I have been following the work and teachings of Dr. Deepak Chopra since the mid-nineties when I first heard him speak about the power of the mind to generate healthy cells thereby eliminating many localized and systemic illnesses in the human body. Deepak Chopra was explaining his theories to another strong influence of mine, self help icon Anthony Robbins. This was back in 1997, and although Dr. Chopra’s ideas and explanations sounded like music to my ears, I was still a bit hazy on the logistics of how these reactions actually take place within the body. At the time I was just vaguely becoming aware of the mind/body connection and holistic healing. One thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to learn more about what would later be largely attributed to the science of quantum physics (think “The Secret”). Deepak Chopra challenged that we are not physical bodies which produce our consciousness, but rather, we are consciousness that has manifested as our physical bodies. He asserts that our bodies are mere vehicles and our consciousness is the driver, the domain from which everything is produced. We take this vehicle wherever we want it to go. By doing so, we create everything around us, including much of the current state of our physical and emotional health.
Deepak Chopra is a traditionally trained physician of Indian origin who emerged onto the American medical scene in the eighties preaching and practicing medicine based on the eastern principals of healing the whole person as opposed to the piecemeal approach often used by many western doctors: treating symptoms and individual ailments with drugs and surgery. After applying more mainstream tactics at the beginning of his career, Chopra stated that he felt like a “legal drug pusher.” Taking note of the teachings of his eastern relatives and other holistic physicians, he instinctually recognized that healing did not take place exclusively in this physical realm. Deepak Chopra dared to proclaim that in order to heal the body, you needed to treat the whole person rather then a conglomeration of body parts. Hence, the term “holistic.”
Deepak Chopra was also so bold as to infer that there was something more at work that impacts our health and wellbeing. Whether you call it your brain’s chemistry, your soul, your consciousness or a combination of the three (whatever terminology makes you feel more comfortable), there is a mysterious, yet legitimate mind/body connection at work in all of us and it is taking place even as you read this.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I want to start by talking to you about meditation, because it’s pertinent to your new book, Buddha. I’ve heard you speak about what should be achieved during meditation. You speak a lot about how in the western world we consider the goal of meditation to be relaxation just because our lives are so crazy and busy. But you actually describe this space that exists in between our conscious thoughts. Can you elaborate on that?
Deepak Chopra: Yeah. The space between our conscious thoughts is referred to as a discontinuity. This is the ground of our existence and more and more it’s being recognized by a few scientists, that the essential nature of everything is a discontinuity. When you look at a table or a tree or a plant or a piece of rock, they too are made up of atoms. The atoms are subatomic particles and the subatomic particles emerge out of something and then disappear into the same place. So a few scientists are beginning to recognize that even though everything appears physical to us and our senses, at the most fundamental level of creation it’s a vibration. It’s something that is going on and off. The space between the two “ons” of every vibration is a discontinuity. That might be the ultimate ground of everything in the universe. So, that means that the discontinuity that exists between your thoughts is the ground of, not only your existence, but the ground of all existence. In other words, the consciousness that is at the background of your thoughts is the same consciousness which is at the background of all the intelligent activity of the whole universe.
PR.com: Does that mean that we’re all sharing the same consciousness?
Deepak Chopra: At the most fundamental level, yes. We’re all contained in a single consciousness. That consciousness has depth to it, so there’s a personal domain, there’s a collective domain and there’s a universal domain. Is the drop in the wave in the ocean the same thing? The answer is yes. They all share the same common bed.
PR.com: When we practice meditation, how can we reach that state?
Deepak Chopra: Well, there comes a moment, if you’re diligent with your meditation, there comes a moment where there are no thoughts and there is no device that is being used for meditation as well. In the eastern traditions, frequently the device that is used for mediation is called a mantra. Mantra is a sound that has no story attached to it. So if, for example, you mentally repeat the phrase, “Thy will be done,” that really has no story other then surrender. So if you keep mentally repeating something like that, it starts to compete with your thinking process. If you just stay with it very, very effortlessly, then there comes a time when the mantra and the thoughts kind of cancel each other out and your replacement is neither mantra nor thought.
PR.com: And then what is achieved in that state?
