Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

The Audacity of Enlightenment (by Deepak Chopra)

Although Barack Obama’s slogan is “the audacity of hope,” the words have deeper connotations at this moment. One of the most powerful, I think, is the audacity to wake up. In order for the right wing to succeed in its reactionary agenda, the American public had to agree with it. On the surface it wouldn’t seem that people could agree to freeze their incomes, give tax breaks to the least deserving, amass a huge national debt, ignore the rising cost of health care, and various other aspects of the right-wing agenda. To offer their agreement, the public had to vote against its own interest, and doing that required them to be asleep.

What keeps people asleep? Some ingredients are cultural. The dumbing down of America is a real phenomenon. One person out of five believes that the sun revolves around the Earth, and their ignorance is directly related to a failure of education. Half of high school graduates cannot tell you how many Supreme Court justices there are. Overall, pop culture has trumped political culture, so a glib, attractive candidate who makes a nice image on TV reassures more people than a thoughtful intellectual discussing real-life issues. Having drummed “compassionate conservatism” into the mass media, President Bush went on to pass the least compassionate, most right-wing agenda in history without negative consequences to himself for at least six years. He counted on the public remaining asleep.
Now that we are being asked to wake up again, the result could be revolutionary. Looming problems like the national debt, universal health care, and a troubled Social Security system do have real, workable solutions that can be implemented if we don’t postpone them much longer. But the alternative has been ingrained for so long that the political machine hopes to return to runaway spending, social irresponsibility, and pro-war policies controlled by a white male elite. This, despite the fact, as Frank Rich pointed out in his NY Times column, that 40% of Americans born after 1982 come from a family with at least one non-white parent.
Waking up means seeing clearly who we are and what needs to be done. It means not blindly voting against your own interest. That’s audacious enough. But I was struck by the appraisal given by the British journal, The Economist, to my old teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when he died on Feb. 5: “Crank? Crackpot? Charlatan? Maybe all three. Yet the maharishi was generally benign. He did not use his money for sinister ends.” Behind the dismissive and personally offensive tone is a cynical attitude that is now widespread. This attitude holds that higher consciousness per se is a fraud, that anyone who encourages others to walk the path of enlightenment is by definition a fraud, hypocrite, and money grubber. (The complete Economist article can be found here)
Let’s leave aside the abysmal ignorance being shown toward the Indian spiritual tradition, which is immense, not just from the Economist but from obituary articles that were more kindly disposed to Maharishi. What is being derided is the highest aspiration of civilized society, which is to go beyond human frailty toward the best in human potential. Those who ridicule such aspirations will find themselves mired in the opposite — a downward spiral into greed, selfishness, corruption, and mindless mass consumerism. The rise of Maharishi stood for a belief in higher aspirations. One is allowed to have any kind of opinion about whether gurus and spiritual teachers have feet of clay. But to adopt the cliche of the guru-as-fraud is mean-spirited and ignorant. The audacity of enlightenment reaches much farther than the audacity of hope, and until we are willing to reassert our right to aspire, America will remain crippled spiritually, the very result the right-wing has sadly achieved.

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posted February 19, 2008 at 5:30 am

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that awakening to one’s true self, becoming more enlightened, becoming more conscious, realizing unity in Oneness, is so entangled in the shrouds of organized religion and the all too human limitations of clerics and gurus. And now this is all becoming even further entangled in political agendas and campaign tactics. One of the purposes of religion is to inspire, encourage and help individuals find and travel along our own spiritual paths so we can discover and realize our fullest potentials. Another purpose is to help us see that we do, indeed, have a common Source that unites us all beneath all of our superficial diversity.
But few of us are audacious enough to bravely travel our own paths. Most of us are instead willing to abdicate our rights and responsibilities to “the system” whether that be the government, the politics, the economy, the society, the media, the schools, the churches. Then “the system” – rather than one’s self – can be praised, scorned, blamed, blindly followed or fought against as the case may be. And it’s always “them” rather than “us.”
What we need is dramatic change so we can begin to do things differently because doing things as we have been has only gotten us into deep trouble – as individuals, as nations, and in the whole world. It will turn out to be massively insane to continue doing things as we have been yet somehow expect to produce different results. Within the various systems, we are not offered dramatic changes, only the possibilities of small ones. How can we learn to know and choose the correct small changes that will help us bring about the dramatic changes we need?
The answers won’t come from the schools, the government, the churches. The real answers can only come from our hearts, not from our minds. We need to learn to listen to our hearts and then use our minds and our bodies in service to our hearts, in service to each other, in service to our world.
May we each audaciously awaken to what it is we need to do to help bring about the changes, in ourselves and in the world, that are necessary for our very survival, and then bravely act accordingly.

