Evil Eye, Duradrishti or Nazar - a perspective based on an experience with Sri Sathya Sai Baba Part 1
“Warding off the evil eye” is a common belief and practice in many cultures and traditions. There are different rituals done by different people in order to achieve this. The rituals can be as simple as placing a black-dot on the cheek of the person to be protected from the ‘evil eye’ to as complex as an elaborate lamp-waving ceremony. To start off with, what is the ‘evil eye’ or Drishti (actually Duradrishti but is often shortened while speaking) as it is termed in Sanskrit and many Indian languages?
I shall come to that in due course.
But this much I shall say now that the concept is not unique to India. The "evil eye" is also known in Arabic as ʿayn al-ḥasūd (عين الحسود), in Hebrew as ʿayn ha-rʿa (עין הרע), in Turkish and Hindi as Nazar, in Greek as "το μάτι," in Spanish as mal de ojo and in Italian as malocchio. However, this concept does seem to be largely Asian in origin. At this point, I feel it would be best to start the narrative of an eye-opening and very interesting episode in my life with regards to this Duradrishti.
It was early in the June of 2009. As I was playing shuttle badminton and I jumped up to hit a smash, I landed wrongly and very hard on my right foot. My right ankle twisted badly and the next moment, I was not able to stand. However, it was the middle of a game which was poised very delicately between victory and defeat. The adrenaline rush in my blood was so high that it acted as a pain-killer for a while till I won a narrow victory. I was so happy. Somehow, an optimum amount of pain seems to bring out the best in sportspersons and today, I had an experience of the same.
However, as I lay down to sleep at night, the pain in my ankle became unbearable. I was all alone in the room that night and my room-mate and colleague was busy working on some audio files in the Radiosai studios at Prasanthi Nilayam. I desperately wanted to go to sleep because sleep has its own magical way of killing pain. But the pain was so terrible that it kept me awake almost for the whole night. I did not wake up the next day morning for I hardly slept to say that I woke up! Even as the clock struck 7am, I called up another colleague of mine and requested him to take me to the hospital.
Thus, on the morning of 8th June, 2009, I was taken to the orthopedic department of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi.
Doctor’s advice and Swami’s ‘advice’
I do not like to visit a doctor unless absolutely necessary (or I need to get an exemption from some activity that I don’t like!). Most of the times, I consult my Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) within my heart and proceed according to the reply I get. But this was an occasion where the pain was so much that I desperately wanted some relief.
The doctor, Dr.Prakash, ordered an X-ray. He looked at it and said,
“You are lucky! There are no fractures as far as I can see. But the fall has been pretty bad and unless you give your ankle absolute rest, it is not going to heal. So, I would suggest putting your foot in a cast for at least 4 weeks. That should give it ample rest to heal.”
I agreed to whatever he said and happily accepted a painkiller that he prescribed. I returned by afternoon to my room with my right ankle placed neatly in a cast. That same afternoon, as I slept after lunch, I had a dream.
In the dream, Swami was going to different places and I was going behind Him everywhere. My leg was in the cast but I did not allow that to hamper my movements. However, Swami was constantly avoiding me and I did not understand why. The dream ended on this unsatisfactory note.
I woke up, trying to make out what the dream might have meant because I am convinced that Swami coming in dreams are His own volition and those dreams are always true. However, as hard I tried, I could not make out what exactly the dream meant. I just felt that maybe Swami did not want to see me with my leg in a cast. And therefore, I decided, I would not allow Him to see me in a cast during the evening darshan sessions. That, I thought, was His advice to me.
Though I would sit on the steps stretching out my right leg, just as Swami came for darshan I would fold it and sit as though nothing was wrong with my leg. Since there were no events, programmes or festivals scheduled, I would not be required to do photography in the mandir. Thus, I thought, I would easily pass 4 weeks without Swami seeing my cast.
The ‘evil-eye’ theory
I was successful in keeping my Plaster of Paris cast as a secret from Swami. (Well, those who have known Baba know that nothing is ever a secret from Him! But, I got the satisfaction of keeping Him in the dark because He was keeping me in the dark about His knowledge of my injury!) I could not, however, keep everyone else in the dark about it. Many people noticed that I walked with a crutch and that I had my right leg in a cast.
