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So Rich, So Restless

Deepak Chopra Is a One-Man Multimedia Empire. His 19 Books--Which Offer a Mystical Pathway to Finding Spiritual Fulfillment and Aging Gracefully--Have Sold Millions. Celebrities Adore Him. Still, He Wants More.

September 07, 1997|TONY PERRY | Tony Perry is The Times' San Diego bureau chief

Deepak Chopra--New Age superstar, guru to the rich and famous and millions of others, praised and damned for his beliefs about the mind's dominion over the body--is about to settle into a couch in his intimate, soft-toned La Jolla office and explain his latest projects.

His movie screenplays. (One is described as "Independence Day" meets Siddhartha.)

His hip-hop CD from Time Warner's Tommy Boy Records division (and maybe a cameo in the video).

His interactive CD-ROM, "Deepak Chopra's The Wisdom Within: Your Personal Program for Total Well-Being."

His performances on the TV show "Politically Incorrect" (which he enjoys immensely, even though the host accused him of spreading "preposterous psychobabble").

His self-help books, novel, poetry, seminars and videos.

His essay for Playboy ("Does God Have Orgasms?") and his newfound kinship with Hugh Hefner. ("It is obvious we hold very similar views on sex and spirituality," Hef wrote.)

His fund-raiser in Costa Rica for the world peace movement of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez.

His year-old Chopra Center for Well Being, which offers meditation sessions and spa-like rejuvenation treatments in addition to a store selling 150-plus products, all personally approved by Chopra.

But first, Chopra must talk to a visitor.

The visitor, accompanied by his much-younger wife, would be honored to have his picture taken with Chopra. He is a big believer in the Indian-born, Western-educated endocrinologist who veered from conventional medicine in search of answers from the ancient Indian folk wisdom of ayurveda (from the Sanskrit words for knowledge and life), a holistic approach to well-being that stresses yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbs, aromas and a mind-set free of anger and envy.

The visitor, who often comes to the center to meditate, believes that Chopra has much wisdom to bestow on this health-obsessed country--advice about slowing down, mellowing out, thinking positive, avoiding toxic foods and toxic emotions and stifling the impulse to pop a pill.

The visitor is Dr. Benjamin Spock, the baby doctor, himself a praised-and-cursed guru who has often challenged convention.

Spock has provided a blurb ("profound and fascinating") for Chopra's latest book, "Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents," due in bookstores by the end of September. What's more, Spock's latest edition of his renowned "The Common Sense Book of Baby & Child Care" will be chockablock with references to Chopra-iana.

Now in his 94th year, Spock is still looking for better ways to provide instruction about the care and feeding of children. His attentive wife, Mary Morgan Spock, does much of his talking.

"There is going to be much more spirituality in this edition, and he mentioned you many times," she tells Chopra. "He's thrilled and privileged to get such attention from Dr. Chopra."

With the Spocks, Chopra is gracious and modest and possessed of that unfailing courtesy and gentleness that millions of followers know from his seminars and television appearances. There is another Chopra--the angry, take-no-prisoners, you're-all-scum litigant--but more about that Chopra anon.

The immediate talk is about Chopra the phenomenon. In the crowded field of New Age health advocates, Chopra, 50, is at the pinnacle of popularity and profitability. He estimates his annual gross at $15 million and says profits are plowed back into "the growth of my company" (although he does seem to favor Donna Karan suits).

His best-selling tomes provide a mystical pathway to finding spiritual fulfillment, rekindling your love life, thinking your way to wellness, losing weight, achieving success, aging gracefully (if at all) and, soon, raising healthier, better-adjusted children. His 19 books have sold millions and been translated into 25 languages.

Still, he is restless. He is on the road half of the time. Now at Michael Milken's birthday bash at Lake Tahoe, now hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities and business titans, now serving as headliner for a symposium organized by Mikhail Gorbachev.

"My life is a spontaneous, evolutionary process," Chopra says softly, "and I write about stuff that I am exploring in my own consciousness. A lot of things are happening. It's still all connected to well-being, so you have this definition of health as the absence of disease, but, in fact, well-being is about having a higher state of consciousness. That's basic to all the things I'm exploring. I've never really planned out ahead of time what I'm going to be doing. There's a Chinese saying, 'A good traveler has no well-defined plan and is not intent on arriving.' I've been like that. I do and write about what I like."

What he likes now is movies. Chopra has written two screenplays, one for venerable London Films (tentatively titled "Lords of Light") and another for Kushner-Locke Co. ("Juggernaut") in Hollywood. The screenplay for London Films is set in Jerusalem.

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