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Simple and Practical Zoroastrianism
by Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia
Simple and Practical Zoroastrianism: by Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia
Zoroastrianism, being a highly sensitive ecological religion, defends and respects the purity of the seven elements of creation which are earth, water, fire, cattle (animals), plants, air (sky, metals), and men. (cf. Boyce, HZ I, pp 124-324). These seven elements are guarded by seven Amesha Spentas. Polluting is like offending against the rules of purity of these elements, which in turn implies offending the Amesha Spentas. Every individual has a duty not to come in contact with pollutants and to ensure through prayers with proper rituals (at least a "Paide-aab Koshti ritual" at a time will suffice, if done in a proper fashion) to render inflicting pollutants harmless. All bodily substances, fluids and dead matters - such as nails, hairs as well as corpses (carrions) and animal carcasses, including toxic wastes (infected tissues) are contaminated pollutants and must be dealt with in proper ways (See: AV Williams, "The Body and Boundaries of Zoroastrian Spirituality", 1989, pp 227-239).
FIRE: Fire is the most sacred element in Zoroastrianism as it pervades the entire creation. At all costs and in all circumstances it must be kept undefiled. There is no atonement for offending the Fire and the most atrocious and heinous of all the offences in Zoroastrianism is the offence of burning a corpse and cremation (see my previous article sometimes back, also cf Arda Viraf Nameh, 20,34, 37,38, 41, 45 seq for possible offences against Fire). It is very strange that Zoroastrians of USA , UK have adopted cremation for their deads, which is totally rejected in Iran. In India very few (negligible) have opted for this mode and in Pakistan none is yet reported (for Iran see Amaighi, 1990). Blowing down and putting dung (as fuel) on fire are also considered sins for which severe punishment is recommended in Avesta and Pahlavi literature.
WATER: The sanctity of water is very important in Zoroastrianism. Herodotus (History 1.138) remarks that the Persians do not urinate or spit in rivers, neither wash their hands in them nor allow anyone else to do so. Strabo (Geography 15.3.161) also repeats the same but goes further to write that the Persians do not throw corpses into rivers or any other things which may result in polluting rivers. The Zoroastrian Parthian King of Armenia, Tiridates travelled to Rome by land which took him nine months rather that sailing by sea and contaminating the sea water (see; Pliny: Natural History 30.16). His brother Vologeses refused to go to Rome and disregarded Nero’s insistence and wrote to Nero, "It is much easier for you to sail across the sea than me" (see: Dio Cassius 63.7-2).
The fundamental principle in preventing pollution is also served by not urinating while standing, this checks spreading bodily waste to a larger area and consequently it is proscribed in Vendidad 18.40. Saddar Nasr alludes: "CHUN AB DAXTAN XVAHAND NESHASTAN YEK YATHA AHU VARIYO GUFTA, CHUN KAARI TAMAM SAVAD SEH ASHEM VOHU, DOBAR HUMATANAM, SEH BAR, HUXSHTHROTEMAI, VA CHAR BAR, YATHA AHU VAIRYO.......AHUREM VAIRIM..." = "When (i.e. before) they want to sit down to make water, (they must say) one Yatha Ahu Vairyo and when it is done, (they must say) three Ashem Vohu, two times Hatanam, and three times Huxshathrotemaiand four times........Yatha Ahu Vairyo (and ending with).....Ahurem Vairim (tanum paiti)". Urinating while standing is further condemned in PhlRDd 11.3. At present times such practice is redundant because men have taken care to prevent spreading pollutants while making water at least in the developed countries. But one must remember that such was the custom among the Persians from very remote antiquity (from 3000 BCE onwards).
MOURNING: Mourning for dead persons is looked down upon and is strongly prohibited in some Zoroastrian texts. Persians believe that grief gives strength to the forces of evil, this is particularly directed at loud cryings and long lamentations. It is better to perform religious rites and to do prayers for the eternal peace of the departed souls.
FOOD: In Zoroastrian Pahlavi texts, one finds that good food and wine in moderate consumption are encouraged - it is only the excessive use of both that is considered undesirable. Zoroastrians do not give any value to fasting. One must abstain from fasting. It is considered crime and offence to fast oneself on purpose See: Saddar Nasr .(83), "AZ ROWZEH DASHTAN BE BAYAD PARHIXTAN" . The only exception is, not to eat meat, after death of a family member, for three days.
EDUCATION: Greek authors are all consistent in their writings that the Persian boys and girls are always given ample education. Boys and girls are hammered again and again to tell the truth, boys go further to "bend the bows (i.e to learn the use of weapons) and to ride the horse" Herodotus (History 1.136) and Starbo (Geography 15.3.18) write that education begins from the age of five. Children go to schools and learn "justice" to recite prayers and to read and write so on reaching the age of seven, they become well versed, in the principle of religion (Zoroastrianism) and ready to be initiated into the religion, having grasped the value of "justice". Justice means, not to do wilful wrongs, but to treat others in an impartial way, to be grateful to parents and elders, never to neglect the duties towards parents, their country and friends. Children from non-priestly families have to acquire substantial knowledge of the religion which represents as teaching "truth and justice". Equal importance to secular affairs was given, as found in the Sasanian literature, specially to those desiring for higher secular offices. Children from priestly families go for higher and much more learning about religion to prepare them for future religious offices (Cf: S.Shaked, "From Iran to Islam" JSAI 4-1984, pp31-67).
Some may say that these are prescriptions and complain that they see no reflections, to them it may be said , please go on reflecting because all have freedom of choice to select their preferences, but do not go into trantrums, fits and seizures on reading this short article and then write nonesense nondescript vituperative responses as all denunciatory invective responses will be ignored, only scholarly inquires will be answered.
With Kind Regards,
Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia.