Can You Follow Zarathushtra?
The Historic and
Scholarly Case for Conversion
was and is in very Truth, the world teacher.
Web site created by Stephen
His message is meant for all humanity for all time." Dr. Taraporewala
If you found this page it means that you have questions about
This page is to support
new seekers, converts, and inter-married couples.
Here is a link to pictures of my
This page deals with only ONE issue: CONVERSION - not
Personalities or Organizations or other Faiths.
There are almost 75
pages of text here. It is black and white, for easy printing and emailing.
When someone says you can't be a convert, you can answer them
with this document.
These are not my words, except where noted, These scholars
speak for themselves:
Framroze Bode, Taraporewal, K.D.
Irani, NA Mobeds Council,
Cyrus Mehta, Ali Jafarey, Farrokh Vajifdar, Stanley Insler
Thank to all of the people
who sent me this information. Special thanks to the websites
& their authors.
Arguments Against Converts & Inter-Married Couples (All
1) Conversion has not been allowed for at least 150
years by priests in India.
2) Everyone should stay in their religion of birth, God put
them in that faith. (also a Hindu idea)
3) Conversion breeds hatred within faiths. (True Christian
& Muslim history)
4) The Gathas speak about a moral choice, not conversion from one
faith to another.
5) Children of
inter-married couples may not be recognized as Zoroastrian by
by the North American Mobed Council, Summer. 2000
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 3:30 PM
Subject: [zoroastrians] Re: Definition
Recently there has been some discussion about the definition of the
It is of interest to remind the Zarathushtrian community of North
America of a resolution that was passed at the 13th AGM of NAMC. The
underlying principle of this important resolution is essentially
lost to the community. It is certain that some in India will just
disregard this, as the work of Altoo Faltoo (worthless)
Zarathushtis. Be that as it may, this was an effort of several
dedicated mobeds who spent precious hours of serious discussion,
before this was achieved to tear through the traditional synonymity
of a Parsi and a Zarathushti.
NAMC (North American Mobed Council) at its 13th AGM in the year
2000 passed following resolution unanimously with one abstention.
This was during the tenure of presidency of Ervad Jal Birdy,
present vice-president of the Traditional Mazdayasni Zoroastrian
The resolution reads:
· Parsi is a race.
· Zoroastrianism is a religion.
· The term “Parsi” applies to the
descendents of the original migrants who left Iran to settle in
India to preserve Zoroastrianism
· A “Parsi” is a person born of both
Parsi parents who has an inalienable right to practice the
· A “ Zoroastrian” is a person who
believes and follows the teaching of Zoroaster.
· It is recognized that
“Zoroastrianism” is a universal religion.
· It is further recognized that a
Zoroastrian is not necessarily a Parsi.
It is a pity that despite the publication of this, in a short
report in FEZANA Journal (Summer 2000, pg. 9) it has had no impact
on FEZANA, its member Associations, or grass-root community to
awaken their querying for the notion "Who is a
Zoroastrian/Zarathushti?" It is invariably chronicled
that NAMC should act to lead the community in North America.
However something as fundamental as a question of definition of
a Zarathushti has been overlooked, and ad nauseam the
With Guidance and Enlightenment from Mazda
Jehan Bagli, President NAMC
Sept 14, 1903 Bombay
Parsi Panchayat Supports Conversion, over 100 Years Ago
of Dastur obtained by the Sub-Committee established by the
Anjuman to answer the question" Should non-Zoroastrians be
convert to the Zoroastrian faith."
Kaikhushru Dastur Jamaspji
5th Gatha 1272 Y.Z. 14th September 1903
Dear Shams-Ulema Ervad
Jivanji Jamshedji Modi,
Secretary of the B.P.P.,
You have requested me to give my opinion on whether or not to
non-Zoroastrians to convert to Zoroastrianism. In reply, I have to
state that there is no bar in our religion, to accept
converts. Every Zoroastrian reciting his obligatory
daily prayers, such
as Khorshed & Meher yashts, prays that our Mazdayasni
spread to all the Haftakeshwar Zamin. (i.e. the seven regions of
earth). The athornans of days gone by did not just sit around
this (spread of religion) to come true, but travelled to distant
to spread the Zoroastrian religion (Refer to Yasna 4l.6). Such
athornans met with oppositionfrom many people (see Yasna 9.24).
referred to only Two passages from the innumerable in the Zoroastrian
Scriptures confirming that the conversion of juddins to
The second edition of
Ervad Tehmurasp Dinshahji Anklesaria's "Treatise on the
Juddins into Mazdayasni Religion" has just been published,in
able Ervad Saheb has quoted examples from Avesta, Pahlevi and
texts - and we totally agree with quotation/examples. In the
edition of “Pashoke Nirange Javit Dinan" published in 1252 by
departed Dastur Jamaspji, further examples/ quotations have been
concerning the conversion/ acceptance of juddins into the
religion. From the writings of Ervad Tehmurasp (Anklesaria)and
departed Dastur Jamaspji, it can he said that there is hardly
material left on this matter for further research by any
Therefore rather than state more quotations/ examples it is best
we give to your Sub-Committee these books (referred to above).
