March 6, 2009
Deepak Chopra

Ipek Cem's guest is Dr. Deepak Chopra, bestselling author of over 50 books, and a pioneer of integrative medicine worldwide. Chopra uses his spiritual lens to walk through some of the pressing issues of our time.

Ipek Cem: My guest today is Dr. Deepak Chopra. Welcome to Global Leaders.


Deepak Chopra: Thank you for having me.


Ipek Cem: You are one of the pioneers of alternative medicine in the West, and recently you co-authored an article in the Wall Street Journal, saying that alternative medicine is now becoming mainstream. Is it really becoming mainstream?


Deepak Chopra: Yes. First of all, you know, when we submitted the article we called it "Integrative Medicine", but the Wall Street chose to change the headline. Integrated Medicine, which means looking at self regulation and self healing through a variety of methods, is now becoming pretty main stream, in that there are courses offered in more than 75 medical schools. All university hospitals have some form of integrative approaches. Medical students are seeking training. So, I think we are getting there.


Ipek Cem: When you say "integrative medicine" versus "alternative medicine", how do you decide what kind of balance there is in terms of regular traditional approaches, medical approaches, and other approaches? Spiritual approaches?


Deepak Chopra: Well right now it is well recognised that the modern pharmaceutical, surgical, technological based approaches are very effective in acute illness. So if you have pneumonia then you need an antibiotic.


Ipek Cem: Yes.


Deepak Chopra: But if you have a chronic illness, including cancer or heart disease, or any of the various auto-immune disorders then it's very clear that complimentary approaches are very effective and maybe even more effective. In the same study that… in the same article that we published in the Wall Street Journal we were able to show, and cite, studies that show that coronary bypass, for example, or angioplasty, does not lead to increase life expectancy. But integrated approaches, which include meditation, which include following a plant based diet, which include exercise, yoga, they actually reverse coronary artery disease.


Ipek Cem: How does this correlate with the religious belief of the patient, because they…


Deepak Chopra: It does not have to… Spiritual experience is not necessarily religious experience. Spiritual experience is using various kinds of mind-body techniques that have been practised by great traditions including the Sufis, you know from the tradition of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi, and others to get in touch with a deeper part of yourself. You don't have to have a particular belief system because beliefs are basically for those people who are insecure. If something is real, you don't need to believe in it. Electricity: if I asked you, "Do you believe in electricity?", you'd say it's a ridiculous question. If our consciousness, if our spirit, if our soul is real then we can have an experience of it.


Ipek Cem: This definition of our consciousness, and you talk… you often talk about the evolution of the human species, and the correlation of that to increasing our level of consciousness. How can we see it? How can we define it? How can we feel it?


Deepak Chopra: You feel it through less stress, increasing joy, realising the power of your intention, enhancing your intuition, your inside, your imagination, your creativity, your conscious choice making, you loss of addictive patterns of behaviour. Those are the signs that you are getting in touch with a more deeper contextual intelligence that is part of you.


Ipek Cem: You talk about this 'fight or flight' mentality of human beings, meaning that thousands of years ago, you know, we had to be strong towards nature and fight everything. Whereas now we don't have the same issues, maybe, but we are still kind of in this era of war and confrontation. How does this relate with some of your theory?


Deepak Chopra: I think, you know, we have realised human behaviour. We see it is a function of our, obviously of our nervous system. We have three components to our brain. One is the reptilian brain, which goes back 300 million years in evolution. And the reptilian brain responds through fight or flight. In a threatening situation it attacks, or withdraws. Then we have the limbic brain, which is our emotional brain, and if a child is not brought up with unconditional love, then the limbic brain develops into what I call emotional control dramas: intimidation, playing the victim, being manipulative, and being stubborn. That's 100 million years old. Then we have this cortical brain which is only 4 million years old. So most human beings are under the control of their reptilian and limbic brain, because our cortical brain is very new, and yet it is the most evolving, it is the bulk of our brain. So once we become aware of this aspect of ourselves, what is called self awareness, then one can actually nurture these experiences that allow us to have a more symbiotic relationship not only with other human beings, but with life in general - including the eco-system. We have destroyed the eco-system, we have destroyed other species. We are on a course of self destruction because we are still behaving in an old Darwinian "survival of the fittest" mode. The next frontier of our evolution is not survival of the fittest, but survival of the wisest. Wisdom will become the criterion for survival, because wisdom is that knowledge which shows our relationship to nature, to other species, to the idea that we are one aspect of the eco-system.


Ipek Cem: When you look at the world today, all the regional conflicts, all the wars, the situation in the Middle East, etc., how to instil this kind of mentality?


