The Commercial Appeal / GoMemphis.com, Feb. 27, 2003
By Michael Lollar
Deepak Chopra, the doctor who is bringing his brand of East-meets-West philosophy to Memphis, proposed Wednesday that the Pope, the Dalai Lama and himself serve as human shields to avoid bombing in Iraq and to rid the world of Saddam Hussein.
“There are creative solutions no matter what the problem is,” said Chopra, the Indian-born physician and spiritualist who has become one of the world’s best-selling authors as a proponent of holistic health and healing.
Chopra, an endocrinologist, blends Western medicine with Eastern mysticism and has sold more than 10 million books through the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, Calif. He has become like a Western counterpart to Tibet’s Dalai Lama, and a secular humanist with the kind of influence wielded in the religious world by evangelist Billy Graham. A Time magazine story in December called Chopra “arguably the world’s most influential guru.”
In his upcoming Memphis appearance (7:30 p.m. April 9 at the Orpheum), Chopra said he “will be talking in general about the evolution of consciousness.”
As part of the concept, Chopra said even the most difficult problems can be solved by moving to a “higher level. If you go to the same level on which the problem was created then you can’t (resolve it).”
In Iraq, Chopra said the “situation is really out of hand in the sense that everybody has become very self-righteous and committed to a violent solution. The creative solution now would be to get the Pope, the Dalai Lama, celebrities and a few who have a voice all over the world to sit and act as human shields so we can avoid a lot of death and destruction. I would love to go with them.
“If we bombed Baghdad tonight and thousands of children died, most people would be unaffected. But if the Pope was there we wouldn’t do it. Isn’t that funny?”
Chopra said he would hope to be joined by heads of state and “tens of thousands of people” from around the world as part of a human-shield movement. Once the threat of bombing subsided, he said the same peace contingent could turn its attention to “a total disarming of Saddam Hussein.” The Iraqi leader should have no further say, but be given “asylum and a safe haven,” Chopra said.
The human shield movement is a growing phenomenon with Iraq welcoming volunteers and putting them up in a dormlike facility in a Baghdad hotel. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned that those serving as human shields in Iraq will be treated as war criminals. As of last week, more than 130 volunteers, including about 18 Americans, had arrived in Baghdad to act as shields – some at specific sites such as the Baghdad South Power Plant.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned that those serving as human shields in Iraq will be treated as war criminals.
The Dalai Lama’s offices in the West are in London and could not be reached last night. In Memphis, Msgr. Peter Buchignani, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, said he doubts the ailing Pope would become a human shield. “I certainly respect the idea, and, of course, I can’t speak for the Pope, but, personally, I don’t see that as a solution.” Buchignani said the Catholic Church’s position now is that a unilateral declaration of war against Iraq is not justified and should only be a last resort.
On his Web site (http://www.chopra.com), Chopra mentions a new Global Strategic Alliance for the New Humanity, where international issues from saving rain forests to war can be addressed. Groups ranging from orphanages to environmentalists are being organized under the alliance to serve as what Chopra calls “peace cells. Even in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel they have peace cells. You and I know more about what Winona Ryder stole from that stupid shop than what these people are doing in the world.”
In Memphis, one of Chopra’s former students, philanthropist Gayle Rose, once worked as president of Chopra Companies. Rose said she met Chopra in 1988 while being treated for heart ar rhythmia. She spent a week with Chopra in Boston before he moved to California. “The first thing he said to me is something I will never forget. He said, ‘Gayle, are you happy?’ “
Focusing on Chopra’s mind-body techniques, including meditation, Rose said she eventually was able to give up 580 milligrams a day of heart medication. Her doctors told her the heart disorder “disappeared as mysteriously as it came.”