HomeSeptember 2023Are we asking the right questions?

DEEPAK CHOPRA was interviewed in Kanha Shanti Vanam on July 2, 2023, by EKTA BOUDERLIQUE. After an illustrious career bridging health, science, and spirituality, he tackles the big questions of consciousness, existence, truth, and human evolution, and challenges science to re-assess the questions it is asking.

Human evolution

Q: So hello and welcome, sir. It is such a pleasure and honor to have you among us in Kanha Shanti Vanam. You are the face of health, not just in America, but also here in India. You have shown Ayurveda to the world. We are very happy you are here. How has your experience of Kanha been?

DC: It has been extraordinary. First of all, I’ve never seen so many people meditating together in such a beautiful setting. And everyone here is dedicated to service and sadhana. You have all three things needed for enlightenment – sewa, sangha, and sadhana [service, community, and practice]. You don’t need anything more.

Q: Thank you, sir, for saying that. Our efforts have been in that direction, and we are happy when people visit. Even more so, because you can give us a perspective on what could happen here. What is the potential that you see here?

DC: I think if there are enough people having an authentic experience of reality, and living that experience, it will hopefully create a critical mass of consciousness over the planet, toward a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthy, and joyful world. 

Right now, it’s not a good situation with war, terrorism, eco destruction, extinction of species, pandemics, mass migrations … you name it. Everything that’s happening is a combination that could lead to human extinction. It’s not just theoretical anymore. 

We’ve made so many advances in science and technology, everything is dependent on technology, including this conversation. Yet, that technology, in combination with a very medieval mindset of tribalism, ethnocentrism, racism, bigotry, hatred, prejudice, is devastating in its bias. Before we had regional issues, but now every issue becomes global immediately. There’s nothing that happens anywhere that doesn’t affect the whole planet. 

So if you can create a conscious community here, and replicate it elsewhere, which I believe Daaji is doing, we have the key for collective transformation. 

In the big scheme, I don’t think it makes a difference if humanity disappears. Nature has its own way of deciding what’s the next phase of evolution. Sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs were wiped out in a matter of a week or less, and we are here because of that. So if we disappear, maybe God has better plans – human evolution hasn’t worked, so let’s try something else.

Q: Yes, but I guess as part of our consciousness, it’s important that we take our responsibility seriously. Doing the right thing will leave behind a legacy. 

DC: We do what needs to be done, but we don’t control the outcome.

Personal evolution

Q: How do you see your own life’s journey of consciousness? 

DC: Well, I started as a very traditional medical doctor. I trained at AIIMS, the All India Institute of Medical Science in Delhi. Then I went to the US and trained in medicine, endocrinology, and neuroendocrinology. I was looking at the molecules in the brain that correspond to our emotions. And they turned out to be immunomodulators. So that led me to Mind-Body Medicine. 

It took me a while to realize that even the phrase Mind-Body Medicine is not accurate, because it implies a difference between the mind and the body. They simply have different frequencies of consciousness. The body is a particular frequency that we call perceptual activity, and the mind is another frequency that we call conceptual activity. They’re parallel and complementary activities of consciousness. 

Because of my science background, I was led ultimately to what is called the hard problem of consciousness. How do neural firings and neurochemistry create what we call experience – sensations, perceptions, images, feelings, thoughts? That’s considered to be the hard problem of consciousness in science. 


DC: If you Google the 125 open questions in science, number one is: What is the universe made of? The second is: What’s the biological basis of consciousness? It’s been a struggle for both philosophers and scientists, globally. Since Plato in the West, in many schools we find matter-only ontology, consciousness-only ontology, and mind and body as two separate things. But the hard problem of consciousness exists because we are asking the wrong questions.

Number one, the universe is not made of anything. It’s constructed in consciousness as a perceptual activity. Number two, there is no biological basis of consciousness, because biology is an experience in consciousness. If we keep asking the wrong questions, we’ll never have the answers. 

It took me a long time to understand that our scientific model is based on something called naïve realism. Naïve realism means that we assume the world we experience is real, and objective reality corresponds to human perception. But human perception is a very narrow band of activity within a very, very limited electromagnetic spectrum. Furthermore, it’s species specific. Furthermore, it’s experienced through what we call the conditioned mind. Furthermore, it assumes matter as the ontological primitive [outside and independent of experience]. Furthermore, it’s based on the concept of subject-object split. 