Kaikhushru Dastur Jamaspji.
Man is essentially a spiritual and moral being. Modern man is not
satisfied with the present dogmatic conditions of religions, he is
search of some spiritual and ethical philosophy of life which will
satisfy his inner self needs in search of Truth and Reality and
realization of his spiritual potentialities. Man cannot live by
and material things alone, he is a thinking; feeling and willing
who needs spiritual nourishment. In the name of religion man is kept
separation. Religion was intended to be a binding adhesive
but unfortunately it has become disruptive. The basic urge of
is to know himself by spiritual science of the soul to bring forth
Divine impulse operating in a new higher consciousness. Modern man
needs a new perspective, a restatement a regeneration of an
Faith in which he can experience the Divine Truth -and attain
happiness, success and joy in life.
Zarathushtrianism: An Ancient
Faith for Modern Man
By Dasturji Framroze A. Bode
was one of the leading Parsis Zoroastrian priests and
intellectuals of the 20th century. You can read a good short
of him at Vohuman.org. The link is below
Now, some of the fundamental, pristine, pure, spiritual,
ethical and practical teachings of Zarathushtra could satisfy modern
man in his need of an Enlightened Faith in which he can experience
Divine Truth and Reality.
The Advent of Zarathushtra was Cosmic Manifestation of the Divine
for the new cycle of evolution of mankind. Zarathushtra was
Prophet of Ancient Iran, a world teacher whose mission was to give
spiritual illumination to all mankind, he yearned to inspire abiding
faith in Ahura Mazda, in the hearts of all living beings.
Zarathushtra was the first Prophet who gave freedom and liberation
then enslaved mankind from ignorance, superstition, ritualism and
sacrifice. He does not demand blind following, On the contrary
says: "Give ear, listen, ponder with the light of your shining mind,
decide, discriminate, each man must choose his faith for himself.
he gave freedom of thought and freedom of choice in the matter of
Zarathushtra gave to the world pure Monotheism, a profound concept
the Supreme Godhead – Ahura Mazda. He contemplated with his Pure
Vohu Manah over the Nature of Being and the laws governing the
Universe. Ahura Mazda is the Infinite Being. Ever
Lord of All- Wisdom, the Creator, eternally the same, all pervading
Loving Father, the Transcendent and the Immanent
Zarathushtra was the first world teacher who gave ethical conception
religion. Before him primitive cultism was formalism, propitiation,
sacrifice, exteriorization. Without moral conduct in life, no
spiritual progress is ever possible. He applied religion to
and to him life was light and illumination. Ethical Philosophy
Zarathushtrianism is summarized in three Jewels, “Good Thought”,
Word”, “Good Deed”.
Man being the thinker and the mind being his unique.potentiality,
Zarathushtra emphatically propounded the philosophy of controlling
disciplining the i mind and making it Vohu Manah - Good Mind, Pure
Reason, reaching the deepest level of the source of Superior Mind.
Zarathushtrianism teaches something which is useful to modern man.
Things happen in Nature and in Man not by the whim of some hidden
invisible dictator, but by the operation of the Immutable Divine Law
Asha .the law of harmony , order, truth, concision and purity.
Zarathushtra gave a scientific teaching regarding the law of cause
effect - the law of Karma. At several places in his Gathas he
reiterates: "As you sow, so must you reap", With this law of Asha is
tied up the conception of happiness and misery, heaven and hell,
who follow the law walk on the path of truth, righteousness and
goodness out of which happiness comes, Those who break the law
themselves and suffer misery . Heaven and Hell are no places and
locations, they are the subjective states of man's spiritual
consciousness, God is a loving Father, He never , punishes man and
hurls him into Hell for eternal condemnation. The greatest good in
is Goodness itself which brings happiness, Zarathushtra says:
“Happiness to him who gives happiness to others."
The Illustrious Master of Wisdom Zarathushtra, solves the problem of
evil and declares that evil is not an entity or a being, It is only
twin mentality and relativity in the human mind, Vohu Manah the
positive, constructive Good Mind and Ako-Mano the negative,
Evil Mind, There is no Cosmic dualism in the original fundamental
Monotheistic teachings of Zarathushtra. He gave to humanity
spiritual philosophy of One supreme Godhead eternally the same,
It will be interesting for modern man to know that intellect is
and it cannot reach the Infinities, Man must transcend the
of intellect and enter into what Zarathushtra calls the region of
Sraosha -Intuition which dispels darkness, conflict, and confusion
the human mind, The relativity light of Good and Evil, right and
is transcended and the subject and object are merged together in one
flash of intuitive light, then Truth draws upon the consciousness of
The concept of Fire in Zarathushtrianism is a deep scientific
philosophy. It does not mean the worship of physical
Zarathushtra in his spiritual vision captured the experience of
cosmic mystic fire of Ahura Mazda. “Athro Ahuraha Mazdao
Athro means etheric energy, the purifying energy of Ahura
Fire is the cosmic mystic symbol of Ahura Mazda. Through this
Fire of Spirit man can realize God and experience bliss.
