Mystical Death Attempt Live On Air

Mola Ram

Image by bluemoose via Flickr

This story has been doing the rounds recently and I have been fascinated and appalled in equal measure.  Sanal Edamaruku, the head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association (membership is currently over 100,000) volunteered to be killed live on air by someone using mystical magical holy super powers.

Pandit Surender Sharma was the man who was to kill him.  Only one outcome could possibly be predicted.  Some kudos to Sharma for having the courage of his convictions and to actually try to complete the mystical murder.  Huge kudos to Edamaruku, he stood up to someone who has some (secular) power and has an awful lot to lose.  It would not surprise me if he gets threats – if he hasn’t already.

Think on this: smug woo-ists will always say “ah, but look to the East with their ancient spells and history and all their mysticism.  There’s something in it, you know”.  Well, looking at the videos below, no there isn’t.

First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

When the guru’s initial efforts failed, he accused Mr Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. “No, I’m an atheist,” came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.

The men agreed to go to an outdoor studio that night — all to no avail. At midnight, the anchor declared the contest over. Reason had prevailed.

“The immediate goal I have is to stop these fraudulent babas and gurus,” says Mr Edamaruku, 55, a part-time journalist and publisher from the southern state of Kerala. “I want people to make their own decisions. They should not be guided by ignorance, but by knowledge.

Now, before we go to video, it’s worth mentioning this: it is very easy to scoff and say “oh, well that just proves that Indian religion is rubbish”, or something similar.  But remember this, every religion has a method for killing your enemies by means of magic or prayer and all religions have a similar success rate.  Why would this failure make an Indian religion any less true than any other?

Hat-Tip to Hemant Mehta and others for this.  Please watch the videos (should take about a half hour).

Sanal Edamaruku: Tantra Challenge Part 1

Sanal Edamaruku: Tantra Challenge Part 2

Sanal Edamaruku: Tantra Challenge Part 3

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Posted on 21 March, 2010, in Skeptical Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Ray, I am an Indian and I know for a fact that there are some forms of witchcraft practised in parts of India which actually works and this invokes evil spirits (yes, they exist: it is in the power of man's mind and ability to create and direct evil thoughts at others), but this has nothing to do with religion or atheism or anything of that sort. In fact, right religion highly discourages witchcraft and other forms of occult practices.

    Ray, I think you must understand that some of the Indians who subscrbe to 'rationalist" views are political propagandists in their own right and they want to discredit Hinduism as much as they can (Hinduism is not a religion but the cultural life for millions of people in India). You cannot compare Hinduism with any other Abrahamic or organized religion either and you cannot club all these fake Babas with Hindu religious leaders either.

    I think the whole thing stinks because of the immorality of the killing attempt as also the cheap publicity gained in the process for a point that is dubious in the first place.
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    • With regard to the whole "this man is a fraud but there are real ones out there", this is exactly the same as with psychics and other mystics. We regularly hear that there are real examples, but they are not to be found. In terms of this, suggestion is incredibly powerful and, with the right amount of theatricality and belief, it has been known for many years that people can "believe" themselves to death. On the plus side, the placebo effect takes advantage of this to heal people.

      Regardless of the variations in religions – and don't forget that Christianity is incredibly splintered itself – in allowing this to go on there is a tacit approval of it from those who would deny approving of it. If Hinduism is a culture then that means that the majority of people allow themselves to believe in this sort of thing, otherwise the community/culture would have removed it.

      If this was politically motivated, and if the only way to get on is seen to be by birth or belief then there is a real issue there, then it has done some good. As well, it shows that rationalism is not just about carnival fakers, it is about removing this sort of thing from the mainstream.

      The idea that someone can con money or favours from his people because of mystical murder is abhorrent.
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  2. Also the whole "Tantra" obsession of the West is something that mystifies me and has hardly any role in everyday religious belief and practice of the people here. It is a very minor part of Hinduism.

    Ray, I think you will find it hard to understand the emotional distress that true believers undergo when atheists and others who want to discredit their faith mock quasi-religious practices which have no mainstream acceptance and club them with the whole religion/belief system. It's patently unfair to us and puts us in a spot.
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    • I agree with you on the Western obsession – it normally involves picking up a few choice parts of the religion and spinning it into something else. Probably a search for real meaning, probably a need for more activity to fill the day!

      Not really. If, as you say, this man is a small part of the organised religion, then the organised religion should have dealt with him. The fact that religious leaders allow him to continue to practice means that they give him tacit approval. Therefore, outsiders have to do something about it.

      This man appears prosperous to me. Therefore, with no evidence to the contrary, I would say that his mystical murder scheme appears to bring in good money. Much of this money will come from people who can scarcely afford it. He needs to be stopped.
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      • My point is that really there is no such thing as "organized religion" in hinduism. I request you to study my religion, Ray. Really and honestly. I think you will be surprised that Hinduism as a religion does not even exist in the accepted sense of the word "religion" as in the West.

        It is a wide set of spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices in the Indian subcontinent. It is also about faith, but not blind acceptance of some prophet or his diktats.

        I ask you, Ray, as a friend to please be a little more open to my point of view. It is very distressing to argue with a friend like this.

        I know for a fact that this kind of practice has no approval in my religion. But we don't have a committee of Elders who will lay down the law in our religion (for the lack of a better term). There is no "Pope" for Hinduism who will regularly make statements. That is why people find it so easy to target my faith and my culture. And by clubbing these fraudsters in the umbrella of religion, it is so easy to target the basis of existence of millions of people. I can truly say that your words are hurting me deeper than any abuse can.

        There are a lot of fakes who prey on innocents, but so do quacks and other medical frauds in the profession. Does that invalidate science or medicine as a whole?

        I am not saying that occult practitioners do not have to be stopped. I am merely asking you not to club them with mainstream faith.
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  3. Ray, I trust in your judgment and all I am asking is that we believers be left in peace to follow our faith without dragging us into painful and often hurtful debates and arguments of every wrong or immoral thing that is conducted in the name of our religion or faith. I was pointing out here that certain organizations have a vested interest in deliberately maligning Hinduism for political purposes here in India and that these rationalist groups are only acting in accord with that policy. Dragging in these "occult" practitioners and challenging them and later condemning religion as a whole appears to be a process of baiting in my book.

    We cannot be held morally responsible as a whole for the wrongs of others who profess the same faith same way as we cannot claim that just because one atheist happens to be a murderer, that means all atheists are potential criminals.

    I am not saying you have no right to criticize religion or faith or belief systems on the basis of your own views on the subject of God or religion, but I am asking you to discriminate between the different issues involved here and not club them under the umbrella of religion and hurt us unnecessarily.

    Sorry if I come across as a bit passionate, but I do have faith in God 🙂
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  4. Aboriginal witchdoctors, I think that's what they're called, had this thing where they would 'point the bone' at a victim who had done something wrong and that person would die, but not from the pointing of the bone itself but because he believed that it would cause his death. His own belief killed him.
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  5. Come come now, my friends. Every religion has its mystics. I am Christian Orthodox, for example (I'm actually an atheist, but I was baptized as an Orthodox), and I live in Romania. My grandparents stayed in a village where the priest was renowned in the area to have special enchanting powers.
    Every saturday you would see tens of cars from outside the region parked in front of the church. My grandmother, who is also very religious, went to the priest to have him help her get back her stolen bicycle. The priest said at the mass the next Sunday that he has put a curse on the one who stole grandma's bicycle. In the same evening, the bicycle "magically" appeared in front of our house."WOW – how great is the power of God, eh?"
    No. God had nothing to do with it. The one who stole the bicycle was so scared of the curse he returned it. That's it.
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