Are you a good human being?

Am I really good? Have you ever asked this question to yourself? Basically, a good human being is one who wouldn’t harm others and if possible, would go out of the way to help someone.

Is that good enough? Or, does one need to apply more stringent, rigid standards? In a book called “The Difficulty of Being Good” – By Gurcharan Das. He has examined the Mahabharata through an analysis of the one predominant characteristics – good or bad – of each of the epic’s characters. What is heartening is that all good characters in the epic seem confused too, at some point or other.

Yudhishthira is convinced he cannot declare war against his elders and brothers, but still does so; Arjuna is dead against killing his grandfather, his teacher and an unarmed Karna, and yet does it; Bhishma is goodness personified, but he doesn’t try to stop his grandchildren from attempting to disrobe the hapless Draupadi in court. He also leads the armies of one set of grandchildren against another!

Who can deny Lord Krishna’s goodness? and yet, at times we question the advice he gave Arjuna that let to the killing of his grandfather Bhishma, his teacher Drona and his brother Karna! Goodness, it seems, is confusing.

The goody-goody characters on television confound the confusion. They are so good, so pure, so butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth that they are not just unbelievable, but actually irritating! They suffer vicissitudes and insults with never a word against those who persecute them. Their ‘nobility’ makes you squirm in your seat.

Now, why should goodness irritate? But truth is that too big a shot of goodness does arouse discomfort! All of us know at least one friend, aunt, cousin, or even our parent or sibling who irriate with their saccharine goodness or obsession of self-sacrifice! They are so good that they seem Divine! Such people are an anachronism in today’s world! They set such high standards that they make us feel inadequate.

Mahabharata too has its moments of irritating goodness. Yudhisthira is calm and unmoved during the period of exile as Draupadi’s temper blazes. “Why be good?” she asks and “Why doesn’t your anger blaze?” His goodness at that point is irritating to his beloved wife and brothers, as enumerated by Gurcharan Das.

The Mahabharata reminds us once again about the difficulty of being good.

Is it important to have some bit of vice because the bad instinct is inborn, a part of us? And goodness is the struggle against that instinct; we all achieve varying degrees of success and so are good in different ways. That’s human. And so Krishna is good, so are Yudhishthira and Arjuna. Their struggle against evil, their moments of weakness and their repentance make them so.

So then, are we saying that actually, it is the evil within us that makes us good? Just as without darkness, who would appreciate light? How can you be good if you have no shade of bad within you?