One often hears Parsis say that they are proud of their religious roots. However, try asking the average Parsi in the street what it means to be a Zarathushtrian and you’re likely, at best, to hear the over-simplified and stereotyped message of, “Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”. Though these principles form the main pillars of the faith, there is more to the religion than the clichéd, “Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”.
There are many reasons (religious, historical, social and economic) to make one feel proud being a Zarathushti. However, what is most inspiring is the timeless and ever relevant message of Asho Zarathushtra… leading a positive and productive life. Over the centuries, his message continues to remain fresh and relevant. Zarathushtra had his first vision of Ahura Mazda on Roj Dae-pa-Meher, Mah Ardibehest. According to the Zarathusht Nameh, the Prophet asked Ahura Mazda the very first question, and in the answer that he received from Ahura Mazda, one may find an excellent summary of what is expected of a good Zarathushti.
The question was, “Who is the best person among all people in the world?”
Ahura Mazda answered, “He who walks on the path of Asha (Righteousness); is charitable; is just; reveres fire; water and is kind even to animals”.
For ten years, Zarathushtra received the Revelation from Ahura Mazda about the mysteries and secrets of this universe. Finally, the Amesha Spentas gave Zarathushtra the message as:
Bahaman – To look after and be kind to animals;
Ardibehest – To revere fire;
Shehrevar – To use metals wisely (not for destructive purposes);
Spendarmard: To revere the earth;
Khordad – To revere the waters; and
Amardad – To look after the plant kingdom.
In the message of the Holy Amesha Spentas one finds the timeless principles of ‘ecology’ and ‘living in harmony with nature’. Scientists advise us today to protect the rain forests, not to pollute the waters, etc… Zarathushtra taught us this thousands of years ago.
Though Humata, Hukhta, Havrashta (Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds) are three words, Zarathushtra’s teachings can be summarized in just one word – ‘Asha’ – which stands for
‘Truth’, ‘Righteousness’, ‘Divine Order’ (or living in harmony with the Laws of Nature) and ‘Purity’ (of thought, word and deed). The Colophon to Yasna asserts, “There is but one path, that of Asha. All other paths are false.” In the Hoshbam we pray, “Through the best righteousness, excellent righteousness, O Ahura Mazda, may we catch sight of Thee and may we come near Thee and attain Thy eternal friendship.” According to this prayer the devotee affirms at the very crack of dawn that he/she aspires to know and understand Ahura Mazda and the only way he/she can achieve this ultimate and sublime goal is by walking on the path of truth. And, in doing so, the devotee earns Ahura Mazda’s ‘friendship’.
This is another most appealing feature of our religion – that Ahura Mazda is not a God to be feared, but a Divinity that can be befriended. From a religious point of view, Parsis consider poverty, suffering and want as an affliction of evil. To remove poverty, want, disease and human suffering is not only a religious duty and part of Parsi culture, but an act of spiritual merit, depriving ‘evil’ of sustenance. Though many religious traditions, directly or indirectly, look down upon wealth and its acquisition, Parsis consider wealth to be fundamentally positive, provided it is acquired through righteous means and used for righteous purposes. A Zarathushtrian is not required to practice celibacy in order to attain salvation. In fact getting married at the appropriate time and raising a family is itself an act of spiritual merit. A Zarathushtrian is not required to renounce the world and lead an ascetic life – that would be considered a sin. Life is a gift of Ahura Mazda and is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
Here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy New Year! May 2018 go down in Parsi history as the year that our community came together, united and in one voice and worked towards resolving all concerns and vanquished all challenges!
Nine Positive Affirmations/Resolutions For 2018
Let us solemnly affirm and resolve, as a community, that we, the Parsi Zoroastrians shall, with immediate effect:
- Endeavour to build and work only on our strengths and not focus on our weaknesses, for it is only our strengths that can give us the energy to correct our weaknesses;
- Attempt to depend lesser on our community institutions and re-discover the joy and satisfaction of achieving things on our own steam. What comes to us by way of charity or inheritance often follows the age old trend of ‘easy come, easy go’. Let us know the value of what we have by earning it;
- Remain open to social and economic changes, but not at the cost of our values, ethos and culture or identity. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “you must open the windows of your mind, but you must not be swept off your feet by the breeze”;
- Endeavour to become more tolerant. Let us accept the fact that the very best among us hold either traditional or liberal views on matters of religion. If a fellow Parsi Zoroastrian is either a traditional or liberal by conviction or on account of his/her upbringing, let us respect that individual’s right to his/her opinion;
- Learn to respond to all issues – social, economic or religious with proper evaluation and a calm mind, instead of reacting impulsively and without reasoned thinking based on facts;
- Attempt to build on individual excellence at a community level instead of building institutions and organizations for personal aggrandizement;
- Attempt to stimulate our youth, rather than browbeat them, and help them to use all their abilities and experiences at optimum level;
- Harness our energy in fighting for the cause and not against each other;
- Remain positive and resolute, no matter what the circumstances and situations we may be surrounded with. Remember, that you finally come to believe anything you tell yourself often enough – even if it is not true.