Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra

Who is Deepak Chopra?

Deepak Chopra is an Indian born American author, public speaker, alternative medicine advocate, and a prominent figure in the New Age movement. [1][2] Through his books and videos, he has become one of the best-known and wealthiest figures in alternative medicine. He is famous for his work on Spiritual law of success, quantum healing, meditation and mind body relationship.

Chopra studied medicine in India before immigrating to the United States in 1970 where he completed residencies in internal medicine and endocrinology. As a licensed physician, he became chief of staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH) in 1980 [3].

He met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1985 and became involved with the Transcendental Meditation movement (TM). He resigned his position at NEMH shortly thereafter to establish the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center.[4] Chopra gained a following in 1993 after his interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show regarding his books.[5] He then left the TM movement to become the executive director of Sharp HealthCare’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine and in 1996 he co-founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing [3][4].

Deepak Chopra
Deepak Chopra

His Philosophy:

Chopra believes that a person may attain “perfect health”, a condition “that is free from disease, that never feels pain”, and “that cannot age or die”.[6][7] Seeing the human body as being undergirded by a “quantum mechanical body” composed not of matter but of energy and information, he believes that “human aging is fluid and changeable; it can speed up, slow down, stop for a time, and even reverse itself,” as determined by one’s state of mind [6][7].

After meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi He left his position at the NEMH. Chopra said that one of the reasons he left was his disenchantment at having to prescribe too many drugs: “When all you do is prescribe medication, you start to feel like a legalized drug pusher. That doesn’t mean that all prescriptions are useless, but it is true that 80 percent of all drugs prescribed today are of optional or marginal benefit”[8].

Early Life and Education:

Chopra was born in New Delhi, India, to Krishan Lal Chopra (1919–2001) and Pushpa Chopra. His paternal grandfather was a sergeant in the British Indian Army. His father was a prominent cardiologist, head of the department of medicine and cardiology at New Delhi’s Moolchand Khairati Ram Hospital for over 25 years; he was also a lieutenant in the British army, serving as an army doctor at the front at Burma and acting as a medical adviser to Lord Mountbatten, viceroy of India.[9] Chopra completed his primary education at St. Columba’s School in New Delhi and graduated from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 1969. He spent his first months as a doctor working in rural India.

He married in India in 1970 before immigrating with his wife that year to the United States.[5] Between 1971 and 1977 he completed residencies in internal medicine at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, the VA Medical Center, St Elizabeth’s Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.[31] He earned his license to practice medicine in the state of Massachusetts in 1973, becoming board certified in internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology.
Chopra taught at the medical schools of Tufts University, Boston University and Harvard University,[10][11] and became Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH) (later known as the Boston Regional Medical Center) in Stoneham, Massachusetts, before establishing a private practice in Boston in endocrinology [11].

His Eastern Influence:

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was an influence on Chopra in the 1980s while visiting New Delhi in 1981, he met the physician Brihaspati Dev Triguna, head of the Indian Council for Ayurvedic Medicine, whose advice prompted him to begin investigating Ayurvedic practices [12]. Chopra was “drinking black coffee by the hour and smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day”[13]. He took up Transcendental Meditation to help him stop; as of 2006 he continued to meditate for two hours every morning and half an hour in the evening.

Chopra’s involvement with TM led to a meeting, in 1985, with the leader of the TM movement, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who asked him to establish an Ayurvedic health center [6].By 1993, Chopra had split with the Maharishi, in effect, to go into business for himself. Chopra says the split was over the Maharishi’s attempt to control Chopra’s writing and speaking [1].

He became the founding president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, one of the founders of Maharishi Ayur-Veda Products International, and medical director of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda Health Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Chopra also became one of the TM movement’s spokespersons. In 1989 Chopra’s Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine was published, followed by Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide (1990)[3].

