'One of the most important healers' -- Marianne Williamson
'The poet-prophet of alternative medicine' -- Time
'The rock star of the new spirituality' -- Guardian
'Undoutedly one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time' -- Mikhail Gorbachev
About the Author
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than fifty books translated into over thirty-five languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers in both fiction and nonfiction.
Visit him at www.DeepakChopra.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
This nine-month transformation keeps accelerating, so that by the end a million new brain cells are appearing every minute. At the moment the newborn emerges, like a space shuttle undocking from the mother ship, every system that needs to function independently -- heart, lungs, brain, and digestive tract -- suddenly realizes that the moment is now and not a moment later. Organs detach from total dependence on the mother, and with astonishing precision they begin to act as if they had always been on their own. In a split second life chooses to live.
The other mystery that occurs, usually decades later, death, is very different. It brings to an end all the things birth struggled so hard to achieve. A thready heartbeat crosses an invisible line and becomes still. The bellows of the lungs, which have pumped some 700 million times, refuse to pump even once more. A hundred billion neurons cease to fire; a trillion billion cells throughout the body receive the news that their mission is over. Yet this abrupt finale is as much a mystery as birth, for at the moment life ends, 99% of our cells are typically still functional, and all 3 billion codons, the individual letters in the book of human DNA, remain intact.
Death comes without the miraculous coordination of birth. Some cells don't even get the news for some time. If the dead person is revived within ten minutes or so, before the brain gets permanently damaged by hypoxia, the body's machinery will go back to work as if nothing had happened. Indeed, death is such a blurry event that eyelids can continue to blink ten or twelve times after a head is severed from a body (a grisly fact discovered at the foot of the guillotine during the French Revolution).
Religion doesn't consider death a miracle. In Christianity death is linked to sin and Satan--the Western equivalent of the Lord of Death. Death is the enemy, and God saves us from its clutches. But with God's help dying is the doorway to a far more important event -- the beginning of the afterlife. To the religious mind death brings the presence of God near, and witnesses throughout history have claimed to actually see the soul depart. (Not all of these witnesses are religious. I know of a prominent psychiatrist whose atheism
was deeply shaken in medical school when he entered a cancer
patient's room at the exact moment of death and saw a ghostly, luminous form emerge from the body and disappear.) There is a persistent legend that 21 grams of mass disappear when we die, which must be the weight of the soul. In fact, no such change occurs. Whatever it is that occurs at death, I believe it deserves to be called a miracle. The miracle, ironically, is that we don't die. The cessation of the body is an illusion, and like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, the soul reveals what lies beyond. Mystics have long understood the joyousness of this moment. As the great Persian poet Rumi puts it, "Death is our wedding with eternity." But not only mystics have seen through death's illusion. The eminent twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, "For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world."
I believe that death accomplishes the following miraculous things:
It replaces time with timelessness.
It stretches the boundaries of space to infinity.
It reveals the source of life.
It brings a new way of knowing that lies beyond the reach of the five senses.
It reveals the underlying intelligence that organizes and sustains creation (for the moment we won't use the word "God," for in many cultures a single creator is not part of dying or the afterlife).
In other words, death is a fulfillment of our purpose here on earth.