‘Hamazor’ is a ritual handshake, a ritual that unites two persons in prayers symbolizing unanimity, determination, solidarity and resoluteness of purpose. It promotes spiritual synergy. The word ‘Hamazor’ is a compound of two words, ‘Hama’ meaning in unison or all together, and ‘Zor’ meaning strength. There is strength in unity. Today, our community is divided into factions of isms and doxies. Our dwindling community needs that we promote ‘Hamazor’ amongst us. Blindly following these isms, doxies, ideologies and idiosyncrasies clamps down on intelligence and narrows our vision, leading to an unyielding obstinacy which leads to religious rigidity and fundamentalism. Rabid fundamentalism – which is neither representative of the true essence of our religion, nor progressive or beneficial for the community as a whole or the individuals.
Our Parsi community is divided in many ways. We have the orthodox, we have the heterodox, we have the reformists (mockingly called deformists by the orthodox), and then there are the fake orthodox known as the ‘dhongidox’! We also have reformists who claim that in reality they are the true orthodox because they follow the teachings of Zarathushtra that have come down to us in His own words in Gathas, and not some later day mumbo-jumbo! But, we end up missing the woods for the trees when we are more concerned about the traditional and the ritual nitty-gritty of our religion instead of focusing on the real problem that is starkly facing us – the continuance of our community, our very survival. Now is the time for Hamazor – the strengthening handshake between both factions. Today our antagonism seems to have birthed enmity. Let us unite as brothers in the common cause and focus on the problem looming before us.
What is the problem looming before us that is breaking us apart? Each faction feels that their approach to Zoroastrianism is the true path and the only path. One thinks of it as being exclusively for those who are born of both the Parsi, Zoroastrian parents, and the subject of conversion is an anathema to them. The other believes that it is a universal religion, open to all. Here we fall in the quicksand. The more a reformist argues in favour of conversion or acceptance of the mixed marriage, the more the orthodox will slip into the quagmire of rigidity. And this is true the other way round too. We fail to understand that when discussing philosophies and religions there are no absolutes. No one is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. It is a matter of perception, opinion and interpretation. The result is that we become judgmental about our opponent (?) and our opponent hits back with the same vehemence and, like in the nursery rhyme, “We all fall down.” Neither wins. The community loses.
The problem is that we approach religion not in its holisitic essence, but in parts. Each faction clings to a part and none thinks of the whole. Religion consists of two distinct parts – first – its essence, as taught by the Prophet it founder; and second – it’s rituals. Reformists believe implicitly in the essence of the religion, the lessons we learn from the Songs of Zarathustra, our Gathas, ignoring traditions and rituals that entails the religion. The orthodox or the traditionalists have implicit faith in rituals and traditions, one of the traditions being the four promises we are supposed to have made to King Jadi Rana, in return for the refuge he gave us in his domain. Here the question arises whether promises made to Jadi Rana, in a desperate situation should take precedence over the universal teachings of the Gathas. In fact, one of our head priests, has even lamented that the Parsis’ inclination towards the Gathas is leading them astray.
As mentioned, each faction clings to a part, and none to the whole. It is only when we view Zoroastrianism in all its holistic glory comprising the essence and the rituals, that we see the vast panorama of its universality and greatness. The teachings of Asho Zarathushtra are made more beautiful by adornments in form of the rituals emphasizing Asa (Asha), the truth, the purity, and the cleanliness of body, mind and soul, freedom from soul sapping rigors and fasts and self-flagellation. No form of sadistic or masochistic
mea culpaism. That is the beauty of Zoroastrianism!
From a population of nearly two lakhs a century and a half ago, we have dwindled down to about fifty-seven thousand Parsis, with a majority of the populace aged over fifty years. At this rate, we will be down to about thirty thousand in a decade or so. Many Parsis refuse to accept this eventuality, believing that some sort of miracle will save this tragedy from occurring. Others believe that Parsis will become extinct but Zoroastrianism will continue elsewhere in Europe and the Americas, as it has already started flourishing there. But without the Parsis, with their knowledge of all the rites, rituals and traditions, without the Parsipanu that sets us apart, the lustre we bring to Zoroastrianism will be lost.
Let us all unite in one cohesive force with a focus on survival. Thirteen hundred years ago one such group came together to ensure that their ancient faith would survive the Islamic onslaught. This is how we came to the benign shores of the West coast of India. Here we flourished and so did our faith, which has survived with all its wisdom and glory. Today, the threat to our survival does not come from our liberal country or any other religion, the threat comes from within, from us. What are we going to do about it?
Parsi Times, as the most-read Parsi publicaction, with its mind open to all the various factions and having good relations with most of them, can do a sterling service to the community and our faith by bringing them on a single platform, and without any rancor, help work out a floor plan to adjust and iron out the creases in the fabric of our community. It will be a difficult task but posterity will look upon such an endeavour gratefully.
Hamazor vesh kerfe bim – May we all be united in strength and in good deeds!