Deepak Chopra, 61, is the author of more than 40 books covering a range of topics including spirituality, health and world peace. He was in Albuquerque March 8-9 for the 2nd Annual World Wellness Weekend.
SFR: Have you spent much time in Santa Fe?
I have periodically spent time in Santa Fe, mostly on vacation. And I love it here. I love the whole atmosphere. Santa Fe particularly because it seems like an artist colony and it seems very relaxed and very cosmopolitan and kind of chic and hip at the same time.
You're often credited with bringing ancient Indian medicine, or Ayurveda, to a much larger audience. New Mexico has a long history of ancient Native American medicine. Are there insights there worth
Yeah, I think there's a lot of wonderful material in the herbal knowledge of the ancient Indian traditions here: the shamanic techniques that take people into other states of consciousness, triggering healing responses, sweat lodges, purification techniques, chanting, drumming. These are very much part of traditional healing everywhere in the world. The only difference is most of the tradition here is oral. There's no written pharmacopeia, for example. There's no written theoretical framework, which we have in the ancient Indian traditions. But some of their rituals go back 4,000 years, 5,000 years here.
You write in the introduction to your latest book, The Third Jesus, that you were encouraged to respect all faiths as a child. What do you make of a world in which fundamentalism seems to be on the rise?
I think fundamentalism is a result of fear. It's a result of rigid belief systems that no longer conform to our knowledge of the world, whether it's through cosmology or evolution or biology. So it's a lack of awareness and a lack of education more than anything else. And it's also a result of ethnocentrism and racism in disguise. So, is it on the rise? It seems to be on the rise, but it could be a reaction also to a very fast and progressive emerging of a new consciousness in the world. You know, when you're reaching critical mass there's a lot of turbulence. People start to react out of fear.
Is your book, in part, an attempt to chip away at that fundamentalist strain in Christianity?
Absolutely. But you know, no religion is immune from that. There are Hindu fundamentalists, they just happen to be vegetarians [laughs]. There are Islamic fundamentalists, as you know. Even Buddhist fundamentalists, who can tend to be violent. So this is a human trait that appears when there is fear…As we move into the future, I think we need to have a more secular-I would even say a more left-wing-spirituality. And religion has to evolve. A religion that does not constantly self-examine itself will degenerate into hypocrisy.
In a Feb. 18 blog post entitled 'The Audacity of Enlightenment,' you write: 'Our pop culture has trumped political culture, so a glib, attractive candidate who makes a nice image on TV reassures more people than a thoughtful intellectual discussing real-life issues.' Did you have President Bush in mind as the glib politician with a nice image, or someone else?
I did have Bush in mind. And I also find that some of the glibness becomes clichéd after a while. For example, when [Barack] Obama is being criticized, everybody says he has no experience. If I was advising Obama right now, I would say, 'Thank God, [slams his fist on the table] experience is everything that has gone wrong.' What you need is a new leadership, a new vision that says, 'forget experience.' Get out of this burden of memory and experience and look at the whole thing as if for the first time, which is the true essence of spirituality, to get rid of the past and look at everything afresh.
Speaking of Obama, in your Feb. 25 blog, 'Can Charisma Really Bring Change,' you write: 'If Obama can use his integrity and charisma to break the stranglehold of military spending. If he can restore America to a semblance of being a non-threatening power to the rest of the world, he will have accomplished the greatest political feat since the New Deal…Let's hope that charisma extends that far.' Is it fair to say you're for Obama?
Uh-huh [nods his head].
Have you publicly endorsed Obama up until this point?
No. I have fundraised for Hillary [Clinton] in the past and I think either one would be a great president. But right now I think the need of this moment is for people to be inspired to bring out their full potential. You can get people to take care of details. There are specialists for everything in the world. What you need at this moment is a completely fresh inspiration that brings out the best in people and I think Obama is doing that right now.
Your previous book was about the Buddha, the newest one about Jesus. Will the next one be about Muhammad?
People have asked me that and the answer is no. The reason is I don't know enough about Muhammad. I'm doing a new book on Jesus, actually, right now. A historical book. It probably will be fictionalized. It's on the missing years of Jesus.
What inspires you?
[Long pause] You know, I'm just sharing my point of view. And I enjoy sharing my point of view. It's like somebody singing in the bathroom, not worrying who listens or what they think. Some people like the song.
You like the song?
I love the song.