His Western Connection:

In June 1993 he moved to California as executive director of Sharp HealthCare’s Institute for Human Potential and Mind/Body Medicine, and head of their Center for Mind/Body Medicine, a clinic in an exclusive resort in Del Mar, California that charged $4,000 a week and included Michael Jackson’s family among its clients.[14] Chopra and Jackson first met in 1988 and remained friends for 20 years.

Chopra left the Transcendental Meditation movement around the time he moved to California in January 1993.[15] By his own account, the Maharishi had accused him of competing for the Maharishi’s position as guru,[16] although Chopra rejects identification as a “guru”.

In 1995 Chopra was not licensed to practice medicine in California where he had a clinic; however, he did not see patients at this clinic “as a doctor” during this time.[17] In 2004 he received his California medical licence, and as of 2014 is affiliated with Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.[17][18] Chopra is the owner and supervisor of the Mind-Body Medical Group within the Chopra Center, which in addition to standard medical treatment offers personalized advice about nutrition, sleep-wake cycles and stress management, based on mainstream medicine and Ayurveda.[19] He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey
Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey in 2012

Consciousness:

Chopra speaks and writes regularly about metaphysics, including the study of consciousness and Vedanta philosophy. He is a philosophical idealist, arguing for the primacy of consciousness over matter and for teleology and intelligence in nature – that mind, or “dynamically active consciousness”, is a fundamental feature of the universe[19].

In this view, consciousness is both subject and object.[20] It is consciousness, he writes, that creates reality; we are not “physical machines that have somehow learned to think…[but] thoughts that have learned to create a physical machine”.[20] He argues that the evolution of species is the evolution of consciousness seeking to express itself as multiple observers; the universe experiences itself through our brains: “We are the eyes of the universe looking at itself”.[21] He has been quoted as saying “Charles Darwin was wrong. Consciousness is key to evolution and we will soon prove that.” He opposes reductionist thinking in science and medicine, arguing that we can trace the physical structure of the body down to the molecular level and still have no explanation for beliefs, desires, memory and creativity.[22] In his book Quantum Healing, Chopra stated the conclusion that quantum entanglement links everything in the Universe, and therefore it must create consciousness [23].

Approach to Health Care:

Chopra argues that everything that happens in the mind and brain is physically represented elsewhere in the body, with mental states (thoughts, feelings, perceptions and memories) directly influencing physiology by means of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. He has stated, “Your mind, your body and your consciousness – which is your spirit – and your social interactions, your personal relationships, your environment, how you deal with the environment, and your biology are all inextricably woven into a single process. By influencing one, you influence everything [24].

Chopra and physicians at the Chopra Center practice integrative medicine, combining the medical model of conventional Western medicine with alternative therapies such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, and Ayurveda.[25][26] According to Ayurveda, illness is caused by an imbalance in the patient’s doshas or humours, and is treated with diet, exercise and meditative practices[26] – based on the medical evidence there is, however, nothing in Ayurvedic medicine that is known to be effective at treating disease, and some preparations may be actively harmful, although meditation may be useful in promoting general wellbeing [26].

In discussing health care, Chopra has used the term “quantum healing”, which he defined in Quantum Healing (1989) as the “ability of one mode of consciousness (the mind) to spontaneously correct the mistakes in another mode of consciousness (the body)”. Chopra coined the term quantum healing to invoke the idea of a process whereby a person’s health “imbalance” is corrected by quantum mechanical means. Chopra said that quantum phenomena are responsible for health and wellbeing.

He has attempted to integrate Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of medicine, with quantum mechanics, in order to justify his teachings. Chopra has equated spontaneous remission in cancer to a change in quantum state, corresponding to a jump to “a new level of consciousness that prohibits the existence of cancer”.

In 2001, ABC News aired a show segment on the topic of distance healing and prayer.[27] In it Chopra said that “there is a realm of reality that goes beyond the physical where in fact we can influence each other from a distance”[27].
Chopra’s claims of quantum healing have attracted controversy due to what has been described as a “systematic misinterpretation” of modern physics.[28] Chopra’s connections between quantum mechanics and alternative medicine are widely regarded in the scientific community as being invalid.

