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The guru

New Age guru Deepak Chopra relies on good old basics to help people find their equilibrium

— Photo: AP

Deepak Chopra: `If we didn't have death, we would be doomed to eternal senility.'

HE STORMED the West with his charm, gift of the gab and his practice of body-mind quantum healing in the '80s when the world was looking for some spiritual succour. The endocrinologist went on to become the most sophisticated of gurus who took panchakarma, ayurveda, and yoga to the elite of the America. With an equally devoted following in India, Deepak Chopra, on one of his rare visits back home, spoke to MetroPlus. The author of bestsellers like Ageless Body Timeless Mind, the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, 10 Steps to Reverse Ageing, believes he moved to `healing' because as a doctor he was only being a superb technician. Never at a loss of words, he speaks sometimes candidly and sometimes breathlessly about miracle healing, George Bush, and ageing. Excerpts from the interview:

What really makes you tick?

I really don't know! But I think it's my passion for everything that is called "living". You know... I'm constantly exploring different areas of consciousness. I feel good about what I do and I share it.

You are the guru of body-mind healing. But of late, the stress is more on the mind and people are turning more toward spirituality. Why is that?

It's a natural progression. Ultimately, all of evolution is about the evolution of consciousness and it's the key to perception, cognition, biology, social interaction, environment, conflict resolution, creativity, insight, inspiration, meaning, purpose, freewill, (and) decision-making. So why not go for that?

You moved from endocrinology to holistic medicine in the 1980s when super-specialities in medicine were at the (early) phase. Why?

Because I thought I was becoming a superb technician and a lousy healer. Because medicine is all about the physical body and nothing about the soul or the spirit.

So are you a superb healer now?

I am definitely a healer. I don't know if I'm superb.

You must be aware of evangelist Benny Hinn's visit to Bangalore and the controversy surrounding it. What do you have to say about miracle healers? Do miracles heal? Does faith heal?

Belief does heal some people, if you're simple enough and you believe something. Belief becomes biology — it's a biological process and has nothing to do with miracles. In medicine, it's called the placebo effect. But I think unfortunately it gives rise to a lot of exploitation.

There are so many gurus, theories and philosophies. Do you think ultimately it is the packaging that draws people?

No. I think if something is authentic it lasts a long time, but if if it is all packaging, it lasts a very short time.

So what is yours?

That's up to you and the public to decide. Not for me.

What is that one characteristic that sets you apart from the other gurus? What do people come looking for from you?

I think they like my accent! (On a serious note) I connect science with ancient wisdom and traditions. My passion is to be a scientist.

You have been drawing from ayurveda but predominantly practise in the West, based in California. Have you ever thought of coming back to India? Does the West need you more than India does?

I come to India at least thrice a year. I travel all over the world. I think I'm a citizen of the cosmos and don't believe in nationalism. I think it's just another form of tribalism. I'm at home wherever I am. I don't think of myself as an Indian or American. Time will tell (whether I will come back to India). But right now I'm all over the place.

Indians are rediscovering yoga after the West embraced it. Does everything need to find acceptance first in the West to be embraced by us?

No. I think the West is in decline. And our President, Mr. Bush, is definitely accelerating the irrelevance and the isolation of the West. So the future belongs to Asia with its cultural and economic might.

A lot of victims of the tsunami need healing of the mind. I believe your organisation has pledged support.

We are working with a number of organisations at the grassroots level; not through the U.N. or Red Cross at the moment. Maybe later. Right now, we are reaching out to people through local on the ground hands-on leaders, mostly in Sri Lanka.

You have always spoken of reversing ageing. Is it really reversible? Why defy a natural process at all?

The biological markers of ageing such as blood pressure, cholesterol, vision, bone density, body temperature regulation, immune regulation — they are reversible. If you do a few simple things, then you can have a better quality of life as you grow old. It's not that you don't grow old. It's just that you grow old in a healthy way. So you have the wisdom of experience and biology of youth at the same time.

Then why is there such a large industry around the idea of anti-ageing?

It's all superficial. It's irrelevant and it's stupid.

So looking and feeling young doesn't make any difference in one's life?

No.

So how is it that you look so young?

Through meditation, exercise, changing your perception of time, nurturing relationships, being forgiving, and understanding the nature of love and compassion — these are the ways that make a long-term difference.

According to you, can there ever be a person with perfect health?

No, then we would be doomed to stagnation. The universe renews itself through the mechanism of death. If we didn't have death, we would be doomed to eternal senility.

BHUMIKA K.

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