Monday, April 20, 2015

Meditate on this: birdie num num

Every time I watch The Party I am reminded of Deepak Chopra.

Yes, that movie.  Not politically correct anymore to even mention those kinds of movies in which white people darkened their faces in order to play the roles of dark-skinned characters whose actions were the triggers for slapstick comedy.  But, hey, at the end of it all, it is that character who gets the girl!

Ah, I digress.  So, what's new! ;)

Yes, Peter Sellers:

Am not sure if Deepak Chopra plays the sitar.


Oops, sorry, that was Mike Myers ;)

Ok, kidding aside, whenever I come across a reference to Chopra, it is Sellers' Hrundi Bakshi that I immediately think about.  Which is what happened even as I started reading the opening paragraph in this New Yorker piece:
Last month, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Deepak Chopra described the usefulness of meditation for people on Wall Street. Speaking about a friend who manages a hedge fund, he said, “His entire staff meditates. I know many others now on Wall Street that we teach, actually. It makes them much more productive, because they’re centered, they’re not distracted.” Chopra was appearing on TV to promote a free twenty-one-day online meditation course that he offers with Oprah. Its theme is “Manifesting True Success.”
Chopra is a living example to prove PT Barnum's wise words that there is a sucker born every minute.  And Chopra knows how to get all the money that sucker has got!

Chopra is a lot more damaging caricature of Indians than was Bakshi.  This charlatan peddles crap and there are people ready to pay him top dollars for it.  Meditation as a way to make money?  Meditation was for anything but material benefits, and this television evangelist warps the idea.  I imagine that Chopra's next stop will be at the Pentagon in order to sell meditation as the path towards a lot more effective killing and destruction!

But, the New Yorker offers more, which is why I pay my damn money and have subscribed to it for years.
American capitalism has had a long and durable romance with Eastern spirituality, and the latter has hardly undermined the former. For well over a century, business-minded Americans have been transforming Hindu and Buddhist contemplative practices into an unlikely prosperity gospel.
The essay is not about Chopra but about how American capitalism has played on the PT Barnum approach for the longest time.  Chopra is merely one of the latest additions.  My favorite example from there is the following:
Consider the work of Yogi Ramacharaka, whose popular and influential books included “The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath” (1903) and “Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism” (1904). Writing in Advanced Thought, a New Thought magazine, Ramacharaka emphasized that his ideas coincided with those of its editor, William Walter Atkinson. “The editor of this magazine has frequently told you that the Touchstone of any teaching is this: ‘Does this make me Stronger, Better and More Efficient?’ I cheerfully support him in this statement, for the same truth is given (in other words) in the best Hindu teachings—in fact, as he, himself, would freely admit, he obtained the idea from such sources.”
And then comes the punchline:
Its not surprising that Atkinson and Ramacharaka claimed the same Hindu sources, because they were, in fact, the same person. Ramacharaka was one of Atkinson’s several noms de plume, and, as the historian Carl T. Jackson points out, Atkinson was “by no means the only New Thought writer to masquerade as an Oriental teacher or to offer an ‘authentic’ course in Eastern wisdom.”
 Suckers after suckers born every minute.
“With business meditation, we have a practice that is extrapolated from Buddhism and secularized so that all of the theological underpinnings are swept away,” Catherine Albanese, the author of “A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion,” says. “So we have Buddhism stood on its head. Mindfulness meditation has been brought into the service of a totally different perspective and world view.” By now, that’s part of a venerable American tradition.
I am the real sucker, in the American sense.  Instead of living a hermit life in my ashram by the river, I ought to be monetizing my half-baked understandings.  Hey Hrundi, any suggestions for me?


Ramesh said...

This is a post by an American and for an American !!! Despite knowing a bit about your country, I hadn't heard of any of the names mentioned in this post bar Deepak Chopra. And I have no interest in learning anything about him. Yes, Peter Sellers, but you are only talking about his "Hrundi Bakshi" - what an awful name.

You have every qualification to be able to "monetize your half baked understanding". You have a beard. You have an improbable name - Khé. You also have a vague reference to Ram. You are a hermit. And maybe, just maybe, your understanding is really half baked :):):):) Hahahahahahahaha

Sriram Khé said...

Ah yes, you are not into movies that don't have Ingrid Bergman or Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn or Hemamalini ;)

Half-baked seems to be half more than Chopra though ... muahahahahaha

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