Alternative Medicine:

Chopra has been described as “America’s most prominent spokesman for Ayurveda”.[78] His treatments benefit from the placebo response.[29] Chopra states “The placebo effect is real medicine, because it triggers the body’s healing system.”
Chopra has metaphorically described the AIDS virus as emitting “a sound that lures the DNA to its destruction”. The condition can be treated, according to Chopra, with “Ayurveda’s primordial sound”.

He is placed by David Gorski among the “quacks”, “cranks” and “purveyors of woo”, and described as “arrogantly obstinate”.[30] The New York Times in 2013 stated that Deepak Chopra is “the controversial New Age guru and booster of alternative medicine”. The Time magazine stated that he is “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.”[31] He has become one of the best-known and wealthiest figures in the holistic-health movement. The Times argued that his publishers have used his medical degree on the covers of his books as a way to promote the books and buttress their claims.[33] In 1999 Time magazine included Chopra in its list of the 20th century’s heroes and icons. The following year Mikhail Gorbachev referred to him as “one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time”. Cosmo Landesman wrote in 2005 that Chopra was “hardly a man now, more a lucrative new age brand – the David Beckham of personal/spiritual growth”[32].

A 2008 Time magazine article by Ptolemy Tompkins commented that for most of his career Chopra had been a “magnet for criticism”, and most of it was from the medical and scientific professionals.[34] Opinions ranged from the “dismissive” to the “outright damning”.[17] Chopra’s claims for the effectiveness of alternative medicine can, some have argued, lure sick people away from medical treatments.[34] Tompkins however considered Chopra a “beloved” individual whose basic messages centered on “love, health and happiness” had made him rich because of their popular appeal [34].

English professor George O’Har argues that Chopra exemplifies the need of human beings for meaning and spirit in their lives, and places what he calls Chopra’s “sophistries” alongside the emotivism of Oprah Winfrey. Paul Kurtz writes that Chopra’s “regnant spirituality” is reinforced by postmodern criticism of the notion of objectivity in science, while Wendy Kaminer equates Chopra’s views with irrational belief systems such as New Thought, Christian Science, and Scientology [35].

Theory of Aging:

Chopra believes that “ageing is simply learned behavior” that can be slowed or prevented.[36] Chopra has said that he expects “to live way beyond 100”. He states that “by consciously using our awareness, we can influence the way we age biologically…You can tell your body not to age.”[37] Conversely, Chopra also says that ageing can be accelerated, for example by a person engaging in “cynical mistrust” [37].
Robert Todd Carroll has characterized Chopra’s promotion of lengthened life as a selling of “hope” that seems to be “a false hope based on an unscientific imagination steeped in mysticism and cheerily dispensed gibberish” [21].

Spirituality and Religion:

Chopra has likened the universe to a “reality sandwich” which has three layers: the “material” world, a “quantum” zone of matter and energy, and a “virtual” zone outside of time and space, which is the domain of God, and from which God can direct the other layers. Chopra has written that human beings’ brains are “hardwired to know God” and that the functions of the human nervous system mirror divine experience[41].

In 2012, reviewing War of the Worldviews – a book co-authored by Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow – physics professor Mark Alford says that the work is set out as a debate between the two authors, “[covering] all the big questions: cosmology, life and evolution, the mind and brain, and God”. Alford considers the two sides of the debate a false opposition, and says that “the counterpoint to Chopra’s speculations is not science, with its complicated structure of facts, theories, and hypotheses,” but rather Occam’s razor[41].

Criticism to Deepak Chopra:

The ideas Chopra promotes have been regularly criticized by medical and scientific professionals as pseudoscience.[34][37][38] This criticism has been described as ranging “from dismissive [to] damning”.[34] For example, Robert Carroll states Chopra attempts to integrate Ayurveda with quantum mechanics to justify his teachings.[21] Chopra argues that what he calls “quantum healing” cures any manner of ailments, including cancer, through effects that he claims are literally based on the same principles as quantum mechanics[39].

