Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Evolution - Travel through Holiness (or Holy Sh*#T)

"He who does not allow his miracles to be investigated is a crook,he who does not have the courage to investigate a miracle is gullible,and he who is prepared to believe without verification is a fool"- Dr Abraham T. Kovoor

I often wondered why I drifted in to Rationalism despite my spritual upbringing. Here is my spirtual journey!

The Street Magician became God!

My earliest encounter with “Miracle men” was at the age of 8. At that time my family lived in a rural village in Tamilnadu. I and my brother were witnessing a “miracle street show” performed by a man who claimed to have supernatural powers. He did various street magic (or miracles if you prefer). He let a snake climb his body and curl around his neck; he irritated the snake and the snake bit him. He took a knife and started cutting his hand. The blood oozed out of his hand and he showed no pain. He later took a piece of cloth and wiped his hand and the wound healed miraculously, and there was no mark of cut or bruise in his hand.
I was really mesmerized by his act.

At the end of the show he asked every one to throw some money on to his blanket. He also cautioned that any one who doesn’t pay him will die after vomiting blood. The crowd obeyed and started throwing currency and coins to him. As I was speechless watching the whole drama unfold, my brother (who was a teenager at that time) did some thing remarkable. My brother announced in a loud voice to this man that he is not going to pay any money. My brother dared this man to make us vomit blood.

The man looked stunned. He cursed us that after we get home we will vomit blood during the night and die. My brother made a funny face, grabbed my hand and dragged me back home.

That night I was really scared. I was not sure what would happen to me.

“Perhaps we should have paid him the money. After all it was a small amount” I reasoned with my brother.

My brother reassured “don’t worry I have done this several times. Nothing will happen to you”.

I was not fully convinced. How did he cut his hand and his hand healed so fast? Would I really vomit blood and die? I couldn’t sleep that night. I woke up the next morning alive! I brushed my teeth and spit my saliva several times. No sign of blood in my saliva. It looked like my brother was right!

Later on, I started accompanying my brother to such miracle street shows, and I joined my brother in daring the street magician. It was good fun. We did that every time. The villagers saw us doing this again and again. Still they always paid money to the miracle man!

The Young Miracle Boy who outsmarted Engineering Students

It was during my second year in college. I came across this young boy (probably 8-10 years old) dressed up like a Monk. He knocked on my door one evening and told me that he would predict my future. I have never seen some one who is so young in this field. I invited him inside my room. He told me that he could predict my future for a small fee of Rs2.50. (it is probably the lowest tariff in “Fortune telling” business). Just for fun, I gave him the money and he started going on bla bla. (“Sir, I see danger coming from the south, you have some unfounded fears, there must have been a terrible incident in your life, etc etc”). Bye now, a group of students gathered around my room and was watching this curiously. I asked this boy if he could do some magic or miracle to prove his credibility. He agreed.

He took out a Pooja Bell from his bag and gave it to me.

“Examine this carefully to see if there is any thing inside” he said.

I looked through the bell carefully, there was nothing inside. He then took a small ball (the size of a Cherry fruit) made out of cloth. He placed the ball on the floor and covered it with the bell. He waved his hand three times and removed the bell. The ball disappeared!

The Second year engineering students were now showing sings of surprise. One of my friends however started teasing this young boy and called him a cheat. The little responded to my friend with an angry look , "If you ever insult me again, I will make this ball stuff inside your nose and suffocate you to death" warned the little boy. I was expecting my friend to challenge the young boy, but instead my friend froze in fear and kept quite. The next second, an idea struck to my mind. I paid the boy 5 Rupees and asked him to make the ball disappear again. As soon as the ball disappeared, I told every one that the ball had gotten in to my ears. I put up an act and dramatized it.

“Please take the ball out of my ear. I won’t doubt your powers” I begged this little boy.

The little boy was puzzled. He knew that this was not supposed to happen! He shook his bell a few times and looked at me in confusion. After this, I told him that the ball has moved out of my ears and thanked the little boy. The little boy acknowledged and produced the ball from his pocket! Everyone in the room was stunned. I and the boy exchanged a glance, and the little boy nodded his head (May be it was a thank you). Later on every one formed a bee line to get their future predictions. He made some good money (thanks to me!)

When he was about to leave, I dragged the boy to a side and asked him to teach me the trick. I promised him that I will pay him generously. He smiled and politely refused my offer. He packed up his bag and left. We never saw him gain. For a long time, the miracle boy was a topic of discussions. Some claimed that such gifted children are only born once in a Yuga (50million years?). Some one swore that he saw the miracle boy floating in the main hostel block and vanished in to thin air. The boy became a legend. The secret stayed with me.

