Meeting with a Master
Deepak Chopra has been portrayed as everything from a con man to a guru. Maya Fiennes goes to LA to meet the man and discover the truth behind the myth.
What is the universal soul? Is it the state of oneness believed in by Buddhists, yogis or mystics - and achieved or glimpsed at in moments of transcendent enlightenment? Is this manifested, infinite energy the very essence of God? It's a question that would make the mightiest theological brains quiver and I was looking for an answer from Deepak Chopra, author of thirty six books on the mind body and spirit, one of the most exciting spiritual leaders, and a leading pioneer in the medicine of the future.
I first came across Chopra's work five years ago when I was going through a turning point in my life and began searching for deeper truths, both personal and spiritual, I had been listening to the 'Soul of Healing and Meditation' a musical and instructive journey Chopra has made for Rasa records. As a composer, this album intrigued me. I found it had an illuminating effect when used in meditation. I felt I needed to meet Chopra on my path to cosmic closure.
After making contact, I was invited, last April, to stay at the Chopra Center at the La Costa resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, land of the hippy dream, where I would attend a workshop weekend prophetically entitled 'The Soul of Healing'. La Costa is basically a well-appointed, modern luxury golf club and spa. You are greeted with pearly white smiles by beige-uniformed staff, which adds to the rather surreal, sun-kissed serenity and purpose of the place.
We began the first day of the course at 7am with a yoga class, a combination of hatha and meditation based on his book, 'The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success'. "If you apply one law each day of the week beginning on Sunday." Deepak Chopra says, "these principles can completely transform your life."
After yoga, we were greeted by Felicia, Deepak's publicity woman, who was very warm and energetic.
MEDITATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL FOR REACHING EVERYDAY ENLIGHTENMENT
She took me on a tour of the centre which included a library of books and tapes as well as an incredible spa providing luxurious Ayurvedic treatments such as Sahaswara-The Thousand Petal Lotus Flower. This therapy is exclusive to the centre and incorporates a full-body rhythmic oil massage, light stretching movements and a guided visualisation read by Deepak Chopra. Using aromatherapy and crystals, the massage helps open the vital energy centres in the body, including the thousand petal lotus. We began the afternoon seminar by answering a series of set questions used to create a profile of one's 'expanded' self to be used prior to meditation:
In Chopra's words, "If you act on the basis of these qualities, you are living from the level of your soul."
"Meditation is the most important tool for reaching everyday enlightenment. It creates the 'gap' in your mind, the aperture through which you must venture, and it is how the off button is switched on." The gap or 'non local domain' that Chopra describes is the space between thoughts, where the 'noise' of mind cannot interfere. This is where Chopra believes our memories dwell and where all miracles and desires can be fulfilled. It is the essence of the universal soul and the collective consciousness. Maybe this is where we confront God.
The first step to reach this space is to sit down quietly, close your eyes and listen to the silence within you. If you do this regularly it becomes very profound and you come face to face with the cosmic mind.
The meditation, in the presence of such a master, was both truly moving and particularly insightful. It left me with an inner feeling of deep calm and serenity yet, typically, my surface mind still felt nervous and pensive as I was about to confront Deepak on the monumental principles that he espoused. Would my grand questions be answered? Were my expectations childish and unrealistic? Would Chopra actually walk the talk? Was I in the grips of some cult induction?
At the close of the day's workshop, I was told that Deepak was ready to talk to me. I was led into a beautifully appointed room where the dying rays of the evening Californian sun filtered gently through the large windows. This space reflected the diversity of his inspirations and was filled with a collection of Indian and Mexican ornaments, bold metaphysical artworks, golf clubs, books and papers. The walls and tables were strewn with notes and sketches, evidence of his prolific work rate and the range of projects he is constantly working on.
Deepak greeted me with incredible warmth. He was shorter than I expected but his handshake was firm and his eyes glinted with a compassion that immediately put me at ease. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, he handed me a thick photocopied draft of his forthcoming book 'The Spontaneous Fulfilment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power to Create Miracles'. "What do you think?" he asked with an infectious eagerness. I was both taken aback and honoured to be asked for my opinion. I mumbled that I was sure it would be a best seller.
Chopra is a very charming, highly intelligent and charismatic man. He spoke with such clarity and conviction that any doubts I harboured soon evaporated. We talked intensely and his enthusiasm and intellectual vigour were unexpected; even after a lengthy public seminar, his energy and keeness to elucidate far-reaching metaphysical ideas remained undiluted.
Deepak explained that his daily regime was key to his philosophy on life. He rises everyday at 4am for a ninety-minute meditation, followed by a ninety-minute workout and two hours of golf. Golf? Yes. Deepak believes that the game normally associated with garishly dressed middle age executives can bring you enlightenment. He's even written a book about it. Well, where there's a will there's a way. As he says, "The path can present itself in unexpected guises."
By 10 am he is ready to start work, whether it be presiding over his hugely popular seminars, writing books, or his latest passion, the Alliance for the New Humanity. This is a spiritual peace movement; "The founders of the Alliance do not define peace as anti-war activism. Rather they see it as a collective force of creativity that will create social justice, economic freedom, ecological balance, and non-violent resolution to conflict." Set up by Deepak and several others, including Nobel Prize winner Betty Williams, the Peace Alliance is planning a major event in Puerto Rico in December, culminating with a huge concert and a gala dinner, as well as speeches and poetry. I was honoured to be asked to participate in it. "Our deepest wish is to create a critical mass of peace consciousness in the world that will provide creative solutions to the current challenges facing our civilisation."
Looking forward to tomorrow's dose of mind-expanding debate, I said goodbye feeling that I had not only met a great teacher but had made a new friend.
The next day's session was to be a discussion based on his book,'How to Know God. in his own words. "G-O-D. The generator, the organiser and the deliverer of the universe is not a he or a she, it's a field of intelligence." Chopra says there are four ways of finding God:
The whole Chopra experience left me with a feeling of great optimism and hope. As Rumi, the profound Persian poet, wrote, "Every child that is born is proof that God has not yet given up on humanity." I guess that in more than one way my questions were answered.
Copyright Maya Fiennes May 2003