Khordad – In Pursuit Of Excellence!

15th October, 2023, (tomorrow), marks the first day (Roj Hormuzd) of the holy month of Khordad. The third month of the Zoroastrian calendar, Khordad ushers blessings of purity and perfection. Khordad or Avestan Haurvataat is an Amesha Spenta presiding over the purifying waters; it also embodies the quality of excellence and wholesomeness. Khordaad and Ameredaad (Avestan Haurvataat and Ameretaat) are twin concepts representing the goal of human life, which is continuous pursuit of excellence!

While most scholars would aver that Khordad is about the goal of perfection in a perfecting world; one could also consider the idea of perfection as our ideal and goal and the pursuit of excellence as the path that leads to that goal. We should not confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence is human openness to being wrong, while perfection is about always trying to be right. The pursuit of perfection is usually impractical and puts unnecessary stress on the individual to be flawless or pretend to be flawless, even while knowing that all of us – saints or sinners – are flawed.

People who strive for excellence accept that mistakes are inevitable and value what they learn from them. They do not let mistakes define them. But perfectionists see mistakes as evidence of their inadequacy or inferiority. They expect themselves to know everything, to out-perform everyone, to always know the right thing to do or say, to be above criticism, and never let anyone down. This is not only unrealistic, but also a heavy burden to carry.

Excellence is about having high standards which encourage us to make improvements, solve problems and do quality work. High standards may be difficult to achieve, but they are attainable. These are what we can reasonably achieve with practice and persistence. It’s important to stay focused on the process (e.g., the practice of Asha) and not the outcome. Give every endeavour in life your very best. If that leads to failure, be humbled and learn from that failure. If it leads to success, remain humble and set your eyes on the next higher goal. This essentially would be the essence of Khordad in personal life.

In the Khordad YashtKhordad is referred to as ‘the Lord of the coming of the season at its proper time’. In other words, Khordad is responsible for the delicate ecological balance and the precision of the changing seasons. In the Khordad Yasht we pray:

Mraot Ahurō Mazdāo Spitamāi Zarathushtrāi azem dadhām Haurvatātō narām ashaonām avāoscha, rafnāoscha baoshanāoscha, khvītāoscha; avōi fracha yaokhmaide, yō te jasāiti ameshanām spentanām, yatha jasāiti ameshanām spentanām vohū manō, ashem vahishtem, khshathrem vairīm, spentām ārmaitīm, haurvatāoscha ameretatāoscha”! 

This means: “The Creator, Ahura Mazda told Spitamān Zarathushtra that He created Khordād for happiness and joy and to help righteous men, and one may invoke Khordād and Amardād for help, just as one would the other Ameshā SpentasBahman, Ardibehesht, Sheherevar and Spandārmad.”

What this means is pursuit of excellence leads to happiness and it is by invoking Bahman (good mind) with Ardibehest (truth and righteousness) as also with Sheherevar (strength and power) and Spandārmad (piety and humility) that Khordad or excellence can be achieved and we can find joy!

The Khordad Yasht also affirms that one who invokes the Holy name of Khordad would not only be protected against attacks from the forces of evil, but also smite them. This Yasht also lays great emphasis on chanting Avesta manthra in order to attain purity and perfection. However, what one prays must be matched equally with good actions. Every Zoroastrian is expected to adhere to the principle of Asha which embodies truth, righteousness and Divine Order and Khordad or excellence with purity can be attained only through Asha.

Excellence With Asha

The Zoroastrian way of life and living is the pursuit of excellence through the practice of Asha, which is variously translated as truth, righteous conduct and living in sync with the Divine Order of this universe. Zoroastrian scriptures indicate various ways in which a Zoroastrians may live in harmony with fellow humans. In Yasna 12:9, the very first principle of righteous conduct is to put an end to all discord. The Shayest ne-shayest (20:6) recommends fulfillment of three important duties – to make an enemy a friend; to make a wicked person righteous; and to make an ignorant person wise.

To make an opponent or enemy a friend is not easy. However, experience tells us that even those opposed to us will respect us, even if silently or grudgingly, observing the manner in which we conduct our life. It would be even more difficult to make a wicked person righteous but this does not mean that we do not even attempt to shine the light of Asha in order to dispel the darkness of Angra. After all, Angra Mainyu is nothing but the darkness of evil mentality. However, while darkness has no existence of its own, light has an existence. Darkness is simply the absence of light. The antidote for Angra Mainyu (dark mentality) is Spenta Mainyu (illumined mentality) and which leads us to the final duty of making an ignorant person wise, through the light of knowledge and practice of Asha.

It is ultimately all about living in friendship and harmony in a world that is so riddled with human conflict and disagreement. A true Zoroastrian is not only expected to end all disagreement and discord but also to live in harmony with others.

In the Afrin-e-Gahambar we are exhorted to be in Hamazor (unity) with righteous persons of all the seven regions. By enriching each other (with our knowledge and other resources) and living in harmony, virtue is accumulated in the treasury of this universe and blessings are showered and redistributed among all righteous human beings. Rightly does Yasna 43:1 affirm: ‘Happiness comes to him who seeks happiness for others’.

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