Playboy exposes Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra

Self-help guru Deepak Chopra is the subject of an interview in the March edition of Playboy.

Chopra is an Indian-American author and alternative medicine advocate. A prominent figure in the New Age movement, his books and videos have made him one of the best-known and wealthiest figures in alternative medicine. His discussions of quantum healing have been characterized as technobabble – “incoherent babbling strewn with scientific terms” which drives those who actually understand physics “crazy” and as “redefining Wrong.”

On his love of blogging, and what it’s doing on a meta-level to consciousness in our society: “First of all, I love blogging. I love the immediacy. I love the reach. I love the instant connection with so many people. It’s vast and it’s fast. But the impact remains to be seen. If it blunts our emotional intelligence or our face-to-face, eye-to-eye, body-to-body contact—and we’re certainly heading in the direction—it will be extremely detrimental. On the other hand, if you can integrate with it, it’s an amazing technology to reach a critical mass of consciousness. I personally love participating in it.”

On partying with George Harrison in the past: “George was a sweet person. And yes, we did some stuff together, like bhang. You know what bhang is? It’s ganja. It’s similar to cannabis. We drank it together in India. He was a lovely man. We listened to music together. We would discuss everything from creativity to spirituality to the divine. He had his own visions of other realms of existence and was more of a literalist than I was, but he was a lot of fun to be with.”

On his thoughts on cannabis and other recreational drugs: “Drugs are not part of my life, but I have tried them all. I’ve done LSD. At 17 it led me to my first spiritual awakening. I’ve done mushrooms—everything. But all at a young age. I certainly don’t regret it. It gave me a glimpse into a different reality. I recognized that I can actually navigate these realms in my consciousness. I’d go so far as to say that drugs were a source of great joy to me, great nourishment and the source of all my writing. So much of what I’ve written comes from my being able to go into other states of consciousness.”

On the challenges his native India now faces as a growing world economy: “Overcoming hubris is a big one. India is getting a false sense of pride because it made a nuclear bomb—because the middle class is expanding dramatically. Globally, yes, it’s an economic superpower, but Indians are totally ignoring the fact that 30% of their children go to bed hungry — starving. They are ignoring the fact that 300 million people still live in abysmal poverty and there’s still a lot of communal tension and violence. India has huge problems.”

On his enormous success and how he does not save nor invest any of his money: “I’ve hit the jackpot as far as selling books is concerned. That’s where my income comes from. But I put it back into the business, and what’s left I put into my foundation—I don’t invest and I don’t save. I carry maybe $200 and a credit card in my pocket. If you ask me to read a bank statement, I can’t. I believe that when I die there won’t be anything for anyone. In the meanwhile, until I’m dead, my wife is totally taken care of from my royalties. My children are self-sufficient, so I don’t need to give them any money. I keep about $30,000 in my account and the rest goes to keeping the operation running.”

On if he believes that science has proven some of his theories correct: “In many instances, yes—The EEGs of people in meditative states repeatedly show increases in alpha waves [indicating wakeful relaxation], which proves we have the power to change our bodies with our minds. More recently it’s been proved that prolonged periods of meditation, like you see with monks in monasteries, can change the brain permanently. The fight-or-flight centers in the brain that normally light up to trigger alarm and anxiety are quieted—.That doesn’t mean they’re duller to the world. It means they’re more quietly alert in a way that’s permanently hardwired in their consciousness—If we teach patients in hospitals how to relax, to breathe properly, to meditate, to do some passive movements or even bedside yoga—we can get rid of what most drugs are prescribed for, which is insomnia, nausea, constipation, anxiety and pain. That’s 80% of what’s prescribed in a hospital, and it’s unnecessary.”

On his many skeptics in the scientific and academic communities: “The skeptics are all angry people. They’re mostly high school teachers with old science behind them. And now they have a few champions such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Leonard Mlodinow is co-author with Stephen Hawking of a recent book that refutes the existence of God. They all love to call me the woo-woo master, or Dr. Woo, and I admit, they did anger me. But I decided to reach out to them and engage with these issues. I wrote to Leonard and said, ‘It seems like you know your mathematics, but conceptually you and I have a lot of disagreements. You definitely don’t understand consciousness. So why don’t we get together and hang out, and you teach me physics and I’ll teach you consciousness?’ We’re [now] doing a book together. It’s about the things that physics and spirituality can agree on and what physics and spirituality cannot agree on. It’s called War of the Worlds. It’s a big book. We’ve got a multimillion-dollar contract for it. It’s going to be huge.”