is fire and fire is life. Thus, fire worship is reverence for
life everywhere. Athra never means the physical fire of wood
sandalwood. The association of Athra with Vohu Manah – pure
and Asha – the Divine Law indicates that fire is a divine Spark
emanating from the Supreme Being, Illuminating the total mind with
Radiance of Wisdom. This fire will ignite the Flame of Love in the
heart and illumination of the soul. As Athra is the purifier its
function is to bum all impurities and cremate the dead body
to ancient Zarathushtrian Custom. Fire can never be made impure by
Zarathushtrian spiritual philosophy of Self-Unfoldment,
self-realization or God-realization is practical. Realization means
be real in our life within and without. By cultivating four Divine
Attributes - Wisdom, Law, Will and Love man is able to contact the
Spenta.Mainyu, the Holy Spirit within and be aware of his own
Perfection and Immortality.
Zarathushtra' s message is full of hope, optimism and cheer. The
ultimate triumph of good and transmutation of evil into good by
dynamic good life are assured.
In the light of all the above, we may say humanity today needs the
spirit of religion for revitalizing itself. There has been
and violence due to loss of spiritual and ethical values. It
might be said that the spiritual, philosophical ethical, rational
psychological, universal and practical teachings of Zarathushtra
satisfy the spiritual yearnings of modern man and inspire him
establishing a better world of brotherhood, humanity and love.
can sum up the message of Zarathushtra in the Triple Yoga thus:
creatively, constructively, rationally, originally and independently
with your head; love fully, universally and joyously with your
and live dynamically in total goodness by using your hand to serve
mankind in the cause of unity and peace.
The Truth Behind the
Irani & Farrokh Jal Vajifdar
K. D. Irani is a world renowned scholar and lecturer on
Zoroastriansm. With his kindness, his great sense of humor,
his profound knowledge, he is one of the most beloved figures in
world. He was born in India, is a Parsi in fact, and his
father,the late great Dinshah Irani was also a renowned scholar,
was a good friend of both Poure Davoud (in Iran) and Rabindranath
Tagore (in India). In fact it was a slim little book of
Irani's that first attracted me to the teachings of Zarathushtra.
K.D. Irani is now professor emeritus of the City College of New
York, where for many years, he not only taught philosophy, but
its Dept of Philosophy. He has travelled and lectured on
all over the world, -- in the United States, Australia, England,
Farrokh Vajifdar is a scholar who lives in England. He
spearheaded the first ever Gatha Colloquium in England, sponsored
the WZO in 1993 (the WZO has published the papers given at that
colloquium and anyone interested may purchase copies from the WZO.
Zarathushtra preached a religion which demanded of individuals
responsibility for reflective moral living, and transformed human
existence from social abrasion to social harmony. He wished us to
become thereby HEALERS OF EXISTENCE. Many who consider themselves
Zoroastrians, mainly among the Parsi community, seem to claim that
message was addressed by Zarathushtra to a specific tribe. Hence, if
someone of non Zoroastrian parentage, upon hearing the message of
Zarathushtra, and being convinced by it, declares himself or herself
be a Zoroastrian, such a claim would, and should, be rejected by the
religious community of Zoroastrians. This view, though widely
is intellectually absurd and morally inhuman and bigoted, beside
totally incompatible with the teachings of the Prophet.
That this view is incorrect, both conceptually and textually, is
we wish to present here. We examine briefly the theological
on the matter, and collect the various texts where the issue is
adverted to. Our contribution is not wholly original: the position
hold, viz. the universality of Zarathushtra's teachings, had been
affirmed in a pamphlet prepared in the first decade of this century
scholarly Zoroastrian priests; it was also supported by eminent
scholars of Zoroastrianism. Several percipient dasturs over the last
eighty years had expressed remarkably similar views. In recent years
pamphlet addressing this issue was published by the Zoroastrian
Dr Kersey ANTIA.
The fallacious and bigoted view nevertheless continues to be
promulgated. We were, however, disconcerted by recent articles from
highly respected High priests of Bombay, and express our disquietude
their arbitrary joint statement that a principle exists by which
CONVERSION IS NOT ACCEPTED BY ZOROASTRIANISM, and further, that
CONVERSION IS BOTH ILLEGAL AND INVALID (Parsiana, November 1995,
pp.29-34; Bombay Samachar, 24th December 1995) . Apart from the fact
that no such principle has EVER arisen within our universalist
religious system, it is exceedingly difficult to understand just
they collectively mean by "illegal and invalid" -- which LEGAL
have been applied, and why, and on what basis can one discredit an
individual's informed and deeply held SPIRITUAL belief, and its
practice, as LACKING VALIDITY! Why are quasilegal constraints sought
legislate against clearly formulated RELIGIOUS precepts? Conversion
not some idle hypothetical problem which can be dismissed through
misconstruing and disinformation. It cannot be made to vanish
arbitrary denials and empty nuances.
