Most communities see us as prosperous. But, that’s not entirely true. We have pockets of affluence, but, also larger pockets of want and mediocrity. We are seen as a fun-loving community with a great sense of humour. However, there are some who prefer to and destroy, rather than reason and nurture.
As a community, what is it that we need the most? Some say, “More houses for young couples”, others say “reservations of seats in medical and engineering colleges”. The moot question is, why is our prosperity on the downslide? Is it lack of enterprise? Has that ‘fire in our belly’ been snuffed out? Have our charities made us lazy? Sociologists may give us a hundred more reasons. However, to my mind prosperity can only come where there is progress, and progress is possible only if there is understanding and unity. Therefore, to my mind, what we need most is ‘Understanding and Unity’.
Peace is an outcome of harmony characterized by the lack of violence (be it in thought, word or deed). Peace comes from ‘freedom from fear’ and the absence of hostility and vengeance. But, above all else, peace requires sincere and repeated attempts at reconciliation. Unfortunately, we continue to divide ourselves within the community over virtually everything – be it efforts to revive or sustain our community institutions or even a once in two years cultural event. As a community, we seem to prefer meeting each other in the courts of law rather that sitting across a community table (over mint tea and bhakhra, if you please) and finding solutions.
Hamā-zor – Strength that comes from unity
In the Zoroastrian tradition there is a beautiful term – ‘Hamā-zor’ which captures the spirit of peace, harmony and unity. ‘Hama’ means ‘together’ and ‘Zor’ means strength. It literally means: Strength that comes from togetherness or unity.
In the Āfrin-ī-Gāhambār we pray, “Hamā-zor bād vehāne haft-keshvar zamīn… emān avā eshān, eshān avā emān, hamā-zor ham-baher, ham-yāred,” which means, “May we all cooperate with the righteous men of the seven regions (the whole world)…. May we be one with them and may they be one with us. May we all benefit and help one another.”
During the Jashan ceremony, Zoroastrian priests offer a special handshake to each other reciting, “Hamāzor hamā asho bed,” or “May we be united in spiritual strength, may we all be righteous in our actions.”
The Achaemenian Model
There was a time, five centuries before the birth of the Christ when Persian Zoroastrians ruled over more than half the known world of that period. They were the first to envision the concept of a world empire. How did they do that? Cyrus the Great who founded the Achaemenian Empire was a skillful monarch. He was known for his policy of tolerance towards countries he conquered, he declared the first Charter of Human Rights. Etched on a clay cylinder, this charter enshrined Cyrus’ policies on freedom and tolerance. His respect for the people made Cyrus popular and made it easier for him to create a peaceful and stable empire.
Building on what Cyrus the Great had achieved, Darius divided the Persian Empire into several provinces to make it easier to govern. He appointed governors called ‘satrap’ to carry out his orders in each province and to collect taxes. Darius also started use of a Royal Road that allowed messages, soldiers, and mail to be sent quickly across the empire. He promoted trade and business and established a law code.
The Achaemenians were not only tolerant of different cultures and creed but, even celebrated the rich diversity of their kingdom every year during the spring festival at Persepolis. This spring capital was the United Nations Organization (UNO) of that period.
Live The Religion
Religion is a way of life and is meant to show us the path. Unfortunately, today, as a community, we talk about religion, argue about religion, fight for the religion and some are even ready to die for the religion…. We are ready to do anything and everything except, live for the religion or live on the path that our religion shows us!
Darius the Great and Xerxes the Great, both believed in and worshipped Ahura Mazda but, they were also tolerant and respectful of other belief systems. They built fire alters, but, focused far more on socio-economic development, building roads, highways, bridges, dams, caravansaries and systems for better communications.
The Lessons Of History
What is the lesson of history from all this for all of us? It was Peace that the Achaemenians cherished, valued and emulated that led to Progress and it was Progress that led to Prosperity. Therefore, let us endeavour to promote peace tolerance and understanding. Let us endeavour to build and work on our strengths and try to ignore our weaknesses for it is only our strengths that can give us the energy to correct our weaknesses.
As a community, let us remain open to social and economic changes, but not at the cost of our values, ethos, culture or identity. As Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “You must open the windows of your mind, but you must not be swept off your feet by the breeze”.
But, above all else, let us endeavour to become more tolerant. Let us accept the fact that the very best among us hold either traditional or liberal views. 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. An orthodox (Latin orthodoxa) is simply a ‘believer’ and a reformist is not a ‘deformist’!
In the courts the only ones who prosper are the lawyers. No matter which side wins, the community collectively stands a loser. It’s great to see Parsis in the National media, week after week. However, nine out of ten times they are in the media for all the wrong reasons, arguing, quarrelling, protesting and portraying a very sorry image.
As a community we should respond to all issues, social, economic or religious with proper evaluation and a calm mind, instead of reacting impulsively and without adequate thinking. Instead of being Petty, Pretentious and Partial let us all, the orthodox and reformist together, strive for Peace, Progress & Prosperity!