Superstitions, traditions! What’s the big deal!

Don’t take education, be educated!

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VatPournima

Vat Pournima is a tradition which to me was an occasion for ladies of the house to come together and have fun, in olden days. But in our society there is a confusion about such harmless traditions and Superstitions. 

Narendra Dabholkar was a medical doctor, rationalist and author from Maharashtra, India. In 1989 he founded and became president of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti. Triggered by his murder on, 20 August 2013, the pending Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance was promulgated in the state of Maharashtra, four days later. The next year, in 2014, he was posthumously awarded the Padma Shri for social work. 

Superstition is a pejorative term for any belief or practice that is considered irrational: for example, if it arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality, a positive belief in fate or magic, or fear of that which is unknown. “Superstition” also refers to actions arising from irrationality. 

The word superstition is often used to refer to a religion not practiced by the majority of a given society regardless of whether the prevailing religion contains alleged superstitions. It is also commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy, and certain spiritual things, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold by specific (apparently) unrelated prior events. 

Why is it so important to have Dabholkars among us? World over there have been superstitions galore and in large country like India which has strong beliefs, that too based on religion, which give unnecessary importance to such practices. Dabholkar, Kalburgi and others have been speaking openly against Superstition and Black Magic. But forces which strongly opposed such thoughts, murdered them! 

On one of my WhatsApp groups, there was a discussion on this subject. This group is made up of my friends who were together in Elphinstone College in mid-sixties of the last century. Elphinstone college in those days was famous for very bright and sharp students who were in top 5% of their respective schools! Two things, “Sharp and bright individuals and belief or practice that is considered irrational, don’t gel or combine,” can never go hand in hand; irrational beliefs and practices arise from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science, a positive belief in fate or magic, or fear of that which is unknown. Mind you, all these friends were also from science faculty and all did quite well in their life, professionally.  

There was an argument on the subject superstitions on the WhatsApp group, which needs to be analyzed. No one was for superstition but there was a thought process which suggested that if someone wants to follow a tradition which he or she is following on their own without forcing others to follow, it should be ok. What is wrong in this logic? What is wrong in following a tradition? What is a tradition? Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. People forget that many traditions were formed when knowledge of science of human race was poor, and there was a strong grip of religious people on the society, who ensured that traditions continued, for personal benefit of religious people. 

Should educated, elite people follow a tradition, though it is does not harm others, even if it is based on irrational thought process? Does modern education not teach us to be rational? Why do educated people argue irrationally? Whom should we call educated? To me an educated person is one who takes benefit of education to improve his thought process to think rationally. Look at a few examples about traditions that we follow. Taking dip in Ganga water in Varanasi, (What is today’s water quality) the way society looks at ladies who are going through their monthly cycle, the way ladies are not allowed, by tradition, to the cremation grounds! There are hundreds of such traditions which are based on old irrational thoughts. 

I wanted to understand the logic behind the traditions, so I thought let me understand a couple of traditions, the Garbhadhan Sanskara is the first of these. This is supposed to be a tradition, that needs us to perform a ritual for newly married couples. This tradition supposedly helps the couple to produce virtuous progeny! Really? Garbhadhan Sanskara is a very old tradition. In olden days, there used to be child marriages, between the ages of 8 to 13 years, even before the child reached puberty. These kids obviously did not know much about marriage. So probably they also taught the newly married couple about the birds and the bees! But in today’s times, when people get married after the age of 25, in cities, does it make any sense to follow this tradition? Today videos related to sex are available on your cell phone, if required! Garbhadhan procedure requires the lady to share the details about her menstrual cycle, with a Jyotishi, who is unknown to her! Come on who will do this? They will take advice of doctors. What about the couples who remain childless? At the time of marriage nobody knows if the couple will have children! Does this tradition have any meaning, though it does not affect public, in general! 

