Monday, May 3, 2010

Times of India: Chicken bones and black magic cannot harm you

The Times of India - 2 May 2010

Sanal Edamaruku
(President, Indian Rationalist Association)

I have campaigned against superstitions for several decades now and am convinced that it is the single most destructive force in India’s development.

Let me start with a small piece of advice, just in case. If one fine day you get to know that some tantrik, generously paid by your arch enemy to kill you, has managed to lay his hands on a used handkerchief or a strand of hair or yours, don’t panic. Here is the counter spell that can save your life: just laugh. For whatever mantras he may chant over a midnight fire in the local burial ground and whatever cruelties he may commit to your handkerchief, it cannot harm you as long as you are not afraid. If you are afraid, yes, you could die - out of fear that is.

In March 2008, I had an opportunity to prove my point. During a panel discussion live on India TV about “tantra power versus science” my opponent Pandit Surinder Sharma, a well-known TV-tantrik, boasted that it would take him just three minutes to kill whomever he wanted by the sheer power of his mantras. “Then kill me!” I challenged him. And he tried. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. When I survived two exhausting hours of “Om lingalingalingalinga, kilikilikili….”, the show was continued in an open air midnight special with the “ultimate destruction ritual”, in which the tantrik fired off the full stock of his black magic arsenal. Finally he furiously crucified, massacred and burned the little clot of wheat dough that was meant to represent me. But all the tantra and mantra could not harm me. Of course not! How should abracadabra and chicken bones spell death?

Fear from freedom is looming large

We are living in a time where scientific and technological revolutions are dramatically changing the way we live and the way we think. With the fast and easy flow of information at our fingertip and the whole world just a call away, borders are opening, old monopolies and privileges breaking and social prisons crumbling. It’s a good time to do away with the last balance of age old superstition and tribal rituals in our mind and to try to understand the world in its complexity. To take control of our lives and develop our own capacities, to be efficient, strong, confident, responsible – and happy. This is not only a personal affair, it is also the best way promote India growing into a developed country and unfolding its strong potential to take a leadership position in tomorrow’s world order.

Many are ill prepared to cope with the challenging situation. For them, all changes create a feeling of insecurity and fear. People who could not overcome their childhood fears and weaknesses tend to remain trapped lifelong in a bizarre world where ghosts and spirits are lurking behind every shadow. They are the ideal customers for tantriks and babas, who unscrupulously exploit fear and insecurity.

Blisters and a flush of enlightenment

I have been a spirited campaigner against superstition for several decades now, as I am convinced that it is the single most destructive force in people’s lives and India’s development. My encounters with “supernatural” charlatans enlist much more colourful figures and more dangerous situations than the “Great Tantra Challenge” on India TV. There were people like the fiery Balti Baba, who performed his fire tricks allegedly for the benefit of a top politician’s re-election, when I exposed him. He got so furious that he tossed a huge burning mud pot on my face. Running TV cameras recorded my narrow escape. I got some minor blisters, but the baba burnt his hands down to the bones and hasn’t been seen in public ever since.

Among all those sinister creatures, Pandit Suriner Sharma deserves a special place. As a somewhat sedate thinker he understood the consequences of our experiment in a nationally broadcast live programme too late. Killing nothing but his own career, he helped me – though against his will – to spark a flush of enlightenment in the minds of millions of viewers. I still receive touchy mails from people of all wages of life who found their way out of superstition that night. In case you missed the programme: you can see some clippings on YouTube.



shybu said...

You are right, they can't harm any body. I wish you all the best for your future intellectual fights

Anonymous said...

Well done - this is an exceptional article. I hope it's read by many, and at least a few learn something from it.

Will said...

I think you're be missing the point mister Edamaruku. It’s worse than you think. Balti Baba isn’t a sinister man exploiting other people’s superstitions. Actually trying to kill someone with black magic on camera and failing, then throwing a tantrum and fleeing?? He obviously believes all this himself and has (or at least had) a lot of confidence in his ability to perform real magic. In his world, this is serious business and he’s performing a service, helping politicians get elected. He’s as whacked as a two dollar pinata after a party but a scam-artist? No more or less than anyone who works for politicians… Unless he thinks that this will somehow HELP his reputation and he’s a first rate actor, but I can’t really see how it will, especially if he hasn’t been seen since.

ea jabbar said...

well !
best wishes !!

James Randi said...

Sanal has done it again, reinforcing the fact that India - as well as my own country! - needs to recognize that such superstitions belong in medieval days, not here in the 21st century. I salute his efforts, and would only like to point out that the only creatures that need fear the efforts of the babas are the chickens whose bones are such an important factor in this comedy of errors. I join this teacher in urging everyone to wake up and see the light of rationality and reason.

Anonymous said...

There cannot be many rationalists on Earth who have saved as many lives as you have. Long may your work continue.

Prasanna Raghavan said...

Mr. Idamaruku,

your efforts are highly appreciated. Though the number you are able to convert constitutes only a drop in the ocean it is a DROP. Best wishes.

K S Xavier said...

You are doing a service to mankind, Mr. Sanal!

Les Reid said...

Ancient beliefs perpetuate ancient divisions in society and ancient conflicts between countries. It is good that sensible people like Mr Edamaruku speak out against such obsolete beliefs and try to help people to escape from the grip of the past.

