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January 12, 2006

Deepak Chopra visits Sarvodaya and Presents Lecture


Dr. Deepak Chopra is renowned throughout the world for his promotion of Ayurveda healing and mind-body medicine, which combines modern science with ancient methods of healing. But he is also a great proponent of creating world peace through consciousness. This is parallel to Sarvodaya’s work in promoting development and peace through the active consciousness and participation of people. This week, Dr. Chopra made a two-day visit to Sri Lanka to witness Sarvodaya’s work and address two gatherings organized by the movement.

A great humanitarian

His first lecture was held on Monday evening at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH). Dr. AT Ariyaratne led a meditation process and presented the welcome address. He said that many people had thanked him for bringing Dr. Chopra to Sri Lanka, but that their gratitude was misplaced. Dr. Ariyaratne said that Dr. Chopra actually decided to come to Sri Lanka himself and only informed Dr. Ariyaratne of the fact.


Dr. Ariyaratne went onto say that from time to time, especially during the nineteenth century, emissaries from the east have traveled to the west to spread their knowledge and wisdom. He said that Dr. Chopra is also such a person because he has spent the last couple of decades changing the minds of American people through lectures and books. He encourages them to not only look at physical values, but realize the importance of the body and focus on the mind and the spirit. Dr. Ariyaratne said that this is going to transform the twenty-first century.

The compeer of the show then took a few moments to commend Dr. Ariyaratne’s untiring humanitarian developmental work over the years and how this was recognized by an international society called “Alliance for Peace” of which Dr. Chopra is the president. The society presented Dr. Ariyaratne with an award as the greatest humanitarian.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of Sarvodaya presented the introduction. He said that Dr. Chopra and Sarvodaya shared something in common and that in Dr. Chopra’s own words it was a form of “synchronisity.” Dr. Vinya continued that while Dr. Chopra has been encouraging the use of meditation for the well-being of pregnant mothers and newborns, the Vishva Niketan of Sarvodaya has been encouraging this same thing in Sri Lanka by holding meditation programs for pregnant mothers, prospective fathers, and children.

Dr. Vinya said that Dr. Chopra continues to transform our meaning of health. Through his health center in California, he has created a vehicle to encourage mind-body medicine or what he calls “journey into healing.” Dr. Vinya went on to talk about how Dr. Chopra, an Indian by origin, had moved to the US and practiced as an endocrinologist. A loss of faith in just how far modern methods of healing through prescriptive drugs can really heal a patient had prompted him to return to India to study Ayurveda medicine. He came to accept that perfect health meant more than just the absence of illness and was instead a balance and integration of body, mind, and spirit. The author of forty-two books, the Time magazine has called him the “prophet of alternative medicine” while former Russian president, Gorbachov has referred to him as “one of the most important and inspired philosophers of our time.”

Then Dr. Chopra presented his lectured entitled, “Science and Spirituality – A New Breakthrough in Mind-Body Medicine.”

Interconnecting the mind and the spirit

“I have for many years known about Dr. Ariyaratne and had a great image of a great hero of our times. Usually when we have an image of someone we think is a hero, when we actually meet him, we tend to be disappointed because our image tends to be much bigger. In this case it was an opposite effect to meet Dr. Ariyaratne. I realized that my image was behind the reality. I realized that Dr. Ariyaratne and Sarvodaya are a perfect example of consciousness. They are about spiritual awakening, but also about putting it into practice. Spirituality without action is useless. And action without love is meaningless.

Social scientists tell us that when a large group of people get together and that number increases to what is called a critical mass of people, something special happens. Sarvodaya is a perfect example of this sort of large group living in consciousness. Through Sarvodaya, we can reach the global community with consciousness.

I want to talk to you tonight about the relationship of science to spirituality; about healing the body, mind, and the environment through spirituality by utilizing ancient Indian Ayurveda practices and of course, Buddhism. Sri Lanka has a tradition of nonviolence, but every day in the newspaper, it’s all about violence. There are thirtyfive wars going on in the world right now. There is bigotry, racism, hatred, war, destruction. The human is the only animal to kill its own kind and this is usually done in the name of god. The human is the only animal to destroy the environment. The human is the only animal to make other species extinct … and eventually our own.

