My name is Brad and I subscribe to Deepak Chopra’s Twitter feed.
I don’t even really “get” Twitter. I’m not sure just what you’re supposed to do with it. The best stuff I’ve seen there has been funny one-liners like Shit My Dad Says or my friend Precious Veal. She’s a hoot!
A lot of “spiritual” type guys are on Twitter these days throwing out little sound bytes of spirituality. But I doubt there’s anything truly worthwhile in the realm of spiritual practice that can be reduced to 140 characters.
Of course, having said that I also have to mention that there is a tradition in Zen of so-called “turning words.” These are short phrases that, when heard by just the right person at just the right time, have a profound effect. One such phrase that often gets quoted is, “From birth to death it’s just like this.” A lot of the koans end with “turning words.” For me, hearing the phrase “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” really blew my head right off when I was about 18 years old.
But I seriously doubt that a Twitter feed is the best way to disseminate “turning words.” It’s not like those ancient Zen guys subscribed to a service that would sling random “turning words” at them from multiple sources of varying quality at a rate of four to six an hour popping up on their cell phones among fart jokes from drive time DJs and news about Paris Hilton’s latest Brazilian wax job. It was a different sort of thing altogether.
I’ve responded to a couple of Deepak’s tweets already. But one came up last night that I think really needs to be addressed in detail.
Right at the outset I want to emphasize that this is not about the man Mr. Deepak Chopra himself. It’s about what he tweeted. It’s not even about everything he tweets. It’s about this one specific tweet. I don’t know enough about Mr. Chopra to criticize him as a human being or even as a brand. I know he’s got a comic book series and a bunch of TV shows and even a video game. As dubious as the spiritual applications of these things seem to me, I’m not even all that fussed about them. If someone wanted to make a graphic novel or a video game out of Hardcore Zen, I’d probably do it. So this isn’t about that.
It’s about what Mr. Chopra says in his tweet. And what he says is this:
When you reach pure awareness you will have no problems, therefore there will be no need for solutions.
Let’s analyze that for a minute.
When (in the future, not now) you (who exist now and will continue to exist in the future) reach (whatever you imagine to be) pure awareness you (who exist now and will continue to exist in the future) will have (in the future) no problems (for your self), therefore there will be (in the future, not now) no need for (you to have) solutions (and won’t that be wonderful, over there, past that hill, just out of sight, let me sell you a way to get there).
If it were only Deepak Chopra who believed this, it wouldn’t really matter much. But this is how pretty much everyone approaches meditation practice and it’s why meditation practice seems to fail those people. It is certainly how I myself thought of practice for a very long time. I wanted something for myself. I might have even thought of what I wanted to get in terms of “pure awareness.” I read enough shitty books that used shitty phrases like that.
There is no pure awareness for you.
That might sound harsh. But really it’s not. What you are can never enter that place. Because you are the subject that sees things in terms of objects. Joshu Sasaki put it like this in his book Buddha is the Center of Gravity; “The God that is standing in front of you as an object says, ‘I am your God.’ But he is not. Even if that God has great power, he is not the real God.”
Pure awareness, whatever that is, or God (my preferred term), cannot be the object of you, cannot be the possession of you, it isn’t in your future, it isn’t something you can ever possibly reach. It will not solve all of your problems. It couldn’t even if it wanted to. It’s a fantastic dream that can never come true.
This doesn’t mean everything is bleak and horrible and hopeless. It just means that approaching it in terms of you and the things you want to get cannot possibly work. It can’t work precisely because thinking of things in terms of you and what you want to get is exactly the thing that blocks it.
The attitude expressed in Mr. Chopra’s tweet sits right at the very epicenter of where things have gone wrong for mankind. It is the source of all of our troubles. The solution to what’s wrong in the world is not some distant dream of pure awareness. It’s the understanding that what exists right now is pure awareness, is God, whether you know it or not. We, who seek to know it and possess it, are the very thing that makes it so hard to understand that.
A couple of blogs ago Broken Yogi made a comment that, “Brad is mixing categories. I can’t pole vault 18 feet like a top Olympic athlete, but I doubt that athlete would call me physically ill because I can’t do that… Likewise, I’m not enlightened, but I’m not spiritually lame either.”
In response I said something like, “Enlightenment (I hate that word) isn’t like pole vaulting 18 feet. It’s more like walking to the bathroom, if we were to continue that analogy. Most people, instead of walking to the bathroom, which (let’s say) just happens to be 18 feet away instead try to pole vault to the bathroom. And they can’t do it because the ceiling is too low. Yet they try anyway and keep injuring themselves. The pole keeps breaking, they keep hitting their heads, they keep beating themselves up over not being able to do it, and they still have to pee. The only thing an enlightened person (I hate that term) does differently is that she walks straight to the bathroom, does her business and then goes back to bed.”
Enlightenment or pure awareness or God or whatever isn’t some complicated thing we have to chase after far, far away. It’s the chasing itself that gets in our way. We wear ourselves out running in circles to try to arrive at the place we already are.