An Interview with
Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Author of “The Angel Is Near”
By Maryel McKinley, Ph.D., C.A.D.C.
When I found out I had been given the honor and privilege to interview Dr. Deepak Chopra face to face at his office in La Jolla, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. However, how does one prepare for such an interview? I had read most of his books, (he has written more than 25 books translated into 35 languages and has more than 100 audio, video and CD ROM titles) including “Quantum Healing”, “Perfect Health”, “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind”, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”, “The Path to Love”, “Return of the Rishi”, “The Way of the Wizard”, and his most recent, “How to Know God” and “The Angel is Near”. I had been invited to his Satsangs, and seen him numerous times on TV, so I can honestly say that I was thrilled to have this opportunity.
Deepak has graced the covers of many magazines including Time magazine that heralded him as one of the Top 100 Heroes and Icons of the Century and credited him as: “The poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” Further research showed me that when Deepak received the Citation of the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic Award by the Pio Manzu International Scientific community, Mikhail Gorbachev stated that “Author and renowned physician, Deepak Chopra is undoubtedly one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time.” Furthermore, Deepak has been given accolades by President, Bill Clinton, who said “Deepak Chopra is the pioneer of alternative medicine” further crediting him with enriching our country.
Additionally, Deepak’s popularity as an international presenter and keynote speaker are exemplified in an impressive list of honorariums. As keynote speaker, he appeared at the inauguration of the State of the World Forum, hosted by Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Peace and Human Progress Foundation, founded by the former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Prize winner, Oscar Rias. Esquire Magazine designated him as one of the Top Ten Motivational Speakers in the country, and in 1995 he joined the distinguished company of President, Nelson Mandela, congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, Tom Peters and Garrison Keillor as a recipient of the Toastmasters International Top Five Outstanding Speakers Award. He participates annually at the update in Internal Medicine, an event sponsored by Harvard Medical School, Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 1997.
Deepak’s mission of ‘bridging the technological miracles of the west with the wisdom of the east’ has brought him to the forefront of the evolution of medicine, as we know it in the new millennium. As a matter of fact, his holiness, the Shankarcharya of Jyortirmath (keeper of Vedic knowledge), has said of Deepak’s work bringing Ayurvedic medicine to the west as: “The most noble-action-oriented, engaged in auspicious activities, brilliant, spreading the light of knowledge like a lamp. May you continue this noble work you have initiated to promote the Vedic knowledge.” This is a man whom the Dalai Lama has committed to being present at his workshop for the public that will be going to India in November. What does one ask when interviewing such a great world-renowned Doctor, Scholar, Seer, Rishi, Leader? I’ll tell you, It was a humbling experience. Although I have interviewed very well known authors and healers of important international status, nothing in my experience prepared me for this.
However, something magical happened when I entered his office. It was as though I had just been reconnected with a beloved relative I hadn’t seen in several lifetimes. He reached across the desk and put his hand on my face and I did the same, as though a reunion between dear family members. What a warm and inviting welcome. What an experience and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do.
Who is the real Deepak Chopra? Deepak’s answer to the question was quite enlightening, as you will read in the forthcoming interview. He is the most humble and present being I have been privileged to be in contact with. This is a man with no pretense.
Let me regress. As a journalist, I always like to come “bearing gifts” to honor those whom I interview, but until now I have been interviewing only women for my “Women With Wings Series”. I asked a close spiritual mentor: “What does one bring a man who has everything?” She gently reminded me “Maryel, go to chapter 3 in Deepak’s book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”. Remember Deepak speaks of bearing gifts, even if it is a flower.” So I ordered the most beautiful flower arrangement I could, stating that it was for a very spiritual man and I asked for one rose to be specially wrapped for Caroline Rangell, his press secretary. She was so kind and loving as she invited my husband and me into Deepak’s office, and I was comfortable immediately. Her loving presence assured me that all would be well.
As I introduced Deepak to my husband, he thanked me for the flowers offered as a gift to him in gratitude for granting me this interview. He apologized for the mess in his office, but all I could see was the trapping of a genius at work. Books on the desk, important papers that might hold the secrets to the universe lay gently on the large solid desk, a huge computer screen displaying the Chopra website.
