Siva Baba advertises that he is the guru of Wayne Dyer, which is obviously meant to impress those who know who Wayne Dyer is.
Just in case, Baba (formerly Baba Sri Siva, aka Sri Guriji Baskaran Pillai) kindly furnishes the info that Dyer is the best-selling author of Manifest Your Destiny. Explaining who your celebrity bait is kind of defeats the purpose of name-dropping. The Money Guru needs some big-name Hollywood stars like Scientology has.
The Ending Bad Money Karma session with Baba is being held November 11 at Bloor Street United Church. This impresses me as very clever. Any proceedings held in a church are bound to seem sacred by association. Would the guy who teaches how to make a fortune in real estate with no money down be allowed to hold his seminar here?
"Bubba," as he is introduced, wants "to put money in the hands of spiritual people to be used for the benefit of the world."
Of course this is very flattering to the crowd of 200 or so. We are spiritual people. We will chant for real estate in a spiritual way rather than venally exploiting mortgage loopholes and the world will be a better place.
Baba, a slight, bearded figure in a clingy orange two-piece ensemble with a patterned black shawl over his left shoulder, sits surrounded by flowers that have been arranged by a flock of female followers. He fingers his beads in silence. Later we learn the beads are used to count the number of times a visualized desire is stated, such as "I want to sell more videos. I want to sell more videos."
He mentions London, Prince Harry, the Queen. "Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and they have it easy. Most people are not born even with a plastic spoon." He says that Kerry would have won the U.S. election had it been held two weeks before or two weeks after, but Saturn did him in. You may recall that Nancy Reagan ran the White House in strict accordance with planetary guidelines.
"All the karma is stored in here," he says, pointing to the throat. The Adam's apple is so named because the forbidden fruit of knowledge is lodged in there. Knowledge precipitated the fall from grace.
Memory is the problem. "Negative memories must be erased. Erase all identities. Why is the Queen so different? Because she thinks she is the Queen. You become as you think. A Stanford University study says 98 per cent of adult thinking is negative." Then a beat. "That is a conservative estimate."
We are told there is a storage place out there full of old bad thoughts that never get destroyed and from which we must never draw. A meditation involves picturing light entering the right retina to the left brain and through the left eye to the right brain and concentrating on the image of the guru.
He reveals a chant that means "I am god," but once you become god you want nothing, so that chant is not for this crowd. One hundred and eight is the number of beads he wears, and he offers a sample of a mantra to go with them: "I wanna house, I wanna house, I wanna house." You got it - 108 times.
The spiritual aspect of Baba's teaching is somewhat dimmed for me by an anecdote he relates about a Swedish girl who was planning to quit her job to study design for four years. "How much money are you making now?" the guru asked her.
"And how much will you make after four years of school?" She thought maybe 40 grand. He urged her excitedly to retract her resignation. The fact that studying design appealed to her was not deemed significant.
At the break the crowd clammers for 8-by-10s ($25) of the guru. A 24-by-36-inch photo runs $75 and a larger-than-life 6-by-3-foot poster goes for $150. There are beads and incense. Yantras are little pressed metal squares. Presumably you'd want all nine at $50 each to cover the spectrum of energy-attracting possibilities. CDs are $25, The One Minute Guide To Prosperity And Enlightenment book $20, a 12-video personal transformation set $225, T-shirts. There is something for every enlightened shopper.
I have not mentioned the beautiful music that's risen in the church throughout the evening. It's leaking in from a choir practising in another part of the building. We close our eyes and draw energy from the sex chakra up through the centre of the spine to the third eye while visualizing that house/car/cash and vocalizing "Ahh."
"I must, must, must have it! Not having it is not an option! I love this reality so much! I will never accept a no!" Then something that sounds like "ara kara" and "Mentally hold on to the object with a passionate embrace." The sound grows louder as everyone hugs their imaginary cars. Wouldn't singing in the choir be even more fulfilling?
Baba winds up by making a pitch for a customized program with follow-up by local mentors and reminds us the videos come with a money-back guarantee.
In the end I feel just as stunned as I always did after being in church. But more depressed. At least a parish gave the pretense of community. What community is there in a horde of individuals concentrating on how to "manifest' wealth for themselves? Is perpetuating the prison of desires a noble goal? No way to get an answer from Baba, who is being whisked away in an SUV with a brand name that recurs as the ultimate symbol of luxury in his literature - a Mercedes.