Conversion is a practice apparently unacceptable among the Parsis
today, and has been so for some 150 years. It is a social practice
the community for the establishment of which. good reasons were
perceived in the socio-political environment of the times. It must
clearly recognized, though, that it is a matter of social practice
affected by social conditions, and NOT a matter of theological
A theology like Zarathushtra's, based upon the grasp of the eternal
universal Truth by the divinely endowed Good Mind enabling us to
implement the Righteous Order in existence, is so clearly a
message that it would be altogether irrational to limit its
and practice to a community identified by biological ancestry.
Identifying religious commitment by birth is an extremely primitive
form of tribalism, entirely incompatible with Gathic teaching. We
aware of the bizarre thesis that God places each soul into the womb
a mother belonging to a tribe and expects the individual so born to
believe in the religious doctrines of a tribe. Apart from the
absurdity of this view, the slightest exposure to the words of
Zarathushtra, with his emphasis on individual judgment and
responsibility, enables us to recognize the anti-Zoroastrian
of this view.
We have long been acquainted with the suspect methodology by which
attempts to assert the reverse of our religion's injunctions
conversion have been made. They are in the nature of factoid claims
achieved by careful contrivance and are simply not probative.
We encounter rather weak efforts at glossing our texts at the same
as claiming to "correctly" interpret them. Being groundless, they do
not stand up to scrutiny, and yet it appears that the fictionalizing
process is energetically, and deliberately, pursued. Among the minor
but blatant fictions is the entirely false invocation of the
Sanjan's "five conditions" as proof that Jaydev Rana granted asylum
our forefathers provided that no conversion of his Hindu subjects
attempted. There is NO SUCH CONDITION among the five to which we
Our eminently rational religion primarily urges a world-view based
clear-mindedness whereby the Good Mind aspect of Ahura Mazda may be
attained in quest of Truth. Its texts -- from the Gathas of
Zarathushtra to the Persian Rivayats -- extend over some two
eight hundred years, in the long course of which they responded to
religious evolution, the conflicting ideologies of newer religions,
the unpredictable forces of a rapidly changing history. But
understanding the theology enables one to recognize immediately its
universal message. WE STRESS THAT NONE OF OUR LATER TEXTS CONTRADICT
EARLIER RATIONALIZING PROCESSES, EVEN LESS THEIR UNIVERSALIST
THEY ARE CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT ON THE SUBJECT OF ACCEPTANCE AND/OR
CONVERSION. That these texts may be distorted to suppress or yield
meanings entirely alien or out of context is a willful exercise
which we must take issue. Our priests surely should apply religious
laws, for they too are subject to them, and not obscure
regulations which vaguely find their origins in dubious traditions.
the vociferous followers of such traditions would do well to also
from our texts, being the root and branch of our universalist
The evidence of the Gathic texts
Most of us are agreed that these very ancient texts are the product
Revelation for the metrical Gathas themselves, and the work of
Zarathushtra's earliest inspired disciples for the prose part. The
Gathic message does not come as isolated snippets, but as an
logical series of precepts carefully worked into their main purport
transfiguration of man from brutishness towards saintliness. For
is this message intended? The second of our Gathic kusti verses
(Ys.44.16) clearly entreats Ahura Mazda, as Healer of existence, to
His hearkening (Sraosha) come to WHOMSOEVER He wills it: we actually
pray this each time we prepare to fasten on the kusti. The first
of the Ushtavaiti Gatha (Ys.43.1) is Zarathushtra's benediction in
same vein: May Ahura Mazda, who exercises sovereignty at will, grant
blessings to WHOSOEVER desires them. In neither passage do we
the slightest hint that Ahura Mazda's Revelation was meant only for
chosen few, still less a narrow ethnicity: it would be disrespectful
And the message? This reflects the single-minded purpose of the
Revelation: just as Ahura Mazda is acknowledged as the divine Healer
an existence corrupted by spiritual perversity, so too is man
through his own FREE-WILL to wage an earthly combat to regenerate
world, towards which end the good powers of Mazda are invoked for
(Ys.30.9). "May we be those who shall renew THIS existence" urges
Zarathushtra, and we dutifully echo this sentiment in a stray line
our kusti prayer (Yss.50.11 and 46.19). Elsewhere it is the
of Ahura which is invoked for the Healing in accord with OUR wish
Zarathushtra was a realist who fervently hoped to bring to fruition
Ahura Mazda's Revelation that it was spiritualized man -- one lifted
from barbaric tribalism to civilization -- who would renew this
Armed with this inspired precept, the Prophet of the Righteous Order
the New Order -- would convert ALL the living (Ys .28.5) ; again
for the formula from the very tongue of Ahura Mazda's mouth whereby
the living would be converted (Ys.31.3); thereafter from Spenta
the Bountiful Spirit of Ahura Mazda, that Right-mindedness and Truth
come together to convert the many WHO ARE SEEKING (Ys.47.6)! Indeed,
the many came from near and far to seek Zarathushtra's wisdom
(Ys.45.1), emerging also in Yss.30.1 and 47.6. It must be noted here
that Zarathushtra had uncompromisingly rejected all contemporary
non-Mazdaean worship as hostile to the Revelation received from
Mazda (Ys.44.11). His Gathas are replete with the idea of CONVERSION
from dregvant to ashavan. We shall presently deal with its
devolution. After our Prophet's demise, we continue to encounter the
missionary activity of our fire-priests who ranged afar to spread
For emphasis we again stress that ALL the living are required for
work of Renovation, known to us as Frashokereti, the establishment
universal Righteous Order. The Prophet did not, moreover,
between the sexes when he assured both men and women: "O Ahura
WHOEVER, man or woman, I shall impel to invoke You, with ALL these
shall I cross the Chinvat Bridge" (Ys.46.10).
