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What the Buddha Might Say to Deepak Chopra

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Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. -- The Buddha

Many years ago, we were teaching a meditation weekend in Plymouth, England. On the Saturday after the program was over for the day, Carole, one of the attendees, told us she had just been with Deepak Chopra, that he had walked out of the Body Mind Spirit Festival in London, renounced the world, and was at the local Heart and Soul Center healing people for free. We were amazed and intrigued as she added he was much thinner than in the photo of him that we had in our book The Way Ahead. A mutual friend, John Harricharan, had previously introduced us to Deepak in New York City, who was already a well-known teacher. So when we went to the Heart and Soul Center the next evening we were surprised to find an Indian man with the same name but obviously not the same Deepak.

Later, we found out that the "imposter Deepak" had been abusing the women he was teaching (the real Deepak later thanked us for exposing the con man). But in the meantime, we witnessed the amazing power of faith. Those who were convinced the pretender was the real Deepak went through cathartic healings, transformations, and great joy... until he was exposed as a fraud, when suddenly these same students reversed to the distress they had had before. The power of faith was palpable.

Buddha means awaken -- awaken to one's true nature, to the essence of reality, to radiant emptiness. It does not mean god, deity, or celebrity. Deepak Chopra is a respected modern-day teacher, regarded by some as a celebrity and even god-like. As such, he has a narrow path to walk so that he doesn't invoke the blind adoration we witnessed in Plymouth. We remember seeing a movie where the lead character shouted: "I want to be Deepak Chopra." Why would someone feel that way? Could it be because Deepak is loved and wise, or that he embodies the real meaning of life?

Perhaps. Yet the Buddha was clear that we shouldn't blindly trust everything we are told but rather to find out for ourselves what is real. Which is why he gave this most important teaching:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -- The Buddha

Deepak is definitely helping to create a wiser and more compassionate world through his teaching. He has what the Tibetans call ding. This is similar to confidence but more of a deep inner unshakeable confidence when you are comfortable in your own skin. Because of this, one of Deepak's most attractive qualities is his ability to be his own teacher, to know his own wisdom. We see our own inner teacher reflected in our desire to be kinder, more loving, and more loving; it is the impetus to begin seeking answers, to aspire beyond our limitations, to climb our own particular mountain and find our own path. For within each of us is Buddha nature, the potential for awakening.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. -- The Buddha

We wouldn't marry someone as soon as we meet them; we would take time to know them first. It is easy to believe that if a teacher comes from India or Tibet they have all the answers and will save us from ourselves. But we are the only one who can do it. We have the wisdom of the ages inside our hearts. We just need to be still and look more closely, as the Buddha and Deepak have done.

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity. -- The Buddha

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