On if he thinks the Catholic Church will survive its many sex scandals: “It’s the hypocrisy I worry about. If it were just saying sexuality or homosexuality is fine, there would be no problems. But condemning certain types of sexuality as sinful while its own clergy is hiding pedophiles, that’s the height of hypocrisy.”

On his thoughts about organized religions: “All religions are hypocritical—Organized religion is all corrupt. It’s just a cult with a large following. Get a large enough following and you can call yourself a religion, and then it becomes all about control and power mongering, corruption and money. We don’t need mediators to experience God.”

On the happiest person he knows: “The Dalai Lama is the real deal. He loves everything. He’s authentically who he is. He never gets upset. He’s not even mad at the Chinese. If you ask him he says, ‘No. What they do is very upsetting, but I’m not mad at them.’—I remember we were with him in London and he ordered bacon and eggs for breakfast and everybody went crazy because they don’t realize that Tibetans are not vegetarians. He looked around because he knew he was being a bit provocative, but we all just started to laugh.”

On his advice for finding happiness, and avoiding conformity: “The highest form of intelligence you can have is to observe yourself. Let it go at that. You don’t need to judge, you don’t need to analyze, you don’t even need to change. This is the key to life: the ability to reflect, the ability to know yourself, the ability to pause for a second before reacting automatically. If you can truly know yourself, you will begin the journey of transformation—As human beings we have unlimited potential and imagination. The worst thing you can do is be a conformist and buy into conformity. It’s the worst possible thing. It’s better to be outrageous—better to hang out with the sages, the people open to possibilities, even the psychotics. You never know where you’ll find the geniuses of our society.”

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Meditate and cut crime (Trinidad and Tobago Express)

Trinidad and Tobago Express: Will the citizens of the country ever enjoy a crime-free environment? Will this world ever find peace?

These are some of the questions that drove the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre to publicly launch World Peace Hour recently at its Chaguanas branch.

The centre hopes to spread, through prayer and meditation, a peaceful attitude that will help reduce crime.

Attendees included co-ordinator of the Divali Nagar, Deokinanan Sharma, and feature speaker, Assistant Commissioner of Police for South and Central, Dennis Graham.

Most people do not take seriously thoughts on meditation, much less as a way to bring more order to society.

But can meditation have a tangible effect on crime? At the Raja Yoga Centre, people of all races and religion are taught the art of meditation – free of charge.

Such is the commitment of those at the centre to share mental peace.

With centres all around the world and many members who are part of the scientific community, the Raja Yogas have conducted several experiments over the years to test the effects of meditation.

In June 1999, the Social Indicators Research journal reported one of the most dramatic sociological experiments ever undertaken.

Intense group meditation was done over an eight-week period in Washington, DC, during the summer of 1993.

Researchers, before the experiment, had predicted a reduction in crime of at least 20 per cent.

Findings later showed that violent crime-including rapes, murders and assaults-had decreased by 23 per cent during the June 7 to July 30 experimental period.

The odds of this result are two in one billion.

The study was led by John Hagelin, Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

The demonstration had involved nearly 4,000 practitioners of Transcendental Meditation from 81 countries.

Hagelin stated: “Previous research had shown that these meditation techniques create a state of deep relaxation and coherence in the individual and simultaneously appear to produce an effect that spreads into the environment, influencing people who are not practising the techniques and who have no knowledge of the experiments themselves”.

Hagelin, an eminent physicist, drew terminology from quantum field theories to refer to the results of meditation as “a field effect of consciousness”.

“It’s analogous to the way that a magnet creates an invisible field that causes iron filings to organise themselves into an orderly pattern,” Hagelin said.

He also said that meditation has been shown to create high levels of coherence and orderliness in individual practitioners.

This “orderliness” appears to spill over into society and can be measured directly through the positive changes that occur.

