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Science in Superstitions

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CLN

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There is a strong tendency among quite a few educated and modernised TaBras nowadays to seek and attempt to give 'scientific' explanations (distinct from the shastraic explanations which are normally given by shastrjnaas) for so many orthodox beliefs and acts which are viewed by some other TaBras and many NB's as mere superstitions - absurd and anachronistic. It can be a very large list. I list here just a few like sakunam paarthal, putting sandal mark or thirumaN or vibhuthi on the forehead, keeping kudumi, parishechanam, thookkikkudithal (i.e non-sipping), ban on combing hair in the night time and Kaala suddhi (i.e. avoiding Raahu kaalam. yamakandam, thaamasa vailai, vaarasoolai etc.).

A meaningful discussion under this head can bring forth and spring forth interesting thoughts, ideas, opinions and explanations - some what similar to the outcome of the Ksheerasagaramathanam, but with a crucial difference! Here all the participants are DevaTa(Bra)s and so a Mohini may not be required for settling any disputes, because, hopefully, there may not arise any serious disputes; and even if any mild clashes arise, our "moderators" can play the role of Mohini :))) to defuse the tensions! I also hope that no alakalvisham may emerge requiring the services of Lord Shiva. [Even if that happens we do have amidst us the very person with that long and sweet Tamil name! Sir, do not mind this flippant remark, please! Pure Fun, with no offence intended.]
 
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There is a strong tendency among quite a few educated and modernised TaBras nowadays to seek and attempt to give 'scientific' explanations (distinct from the shastraic explanations which are normally given by shastrjnaas) for so many orthodox beliefs and acts which are viewed by some other TaBras and many NB's as mere superstitions - absurd and anachronistic. It can be a very large list. I list here just a few like sakunam paarthal, putting sandal mark or thirumaN or vibhuthi on the forehead, keeping kudumi, parishechanam, thookkikkudithal (i.e non-sipping), ban on combing hair in the night time and Kaala suddhi (i.e. avoiding Raahu kaalam. yamakandam, thaamasa vailai, vaarasoolai etc.).

A meaningful discussion under this head can bring forth and spring forth interesting thoughts, ideas, opinions and explanations - some what similar to the outcome of the Ksheerasagaramathanam, but with a crucial difference! Here all the participants are DevaTa(Bra)s and so a Mohini may not be required for settling any disputes, because, hopefully, there may not arise any serious disputes; and even if any mild clashes arise, our "moderators" can play the role of Mohini :))) to defuse the tensions! I also hope that no alakalvisham may emerge requiring the services of Lord Shiva. [Even if that happens we do have amidst us the very person with that long and sweet Tamil name! Sir, do not mind this flippant remark, please! Pure Fun, with no offence intended.]

Dear Shri CLN,

Who knows, depending on the outcome - amrutam or haalaahalm - a mohini or a siva may come on the scene; let us, therefore, hope for amrutam alone !!

The tendency to explain (away?) our religious beliefs on so-called "scientific grounds" is a trend which started quite early, say during the seventies or so. The algorithm AFAI recall, was also somewhat as under:

1. Single entity (any suitable item under or over the sun) - Parabrahmam

2. Two items or dual items - Prakriti & Purusha, Siva & Sakti, Brahmam & Maya, body & soul, etc., as suitable for the circumstances.

3. triads, or groups of three - the trinities, gunas, bhU, Bhuva and Suva, past-present & future, ...

4. foursome - the cardinal directions, vedas,

5. fives - senses, pancabhutas, and so on

6. sixers - the six "enemies" kama, krodha etc.

and so on and so forth.

There was a time when impressionable teenagers were taken in by some of these "pravacana kartas" and started believing that whatever else they said like sandhyavandanam, gayatree japam, etc., must also be very scientific and started talking in that vein. But except for a few youngsters hailing from orthodox families and overpowering parents, who continued with these, the others only paid lip sympathy. When I asked (in those days) one youngster as to why he is praising all such brahmanic rites but not doing, he said "paLLi vERe, pAtiri vERe" in Malayalam/Tamil. (This means that the priest is not synonymous with the Church; what you give to priest will not go to the Church, that is the Christian meaning!)

Nowadays, this sort of resurgence is visible among the retired tabras who work overtime to reserve their front seat in heaven and also some of the middle aged tabras - reasons not clear to me in this latter case.

