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Between Reason and Faith
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." -  Albert Einstein.
When it comes to mass conditioning of the gullible, no medium is as powerful as the TV. Nirmal Baba's durbar on Sahara TV is the most telling example: 'Aap kal se laal shirt paheniye, aur aap ki samasya hal ho jayegi' ('Start wearing red shirts from tomorrow. All your problems will be solved).

Even Delhi Court passed strictures against him, directing him to stop making absurd suggestions to his followers. It is a sad commentary on our present ethos that the channel continues to air his durbars and the Baba and his program thrive.

The amazing thing is that scientific temper, prosperity and superstition do co-exist in the same person and in all societies. Our ISRO scientists, apart from selecting a safe meteorological window for launches, also do perform pujas and align launches away from 'Rahu kalam', for the mission's success!

In the Christian world, '13' is supposed to be an unlucky number - possibly because Judas, the 13thdisciple of Jesus, betrayed him to the Romans at the Last Supper. Such beliefs are strengthened, when all Apollo launches succeeded, except Apollo 13 which was ill fated!

I noticed that the Sheraton hotels worldwide uniformly skip 13thfloor and Room Nos. After 12thfloor the next floor is 14th. Then on each floor, room No. 12 is followed by No. 14. Such types of superstitions and lucky shirts etc, I find are harmless and amusing. They lend mystery and colour to our lives.

On the other hand, Babas who profit and play on our insecurities, greed and superstitions are criminals and frauds. And disturbingly their numbers are increasing. During our 11 years stay in Madras (it was Madras, then), I found that there were daily reports of sadhus visiting homes in the afternoons, when men folk were away. They would talk the lady into bringing out all her jewellery, with the assurance of doubling it.

The lady would close her eyes; the sadhu uttered mumbo jumbo and decamped with the glitter. There is a crying need to educate the common folk on such traps and perils, but our socio-political environment militates against such education. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar warns: 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings'.

A savant related this to me: "While leaving for his exile Rama says, 'As advised by the Rajgurus and astrologers, my father fixed a 'tithi' today, to crown me a chatrapati raja. At same 'tithi' I am setting out for a life of a mendicant'!"

A famous global chain of South Indian restaurants being caterers to the US Consulate, Madras, they managed to open branches easily in the US. Soon the Consulate filed a FIR against them, as they were also smuggling people to the US, by falsely getting them visas for working in their restaurants. The owner's son was jailed.

But later, the father was also in jail, for murder. Why? A tantric told him to marry for the third time, for doubling his wealth and empire, this time to a young beautiful girl! His eyes fell on a young employee's wife. She spurned him and in desperation, he killed her young husband! But the gentleman is out on medical grounds. A very influential member of the society!

Life is a heady mix of religion, rituals, spirituality, superstitions and rationalism. Talking of our family, I do not know where one starts and unwittingly morphs into the other! I come from a family of rationalists. On the other hand, my wife is deeply religious. Visits temples and observes all the fasts and rituals of the year. I support all her activities for, I a non-believer respect the Faith of all, as long as it does no harm to others. Faith has immense power (both for good and bad).

Possibly, because of that she is a stronger person, to meet the challenges of life and goes out of the way to care for others. On the other hand, I an agnostic have nothing but inner strength to fall back on! When that fails, I cannot take out my rosary and chant Ave Maria or Hanuman Chalisa!

For me the only alternative is to meditate and dive into my inner being, to draw strength. Mostly with success, but not always so! Out of respect of her concern for my welfare, I do not go for hair cuts on Saturdays, as it is supposed to be inauspicious. If she feels uncomfortable with my eating eggs on certain days, I do not do so. These gestures are no big deals, but foster harmony and feeling of mutual respect.

I have never gone to any temple to pray, but am an avid visitor to places of worship all over world. More as an observer of the different practices of Faith and to photograph their sublime architecture! I am awestruck by the grandeur of Cathedrals, the sublime geometrical simplicity of mosques and loftiness of South Indian temples, Pyramids of Mexico etc.

Each sculpture could have only been sculpted by super devout and inspired artisans. Similarly, the sonorous sounds of Gregorian chants, church organ music and the very elevating sounds, when Rig Veda is chanted with a certain cadence! Without even understanding what is being said, the sound itself raises my goose pimples. Even seeing a photo of MS Subbulakshmi sends me into raptures, for just by recalling her songs and the aura on her face, transports me to the Infinite and then nothing else exists. These are great works inspired by Faith.

Role of Faith (for Good or Evil) cannot be underestimated, even if the faith is based on something irrational. It drives our psychosomatic being, with a super human energy. It would be worth reading 'Powers of the Mind' by Adam Smith, which chronicles belief systems and how they work, right from the tribal to sophisticated societies.

Right from pre-historic days to present day, scientists and philosophers have pondered about the forces that shape us and our destiny, but at certain point they draw a blank. What was there before the Big Bang? Where did this immense energy come from? 'Who' framed the Laws of Physics, which govern every aspect of Nature?

When and how does Consciousness enter a newly conceived egg and where does it go after death? Who and what decides our destiny? There are no final answers. That is the point, when we realise our helplessness and impotency, surrounded as we are with the Omnipotent! Consequently Religions, rituals, cults and superstitions will continue to colour our life.

My Prayer:

O 'God' (whatever or whoever you are!), please save us from Babas, tantriks, charlatans and conmen who thrive on our insecurities!

May we be guided by the Essence of all religions:

'Fellowship' towards our peers,

'Compassion' towards those less fortunate

'Inspiration' from those whom we look up to, and

'Resolve' to counter those who are a menace to society.


Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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