Myth: One keeps hearing about the advent of a world saviour, ‘Shah Bahram Varezavand’, coming in our midst and ushering the Golden Age. Is this a myth or legend? What is the authenticity of this prophecy?
Fact: All major religions of the world believe in the future advent of a saviour or saviours. The Hindus are anxiously awaiting the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of Kalaki, the Christians are praying for the second coming of Christ; the Muslims are expecting the advent of Imam Mehdi and the Jews the coming of their promised Messiah. Likewise, Zarathushtrians are expecting the advent of Bahram (Avestan Verethragnat or Victorious) Varezavand (Avestan Haithyavarez or working for Truth).
According to Yasna 29 when the forces of evil became very powerful, the spirit of the earth appealed to Ahura Mazda for a saviour. That saviour was Prophet Zarathushtra. References to the next Raenidar (saviour) are found in Pahlavi works such as Zand-i Vohuman Yasna and Jamaspi. There are also references in the Pazend Setayesh such as Chithrem Buyat and the Nam-i-Khaavar.
Looking into the future is always a tricky task. Clairvoyants often catch only glimpses of the total reality. The image, therefore, is often hazy. When this writer was still in college he had heard elders say that Bahram Varzavand will be in our midst before the turn of the millennium. It is now eighteen years since the millennium has changed and those who made the prophesy during the seventies and eighties have now pushed the date to beyond the year 2024. Whether the Raenidar will come before or after the year 2024, till then, let each one of us be a Varezavand or Avestan Haithyavarez or one “working for Truth” and become Bahram or Avestan Verethragnat or victorious in our own way to make this world a better place to live in.
Myth: Our religion is so simple and timeless. Manashi, Gavashni and Kunashni or Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds sums up the message of Zarathushtra as stated in the Gatha. Why do we even need to know anything more than this?
Fact: To begin with, ‘Manashni, Gavashni and Kunashni’ are not Avestan terms – these are Pazand terms and simply mean thought, word and deed without ‘good’ as the prefix. ‘Hu-mata, Hu-Kata and Hu-Vrashta’ are Avestan terms with Hu meaning good. But, even Hu-mata, Hu-Kata and Hu-Vrashta are not mentioned in the Gathas! The Gathas speak mainly of Asha (Truth) and Ushta (Happiness) which can be attained by walking the path of Asha or Truth and Righteousness.
Another question worth asking is: who is to determine what is good?
Most of the major religions of this world have a fundamental “philosophy” or “ethic of living” which its followers believe and practice. For example, one associates Jainism with “self-denial” and Ahimsa (non-violence), Buddhism with “compassion”, Christianity with “love and forgiveness” and Islam with “total submission (to the Will of Allah)”. What can Zarathushtrianism be associated with? Perhaps, it can be associated with the spirit of “giving” – remember the epithet, “Parsi, thy name is charity”? Perhaps it can be associated with “happiness” – remember the Gathic precept, “Happiness comes to him who seeks happiness for others”? Perhaps it can be associated with the Zarathushtrian ethic of living in harmony with the environment. Perhaps it can be associated with the Zarathushtrian philosophy of Asha which requires all of us to live righteous lives in harmony with the “Divine Order”.
Zarathushtrianism can be best associated with Rathaeshtari – where each individual, male or female, young or old, is required to be a spiritual soldier in the battle between the forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. A good Zarathushti is obviously a soldier on the good side of Nature and constantly waging a spiritual battle against the forces of evil. The question arises, what are these evils? Are they real or imaginary? Physical or spiritual? Fortunately, there is considerable articulation in the Zarathushtrian texts, as well as the oral tradition regarding the nature of evil and various forms of evil.
Evil at a PHYSICAL level manifests itself in various forms of pollution, filth and diseases. Wherever there is any form of physical pollution, a good Zarathushti attempts to remove it. This probably explains the average Parsi’s obsession with personal hygiene and a clean environment at home. For a Zarathushtrian, cleanliness is not just next to godliness, but a part of godliness itself. A Zarathushtrian believes that wherever there is cleanliness or an environment free of pollution, there is godliness or an environment charged with good energies, which promote health, happiness, peace and prosperity.
At an ETHICAL level, evil manifests itself in the form of human vices. Zarathushtrian texts have looked upon vices like anger, jealousy, greed, hatred, and laziness as demons, which have to be controlled and ultimately vanquished. Every Zarathushti is required to recognize these demons that play havoc with his/her day-to-day life and attempt to keep them at bay.
At a SOCIAL level, evil manifests itself in the form of ignorance, poverty, hunger and social injustice. This probably explains why there is cent per cent literacy among the Parsis. Acquisition of knowledge or imparting knowledge is seen as a virtue, and ignorance is once again regarded as a demon which needs to be destroyed.
This, in our opinion, encompasses the spirit of being and living the life of a good Zarathushti. Each one of us (I reiterate – each one of us) has a role to play at the micro-level in the universal battle being fought at a macro level. Our duties and paths have been well articulated. All we need to do is to recognize them and follow them.
“Religion”, from a Zarathushtrian pont of view, has to be lived every moment of one’s life. It is not to be used like a pocket watch, which may be pulled out, as and when needed. Rather, religion should be a part of everyday life. The religion of Zarathushtra is every Zarathushti’s link with Divinity. It is a religion that is, at once, positive and friendly. It does not prescribe salvation through celibacy, poverty, self-denial and generally inflicting pain and punishment on oneself. Rather, it encourages leading a happy and prosperous worldly life within the framework of Asha (i.e.Truth, Righteousness, Harmony and Order).
It is a religion of happiness. It is a religion promoting prosperity. It is a religion encouraging creativity. But most important of all, it is a religion that is positive. Perhaps, in addition to “Parsi, thy name is charity”, the epithet, “Parsi, thy name is being positive” would also be quite apt!
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