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Volume XIII - The Gathas

Part I
Etekad, Rasm u Ravaj: Superstitions, Customs and Beliefs


1.   Toasts

THERE IS a custom prevalent everywhere in the Western world of proposing toast, which is significant of a psychological truth behind it, which is to wish for a certain thing to happen at a time when one's own wish is being granted, in a smaller or greater form. This shows that the moment when one's wish is granted is that moment when one is satisfied. We should not, therefore, wonder why people go to spiritual souls for their blessing. Those who are spiritually blessed, their innermost wish has been satisfied, and a wish made by them acts as a quick blessing in the life of everyone.

But this also teaches one to catch the opportunity of getting the good wish of every person at the moment when his wish is being granted. Having known this psychological law, the people in the East look for such an opportunity of offering food to the hungry or a gift to the one who needed it, for the wish that naturally rises from the heart of a person while accepting it will certainly be granted.

Very few in the world know that great power is hidden in the wish of a person whose heart is in the state of dancing, so to speak – full of joy. We read in the legends of old of sages calling upon their friends, pupils or followers at a certain time and asking them to make a wish, for they knew the moment when the wish could be granted. There is a story of Hafiz, that near the home of the Shaikh there were eleven pupils whose name was Hafiz, but among them there was only one who use to engage himself in his night vigils, and the others used to rest all night. One evening the Shaikh called, 'Hafiz'! There was only one Hafiz awake, all others asleep. The Shaikh was holding the bowl with the thought of the wish to be granted. With his eyes closed he gave it to Hafiz. But then as he knew there were ten more, he again called 'Hafiz'! and as all others were asleep, the same Hafiz came again and received the bowl. Eleven times the teacher called, and the same Hafiz went again and again. In the morning ten were disappointed and that one Hafiz was found blessed with eleven-fold blessings.

It would not be an exaggeration if one said that even God has a time when He grants wishes. And if one knows that time one certainly becomes benefited and blessed. Since Sufism teaches, look for God in the heart of man, the wise mureeds therefore see the pleasure and displeasure of God in everyone they meet, and they carefully regard the pleasure and displeasure of those they come in contact with, knowing that in doing so they regard the pleasure and displeasure of God.

Besides having one's wish granted, the joy of giving another happiness, that itself is greater than a wish granted, if one has risen to that plane of human evolution when one can enjoy pleasure with the pleasure of another, when one can feel satisfaction in the satisfaction of another, when one can be happy in bringing happiness to another. No one will give another happiness and will not have the same come to him a thousandfold. There comes a stage of evolution in the life of man when he feels more satisfied by seeing another person satisfied with food than by his having eaten it himself, when he feels comfortable in seeing another person comfortable, when he feels richly adorned by seeing another person clothed nicely; for this stage is a stepping-stone to the realization of God.

Questions and Answers (August 10th, 1923)

Q Would we receive the curses of people as well as the blessings?

A Yes. One should always think that life is an opportunity. Every moment is an opportunity. Sometimes one can do good by not troubling much oneself; it is just by seizing the opportunity. If one is attentive and brings some pleasure and happiness, it is not always that it costs. What it costs is attention. If one keeps one's attention fixed upon that idea, and is constantly seeking where one can do some little good to another. By giving one's place in a bus or tramcar; by just having a little consideration for the aged, a little consideration for someone who is perhaps not honored or respected, if one can offer what a person is lacking in his life without him knowing, that is always a great .... To do good is the work of the sage. Sometimes people become over-enthusiastic, which does harm. It is a spell, a fit of goodness. That does no good. The real goodness is that which comes spontaneously. A thief is always on the look-out to rob something; so a good person is always looking for an opportunity to do good; he will always find it.

Q Can you tell something more of the time that God grants wishes?

A God grants wishes at two times. One time is when your heart is free from every thought, or feeling, or emotion; in the most peaceful and tranquil condition; at that time every wish that is sown is just like a seed sown in fertile soil. If one had the patience to wait in the great power of God, whatever be the wish, it will certainly be granted. The other time when the wish is granted is when somebody is satisfied, has been made happy by you, and naturally, out of his heart, springs a kind of fountain which pours upon you a kind of blessing. It will be just like rain from above, which in time will bring its fruits and flowers.

Q Has one the right to wish for oneself?

A Yes, as long as the conscience says that the wish is right. But there is another stage, when a person has so advanced spiritually that he thinks: 'God's wish is my wish God knows better than me. I may wish something wrong'. The one who gives his life in that way in the hands of God is greater still.

Q When a man is poor, but can just live with the means he has, is it then good when he gives away material things, and so makes himself dependent upon others?

