Swimming in an ocean of thoughts.....

Ask me no questions and i shall tell you no lies :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Superstitions, blind beliefs, irrational fears..... ~ A perspective of life


Please note: The below post is a sole reflection of the author’s thoughts. If you are antagonized after reading this post, apologies for the same. Sensible comments and arguments are welcome.

Being religiously superstitious or superstitiously religious?


Religious fanaticism has always been a verbiage of a tradition or a culture or a society that tries to spread/impose beliefs that barely have a base, most often. And when we talk about religious fanaticism, it is not merely centric about a crowd that spells terror in the name of religion or cries ‘blasphemy’ over every act that it deems unsolicited. Even people who are overtly superstitious and rigid when it comes to religion and generate not-so-positive vibes with their list of ‘Do this or else…..’, ‘Do that or else…..’ are religious fanatics of the highest order. For them, there are a hundred and one superstitions over every single thought, word, act and deed. And this crowd falls NOT just in the communal category which is most often politically motivated to bring chaos in the name of fundamentalism, but in every home and every generation that the common man belongs to! So, why are the grey cells of self suddenly discussing radical beliefs of religion? And not without a reason, has self felt so impulsed to pour out! Yes, the self recently had a brush with a breed like that....

What did the old wives say.....?

In those days they said,

"Lighting three candles with the same match stick brings bad luck.” 

“When a guest takes leave from his host’s residence, the host is the one who is supposed to open the door for him the first time otherwise it would be the last time the host had entertained the guest.”

"Monday is not an auspicious day for shaving."

"A black cat crosses your path, the day may not end on a good note."

And the list is never ending….. So, where have superstitions and blind beliefs come from? Why is religion always one of the prime causes of superstitious beliefs? Why is the poor Almighty always dragged into an arena of warring beliefs that project him an antagonist more and savior less? Well before that, the self wants to elaborate more on the cause of this post, yes the cause being a close relative from down south who had payed a casual visit a couple of months back. The aura of this relative and and her demeanor had made quite apparent as to how a certain aspect of being overtly religious (or superstitiously religious) can create too much of unrest in an otherwise stable mind. For instance, according to this person (who is insanely religious) quite believes that God is someone who will raise his sword not to protect but to war, if the traditions are not followed in a manner defined. And worse happens, when such a person lands in a different place whose culture and tradition converse altogether in a different language with God. So this particular relative started with her unsolicited remarks on the ways and beliefs of self and self’s family (considering self and family have been settled in a different geographical location), citing dire consequences (sources of such statements are still unknown) for such deviation from following one's root culture. Some of her statements were uncouth and did leave a negative vibe behind, making the environment disturbed and gloomy. However, the self has been taught since childhood, ‘Athithi devo bhava’ and the teaching was so ingrained in self, that successfully passing anger management with high tolerance to nonsense was obligatory. So, coming to the crux of this post, what is it with people who are so fanatically religious about beliefs and superstitions (like this relative)?

Beliefs, the affect, the behavior.....


Talking about beliefs and superstitions hounding religion, even self does not totally disagree with the idea/concept of superstitions. The self believes, everything that a society brings along with its existence, the value system, the beliefs, the opinions and the interpretations must have a strong reason whatsoever! And the very origin of feelings in a man is a result of those age old beliefs which bring about altered behavioral patterns in him! But then sadly in all of the above, reason is the only part that is missing in the puzzle of blind beliefs! So, as self tries to search for not-so-known reasons, it would like to share a nice story that was narrated by a wise man, long back. And the story goes.....


Ages ago, there were no schools as those in today's time. But like schools of today, there were Gurukuls. Every Gurukul was run by a Guru and his family and many small boys were enrolled in Gurukul for education. Most of them, pertaining to the infamous caste system were Brahmins. So there was one such revered Guru who ran a Gurukul with utmost dedication and pride. So one day, while he was teaching his pupils, a stray cat from nowhere landed in the midst of the class and started meowing. Of course, the cat was a distraction! Despite shooing it away many a time, the cat always managed to drop in everyday at the same time. So, the Guru decided to tie the cat to a pole behind the gurukul. Once done, he commenced with teaching. Now as time flied, the old Guru passed away leaving his duties of knowledge transition to his eldest son, who was now well versed and well able to shoulder the responsibility of a Guru. So on day one, while he took his seat as a Guru, his eyes fell on the empty pole behind the Gurukul. Something was missing. Yes, the cat! As with time, every creature grows old, the good old cat had grown old too and had accompanied the old Guru to the holy abode. Somehow, the new Guru felt uneasy. Was it the absence of the cat or the absence of cause of his late father’s intention of tying the cat to the pole? So, he immediately asked one of his disciples to get a stray cat. When one of his disciples questioned the motive, the new Guru simply replied – “My revered father had tied the cat to the pole and had started the knowledge transition, so it is a tradition that has to be kept sanctified.” In those days, obedience was highly overrated and so the disciple got hold of a stray cat and tied the poor creature to the pole behind the Gurukul. And from then, cats became a presage to learning. And superstitions began with such small incidents, where the cause and reason remain in oblivion, leaving behind myriad interpretations in the hands of a novice."

Analyzing the rationale.....
 
