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Ignorance Leads to Superstition

January 18, 2018

 

Recently a young Japanese professional golfer won the championship in the Memorial Tournament on June 1st. The 22-year-old Hideki Matsuyama had three consecutive birdies at the 18th hole of Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio. This golf club was designed by the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. His victory is owing to no other than his everyday training, which is only natural according to the law of cause and effect in Buddhism. One’s destiny is created by one’s own deeds. One’s good fortune is brought about by none other than his or her own effort. 

 

In the news report, a couple of expressions caught my attention. The reporter said, “Matsuyama birdied the 18th hole on the final day equaling him with the top, which forced the playoff. In the very 1st hole he plunked a female gallery with a wild second shot with the ball bouncing to a favorable direction. He made the better recovery and sank a par putt to win the hole and the tournament.” Until this part, it was OK, but after this, the reporter said, “Luck was on Hideki’s side,” and “That woman can be said to be the goddess of victory,” while the footage was showing Matsuyama cheerfully taking a commemorative photo with that woman. 

 

I think we often hear or see such remarks in news reports. While most people believe that only one’s effort can change one’s own destiny, they casually use such expressions as “This must be my fate,” ”I was unlucky,” “Luck was on his side,” or “The goddess of victory smiled upon him.” And nobody considers them odd. Here the depth of human delusion is revealed to me. Exactly as Śākyamuni Buddha said, even a person who seems to have a logical way of thinking is easily given to superstition. Let’s learn more about this through a story from Something You Forgot… Along the Way.

 

Once there was a couple blessed with three children, all of them girls. They were eager for a son as well. The wife became pregnant, but her husband told her, “It’s probably another girl.” Just as she was feeling pessimistic about her chances of giving birth to a boy, a man came calling and asked her which she thought it would be, a girl or a boy. 

 

“I have no idea,” she said. 

 

“Which are you hoping for?” he persisted. 

 

“I’d love to have a boy this time,” she said honestly. 

 

“Well, I have divine power” said the man, “and I am sorry to say that it is another girl.” 

 

Interested despite herself, she asked, “How do you know?” 

 

“I have special power. But if you pray, there is still time to change the sex of the child. If you like, I will offer prayers on your behalf.” 

 

“But ... that must be expensive.” 

 

“I seek only to help others; money is nothing to me. But each prayer must be accompanied by a thank offering of five thousand yen. Four or five prayers should do it.” 


The wife was only half convinced, but the amount of money was not great, and she knew how thrilled her husband would be with a son. And so, without telling anyone, she asked the shaman to perform the series of prayers. 

 

 

Finally the last day came. As usual, the husband set off for work, and then the shaman came by. But today the husband forgot something and retraced his steps, only to find a strange man laying strips of paper on his wife’s belly and chanting a spell with all his might. After listening silently to his wife’s abashed explanation, the man bowed to the shaman and excused himself. He went out and bought some bean-jam buns, removed the bean-jam, and replaced it with cow dung. When he came back, he invited the shaman to help himself. 

 

The shaman had feared a commotion, but at this display of hospitality he relaxed and bit off a big mouthful. When he realized that he had been made to eat cow dung, he sputtered with indignation. 

 

The man and his wife both laughed. “Looks like you don’t have power to see beneath the outer layer of a bun!” said the husband. 

 

The shaman fled, shamefaced. 

 

The heart of darkness is ever prey to silly superstitions.

 

(Something You Forgot... Along the Way, Shaman Who Ate Cow Dung)

 

Nobu’s View Point - Buddhist teacher, Nobuaki Kondo

 

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #41 | 2014, Ignorance Leads to Superstition

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