As regards the items listed by you, all are superstitions but once they become pet beliefs for someone, it is addictive and there is no deaddiction possible. That is it.
 
True Shri Sangom!

I have heard at times some well-educated TaBras turned pravachanakartas of later days too indulging in giving such 'scientific' explanations, perhaps, to show the awe-struck shrotas that they are masters in science also! And what you have said about 'impressionable teenagers' is quite true. I know many of them, one among them being my own second son, too who is just 21 and very much addicted to be prepared to go to considerable lengths to attend 'navaahams' and 'saptaahams' of a particular group, somehow cutting it very fine to manage his profession as a young aircraft repair engineer and his aatmavichaarams simultaneously. I am not still sure whether this is a mere passing fad or he would get drawn deeper and deeper into what he is so fascinated with. Time alone can tell!

[By the way, I know Malayalam fairly well, thanks to my first posting at Calicut from 1970 to 1973 and later my second stint in Kerala at Trivandrum from 1997 to 2002, not counting my several trips to several places throughout Kerala. I certainly understand the pragmatism of ""paLLi vERe, pAtiri vERe"" POV of that youngster you speak about!]
 
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True Shri Sangom!

I have heard at times some well-educated TaBras turned pravachanakartas of later days too indulging in giving such 'scientific' explanations, perhaps, to show the awe-struck shrotas that they are masters in science also! And what you have said about 'impressionable teenagers' is quite true. I know many of them, one among them being my own second son, too who is just 21 and very much addicted to be prepared to go to considerable lengths to attend 'navaahams' and 'saptaahams' of a particular group, somehow cutting it very fine to manage his profession as a young aircraft repair engineer and his aatmavichaarams simultaneously. I am not still sure whether this is a mere passing fad or he would get drawn deeper and deeper into what he is so fascinated with. Time alone can tell!

[By the way, I know Malayalam fairly well, thanks to my first posting at Calicut from 1970 to 1973 and later my second stint in Kerala at Trivandrum from 1997 to 2002, not counting my several trips to several places throughout Kerala. I certainly understand the pragmatism of ""paLLi vERe, pAtiri vERe"" POV of that youngster you speak about!]

CLN,

I hope I am not being an alarmist when I request you to find out about the 'navaahams' and 'saptaahams' and the group/s conducting them. BTW, I think it is Bhagavatam which is being stretched to 9 days (since there is no Pareekshit with a curse of death by snake-bite on his head today!). This is because youngsters who are brilliant and have very high academic qualifications get drawn to cults — I can't say exactly why.

I have the case of a very close relative — an ordinary, run-of-the-mill tabra with no pretensions to orthodoxy but not a reformer either — whose only son has been irrevocably sucked into ISKCON, so much so that he has left his wife and child, as also widowed mother who is very sick and has lost her hearing completely, and is doing "kainkaryam" for Krishna and iskcon! He has even adopted a new name and is now one of the typical Hare Krishna saffron crowd. Imagine that he was earning nearly a lakh p.m. some years ago!

I don't know why, but the Krishna cult is spreading fast and dangerously I feel, taking its toll too. So, all that I would say is "Beware of Krishna and his cults".
 
Shri Sangom,

Sure I am monitoring and keeping track but the boy is made of stern stuff and not a one to be persuaded easily into any thing blindly. The 'saptaahams' are for Bhagavatam and the 'navaahams' are for Ramayana. He also has made it a point to do paarayanams of portions from 'Sundarakanda' frequently, if not daily.

He used to attend a few meetings some three or four years ago in ISKCON Bangalore but he soon saw them through in their dogmatic persuasions and then coolly withdrew and stopped visiting ISKCON altogether. But the present attraction is much stronger and I am worried more for his physical health and his growing indifference to be his age, rather than anything else. The problem is that he is such a headstrong chap by nature that changes if they have to happen with him, can happen only of his own volition and not otherwise. I cannot do anything more than waiting and hoping.
 
