What I learnt chasing Foo Dog figurines

Superstition always leads to fear and worry. Or just the opposite may happen too.

The other day a friend visited us. The conversation hovered on Vaastu and Feng Shui for a while. Then we talked about the merits and demerits of following rituals and believing in superstitions. After my friend left, I reflected, with amazement, on how I had grown out of “investing” in Vaastuand Feng Shui. I have nothing against these practices – I strongly believe they are sciences in their own way – or those who follow them. To be sure, I was, until a few years ago, very superstitious and heavily reliant on Vaastuand Feng Shui to determine how – where and with what – I must live.

Once, while on a three-day trip to Bangkok, Vaani and I spent over three-quarters of a day, in Chinatown, searching for Foo Dog figurines. Foo Dogs are the ancient sacred dogs of Asia who guard Buddhist temples – our Feng Shui consultant had advised us to get those figurines so that our home could be “protected”. Imagine, hunting for Foo Dog figurines in Bangkok, when there are possibly so many more entertaining, enriching, energizing things to do in that amazing city?!


Over time, with the practice of daily silence periods, I realized that relying on “external reference points”, however scientific they are or may have then appeared to be to me, are signs of a weak mind, one that is not self-aware. The ones with courage, I discovered, are the ones that know themselves. And if you know yourself, I soon learned to ask myself, why do you need to lean on a crutch __ a talisman, a figurine, a ring or a number? All these crutches are ostensibly to help you navigate better through Life. But Life is not the issue. It is your fear which is weakening you. And the best way to deal with fear is to look it in the eye and face it! These crutches cannot possibly help you face your demons, your fears. Never!

My evolution and learning has also taught me that what scares you often has the power to liberate you. Almost all of us have a good luck charm, a lucky number, and believe in something, often absurd, that we have been conditioned to. Nobody wants to do anything with the number 13 for instance. Or we prefer our favorite colors or numbers. There’s a view some people hold that if you bang into a piece of furniture when you are leaving to get something important accomplished, you must treat that as an early warning sign of something terrible that’s on its way. People that champion a scientific temperament will reason against this, intensely. And which is why those who want to believe in superstitions and premonitions will resist all rational arguments, however reasonable they may be. But here’s a simpler take. If everything is an event in this lifetime, a mere data point, including your birth and your impending death, and since the soul is imperishable, eternal, then what consequence does a furniture that comes in the way or a cat crossing your path or a mere number have?

In anyone’s Life, three things are absolutely inscrutable:  birth, death and soul. Now birth is without choice, death is unavoidable and the soul is not visible. What else is important when these three dimensions of your Life are beyond your control? When I look back, I feel that being superstitious, being ritualistic and being wedded to mere methods does make you fearful. And lonely. When I let go of whatever was controlling me, I felt free.

Enjoy being liberated. It’s a beautiful world out there. A stumble here, a fall there, a number here and a cat there, nor Foo Dogs figurines at your door, can make no difference to you, if you choose to feel the air in your lungs, being present in this – the only certain, happening, available, magnificent, miraculous – moment of your Life! 

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Experience freedom from what possesses you

Superstition and premonition always lead to fear and worry. Or just the opposite may happen too.
These are signs of a weak person, one that is not self-aware. The ones with courage are the ones that know themselves. And if you know yourself, why do you need to lean on a crutch __ a talisman, a fear, a ring or a number? Almost all of us have a good luck charm, a lucky number, and believe in something, often absurd, that we have been conditioned to. Nobody wants to have anything to do with the number 13 for instance. Or we prefer our favorite colors or numbers. There’s a view some people hold that if you bang into a piece of furniture when you are leaving to get something important accomplished, you must treat that as an early warning sign of something terrible that’s on its way. People that champion a scientific temperament will reason against this, intensely. And which is why those who want to believe in superstitions and premonitions will resist the scientific arguments, however reasonable they may be. But here’s a simpler take. If everything is an event in this lifetime, a mere data point, including your birth and your impending death, and since the soul is imperishable, eternal, then what consequence does a furniture that comes in the way or a cat crossing your path or a mere number have?

In anyone’s Life, two aspects are absolutely not dispensable:  birth and death. Now birth is without choice and death is unavoidable. What else is important when these two dimensions of your Life are inscrutable? The people who champion superstition and acknowledge premonition are those who want to live in fear and misery. And because they feel lonely, they want to drag you with them to provide them company! Try letting go of what clutches you in its stranglehold. Experience freedom from what possesses you. Enjoy being liberated. It’s a beautiful world out there. And a stumble here, a fall there, a number here and a cat there, can make no difference to you, if you choose to feel the air in your lungs and the wind on your face; being present in this, the only certain, happening, available, magnificent, miraculous moment of your Life!

The pre-paid nature of our creation has no flaws!

