lunes, 19 de octubre de 2009

The Maharishi Years - by Deepak Chopra

The Maharishi Years – The Untold Story: Recollections of a Former Disciple (by Deepak Chopra)

Wednesday February 13, 2008


August 1, 1991 saw the publication of my book, Perfect Health, a popular guide to Ayurveda that came at the height of my involvement with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Although I had been meditating less than a decade in comparison with TM meditators who went back to the

Sixties, my association with Maharishi quickly became personal. He felt comfortable around other Indians and had a special regard for trained scientists and physicians. In return I had a deep fascination with enlightenment and the almost supernatural status of gurus. A few days before the book’s publication, I was in Fairfield, Iowa to participate in a meditation course. Maharishi was supposed to address the assembly on speaker phone from India, but the phone call didn’t come through at the appointed time. We all dispersed.

A couple of hours later when I was in meditation I had a vision of Maharishi lying in a hospital bed with intravenous tubes in his body breathing on a respirator. I quickly got out of the meditation and phoned my parents in New Delhi. My mother picked up the phone and told me that Maharishi was very sick. “They think he’s been poisoned. Come quickly,” she said. I asked to speak to my father, who was a cardiologist. She said, “Your father isn’t here. He’s taking care of Maharishi.” This began a journey that took me to the very heart of who the guru is and who he is expected to be. The two can be in jarring opposition.

I immediately left Fairfield for Chicago, where a wealthy TM donor had been kind enough to charter a plane for me. When I arrived in Delhi, it was past midnight. I first went home. My father was not there, and my mother told me he was still with Maharishi in a house in Golflinks, a private reserve in the city. One room had been converted into an intensive care unit presided over by my father and other doctors. I arrived at the house at 2:00 am, and when I entered the makeshift ICU I saw Maharishi lying unconscious in a bed with IV tubes and a respirator just as I had foreseen. My father informed me darkly that after drinking a glass of orange juice given to him by “a foreign disciple,” Maharishi had suffered severe abdominal pain and inflammation of the pancreas, along with kidney failure followed by a heart attack. Poisoning was suspected. Over the next few days Maharishi’s condition worsened. The pancreas and kidney functions continued to deteriorate, and his heart didn’t improve. My father was of the opinion that Maharishi should be taken to England for a course of kidney dialysis. The Indian TM organization, centered around Maharishi’s nephews, Prakash and Anand Shrivastava, were adamant that no one in the movement should find out that Maharishi was grievously ill. The rationale was that his followers would panic and lose faith.

I found myself torn, because Maharishi had long presented himself as being far from the typical Hindu guru. He did not assert his own divinity. He credited his entire career to his own master, Guru Dev. He seemed indifferent to the cult of personality and the aura of superstition surrounding gurus, which includes the notion that they have perfect control over mind and body and hold the secret of immortality. But deeper than that, Maharishi wasn’t a religious figure. Although he had taken vows as a monk, he brought a technique to the West, Transcendental Meditation, that was entirely secular and even scientific. Indeed, his lasting memory will probably be that he convinced Westerners of the physical and mental benefits of a purely mechanical non-religious approach to consciousness. I was troubled that his falling ill had to be hidden essentially to preserve the image of a superhuman being who couldn’t get sick like mere mortals.

There was one person the Indian inner circle chose to trust, however. He was Neil Paterson, a Canadian who had been chosen by Maharishi as chief spokesman and de facto head of the movement. Neil and I flew to England and made arrangements for Maharishi to be admitted to a private hospital on Harley Street. My father and two other doctors chartered a plane and brought Maharishi to London. I remember standing outside the London Heart Hospital, watching an ambulance navigate the snarled traffic, sirens wailing. Just before it arrived on the hospital’s doorstep, one of the accompanying doctors ran up with the news that Maharishi had suddenly died. I rushed to the ambulance, picking Maharishi’s body up -– he was frail and light by this time – and carrying him in my arms through London traffic.