Dr Ann Hughes, a professor of Sociology and Government at the University of the District of Columbia, later said of the experiment: “What we are looking at here is a new paradigm of viewing crime and violence. Hughes was part of a 27-member project review board composed of independent scientists and civic leaders who approved the research protocol and monitored and the process.

Sr Jasmine, co-ordinator of the centre, said that the most powerful instrument known to man is the power of thought.

“Crime begins as a thought,” Sr Jasmine said.

Changing these thought forms before they begin a definite way, she said, begins curbing crime.

“Our world is crying out for peace and thirsting for love.

“The call of time is here for each of us to make a meaningful contribution,” Sr Jasmine urged.

“Our once-sweet and loving T&T is fast becoming unconscious and filled with fear, hopelessness and sorrow.”

Assistant Commissioner of Police in South, Dennis Graham, said that the institutions of family, religion and education also hold a great responsibility in the prevention of crime in this country.

He referred to the biblical saying: “Train up a child when he is young that he may not depart from it when he is old.”

“There is an increasing dependency on the Government to provide services that should be provided by the family,” Graham said.

“If the family fails, other institutions will fail,” Graham said.

“The police cannot do our jobs successfully without the intervention of these institutions. We must join hands and hearts.”

He said that most officers are trained to simply deal with a crime on hand without taking a deeper look into the criminal mind.

He is a firm believer in prevention, and cited the disparities in the social and economic classes as being one of the root causes of crime.

“The disparity between the upper of the upper class and the lower of the class are wide.

Those of the lower of the lower class sometimes seek to attain the things of the upper of the upper class by illegal means.”

He said that one of the main purposes of education is to socialise children through the use of a country’s culture and values.

Graham also felt that spirituality needs to be taught to younger people.

“We must pray daily,” the policeman said.

“Children need to be taught that people are more important than material things. Some have virtually abdicated these values.”

He said, though, that there has been a noticeable drop in criminal activity from where he sits, since the provision of more patrol vehicles to the police force.

He pointed out that the once pandemic kidnapping trend has abated.

The centre will continue to hold World Peace Hour on every third Sunday of the month and all are invited to attend.

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Windham family finds peace in meditation (Union Leader, New Hampshire)

Carol Robidoux, Union Leader, New Hampshire: Gloria Norris Schwartz discovered Transcendental Meditation – TM – five years ago after a mostly fruitless search for a natural remedy for healing and stress.

Since then she and her husband Jeffrey, a mathematical scientist, and their two sons, 13 and 11, have trained in the technique described by TM enthusiasts as the opposite of concentration, completely effortless and totally life-changing.

How true for the Schwartz family.

They meditate regularly and follow a TM-recommended natural health program. And as soon as they can sell their home in Windham, they’re moving to Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, a new city built three years ago in the middle of farm country just beyond the Maharishi University of Management – a college founded in 1974 by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Yes, guru to the Beatles during the late 1960s.

“I can’t wait to get there. As soon as I heard about it I had to see it. We’ve been there twice – I loved it,” Schwartz, 50, said.

Although they arrived in New Hampshire from the Washington, D.C., area already practicing TM, Schwartz wanted to connect with a TM teacher here.

She met Sherry Levesque, director of Manchester’s TM Program Center and part of the faculty at Maharishi Vedic University in Antrim, which last year took over the campus of the defunct Nathaniel Hawthorne College. The organization is looking to build a meditation “Peace Palace” in the Manchester area, as well.

Tonight Levesque will offer an introductory TM lecture at Manchester City Library auditorium at 7 p.m. Levesque said her presentation, “The TM Program: Opening a New World of Knowledge, Health and Quality of Life,” is based on data proving the physical and mental benefits of TM from more than 600 scientific studies at more than 200 credible universities and research centers, including Harvard Medical School, Stanford University and UCLA.

Goal: World peace

Levesque cites benefits ranging from enhanced creativity, memory and alpha wave brain function (key to taming attention deficit disorders), to solving blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety and stress-related ailments.

“TM provides the mind with the ability to transcend to a place TMers refer to as the ‘universal unified field of intelligence’ – called the unified field, in ultra modern physics,” Levesque said.

