Motivational Speaker – Deepak Chopra – US
Deepak Chopra (/ˈdiːpɑːk ˈtʃoʊprə/; born October 22, 1947) is an Indian-American physician, a holistic health/New Ageguru, and alternative medicine practitioner. Chopra has taught at the medical schools of Tufts University, Boston Universityand Harvard University. He became Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH) in Massachusetts, before establishing a private practice. In 1985, Chopra met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who invited him to study Ayurveda. Chopra left his position at the NEMH and became the founding president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, and was later named medical director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center.
In 1996, Chopra and neurologist David Simon founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, which incorporated Ayurveda in its regimen. The University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the American Medical Association have granted continuing medical education credits for some programs offered to physicians at the Chopra Center. In 2009, Chopra established the Chopra Foundation to advance the cause of mind/body spiritual healing, education, and research through fundraising for selected projects.
Chopra has written more than 70 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers. His books have been translated into 35 languages and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Chopra has received many awards, including the Oceana Award (2009),Humanitarian Starlite Award (2010), and the GOI Peace Award (2010).
Chopra is a controversial figure. According to a 2008 article in Time magazine, he is “a magnet for criticism", primarily from those involved in science and medicine. His critics accuse him of creating a false sense of hope in sick individuals which may keep them away from effective medical care.
Early life and education[edit source | editbeta]
Chopra was born in New Delhi, India. His father, Krishan Chopra (1919–2001) was a prominent Indian cardiologist, head of the department of medicine and cardiology at Mool Chand Khairati Ram Hospital, New Delhi, for over 25 years, and a lieutenant in the British army. His paternal grandfather was a sergeant in the British Army, who looked to Ayurveda for treatment for a heart condition when the condition did not improve with Western medicine. Chopra’s younger brother, Sanjiv, is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. His mother tongue is Punjabi.
Career[edit source | editbeta]
Chopra’s career falls into two parts. At first, Chopra adhered to mainstream medical practice; he then became an advocate of alternative medicine and a wealthy businessman – continuing the long tradition of entrepreneurialism in the American medical system.
Mainstream medicine[edit source | editbeta]
After immigrating to the US in 1968, Chopra began his clinical internship and residency training at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey. He had residency terms at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, and at the University of Virginia Hospital.
He earned his license to practice medicine in the state of Massachusetts in 1973 and received a California medical license in 2004. Chopra is board-certified in internal medicine and specialized in endocrinology. He is also a member of the American Medical Association (AMA).
Chopra taught at the medical schools of Tufts University, Boston University and Harvard University. He became Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, later known as Boston Regional Medical Center, before establishing a private practice.
As a practitioner of alternative medicine[edit source | editbeta]
Influence of transcendental meditation[edit source | editbeta]
After reading about the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM), Chopra and his wife learned the practice in 1981, and two months later they went on to learn the advanced TM-Sidhi program. In a 1981 meeting between Chopra and Ayurvedic physician Brihaspati Dev Triguna in Delhi, India, Triguna advised Chopra to learn the TM technique.
In 1985, Chopra met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who invited him to study Ayurveda. In that same year, Chopra left his position at the New England Memorial Hospital and became the founding president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, and was later named medical director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center for Stress Management and Behavioral Medicine. He was initially the sole stockholder of Maharishi Ayurveda Products International, but divested after three months. He has been called the TM movement’s “poster boy" and “its leading Ayurvedic physician". In 1989, the Maharishi awarded him the title “Dhanvantari (Lord of Immortality), the keeper of perfect health for the world".
By 1992, Chopra was serving on the National Institutes of Health ad hoc panel on alternative medicine. In 1993, Chopra became 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. Chopra’s institute also maintained affiliation with Sharp Healthcare, in San Diego. That same year Chopra moved with his family to Southern California where he lives with his wife and near his two adult children, Gotham and Mallika.
Break with transcendental meditation movement[edit source | editbeta]
Chopra left the Transcendental Meditation movement in January 1994. According to his own account, Chopra was accused by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of attempting to compete with the Maharishi’s position as guru. Author Robert Todd Carroll said Chopra left the TM organization when it “became too stressful” and was a “hindrance to his success”.
