DEEPAK CHOPRA answers seekers’ questions on the existence of soul, and content of consciousness
What is the scientific proof for the existence of human soul?
S Satish, 44 years, Chennai
Dear Satish, to answer your question, it is necessary to define the term ‘soul.’ In general, the everyday meaning for millions of people is religious.The soul is the divine,immortal part of a person,which never dies.Therefore,when the physical body dies, the soul does something — goes to heaven,reincarnates, merges back into pure consciousness, and so on
In my experience, the followers of a religion are asked to have faith in what the religion says about the soul, while on the other hand, nonbelievers, atheists, and people who follow a different religion will not be satisfied with so-called proofs.
It is more fruitful to speak instead about consciousness rather than a soul. Does consciousness survive the death of the body?
There are so-called near death experiences that do have science on their side,and they show that if a person is brought back from clinical death by medical means, usually after a heart attack, around 39% have a conscious memory of being awake during those moments of death.
This is according to the researchers at a study known as AWARE, which ended in 2014 and looked at over 2,000 patients who died under medical care, of which 104 were brought back to life.
In this debate, the position I take, which is consistent with Vedanta, is that everything in creation is created from and by consciousness.Therefore, we cannot and should not speak of consciousness surviving death.That is only a concept formed in the human mind. In reality, consciousness could not exist without being timeless. Do we participate in timeless consciousness? Yes — we have no choice, being part of creation. Is there scientific proof of timeless consciousness? It depends on who you talk to.The vast majority of scientists are dedicated to the assumption that the mind is created by the brain. Therefore, the mind is gone after the brain is gone. But among some theoretical physicists,consciousness is part of the universe, as innate as gravity. This view, which of course has complex thinking behind it, could have a huge impact on the future of physics. I hope it does.
What is a dream? Is it shaped by experiences of our daily life? Can it reflect moments from our previous birth? And why do we experience déjà vu?
Dear Radhika, It would be foolhardy for anyone to claim to answer these questions with certainty. Dreams have been reported for thousands of years, and during that time explanations have covered a huge range of notions.
Some cultures have notions about the divine nature of dreams, which other cultures consider superstitious. Freud believed that dreams were ‘the royal road to the unconscious,’ but in modern psychology there is no proof that he was right.
When great minds and great cultures are unable to settle on one explanation for dreams, there are two choices. Either everyone is right, because dreams are so flexible that they fit any conception you put upon them,or dreams have no single meaning because they are random brain activity.
For me personally, dreams are fleeting experiences in consciousness that rise and fall the way all experiences do.They are just as real or unreal as thoughts,only they occur while we are asleep instead of when we are awake.
It is more important to understand the play of consciousness, because when we do that, we understand who we are and where we come from.Vedanta says that the waking state is a kind of dream.
I accept this view,because it opens the way to escape illusion and see reality clearly.
Content is consciousness or consciousness is the content?
Jagdish Gupta, 60
Dear Jagdish, You have put an either/or question.Either we are conscious because we have thoughts, or we have thoughts because we are conscious. The content of the mind gives no true answer,because everyone’s mind has its own unique content, and explanations arise as part of the stories people believe in.
But I would say that the eitheror question misses the wholeness of consciousness.When consciousness is active, the mind is filled with content-sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts.When the mind is settled and quiet, we are conscious without mental content. So both aspects are modes of consciousness.
If you know yourself only by your thoughts, you can be a good, even profound thinker, but you will never know the true nature of consciousness. If you meditate and experience the depth of silent mind, you come closer to the nature of consciousness as it always is, timeless, eternal, and filled with infinite potential. So it is the experience that creates every person’s reality,not their pet theories about consciousness.
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