Perfect health

An acquaintance at Delta gym tipped me off with a book that he thinks that I should read, and courteously he did also lend it to me. It is called Perfekt hälsa (1990), translated from English into Swedish. You could find it quite easy I guess, since it is one of those works which are read by a broad audience. It is written by the Indian-American Deepak Chopra (1946-), a doctor and New Age thinker.

The main idea is that modern medicine and Vedic philosophy – which constitutes a main part of which many call and associate with ‘Hinduism’ – complement each other, and that people should strive to find their particular balance between body and mind. According to Chopra, people are born with innate body types, or dokshasvata, pitta or kapha. Or actually, everyone is constituted by all of these three, of which one might be (too) dominating: vata (movement), pitta (metabolism), and kapha (innate structure).

The reader can make a self-test at an early stage of the book and then decide which one that conforms most to he or she’s general disposition and behavioral patterns. I myself am a combination of a vata and a pitta, even though some of its characteristics are somewhat out of line and one could easily discern traits which are linked to kapha as well. The idea is indeed interesting, even if for instance the Big Five Personality Factors may pinpoint similar dimensions with more accuracy and scientific credibility.

Overall, Chopra discusses different scientific facts and link them to his world-view and life stance, which at least in this case is largely influenced by Ayurveda (which is the category of Vedic texts which treats medicine and physical well-being to the largest extent and today is often connected to so called alternative medicine in general).

As anyone who is familiar with many New Age discourses, that is both a weakness and a strength. It is true that natural science has confirmed a number of ideas which were previously regarded as ‘alternative medicine’ in the pejorative sense. But it is still a philosophy which is integrated into science (and vice versa), which makes many things perspectives on nature, body and life, rather than unquestionable findings. And the reader cannot always be certain of it is just a viewpoint or a fact.

I have not read any other of Chopra’s works, and he has probably revised some of his ideas during the last more than twenty years since this piece was written, but it is nevertheless definitely not without flaws. Consequently, the author has been criticized for some of his contentions, such as his outlook on quant mechanics and their interrelationships with his particular philosophical world-view.

Chopra seems to be one of those authors that belong in the forefront of the making of potentially fruitful syntheses between natural science and New Age philosophy. For some this book might be very useful, while for others, it is probably superfluous information which at this point has been asserted many times before. (Such as to listen to relaxing music and to do breathing exercises.) Still it does undeniably have its strengths and to many it will offer a quite large portion of relevant information and stimulating perspectives on life and health in general. Perhaps not in order to get a ‘perfect health’, but at least to improve it in some key respects.

En bekant på Delta gym tipsade mig om boken Perfekt hälsa  (1990) för ett tag sedan, och lånade ut sitt exemplar av boken till mig.

Detta verk är skrivet av den indisk-amerikanske läkaren och new age-tänkaren Deepak Chopra, som har författat en rad böcker av den här typen (detta är dock den enda som jag har läst). Grundidén är att naturvetenskap kan kombineras med vedisk filosofi, som är en viktig beståndsdel inom det som med en paraplybeteckning kallas hinduism. Framför allt den kategori av vedatexter som kallas ayurveda, och över huvud taget förknippas med modern “alternativmedicin”.

Enligt Chopra bör vi sträva efter att hitta en balans mellan kropp och skäl, vilket i sin tur till stor del sker genom att hitta en jämvikt mellan olika dimensioner av kroppen eller kroppstyper, dokshas. Människor tenderar att ha en dragning åt någon av dessa tre  vata (rörelse), pitta (metabolism), and kapha (inre struktur). I ett tidigt skede av boken kan läsaren med hjälp av ett självtest på egen hand avgöra om vederbörande antingen är en närmast renodlad typ eller en kombination av i huvudsak två av dessa. Själv är jag en vata-pitta, om än med smärre inslag av kapha. Definitivt intressant.

Chopra har kritiserats under årens lopp – och troligen reviderat en del av sina tidigare ståndpunkter – och det är stundtals inte helt enkelt att urskilja vad som å ena sidan endast är ett perspektiv eller en diskurs, och vad å andra sidan är att betrakta som pålitliga faktauppgifter. Dessutom är många av idéerna välkända vid det här laget, inklusive musikterapi, yoga och andningsövningar, vilket förstås har att göra med att boken har en del år på nacken. Men den innehåller utan tvekan intressanta infallsvinklar som åtminstone kan hjälpa en att få, om än inte perfekt, så åtminstone bättre hälsa.