Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

Rituals and Membership Cards

posted by dchopra

A Washington Post On Faith article in response to their question:
What do you think about Sally Quinn, a non-Catholic, going to Communion at Tim Russert’s Catholic funeral? What are some do’s and don’ts for observing the religious rituals of others?
All religious rituals, regardless of faith, are two-edged. The participants receive confirmation that they belong within a charmed circle while shutting out those who don’t. As a child in India, I joined celebrations among Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsis. I attended a Catholic school for several years and developed a loving relationship to Jesus and Mary. In a carefree way I felt that I belonged to all of these faiths, but that was childish. I was merely a guest, and the do’s and don’t of hospitality applied. No matter how many Passover Seders you attend, only conversion would make a guest Jewish, and some faiths, such as Hinduism, lack even a conversion process — unless you are born with a membership card, you are ipso facto excluded.
For both insiders and outsiders the mystical side of ritual is promoted, as in the transubstantiation of Christ’s flesh and blood during communion. Real flesh and blood becomes etherealized into spiritual essence, and real wine and wafers undergo the same conversion. In medieval times absolute faith was placed in mysticism, and communicants were conditioned to believe that a whole body of rituals — communal prayer, repeating the rosary, doing penance, attending Mass, and the communion itself — backed up with theology so complex and evanescent as to be unintelligible, secured entry into Heaven. To me, God is a state of universal awareness that can be united with human awareness through personal evolution and growth. Religion confirms the existence of God, it generally offers some form of union with him/her, but then ritual and dogma step in to block personal growth, not to encourage it.
The idea that a membership card gives you special privileges strikes me as an unfeasible way to approach the enormous challenge of transcending to a higher level of awareness. Devotees of every faith would hotly disagree, claiming that their fervent participation in rituals opens them up to a higher state, but if you strip away other feelings — of belonging, family warmth, selflessness, and love of God — I have witnessed no recognizable proof that simply attending church, mosque or synagogue confers higher awareness. The great Indian poet Kabir said that he had read all the holy texts, bathed in the holy waters, and listened to the priests in the temple but never found God in any of them. It takes one’s own inner journey to approach God. Rituals may light a lamp at the door, but they don’t walk the road with you.
www.intentblog.com
www.deepakchopra.com
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/deepak_chopra/

May the Best Image Win, For Once

posted by dchopra

Great events tend to move more by image than by realities. At their most powerful, images are perceptions that grip the mind stronger than statistics, scientific studies, expert testimony, education, and the other tools of reason. We are experiencing a massive image shift right now, and since so many of the new images contain threat or at the very least uncertainty, no one knows how this will change reality.
One image is of a dominant Asia, especially China, poised to disturb the American way of life. According to this image, the Chinese worker, toiling for pennies a day, is stealing jobs by the millions from the American work force.
Another image is of skyrocketing oil prices destroying world stability.
Another is of the U.S. winning the war in Iraq after the success of the surge headed by Gen. Petraeus.
Finally, there’s the image of Barack Obama, a secret Muslim weak on national security, fighting against John McCain, a war hero who can better protect us against Al-Qaeda.
The point about all these images, whether they are true, false, meaningful, or absurd, is that they have sticking power, quite mysteriously so. Once people get attached to them, they push reality out of mind the way heroin fills the opiate receptors in the brain and block out the body’s own ability to create pleasure and inhibit pain. In the case of Obama’s image, up to 15% of the electorate in some states holds only two bits of knowledge about him, that he is Muslim and is associated with the raving Rev. Wright, never mind the direct contradiction between the two.
Obama is stuck with fighting image to image against John McCain, not issue to issue. He is by any reasonable judgment a far superior candidate, but images trump reality when they are powerful enough. Ever since Richard Nixon discovered that he could win elections by creating false images about war protesters, the civil rights movement, and liberalism in general, Republicans have become experts at negative images that frighten people, arouse xenophobia, furtively play on racism, and trumpet nonsensical slogans like “It’s morning in America.”
In the current presidential race, the ability of images to paralyze thought has to be dismantled, because a rising China, uncontrolled oil prices, global warming, and terrorism were spun into image problems instead of real ones. The 2004 election was an exercise in mass hypnosis, whereby the Bush administration, freighted with overwhelming deceit and failure, sailed to victory on images of fear, in particular al-Qaeda. Can the America public be weaned off soundbites, slogans, trivial distractions, gossip, and smear campaigns with no basis in fact? For the first time in forty years, it does seem possible. Otherwise, Obama will have to play catch up and devise a set of new images powerful enough to drive the old ones out of our brain receptors. May the best image win, for once.
www.intentblog.com
www.deepakchopra.com

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

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