Deepak Chopra:

Leader in the field of Mind/Body Medicine

 

EDP 180K Fall 2001

By: Elizabeth Lagadrost

 

 

Our Real Self

Just by being ourselves

we are borne toward a destiny

far beyond anything

we could imagine.

It is enough to know

that the being

I nourish inside me

is the same as the Being

that suffuses every atom

of the cosmos.

When the two

see each other as equals

they will be equal,

because then the same force

that controls the galaxies

will be upholding

my individual existence

~Deepak Chopra

 

 

            Deepak Chopra was born in Poona India in 1947.  He was the eldest son of Krishan Chopra, a prominent cardiologist.  With his father being a doctor, Deepak Chopra was raised in the tradition of Western Medicine.  His father considered the traditional ideas of Ayurveda to be pointless rituals and did not believe in raising his family in these ancient Hindu beliefs.  Chopra wrote in his autobiography, “My father proudly practiced Western medicine and looked at his accomplishments as a personal triumph.  He had every reason to think that modern India would be well off without the ignorant old ways.  Ayurveda, being ‘unscientific’ to Western eyes, could join the other castoffs.  It never occurred to me or my father that Ayurveda might be something great.” (Chopra 23)  As a child Deepak’s father strongly pushed him towards pursuing a medical career.  However,  Deepak rejected his father’s urgings completely, wanting nothing to do with the field of medicine.  He was more interested in soccer and cricket and saw himself becoming a journalist.   Yet, as he reached adolescence his views began to change.  At age sixteen, Deepak read Sinclair Lewis’s novel, Arrowsmith, which suddenly sparked in him a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He writes, “These words thrilled me.  It had what I needed- the hero was a doctor and the doctor was a hero.  I embraced his dedication and his life, and I would go forth like him.” (Chopra 6)  With the new found dream of becoming a doctor, Chopra enrolled into the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. During his years as a student he did very well and graduated at the top of his class in all subjects.   While attending school, he and fellow students witnessed a Saint buried alive.  The Saint was placed in a box and was buried underground for six days, which the Saint spent meditating.  This was Deepak’s first real introduction to meditation, however it would be another fifteen years before he was reintroduced to these traditions of the Eastern world. 

            Upon graduating from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Chopra married his wife, Rita, and soon after moved to America. Deepak’s family had known Rita’s family because both of their father’s had spent time in the military service.  Rita’s aunt had suffered from a stroke and was admitted into the hospital at which Deepak was studying at during school.  Rita’s family visited their aunt at the hospital over the next year, and Deepak and Rita saw each other often.  Shortly after Deepak’s graduation they were married and in 1970 made the move to America.   Chopra became a doctor in a hospital in New Jersey.  He was very successful as a doctor and eventually became a specialist in endocrinology at the Boston Regional Medical Center.  Along with the success, being a doctor was very demanding, there was a lot of stress that Deepak was forced to deal with.  The hours were also very demanding leaving very little time for his wife and two children.  He found himself addicted to coffee and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day to help deal with the high stress. 

            Ten years after coming to America, Deepak returned to India.  This became a turing point in his life, on this trip he began to become interested in Eastern medical traditions.  During his visit Chopra wrote, “I did not learn a lot about Ayurveda in Ramgarh.  I learned a lot however, about what medical care has to be.  It has to suit the people a doctor cares for.  It has to agree with their temperaments and what they expect from life.  It must be affordable and humane and it must work,” (Chopra 69)  He was also fortunate to meet with Dr. Brihaspati Dev Tringua, who would become a major influence in his life.   Dr. Tringua spoke with Deepak and encouraged him to begin practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) and spend more time with his family.    TM is a “meditation process that leads to deeper relaxation” (Barker)  Chopra was reluctant at first to follow the advise of Dr. Tringua, but he eventually decided to begin practicing TM.  As a result he turned his life around, and with in two weeks he had stopped smoking and was no longer addicted to coffee.  Soon he and two friends, Farouk and Vinod, became avid practicers of TM.  However, this was just the beginning of Chopra’s interest in Eastern medicine.

            Another strong influence in Chopra’s life was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  In 1985, the Maharishi encouraged Deepak to follow Ayurvedic practices, explaining “I have been waiting a long time to bring out some special techniques.  I believe they will be the medicine of the future.  They were known in the distant past but were lost in the confusion of the time; now I want you to learn them, and at the same time I want you to explain, clearly and scientifically, how they work.” (Chopra 3) In that same year, Deepak started a new chapter in his life, beginning with becoming the founding president of the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine. 

            It is here where Chopra’s creative genius can be examined.  As he continues to strive to introduce and popularize Ayurveda, meditation, and holistic healing to the Western world.  A culture which is far more accepting of strict Western medical practices than the Hindu traditions  apparent in Chopra’s teachings.  Deepak came to realize that there was potential in Western medicine for a new approach to healing, one which focused on a principle of perfect health rather than the absence of disease.  He teaches that health is a lively state of balance between the mind, body and spirit; incorporating modern theories with the wisdom of ancient Hindu culture. Ayurveda is a ancient Hindu practice of healing through a mind/body harmony and dietary and herbal treatments.  “Ayurveda is the science of life and it has a very basic, simple kind of approach, which is that we are part of the universe and the universe is intelligent and the human body is part of the cosmic body, and the human mind is part of the cosmic mind, and the atom and the universe are exactly the same thing but with different form, and the more in touch we are with this deeper reality, from where everything comes, the more we will be able to heal ourselves and at the same time heal our planet.” (Carroll)  With in Ayurveda there are three doshas which regulate the mind/body balance.  Illness is viewed as an imbalance of these doshas. Treatment is a process of finding a harmony in these doshas, through meditation, nutrition, yoga and exercise, which enhances health and reduces stress.  (Barker) 