There is a strong tendency among quite a few educated and modernised TaBras nowadays to seek and attempt to give 'scientific' explanations (distinct from the shastraic explanations which are normally given by shastrjnaas) for so many orthodox beliefs and acts which are viewed by some other TaBras and many NB's as mere superstitions - absurd and anachronistic. It can be a very large list. I list here just a few like sakunam paarthal, putting sandal mark or thirumaN or vibhuthi on the forehead, keeping kudumi, parishechanam, thookkikkudithal (i.e non-sipping), ban on combing hair in the night time and Kaala suddhi (i.e. avoiding Raahu kaalam. yamakandam, thaamasa vailai, vaarasoolai etc.).

A meaningful discussion under this head can bring forth and spring forth interesting thoughts, ideas, opinions and explanations - some what similar to the outcome of the Ksheerasagaramathanam, but with a crucial difference! Here all the participants are DevaTa(Bra)s and so a Mohini may not be required for settling any disputes, because, hopefully, there may not arise any serious disputes; and even if any mild clashes arise, our "moderators" can play the role of Mohini :))) to defuse the tensions! I also hope that no alakalvisham may emerge requiring the services of Lord Shiva. [Even if that happens we do have amidst us the very person with that long and sweet Tamil name! Sir, do not mind this flippant remark, please! Pure Fun, with no offense intended.]

Dear Sri CLN,

Good that you have started an interesting thread. It is my experience, at a particular period of our life all of us pass through this search of finding the link between our orthodox beliefs with modern scientific findings. It is only an intelligent and inquisitive mind can attempt this search. Nothing wrong with this exercise. In fact I had gone through this during my college days.This search took me to seek the help from many spiritual leaders of that time. Fortunately for me I could get the guidance of some great persons. I started reading many Religious Books, visited Ashrams, heard lectures regularly and participated in group activities. But temperamentally a free person, I never linked myself to any organisation or attachment to a Guru for long. My first exposure to Vedantha was from Swami Chinmayananda in 1954. With at most humility I wish to say that I had the Blessings of many great Souls whose words of wisdom shapped my charecter and conduct.

Well, as for your son's religious activities, I do not find any thing wrong in him participating Saptahams or Navahams. Sages call these as "Dharana", which may bring the mind towards spiritual activities.

With warm regards,
Brahmanyan,
Bangalore.
 
Dear Shri Brahmanyan ji,

Namaskaram. It is clear that you have been a blessed soul, to have had such memorable and satisfying experiences in your youthful days which could help shaping up your character and conduct. Regarding my son, I am not disturbed by his religious activities. Born in a family of vedic scholars, it is not very surprising - despite his father not being in that line - I am worried more for his physical health and his growing indifference to be his age, rather than anything else. I have to wait and watch.
 
There is a strong tendency among quite a few educated and modernised TaBras nowadays to seek and attempt to give 'scientific' explanations (distinct from the shastraic explanations which are normally given by shastrjnaas) for so many orthodox beliefs and acts which are viewed by some other TaBras and many NB's as mere superstitions - absurd and anachronistic. It can be a very large list. I list here just a few like sakunam paarthal, putting sandal mark or thirumaN or vibhuthi on the forehead, keeping kudumi, parishechanam, thookkikkudithal (i.e non-sipping), ban on combing hair in the night time and Kaala suddhi (i.e. avoiding Raahu kaalam. yamakandam, thaamasa vailai, vaarasoolai etc.).

A meaningful discussion under this head can bring forth and spring forth interesting thoughts, ideas, opinions and explanations - some what similar to the outcome of the Ksheerasagaramathanam, but with a crucial difference! Here all the participants are DevaTa(Bra)s and so a Mohini may not be required for settling any disputes, because, hopefully, there may not arise any serious disputes; and even if any mild clashes arise, our "moderators" can play the role of Mohini :))) to defuse the tensions! I also hope that no alakalvisham may emerge requiring the services of Lord Shiva. [Even if that happens we do have amidst us the very person with that long and sweet Tamil name! Sir, do not mind this flippant remark, please! Pure Fun, with no offence intended.]

Dear Shri CLN,

It is the age of science now. Any theory or philosophy unless explained in a scientifically satisfactory manner will be rejected. Those who have real belief in hindu philosophy understand that it needs to be presented in a different way to appeal to the scientifically trained minds. Otherwise it would indeed be dismissed as empty beliefs and superstitions.

Thus a new challenge is entrusted upon the educated youth who get attracted to the scriptures, to cretae a bridge between the spiritual and the scientific knowledge so that the wisdom hidden on the other side of physical reality becomes accessible in a manner meaningful to the present times.

