Electrifying talk last night by Dr. Deepak Chopra at the TIM Center in Maslak. My friend's company The Life Co co-sponsored the three-hour, far-ranging talk "Secrets of Enlightenment" in which the Indian-born new age guru incorporated modern science, ancient wisdom, and personal anecdote to make the case for soul consciousness. I did not take notes until the end so cannot possibly do justice to the immense concepts discussed by this world-famous integrative healer but want to share what I recall. (In a future post I will review how his talk inspired and refocused my efforts on the book I am currently writing, which deals with the soul and death.)
During the mind-boggling first half of the evening the youthful 60-something -- in cosmic red crystal-encrusted glasses befitting a rock star like Elton John -- linked the latest findings in atomic medicine and quantum physics to the wisdoms of the ancient world about who we are and what we're doing here, often drawing on the words of Sufi mystic Rumi. Particularly intriguing to me were the concepts that nothing is solid or permanent (we ourselves biologically a flow of cells, constantly changing and renewing just as all atoms are in constant motion) and everything we perceive is vibration, 'on/off', like a movie projected before us at 24 frames per second.
He posed a question to prominent scientists visiting his Chopra Center in California: what is in the 'off'? After a week of discussion, the answers of these scientific minds matched the words of mystics: among them, infinite possibilities and no space-time. The 'off' is the void. At one point he asked us in the Istanbul audience to listen to what he was saying, and then to notice who or what in ourselves was listening. "If you feel a stillness inside, that's your soul." In the second half of the evening he mentioned that our thoughts are 'on', and our soul is 'off', which is why calming the mind can be a path to soul awareness. When talking about death making life possible, he called death "the off of life", with resurrection being the soul finding expression through another vehicle. "Cancer," he said, "is just a cell that forgot to die.
Deepak also talked about connectivity. He pointed out that everyone in the auditorium was breathing each other's exhaled lung cells, which we inhaled from someone else who inhaled them from someone else, which makes us not us the individual we like to think we are, but part of everyone. Part of everyone now and everyone who has ever been. This connectivity carries with it a responsibility. "The war in Gaza is not just the problem of the Palestinians," he noted when applying his principles to world events. "It's everyone's problem. It's our problem." This month Deepak's Alliance for a New Humanity has launched a global movement for peace consciousness at Itakethevow.com, in which he challenges all of us in 2009 to practice nonviolence in our thoughts, speech and actions.
"We're all units of consciousness in a field of consciousness," he explained. "Our collective consciousness creates the world." In this way, he likened the crowd at the TIM Center to "imaginal cells" of a caterpillar. Biologists have observed that these imaginal cells start to form in a caterpillar and gradually organize within its body to create an entirely new – and completely different – organism, using the same material. "When the imaginal cells reach critical mass they awaken the genetic code for a butterfly." Deepak suggests we can do exactly that for a new humanity. It's worth a try.
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Vipassana Meditation Instruction (dhamma.org) Ashoka Organization of Social Entrepreneurs (ashoka.org)