Rational Thinking – 3: Fear and Sentiments

Dr. KS Raghavan
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This is in continuation of the earlier posts at

We saw how the rational mind symbolized by the RIDER is often controlled by the emotional mind symbolized by the ELEPHANT. There are two factors which strengthen the elephant and weaken the rider. They are FEAR and SENTIMENTS which are touched upon in this post.
The role played by the fear factor in lives of people can hardly be exaggerated. Analysts say the fear exists only in the mind. Sir Bertrand Russell, perhaps the greatest thinker of our times, has said “Fear is the main source of superstition”.

Consider for instance a superstition with regard to eclipses prevalent in many parts of India.  The belief is that if a pregnant woman exposes herself to eclipse the unborn baby may develop deformities. This superstition dates back to prehistoric days of ignorance when eclipses were not understood and thought of to be something very sinister. But as of today, there is no uncertainty with regard to eclipses. In spite of this, many people with high education subscribe to this superstition and shield pregnant women from exposure to eclipse by putting them in closed rooms. This is triggered by fear in the mind and reluctance to test.

World population increases by about 70 million every year, which means that at any given moment about 55 million ladies are pregnant spread all over the world which includes large regions where this superstition is not in vogue. During any woman’s pregnancy duration there will be at least one eclipse considering the frequency of occurrence.  Rational wisdom in this regard is “if eclipses do no harm to millions of yet-to-be-born babies, it will do no harm to the unborn child of family member”.

Another factor of influence is related to sentiments. In India we traditionally avoid hurting the sentiments of other people, particularly the elders.  I have observed that when it comes to decision regarding rituals, auspicious time, Vastu  etc. invariable the elders in the family dictate terms. Younger people just obey without questioning,  even at the cost of convenience and comfort. This is purely from sentiments point of view. There are very few instances of younger family members trying to educate the elders.

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