Don’t analyze Life too much. Just take it as it comes.
Union Minister Gopinath Munde died tragically in a car accident yesterday, the 3rd of June. His two brothers-in-law, Pramod and Pravin Mahajan, died in different years, but again on the 3rd of a month. Today’s papers quote a member of the Munde-Mahajan family as saying, “I dread the 3rd of every month now.” This reaction is symptomatic of over analysis. And, in my humble opinion, and from what I have learned from Life, such a reaction is what breeds insecurity and fear.
People are superstitious from conditioning or from analysis or from both. Either way is uncalled for. When you are superstitious about something you are setting some conditions to the way Life must happen to you. Thursdays are good. Tuesdays are bad. This comes from conditioning. So, even if you get a new job, you will not accept it on a Tuesday – because that’s the way you have been raised! You will say, “Can I take the offer letter on Wednesday?”. A few things going wrong – or not meeting your expectations – and you start connecting, analyzing, all that you did that led to this outcome. You conclude that you were wearing blue on all those days when things did not go to a plan. So, blue is an unlucky color for you. So on and on, your mind, your circumstances, your friends, your family, society – everything and everyone tries to make you believe that numbers, colors, days of the week, times of the day, seasons, or whatever, are responsible for your “misfortune”, for your “fate” and for your everything “that’s wrong” with your Life. Nothing can be further from the truth.
If you make an attempt to understand Life, you will realize that it happens on its own accord. No color, stone, month, season, time can change the way Life happens – to you, to me, to anyone. You build your own insecurities by expecting Life to behave differently – because you are thinking, you are wishing, for it to be so. When you wear a stone – a ruby or a coral or whatever – to “ward of ill-luck”, or when you place a water fountain on the north-eastern, open, corner of your home, you are actually saying to yourself, “Now that I have done this, let everything happen to my plan.” When it does, you exult. You conclude that your “belief” systems have worked. But what when it doesn’t? Then gemology is wrong, Feng Shui is wrong, and you imagine you have been “led up the garden path”. Wear a stone if you like wearing one. Keep a water fountain if you like the sound of flowing water. But don’t expect anything – a number, color, date, time, day or season – to change anything for you. Because whatever is due to you will come to you, no matter what. Whatever isn’t due to come, will never come, again, no matter what you do or don’t do!
Remember, we are all like pre-paid SIM cards. Our “features” are pre-programmed by the Network, in this case Cosmic, Operator. We will function only per that pre-program. Unless the Operator wills and sanctions, even if you are offering to pay more for additional benefits, no changes can be made to the program, and therefore, to our “features”. Most people call that Cosmic Operator God. I believe it is Life that leads us. So, I bow to Life’s Master Plan for me, and for each of us. And I know, from my limited experience, that this Master Plan, with the pre-paid nature of our creation, has no flaws.
Life, as I know it,  is simple. It is just a series of happenings. A set of experiences. You must experience each one fully. If it gives you pain, feel it and learn from it how not to suffer. If it gives you joy, celebrate the moment, savor it, knowing fully that it won’t last forever. Life doesn’t call for analysis. It calls for living – fully, in the moment!

Celebrating Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th. In Western culture, there’s a superstition that Friday the 13th will bring ill luck to people when they attempt anything on this day. Indian culture too has its fair share of superstitions. Don’t continue with your journey (or work) if a black cat crosses your path. Or don’t take possession of a new house unless you first boil milk in it. Or respect a weekly timetable of “bad” 90 minute capsules (rahukalam). And many, many more.
There are normally two kinds of people. Those who follow superstitions and those who don’t. But there’s also a third category: who don’t know which category of people to follow! They often wonder: Is being superstitious good or bad? Is it foolish to be superstitious? Is being superstitious a sign of being too religious?
Let me share my learnings from my experiences of having been superstitious. Firstly, superstition means accepting something __ or even rejecting something __ without having any first-hand knowledge about it or believing (or rejecting) something blindly without verifying. So, in the true sense of the word’s meaning, a believer in God and an atheist, both are superstitious. A believer because, in the normal course, she or he believes so more by following than by seeking (verifying first-hand) and an atheist because, she or he, again rejects blindly without ascertaining if there is a case indeed for no-God! So, theists and atheists, both are capable of being superstitious. Just as scientists are too. Until Liebniz argued that it is possible to have just three digits in the counting system, as opposed to 9, the world of mathematicians was superstitious too. They accepted a 1 ~ 9 count, just as we have all done, without pausing to verify, question, argue or debate. So, the point being made here is that there is nothing wrong in being superstitious if you are comfortable in following something__anything for that matter__without questioning, without verifying.
To me superstitions are an integral part of growing up – of evolving. I once was sitting in front of a very learned astrologer, who, seeing the rings on my fingers, asked me why I was wearing them. I replied saying that a well-known gemologist had recommended that I wear them to “ward off the bad times” that I was faced with. He laughed and asked in Tamil: “Kallaala Vidhiya Matramudiyuma Sir?” (Can stones change destiny?). He then went on to explain: “Sir, don’t accept anything just because you find it comfortable to believe it or to follow it. Not even what I am telling you. Challenge every assumption, ask, seek…and from the answers you get, pick the one which you feel you can relate to the most. Choose that which you feel is the most common-sensical. In doing that you will always be at peace.” I have followed his sagely advise to this day.
So, the question here is not whether a superstition works or not. Or whether it is right or wrong. The question here is have you verified what you are following? Are you convinced of your line of thought and action? If you have done this check, then what you follow is no longer a superstition, it is a belief. And, importantly, if you have chosen to not believe something, it does not mean that someone else believing in it is wrong. Respect that the person may have as much strong evidence to support her or his belief as you have against it.
Bottom-line: any day, any time is good, but no day, no time is better than today, the NOW, to live and to celebrate Life! So, please don’t let anything – not even your beliefs – ruin this non-stop party called Life for you!