Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is there science behind superstition?

Most traditions are time tested and are part of custom because of the knowledge that they are based on. Then some more were added by ignorant beings over the past few centuries. Now its difficult to find the scientific basis of all because science is also limited knowledge. But here are the few which have been explained and understood.

Doctors with MBBS degrees said turmeric was pigment, a colouring agent in food and not required. Turmeric has been used in India for over thousands of years in food, bath, religious rituals etc., Only in the last decade scientists found that it was the greatest anti-oxidant, something that can even fight cancer.

In India, people with janeyu (the thread across body) circled it around their earlobe before answering nature's call. Now, it was not to lift it up or to prevent it from entangling it with something. Scientists did the research and found that when back of the earlobe is pressed then it eases bowel movement. I tried it this morning and it did work. I was surprised.

In India, when people die the near and dear ones are freed of any obligations for the 10 days mourning period. When one of my close relative died and I went to the village and touched the feet of my cousin he said in these days we do not touch. I was perplexed. How are these days different from the other days?

Yesterday, in art of living ashram satsang Gurudev revealed that death brings grief. There is lot of negative energy in and amongst the closest family members. And when you touch them you too can be affected by it. Hence they were freed of any obligations from amongst themselves and others.

Similarly, during birth people are ecstatic, there is uncontrolled joy around. Then too the near and dear ones are excused of any obligations for 10 days. The overjoy can sometimes be detrimental too.

Also, during menstruation cycles in India, ladies are not allowed in kitchen of traditional houses. The custom is there for the ladies to have proper rest for these 3-4 days, sit and knit or do some light work. Because ladies tend to work hard once they start.

Similarly, in olden days when ladies cooked rice there would be lots of starch that overflowed. The hands would get sticky and when they touched the clothes they would be spoiled too. Hence, the custom of not touching clothes without washing hands.

In south India people have been using ground nut oil and gingerly oil for ages. The gingerly oil is also called as nice oil in Tamil. But a scientific research sponsored by some Malaysian companies highlighted the negatives of these oils to prove palm oil as viable alternative. And people switched. Now, they have learnt the game and are coming back.

Then there are extremes like people do not take dairy products for six months in Ethiopia.  It is so unviable for dairy industry to survive there.

In Japan, there is separate sets of utensils/plates for guest and host and they dont mix it. It is also practised in some parts of India.

So, Gurudev recommends that you do your little experiments and find out the scientific basis of these customs before blindly terming them as superstitions. And while you do so be open to the fact that what is proven today can be disproven tomorrow. 
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