Deepak Chopra: Complete silence in the mind and therefore complete silence in the body as well; a state of unity consciousness. What separates you from others is your individual mind that manifests as your personal ego. So if you take that out of the way, there is nothing that separates you from anything else in existence. Now, we know from even fundamental particle physics that the space between subatomic particles or what you call the discontinuity is a field of possibilities. It’s a field where space, time, energy, information and matter all become one. It’s a field where there is uncertainty. It’s a field where there is creativity and it’s a field where there is something called observer effect. The means intention orchestrated fulfillment. It’s a state of consciousness. When consciousness is without thought content, then everything is unified.
PR.com: As mentioned in your book, some of the things that are involved in practicing Buddhism are letting go of the self, non-doing and the concept of time being an illusion. These are concepts that must seem very alien, especially to people in the western world where things like deadlines, ambition and money take precedence. Can you go over each of these things and explain how people here in the United States can incorporate this into their lives?
Deepak Chopra: The non-self refers to no separate self. So the very logic of it, just to take it very logically, you’ll see that your body fluids are the recycling of water, your breath is the recycling of air, your thoughts are the recycling of information, your emotions are the recycling of interactions with other people, your personality is the recycling of relationships. So when you really see yourself in all these different aspects, you see that you don’t exist by yourself. You cannot define yourself without talking about everything else that you’re in relationship to. So the idea of non-self is really a different way of saying that relationship is the key to fulfillment. Without relationships you feel lonely, you feel alienated, you feel fearful. So actually all problems including conflict, war, terrorism, ecological destruction, economic disparities, poverty, lack of caring for what is happening to other people… this is the cause of all our suffering. Buddha is absolutely right…
PR.com: Meaning isolation is the cause…
Deepak Chopra: Fear, isolation and the feeling of separation. The feeling that it’s all “me” or “mine.” It’s a wrong identity. There is no such thing as “me” or “mine.” There is only “us.” There is only what the Buddhists call “interbeingness.” And it’s very much part of western religion. When Jesus Christ says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Forgive your enemies,” all of that. Everything that is written in the gospel, it’s not about “me” or “mine.” It’s all about “us.”
PR.com: What is non-doing?
Deepak Chopra: Non-doing means when you perform an action without being addicted to the outcome, which is the [source] of stress. You know, the deadlines, meeting this margin in profits, the need to make so much income. What happens is the addiction itself, the anxiety that is created by the addiction in itself, interferes with the process. When a gardener puts a seed into the ground, he doesn’t take it out everyday to see how it is doing. You plant the seed and you pay attention to it. You water the ground and when the season is appropriate the seed comes out. You don’t force it. So the Buddhist’s idea of non-doing simply means that if you are in alignment with the ecstatic evolutionary impulse of creation then your very intention will orchestrate the situation. The circumstances will be events in your life that will give you the creative opportunities to take you to the next place without any anxiety on your part. So again, it’s not only true of Buddhism, but Jesus Christ talks about it. He said, “Look at the lilies of the field. They neither toil nor spin, yet they are more gloriously glowed then Solomon in all his glory.” Or, “I say to you, do not worry about tomorrow.” So the best way to prepare for the future is to be totally in the present and not be addicted to outcome. That is an attitude of non-doing. It’s the attitude that, “Everything I do is part of the impulse of the total universe.”
PR.com: To expand on that point, you come from the point of view, I would assume that we are spiritual beings. Is that correct?
Deepak Chopra: Yeah, by spiritual I mean conscious. Without consciousness there is no life.
PR.com: Why do you suppose we are on this physical plane where we live with money, material objects and things like clothes, jewelry, cars and things like that? Is that a test for us?
Deepak Chopra: Yeah, and it’s also a stage of evolution. When you have all that and you realize that you can say, “Been there, done that,” and it’s not important to you anymore. So every stage of evolution has its own expressions.
PR.com: Do you think one can be enlightened and still enjoy material possessions or do you believe that in order for true enlightenment to be achieved, you have to denounce any kind of materialism?
Deepak Chopra: I think an enlightened person can enjoy everything, with or without material possessions. The difference is addiction.
PR.com: And the concept of time as being an illusion?
Deepak Chopra: Well, if you’re in love then time doesn’t exist. If you’re having a good time, it flies. If you’re having deadlines then you start to think, “I’m running out of time.” If you’re bored you say, “Time is dragging.” If you’re in a very anxious situation, then time takes forever. Time is the way we measure our experience. In the deeper domains where there is unity consciousness, time doesn’t exist. Time is the movement of thought. It separates the observer from the observed when in the deepest reality, the observer and the observed, the seer and the scenery, the lover and the beloved… they’re all the same consciousness.
