Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Trigger Warnings- Mention of mass suicide and death
What is a belief? A belief is a statement of opinion that someone holds as being true.
Beliefs are shaped by many factors, ranging from family and friends to personal experience and upbringing. But the scary part is how all-consuming their confidence in their convictions can become. They accept them as the ultimate truth without any evidence or explanation.
On the days I feel hopelessly alone, and my favourite brand of coffee seems like black tar, I feel an overwhelming desire to believe. It is exhausting just not to give up when you feel like you don't belong. To seek guidance and want a spiritual environment might be good. But devoting your entire existence to Godmen who seem holier than thou, and unfounded beliefs doesn't seem like a practical option.
And then all these questions come up. Why are these faith peddlers appealing to people? Why do people feel such a tremendous urge to believe anyone who claims to have a better connection to God? And then they start blindly trusting their words as the Holy Grail.
You see, I like having my choices. Choices are precious simply because it's a relief to have a backup plan if I am making a plan. Often I chew my lips until they bleed when I am asked to make a decision, but it’s not like I would ever unconditionally trust someone to make these choices for me.
Trusting someone can be comforting. Maybe just the feeling that you don’t need to be Atlas with the burden of your decisions on your back.
Belief is comforting, but I can’t even comprehend how can you just outsource the decision-making in your life? Okay, maybe I am too caught up in my head, and I need to get you up to speed.
I’m sorry, just take a look around (only valid for those currently in India, for readers who aren’t aware of the Indian culture). Do you see people turning to their favourite holy man regarding families, marriages, work, and career and sometimes the most trivial things; because I do.
We, as a country, love believing in our religions and our faiths because somehow, it gives one the assurance that there is a giant karmic scheme and we are all mere pawns. Somehow this huge mass of people all count on the fact that their lives go a certain way. They just do. Everyone has just accepted that there is a “right” way to do things; everyone else and their beliefs are “wrong.” And someone else, be it scriptures, Godmen, or their local spiritual guide, can tell them right and wrong.
Everywhere I look, it seems like the belief is what holds people up. These crowds of functioning, objective human beings blindly devote themselves to what may seem to be the most illogical practices. Why does Saturn care if I schedule a haircut on a Saturday?
But there stands a slippery slope from haircuts and black cats, which can wreck lives because belief can be stronger than fear and logic.
Can you imagine 11 people killing themselves in the hope of resurrecting a man who would then save them?
Rational, and educated and working, all productive members of society.
11 people. 3 generations. Aged 15 to 80.
Actually, you don't need to imagine. You can learn all about it with the Burari deaths.
For 11 years, the three-generational family believed their late grandfather gave them instructions through his son, aka “the medium.” The instructions would include everything, and I mean everything. Behavioural conduct of all members, domestic matters, the children’s education, family finances, and their family business. The family seemed to believe them to be the ‘law’ simply because the man would speak to them in a voice that resembled the late patriarch. No one ever questioned this, considering the fact that the son had had multiple traumatic head injuries and experiences in his life, the last one just a year before he lost his father.
When the story came out in 2018, it seemed to be drenched in sensationalization that all angles were exploited to the point of ludicrousy. From pipes in the house to black magic, households all across the country scrambled to look for explanations. Anything that could help us understand what happened and keep our own families safe.
The actual cause behind the deaths was ruled to be mass suicide because of shared delusion.
It's simple, though; the excess of anything is wrong—belief to the point of delusion caused by mental disorders.
We, as a society, focussed more on black magic as the cause of the deaths rather than mental health and superstitions. But that is precisely what we do.
You will too.
You might have not even read this piece all the way through. Or maybe you have made it this far, and you're going to write it off as a teenager rambling about random things.
Either way, next time you want to believe, just don't let go of the logic and rationale I know you possess.
"While those who saw the family from outside felt they had found solace in spirituality, what happened inside the four walls of the Burari house may never be known as there is no one left to explain."
- Hemani Bhandari for The Hindu