It was Vedanarayan sir who accosted me one day when I was walking (read as hobbling) back after Darshan. He told me,
“Aravind, I don’t know whether you will believe me or not but this injury of your’s is because of Drishti. The evil-eye has been cast on you and it would be a good idea if you have a bath after mixing rock-salt in warm water.”
This might be a good place to stop and tell the readers about the concept of the evil-eye.
The evil eye is a look that is believed by many cultures to be able to cause injury or bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. The term also refers to the power attributed to certain persons of inflicting injury or bad luck by such an envious or ill-wishing look. The evil eye is usually given to others who remain unaware. (This is from Wikipedia)
Whenever a person does well - academically, professionally, artistically or in any other way - there are people who always regard him/her with jealousy, envy and sometimes hatred too. These vicious qualities are like acid. They harm the vessel in which they are stored, no doubt, but they also damage the vessel on to which they are cast! And so, when a person is subject to intense jealousy, envy, hatred or malice he/she suffers a small ‘negative’ - an injury, an unwarranted criticism, monetary loss etc. In order to ensure that such a negative does not happen, people do some ‘negative’ voluntarily - putting a small black mark, bathing in rock-salt water etc. (This is my understanding).
Dhristi is not a concept borrowed from superstitions, science explains it as the flow of negativity that affects the person or object towards which it is directed. Dhrishti Parihaaram is a measure to ward off the evil, cast by an evil eye. The remedy also depends upon the source from which the negative energy has been produced whether it is a product of witchcraft or black magic. (read all you need about the evil-eye in a well-rounded article by ‘Maddy’.)
This concept of the evil eye also warns one against showing off and being proud. It teaches one to be humble and not take the spotlight and shine it too much on to oneself. (It is a known fact in the world today that every celebrity pays a huge price for fame- from stealth pictures being taken to privacy invasion and stalking!) The evil-eye concept trains one to acknowledge that there is a greater power which is operating through every individual and therefore, there is nothing ‘great’ about an individual per say. He/she is simply an instrument of that great power (God/ Atma/ Spirit/ Energy). This understanding also forms the basis of humility for what is there for one to feel proud about?
Vedanarayan sir is someone whom I respect immensely. And so, when he told this to me, it set me thinking. However, after a while, I thought that different people perceive different things in different ways. This was his perception and I need not take it too seriously. Even as I was thinking thus, I was accosted by another of my teachers.
Prof.Bhagya is someone I admire a lot for his undying love of Swami and his strict adherence to His word. He tapped me on my shoulder and said,
“If you don’t mind Aravind, can I tell you something?”
“Definitely sir! Please go ahead...”
“I have a feeling that there are many who look at you with jealousy. This leg fracture of yours (he did not know that there was no fracture) is because of some evil eye I feel. Take some precaution against it.”
A strange decision is taken
Now, I was freaked! This could not be coincidence - two people whom I respect coming and telling me the same thing in quick succession. I hurried back to the studio and locked myself in my chamber. I sat there, talking to the Swami in my heart as to what I was to make of this and what action I had to take.
In the meanwhile, I came to know that from June 18th to June 21st, there were programmes scheduled in the mandir and I would have to photograph the events. How was I going to do it if my right leg was stuck in a cast? They say that tough circumstances need tough decisions. And I indeed made that decision.
To a normal reader, the decision might seem erratic, crazy and absolutely non-scientific. But a person who has known God will know that God is beyond reason. The heart rules over the head in such situations.
And thus, I plunged ahead into my crazy decision. I told the Swami in my heart,
“Swami, the doctor has advised me to have a cast for 4 weeks. But, in a few days time, I have to shoot a major event and programmes in mandir. How will I do that with my foot in a cast and without you seeing it (as I thought you expressed in my dream)? And now, I do not think it is a coincidence that two respected people have advised me against Drishti. So, what am suffering from is not a ‘medical’ problem but of an ‘ill-wishing look’. So, I think, I will go to the hospital and get my cast removed. Do you approve?”
With that, I cast chits - one with a “Yes” and another with a “No” on it. When I picked with a prayer in my heart, it said,
I decided to cast away the cast within a week of it being put without having the slightest idea of the shockingly strange sequence of events about to happen the next morning.
conclusion of the episode at
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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya