Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

Atheists and the Will to Believe

posted by dchopra

An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question: “According to a new Pew survey, 21% of American atheists believe in God or a universal spirit, 12% believe in heaven and 10% pray at least once a week. What do you make of this?”
The Pew poll results could simply be a curiosity. Without a definition of “God” or “atheism,” who really knows the state of unbelief that an atheist feels? If you take the common image of God as a patriarch sitting above the clouds, it’s entirely possible to reject a personal God while retaining a religious spirit. Einstein spent years explaining this as his position, and few understood what he meant. The fact that Judaism forbids physical representations of God and that Christ describes no such image, either, hasn’t stopped the literalists. They demand comforting pictures and mindlessly equate “abstract” with “Godless.” By the same standard Buddhists are atheists, along with non-dual Hindus and many other flavors of Eastern spirituality.
Disapproval will never expunge “the will to believe,” and as familiar as William James’s phrase is, a mystery still hides behind it. Is the will to believe an automatic human trait, part of our genetic package? If so, as some geneticists believe, then what triggers the gene in some people but not in others? One envisions the believing atheists captured in the Pew poll fighting against their inheritance like children of alcoholics against theirs. In the blossoming field of epigenetics, which studies how gene get triggered or suppressed, we are gaining a glimpse of many behaviors being passed down from one generation to the next, not as a matter of survival but because they mean something. In essence the will to believe, which can be traced back to prehistory, spread around the globe like a God virus – it could be as universal as art, another genetic trait that has zero value for survival but infinite value as meaning.
How will belief evolve next? Maybe these believing atheists are showing us the way, along with Einstein, beyond a personal God on to the shores of eternity. Einstein had his sights set on a secular spirituality that, he said, was most closely approximated by Buddhism. He believed that the universe contained a deepest layer of reality that couldn’t be rationally comprehended but only witnessed with awe and wonder. He famously said that great discoveries in science need this sense of wonder before the infinite. To me, that implies a shift in consciousness. The rational mind cannot go beyond words and concepts, but consciousness can expand within itself without limits. Whether accidentally or by intent, I hope at least a handful of believing atheists have set out on the journey that begins with the will to believe and ends beyond images, even beyond thought itself.
www.intentblog.com
www.deepakchopra.com
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/deepak_chopra/

A New World or No World? (Part 3)

posted by dchopra

Continuing the list of what we need in terms of awareness to prevail in difficult times:
3 A vision of the future.
When people are asleep, the future is a repetition of the past, because inertia can do little else. Conservation, the party of inertia, represents the impulse in each of us not to wake up –it says “Leave me alone. I like the way I am.” The growth of consciousness never happens until a person overcomes inertia first. All progress occurs first at the level of consciousness and then, as if by magic, a discovery appears in the outer world. A famous example is the discovery of penicillin. In the lab millions of petri dishes had been thrown out because common air-borne Penicillium mold had contaminated the bacteria that a researcher wanted to culture. The mold was a nuisance until Alexander Fleming saw instead that killing bacteria was a positive thing — he was awake to a new possibility. The key was a change of perception.
New discoveries don’t occur because Nature suddenly reveals more of its potential. All of Nature is available all the time. We are the discoverers of hidden dimensions in ourselves, and a tiny flicker of waking up stimulates new revelations. Ultimately, science is a way for mind to speak to itself — it’s an inner exploration that leads to external findings. But at the present moment, with reactionary forces so dominant, there is no viable vision of tomorrow. By definition reactionary forces want to freeze progress, usually by idealizing the past and grossly exaggerating the risk of moving forward.
4. The courage and will to carry out that vision.
The unknown is frightening to contemplate (a fear bolstered by anything that represents losing control over our surroundings — e.g. oil prices, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and a planet made unstable by global warming. But being uncertain is also necessary. Finding a new way means destroying and old way, and nobody can predict what happens when both forces hit each other head on.
It takes courage to discard what we know — the tried and true, the comfortable and reassuring . It takes no courage to enforce “traditional values.” Traditionalism rarely, if ever, advanced the world at large. However, that lesson must be relearned over and over, because fear is ever-present. It must be surmounted every day. Driving fear away doesn’t solve anything; it only sets the stage for what really solves problems: quantum leaps in creativity, new discoveries, liberating insights.
Clearly we are at a point where traditionalism has shown far more negatives than positives. Religious intolerance taints the churches and mosques, homophobia and anti-immigration taint the desire for community. We live at a time when traditional values shouldn’t be allowed to hold consciousness back. After all, it wasn’t long ago that racism was a tradition — the recent Democratic primaries in West Virginia and Kentucky show how enduring that tradition is. Courage is a dynamic quality. It must be seized eery day. Courage is the implementing force of vision, and both begin in consciousness.
5. A viable definition of personal happiness.
In the end, arriving at a new world comes down to what makes us happy. We use oil because driving our own cars and traveling at will makes us happier than being limited to railroads and mass transit. Reformers lament that more people don’t give up their cars and resort to mass transit. When you think about why they don’t, the answer isn’t decades of cheap gas, ingrained American selfishness, or a crass indulgence in personal pleasure over the health of the planet. We don’t change to a new way of life because we are following an old way of happiness. Duty and guilt tell us to save the planet. But another voice speaks louder, and it asks if we would be giving up our happiness. Global warming won’t be solved by lecturing the human race about saving the polar bear.
Here we face the most difficult challenge of all. Our conception of happiness has to move away from materialism. Every wise teacher has declared that external comforts are unreliable and not to be trusted. Christ didn’t say “The Kingdom of God is within a four-bedroom condo.” He said it lies within us. In India, turning inward became a powerful social force because people agreed that the inner path was real and desirable. To back up this conviction, .most ancient people looked around and saw disease, poverty, and violence in all directions. The seductions of money and physical comfort weren’t present. Our situation now teeters on the rink of peril, too. We have reached a crossroads that appears only once or twice a century. Two roads aren’t diverging in a yellow wood, however the divide exists in consciousness. The world’s wisdom traditions inform us which way to go. Only time will tell if waking up was the way we chose. If so, peril will turn into a creative opportunity. The other way surely leads into more inertia, reactionary values, dead habit, and worst of all, deeper and deeper sleep.
www.intentblog.com
www.deepakchopra.com

