Tag Archives: KNOWLEDGE

Recovering a Lost World, Just in Time 


A common trait in every civilization known to us is now fast disappearing. This trait is the thirst for knowing the self. Most people have read that the ancient Greeks pursued the goal of “Know thyself,” but they do not realize that self-inquiry also stood at the very center of the great spiritual traditions in India, China, and the Judeo-Christian world. Today, a need to know thyself–in other words, to answer the question, “Who am I?”–by no means stands at the heart of civilization either East or West.

We have learned to accept, passively or with eager enthusiasm, some guiding principles that erode the entire value of self-inquiry. Among these principles are the following:

  • The only true knowledge is factual and data driven.
  • Science trumps all previous forms of knowledge.
  • The greatest knowers of reality are scientists.
  • So-called spiritual knowledge doesn’t exist–such claims were part of a world riddled with superstitions and myths.
  • To look inward is a waste of time, since real knowledge of the mind will be revealed completely by studying the brain.

In one way or another these principles are the foundation of modern secular society. In many quarters a broad brush is applied to all spirituality as merely pre-scientific mumbo-jumbo, and the past is looked upon as one thing only: the benighted precursor to the advent of science. So be it.  In the face of secularism, no one can claim that the institutions which exist as repositories of spirit, mainly organized religion, are tending upward. Their decline is inevitable and speeding up–so most educated observers believe.

But a funny thing happened on the way to absolute secularism. Science ran into two questions that to date have proved seriously unsolvable. The first is “What is the universe made of?” The second is “What is the biological basis of consciousness?” Both are objective questions about external facts, so it would be surprising–even revolutionary–if they eventually led us back to the inner world and the all but lost thirst for self-inquiry.

Most people do not realize that these two questions are the greatest mysteries in science, because it is assumed that a) the universe is made of atoms and subatomic particles, and b) the brain produces the mind, or consciousness. Yet if we look without rose-tinted glasses at these assumptions, they have no scientific foundation. Of course atoms and subatomic particles exist, but they are not the ultimate things that make up the universe. Solid, substantial matter vanished with the quantum revolution over a century ago, and contemporary physics stands baffled at the threshold of a world that precedes and underlies the quantum world. From this unknown domain emerged the big bang, and at this very instant every subatomic particle winks in and out of the same region. Continue reading

Better than Before: Follow Your Gut (DIY Healthcare Tips)

Health-Tips-1One would think that, as a confirmed hypochondriac, I would run from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis for whatever symptoms, however mild, I happen to have. But even though I work closely with the medical community in my role as a health columnist, I seldom, if ever, visit any of them for personal reasons. The problem is that, as is well-documented, the mere sight of a white coat can increase your blood pressure. And then I could have a stroke!

Through it all, though, I have learned to listen to my gut. (Except, of course, when I have indigestion from kale overload!) And while I do take the advice of the renowned doctors I interview for this column and on my radio show, I am also my own healthcare adviser.  Furthermore, I suggest that my readers research and learn everything there is to know about the disease or condition for which they are currently seeing their physicians.  That’s what being Better Than Before is all about. I am all about DIY healthcare advice – the more you know the more you’re prepared.

To that end, I recently discovered a book by Julia Schopick, Honest Medicine: Effective, Time-Tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life-Threatening Diseases. In it, she tells of her 15-year journey through the American healthcare system, from the time when her husband, Tim, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor until his death, fifteen years later. As she puts it, “For me, this journey was a lesson in learning to listen to my gut when listening to doctors isn’t enough. It is now my mission to help others do the same.”

Here’s the back story. In 1990, Julia’s then 40-year-old husband Tim was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. He underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – the treatments his doctors knew how to perform. But they weren’t able to keep Tim from experiencing the horrible side effects and complications resulting from the protocol.  Tim just wanted to heal so that he could live a longer, happier life.  Taking matters into her own hands, Julia followed her gut and tirelessly researched. Thanks to some pretty amazing treatments she discovered, her husband was soon eating better, taking nutritional supplements and, in general, living a healthier life. Almost immediately, he began to thrive.

Armed with her own success in helping her husband, Julia decided to write a book with true stories about other patients who listened to their guts and found therapies that even their doctors didn’t know about. In it, she chronicles the journey of  nine patients, with  autoimmune and live diseases, childhood epilepsy, and non-healing wounds, to name a few, who found inexpensive, little known therapies that proved miraculous for them.

Below Julia shares seven DIY healthcare tips to help you follow your own instincts for optimum health:

1) When a prescribed treatment isn’t working, you’ll know it. Take action and look for other options.