I laid him on the floor inside the hospital’s doors and called for a cardio assist. Within minutes he was revived and rushed to intensive care on a respirator and fitted with a pacemaker that took over his heartbeat. The attending physician felt that Maharishi was clinically dead. My father suggested that we keep him on life support, however, until the family gave permission to take him off. As fate would have it, after 24 to 36 hours the attending informed us that Maharishi was recovering miraculously. His kidney function was returning to normal, his heart was beating independent of the pacemaker, and he had started to breathe on his own. Within a few days he was sitting up in bed, drinking milk with honey. The doctor could not explain this recovery; everyone in the hospital, including his nurses, were awestruck, not just by the turn-around but by his presence, which induced a sense of peace in anyone who came near.

Let me pause here to reflect on the strange juxtapositions at work. I genuinely felt in the midst of the crisis that I was fulfilling a purpose beyond myself. A series of circumstances had brought me to the very moment when someone had to intervene to save Maharishi’s life, and it was as if the universe had conspired to carry me to that moment. At the same time, he exhibited both the all-too-human qualities found in every holy man and other qualities one associates with the superhuman. I had the distinct sensation of standing on the border between two worlds, or should one say two versions of the human condition? It was easy to believe that other disciples in another time felt much the same in the presence of Jesus or Buddha.

Maharishi’s complete recovery happened slowly. There was a point where the doctor informed us that he had severe anemia and needed a blood transfusion. When they typed and cross-matched Maharishi’s blood, I turned out to be the only match – this, of course, only increased my sense of being a participant in a drama shaped by forces outside myself. When he was informed about the situation, however, Maharishi refused to accept my blood but would give no reason. Considering that much had been made of how he had studied physics in college and had insisted on the scientific validity of TM, this was a baffling decision. Then I had a sudden insight. He didn’t want my blood because he didn’t want my karma. After all, I had been a smoker, had indulged in alcohol and sex and had even experimented with LSD years before. I went to Maharishi and confronted him with my realization. I asked if he believed that karma could be transmitted in the blood. He responded reluctantly, “That’s true.” I told him that red blood cells do not have a nucleus and therefore contain no DNA. Without genetic information my blood would only be giving him the hemoglobin he needed without karmic infection. At first he was suspicious, but I had the hematologist explain to him that memory and information is not transferred through a red blood transfusion. Eventually he accepted my blood. As he regained strength, we removed him from the hospital, and he was brought to a London hotel to continue recuperating.

This began a period of increased intimacy between us. We would go for long walks in Hyde Park, which felt strange given the complete blackout of news to the TM movement, which was told that Maharishi had decided to go into silence for the time being. On one occasion, a stranger ran up to us in the park and asked, “Aren’t you the guru of the Beatles?” My wife Rita, who had joined us that day, quickly interjected, “He’s my father-in-law. Please leave him alone.” In the end we felt that staying in London risked unnecessary publicity. So Maharishi was moved to a country home in the southwest of England where I spent hours personally nursing him. He took the occasion to give me deep insight and knowledge about Vedanta. He also gave me advanced meditation techniques. Those languid weeks and months alone with Maharishi, except for the servants who cooked and served his meals, were the most precious days of my life. I grew very fond of him and he evoked a love in me that I had never experienced before. In turn, I realized that he was also getting fond of me. We discussed just about every topic in the world from politics (on which he had very strong opinions) to human relationships (which he thought were full of melodrama) to the nature of consciousness (his favorite subject). Yet I still remained on the cusp of an uneasy truce between the physical frailty of an old man who at times could be fretful and worried and a guru whose mortality was like an admission of imperfection.

In all, Maharishi was out of circulation for almost a year; few in the TM movement knew where he was, and almost no one was willing to concede that he had been sick. After he was fully recovered we flew him via helicopter back to his chosen residence, which wasn’t in either India or the U.S. but the obscure village of Vlodrop in Holland. It would be impossible to calculate how many disciples and even casual TM meditators would have given anything for personal time with Maharishi. Because of his mass appeal and his undeniable presence, there were many who cherished a moment with him as the most precious in their lives. Yet I was growing increasingly disturbed by contradictions I couldn’t reconcile.