Another “tradition” I was reading about is called Sarpa pooja. Main center for this is near Nasik, called Triambakeshwar. People from all over India come here. It is supposed to be cure all pooja. Five years back the priests would charge Rs.2500/ per pooja which lasted for 6 ½ hours with a 15-minute break! Followed by lunch, cost included. The detailing of this pooja was in the hands of the priest who had never seen you before in life (would never see you again, anyway) based on your horoscope. It is supposed to cure all for bad vibes in your life which included difficulty in business, not able to conceive and what have you! This pooja is performed publicly for upto 25 couples at a time. Would you want your personal things handled publicly? If not done at a time, priests would have needed 25 days for 25 couples, but business sense makes them to do it in public, to hell with your privacy concerns! On a related blog site, I found that there was one person, supposedly a client, who was answering everybody’s queries. Probably he was a paid person under the garb of a client. Very few openly said that it is B… …t! But one or two did!

What is a society? It is made up of all the people like you and me. You and me are looking for leaders in the society who can work as beacons to the society in thinking rationally, working against things which are not good for society. Similarly, my group of Elphinstonians has done better in life than many others, so I am sure other people from the society are looking at people from this group as leaders who would be rational. The examples I have given above do not affect any other person directly or indirectly. But are those “traditions” not irrational? If the so-called leaders behave irrationally, then how the uneducated will improve and come out of rut? Oh, I used the word educated but what is educated? My friends have taken elite education, but are they showing educated behaviour?  

What I have observed is that when people follow traditions linked with religion, they are afraid to ignore them. These traditions have been promoted from olden days by priests, it was their livelihood, it has been their business. The priests who charge Rs.2500/ per pooja, perform it for 25 couples a day. Cool 60 k per day! Not bad! They have created fear in the mind of people, if you don’t do this, that will happen. If you have this problem, perform  that pooja. Poojas after all are cure all!  

In certain cases, the irrational behaviour is due to events that might purportedly happen in life. I know of someone who died at the age of 75, a normal death due to old age, multiple organ failure. He was an atheist. Initially his close family decided not to have any rituals on 10th and 13th day. But his other family members insisted that a pooja, udak shant, must be performed. Same pooja was performed at two different houses they owned as the body was taken to these two homes, before cremation. Reason for this shant, there was a marriage in the family in near future, and they did not want ill effects of shadow of death to fall on the auspicious occasion of marriage. This was simply because of fear psychosis! A natural death due to old age is a bad omen, says who? Oh, tradition! I agree that it is a sad event! This irrational act of double pooja was due to fear of the unknown. The family is an educated family. If the pooja is not performed something may go wrong, why take a risk?  This brought to mind a Shloka from Bhagwad Geeta!

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय  
नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि।  
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा  
न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही।। 

As a human being puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” 

I and many of us treat Bhagwad Geeta as the ultimate teacher in life and death. The above Shloka clearly says that soul is immortal! So how did the tradition of treating death as an inauspicious event start? Business needs or marketing gimmick? 

 

You Start Dying Slowly!

Live life royally so that you don’t start dying slowly!

A friend shared with me a poem “You Start Dying Slowly” by Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet. The funny part is, this information is a hoax. An article in Latin American Herald Tribune reports, “Muere Lentamente” is the work of Brazilian poet Martha Medeiros.

Martha_medeiros_tv_brasil

It is remarkable how this Brazilian poet, despite not getting the acclaim and recognition for her work, is taking it all in stride. The article says she is not losing sleep over it and has “enough of a sense of humor to laugh at all this.” That speaks volume of a person who is not dying slowly. You can read the full poem here. https://7minutesonline.com/2017/03/13/you-start-dying-slowly-poem-by-martha-medeiros-which-has-been-erroneously-attributed-to-pablo-neruda-for-a-long-time/

I have chosen to share some important lines from the poem.

You Start dying slowly 

If you do not appreciate yourself 

When you kill your self-esteem 

If you avoid to feel passion 

At least once in your lifetime, 

To run away from sensible advice… 

We should take some time to find out what in you is dying slowly. Whether it is a job you have long wanted to resign from, or your desire to migrate to a place where you feel like you truly belong, or even for once wear something else instead of black, or to order Bhel instead of your favorite Upama or maybe you want to eat pani puri from street side vendor! We’re all in a rut somehow. It’s time to get out of our comfort zones and to finally live life fully!

