By Jason Barker
Date of Birth: 1947.
Publications: Nineteen books, including Ageless Body, Timeless
Mind (1993), The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (1995), The
Return of Merlin (1995), The Way of the Wizard (1996), and The
Path to Love (1997). Has also published a CD-ROM, Deepak Chopra's
The Wisdom Within (1997). Publishes a monthly newsletter,
Chopra's Infinite Possibilities for Body, Mind and Soul.
Organizations: Chopra Center for Well Being, Global Network for Spiritual
Unique Terms: Quantum soup, ayurveda / mind body medicine, Opti (a line
of healthcare products, including OptiMind, OptiCalm, and OptiWoman), infinite
Deepak Chopra is the oldest son of Krishan Chopra, an Indian cardiologist
whose training was personally authorized by Lord Mountbatten
of the Rishi, pp. 18-19). Chopra was raised in a family infused with
both Western medicine and traditional Hindu beliefs and practices. For
example, he describes a conflict over medical practices between his British-trained
father and ayurveda-practicing grandfather (Ibid., p. 24). Following his
father's career in medicine, he graduated from the All India Institute
of Medical Sciences in 1968 ("A Few Thoughts on Ayurvedic Mumbo-Jumbo,"
While in medical school, he claims to have seen a Hindu holy man who was
voluntarily buried alive; after six days, the man was freed and went on
his way (Return of the Rishi, pp. 57-58).
Chopra first came to the United States in 1970 to serve an internship
at a hospital in New Jersey (Return of the Rishi, p. 1). He followed
this internship with a residency and further training at the Lahey Clinic
and the University of Virginia Hospital ("A
Few Thoughts on Ayurvedic Mumbo-Jumbo"). In the early 1980s, he became
the chief of staff at New England Memorial Hospital
(Tony Perry, "So Rich,
So Restless." Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1997, <http://www.latimes.com>).
A major turning point in Chopra's medical practice and philosophy occurred
in 1981, when he returned to New Delhi and met Dr. Brihaspati Dev Triguna,
"The preeminent living Ayurvedic physician" (Return of the Rishi,
pp. 103-105). Triguna needed only, according to Chopra, to "put three fingers
on your wrist.and he knows your whole medical history - past, present,
and future" (Ibid., p. 105). After hearing from Chopra's friend that Chopra
was "a beacon of wisdom" and "one of the most famous doctors" in America,
Triguna touched Chopra's wrist and diagnosed Chopra as "think[ing] too
many unnecessary thoughts" (Ibid., pp. 108-109). Chopra was advised to
meditate, spend more time with his family,
and chew his food more slowly (Ibid., p. 110).
Chopra did not immediately follow Triguna's advice. He was continually
drinking coffee, smoking a pack of cigarettes each day, and drinking whiskey
in the evening to relax (Return of the Rishi, p. 125). Eventually
overcoming his previous biases against the Hindu-based
mysticism of his native India which might hold the key to alleviating his
stress, Chopra became receptive to the message of Transcendental
Meditation (TM) that "meditation was an effortless process that led
to deeper relaxation" (Ibid., pp. 124-125). He notes that he was particularly
impressed by the sizable amount of research that proves that TM reduces
stress (p. 125). Within two weeks he stopped smoking and drinking (Ibid.).
Chopra met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder and leader of TM,
in 1985 (Return of the Rishi, p. 139). The Maharishi invited Chopra
to study Ayurveda
(p. 143), and that year Chopra became the founding president
of the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine. He was later named
medical director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center for Stress Management
and Behavioral Medicine (Ibid., back cover).