As you look at these arguments, it becomes obvious that naïve realism is a convenient way of doing science and creating technology. But it has nothing to do with truth. You can create virtual reality (VR), and extend the VR we already exist in. Actually, it’s already VR; now we don’t call it Maya, but it is Maya. Maya simply means matter. The words Maya, matter, mother, matrika, meter, time, and music, all come from one idea that what we see or experience, including our own body, including our own brain, is an activity of consciousness. There is no brain producing consciousness. Consciousness is modifying itself into mind brain universe. 

And while it’s doing that as a human experience, it’s also doing it as a butterfly experience, as a snake experience, as a chameleon experience; every species has its own universe. Then you get within the species, within our species. You have your own universe, and I have my own universe. 

So, if you walk around New York City or Grand Central Station, each human being is an observation deck for the universal experience, for a particular point of view in space-time. Furthermore, it is an impermanent point of view, because by the time you perceive something, it’s already over. By the time I hear your conversation, or even look at you, that which I looked at is no longer there. Everything, everybody you see is a ghost, and the collective universe that we experience is a collective dreamscape. This is what it means to be asleep, the stage of ignorance. And the goal of spiritual awakening is to wake up from this. 

Wittgenstein, the Austrian philosopher, said we are asleep, our life is a dream, but once in a while we wake up enough to know that we’re dreaming. So waking up is very crucial, but you can’t wake up if you have the wrong assumption that matter creates consciousness. You’ll never solve that. 

Matter, atoms, molecules, space, time, force fields, gravity are human names. Who created the word gravity? Human beings. Who created the words atoms, molecules? Human beings. But before they said, “This is a molecule,” there was an experience. And that experience was a perceptual and cognitive activity in consciousness. So before I call this “a glass of water,” it is a sensation, a touch, a taste, a smell, a sound. And then, as humans, we call this combination of sensations a glass of water. We call this a body, we call this the Sun, that the Moon. We made it up, just like we made up latitude, longitude, Greenwich Mean Time, nation states, money. 

Q: Actually that’s good news, because if that is the truth then we can switch it around. And that’s what I think meditation pertains to.

DC: Correct. You can be free of your constructs and create new ones, upgrade the illusion.

Q: That’s fantastic. 

The body is a particular frequency 
that we call perceptual activity, 
and the mind is another frequency that we call
conceptual activity. They’re parallel and
complementary activities of consciousness.


Q: What message would you have for young people? A lot of young people join our programs and draw counsel.

DC: If you substitute the word “spirituality” with the word “self-awareness,” then ask yourself: What is the self? What is awareness? Then ask yourself: Am I the changing body, or an activity in the self or awareness? Am I the changing mind, or an activity in the self or the awareness? The only thing that doesn’t change is the awareness. When I say, “I was five years old, 10 years old, 15 years old,” the “I” that says that doesn’t change. Everything else changes. Self and awareness go together; there is no self that is independent of awareness. 

When scientists look at anything, they assume existence, whatever existence, we say, “There is existence.” Of course, existence is a mystery, but the awareness of existence is a bigger mystery. Because if there was no awareness of existence, then there is no existence. So awareness and existence go together. They’re the same thing. Now you add another word to it, truth. Then you have the answer. Truth, awareness, existence are the same thing. We call it sat-chit-ananda, and they’re inseparable, the same thing. 

When you speak of God, people have their own image, unfortunately, and then they go to war about that image. Even when you speak of the soul, some people roll up their eyes: “What do you mean? What is the soul? Where is the soul? All we have is a brain.” So, I feel that it’s easier in today’s world to speak of self-awareness, and inquiry into self-awareness, what we call Atma Vichara. Then, the ramification of spiritual practices is both Atma Vichara and Atma Darshan [true vision of the Self] at the same time. One is not possible without the other, because who or what is doing the vichara of themselves?

Q: I think we could continue for a long time. But you have a flight to catch, and we are extremely happy to have these snippets.

DC: I am really thrilled to be here. I’m being very honest with you, I have stayed away from the institutionalized guru kingdoms of India. But Daaji is an exception. He doesn’t even call himself a guru. He’s very humble, and he is very devoted to service, which is extraordinary.

Q: We’re very thankful, because it’s not just the time but the kind of time you’ve given. It’s extremely encouraging and empowering for young people and take a few cues on how they can lead their lives.

DC: Leave them with one message: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” in the words of Mahatma Gandhi.

Q: Absolutely. And you’ve done that. Thank you so much.

Truth, awareness, existence are the same thing. 
We call it sat-chit-ananda, and
they’re inseparable, the same thing.


Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra

Dr. Chopra is the founder of the Chopra Foundation and Chopra Global. He is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and has written over 90 books. TIME magazine has described him as one of their 100 ... Read More