A You see, the question what is good is a very difficult question to decide. Good is peculiar to a person. It all depends upon what that person thinks. When he thinks it is right, it is good. That is the only question.

The story of Saint Alias, he was an ascetic, and for his food only a loaf of bread was enough every day. He would not keep anything for tomorrow. If he was given four people's food in one day he would distribute it. If he had still more, he shared it all. Next day he was without. If one said, why did he make himself dependent upon people for the next day? he would say that: 'We live in this life interdependent. As long as I do not go to anybody, do not force upon anybody – only people brought it – what does it matter? It is from Him. It is not depending upon others. It all comes from God. It all goes to the creatures of God. What does it matter'? It all depends upon the person and how the person looks at it.

Q The great creative spirits, which at this moment are so necessary for working in the world, if they have in their soul a longing for spirituality, how can they keep balance between their busy life and the concentration which is a necessity for the spiritual path? What must they sacrifice?

A In the first place I should say that if one object is the seeking of one's soul, and the other object is life's necessity, and if one object is to be sacrificed, it is better the one which is necessary, but keep to the soul's seeking.

There is another point of view; in order to become spiritual, we should not become unworldly. We can just as well be in the world and yet not be of the world. We can be active in our everyday life, and yet be concentrative. A person who can concentrate well can manage the affairs of the world better. Those who have attained success in business, in worldly affairs, they had their concentration better. Therefore concentration is in no way a hindrance. A success gained through the power of spirituality is more secure and has a stronger foundation. Furthermore, there is one rule of life, which must be understood. That the success is gained by two ways; by the right way and by the wrong way. Wrong way means that which is against the spiritual idea. And when a person has started by one path, he must keep that path, in order to be successful. And if he finds that perhaps the other path will be better for the success, he will lose. A person who is going the wrong way, if he thinks that the right way will be better, he will lose. The person who is going the right way, he will not lose. His success will perhaps be slow, but it is secure, and he will all through be successful. The other had no danger, but his greatest danger is going into the right path; that is his loss.

2.   Wedding Customs

There are superstitions and customs connected with the wedding observed in Europe, such as throwing an old shoe after the newly married couple as they go away, and throwing rice. The rice signifies flourishing, multiplication, prosperity, and Providence, whereas old shoes are the old times passed in life and a new life begun. The rings that bridegroom and bride put on each other's finger is the sign of bond, which is the real meaning of marriage. The hands of the two joined by the priest is the possession of one another, suggesting that each holds the other.

The custom of the Greek church, where wreaths are put on the head of the bride and bridegroom is the exchange of thoughts and feelings and walking three times round the altar is suggestive of God between them, uniting them both in a divine link, the link which is everlasting as God Himself. And the custom of the bride's kissing the hand of the bridegroom, which is still continued at the time when the rhythm of the world is quite changed, only explains the response from the side of the bride, in which is the secret of nature's harmony, although what generally happens later is just the opposite, but that brings about the happy medium.

3.   Funeral Customs

The human body represents the five elements, and nature's law is that every element returns to its own origin. Naturally therefore the being which is the air part turns into air, the heat is absorbed by the heat – the fire-element has left already. The body belongs either to earth or to water. But the body, which is born on earth, not in the water, and has sought its comfort on earth, not in water, and has also been afraid of the water, an element foreign to it, had better be saved from it and had better be buried.

Another point of view is that every living being, whether man or animal, has a fear of fire. A powerful animal like the lion is afraid of the fire; the elephant with all its large body and strength runs away from fire. If that is the nature of all living beings, to be afraid of fire, then imagine for a person who is not yet dead to know that as soon as he is dead his body will be put in the fire. Although his mind is separate from the body, yet his mind will have a shock just the same.

The reason of mummies is to suggest that if the body which is dead can be kept along, then the life, which is real life, is eternal. Besides among the ancient Egyptians there was a custom (the same tendency exists in the East) that at every banquet or feast a mummy was brought in. It was brought for a moment and taken away, in order to waken man in the midst of his great joy and enthusiasm and pleasure to the consciousness that there is such a thing as death, that there is something awaiting him and that he must not keep ignorant of that truth, absorbed in all the pleasures of the world. But at the same time they put the mummies also in the grave.

4.   The Swansong

They say the swan sings once, just before it dies. The meaning of this is that a fuller expression given to one's joy puts an end to life, for in the fullest expression lies life's purpose. In the life of an artist one finished work of art, and in life of a musician his best piece of music, brings to him the warning of his departure. Sadi says, 'Every soul is born with a purpose, and the light of that purpose is kindled in his heart'. It applies not only to the soul of every person but to every living creature, however small and insignificant; even to every object this rule can be applied.

