For those unfamiliar with his work and wisdom, Deepak Chopra is an Indian-American doctor, prolific author, holistic health and alternative medicine practitioner who was born in New Delhi, India in 1947. After graduating from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, he envisioned a career in Western medicine and in 1970 moved to the United States, leaving his home country with just $25 in his pocket and the promise of a residency at a hospital in New Jersey. Following the residency, Chopra landed in Boston, where he quickly rose to chief of medicine at New England Memorial Hospital.
After becoming disenchanted with Western medicine and its reliance on prescription drugs, Chopra turned to alternative medicine and in 1995 formed the Chopra Institute for Well Being in California. A best-selling author of 86 books, translated into 43 languages, including 25 bestsellers such as The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Chopra is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and a Clinical Professor in Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
With a net worth of $50 million, to Chopra the answers to our health & happiness can be found internally. In June 1999, Time magazine one of the top 100 heroes of the 20th century and regularly brought his message to the Oprah Winfrey Show. His career has also witnessed Chopra delving into the music-making business. He was a confidante of superstar Michael Jackson, and he has collaborated with Madonna and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.
In his latest book, Metahuman, Chopra presents a strong case for the notion that the illusions we are entangled in are created largely by our perceptions and that pain & suffering are part of a drama we’ve constructed for ourselves. Only when we dismantle this fabricated reality by ceasing to repeat reactive patterns of behavior, falling into old patterns, or making the same excuses, can we transcend our challenges. Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.
Chopra believes a person may attain ‘perfect health’ and that human aging is fluid and changeable: it can speed up, slow down, stop for a time, and even reverse itself as determined by one’s state of mind. He also believes that to lead a successful and happy life it is important to consider the importance of following one’s true path in life (dharma) with an attitude of detachment and self-giving. Like the Hindu yoga systems, he also believes in the law of karma. (cause and effect).
Recently I had the opportunity to discuss the specifics of his Chopra’s views about illness, happiness, struggle, and transcendence in an exclusive interview, which we hope you will find as fascinating as it is informative.
Review: The focus of your new book Metahuman is about moving beyond the boundaries & limitations of everyday realities that limit our levels of success & happiness; and certainly your own levels of achievement bear witness to your understanding about these topics. First, I’d like to start by asking what for you personally was the biggest challenge you had to overcome before realizing your own success & happiness.
Chopra: I think for anybody at a young age, myself included, if you are doing something that is non-conventional and you start to have an impact upon the world, you will be bound to also be in the public eye; and obviously, that draws a lot of critics. Therefore the biggest challenge is to be independent, which goes to one’s courage and resolve to shape one’s ability at being correct at making the right decisions.
Review: In Metahuman you say anything that you can count, measure, calculate, and reduce to data is part of an all-encompassing illusion and talk about abandoning all limitations imposed by the ego in order to experience life directly in the moment, which is really all we have. Yet, in all parts of the world, people face very real illnesses and financial hardships that you also claim people can move beyond by abandoning habits, old patterns of behavior, or excuses when confronting these challenges. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the diagnosis of a serious illness, or falling into bankruptcy, is not part of one’s imminent reality, does it? How can such things be viewed as illusions when they are serious realities?
Chopra: First of all, look at the world right now or read a newspaper or watch the news and what you see is insanity. The world right now is pummeled with war, eco-destruction, extinction of species, we have poison in the food chain, biological warfare; and actually to be totally honest, much of the world is run by gangsters ushering in our own extinction.
If you follow along with this construct you are declaring your own insanity. 65 million years ago when a meteor hit the planet we had the extinction of the dinosaurs and as a result of that, we’re having this conversation because we emerged out of that extinction. Now, everyone is saying the next extinction is going to be caused by mankind. We have instruments of war and the capacity to destroy all life on this planet 20 times over. I think one time would be enough. So what is this?
It’s a projection of the collective ego. What is the collective ego? It is the mind that has been conditioned by society to believe in the separate self. But when you settle down into your being and go beyond your ego identity, you recognize and realize everything that happens by itself. Only 5% of genetic disease related mutations are fully penetrated. 95% are influenced by life factors that cause disease. If you get plenty of sleep and do things like meditation, yoga, engage in healthy relationships, be in touch with nature, eat nourishing food and practice stress management, all of these behaviors will enhance your capacity to be healthy and counteract these mutations.
Of course, we’re looking at a bright future with advancements in gene technology; but 95% of illnesses are related to lifestyle. Losing a job, not making enough income, are all related to stress and fatigue, which results in a lack of meaning and loss of energy.
So if you start with yourself and if you can be whole and healthy and cope with these constructs - all constructs, whether they be money or the loss of a job - these are human constructs. Some are useful and some are so useless that to hold on to them is to hold on to our collective insanity.
