How does a deeper understanding of reality – from how a butterfly sees to the nature of the quantum vaccum – help us fulfill our dreams? Listen to this mind-bending lecture by the world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, Deepak Chopra.
Sign up to take his Commune course, The Nature of Reality, at onecommune.com
Jeff: Welcome to Commune, where each week we explore the ideas and practices that bring us together and help us live healthy, purpose-filled lives, I’m your host, Jeff Krasno. In addition to being a podcast, Commune is also an online course platform hosting some of the world’s greatest teachers, like today’s featured voice, Deepak Chopra.
Deepak is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation who has authored more than 85 books, translated into over 43 languages. He is the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, founder of the Chopra Foundation, and he is board certified in internal medicine, endocrinology, and metabolism.
In his mind-bending, spirit-uplifting 6-day course at onecommune.com, he teaches you how matter, energy, information and everything we consider reality—from your next thought to the most distant star—is simply a modified form of yourself. When you understand that you are the universe, you unlock the spontaneous fulfillment of all your desires. Today we’re excited to share with you his lecture from day 1 of his course, The Nature of Reality.
This is Deepak Chopra and I'm delighted and honored and privileged to share this course with you.
The course is called The Nature of Reality and The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire.
I have to in a sense warn you that some of this material is very abstract, if you're not used to it, that you will have to maybe go through this material several times. But if you're not willing to go all the way then you probably shouldn't waste your time doing this course.
Okay so I already started by saying that the course is called The Nature of Reality and The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire. So we should look at both those components of this course.
What is real? How do we know it's real? And how does that deeper understanding of reality help us fulfill our dreams, desires, intentions, whatever word you want to use. So let's go for it.
Go to the dictionary and you'll look at the meaning of the word “real” and you'll find lots of descriptions. But I think one of the phrases that I liked when I looked at the dictionary of what is real was existence is real. That's pretty simple.
Okay so instead of getting into all kinds of abstract conundrums, which we will get into, let's say existence is real. A rock exists. Hand exists. Glasses exist. Sparkles exist. Clouds exist, rainbows exist. We call this reality, this is our everyday experience of reality, that which exists.
Let's not even go further than that definition. Let's say existence and reality are the same thing. You know that you exist. You know that that which you call your body exists. You can look at it. You also know that that which you call your mind exists. You experience it all the time, you're experiencing it right now as you're listening to me and you're interpreting what I'm saying and analyzing what I'm saying.
So your thoughts, your emotions, your imagination, your creativity, your insights, your inspiration, your motivation, your deepest intuitions, they exist. They exist as qualities of the mind. So we know that that which we call the body-mind exists. We also know that that which we call the world exists.
I'm looking out of my window right now, I see trees and clouds. I see my own body, I see a camera in front of me. I see our camera crew in front of me. So all of this exists.
Our immediate experience of existence is that which we call matter. Once again, our immediate experience of existence is that which we call matter. Matter which we also call the physical world, which we also call physical existence, material existence, we use these words, materialistic, these words that derive from the word matter.
So when you go to a scientist and you say, "What is matter made of?" The very word “material” suggests that it is made of other material. Let's take a simpler example, water. Water is a material entity, we drink it. It's part of our circulation, in fact most of our body is water.
So what does water, what is water made of? A scientist would say it's made of a molecule, that is a combination of two atoms, hydrogen and oxygen. H2O, two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. H20.
Now this principle applies to complex entities, rocks, biological entities, plants, trees, it doesn't matter, anything that we call material. But we're taking the example of water because it's simple. Hydrogen is the simplest element in the universe and then there's helium and then little bit later down the periodic table we have oxygen. What are these entities, hydrogen and oxygen made of? These atoms?
And the same principle applies to all the atoms. What are they made of? Well they're made of particles. And any scientist will tell you that when you get to the rock bottom of a rock, or you get toward the smallest aspect of a rock, it's molecules and then atoms and then particles.
Now every school child learns that these particles are frequently referred to as electrons, protons, neutrons. Every atom in the periodic table is a combination of electrons, protons and neutrons, period. The electron has a minus charge. It's an activity in an atom.
The proton has a positive charge, it's in the nucleus. And then the neutron is also in the nucleus, it has a neutral charge, no charge at all. But of course you know scientists are curious people so they say, "What are electrons made of?" It turns out all electrons are negative charged. Period.
Well, what are protons made of? Now we get into complexities. Protons are made of quarks, which are held together by other smaller particles called gluons. And then if you go to the Hadron Collider in Europe where they do experiments in particles you'll end up knowing that particles are made of smaller particles which are made of smaller particles, et cetera, et cetera. And ultimately all particles have a dual character. They are both material objects as in the fact that they have units of mass and energy.