There is a saying in the East that the elephant dies at the sight of fever. This explains that death robs one of that which one had made oneself. If this be explained in other words, one makes one's death while making oneself. The heavy flesh that the elephant gathers around itself naturally gives power to the fever that becomes the cause of its death. The same is to be seen in the life of man. Every difficulty, even death, man makes with the making of himself. It is to suggest this idea that Christ has said, 'spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing'.

The soul was born to be immortal, but mortality it usually earns for itself. There is nothing that man would have been afraid of if he did not possess something which he is afraid of being robbed of. When the hermit Manchandra said to Gaurakha on their journey through the wilderness. 'Gaurakha, I feel afraid.' Gaurakha answered. 'Throw away the fear.' Manchandra answered, 'How can fear be thrown away?' Gaurakha said, 'Throw away that which causes you fear.' Manchandra took out from his wallet two bricks of gold and said, 'These bricks of gold, must I throw them away?' 'Yes', said Gaurakha, 'What are they?' Manchandra threw them away, and as he went on his face turned pale. Gaurakha looked at him and said, 'Why are you sad?' Manchandra said, 'Now we have nothing'. Gaurakha said, 'We have everything. Look before you, what do you behold?' And he beheld mountains of gold. Gaurakha said, 'Take as much as you can, if that is your soul's striving.' Manchandra's soul awoke, and he said, 'Nothing will I take for I know the riches of possessing nothing.'

5.   Customs at the Birth of a Child in India

For three days from the time that the child is born, and sometimes for six days, no friends are allowed to enter the room where the child is, only some relations who are most esteemed in the family. The meaning in this custom is that the mind of the newborn child is like a photographic plate and the first impression that it receives goes deeper in it and other impressions have less effect. Therefore the impressions of early childhood make the foundation for the whole life.

The mother does not appear before friends for the first six days, even some relations are kept away. The meaning of this custom is that in the negative state in which a mother is at that time, she is too sensitive to be exposed to inharmonious and coarse vibrations. In the case of the child it is not only that his mind is affected, but the first impression even influences the construction of his face and form.

At the birth of a son the occasion is celebrated by the beating of drums and gunfire. This custom no doubt comes from the ancient Rajputs, whose Dharma or sacred duty, was warfare. This first noise of drums and gunfire was meant as the child's first experience, or as a first lesson in warfare. An entertainment is given in celebration of the birth of a child, at which there is singing, playing and dancing. It is meant by this that a joyous atmosphere works as a push given to a swing in the life of a child on earth at its commencement.

6.   The Superstitions of the Days Existing in the East

In the East the influence of the days of the week is considered by all, learned or illiterate. Every time has its peculiar influence and particular purpose. The mechanism of the cosmos has a certain action and again its reaction on the part of the planets, producing a certain effect in every hour of the day, in every day of the week, in every week of the month, in every month of the year, and in every year of a cycle.

The characteristic of Sunday is Godliness. Anything spiritual can alone be successful. Anything else, besides a spiritual thing, something of a worldly nature, begun on Sunday, or continued on that day, must come to naught.

Monday is a negative day, a day for things of a passive character. To receive teaching, to obtain information, to search for anything, this is the auspicious day.

Tuesday is a day of enjoyment, for amusement, joy and pleasure. For picnic, feast and wedding, for music and dancing, and for sports, this is a fitting day.

Wednesday is a day for business. It is a day for taking an initiative, and undertaking. All that is done on this day must bear fruit.

Thursday is a central day, to make a determination, to decide things, to settle in a new place. It is a day of inspiration, of revelation, because the influence of this day touches the summit.

Friday is a day of power and a day of aspiration. On this day prayer is granted and wishes are fulfilled, thoughts are materialized, and dreams become realized. However, this is not the day of sowing, it is the day of reaping. Friday is a day of exaltation.

Saturday is a winding day. If loss is wound it continues for days and days, if the mechanism of gain is wound it continues for weeks. It is a day of upliftment to those who raise their soul to a higher pitch, so that the machinery of the spirit may be wound and continued for a long, long time. Every planetary influence that begins on Saturday must always continue its effect upon one's life.

The influence of the day is unavoidable upon every mortal, except upon souls to whom day and night is the same, those who are beyond the laws of this mortal world.

7.   Unlucky Numbers

According to the Orientals, 3, 13, 9, and 18 are numbers which must be avoided in beginning some profitable act. There are some psychological reasons which prove these numbers to be best avoided.

Three denotes all. All means everything, and everything means nothing in particular. Things of the world, which are profitable, are something in particular. Three therefore annuls the distinction, for 3 resolves into 1. One is 3, and 3 is 1.