I think there are such people of caliber to do the job but my only concern is the encouragement to pursuing that should override the constant and strong flow of discouragements to pursuing that.
 
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Dear Sri CLN Ji,

In my mind, there is a definite demarcation between a superstition and a belief.

A superstition centers on following a mere physical phenomenon that can be empirically disproved (like not sipping a drink - it can be proved that the ill effects can literally be washed away with soap and hot water), versus those grand questions that have not been answered by science and so far can not be, are beliefs.

Hope this makes sense.

Regards,
KRS
 
Dear Shri KRS ji,

I too agree that 'superstitions' are different from 'beliefs' which are not provable / disprovable, but even if what was 'belief' once is shown to be a mere superstition later, the change in the mindset is often only partial. Take the case of the occurrence of eclipses. Mayans considered it as a wrath of God; here in India, it was revenge-taking on the Sun and the Moon by Rahuor Kethu. But today, only some very orthodox old people still refuse to accept the shadow theory, putting their faith only on Rahu/Kethu, as far as the explanation for the eclipse is concerned. But not so is the case of the feared ill-effects of the eclipse - particularly solar eclipse! Some of the common beliefs, popularly believed by many even to day are: one should not take any food at least from 3 hours before till well after the eclipse; prayaschittam should be done for those born in certain nakshatras; pregnant women should not go out in the open during the eclipse; one should take bath after the eclipse is over to be rid of the grahana peedai and so on.

The eclipse may be total or partial, but the belief or its rejection is never total; it is only partial, it seems!
 
Dear Sri CLN Ji,

Yes, I agree with you. Whenever there is scientific proof (like the earth is not flat) all of us should follow that edict, because it is absolutely a proved phenomenon.

But when it comes to Rahu and Kethu, it is different. Because they are tangled up with our astrology and the eclipse while physically conforms to science, does so in a completely different way in astrology.

So, is this superstition? I don't know.

Regards,
KRS
 
KRS: So, is this superstition? I don't know.

Yes Sir! That is the point. Is it superstition or belief? Let us hear what our many friends in the Forum say.

Meanwhile, there is another thing about which I have been always wondering. Astronomy vs. Astrology! It is generally believed that Indians were the fore-runners in Astronomy, long before telescopes came into existence. The most spectacular success of our Astronomy was that our ancestors could predict the occurrence of the eclipses to a spectacular level of accuracy - without the use of any telescope , not even a sextant! They had developed mathematical calculations to achieve this unbelievable feat! But, Vaana Shastra and Jyothisha Shastra seem to be intricately intertwined creating a lot of confusion. The debate whether astrology is a valid science as some astrologers vociferously assert, or it is bogus and mere rubbish as some rationalists claim equally vociferously, is a hot one, defying solution. The coincidence of number NINE being the astronomical planets and astrological navagrahas has further complicated the already murky scene.

The navagrahas and these nine planets are not exactly the same, though some of them are common to both. Only five of them - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - the planets which are visible to naked eye from the earth, are common to both. The Sun and the Moon, which are not planets at all, are clubbed with the above five planets to be counted among the navagrahas. The other two planets, Uranus and Neptune, cannot be the same as Raahu and Kethu, the two remaining Grahas, though many astrologers just call Raahu and Kethu as Uranus and Neptune, erroneously. Raahu and Kethu are only Chaaya grahas, and I believe that they are considered to represent only the astronomical imaginary points of intersection of exactly what, I am not able to recall right now.

