PW met with Deepak Chopra in a conference room in his apartment building on Manhattan's West Side.
PW: In your new book [Peace Is the Way], you encourage people to find a deeper self, an individuality that is based on an awareness of our common humanity.
Deepak Chopra: I think individuality is a socially induced illusion. What we call an individual is a pattern of behavior comprised of where you were born, the values and religious beliefs of the family that raised you. In fact it is based on the entire history of your culture, race, religion and economy. What we call a person is actually an inter-being-ness.
Is there individuality in another sense? Doesn't it take strength of character or conscience or something to question the status quo, to seek a better way to live?
You know what that something is? It's the total dismal failure of the old way of thinking. The very way our technology is moving will make the whole notion of supremacy through military might obsolete. Ten years from now, you could use something like this [points to his Blackberry] to interfere with the power grid of New York. The new technology that we're evolving is actually showing us how interconnected we are. The only means to supremacy will be cultural and economic strength.
What would you do if you were President Bush?
I would go on TV and give a state of the world address. I would say, "I'm here to ask your help." It takes a great man to express vulnerability. I would get all the belligerence and ideology out of the way and show humility. I would start talking about how we can economically co-develop to a new kind of strength that removes some of the disparities in the world. That would be a real beginning.
What can the rest of us do?
We have to realize that we can't keep living like the feudal lord who got very rich and lived a wasteful life and exploited all the people in the village until there was a revolution and he was taken to the guillotine. Then we have to start small, with our family and friends. We can create peace communities that can link in cyberspace and support one another. Public opinion will ultimately shift policy and policy will ultimately shift the behavior of corporations and governments.
Do you think of yourself as a spiritual teacher or leader?
I don't know what I consider myself to be. I'm good at writing books and inspiring people.
There is a deeply held belief that spiritual teachers should take a vow of poverty.
Well my money comes from selling my books in the same way that Michael Crichton's money comes from selling his books. There's no difference.
Except that in his latest book [State of Fear], Crichton sets out to disprove global warming.
[Laughs] I've heard that. There's no difference between me and any other writer. I'm not writing pornography or spreading the gospel of global warming. I'm not ever going to apologize for being successful as a writer. I love to write.
Why do you think war and violence are so compelling?
When there isn't an authentic source of exaltation, we seek it through addiction to adrenaline, which is what this violence is all about.
Doesn't jihad in its original sense refer to the internal effort to evolve that you describe in the book?
It originally referred to the ruthlessness with which you slay the ego. Having said that, in all honesty, I think all religion is primitive, divisive, quarrelsome and idiotic.
Do you really think the way of peace would be better served by the end of religion?
I don't think it's kept up with cosmology, evolutionary biology, everything we know about biology.
Is there a more enlightened way to be Christian or Buddhist or Muslim that would better serve our survival?
But why? Why is it necessary to be Buddhist or Christian or Jewish? Why is it necessary to have a tribal identity?
I just want people to give peace a try. We could create a network of peace cells around the world. If the terrorists do their work by creating terrorist cells, why can't we create peace cells? We can't go wrong. The least we will do is create peace in our families and communities.