All posts by Deepak Chopra

About Deepak Chopra

Time Magazine heralded Deepak Chopra as one of the 100 heroes and icons of the century, and credited him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine." Entertainment Weekly described Deepak Chopra as "Hollywood's man of the moment, one of publishing's best-selling and most prolific self-help authors." He is the author of more than 50 books and more than 100 audio, video and CD-Rom titles. He has been published on every continent and in dozens of languages. Fifteen of his books have landed on the New York Times Best-seller list. Toastmaster International recognized him as one of the top five outstanding speakers in the world. Through his over two decades of work since leaving his medical practice, Deepak continues to revolutionize common wisdom about the crucial connection between body, mind, spirit, and healing. His mission of "bridging the technological miracles of the west with the wisdom of the east" remains his thrust and provides the basis for his recognition as one of India's historically greatest ambassadors to the west. Chopra has been a keynote speaker at several academic institutions including Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Business School and Wharton.His latest book is "Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul."

Who Controls Your Mind? (Hint: It’s Not Your Brain)

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

One of the easiest bets to win is to offer a million dollars to anyone who can accurately predict their next thought.  It would be foolhardy to accept such a bet. As we all experience every day–and yet rarely notice–our thoughts are unpredictable and spontaneous. They come and go at will, and yet strangely enough, we have no model for where a thought comes from.

This lack of understanding has serious medical significance in mental disorders, for example. A common symptom of various psychoses, particularly paranoid schizophrenia, is the belief that an outside force is controlling the patient’s mind, usually through an alien voice heard in the head. Being sane, a normal person has the opposite experience, that his thoughts are his own. But if that was true, we’d call up any thought we wanted to have, the way you can call up a Google search. But this is far from true.

If you are asked to add 2+2, you can call up the necessary mental process, and there are millions of similar tasks, such as knowing your own name, how to do your job, what it takes to drive a car home from work–these give us the illusion that we control our own minds. But someone suffering from anxiety or depression is the victim of uncontrolled mental activity, and even in everyday circumstances we have flashes of emotion that come of their own accord, along with stray thoughts of every kind. Artists speak of inspiration that strikes out of the blue. Love at first sight is a very welcome example of uncontrolled mental activity.

So at the very least, the human mind can’t be explained without understanding the dual control feature that gives us total control over some thoughts and zero control over others. That challenge is hard enough, but several others are just as thorny. If I listen to rap music and love it while you listen to the same music and loathe it, what creates this difference, given the same input? This is a vexing question for any theory that attempts to put the brain in charge of the mind. The brain is supposedly a machine for thinking. But what kind of machine churns out a different response to the same input? It’s like the world’s most dysfunctional candy machine. You put in a nickel, but instead of getting a gum ball every time, the machine spits out a poem or a delusion, a new idea, or a trite cliché, a great insight or a totally wrong conspiracy theory. Continue reading

There Is No Absolute Evil–Here’s Why

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

At the turn of the new year it feels as if evil is more present and dangerous than ever. One component of worldwide fear is terrorism, and in the minds of religious fanatics who turn to terror tactics, there’s a black-and-white conception of evil. This mental picture of God battling Satan, or something on the same absolute scale, tempts us to fight again terrorism from the same basis. But is there absolute evil in the first place?

There are many reasons to say no. “Pure evil” is a tag applied in the media for horrifying acts, but this is far from proving that the people who perpetrate these acts have become possessed by cosmic evil. As several research projects akin to the Stanford Prison Experiment have shown, ordinary people can step into immoral territory very quickly if given the right situation. Abu Ghraib was another shocking example. There is a lethal mixture when you have an enemy under your power along with permission to do what you want with him, absent any repercussions or punishment.

Extreme acts of violence do not constitute absolute, pure, or satanic evil. Outside a religious worldview, there are rational explanations for evil acts, and our response should be based on which of the following explanation we adopt. Continue reading

Physics’ Split Personality: Is the Dark Side Winning?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD

For some time now most of the universe has gone dark. This startling news was brought to popular attention in a June Op-Ed piece in the New York Times called “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics.” It began, “Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories?” In other words, once you work out a theoretical explanation for how Nature works, do you need evidence to prove it?

