Speaking to the Microsoft PAC on January 15, 2011
October 22, 1947 |
New Delhi, India
|Occupation||Alternative medicine practitioner, physician, public speaker, writer|
|Children||Mallika Chopra and Gotham Chopra|
|Parents||K. L. Chopra, Pushpa Chopra|
Deepak Chopra (/ /; born October 22, 1947) is an Indian-American author, holistic health/New Age guru, licensed physician, and champion of alternative medicine. He began a mainstream medical career in hospitals and universities in the Northeastern United States, becoming Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH). 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, advertising it as having a "holistic view of life".
Chopra has enjoyed business success from the sale of a range of books, courses and alternative and complementary health products. He has written more than 50 books which have been translated into 35 languages.
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. Critics have taken issue with his "nonsensical" references to quantum theory, criticized his descriptions of AIDS and cancer, and said the claims he makes for ineffective alternative medicine may bring "false hope" to people who are sick.
- 1 Early life
- 2 East Coast years
- 3 West Coast years
- 4 Ideas and reception
- 5 Legal actions
- 6 Other areas of interest
- 7 Select bibliography
- 8 Awards and memberships
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
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. His mother tongue is Punjabi.
Chopra completed his primary education at St. Columba's School in New Delhi and graduated from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 1968. He spent his first months as a doctor working in rural India.
Chopra's subsequent 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.
East Coast years
After immigrating to the US in 1970, Chopra undertook a clinical internship at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey. He then did a residency at the Lahey Clinic and the University of Virginia Hospital. He later became Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, later known as Boston Regional Medical Center.
In 1985, Chopra met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who instructed him to establish an Ayurvedic health center. 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. In 1989, the Maharishi awarded Chopra the title "Dhanvantari (Lord of Immortality), the keeper of perfect health for the world".
By 1992, Chopra was serving on the National Institute of Health's ad hoc panel on alternative medicine. Chopra said one of the reasons for leaving mainstream medicine was his disenchantment at having to prescribe too many drugs, since in his view "80 percent of all drugs prescribed today are of optional or marginal benefit".
West Coast years
In 1993, Chopra moved to California began working for Sharp HealthCare, heading their new Institute for Human Potential and Mind-Body Medicine. Chopra did not at first apply for a license to practice medicine in California, preferring to teach and write; in 2004 he was licensed in California.
Chopra left the Transcendental Meditation movement in January 1994. According to his own account, Chopra was accused by the Maharishi of attempting to compete with the Maharishi's position as guru. According to Robert Todd Carroll, Chopra left the TM organization when it "became too stressful" and was a "hindrance to his success".
Alternative medicine business
In 1996 Sharp HealthCare changed ownership and broke off its relationship with Chopra, who then went on, with neurologist David Simon (1951–2012), to found the Chopra Center for Wellbeing at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. The new center promoted itself as having a "holistic view of life that sees human beings as networks of energy and information, integrating body, mind and spirit".
The publication of Chopra's Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old (1993) gained him an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show and coverage in People magazine. Writing in 1997, Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times puts the "explosion of interest" in Chopra down to his broad alignment with the desires of contemporary society.
In his 2013 book Do You Believe in Magic?, Paul Offit writes that Chopra's business grosses approximately $20 million annually, and is built on the sale of various alternative medicine products such as herbal supplements, massage oils, books, videos and courses. A year's worth of products for "anti-aging" can cost up to $10,000.
According to medical anthropologist Hans Baer, 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".
Education, charity and advisory roles
Chopra established the Chopra Foundation in 2009 with a mission to advance the cause of mind/body spiritual healing, education, and research through fundraising for selected projects.
Chopra founded the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine (AAAM) and Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, though later distanced himself from these organizations.
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. Chopra is Adjunct Professor, Columbia Business School, Columbia University
He participates annually as a lecturer at the Update in Internal Medicine event sponsored by Harvard Medical School, Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Ideas and reception
Chopra has advanced the notion that human ageing can be retarded or reversed, saying that "contrary to our traditional notions of aging, we can learn to direct the way our bodies metabolize time", and that "ageing is simply learned behaviour". Actress Demi Moore has been reported as believing she might attain the age of 130 by following Chopra's teachings, and Chopra himself has said he expects "to live way beyond 100".
Conversely, Chopra also says that ageing can be accelerated, for example by a person engaging in "cynical mistrust".
Robert Todd Carroll has characterized Chopra's promotion of lengthened life as a selling of "hope", but that it seems to be "a false hope based on an unscientific imagination seeped in mysticism and cheerily dispensed gibberish".
Chopra has described the AIDS virus as emitting "a sound that lures the DNA to its destruction" and which can be treated, according to Chopra, with "Ayurveda's primordial sound". Taking issue with this view, medical professor Lawrence Schneiderman has said that ethical issues are raised when alternative medicine is not based on empirical evidence and that, "to put it mildly, Dr. Chopra proposes a treatment and prevention program for AIDS that has no supporting empirical data".
A 2008 article in Time magazine by Ptolemy Tompkins commented that for most of his career Chopra had been a "magnet for criticism": Tompkins wrote that the medical and scientific communities had voiced negative opinions of Chopra, which ranged from the "dismissive" to the "outright damning", particularly because Chopra's claims for the effectiveness of alternative medicine could lure sick people away from effective treatments. 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.
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 claimed 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. According to Robert Carroll, he "charges $25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts a few platitudes and gives spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism".
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". Physics professor Robert L. Park has written that physicists "wince" at the "New Age quackery" in Chopra's cancer theories, and characterizes them as a cruel fiction, since adopting this view in place of effective treatment risks compounding the ill-effects of the disease with guilt, and might rule out the prospect of getting a genuine cure.
