By Ashwina Garg Jul. 23, 2018
It’s become quite common to bump into a wannabe guru spouting gibberish disguised as deep insights about the universe. Inspired by the phenomenal success of holistic healers like Sadhguru and Baba Ramdev, they’re trying their luck at turning spirituality into a business.
“Come and deal with the blocks in your money flow,” said the cryptic WhatsApp invitation from a distant acquaintance, whose name coincidentally happened to be Mani.
Since I was eager to have my money blocks removed and have those crisp currency notes flowing smoothly in my life, I found myself sitting cross-legged in Mani’s living room-turned-coaching centre, along with seven other individuals who were also suffering from constipated finances. Mani passed out blank sheets of paper and boxes of crayons to everyone and asked us to draw the future that we envisioned for ourselves. Feeling like a kindergarten kid and trying hard to harness my inner child, I drew an abstract interpretation of a vacation in Switzerland.
“You were rich, but you have also lost a lot of money in the past,” she told me sympathetically as she peered into my masterpiece and pointed at my version of the Swiss Alps. “See how this part of your money graph slants upwards and then comes down sharply?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t a money graph, it was a mountain.
She proceeded to tell me that traumatic experiences from my childhood have caused these blocks in my mind and I needed to join a consciousness workshop to unblock the bars of energy running through my head to make my money and happiness flow again. All I needed to do was transfer 20,000 rupees to her bank account and register for a seat in her next workshop.
I managed to escape with my consciousness intact, but not before parting with 1,000 rupees for my own personalised chant that I had to repeat three times every morning at 4 am. The fee also included membership to her special WhatsApp group. I understood now what she had meant about my money flowing freely. She wanted it to flow freely from my bank account to hers.
I put the incident out of my mind until I bumped into a fellow classmate of the Money-Mani class. He had started his own workshop which involved offering gratitude to the Universe for all the abundance it has showered on you. He informed me that I could be part of his group by paying 3,000 bucks a month.
These aren’t stray incidents. It’s become quite common to bump into a wannabe guru spouting gibberish disguised as deep insights about peace and the universe, as if the universe is a genie that is just waiting to give us everything that we wish for. These self-proclaimed healers are no robe-wearing monks who have spent the better part of their lives meditating in the Himalayas. These are educated professional men and women in their 30s and 40s who — inspired by the phenomenal success of holistic healers like Deepak Chopra, Sadhguru, and Baba Ramdev — are trying their luck at turning spirituality into a business.
Christening themselves healers, practitioners, shamans, or coaches, they walk around looking grave and spouting profound statements that are liberally peppered with words like “reparenting”, “abundance”, and “cosmic soul”. Unlike real careers that involve years of study, there is not much education involved in these practices, except for a variety of weekend classes with impressive-but-ambiguous names like Past-life Regression, Flower Essence Therapy, Inner Child Work, Chakra Chanting and Aura Readings.
There is nothing wrong with people searching for alternate therapies or finding solace in support groups, but these enlightened groups resemble cults, and structure themselves as pyramid schemes where members are encouraged to attend more and more workshops and indoctrinate new members.
Some of these groups enjoy a cult following that would be the envy of any Bollywood star. They feed on the usual insecurities that people have about money, health, relationships, and family and offer healings — some cliched, some downright bizarre. Their methods are unverified, and rarely vary whether they’re dealing with a cash crunch or cancer. If you question the veracity of their statements with logic and reason, they will inform you that you still exist on a material plane and you need to rise to a higher plane to understand their teachings. In other words, you’re the deluded dummy.
There is nothing wrong with people searching for alternate therapies or finding solace in support groups, but these enlightened groups resemble cults, and structure themselves as pyramid schemes where members are encouraged to attend more and more workshops and indoctrinate new members. The workshops themselves can set you back a cool five to 10 thousand and there have been instances where people have offered large sums of money or donated property to these groups. Also, it is not unusual to find that a person seeking healing is suddenly offering it too and making good money from it, all in the name of serving humanity. So like any other Godman then, minus the religious hogwash.
This hasn’t stopped people from hopping on to this quick-fix bandwagon. We live in chaotic and scary times. Also, it’s easier to blame your failures and shortcomings on some obscure childhood trauma or a turbulent previous life rather than your own current stupidity, laziness, and incompetence. It’s also easier to believe that the lack of a partner in your life is related to a lack of self-love or wearing the wrong colours, but all will be sorted by wearing the right crystal and chanting the right mantras.
Fixing problems with obvious solutions like scrimping, working hard, exercising, eating right, and putting yourself out there is never a part of these therapies because these solutions are long, arduous, and boring; but some of these quick-fix remedies can be downright dangerous. Vulnerable senior citizens, especially women, have seen their life savings vanish rather than multiply in their attempt to find that elusive bit of happiness in old age. So, the next time you get a WhatsApp message from a distant relative or friend who offers to unblock your energies, chant for your chakras or clear your psychic karma, tell them that your karmic soul is already transcending the astral plane and vibrating with the energies of the astrological oneness.
Or maybe just block them.
Ashwina Garg is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She is the author of the best-selling book 'Spicy Bites of Biryani' and writes regularly for Women’s Era, Bonobology and other sites. She has a keen interest in social causes and writes for the Hyderabad-based NGO, SAHE and TEDxHyderabad.