The Messy-onic Tradition, part 1: Deepak and his BS (Best-sellers)…

Author’s note: I was seriously thinking about pulling this post which is somewhat satirical about Deepak Chopra, and depositing it without ceremony into the circular ‘delete’ file, UNTIL… until I saw that Mr. Chopra himself would be guest DJ on my favorite radio station KCRW out in LA, so I figured I’d wait and pass judgment after that, and…

Deepak Chopra just played ‘Rising Sun’ by George Harrison as Guest DJ on KCRW; seems not only was this song a gift from George to Deepak, which Chopra donated to the estate posthumously, but the lyrics are taken from chapter titles of one of Chopra’s books! Cool. Nice story, regardless of what you think of Chopra…

It seems that Mr. Chopra is most inspired my musicians who are his fans, and their music, including, besides George Harrison, such luminaries as Michael Jackson—okay. Then there’s ‘The Way We Were’ by Barbara Streisand—hmmm, but “Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini?” So, I changed my mind about dumping the post. Roll the presses…

So here’s the deal: when some of my Facebook fiends (!) started passing around the meme about the Deepak Chopra-inspired ‘New Age BS generator’, in which a computer program produces Chopra-like tweets on demand, I too joined in on the bash-fest—me, who tries hard to be equanimous, if not magnanimous. And I’m sorry, mostly because I’d never even read the gentleman’s stuff, so that’s not fair. I am aware of a tendency in much New-Age-speak to load the jargon down with excess gobbledygook, though…

…and that’s okay, if that’s what you want, as one function of any religion, philosophy or treatment is to make you feel good, about yourself and about your life and your predicament. But that’s not really what I want—I want Truth—and I certainly don’t want anyone to think that Buddhism is like that or that my interest in it ultimately boils down to such slippery talk that ultimately evades the issues of truth, health and happiness that lead people to New Age-y treatments and religion, either or both, in the first place…

So I started to read one of his tomes, “The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: Seven Keys to Joy and Enlightenment,” to be exact, simply because that’s one that was readily available to me as an e-book. I have no idea what his best-sellers are, but I’d assume that any e-book would likely be, since most are NOT available in that format, at least not free in library-sponsored ‘overdrive’. All of which is to say that I assume that this book is representative of the man’s work. And surprise surprise: it’s not gobbledygook, not all of it anyway…

And by gobbledygook I mean such statements as: “You and I are beings of the totality; we realize that this life is nothing short of an ennobling fusion of life-affirming conscious living, and that innocence is an ingredient of unbridled energy”–author unknown, but you get the idea. This should make you feel good, but not me, not especially, since it really explains absolutely nothing. And apparently Chopra has his share of this kind of New-Age-speak, but that’s not all I found. I found much dubious advice, though, and no shortage of fantasy…

It starts with the first sentence: “The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness.” Now I’m sure Chopra is very proud of that statement, but it’s flawed on many levels. First it assumes that life HAS a purpose. People have purposes, various and sundry, but I don’t know that life does. Secondly it assumes that happiness is the paradigm for life, and thirdly, that more and more of it is all we need for fulfillment; sounds simple, BUT…

Is this really what life is all about? That may be Hindu belief, or Hindu-related, or more likely Christian, but it’s certainly not Buddhist, which posits suffering as the universal predicament of life, and avoidance of it our primary task, to which I agree. Happiness, and especially ‘bliss’, seems to be a Western obsession. And to achieve this Chopra has ‘seven keys’, which I also object to on principle, as it reads like bad travel writing, as if there couldn’t be eight, or even nine, like so, to be specific:

Be aware of your body. Find true self-esteem. De-toxify your life. Give up being right. Focus on the present. See the world in yourself. Live for enlightenment.” Wow! It’s hard to argue with any of that, but what exactly does it mean? What should I do? You read it and tell me. I’m still not sure. In all fairness, this is a specialty of many priests, teachers, motivational speakers and philosophers, to keep the message, if there is one, vague enough to cover many varied situations, i.e. talk a lot without really saying very much…

And it gets pretty thick at times: “Your true being is connected to all that exists…It has no limitations…It has infinite creativity…It is fearless, and willing to step into the unknown…consciousness (is) vibrating at the level of love…you cannot hide your true feelings from your breathing…ecstasy is my primordial energy state…happiness will heal the world,” etc. And the list of vague catch-phrase entities is almost endless: the ego, ego self, true self, eternal now, etc., BUT…

It’s not all gobbledygook, and certainly not ‘random bullshit’, more like wishful thinking. As with many excitable boys and motivational speakers, there is made no distinction between empirical fact and useful metaphor, which are entirely different things. The part I liked best is the admonition to “give up being right,” yes, which can’t be said too often, in my humble opinion. The good news is that at least he didn’t get started on quantum physics. But enough for now on Deepak, moving on to Eckhart…

To be continued…