Thought or Being? Deepak Chopra in Conversation with Sadhguru
Indian American author, public speaker, and physician Deepak Chopra was in conversation with Sadhguru on 18 October 2015, on the topic “Ancient Wisdom in Modern Times.” Here is an excerpt of the talk.
Read in Hindi: सद्गुरु और दीपक चोपड़ा - बिचारों का आधार
Moderator: It’s a real privilege to be here, and what’s interesting is that both these amazing people have come to this whole topic of wisdom from very different perspectives. Dr. Chopra comes at this as a doctor, scientist, and a very eloquent seeker. Sadhguru comes at it as a mystic, as someone who has sort of seen some of the unknowable and has come to us with a whole bunch of knowledge from that angle.
Has your own thinking changed a lot over time? Can you both take that question?
Deepak Chopra: It’s a great honor to meet you again, Sadhguru, after all these years. I remember playing frisbee with you in Puerto Rico. So yeah, my thinking has changed in the sense that when I started moving out of mainstream, so-called scientific thinking, I was trying to establish in my mind the connection between mind and body. And over the last four decades, I have realized, which has been obvious to great sages throughout the centuries, that there’s no system of thought that can access truth or reality. Whether it’s a scientific system of thought, a mathematical system of thought, or quantum physics – none of these systems of thought can give us the experience of reality, because reality is beyond thought.
Reality is inconceivable to the mind. These systems of thought – even scientific ones – create only models of reality, not reality. And we have faith in them because once we understand the model, we can create technology. We can create jet planes, bombs, and mechanized death, Internet, and all the wonderful things. We think science gives us access to reality, but even science is an activity in something that is not mind, that is not matter. For lack of a better word, it’s a field of awareness – it’s what the great sages call brahman. The universe is a modified form of that. Your mind, your body, and the universe out there are all conceived, constructed, and governed by a non-local, inconceivable, dimensionless reality that is not in space and time.
This is very difficult for the modern person to grasp. But since we are talking about ancient wisdom traditions, if you read the Yoga Vashishta [an ancient Indian text], it says brahman is that which cannot be seen but without which there is no seeing, that which cannot be perceived but without which there is no perception, that which cannot be imagined but without which there is no imagination, creativity, insight, intuition, choice. Everything that we call “reality” comes from an inconceivable, dimensionless, non-local domain, which is not in space-time. You know, when Lord Krishna talks about it – “water cannot wet it; wind cannot dry it; weapons cannot shatter it; fire cannot burn it: it’s ancient, it’s unborn, it’s not subject to death.” That’s inconceivable to the mind, but it’s experiential when you settle into awareness, when you settle into being, when you settle into existence, which is called as satchitananda or tatvamasi. That’s not an intellectual experience – that’s a transcendent experience. I’ll stop there.
Moderator: Sadhguru, you come at it from knowing. Tell us how your own thinking has changed.
Sadhguru: I cannot say much about thought because most of the time, I don’t have much thought. For me, the phenomenon of life that is happening within me always overwhelms everything else. Thought occurs to me only when I want to physically do something or arrange something around me – otherwise, days on end will pass for me without a single thought. People ask me, “What has been your sadhana?” My only sadhana has been that right from my childhood, I never got identified with anything – neither with the family nor the culture, religion, society, or any other things around me. Whether it was my parents or my siblings – I was involved with them but never identified with anyone or anything.
If your intelligence does not tie itself down with identity, every human being is capable of realizing the nature of life. When I say intelligence, as Deepak pointed out, it is beyond the thought process. Unfortunately, because of the type of education systems we have today, we are completely committed to one dimension of our intelligence, which we call intellect, which is just the thought process. Thought can only happen with the data that you have gathered through the five senses, which is very limited. Another thing is the nature of data that the senses gather is only useful for survival. The very nature of how you see things, how you hear, smell, taste, and touch life, is only relevant for survival. If you want to know life itself, then these instruments of perception are no good.
Nature has opened up our sense perception as it is necessary for our survival. Similarly, it has opened up sense perceptions for different creatures as it is necessary for their survival. If survival is all you are seeking, the five senses are good enough. But once you have come as a human being, somehow survival is not good enough. If your stomach is empty, there’s only one issue – food. But once the stomach becomes full, you have a hundred issues going on. The nature of the human being is such, no matter what you do, you want to be something more than what you are right now. And if that “something more” happens, again you will want something more – it’s an endless pursuit. Somewhere, a human being is seeking limitless expansion but trying to do it with physical means.
The very nature of physicality is a defined boundary. If there is no defined boundary, there is no possibility of anything physical happening in the universe. But now, a human being is longing for the boundless – that too in installments, and through physical means. Through the boundary, you are trying to become boundless. The desire is fantastic, the method is hopeless, because the moment you identify with something, your intellect works to protect that identity. Whatever you identify yourself with – whether it is a nation, family, gender, race, religion, or anything else – your intellect will only function around this identity. Any identity is a certain type of prejudice. So the one thing I did is, I never identified myself with anything, and life exploded within me in ways that thoughts seem so puny that I do not indulge in them most of the time.
Thinking is just a recycling of the data that you have already gathered. If you get it right now, your life will transform in ways that you can’t imagine possible. Otherwise, some day, you will get it from the maggots. Then you will see you don’t belong to anything!
Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the ebook “Of Mystics and Mistakes”, available on Isha Downloads.