I am Godess Kali’s sole representative!

I was visiting Haridwar (North of New Delhi) with my mother. That place was buzzing with Swamys/Gurus of all kind along the Ganges River. We came across a small hut (looked like a make shift camp) which was supposed to be a kali temple. A Swamy waved to us and asked us to come inside his temple.

The Swamy had various spiritual markings, long beard and a hair that could do with some wash and hair gel. We stepped inside his so called temple. In the center of the hut was a statue of Goddess Kali.

The Swamy sat near the statue with eyes closed in meditative position for a few seconds and then opened his eyes and remarked “Oh, so you have come here at last. I was expecting you”.

I remained silent. He then continued “your heart wanders about your ancestors, and you have decided to offer them the prayers and satisfy their souls”.

I laughed. He assumed that I have come to Haridwar to perform last rites for my ancestors (by the way, many people come to Haridwar for that purpose, so I gauss he took a shot). Unfortunately he has got the wrong guy! I told him that my dead ancestors are doing pretty good, and they have not complained to me so far!

The swamy did not appreciate my sense of humor. He gave a bunch of flowers to my mother and said “Mathathji, I see great things happening to your son. Please mediate upon Mother Kali and make a wish. It shall come true”. He then turned to me and said “Brother, put Rs500 on the feet of Kali”.

I waved my head in dismay “what for?”

“This is a simple dakshna (donation) for Mother Kali to make the wish come true” replied the Swamy.

“First of all, I never asked for the services of your Kali. I don’t want any wish to come true and I am not paying you. That is all” I remarked.

The Swamy got up and shouted in anger “you don’t know what you are doing young man. You are going to inherit the anger of Kali. The last man who showed this kind of attitude to me died in an accident right before the temple. I will curse you for insulting me and my mother Kali. If you don’t offer the money you would see yourself in great danger”. (What about his vision of seeing great things happening to me?)

“I don’t care, curse what you want, I am leaving. If I stay here any more, you will see some danger coming to your life” I replied, and walked out.

My mother whispered to me in low voice “don’t worry son, Mother Kali will not harm you. She is full of love. This guy is greedy and a fraud”. We both agreed that nothing would happen to me although we used completely different logic to come to the same conclusion.

After we walked a couple of feet away from the temple, the Swamy popped his head out and said

“At least could you offer Rs5 to Kali?”

It is all in the Mind!

End of my first year in Engineering College, we were busy organizing the college cultural festivals. The following day was the official inauguration of the cultural festivals and a local Swami (a very powerful and influential spiritual Guru) was scheduled to start the festivals.

I was with a group of boys working overnight to finish of stage decorations, organizing seating etc. We needed some decorative papers. So I and my friend (let me call him Pandi) went to fetch the decorative papers from the college store room. Inside the store room we found the Swmay’s chair.

The swamy’s management committee seemed to have shipped the Swamy’s chair before hand. The chair was present in the center of the room. It was a large mahogany chair, padded with some nice comfortable red cushions. The chair was decorated with a garland. (The Chair seems to have picked up some divinity from Swamyji’s buttocks). Pandi was a great devotee of this Swamy. As soon as he saw the chair, he fell down flat on the ground, prostrating in front of the chair.

“Pandi, you are prostrating to a chair” I remarked with surprise.

“It is not any chair, it is his Holiness’s chair” remarked Pandi.

“Indeed, your Swamy placed his backside on this chair” I remarked with a tone of sarcasm and speculated what else the Swamy would have done sitting in that chair (censored!)

Pandi replied in anger “You change your attitude, you don’t know about the Swamy. He can turn a man in to a pile of ash just by merely looking”

I reacted by climbing on to the chair, “Look what I am doing to your Swamy’s chair. I am putting my legs on this. If your Swamy is God he should know about this, and I dare him to punish me”. After this I sat on that Chair.

My friend was shaken by my act. He left the room quickly without saying a word.

I met Pandi after 10 years in Madras. He was now a married man working for the local government. I asked him if he was still a devotee of Swamy.

“Of course, how can I not? I owe everything to the Swamy. Because of his blessing I am now leading a good life and married. With his blessings I have one boy” he remarked. I don’t’ think the Swamyji contributed directly to his wife’s pregnancy. He must mean Spiritual blessings! (As a side track, the fertility rate of Indian Gurus seems to be pretty good. Their success rate in impregnating women is high. Perhaps it comes as a result of continuous spiritual practice!)

I reminded him of the Chair incident. “Your Swamy seem to have done nothing against my apparent insult to his Chair. I am doing pretty well” I remarked.

