Deepak Chopra (born October 22, 1946) is an Indian-American physician, author, and alternative medicine advocate. A prominent figure in the New Age movement, his books and videos have made him one of the best-known figures in alternative medicine.
Chopra studied medicine in India before emigrating in 1970 to the United States, where he completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in endocrinology. As a licensed physician, in 1980 he became chief of staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH). In 1985, he met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and became involved in the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. Shortly thereafter, Chopra resigned his position at NEMH to establish the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center. In 1993, Chopra gained a following after he was interviewed about his books on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He then left the TM movement to become the executive director of Sharp HealthCare's Center for Mind-Body Medicine. In 1996, he co-founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.
Chopra claims that a person may attain "perfect health", a condition "that is free from disease, that never feels pain", and "that cannot age or die". Seeing the human body as undergirded by a "quantum mechanical body" composed not of matter but 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. He claims that certain practices can also treat chronic disease.
The ideas Chopra promotes have been criticized by some medical and scientific professionals as pseudoscience. This criticism has been described as ranging "from the dismissive to...damning". Philosopher Robert Carroll writes that Chopra, to justify his teachings, attempts to integrate Ayurveda with quantum mechanics. Chopra says that what he calls "quantum healing" can cure any ailment, including cancer, through effects that he claims are based on the same principles as quantum mechanics, although Chopra does not guarantee this healing to any patient. This has led certain physicists to object to his use of the term "quantum" in reference to medical conditions and the human body. Robert Carroll also writes of Chopra charging $25,000 per lecture, "giving spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism".
Early life and education
Chopra was born in New Delhi, British 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, and 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. As of 2014, Chopra's younger brother, Sanjiv Chopra, was a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and on staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
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, including, he writes, six months in a village where the lights went out whenever it rained. It was during his early career that he was drawn to study endocrinology, particularly neuroendocrinology, to find a biological basis for the influence of thoughts and emotions.
He married in India in 1970 before emigrating, with his wife, to the United States that same year. The Indian government had banned its doctors from sitting for the exam needed to practice in the United States. Consequently, Chopra had to travel to Sri Lanka to take it. After passing, he arrived in the United States to take up a clinical internship at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey, where doctors from overseas were being recruited to replace those serving in Vietnam.
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. He earned his license to practice medicine in the state of Massachusetts in 1973, becoming board certified in internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology.
East Coast years
Chopra taught at the medical schools of Tufts University, Boston University, and Harvard University 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.
While visiting New Delhi in 1981, he met the Ayurvedic physician Brihaspati Dev Triguna, head of the Indian Council for Ayurvedic Medicine, whose advice prompted him to begin investigating Ayurvedic practices. Chopra was "drinking black coffee by the hour and smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day." He took up Transcendental Meditation to help him stop.
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. 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: "[W]hen 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."
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. Celebrity patients included Elizabeth Taylor. Chopra also became one of the TM movement's spokespeople. In 1989, the Maharishi awarded him the title "Dhanvantari of Heaven and Earth" (Dhanvantari was the Hindu physician to the gods). That year Chopra's Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine was published, followed by Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide (1990).
West Coast years
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. Chopra and entertainer Michael Jackson first met in 1988 and remained friends for 20 years. When Jackson died in 2009 after being administered the prescription drug propofol at home, Chopra said he hoped it would be a call to action against the "cult of drug-pushing doctors, with their co-dependent relationships with addicted celebrities".
Chopra left the Transcendental Meditation movement around the time he moved to California in January 1993. Mahesh Yogi claimed that Chopra had competed for the Maharishi's position as guru, although Chopra rejected this. According to Robert Todd Carroll, Chopra left the TM organization when it "became too stressful" and was a "hindrance to his success".
Alternative medicine, teaching, and other activities
Chopra's book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old was published in 1993. The book and his friendship with Michael Jackson gained him an interview on July 12 that year on Oprah. Paul Offit writes that within 24 hours Chopra had sold 137,000 copies of his book and 400,000 by the end of the week.
Chopra has served as an adjunct professor in the marketing division at Columbia Business School and as adjunct professor of executive programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has participated annually as a lecturer at the Update in Internal Medicine event sponsored by Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
He has been on the board of advisors of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, an organization based in the United States. Chopra founded the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine (AAAM) and Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, though he later distanced himself from these organizations. In 2006, he launched Virgin Comics with his son Gotham Chopra and entrepreneur Richard Branson. In 2016, Chopra was promoted from voluntary assistant clinical professor to voluntary full clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego in its Department of Family Medicine and Public Health.
Chopra and his wife Rita have, as of 2013, two adult children (Gotham Chopra and Mallika Chopra) and three grandchildren.
Approach to physical healing
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 through 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."
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. According to Ayurveda, illness is caused by an imbalance in the patient's doshas or humors, and is treated with diet, exercise, and meditative practices.
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)". This attempted to wed the Maharishi's version of Ayurvedic medicine with concepts from physics, an example of what cultural historian Kenneth Zysk called "New Age Ayurveda."
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".[yy] Seeing the human body as being undergirded by a "quantum mechanical body" composed not of matter but 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.[yy]
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.
In this view, consciousness is both subject and object. 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". 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". 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. In Quantum Healing, Chopra stated the conclusion that quantum entanglement links everything in the universe, and therefore, must create consciousness.
- Some content on this page may previously have appeared on Wikipedia.
- Ptolemy Tompkins, "New Age Supersage", Time, November 14, 2008, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,402038,00.html
- Deepak Chopra, "A Tribute to My Friend, Michael Jackson", The Huffington Post, June 26, 2009.
- Gerald Posner, "Deepak Chopra: How Michael Jackson Could Have Been Saved", The Daily Beast, July 2, 2009, p. 4.
- Deepak Chopra, "Deepak Chopra Meditation", courtesy of YouTube, December 10, 2012.
- Deepak Chopra (2009, 1989). Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine, Random House, New York, pp. 71–72, 74. ISBN 9780307569950.
- "India Today Conclave 2015: Darwin was wrong, says Deepak Chopra", India Today, March 13, 2015.