Maharishi had spent decades traveling the globe to promote TM; now he remained permanently in Vlodrop while I was sent, as one of his main emissaries, on a routine of almost constant jet travel. He aimed at ever-increasing expansion. Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc were opened up to meditation. Gradually so was the Islamic world, which resisted TM in large part because the initiation ceremony included a picture of Maharishi’s teacher sitting on an altar, which went against the Muslim prohibition over depicting God or holy men. Everywhere I went I was given the respect accorded to my guru, bringing with it a level of pomp and ceremony that verged on veneration. Not only did this make me uncomfortable personally, but I wondered why Maharishi, the first “modern” guru, allowed and encouraged it. It seemed inconsistent with Vedanta’s central theme that the material world is illusion, not to mention the freedom from materialism that is expected of one who is enlightened.

Ironically, the respect shown to me in his name came to be my undoing. Maharishi started to give me the perception (perhaps that was my own projection) that he felt I was competing with him in a spiritual popularity contest. On more than one occasion, he casually mentioned that I was seeking adulation for myself. This was odd considering that he had been the one who thrust me forward in the first place, and who insisted on piling tributes on me that I had no choice but to accept whatever my embarrassment. The situation came to a head. In July, 1993, during the celebration of Guru Purnima, I went to see Maharishi in his private rooms to pay my respects. It was close to midnight after all the day’s public ceremonies had ended. Rita and I entered the room in near darkness. Besides Maharishi, the only person present was a TM higher up, Benny Feldman, who kept silent as Maharishi said, “People are telling me that you are competing with me.”

At that point I had only heard indirect reports about his displeasure; this was the first time, in fact, that Maharishi had shown anything but the highest trust in me. It was true that after his medical crisis he refused to discuss his health and took pains to indicate that where once I had been his physician, now I was to consider myself in the former position of disciple. Actually, I admired him for this. It would have been impertinent for me to take any other role. To be in the presence of someone like Maharishi is to realize an immense gulf in consciousness. His physical status continued to be amazingly strong considering what he had been through.

Here he was now, in my eyes, playing the part of an irascible, jealous old man whose pride had been hurt. For my part, I was dismayed that he might believe the rumors. Then he made a demand. “I want you to stop traveling and live here at the ashram with me.” He also wanted me to stop writing books. After delivering what amounted to an ultimatum, I was given twenty-four hours to make up my mind.

It was a critical moment. Then and there I had to consider the entirety of the guru-disciple relationship. To anyone outside India, much misunderstanding surrounds the whole issue of taking on an enlightened teacher. To begin with, there is a Western predisposition to doubt that enlightenment could be real except as personified in Buddha or a limited number of saints and sages who existed centuries ago. There is also a sense in the West that following a guru is tantamount to surrendering your personal identity, your bank account, and your dignity. None of these issues concerned me, however. In the role of guru Maharishi was authentic, dignified, respectful, and accepting. In addition, he was personally lovable and a joy to be around (even if one had to suffer patiently through discourses that lasted many hours and that circled around the same basic points.) The dilemma I faced was more fundamental: Can a real guru be unfair, jealous, biased, and ultimately manipulative?

For a devotee, the answer is unquestionably yes. The role of a disciple isn’t to question a guru, but the exact opposite: Whatever the guru says, however strange, capricious, or unfair, is taken to be truth. The disciple’s role is to accommodate to the truth, and if it takes struggle and “ego death” to do that, the spiritual fruits of obedience are well worth it. A guru speaks for God and pure consciousness; therefore, his words are a direct communication from Brahman, who knows us better than we know ourselves. In essence the guru is like a superhuman parent who guides our steps until we can walk on our own. Was Maharishi doing that to me?

I never found out, because practical considerations loomed large at that moment. I had a family with children in school, a wife who decidedly did not want to live an ashram life, and no visible means of support if I stopped producing books and giving lectures. I told Maharishi that I didn’t need twenty-four hours to make my decision. I would leave immediately and not return. With some surprise he asked me why. I told him that I had no ambitions to be a guru myself – the very idea appalled me. I was dismayed that he would believe such rumors. It was beyond my imagination for anyone to compare me to him or that I would have the gall to do the same.