Review: Back in the 1980s I did an interview with a Tai Chi Grand Master who said that in the Western World if we run into obstacles our tendency is to break through it; whereas in the Eastern World the approach is more akin to water going down a stream. If the water runs into a log or an obstacle it finds a way to go around it. He called this Water Wisdom…
Chopra: Another good example is the wind, which envelopes and articulates a course around the shape of everything it encounters.
Review: In his song ‘Beware of Darkness’, George Harrison sings a lyric that says, ‘Beware of Maya’. Maya is a difficult concept to grasp because it is that which exists but is constantly changing and thus unreal because it conceals the true character of spiritual reality. Yet, it is an undeniable fact that life is indeed constantly changing and that change is very real and very palpable. So how do you explain this contradiction?
Chopra: Think of a dream you might have had last night. In the dream everything seemed real and when you woke up you realized all that seemed real was just mental activity. Dreams sometimes convey emotional activity and also sometimes biological & physiological activity as a result of the story line in the dream. Our heart rate can speed up and if one is having a sexual and loving dream you can wake up with an erection; and on and on. The dream is real when you are experiencing it, yet most people don’t even remember it when they wake up, while some do.
Now look at everyday experience and the one we had 5 minutes ago when you called me on this phone and we began our conversation. That experience was over by the time the words were spoken. By the time we hear the words they are over. What we experience in our waking state - our sensations and sense perceptions and thoughts and images and emotions - are but a snapshot of experience that is over as soon as we have it.
This is why the German philosopher Wittgenstein said, ‘Our life is a dream, we are asleep, but once in a while we wake up to let us know we’re not dreaming.’ Everything that is ungraspable is a dream and the only thing that makes the continuous seem real is that you create this storyline around it and invent yourself in the story and say that’s life; and before you know it, you’re a teenager, or you are speaking a language, or learning to walk. Some of these things you don’t remember, but they did happen and they are dream like. Five minutes ago the reality we shared is a dream; one minute ago, also a dream. Actually, you never experience what’s happening because you’re only remembering what’s happening; and even the present is an experience of the past. So what good is this?
The dream is a story and you can upgrade or downgrade it. You can say if you’re the director, choreographer, hero, or victim, just as you were in your dream. What you call your waking state or real world is illusory, because we can wake ourselves up to that which is dreaming and then we can upgrade the quality of our life, our health, our relationships, or whatever we call success. Creative visualization is one aspect, another element is insight, creativity, imagination, intention, attention - all of that. It takes a lot of ingredients to create a good story.
Review: Much of the thrust of your work centers upon the notion that life is a struggle given us as a challenge to transcend and evolve spiritually, so the solution is to embrace that struggle and by doing so we will flourish. Yet, can we ever be free of struggles and isn’t the discord we experience in life predicated upon the fact that there are always dualities that will exist in life simultaneously - the yin & the yang, positive & negative, good & evil - and until we embrace all the permutations of these dualities we can never achieve pure consciousness and purpose?
Chopra: I would rephrase and replace the word struggle, because that is a pretty depressing word. You can substitute it with joy, victory, peace, and equanimity. All these words reflect experiences. You only know struggle by how well you know success. Up is known by down; joy is known through suffering. All experience is by contrast; therefore, you’re not overcoming the struggle nor are you creating the opposite. The ultimate goal is to know yourself as independent of both and the awareness that knows struggle is also the same awareness that knows victory and joy.
How we use this awareness influences a lot. We have to go a state independent of hope and despair and independent of happiness and suffering. As long as its dependent upon something, you’re caught in a trap. But if you get in touch with the source of both then you can express creatively and attain creative solutions.
Part of the problem with our language is the way we phrase and perceive things. We have a War Against Cancer, a War Against Drugs, a War Against Terrorism - this is an oxymoron. As long as you think in terms of fighting you’ll be in a struggle. As a doctor, I find the ‘War Against Cancer’ a totally ridiculous thing to say. There is no war, only solutions that are not dependent upon metaphors of violence.
We don’t have to embrace the dualities of existence, we have to witness them. We don’t embrace everything, we accept everything knowing that duality creates experience in absence of gravity. Look at a grain of sand. It is part of the solar system even though it doesn’t know it. It cannot escape the solar system, just as we cannot escape the whole universe. Our ego identity is like a grain of sand. We might not be aware of it, but we cannot escape it because it influences you and a grain of sand is like a particular pattern or behavior.
Review: What happens when people gather together collaboratively to paint or play music. Does something happen to their mindset, orientation, and perspective on a cellular level?
Chopra: Yes, most certainly. Look at a symphony and say it is a 100-piece orchestra. Everybody is playing all different instruments but all are a part of the symphony because it is a correlated experience and the wholeness can never come about by just adding up the parts. The wholeness is a kind of entrainment. When people gather together to play music, dance, pray, or meditate, it creates a different energy. Just as when people gather together to demonstrate, or assemble in a football stadium, that creates its own type of disruptive energy. It’s a matter of creating a critical mass of consciousness.
16th November, 2023