            Chopra has written over twenty five books which promote his teachings.  However, a major breakthrough in his career came with his book Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  In this book Chopra introduces his own new way of approaching self healing.  He writes, “Quantum healing moves away from external, high technology methods towards the deepest care of the mind/body system.  This care is where healing begins.” (Chopra 20) He goes on to explain, “The greek philosopher, Heraclitus made the famous remark, ‘you cannot step into a river in the same place twice, because the river is constantly being changed by new water rushing in.  The same holds true for the body.  All of us are much more like a river than anything frozen in time and space.” (Chopra 48)  His publication along with the opening of his current facility, the Chopra Center for well Being (http://www.chopra.com/) have helped to form a community of support within the Western world. 

            Deepak Chopra success can be accredited to his own motivation and personality.  Having a doctorate in medicine gives him the extensive knowledge of Western medicine.  However, this has also brought a lot of criticism on him from former colleagues and doctors who regard his shift to Ayurvedic medicine as medical fraud.  It takes a strong personality and a large amount of self motivation to introduce a entire new idea, especially in the field of medicine, into a culture which has already established a strong foundation of medical practices.  He comments in an interview with TIMEasia, “The fact is, whenever you’re successful, no matter what you’re doing, you’re bound to face criticism and have people who either like you or dislike you.  I think it is healthy to have critics and have people who are skeptical.  I think it’s not healthy to be cynical.  There’s a difference between the two.  Skeptics are at least open minded, they say ‘show me’.  Cynics don’t want to look.  If  I was you I would have asked ‘have you read any of  his books?’ And if they had, and they were still cynical, then I would have loved to know what the criticism was.  I would take it positively and I would treat those critics as my best friends.” (Roderick)   Despite the criticism, Chopra has remained an avid follower of his beliefs and teachings.  His strengths as a creative innovator have brought him success.

            Deepak shows strengths in many of the intelligences Gardner establishes in his book, Creating Minds.  As a person he demonstrates a strong inter-personal intelligence.  He is a leader in his field.  His ability to reach out to others and establish a place of healing and teaching of his ideas has drawn a large group of supporters.  In cooperation with the inter-personal intelligence, he is also successful in the verbal/linguistic intelligence.  As an author of over twenty five books, as well as having spoken all over the world, his strength in expressing his teachings is amazing.  In teaching the traditions of Hindu medicine, Chopra is also in touch with his intra-personal intelligence.  Much of Ayurveda and meditation focus on knowing ones inner self.  Deepak stresses the importance of a mind/body connection, which will create a balance within oneself.  In experiencing his own personal change in his life due to meditation, Chopra has developed a knowledge of his inner self.   He uses his intra-personal intelligence in his teachings and helps others become more in tune with their inner being.  As a leader  in a new age of medicine, Deepak Chopra demonstrates multiple intelligences, a  characteristic common among many creative individuals. 

            In conclusion, Deepak Chopra continues to remain a leader in new age medicine.  He recently published his newest book, How to Know God.  His teachings have spread around the world, and have been expanded upon by others.  His influence has begun to be seen emerging in our Western culture.  His son, Gautama, seems to be following in his father’s footsteps, publishing his own book and continuing to promote and practice Ayurveda and meditation himself.  Chopra writes of his son, “I think of how lucky Gautama is, to know freedom and love so effortlessly.  The rishi value in his awareness is a living reality to him.  What assistance Nature will bring to him, he can freely accept, without anxiety.  Trust is not strange to him, so I know he will be welcomed by life.” (Chopra 147)   In February of this year, Deepak’s father died at age 81.  His father’s death has been an inspiration in Chopra’s life.  He plans to write a new book  examining such questions as “Why some people have such a blissful life and conscious death, and others just the opposite?”  And the theme of death and dying.  (Scheinin)  Deepak’s teachings are positive and motivational, he like all of Gardner’s creative masters, has found a way to bring a novel idea into society.  I will end this paper with a quote by  Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica, and Nobel Peace Laureate who writes, “Spiritual health and moral responsibility are two of the most precious gifts that any leader can offer. Few thinkers have done as much as Deepak Chopra to allow millions to embrace the project of personal and social transformation."

 

References

Books:

            Chopra, D. (1989) Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.

            New York, New York: Bantam Books

           

            Chopra, D. (1988) Return of the Rishi Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin

            Company

 

            Gardner, H. (1993). Creating Minds. New York: Harper Collins

 

Web Links:

            Barker, Jason. (2000) Deepak Chopra. http://www.watchman.org/profile/choprapro.htm

 

            Barrett, Stephen, M.D. A Few Thoughts on Ayuvedic Mumbo-Jumbo.

            http://www.quackwatch.com/04consumerEducation/chopra.html

 

            Carroll, Robert Todd. Ayurvedic Medicine and Deepak Chopra.

            http://www.skepdic.com/ayurvedic.html

 

            Hay, Veronica M. Deepak Chopra M.D. http://www.intouchmag.com/chopra.html

 

            http://www.howtoknowgod.com/about/author.asp

 

            Roderick, Daffyd, (2000) Hail Emperor. TIMEasia

            http://www.time.com/time/asia/features/interviews/int.chopra.html

 

            Scheinin, Richard (2001) Deepak Looks Deeper

            http://www.chopra.com/article.asp?program=general&id=7

            Wheeler, Thomas, M.D.Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Ayurvedic Medicine.

            http://www.trancenet.org/chopra/news/ncahf.shtml