Monday, June 3, 2013

Superheroes and their various schools



Reading Deepak Chopra’s latest book, The 7 Spiritual Laws of Superheroes, is like experiencing a dream.  Chopra has a peculiar fascination with the number 7 just like Ayurveda has a fascination with odd numbers.  The number is quite irrelevant, I think.  The message is quite simple though profound: live with a clear idea of what you want from life and you will be a superhero.

“It’s not the moments of tragedy that define our lives,” says Chopra quoting his son Gotham who is quoting Batman and who is also the co-author of the book under review, “so much as the choices we make to deal with them.”  The entire book, just like most other books of the kind, is about how we can equip ourselves properly so that we will make the right choices when faced with tragic situations.  That’s why reading it is like experiencing a dream: we know and love the ideal, but the bitter struggle between the ideal and the reality constantly wakes us up.

This time Chopra has chosen to take examples from superheroes like Batman, Superman and Spiderman.  The chapters are titled according to the laws which are labelled Balance, Transformation, Power, Love, Creativity, Intention and Transcendence.

Anyone who has read a few books of Chopra or any other such motivational writer may find nothing new in this book.  The book is a good reminder of what such readers already know but may have forgotten.  Motivation is more a matter of reminder for people who are looking for it genuinely.  Such people know the truths of life but need occasional reminders or motivations.

There is really no short cut to happiness or success in life.  We create our own happiness.  We define our own success.  “People are doing the best they can from their level of awareness,” says Chopra.  This is a statement I have read in umpteen such books.  But Chopra does help in raising our level of awareness from the pit into which it has fallen due to some circumstance or the other. 

I bought this book when my school in Delhi was going through a crisis and I chose to take a break by going to my village in Kerala.  I knew very well that I couldn’t escape the crisis by changing the place during the vacation.  I have to face the crisis.  I came to know this morning that the Delhi edition of the Times of India has reported in today’s [3 June 2013] edition that my school might be closed down by the new management to which the founder, Mr Sitaram Jindal, handed over the school on a platter with motives that are clear to none in the school except perhaps the new management.

The new management is Radhasoami Satsang which is a religious cult that had never taken any interest in education at any time.  I had written much about them in this space from the time they had taken over the school though not as directly as this.  I had my own intuitive doubts about the motives of both Mr Jindal and the Satsang.  I’m not a religious person though I try to live my life following certain clear and secular principles.  I have no problem with any religion or religious cult as long as it does good to others.  However, if any institution tries to swindle people for the sake of reaping material benefits such as land, power or wealth, I find it difficult to accept.  All the more so when a religious institution does it.

According to the Times report, many staff members are being sacked or suspended by the new management.  This is a process the management had initiated when I was in Delhi.  Most of the staff took it for granted, not without some reservations, that the management was trying to revamp the institution.  But now the scaled up efforts to sack people especially during vacation does not augur well for anyone.  The Times report says that Manager has nothing to say about the latest suspensions and dismissals. 

I wonder what Radhasoami’s spirituality is.  Is it spirituality when many persons are thrown out of jobs on to the street?  Does spirituality mean merely preaching ideals and principles to others?

“For superheroes,” says Chopra, “love is not a mere sentiment or emotion.  It is the ultimate truth at the heart of creation.”  Real spirituality is about creating order out of chaos without eliminating people but transforming the people according to the spiritual leader’s vision.  What is spirituality without love and compassion? 

What is spirituality if it cannot identify the goodness within people and instead chooses to eliminate people who are perceived as not good enough?

I wish to conclude this apparently haphazard writing with an example given by Chopra.  Caterpillars don’t transform into butterflies with any natural ease or grace.  There is a terrible battle between two sets of cells: the ‘imaginal cells’ that try to evolve into a butterfly and the normal cells that want to preserve the caterpillar as caterpillar.  “Initially the friction between these two cells is almost violent, a tug-of-war to see which cells will win out,” says Chopra.  “Cells – like people – gain strength in numbers, so the imaginal cells begin to cluster in order to rally forces and overpower the other, original cells.  Jammed together, the imaginal cells begin to share energy and information with one another.  As a result, they begin to vibrate and resonate at the same frequency, intensifying their strength....” The battle continues and somewhere along that battle the normal cells’ resistance ceases.  “The normal cells begin to cluster with the imaginal cells, and they start to take on the same vibration and frequency as the imaginal cells.”  Then the mutation takes place and the butterfly is born. 

I hope the struggle in Sawan Public School (which is ironically named after the great Master of the Satsang) will see the birth of a butterfly rather than end up as a mere property deal!


"Many of us lose sight of our real identity by attaching it to material things."  Deepak Chopra

20 comments:

  1. It is lying with me for a long time now. Your review is inspiring me to pick it up, i only hope time doesn't conspire against me.

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    1. Indrani, I'm sure the book will inspire you much more than this "review." Honestly, I wanted to write a proper review of the book. But circumstances abort our purposes sometimes.

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  2. Hi Tom,
    Very shocking. An unbelievable state of affairs, that there was no discussion among the stakeholders but they read things from the newspapers. So typical of India, where people are taken for a ride. I do not want to say sorry for what is happening, because in this situation it does not mean anything to you. I liked your finishing quote; yes let people cluster together and gain enough energy to fight off the impishness.

    All the best

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    1. I too hope that the situation turns out for the better, Prasanna. But the Indian reality is just like the Indian summer - harsh only for those who can't afford the air-conditioner!

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  3. Knowing about the scenario was saddening, religion today has become mere tool in the hands of such people, shaking our belief and faith, hope things become better soon. It was nice the way you have woven it with description from chopras book. I hope we gather enough strength that the Indian summer is not harsher for all Indians.

