Superstitiousness (mental element 23, Su)
Superstition interprets unjustifiably and wrongly. It is that which looks at something unwisely. It is wrong viewing and wrongly interpreting the nature of things. For example, we often interpret human life as perfect, pleasurable, pious, and sinless, despite obvious human suffering and imperfection. We do so because we are not willing to face the reality, the bitter truth of human imperfection. Many people further solidify their superstitiousness by wrongly interpreting this view of human imperfections as negativity or pessimism. Such people simply do not have a strong inclination for wisdom or for attaining perfection. By evading the reality we run the risk of arousing further superstitiousness.
Some people assume that there are gods and some imagine there are no gods. Some imagine that there is only one. Some speculate that God and self are one, eternal, infinite, permanent being. Some philosophies hold that self and the world are different, eternal and continuous, contracting and expanding ceaselessly. Some think that the world is finite. Others think it is infinite. Some rationalize that body and soul are one. Some say body and soul are different. Some reason that mind or consciousness is the real self or soul.
Some theorize that the self and world came into existence by chance. Some swear by the presumption that the self is nothing but a bundle of matter (created by father and mother), which vanishes after death. Some theorize that the soul is separate from the body and does not die when the body dies. Some interpret that the self is boundless space, infinite consciousness, and so on.
In all these ways, due to superstitiousness, some people speculate about the past, the future, and the nature of things. Such people presume, assume, suppose, believe, imagine, and wrongly interpret. They do so primarily due to lack of inclination for understanding ultimate reality. They do so due to lack of willingness to experientially realize the truth, due to lack of willingness to face reality, which in most cases includes harsh and unpleasant insights because it illuminates our imperfections. This is how the mental element of superstitiousness functions.
Superstitiousness generally manifests as mental rigidity, attachment to religious rites and rituals, conceit, strong beliefs, blind faith, fanaticism, extremism, and martyrdom. We must counteract it by becoming open-minded, non-resistant, and flexible. We must weaken it by developing the habit of meditation and contemplation, which should involve mindfulness, non-reaction, wise attention, rightful interpretation, and prudent justification. Most importantly, in order to eradicate superstitiousness it is necessary to generate the inclination to go beyond mere thought and experientially understand reality. It is also necessary to continuously relinquish spiritual experiences, not to get attached to them, or carried away by them, to continue to penetrate further and further and avoid interpreting limited spiritual experiences as ultimate realities.
Superstitiousness is a monster of unwholesomeness because our inherent tendency to cling to the sense of separate self is directly underlain by it. It is rooted in our greed to exist as a separate entity. Therefore it strengthens delusion and weakens the mental capacity for wisdom. It is by far the most blameworthy element in the generation of mental rust, rigidity, and perversion. It is by far the most reprehensible mental phenomenon, because of which there is endless conceptual proliferation and the consequent generation of rites and rituals, mythology, orthodoxies, philosophies, theories, -isms, and so on. Hence, it should be considered as a giant poisonous weed that has to be rooted out.
Without the eradication of superstitiousness, the process of mental purification cannot really begin. A large portion of this book is dedicated to providing tools for eradicating superstitiousness.
When superstitiousness is absent, it is easy to understand that nothing exists above and beyond phenomenality and conditionality. It is also easy to look at all experiences (including spiritual illuminations, awakenings, birth, death, and so on) as mere phenomena of body-mind-consciousness that arise and cease. It is so because through meditative experience you realize that there is no separate self, no power, no fixed entity that can control, suppress, or change the impermanent nature of all phenomena.
If you no longer vacillate about this impermanent and impersonal nature of reality, you will no longer evade the truth. You won’t be shaken any by imperfection, sin, uncertainty, or unknowingness, and thus you will have abandoned superstitiousness.