2). Patient-evidence-based protocols may not have gone through the rigors of Phase 3 clinical trials, but they have been used for many years by thousands of patients to great success. For instance, since the mid-1980’s Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has treated autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. And the Ketogenic Diet, around since the 1920s, is offered at prestigious institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic to treat childhood epilepsy.

3). Once you’ve found a promising treatment, join online patient groups devoted to it. You’ll benefit from the research and experience of many people who share your particular condition.

4). Learn which websites contain useful information and which do not. Some, affiliated with presumably reputable institutions, may have financial ties to drug companies or other hidden agendas. It takes practice to learn which sites to trust.

5). Discuss the information you’ve found with your doctor. Prepare a packet of credible information—including, if possible, small studies. For example, in the case of LDN, studies have been conducted by prestigious institutions like Penn State, Stanford, and the University of California. These finding are also included in PubMed, which doctors respect.

6). If your doctor won’t listen to you, find a more open-minded doctor who will. Support groups and online patient groups can often recommend qualified physicians who will work with patients using patient-evidence-based treatments.

7). We are accustomed to being passive regarding our health—especially when faced with a serious medical condition. Don’t be discouraged — tune in to your inner voice.

At the end of the day, listening to your gut could truly save your life. Or at least make you Better than Before!

Why Edward Snowden Represents the Triumph Over Ignorance

Mahabharat05ramauoft_1064A long long time ago, when demons stole the sacred texts of ancient India, Vishnu took the form of Hayagriva, and fought the great fight with the demons until he slayed them and won back the sacred knowledge – Truth –  and returned the Vedas to Brahma.

The battle was enormous because everything was at stake. Without Truth there could only be darkness, ignorance, fear and manipulation. The future of mortals and of gods rested on the Truth being found and restored and shared – for the benefit of all sentient beings in all dimensions.

I like to believe in Hayagriva: an incarnation of Vishnu, seated on a white lotus with the body of a man and the head of a horse – representing the triumph of illuminating intelligence and pure knowledge over ignorance and darkness. I like to believe in a world like that with a being like that.

Because fast forward to planet earth 2013: Amnesty International UK reported this week that the British government oversaw the destruction of the Guardian’s and the Observer’s hard drives on British soil because they refused to stop reporting on Edward Snowden’s disclosure about NSA surveillance.

In the world we live in, reporters can no longer email each other and are flying to different parts of the world to deliver stories and exchange information in person. Their electronic correspondence is being intercepted – as is all of ours. But those who are paid to tell the story may no longer speak freely. Sharing the truth with the wider world is no longer a freedom given in the free world.

Clearly there is a struggle going on. There are forces that would bind us to ignorance, and keep us in darkness if only we would just comply. After news like today’s, when events take a turn as they have, I had gotten to wondering –  how will this end?

Who, I wondered, is going to bring Truth and pure, unfiltered intelligence back to us now?

If human rights agencies are reporting abuses happening in the free world on the order of the leaders of the most democratized, developed and advanced nations on this planet, who amongst us mortals will be strong or resilient enough to fight forces as dark and as invincible as those before us – and win?

A few hours later, I found out that today of all days, is Hayagriva’s birthday.

At the end of each age, when the demon Ajnana steals the Vedic knowledge, Lord Hayagriva appears and preserves it. Then He delivers it to Lord Brahma. At the end of the millennium, ignorance personified assumed the form of a demon, stole all the Vedas and took them down to the planet of Rasatala. The Supreme Lord, however, in His form of Hayagriva retrieved the Vedas and returned them to Lord Brahma.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 5:18 Summary

Hayagriva’s victory isn’t on any battlefield, political, ideological or electronic – out there. It’s on the battlefield of our individual soul. What he did when he wrestled the Vedas out of the hands of the asuras was to save the deepest truths about the real nature of things from being lost in the darkest depths of the ocean of ignorance and unconsciousness within us.

If we call on him, we should not expect a revolution out there, but instead a revolution in our hearts. True freedom is born from seeing the reality of a thing. And you can’t slay anything, especially not a demon, if you don’t have clear awareness of true, underlying nature of the thing.

So the calling of Hayagriva is a call to Self awareness. The greater the number of people who are aware of the Truth, the more illumined the world, and the more diminished the influence of darkness upon it.

The only way out is in.

The more enlightened we are, the more enlightened our choice of leaders will be. If it’s really time for a new paradigm, the shift has to begin within. And according to the Vedas, the most powerful way to begin that shift is to invoke the archetypes of the destroyers of ignorance throughout time and space.

No better time than the birthday of the archetypal being that wrestled the Truth out of the hands of demons to get it to us.

