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An Ayurvedic Sampler
on September 20, 2001
....Deepak Chopra is a prolific and successful author. He also creates great titles--who can resist the offer of “Perfect Health?” I checked it out at the library because I was compelled to see if the book lived up to the title. Chopra introduces us to what he calls the “quantum mechanical human body.” His theory is that “by treating the underlying quantum mechanical body itself, Ayurveda can bring about changes far beyond the reach of conventional medicine, confined as it is to the level of gross physiology.” Sounds good to me. Let’s get to those devils, the details. First we take tests to learn which body type we are, Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, or a combination thereof. We learn that these names also refer to doshas, “metabolic principles.” By implication, we surmise that we must keep these doshas in balance or our health will suffer. We learn about the twenty-five gunas, or fundamental qualities. We learn about the subdoshas. We address How To Balance Your Doshas: diet, exercise, daily routine, seasonal routine. Then we get right to it, Opening the Channels of Healing. This encompasses panchakarma, meditation, primordial sound, pulse diagnosis, marma therapy, bliss technique, aroma therapy and Gandharva music therapy. That’s where my problems with this book began. After convincing me of the value of meditation I learned that “meditation needs to be learned from a qualified instructor, it cannot be learned from a book.” Primordial sound, I read, “is a medical treatment taught by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor after a complete diagnosis of the patient’s condition.” Then “any patient who comes in for a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor is routinely given pulse diagnosis.” “Most Ayurvedic clinics offer a special marma therapy that includes instruction for home treatment.” As for the bliss technique, “Instruction is by a qualified teacher who is also an Ayurvedic physician and takes about an hour; a complete medical evaluation precedes the actual teaching.” Finally, at aroma therapy, we find something we can do for ourselves, but we are pointed to page 317, where we may find sources for oil, aroma pots and diffusers. Ghandharva music also requires no instruction beyond the book, except of course we are told to buy the tapes and CDs “from the sources listed on page 317.” The marketing continues with Ayurvedic herbs, called rasayana. After selling us on the value of same, “You can obtain further information regarding these rasayanas by writing to Quantum . . .” We are also encouraged to drink teas appropriate to our body types--yes, from sources on page 317. My biggest disappointment, though, came in the section on diet. I learned that I should not be eating many of the items that have kept me healthy for sixty-five years, onions, garlic, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, yogurt, cheese and eggs, and that I should be drinking cow’s milk which I’ve not touched in decades, and I should be eating ghee, which is butter with the water cooked out of it. Chopra writes that I should minimize raw foods, which flies in the face of everything I have learned about food over the last many decades.
This book contains some reasonable ideas. The rub is that the book buyer gets only a few ideas they can use and a lot of ideas for which the author tells us we need an Ayurvedic doctor or products. As usual in his books, he provides scientific tidbits, sensational anecdotes and little scientific data.
Ayurvedic theory and practice dates back in India more than 5,000 years. Chopra urges us that Ayurvedic practitioners and practices will give us longevity and perfect health. Ayurveda is “the science of life” or, as Chopra prefers, “the knowledge of life span.” Others say it is the science of longevity. I checked that out. According to The World Health Organization, India ranks 134th of the 191 countries recognized for “healthy life expectancy.” (The USA ranks 24th.) There are other reasons why Indian health statistics are so poor, but it is difficult to take seriously an ancient practice that seems to have failed in its native country. I think that Deepak Chopra is an essentially good person who has been caught up in the American mania for fame and fortune. I suggest that our money is better spent on books that give instructions we can follow without travelling to a doctor’s office or buying exotic foods, herbs and essences.