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 Blooming Stars

Superstitions

            One of the main reasons that India is not developing and progressing as it should is due to its superstitious beliefs. Irrational and blind beliefs and superstitions are at the very core of religious India. Kerala, the most literate state in India, is no exception. With all the education, long-entrenched superstitions etched in their psyche stay intact and guide people’s private and family life. They run across religions. Let us examine a few. Recently an educated, unmarried, religious lady in her early 40’s developed an unwholesome relationship with a married man. When she realized the mess that she is in, she became determined to get out of that relationship. Her very orthodox, religious family, considering her to be a disgrace to the family, consulted an astrologer who prescribed that she go to a particular temple and go through the ritual of vomiting to cleanse herself and her family in order to get rid of the problem.

            So her well-educated brother went to her place of work and persuaded her, and took her to this temple almost against her will as she did not believe in this ritual. Here is another example. A family that migrated to the USA from India and lived there for some years was experiencing great distress as all the shoes of the family members would be cut into pieces every day so they could not be worn. This went on for over a month causing undue mental anguish and financial hardship. They called their parish priest to exorcise the demon (kuttichathan). The priest went to their home and performed the ritual of exorcism, but the problem persisted. Finally I was called to the scene from a distance of about 1000 kilometers. Since I solved the problem for them, the grandmother of the young adolescent, which did the “demons” work; still think of me as possessing some supernatural power.

            This example relates to a young man and a young lady falling in love with each other years ago. They not only belonged to different religions and castes but also to different states in India. The young man was beaten up by the police at the instance of his lover’s brother. The young woman was almost forcibly taken to a priest by her aunt to get the demon out of her. Nothing worked. Finally on a visit home from the United States both approached me in despair. Initially I was reluctant to get involved anticipating very unpleasant consequences. The girl’s mother had already stated that the marriage of her daughter to her lover would take place only on her dead body. Getting wind of my involvement, the girl’s mother had also warned me not to try “the American model” on her family. Eventually after thorough evaluation of the situation, I yielded to my conscience and sane judgment and supported their undying desire to get married.

            This example relates to a carpenter who worked for me and respected me a great deal. He said that an important door frame (kattila) to one of the buildings of the ashram be placed at an auspicious time according to the horoscope. As I had to be somewhere else at that time, I suggested to my carpenter friend that I might, looking at the sky, tweak slightly the configurations of the zodiac signs with a view to some adjustments so we could place the door frame earlier than he planned. He was alright with it and I was able to keep my other commitment. The final example relates to a lady in her 50’s who came to visit me in the ashram. She said she had recently gone to the shrine of Mother Mary at Velankanny on a pilgrimage. I asked her a seemingly innocent question: “Is Mother Mary at Velankanny different from Mother Mary at the local church”? Her initial quick answer was: “Yes”. Then after a pause, with a smile, she said: “No”.

            In the above examples, besides superstitious practices and beliefs, other important aspects such as ignorance, prejudices, fear of the unknown, and vested interests are involved. Persons who ought to know (the priestly class both in Christianity and Hinduism) knowingly or unwittingly help keep up superstitious practices among their faithful, one might think, for some economic benefits. All superstitions everywhere must go so humanity can progress and get duly enlightened.

 

     
 
 
 
 
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