In Hindu mythology Hayagriva’s role as the defender of pure intelligence and pure knowledge earns him the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’.

So this evening, on a blue moon in August, in the middle of a world that is clearly entrenched in great battles, battles in which the Truth is at stake. On this evening, which happens to be Hayagriva’s birthday, I will follow the Vedic path and call on Hayagriva to illumine my heart and bring intelligence and pure knowledge to my being.

And invite you to too.

Keep the Faith.


Originally published on my website, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality.

Deepak Chopra: Why Did Buddha Get Enlightened Under the Bodhi Tree?

As the story goes, Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and meditated. For a long time. As a result, the Bodhi tree later became now known as the Tree of Enlightenment or the Tree of Knowledge. What happened in the time he spent under the tree?

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak poetically describes what Buddha may have seen and explores what we can learn from this experience – including interdependent origin, impermanence, and more.

What do you imagine Buddha’s time under the Bodhi tree might have looked like? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Deepak Chopra: To Know the World, Feel Your Body

Our body is a field of energy and information. It is the part of the energy and information field we call the universe. There is no real separation at the most fundamental levels between the body and the universe. There are no well defined edges to the body. Therefore, by feeling our body, we eavesdrop on the universe. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explains this process of coming to understand the world by becoming unified with our own bodies.

Intuition is just a form of intelligence that goes beyond perception and eavesdrops on the deeper context of what is happening in any particular situation. You can use your body to tap into the deeper conversation of the cosmos you might say. Silence your mind, ask a question, feel the body and learn to listen to the sensations that arise in your body.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak’s book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind!

Deepak Chopra: Tweets from the Cosmos – Tune In

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.38.08 PMWhen Twitter first appeared, I responded to its idealistic side, which aimed to form a global community that could create change beyond national boundaries. Tweets are now used for a million reasons that don’t aim as high. But it occurred to me that tweeting might be an excellent way to test the shift in consciousness that has been long awaited and equally long pooh poohed.

Who is right, the skeptics who see no evidence that consciousness is rising on a mass scale or the futurists who foresee a completely altered humanity? It’s impossible to measure such a huge phenomenon, but I decided to start small. On a daily basis for the past two or three years I’ve tweeted about cosmic consciousness, mind outside the brain, the nature of reality, the failure of materialism to explain awareness, and other Big Ideas on the edge of acceptability by mainstream science.

To my surprise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Each tweet starts a dialogue almost the instant the tweet starts circulating. Naysayers and skeptics also participate, but instead of dominating the conversation – or crushing it – which is what you’d find in official scientific circles, the main result is open, eager curiosity.

Here are the three most popular tweets from a day last week:

Photons have neither color nor brightness. The world is made manifest through the light of awareness.

Taking existence for granted & assuming that science or religion are the path to truth are the greatest impediments to awakening.

The perceived physical world is a representation of a perceiving physical brain. Both the world and brain are immaterial in their essence.

Although each one states my own viewpoint, the statements are broad enough to be good debating topics, and each touches on a mystery that needs exploration.

1. Light is transmitted as quanta known as photons, which strike the retina and travel through a complex processing in the visual cortex to produce the experience of brightness in the world. But photons are not bright themselves, or dark. So how does the world “out there” light up?

2.  Science and religion both claim to offer a form of enlightenment. The scientific version consists of a rational explanation of all natural phenomena, along with the attendant elimination of superstition and other irrational beliefs. Religion’s version is a clear connection to God and the higher reality represented by divinity. If you assume that these opposing choices are the right answer, or if you turn your back on the whole issue, no form of awakening is possible.  The mystery is to find a way forward that makes enlightenment real and personal.

3. There is a long tradition in philosophy and mystical religion that sees the physical world as either an illusion or something unprovable. Against this tradition stands materialism, which takes as its first premise the reality of the physical universe. But this common-sense stance solves nothing. Reality must be processed by the brain before it can be experienced or measured. There is no objective platform outside the brain where we can stand and see the real for what it is. This fact upsets conventional science but has become a fruitful seed for thinkers who want to solve the mind-brain problem.

As you can see, the topics aren’t easy, yet a wide range of responses soon crops up. Since a tweet can be no longer than 140 characters, it engages those who understand my position along with those who ask, “What’s he smoking?” and others who just offer abuse. A twitter following of 1.5 million has burgeoned around these discussions, which rolls forward by a thousand people every day, often several times a day. I’ve come to believe that moment-to-moment engagement is what forms a community that transcends not just boundaries but the constraints of conditioned thinking. Those constraints are the main obstacle, not religious or political opinions, to a new level of consciousness everywhere.