For example, take this phone in my hand. It is actually a mini-computer. I can take a photo of you with it and send it to Singapore right now. I can use it to record this lecture. It can even be used to move electrons through this and cut off air traffic signals or shut off electricity. In ten years, everyone will have these. We won’t need guerilla warfare, biological warfare, all you need is this small computer. If we combine our ancient habits with new technology, we can easily destroy the human races. This makes super powers irrelevant. Anarchy, chaos, destruction become a very easy thing. A friend of mine, an anthropologist who is an evolutionary biologist told me that all insects on Earth disappeared today, in five years, all life on this planet would be extinct. If humans vanished today, in five years, life on earth will flourish. That’s the dark side of being human.

But I’m not here to paint the dark side. Because there’s another side. And this is what Sarvodaya represents. What is my meaning? Why do I exist? Who am I? Does god exist? Is our planet just a speck of dust in the junkyard of infinity? Or are we meaningful? No other animal asks these questions. No other animal does mathematics, thinks of consciousness, literally eavesdrops on the knowledge of the whole universe.

So we have a choice. Either we could destroy ourselves or we could go towards consciousness. We could have evolution through consciousness. In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what choice we make. If we disappear today, nature might just think it was a failed experiment. But if we become conscious, we can change nature. Because we are part of nature.

For the first time we’re seeing the nature of consciousness not through metaphysics or philosophy, but through the window of science. Because science is our new mythology, our new religion and science is tremendously important. Today the wealth of nations is based on Information Technology. IT makes it possible for us to communicate at the speed of light, eavesdrop on remote parts of the world, access any kind of information on the internet. What is the source of this information, of matter, of energy, everything we call a living cosmos? This technology is based on a very fundamental premise in science: that the essential nature of the material world is that it is not material. That the physical world is not physical; that the stuff of the world is essentially non-stuff. It is all about energy.

There are three ways that people have sought to understand reality. The first is through the eyes of the flesh: through the instruments of our senses, sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. So when we want to know whether there are craters on the moon, we use our eyes. The second is through the eyes of the mind. For example, to understand the theory of Pythagoras, I have to learn geometry and its principles. If I want to understand quantum physics then also I have to have some idea of the mathematical concepts that occurred in the minds of scientists in the last century. The third way is through the eyes of the soul. Through not only understanding reality, but after having once understood that reality, to take that into action.

The visionary English poet, Blake, once wrote,

“We are led to believe a lie when we see with, and not through the eye.
That was born in the night to perish in the night while the soul slept in beams of light.”

What is Blake saying? Why are we led to believe a lie when we see with the eye? What Blake is saying is what any student of perception will tell you today: we cannot rely on sensory observation alone to know the essential nature of reality. For the last 300 years, the whole basis of science has relied on our observational senses; but our senses are the least reliable test of what we call reality. Our senses tell us that the earth is flat. Our senses tell us that the ground is stationary and yet we know it is spinning at a dizzying speed, hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour. Nobody believes that any more. My senses also tell me that there is distance in both time and space between us. That you are there and I am here. None of these are true.

I remember the first lesson we were taught in medical school was anatomy: the basic reality of nature is the body. If I can understand the body at the level of molecules then I can understand the mechanisms of illness and then I can interfere with those mechanisms and get rid of illness. All of medical science has been based on materialistic reasons. The problem with modern medicine is that it is very successful. When something is successful at the beginning we tend to accept it as successful. But is it so successful? In the last fifty years, the age of cancer mortality has not changed. And yes, we have got rid of small pox, but now we have cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and the worst one of all: addictive behavior. The number 1 cause of drug addiction is caused not by street drugs, but by prescriptions. That’s very sad for our modern existence. The industrial age was so successful that it gave us a model that we accept completely. But we have moved to the information change and soon we need to change to the wisdom age.

