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Pinnacle

Deepak Chopra Discusses His Mystical Life

Aired January 27, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DEEPAK CHOPRA, FOUNDER AND CEO, THE CHOPRA CENTER: I have the appearance of a wave coming towards me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to (inaudible), it's going to be a group.

CHOPRA: Depending on your perspective, you may think we are sages, or you might think we're psychotics, you might think we are geniuses. But it all is up to how you view us. We are OK with any interpretation. OK? We think we are a motley group of sages, psychotics, and geniuses.

BEVERLY SCHUCH, HOST: And proud of them all.

CHOPRA: And proud of them all.

Actually, one of our mantras should be -- please write it down -- Nothing ever is wrong in my world.

SCHUCH (voice-over): Deepak Chopra is talking about his growing band of fellow seekers on an eternal quest for the meaning of life. In addition to the thousands of world followers and students of meditation, Chopra's own inner journey has taken him on a career as a respected doctor of endocrinology to what some have called one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the 20th century.

CHOPRA: At the moment, I seem to be riding the wave.

SCHUCH: A prolific writer, he shares his collected wisdom with celebrities and common folk alike in a series of best-selling books, tapes, and lectures. He recently inked a two-book, seven-figure deal with Putnam to pursue the answers of science and spirituality.

Like all searches, Deepak's began with a restless feeling that there must be more to life than this.

CHOPRA: There is always the need for discontent. There's an expression I'm fond of, it's called divine discontent. And if you have that discontent, then there's an urge to do something.

SCHUCH (on camera): You've captured the imagination of baby boomers so well. What's missing in our lives that has allowed this to become the phenomenon that it is? CHOPRA: This is an amazing generation, the baby boomer generation. And if there was one characteristic for this generation, it's that they never accepted the status quo, whatever it was, whatever the major movements of our last century were, this was the generation created new music, it was the antiwar movement, it was the feminist movement, it was the ecology consciousness.

Today the same generation is dismantling the old and structuring and engineering the climactic overthrow of the superstition of materialism.

SCHUCH (voice-over): One of Chopra's unique methods of overthrowing materialism is to start to pay more attention to the coincidences in your life.

CHOPRA: The author is Indian from Tehran. Now, you know, for me that's a coincidence, and I just note it down, because it's magical, it makes my life so full of wonder.

SCHUCH: The mystical life of Deepak Chopra, next on PINNACLE.

ANNOUNCER: This is PINNACLE with Beverly Schuch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHOPRA: How many people are in the How to Know God course?

SCHUCH: Born in India to a family of healers, Deepak Chopra came to the U.S. at age 21 to practice medicine. Once here, he smoked, drank, and sinned just like the rest of us. Perhaps his sins stung a little more, because at the time he was the head of the Boston Regional Medical Center. He says he felt like a hypocrite.

(on camera): What happened to you?

CHOPRA: Smoking cigarettes and having Scotch, and that was acquired by just being in the atmosphere that I found myself in as an intern, a resident, in both New Jersey as well as Boston.

We worked very hard, sometimes worked two or three days in a row, didn't go to sleep. On Fridays, everybody almost every week got a little drunk. That was the atmosphere in the hospitals. And all the doctors used to smoke at that time.

And so I just wanted to be part of the crowd, and I got into it, and I -- for the short while I really enjoyed it.

SCHUCH: Do you have an addictive personality?

CHOPRA: I probably do. I do have an addictive personality. I'm an all-or-nothing person, so yes.

SCHUCH: And what made you want to stop? I mean, what made you realize, Maybe I'm in a little trouble here?

CHOPRA: There was a part of me that started feeling like a hypocrite, you know. I was telling my patients not to smoke, I'm telling my patients not to do this, and then I was doing it. And I was also prescribing medication all the time, and most of it was tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antibiotics.

So I felt funny, I felt like a legalized drug pusher who was in trouble myself. And so I just -- one day I announced to my wife that I'm done with all that.

SCHUCH (voice-over): An all-or-nothing person, faced with nothing, he discovered all, and changed his life radically.

(on camera): Is there an average day?

CHOPRA: It varies. You know, I wake up at 4:00 in the morning. I meditate for two hours.

Please don't mind the time, and let's go with the process.

