If it were true – if the magic and miracle would have the power to satisfy human wishes – everything would have been very sunny and easy – and the world would have been different – wouldn’t it? Well – not really. Because there again would have surfaced conflicts – the conflicts of diverse wishes.
Yet such wishes occupy human mind – more at certain times than others. Like the vampire folklore and stories that managed to fascinate people for thousands of years – catering to the dark side of human imagination of fear, mystery and violence. For example, ancient African Voodoo culture continues to exist and fascinate people in some countries. The vampire folklore that originated in Europe – are still prevalent in Halloween celebrations in many countries. In Asia similar vampire culture is part of a religion – Hindu goddess Kali is believed to go out in new-moon dark night adventures to drink people’s blood – who were disobedient and made her angry. The belief took shape in the form of Kali-Puja worshipping in Hinduism.
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Perhaps it starts with our fascination with fantasy and action stories from young ages – like my son’s starting with Harry Potter series in his senior elementary school days – or for that matter with children of any culture. The influence of this fascination is not far flung to see – in views of things colored with one’s wishes and imaginations – like the image of Santa living in the North Pole – we view it in our own image, not the image of real indigenous people living in the Arctic Circle. From early years starting with the fairy tale stories one hears from parents and grandparents, people are amused by the imaginary world of fantasies and wishes – as if to suggest that miracle and magic have a role to play in life. What on earth is this role? Is this the role that just lies in our mind?
Rationalism and experience tell a different story however – that the real world does not work in magical or miraculous terms – that it works according to the duo (albeit with some degrees of uncertainty) – the kaleidoscope of actions and reactions – in line with the universal knot of cause and effect – in subtlety most of the time – but also in pursuits of dynamic equilibrium when disturbed by unsettling triggers – both Natural and social. Framed another way – in scientific reasoning what may appear magical or miraculous is nothing but the coincidence of some plausible but rare causes and circumstances. Or simply that, such appearances are illusions – the making of our ignorant but creative mind.
Good. But perhaps there is another way of looking at it. This way is about the power of beliefs – shall we say belief in oneself, in one’s strength (see The Power of Mind) – belief in the power of confidence (mundane or spiritual). If founded upon sound and unwavering stands and efforts, beliefs may turn out wishes – oh, well what’s in a name – perhaps something no less than magic or miracle. The accidental discovery of Penicillin by Scottish researcher Alexander Fleming (1881 – 1955) after his return from a two-week vacation – perhaps created no less than a miraculous impression in his mind. And in the experience and realization of Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev (1834 – 1907) – the inventor of Scientific Periodic Table . . . For several weeks I slept fitfully, trying to find that magical principle . . . And then one fine morning, after spending a sleepless night . . . I lay down on the sofa in the office and fell asleep. And in a dream, a table appeared to me quite clearly . . . Perhaps such examples invoke the realization of deeper meaning of things – the melting of the rationalist view and the chance theory into one! Or perhaps one feels like saying with Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895) - the father of microbiology: In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind. Indeed when a mind is prepared – or is aptly curious – a learner’s cognitive processes are best poised to decipher and discover the essence of what he or she is attempting to learn. Whatever may be the name – chance, magic or miracle – that is how one should proceed.
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Returning back to the questions whether or not magic and miracle have a role in life – perhaps the answers can be found somewhere else. One can begin answering by asking: why do the multi-trillion dollar entertainment industries of all sorts exist. Or why do we enjoy and find solace in stories and novels – in arts, comics and individual’s unfettered imaginations that are weaved through the lenses of exaggerated colors and distortions. Perhaps there lies one of the greatest human strengths – the ability to take refuse in fantasies – the ability to escape from the tiredness of frustration – the ability to relax and re-energize. Perhaps that is the reason why alcohol exists in most cultures – primitive to modern – from soft liquors to hard drinks. Although not beneficial in the long-run - perhaps, the secret of the popularity of such pursuits - lies in the fact that they let one emptying the mind of lingering thoughts - or of disturbing influences and distractions.
There is one particular distinction however: while the fairy tale fantasies always tell stories of the victory of good over evil (to inspire young minds and perhaps all) – other derivatives or spin-offs of similar sorts, do not necessarily follow that lead. One can go on and on . . . but I like to stop at this – only to point out that there appears a big problem – that clinging to the world of unreality and fantasy – independent of, or supported by alcohol and/or others – can be delusional, affecting one’s clarity of thought processes – his or her judgments – especially when over- or disproportionate-indulgence takes control. It was the religious leaders in all cultures who rightly saw the practice as unworthy, addictive and abusive – abusive to oneself, to the family – to the society. That was why they cautioned and advised against such practices as a means of drifting into the delusion of fantasy-induced relaxation.
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To such visionary and compassionate leaders, one should try to enjoy life with the purity of mind and actions to be in peace with oneself, and that nothing should cloud one’s judgment – one’s clarity of understandings – neither the hindering thoughts nor the malicious influences and fantasies. They taught the power and virtue of meditation or mind training, supported (at times) by the tranquility and beauty of Nature, music, fresh flower or art works – to relax and nourish oneself by emptying the mind – to reflect and re-energize. It lets one to be mindful – to realize the wisdom that life requires discipline – to enjoy the true bliss of compassion and peace. Difficult perhaps, but splendid nonetheless!
There we have it – the necessity of relaxation and nourishment of the mind in a life’s journey; as we do so for the matter – the physical body (see The Tathagata). This short piece is to celebrate the end of winter solstice – and to warmly welcome the New Year for progress, prosperity and happiness in harmonious cohabitation of all.
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- by Dr. Dilip K. Barua, 2 January 2018