It’s only after his death that I feel free to divulge this final parting of ways. To outsiders it will seem like a tempest in a teapot, but in my leaving the TM movement it was widely rumored that I wanted to be the guru of my own movement. While the media casually refers to any spokesperson from the East as a guru, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that Maharishi actually was a guru and great Rishi of the Vedic tradition, while I am a doctor who loved the philosophy of Vedanta and also loved articulating it for the man on the street. I said goodbye to Maharishi, took Rita’s hand, and walked away. We drove from Vlodrop to Amsterdam in the middle of the night and took a plane to Boston. When we arrived home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the phone was ringing. A contrite and forgiving Maharishi was on the line. He said, “You are my son, you will inherit all that I have created. Come back and all will be yours.”

I replied that I didn’t want what he was offering. I loved the knowledge of Vedanta and wanted to devote myself to it. By the end of the conversation, however, I relented and told him that I would think about it. In the ensuing months I was approached by medical institutions and universities to introduce Ayurveda and TM as part of their programs. However, when I contacted Maharishi and the movement with these promising prospects I was told that I shouldn’t pursue these offers. At the same time decisions were made to raise the cost of TM astronomically, putting it out of reach for ordinary people. On January 12, 1994 I went back to Vlodrop for the annual New Year’s celebration and told Maharishi that I was leaving permanently. I expressed my immeasurable gratitude to him and told him that I would love him forever. When we parted, he said, “Whatever you do will be the right decision for you. I will love you, but I will also be indifferent to you from now on.”

At first his being indifferent felt very hurtful, but then I realized that Maharishi was offering love with detachment, the mark of a great sage. I remembered one of his favorite remarks, which he once directed to me: “I love you, but it’s none of your business.” What followed for me was the arc of a public career that became more acceptable to the outside world once I was no longer aligned with a guru. In some people’s eyes I dropped Maharishi in order to launch myself. This perception has led to recriminations in the TM movement. One is faced with the sad spectacle of people striving to gain enlightenment while at the same vilifying anyone who dares to stray from the fold. Nothing I did after leaving Maharishi was premeditated. I later visited the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math and told him about my situation. His response was sympathetic: he told me that I remained an exponent of Vedanta for the West and was therefore true to the tradition.

I believe that Maharishi would have been the first to agree. It’s not possible to stray from the one reality, and if Maharishi the personality couldn’t give his blessing, at a deeper level Maharishi the guru was doing his job of coaxing consciousness to expand. There was no way for me to reconcile the two opposites back then, but I have come to realize that I never needed to. All opposites are reconciled in unity consciousness, the state that Maharishi was in and the state I aspire to every day.

Filed Under: Gurus, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Thomas Trumbull
September 24, 2008 5:53 PM

Dear Mr. Chopra,

I was wondering if You might/may please heal me.. so I can become Enlightened (at least CC), and maybe be allowed to take the TM- Siddhis Course.

My skull is putting pressure on my brain.... I have poor circulation at the base of my brain, and my brain movement in the skull is limited. A Governor Chiropractor told me this at age 23 or so..... He said "when we breathe in, our brain comes down in the skull, when we breathe out, our brain goes up in the skull". He said my brain is going up and down, but not as far as everyone else's.

I've practiced TM now for the approx. 29 yrs. ,.. i am 47 yrs. old.

I was born at 1:39:24 PM on 10-17-1960 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA (above 10,000 at the time).

If You can't help me, maybe You can reccommend someone to me. I've taken 22 (66 sessions) of MVVT's, approx. 7 Yagyas, have several Advanced Techniques, did 5 days Pancha Karma in Massachussetts, lived in Fairfield, Iowa for approx. 1.3 yrs., seen the Vaidya approx. 12 times, etc, etc, like that.

My name, address, and contact info is:

Thomas Trumbull
259 Salmon Brook St.
Apt. I3
Granby, CT 06035


my toll free phone number is: 1-888-277-0034 (answering machine comes on after 2 rings- if i'm home and hear Your voice- I'll pick up, if i'm not home- pls. leave a message- it's a women's generic greeting on my answering machine).

I realize You must get many of these requests. I have a difficult time traveling due to my diet, and I don't have much money, but I have a love for Bliss as large as any man. I could go on and on... but I must attend to things.