In this connection, I have to mention an interesting thing. There was a famous old astrologer cum numerologist (in his seventies) in Chennai, who, till a few months ago, used to be getting a weekly slot in one of the popular Tamil TV channels. The programme is not there nowadays because the venerable old man passed away, may his soul rest in peace! He used to give his astrological predictions for various happenings in the world all right, but where he deviated from the other astrologers is when in the middle of talking about Uccham, Neecham, Paarvai, yogam, dosham and all that, he will abruptly start talking in the same breath giving some astronomical data of various planets, showing a lot of photographs in support and interpreting those scientific data to 'explain' his astrological predictions, switching freely between astrology and astronomy back and forth in a seamless manner! Some of his declarations used to be startlingly ridiculous and utterly preposterous too, though most listeners, I can imagine, due to equal ignorance on both astrology and astronomy and veneration to such an old man, would be thrilled by his novel synthesis of the two and lap it all up! I will quote only one of his many famous declarations. He said, like many others, Raahu is Uranus and Kethu is Neptune, but if he had stopped there I would not be mentioning it here. But, he started giving extensive details of the positions, orbital radius, and all other scientific data, conveniently hiding, or, rather, forgetting that these two planets, can in no way be considered similar in any respect. Uranus is orbiting at about 3 billion km from the sun, taking about 84 earth years to complete one revolution around the Sun, while Neptune is orbiting at about 4.5 billion km away from the Sun, requiring some 165 earth years for one revolution, i.e. double the time taken by Uranus. So, there are and have been times when both these distant planets have been in the same zodiac (Raasi) as can be seen from earth, and there have been times they were diametrically opposite too! But our Raahu and Kethu are always opposite to each other. They have their peyarchis from one raasi to the next one always simultaneously, taking slightly less than a year for stay in each raasi, because they, along with earth, are always collinear. This is NOT to disrespect an old man, no longer available even to defend his point (though that is not possible), but only to bring to light what sort of muddling takes place if one tries to synthesize astrology and astronomy and to make an 'avial' of it!

I would welcome value additions from learned members.
 
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nachi naga: superstition is a good thing if it fosters harmony peace love,imho.

Superstition does not always harm, just like telling lies for some good purpose does not harm, but there is a crucial difference. Superstition is habit-forming, while telling lies for a specific good purposes does not necessarily make us compulsive liars. For example, if a great tragedy takes place in some one's life and the responsibility to break the bad news to the person falls on our shoulders what do we do? We don't spring the harsh and cruel truth bluntly with clinical exactness to that person. We prepare him slowly using several tricks (i.e., lies of various degrees) and slowly and cautiously convey the tragic news. Lying this way is not habit-forming.

Superstition has a tendency to condition the mind and build strong phobias against certain things, taking deep roots in the sub-conscious. A typical example can be when we are starting out of the house, some one asking, "Enge porey?" If we have developed the superstition that asking that question when some is starting out is a bad omen, imagine how upset we would become. Another example is, some one sneezing when we are talking about some important matter. (Mercifully, we also have a remedy for this particular superstition. If the sneezing is in odd numbers only it is bad; if it is in even numbers, it is ok! Perhaps, sneezing has a minus sign and when we multiply a negative quantity odd number of times, the result is negative, and if it is an even number of times, then the result is positive! :))
 
Whenever two distinct entities come together or are in bonding, the energy of the whole is greater than the sum of their individual energies or there is said to be synergy emerging out of that bonding. Human body can be said to be built up of highly harmonious bondings and from the above truth there should be emerging a very highly synergistic energy out of it. This I would call the soul. The mind similarly is a very high synergistic energy arising out of the harmonious conncetions of the brain.

The very high energy emerging out of the brain is still in the mental realm and is affected by temporal aspects or it has to master time. When that happens mind merges with the soul and true self is identified. I would think mind is the one that interacts with the external world or is the one which is affected by events happening within a birth. Soul is affected between births by imbibing lessons learnt during the birth just concluded.

Mind when pure is the purusha or the spiritual reality and the body can be likened to prakriti or the universe. The representation of body as a microcosm of the universe I think can be attributed to the above reason and is not a blind belief.
 
Shri siganeswarie ji,

Sure our Forum "Tamil Brahmins" is a good one - a very good one! Some of the threads posted here are very informative, illustrative, illuminating and entertaining too, because we have members from all age groups from different walks of life, people who are big and small, orthodox and reformist, having varied knowledge and experience.
 
Dear Sri CLN,

Interesting subject indeed. Superstitions are based on faith and belief. Most of our Religious beliefs also are based on faith. We consider that a subject or theory that cannot be substantiated by scientific experiment is classified as superstition. Many a time a question arises in my mind why everything should be scientifically proved. Why can't I enjoy an imaginary explanation so long it does not affect me or benefits me? Concept of Space and Time itself is imaginary projection of our mind. This thought passed through my mind when I and my wife stood for a photograph on the two sides of the metal strip of zero meridian running outside "The Royal Observatory" Greenwich, near London. This imaginary line known as prime meridian divides the world to Eastern and Western hemispheres. Interestingly this imaginary line is the basis for determining many geographical standards.