Thirteen destroys balance by unbalancing the rhythm, as it cannot be evenly divided. Besides, 12 hours of the day and 12 hours of the night complete the day and night. So the thirteenth has no place either in the day or in the night. Besides, after 12 o'clock comes 1, and it marks 13. Thirteen is a number which has no accommodation. Among Western people there is a superstition that the thirteenth person at table must die within the year. This also explains that the number 13 has no accommodation. That a person dies, means that the earth accommodates him no longer.

Nine falls short of perfection. Besides it is 3 times 3.

And so is 18 for 8 and 1 are 9. It has the same effect as 3.

All numbers besides 3, 13, 9, and 18 are considered in the East fit to be used.

8.   The Mysteries of Omens

The secret of what we call omen is to be found in the law of impressions. For instance there is a belief that if you are going to do something, if a cat crosses your way you meet with ill-luck. It is easy to understand. In the first place the swift action of the cat makes a great impression upon a person; it forms a line before you, a line of action, and that line impressed upon you gives you the thought of a cross. You are intending to go straight, and your line is crossed by a horizontal action against your vertical action, which means in action one's hands nailed and feet tied. It gives the picture of the idea.

The whole mystery of omens, which used to be believed by the ancient people and are now considered to be superstitions, has behind it this mystery of impression. Naturally when a person is starting to accomplish a certain work and he happens to see beautiful flowers or fruits that gives a promise of his desire being fulfilled, of its bearing flowers for him – the sign of success. A person going forward with this impression will certainly meet with success. Whereas if a person sees burning wood, or a sack of coal, which all show destruction – fire which burns up – a person going to do something impressed by this certainly loses.

There use to be a custom that when someone in a family was going out to accomplish something, no one must say any word that would hinder his success. They did not even ask the person, 'Where are you going?', because even asking raises a question. The question stands before one, Why? Where? A person would become discouraged even in answering. The strength of will with which he is going may be exhausted in answering Why, and Where, and then he may not find the energy and power to accomplish what he is going to accomplish.

This is the inner psychology of mind, the knowledge of which makes things easy. One must not become impressed by holding different beliefs, but one must know the science, the mystery which is hidden behind all such things, which may seem small and little, but their result sometimes is most important.

9.   The Influence of Time

It has been a custom among the people in the East to start every enterprise with the waxing of the moon, in order to follow the course of nature and to join forces with the increasing power and light of the moon. The sun represents divine light, the moon represents the human heart. To join forces with the waxing of the moon is like drawing divine light and power in one's own heart to accomplish a certain thing. It is also considered lucky to rise with the sunrise, and better still to begin an enterprise with the rising of the sun. This is again an indication to follow nature's tides. The sun represents divine power; therefore any spiritual action, a prayer-offering or a meditation, a devotional worship, it is more desirable to perform with the sunrise.

However, the night vigils are performed by the seers and the knowers of truth in the midst of the night, when the old day ends and the new day begins; for that is a time of Kamal which offers to the soul a perfect stillness. When the sun is at the zenith that is Kamal also, but it has not the quiet of midnight; and therefore it is considered by those who know things inauspicious for taking up any enterprise. As time has influence upon weather, upon the sea, upon the trees and plants, so it has a subtle influence upon living creatures. Man appears to be most independent of the influences and yet man is most under the influence of time; not only his body and mind, but with all affairs of life. Verily the one who knows the influence of time knows the secret of life.

10.   Planetary Influences

Belief in planetary influences has been maintained in all ages by man. However many times a person may have been disappointed in finding truth in the horoscope, yet no one can be thoughtful and deny the fact of the influence that the planets have upon people's lives. It is possible that every method is not a correct method of making a horoscope, every book on astrology is not the right book, and every astrologer is not a prophet; nevertheless there is as much truth in the influence of planets upon the lives of men as there is truth in the effects of drugs upon one's physical body. The whole cosmic system is based upon a certain rhythm, a rhythm which relates planets, multitudes, and individuals, and manifests as a hidden law governing the action of the whole creation and yet silent and covered.

There are two aspects that constitute an individual: spiritual and material. The spiritual aspect remains untouched, while the material aspect is moved and turned by conditions brought about by planetary influences. The spiritual aspect, which remains untouched in every man, is as a witness of his life, a soul from within who knows not what it itself is, who identifies itself with this other aspect and therefore takes as a reality that which it witnesses, that which goes on before it as a course of life. When once this real aspect of man's being is awakened then it begins to see that it has a voice in the matter too, and then it sees that it must fight for its rights, in order to gain liberty. It therefore fights with its own kingdom, which is the other aspect of man's being which it so long witnessed; and so it gains that strength which enables it in the long run to battle with outer conditions caused by planetary influences. It might take one a lifetime to combat, and yet it would be short to gain the mastery which belongs to the soul.


checked 9-nov-2015