If book sales of texts on
Hindu medicine are any indication, millions of Americans are turning to
yet another ancient pagan form of medical treatment. "Ayurvedic
medicine" is a method of diagnosis and treatment based upon a Hindu
approach not only to the body but to life in general.1 Its
basis in Hinduism, an occult religion, is what makes ayurveda attractive
to many New Age therapists, but many mainstream Americans also seem
Like most ancient medical
systems, traditional ayurveda is a mixture of legitimate empirical
observations to health and disease and pagan philosophy and practice.
For example, in Hinduism the origin of the ayurvedic system is ascribed
to Hindu deities, especially Indra, and many remedies rely upon
In the American medical
climate of today, which is increasingly open to alternative and New Age
medical approaches,3 articles in reputable medical
periodicals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association
(JAMA) can now be found that advocate ayurveda. One article
in JAMA noted that a growing number of Western physicians… are
finding it to add valuable knowledge that is complementary to modern
allopathic medicine,"4 while an October 2, 1991 JAMA
editorial by George D. Lundberg observed, "JAMA has long had an
interest in publishing responsible articles on traditional health care
practices from other parts of the world." In fact, in the U.S., hundreds
of M.D.s have now been trained at ayurvedic institutes.5
Further, a popular, novel
form ("Maharishi Ayurveda") was promoted extensively by Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation with its millions of
constitutes a Westernized version of traditional ayurveda which also
incorporates the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and certain
adaptations of traditional practice. Deepak Chopra, M.D., founding
president of the American Society of Ayurvedic Medicine is perhaps the
most ardent medical promoter of this uniquely Hindu approach to medical
care. Perhaps not surprisingly, Chopra is also a committed devotee of
TM; his book Perfect Health is dedicated to TM founder, Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi. He even claims some 6,000 fellow M.D.s are themselves TM
Dr. Chopra was appointed in
1992 to the National Institutes of Health ad hoc panel on alternative
medicine, and is the author of several books on ayurveda and related
subjects including Creating Health, Return of the Rishi,
Unconditional Life, and Quantum Healing. His books have now
been translated into more than 25 languages. Chopra himself has treated
well over 10,000 patients and has also trained hundreds of physicians in
Maharishi Ayurveda.7 His Ageless Body, Timeless Mind,
which was published in 1993, sold close to a million copies hardcover
within a year. People magazine commented, "Few writers in the
field of alternative medicine have so dominated the best-seller lists."8
Further, a number of medical centers around the country are using his
Physically, the approach of
ayurveda can be divided into three basic categories: (1)
well-established health principles (adequate rest, sleep, exercise,
nutrition, etc.); (2) use of "natural" remedies such as herbs and plants
which are codified in numerous ayurvedic texts; and (3) ideas, concepts
and treatments that can only be considered unscientific and/or
irrational, or occult.9 In their Ayurveda: The Yoga of
Health, Baba Haridas and Dharma Sara Satsang observe, "according to
ayurveda and Hatha Yoga, no healing therapy is complete unless it takes
into consideration the health of the subtle [occult] body."10
While the principles of
category one are sound in themselves, the other categories can present
problems. For example, it may be unwise to accept ayurvedic herbal
remedies unless efficacy has been scientifically proven:11
This is illustrated by the
case of Rauwolfia serpentina, one of the few Indian medicinal
herbs to find its way into Western medicine. Beginning in the 1950s,
the main active component of the herb, reserpine, was used to treat
psychosis and high blood pressure. Careful studies since then have
shown that the drug can cause depression, headaches, nightmares,
irregular heartbeat, diminished libido, aggravation of ulcers, and a
variety of other adverse effects. At the same time, safer and more
effective drugs were developed for treating psychosis and
hypertension. The turnaround took place over a decade or two.
Ayurvedic physicians, on the other hand, have used the herb for
hundreds of years without a thorough understanding of its dangers and
limitations. Because they don’t evaluate the effects of their
prescriptions in a systematic, scientific manner, the same is probably
true for most of the herbs they use.12
Further, the paganism and
occult practices inherent in ayurveda can also be dangerous to one’s
health, both physical and spiritual (cf., our The Coming Darkness:
Confronting Occult Deception (Harvest House, 1993)).
Since Ayurveda attributes
many diseases to demons and astrological influences, it is not
surprising that incantations, amulets, spells, and mantras are
commonly used remedies. Goat feces washed with urine is prescribed for
alcoholism and indigestion, milk mixed with urine for constipation.