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chopra became a dedicated champion
of TM thought and practice. His 1989 book, Quantum Healing: Exploring
the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine, combined Hinduism and Western
medicine to explain that the body is a "network of intelligence" that can
be programmed through meditation and clean living to be immune to disease
A significant episode in Chopra's career occurred in 1991, when the
Journal of the American Medical Association published an article
by Chopra, Triguna and Hari Sharma, "Letter From New Delhi: Maharishi Ayur-Veda:
Modern Insights Into Ancient Medicine." Criticism from the Journal's readers
over the validity of the article's argument led the associate editor to
write a rebuttal in which he criticized the financial stake the authors
had in validating and selling their products, the Hindu belief in yogic
flying, and the basis of Chopra's ayurveda in TM (Los Angeles Times,
September 7, 1997). Chopra responded by filing a $30 million suit in which
he accused the Journal of defamation and bigotry (Ibid.). Chopra's lawyer
claims that the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount (Newsweek,
October 20, 1997, p. 57); some critics, however, state that the suit was
dismissed ("Deepak Chopra Bombshell," <http://www.trancenet.org/chopra/news/plagoverview.shtml>).
Chopra split with TM in 1993, allegedly because the Maharishi attempted
to control his speaking and writing (Los Angeles Times, September
7, 1997). In that same year, Chopra published his breakthrough work, Ageless
Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old. After
an appearance on Oprah, Chopra sold 130,000 copies of the book in one day
(Newsweek, October 20, 1997, p. 54).
Ageless Body, Timeless Mind led Chopra into a fierce lawsuit
over plagiarism. The book contains unaccredited material developed by Robert
Sapolsky, a professor of biology at Stanford University; Sapolsky filed
suit on January 23, 1997 ("Deepak Chopra Bombshell"). The suit was recently
settled out-of-court, with Chopra agreeing to provide proper attributions
to Sapolsky in future printings of the book ("Text of Chopra/Sapolsky Statement,"
In 1993 Chopra and family moved to La Jolla, CA. He soon became the
executive director of the Sharp Institute for Human Potential and Mind-Body
Medicine with a $30,000 grant from the Office of Alternative Medicine in
the National Institutes to study ayurvedic medicine (Los Angeles Times,
September 7, 1997). The Sharp Institute was affiliated with Sharp HealthCare,
a system of seven hospitals, twenty-three clinics, and three medical groups
(Ibid.). In 1995, however, a change in ownership resulted in a break between
Sharp and Chopra; Chopra then opened the Chopra Center for Well Being (Ibid.).
It is noteworthy that Chopra declined to apply for a California medical
license, and he no longer engages in clinical practice (Time, June
24, 1996, p. 68). While his recent books do not list Chopra as a
doctor in the by-line on their covers, his web site contains a question-and-answer
section titled "Ask Dr. Chopra" (<http://www.chopra.com>).
In addition to the aforementioned lawsuits, Chopra has sued several
other critics in recent years. A 1996 article in The Weekly Standard
published the claim of a prostitute that Chopra had patronized her
in 1991. Chopra filed suit against The Weekly Standard after the
prostitute retracted her assertion, leading the magazine to publish an
apology and pay Chopra's estimated $1 million in legal fees (Newsweek,
October 20, 1997, p. 56; Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1997).
The law firm representing a former Chopra employee who accused Chopra of
sexual harassment was also sued; this suit was recently dismissed with
prejudice by a judge who called the suit "frivolous" ("Deepak Chopra Bombshell").
Chopra is currently being sued for $100 million by a former psychotherapist
who claims that Chopra used portions of a copyrighted manuscript,
Change Programming, Creating Your Own Destiny, in his 1994 book, The
Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (Los Angeles Times, May 3, 1998).
Ayurveda / Mind Body Medicine: Ayurveda is a form of Indian
folk medicine that has been practiced for at least two thousand years.
It was first promoted in the United States by disciples of Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi ("Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Ayurvedic Medicine," <http://www.trancenet.org/chopra/news/ncahf.shtml>).
Ayurvedic medicine is essentially, to use Chopra's term, "mind body
medicine." This form of medicine "offers new possibilities for promoting
and improving health through natural approaches that stimulate our body's
intrinsic healing system" ("Mind Body Medicine," <http://www.chopra.com/aboutmindbody.htm>).
Ayurvedic practitioners engage in meditation techniques, balanced nutrition,
yoga, and exercise to enhance their health and reduce stress (Ibid.).
A statement made by Triguna at the end of his first meeting with Chopra
had a profound impact on Chopra's later ideology: "Ayurveda is very clear
about the goal of life. It is to be happy and to receive wise and happy
thoughts from every part of the universe" (Return of the Rishi, p.
