Celebrate Love and Friendship

The holy month of Meher begins on 12th February, 2023, and two days later (i.e. 14th February, 2023) it will be Valentine’s Day. Interestingly, the Avestan name for Meher Yazata is Mithra — the Divinity presiding over oaths, promise, contracts, bonds, friendship and love. Avestan Mithra finds an echo in the Sanskrit word ‘Mitra’, which means friend.

Valentine’s Day was earlier celebrated as a Christian feast in honour of Saint Valentine of Rome, known as the Patron Saint of love, because at a time when Rome had forbidden soldiers from getting married, he secretly solemnized the marriages of several soldiers in love who wanted to tie the knot.

What is love? Love is a series of varied emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, bonding and commitment. It involves care, bonding, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust. Love can vary in intensity and change over time. It could nurture happiness, exhilaration, fulfillment and joy or result in negative emotions like jealousy, anger and stress!

However, true love is whole and beyond suffering. In fact, the absence of love is suffering, for true love does not leave you wounded when it is lost. In fact, true love is never lost! Love has its roots in friendship and respect. True love with a best friend usually means that one feels at ease in witnessing each other. In most cases that ease seems to come from a sense of deep similarity.

The Zoroastrian Concept Of Love… In the Gatha, Zarathushtra addresses Mazda (Divine Wisdom) as his Friya (Sanskrit Priya) or beloved! Thus, to Zarathushtra, the essence of Divinity is Wisdom and Zarathustra lovingly worshiped Wisdom. In the Gatha, Zarathushtra chants: “Thee. Do I lovingly entreat for the best for Frashaoshtra!” (Yasna 28.8)

Zarathushtra believed that worship or prayer requires two key ingredients – ‘good purpose’ and ‘love’. He affirms this in Yasna 28.10: “For I know that words deriving from good purpose and from love are not to be left wanting by you”. In Yasna 70 he chants: “I will worship those who are Amesha Spenta and I will approach them with love.

Amesha Spenta are Ahura Mazda’s Divine attributes and Zarathushtra chants that he will lovingly imbibe these attributes! Zarathushtra believed that the purpose of life is to imbibe the good qualities of Ahura Mazda with love.

Indian Concept Of Love… As per an ancient Indian myth, love originated with a super-being called Purusha, who initially felt no craving, fear, or any desire to do anything at all. However, Brahma (the Creator), with a divine sword, split Purusha in two, separating the sky from earth, darkness from light, life from death and male from female. Each of these equal opposites set off passionately to reunite with the severed half. Humans – male and female, continue to seek unity with the severed half through the journey we call love.

Five Forms Of Love… In the Vedic tradition, love has five forms/stages – Kama or sensory craving; Shringara or joyful intimacy beyond sensory craving; Maitri or compassion; Bhakti or impersonal devotion; and Atma-Prema or unconditional self-love.

Though the first four stages of love are directed outward, when these are crossed, one comes full circle, and back to the self that exists at our very core. Love is about seeing ourselves in others and others in ourselves – the attainment of ‘oneness’ – the ultimate manifestation of love!

We find a similar theory in Plato’s dialogue, ‘The Symposium’, where the playwright, Aristophanes, suggests that the origins of love lie in a desire to complete ourselves by finding a long lost ‘other half’.

Christian Concept Of Love… In the Christian tradition, love is seen as bonding and comprises four forms  – Storge or the bonding that emanates from empathy towards another; Philia or the bond of friendship; Eros or the bond of romantic love; and Agape or the unconditional love or bonding with Divinity.

In the Bible, (Corinthians 13:4-8) love is glorified as, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” Corinthians 16:14 also affirms: “Let all that you do be done in love

Invoking Meher… As the Divinity presiding over love and friendship, invoking Meher Yazata helps the devotee build and sustain good relationships with one and all.

In the Zoroastrian tradition Meher is also referred to as Meher Davar or Judge who presides over the trial of the soul on the chahrom or fourth day after death. Meher is depicted as light or more specifically, sunlight. Therefore, the Khurshed and Meher Niyaish go hand in hand and are recommended as daily obligatory (Faraziyat) prayers.

The Meher Yasht is one of the longest of the Avesta Hymns. It embodies invocations for mercy and protection. Mithra, being the Divinity of heavenly light, is depicted as knower of the truth and one that sees everything. Meher is therefore the Divine Witness of truth and protector of oaths and promises including marriages.

Praying the Meher Niyaesh together with the Khurshed Niyaesh, or the much more elaborate Meher Yasht, is considered spiritually beneficial. It dispels the darkness of ignorance and untruth and strengthens the devotee with a high sense of truth, justice and commitment.

Meher Yazata is also the presiding deity over all rituals and ritual spaces and therefore Zoroastrian places of worship, especially in Iran are referred to as Dar-e-Meher or Darb-e-Meher, which means ‘House of Meher Yazata’ or the ‘House of Light’ (including the light of love and friendship).

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