If there was ever a year in living memory that we could term ‘annus horribilis’, it would inarguably be 2020. No astrologer even remotely predicted this! In fact, most predictions were au contraire, on how wonderful this year would be. Sadly, there’s been immense loss of life and livelihood. But despite the gloom, what has truly bloomed and seen most of us Zoom (literally and figuratively) through the year, has been faith and hope. In faith, people have found their anchor in life, and in hope, the courage to face all odds.
Faith and hope are distinct yet complementary to each other. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past, while hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there can be no hope, and without hope there can be no faith.
Most of us may have heard the phrase ‘Hope is not a strategy’, – it’s true. Hope cannot be a strategy if it is based on illusion, delusion, fiction and false assumptions. Even so, hope is a critical part of achieving a strategy when based on what is possible… maybe not highly probable, but possible. When hope is based on real-world experience, knowledge and tangible and intangible data, it results in trust and faith, with which even what’s impossible can be achieved!
Messenger Of Hope: Thousands of years ago, when planet earth was in turmoil, Ahura Mazda promised the very soul of this earth a messenger of hope – Zarathushtra – the shining golden star. This messenger did not talk about salvation. Instead, he spoke about happiness. His message was neither about pleasing God nor about fearing God. His message was about exercising the right choices in life and attaining friendship with God. His message was not about sacrificing, instead his message was about giving.
He spoke about the twin mentalities and the choices we all must make using our sucha managha or ‘illuminated mind’ and adding that once we make a decision, we must stand responsible for its consequences. This messenger did not see the Creator as an angry, vengeful or punishing God. He saw the creator as loving and friendly towards all good creations. But if the Creator is all good and loving, why is there suffering in this world? Why is there pain and poverty? Why is there conflict and cruelty? To understand this, one needs to understand Zarathushtra’s vision of Ahura Mazda…
Perfecting Imperfection: In Ushtavaiti Gatha, Yasna 46.2 Zarathustra says, “Rafedhrem chagvaao hyat fryo fryaai daidit, Aakhso vangheush ashaa ishtim manangho,” meaning, ‘Take notice of it, Lord, offering the support which a friend should grant to a friend. Let me see the power of good thinking allied with truth!’
Here Zarathushtra does not see the Supreme Divinity as the Master or the Lord or as Father or someone to fear. He sees Ahura Mazda as a beloved friend to talk to in times of distress and to love Him and seek His support to perfect this imperfect world with friendship based on good thinking allied with Truth. These are distressing times, but the message of hope and faith is loud and clear. Indeed, now is the time to befriend Ahura Mazda, seek His friendship and work towards perfecting some imperfections in this world, starting with our own imperfections.
Choose Hope With Wisdom: The Pahlavi Dinkard (Book 3) asserts, “Be it known that, whatever wisdom and happiness exist now, are owing to the principles that give strength of wisdom and the power of happiness. Among these, by means of the proper power appertaining to the soul, Ohrmazd reaches into the heart of the acquirer of wisdom, and the power of obtaining the wishes, reaches into the heart of the acquirer of wisdom. And on that wisdom reaching into the mind, a path is found by the mind that is obedient to Ohrmazd and is pure, to see what relates to the invisible; and so, man becomes worthy of fresh and superior happiness.”
It is interesting to observe that acquisition of wisdom goes hand in hand with happiness. One who is wise is also happy. Divinity enters the heart of the acquirer of wisdom and makes that individual experience ‘fresh and superior happiness’.
Angra Mainyu – A State Of The Mind: Mainyu is variously translated as ‘Spirit’, an abstract energy or ‘Mind’ (Sanskrit mana or mind). Angra is viewed as destructive, chaotic, disorderly and inhibitive. One of the chief manifestations of Angra is destruction, which arises from anger, and anger is a state of the mind. Thus, Angra Mainyu is a destructive state of the mind which often manifests into anger and destruction of all that is good.
In Yasna 30.3 there is reference to Aka Mainyu. Aka is Avestan for ‘evil’ or ‘deficient’ and is the antithesis of Spenta which is good and bounteous. So, while the earlier Avestan texts refer to Angra Mainyu in the abstract, the later Middle Persian texts refer to a more personalized embodiment of evil named Ahriman. But, Angra Mainu or Ahriman, both are in eternal conflict with all that is good and bountiful.
Angra Mainyu Is Only A Shadow: Theologically, Angra Mainyu is limited to material space and time and at the end of time, Angra Mainyu will be finally defeated or simply disappear because Angra Mainyu is akin to a shadow. A shadow is simply the absence of reflected light. Shadow is not a standalone object. Scientifically speaking, shadow exists only in relationship to a light source, a disrupting object and an object in the background. In other words, if Truth is light and the mind is the disorderly obstructive object, what is seen in the background of life is the shadow of what we perceive as evil. But, let the light of truth shine through a mind attuned to that light (of truth) and there would be no obstruction and no shadow can be seen in the background of life. There would be just light! Little wonder that various Pahlavi texts view Ahriman as ‘nonexistent’!
Positive Assertions: Affirmations are not wishful thinking or empty hope. Daily repetition can reprogram one’s thinking patterns and over time, one actually begins to think and act differently. Affirmations help us challenge and overcome self-sabotaging negative thoughts.
Therefore, as we stand on the threshold of yet another new year, more than just hope, let us affirm that we shall stay attuned with our good mentality and reject the dark mentality. Let us reaffirm that evil has no real existence. Evil is simply the absence of good, just as darkness is absence of light. When we choose light, we automatically reject darkness and when we choose goodness, we automatically reject evil.
The Hymn of Hope (for 2021 and beyond)
The Zamyad Yasht is a litany to the spirit of this earth. The final paragraph of this hymn is most inspiring and hope-giving! It affirms that: Akem-Mano (evil mentality) smites, but Vohu-Mano (good mentality) shall smite it back; the Word of falsehood smites, but the Word of truth shall smite it back. Haurvatat (Khordad or perfection) and Ameretat (Amardad or eternity) shall smite both hunger and thirst: The evil-doing Angra Mainyu bows and flees, becoming powerless.
The Yasht does not speak of Angra Mainyu being destroyed, because, one can only destroy what exists. Angra bows (accepting defeat) and simply flees, just like darkness flees when light is brought in. In like manner, ultimately, evil mentality shall bow to the good mentality and flee and the world will know Frasho Kereti or a Perfect World.
May Haurvatat (Khordad or perfection) and Ameretat (Amardad or eternity) smite the pandemic! May the evil-doing novel coronavirus bow and flee, becoming powerless! May this hope be anchored in our faith and the right choices that we make towards perfecting this world!! Happy New Year!!!