcharan Das on The Difficulty of Being Good: On The Subtle Art of Dharma Part-1
Das studied at Harvard University and wrote his undergraduate thesis under the supervision of John Rawls, a well-known American philosopher.
This interview was recorded in Silicon Valley in October 2010.
Photo credit: Gurcharandas.org