Thursday, October 11, 2012

Deepak Chopra remains elusive

Deepak Chopra, the Indian-born author of some 19 New York Times bestsellers, abandoned a prestigious career in medicine (he taught at Tufts and Harvard) to become one of the world's best known gurus, as well as the head of a Chopra-centered empire that seems to be based on a mixture of commercial savvy and spiritual eclecticism.

No one can accuse Chopra of being out-of-step with a media-driven society. He's a cable TV regular, the producer of a cosmically oriented video game and a New Age icon.

No question, Chopra could be the subject of a fascinating documentary, but Decoding Deepak, a film made by Chopra's son, Gotham, is not that movie. Although Gotham tags along with his father during a visit to a Thai monastery and although he shows that his wealthy dad has a taste for first-class hotels, it's difficult to watch Decoding Deepak without wondering whether Gotham has the stomach for a rigorous examination of his father's life and beliefs.

The so-called "contradictions" in Chopra's life -- he may be as addicted to his BlackBerry as any busy executive -- hardly seem definitive. Why not enjoy a good hotel and also be interested in spirituality? Impoverished people aren't necessarily saints, and rich men are as likely to be sagacious as anyone else.

It's interesting to see Chopra's fancy retreat center in Sedona, Ariz. and to watch as Chopra navigates what appears to be a media-dominated life, but Gotham doesn't do enough to examine his father's ideas and beliefs.

Chopra's assertion that he neither has been born nor will die -- an idea borrowed from Buddhism -- comes off as hollow without some real explanation. It also would have been nice to hear from a few of Chopra's critics.

Despite intriguing informal glimpses of a famous man, the movie doesn't probe deeply enough to bring us true understanding of either Chopra or his views.

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