Enemas of animal blood are recommended for hemorrhage. Enemas of urine
and peacock testicles are used to treat impotence. Hundreds of such
remedies are codified in ayurvedic texts such as Caraka Samhita,
translated and edited by P. V. Sharma.13
The essence of ayurvedic
blending of physical/spiritual concerns can be illustrated in its
diagnosis based upon the occult anatomy termed tridosha or the
One task of the ayurvedic
practitioner is to maintain a "balance" between these three doshas
or occult forces within the body. Thus, ayurveda is not merely, or
even primarily, a physical medicine; it is fundamentally a spiritual
method incorporating physical concerns, e.g., "An understanding of the
need to strive for spiritual self-development is taken for granted and
in this respect the physician combines the role of spiritual guide."15
According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, "Ayurveda’s approach to physical
disorders is not basically physical at all…. Ayurveda works because it
corrects a distortion in consciousness."16
Dr. Chopra, who is also a
practicing endocrinologist, and former chief of staff of New England
Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, MA, discusses the major premise of
ayurvedic medicine, which primarily involves treating a person’s
consciousness, instead of his/her body.
The ancient doctors of
India were also great sages, and their cardinal belief was that the
body is created out of consciousness…. Theirs was a medicine of
consciousness, and their way of treating disease pierced the body’s
matter and went deeper, into the core of mind. When you look at
ayurveda’s anatomical charts, you don’t see the familiar organs
pictured in Gray’s Anatomy, but a hidden diagram of where
the mind is flowing as it creates the body. This flow is what ayurveda
Ayurveda is thus not based on
the scientific disciplines or on traditional anatomy but upon the theory
that the physical body is part of the "flow" of the mind. Further, in
its true nature, the mind is one essence with divine consciousness (in
Hindu terms, satchitananda):
In ayurveda, each and every
symptom of disease, from a minor neck pain to a full-blown cancer, is
under the control of attention [divine consciousness]. However,
between us and the symptom lie barriers—the veils called Maya [Hindu
for illusion]—that prevent us from exercising our attention [divine
consciousness] in a therapeutic way. All mind-body medicine attempts
to remove these obstacles so that healing can take place….[It is
important] to have a science of awareness. Ayurveda supplies just
that…. When I teach people Maharishi’s ayurvedic healing techniques….
I am trying to let them realize that their own awareness [divine
consciousness] creates, controls, and turns into their bodies….
Together, meditation, the bliss technique, and primordial sound are
the practical application of all that I have been building up to, the
tools of quantum healing.18
…cancer, or any other
disease, is nothing more than the sequence of these fleeting moments
[of consciousness], each with its own emotions, its own mind-body
chemistry…. the whole rationale for treating cancer (or AIDS) with
primordial sound and bliss techniques is that these alone are the
levels of consciousness common to everyone, the weak as much as the
Maharishi Ayurveda also
offers patients astrology and yagyas or occult ceremonies intended to
inspire the help of Hindu gods.20 On a "Sonya Live" program,
Chopra even argued that anticancer/antibiotic drugs don’t work and that
standard medical approaches to cancer treatment (radiation,
chemotherapy) had caused a national epidemic of immuno-compromised
But it is sheer lunacy to
replace established cancer treatments with astrology, supplications to
pagan deities and occult "primordial sound and bliss techniques." This
places the patient’s health and prognosis at risk.21 Let us
see why this is so. (As if to add insult to injury, ayurvedic
"treatments" can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.22)
The New Paradigm: Antirealist
Dr. Chopra begins his
Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by telling readers who desire "true
health" that they must discard ten false and harmful assumptions
concerning who they are and the world in which they live. These
"dangerous" assumptions include such ideas as:
There is an objective world
independent of the observer, and our bodies are an aspect of this
objective world…. Materialism is primary, consciousness is secondary….
Our perception of the world is automatic and gives us an accurate
picture of how things really are…. [We are inevitable victims of
sickness, aging, and death.]23
Chopra proceeds to argue that
such false ideas are part of the passing "old paradigm" and are
inaccurate reflections of true reality. In fact, he offers the
incredible explanation that such ideas "are inventions of the
human mind…."!24 Supposedly, the only reason that we accept
anything as objectively or phenomenologically real is because of the
"tyranny of the senses."25 Even time and space are themselves
mere "products of our five senses."26
Chopra, of course, could
hardly practice his lucrative profession of book writing if he did not
concede the basic error of some of his own assumptions, e.g., that our
perceptions automatically deceive us.
Nevertheless, what does
Chopra offer as the solution to our supposedly self-generated sickness?