A Book That Peers into Eternity

posted by dchopra

An article written for the Washington Post On Faith section.
There’s a single book that I reread every year: “I Am That” by Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981). The title is a quotation. In India the goal of enlightenment is to see reality as a whole. When all illusion has fallen away, one looks around and can say, with complete confidence, “I am That, you are That, and all this is That.”
What does the word “That” mean? It means the essence of existence. What does the essence of existence mean? There is no adequate definition, and therefore a huge mystification has built up around “That.” Nisargadatta
Maharaj, whose name is almost totally unknown in the West, comes as close as possible to putting pure essence into words. In my experience, every reader who has discovered his book considers it magical, and those of us who treasure it feel that it opens a window into eternity, in part because of what Nisargatta says, but much more because of its astonishing ability to change the reader.
The Wikipedia article on Nisargadatta informs us that the 1973 publication of “I Am That” made him world famous. That’s a stretch, but the book did rise to the top of required reading in modern Indian spirituality.
The text is made up entirely of transcripts of informal talks given above the tiny shop that Nisargadatta ran in Mumbai. He himself couldn’t write, being an uneducated farm boy who moved to the big city. He reached
enlightenment in a remarkable way. As he walked behind his plow in his native village, he reminded himself that he was the essence of Being, not a person with human limitations. Or to be precise, his guru told him “You are
That.”
There’s a single book that I reread every year: “I Am That” by Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981). The title is a quotation. In India the goal of enlightenment is to see reality as a whole. When all illusion has fallen away, one looks around and can say, with complete confidence, “I am That, you are That, and all this is That.”
It is believed in India that the liberated state, or Moksha, takes hundreds of lifetimes to attain. One supposes, then, that this illiterate farm boy must have prepared a long time for the breakthrough into enlightenment. So
far as we know he never practiced spiritual disciplines. As he put it, his guru told him “You are That,” and Nisargadatta believed him.
I won’t give away what Nisargadatta talks about in this book — he is never trivial, however. One is immediately transported into his extraordinary presence. Just as reading one scene of Hamlet is enough to convince you
that Shakespeare is a great writer, reading five pages of Nisargadatta convinces you (if you can be convinced at all) that this untutored man is in touch with deepest wisdom — he breathes an air more rarefied than ours. He
possesses a quality we struggle to express in English– absolute knowingness. As simply as Nisargadatta speaks — simple enough to be understood by a ten-year-old — the effect upon the reader is powerful
enough to cause deep sympathy and trust, and in some readers there is actual transformation. Every time I reread “I Am That,” I close the book convinced that the world would change entirely if everyone in it took
Nisaargadatta’s wisdom to heart.
www.intentblog.com
www.deepakchopra.com
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/deepak_chopra/