This has led physicists to object to his use of the term quantum in reference to medical conditions and the human body[39]. His treatments benefit from the placebo response, and some argue that his claims for the effectiveness of alternative medicine can lure sick people away from medical treatments[34]. He is placed by David Gorski among the “quacks”, “cranks” and “purveyors of woo”, and described as “arrogantly obstinate”[34]. Richard Dawkins publicly exposed Chopra, accusing him of using “quantum jargon as plausible-sounding hocus pocus”.

Chopra has been criticized for his frequent references to the relationship of quantum mechanics to healing processes, a connection that has drawn skepticism from physicists who say it can be considered as contributing to the general confusion in the popular press regarding quantum measurement, decoherence and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle [40].

In 1998, Chopra was awarded the satirical Ig Nobel Prize in physics for “his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness”.[40] When interviewed by ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in the Channel 4 (UK) documentary The Enemies of Reason, Chopra said that he used the term “quantum physics” as “a metaphor” and that it had little to do with quantum theory in physics.

Published Books:

As of 2015, Chopra has written 80 books, 21 of them New York Times bestsellers, which have been translated into 43 languages. His book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success was on The New York Times Best Seller list for 72 weeks.
• (1987) Creating Health. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-395-42953-6.
• (1989) Quantum Healing. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-05368-X.
• (1991) Perfect Health. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-81367-6.
• (1991) Return of the Rishi: A Doctor’s Story of Spiritual Transformation and Ayurvedic Healing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-395-57420-1.
• (1993) Ageless Body Timeless Mind. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-59257-6.
• (1994) The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. San Rafael: Amber Allen Publishing and New World Library. ISBN 1-878424-11-4.
• (1995) The Return of Merlin. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-59849-3.
• (1995) The Way of the Wizard. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-517-70434-X.
• (1996) The Path to Love. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-517-70622-0.
• (2000) with David Simon, The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-609-80390-5.
• (2004) The Book of Secrets. New York: Harmony. ISBN 0-517-70624-5.
• (2008) The Soul of Leadership. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-40806-X.
• (2008) The Third Jesus. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-33831-2.
• (2009) Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-45233-7.
• (2011) with Leonard Mlodinow, War of the Worldviews. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-88688-0.
• (2011) with Gotham Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes: Harnessing Our Power to Change the World. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-205966-6.
• (2012) God: A Story of Revelation. New York: HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-202069-7.
• (2012) with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Super Brain. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-95682-2.
• (2013) with Sanjiv Chopra, Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream. New York: New Harvest. ISBN 978-0-544-03210-1.
• (2013) What Are You Hungry For?. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-7704-3721-4.
• (2015) with Rudolph Tanzi, Super Genes. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-8041-4013-8.:

References:

