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Episode 14 Transcript: Indulging in Superstitions

Episode 14, 13 February 2015, Indulging in Superstitions. [10:11]


Intro: Welcome to Buddhism Guide’s Audio blog.

Episode 14: Indulging in Superstitions. [00:45]

1. Superstition as a way of avoiding responsibility.

  • For centuries, people have been indulging in superstitions, lucky charms, omens, divinations, and fortune telling.
  • They’ve used these things to help them make decisions, and keep them from taking responsibility for their own actions.
  • Some cultures still place a lot of importance on such things.
  • However, if you look carefully you can see these things stem from ignorance and fear.
  • They certainly are not a reliable way for you to navigate through life.
    • In Gautama Buddha’s day you could put superstitions and omens down to a lack of education, but I’m not sure what the reasoning behind it is today.
    • You still see people touching wood, or keeping their fingers crossed, to bring them good luck.
    • Others, wear a rabbits foot for the same reason, though I think it is not very lucky for the rabbit.
    • They don’t put new shoes on the table, walk under ladders, or open umbrellas in the house, just in case it brings them bad luck.
    • People become visibly scared if they break a mirror or spill salt; and don’t let’s even mention Friday the 13th!
    • In Tibetan culture it is inauspicious to start a journey on a Saturday, so people pack their things on Friday and leave the house as though they are starting their journey, but they only take their bag to a friend’s house and then return home.
    • On Saturday, they collect their bag and start their journey, believing they have tricked the superstition.
  • It is clear that this type of ignorance only creates a vicious circle where superstitions are used to cheat other superstitions.
  • The list of superstitions and omens is endless, but they have one thing in common, they are totally irrational and based on fear and ignorance.
    • People go to fortune tellers, psychics and gurus, so they can shirk their responsibilities and get someone else to make an important decision for them.
  • But, if these people can see into the future, it you would mean our lives are predetermined, that would in-turn mean we could never improve our lives.
    • All things have already been decided for us.
    • Thankfully, this is not the case and people who say they can see into the future are just playing on people’s ignorance and fears.

2. The Harm Caused by Superstition. [03:45]

  • You may say there’s no harm done, but I beg to differ.
  • I heard of a man who was seriously ill going to a guru to have a divination.
    • He was told not to have an operation, but to do some prayers instead.
    • This man died needlessly and painfully; because, if he had gone for the operation he more than likely would’ve survived.
  • There is a famous, or infamous, psychic in America and when I was writing this, she hit the headlines, and not in a positive way.
    • 10 years ago, a young girl went missing and the psychic told the family she was dead and they would see her again only in heaven.
    • It transpired that the girl wasn’t dead, but was being held captive for all these years.
    • The family say the mother died of a broken heart after the psychic reading.
  • These two stories show just how harmful this type of trickery can be.
  • I believe these people are acting irresponsibly and fraudulently.
  • Many go to holy people for blessings, believing that if they are touched on their head or they touch the feet of a guru their lives will be okay.
  • They wear something around their necks, hoping it will protect them from danger.
  • They also go to long-life ceremonies, thinking that they will live a longer life, even though they do nothing to change their actions or lifestyle.
  • Again, these things are just superstitions and without you exploring your thoughts and changing your actions of body, speech and mind, you will not be able to change your life.

3. No use for “Low Art”. [05:38]

  • Gautama Buddha called all these practices “low art” and on many occasions he stated that such things are of no use, as we have to take responsibility for our own lives.
  • In the [Anguttatara Niccaciaus], Gautama Buddha stated that this is how responsible people act.
    • They do not get carried away by superstition; they believe in deeds, aspiring to results from their own deeds, through their own effort, in a rational way.
    • They are not excited by widely rumored superstitions, talismans, omens or lucky charms.
    • They do not aspire to results from praying for miracles.
  • There is a story about a Brahman, who was an expert in predictions drawn from cloth.
    • He held a superstition that once a piece of cloth, no matter how new or expensive, was bitten by a rat, it would bring you bad luck.
    • On one occasion, he discarded a piece of his expensive cloth in a local cemetery, because he believed it had been bitten by a rat and would now bring him only bad fortune.
    • Later on, he heard that Gautama Buddha had picked up the cloth and was using it.
    • He ran as fast as he could to find Gautama Buddha, and warn him about the bad luck that was going to come his way, if he didn’t throw the cloth away.
    • However, once the Brahman found him, he was dissuaded from this irrational superstition and shown that only he himself could bring good or bad circumstances into his life.
  • Gautama Buddha did not believe in luck, fate or chance, he taught that, whatever happens, does so because of cause or causes.
  • If you want to pass your exam, you have to study hard and put in a lot of effort.
    • So there is a clear connection between passing the exam and study.
    • It is of no use praying to a god, chanting a mantra or wearing some kind of lucky charm to pass your exam as there is no connection between these things.

4. Responsibility, Rationality and Obligations. [08:07]

  • So what did Gautama Buddha believe?
    • He believed in individual responsibility, rational thought and social obligations, rather than unhealthy fears and irrational superstitions.
    • This point was made very clear in the Mangala Sutra.
    • In this discourse Gautama Buddha was asked what the most auspicious omens were, and which ones should be followed.
    • He didn’t directly answer the question, but instead gave guidelines of how we can make our own lives auspicious without relying on outside omens.

5. The 38 Principles. [08:45]

  • He spoke about 38 principles that if lived by, would bring us true protection.
  • These 38 principles gradually lead you on a journey that will see you reforming yourself and turning into a responsible person within society.
    • It is a practical guide that will help you find happiness and ease your suffering.
    • It not only shows you what you need to do, but it also shows you the inevitable obstacles you will encounter whilst you travel along the path.
  • The 38 principles in the Mangala Sutra will lead you through individual discipline, family obligations, social responsibility and finally, to personal development.
    • In a nutshell it is a guide to life.
  • You can find more information about this subject in Karma Yeshe Rabgye’s book: Life’s meandering path  – which is a study of the 38 Principles.
    • It is available now, from Amazon and Kindle.

Outro. [09:40]

  • You can find more information about this subject in Karma Yeshe Rabgye’s books at
    1. The best way to catch a snake – A Practical Guide to the Buddha’s Teachings;
    2. Life’s meandering path – A Secular Approach to Gautama Buddha’s Guide to Living;
    3. Ripples in the stream – A Pragmatic Journey Through Gautama Buddha’s Teachings.
  • They’re available now, from Amazon and Kindle.
  • Thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoyed Buddhism Guide’s audio blog.
  • Until next time, remember, the only person we can ever truly know, is ourselves!




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