Private practice[edit source | editbeta]
In 1996, Chopra parted company with the Sharp Institute. That same year, Chopra and neurologist David Simon founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, which incorporated Ayurveda in its regimen, and was located in La Jolla, California. The University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and American Medical Association have granted continuing medical education credits for some programs offered to physicians at the Chopra Center. In 2002, Chopra and Simon relocated the Chopra Center to the grounds of La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, continuing to offer mind-body wellness programs, medical consultations, and instruction in meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda.
Chopra and Simon also revived an ancient mantra-based meditation practice, traveling to India to study the origins of this technique, known as Primordial Sound Meditation. This form of meditation is now taught at the Chopra Center and by certified instructors who receive their training through Chopra Center University.
Chopra wrote about the contrast between spiritualism and science in his 2011 book War of the Worldviews – Science vs Spirituality, coauthored with CalTech Professor of PhysicsLeonard Mlodinow. In it he says he has a respect and admiration for the scientific method but he believes it has limitations and he contends there is a need for an expanded science that includes the reality and investigation of the observer, or consciousness.
Other activities[edit source | editbeta]
In 2005 Chopra was made a Senior Scientist at The Gallup Organization. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
He is also a weekly columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, a regular contributor to The Washington Post “On Faith" section, a prolific contributor to The Huffington Post, and is also a contributor to the LinkedIn Influencer program.
In 2006, Chopra launched Virgin Comics LLC with his son Gotham Chopra and entrepreneur Richard Branson. The company’s purpose is to “spread peace and awareness through comics and trading cards that display traditional Kabalistic characters and stories." Chopra was awarded the 2006 Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
Chopra is heavily featured in UniGlobe Entertainment’s cancer docudrama titled 1 a Minute talking about mind, body, spirit and the mystery of life and death. The documentary is directed by actress Namrata Singh Gujral and also features cancer survivors Olivia Newton-John, Diahann Carroll, Melissa Etheridge, Mumtaz and Jaclyn Smith.
A friend of Michael Jackson for 20 years, Chopra has criticized the “cult of drug-pushing doctors, with their co-dependent relationships with addicted celebrities", saying that he hoped Jackson’s death, attributed to an overdose of a prescription drug, would be a call to action.
Reception[edit source | editbeta]
In academic journals[edit source | editbeta]
According to medical anthropologist Hans Baer (2003), Chopra – as a wealthy individual – is an example of the American success story, but one who has failed to explore some of the potential benefits of a truly alternative, holistic approach to health. Instead he merely offers an alternative form of medical hegemony, focused on the individual — particularly well-off members of the upper and middle-classes; the “worried well".
John Gamel (2008) also acknowledges Chopra’s business success, thinking him “perhaps the wealthiest" of America’s alternative medicine practitioners. Gamel places Chopra in a “placebo-dominated" tradition and writes that the complementary medicine profession “has moved backward by promoting remedies that are ancient and unproven – or, in some cases, ancient and proven to be worthless".
Reviewing Susan Jacoby‘s book, The Age of American Unreason, Wendy Kaminer sees Chopra’s popular reception in America as being symptomatic of many Americans’ historical inability (as Jacoby puts it) “to distinguish between real scientists and those who peddled theories in the guise of science". Chopra’s “nonsensical references to quantum physics" are placed in a lineage of American religious pseudoscience, extending back through Scientology to Christian Science.
From skeptics[edit source | editbeta]
In August 2005, Chopra wrote a series of articles on the creation-evolution controversy and Intelligent design which were criticized by science writer Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society.
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.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". According to the book Skeptics Dictionary, Chopra’s “mind-body claims get even murkier as he tries to connect Ayurveda with quantum physics." When interviewed by ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in a subterfuge for the Channel 4 (UK) documentary The Enemies of Reason, Chopra said that the way he used the term quantum in quantum healing was different to the way the term is used in quantum theory in physics.
In 2012, reviewing War of the Worldviews – a book co-authored by Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow – physics professor Mark Alford explains 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 concludes that “the counterpoint to Chopra’s speculations is not science, with its complicated structure of facts, theories, and hypotheses, but something much more basic. The antidote to Chopra is Occam."