The answer seems like an obvious yes. If someone had a theory that unicorns live at the center of black holes, no one would believe it without evidence. But for a hundred years, ever since the quantum revolution, mathematics has often substituted for empirical data. The quantum world is too far removed from the everyday world for empiricism to guide the way. There have been famous validations of arcane theories, as when astronomers used a total solar eclipse in 1919 to verify Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that light can been bent into a curve by strong gravitational forces. Continue reading

One Solution to America’s Health Care Crisis

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 By Deepak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD, Joseph B. Weiss, MD, Nancy Cetel Weiss, MD, and Danielle E. Weiss, MD

 

Complications in medical care occur at a staggering rate, resulting in over 440,000 accidental deaths from medical errors (the vast majority not considered malpractice, such as side effects from drugs) in U.S. hospitals each year. Self-governance by health systems and providers has not made significant inroads to reduce this catastrophic failure in patient safety. The inefficient and expensive medical malpractice lawsuit industry has neither reduced nor prevented the ever growing numbers of medical injuries and death, nor provided compensation or justice to the vast majority of those injured. The main beneficiaries of malpractice lawsuits are the attorneys, whose contingency fees can lead to multimillion-dollar windfalls, and insurance companies collecting high malpractice premiums. They profit at the expense of others and contribute to the continually escalating costs of medical care. The vast majority of medical injury and death does not result in a malpractice claim, and of those filed most fail at trial. In spite of this high failure rate, malpractice actions have worsened the situation by further encouraging excessive, expensive, and higher risk care under the rationale of defensive medicine.

Both our health and medical malpractice systems are severely dysfunctional and in critical need of corrective action. There is a better approach that can reduce medical errors and injury, enhance patient safety, and provide timely and fair compensation to those injured. A no-fault medico-legal compensation program should replace the present malpractice system with dedicated judges and expert panels to award compensation based on injury and need. Health care service providers should fund the program by the mandatory assessment of a fee that replaces malpractice insurance, based on a formula that incorporates practice type, volume, revenue, and quality assurance outcomes records. Health care licenses should be issued based on results of the quality review, including input from reports of the error compensation program. Licenses of negligent and error-prone providers should be suspended or revoked on a national basis, with mandatory re-education and reassessment before being allowed to resume patient care. The billions of dollars consumed by the industry of medical malpractice lawsuits and insurance should be redirected to serve those injured, and to programs and services enhancing patient safety and welfare. Continue reading

Will Pope Francis Become a Holy Man for the World?

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Pope Francis I is poised to be more than a very popular pontiff graced with humility and an approach of love and gentleness, two words he often uses. He could rise to become a symbol of holiness beyond the Catholic Church, as the Dalai Lama is a symbol of enlightenment beyond Tibetan Buddhism. Pope Francis has designated 2016 a Holy Year of Mercy, beginning on December 8 of last year.

The specifically Catholic aspect of this announcement is that the Church will be “a witness of mercy,” but for those of us who aren’t Catholic, there’s a universal message voiced personally by the Pope: “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy.” The question, then, is how potent this mission will be. Francis I has already achieved something extraordinary by helping to bring the U.S. and Cuba together in a historic reconciliation. Can being a witness actually extend mercy in a world where, to the distress of all believers, God has been hijacked by fanatical extremists? Continue reading

Human Universe and Eternal Inflation

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I was reminded recently that we live in a Catch-22 Universe. What makes it a Catch-22 is that no one is qualified to penetrate the mystery of the cosmos without skill in advanced mathematics, and yet those who have this skill are so tied to numbers that they see reality no other way. Clearly the universe isn’t a set of equations. It’s the all-embracing reality that gave rise to human life. This obvious fact makes many physicists very uncomfortable.

In the last post I challenged Brian Cox, the author of Human Universe—a book, ironically enough, that rejects the concept of a human universe—to confront the current crisis in physics. For many non-scientists, this crisis only came to light thanks to an op-ed last June in the New York Times. But in the profession, especially among physicists who deal in cosmology, the crisis is well known. Cox, a physics professor at the University of Manchester and a popular science presenter on the BBC, didn’t accept my challenge. Yet his book makes no mention of any real sense of crisis. To him, as to all the most orthodox physicists, every answer will be revealed as long as the public continues to trust in the current state of affairs. Continue reading

What Does “the Human Universe” Actually Mean?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

 

Most people have never heard the phrase “the human universe,” so it got a major boost from British physicist Brian Cox. A popular science presenter in the UK and physics professor at the University of Manchester, Cox called his latest BBC series by that name. (The amplified text is available in a lavishly illustrated book, Human Universe, written with producer Andrew Cohen, just out in paperback.) Cox covers the biggest unanswered questions, not just in physics but in science: Where are we? Are we alone? Who are we? Why are we here? What is our future? Continue reading

Can the Problem of Evil Be Solved Or Only Contained?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

ISIS and its atrocious acts have thrown the issue of evil into high relief. Once more we are forced to confront a horrifying aspect of human nature and to ask ourselves what can be done about it.  This post isn’t about U.S. policy against ISIS–that’s the business of the President, his advisers, the military, and Congress. But evil itself deserves better, clearer thinking than what it generally gets. If better thinking leads to better policy, all the more reason to find it.

