Deepak Chopra.

WE ARE AT A CROSSROADS. One road leads to extinction and the other could lead to a more peaceful, sustainable, healthier and joyful planet. Unfortunately, our emotional and spiritual development has not kept up with scientific knowledge.

IT IS WITHIN our power to reverse this calamity, and that can change if humanity has a shared vision. If we complement one another’s strengths, if we have maximum diversity of knowledge and if we connect, emotionally and spiritually... then it could emerge into a new paradigm.

ALL PEOPLE are interested in, is how many likes they get on their selfies. We have sacrificed ourselves for our selfies.

YEAH, I think celebrity is another way on how we replace ourselves with our selfies. It’s the human condition. They like to think that there’s somebody who’s superior but there isn’t.

I USED TO MEET people on the streets who told me, I read your books. Now they say my grandmother used to read your books.

TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION is one particular aspect of mantra meditation. And the mantras that I use take you beyond thought. But now we see that that’s only one form of meditation. [There are others like] mindfulness, reflective inquiry, body awareness, awareness of mental space.

FUNDAMENTAL REALITY cannot be accessed by a system of thought. Whether it’s science or philosophy or any other system. If you want to know reality, you have to go beyond human constructs. Meditation is the only way to go beyond human constructs.

EVERYTHING WE TALK ABOUT IS A story. Stories are maps of reality, not reality. You can’t eat the menu, you have to eat the meal. And so if you want to eat the meal, you have to go beyond rational thought.

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MY FAVOURITE BOOKS haven’t changed. Have you heard of Lost Horizon? It was by a guy called James Hilton. It was the first time people were introduced to the idea of Shangri-La. I have other favourites like W Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge; Rudyard Kipling classics; Arthur Conan Doyle... Shakespeare’s my favourite. I used to be able to recite every play of Shakespeare.

ACTING is a very interesting profession for good actors. I occasionally watch movies and the last one was Oppenheimer because I was curious about the person who had the insanity to create an atomic bomb.

YOU SAW OPPENHEIMER, RIGHT? What an ordinary guy. Do you read Einstein’s biography? I mean, the amount of human problems he had. When you look at famous people, whether they are in the arts or humanity or science or spirituality... everybody is fake. Including me.

IF THERE WAS a biography made on my life? [It’ll be an] authentic fake. At least, I don’t deny it.

HOW OTHERS depict me is a projection of themselves. The story you write about me... isn’t about me, it’s about you because of the questions you’re asking, right? It’s like using AI for a prompt: you’re asking me questions that the next person will not. Every story you write is about you.

IF I HAVE A GRAVE, it would say on the [tombstone], “Where you are, I once was. Where I am, you’ll soon be”.

I HAD A GOOD TIME. Been there, done that.

I WAS NOT SELF-AWARE as a physician-in-training. I graduated medical school in 1970 and went to the United States immediately. The first 10 years of my training, internship president’s fellowship, neuroscience, I was very much part of the system.

IN THOSE DAYS, doctors smoked; we all smoked. Even during the medical conference, doctors would advertise for Lucky Strike or Camel cigarettes. A very interesting time.

WORK doesn’t start until it’s 11am. When I get up at six, I reflect. Meditate; I do yoga. After five I don’t work any more. Weekends too.

I HAVE NO SOCIAL LIFE. I find social conversation very boring. Other than, spending time with friends and family, I don’t go to parties or watch movies.

IT’S DISTRESSING but I watch the news just to keep up with the world. Everybody’s fighting over nothing.

I WANT to be known as an interesting guy. But he’s not there any more. Move on. [laughs]

DO YOU know your great-grandfather? Do you know the grandfather of your grandfather? No. But because of him, you’re here. Every cell in your body has the genes of your ancestors. That is the legacy.

MY NEW BOOK is called Digital Dharma and I think AI, like any other great scientific discovery, can be used to heal the world or to destroy the world. But, at least, we have the intelligence to not allow that to happen.

THEN AGAIN, humans are crazy.

AI IS AUGMENTED HUMAN intelligence: it doesn’t say anything original. It’s a large language model that has no consciousness; doesn’t feel hungry; doesn’t have sex; doesn’t fear death... but it’s super intelligent as a language model..

A LOT OF PEOPLE think I am crazy. Maybe. I don’t know. If war and terrorism and eco-destruction and extinction of species, and poison in your food chain and chronic health and absence of joy is normal, then I don’t want to be normal.

I HAVE NO FEAR. I’ve no fear of death or anything. Zero. My stress level is zero.

TO GET TO THAT STAGE [of having no fear] is to recognise that you’re not your body and you’re not your mind. The only thing that’s real is consciousness; consciousness without form. It doesn’t have borders, therefore, it’s infinite.

Photography: Gan Kah Ying
Art Direction: Joan Tai