So that was one example that explains one of the many beliefs, where the interpretation stayed alive with the reason buried in oblivion. And that perhaps also explains to an extent as to what a society follows is merely those interpretations that have evolved over time, that have changed from time to time, that have been re-interpreted many a time and finally misinterpreted! Apparently, blind faith follows suit. Just for instance: in Hinduism, Lord Shiva is projected as a very powerful God. Down south, there is even an extended belief concerning this deity, which states ‘Anyone who tries to take even a particle of earth from the temple of Lord Shiva will not be spared for generations to come.’ Well, self presumes that this belief became widespread in order to put an end to planned heists. And so the belief may have had the good intention of preaching that 'Stealing is evil’. Unfortunately along with this belief, came an unwelcome enemy - fear! An irrational fear has been ingrained deep in the person who thinks in literal terms of the calamity that could befall, should he even accidentally bring along even a particle of mud from the temple.  Yes, man often falls prey to such fears without questioning or understanding the motive. There is yet another example self would like to state here: the never ending meaningless war between the Iyers (devotes of Lord Shiva) and the Iyengars (Devotees of Lord Vishnu) in South India. Years ago on a temple trip, self was greeted with an appalling sight inside a temple that housed both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. There was this particular crowd which covered its face with a white cloth to prevent even an accidental vision of Lord Shiva. Ironically, both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu reside in the same temple in harmony till date. However, their disciples beg to differ! Same culture, same religion and yet so many baseless beliefs that are enough to create a divide! Although it is disheartening to see so much of foolishness afloat, such incidents define the meaning of ‘being religiously blind, frantically superstitious and instinctively foolish’

To fear God or to love God?


Well, it is never wrong to follow a belief or superstition as long as the reasoning is clear and unsolicited opinions and ideas are confined to one’s own mental frame. What gets the going worse, is when the beliefs are imposed on simple minded people around, followed by a blackmail. People have been mowed down by ‘fear of God’ so much that, 'love for God' has disappeared into thin air. Besides, people who are submerged in their world of beliefs and superstitions based on reasons unknown to them and often taunt the others around for not being 'religious' as themselves often mask a dual face. Perhaps, for them going to temples every day and doing Pujas as described in the Holy books is just a way of redeeming self from their doppelgangers that often harbor their darker side. And then, is there any meaning in following holy scriptures  by the book and at the same time, spitting fire on people around? There cannot be any redemption for acts of deliberation.

What is religion after all?

 
And finally coming to the cause, religion! What is it exactly? A way of life, perhaps! And if it is so, it should never be forced on people, especially children. Living in a society, bringing up a child and setting examples of harmonious living can never be done by imbibing fear or forcing someone to be a believer, by threatening with dire consequences. Of course, fear is a necessary ingredient in a human make, but its responsibility ends right after alerting the soul about good and the evil. Not more, not less! In fact, people who patronize in the name of religion are often those who have been at the receiving end of superstitiously religious extremities. And then, why cannot a religion be simple? Simple to preach and simple to follow? Why is it always hidden behind a dark cloud of baseless beliefs that often block the wider perspective of life, a human mind could explore? Why should a religion preach fear in the name of God? There is no end to some contentious topics such as these. Yes, if one has a rational explanation for his beliefs, self bows and accepts the truth with all humility. But otherwise, life could have been much simpler, saner and lively, if only people learn to adapt, coexist amicably and go on with the flow of life, without creating fences of fear, hatred and arrogance mixed with ignorance. After all, there is something called destiny which is out of control of religion, superstition or man. It decides and we act. Isn't it? ;)


P.S: Here, self would like to recollect an incident that happened years ago. The television set at home was not working and it had to be repaired at the earliest. So, self was taking it to the shop for repair. However when driving car on the road with the television set in the back seat, a black cat crossed the road and the car came to a screeching halt. Apparently, the vibe went off and a creepy feeling whispered that the shop may have closed down. And the instinct turned out to be true. So, with a dejected face, the television set came back home the same way it left home some while ago. But then, something happened! Just for the heck of it, self again connected all the wires and switched on the television set. And lo behold, it was working! So what about saying a few words of thanks to that black cat? What say! ;)

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3 Comments:

Blogger Jayaram said...

Nice write. Enjoyed reading this.

October 8, 2011 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Anish said...

Hi Narayani,

Good read. Your point on "Lighting three candles with the same match stick brings bad luck." -- actually this statement does have a history. From the World War. If a soldier would light a match and hold it to his cigarette, the enemy sniper would be alerted. When the soldier uses the same match to light a second cigarette belonging to his colleague, the sniper would take aim. And continuing with the same match to light the cigarette of another colleague, rest assured the sniper would fire and kill that third person who's face gets lit up in the dark in the process of the cigarette being lighted up. This led to the 'bad luck' statement coming up and its multiple variants.

Coming to the crux of your post, it is faith (blind or otherwise) and the transference of protection from issues to an all powerful third party. Vice versa, ills attributed to a malignant force. These are people who have far less faith in themselves, isn't it? Especially when they live in a cocoon of their own making?

Anish

October 9, 2011 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger Arti said...

Wonderful read! Nicely put together, blindly following in anything is not good especially those superstitions which harm someone else...
For simple superstitions like not shaving on particular day, not cutting nails after evening, not eating something during particular days etc... I can remember the quote "Superstition is childish, primitive, foolish and irrational... But what does it cost you to touch wood!!!"
Have a nice day Narayani:)

October 10, 2011 at 7:42 PM  

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