‘Superstition or Faith?’

'Yin Yang'. Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
‘Yin Yang’.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The piece was written in response to a reader’s trenchant criticism against a newspaper column ‘I believe’ and he even advised them that they should stop publishing it. The column was a forum for readers to share their beliefs in traditions that  was regarded by some to be promoting superstitions and unscientific behavior.

The newspaper asked its readers for their views and got the feedback to continue the column albeit with a few changes. The paper admitted to having received a deluge of letters that made for a delightful read. I won the runner-up prize for my effort.

I would like to point out that people are superstitious partly because of fear and partly because they believe that following it causes them no harm. Mr. X may take sweet curd before leaving his home for an important assignment not only because he believes that it will help him ward off bad luck but also because by doing so he in no way harms himself or puts himself to any inconvenience. Let us leave the physical torments that one bears dues to certain superstitions for they are not prevalent at least in the cities and few educated people follow them.

We may not like this, but it is true that most of us in our hearts have certain beliefs.Allow me to illustrate – we always go to the priest to  find a muhurat (auspicious date) before any important occasion like marriage or house-warming ceremony. Now we have divided times into years, months and days? So how can one day be good while the other is bad? Now since I do not know you personally, Mr. Aithala, I can’t tell whether you believe in waiting for shubh muhurats or not. But there are a large number of people including me who are in search of good dates to start some important assignment.

Again I will emphasize the fact that I too don’t believe in superstitions (at least the noticeable ones), but to remove them is not easy for they are part of us and our lives. Merely stopping a column will not in any way affect the masses. Truly these notions are too deep to be dug out. So you can, like me, keep your reservations personally but to force it on others would be wrong.

So let the column continue and allows the people to expose their beliefs – foolish and unscientific as they may seem to you.

The piece appeared on September 4, 1993 in a youth supplement of ‘The Indian Express’ in Pune, India. I was studying Science in my High School at that point of time. But I could see it more as an issue on the continuum; beginning from the defined area of superstition and wading into the unknown territory of tradition, religion and spiritualism. 

And it continues to happen even today. Modern science keeps amazing you with constant breakthroughs in technology and spiritualism too often unearths amazing insights into the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors. And so the debate continues …

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