Merely that we recreate our reality. According to Chopra, our
consciousness is divine and literally creates our bodies and our
reality; further, the mind and body "are inseparably one." Therefore,
changing our consciousness automatically changes our bodily reality
because "Our bodies are part of the universal [divine] body, our minds
an aspect of a universal [divine] mind." Chopra’s philosophical harmony
with the New Age movement and the spirits of modern channeling is
obvious here. Thus, "We can learn to start metabolizing non-change,
eternity, the absolute. By doing that, we will be ready to create the
physiology of immortality."27
Chopra is correct when he
calls his antirealist ideas "vast assumptions," yet he is on far less
secure ground when he calls them "the makings of a new reality" and is
arguing pure pseudoscience when he claims such assumptions "are grounded
in the discovery of quantum physics made almost a hundred years ago."28
Quantum physics is routinely misused by New Agers, whether or not they
have M.D. degrees, and physicists, (even physicists who are themselves
New Agers) are often the first to point it out. In Perfect Health
and elsewhere Chopra claims that the practices of Maharishi Ayurveda and
TM are clearly supported by quantum physics and he refers readers to the
book The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature
by eminent physicist Heinz R. Pagels.29
But Pagels himself denounces
Chopra’s claims as "nonsense." He says, "Individuals who make such
claims have substituted a wish-filling fantasy for understanding."30
In fact, while executive director of the New York Academy of Sciences in
1986, Pagels submitted an affidavit on behalf of a former TM member
suing the movement for fraud. He emphasized,
There is no known
connection between meditation states and states of matter in physics….
No qualified physicist that I know of would claim to find such a
connection without knowingly committing fraud…. The presentation of
the ideas of modern physics side by side, and apparently supportive
of, the ideas of the Maharishi about pure consciousness can only be
intended to deceive those who might not know better….31
Ayurveda claims that as long as our consciousness is functioning
properly (e.g. that we are practicing Transcendental Meditation and
living in accordance with pagan ayurvedic principles), any disease can
be prevented and, theoretically, any disease can be reversed, including
the aging process itself!32 Thus, in answer to the question,
"Must we become sick and grow old at all?" Dr. Chopra gives the amazing
and unqualified answer "No!"33
How does he derive such an
astounding revelation? At one point, Chopra delineates the commonly held
view of aging, that it is natural, painful, and finally fatal. He then
proceeds to explain that, ultimately, in his view, aging is no more than
mere belief. Thus, "if you take any or all of these to be
statements of fact, you are under the influence of beliefs that
do not match reality."34 What Chopra affirms here is a very
radical shift in world view "which makes disease and infirm old age
unacceptable."35 For example: "Although everyone falls
prey to the aging process, no one has ever proved that it is necessary….
Aging is not natural at all. Maharishi Ayurveda operates on this
assumption…. The ancient [Hindu] sages, renowned for their own immense
longevity, ascribed aging to a ‘mistake of the intellect.’"36
But again, this is nonsense.
It is ludicrous for a trained medical doctor and chief of staff at a
major hospital to even assume there is such a thing as a "quantum
mechanical body," let alone to base an entire system of healthcare upon
it; further, to tell people that aging and disease can be prevented by
adopting occult beliefs and practices is quackery.
Consider Dr. Chopra’s
allegedly enlightened advice to a patient with chronic myelogenous
leukemia, a fatal cancer. In terms reflective of the philosophy of
Transcendental Meditation, he explains to the patient, "What we want is
to pull your awareness back to a healthier level, to a place where this
disease is not so threatening. Ultimately, we would like you to find the
place where it does not even exist."37
This, of course, fits well
with the advaita Hindu view that this world and the things that
occur in it, such as disease and death, are not ultimately real but
merely illusory manifestations of "imperfections" in consciousness. As
Chopra confesses, "Without any treatment for his inner self… I did not
consider that any outside medical treatment based on drugs or radiation
went far enough."38
Chopra further advises his
patient, "If you can pierce the mask of disease and contact your
inner self, even for a few minutes a day, [this is the practice of
Transcendental Meditation] you will make tremendous strides toward a
cure, I promise."39
Or, consider Dr. Chopra’s
discussion of a heart attack, another common killer in America. He
explains that at the "quantum mechanical level" a heart attack can be
produced solely by mental dissatisfactions—"therefore it comes as no
surprise that a deep, smoldering dissatisfaction lodged in the mind
should express itself in a physical equivalent—a heart attack."40
As to the true cause of heart
attacks, "loss of [divine] awareness among the heart cells is primary."41
Presumably this is because "molecules can make decisions…. [ultimately]
we are choosing our own diseases" simply because we all supposedly live
with so many false ideas about reality.42
Dr. Chopra seems convinced
that all individuals who suffer heart attacks (or cancer, diabetes,
etc.) are really suffering deficiencies in consciousness above anything
else. Such persons have "lost communication with the deep levels of
[divine] intelligence that govern and control all [their] cells…."43
Presumably, in order to prevent heart attacks (or cancer, etc.) one need
only understand that consciousness can control all reality:
If one knew himself as he
really was [i.e., a manifestation of God44], he would
realize that he is the source, course, and goal of all this flowing
intelligence…. We are made victims of sickness, aging and death by
gaps in our self-knowledge. To lose awareness is to lose intelligence;
to lose intelligence is to lose control over the end product of
intelligence, the human body. Therefore, the most valuable lesson the
new paradigm can teach us is this: if you want to change your body,
change your awareness first.45
Even though not a shred of
scientific evidence exists to substantiate Chopra’s ideas, he proceeds
to claim that treatment based upon the ayurvedic premise of the
supremacy of consciousness can actually prevent illness, disease and
aging which, again, are merely false beliefs "that do not match
In conclusion, patients who
desire "true health" will discover their best odds can be found through
a healthy lifestyle and a responsible application of orthodox medicine,
not in ancient paganism. God Himself warned His people not to adopt "the
abominable practices" of the pagan nations because of their idolatrous
and demonic nature and the inevitable consequences of such practice so
amply demonstrated in human history (cf., The Facts On Hinduism in
America). In the end, it is to such paganism that ayurveda would
have us devote our souls. But ayurveda is only the tip of the iceberg of
paganism that will soon ruin our land. America is still offered a better
way, "The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him
with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you
must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commandments and obey
him; serve him and hold fast to him" (Deut. 13:3b-4) and "then, I will
hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2
1 Berkeley Holistic Health
Center, The Holistic Health Handbook: A Tool for Attaining
Wholeness of Body, Mind, and Spirit (Berkeley, CA: And/Or Press,
1978), p. 53.
