Superstition refers to the excessive belief and ‘blind faith’ for the supernatural. It is the belief in some customs, rites and rituals that are usually baseless and without any reason.
Meaning of Superstition
There are many things in Nature which are beyond human knowledge. We try to understand the mystery of Nature. But there are still many things in the world of Nature which cannot be explained through reasoning. We consider them the wishes of unseen power. We give fanciful causes for happenings which we cannot explain.
There are many natural events which are said to be due to supernatural forces. These beliefs in supernatural forces is known as Superstition. Our logic fails and reasoning does not satisfy us.
Superstition in India
In India, the pundits and Sanskritic scholars set some taboos or inhibitions of human behaviour, such as:
- Carrying eggs, oil and many such articles during journey was regarded as inauspicious.
- Journeys away from home were strictly codified for the seven days of the week.
- The newly initiated ‘brahmcharis’ were strictly forbidden to see the face of the lower caste men like the scavengers.
These strict rules struck root in the households and were especially so because people were illiterate, unenlightened, orthodox and sometimes dominating.
Causes of Superstition
Superstition arises from ignorance. It is a child of fear as well. Superstition is generally a legacy of our ancient civilization. But it is strange that the advancement of science and modern education can not eradicate superstition.
An ignorant man cannot understand the cause of lighting and thunder. He invents an imaginary explanation for the happening. He thinks that some unseen power is behind these natural events. There are people who believe in ghosts and spirits. They also believe in witch-craft. They think that the power of mantras controls everything. So ignorance is the cause of superstition. Most of us are superstitious in some way or the other.
It, sometimes, survives even in scholars and learned persons. An internationally reputed Hindu philosopher may staunchly object to his daughter’s marriage with fine specimen of a boy who belongs to the opposite community. People are not able to overcome the traditional snag of the past.
Today we have learnt the scientific explanations for many natural events. But we are yet not free from the chains of superstitions.
- If somebody sneezes, we take it as a sign of something unfavorable.
- If we are going somewhere and a cat moves across the road, we become upset. We lose our confidence. We begin to pray to God for a safe journey. Thus we are always afraid of unseen forces.
Superstition in India is not based on common sense.
There is a basic difference between ‘common sense’ and ‘common belief’. The latter may harbor superstition or may not; it depends upon the degree of enlightenment within the society. But common sense has something to do with reason, logic and argument. It is a healthier tradition. Primitive society and culture followed customs, ritual and traditional practices. But today even rustic or illiterate persons are amenable to reason. They are often prepared to give up their blind and obsolete ideas if they are made to see reason in the changed outlook.
Many superstitions still rule the lives of the backward classes and tribal people. They are ignorant people. But when the educated people fill his life with superstitions, we hardly find any explanation.
To conclude, superstition in India is a sequel to fear for the unseen. It seems extremely difficult to erase out from the mind all considerations of a nameless fear, although it is not an unattainable ideal.
Category: Essays, Paragraphs and Articles
Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states...Read More
When I was a boy there were certain prohibitions in my Grandmother’s house. We couldn’t open an umbrella while inside because it was bad luck. If something good happened, we had to knock on wood. Whistling indoors was prohibited because that, too, could bring bad luck. When my grandfather accidently broke a mirror he said with great drama, “Seven years bad luck.” He was not joking. He really believed it.
Do you think all of this is stupid? Think again. Superstitious beliefs are wide spread. We even go through a childhood stage where we are guided by superstitions. Remember the old chant while skipping along the sidewalk, “Step on a line and break your mother’s spine?” We skipped with great care to prevent the awful decree from coming true.
Most of us would agree that superstitious thinking carries with it all kinds of illusions. Perhaps the most important illusion is that we can influence what happens in life. For example, many baseball players carry lucky charms with them in the belief that it will help them hit a home run or, at the very least, get a hit. I have known college students who will use only a “lucky pen” on exams to maximize their chances of scoring an “A” grade.
Part of the reasoning, even on an unconscious level, behind superstitions, is that there is order rather than randomness in the universe. This is reflected in the often used phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” The thinking is that, be appealing to the divine force behind the orderliness of the universe, we can exert control over what happens. As a result, we convince ourselves, we can prevent bad things from happening and ensure that good things will occur.
The fact is that superstitious, or magical thinking , when kept within limits, helps us cope with life. I have seen many people who, after having come through a tragic even in their life, conclude that everything happens for a reason. In other words, magical thinking helps us give meaning to events that would otherwise be confusing. We can comfort ourselves with the thought that life is not just a matter of meaningless events that happen to happen.
Keep in mind that, even though magical thinking can be helpful, too much of a good thing can become harmful. It can lead obsessional thinking, and even to psychosis, if taken too far. It is not that these things can cause us to become ill. Rather, that obsessional or psychotic magical thinking are symptoms of illness.
Am I superstitious? Now, I don’t know about you but I am sure that superstitions are meaningless!!? What good can they really do??? Of course, when I spilled some salt at dinner the other night, I threw some of it over my left shoulder. I did not want to give the devil or the fates any excuse to harm me or my family. Oh, by the way, I never whistle in the house! Why tempt fate?
What are your superstitions? It would be fun to collect a long list of them to share with one another and the ways they seem to have been helpful.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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