In the 6/25/07 edition of U.S. News & World Report, New Age luminary Deepak Chopra was interviewed about his novel about Buddha interestingly titled "Buddha". Though many will no doubt fawn all over this narrative in search of some new spiritual insight or revelation in much the same way as they did with "The Da Vinci Code" these past few years, however, it seems some of the answers provided by this guru renowned by millions had as much thought put to them as the titling of this novel.
When asked what he thought the meaning of enlightenment was, Chopra responded, "The meaning here is that your real self is not a person, that there is no such thing as a separate self, that a person doesn't really exist...So enlightenment here means transcendence to that level of existence where the personal self becomes the universal self.”
If the separate self and the person does not exist, I wonder what Dr. Chopra would think if some tragedy befell his friends or family members? Is he simply going to brush it off by saying they did not exist anyway? If that is the case, I bet Mrs. Chopra and the children feel loved knowing that, in the eyes of dear old dad, out of sight will be out of mind.
With Christianity on the other hand, while the believer is admonished by I Thessalonians 4:13 not to mourn as the heathen as if there was no hope, the Christian legitimately pines for the departed loved one as one would for any friend or family member that has moved far away that you know you are probably not going to see for quite awhile but whom has nevertheless retained the same degree of distinct individuality as the day you met them.
Though Chopra has manipulated his followers into accepting his teachings and in the process made himself a very wealthy man (so much for desire causing suffering as basic Buddhism postulates), one can't help notice that Chopra doesn't exactly comport himself by the Eastern dictum that the self does not exist. For if the self does not exist, why has Chopra placed his name on the novel? And his photograph in the U.S. News & World Report profile is not of some disheveled lunatic consistently living out the implications of his worldview that appearance is just an allusion but rather of one who poses deliberately with his arm over his knee and his head cocked just so in a statement to the world that he is just a bit better than you.
More importantly, if a person doesn’t really exist since the individual is merely a “transient behavior of the total universe”, is Chopra going to forego the proceeds of what will probably be a bestseller and instead distribute the revenues to every person on the planet equally if “the universal self” and we are all the same person anyway? If Deepak Chopra doesn’t really exist, then why is the name slapped across his Center For Wellness?
But then again, such common sense and logic aren’t an integral part of Chopra’s worldview. When asked in the U.S. News & World Report interview if there is a fundamental tension between spirituality and religion, Chopra responded, “It [spirituality] has very little to do with religious dogma, ideology, or even self-righteous morality.”
Isn’t that itself a dogma? Are those that do not share in such metaphysical open-mindedness in the wrong? Doesn’t saying so imply a morality?
If ultimately morality does not really exist, on what grounds does Chopra have to complain should his publisher abscond with the proceeds of his novel? More importantly, if some horrible crime befell Mrs. Chopra and the kids, would such be wrong beyond the breaking of society’s arbitrarily derived laws?
That must really make his family feel special. Some might point out I already made that point. However, if you have no problems with the Eastern worldview espoused by this cultic guru, repetition and second go-arounds float your boat anyway.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.