Deepak Chopra is many things to many people, including writer, podcaster, alternative medicine practitioner, and — for some — a self-help guru guiding them to a more holistic existence.
Born in 1947, in New Delhi, India, Chopra went to medical school and worked in endocrinology in Boston before leaving Western medicine in favor of a more spiritually inclined practice of mind-body healing. His breakthrough into public consciousness came in 1994, with the publication of 7 Spiritual Laws of Success, which was embraced by Oprah Winfrey and became a New York Times bestseller. Since then he has written dozens of books that integrate his medical knowledge with Eastern and New Age religious teachings. He founded the Chopra Center, near San Diego, in 1995, and now lives in Manhattan, in what The New York Times described as a luxury green apartment that is outfitted with vitamin-filtered showers and antimicrobial coating on high-touch areas.
Some scientists consider Chopra’s ideas about medicine and human potential controversial or even dangerous. They chafe at his belief that consciousness drives evolution and that people can transcend chronic and even terminal illness via their consciousness. (When asked about the latter issue by Pasatiempo, Chopra said that he means that people can transcend the suffering associated with disease, not that they can cure disease with their thoughts.)
In his latest book, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Potential (Harmony Books), Chopra wants to demonstrate that we are not merely the roles we play. We are (or can be) part of a cosmic consciousness that transcends physical reality.
Chopra speaks at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Thursday, Oct. 10. In advance of the event, he talked to Pasatiempo about some of the ideas in Metahuman — a conceptual state of mind and being that he says everyone has access to, provided they are interested in the experience of getting there.
Pasatiempo: In Metahuman, you argue that being more conscious or more aware is better than being smart. Why do you value consciousness over intelligence?
Deepak Chopra: When we call somebody smart, we basically mean that they have a lot of knowledge — not necessarily that they have a lot of wisdom. We also mean that they are good at their profession — whatever that is. It does not necessarily mean that they have good personal relationships, or the capacity to love, or have compassion or peace of mind. That comes from a deeper level of awareness. Being smart is a property of the mind, whereas what we’re talking about in Metahuman is not the mind but the source of all knowing and experience, including the mind. In many Eastern wisdom traditions, they say all knowledge is ignorance.
Pasa: You write that to be in a metahuman state is to be present in the moment — and that this state requires no thinking. You also say that meta-reality is pure consciousness. Can you explain this duality to readers who may find these concepts contradictory?
Chopra: Duality is how we experience everyday reality. Right now, I think I’m the subject of experience and you are my object of experience. But you think you are the subject of experience and I am the object of experience. In pure non-duality, a pure consciousness, there is no subject/object split. It’s all one awareness which is not personal, but in which all persons and their experiences are known. In Eastern philosophical systems, it’s called cosmic consciousness. Particles, space-time, gravity, elements, and forces of the universe all arise from a unified field, which is the potential for all existence. Singularity. But modern science does not equate that singularity with cosmic consciousness. That’s a step that many Eastern philosophies have taken, and some Western philosophers are now taking. They call it panpsychism or panprotopsychism.
Pasa: What are the differences between your ideas about achieving meta-consciousness and many traditional Eastern religious beliefs?
Chopra: They’re very consistent with Eastern belief systems, including Hinduism and Buddhism, but also very consistent with many Western philosophical frameworks, including those of Immanuel Kant, Wittgenstein, and Schopenhauer. If you read the New Testament, [it is] very similar to the ideas that I’m expressing in this book. When Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” he’s talking about pure consciousness.
Pasa: You write in Metahuman that people are really their inner consciousness, not their outer behavior or how they describe themselves. In other words, our existence is more than the daily roles we play. Why do people mistake labels for their true consciousness?
Chopra: If I were to identify myself in my roles, I would say I’m a writer, I’m a doctor, I’m an Indian, I’m a male, I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m a husband. On and on. I can identify many roles that I play, and every day I switch those roles. Right now, I’m playing the role of a writer who is answering a question from a journalist. After I finish and I call my daughter, I’ll be playing the role of a father. This very fact shows that there is an entity that is capable of switching from one role to another. What is that entity? It is what we call consciousness or awareness. My awareness allows me to switch from one role to another, and gradually I start to realize that all roles are by definition limiting. Because as soon as I adopt one role, then I have to ignore all the other roles that I’m playing. That’s fine when I’m playing the role. It might be my destiny to play an infinity of roles. But I’m not the roles that I’m playing. ◀
▼ Deepak Chopra: Metahuman
▼ Hosted by Collected Works Bookstore, the City of Santa Fe, and Tourism Santa Fe
▼ 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10
▼ Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 201 W. Marcy St.
▼ $35, available online only at collectedworksbookstore.com