“I know. You have to thank me for that. After your foolish act, I prayed to Swamy for forgiveness. I fasted for a day. The Swamy seemed to have shown his magnanimity and has accepted my prayers” replied Pandi

Holy Cow....mother of all gods... , he had a fool proof argument.

Perhaps His Holiness considered my act as silly and stupid, and decided to forgive me in consideration of Pandi’s prayers. Or perhaps His Holiness is not interested in prosecuting people for such pretty crime. I cannot argue with him in that sense.

Nevertheless, I am happy to say that I was probably the only person other than His Holiness to have ever sat in that Holy Chair. So hear this..

My backside is Holy and divine!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nadi Astrology (Jyosium)- Busted!

Nadi Astrology - have you heard of it?
The theory is that the Ancient Saints/Rishis through their power of mediation predicted the life of every one in India. This information is documented in Palm Leaves. A group of families living in a place called Vaitheswaran Koil in Tamilnadu have taken possession of these palm leaves, and they are secretly guarding this for the last 1000 years or so. For a small fee they would retrieve valuable information about you from their palm leaves collection!

The buid up from a Beleiver

I learned about this from one of my relatives who was a great follower of this. He told me that a Nadi Astrologer took his finger prints, and based on that he retrieved a bunch of palm leaves which provided a detailed description of his life. My relative showed me a little notebook where they have written his life history. My relative’s name, his age, his wife’s name, number of children, his father’s name etc were accurately written in that note book. The relative swore that he had never been to Vaitheswaran koil in his life and never met any one there. Still they managed to provide so much information about him.

My relative also told me that they gave him information about his Previous Birth. (How on earth would you verify that?) Apparently in his previous life, my relative had been a king (good for him!). But he seemed to have killed a child by poisoning the milk, and the sin has followed him to this present life. To clear his criminal history, he had to perform some special pujas. Without going into the details of the Pujas, it is suffice to say he spend around Rs15,000 towards remedy. God seemed to have amended his criminal records and every thing in life is Jolly good from that point.

I was curious about all this and wanted to get to the bottom of this. So I decided to find out myself. I asked my relative to take us to Vaitheswaran Koil.

The journey and the experience

We landed in Vaitheswaran koil. My relative led us through the narrow street filled with Nadi experts (this is the Wall Street of Vaitheswaran Koil). He took us to a Nadi Astrology center which was a traditional brick house. My relative spoke with the some one inside and we were told to pay the fee and wait outside in the veranda. After about 15 minutes wait, we were allotted a Nadi Reader. My brother aggreed to be their client, I decided to observe the proceedings.

The Nadi Reader initially took an impression of my brother’s thumb, and then disappeared into the back of the house. A few minutes later, he came back with a bunch of dusty palm leaves. He started reading (or blabbering) some thing in what he called as “ancient Tamil”. Even though I am a Tamilian, his so called “ancient Tamil” did not make any sense to me. He then asked a series of questions. My brother was supposed to answer “yes” or “no” to the questions. Apparently the reader was doing this to make sure he picks up the right bunch of palm leaves.

After a series of questions, he told us that it was not the right palm leaves bunch. He then went inside and took out another bunch of palm leaves and started asking questions again (Like: “are you named after any god?”, “your father has more than one child?” etc)

The cyclic sequence: Questioning>> disappearing to the back>> picking up a new bunch of palm leaf>> Questioning - went on for about one hour. After an hour the reader disappeared inside for about 15 minutes and came up with a bunch of palm leaves. He told us that he got the right palm leaf bunch. He started blabbering some thing again in what he called “ancient Tamil” . This time instead of asking questions, he told us the answers- my brother’s name, my father’s name etc.

I was not surprised this time, because by now I have figured out how exactly he managed to pull this trick.

The Logic
It is a variation of COLD READING. I will try to explain in other ways..

Have you ever played a guessing game? . It works as follows:

You will be part of a team consisting of 3 or 4 people. You will go to a person in an other team who will whisper something in your ear. You go and stand in front of your team, and your team mates will then ask a series of questions. You can only answer “yes” or “no”, and you cannot speak or give any other clue. Your team mates should find out what was whispered in your ears based on your “yes” or “no” answer.

If you have played this game, you will understand how the Nadi Reader predicted things about my brother. It is a matter of asking questions, and based on the response, you ask further questions to narrow down the answers.