The religion of Zarathushtra is open to ALL persons of moral
and goodwill who would accept the Gathic Revelation. Reason tells us
would indeed be pointless if only a chosen few were enlisted for the
great task, for despite all their piety, all their good work would
surely rendered ineffective or even undone by the many NOT converted
the Mazdaean New Order. Prophet Zarathushtra and the community of
believers in Iran, ancient and mediaeval, and even today, took this
be a universal and NOT A TRIBAL RELIGION, and on many historical
occasions acted on that belief. There remains the act of worship
inculcated in the Haptanhaiti (Ys.39.2) towards the souls of
men and women, past, present and future, WHEREVER THEY WERE BORN,
statement only the most obstinately inclined would see as a mere
lip-service concession to good people of all other religions! Such
reverence was accorded, rather, to all ashavans everywhere, in a
Gathic spirit, for their godly activity towards the Regeneration of
The Fravardin Yasht
The world-embracing Fravardin Yasht, a text as ancient as any in the
syncretist Zoroastrianism which post-dated our Prophet, is a
celebration of the fravashi, or pre-existent spiritual power of
righteous men and women, again past, living, or to be born (Yasht
13.21) . Included are the religious heroes of early Zoroastrianism,
also its mythical and historical figures from the First Man to the
future Saviours of Mankind. (Zarathushtra had counted ALL
persons as Saviours, or saoshyants, who had cultivated the Good
Here it is that we find the categorical statement that ALL
men and women whose religious view contributes to the fulfilment of
Renovation are worthy of reverence (Yasht 13.154).
With every emphasis, this Yasht urges the veneration of the
of all righteous men and women from ALL lands, including the
Turanians, the traditional enemies of Iran whose injurious
against Zoroastrianism form the substance of many an ancient legend!
But even more important is the remarkable passage celebrating the
of Zarathushtra (13.94): THEN WILL THE GOOD MAZDAYASNIAN RELIGION BE
PROPAGATED AMONG THE SEVEN CLIMES OF THIS EARTH!
Our most sacred prayer of the Yatha ahu vairyo, which an early
commentator tells us pre-existed Creation (so numinous did he
it!), has to be correctly taught to the ENTIRE physical world,
whereupon ALL of the living shall transcend mortality
The totality of veneration is indicated also by our Yasnas 23.3 and
26.6, the latter from our Satum-no-kardo! It is futile to still
that a universalism directed towards the Frashokereti does not
conversion! Our priesthood solemnly intones such passages in the
of the Yasna ceremony – pious declarations which, as Zarathushtrian
Mazdayasnian spiritual guides, they religiously vow to uphold. They
should suit their beliefs to these sacred words, and not deny the
significance of our universally proselytizing prayers the moment
cease chanting them!
The Vendidad, frequently misused to conform to closedmindedness and
religion overriding personal dislikes, also strongly comes down on
side of conversion. Its chapter 19, X26, both in Avestan and its
Pahlavi zand, makes Ahura Mazda answer to Zarathushtra's query as to
whether he should guide both the righteous and the wicked
daeva-yasnians, men and women, towards the Good Religion: "You
0 righteous Zarathushtra!" It could not be plainer.
The Pahlavi "Zartusht-Namag" (Denkard VII)
Prophet Zarathushtra's (here Zartusht) piously compiled biography
given its final revision in the ninth century of our Common Era,
after the murder of the last Sassanian king. Islam was then secure
its ascendancy, and despite the obvious danger to our ancient
our Prophet's, biographers gave forthright views on Zartusht's
legendary life. The seventh book of our Mazdaean encyclopaedia, the
Denkard, is fully devoted to this biography. Its first chapter does
baulk at declaring that ALL mankind are made knowledgeable in the
religion -- hardly an idle academic assertion! -- and Zartusht the
Spitamid's Fravashi is to be venerated. Ohrmazd/Ahura Mazda previews
the Prophet's birth with His Amshaspands/Amesha Spentas: Having a
and tongue, he will declare the faith to the world incarnate (ch.2).