We have to remember that the body is not an ice structure, but a river. And the river is always changing. Your physical body is always in constant interaction with the surroundings. When you take one deep breath you inhale 1022 atoms from the universe. It’s an astronomical amount of raw material that comes into your body every time you breathe in. Every time you breathe out, you breathe out 1022 atoms, that have their origin in every cell of your body. So, we are all intimately sharing our organs with each other all the time. I am breathing everything that’s inside you and you are breathing everything that’s inside me. We are actually exchanging atoms all the time.

“Every atom that belongs to you as well belongs to me.” The American poet, Walt Whitman said that. This is not a metaphor of poetry, but a fact. Right this moment you have millions of atoms in your body that were once in the body of Lord Buddha, Gandhi, Saddam or even George Bush. You have a million atoms right now that have been in the body of every single being that has existed since the dawn of creation. In just the last three weeks a quadrillion atoms have gone through your body and they have gone through the body of every other living species on this planet. So think of anything in the ecosystem right now, think of a tree in Africa, a camel in Saudi Arabia, a taxi driver in America. Think of it.

In less than one year you replace ninety-eight per cent of all the atoms in your body. You make a new liver every six weeks; a new skin once every five days. You replace your skeleton every three months; and you replace the raw material of your DNA every six weeks. You’re constantly changing. In about two years you have replaced your entire body to the last atom. So if you think about your materialism you have a problem. If you think this is you, this is not. This is the 2006 model. You are constantly changing. Today a new model is emerging. If you think, if you feel, if you fall in love, if you’re moved by poetry, this is all the dance of molecules. If you understand how molecules work you understand how your body works.

The essential reality of the physical world is that it is not physical. The whole thing that I call my physical body is made of nothing. The crucial question that science asks today is what is this nothingness we all come from? What is a thought? Where does it come from? When it dies, where does it go? If you keep up with science today you will hear a word that is often used in quantum physics: discontinuity. The world is a discontinuity and every experience arises because of the discontinuity. So, what does discontinuity mean? For example, think of alternately lighting light bulbs on a Christmas tree, light bulbs that keep lighting up one by one. It will make it look like a light is moving around the tree, but this is not true. It is the same if I go to see a movie I see on the screen a continuous picture but when I go to the projection room I find out that there is a series of still frames with little spaces in between, but if I move the reel fast enough, I cannot see the ‘off’ I can only see the ‘on’ so I experience in consciousness a continuity. But the reality is that the movie is a discontinuity. When I see a television program then I see an image moving from one part of the screen to another part of the screen, but nothing actually moves. Only electrons and photons flash in and out in a certain sequence and because I cannot see the off, I can only see the on, then I experience it as a continuity. Scientists believe that perception is possible because of this discontinuity. All the form and phenomena of the universe expresses this ‘on-ing’ and ‘off-ing’ and our senses are such that they can perceive the on and not the off and yet without the off we would not experience the on.

Think of how sounds are made. You think I’m making this sound. But I’m not. I’m only moving my vocal chords. Then these air waves are passing through the air to you and your ear drum vibrates because of them and so you hear the sound. So it is really you who are making the sound. I am only moving my vocal chords.

The world is not physical, but an on and off process of consciousness. Scientists know what is in the on, but they do not know what is in the off. Let’s try something right now. As you’re listening to me, turn your attention to who is listening. Become aware of who is listening. And if you feel a presence, it’s the presence of your soul. Not your mind. Your mind is thinking something like, “I wish I had used the bathroom before I sat down in here” or “I wonder what’s for dinner,” but when you are aware, that is your spirit. There is a presence and that presence is in the on/off of your thoughts: there is a thought flickering on and off and in that off there is a presence. In that presence thoughts come and they go. So a thought emerges, it hangs on for a fraction of a second, literally, and then it goes. Then of course through association it leads to another thought and that comes and that goes. In that presence emotions come and go. In that presence the perceptions of the world come and go. In that presence the molecules of your body come and go. In that presence everything that happens comes and goes.