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    1. Kislaya, I intentionally chose Chopra's book as the background for this blog. We need superheroes of the type that Chopra is speaking of. And each one of us can be one, Chopra says and is right. There wouldn't be any problem in the school if the leaders had taken certain "superhero" type of action instead of being guided by banal motives.

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  4. Thank you for a good review which prompts me to pick up a copy soon!

    "However, if any institution tries to swindle people for the sake of reaping material benefits such as land, power or wealth, I find it difficult to accept." -- I couldn't agree more on this. So true!

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    1. I'm only sorry for having to mix the review with certain personal grievances. But what is a blog without a personal touch?

      Thanks for the appreciation.

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    2. No, you don't have to be sorry one bit. I believe what you've stated is absolutely correct and agree with that point of view completely.

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  5. 'What is spirituality if it cannot identify the goodness within people and instead chooses to eliminate people who are perceived as not good enough?' when the structures shackles, spirituality can be the only way to resurrect the human essence. Nice review! will go through it :)

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    1. The real essence of spirituality is what Chopra calls superheroism!

      I'm sure you will find the book inspiring.

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  6. I find it a bit strange because unfortunately a lot of close friends are following radha soami satsang (though not beas) and I have always been a bit enchanted by their way of thinking. But then of course nothing in this country is untouched by religion and I have been following some of your posts on this, this is truly an eye opener...

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    1. Richa, I've had many opportunities to witness the Satsangis from very close quarters. They did not inspire me at all. They showed too much enthusiasm which appeared quixotic, to say the least. A volunteer stops me at the gate of the school where I've been working for 12 years to question my right to enter the school. Of course, he was doing his duty! But I found it ridiculous when he was bent upon proving that I had to prove my right to enter my school... Self-righteousness is the hallmark of people who don't understand spirituality but claim to be spiritual.

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  7. Don't know what to say...the whole state of affairs sounds shady. I am not even sure the people are getting sacked only because of some perception or randomly...loved the example you quoted from Chopra's book. I hope it metamorphosize as a butterfly.

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  8. Deepak Chopra and profound? hmmm... If I miss out much by not reading Deepak Chopra so much the better for me, Matheikal!

    All this caterpillar / butterfly stuff is inane. Do you know that the fetus fights the mother, as it is the "responsibility" of the fetus to carry the genes of the sperm onto the next generation. And, half the fetus is alien organism for the mother! Biology is survival, and more survival. Nothig special about caterpillar. Your post may prod me into delving into how caterpillar "turns" into butterfly. Thanks.

    RE

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    1. Chopra is profound to the extent his ideas are profound, Raghuram. I find that he enlightens readers and prods them on to deep understanding of life.

      The butterfly example is a kind of parable which I would use too in my speeches/classes. Yesterday I read in the student's supplement of a Malayalam newspaper about why flowers have different colours. The answer was scientific: a certain pigment (scientific name was given)is the reason. But I thought I would as well say flowers have different colours for reasons of survival of the plant, its propagation, etc. A poet would look at it from the point of view of beauty. Aren't these all correct views?

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  9. Matheikal,

    I know we will never see eye to eye on this. Yet, I would request you to find profundity in the following:

    "Caterpillars don’t transform into butterflies with any natural ease or grace. There is a terrible battle between two sets of cells: the ‘imaginal cells’ that try to evolve into a butterfly and the normal cells that want to preserve the caterpillar as caterpillar. “Initially the friction between these two cells is almost violent, a tug-of-war to see which cells will win out,” says Chopra. “Cells – like people – gain strength in numbers, so the imaginal cells begin to cluster in order to rally forces and overpower the other, original cells. Jammed together, the imaginal cells begin to share energy and information with one another. As a result, they begin to vibrate and resonate at the same frequency, intensifying their strength....” The battle continues and somewhere along that battle the normal cells’ resistance ceases. “The normal cells begin to cluster with the imaginal cells, and they start to take on the same vibration and frequency as the imaginal cells.” Then the mutation takes place and the butterfly is born."

    "natural ease or grace" - who are we, more improtantly who is Deepak Chopra to decide that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly lacks the qualities of "ease" and "grace". Where is the spirituality in that, imposing one's own sense of aesthetics on others? His claims like one set of cells winning over the other is none of the following: metaphysics, philosophy, science. It is not even prosaic not to speak of poetry. I don't think you can distil out any metaphor. It is unadulterated nonsense. "vibrate and resonate at the same frequency" - please tell me with a straight face this is not science-talk masquerading as metaphysics. What he says through this caterpillar metaphor is simply that the crowd has to get to some size before one can see results. Chopra is at best a highly capable obscurantist. He goes to extraordinary efforts to make a simple truism into seemingly profound statement (unrecognized as such by many)traversing all kinds of nonsensical terrains. There is no depth in this metaphor, if indeed it is one!

    RE

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    1. Raghuram, you are accusing Chopra of a phraseological problem I made. "Natural ease and grace" is my phrase, not Chopra's. Chopra's own words are given in quotes.

      I am not a scientist and don't go by the strict scientific explanations of phenomena. That's why I tried to say in the example of the flowers in my previous comment. The same phenomenon is appreciated (and understood - appreciation is a result of understanding, I guess) from different angles by people. Scientific understanding is just one such angle. And most people don't think scientifically. I write for such people. That's why you find problem with my approach sometimes.

      Phrases like "vibrate and resonate at the same frequency" are used by Chopra just like I use phrases like "natural ease and grace"...

      I tend to speak more like a poet and you speak just like a scientist. That's the problem, in short.

      Delete

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