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RELIGION OF ZARATHUSHTRA IS FOR ALL MANKIND
Cyrus P Mehta
In the twenties and thirties of the 20th century, it was a common belief within the Parsi community that "A Parsi is a Zoroastrian and a Zoroastrian is a Parsi." At that time most Parsi boys and girls attended Parsi Schools. The community lived in large numbers in towns like Bombay, Surat, Navsari, Karachi and a few others. As such it was natural for it to accept the belief quoted above.
Time has marched on since those days. The Parsi community now lives in smaller scattered groups in the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and other counties. It is anxious to preserve its traditional way of life and the communal-cum-religious identity.
With the passage of time, interfaith marriages have increased within the community. So far no concrete proposals have been considered as to how the non-Zoroastrian spouses and their children can be partially or fully integrated within the communal fold.
One of the main reasons why this difficulty has arisen is due to the fact that a large section of the community has not understood or is unwilling to accept the basic fact that Prophets address their messages to the whole of mankind and not necessarily to a group of people or a community. Once this fact is understood and accepted, the community will be in a much better position to accept certain socio-religious changes within the communal structure.
As to how this can be brought about is a matter for consideration by local and larger Zoroastrian bodies in different parts of the world. It may be that no single course of action will be possible because of cultural and political circumstances prevailing in different countries.
The purpose of this article is mainly to present the scriptural evidence on the subject matter under consideration for the benefit of the Parsi community.
Below is a list of passages from GATHAS and other Zoroastrian scriptures and prayers, together with the comments of scholars of the Zoroastrian religion, on the above-mentioned subject.
Gatha Ahunavati 4.3 (Yasna 31.3)
What Thou hast through the Inner Fire disclosed
The Bliss through Asha promised to us all,
The Law Divine for the discerning soul; --
All that to us, Mazda clear explain,
In words of inspiration from Thy mouth,
To help us to convert all living men.
(Dr. I.J.S. Taraporewala’s translation)
Commenting on the above verse, Prof. A.V. Jackson wrote:-
"Zoroaster’s religion was active and vigorous, seeking and gaining converts, as we see from many passages in the Gathas. ("A Hymn of Zarathushtra – Yasna 31" by Jackson. Page 27)
About the same verse, Prof. Lawrence Mills wrote:-
"And he (Zarathushtra) declares that this is the doctrine which should be proclaimed for the conversion of mankind. Here we observe that Zarathushtrian Mazda-worship was aggressive and missionary in its spirit, and in a proselytising sense by no means indifferent to the final destiny of the Gentile World. (Sacred Books of the East "Vol.XXX1, The Zend Avesta, Part III, Page 37)
Gatha Ushtavaiti 3.1 (Yasna 45.1)
"Now will I speak; give ear and mind as well, All ye who come from near and far to learn, Remember well these clear Truths, I teach;-- Never again shall Evil Teachers seek Life to destroy, nor offer unto dupes with specious words the pleasant paths of wrong."
(Dr. I.J.S. Taraporewala’s translation)
Here Zarathushtra clearly gives out his message to people, not only to Iranians but also to those who may have come from distant lands and were not Iranians.
Commenting on this verse, Prof. Wilhelm Geiger wrote:-
"The conclusion that Ahura Mazda himself sent Zarathushtra into this world for the purpose of announcing the new doctrine to mankind, and that God stands always by his side as his adviser or guide, comes out prominently in the Gathas. The Prophet directly expresses it in Yasna 45.5 when he says that God communicated to him the Word which is the best for man."
("Zarathushtra in the Gathas", Dastur Dorab P. Sanjana’s translation, Page 21)
"And I will teach what was revealed to me
In words of the Most Holy – best to hear;
Those who obey them truly in their hearts,
To these shall come Perfect Immortal Life;
And Vohu Man’ shall lead them on to deeds
Of Love; and thus may reach Ahura’s Light."
(Dr. J. S. Taraporewala’s translation)
In detailing the life of prophet Zarathushtra,
late Dr. M.N. Dhalla writes:-
"He was burning with zeal to embark upon his great mission. He was the chosen of Mazda, who speaks with sublime satisfaction that Zarathushtra alone among mankind had heard his divine commands and having heard them was now going to make them heard among all to mankind…….He tells Mazda that he will lead mankind on the path of righteousness and sing untiringly his praise all around as long as his life is blessed with power and strength. He speaks of his faith in terms of universal religion."
