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A proponent and practitioner of alternative medicine, Deepak Chopra has written about 70 books on health, spirituality and leadership. Manish Swarup / AP Photo
A proponent and practitioner of alternative medicine, Deepak Chopra has written about 70 books on health, spirituality and leadership. Manish Swarup / AP Photo

Deepak Chopra’s journey from medicine to mantra

Deepak Chopra is arriving in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this week with speaking engagements geared to the general public and corporate bigwigs. Saeed Saeed takes a look at the American’s rise from medical doctor to running a multimillion dollar empire promoting holistic alternative health practices.

Deepak Chopra is in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for speaking engagements geared to the public and to corporate bigwigs. We look at his rise from medical doctor to running a multimillion-dollar empire promoting holistic practices

Who is he?

One of the world’s biggest new-age gurus. Chopra’s success stems from creating health practices fusing western medicine with alternative healing methods from the East. Nearly two dozen of Chopra’s 70-odd books – dealing with health, spirituality and leadership – have been bestsellers, propelling him to become a sought-after public speaker who has given addresses alongside the likes of the Dalai Lama and former US president Bill Clinton.

In scrubs

Born in New Delhi, Chopra graduated from medical school and at the age of 21 immigrated to the US. He worked at numerous hospitals and taught at medical schools at Harvard University and Boston University. Chopra became deeply unhappy with western medicine’s over-reliance on prescription drugs. An intense workload coupled with a lifestyle heavy on smoking and drinking saw Chopra hit rock bottom.

The celebrity guru

His personal breakthrough came after studying Transcendental Meditation, pioneered by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In 1985, Chopra quit his job and with Mahesh Yogi launched Maharishi Ayur-Veda Products International, promo­ting herbal tea and oils. The company’s success lead Chopra to create several boutique Transcendental Meditation clinics targeting the rich and famous; high-profile clients included Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Donna Karan. With his profile rising rapidly, Chopra got together with the American neurologist David Simon to set up his California-based The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, offering wellness programmes for the mind and body, including yoga and meditation classes. Celebrities who enrolled included Demi Moore, George Harrison, Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey.

The concepts

Chopra’s core message is that unhappiness lies in a lifestyle rooted in materialism and decadence. He states contentment is found internally with a sound body and mind. Chopra is also keen to see people to develop a “healthy brain” by creating a “matrix for positive lifestyle”, including engaging in worthwhile pursuits, stress management and associating with people living a healthy life. Chopra also set his sights on creating a new generation of “inspired leadership”. On his website, Chopra describes a visionary leader as someone who “operates from the soul level, inspired by vision and inner wisdom as opposed to greed. She is the heroine of her own story.”

In popular culture

His clinics may command a price that only celebrities can afford, but Chopra’s ideas have reached a wider audience through his books. His 1993 release, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind sold more than a million copies. In 2011, Chopra published what is probably his most accessible work: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes, a fun treatise in which Chopra explores the key qualities that allow heroes – from Buddha to Batman – to endure in the collective consciousness. Time magazine has acknowledged Chopra for crossing such cultural divides, praising him for “erasing apparent differences between East and West by packaging Eastern mystique in credible western garb”. In 2006, Chopra and his son Gotham teamed up with the businessman Richard Branson to launch Virgin Comics, now known as Liquid Comics, in an initiative to spread positive messages through comic books and trading cards. Unlike his contemporaries, Chopra has also been very active in the phone apps market – he has launched meditation and yoga apps.

The events

Chopra has two dates in the UAE. On Tuesday, September 17, he will conduct a public lecture titled The Future of Well-being at Dubai’s Madinat Arena in Jumeirah at 7pm (tickets cost from Dh150). On Wednesday, September 18, the country’s business leaders and entrepreneurs will converge on the St Regis Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, to learn about Chopra’s inclusive form of management at an all-day workshop starting at 8am (tickets cost from Dh3,000). Attendees are invited to a special book-signing after each event. For details, visit www.ticketmaster.ae.

saseed@thenational.ae

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