Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

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Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:41 pm

http://fora.tv/2009/10/22/Deepak_Chopra ... ullprogram

What's your opinion of Deepak?

Overall, I think he's a lucid speakers, but at time, he seems to propagate New Agey delusions and speculative superstitions based on quantum physics.
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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:54 pm

Hi Individual
I like your assessment. I think he's an interestng guy but I don't have any confidence in his ideas.
If you're interested, there's a fascinating interview Richard Dawkins did with him a couple of years ago on his mini-series titled 'the enemies of reason'.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby Euclid » Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:00 am

As a physicist, I cringe every time Mr. Chopra invokes his bizarre version of quantum mechanics. It's my personal opinion that he's abusing science and physics to give his claims some form of credability.

In essence, I don't condone anything he says.

Mm. With that, I think I should develop a little bit more metta... :stirthepot:
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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby zavk » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:51 am

Hmmm.... I mentioned Deepak Chopra when we chatted last week didn't I, Ben? Maybe I could use this opportunity to elaborate on what I meant....

I've only read excerpts and commentaries of Chopra's work, but I do not really agree with his views too. Incidentally, my discomfort with Chopra's ideas is related to what I recently wrote in the thread on New Age Buddhists. I'm inclined to agree with the authors of the book Selling Spirituality who present these arguments:

--------------------------------------

In Ageless Body, Timeless Wisdom, Chopra lists ten key steps to happiness:

    1.) Listen to your body's wisdom.
    2.) Live in the present, for it is the only moment you have.
    3.) Take time to be silent, to meditate.
    4.) Relinquish your need for external approval.
    5.) When you find yourself reacting with anger or opposition to any person or circumstance, realise that you are only struggling with yourself.
    6.) Know that the world 'out there' reflects your reality 'in here'.
    7.) Shed the burden of judgement.
    8.) Don't contaminate your body with toxins, either food, drink, or toxic emotions.
    9.) Replace fear-motivated behaviour with love-motivated behaviour.
    10.) Understand that the physical world is just a mirror of a deeper intelligence.

Some of these steps do resemble (superficially, at least) Dhammic ideas--e.g. steps 5 and 6. Step 7 appears to be similar to the idea of uppekha too. However, the book Selling Spirituality argues that although 'shedding the burden of judgment... might appear quite similar to the Buddhist ideal of equanimity and detachment... in Chopra's case this is linked to the promotion of self-love, not extending compassion to all beings' (p. 100). The book further adds:

There remains a crucial difference, however, between the New Age philosophies of Chopra and Russell [a prominent 'spirituality' expert in the UK] and those of the Buddhist tradition. Unlike the New Age emphasis upon cultivating the self and individualising responsibility, in Buddhist thought the idea of an autonomous individual self is precisely the problem to be overcome (p. 101).


The book points out how in Chopra's best-selling book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, he argues that actions motivated by love cause a multiplication of energy. This surplus energy can then be channeled (Chopra writes) 'to create anything that you want, including unlimited wealth'.

In an interview with Chopra for the New Age magazine What is Enlightement, Susan Bridle writes that Chopra's success 'lies in his simultaneous appeal to the forces of materialism and narcissism that drive so many of us.' She writes:

Chopra promises that we can fulfil all our worldly desires, desires that the great wisdom traditions have repeatedly reminded us are the very source of endless suffering and ignorance -- desires for immortality, unlimited wealth and unending romance, all without having to struggle or make effort in any way... Rather than recognizing spiritual transformation as an ultimately demanding endeavor, as taught by the greatest sages, Chopra popularises the notion of an easy, feel-good spirituality, with no mention of the perennial spiritual imperatives of renunciation and one-pointed dedication. And rather than emphasizing that true spiritual life is and has always been about the death of the ego, Chopra teaches us to bend the power of the infinite to our own will... Chopra's brand of spirituality is like fast food; while it seems to satisfy, it actually numbs the very hunger that inspires the spiritual quest in the first place.


