Buri nazar is the Punjabi term meaning "Evil Eye." Most of us know what this is but do we understand its significance and the thought process behind it? Why is it important now that modern techonology has advanced, along with our minds and understanding of the universe.
Historically, buri nazar was the term applied to the perceived ability to cause injury or death through black magic, negative energy, etc. The concept is rooted in the fear of envy (ironically one of the '7 deadly sins in Christianity). If we think about this in the context of ancient life, it's easy to understand why people would feel that way. Given the religious doctrines in history and the demand for people to treat each other respectfully, it's easy to see why there would need to be a label placed on negativity that had no place in a productive society.
Throughout time it has been proven by many types of science that negative forces do adversely affect people. One example would be how you are treated in life. If you are constantly told you're worthless, you don't matter, you should die then you could eventually begin to believe this. Thus the evil eye has done it's work on you and can cause physical harm. Even doctors will tell you that keeping a positive spirit promotes healing. You literally invite bad health or death by drowning in your own sorry. If others enable you to drown or look at you like you're not doing well, that affects you in small ways that add up.
Take a look at your average celebrity. They are worshipped by people from all walks of life but also have haters. So when something bad happens, the haters often find joy in watching their suffering. One could say the suffering is a result of the evil eye the haters cast to begin with.
While the evil eye belief is prevalent in India, many other cultures also believe in it - 186 cultures to be exact! One example from the non-desi world, in Judaism it's called "ayin ha-ra."
One of the studies I read on this specifically attributed the "environment for envy" to rich people who have things and the poor people who do not. Hence the poor people look upon the rich people and envy all the perceived good things in the rich person's life. This invites negative energy. In all 186 cultures that believe in the evil eye, there was found to be a connection to an imbalance of wealth. It makes sense to me as I know from personal experience. I was told not to wear my gold out of the house, cover my ears when I wore my gold earrings so no one would snatch them and if I left anything uncovered that might be envied, my MIL put a black dot behind my ear to ward off the evil eye. A custom I felt helped us bond.
I couldn't help but relate to this document (the first one on the list) as it talked about communities who most adhered to the evil-eye beliefs being pastoral and agricultural. In past times it was the farmers who owned all the land and the priests who made all the money (though I would think priests would have more to be hated for than just wealth considering they openly reprimand those who do 'evil.') In Punjab there is still the underlying concept that farmers are the ones owning the big houses and lots of land (something seen as wealth because of the price of real estate these days). More men from villages are believed to be sent abroad and sending wealth back home. Obviously agriculture is no longer a lucrative business like it used to be, but I see where the tradition comes from.
In my own life I have noticed the evil eye work on many occasions. In India, if your friends and family scoff at your weight, you being not eating as much or engaging in dieting to stop the negative attention. This type of thing happens everywhere. It's prevalent in areas of our life that we're not even aware of. Like the concept of keeping up with the Jones'. You want what others have and you push yourself to try and get it so you can be as good as you perceive them to be. This causes injury to you. It may also cause them to stop doing some things so they can avoid this kind of negative attention from you. This makes them less productive and affects their lives.
It's a filter effect. In all of time there's been no way to stop it. People have always envied others. They've always felt cheated for not being equal, not having what others have. And I do believe it always comes from wealth. A poor villager is much less inclined to be jealous of his neighbor who had 1 more tomato than he had but let that neighbor win the lottery and the perceptions change. The evil eye comes about when the imbalance of wealth becomes to great for the watcher (not receiver) to bear.
Of course, being jealous of wealth is not the only reason for someone to give you the evil eye. They could be just as envious of your societal status, your children, your beauty, your car, your happiness. It is the power of thought and speech that causes suffering. This is something I think many of us still understand today. Words hurt. Bad thoughts (about yourself) damage you. If someone says negative things to you or changes your way of thinking to the negative then you have suffered the evil eye.
According to The Evil Eye Store, someone could unintentionally bring the evil eye upon you by looking at you wrong. They could intentionally bring the evil eye upon you by purposely giving you an evil stare or words. The third type is hidden evil and is said to be the most deadly. According to legend, this evil eye saw all the wickedness in the world.
What are your thoughts on the evil eye?
How do your Indian in-laws feel about the evil eye?
Boris Gershman, American University; The Economic Origins of the Evil Eye Belief
My Jewish Journal: Evil Eye in Judaism
Gallup Pakistan: Views on Evil Eye & Magic; 3 out of 4 Believe in Both or at least in One of Them
Divine Brahmanda: How to Take Away Kann Drishti or Buri Nazar or Evil Eye
Lucky Charm USA: What is the Evil Eye?
Some Evil Eye Traditions You Might Find Interesting:
5 Traditional Etiquettes
Encyclopedia Britannica: Evil Eye