Photo: George Burns/Harpo Inc.
Oprah: This is absolutely amazing to me, that we get to sit here together with the city of Jaipur in the background. Do you remember our first meeting, when you came on my show in 1993? At the time, people thought talking about the mind-body-spirit connection was in the woo-woo category. But you knew differently.
Deepak: Well, I had this background—this country's background. By which I mean its rich spiritual tradition. But I was also feeling intuitively just from watching my patients that there was some link between the mind and the body. Now, of course, we know from looking at brain scans that there's a direct connection. Thoughts, feelings, brain, body, even the immune system—
Oprah: It's all connected.
Deepak: All connected.
Oprah: I wanted to do this interview because you're one of the great thought leaders of our time and I'm always interested in expanding the way I look at the world. But first I want to talk about India.
Deepak: You know, a couple hundred miles from here is where I grew up.
Oprah: Does it feel like coming home? Or do you feel more at home in the United States now?
Deepak: I feel at home anywhere in the world now. But yes, when I come here, the colors and textures and fragrances evoke strong memories.
Oprah: We landed in Mumbai. I was with my goddaughter Kirby, and as we were driving in, she said, "This feels like we're in the middle of a video game—there's so much going on, you don't know where to look." So I said, "Well, you look on your side, and if you see something you think is different from my side, tell me." She was right: You can't take it all in.
Deepak: That's India. Centuries of culture. And at the same time totally contemporary. An assault on the senses. Paradox and contradiction.
Oprah: What's interesting, riding through the streets of Mumbai, the streets of Agra, the streets of Jaipur, is that even though it might feel chaotic to a foreigner, there seems to be a flow. An underlying flow of calmness. Nobody seems agitated. Nobody's yelling at each other.
Deepak: Even in the midst of poverty, there's no rage. Even in the midst of abysmal conditions sometimes. Which doesn't excuse the fact that there are more malnourished children here than in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. That's inexcusable in a country that's moving so fast in the economic sector. But you won't find rage.
Oprah: Why is that?
Deepak: Partly because no matter what has happened throughout its history, through all its trials and tribulations and its very violent past, India has been sustained by its spiritual essence.
Oprah: What is that essence? In every conversation I've had—with housewives in Mumbai, with middle-class people, upper-class, in the slums—everyone says there is an underlying consciousness of karma. That people believe in karma—that what you're putting out is going to come back. If I do something to you, the energy of it is going to come back to me in the future.
Deepak: A child in India grows up with the idea that you have to make choices that will create a better future. In fact, your whole life is a continuum of choices, so the more conscious you are, the greater your life will be. People live that, yes.
Oprah: That's the thing that has impressed me most: People live it. They don't just talk it. It's part of their actions. Am I correct?
Deepak: You're absolutely correct. In India you're taught that there are certain qualities that make you a divine human being. These qualities are joy—
Deepak: Compassion, equanimity, truth, goodness, beauty, and harmony. And at the core of this are three words: Sat, Chit, –Ananda. Sat means "the truth," Chit means "consciousness," and –Ananda means "joy." So if you are connected to truth and consciousness and joy, you're all set.
Oprah: Did you grow up wanting to use your beliefs to help transform the way people thought about themselves?
Deepak: My mother was a very spiritual person, and she taught me even as a child about consciousness, though she couched it in mythical stories. My father was a cardiologist who trained in England. He was actually an aide-de-camp to Lord Mountbatten before the British left India. So he was way Western, and she was very Eastern. I grew up confused because I went to Catholic school and then I went to medical school. And in medical school I experimented a little bit with LSD and things like that, mind-altering stuff.
Oprah: I read that somewhere and was like, Whoa, Deepak!
Deepak: I did it only once or twice—enough to give me a glimpse of other states of consciousness.
Oprah: At least you didn't say you didn't inhale.
Deepak: [Laughs.] No, no. It was real.
Oprah: You did inhale. [Laughs.]
Deepak: Yes, it was real. But speaking of the Eastern/Western question, there's another aspect of moving with the flow, which is about the movement toward enlightenment. The way we are educated in the West, everybody's looking toward the future.
Deepak: Which means they're never in the present. So when they arrive at the future, it's not there for them, because they're not present for it.
Oprah: Got it.
Next: Deepak on meditation
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