What happens is that we are stuck into our day to day routine. We do the same things every day, eat, drink, go to office, come back home, watch TV and go to sleep. Most of us are afraid to change. Afraid of what? I do not know? We also have apprehensions about talking to persons not known to us. We think twice before we call a long lost friend when we get his/her phone number after a long search. “I hope that I am not forgotten. Now the person has become a big shot, will he talk to me as a friend?” All these small things always keep on pulling us back.

I have tried to explain below how the thoughts in the poem are real world things. These examples show that you have destiny in your own hand provided you don’t start dying slowly every day!

A friend called me and said, “Pramod do you have some time for me?” I said come over. When he came home he said, “Can we go out?”. We went about 10 km from home and went to a lake shore. I could see that he was completely stressed out. He said, “Pramod I wanted commit suicide but my wife convinced me otherwise. I was traveling and staying in a hotel.” He was working in a reasonably decent organization and had no work-related problems. He further said, “I just don’t feel like going to my office. Somehow, I hate the atmosphere in the office though personally I have no issues.” He said many things and in the end after about 45 minutes he asked me what he should do? I said, “Change the job.” He said that since he did not have any job offer how can he leave a well-paid job? I asked him, “Will you all starve if you don’t get paid for one month?” He smiled. Next day he resigned, within 8 days he got another good job. He bumped into me after a year or so, all smiles and fresh as ever.

Another friend was a couple of years junior to me in engineering college. After second year he decided to leave the course as his calling was theater! He took a degree in arts and managed to get a job in an insurance company where they allowed him time for his passion! If he had not dared to follow his dream, I don’t think he would have been happy, ever!

Mohan

Leading actor Dr. Mohan Agashe did his MD in psychiatry after his MBBS degree. I need not tell you what he has achieved in acting field including a Padmashri! But most will not be aware of his work in Medical field. I called Mohan today to get the details about his work in the medical field. In post Independence India there was hardly any work done on Mental Education, Services and Research. Mohan conducted a study for the nation vis a vis, state of Maharashtra. He generated a project report on the subject. His report was accepted by Government of Maharashtra in 1988, a decision was taken to establish Maharashtra Institute of Mental health. Established in 1991, this institute trains people to take care of patients who need psychiatric help.  Thanks to Mohan, the pioneer, who was instrumental in starting formal Mental Health training in India. I am sure Mohan must have been advised by many to take up medical practice after he completed his studies which was a sensible advice; but Mohan continued to pursue his acting passion along with medical career. Rest as they say is history!

STen

There was an eleven-year-old boy who was passionate about cricket! How can an eleven-year-old be so passionate that his middle-class parents allowed him to stay with his  relatives, to help him to follow his passion and dream. At the tender age of 16 plus Sachin Tendulkar started playing cricket for India. Basically, this happened because he had passion. Hard work, discipline, for next so many years were things which helped him play for record 24 years for India!

Friends what Martha has said in her poem is aptly displayed in the caricature below.

 Snoopy

Opposite of “You start dying slowly” is you live your life royally! To live life royally you don’t have to do things royal! You should do small things in life that you want to do! As per latest term used these days, create a bucket list of things to do before you die! Make sure that you follow your dreams. In the real world there is always a discrimination by colour of skin, height, smartness, sex, money and many other parameters. But we should not forget one thing. We humans are all a special edition, created by HIM. No two persons are same. We should be proud of what we are. We should have self-confidence about ourselves. Many a time we do not understand our own abilities, our expertise and our own self. Be proud of what you are and what you have achieved. But for that you should have tried your best in whatever you did.

I want to apologize to Martha Medeiros. She has inspired me to add a couple of lines to her poem! Friends, you also suggest your own lines!

You Start dying slowly 

When you do not show empathy for others 

When you do not want to give back to the society 

When you don’t help people in need! 

Martha, thank you for allowing me to take the liberty!