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What Is The Price We Are Paying For Tantric Rituals And Dangerous Superstitions?

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By Karthik Shankar:

Superstitions are so ingrained in our day to day life; we scarcely stop to even consider some of the mind-boggling stupid customs we kowtow to. My own grandmother tells me about how some family members were opposed to her marriage with my grandfather because their horoscopes didn’t align. When the wedding did take place, several prominent relatives did not show up.

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Photo Credit

Sixty years later, I wonder how much has changed. We raise a hue and cry when superstitions ‘cross the line’, read human sacrifices. In one such instance in Tanzania a few days earlier, a baby boy with albinism was recently abducted by five armed men. The one-year-old was later found dead with his arms and legs chopped off. The horrific crime is part of a pattern of ritual killing because of the belief that albino body parts have medicinal values. Since 2000, more than 75 people in Tanzania have been killed due to this perverse belief.

Human sacrifice has a storied past in Africa. In the Benin Empire, before it was wiped out by British colonisation, thousands of prisoners would be slain after the death of a King or Queen. In 1727 in Dahomey, more than 4000 slaves were killed as part of a mass voodoo sacrifice. Even modern day Africa has not escaped the barbaric influences of age old customs. Milton Blahyi, a military commander who gained an infamous reputation during the 1989-1997 when the first Liberian war was taking place, later admitted that he regularly killed children right before a battle. In one horrific instance he killed a young boy, carved out his heart and ate the pieces with his comrades for good luck.

A lot of people in India might look at such crimes patronisingly and consider it part and parcel of Africa, a continent we are only too happy to claim to be miles apart from. But that would be ignoring India’s tantric ritual sacrifices which still exist in pockets around the country and are a blemish on India’s 21st century aspirations. It begs the question – What other horrific crimes rooted in deep superstition still exist in India today?

In 2006, Khurja, a province in Uttar Pradesh, had close to half a dozen ritual sacrifices all to pacify the Goddess Kali. Several people all motivated by a desire to weed out problems in their personal lives relied on the advice of tantrics or black magic practitioners to kill children. The people were told that sacrifice would lead to various positive outcomes; for one woman banishing her nightmares, for another, unlimited wealth. All the people murdered as part of the sacrifice were children; some as young as three.

Even as recently as 2013, in Mumbai, tantric human sacrifice reared its ugly head again. Just a day after Mumbai passed its landmark anti-superstition act (The actual name of the act ‘The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013’ is quite a mouthful), a woman was killed by six people who were involved in a ritual tantric sacrifice for health, wealth and prosperity. Who can forget that it took the death of social activist, and architect of the bill, Narendra Dabholkar to get shot for the state government to actually pass the bill?

Let’s move beyond Maharashtra. It is time India had a nationwide bill to this effect. Superstitious beliefs can be easily looked at as problems when lives are taken away, but what about the quieter insidious ways in which they creep into our lives? Those need to be warded away, pardon the pun. Far too many self-styled Godmen use religion as a cover to peddle superstitious beliefs to the masses. Astrology, for one, is one of the biggest shams in our country, used from everything for matching a bride and groom to deciding when to do business. It is peddled as scientific fact when it has no actual basis in rational principles. Back in 1976 itself, 186 prominent scientists jointly made a statement in the magazine ‘Humanist’ challenging the “pretentious claims of astrological charlatans.” In India, such obscurantist beliefs have become ingrained in us.

These views don’t just subsist in the poorly educated sections of society. My own mother, a school principal and a PhD holder, admitted to me that she has consulted astrologers during times of ‘poor fortune’. They made a variety of predictions about my future career and love life, which didn’t please me too much.

We need to take an absolute stance against such nonsense. We can’t condemn ritual killing on one hand while still recommending Reiki doctors to people suffering from high fever. Reiki might work because of the placebo effect but there’s little that’s scientific about it. What’s more is that these smaller beliefs aid and abet these more horrific ones. It creates an environment where quackery is conflated with science. Let’s relegate such nonsense to the pages of fast-paced murder mystery novels. That’s where devil-worshipping cults, human sacrifice and beliefs rooted in dogma belong.

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  1. ABs

    While I understand the overall anti-superstitious stance that you have, (which is an admirable sentiment), I fail to understand why you seem to have only condemned some African Tribal Customs, and grouped it into Hinduism. I mean, Christianity, Judaism and Islam also have superstitious practice. The most common one in Islam and Judaism is circumcision. Why you have “glossed over” the practices of other religions is beyond me, but I think I will take a risk and say that you are afraid to. Why, is it the reprisals? Or is it the fact that it is excusable to target only Hinduism under the banner of secularism, knowing that you will not be killed? Please, spare us the hypocrisy. Baptism, and confession in Christianity is also a sham, so is the conversion of poor tribals from various parts of the country. If your argument is against superstition, then, why not go out on a leg and argue against religion as well, seeing that prayer is also a false scam propagated and promoted by Christian Missionaries, Muslim Ulemas, Priests and the like? Or is Hinduism such a soft target that you wish to exploit it fully, knowing full well that there is a very small chance that you will come to harm, unlike Islam and Christianity?

  2. Abhradyuti Sarkar

    The above article is one which exposes the utter illiteracy of this budding “secularist” author which has the scent of Marx all over himself.
    The author not only struggles to find any significant or major references to Human Sacrifices in the past several years, but also tries to assimilate all such acts together, even those as disparate as those occurring miles away from Indian land, to provide a misplaced sense of legitimacy to his ill conceived opinion.
    The author begins his piece with a deliberate attack on “Astrology”, and passes it off as superstition at the outset. Ideally with science as the yardstick, perhaps every single belief system is a superstition, and that includes the myth of Virgin Birth, Splitting Moon,etc. However theologically speaking a superstition can only be a practice that has no religious roots or sanction. Jyotish Vidya being part of Vedanga is an inseparable part of Hinduism. And the author by showing disdain towards it, resorts to an outright attack against Hinduism.
    Jyotish Vidya is at best only Possibilistic depending on the cosmic chart that is created based on the accumulation of past Actions(Karma) of any soul.By no means absolute, it is always suggested and encouraged that your present actions(karma) can always undo your present astrological charts. The author without any modicum of understanding of Hindu technologies like Astrology, chooses to outrightly label them as “superstitious” demeans billions of Hindus, and also does injustice to the fact that Astrology has survived, because it has over the vast period of our past, been significantly effective in predicting outcomes, even if not cent percent accurate.

  3. Abhradyuti Sarkar

    Continuing:
    The author chooses to label Tantra Yoga also in the same “superstitious” vein. Worse he abuses a Hindu belief system to be “Black Magic”. The author would do well to know that not all that he doesn’t understand or comprehend can be called as “Black Magic”. The author further relegates Tantra to an heinous murderous practice system, and all he needs to conclude so is one or two instances, spread over a period of several years, of “Human Sacrifices”, which btw, in sheer numbers, are comprehensively far surpassed by the number of deaths caused in an average terror strike due to other supposed “non-superstitious modernist” religious ideologies. That even ordinary civilians committing murderous crimes would far outnumber that of supposed Tantric brutalities misses the author’s considerate views. And yet the author only selectively terms the Tantriks as “devils” and “murderous” and is too happy letting the civillians or entities like ISIS off the hook.
    This is however not to condone any such murderous acts. But the truth remains that Tantra Yoga considers killing any living being, including plants and vegetables, let alone Humans, as a brutal vice. Therefore, it can only be concluded that the Tantrics who have committed such brutal acts, have acted not in conformance of their belief systems, but against it. And for that it would be outrageous to put the entire belief system and their believers at fault.
    But interestingly the interning author also terms Tantriks as “Devil Worshippers, when any Tantrik would be happy to tell you that they are worshippers of “Shiva”. Just as a case in point the last time Shiva was equated with “Devil” was one of those missionaries trying to make the point that Hindus worship satan.
    The ways of Tantriks can appear extreme to ordinary men, but behind all such awkwardness lies a beautiful concept at the heart of Hinduism, that of Renunciation and considering anything and everything as “Shivam”(Hence the extreme level of indifference to rotten food, extreme cold, even rotten flesh of animals, in fact life and also death, as they are all Shivam).
    Now by terming another inseparable part of Hinduism as “Devil Worshipping”/”Obscurantist”/”Demonic”/”Blood Thirsty”, the author has done the unenviable of waging a full scale war against Hindudom, reminiscent of the same hate the invaders from the North West and then from the Imperialist Kingdom displayed, when referring to the Hindus as “Obscurantist,Superstitious, Devil Worshippers, Filthy,etc.” In fact one can only marvel at the choice of words which bear close resemblance to the abuse on Hinduism hurled by the colonizers and invaders of India.
    The deliberate attempt to portray Hinduism and it’s varied tenets as “superstitious”, despite the unquestionable Scientific underpinnings of Hinduism as displayed in Yoga, Hindu Cosmology, Vedanta, Itihasas, Upanishads and Vedas(perhaps emerging as the only religion whose tenets have been validated by Science) is mischievous. I have reasonable facts to suggest that the other major faiths like Christianity and Islam are actually medieval and unscientific at their core.