And then I work out for about one and a half hours. And then I come here. I'm here before 8:00 in the morning, about 7:30.

SCHUCH: But...

CHOPRA: But, yes, I meditate for two hours, I go into silence, and then I work out for two and -- about one and a half hours. I do a lot of teachings. We have a third course starting for -- it's called Reversal of Aging.

SCHUCH (voice-over): He's teaching what he learned himself through a series of coincidences, or, as he now calls it, synchrodestiny.

CHOPRA: Synchro stands for synchronicity, and destiny stands for destiny. So synchrodestiny means, how do you understand the meaning of coincidence and synchronicity? And how does it shape your destiny, ultimately?

SCHUCH: Seemingly by accident -- and he doesn't believe in accidents -- he stumbled onto a path that led him away from traditional Western medicines to rediscover ancient Eastern traditions, from healing to mystical poetry.

CHOPRA: "I'm an astounding, lucid confusion. I'm your own voice, echoing off the walls of God."

SCHUCH: The "lucid confusion" named Deepak is forwarding a message of ancient wisdom made modern. His great discovery is that what used to be thought of as mystical is really just another way of looking at physics, cause and effect. What you give out, you get back.

CHOPRA: The gravitational effects of the sun and moon are causing the ocean to heave up and down. That's all that's happening. But as the earth is spinning on its -- tumbling on its axis, then I have the appearance of a wave coming towards me. It's the same water that hits the shore all the time. SCHUCH: He's just as skilled at translating literature and ancient esoteric poetry as he is in explaining physics.

CHOPRA: OK, Beverly, hold onto your seat belt.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

"My heart is burning with love, all I can see is flame. My heart is pulsing with passion like waves of an ocean."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHUCH: Deepak's original translations of the 13th century poet Rumi so galvanized his celebrity followers that they helped him make the poems into a CD.

CHOPRA: I just finished the manuscript, and Madonna happened to be here that weekend. And she said, "These are beautiful poems." So I said, "Would you like a copy?" So I gave her a copy. And they hadn't been published yet. And the next day she called me, she said, "They're just extraordinary. They should be put to music. They're very musical." I said, "Well, would you like to read one to music?" And she said, "Sure."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MADONNA: "In my hallucination, I saw my beloved's flower garden. In my vertigo, in my dizziness, in my drunken haze, whirling and dancing like a spinning (inaudible)."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHUCH: So who is the man behind the myth called Deepak Chopra? He is equal parts in the worlds of science and spirit.

The synchrodestiny of Deepak Chopra -- how one moment led Chopra to find himself back in his native India and thrust into a whirling dervish journey of enlightenment, when PINNACLE returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHUCH: Deepak Chopra was born into a life of wealth and privilege in India. He grew up with dreams of becoming a writer. His father, however, had greater expectations for his son.

CHOPRA: My father is a wealthy man, so, yes, we had everything. We had lots of people in -- at home as domestic servants, drivers to drive the cars, do everything for you, including polish your shoes and polish your belt and things like that.

SCHUCH (on camera): Whose idea was it that you become a doctor? Was it yours or was it expected?

CHOPRA: I never wanted to be a doctor. I was more interested in being a writer, and particularly a writer of fiction. And on my 14th birthday, my father gave me a bunch of books as presents. And the books were "Of Human Bondage" -- the hero of the book is a doctor. He gave me something called "Arrowsmith," by Sinclair Lewis, where the hero is a doctor. He gave me a book called "The Magnificent Obsession," where the hero is a doctor.

They were amazing books, and after I finished reading them, I went to him, I said, "I want to be a doctor."

SCHUCH: It worked.

(voice-over): Although today he embraces no formal religion, Deepak was a Hindu by heritage, educated in the best Catholic schools in India. He was a voracious reader with a talent for feats of mental agility.

CHOPRA: When you came out of Catholic school, you could recite all of Shakespeare from beginning to end. I can still do it, you know, if you tell me, what's Act I, scene 1, "Merchant of Venice," I can rattle it off like this, or "Hamlet" or whatever, (inaudible)...

SCHUCH: Act I, scene 1, "Merchant of Venice."

CHOPRA: "In truth, I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you. But how I (inaudible), what stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn. And such a one to its sadness makes of me. I have much ado to know myself."

