I am absolutely against superstition; all kinds of superstitions must be destroyed – but this does not mean that I am superstitious about this destruction. It does not mean one should go about destroying them without a clear understanding of them, that without due consideration one should simply be bent upon breaking them. Then such arbitrary destruction will also become superstition.
Every age has its own superstitions. Remember, superstitions have their fashion too. In every age superstitions take on a new form. Man drops old superstitions and takes on new ones, but he never gets rid of them forever; he alters them and he changes them. But we never realize this.
For example, once upon a time there was a superstition that the man who applied tilak, the forehead mark, was considered religious. What has applying tilak to do with being religious? But that’s the way it was understood. And someone who didn’t apply the tilak was looked down upon as irreligious. This old superstition is no longer in vogue. Now we have new superstitions, equally as foolish. If a man wears a tie he is considered distinguished; otherwise he is considered ordinary. It is the same thing, there is no difference at all. The tie has replaced the tilak, while the man has remained the same. Where is there any difference?
The tie is no better than the tilak. Perhaps it’s even worse, because at least there was a meaning to applying the tilak. The tie has absolutely no meaning in this country, although it may have a meaning in some other country. A tie is useful in cold countries where it helps protect the throat against cold. In those countries, a man who cannot afford to cover his throat against the cold must obviously be a poor man. A man of means is able to cover his throat with the help of a necktie; however, when somebody puts a tie around his neck in a hot country such as this, then it seems a little scary – one wonders whether such a man is affluent or insane!
To be affluent does not mean one has to suffer from heat or wear this noose around his neck. A tie means a noose; a tie means a knot. Using it in a cold country makes sense, but in a hot country it is totally meaningless. And yet, a man who has an idea of dignity – the magistrate, the attorney, the politician – is out there with this noose around his neck! And these very people denounce the tilak wearers as superstitious! One can well ask them, “Isn’t wearing a necktie a superstition too? Which scientific system are you applying, that you have tied this tie around your neck?” But since the tie is a superstition of this age it is acceptable, and since the tilak is a superstition of the past, it is unacceptable.