2 Margaret and James
Stutley, Harper’s Dictionary of Hinduism (NY: Harper & Row
1977) pp. 34–35; Chandrashekhar G. Thakkur, Ayurveda: The Indian
Art and Science of Medicine (New York, NY: ASI Publishers, 1974),
pp. 4–5, 11; Harper’s Dictionary of Hinduism, p. 292.
3 Ann Hill, ed., A
Visual Encyclopedia of Unconventional Medicine (New York, NY:
Crown Publishers, 1979), p. 17; John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Can
You Trust Your Doctor? The Complete Guide to New Age Medicine and Its
Threat to Your Family (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt), 1991.
4 Hari M. Sharma,
Brihaspati Dev Triguna, Deepak Chopra, "Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern
Insights into Ancient Medicine," Journal of the American Medical
Association, May 22/29, 1991, p. 2633. JAMA later regretted its
publication of an article on Maharishi Ayurveda due to its association
with Transcendental Meditation, while maintaining openness to
5 Alma Guinness, ed.,
Readers Digest Association, Family Guide to Natural Medicine: How
to Stay Healthy the Natural Way (Pleasantville, NY: Readers
Digest, 1993), p. 57.
6 Deepak Chopra, Perfect
Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide (NY: Harmony, 1991), p. 124.
7 cf., Ibid., pp. 6-7.
8 Craig Bromberg, "Doc of
Ages," People, 15 November 1993, p. 170.
9 Kurt Butler, A
Consumer’s Guide to "Alternative Medicine" (Buffalo, NY:
Prometheus, 1992), p. 111.
10 Berkeley Holistic Health
Center, p. 53.
11 Ankerberg, Weldon,
chapter on herbalism.
12 Butler, p. 111.
13 Ibid., p. 112.
14 Hill, ed., p. 18.
15 Ibid., p. 21.
16 Butler, p. 113.
17 Deepak Chopra,
Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
(New York, NY: Bantam, 1989), pp. 5-6, emphasis added.
18 Ibid., pp. 237-239.
19 Ibid., pp. 267-268.
20 Andrew A. Skolnick, "Maharishi
Ayur-Veda: Guru’s Marketing Scheme Promises the World Eternal ‘Perfect
Health,’" Journal of the American Medical Association, 2
October 1991, p. 1749.
21 Butler, p. 116.
22 Ibid., p. 118.
23 Deepak Chopra,
Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old
(NY: Harmony, 1993), p. 4.
24 Ibid., p. 5, emphasis
25 Ibid. p. 7.
26 Chopra, Ageless Body,
Timeless Mind, p. 8.
27 Ibid., pp. 5-6.
28 Ibid., p. 7.
29 . Ibid., pp. 7, 9,
29-30; Chopra, Perfect Health, pp. 7-10, 131-132, 323.
30 Skolnick, p. 1750.
32 Chopra, Perfect
Health, p. 17.
33 Ibid., p. 17, cf. p.
34 Chopra, Ageless Body,
Timeless Mind, p. 59.
35 Chopra, Perfect
Health, p. 5 emphasis added.
36 Ibid., pp. 171-172.
37 . Ibid., p. 111 emphasis
38 Ibid; cf. p. 112.
39 Ibid., emphasis added.
40 Ibid., p. 109.
41 Chopra, Ageless Body,
Timeless Mind, p. 37.
42 Chopra, Perfect
Health, p. 11.
43 Chopra, Ageless Body,
Timeless Mind, p. 37.
44 Ibid., p. 47.
45 Ibid., p. 37.
46 Ibid., p. 59 cf., pp.
24-31; Chopra, Perfect Health, pp. 171-172.