Deepak Chopra: I think we have to bring increased awareness that it is possible to transform the world only through personal transformation. There is no other way. You see otherwise we know that social activism, which has been tried, has failed because peace activists, they are always demonstrating either for something, or against something. As a result it is still a dualistic way of thinking and peace activists very frequently annoy other people and then they become angry peace activists, which is a contradiction. Mahatma Ghandi said the only way to change the world is to be the change that you want to see in the world, so if you want to bring about peace you have to start with yourself. You are a unit of consciousness. Now you also have this idea that consciousness is a field, and when there are enough units of consciousness reaching a tipping point – you know marketing people know this – if you give an idea that reaches a tipping point, what ever it is – Nike shoes, or Marlboro cigarettes – when it reaches a critical mass it becomes true for everyone. So too of any ideology of any idea. If we can create a critical mass of peace consciousness then it could become true for everyone, and that's… those are some of the goals of our foundation.


Ipek Cem: Recently you were on Larry King Live talking about the Mumbai bombings, and you actually made some political statements, as well, about the US policy in the region. How does… how do you approach a calamity like that? You are born in India, and you have all this emotional bond there?


Deepak Chopra: There is a short-term approach, and there is a long-term approach to any terrorist activity. The short-term approach, if you have the knowledge, if you have the information of who the terrorists are, what their location is and if you can disable them though a military approach without harming other people, then short-term strategies will work, but very marginally. We are seeing now what is happening in Gaza. There is so much suffering, there is so much massacre – literally – of innocent people, and if anything it is destroying the credibility of the people who are attacking the so-called terrorists. So in my view there is no military solution to terrorism. You have to understand what is the ideology from where the terrorism is born, and what creates it. You have to know the historical context, the cultural context, and the economic context, and also the international context – the political context. It is a complicated problem, you know, when you see in many cases terrorism in the world is a partnership literally – wittingly or unwittingly – between countries like the United States, even though the United States has declared a war on terrorism, but they are the largest manufacturers of weapons. Our oil money goes to very rich Arab countries from where it is fuelled to many terrorist organisations, and we ignore that because the Arabs, at least Saudi Arabia, is an ally. So you know that the war… if the US at least has to play a part in it, and I hope that it will, Mr Obama will play a part in it, he has to be very firm with the Israelis, not allow this kind of massacre. At the same time he has to put pressure on our Arab allies to actually improve the conditions in Gaza. You know one per cent of that oil money could take care of those poor Palestinians. Seventy per cent of the Palestinians live on less than 2 dollars a day. They are not even living like human beings, and yet, as a world community, we have the responsibility to take care of them.


Ipek Cem: It's a calamity. Let's say that I was today a child whose mother and father was killed in Gaza. How do I break that revenge feeling? How do I break that injustice feeling?


Deepak Chopra: It's almost impossible. It's almost impossible. Whenever there is killing like this in Gaza, or elsewhere, you create enemies for the next few generations, and unless we have at least a fifty year plan to heal these wounds something like a Marshall plan, an economic plan. And if somebody doesn't have the vision for this then the cycle of retribution and revenge will keep repeating itself. It has for thousands of years and we should know that it doesn't work. If it did work, by now we would have a solution, but there is no military solution to this problem.


Ipek Cem: You were born in New Delhi, I know you father was also from the medical profession. You yourself trained as a doctor, went to the States, practiced – you know – being a doctor, but then something drew you back into the eastern philosophy as a general concept. What triggered you to give up your path, which could have been very successful as well.


Deepak Chopra: I did not really give it up, I extended it, I think.


Ipek Cem: OK.


Deepak Chopra: As a physician I was always aware that you can have two patients who have the same illness, they get the same treatment, they see the same doctor, but they can have completely different outcomes. One patient can recover. The other person can succumb to the disease. So what is going on inside the patient? Also my training was in brain chemistry. I could see the connection between what happens in our consciousness and our spirit, and our soul if you will, and what happens in our biology. There is a connection. So I started to see if I could integrate what I knew about science and neurochemistry and brain biology, and what I could learn from ancient wisdom traditions which said, you know, a holistic approach has to look at everything. It has to look at eating, breathing, digestion, metabolism, elimination, how do we experience the world through our five senses, our inner world of thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, memory, our personal relationships, our social interactions, and our environment are all equally important in how the body self-regulates itself.


Ipek Cem: There is also a lot of scepticism about what's called generally "new age remedies", and even about positive thinking, because people are saying your mind has immense powers, and then there's a group of people saying it's not true. So how…?


Deepak Chopra: The sceptics are slowly fading away because of the immense body of research, now. You know there are over the last 35 years there are hundreds of papers on the value of stress management, as it is called, or meditation, of breathing techniques, or yoga, or diet, or exercise, or even energy medicine – qigong and tai-chi. So the data is so convincing that the sceptics are slowly fading away. There are many sceptics still, but I think that they belong to an older generation.


Ipek Cem: How does God come into the picture? For example, if you have patient who is Muslim, and practicing namaz, and other forms of religious belief, would this be more reassuring for them than any other techniques?


Deepak Chopra: I think if somebody is religious, and their religious practice gives them peace of mind then certainly it's very much to be recommended, but if religious practice gives people anger and divisiveness and conflict, then obviously it is not true religious experience.


