(Investigator 154, 2014 January)

(This essay is confined to the commercial promotion
of ayurveda by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.)


Ayurveda derives from the Sanskrit Ayur meaning "life" and veda meaning "knowledge", "science" or "sacred teaching".

This holistic science is not based on conventional scientific research but is rooted in the ancient scriptures of Hinduism — four books called the Vedas. Such knowledge was allegedly received by clairvoyant sages through meditation and which encompasses inter alia, herbalism, astrology, massage, invocations, rituals, magic formulae, yoga, diet and fasting.


Ayurveda attributes most diseases to demons and is similar in some respects to the yin/yang principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ayurveda teaches that tredoshas, the forces that supposedly govern all the functions of the body, must be in balance to sustain it. When the doshas are out of balance, they serve to destroy it.


According to Murry Hope in her book The Psychology of Healing, a detailed knowledge of Eastern medical astrology is required of the practitioner as diagnosis and treatment are partly determined by the patient's horoscope as well as an examination of the eyes, face, lips, tongue and nails. "Pulse diagnosis" is used to establish "doshas".

According to Ayurvedic teaching, doshas are the forces that govern all the functions of the body, mind and consciousness. When they are in balance they sustain the body and when out of balance they serve to destroy it. Health therefore depends on the correct "balance" of the creative and destructive forces of the doshas. In addition to looking for "imbalances", the practitioner also analyses dreams and other personal information.

There are two methods of Ayurvedic treatment: Constitutional and Clinical.

The first includes mild herbs, diet, minerals and life-style adjustments to balance the doshas.

The second consists of aromas, strong herbs and purification practices, including enemas, therapeutic vomiting, purging and bloodletting.


Essentially, Ayruveda is a spiritually based, self-healing system, and like so many philosophical belief systems is dependent on faith to endure. Part magico-religious, part folk wisdom, part empirical, to question any part of it is not likely to be met with much success — rational discussion is not possible where faith and beliefs are concerned.

The Maharishi Ayurveda Corporation of America, which promotes Ayurvedic medicine, has been the target of many law suits, and some of the prescriptions are known to have included goat faeces washed in urine and the testicles of peacocks, swans and turtles.

In 1987, Robert Kropinski was awarded US$138,000 damages by a federal jury in his law suit against the World Plan Executive Council-United States and the Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa. Kropinski contended that he suffered psychological and emotional damage after being given false assurances that he could fly through a technique known as levitation. The case was subsequently appealed and Kropinski settled for less. In the U.K., two doctors were struck off the medical register for professional misconduct arising from promoting worthless and expensive Maharishi Ayurvedic pills for the treatment of AIDS.

A major player in the promotion of Ayurvedic medicine and Transcendental Meditation was Deepak Chopra.

Born in India in 1947, Chopra graduated from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 1968. He moved to the United States where, after interning, he trained at the Lahey Clinic and the University of Virginia Hospital before becoming chief of staff at the New England Memorial Hospital. Although he established a large private practice, in 1981 he became impelled towards ayurveda and Transcendental Meditation.

After a meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1985, Chopra was persuaded to found the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, and became the medical director of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda Health Center for Behavioural Medicine and Stress Management in Lancaster, Massachusetts. He also founded and became president of Maharishi Ayur-Veda Products International (MAPI). MAPl's sales included herbal formulas and teas, "designer foods", books and CDs which variously promised to "balance", "cleanse", "correct", "energise", "enliven", "improve", "invigorate", "regulate", "stabilise" and "strengthen" the mind, the body or a body component.

In the late 1980s, many of the herbal products were referred to as "food supplements", some of which were claimed to be useful for cancer, epilepsy, schizophrenia, tuberculosis and more than 80 other ailments. Chopra was the sole stockholder until 1987, when the stock was transferred to the tax-exempt Maharishi Ayurveda Foundation. Chopra's ties with TM were abandoned in 1993, and after moving to San Diego, he became executive director of the Sharp Institute for Human Potential and Mind/Body Medicine. He opened a treatment facility called the Center for Mind/Body Medicine, which charged $1,125 to $3,200 for its week¬long "purification" programme. Chopra's other business enterprises include Quantum Publications — marketing books, seminars and herbal products, the latter using the brand name" Ageless Body, Timeless Mind." Some of the products, when examined by an American Journal producer, were found to contain insect fragments.

In July 1995, a lawsuit was filed by Californian Jonie Flint against Chopra, Brihaspati Dev Triguna and the Sharp Institute. Flint's husband David, who was suffering from leukemia, had been treated by Triguna who had recommended "purification" and herbal products. Flint also consulted Chopra who performed pulse diagnosis and provided a mantra for "quantum sound treatment," a technique similar to meditation. Flint was declared cured but he died four months later. A few months after the suit was filed, Flint withdrew the suit because she did not have the resources to pursue it and her attorney lost interest in the case.

A final note from India, where 70% of the registered practitioners are trained in Indian systems of medicine — ayurveda, homoeopathy, unani, siddha, etc.

In June 1996, a judgement of the Supreme Court ruled that doctors who have received their training in a particular system of medicine cannot prescribe drugs belonging to another system in which they are not qualified. This simply means that ayurvedic doctors can no longer prescribe allopathic drugs.

It also raises the question why, with their claims for the efficacy of holistic medicines, they needed to prescribe allopathic drugs in the first instance?

Ayurvedic medicine

Barrett, Stephen. 1995, A few thoughts on ayurvedic mumbo-jumbo. Priorities. 7(4):31-4.
Brown. 1995. Deepak Chopra has sniffles. Esquire.

Chopra, D. 1993. Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old. Crown Pub., NY.

Chopra, Deepak, 1987, Creating Health, Thorsons.

Dash, V.B. 1989. Fundamentals of Ayurvedic Medicine. Konark Publishers Pty. Ltd., Delhi, India.

Deccan Herald, 1997. Ayurvedic doctors worried over SC verdict. February 11, 1997. In the Indian Skeptic, 10(1):41

Heyn, B. 1990. The Indian Art of Natural Medicine and Life Extension. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vt.

Svoboda, R.E. 1992. Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity. Penguin Books, New York.

Thakkur, Chandrashekhar. 1974. Ayurveda: the Indian Art and Science of Medicine. ASI Publishers. New York. NY.

Wise, T.A. 1986. The Hindu System of Medicine. Mittal Publications, Delhi, India.

Zimmer, Henry R. 1948. Hindu Medicine. Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD.

From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.