When I am asked to go and speak to people who
want to know more about our religion, I find myself at times justifying my
enthusiasm I say and sincerely believe that ours is a religion highly
relevant to the day and age we live in.
Fascinating then, that we also claim it to be
the oldest spiritual and ethical teaching formulated into a monotheistic
And it is therefore all the more convincing to me that there is
an eternal truth and unchanging wisdom within our teachings that allows it
be applied to all times without appearing inappropriate.
A religion needs to have a wisdom that is
dynamic and not fixed by a dogma that may have fitted one age but not
The ultimate purpose of any religion cannot be
merely to enslave its followers as so many seem intent on doing to the
detriment of the real underlying message.
Surely the function of religion is to inspire
people to become more sensitive to the needs and feelings of the rest of
the planet, - humans, animals, plants and land, - so that a greater good
for all mankind can be achieved. At the same time religion should implant
an awe and reverence for the beauty of the natural environment, its
immaculate order and rhythm, and its many myriad manifestations.
To be able to arrive at such appreciation we
would need a system. We speak of purity of thought, word and deed as our
mantra, as the way to be truly fulfilled Zoroastrians. Easy to say but
actually how do we get there? How can we make the conscious choice of the
path of Asha - purity/righteousness which would lead us towards
such a saintly state of being. I say saintly advisedly, because quite
frankly anyone claiming to have already achieved this state of purity in
thought and word and deed must indeed be out of the ordinary and already
in a state of sanctitude or merely be extremely arrogant.
It is no coincidence that we regard light or
its source, fire, as awesome. The concept of light is used metaphorically
almost synonymously with purity and truth. It is said by those engaged in
meditation that we need an inner light to clear the mind and to see the
truth which leads to happiness. It is the power of this inner energy
which can be used to clear the intellect in order to choose ones path and
to discern right from wrong. This is known as spiritual knowledge which
is the power of peace within oneself the uncluttering of the self to
arrive at this clear insight. It offers a way of understanding that leads
us to realise that love and happiness emanates from service to others.
And of course this is precisely what a useful
religion should be doing. It should offer its followers a system to
achieve happiness on earth while increasing the general good for
humanity. Service to others, through acts of kindness in a multitude of
ways is a tried and tested way of achieving personal internalised pleasure
and satisfaction, while also benefiting humanity. Our prayer Ashem
Vohu tells us unequivocally that happiness is for that person who
pursues the path of Asha, not because s/he expects a returned
favour but for its own sake. Here then is the specific exhortation to
humans to do everything in their power to achieve happiness for themselves
this in itself is not a selfish aim. It is the purpose of every
mortal. Why otherwise bother to go through the voyage of life, if not to
maximise the joy of living while alive? However, we are told that the
best way to maximise this joy, is by serving humanity a satisfying
collateral to the pursuit of happiness.
So how are we going to find the way to make
our conscious choice of right over wrong, of service to others rather than
to be pre-occupied with self, and thus having made the right choice
ultimately to benefit humanity? The answer is known to us: we are given
the tools we have the ability to tune into Vohu Manah which is
the clear thinking alluded to above. Vohu Manah is achieved by
many different routes but engaging in horticultural/agricultural
pursuits is one of the traditional Zoroastrian ways which allows
productive work while contemplating the wonders of nature. It is a form
of meditation involving physical activity whereas some other disciplines
prefer stationary meditation. Through solitary work in harmony with
nature, we not only take pleasure in the results of our effort after all
what can beat the pleasure of a beautiful and scented flower for example,
or of fresh vegetables to eat which we have ourselves produced but also
through this sort of pursuit we have time to ourselves to get back in
touch with the basic elements s which make life possible: earth, water,
sun and air.
Our future lies with our ability to work with
nature, and not against it. How arrogant does mankind have to be to
actually believe that we can continue to abuse the planet and not one day
have to pay the price? The future survival of humans must surely depend
on our humility in acknowledging that the global climate change, the
pollution of the air, the shortage of water and many other associated
difficulties are issues that cannot be glossed over. We must face the
reality before us our selfishness, indifference, and arrogance have led
to the problems facing humanity globally.
Zoroastrians therefore have over-arching
reasons to be at the forefront of consciousness- raising. We all carry
social responsibility towards the future of the planets wellbeing. There
is no doubt about it the biggest challenges certainly now lie ahead of
us, we can really make an impact with this sort of message and thus
hopefully make a meaningful contribution in improving the prospects of
humanity. I would like to think our best days are yet to come. Will we
rise to the challenge?
Appeared in the 3000 year anniversary of Zoroastrianism (UNESCO
declaration) special issue of HAMZOR (publication of the World
Zoroastrian Organization) issue 3, 2003, pps. 30-31.