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Meeting God and the Mystery of Who We Are

Tehran SunsetI heard a story when my son was in a local Waldorf school, and I loved it.

The children were in art class seated in different tables, working hard at their projects. One little girl was particularly diligent, so the teacher stood behind her and watched for a while. Then she bent over to ask her what she was drawing.

Very matter-of-fact the little girl said, “I’m drawing God.”

The teacher chuckled and said, “But you know, hon, no one knows what God looks like.”

Without skipping a beat, without even looking up, the little girl responded, “They will in a moment!”

This made me wonder, what happened to our wildnessThe wildness of God, of Spirit, as John O’Donahue calls it. It’s as if we forget or disconnect from the spontaneity and joy that expresses our essential spirit.

Probably the deepest inquiry in any of the spiritual traditions is the question: who am I? If we look behind the roles and images that our culture gives us, behind the ideas that we internalize from our family, who’s really here? Who is reading right now? Who is looking through these eyes? Who is listening to sounds?

The Buddha said we suffer because we don’t know who we are; we’ve forgotten. We suffer because we are identified with a self that is narrower than the truth, less than the wholeness of what we are. We often live inside a role—parent, helper, boss, patient, victim, judge. We become hitched to our sense of appearance, to our body. We become hitched to our personality, our intelligence. We become hitched to our achievements. These facets constellate into the shape of our identity, of who we take ourselves to be. And that constellation is smaller than the truth. It is less than the awareness and love that is here, less than the sacred essence of what we are.

A friend of mine, a minister, told me about an interfaith gathering which began with the inquiry: What should we call Spirit or the Divine, what’s the name we should use? Right away there’s a question:“Should we call it, God?” “No way,” responds a female Wiccan. “What about Goddess?” she says.“Hah,” remarked a Baptist minister and suggested instead, “Spirit.”

“Nope,” declares an atheist.

The discussion goes on like this for a while. Finally, a Native American, suggested “the Great Mystery” and they all agreed. They all agreed because, regardless of the knowledge or the concepts of their faith, each of them could acknowledge it’s a mystery.

In the moments that we move through life realizing that we belong to this mystery, that this mystery is living through us, we are awake, alive and free.

Enjoy this video on: Entering the Mystery part 1
Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003) For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com
photo by: Hamed Saber

Are we living in a dream world?

In the latest episode of THE RABBIT HOLE on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra addresses this timeless question about the true nature of reality. A conventional understanding of reality suggests that, equipped with our five sense and a logical mind, we move through life experiencing things just as they are. But consider how much time we spend in our heads, immersed in the past, future, or in daydreams. The present often eludes us, entire hours, days and weeks passing in a waking sleep. Only in rare moments do we find ourselves entirely awake and present, perhaps while intensely focused on a project or in the electric experience of love.

Perceptual reality, as Deepak explains, is bound to be incomplete. We can’t expect our limited senses to capture the whole kaleidoscope of the universe. Oriented as we are to the tidiness and reliability of life, our sensitive egos probably wouldn’t be able to handle a new picture of reality, anyways. Take the example from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” In the story, human beings exist in a cave, confined by restraints that limit their movement. They are only able to see the wall directly in front of them, across which shadows dance. This is their reality – a world of darkness and shadows. It is not a good or a bad life, in and of itself, because it is all they know, all they perceive. It just is.

One day, a person is released from the constraints and, upon discovering the opening of the cave, ventures outside into the unknown. He is blinded at first by the unbearable brilliance of sunlight. He trips and cries his way through this strange new world. For him, shadows represent the truest reality. What is a tree when before there were only silhouettes of trees? But as he acclimates to the light, he begins to perceive reflections of objects in water, then the objects themselves, then the light of the sky and stars. Finally, he beholds the sun, itself, and comes to see the true nature of life. Upon this realization, Plato continues, the man would surely think back to his time in the cave with a sense of relief and a great pity for those who still dwell there.

Thoughts and beliefs tend to crowd our reality much like the shadows on the cave wall. The process of deconstructing these beliefs and shedding old habits can be uncomfortable, even disorienting. But if we find the spaces between our thoughts and internal dialogue, Deepak says, then we can awaken to a more fundamental truth. Question what you ‘know’ and what you believe. Bring your mind back to the present moment when it strays to thoughts of the past. As our perception shifts, the conditions of our lives will follow. And outside the cave, anything is possible.

