The Science behind Beliefs

“When we see things through our fixed false beliefs, science become superstition.”

Our sessions are always a different kind of journey. No, we do not have a destination in mind. Unlike most journeys, we can never say that we reached our destination. The journey continues. The realm of continuous learning is so vast that you cannot stop at a particular destination. You embark on this wonderful journey in the learning land, alight now and then, learn things, and the knowledge stays with you. Then you move on to the next territory.Bhanu and Blessy decided a route that most people feel uncomfortable walking into – traditions and beliefs/superstitions.

We noticed that Bhanu and Blessy have no qualms about discussing this subject in their presentation. They are their confident self even though they know they are going to face both believers and non-believers. We are all curious as to what this continuous learning session is going to bring us. Surprisingly, the topic of the presentation had us taking a second look: Scientific reasons behind Indian traditions and superstitions.

Scientific reasons? Are you kidding me? We all take another look at the topic as we try our best to hide our surprise. Well, Blessy and Bhanu have got all our attention now. They started off with the definitions as per the Oxford Dictionary…let me add them here:

Tradition

A belief, custom or way of doing something that has existed for a long time among a particular group of people; a set of these beliefs or customs, religious/cultural/ancient is known as traditions.

Superstition

The belief that particular events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science; the belief that particular events bring good or bad.

Once that was safely out of the way, they started discussing the beliefs one-by-one. Let me just recreate these for you here:

  1. The Greeting – Joining both the Palms Together to Form a Namaste

Belief

Those who are well-versed with the Hindu/Indian culture know that people in India usually greet each other by joining their palms together. It is called “Namaskar” and the greeting is called “Namaste.” It is considered to be a respectful method of greeting.

Scientific Reason

When you join both hands, the tips of all the fingers come together. These fingertips are denoted to be pressure points of eyes, ears and the mind. Pressing them together is said to activate the pressure points, which helps us remember that person for a long time.

  • Why We Start with Spice & End with Something Sweet

Belief

Beliefs are usually passed on from generation to generation. Our ancestors have always stressed that we start our meals with something spicy and end it with something sweet versus the other way round.

Scientific Reason

Actually, this eating practice helps activate the digestive juices and acids, and ensure that the digestion process goes on smoothly and efficiently (remember how our mouth starts watering at the mention of spicy food). Sweets or carbohydrates pulls down the digestive process. Hence, sweets were always recommended to be taken as a last item (yeah, my mom always scolded me for going in for the sweet first).

  • Throwing Coins into the River

Belief

I have seen this happen every time we travel across a river. We see people throwing coins into the river from the buses or the other vehicles they travel in. Often, the reasoning is that the rivers are sacred and this act brings the doer good luck.

Scientific Reason

In the ancient times, most of the currency used was made of copper.  Copper is a vital metal and very beneficial to the human body. These days, we often find videos and articles on the benefits of drinking water stored in copper urns and containers. Throwing coins in to the river was one way our fore-fathers ensured these benefits. Back then, the river water was the only source of drinking water.

  • Applying Tilak/KumKum/Sandalwood Paste on the Forehead

Belief

Tilak is considered to be sacred and auspicious in the Hindu culture. Guests are welcomed with aTilak. It was also used to differentiate between the castes during ancient times.

Scientific Reason

The truth is that a tilakbattles anxiety and stress by keeping the mind calm and pure. Kumkum has mercury in it, which when pressed to the forehead (ajna chakra,cosmic energy stored here)acts as an acupressure point to the nerve joint in that area and cools the entire nervous system. Similarly, Chandan or sandalwood paste, or vibhooti (the fragrant ash which is supposed to be Lord Shiva’s favorite) also helps.

  • Why You Should Not Sleep with Your Head towards North

Belief

As a kid, I was scolded many times for sleeping with my head turned towards the North Pole. Often, scary stories of inviting death and ghosts were told.

Scientific Reason

The fact is that the blood in the human body contains iron and the Earth is a giant magnet. When we sleep with head towards the north, the magnetic center of the earth attracts the iron present in the blood. This, in turn, creates pressure in the brain that can be unhealthy. You end up lacking proper sleep and sleeping with your head to the north can cause serious damage in the long run.

  • Touching the Feet of Elders (CharanSparsh)

Belief

In India, it is kind of mandatory to touch the feet of elders in the family. It is done to seek their blessings.

Scientific Reason

The nerves that start from our brain spread across all your body. These act as sensory messengers carrying messages to and from the brain. Our fingertips and toes/feet have many nerve-endings. When you join the fingertips of your hand to those of the opposite feet (ideally, an elder in the family), a circuit is immediately formed, and the energies of the two bodies are connected. Our fingers and palms become the ‘receptor’ of this energy and the feet of other person become the ‘giver.’

  • Why do Temples have Bells?

Belief

According to Agama Sastra, the ringing of a bell keeps away evil forces. Also, that Gods live the ringing of the bell.

Scientific Reason

These bells are made in such a way that when they ring, the sound that is produced creates a unity in the left and right parts of our brain. The moment we ring the bell, it produces a sharp and enduring sound, which lasts for minimum of 7 seconds in an echo mode. The duration of echo is good enough to activate all the seven healing centers in our body. This results in emptying our brain from all negative thoughts.

  • Bathingafter Attending a Funeral Ceremony

Belief

In India, it is customary to take a bath after visiting a cemetery or burial or cremation grounds. Most so, if you have just been to a funeral. The belief is that you can be possessed by evil spirits if you do not do so.

Scientific Reason

Sure, you do get possessed by evil spirits of a different kind – bacteria. Once a person dies, his or her body loses its ability to fight bacteria and starts to decompose. The people attending the funeral are exposed to the dead body and in turn to the bacteria that participate in the decomposition of a dead body. That is the reason why they are asked to bathe immediately after the funeral before touching anything or anyone.

What a presentation! It was great knowing the scientific reasons behind so many beliefs. It also opened the eyes to the fact that we shouldn’t easily call these rituals and acts superstition, but try our best to understand the reason behind it before doing so.

From the serious route of discussing beliefs, we took a detour to an activity. We have been doing this for some time now – have a presentation and then go in for an activity. It is fun.  This time it was an activity with balloons. We had a goal post and we had to make a goal with the balloon. But conditions applied. We could not touch the balloons. We had to blow them into the goal post to make a goal. It was difficult, but it got our strategy juices working.

We divided ourselves into two teams and started the balloon soccer. So some did it sitting, other standing. It was fun to play this game. Overall, we learned a lot from the presentation as well as the activity. The activity was a great way to end the continuous learning session.

Thank you Blessy and Bhanu for this taking us through this wonderful continuous learning session!

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