There were pictures of holy men on the wall, and many well-read books on the bookshelves. This was not a mess; it was a creative space that was pure heaven for a journalist of my small stature to be exposed to. So this is where the pearls of wisdom flow from his 7th chakra onto the pages that end up in the magnificent books he produces year after year. My mission on this assignment is to find out about his latest book, “The Angel Is Near” as this is the annual Angel issue for Awareness magazine. Who better to grace the cover of Awareness Magazine’s Angel issue than the Angel of Ayurveda himself, Dr. Deepak Chopra?
What amazed me, was that his response was so gentle, so humble. I found myself talking in a soft, slow tone, as if I must be highly respectful, carefully choosing each word to make it count. It seems that my normal ‘persona’, the bright fast-talking, confident and colorful Maryel slipped away into a calm space. This really took me off guard, as I realized at that moment how I am accustomed to using my personality to engage the energy of those I interview. Stripped of ego, I felt I was in unfamiliar ground, but strangely I was ok with this. Deepak has a way of cutting through the veil and getting to the essence of the matter.
There is a passage in Deepak’s book “The Return of the Rishi” — when Deepak first met the Maharishi — which completely emulated my experience and how I felt at that moment: If you replace the word Maharishi for Deepak in the following passage, it could have been written by me, as I experienced exactly what follows:
“His manner was quite simple, but at the same time, as he chatted with us, one could not imagine paying attention to anyone else. At a point very early in our meeting, I noticed that my own attention, exposed to his, had become very concentrated. And without effort, my mind had fallen silent. No thoughts moved through it, and there wasn’t the usual ricochet of stray impressions — just silence. This seemed an extraordinary pleasant state to be in, because I felt completely unselfconscious. It didn’t usually cross my mind that I carried the weight of my own self-consciousness until that moment, when it dropped off. I felt no desire to look important or to impress Maharishi (Deepak). There are seekers in India who wander naked all their lives. They have renounced everything, including clothes. They call themselves sky clad. At that moment I was sky clad and not embarrassed.”
I wish to thank the universe for recreating this experience in my interaction with Deepak, as though passed down from Maharishi through Deepak, and I pray one day I will reach the point where I might be evolved enough to impart this gift to another. However, for a journalist it can be detrimental to lose consciousness and have a quiet mind. After the interview, I realized there were so many more important questions I wished to ask him, and when I asked later if we could do a follow up phone interview, he revealed to me that he was leaving for the White House the next day! All I can say is I hope I served the readers of Awareness well, and I hope I utilized my time in such a way that if just one person out there is helped by this article, then I will have done my job.
Maryel: How did you come up with the idea for the story line of your remarkable new novel, “The Angel is Near” (readers see review on page 6)
Deepak: I finished “How to Know God”, and some of the concepts I thought could be simplified and expressed through the angel’s voice. I had previously done “The Lords of Light” and this is a natural sequel to that.
Maryel: I loved “Lords of Light”! Are you going to do a sequel to “The Angel is Near”?
Deepak: I think so. I think it’s going to be an ongoing series.
Maryel: Good! I liked the character Michael who was in both books. With “How to Know God” I know you explain that there are 7 levels to experience God in the brain. If you don’t mind telling me, at what levels or level do you experience God? (The seven stages as described in “How to Know God” are: 1. God the protector (Fight or Flight response) 2. God the Almighty (reactive response) 3. God of Peace (Restful Awareness response) 4. God the redeemer ( Intuitive response) 5. God the Creator ( Creative response) 6. God of miracles Visionary response) 7. God of pure being — I am ( Sacred response)
Deepak: I think everybody experiences all the 7 stages occasionally, because as you go to the next level, the previous level is still there. You transcend and include the previous level so it’s not that you are never totally in the reactive mode for example. (stage 2) You are in it but more selectively and more appropriately.
Maryel: To be more appropriately in the reactive mode — yes I can relate to that. I like to stay out of the reactive mode as much as possible though. I prefer to choose a course of action rather than reacting. I guess you can say that is an appropriate way of responding!
Deepak: But sometimes you need to be in the reactive mode.
Maryel: So true! You spoke of an experience you had when you were in the 7th level. (Sacred response) Can you tell us about that?