Please help me if it Pleases You To Do So. Any kind of healing would be greatly appreciated.... anonymous long distance healing, etc, etc.
Thank You So Much,

From One Lover of Life to Another,
Jai Guru Dev

Albert the Abstainer
December 29, 2008 11:00 PM

A classic and beautiful tale of the relationship between guru and disciple; thank-you for sharing it.

One of the things that challenges is the willingness to surrender to the hands of the teacher. One way of looking at it is that what we are most reticent to let go of is the very thing we must let go of, no matter what that thing is. Another is that I can only do that once my responsibilities to others have been fully discharged.

This raises a question, (and I will use Buddhist terminology since I feel it works very well here): A person who approaches Nirvana but turns back to help others is a Bodhisattva. Which is the better choice, to ease suffering or to enter Nirvana? Are they mutually inclusive?

The Bodhisatva's Vow

So long as space remains,
So long as sentient beings remain,
I will remain,
In order to help,
In order to serve,
In order to make,
My own contribution.
--Tibetan prayer translated by The Dalai Lama

June 17, 2009 11:52 PM

I heard Deepak lied with him carring Maharishi. Apprently it was reported with the ambulence that the aumbulence people did, not Deepak.

October 16, 2009 10:44 AM



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Interview: Reinventing the Body

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Thursday October 15, 2009

Categories: Health

Reinventing the body, resurrecting the soul

Dear Readers and Friends,

In our quest to grow and evolve, we all run into obstacles. We meet resistance. Change proves stubborn and at times impossible. Anything that I can do to overcome these obstacles is a contribution I never wish to pass up.

In my new book I address the most difficult obstacle of all: the body.

The human body can be a source of the miraculous. The very minute I write this message to you, someone in a laboratory somewhere is breaking through old concepts about the body, discovering that what was once a machine made of flesh and bones is actually a living process, a river without boundaries. Yet you and I find ourselves with bodies that wear out, age, grow sick, and disappoint our highest aspirations for freedom and creativity.

Clearly, the body needs to be reinvented. That's the main theme of my new book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. I throw out every fixed belief about what the body can and cannot do. In their place, I offer five breakthrough ideas that can completely alter how you see your body and what you do with it.

Breakthrough #1 -- Your Physical Body Is an Illusion
Breakthrough #2 -- Your Real Body Is Energy
Breakthrough #3 -- Awareness Has magic
Breakthrough #4 -- You Can Improve Your Genes
Breakthrough #5 -- Time Isn't Your enemy

Each of these breakthroughs overturns an outmoded belief that turns into a physical limitation. If you think of your body as a physical object, you will cooperate with aging, because what is aging but a physical object wearing out? If you believe that time is your enemy, aging has gained another ally. If you accept that your genes are fixed, they take away your freedom to change.

What these five breakthroughs have in common is this: you can change your body through consciousness, because despite its physical appearance, your body is the product of consciousness to begin with. There is no difference between a thought and a molecule in the brain. Each intention sends signals to every cell in the body, causing the cell to change. Therefore, the most natural way to achieve change is through the power of intention.

The second half of the book's title, Resurrecting the Soul, extends the power of consciousness far beyond the physical. The soul is your spiritual body. It brings nourishment to every cell as surely as nutrients are brought by the blood. Most people believe they have a soul, but they rarely if ever feel connected to it. When you reconnect, a kind of resurrection occurs: you discover that the closer you live to your soul, the better for your body.

Health, anti-aging, a strong sense of self, centeredness, spontaneous right action, the increase of love and compassion -- these are all united at the deepest level of consciousness. Every cell is aware of the state of your soul, and vice versa. One consciousness, constantly moving and evolving, is who you really are.

This conclusion is the most important one I've arrived at after thirty years of teaching people how to unite body, mind, and soul. Union cannot be achieved one piece at a time. Even though most people attack their problems one at a time and have mixed priorities in their lives, the truth is that wholeness is wholeness. People don't feel whole because they have excluded their bodies from the spiritual journey, judging the body to be inferior, defective, ugly, and devoid of intelligence. At the other end of the scale, they have sent the soul into a never-never region above and beyond this world.