When I see a flower I would like to enjoy its beauty in fullness, not to venture dissecting it to find the how and why in it.

Is it not true that we all enjoy fantasy and imagination? Our pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, our great Classics are based on fantasy and fertile imagination. It is all the same through out the world, from Greek classics to Harry Potter, Largest selling books in recent times are the Harry Potter series of Seven Fantasy Novels by British Author J.K.Rawling . These series have set a record of selling 400 million copies so far.

Permit me to leave the space now for others to express their views and I shall try to join latter.

Warm Regards,
Brahmanyan,
Bangalore.
 
I agree with Shri Brahmanyan that everything need not be explained in a scientifically satisfactory way. There is some fertile imagination involved in spiritual philosophy but even that is used more as an elucidation of concepts firmly grounded in reality. I do not think it could be ever be called a pure flight of fantasy.
 
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Dear Sri CLN,

Interesting subject indeed. Superstitions are based on faith and belief. Most of our Religious beliefs also are based on faith. We consider that a subject or theory that cannot be substantiated by scientific experiment is classified as superstition.

Dear Shri Brahmanyan,

Faith (and belief) alone can, in the natural course, lead the human mind to fanciful notions, some of which may be harmless but it can also lead to harmful ends, if unchecked by rational thinking. The cases of OCD and OCN are very valid examples. For example, I know a case of a (tabra) lady who goes on "cleaning"; she will be cleaning - wiping, sweeping, etc., something or the other, all the time. If you happen to drink coffee sitting on the dining chair, she will immediately remove the empty cups (after you have finished of course!) and clean them in her sink, then come with a towel wipe the table and then the chairs on which we sat - all in our very presence! I felt perhaps this OCN/OCD might have arisen as a result of her excessive consciousness about சுத்தம் (ritual purity). Despite prolonged treatment the disorder has not been cured completely. There are many other cases like this which I know of.

Hence rational thinking should be considered at least as the "monitor" in the classroom of beliefs and faiths which can go as wild and and unfettered as school children in the absence of the teacher.

Many a time a question arises in my mind why everything should be scientifically proved. Why can't I enjoy an imaginary explanation so long it does not affect me or benefits me? Concept of Space and Time itself is imaginary projection of our mind. This thought passed through my mind when I and my wife stood for a photograph on the two sides of the metal strip of zero meridian running outside "The Royal Observatory" Greenwich, near London. This imaginary line known as prime meridian divides the world to Eastern and Western hemispheres. Interestingly this imaginary line is the basis for determining many geographical standards.
The zero degree longitude is imaginary only in the partial sense that no rational person would like to make a long wall around the earth - like the Great Wall - wasting unnecessary time, energy and resources when the purpose can be achieved in simpler ways. Going by your definition, the sun's diurnal motion, annual motion, the paths of the various celestial bodies, etc., will also become pure flights of fancy, because we cannot draw all those lines in space with a chalk piece or something like that; if they are indeed that, it should be possible for each one to imagine his/her own astronomy and cosmology even.

When I see a flower I would like to enjoy its beauty in fullness, not to venture dissecting it to find the how and why in it.
OK, but it is because some people's inquisitiveness made them dissect and enquire and think, that we know a lot about the medicinal properties of fruits, flowers, leaves, roots, barks, etc. If the world was peopled by Brahmanyans only science would not have grown but literatue must have grown enormously without anything upon which to record it — a case similar to vedas.

Lastly, there is a good sanskrit sloka which tells what is appropriate and when:

śabdārtha rasaveḷāyām śabdotpattīm vadanti ye |
nīvī visramsa veḷāyām mūlyam pṛcchanti vāsasaḥ ||

(One who asks about the etymology of word/s while enjoying a lecture, is like one who asks the value of the cloth - saree - when his wife is undressing (before union).)

Hence there are appropriate times for enjoying the beauty - which incidentally is as much rational as any other activity. Only if you find (imagine) a rose in a stone, can it be said that imagination comes into play.

Is it not true that we all enjoy fantasy and imagination?
Yes, in varying degrees, according to genetic set-up, circumstances and age.
 