"History of Zoroastrianism" Dastur Dr. M.N. Dhalla. Page 17)
Yasna Ha 8.7
"I who am Zarathushtra will make the heads of the houses, the villages, province and country to follow and think about this world religion, thinking in conformity with, speaking in conformity with and acting in conformity with this religion as revealed to Zarathushtra by Ahura Mazda."
("Khordeh Avesta Ba Maini" Ervad K.E. Kanga Page 25. English translation T.R. Sethna vide his book "Yasna" pages 33 & 34)
Haptan Yasht (Karda 8.6)
"We revere the flowing waters, we revere the flight of birds, we revere the return of priests who go to remote countries to promote righteousness. We revere all the eternal holy laws."
("Yashts by T.R. Sethna Pages 21 & 23)
Vendidad, (Fargard 19.26)
"Zarthushtra asked Ahura Mazda, ‘O the all-knowing Ahura Mazda, should I guide righteous men, should I guide righteous women, should I guide irreligious men, worshippers of evil and sinners that spoil the land, the flowing waters and spoil the increase of corn and other things of value in general created by Ahura Mazda? Then spoke Ahura Mazda ‘You should guide, O righteous Zarathushtra’."
(Vendidad in Gujarati by Ervad K.E. Kanga. 3rd Edition Page 312; Vendidad in English by T.R. Sethna. Page 144)
From all the foregoing passages, it is clear that it was Zarathushtra’s intention that his message was not only for Iran but also for other countries. This intention was understood and carried out by his followers, during the Avestan Period (from about 800 B.C. to about 200 A.D.) and major part of Pahlavi Period (from the 3rd to the 9th century).
In a book called "Shikand Gumanik Vajar" written during Pahlavi Period, it is mentioned that after King Vistasp (also known as Gushtasp) accepted the Faith of Zarathushtra, ordered his sons Aspandiar, Zarfar (Zarir) and other Royal sons to spread the message as far as Arum in the west and to Hindustan in the east.
(Source:-Sacred Book of the East Volume 24, Pahlavi Texts Part III Page 171.)
Commenting on this information, Prof. Jackson wrote:-
"The claim to Indian converts is quite persistent in the later writings, which is not so strange, when we consider the Indo-Iranian kinship and the fact that the Parsis found in India an asylum."
(Source:- "Zoroaster, the Prophet of Iran" by Jackson Page 85)
The "Shah Nameh" by the famous Persian Poet, Firdausi Tusi also mentions that the King Gushtasp sent his son Isfandiar to foreign countries for the purpose of diffusing the new religion so that the whole world might be enlightened.
(Source:- "The Shah Nameh of Firdausi" by James Atkinson Page 263)
Below are two passages from both the Avestan and Pahlavi Periods respectively.
(i) Farvardin Yast (Karda XXIV – 94)
"Good fortune to us that Spitama Zarathushtra, an athravan is born, to move with us, praising and calling for assistance with high mentality spread by Zarathushtra. Henceforth this good Mazdyasnian religion will go over towards all the religions which are seven."
(Source:-"YASHTS"by T.R. Sethna, Page 231)
(ii) From several "Nyaish" Prayers.
"May the knowledge, extent and fame of the Commandments of the excellent Mazda-worshipping religion ever increase over the world, over all its seven regions. So may it be."
(From "Zarthosti Daily Prayers" by I.J.S. Taraporewala)
Early in the twentieth century scholars like Darab Dastur Peshtonji Sanjana, Sir Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, Ervad Sheriar Dadbhai Bharucha, Khurshedji Rustomji Cama and Tehmurasp Dinshaji Anklesaria had opined that if a person seriously wishes to become a Zoroastrian then there is no bar in our religion; their conclusions were not based on blind beliefs but on the study and authority of Zoroastrian scriptures.
The end of the twentieth century is near but majority of the community is blissfully unaware of the true teachings of their own Prophet and choose to cling to several socio-religious customs which are incompatible with the teachings of Zarathushtra.
To debar or object to the presence of non-Zoroastrians in our religious ceremonies, just on the ground that they are non-Zoroastrians is a classic example of praying one thing and doing diametrically opposite to it as can be seen by the undermentioned paragraphs.