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I Am, Therefore I Think

The challenge of a human life is to live truly free. When you realize that you are not your name, you are not any function, you are not your gender, and in truth you are not anything you can think yourself to be, you recognize the spaciousness of who you truly are. You recognize this spacious consciousness to be already free, regardless of any thought that may appear in consciousness. I am — beingness — is primary spaciousness in form. In our human form I think follows being. To discover that by stopping thinking (while remaining conscious) for only a moment is to discover yourself independent of any thought of yourself.

Thinking is natural to human creatures. Thinking is wondrous and not the problem. The problem is the conviction that who we are is who we think we are. As long as we are attached to the belief that I am who I think I am, we are attached to something that is ephemeral and subject to change, that we can actually forget. If you are willing to not think yourself, who are you? What is left when you don’t believe the thought of who you are? What if you take this moment and actually not know who you are?

In not knowing, just for a moment, you can directly discover yourself. This discovery does not arrive by thought, but by your own immediate direct experience. What is here, before every thought, after every thought and during every thought?

That fresh aliveness — that consciousness — is already here, although it may be veiled by many layers of identification with thought. Consciousness can discover itself and know itself, without needing to think itself. Then false identity is cut, and you recognize yourself to be free.

The cognitive power to create identities is important. It is the way we make sense of reality as human beings. We collect identities based on the narratives we construct around our inward and outward experiences. These collections of identities form our story of who we think we are. Stories are wonderful. But in firm allegiance to our story we lose sight of spacious open mind, uncreated by any story.

By the time I met my teacher I had a well-developed story. I was an acupuncturist and a feminist. I thought of myself as an enlightened person who could see what was true and what was real. Underneath this story of success I hadn’t found the lasting happiness I was really seeking. And so my story continued to be a story seeking an identity that would give me permanent happiness. I was seeking a happy identity through different versions (stories) of myself.

In the willingness to consciously recognize my story and stop telling it for a moment of deep contemplation, I could see that this life force, this wonder of life, the simple joy of being that was present when I was a young child, was still present! It was available for discovery because it is always here. It is the silent core that all stories radiate from.

How can you make that same discovery? First there must be a willingness to overhear the ongoing narrative that defines you. We are aware of the end result of our narratives: I am a happy person, or I am a sad person; I am a success, or I am a failure. But often we are unaware that daily, hourly, we generate and live our own narrative. The narrative may seem simply like a commentary on reality. But actually it is an interpretation of reality, a version of reality. Without making that narrative right or wrong, we can discover what is closer than the narrative.

Before we are storytellers or thinkers we are conscious beings. We are aware that I am. And that awareness is underneath all stories.

In the discovery that life is aware of itself as consciousness, you are naked to yourself, not fooled by the cloaking devices of your narrative. You recognize the truth of yourself. Then, if it is appropriate that you act a certain way, or you repress or express a certain emotion, that is the play of life. You are not fooling yourself. In truth, you are naked, awake consciousness. You are. I am.

Gangaji’s newest book, Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, was published by Penguin Tarcher in 2011, and is now available in paperback. Gangaji has been awarded the 2012 Best in Print Award for Auto/Biographical Writing by COVR (the Coalition of Visionary Resources).

Gangaji’s new radio show, A Conversation with Gangaji, was launched on Oct. 12. Each month, for 30 minutes, Gangaji and radio show host Hillary Larson will address subjects like addiction, chronic pain, intimacy, depression, anxiety, enlightenment, integrity, death and many others, offering the possibility to listeners across the globe to find freedom in their everyday challenges, and live free and fulfilled lives.

photo by: Atilla1000

Knowledge and Enlightenment


I have realized that one does not need to have any scientific or eastern knowledge first to gain true enlightenment. Why do some make that transition of alchemy sooner than later and for most – need the knowledge first?  We all know it’s just a matter of discovering what is already there.


To attain enlightenment we need both direct experience and understanding.  But it is important that the experience comes first and the explanation or the knowledge comes afterward. If one accumulates too much intellectual knowledge beforehand, it will skew or bias the innocence of the natural experience of the self.  After the experience of Being it is important to stabilize that experience with spiritual understanding that resonates with you. It can be from any wisdom tradition as long as it speaks to the details of your personal experience. Matching the experiences of  past spiritual  travellers’ experiences to your own experience validates and stabilizes  your experiences. This is how it then becomes a functional reality in your everyday life.  Spiritual knowledge that isn’t tied directly to one’s immediate experience remains merely theoretical and doesn’t transform life.

When someone becomes enlightened has more to do with the limitations in  the depth of their experience, not their knowledge. Enlightenment is seeing what is already there, but to discover what is already there one needs to clean the windows of perception. If the mind and body are refined enough to maintain awareness of pure consciousness at all times, then the knowledge that establishes enlightenment will not be far away.




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