Ipek Cem: You are also a best selling author. You have authored more than 50 books and they are selling over 20 million, the last time I counted. You have authored interesting two books, one on Buddha, it's kind of a re-enactment, and also another one on Jesus, and they were both very well acclaimed. Now, are you planning a Moses, a Mohammed, in the same line?


Deepak Chopra: Well, it's the first time I am announcing it, but I have signed a contract to do a book on Mohammed, yes.


Ipek Cem: Yes. And have you studied, yourself, I am sure Islam and the life of Mohammed?


Deepak Chopra: Yes.


Ipek Cem: What intrigues you about our prophet?


Deepak Chopra: Well, first of all I always like to look at the historical context, the culture from where Mohammed came, and the experiences, you know, because he was illiterate and yet he recited the whole of the Koran which was given to him by the angel Gabriel. How do you understand that in the modern context? It's obvious that he had access to a universal intelligence, the mystery that we call God. That is a mystery for most people, but it is not a mystery for someone who has had access to that universal domain. So my book is going to be very similar, you know, Mohammed's story of enlightenment.


Ipek Cem: Any due dates you have in mind?


Deepak Chopra: It is due to be published in October of 2010. I am doing it right now.


Ipek Cem: We are talking now in Turkey, and Turkey has many spiritual traditions, and we have also had the Caliphate and many cultures together on the same land. What is your own interaction with Turkey. Have you been here often?


Deepak Chopra: I have been here three times. This is my third visit, and my personal relationship with Turkey is the great sages of Anatolia, and in particularly Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi with whom I have a very personal emotional-spiritual connection, so this is my relationship with Turkey. It's the Sufi tradition of Islam.


Ipek Cem: How do you feel when you go and meet different cultures and people have read your books, are following your work around the world? What kind of message, for example would you like to give your audience here?


Deepak Chopra: I think the essential message is that the human spirit is that domain of awareness where we experience our universality. We go beyond narrow definitions of ourselves. We stop defining ourselves in ethnic or racist terminology, or even in religious terminology, because we have a personal identity, we have an ethnic identity, we have a religious identity, but we have a transpersonal, and ultimately, a universal identity: a cosmic identity. Great religious teachers had that cosmic identity and we have access to the same identity and I think once we do that we are healed – we heal ourselves.


Ipek Cem: You just talked about it, a little bit, about evolution of the human species, Darwinian evolution versus evolution based on consciousness. What kind of trends do you see in the world today that give you hope?


Deepak Chopra: I think right now there is a universal, global movement towards a more holistic way of understanding ourselves because we know that the traditional, materialistic approaches cause global warming and eco-destruction, destruction of species, war conflict, terrorism, and economic meltdown. So it's very obvious, just looking at the news, that we are one economy, that we are one eco-system. It's time to realise that we are one humanity.


Ipek Cem: When I recently watched your interview with Gotham Chopra, your son, you were talking about India, and how you see India today. On the one hand many riches, on the other hand extreme poverty. And you also talked about the values that, you know, maybe relate to this gap. Are we, in effect, questioning our values? This is what we are doing?


Deepak Chopra: I think we are not in touch with our values. We are not asking ourself what our values are and India is in a very strange situation. On the one hand it is a very emerging economic power, globally. On the other hand it has lost some of its spiritual traditions, and there is a lot of corruption and bureaucracy in India which leads to some very sad outcomes. You know. We have a country that exports food, but 30% of the children still starve in India. There is still extreme radical poverty in India. And I think with more self-awareness and with more participation in the global environment, India will take some responsibility to some of the ills that it has, but it has huge problems.


Ipek Cem: We are talking, and when we are talking the global economic crisis which has been brewing for some time is continuing, and people are kind of not seeing the end of it. In your mind is it in effect related to something in our value-system, or in capitalism?


Deepak Chopra: It is definitely related to destruction of our values. You know, any system will fail – capitalism, communism, socialism – if the human values are not paid attention to. If we succumb to cronyism and power mongering, influence peddling, greed and bureaucracy, then of course the system will fail. It is a self-correcting mechanism. No matter what the economy is, the field of human potential will never be diminished, because it is infinite, and infinity cannot be marginalised. And so it will take a while for us to realise that what we call the world, out there, is a projection of our collective consciousness, and the only solution is in our collective consciousness.


Ipek Cem: When I research you there were many nouns, adjectives, that described you, but four things come to my mind: physician, author, speaker, and the last one was… I think had to do with this one…


Deepak Chopra: Philosophy? Yes.


Ipek Cem: Philosophy, yes. Philosopher. So when you define yourself today, how do you define your role in the world? Is it changing, your role in the world?


Deepak Chopra: No. it's getting more and more in the non-profit direction, so I am more interested now in furthering the goals of our alliance for a new humanity. In getting people to commit to global communities, for peace consciousness, removal of poverty, social justice, and the healing of our eco-system.


Ipek Cem: Thank you very much for this candid interview. Thank you.


Deepak Chopra: Thank you. Pleasure. Thanks.


Ipek Cem: Thank you so much.


This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.