Albert Einstein was among those great thinkers who first explored the so-called Theory Of Everything (TOE) in the context of the universe.

Only now are physicists catching up with Einstein and applying TOE to the current controversial buzz in the scientific community, “String Theory” by Columbia University physicist Brian Greene.

But make no mistake: TM is a trademarked, worldwide non-profit educational organization based solely on the sacred teachings of “His Holiness” the Maharishi. It relies heavily on repetition of a mantra. And the goal is nothing short of world peace.

“What Maharishi says in the language of science – we call it Natural Law – in layman’s terms might be called the will of God. In whatever language you use, peace should be the way of the world,” Levesque said.

“For the cost of a B-2 bomber, we could set up a group of 40,000 people in India to meditate and act as peace keepers by creating a major effect on the unified field,” Levesque said.

A $2,500 check

Anyone interested in learning TM must participate in three preliminary lectures – two group and a one-on-one with a certified instructor. After that, a $2,500 check buys you a lifetime of instruction at any trademarked Maharishi Vedic center around the globe.

“The fee may sound high, but it’s a standard fee, and actually, it’s the best bargain in America,” Levesque said.

Schwartz has borrowed money in order to pay that much, times four, and agrees with Levesque that it’s a wise investment in her family’s future.

“What does a person pay for a course in college? What do you pay for a one-week vacation for a family of four? How much is a laptop computer and some software and, in a few years, it’s obsolete?,” Schwartz said.

Townies vs. gurus

Meanwhile, in Vedic City, Iowa, it’s hard to say whether the city that chants together achieves world peace together. But it seemed like a logical question for Jefferson County Iowa Sheriff Jerry Droz.

“This whole county is low crime, has been for years – since before they got here,” Droz said. “Everybody there is involved in TM.” Although he’s never tried it, some of his best friends are TM’ers.

He said Vedic City has caused a rift between some Iowa natives and their new mystical neighbors.

“It’s become the ‘Townies’ and ‘Gurus,’ a ‘we’ and ‘them’ situation, when it should be ‘us.’ Although the factions are getting a little less, you can understand it. When something new comes into your neighborhood you wouldn’t like it,” Droz said.

One of the persistent controversies surrounding TM is its connection to Hinduism through mantras, and the cult-like influence of the Maharishi over his followers. Some say it undermines traditional Biblical teachings on the absolute truth of Christian doctrine.

Droz said he would be reluctant to say what he thinks, but offered this anecdote.

“When Maharishi said all the toilets had to face East, everyone changed their homes around. All the buildings have to be facing East. Why? That’s what he said to do. There are several things they have to do, because he says so,” Droz said. “Sure, we’ve had people disgruntled with the program, but the bottom line is, you can’t please everybody.”

A ‘destructive cult’

But Andrew Skolnick, a former editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association and current director of the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health, a newly formed New York-based organization dedicated to debunking overblown alternative medicine and health theories, is not so diplomatic.

He says TM is nothing but BS.

“It’s widely considered by cult experts to be a destructive cult, in that its followers believe in a divine-like quality or powers of their leader and they accept his teachings, which are blatantly absurd, self-contradictory and harmful,” Skolnick said. “And it costs a fortune.”

He said the Maharishi’s rationale is based on his interpretations of Hindu mysticism wrapped in scientific jargon.

“What he did in the 1950s was he started to rewrite his Hindu theology, replacing it with scientific words. And that’s enough for the ‘believer,’ who will not try to see the consistencies or inconsistencies for himself,” Skolnick said.

“You go take a basic TM course that teaches you to meditate. Then you come back for ‘checking’ and they say you can’t advance in TM without the checking sessions. And it’s during those sessions you’re baited for costly courses. Then, slowly, they reel you in,” Skolnick said.

That kind of criticism does not sway Schwartz against her decision to move her family West, to Vedic City. She’s heard it all, and said her commitment to TM was made for exactly the opposite reason.

“I wanted something that wasn’t going to interfere with whatever religious path I was taking, and that’s exactly what you get with TM. So many of these other methods of relaxation and healing are either all spiritual or all scientific. This is both,” said Schwartz. “And at the same time, it’s not like a religion, like you have to subscribe to a particular belief system. It’s just a technique.”

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