We live on a small planet which is threatened by relentless population growth, pollution, deforestation, water shortage, fossil fuel depletion and climate crisis. That is the reality of our situation. It is better to face that situation armed with a rational account of our place in the universe, than distracted by ancient mythologies. Religions perpetuate ancient tribal attitudes and generate social division. They merely add to the problems that we face. It is better to face our uncertain future as one humanity, rather than as disparate religious tribes.

Anonymous said...

Great job!
If only Christians would follow suit in the preaching of the Gospel...well, not everyone is able to embrace science, but at least Christians teach peace. Let's hope they continue to embrace rationalism and vice versa lest they face the wrath of the intelligentsia.

Unknown said...

Hi Sanal,
As you know I am a staunch(est) atheist. You should take up this "water oozing" St.Mary's picture in Kattachira- Kerala and expose them to the wold. They seem to be collecting thisfluid and selling it as holy water to cure deceases and ailments - what a shame? In 20th century peoplestillface pitfalls like this.


Ed said...

Dear Sanal-

Thanks for your excellent article! I couldn’t agree with you more that it is time “To take control of our lives and develop our own capacities.”

But perhaps we should add the most debilitating and catastrophic superstition of all time, the worldwide belief in God.

If the war, genocide, murder, rape, and other evils done to prove that “My God is better than your God” and sponsored by religious groups, were stopped, and all of that human energy put into rationality, compassion, and loving, and to developing our own sense of responsibility, we would have a remarkably better world.

Please keep up the good work.

Warm regards-

Philip E. Johnson, Ph.D.

Christine said...

Thank you so much for not only telling but showing a whole nation that superstition and magic are not powerful! If only more countries had someone as committed as you and James Randi, we would soon free people from this strange and awful thought process.

suresh said...

great job Mr.Edamaruku. let your efforts cure the blindness of the soceity. All the very best.

Unknown said...

This type of things basicaaly create fears in human's mind eventually lead to psychological disorder and perish onc's life. So nobody can kill a person by black magic or witch craft, but it can create fears or unneccessary insecurity in mind. I heard that this principles is mentioned in Quran, if somebody expert in religious books pass the knowldge.

Mathew Ittivirah

Dharmapala Senaratne said...

Congratulations, Sanal. You are only performing your bounden duty by the humankind, a duty which is a felt need in this day and age.

All the best.

Dharmapala Senaratne
President - Sri Lanka Rationalist Association

Unknown said...

great!! good effort. I am proud of you. congrats
aji medayil

Raju Mathew said...

Sanal, brilliant job!!.It is really an eye opener for many who live in a world of myths and blind beliefs. These meaningless belief systems only spoils the humanity. It is the biggest waste of time , money and energy . Superstition has put the mankind in chains for so many years .It is time to break away these chains and experience the real world. I am sure your efforts will go a long way to save a lot of people from these superstitious and religious slavery .All the very best.

Raju Mathew( Dubai )

Dr B P RAO said...

Very Good effort.Unfortunately already those who don't believe follow the rationalist activities and the target audience are a little away from receiving these messages.Hope you can break this and reach more and more sections of people.

hari nath said...

fine effort..keep fighting against these types of cheatings..all best for u

Selvan said...

Great job Mr. Sanal...

p.v.jose said...

Dear sanal,

I am a fan of your late father, shri Joseph edamaruku, as I like his writings very much. I have bought most of his books too.

Iam very closely watching your activities too as I am very much interested in ur activities to eradicate superstitions from the society, although I am not an aethist. Nowa days u r not writing ur colums in KERALA SABDAM Against superstitions , but on other subjects as a rep. from capital. please do continue writi9ng in Keralasabdam too.

Best regards

Swadhin said...

Hi Sanal,

Salutes. You have been doing a great job. Let all rational thiniking people come and join you in the fight against superstition.

Paresh Parmar, Ahmedabad said...

Sir, you are doing fantastic job.

I hope all the world will accept resonalism.

Paresh Parmar, Ahmedabad said...

Sir, You are doing fantastic job.

I hope all the world will accept RASONALISM !!!!!

Balkrishnan said...

Salute to you, Mr Edamaruku! We, a handful of people are glad with your dedication and work. We are with you.

Srivyasa said...

Hello Sir, it was a good article.I happened to stumble upon this article as I was searching the web , just wondering if really Black magic exists.Recently I got to see a real incident where the lady was believed to be suffering with black magic.As the diagnosis didn't show any apparent disease , they contacted a well known "Baba/ fakir", who charged more than Rs.20,000, to "cure" it.The Girls family expressed their satisfaction on the 'treatment'.They were vouching that it was really Black magic, which made the girl feel so much pain in most parts of her body.Hard to believe but I couldn't discount the "eye witness" story and their sufferings for more than 4 months!...which still haunts my belief system, does the Black magic really exists?...May be people like you need to do more home work to get to such stories and evaluate with open mind and prove that Black magic is a myth.

Asad said...

hello sir it was a very good article there any way crishtians do any prayers after midnight at around 2 AM
WITH BLACK DRESSES AND HENDKERCHIEF standing in a triangular format with a women sittin on the ground between them all facin the holy cross without any candles and lights....and chantin something which is not in english in the middle of the road....
can u tell me what was it