110). Chopra restated the principle: "You are what you think" (Creating
Health, p. 92). The purpose of ayurveda is to attain balance between
mind, body, and environment; Chopra writes, "Ayurveda takes the vista of
man to be infinite. The universe is the macrocosm, man is the microcosm"
(Return of the Rishi, p. 113).
Simply stated, the universe consists of a single energy or consciousness;
this energy is the "field of all possibilities" (The Seven Spiritual
Laws of Success, p. 9). Chopra also refers to this field as the "quantum
soup." This energy field, which is endlessly creative and positive, is
the source for all existing beings (including humans). When humans are
completely open to the "flow" of this energy field, they will be happy
and healthy. They become unhappy and unhealthy, and age more poorly, when
they block this flow (Creating Health, p. 102). The practices of
ayurveda are intended to lower a person's resistance to the flow of the
universal energy field.
Chopra correctly points out that the medical community does not widely
accept ayurvedic medicine. Because his medical practices are "experimental,"
the Chopra Center for Well Being is not a licensed medical care facility,
and ayurvedic treatment is not covered by most insurance programs ("Frequently
Asked Questions," <http://www.chopra.com/ccwbfaq.htm>).
Instead of healing his clients from their diseases, Chopra focuses on "self-empowering
knowledge and experience of the achievement of balance" (Ibid.).
The Seven Spiritual Laws: Chopra is well known for his seven
spiritual laws, "the principles that nature uses to create everything in
material existence," and which people can use to "fulfill [our] desires
with effortless ease" (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, pp.
1, 2). His two books on the subject provide guidelines for adults and children
to create unlimited wealth.
Chopra's seven spiritual laws are:
1. The Law of Pure Potentiality
Dharma and karma are the two cornerstones of Chopra's seven laws. In Hinduism,
dharma is our purpose in life, and karma is the law of cause-and-effect
[Chopra explains the Law of Karma by paraphrasing the Bible: "What you
sow is what you reap" (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, p. 39)].
By fulfilling our purpose to serve others [dharma], as stated in the Law
of Giving, we will reap benefits for ourselves [karma] (p. 101).
2. The Law of Giving
3. The Law of "Karma" or Cause and Effect
4. The Law of Least Effort
5. The Law of Intention and Desire
6. The Law of Detachment
7. The Law of Dharma
A modified version of Brahma - which in Hinduism is understood as the
impersonal energy of which all existing things are a part - is also central
to Chopra's seven laws. Hinduism encourages the renunciation of material
desires in order to achieve perfect alignment with Brahma. Chopra, however,
teaches that unity with Brahma [which he calls the "field of pure potentiality"
or "quantum soup"] can be used to fulfill one's desires (The Seven Spiritual
Laws of Success, pp. 10, 13). Also different from Hinduism is Chopra's
teaching that not only can people channel the energy of the universe into
fulfilling their desires, they should also be able to do this with minimal
effort (p. 51).
In contrast to Chopra's Hindu-based teaching that we create reality
from universal energy, the Bible teaches that only God can create
nihilo [something from nothing] (Isaiah 45:18; John 1:3).
Brahma, an impersonal energy, does not govern the universe. Instead,
the universe is governed and preserved by God (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 103:19).
God is infinite (1 Timothy 6:16), personal (Isaiah 44:6-7), and immutable
(Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).
The Bible condemns the materialism inherent in Chopra's teachings. Jesus
encouraged us to lay up treasure in heaven, instead of pursuing possessions
on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). In addition, one of the results of sin is that
work without the empowering of the Holy Spirit requires great effort, rather
than being effortless
Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, by John Ankerberg and John
Weldon, Harvest House Publishers. The most comprehensive examination of
New Age beliefs and practices in print. Extensively examines New Age medicine
and physics as taught by such people as Chopra. 670 pages - $23.
The Kingdom of the Cults, Thirtieth Anniversary Edition, by Walter
Martin and edited by Hank Hanegraff, Bethany House Publishers. Contains
a chapter on the New Age Movement. Comes with a CD-ROM for cross-referencing.
703 pages - $33.
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