Any material object has a unit of mass and energy. We know from Einstein, E is equal to MC squared. So mass and energy are exactly the same. That's the basis of all our technology today.
The fact that you can see me on your computer screen or wherever else, is based on this technology which is based on the understanding that matter is both energy and information. So this information that I'm imparting to you is coming to you as energetic entities called photons, electrons, electromagnetic waves. But this information is not only energy but there's information imbued in it. Information actually is coded in energy.
So this energy is, ultimately, if you trace it to its source, this energy is, depending on the school of science that you follow, but all schools of science will say that matter is made of molecules, is made of particles, is made of energy, has information in it. And as we go down this rabbit hole what we end up with is what scientists today refer to as the quantum vacuum.
So what is the quantum vacuum? Again, it's part of something called “quantum field theories”. The quantum vacuum is the source of all the energy and matter in the universe. All of it.
All the source of energy and matter in the universe comes from the quantum vacuum which is brimming with this activity that is referred to as “virtual particles”, in that you can't see them but through various technologies you can be sure that they exist. They exist not as real particles but as the potential for what we call real particles.
Okay, so the quantum vacuum is the source of virtual energy and virtual particles that ultimately become real energy and real particles. And these real particles ultimately end up being atoms, molecules, matter, rocks, trees, clouds, rainbows, stars, galaxies, your own physical body, but also other biological organisms. Rabbits, elephants, dolphins, whales. Anything you can think of. Any entity you can think of as physical has its source in this quantum vacuum.
Now I've asked a lot of my physicist friends, "Is this thing that we call quantum vacuum, which obviously is not how we usually think of matter and energy, is this in space and time?"
I ask my physicist friends, and you can go look up on Wikipedia or you can go look up on Google or any other source on the internet and you can ask this question: Is the quantum vacuum in spacetime?
And you'll see that you'll get lots of answers that are ambiguous. Some people say yes, some people say no. But the quantum vacuum cannot be seen. Just know that the quantum vacuum is not something that you can know through your senses. It's a hypothetical, mathematical construct for the fact that the entire universe has a source in what we, as normal human beings, even without a background of science, we would say the source is immaterial in the sense that it's nothing that we can identify as a material object.
It is an emptiness, it's a void, it's the potential for energy, information, matter. And ultimately everything that we call physical including your own body.
Okay so now let me summarize how we perceive reality, according to the scientific method. How we perceive reality is that reality is made up of matter, molecules, atoms, particles, virtual particles which exist in a domain that cannot be seen and is invisible and has the nature of potentiality.
It is the source of information, energy and the physical world. But by itself it's a source of the material universe that exists as the potential for information and energy which ultimately becomes everything physical.
So I know I've repeated myself a few times but you need to get this totally and completely at a gut level, and intellectual level as well.
As we go beyond the appearance of molecules, we enter a sub-atomic cloud and when we go beyond the cloud, we end up with nothing. The essential nature of the physical world, is that it's not physical. The essential nature of the material world is that it's not material.
My favorite poet Rumi says, "We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust."
And this is you. Because “you” as a physical body might have your source in the same nothingness from which everything comes. Nothing is the source of everything. And so what is the nature of this nothingness? Is it an empty void or is it the womb of creation? Does nature go to the same place to create a galaxy of stars a cluster of nebulas, a rainforest, a rabbit, a dolphin, a human body-mind, a thought? What is this nothingness from where we all come?
This is what we are going to explore as we try and figure out the nature of fundamental reality. Conclusion, the reality, the only permanent reality, is made out of nothingness. And nothingness is the immeasurable potential of all that was, all that is, all that will ever be. But since it's a potential, it is not in spacetime.
Now this is a very difficult concept for most people because all our experiences are in spacetime. Right now you're having an experience of yourself, of other people, of objects, of the world and this experience is happening in space and in time. Right now this experience is happening for you when you're watching it, in time. And then it's also happening in space because in order for objects to exist, the only way you can divide an object is its material separate from other objects and want it to separate in space.
So here's the first thing to realize, fundamental reality is inconceivable or unimaginable unless you're trying to tackle it through mathematics. In mathematics people use formulas where they use symbols, zero, nobody can imagine zero. They also use other symbols, infinity, can't imagine it because it's formless. Fundamental reality is without form. It has no edges in space. It does not exist in time. It is infinite possibilities. It is all of creation, past, present and future. It seems to be spontaneously generating what we call the universe, effortlessly.
It seems to be evolving also, as the evolution of species. It seems to be evolving as the appearance of the universe. And it seems to be correlated with all that exists.
What do I mean by that? Correlated, like look at my body, I have a liver here, I have a spleen here, I have a heart here, I have lungs here. Intestines, gonads, eyes. I think of these as separate organs. Of course they are, but at a more fundamental level, they are correlated activities. Everything that's happening in your body, everything is correlated or synchronized or in harmony with everything else.