A New World or No World? (Part 2)

posted by dchopra

Eighty years after the great economist John Maynard Keynes observed that the market is psychological and goes up and down primarily because of how investors feel, few people grasp how profound he was. We still rely on objective standards that are only marginally credible: graphs and models, price swings turned into predictive software, and battling academic theories that never come to a consensus. But understanding Keynes’s insight is absolutely vital, and then going even further to comprehend why we behave the way we do. For a new world to be born, a new mindset is necessary. “Mind before money” encapsulates the truth. There has never been a more threatening time for the U.S. and the global economy since the Great Depression and the era of totalitarianism.
The future depends on consciousness in undeniable ways. Here are the major factors:
1. Self-confidence and optimism.
2. Giving value to things that really matter.
3 A vision of the future.
4. The courage and will to carry out that vision.
5. A viable definition of personal happiness.
Today, the vast majority of decision-making rarely takes these factors into account. Instead, we pretend that economics is a science, and we measure success sheerly in terms of wealth. We maximize selfishness while encouraging the neglect of others. As a result, huge portions of the world’s population have in essence been thrown away. Human beings are now disposable because they are economic pawns. For example, Thailand’s economy was devastated in the 90s by currency speculators on /Wall St. who first inflated the Thai economy as part of the “Asian miracle”, and then allowed it to collapse once the returns of speculation had run their course from boom to bust. The immorality of an outside agency destroying innocent people’s lives meant nothing when Thailand was reduced to a computer model that set to jump ship as soon as profits dropped below expectations. The vaunted free market may “work,” but only if you’re willing to take no responsibility for the harm it does in human terms.
Let’s evaluate what it means to look at markets as Keynes suggested, as a byproduct of how people feel.
1. Self-confidence and optimism.
These qualities emerge naturally when people are prosperous. They dwindle in the face of adversity, just when they are most needed. The trick is how to remain confident under pressure and optimistic when the going gets rough. At present, objective measures of confidence and optimism are basically useless. They are seen wrongly as byproducts of money. We have diminish ourselves into pawns of outside forces. But if that view is false, what replaces it?
The answer is consciousness. People gain in confidence and optimism when they have self-esteem, when they can successfully carry out big projects, overcome obstacles, and acquire an unshakable sense of their own worth and skills — all subjective qualities. Growth of consciousness is the only viable way to obtain inner stability under stress. Look at the American economy. People were made confident by getting richer, but once the housing market retreated by a small degree, near panic set in. Our confidence, it turned out, was tied to low mortgages, high salaries, and cheap goods at the mall. The shallowness of “consumer confidence” is obvious. What’s not so obvious is that true confidence must stand up to change and rise above downturns. By ignoring consciousness and clinging to money, we opened ourselves up to crippling insecurity.
2. Giving value to things that really matter.
In the past, people inherited their sense of value, which came to them ready made and second-hand. Religion, for example, held that nothing mattered more than faith (in Christianity, at least). Obedience was rewarded by God. Original sin doomed humanity to perpetual guilt and whatever could heal that guilt. But with the astonishing rise of science, not only was religion displaced, but it left a vacuum of values. People became more and more free to decide for themselves what really mattered. The good news is that each person could espouse values that don’t come from the outside, imposed by authority. The bad news is that false and trivial values rushed in to fill the vacuum, far ahead of meaningful values.
In the consumer culture that arose, a gorgeous supermodel, a Mercedes, five bedrooms, and the right labels on your clothes leave us helpless to deal with something like global warming. We are submerged in distractions and pulled into a spiral of narcissism. Fickle desire trumps stable human values, and in time consciousness gets stuck in a self-indulgent rut. The greatest harm, however, was done out of sight. Awareness became dull and detached. This is what spiritual teachers mean by being asleep. People get used to a total lack of alertness and self-awareness. “I am what I buy” is so much easier than “I know myself.”
Thus we created a permanent sub-class of Cassandras, awake enough to see looming disasters but unable to attract anyone else’s attention. The warmakers in the White House had ample access to experts who knew the Middle East and foresaw the disastrous results of invading Iraq. Instead, decisions were made with almost no forethought or curiosity about the unknown. Indeed, being too awake came to be seen as a political threat. Trying to alert the public and wake up their conscience was anathema. Leaving the war aside, this dumbing down shuts off growth of consciousness itself, lulling us more and more into the delusion that sleeping through life is good enough to make for a comfortable existence.
(To be cont.)
www.intentblog.com
www.deepakchopra.com

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