Recorded history contains no time when human evil didn’t exist, although only very recently has it been called a problem. Traditionally, evil was looked upon as something much worse than a problem–the fruit of sin, the work of cosmic satanic forces, a divine punishment, or an animalistic instinct. It has taken thousands of years to get past such thinking, and when atrocities arouse public fear and hatred, the old explanations return. But on the other hand, it has become possible to think of evil in terms of psychology and its insights, which is a mark of progress.

Turning to psychology has made evil our responsibility; it can’t be shuffled off to a supernatural agent, either God or the Devil. Also, by taking responsibility, we can stop blaming “the other” as if a whole class, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion is uniquely evil. There’s enough war, crime, and general violence for everyone to accept the blame, and if we take psychology seriously, blame is clearly not a solution. In times of war, the normal boundaries that keep evil in check are lost, and even the “good” side of the conflict is forced into the fray under extraordinary circumstances. But that’s not my topic here. I’m not forgiving or condoning ISIS; forgiveness has rarely been a practical means of dealing with evil when it shows up on your doorstep.

Continue reading

Why a Mental Universe Is the “Real” Reality

By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, PhD, Bernardo Kastrup, PhD, Rudolph Tanzi, PhD

handsScience concerns itself with reality, in the form of “real particles”, “real organisms”, and the “real universe”. The tacit assumption is that science can answer the question of reality itself. If this wasn’t the case, science would have a hard time explaining why it holds a special place as a human activity. So one must grant that science concerns itself with the reality of “objects”. What this assumes, of course, is that objects exist independent of conscious experience. In the first two articles of this series, we’ve discussed the evidence that our universe is in fact fundamentally mental. What we call physical things and events, as it turns out, do not exist independently of subjective experience.

If they did, how would one even prove such existence? Conscious experience is the only way that reality can be known. The implications of this increasingly unavoidable conclusion—that the universe must be approached as fundamentally mental—are often misunderstood. For this reason, the vast majority of scientists cling to the belief in materialism, regarding anything else as metaphysics and not science. The goal of the present article is to address some of these misunderstandings.

To begin with, we aren’t proposing that human mental activity is necessary for the world to exist, i.e., for it to be real. Or to put it another way, reality can be independent of the human mind, but not necessarily of mind or consciousness in general. When we say that the universe is mental, many people interpret this to mean that reality is in our heads. Precisely the opposite is the case: if all reality is mental, then our heads and bodies, as parts of reality, are in the mind. This may sound surprising at first, but it is entirely consistent with everyday experience. There is nothing to our bodies but our felt perceptions of them. A body is what a particular swirl in a transpersonal flow of experiences looks like, just like a whirlpool is what a particular swirl in a stream of water looks like. Continue reading

Want to Lead a Happier Life? Talk to Your Genes

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Genetics may be on the verge of solving a very complex question in a revolutionary but quite simple way. The question is, What does it take to be happy? The question never goes away. It hangs over our heads every day. The possible answers are many, but they follow two general trends whose results, frankly, have been disappointing. One trend is psychological, holding that happiness is an emotional state. The other trend is philosophical, holding that happiness is a mental state. When someone is unhappy, psychologists aim to improve their mood, largely by addressing anxiety, depression, and various psychological wounds from the past. A philosopher, on the other hand, would examine the underlying idea of happiness itself and why it is or isn’t feasible. In the end, happiness is all about health and wellbeing.

Yet after thousands of years of deep thinking and a hundred years of psychotherapy, the condition that the vast majority of people find themselves in is marked by total confusion. We muddle through on a wobbly combination of wishful thinking, hope, bouts of high and low spirits, denial, family ties, love, distraction, and the constant pursuit of external pleasures, as if happiness can be cobbled together more or less randomly.

For all of our muddling, the key to happiness could be as simple as biology. To a biologist, the wellbeing of an organism consists of healthy cells functioning without falling into dysfunction. Dysfunction is a dry-sounding term, but once the life of the cell starts to go awry, it’s only a matter of time before the whole body is affected, resulting in pain, discomfort, illness, and a general decline from wellbeing. The brain operates through cells like any other organ, and neuroscience now has abundant evidence that psychological states like anxiety and depression have physical correlates in brain cells.  Continue reading

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