Things come and ago, emotions of the mind, interaction of society, environments, but that witnessing awareness is always there; a fluctuation of energy and information. That is discontinuity. The great wisdom traditions including Buddhism have said that that is the permanent reality. Everything else is impermanent. It comes and goes. It is impermanent. If you want to find freedom, you have to be aware of your consciousness.

Today, believe it or not, the cutting edge research in science is about discontinuity. The first thing about discontinuity is that in it, there is no energy, time, or space, no information, no physical objects. What is there is pure potentiality; the potentiality of all that was, all that is, and all that will ever be. The term for this is superposition of infinite possibilities.

The second belief is that everything is correlated with everything else. This is called synchronicity or simultaneity. Your body has one hundred trillion cells. Each of these cells correlates to each other. Non-local correlation. The third is that it proliferates with uncertainty. The deeper you go the more uncertainty.

The fourth belief is that there are quantum units of creativity. New patterns of behavior are different to old patterns. Darwin’s model is incomplete. It just shows how things adapt. But this is also influenced by quantum unites of creativity. The fifth is the observer effect. Unless there is a conscious observer looking at the universe it does not exist. It does not exist without a conscious observer.

You are a field of infinite potentiality. Intuition, creativity, spirit: they are all in you. Your soul has uncertainty because without uncertainty, there is no creativity. There is no task more important for human civilization than in getting touch with the soul. All problems today are because of rifts with our soul. Economic inequality, war, environment depletion: all because we can’t get in touch with our own souls. If we learn about discontinuity and get in touch with our souls, we can find solutions to this.

So many people found paths for this. An example of this is Lord Buddha. There is no separate self. It is this belief of a separate self that causes problems in this world. The Tsunami killed so many people and I’m sure you know about this much more than me, but animals did not perish. Because they’re consciousness is in tune with nature. Nature is alive and they were in tune with it. When we get in touch with that deeper side of ourselves, we realize that there is no separate self. Nirvana is not extinction, but an awareness. Belief is the cover for insecurity.

The first insight we have to make is that there is an invisible domain: the mind, wisdom. The second is that you are not in the world and rather, the world is in you. It is a projection of our consciousness. The third insight is mindfulness of the present moment and of impermanence. The fourth is that everything has a solution and that solution exists in consciousness; there are no physical solutions. The fifth insight is that there is suffering in the world and that there are causes of suffering and there are ways to fix that suffering. And there are also so many other insights.

Based on this understanding of energy, a new system of medicine is emerging combining old traditions of wisdom and healing. One is ayurveda – this is essentially a mix of the words, ayu or life, and veda or knowledge. To know about life is Ayurveda. It brings to life the concepts of preventive healing and health promotion. Its goal is to help an individual discover a personal knowledge of living.

We also have vata, pitta, and kapha doshas, the three biological humors that govern our bodies. Vata governs the principle of movement and is the dosha that controls nerve impulses, respiration, circulation, and elimination. Pitta is the process of metabolism. Kapha is responsible for growth and protection. Illness is rooted in an imbalance of the doshas.

It is important to not only understand how your body works, but how your mind works too. Your perception, social interaction, environment, personal relationships, and biology are all interrelated. By understanding all of this is how a problem can be solved. When a doctor looks at an illness, he should not just look at getting rid of the bacteria or virus that is causing it, but needs to look at the overall picture of the person.

Another important part of Ayurveda is meditation because it works on the mind and the body simultaneously. Health is essentially a higher state of consciousness and higher states of consciousness will naturally lead to better health. If you want to be healthy, you have to be conscious.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” So you must change. Because when you change, the world has changed.”

Thank you.”

Following this, Dr. Charika Marasinghe, Trustee of Vishva Niketan presented the thank you note and the evening came to a close.