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posted February 19, 2008 at 11:05 am

It is very hard in this day and age for westerners to trust spiritual leaders. We are constantly bombarded with stories of clergy involved in sexual trysts with thieir congregants, and “holy” people who attain massive amounts of wealth on the backs of their people. It is sad that it is not considered newsworthy to tell of the clergy and spiritual folk who give to the poor, stand for social justice, and live compassionately. To me this is the real way to recognize enlightened folks. They are out there, in the highways and byways doing their works of peace day in, day out.

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Polycarp, not chaos.

posted February 20, 2008 at 6:48 am

Then why is it, that the oposite of “right-wing” outcomes, is the left-wing decadence, perversion, unwed mothers, fatherless households, dependence on handouts, further welfare culture, abortion as birth control (obviously not working), crime, gangster life celebrated, promiscuity the root of everything Left-Wing. The outcomes and reality of the left-wing life is even more corrupt than what the right-wing has endeavored to achieve.
The right wing mantra is: achieve anything. How many people following right-wing ideals own homes and give their excess money to the needy?
The left wing mantra is: excuse anything.
Enlightenment starts with facing reality.

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posted February 20, 2008 at 8:37 am

What’s this about America being “spiritually crippled”? This nation enjoys more spiritual diversity than any other country that comes to mind. Here we have the freedom to worship as we choose.
He might want to take a look back at the country he came from, India, and its history of terrible violence between Hindus and Muslims, cults of Kali, Thugees, and of course the “untouchables” — the poorest of the poor, ignored and abused by their fellow Hindus, but luckily cared for by a Catholic nun called Theresa.

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posted February 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm

This is my first visit to this blog and I find your comments to be enlightened and refreshing. The ignorance of the American populace is a frightening thing. Part of the problem in my estimation is laziness. It is much easier for individuals to accept the offerings of news, entertainment, government officials and clergy than to find out for themselves what the truth is. We have been lulled into a state of mental and spiritual apathy, allowing others to make the choices for us instead of using our own minds and hearts to search out the right path. Change is not going to come easy, the “powers that be” will fight to hold on to the control that they have of the masses. I believe that enlightenment will come one person at a time, one family at a time and if shared, one community at a time. Individuality and freedom of thought are largely seen as a dangerous thing in the world today. Spiritual leaders (true spiritual leaders) are ridiculed, slandered and vilified by the popular media and culture of our nation and world. It is going to take courage and commitment from those who find the path of enlightenment to pass this along to others. We must be willing to face the ridicule, and attempts at censorship from the “sleeping” people in our lives. As the positive energy on this planet is increasing the forces of negativity will attempt to overcome it. It is the responsibility of enlightened individuals to pass this new way (really it is the old ways) along to others without fear for the better good of this nation and the world at large.