Deepak: It was in the Himalayas where we went to a cave which is known as vishistas cave. It is supposed to be a cave where the great seer, Sage Vshiista spent a lot of time in ancient times 6,000 years ago. The tradition is that no one has ever whispered a word in this cave, so no sound has ever been uttered in the cave. It is total silence. When I went into the cave, my internal dialogue stopped completely. I was there for a very long time in the darkness. When I finally opened my eyes, I had no idea how long it was; it was a long time, but of course I was in a timeless place. I realized there was a monk who had been sitting in meditation all along. At first I thought he was a statue, but actually he had been there all along in Samadhi, in stillness, and I kind of felt I had invaded his territory so I left. But it was an amazing experience.
Maryel: That is amazing, so amazing, I feel like I operate a lot on the creative level, the intuitive and manifestation level. I believe maybe one time I might have touched the 7th level. The night before I graduated with my Ph.D. I was in a lot of emotional pain from something that had unexpectedly occurred, so I chose to go into deep meditation. The result was a profound experience. I experienced being one with the universe, I felt like I was the universe and each other person was their own universe, but somehow we were all in our own evolutionary stages towards the same ONE Universe. It’s difficult to put into words. It was the most astounding thing. I believe an alchemical process transformed my pain at that moment. I became a butterfly emerging from the cocoon — transformed. I lost my fear of death after that experience, as I realized how we are infinite beings. I remember that experience if my ego goes into fear and I derive great comfort from it. I would like to get to that place again!
Deepak: If you get into the habit of separating your personality from the witness behind the personality, recognizing everything that is happening around you is happening not to you but to your personality, and that you are not your personality, you will start to have that ever present witnessing awareness For example, I am not doing the interview, Deepak is doing the interview.
Maryel: Wow, right when you said that, I looked deep into your eyes and felt the separation. I felt the whole universe of you and then the personality of you simultaneously! I experienced it in a moment! May I ask what your spiritual practice looks like on a daily basis?
Deepak: I spend 2 hours in meditation daily. 1-1/2 in the morning, and 1/2 in evening. Then every three months, I take a week off with complete silence.
Maryel: Do you have a guru; do you choose to talk about that?
Deepak: Yes. I have a guru — the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath.
Maryel: Is that the man you met when you first brought Ayurveda to America?
Deepak: No — that was the Maharishi — who also had as his guru the previous Shankarachara of Jyotirmath.
Maryel: If a person wants to know more about him, how do they find out?
Deepak: He’s on our website. Let me show you. (He shows a photo) This is the man That’s my daughter, that’s my son that’s my wife and me.
Maryel: Has he written a book for the general public? Deepak: No, he is a traditional teacher. He is the custodian of Vedic knowledge.
Maryel: Have you ever experienced angels?
Deepak: You have to understand that everything is a projection. You are my projection, I am your projection, this room is our collective projection, and the whole universe is like that, a projection. So sure you can project anything you want, including angels! You are projecting the whole universe anyway!
Maryel: This reminds me two nights ago I had a dream that you and I were speaking. I was interviewing you in the dream. I saw your face in the clouds. When I woke up I don’t remember what we spoke of. It was like a telepathic communication. I guess this was my projection. I feel right now like I am in the here and now and words are not sufficient, questions are difficult for me at this moment.
Deepak: I understand.
Maryel: I know you give Primordial Sound workshops. Do you practice Primordial Sound in your meditation?
Deepak: I do primordial sound for about half of the time, and the rest I do what are called Sutra Meditations.
Maryel: Like the Yoga sutras?
Deepak: Yes, but they are the Shiva sutras.
Maryel: Oh, I love Shiva! I have the deepest respect for her. (Om Namah Shiva) What are your plans for speaking engagements in the near future?
Deepak: I do workshops across the world. We are going to India in November for a weeklong workshop, and then to Israel at the end of November.
Maryel: What are your future goals? Deepak: I am not goal oriented at all, I don’t know what I’ll do when I grow up! (Laughter)
Maryel: Do you do Vedic astrology?
Deepak: We do it here at our center. I personally think it is helpful for people to see the trends in their future. Funny enough, I have never felt the need to get my astrology chart done. I am not curious about tomorrow.
Maryel: That’s a great place to be in, have you always been like that — when you became a medical doctor did you know you would come towards this path?
Deepak: Vaguely, yes.
Maryel: How long has it been since you joined western medicine with Ayurvedic medicine?
Deepak: It has been twenty years!
Maryel: I thank you for being a visionary, I see you as a pioneer and bringing us into the millennium.
Deepak: You see Deepak as that.
Maryel: Deepak’s work, not you.
