BH: But even so, even if we’re talking about a historical figure, like George Washington, as you’ve pointed out, the Buddha has affected the world over for 2500 years, I would think it might be a little intimidating. Did any of that give you pause?
DC: Right in the beginning of the book I say this is a work of fiction. And many times fiction is truer than fact. With facts you’re always looking more over your shoulder, and everyone else is looking over your shoulder to make sure you represent what everyone else agrees on as fact. But in fiction, you’re revealing your own inner self. You’re revealing your angst, your demons, your fantasies, your likes, your dislikes, your fears, so in many ways you’re revealing much more than you would in a book of non-fiction.
BH: Why do you think there are so many people today who claim spirituality but not religion? They don’t need a church. How do you approach issues of spirituality with folks that seem to be disconnected from religion?
DC: I think one of the reason people are getting disconnected is that in this moment in the world all the strife and violence in the world unfortunately happens to be religious, and you can’t really exclude anyone from it. We have fundamentalists in every religion, and when you look at the word fundamentalist, it is an interesting world. It means returning to fundamentals. So why are people almost fearfully returning to fundamentals? It is because we have a post-modern age where everyone’s attention is so caught up in the material domain that’s become so dominant that they lose touch with their deeper sense of self. And from that angst they either become fundamentalists or they become totally atheistic, and in a way they are both coming from fear. I think that if you’re born into a spiritual family, which actually practices, say, if you’re Christian, you actually practice what Christ said? If you do, then you would not have fear in your heart. So then you would be spiritual too.
BH: You’ve got a bit of celebrity status, people see you on TV, and hear you on the radio etc, but when we speak of these issues of depth, like religion, like spirituality, through the mass media, does the medium undermine the message? Do people try to spin you like a celebrity? How do you resist that?
DC: I find that it goes both ways. Sometimes the media trivializes it, but you know you have celebrities who are seemingly hanging out, that are less than one percent of the people you interact with, it can trivialize it, and yet it can popularize the message too, because you get heard, you get seen and you reach a lot more people. So it’s a double edged sword.
BH: Right, so you’re doing OK with it?
DC: I’m fine with doing it. The way to do it is to have children who don’t take you seriously! (laughter)
BH: Tell us a little bit about your book, The Buddha. Story of Enlightenment. We mentioned that’s something do a fictionalized story, but you do go through the actual phases of life that he lived.
DC: I do through all the external facts, so I keep in the book everything that we know externally factually, I stay true to that. Only thing that I use my fiction in his internal transformation, his internal struggle.
BH: In many ways this is not like reading a history of the Buddha for people, this might be very spiritually challenging or uplifting.
DC: Yes, actually, originally I was going to call the book, “I, Buddha” because it is the story of everyone who faced the conundrum and the dilemmas of existence: anyone who has asked themselves questions like, where did I come from, what is the meaning of my existence, do I have soul, does God exist, what happens after I die. I mean every child asks themselves these questions, and you know lots of times because we’re not given any satisfactory answers we turn inward, and when we do turn inward we do find that some of the answers are there, in the deep domain of our own consciousness. So it’s a kind of journey that is many ways useful to anybody who is self aware or who thinks.
BH: You were formerly the Chief of Staff at Boston Medical Center, can you just tell us a bit about what it’s like to go from treating the physical, treating peoples bodies, to now dealing more with the integration of the body, mind and spirit.
DC: Well I was always interested in the process of healing and if you look at the word healing, the word holy, the word wholeness, the word health, they’re all the same word, and so I realized that healing is really the return of memory of wholeness, it’s a spiritual journey, and you know you can learn to be a superb technician, everything about the human body, but if you don’t understand the human spirit, you’ll never learn to understand healing. So in a sense, all I did was extend my experience of all practice of healing. Furthermore, my training was in brain chemistry and was beginning to see there was an interface between the human spirit, of consciousness, and the human biology. So you know what we call our physical biology is in many ways an expression of what’s happening in or minds, our thoughts, our expressions, our feelings our memories and it translates directly to processes in the body, and what’s happening in the mind comes from an even deeper domain which we call the spirit. So in many ways I began to integrate what I was learning as a medical doctor, with what I was experiencing through my own spiritual practice.
BH: As person who started his career certainly in the sciences, and moves now into the spiritual, what do you think about the debate that rages, and is now raging again between science and faith? It’s not a new issue, but do you think that’s anything unique now in our society?
DC: You know I think that both sides of the debate are basically fundamentalists. The people that are basically the religious side happen to have one particular idea of God and the people on the other side are attacking that one particular idea of God. And they are essentially scientific fundamentalists. Science is about understanding the laws of nature, and do you know what are the laws of nature? The laws of nature are the mind of God, whoever the creator is, so why should there be a separation between science and spirituality, after all science is trying to understand the nature of existence of the nature or nature. And you know there should be absolutely no split between the two. When we understand more about our existence about cosmology or evolution or biology we see that there are certain compatibilities with what is said in religious scripture as well as long as we are prepared to not only interpret that scripture in one particular way.