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     Sep 10, 2005

Timeless wisdom, heedless world
Peace is the Way. Bringing War and Violence to an End by Deepak Chopra Buy this book

Reviewed by Sreeram Chaulia

Deepak Chopra needs no introduction. The most famous New Age guru who brought back community and spirit to our decadent times, he is read, quoted and followed by millions worldwide. In his latest writing venture, the Indian-born, US-based celebrity doctor goes beyond faith healing and alternative medicine to the greatest scourge of history - war. This optimistic how-to guide to peace couples metaphysical nuggets with psychological case studies. It reinstates humanistic truths in a climate of terror and counter-terror.

To end war, the idea and habit of war have to be eschewed. War has worn a groove on American minds - a secret pleasure that brings excitement and pumps up the adrenalin. Although the 20th century took more than 100 million lives in violent conflict, Americans still think war does some good. Chopra's substitute is the way of peace, conscious evolution to "love in action", one person at a time. War begins in the human heart and can only
end there. If we can demonstrate that peace is more satisfying than war, collective consciousness will shift, because "society takes a direction that the individual wants". (p 5)

Adventure, power and expansion are primary values in life, all of which are better serviced by peace than war. The world may be constructed on greed and fear, but intimidating blocks are unsustainable. If one enters the realm of peace, consciousness expands without having to invade and occupy other countries. Ancient Vedic texts demonstrate how peace uplifts the perceiver and brings unique satisfactions of having no enemies.

Chopra's personalized practicum to attaining a peaceful conscience runs as follows: free up emotions to feel the anguish of war survivors; relate to others non-violently and bond with mutual trust; love and respect the environment with awareness; give up outworn militarized ways and encourage evolutionary impulses; relinquish grievances and send out forgiveness; offer help without expecting gratitude or recognition.

Dehumanizing and demonizing the "other" is propaganda "so that more of 'them' can be killed with a clear conscience". (p 33) Chopra nudges seekers to get out of the trap of separation, bringing otherness to closure. Echoing the Advaita Hindu philosophy, he urges us to "escape the divisions that duality imposes". (p 48) Instead of blaming victims (eg "they deserved to be bombed"), we should look inward to discover our own darker sides. To be liberated at the level of soul and reclaim the hijacked part of our identities, "examine the layers of false identity" that we mistakenly call "us" and keep unraveling until the core gets closer.

Toxic nationalism keeps Americans in the grip of unreality. A society dominated by the military, where arms outstrip culture, is "the opposite of freedom". (p 58) Chopra asks his fellow countrymen to sidestep rationalist hegemony and "realize who you really are" through technologies of peace such as spoon-bending, telekinesis, magic, healing and clairvoyance.

One of the core beliefs in arms buildups is the masculine illusion that military might is essential for feeling secure in a dangerous world. Old realist beliefs persist in the age of record defense budgets and depleted uranium weapons. Chopra logically argues how "American militarism is utterly futile and useless against terrorists." (p 87)

Notions of efficiency, rationality and free markets have disrespected Mother Nature. If we abandon the claim of conquerors, the universe freely offers gifts and bounties. Chopra holds reason and objectivity responsible for the hellish machinery of war. They disconnect people from emotions, instincts, feelings and intuition by shutting off and condemning the lower brain's nobler functions.

Chopra's golden preaching is to overcome rigid scientific prejudices and learn to access the soul, which lies deeper than anger and hate. "Pay attention to messages that come from some place deeper than the superficial layer of personality and ego." (p 120) As divisions between outer and inner melt, pure consciousness will spring into action. Sharing the consciousness with others, as practiced in the Indian tradition of Satsang, ignites the highest purpose and constructs an ideal peace movement.

Memory keeps long-held resentments inflamed. It occludes new information and holds old rages captive until they fester. Chopra advises the victimized to follow Mahatma Gandhi's manner of inner guidance to "integrate old hurts and new experiences". (p 131) If we choose the intent to forgive and heal, new energies come in. We must patiently discard masks and be willing to be touched by beauty and truth.

Chopra rues the impotence of the churches in the US to bring war to an end. More believers are convinced that "God supports war and is on the side of America." They avoid self-confrontation, judge others outside the Christian faith as sinners and claim to be on the one and only correct path. In the least evolved state of consciousness, God appears harsh, unyielding and vengeful. In the next stage, He is comfortable with violence to secure land, money and power for the "chosen ones". In stage three, He is kind and lenient but does not welcome humans as "co-creators of their own reality". The God of stage four is a mysterious presence who is revealed through insight, but cannot resolve war because believers are detached from others. The stage five God is a pure creator unable to change the world. In stage six, God is grace personified and has vehicles in the form of saints and visionaries. At the capstone of evolution, God loses attributes and presides over a completely unified world that is beyond opposites. This state is described in the Rig Veda as one where "no one is ever at war with anyone else". (p 168)

Chopra addresses peacemakers not to ignore the inhuman cruelty of jihadis. Terrorists create a false sense of self as virtuous and utopian due to ideology. A rival brand of ideology has arisen in the form of fundamental Christianity. Both show no mercy in the holy war to wipe out "evil". In the absence of distorting authorities and ideologies, "the natural course of awareness is deep need for love". (p 185) Love will endure much longer than terrorism.

The current style of diplomatic negotiations comes in for criticism from Chopra. Opponents pretend to be friends across the table but remain enemies in their hearts with no fundamental respect for each other. Genuine forgiveness, of the sort that Japan displayed for the US since World War II, has healing power. It clears the obstacles that prevent love from coming through and establishes an emotional comfort-level based on trust.

Hope for peace has often been a cloak for violence. Chopra insists that war and pummeling adversaries to submission never yield real peace. Violence "pollutes the emotional body" to imagine dangers and threats everywhere. Wars are in fact "eruptions from the unconscious" loaded with fear and anger. Contrary to the likening of homo sapiens to beasts, humans are not hard-wired to go to war. Sharing, altruism and other higher emotions are very much present in us and actually have survival benefits. Compassion is the innate quality that could save humanity from mechanized death and violence. The body at peace is less burdened with random uncontrollable stress and has stronger immune systems. The key is to "find a spiritual center, a core, and hold on to it". (p208)

At the bottom, a violent person is hopeless, living in an environment where hopelessness is a daily fact. Only a form of suffering can motivate someone to desperate measures. Chopra offers real hope founded on "self-knowledge". It uncovers denial, inspires an end to apathy or emotional numbness, and assists in relating to the world through soul rather than trauma. Absolute consciousness is connecting to pure being. Our task is to find "the timeless region, that seed ground beyond right and wrong, where you add to the peace of the world". (p 235)

Devoid of claims to originality of thought, Chopra has masterfully distilled timeless wisdom in this easily comprehensible book that proposes alternatives to activist and humanitarian approaches to peace. To the heedless world, the endorsement I can humbly submit is: read it and be transformed.

Peace is the Way. Bringing War and Violence to an End by Deepak Chopra. Random House, London, 2005. ISBN: 1-8441-3019-3. Price: US$23, 264 pages.

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