In popular media[edit source | editbeta]
According to a 2008 article in Time magazine, Chopra is “a magnet for criticism", primarily from those involved in science and medicine. The Time article summarized Chopra’s reception and popularity thus: “Of all the Asian gurus […] Chopra has arguably been the most successful at erasing apparent differences between East and West by packaging Eastern mystique in credible Western garb. […] His quest to construct a pleasing and seamless model of the universe tends to jump to easy conclusions and to spackle over problematic gaps and inconsistencies in the ideas he presents – is obvious to all but his most starry-eyed fans. But grousing about such crimes – as many do – does little to explain his enormous popularity. Chopra is as rich as he is today not because he has been dishonest with anyone, but because his basic message – that love, health and happiness are possible, that mystery is real and that the universe is ultimately a friendly and benevolent place where orthodoxies old and new can meet and make peace with one another – is one that he wants to believe in just as sincerely as his readers do."
In March 2010, Chopra and Jean Houston debated Sam Harris and Michael Shermer at Caltech on the question “Does God Have a Future?" Shermer and Harris criticized Chopra’s use of scientific terminology to expound unrelated spiritual concepts. Shermer has said that Chopra is “the very definition of what we mean by pseudoscience".
In April 2010, Aseem Shukla criticized Chopra for suggesting that yoga did not have origins in Hinduism but is an older Indian spiritual tradition. Chopra later said that yoga was rooted in “consciousness alone" which is a universal, non-sectarian eternal wisdom of life expounded by Vedic rishis long before historic Hinduism ever arose. He accused Shukla of having a “fundamentalist agenda". Shukla responded by saying Chopra was an exponent of the art of “How to Deconstruct, Repackage and Sell Hindu Philosophy Without Calling it Hindu!", and he said Chopra’s mentioning of fundamentalism was an attempt to divert the debate.
Publications[edit source | editbeta]
Chopra has written more than 70 books with 21 New York Times bestsellers. His books have been translated into 35 languages and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.His book Peace Is the Way won the Quill Awards and The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of your Life received the Nautilus Award. FINS – Wall Street Journal, mentioned his book, “The Soul of Leadership”, as one of five best business books of 2011 to read for your career. Chopra is represented in the United States by the literary agency Trident Media Group. His first book, Creating Health, is credited with helping to create initial, international recognition for Chopra. Some of his recent books include The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes (2011), The War of the Worldviews (2011), Spiritual Solutions (2011), God: A Story of Revelation (2012), and Super Brain (2012).
Legal actions[edit source | editbeta]
In its May 22/29, 1991 issue, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article coauthored by Chopra, Hari M. Sharma, and Brihaspati Dev Triguna: “Letter from New Delhi: Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern Insights Into Ancient Medicine". JAMA editors claimed that Chopra and his co-authors had financial interests in “Maharishi Vedic Medicine" products and services and had failed to inform JAMA of this in a required financial disclosure form submitted with their manuscript. In the August 14, 1991 edition ofJAMA, the editors published a financial disclosure correction and followed up on October 2, 1991 with a six-page Medical News and Perspectives exposé. An article discussing this chain of events was authored by Andrew A. Skolnick in the Newsletter of the National Association of Science Writers. A 1992 defamation lawsuit brought against the article’s author and the editor of JAMA was dismissed in 1993. Media reports published four years later saying that there had been a monetary settlement of the case were later withdrawn as untrue.
Chopra was sued for copyright infringement by Robert Sapolsky, for using a chart displaying information on the endocrinology of stress without proper attribution, after the publication of Chopra’s book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. An out-of-court settlement resulted in Chopra correctly attributing material that was researched by Sapolsky.Chopra acknowledges that his thought has been inspired by Jiddu Krishnamurti and others.
In 1996, The Weekly Standard published an article which accused Chopra of “plagiarism and soliciting a prostitute"; however, Chopra sued and the paper withdrew its statements and published an apology.
Awards[edit source | editbeta]
He was presented the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic awarded by the Pio Manzu International Scientific Committee. In the citation committee chairman and former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev referred to Chopra as “one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time".
He was the recipient in 2009 of the Oceana Award. Also in 2009, Chopra established the Chopra Foundation with a mission to advance the cause of mind/body spiritual healing, education, and research through fundraising for selected projects. In 2010 the Chopra Foundation sponsored the first Sages and Scientists Symposium, attended by a number of scientists, social scientists and artists from around the world, with a second symposium hosted in February 2011. The third symposium is scheduled for March 2012 with seminars relating to Alzheimer’s Disease and “Past Life Memories" amongst others.
He received the 2010 Humanitarian Starlite Award “for his global force of human empowerment, well-being and for bringing light to the world." Chopra is the recipient of the 2010 GOI Peace Award.