Your stomach is focused on digesting food and supplying nutrients to your liver which is supposed to be detoxing what is not necessary, engaging in metabolism. And then every other activity in your body whether we call it hormonal activity, biochemical activity, brain activity, heart activity, it's all part of a symphony of correlations of activities.
A human body can think thoughts, play a piano, kill germs, remove toxins and make a baby all at the same time. So I use the word non-local correlation for this symphony of events that is the whole universe. It's not just your body. Everything in the universe is correlated. The migration of birds, or butterflies for that matter, the weather patterns, climate, ecology, it's all correlated at a fundamental level.
Many people even call this quantum entanglement when they refer to this correlation at a fundamental level. It's difficult to explain this at the macro level, but it's happening in your body as well. So fundamental reality is infinitely correlated. Fundamental reality is invisible, immaterial. It's not in spacetime but it is the source of spacetime. It doesn't have energy, information or matter. It's the potential for energy, information and matter. It is not in spacetime, it is the source of spacetime and matter, of course.
It is infinitely creative and spontaneously creative, it's generating the universe. And not only is it generating the universe, that which we call the universe contains biological species that are evolving, from bacteria to microbes to amoeba to rodents to amphibians to plants to mammals to primates and ultimately human beings. It all has its source in nothingness. And this nothingness is the immeasurable potential of all existence. It is more real than the existence that we experience on the level of matter.
Why do I say that? Because everything I experience on the level of matter is shifting, transforming -- has a beginning, has a middle, has an ending. Some things have a beginning that goes back a long time ago, such as rocks. The rocks were originated in the crucible of burning stars, through nuclear fusion and other mechanisms, the weak interactions which are nuclear mechanisms. But everything that we experience in the physical world is transforming, is changing. It has a beginning, it has a middle, it has an end.
In other words, it has a shelf-life. The shelf-life of rocks is long. The shelf-life of biological organisms is relatively shorter, although where I am right now there are a lot of redwood trees and they live a long time, thousands of years. The shelf-life of a human being could be in the seventies, eighties, nineties, up to 120 maybe. But everything has a shelf-life. And so if you're a biological organism, as a biological organism, you have a birth, and then you have a series of experiences that you call life and then there's death.
This is the physical world but the source of the physical world is timeless, eternal and it generates this appearance of matter which when we analyze we end up with smaller pieces of matter, with energy, with information and the infinite void. So what is fundamental reality, I think I've said it many times but let me summarize. It's infinite possibilities. It's not material. It's the potential for all that was, is and will be. It's infinitely correlated or synchronistic. It's spontaneously creative and evolving. It is also self-regulating and self-evolving. And it manifests as that which we call physical matter.
I have not talked about the mind at all right now, which I will, but I wanted to conclude the first session with just this simple understanding, that you have your source in the nothingness that is everything-ness. You have your source in a void of infinite potential and you're connected to that right now because if you weren't connected to that you wouldn't exist. Existence is both physical, material, visible and it's also non-material, invisible, eternal, timeless.
The physical existence is transient, changing, transforming, evolving and ultimately impermanent. Some things are more impermanent than others. So particles moving at lightning speeds are relatively impermanent as compared to say, rocks and stars, which are also impermanent but have a much longer life. And your body, that falls somewhere between instantaneous creation and dissolution and then creation and dissolution that lasts billions of years and somewhere in the middle is your body and that which you call your mind.
The last thing I wanted to say was this fundamental reality is imbued with unpredictability, which means you can do experiments which will give you statistical likelihood of what you will see as particles but you'll never be able to predict that with 100% accuracy.
So some people say fundamental reality's unpredictable, some others say it's random. I don't like the word random for something that's correlating the world and the universe with infinite correlation, so let's settle with the word unpredictable. Unpredictable means you and I, at the level of the mind, do not know what's going on. But at a fundamental level, what appears random is ultimately appearing as the physical universe which you and I imbue with meaning and with some kind of purpose. As human beings we impart meaning and purpose to this. But I would like to add one more attribute to fundamental reality. It is the source of attention and intention because if you're not aware of a particular aspect of reality then it doesn't exist.
You're only aware of that which you put your attention on and imbue it with intention, what does it mean. Okay that's enough for the first session. Thank you very much.
Jeff: Gaining a deeper understanding of reality can help us in reaching our dreams and creating a life of happiness and fulfillment.
If this episode piqued your interest, head over to onecommune.com and sign up now for Deepak’s course, The Nature of Reality. Now is your opportunity to go on a philosophical journey that is as delicately intangible and deeply practical as your next breath.
Thank you for listening to the commune podcast. If you like what we do, please share us with a friend, or better yet: leave us a review! Thank you for going on this journey of personal growth and transformation with us. I’m your host Jeff Krasno, and I’ll see you next time.