During the initial stages, the Nadi Astrologer failed to get my Brother’s actual name (his actual or legal name is “Dilip Kumar” which is a north Indian name). Then some thing interesting happened, my mother started to associate the Astrologer’s questions to my brother’s spiritual name which is “Vaithyanathan”. After my mother started guiding the Nadi reader towards my brother’s spiritual name (without knowing of course), subconsciously both my mother and brother were cooperating with the Reader to make this work. To explain, look at the following questions and corresponding response:

“Are you named after a god?”
“Are you named after Vishnu”
“Are you named after Shiva”
“Does your name start with any of the following sounds: “ Ka,se, va (க, ச, வா )

If the above questions were associated with my brother’s legal name, then the answer to all the above questions should be “no”. But to make this work (subconsciously), my family was leading the Nadi Reader towards the spiritual name by answering yes.

The Nadi reader was not asking the questions in the above order to camouflage his technique. So he jumbles his questions around. For example his first question would be related to my brother’s name, the second question would be related to my father’s name, the third question will be related to my mother, and the fifth question will be related to my brother name, and so on.

I reconstructed the whole sequence of questions & answers later on and demonstrated how the Nadi reader established the facts about my brother. I also explained to my family how they volunteered more information in addition to the simple “yes” or “no’ during the process.

The Nadi reader regularly disappears from the room, during which I think he is passing on his clues to some one else. His inside accomplish deciphers the information and provides fresh set of questions, and then they narrow down the clues as they go further. Once they are satisfied that they have learned sufficient information, they compile it in one go to give you this magnificent effect - that the palm leaf bunch has every thing about you!

The Nadi reader showed us the palm leaf bunch that apparently contained my brother’s personal information. In the palm leaf, most of the writings did not make sense (did not resemble any thing similar to the Tamil alphabets that we read in school) except for my brother’s name which was clearly readable. For believers it gives some sense of authenticity (“hey it has got my name so that should be the right “).For a rational person it doesn’t make any sense. Why would the ancient palm leaf writers write the person's Name in modern Tamil but write the rest of the information in the so called ‘ancient Tamil”? .

I realised it would be a hell of a task for this guy to crack unusual names. If you have a name like “Jose Marina de Gonzalis” or “Marvin Attapattu” there is no chance in hell that you would get a Nadi Astrology prediction. I watched the Nadi Astrologer go through the same process with an other man (who looked like North Indian). After one hour of questioning, the Nadi Reader claimed that he couldn’t get the right palm leaf bunch. I figured out that they have failed to crack him. In the end the Nadi Reader gave up and told his customer that the palm leaves will only appear when the time is right!

Let me draw attention to the beginning of this article.
My relative told me this:
  • The Nadi Reader predicted his past based on reading from palm leaves
  • The palm leaves were retrieved from a simple thumb impression.
He did not tell me that we would go through one hour of rigorous questioning. Most of the people who had been to this Nadi Astrolgoy never mention the questioning process. When I ask them specifically about the questions they respond like “Oh yah, they asked a few questions to make sure they are picking up the right bunch of palm leaves”. I am surprised that an important element of the whole process goes unnoticed by the people who visit the Nadi center. It is what I call “Unconscious exaggeration”. When you believe in some thing, you only remember and analyse the things that support your belief. It is a classic case of believers in astrology- they filter information to support their faith and leave out other details which provide clue for an objective analysis. I don’t think the believers are doing it on purpose. It is self deception.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the whole Nadi Astrology was true and that the great Rishis in the past predicted the life story of fellow citizens. How many people’s life they predicted? No one knows.

Assume they predicted the life of say 100,000 people in India (it is less than 0.01% of the total population of India). Going by the data provided by the Nadi Astrologer, for each person they have around 72 pages worth of data. For a sample size of 1 Lakh people, you should have approximately 7.2million page worth of information. If the Great Rishis predicted some thing like this 1000 years back they should have predicted for more than 100,000 people (because you have to consider all the people who lived in India in the last 1000 years). So we are talking about billions and billions of pages worth of data. Even if you assume that the Nadi astrologer has a secret bunker where he is holding billions of palm leaves, there is one more problem. The palm leaves have limited life and you would have to transfer the information to a new set of leaves periodically to keep the information alive. This would require a massive workforce of full time palm leaf writers in industrial scale.
In a nut shell- Nadi Astrology - what a load of bull shit.
Post Script:
Some bleiver will tell me that they had a different experience. May be they were never questioned for one hour, may be they got the palm leaf stright away. May be every thing the Nadi Astrologer predicted came true.
Would that mean I went to a fraud and that is not the fault of Nadi Astrlogy? No, it that just means that the guy used a different technique! and you have not carried out an objective anlysis of his prediciton.

Here is a good clip form Sun TV. Exposing the Nadi leaves as fake.  They are not 1000 years old, they are made locally with some gibberish!

About Me

I am an Engineer by profession. Spritual and Anit-guru advice is my part time job!