Chopra's claims of quantum healing have attracted controversy due to what has been described as a "systematic misinterpretation" of modern physics. Chopra's connections between quantum mechanics and alternative medicine are widely regarded in the scientific community as being invalid, but nevertheless have a number of followers. The main criticism revolves around the fact that macroscopic objects are too large to exhibit inherently quantum properties like interference and wave function collapse. Most literature on quantum healing is almost entirely theosophical, omitting the rigorous mathematics that makes quantum electrodynamics possible.
In 2001, ABC News aired a show segment on the topic of distance healing and prayer. 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". Chopra was shown using his claimed mental powers in an attempt to relax a person in another room, whose vital signs were recorded in charts which were said to show a correspondence between Chopra's periods of concentration and the subject's periods of relaxation. After the show, a poll of its viewers found that 90% of them believed in distance healing.
Christopher Wanjek has criticized the experiment, saying that any correspondence evident from the charts would prove nothing, but that even so freezing the frame of the video showed the correspondences were not so close as claimed. Wanjek characterized the broadcast as "an instructive example of how bad medicine is presented as exciting news" which had "a dependence on unusual or sensational science results that others in the scientific community renounce as unsound".
Spirituality and religion
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.
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. Shermer has said that Chopra is "the very definition of what we mean by pseudoscience".
Attack against skepticism
Paul Kurtz has written that the popularity of Chopra's views are associated with increasing antiscientific attitudes in society, and that they represent an assault on the objectivity of science itself by seeking new, alternative, forms of validation for ideas. Kurtz argues that medical claims must always be submitted to open-minded but proper scrutiny, and that skepticism "has its work cut out for it".
In 2013 Chopra published an article on what he saw as "skepticism" at work in Wikipedia, arguing that a "stubborn band of militant skeptics" were editing articles to prevent a fair representation of the views of such figures as Rupert Sheldrake – the result, Chopra argued, was that the encyclopedia's readers lost out through not being able to read of attempts to "expand science beyond its conventional boundaries". Biologist Jerry Coyne responded saying that it was instead Chopra himself who was losing out, as his views were being "exposed as a lot of scientifically-sounding psychobabble".
More broadly, Chopra has attacked skepticism as a whole, writing in the Huffington Post that "No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others". Astronomer Phil Plait said this statement trembled "on the very edge of being a blatant and gross lie", listing Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Stephen Jay Gould, and Edward Jenner as some among "thousands of other scientists are skeptics" who he said were counter-examples to Chopra's statement.
Use of scientific terminology
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. Physics professor Chad Orzel has written that "to a physicist, Chopra's babble about 'energy fields' and 'congealing quantum soup' presents as utter gibberish", but that Chopra's writing gifts enable him to construct a compelling narrative that non-scientists can find convincing.
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". 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. 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.
Others have argued that Chopra's misuse of the word "quantum" has undermined the public's confidence in genuine science and has discouraged people from engaging with conventional medicine. Brian Cox says that "for some scientists, the unfortunate distortion and misappropriation of scientific ideas that often accompanies their integration into popular culture is an unacceptable price to pay."
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" 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.
In 1991 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article on Ayurvedic medicine that Chopra had co-authored. JAMA subsequently published an erratum stating that it had received information of undisclosed financial interests from Hari M. Sharma, the lead author followed, on October 2, 1991 with a six-page Medical News and Perspectives exposé written by JAMA associate editor Andrew A. Skolnick, who characterized the paper as a "thinly disguised advertisement for the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and its products". An article in the journal Science criticized JAMA for getting itself into an "Indian herbal jam" and for accepting the "shoddy science" of the original article. Skolnick later outlined the chain of events in the Newsletter of the National Association of Science Writers. A 1992 defamation lawsuit which Chopra brought against Skolnick and JAMA was dismissed in 1993.
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.
Other areas of interest
Media and entertainment
Chopra is 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.
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.
Minor business activities
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 has written over 50 books and they have been translated into 35 languages. They include:
- Chopra, Deepak (1987). Creating Health. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-395429-53-6.
- — (1989). Quantum Healing. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-05368-X.
- — (1991). Perfect Health. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-81367-6.
- — (1994). The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. San Rafael: Amber Allen Publishing. ISBN 1-878424-11-4.
- — (1995). The Way of the Wizard. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-517-70434-X.
- — (1995). The Return of Merlin. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-59849-3.
- — (1995). Ageless Body Timeless Mind. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-59257-6.
- — (2004). The Book of Secrets. London: Rider. ISBN 1-844-13555-1.
- — (2008). The Third Jesus. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-33831-2.
- — (2008). The Soul of Leadership. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-40806-X.
- —; Tanzi, Rudolph (2012). Super Brain. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-95682-2.
- — (2013). What Are You Hungry For?. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-770-43721-4.
Awards and memberships
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 Mikhail Gorbachev referred to Chopra as "one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time". Chopra was awarded the 2006 Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
As the keynote speaker, he appeared at the inauguration of the State of the World Forum, hosted by Mikhail Gorbachev and the Peace and Human Progress Foundation. He was the recipient in 2009 of the Oceana Award.
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. He is the 2010 Art of Life Honoree and 30th Anniversary Gala Honoree, Asian American Arts Alliance.
In the Help Yourself category, Time magazine lists Deepak Chopra as one of the 100 Heroes and Icons of the Century. In March 2000, President Clinton said, "My country has been enriched by the contributions of more than a million Indian Americans ... which includes Dr. Deepak Chopra, the pioneer of alternative medicine."
- List of people in alternative medicine
- Andrew Weil
- Alternative medicine
- Quantum mysticism
- Monistic idealism
- Spiritual naturalism
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