SCHUCH (voice-over): To know himself, Deepak, along with much of India in those days, was looking to the West for enlightenment, setting aside ancient native philosophies. Chopra became a well- trained Western doctor, eventually teaching at Boston University and Tufts Medical Schools. But his success in the West left a void he tried to fill with unprescribed vices.

(on camera): At what point, then, after you made this commitment to quit smoking and drinking and all, did you find meditation and Ayurvedic philosophy and your roots again?

CHOPRA: I happened to meet Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was the founder of the TM movement worldwide. And he asked me to look into Ayurveda.

SCHUCH: Ayurvedic, what's the definition of Ayurvedic?

CHOPRA: Originally the word meant science of life. It deals with every aspect of life, relationships, love, romance, art, music.

SCHUCH: Was there, like, an Aha! moment of stark realization, or was it a cumulative effect?

CHOPRA: It was a synchronistic experience. I was in a conference in Washington, D.C., that Maharishi was at, and he said, "Have you ever looked into Ayurvedic medicine?" I said no. He said, "You should look at it." And I was polite, I said I would, perhaps, one day.

After I left the conference, I was at the airport. I ran into a friend of mine who was from medical school. And he gave me a book on Ayurveda. And I thought that was an interesting coincidence. I read the book on the flight from Washington to Boston, and then I didn't go home, I took the flight back to Washington. I went back to the hotel. I went to Maharishi, and I said, "Can you introduce me to some experts?" And he said, "Sure."

SCHUCH (voice-over): Since then, Deepak has spread the practice of Ayurveda, meditation, and synchrodestiny through his writings and lectures and from his headquarters at the Chopra Center for Well-Being in La Jolla.

(on camera): So why did you choose La Jolla? I mean, not that a place has any reality, it's just an illusion. But why not Plainfield, New Jersey, or Boston?

CHOPRA: Well, the environment has to be healing. The environment is our extended body. And you can't look at this and not feel good.

SCHUCH (voice-over): He holds workshops provocatively titled, The Seduction of the Spirit, Magical Beginnings, and Spiritual Divorce.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on phone): Did I tell you about Deepak sing (ph) in spiritual journeys, and they're doing packages, land packages that get you actually from Delhi to Agra (ph)?

SCHUCH: And he takes his message abroad, often traveling with a group. By his own account, he's visited every country in the world.

But despite the success of the center, you won't find Chopra franchising his philosophies.

CHOPRA: I think we would dilute ourselves if we do -- if we spread out, and even -- you know, we only have about 18 people, maximum, here in a week. Now, theoretically we could have 50 and make a lot of money. But it wouldn't serve the purpose. You can't give people the kind of attention they need if you make it a factory.

SCHUCH: Although his workshops can run in the thousands, the profit engine is his books. At last count, Deepak's written 27 books. Five are best-sellers. And his lectures can run up to $50,000 each.

Annual estimates for the Chopra empire are about $15 million, but don't ask him.

(on camera): You don't know?

CHOPRA: No, I don't, because what happens is, you know, this might be difficult for you to believe, but I've never looked at a bank statement. My assistant, Carolyn, she signs all my checks. And long time ago, I convinced myself that if you know how much money you have, then you're not rich. And if you have no concern about it, then you're very rich.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry, be happy.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHUCH: Does that kind of sum it up?

CHOPRA: That sums it up.

SCHUCH (voice-over): When we come back, deep talk with Deepak. The kids carry on, and what unsettles the sultan of serenity. PINNACLE returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHUCH (on camera): When was the last time you saw God?

CHOPRA: I'm sitting right next to God.

SCHUCH: Well, that'll score you a lot of points.

CHOPRA: God is the infinite, unbounded, eternal intelligence that orchestrates the information, energy, and the whole fabric of spacetime and all these universes, and...

SCHUCH: OK, what does that mean?

CHOPRA: What does that mean? Well, if I look at a little flower, it is the confluence of rainbows and sunshine and earth and water and wind and space and the infinite void and the whole history of the universe in a rose petal. That's God.

SCHUCH: Is that what your book says, "How to Know God"?

