Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from The Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 15, 2004, with the headline, “New Age Icon Helps Kids Explore Big Questions—On his book tours, best-selling author and spiritual icon Deepak Chopra usually draws throngs of fans. But his most recent book tour through New York City drew just a few dozen readers to each store. He’s not worried, though. Chopra is passionate about bringing his philosophy and spiritual ideas to a new audience.
“Fire in the Heart: A Spiritual Guide for Teens, released earlier this month, targets children 12 and older. ‘When I give my lectures and workshops, I see more and more kids coming up and asking me questions,’ said Chopra. ‘I write about very complex things. And I wanted to make them simple without making them simplistic. I hope I did it.’
“Chopra has written more than 40 books on spirituality and alternative medicine. His books have sold more than 20 million copies in 20 years, but Fire in the Heart is his first book for teens. The story revolves around two characters, Chopra at age 15, and a wise old teacher named Baba. Over four days of dialog and adventure, Baba leads Chopra through an exploration of four questions: 1) Do I have a soul? 2) How do wishes come true 3) What is the supreme force in the universe? And 4) How can I change the world?
“Baba teaches the young Chopra that every person has a soul that is connected to a supreme life force, sometimes called ‘spirit,’ or ‘god,’ running throughout all creation.
“Chopra hopes that his book will reach kids before they become jaded. ‘It’s really important to send those messages to our children,’ he said, ‘before they get hypnotized by society.’
“One of Baba’s central challenges to the young Chopra is a rethinking of the notion of evil. ‘Evil,’ teaches Baba, ‘is not an absolute or cosmic force. It’s a slippery concept that changes over time and place.’
“ ‘I think if you’re a fundamentalist in any religion, then, yes, you will find this material threatening,’ said Chopra. ‘But not,’ he said, ‘if you have a good understanding of the wisdom in your religion and where that religion comes from.’”
Tom: Dave, you know, we’ve been looking at Hinduism, eastern mysticism, the New Age, for years and years and years. And all you need is a cursory look at the countries that promote Hinduism and look at where they are, and it’s really sad. It’s grievous.
Now, our teens—of course, this has to be homogenized, all these beliefs, in a Western—put in a Western package to be attractive to our kids, but, it’s a sad, sad state.
Dave: You know, in the ‘60s, the drug addicts, drug users, went to Goa Beach, there in India. And the gurus that they began to worship—what were they? Guys that drank urine, or you had to drink their urine. They were such wretched creatures. You had Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh—Bhagwan means “god…”
Tom: Right. Of course, if you were meaning Antelope, Oregon…
Dave: Oh yes, sorry. Here we’re sitting here in Oregon. Not too far from here you had Babamuktananda. They’ve come and gone. Majarishi Mahesh Yogi is still hanging in there, trying to teach people to levitate, to “fly,” they call it. Flying. Well, some guys are able to get a couple inches off the floor by the way they move their…
Tom: Right. Muscle reflexes.
Dave: Their…their legs. But I notice Maharishi still uses airplanes, and he still uses helicopters. He still has to have an umbrella over his head to keep the rain off, as does the Dalai Lama, okay?
But, Tom, we don’t have time to go into this whole thing. It’s sad. It’s unbelievable. It doesn’t work! But let’s just look at what he says at the end. He said, “Yeah, fundamentalists of any religion will find this material threatening.”
No, I’m a fundamentalist, and I don’t find it threatening. I’m a fundamentalist when it comes to math: 2 + 2 is 4—always was, always will be, okay? I’m a fundamentalist when it comes to accounting—I’m a CPA—or whatever it is! You ought to be a fundamentalist. If it’s true, you ought to go by the fundamentals of it, all right?
But he says, “But if you have a good understanding of the wisdom of your religion, and where that religion comes from, then you won’t be threatened.”
Now, wait a minute! How can you understand the wisdom of a religion and not be a fundamentalist? If the wisdom of the religion is true, you’ve got to be a fundamentalist, right? And then he says, “And where that religion comes from…” Well, he’s implying that all religions come from the same place. But that’s not possible, because the Hindus, for example, have 330 million gods; the Muslims, they say one god, and they are against idolatry, whereas the Hindus are bowing down worshiping these idols. And in Christianity, we have a Trinity. And Buddhism—God doesn’t really exist.
So to say that they all come from the same place, and that the wisdom of all of them is the same—Tom, the man is teaching nonsense, I’m sorry, and it doesn’t work. He claims that, like the Dalai Lama, that you can create your own universe with your mind, and he tries to make this work—most of his books have been written about health, and by mind power, you’re going to become healthier; you’re going to live forever. Well, he will die; he will have some illness; old age will get him—it won’t work. All of these people who have said—following Hinduism, that ii’s maia. It’s an illusion. We create it with our own minds. I don’t care whether it’s Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, or Robert Schuller’s Possibility Thinking, which they both said was the same as faith. No, that’s not faith. Faith is in God. God is in charge of this universe, and we can’t believe that God will do it unless we know it’s His will. And we want God to be in charge.
But Deepak Chopra is trying to put man in charge. They’re trying to make each one of us a little “god.” The problem is, we don’t all have the same goals, and our interests and our ambitions come in conflict with one another, and until we all submit to the one true God, it’s not going to work, Tom. And there will be no peace.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, it’s sad—he says he wants to get this message to kids before they get hypnotized by society. Well, what he’s preaching and promoting, as you just said, is maia—is illusion. It’s delusion. And see, our kids, they started off—I’m showing my age here—but I still think of kids having been into Star Wars. Well, wait a minute. People into Star Wars are in their 30s and 40s, going back to the original ones. But this is a promotion of a lie—the lie—that we’re gods.
Dave: Exactly. And there are…I would agree with them. There are problems with society, and it does bring the wrong ideas to our young people. But what he’s giving them is not going to be the cure; it’s going to make it worse.