PR.com: How do you determine, according to your understanding, what you would refer to as the soul or the spirit, and the brain? In other words, when that inner voice speaks to us or when we are having certain thoughts or feelings, what is coming from our soul and what is coming from our brain?
Deepak Chopra: Everything comes from the soul. The brain is an instrument. All your fears, all your anxieties, all your phobias, all your imagination, all your fantasies, all your desires, your creativity, your insight, your intuition, your inspiration, your conflicts… the soul is a place of extreme opposites. It’s a place of ambiguity, a place of uncertainty, and a place of contradiction and paradox. The brain is just the instrument which orchestrates what your soul is. Your soul is evolving. It starts from a place of extreme ignorance and ultimately ends up in a place of extreme enlightenment. That’s our journey. We use our brain and our body to orchestrate everything.
PR.com: But, if you take somebody like a mental health practitioner, and you were to bring up the topics of bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, phobias, they would argue that it comes from chemical reactions taking place in the brain. Do you disagree?
Deepak Chopra: Well, if I am listening to Beethoven on my radio and my radio is damaged, I won’t be able to hear Beethoven until I fix the radio. They’re right. You have to fix the instrument. But the fault of the instrument is not a reflection of the user of the instrument.
PR.com: Do you always live in a space of complete balance or do you ever have moments, like the rest of us, where you feel out of balance or less peaceful then you’d like to?
Deepak Chopra: I don’t get affected by imbalance, let’s say. So, if I’m traveling from here to Malaysia tonight and I have jetlag… first of all… I don’t experience it the way other people experience it. But, on the other hand if I have it, it’s not a big deal. I’m not uncomfortable by being uncomfortable.
PR.com: You’ve said that you are a follower of the teachings of Buddha, and you wrote a book about it, obviously. Yet, you don’t consider yourself to be a Buddhist or a follower of any particular religion…
Deepak Chopra: Well, my next book is called The Third Jesus, so there you are. I’m trying to see what the experiences were that Jesus Christ had in order to say what he said. The reason it’s called Third Jesus is the first Jesus is historical and the second Jesus is the one hijacked by the Christians and the church. The third Jesus is a state of consciousness which is very similar to Buddha.
PR.com: Is it fair to say that you’re more of a student as opposed to someone who adheres to any one particular religion?
Deepak Chopra: It’s fair to say that I try to see spirituality in the teachings of great wisdom traditions. I try to find the spirituality and the universal insights in the teachings of great prophets… of those people that we call “enlightened.” So, for me there is no difference between the consciousness of, say, Jesus Christ and the consciousness of Buddha. That’s why I think spirituality is the biggest threat to religion.
PR.com: How do you define God?
Deepak Chopra: I think the best definition of God is that God is a mystery. [It’s] the mystery of existence, the mystery of life, the mystery of the universe. As we get closer to this mystery, then we experience love, we experience compassion, we experience creativity, we experience intelligence, we experience joy, we experience loss of fear and loss of fear of even death. We experience inspiration, insight, intuition, imagination. Those are the things that bespeak of the mystery of our own existence. I would say that as soon as you try to conceptualize this mystery, say like a dead white man in the sky, then you lose the essence of the mystery. The moment you conceptualize it, then you limit it to your concept. If God is infinite then God cannot be conceptualized, just like infinity cannot be conceptualized. I would say God is also the source of space, time, energy, information and everything else that exists in the universe. The only definition that’s valid is that God is infinite possibilities.
PR.com: As far as our physical biology, you’ve talked many times about the fact that we are capable of changing our biology and our physiology. On Anderson Cooper 360 you spoke about prayer having a positive impact on health and even helping to potentially reverse life threatening conditions. Do you believe that peoples’ prayers are actually being answered, or is it that by praying you’re getting into a more positive state whereby you’re actually doing it yourself, that you’re changing your own physiology?
Deepak Chopra: Everything you do, you do your own self. Even God is your own creation. I think at the deeper domain, consciousness is what influences biology, what influences social interaction, personal relationships, behavior, environment… everything is the result of consciousness. Now it depends from the depth of which that consciousness is orchestrating its activity. If it’s coming from your limited ego self then it’s not that powerful. If it’s coming from a more collective or universal domain then it’s more powerful. But, everything is you, whether it’s the isolated you, the universal you or the collective you. It’s still you.
