The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (1996) Deepak Chopra

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (1994) by Deepak Chopra

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There is no doubt about the success of this self-help manual, and yet it’s been heavily criticised for its materialistic outlook. This seems a strange charge for a self-help manual based on the ancient traditional of Eastern spirituality, yet there can be no doubt about the ambivalence of the Chopra’s approach. At the start of the book he entices every reader with the promise that if they follow his seven laws they will gain ‘all the affluence, money and success that you desire.’ Then a few pages afterwards he warns: ‘Attachment to money will always create insecurity no matter how much you have in the bank. In fact, some of the people who have the most money are the most insecure.’

Deepak Chopra was born in Delhi of an affluent Indian medical family. His father was a prominent cardiologist, and his younger brother went on to become a professor of medicine.  As a young man Deepak couldn’t decide whether he would train as a doctor, as his parents expected, or satisfy his secret longing to be an actor or journalist. In the end he combined all three roles. After settling in America he practised for a while as an endocrinologist, before coming into contact with the Beatles’ guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who encouraged him to take a course in Transcendental Medicine and then to study Ayurvedic Medicine. For a while the two of them made a small fortune selling a range of alternative medicines called the Maharishi Ayurveda Products. Then master and pupil fell out, largely one suspects because the Maharishi resented his protégé’s meteoric rise to fame. Chopra was earning large fees on the lecture circuit. In 1995 he was awarded the US Toastmaster’s International Top Five Outstanding Speakers’ Award. He was in constant demand as a journalist and had his own weekly radio show where he interviewed leaders in the human potential movement. In 1999 Time magazine included Chopra in its list of the top hundred ‘Icons and Heroes of the Century’, calling him the ‘poet-prophet of alternative medicine.’

This sudden rise in celebrity status followed the publication The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success, which went on to be published in twenty five different languages. In many ways the book merely reiterates the advice contained in countless other self-help books. Do less and achieve more. Don’t try too hard. Accept people, situations and circumstances just as they are and don’t try to change them. Its charm, and USP, is that it links occidental pragmatism with a healthy dose of oriental mysticism. One of his seven laws is based on an aphorism from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: ‘You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is the deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.’  The second law encourages acts of generous giving, and is based on the Law of Karma, which asserts that as we sow so shall we reap. To a Hindu, it’s common knowledge that what goes around will always comes around. The fourth law – the Law of Least Effort – advises readers to take it easy rather than struggle to do things the hard way. This is another nugget of Eastern wisdom, based on the saying of Lao Tze, the Taoist sage: ‘An integral being knows without going, sees without looking, and accomplishes without doing’.

The book ends, somewhat incongruously, with advertisements for a wide range of other products: books, audio cassettes, video cassettes, courses, lectures and a tempting invitation to visit the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California. His medical colleagues complain that Chopra’s idiosyncratic teaching, and his espousal of ayurvedic remedies, creates a false sense of hope in sick people that may keep them away from traditional medical care. It’s possible that their antagonism is sparked by jealousy of his remarkable success, and perhaps it would be kinder to accept the judgement made by Time magazine in 2008: ‘Chopra is as rich

as he is today because his basic message – that love, health and happiness are possible, that mystery is real and that the universe is ultimately a friendly and benevolent place where orthodoxies old and new can meet and make peace with one another – is one that he wants to believe in just as sincerely as his readers.’

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