So as you reinvent your body, which means accepting it as part of your whole consciousness, the soul must also be brought back into partnership with it. Five soul breakthroughs are needed:

Breakthrough #6 -- There's an Easier Way to Live
Breakthrough #7 -- Love Awakens the Soul
Breakthrough #8 -- Be as Boundless as Your Soul
Breakthrough #9 -- The Fruit of Surrender Is Grace
Breakthrough #10 -- The Universe Evolves through You

When you absorb these ten ideas, and follow the practical exercises attached to each, you will turn the process of life in a new direction. Instead of being blocked by obstacles, areas of freedom open up where you never imagined them. I speak personally, because the seed of this book dates back to my first days in medical school. When I used a scalpel to slice beyond the barrier of the skin, I gained scientific knowledge about the body, but at the same time I sacrificed the body's mystery and holiness.

We need to have both. The reason you can reinvent the body rests upon solid new evidence about the brain, genes, and lifestyle changes. Yet those are the windows through which a much greater truth can be seen, which is this. When the flow of life encompasses mind, body, and soul, a person has found the easiest way to live. We must put out of our heads that unity is an exotic, faraway goal reached only by the spiritually gifted.

When you delve into Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, your allegiance will shift to wholeness. You won't be fixated on your body, your mind, or your spiritual path. The three will merge, as they must in order to be whole. The reunion is the most joyous experience anyone can have, and happily for all of us, it's also the most natural.

Deepak Chopra on

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Tuesday October 13, 2009

Categories: Consciousness

How the Brain Got Liberated

They mystery of the human brain recently took a step closer to being solved. This didn't happen through a single breakthrough or because of an Einstein moment. Instead, an old belief was overturned by many separate researches. The old belief held that the brain couldn't heal itself. Unlike almost every other organ, healing supposedly didn't exist in the brain, so that once wounded or impaired, the damage was permanent. Now we know that's not true.

The human brain not only can heal itself, but it turns out to be amazingly adaptable to trauma. The term for this is neural plasticity, and once discovered, it sprang up in many areas. Stroke victims have learned to regain function after paralysis. The blind have acquired new abilities in the visual cortex. Skills limited to the right or left side of the brain have jumped across to the other hemisphere. Thanks to neural plasticity, we've learned to see the human brain not as a fixed structure with brain cells dying every year -- the old view -- but as a fluid, constantly evolving process.

The brain has been so liberated, in fact, as to be barely recognizable. We now know that the aging brain can continue to develop new connections. Stem cells continue to give rise to new neurons throughout the human life cycle. Most important of all, the experiences you have at any time of life create new neural pathways, and it's these pathways that form complex patterns far more vital than new neurons. At this moment, your brain is adapting to everything you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.

I don't want to go into technical details, simply to note that there's a next step that is even more liberating. A recent study by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute showed that people who adopt beneficial lifestyle changes, such as improved diet, exercise, and stress management, trigger changes in expression of over four hundred genes. Like the brain, your genes are tuned in to your experience, and when you decide to change your life, the millions of molecule signals that tell your genes what to make and when--the epigenome--respond accordingly. They must, for any new function in any cell requires translation into chemical reactions, and those are mediated by the gene.

Now put these two discoveries together, the changing brain and the changing epigenome, and the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Every thought, intention, wish, dream, insight, and memory you have is creating change at the genetic level. Your genome and epigenome together are nothing less than a quantum computer, making thousands of decisions per second in every cell. These decisions aren't mechanical or preprogrammed. They await your intentions; the quantum computer runs on behalf of your consciousness.

Since every cell contains the same strand of DNA, the quantum computer is in very cell, and it is coordinated with every other. This computing ability, by which a heart cell knows what a brain cell is doing, the liver communicates with the kidneys, the endocrine system eavesdrops on the emotions being triggered in the limbic centers of the brain, is infinite. What will finally liberate our brains is the realization that infinite intelligence, creativity, and organizing ability isn't a pipedream or spiritual wish fulfillment. It's the very basis of the human body.