I do agree that faith has its problems, the main one being the person who goes by faith is not using his mind but those of the others. But fortunately, our religion doesn't teach us to cause harm to others but only shows the ways to elevate ourselves. With the passage of time, some of them morphed or lost thier purpose and have been given the tag of superstitions and blind beliefs. But, overall they are harmless except that one doesn't use one's mind while following them.

Consider this. The school of thought that encourages free thinking in everything is the really dangerous one how much ever anti rational this may sound. The common man if left to himself without any outside guidance or restraint is very much prone to slip into materialistic and selfish mode and in spite of the so called free thinking that he is allowed can be influenced in subtle and not so subtle ways by any vested interest.

Thus faith in religion which overwhelmingly is harmless does the crucial job of restraining one within the moral boundary and hence paves the way for a more stable and peaceful society
 
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Shri siganeswarie ji,

Sure our Forum "Tamil Brahmins" is a good one - a very good one! Some of the threads posted here are very informative, illustrative, illuminating and entertaining too, because we have members from all age groups from different walks of life, people who are big and small, orthodox and reformist, having varied knowledge and experience.

CLN,

have you noticed also the number of posts on queries about rituals? rites? pilgrimages? deep inside i think, as a whole, our community are superstitious - rahu kaalam, horoscope matching, black cat or widow (motta paatti) crossing our path etc.

modern education has not even scratched our skin. the perfect teflon effect :)
 
CLN,

have you noticed also the number of posts on queries about rituals? rites? pilgrimages? deep inside i think, as a whole, our community are superstitious - rahu kaalam, horoscope matching, black cat or widow (motta paatti) crossing our path etc.

modern education has not even scratched our skin. the perfect teflon effect :)

Kunjuppu,

Even Teflon can be scratched with metal. So we should compare with something very scratch resistant!
 
Brahmanyan: Is it not true that we all enjoy fantasy and imagination?

Very true, Shri Brahmanyan! Every human being is gifted with the ability to think rationally as well as have fantasy

and imagination; and normally every one uses both abilities, though in varying proportions. A person who

practically does not exercise the ability to fantasize and imagine at all will be always cool and calculative,

rationalizing and rationalizing all the time. Such a person, will feel no compassion or goodwill towards others

because he can feel only for himself, having no imagination as to how his thoughts, words and actions will affect

others. It is very likely that he becomes a dangerous criminal and turn only into a liability on the society. On the

other hand, a person who takes leave of reason and lives always in fantasy and imagination is considered unsound

of mind and very likely ends up in an asylum.

Coming to superstitions, it is not as if all superstitions are harmful to self or others. Some of them, may be just

plain irrational belief, but harmless to any one, unless it leads to such a mental fixation that the person becomes a

neurotic (like the lady with the "cleaning compulsion" Shri Sangom has mentioned in post #20). This kind of

harmless superstitions are more common among people whose profession is dependent on emotional

appeal rather than intellectual appeal to the public - a classic example being the cine field. There are / have

been directors who always named their creations or coined names for actors introduced by them, starting with a

particula letter (A. Bhim Singh, Bharathirajaa?), or, wear only a particular shirt, use a particular pen, or book a

particular room in a particular hotel whenever they start a new venture. It is quite a common practice among

many people to choose names for persons, objects, businesses etc., gems to wear, telephone numbers, vehicle

registration numbers etc. based on numerology.

Here, I wish to point a very popular misconception about what science is among the general public which is

capitalized by practising astrologers, numerologists, gemologists, tarot readers, oracle tellers etc. They often claim

that their subjects of study are 'science' on the strength of cases in which their predictions / prescriptions may be

proving correct. They forget some thing very basic: science is NOT just a collection of positive observations.

Observations form only the data for further analysis. Based on observations, hypotheses have to be formulated

about the cause-effect relationship; then, experimental verification whether the same cause leads to the same

result or not has to be done; factors vitiating the result have to be identified/isolated; then, eliminating the vitiating

factors, experimentation has to be carried out under similar conditions to see whether the results are consistent;

then, laws/rules have to be formulated and presented/published so that other experimenters can repeat the

experiments independently under similar conditions to see if the results are as predicted by the laws/rules

formulated. Then and then only, the whole work gets legitimacy and gets accepted as science. These 'prediction-prescription-parihaaram'

type subjects of study are either not amenable by their very nature for such experimentation, or, the practitioners are not interested in

/ignorant of the procedures. But, all said and done, popularity not at all requires scientific rigour as a

pre-condition for acceptance; that is the truth behind so many newer and newer off-shoots of astrology coming into

existence!