CHOPRA: My book "How to Know God" says that as you expand your own awareness, it ultimately becomes unlimited. And the essential human is one of ambiguity, that at the depth of our being we are sinners and saints, we are divine and diabolical, we are sacred and profane.

SCHUCH: And is science just a more primitive form, then, of spirituality?

CHOPRA: Yes. If -- when scientists make great discoveries, they are filled with a sense of reverence and awe and a feeling of the sacred. Didn't Einstein once say, I want to know how God thinks, everything else is a detail? That's what Einstein said, because the laws of nature are the thoughts of God.

SCHUCH: What is the soul?

CHOPRA: The soul is a confluence of meanings, contexts, relationships, interpretations, memories, desires, all born of karma. Now, it takes two books to explain that.

SCHUCH (voice-over): By all accounts, Deepak will write those books. But in the meantime, his two offspring are spreading his message.

GOTHAM (ph) CHOPRA: Is giving also an act of self-love...

DALAI LAMA: And forgiveness.

GOTHAM CHOPRA: ... and forgiveness?

SCHUCH: At just 26, Gotham is becoming a star in his own right, a master of all media. He reports for Channel One, a cable affiliate of ABC.

DALAI LAMA: When you develop genuine sense of (inaudible), then your mind immediately broadened.

SCHUCH: Deepak's 29-year-old daughter, Mallika, is combining business and Eastern Indian practices. This January, she launched My Potential, a Web site counseling people on leading fuller lives.

MALLIKA CHOPRA, FOUNDER, MY POTENTIAL: Well, actually on Friday, Bija Bennett (ph), who's someone who's worked with my dad in the past, she was here, and she wants -- she's now dying to be a part of this, and wants us to do her books, wants to do videos. She does yoga.

SCHUCH: With his children flourishing, Deepak and his wife, Rita, love nothing better than slipping away into a celestial silence.

CHOPRA: Every three months, I take a week and go in silence. I cut myself off from the rest of the world. I don't even read, because reading is a conversation with the author. And so I have no conversations, other than with nature. And sometimes my wife will go with me, and we will live in separate apartments or separate locations, but we'll meet each other for -- go for a walk once a day, and we won't communicate during that period.

Have you met my wife, by the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I haven't.

CHOPRA: When I met my wife for the first time, I had stopped to tie my shoelaces. And my glasses, reading glasses, had fallen. And she picked them up, and she said, "Are these yours?" And I looked into her eyes, and I knew I was in love. Now, let's assume that my shoelaces had come off on the traffic light before this one. My life would have been different. So every incident in our life is actually -- is actually a clue.

SCHUCH (on camera): And there are no coincidences.

CHOPRA: And there are no coincidences. Nothing is random, nothing is by chance.

SCHUCH (voice-over): With all the love and joy surrounding Deepak, it may seem like nothing can jar his serenity. But if you want to see this self-described spiritual vagabond turn into a warrior, just sue him. Those who have sued him over the past several years have seen this side of Deepak. (on camera): You are quoted as saying, "Lawsuits can be about love."

CHOPRA: I said that.

SCHUCH: You said that.

CHOPRA: I said that.

SCHUCH: What's that all about?

CHOPRA: Well, you know, in my self-righteous mood, I've said lots of things that I may have regretted. I felt I was being targeted by powerful interests and legal systems, et cetera. I took a stand, and over the years, in retrospect, I was right, you know, every lawsuit that I have had has -- almost every lawsuit is totally resolved, and its resolution has always been in my favor.

Would I do it all over again? I don't know. I still don't know. There's a part of me that loves the fight.

SCHUCH: So right now, the lawsuits stand where?

CHOPRA: I do not at the moment have any lawsuits against me. I have reason to believe, as a result of what happened in the lawsuits that I was involved in, that there are several judges in this system that are extremely corrupt.

SCHUCH (voice-over): Having stymied his enemies and passed on something to the next generation, Deepak's current thoughts are of peace and obscurity.

(on camera): You have been quoted as saying, even recently, that you hope that by the time you die, you will have sunk into anonymity.

CHOPRA: Time is the ultimate reckoner, and it will definitely make sure that you sink into oblivion and anonymity. There's a -- Shakespeare said, "There's a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." And as we speak right now, you've caught me in the middle of that tide.

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