What should the view of a person be, if he’s not particularly superstitious, and is in fact usually quite logical, but has a tendency for noticing “coincidences” in virtually all areas of life? Does this mean he’s actually superstitious, but in denial about having this primitive characteristic?
I know many religions and many cultures have traditions that amount to little more than superstition- most developing over centuries, as byproducts the cultures they grew from. For instance, I’ve read that during eclipses, expectant mothers in India avoid going outside at all and certain children are “buried” in sands. Truth be told, there’s no earthly reason for suchery. No scientific knowledge is even needed to discern this…simple common sense suffices. If burying folks in sand actually ever healed anyone, hospitals would be less crowded. No? I mean… I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something here.
And what of the discernible, and truly incredible numerical/mathematical sequences found everywhere in the natural world? Many see these things as naturally occurring, and something necessary and ironed out through a bajillion years of evolution, while others see these things as “proofs” that there exists a Higher Intelligence. A show I watched recently highlighted numerous incredible patterns within the natural world, some so striking it’s tough to think of them as unintentional. Still, the show insisted that chaos is at least as prevalent as order.
Someone told me today that so-called superstitious activities have immense value, regardless of their efficacy- or lack thereof -if they lead to deeper resolve. And because of that, it doesn’t matter if your actions are truly efficacious or mere superstition. She’s a devout, yet worldly Catholic. (Aren’t they all? I kid!) She tells me people who use religion as a crutch are essentially superstitionists, flavored by their immediate faith. According to this woman, real faith involves a letting go. She determined that it doesn’t matter if what you are doing is superstition, so long as it deepens your faith. Religions have practices that might well be labeled as superstitious, but the difference is that religions (mostly) aren’t abandoned when goals aren’t realized, and apparently superstitions are. She cited her own husband, who once wore the same yellow t-shirt to each Pacers game. At the time they were on a winning streak and he knew it would break were he to wear another shirt. The minute they lost, despite his best fashion attempt, he abandoned his ritual.
To kind of tie back to the show I mentioned earlier, since as far back as I’m able to remember I’ve been interested in nature and in studying any natural/living science. When I was very young, I would spend hours and hours outside climbing trees or running in fields or playing in creeks and rivers. I never ever tired of being in those places where there was literally nowhere I could turn and not find something moving or squirming, flowing or growing. And, from the start, I have always been inclined to see that there is Something behind the scenes. One of my earliest memories of god is a memory of a snowfall. I was in my parents’ home, looking out a window at snow falling on our expansive front yard. I noticed the flakes, some large and some small. I noticed the direction of their fall would shift at times. I noticed the invisible wind causing the flakes to swirl and fly. I saw these flakes accumulate on our driveway and drift from one place to another before gaining enough volume to stick somewhere and accumulate further. And I could feel, as I lingered near that window, the cold outside temperature penetrating through the glass and touching my face like some kind of fingerless ghost hand. And I recall, as I took in that winter experience, that I was knowing god. The snowflakes weren’t god. Neither was the wind. But somehow the whole sh’bang was. I actually talked to It right then. I was addressing the flakes, or the wind, or the drifts, or the grass slowly becoming buried… I addressed All of It.
Is that the same as, or bordering on, being superstitious? I know I wasn’t doing something odd for the benefit of its hope-for effects, like wearing the same shirt to ball games, but certainly some would say I reading more into the weather than is reasonable. I saw a natural process, identified with it in some way, thereby personifying it, and suddenly I knew god. Or not?
Allow me to toss out just one more instance for your consideration.
In the last couple weeks, I interviewed for, and was offered, new employment. In the weeks prior to my interview, and certainly between the interview and receiving the offer, I stepped up my sadhana like you wouldn’t believe. I basically followed a schedule based on the sandhyas. At each sandhya I performed one type of sadhana or another, with the most extensive being at the close of each day. (I’m happy to share the formula of this sadhana with anyone interested) (I don’t have a ton of time in the mornings, and lunches at the job I’m leaving are only 31 minutes long, so, while I performed my sadhana at each sandhya as best as I was able, necessity mandated that the final sandhya allowed for the longest-sustained effort.) Finally, after the longest 9 days of my life, I received the call and accepted the offer I had so badly hoped for.
Naturally, this has led me to questioning all of this. I left the interview knowing it had gone well, and wouldn’t have gotten the interview in the first place had my résumé not been well-constructed. Lots of folks would stop there and say that those things are all that came into play here. There are also lots of others who would insist that even a lame resume and poor interview can result in employment offer, if one has faith. I should admit that I’m a bit less in this crowd. But since sadhana was a part of this process (or at least I believe so, or I wouldn’t have dived into it as I did), how am I to know to what extent I benefitted from those efforts?
My religion is one founded in experience. This experience, superficially, would seem to support my shraddha/dharma. Fine. Dandy, even… Except that I can’t currently quantify/qualify what’s happened here in terms of my faith. Can I?
I would argue that anything that has to do with petitioning your ishtadevata toward a certain end is not superstition, ESPECIALLY (as you said) as long as it is not abandoned if the result is not to be had. It is much different than, say, crossing one’s fingers.
Thanks, bhai… Would you say, then, that if one remains dedicated to crossing his fingers in a hope-filled manner – even when this seems unproductive (like as if one remains dedicated to an ishtadevata, regardless)- that this would elevate that action up through the level of superstition and into bona fide religion/spirituality?