The rationalists who reject the validity of all these forecast-related subjects and grudge their popularity have just

one argument - that, if any of these questionable practices works or seems to work, it is more by "auto-suggestion"

than by any thing else!

Any comments?
 
Last edited:
Very true, Shri Brahmanyan! Every human being is gifted with the ability to think rationally as well as have fantasy

and imagination; and normally every one uses both abilities, though in varying proportions. A person who

practically does not exercise the ability to fantasize and imagine at all will be always cool and calculative,

rationalizing and rationalizing all the time. Such a person, will feel no compassion or goodwill towards others

because he can feel only for himself, having no imagination as to how his thoughts, words and actions will affect

others. It is very likely that he becomes a dangerous criminal and turn only into a liability on the society. On the

other hand, a person who takes leave of reason and lives always in fantasy and imagination is considered unsound

of mind and very likely ends up in an asylum.

Coming to superstitions, it is not as if all superstitions are harmful to self or others. Some of them, may be just

plain irrational belief, but harmless to any one, unless it leads to such a mental fixation that the person becomes a

neurotic (like the lady with the "cleaning compulsion" Shri Sangom has mentioned in post #20). This kind of

harmless superstitions are more common among people whose profession is dependent on emotional

appeal rather than intellectual appeal to the public - a classic example being the cine field. There are / have

been directors who always named their creations or coined names for actors introduced by them, starting with a

particula letter (A. Bhim Singh, Bharathirajaa?), or, wear only a particular shirt, use a particular pen, or book a

particular room in a particular hotel whenever they start a new venture. It is quite a common practice among

many people to choose names for persons, objects, businesses etc., gems to wear, telephone numbers, vehicle

registration numbers etc. based on numerology.

Here, I wish to point a very popular misconception about what science is among the general public which is

capitalized by practising astrologers, numerologists, gemologists, tarot readers, oracle tellers etc. They often claim

that their subjects of study are 'science' on the strength of cases in which their predictions / prescriptions may be

proving correct. They forget some thing very basic: science is NOT just a collection of positive observations.

Observations form only the data for further analysis. Based on observations, hypotheses have to be formulated

about the cause-effect relationship; then, experimental verification whether the same cause leads to the same

result or not has to be done; factors vitiating the result have to be identified/isolated; then, eliminating the vitiating

factors, experimentation has to be carried out under similar conditions to see whether the results are consistent;

then, laws/rules have to be formulated and presented/published so that other experimenters can repeat the

experiments independently under similar conditions to see if the results are as predicted by the laws/rules

formulated. Then and then only, the whole work gets legitimacy and gets accepted as science. These 'prediction-prescription-parihaaram'

type subjects of study are either not amenable by their very nature for such experimentation, or, the practitioners are not interested in

/ignorant of the procedures. But, all said and done, popularity not at all requires scientific rigour as a

pre-condition for acceptance; that is the truth behind so many newer and newer off-shoots of astrology coming into

existence!

The rationalists who reject the validity of all these forecast-related subjects and grudge their popularity have just

one argument - that, if any of these questionable practices works or seems to work, it is more by "auto-suggestion"

than by any thing else!

Any comments?

Dear Shri CLN,

The success of science in accurately explaining certain things have made the scientific community arrogant and also complacemnt about the capabilities of science. This has gone to such an extent that any other source of knowledge is regarded with derision and branded as quack science.

I would like to point out that it has been close to a century that any real scientific breakthroughs at a theoretical level has happened. I think the scientists are close to a plateau with respect to what can be understood by the scientific means of knowledge.

In my opinion astrology is a very neat and coherent piece of work. Though I agree that the theory to back it up is almost non existent, it cannot be rejected outright for that reason alone. Neither can it be rejected for the reason that almost none of the astrologers make consistently accurate predictions.

My yardstick for claiming the authenticity of the field is, if even one astrologer can make consistently correct predictions. The field sorely misses both good theorists and good practitioners. If we have them both I think we have a lot to gain not only in terms of self knowledge but also appreciating the overall philosophy of hinduism on which this vedanga was developed.
 
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