A day at Sarvodaya Headquarters

Before the evening lecture, Dr. Chopra spent Monday morning and afternoon touring the Sarvodaya Headquarters in Moratuwa. He visited all the divisions and also participated in a Pavul Hamuva discussion where he was warmly welcomed by the leaders and staff of the movement.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne introduced Dr. Chopra to the Family Gathering (Pavul Hamuva) gathering. Dr. Vinya spoke about how Dr. Chopra has popularized alternative medicine in the US and introduced a method of healing that combines modern science and ancient wisdom. Dr. Vinya said that this makes Dr. Chopra’s endeavors similar to those of Sarvodaya, which has worked for years to reactivate the use of traditional medicine in Sri Lanka, where years of colonialism have left the government and people turning to western medicine for all their medical needs. Dr. Vinya continued that even though Ayurveda medicine is no longer accepted in countries like Sri Lanka and India, people like Dr. Chopra are making it accepted in the US.

Dr. Vinya said that Dr. Chopra promotes a new form of healing called mind-body medicine. It is based on the premise that good health not only means an absence of illness, but overall physical and mental well-being. Dr. Chopra is trying to change modern medical science where doctors prescribe medicines to their patients and just stop at that. He meanwhile focuses and promotes on simultaneous well-being of the mind, body, and spirit.

Dr. AT Ariyaratne addressed the Pavul Hamuva to briefly speak about Dr. Chopra. The leader of the Sarvodaya movement said that Dr. Chopra needs everyone’s support because what he is trying to do is the most difficult task of all: changing the minds of people. Dr. AT said that this is a big job, which Dr. Chopra cannot do alone. Dr. AT stressed that he will need everyone’s energy with him to accomplish his task.

Dr. Chopra then addressed the gathering. He said:

“I have for many years known about Dr. Ariyaratne and Sarvodaya and only recently have had some direct contact with him. Usually when you have an image of someone you think is a hero, when you actually meet him, you tend to be disappointed because your image tends to be much bigger. In this case it was an opposite effect to meet Dr. Ariyaratne. To see all the work he does and what you do because of his vision is amazing.

We have all known what is the right thing to do. Now it’s going to be 2500 years since the birth of the Lord Buddha. The vision he had was to heal the world. To heal mankind. And yet, even though this knowledge has existed for 2,500 years the world is in destruction and poverty, environmental damage, all sorts of terrible things. That is what is meant when it is said, “Knowledge without action is useless.” Knowledge without action is useless. Action is useless without love.

In the same way, love without action is meaningless and action without love is useless. What you see in Sarvodaya is action with love. And it’s based on very fundamental principles enunciated by Lord Buddha. It’s very clear those principles are used in practicality. Anithya, dukkha, anathma . A separate self does not exist. When you see who you are you realize that you’re interdependent with that around you. When you really experience that through mediation, through mindfulness of loving kindness, mindfulness of mettha, upekha, muditha, karuna, we see that we cannot stay without loving others

Today social scientists say that when a large group of people believe in something and act on it, it influences others, it’s a strong movement. Now with Sarvodaya reaching 15,000 villages, which is a large critical mass in Sri Lanka, now the important thing is to take this to the rest of the world and spread it to the rest of the world. We’re living in a time now in our world where it is easy to make the good news, take it elsewhere through the internet, through media and permeate the whole collective consciousness through that. Many programs have been started by the UN, by NGOs and none of them have worked because they don’t have the holistic approach that Sarvodaya has encompassing social, spiritual, economic development and eventually, IT development. Change and transformation does not happen overnight or even in a lifetime and now Dr. Ariyaratne has been doing this for nearly fifty years. He has dedicated his whole life to this. What he has done with so much kindness and mercy must not be let to waste. Dr. Ariyaratne was identified by the Alliance for Humanity as the most important humanitarian and gave him an award for this. The alliance hopes to create a global network on peace. And Dr. Ariyaratne and Sarvodaya are a large part of his. As the president of this society, I want to make a promise to spread the word on Sarvodaya’s work as a model for peace development.”

Following Dr. Chopra’s address, Dr. Vinya said that this was a new beginning for Sarvodaya because it is joining a global network. He said that Sarvodaya has been working towards expanding consciousness all these years. At the next day’s program in which Dr. Chopra too, would participate, the movement would take an initiative to create a lasting peace in Sri Lanka utilizing this foundation.

Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for the People in Need.