Fire in the Heart : A Spiritual Guide for Teens

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-12-26
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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A fifteen-year-old boy is walking through a swirling fog on his way to school when a voice calls out, "Come here. We need to talk." Out of the mist emerges an old man with a white beard. He is a fantastic figure, as wizardly as Merlin, as wise as Socrates, as peaceful as Buddha. Whoever he is, the old man has appeared on that very day to change the boy's life."You are old enough to learn about things," he says mysteriously. "And who is going to teach you but me?"The old man gives the boy four days of "soul training," a time of riddles, tricks, parables, and incredible twists that brings out surprising answers to each of four burning questions about spirituality:Do I have a soul?How do wishes come true?What is the supreme force in the universe?How can I change the world?"The old man with the white beard showed me the spiritual side of life," writes Deepak Chopra, "where real passion and excitement come from. So before you begin, take a deep breath. This story could turn out to be yours."

Table of Contents

Before You Begin... 1(4)
Day One Do I Have a Soul? 5(44)
Day Two How Do Wishes Come True? 49(36)
Day Three What Is the Supreme Force in the Universe? 85(44)
Day Four How Can I Change the World? 129(22)
A Soul Alphabet 151(46)
The Last Word 197


FromDay One: Do I Have a Soul


When I was fifteen, my school was on a green hillside overlooking a valley even more green and lush. That part you already know. Every day I saw this beautiful view, except when the valley filled with billowing mist. On those mornings I walked to school with wisps of white curling around me, like walking through clouds. It was on just such a day, as I was making my way down the road, that a stranger's voice called out.

"Come," it said. "I've been waiting."

The voice seemed to come from another world. I imagine you've walked through fog and know how it creates a hush all around you, like a cocoon. Then my eye caught something. An old man was sitting under the biggest, most twisted tree by the side of the road.

"Baba, I'm on my way to school," I said. "You must be waiting for someone else." I grew up in India, and baba is a term of respect that is given to someone who is considered a wise or holy man.

"We need to talk," he said in a most definite voice. I drew closer. Baba was sitting on the ground with his legs crossed. His beard was almost as white as the immaculate cotton pants and shirt that he wore.

"You're old enough to know things now," he said, not waiting for me to reply. "And who else is going to tell you?"

I felt a shiver run down my spine. "What kind of things?" I asked.

"Invisible things. Secret things." Suddenly Baba laughed. "How mysterious do I have to sound for you to listen?"

I started to forget about school. All kinds of images were filling my mind. Sitting there in that cross-legged position, the old man looked like Buddha, who became enlightened sitting under a tree. His long white beard made Baba look wizardly, like Merlin, and the gleam in his eye told me unmistakably that he must be wise, like Socrates.

"I'm not asking much. Just give me one day," Baba coaxed.

Hesitantly I sat down beside him under the gnarled, twisted tree. The sun was burning the mist off now. Between billows of fog we could glimpse the green tea plantations that filled the valley and surrounding hills.

"This won't be like school," Baba said. "I'm going to teach you a new way to see and a new way to be."

He pointed at the scenery. "What do you see? I mean right now, at this very moment?"

"I see you and this tree, and I see the fog lifting from the valley," I said.

Baba leaned closer. "Want to know what I see? I see your soul." He was catching my attention more and more. "I see a world for you to possess. I see eternity." Baba stopped, and I felt another shiver. "Do you believe me?" he asked.

"I want to believe you, but I can't see any of those things," I said.

"Of course not. It takes a new way of seeing, which is why I had to find you," he said. "A few more years and you might be lost. The old ways are hard to break."

I was at that age when a dreamy inclination comes easily. In fact, the reason I hadn't noticed Baba was that I had been dreaming my way to school. Now it seemed as if I had conjured up a vision out of the mist.

The old man's eyes sharpened. "I'm not talking about fantasies and pink clouds," he said. "You need to know how reality works. Only what's real has power, even when it looks like magic."

"Okay," I said. I had the uncomfortable feeling that he had read my mind when I wondered if he was imaginary.

"In reality there is eternity everywhere," said Baba. "In reality your soul is here for you to experience it. I'll show you what I mean."

He reached down and took up a handful of sand from the side of the road. "Feel it," he said. "What's it like?"

He dropped some of the sand into my hands. "It's rough and sharp and grainy," I said. "And it's warm from the sun."

"Would it surprise you if I told you that none of that is real?" he asked.

I felt confused. "Of course it's real."

"But sand is made of molecules," said Baba. "And molecules aren't sharp or rough or grainy. I could take the molecules in sand and turn them into glass, which is completely smooth. Of course, molecules aren't real either."

"Why not?"

"Because they are made of atoms, and atoms are just blurry clouds of energy. You can't see or touch one, and isn't that how you measure real things, by seeing and touching them? Come to think of it, energy isn't real either."

By now I didn't feel like arguing; this was a completely new way of seeing things, just as he had promised.

"Energy vibrates everywhere in the universe," Baba said. "But it springs from the void, which is empty and still. You won't know what's real until we go there. Shall we?"

He let the sand sift through his fingers, and for a moment it was like watching someone letting the whole world sift through his fingers, the world I thought I lived in.

"This is very strange," I murmured.

"Ah, so the old ways are not looking quite so certain," he said, sounding pleased. "What will be left when everything solid vanishes before your eyes?"

"Nothing," I said.

"Nothing!" he repeated. "That's exactly right. But when we're through, nothing will turn into everything -- your soul, God, an infinite world for you to possess. Shall we?" he asked again.

"Absolutely," I said.

What I Learned

Spirituality is about a new way of seeing and a new way of being. When Baba told me that one thing, he told me all I had to know. It wasn't even necessary to use the wordspirituality. Words are never as important as reality itself, and what's real is that you and I are like walking clouds at the atomic level. Atoms are a lot more empty than they are solid, which means that we are a lot more empty than we are solid (every person is more than 99.999999 percent empty space; the space between the earth and the sun is much smaller by comparison).

Just beneath the surface, where things look reassuring and solid, we all should fly apart and float away into a fog, but we don't. This is because we aren't really empty. There's an invisiblesomethingto be discovered inside us.

"A mysterious force is holding things together and making patterns out of clouds of energy," Baba told me. "You'd better find out what that force is."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it's everywhere. It's finer than the finest atom. It's subtler than the subtlest energy. It's more real than anything you have ever seen. Don't even compare it to physical forces like gravity and electricity," he said. "Unless an invisiblesomethingexisted, there would be no universe. And no you."

So that's how it started: A boy and an old man set out to hunt the invisible something that is real even when everything else vanishes. Only years later, after I was grown up, did I come across some lines that perfectly state what we were after. They come from the poet William Blake, and you could call them the motto for this book.

To see a world in a grain of sandAnd a heaven in a wild flower,Hold infinity in the palm of your handAnd eternity in an hour.

Copyright © 2004 by Deepak Chopra

Excerpted from Fire in the Heart: A Spiritual Guide for Teens by Deepak Chopra
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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