Deepak: Not me. I am independent of that.
Maryel: Tell me about that independent person. The person behind the persona.
Deepak: Well the person behind the persona is not a person. Person is a pretense. You know there is no such thing as a person, only the universe pretending to be the person in everything.
Maryel: Do you experience other people’s limitless beings?
Deepak: Yes. It is the same being; It’s not like when we say other persons being.
Maryel: — We are all one.
Deepak: Yes, there is only One Being. The personality is the different disguise for the One Being. Maryel: Do you ever have prophetic experiences or telepathic experiences? Deepak: If I want to, but I have no interest.
Maryel: Wow, you are amazing, or rather — ‘The persona of Deepak’ is amazing! You are a trip! It looks like our time together is coming to an end.
Deepak: Have you surfed our website? There is a lot of information there that might be helpful for the article — workshops, etc. ( www.chopra.com ) Maryel: Oh yes, I have been on the site many times. As a matter of fact, I love the work of Dr. David Simon, Medical Director for the Chopra Center, and Debbie Ford, transpersonal psychologist who gives workshops at the Center. I would love to have you — or rather — ‘the persona of Deepak’ as a guest on my new TV show called ‘Choices! TV for Holistic Living’. (Laughter) We are in pre-production to help raise funds for PBS. Deepak: If it is local, I would love to. That would be great! What is your Ph.D. in?
Maryel: I have a Doctor of Philosophy in Metaphysical Counseling and am a Certified Addictions Treatment Specialist and Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor in the State of California. Or Excuse me — ‘Maryel the persona’ has a specialty in addictions treatment (laughter).
Deepak: (laughter) I would love to see that material!
Maryel: I’ll get it to you. I humbly thank you for the honor and privilege of taking time from your busy day for our Awareness Magazine readers.
Deepak: Thanks so much and stay in touch. Will you and your husband join us for Satsang tonight?
Maryel: We would love too — thank you! Whenever Deepak is in town, he provides the community of La Jolla with a special night which is called Satsang, translated to mean ‘seeking the truth’ It is a forum to find truth and is free to the public. I previously had been to Satsang when Dr. Judith Orloff was the guest, and my husband and I were very excited to see who would be the guest tonight. It was best-selling author, Ken Blanchard, who spoke of Divine Leadership principles. The Satsang format includes the guest’s presentation, Deepak’s comments, and then the forum is open for questions. That night Deepak spoke of the transition out of the information age and into the age of wisdom.
Afterwards Deepak and his guest were available for book signings. Ironically, I stood in line behind a woman getting her book, “Overcoming Addictions” autographed by Deepak. As I thanked him and said goodbye, I promised I would read his work on addictions, as he had earlier promised he would read my work on the subject. I did end up reading “Overcoming Addictions” and it brought a whole new light to the treatment of this baffling disease through the approach of Ayurvedic Medicine. I believe that Ayurevedic Medicine has a lot to offer everyone, and urge the public to investigate how it can help in your health maintenance and treatment.
The impact Deepak had on me has been profound. I have found myself remembering that ‘I am that I am’. I am reminded of the ancient word for God as given to the Hebrew’s ‘Yah Weh’. I am vibrating in tune with the sound of all creation — Om. I was reminded that I am not my persona, and neither are you. I am reminded that I must walk humbly along this path of service to my fellow beings. I am reminded that it is not I who does the work but that I am merely the instrument, the vehicle. I am reminded that I must always remember ego edges God out.
I must remember to live in the Infinite Awareness of the moment so I might better fulfill my life’s purpose of selfless service to the masses through use of the media. As a member of the press I must never forget to give the credit to ALL THAT IS. The persona of Maryel is merely that, a persona. The work, the personality that is Maryel is merely the disguise. What lies inside is what lies inside all of us; there is no separation, and we are One. I must always remember that I am you, you are me, we are — I am that I am.
Thank you Deepak Chopra for reminding me of my true Self. Thank you Deepak — the persona of Deepak, the Man Deepak, the Angel of Ayurveda, The Doctor, The Sage, The Rishi, The Mystical Man of Wisdom, all the disguises that are Deepak, the Infinite Spirit that is Deepak, and that is in us all. Namaste!
Dr. Maryel McKinley can be reached for comments at (714) 396-4314 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org For further information on the Chopra Center for Well Being, contact www.chopra.com or (888) 424-6772.
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