PR.com: How can the everyday person tap into this energy to stimulate and improve their own immune system?
Deepak Chopra: It’s a journey. It’s a journey of meditation, behavior and relationships. And it’s a journey of surrender and insight. So if you pay attention to taking time to be still, if you pay attention to nurturing relationships with love and compassion, if you perform actions without being addicted to outcome and if you take the journey of deeper understanding into the nature of reality, then by and by you will have the realization that everything that is happening in your life is a reflection or a mirror of what’s happening in you.
PR.com: Talk about reversing the aging process and what you’ve mentioned in the past about how you can actually reverse it to the point where you can make yourself, biologically speaking, fifteen years younger or fifteen years older then your actual chronological age.
Deepak Chopra: Your biology is an expression of what’s happening in consciousness. The fastest growing segment of the American population right now is over the age of ninety, and in many parts of the world, over the age of one hundred. A lot of that has to do with better nutrition, better lifestyle and better living conditions. That we’re not dying of smallpox or heatstroke or frostbite, and also because our nutritional status is such that our immune systems are healthy. But knowing that, we also know that if somebody is really abusing their body physically and emotionally, they are burned out and they smoke two packs of cigarettes a day and take drugs and alcohol and their relationships are really messed up, then they could be biologically forty-five even though they’re chronologically twenty-five. In other words, the biological markers reflect a much older biology then their chronological years would suggest. Similarly, if you have somebody who is sixty-five or older but they are physically and emotionally fit, then their biological markers could be much younger. Things like blood pressure, bone density, body temperature regulation, metabolic rate, fat content, cardiovascular conditioning, cholesterol, muscle mass, the strength of muscles, sugar tolerance, sex hormones, hearing, vision, skin thickness, immune function… they could be all reflective of a much younger age. The human body is a function of literally, all the forces of nature. If you understand that these forces of nature are an expression of your own consciousness then you can reverse these forces of nature.
PR.com: Are there certain markers in different parts of the world, where people are living to be over one hundred years old and higher? Are there a few things that come to mind in what people are doing there that they’re not doing here [in the United States]?
Deepak Chopra: Yeah. In places where people live much longer they have respect for the elderly. They think that older people are more useful to society. They don’t have the idea that when you’re sixty-five you have to go to Florida and live there in retirement. It’s a different mindset.
PR.com: Have you been ostracized or criticized for your holistic views?
Deepak Chopra: In the eighties, but nothing since then. In the eighties and maybe nineties, but not now.
PR.com: Not in the mainstream medical community?
Deepak Chopra: No. Actually next week I lecture at Harvard Medical School. I do it once a year and I’ve been [lecturing] there for seven years. It’s one of the highest attended lectures by the medical community.
PR.com: That’s good news! Do you find that many medical institutions are asking for your advice and for your input?
Deepak Chopra: Not advice but definitely for education. We have programs that we offer to medical institutions and also people who take our courses (at The Chopra Center). We’re recognized by the American Medical Association for what they call “The Physicians Recognition Award.”
PR.com: You often refer to quantum science. Can you elaborate on what quantum science is?
Deepak Chopra: Quantum Science is that science that looks at activity at a very subatomic level (subatomic = smaller then an atom and therefore the properties that make up an atom) of creation. It gives us more and more insight into the nature of consciousness and what I refer to as discontinuity.
PR.com: What inspired you to write this book about the life of Buddha?
Deepak Chopra: Actually, the death of my father. I was in India and I was cremating my father’s body and even though I’d always thought about death and loss, I still felt it at a deep level. I decided to actually explore this whole idea of impermanence, myself. Then I realized that Buddha had done it so well, so why not explore his life.
PR.com: What do you think Buddha’s ultimate goal was as far as how he lived his life and the example he tried to set?
Deepak Chopra: Well he was a physician in a sense. He made the diagnosis when human beings experienced suffering, and like a good doctor he said, “These are the causes and this is the way out. Here is the prescription.” So I think he never saw himself as a God or a prophet. He said, “If we want to decrease our suffering and the suffering of others, then we have to wake up to our own potential.”
Dr. Deepak Chopra’s latest book, “Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment,” is published by HarperCollins publishers and is available in bookstores and at www.amazon.com. You can also learn more about Deepak Chopra at www.chopra.com.