I've left out dozens of discoveries that support this revolutionary contention (an excellent source for reading up on the breakthrough research is Sharon Begley's well-written book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain). As the title implies, it's by changing the mind first that the brain adapts, and there seems to be no limit to this adaptation. What is human evolution, after all, but neurons learning new skills over a very long period of time, and then passing those skills on through genes to new generations?

Unlike our evolutionary ancestors, we have the opportunity to consciously shape our brains, using this newfound knowledge of neural plasticity. Medicine has already made inroads, for example, as in the intensive recovery programs for stroke victims that teach their brains to use new, undamaged areas. Stroke recovery is therefore miles ahead of where it was twenty years ago. But medicine deals with trauma and disease. The liberated brain has enormous potential in everyday life, which will be the topic of my next post.

(To be cont.)

Deepak Chopra on
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Monday October 12, 2009

Categories: Consciousness

What we don't know is thrilling

Last week was a big one for the human family tree -- it grew by a million years. With considerable splash the media announced that our oldest ancestor was Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus, an upright walking hominid who lived 4.4 million years ago. A female skeleton was put on display that demotes Lucy, another female skeleton that became famous as the oldest hominid, dating from only 3.2 million years.

As usual when such stories about evolution reach the front page, religious believers are quieted. Unless you have absolute faith in Genesis, there is irrefutable evidence that physical life developed by stages. Ardi wasn't exactly a newcomer. The first remains, in the form of a single molar, had been found in Ethiopia in 1992, and for seventeen years teams of specialists determined a host of facts about this new species. For example, walking upright had already been developed four million years ago, along with tree-climbing, and an omnivorous appetite for almost any kind of food, plant or animal.

Indirectly creationists were handed a sliver of a concession. Ardi isn't apelike. We aren't descended from monkeys, once again laying to rest the most shocking theory that used to circulate in common parlance. By walking upright over four million years ago, the earliest hominids were already on an evolutionary track separate from even chimps and gorillas, our nearest genetic cousins, who locomote with a different kind of gait known as knuckle-walking.

Yet it's what we don't know about our ancestors that's the most thrilling. Nothing in the fossil record, no matter how many dozen specialists study it, explains the trait that makes us human. It's not walking upright or learning to mate for life (some anthropologists speculate that this was already developing with Ardi and Lucy). It's not the opposable thumb and forefinger, which have long been touted as the one great advantage we have over all other primates.

The dominant trait that makes us human is our self-consciousness, which will never be viewed in the fossil record, because it's invisible. Being self-conscious, human beings became curious about ourselves and where we came from. That's why we study chimps but they don't study us. Other primates have had the same millions of years to become self-conscious. Somehow it never caught on beyond a certain basic level, while we on the other hand grew more self-conscious over time. When the Buddha looked inward and Christ preached a gospel of love, those were evolutionary steps in human awareness.

Evolution has reached the point where there's no more physical development left for us. Escaping the rule of survival of the fittest -- that no longer applies to a species that takes care of its weak and sick -- human beings entered the era of survival of the wisest. Survival of the wisest means using our consciousness in the highest way possible, for peace, shared resources, the eradication of disease, and increased happiness.

In terms of self-consciousness, the next great leap won't be in any of these areas, however. It will come when we figure out how brain cells work. Neuroscientists, like their colleagues in anthropology, keep staring at what's visible when the secrets of the brain are clearly invisible. Where is memory imprinted in a neuron? What is the self, which appears to have no identifiable location in the brain? How do vibrating molecules striking the eardrum turn into words that convey meaning? When photons stimulate cells on the surface of the retina, how do mere electrical impulses in the visual cortex create the world we see?

Inside the brain there are no sounds or sights. When you hear music, your brain remains completely silent. When you gaze at a sunset, your brain remains totally dark. The study of cells and tissues, like the study of fossils, offers clues about the mystery of consciousness, yet a great divide has yet to be crossed. We need a Darwin of consciousness, a seminal mind who grasps the mind itself. Only then will Ardi and Lucy make sense. Because right now they don't. The creationists are defending a rear-guard position that will never be true. At the same time, so are the materialists they oppose. Consciousness is the creative force we have yet to unravel. It creates sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Which means that the real thrills are yet to come, when we look inward to discover the most mind-bending thing of all: Consciousness is the basic building block of life and the prime mover of the universe.