After he is born, Vohuman/Vohu Manah escorts him before the
assembly so that his Good Religion may spread among the seven
of the earth. The Prophet's spiritual lordship is over the entire
(ch.3). A Turanian -- no less! .-- invites the kiks/kavis and
karaps/karapans, both enemies of the new faith, to accept the
religion. It will be remembered that Vishtasp was a kavi, and
converts him to his religion by chanting aloud the Gathas. As token
the veracity and power of the new religion, Ohrmazd sends Vohuman,
Ashavahisht and His spiritual Fire to Vishtasp for its propagation
the world (ch.4).
The righteous Adurbad-i Maraspand diffuses knowledge of the religion
the world, and through his ordeal convinced the wicked ones, the
of the Avesta being that it is a compendium of the most supreme
expressions of wisdom (ch. 5). In Book IV we read: "The King of
Shahpur (II), son of Hormizd caused, through disputation, all the
inhabitants of the country to be without fault, and brought all
theological discussions to deliberation and examination. After
won the case by seemly discourse against all those sectarians,
of the nasks, and heretics, he (the king) said: 'Now that we have
the religion in existence, we shall not let anyone approach evil
religion. We shall exercise greater zeal over this' . He indeed
in this manner" (Shaked's translation). What would have been the
of Adurbad's public disputation and demonstration of the potency of
Avesta before a 4th-century multi-faith assembly if his purpose had
been one of conversion through the universal validity of the
Ancient mythico-geography divided up the world into seven keshvars,
climes, of which Khwaniras/Khvaniratha was the central, Zoroastrian,
region. Fifty-seven years after Zartusht received the Revelation
Ohrmazd, its acceptance was proclaimed throughout these seven
from whose SouthEast and South-West continents came their
to enquire from Vishtasp and Frashostar/Frashaoshtra -- they came in
search of Zartusht's wisdom (Book VII, ch.6). We close this seventh
book with Ohrmazd's declaration: "Thereupon I, Ohrmazd, shall
the world and render everything vivified and ever full of advantage,
desiring good rulership", being Gathic reflexions in Pahlavi garb.
Not to be outdone, the ninth-century Priest Zadsparam provided a
variant perspective on the Prophet: this time it is a karap,
by Zartusht's own father to examine the supernatural infant -- "When
looked all about", said this mumbler-priest, "I saw again that the
words of this one shall spread throughout the world, becoming as the
Law of the Seven Regions ..." (Wizidagiha, 10.19). Zartusht dreamt
the men of this world came towards the north, and at their head
Medyomah/Maidyoimaongha (traditionally, his cousin-german) ... who
the guide of all of mankind attracted towards Zartusht; it became
evident that firstly Medyomah, and thereafter all of the physical
beings are converted (Wizidagiha, ch.20). The story is here told of
crestfallen Zartusht (he had until then converted only Medyomah)
reassured by Ohrmazd: "There will be days when fewer persons shall
converted by you"! (ch.24). May it be noted that the Pahlavi verb
HAKHTAN covers the notion of TO PERSUADE, TO CONVERT, exactly as did
the Gathic root VAR- in the Prophet's own times: the proselytizing
trend had faithfully continued over two millennia!
The philosophical Book III of the Denkard commences its chapter 172
thus: "All profession of the Good Religion bears upon the will and
commandment of the Creator. When all of mankind which is in the
material world comes over to the profession of the Good Religion,
the Assault (of Evil) shall be destroyed; all of creation will
to a purity without opposition and to perfect bliss: that is the
Revelation of the Good Religion"! Stirring sentiments uttered during
very difficult times when conversion to anything other than Islam
expressly banned! Even later, we find conversion by the age of
to the VEH-DEN, our good Zoroastrian religion, being enjoined in the
case of a child born from an illicit union between a veh-din/behdin
a woman of different faith, failing which duty the Zoroastrian
is deemed to have committed the gravest of sins -- he becomes
MARGARZAN: "worthy of death"! (Pahlavi Rivayat of Emed-i
The Persian Rivayats
It was popularly believed that contact between the Indian Jarthostis
and the Iranian Zardushtis had been severed for several centuries,
apart from the occasional brave refugee fleeing persecution and
impoverishment in the Fatherland. In India, where conditions were
less harsh, the Parsis of Gujarat had lapsed into an increased
of local Hindu customs and beliefs. Certainly Hindu names
among the provincial Parsis, and the ritual had succumbed to much
adulteration. Matters having doubtless come to a head, the concerned
davar Changa Asa of Navsari and some co-religionists determined upon
obtaining correct answers to several questions of doctrine, ritual,
practices. The first emissary, Nariman Hoshang was sent, at great
along terrifyingly dangerous routes to the priests in Iran in 1478
again in 1487.