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posted February 21, 2008 at 1:05 am

I’m very glad Deepak Chopra has begun writing for beliefnet. This was the first article I’ve read by him on this site. (I just started reading the blog today.) I wish I could say “five stars”, but I think it deserves a three at best. Not sure why I feel the need to write anything on this particular one since he obviously has done much better in the past. (Loved Why the New Age Still Matters.) Maybe I just don’t want him to get too fond of his own perspective on things and hope somehow a few of these ideas will cross his mind. Here’s the main one:
If you want people to listen, avoid generalizations, stereotypes, and the “me against them” mentality. Example: I am part of the public. I am a “left-wing tree hugging democrat” to some. I’m no more awake and powerful than my “right-wing conservative republican” relatives…and we’re all very spiritual, good-hearted, well-meaning people…in general. heehee.
I don’t want to take the time to organize all my thoughts on this because I doubt it will make a hill-of-beans difference to anybody. (I’ve written on enough lists and blogs over the years to know this will amount to little more than a fart in the wind. 😉 So let ‘er rip. LOL.
The first four paragraphs here are dealing with political irresponsibility. It is a problem–all over the world. Walk in the common man’s or women’s shoes. Most of us do good just to make it through the day and help a neighbor on the way. When we come home, we want a little entertainment and relaxation. Unfortunately, too many of us have learned to get that from the aptly named boob tube. But to assume those who have memorized the number of Supreme Court justices are somehow more evolved than those who have memorized what time American Idol comes on is absurd. Neither one of those facts is a valid measurement of mental or spiritual awareness. How we “DO UNTO OTHERS” and “By their fruits ye shall know them” sound more sensible to me. If we had learned to master that, none of these other political problems would be happening.
And I don’t for a second believe 20% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. And if Mother Teresa or your guru did, I wouldn’t give a —-. I seriously doubt the problems with society can be cured if only more Americans could score higher on public school standardized tests. (I’m so sick of people blaming the schools for what goes on at home and community.) Our problems are the problems of the ages because human nature does not change. Pop culture (each time/environment has it’s own) has always trumped political culture. When pop culture starts including alternative views on spirituality (understanding humanity/self), then we see real change. Real change IS happening…slowly. In spite of some individuals who want to preach conspiracy theories, gloom and doom, I definitely see improvements in human rights and general living conditions looking back throughout even the short history of this country. Now more than ever, the VAST majority of Americans, REGARDLESS of their political persuasions or social position do NOT want runaway spending, social irresponsibility, war, or a white male elite. We simply don’t know the best way to solve all our problems. What is that phrase. We are all doing the best we can to ease our pain with the information we have.
Which brings me to the last two paragraphs. The pain caused by reporters and other media personnel who want to turn Chopra’s teacher into what they think is an entertaining story. Too sad for them that the only way they know to make money and get attention is to hunt for imperfections and dirty laundry. What else is new in human nature. (Certainly not anything in that last sentence. Full of inaccurate information, worst of which is that America is spiritually crippled.) Looks like we’re all pretty good at adopting an “offensive tone and cynical attitude” when we get tired and fall asleep. 😉
But don’t we feel better letting out all that annoying hot air? ;-j Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back to comment on all the GOOD stuff. Depends on how bored I get. Lol.

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posted February 23, 2008 at 1:07 am


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posted February 24, 2008 at 2:09 pm

I think that the first poster made blanket statements defining the right and the left.
I consider a person on the left and my mantra isn’t “Excuse Anything”, this is a very offensive statement to make. The societal ills that you mention are present at all levels of society.
The hypocrisy at work in the right wingers is abysmal. The divorce rate, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, affairs, greed, etc, can be found at all levels of this society.
Giving you excess to the poor isn’t something that people do predicated on right or left. Being generous doesn’t mean you’re a leftist.
You, poster, must live in a world that it’s in black and white.

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posted February 24, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I think that in part the lack of awareness of Americans toward the world in general comes from being so cozied up in their own little world. It’s rather sick that people in high echelons of government are so limited in their knowledge of the world or in their lack of curiosity toward it.
A sizeable amt. of congresspeople have never been outside the U.S. borders and don’t even have or have ever had a passport.
I’ve been told, countless times, that a person doesn’t need to travel because they can see everything on Tv.
I think this is the saddest statement I’ve ever heard, because it tells me about the lack of curiosity someone has about the planet we all inhabit and about other people who look and sound different.
As a foreign born person I find most Americans to be very limited in their knowledge of the world, and also to harbor many prejudices about those they consider to be ‘foreigners’.
The incredible hate wave about Muslims I think, amply, proves my point.

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