  4. Abhradyuti Sarkar

    And the very notion that due to superstition, any belief is deserving of hatred and even outright ban, as the clamour for bringing in of the undemocratic Anti-Superstition Bill would suggest, speaks of intolerance towards freedom of practicing religion and beliefs. The author exposes his intolerant face when he says “small beliefs make way for bigger beliefs”. It doesn’t matter if they do author, as long as it doesn’t cause any harm to the others.
    Besides, that the demand for such bans is based on limited self-determined notions of “modernity” and nit picking through distortions of Tantra Yoga and Aghori Sadhu practices, renders the whole argument in favour of such anti-constitutional bills as irrelevant and baseless.
    The interning “student journalist” author could be forgiven for his indoctrinated secularist bias. And he is, therefore, more than welcome to learn more about Tantra and Aghoris, and Hinduism in general, before he proceeds to write another of his pieces on Hinduism and it’s nature.
    But the fact to ponder for the Hindus in here would be, is the notion of “Secularism” actually an euphemism for the same Hindu Hatred of the Islamic/Western of the colonizers of the past? Because that is what the inexperienced author exposed before us, did not he? And should not the author instead of distorting Hinduism by calling Tantra as Black Magic, etc. instead focus on other “Human Sacrifices”, where ISIS, just to take an example, is sacrificing hundreds of humans for the cause of a “God”?

  5. Udit

    the usage of the photo accompanying the article suggests that the sadhu depicted is a tantric. Since his face is identifiable, it maligns his credentials and suggests he is the one indulging in tantric practises of human sacrifices.

    All said and done, it’s gross irresponsibility by the publication to malign an individual who might not be a tantric practioner.

    Some sensibilities of ethical journalism are mandated here before the publication and writer get sued by this sadhu.

    1. Abhradyuti Sarkar

      Arey Bandhu, such hair splitting over non-issues, as this, is the preserve of Leftists.
      Far more important is the question of the subtle attack on genuine Hindu religious systems as “superstitions” or “Black Magic”. The urge to look at everything through Western Lens, means even genuine Hindu rituals have been bracketed as Western concepts of “Voo Doo”, etc.
      Sample, the Anti Superstition Bill that the author cheers for above. It has provisions which literally says “No one can claim to have supernatural connect with divinity” and “No one can claim healing through supernaturalism”.
      This is a very sharp attack on Hindu ethos, which state that the “Divine” is the same as the “Individual”. And as a result we have had great Yogis like Swami Vivekananda, Buddha and Ramakrishna(to name a fraction) who have been regarded as one with the divine. Going by the provisions of the Bill, even Lord Krishna becomes an offender, who would and should be hurled to jail.
      This is the classic Abrahamic(Islam/Xtianity/Jewish) imposition upon Hinduism, because to the Abrahamic, it is unlawful for any individual to claim to be divine except Jesus(for Xtians), Allah(for Islam) and Yahweh(for Jews). This hinders and criminalizes the Hindu value of viewing divine in every single object and being too.
      While one can agree with the Hindu view or not, does that mean you have to deny the democratic right of the Hindus to their beliefs?
      These are the fundamental questions that Hindus ought to ask.

    2. YouthKiAwaaz

      Dear Udit,

      Thank you for pointing this out. The picture has now been changed.

  6. gk

    Typical rant of a pseudo-secular who pontificates on what people should and should not believe. By the standards of contemporary science, all religious beliefs are false. Why are we differentiating and grading superstitions as acceptable and not-acceptable and who are you to decide ? The problem with science is that there are few scientists and billions of educated people who believe in science without having any means to validate their beliefs. They and the author just believe in the priests of modernity and pretend to be cool. I wonder how he proved in school, Newtons claim that all objects travel in straight lines without any external force considering the universe is at least 13 billion light years across and the rarity of a point in space where there is no external force. Stop being a tool in the hands of superstitious cult that believes in drinking the blood and eating the flesh of their savior.

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