(a) "May the brilliance of the excellent Mazdyasnian Religion be wide-spread over the seven regions: May this be specially fulfilled!"
(b) "May the citizens of ‘........... ’ be more and more blessed with complete success; may their souls be glorified with the highest gratification and their brilliance be auspiciously increased! May it be so!"
(Mazda-Yasna – Some Daily Prayers from Zend Avesta by D.S. Framroze)
Noble words indeed, but the reality is that nothing is being done to spread the message and those for whom blessings are invoked are debarred from receiving them in person.
Muktad and Farvardian Jashans.
Since some within the Community oppose the attendance of non-Zoroastrians at these prayer meetings, let us consider the philosophy of ‘Fravashis’ or ‘Farohars’ which is based on ‘Farvardin Yasht’.
Briefly stated ‘Fravashi’ means Divine Essence of God in everything within the creation, including human beings and its purpose is to push forward all creations in the goal of evolution. In order that we may better understand the nature of work done by the Farohars, ‘Farvardin Yasht’ tells us that there are 3 groups of Farohars.
Group 1:- This consists of Farohars in all creations of Ahura Mazda as stated above.
Group 2:- The Farohars that work on spiritual plane and come to our aid when invoked.
Group 3:- The Farohars of Asho that approach the domain of the living during ten days of Muktad or Farverdegan, irrespective of their being invoked or not, to pour down their benedictions upon the "power of righteousness that pervades the earth."
Farverdegan, irrespective of their being invoked or not, to pour down their benedictions upon the "power of righteousness that pervades the earth."
There are several passages in the Farvardin Yasht dealing with all the three groups; only the group 3 is dealt here, since it is related to the subject-matter under consideration.
Our Mobeds or Ervad Sahebs, during the course of the Ceremonies in question, invoke Farohars of righteous persons of all countries irrespective of caste, colour or creed. A few countries are actually mentioned by names - the countries that were known to our ancestors and where Zoroastrian Religion prevailed. Given below are the relevant passages.
KARDA XXX1 (143):- "We revere the fravashis of righteous persons of Aryan countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous women of Aryan countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous men and women of Turanian countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous men of Sairim (Syrian) countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous women of Sairim (Syrian) countries."
KARDA XXX1 (144):- "We revere the fravashis of righteous men of Saini (China) countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous women of Saini (China) countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous men of Dahi countries. (These countries are supposed to be to the east of the Caspian Sea where brave tribes once lived.)
KARDA XXX1 (145) :- "We revere the fravashis of righteous men of all countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous women of all countries. We revere all the fravashis of the righteous good, powerful, beneficent fravashis those from Gayomard to the Soshyant.
(Source – "YASHTS" by T.R. Sethna – Page 259)
So, in theory, these religious ceremonies can be open to one and all, but for a start we should immediately cease opposition to non-Zoroastrian spouses and their children who attend our ceremonies out of respect and reverence and wish to be associated with the Zoroastrian community. This single step will go a long way to restore harmony within the community, whether it be in U.K. or elsewhere.
In conclusion, who can deny that in prayers and rituals what matters most is heart and devotion and not just observation under all circumstances of outward forms of worship. It is no fault of non-Zoroastrians who were not born of Zoroastrian parents.
All human beings are created by one God and we all worship the same God. The aim of all Prophets has been to establish a kind of ‘Brotherhood of Mankind’ under the ‘Fatherhood of God’. Zarathushtra wanted to establish ‘Brotherhood of Magavans’ and extend it to all who accepted his Faith. (‘Maga’ means message and ‘Magavan’ is one who has taken to heart Zarthushtra’s Message.)
First published in:-
"Informal Religious Meetings", Karachi, Pakistan.
(Bulletin No.6, 18-8-1996/16-9-1996)
About the Author
Cyrus Mehta has lived in England since October 1945. Like so many newcomers, he ws anxious about the fate of Zoroastrian community and religion. In 1960, he was elected to serve on the Committee of the Incorporated Parsee Association of Europe (now called the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe). Over a period of two decades, he gave talks on various aspects of the Zoroastrian religion and history, to audiences from Zoroastrian and inter-faith organisations. He has contributed articles to various journals.