Published in the San Francisco Chronicle
Deepak Chopra on

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Friday October 9, 2009

Categories: Spirituality

Proof of God Never Stands Still

What makes the best 'case for God' to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?

The Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton remarked that God is always a step ahead of the seeker, having just departed wherever the seeker arrives. That's true for anyone who seeks proof of God. The debate is constantly changing its ground. But it wouldn't be true of personal experience, which is the most convincing proof to any individual, an immediate sense that God's presence is here and now (although much less convincing to friends and family who stand by as spectators). The Bible contains almost no intellectual arguments for God's existence, being entirely filled with direct experience. Jehovah talks to the prophets: Jesus performs supernatural miracles. In modern times the reverse is true. We hunger for objective evidence of all things, even things that cannot help but be subjective, such as beauty or for that matter, thinking itself.

The essential question isn't which type of proof is convincing but whether any proof is possible. Science has steadily eroded religion by saying, in essence, that there is no proof that satisfies experimental inquiry. In the eighteenth century most people would have accepted the argument from design, a rational proposition which pointed to the intricacy of Nature and declared that there must be a Creator behind it. Although such an argument can be updated, not through the creationism of Intelligent Design but by a rigorous argument against randomness, that has proven to be too great a leap for people inculcated to believe that randomness is, in fact, the basis of the universe since the Big Bang.

I'd offer that convincing arguments for God depend upon several factors:

-- Getting rid of the notion that God is a person.

-- Throwing out all dogma and religious conditioning.

-- Looking into the nature of consciousness, which links the observer to reality.

-- Taking seriously the concept of an intelligent universe, which implies self-awareness as primary in Nature, not a chance development in human beings.

There are now countless books by a diverse range of thinkers to support all these avenues of exploration. But ultimately, without an understanding of consciousness one can't possibly explain God or the numinous, or expand from personal awareness to divine awareness. Perception changes with the perceiver, including perception of God. Such an ever-elusive deity cannot be the real thing, only a mirror of our own restless awareness. Therefore, to be fully real, God must be perceived at a level of consciousness that isn't personal or shifting. In the East such changeless consciousness is available in a state known as enlightenment, the Christian equivalent of grace. In a secular society such a state of consciousness has yet to be defined and widely accepted (although millions of people meditate or pray, hoping to meet the divine face to face).

Theology has lagged far behind in helping us explore God personally or define the state of God consciousness, unfortunately, being occupied with side issues like defending one faith against another or trying to lure believers back into the church or synagogue. Scientists have done a far better job, ironically, by dismantling outworn notions about reality, but it's rare to find a scientist who is professionally interested in either God or consciousness. God is considered so unscientific to begin with that few researchers consider this a valid field, except for the purposes of a debunker a la Richard Dawkins, who does nothing more than repeat the tired clichés of skeptical materialism. Telling us all the reasons that finding God is impossible, attempts to prove a negative and is useless in explaining the great thinkers, sages, and saints who assure us that God is real.

So where do we stand now? On our own two feet -- seekers must find proof that satisfies them, one person at a time. It's not an easy journey, but it never was, except to those who preferred blind faith over personal exploration. The reason that the Kingdom of Heaven is within is that God is a state of consciousness; there is nowhere to look but within. The deity may be infinite, all-pervasive, and ever-present, but proof of God is on the move, shifting as fast as our own perceptions.

Published in the Washington Post OnFaith

Deepak Chopra on

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Monday October 5, 2009

Categories: Consciousness

Evolution reigns, but Darwin outmoded

by Robert Lanza and Deepak Chopra This year, the world celebrated Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. But now that all the backslapping is nearing an end, it may be time to reflect on where things really stand. When Darwin finished writing...

Tuesday September 22, 2009


Attraction and the laws of love Follow Deepak on Twitter...

Monday September 21, 2009

Categories: Consciousness

Science and the Superstition of Materialism Follow Deepak on Twitter...

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