1. Alter, Charlotte (November 26, 2014). “Deepak Chopra on Why Gratitude is Good For You”. Time. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
2. “Deepak Chopra”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
3. Perry, Tony (September 7, 1997). “So Rich, So Restless”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
4. Hans A. Baer, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jun., 2003), pp. 233-250
5. Dunkel, Tom (2005). “Inner Peacekeeper”. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
6. Baer, HA (June 2003). “The work of Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra—two holistic health/New Age gurus: a critique of the holistic health/New Age movements.”. Medical anthropology quarterly. 17 (2): 240–241. JSTOR 3655336. PMID 12846118. doi:10.1525/maq.2003.17.2.233.
7. Chopra, Deepak (December 2007). Perfect Health—Revised and Updated: The Complete Mind Body Guide. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. p. 7.
8. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “The Crisis of Perception”, Media Monitors Network, February 29, 2008.
9. Chopra 2013, pp. 5–6, 11–13; Michael Schulder (May 24, 2013). “The Chopra Brothers”. CNN.
10. Lambert, Craig A. (July 1989). “Quantum Healing: An Interview with Deepak Chopra, M.D.”. Yoga Journal (87): 47–53.
11. Young, Anna M. (2014). Prophets, Gurus, and Pundits: Rhetorical Styles and Public Engagement. SIU Press. pp. 59–68.
12. Chopra 1991, p. 105ff.
13. Chopra 1991, p. 125.
14. Pettus (New York Magazine) 1995, p. 31
15. Pettus (New York Magazine) 1995, p. 31; Baer 2004, p. 129.
16. Deepak Chopra, “The Maharishi Years – The Untold Story: Recollections of a Former Disciple”, The Huffington Post, February 13, 2008.
17. “Chopra, Deepak”, California Department of Consumer Affairs. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
18. “Dr. Deepak K Chopra”, U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved March 23, 2016
19. Deepak Chopra, “What Is Consciousness & Where Is It?”, discussion with Rudolph Tanzi, Menas Kafatos and Lothar Schäfer, Science and Nonduality Conference, 2013.
20. Deepak Chopra, Stuart Hameroff, “The ‘Quantum Soul’: A Scientific Hypothesis,” in Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Franklin Santana Santos (eds.), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship, Springer, 2011 (pp. 79–93), p. 85.
21. Chopra, Deepak (2009) [1989]. Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine. Random House. pp. 71–72, 74.
22. Deepak Chopra, “Dangerous Ideas: Deepak Chopra & Richard Dawkins”, University of Puebla, November 9, 2013, 26:23 mins.
23. O’Neill, Ian (May 26, 2011). “Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?”. Discovery News. Discovery Communications, LLC. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
24. Deepak Chopra, “Deepak Chopra Meditation”, courtesy of YouTube, December 10, 2012.
25. “Deepak Chopra and the Chopra Center”. ReligionFacts.com. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
26. “Oprah Winfrey & Deepak Chopra Launch All-New Meditation Experience ‘Expanding Your Happiness'”. Broadway World. Retrieved July 22, 2014
27. Wanjek, Christopher (2003). Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O. Wiley Bad Science Series. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 224
28. Cox, Brian (February 20, 2012). “Why Quantum Theory Is So Misunderstood – Speakeasy – WSJ”. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
29. John Gamel, “Hokum on the Rise: The 70-Percent Solution”, The Antioch Review, 66(1), 2008, p. 130
30. David Gorski. “Deepak Chopra tries his hand at a clinical trial. Woo ensues”. Retrieved 20 December 2016
31. Dare, Stephen (March 15, 2016). “Stephen Dare Interviews Deepak Chopra”. Metro Jacksonville.
32. For Time, Peter Rowe, “Truly, madly, deeply Deepak Chopra
33. New York Media, (August 14, 1995). New York Media, LLC. pp. 95–. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
34. Tompkins, Ptolemy (November 14, 2008). “New Age Supersage
35. George M. O’Har (2000). “Magic in the Machine Age”. Technology and Culture. 41 (4): 864. JSTOR 25147641. doi:10.1353/tech.2000.0174.
36. Henderson, Mark (February 7, 2004). “Junk medicine; The triumph of mumbo jumbo”. The Times (Book review). p. 4.
37. Stephen Barrett. “A Few Thoughts on Ayurvedic Mumbo-Jumbo”. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
38. “Face-Off: Does God Have a Future”. Nightline. Season 30. Episode 58. Transcript from the Internet Archive. March 23, 2010. ABC. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
39. Park, Robert L (September 1, 2005). “Chapter 9: Voodoo medicine in a scientific world”. In Ashman, Keith; Barringer, Phillip. After the Science Wars: Science and the Study of Science. Routledge. pp. 137
40. Stenger, Victor J (1997). “Quantum Quackery”. Skeptical Inquirer. 21 (1): 37-.
41. Alford, Mark (2012). “Is science the antidote to Deepak Chopra’s spirituality?”. Skeptical Inquirer. 36 (3): 54. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012.