Among the answers brought back in direct response to questions from
Parsis, one addressed the problem of conversion: "If slave-boys and
girls have faith in the Good Religion, then it is proper that kusti
should be (given to them to be) tied [that is, they should be
to Zoroastrianism], and when they become intelligent, attentive to
religion and steadfast, they should give them barashnum andit is
proper and allowable to eat anything out of their hands"! For some
irresponsibly wish to exclude children -legitimately born from
exogamous unions or born out of wedlock by Parsi fathers from
mothers -- from the religion of their Zoroastrian fathers, then we
present an even stronger guideline from the 1599 Kaus Mahyar Rivayat
whose response includes categories from even lower-deemed persons:
a grave-digger, a corpse-burner and a darvand become Behdins (i.e.
converted to the Mazdayasnian religion)?" Its answer: "If they
the rules of religion steadfastly and (keep) connection with the
religion, and if no harm comes on the Behdins (thereby), it is
We cannot help wondering how often such proof of steadfastness and
religious knowledge is demanded from "racially pure" Parsis to test
their suitability for continuing in the faith of Zarathushtra. We do
not thereby imply mass conversion of all and sundry who express
only a passing or selfish interest in our religion; in the West
enquirers have exhibited an affinity and sure grasp of its knowledge
far exceeding the average Parsi's whose xenophobia thinly masks his
woeful religious deficiency. The nononsense translations (1932) from
the Rivayats given above are by an orthodox scholar-priest, Ervad
Bomanji N. Dhabhar. It is worth pointing out that attempts were
clumsily made to have these disconcerting passages declared
The Itthoter Rivayat of 1773 was the last in the series of exchanges
between India and Iran which had endured for nearly three hundred
years. The replies to the 78 questions from the Parsi Zoroastrian
dasturs of Broach and Surat, taken to Iran by Mulla Kaus Jalal, were
signed by nine Iranian dasturs and nine religiously versed behdins.
Here is Question 13 and its answer, dealing both with conversion and
exposure within dakhmas:
"In this quarter the behdins of Hindustan acquire large numbers of
young Indian boys and girls as servants, and then use them for
household chores; once they have taught them the Avesta and have got
them to wear the kusti and sudreh according to the, rites of the
Zoroastrian religion, they consecrate the daron-i gahanbar and other
things which they have them prepare. Water and food also are taken
them by the mobeds and behdins of Hindustan. Yet when they die,
mobeds and behdins do not allow their bodies to be placed in the
dakhma, claiming that they are sons of darvands, and that it would
unseemly to mix the bones of the behdins with theirs. Thus, while
people are alive they make use of them for all the religious
preparations, and after their death they do not allow them to be
in the dakhma. The question is, therefore, whether it is proper or
to lay their bodies in the dakhma. Let them write to clarify this
The answer came: "Concerning the acquisition of young men and women
are juddins as servants, the mobeds and behdins must first of all
care for their own religion, for their own rituals, for their
property, and for their own soul so as not to face losses. TEACHING
AVESTA TO THE SONS OF THE JUDDINS WHO HAVE BEEN ACQUIRED AND
THEM TO THE DIN-I VEH-I MAZDAYASNAN EARNS ONE GREAT MERIT!
What is instead exceedingly blameworthy and non-conformant with the
opinion of the members of the din-i behi is the fact that the mobeds
and behdins of Hindustan should eat food prepared by those
while they live, and then once they die and stand to face God's
they should make such base comments about their poor bodies, arguing
inappropriately that they are sons of juddins and that their mortal
remains should not be united with those of the behdins in the
IT IS NOT RIGHT! Such iniquitous arguments do not profit the
of Zaratusht and the Righteous Path, and whoever behaves in this way
and does not allow their bodies to be laid in the dakhma is,
to the religion MARGARZAN and guilty before Mehr and Srosh. Indeed
is necessary for the mobeds and behdins to show greater mercy for
youngsters and to allow the bodies of the deceased ones to be laid
the dakhma according to the rules of the din-i behi, and this will
SOURCE OF GLADNESS FOR ORMAZD AND THE AMESHASFANDS.
"Here we have heard from the magniloquent speeches of the dasturzade
Dastur Kaus, worthy successor of the deceased Dastur Rostam, that
several dasturs, mobeds and behdins across most of the country
[Hindustan] stand in the way and are an impediment and have agreed
to teach those youngsters the Avesta and not to convert them to the
din-i veh-i mazdayasnan. THIS IS UNREASONABLE AND ALIEN TO THE
TRADITION. May the Beloved ones prosper! In the second fargard of
Jud-div-dad [Vendidad] the Creator of the righteous material world
ordered the honourable Zaratusht Esfantaman anushe-ravan TO LEAD ALL
MEN TO THE DIN-I BEHI, to the Main Path, to edify His joy, His glory
and His honour.
"Secondly, at the time of Hoshidar-mah, Hoshidar-bami and Siavashans
[the three millennial Saviours of Zoroastrianism] ALL THE JUDDINS
BE CONVERTED TO THE DIN-I BEHI. It follows that according to the
behi it is appropriate and necessary to convert these youngsters, IT
A VERY GREAT MERIT AND A RIGHTEOUS GOOD DEED. Therefore, those who
hinder this and are against it can be considered AS BELONGING TO THE
RELIGION OF THE JUDDINS, and they are not even aware of the Origin
of the other world. THEY PROCEED ALONG THE PATH OF ABERRATION AND
VANITY AND ACCORDING TO THE RELIGION IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO DEFINE
AS BEHDINS, SINCE IF THEY WERE BEHDINS THEY WOULD INCREASE THE DIN-I
BEHI." (We follow Mario Vitalone's translation with minor changes
ease of reading.)