Bridle appears to be accusing Chopra of promoting consumerism and individualistic acquisitiveness. In the course of the interview, Chopra offers this reply:

... materialistic values are not bad. The idea that spirituality must be divorced from material success is one of the things that has kept India in poverty and dependent on the rest of the world throughout these centuries. It comes from that interpretation of spirituality... the spiritual path, if you consider it demanding, you will make it demanding. You will be very serious about it and you'll never get anywhere. I really think that what is required is easiness, comfort and not taking yourself too seriously.


The book writes: This of course begs the question as to why such figures devote so much time and energy to justifying the acquisition of that which they reputedly have no real interest in. Chopra's response also displays a myopic view of recent Indian history that completely ignores the economic exploitation of the subcontinent in an age of European colonialism. Such historical and political myopia is a key feature of what we are calling capitalist spirituality.

--------------------------

As I've said, I've only read excerpts and commentaries of Chopra's work. Therefore, it might be objected that I cannot adequately critique Chopra. However, what I am questioning is the modes of understanding and values that are reproduced through Chopra's work. What I am critical of, then, is not Chopra the 'person' but the 'position' he represents.

Anyway, I do not think it is skillful to be critical of others only by pointing a finger at them. A critical attitude should at the same time also turn on oneself to question one's own premises. I should then also explain how a critique of Chopra's idea of spirituality informs my own efforts to gain greater clarity on my Buddhist spiritual endeavours. I'll have to gather my thoughts before I do that. I've written too much anyway. Will post again.
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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 01, 2009 12:23 pm

Hi Ed
Yes. I think you may hve mentioned Chopra last weekend. I remember we discussed wealth creation as a motivator for new age teachers (and teachings) - which was just one of the thing that didn't sit well with me with the whole Rajneesh movement.

zavk wrote:As I've said, I've only read excerpts and commentaries of Chopra's work. Therefore, it might be objected that I cannot adequately critique Chopra. However, what I am questioning is the modes of understanding and values that are reproduced through Chopra's work. What I am critical of, then, is not Chopra the 'person' but the 'position' he represents.

I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear, it is a lack of confidence in his teachings.

Anyway, I do not think it is skillful to be critical of others only by pointing a finger at them. A critical attitude should at the same time also turn on oneself to question one's own premises. I should then also explain how a critique of Chopra's idea of spirituality informs my own efforts to gain greater clarity on my Buddhist spiritual endeavours. I'll have to gather my thoughts before I do that. I've written too much anyway. Will post again.
:anjali: :meditate:

I couldn't agree with you more. I had a very salutory experience several years ago while on retreat where I did turn that 'laser-like' equanimous attention inward on my relationship with my teacher and the assumptions I had made about my own progress, and whether I had actually gained anything from the path or whether it was just an elaborate affectation. Call it seering introspection or doubt, it had a profound effect on me. Talk about self-vivisection!

Some of the things that I have difficulty with In Chopra's writings, and the writings of other New Age teachers is the cobbling of ideas from different traditions and the focus on their wealth creation or ways for their readers or acolytes to create wealth.
And you're right, it is late and I'm starting to become aware of my babbling.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Nov 01, 2009 1:04 pm

The vague memory I have from Deepak Chopra is that he's just another pseudoscientific new age garbage.
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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby christopher::: » Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:12 pm

I could be wrong, but it was my understanding that Chopra employs a Hinduesque spin on the New Agey ideas that he teaches. He's from India, and I think he was raised Hindu, so I would expect that. But he recently wrote a book telling the story of the Buddha. Has anyone read that? If he presents Buddha's teachings in a "New Agey" way that do not coincide with the dhamma, then I think Buddhists have a right, and responsibility, to be openly critical...

Buddha: Story of Enlightenment
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby zavk » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:07 pm

Ben wrote:I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear, it is a lack of confidence in his teachings.


No need to apologise Ben. I got what you are saying. My comments weren't directed at you, I was just clarifying my position. Wanted to echo a useful advice that Bhikkhu Pesala (if I remember correctly) gave recently about criticising the 'position' not the 'person'.

Modus.Ponens wrote:The vague memory I have from Deepak Chopra is that he's just another pseudoscientific new age garbage.

christopher::: wrote:I could be wrong, but it was my understanding that Chopra employs a Hinduesque spin on the New Agey ideas that he teaches. He's from India, and I think he was raised Hindu, so I would expect that. But he recently wrote a book telling the story of the Buddha. Has anyone read that? If he presents Buddha's teachings in a "New Agey" way that do not coincide with the dhamma, then I think Buddhists have a right, and responsibility, to be openly critical...


From what little I know, Chopra's scientific views are quite dodgy. I can't comment much about it though.

However, I'd like to clarify that I am not criticising his work simply because they are 'New Agey'. I do not think that New Age is 'bad' or 'wrong' in and of itself. I try to avoid making generalised, reactionary criticisms of New Age.

Most of the criticisms I've encountered about New Age (both online and offline) often merely dismiss New Age as 'kooky', 'superstitious', etc. These criticisms, as I see it, are not so much about interrogating the specific merits/flaws of New Age but about making distinctions in 'taste' and 'value'. These criticisms are not unlike those that say, 'Oh, I'd rather listen to meaningful classical music than banal contemporary pop music', or 'I'd rather visit an art gallery than go to the cinemas', and so forth. These arguments reflect more a desire to demarcate social hierarchy and cultural legitimacy than a desire to foster mutual understanding. Another reason I avoid these arguments is because from a Buddhist perspective, distinctions are the great worldly winds that fan the flames of dukkha.

Anyway, christopher raises a good point about Chopra's background. I do not think there's anything inherently wrong about drawing from different traditions. However, Chopra does come from a privileged, affluent background. The spiritual ideas he offers are shaped by these conditions. As I have tried to show in my previous post, the kind of spirituality he offers unabashedly celebrates material wealth and success.

The kind of spirituality he offers ignores the conditionality of wealth and success. It potentially reinforces an egocentric view of wealth and success. Such an egocentric view overlooks the plight of those who are less privileged. Such an egocentric view underlies attitudes and behaviours that have consolidated global wealth in the hands of a few, and which leaves most of the world in poverty and hunger.

So, looking into these potential flaws of (certain strands of) New Age spirituality, I began to question the conditions enabling my own Buddhist spirituality.

    Does not the fact that I have the social and cultural resources to study Buddhism, interact on the Internet, etc, etc, indicate that I am in a position of luxury and privilege too?

    How then can I avoid taking my circumstances for granted?

    How can I avoid valorising my Buddhism over that of other Buddhists (in Third World countries, for instance) who may not have the resources to study Buddhism as I have?

    How can I (in ways that my circumstances allow) contribute to society and the welfare of others whilst earning my keep?

I do not have immediate answers to these question. But these are issues that become more and more apparent to me as I question the premises of New Age and/or capitalist spirituality. It seems to me that I must continually confront these issues if I were to develop the paramis, especially dana, sila, and nekkhamma.
With metta,
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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby pink_trike » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:11 pm

Deepak's approach to teaching reminds me of the fact that a hungry infant needs to be fed before it is taught to feed itself.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: Deepak Chopra's remarks on the afterlife.

Postby pink_trike » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:47 pm

zavk wrote:So, looking into these potential flaws of (certain strands of) New Age spirituality, I began to question the conditions enabling my own Buddhist spirituality.

    Does not the fact that I have the social and cultural resources to study Buddhism, interact on the Internet, etc, etc, indicate that I am in a position of luxury and privilege too?

    How then can I avoid taking my circumstances for granted?

    How can I avoid valorising my Buddhism over that of other Buddhists (in Third World countries, for instance) who may not have the resources to study Buddhism as I have?

    How can I (in ways that my circumstances allow) contribute to society and the welfare of others whilst earning my keep?

... It seems to me that I must continually confront these issues if I were to develop the paramis, especially dana, sila, and nekkhamma.


This is great. And I'm guessing that this is just the short list.

Some famous somebody once said something to the effect that "It is a good idea to eviscerate a held belief before breakfast each day". I think this applies to unconscious beliefs/motivations/privileges also.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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