Our learned Ervad Shehryarji BHARUCHA, an excellent philologian
well-versed both in Zoroastrian religious traditions and Parsi
mores, had used the authentic Persian text and a Gujarati
of this Itthoter Rivayat for his pro-conversion arguments early this
century. A little later, his English translation was published
posthumously as part of a wide-ranging article, "Is Zoroastrianism
preached to all mankind or to one particular race?" One can only
at the sharp contrast between the attitudes of our learned
of former times and those of today who surely cannot be ignorant of
religious texts which so clearly and UNEQUIVOCALLY set out the case
conversion. Or could it be that they care not to attend to these
contents of our sacred books? How are these texts explained by them
novitiates? How are Irani Zardushti perspectives presented to them,
at all? Are the several problems arising at all seriously discussed
Zoroastrian seminaries, or are they simply brushed aside as irksome,
irrelevant, perhaps even rated secondary to the ritualistic primacy
textual contents? It would be instructive to have straight answers
such questions of so much direct importance to the wellbeing and
progress of our minuscule communities.
A rectification: from pseudo-history to historicity
The treatment of historical records by our priests is capricious to
degree, either ignoring or deliberately confusing the evidence of
inscriptions. Thus we see a foreign source -- Deutero-Isaiah --
in as evidence of the Achaemenid CYRUS II's tolerance of alien
and leniency towards the subject peoples. In itself the Iranian
emperor's exaltation is praiseworthy: he is "the anointed of
the Abrahamic deity. The Jews of the Babylonian Captivity indeed had
cause to so elevate their Persian liberator. But the cosy assumption
thenceforth that all his Achaemenid successors were equally tolerant
to stretch credibility too far, especially when we read in DARIUS
political testament his strict religiosity. In a quite Gathic tone,
declares to his successors: "Proclaims Darius, the king: You,
shall be king hereafter -- the man who shall be a FOLLOWER OF
(martiya haya draujana), or (the man) who shall be an EVIL-DOER, to
those may you not be friendly, (but) punish them severely" (Schmitt
His son and successor XERXES I went one better: "Among these
there was (a place) where previously FALSE GODS (daiva/daeva) were
worshipped. Afterwards, by favour of Ahuramazda, I destroyed that
sanctuary of the demons (daivadana), and I made proclamation, 'The
demons shall not be worshipped!' Where previously the demons were
worshipped, there I worshipped Ahuramazda and Arta/Asha reverently"
(Kent translation). Xerxes' religious tolerance was very thin, and
obviously selective; it has been substituted for political
and astuteness. Historical hard facts do not lie; their
can and frequently do. When misused, they can become dangerous tools
which often adversely affect the unwary and distort perspectives.
In the face of continued misleading assertions that no conversions
Zoroastrianism were attested for Sassanian times, we feel it right
place the true historical facts before our readers. The major
figure under the earliest five rulers of that dynasty was
KIRDIR/KARTIR. The name was not his title; that most forceful
himself tells us of his rise through the priestly hierarchy from
herbad/ervad to mobad of Ohrmazd, Judge of the (whole) Empire,
Soul-saver of Bahram II, Director and Authority of the
and the Lady Anahid Fire-temples in Stakhra, ayenbad or custodian of
religious ceremonial procedures. This is what he says he did to
non-Zoroastrians: he ensured that "great blows and torment befell
Ahriman and the demons, and the heresy of Ahriman and the demons
departed and was routed from the Empire. And Jews and Buddhists and
Hindus and Nazarenes and Christians and Baptists and Manichaeans
smitten in the Empire, and idols were destroyed and the abodes of
demons were disrupted and made into thrones and seats of the gods .
and the heretics and the destructive men, who in the Magian land did
not adhere to the doctrine regarding the Mazdayasnian religion and
rites of the gods -- them I punished, and I tormented them until I
them better ... and MANY MEN WHO WERE UNBELIEVERS BECAME BELIEVERS,
MANY WERE THOSE WHO HELD THE DOCTRINE OF THE DEMONS, AND ON ACCOUNT
ME THEY LEFT THAT DOCTRINE OF THE DEMONS ..." (MacKenzie's
closely paralleled by others).
Our readers will agree that nothing less than FORCIBLE CONVERSIONS
being described. Kirdir's name and fame mayhave been marginalized in
priestly memories and forgotten in our extant Pahlavi and Pazand
the great man has, however, left records incised on stone which may
read to this day in Fars province in Iran. He was powerful enough in
his own right to have his relief portraits carved alongside those of
royalty -- a unique privilege not accorded any other prelate in
Sassanian times. His history may have been suppressed, for whatever
reason, but the man and his labours in the cause of third century
Zoroastrian orthodoxy have emerged in the clear light of 20th
The new Zoroastrian orthodoxy was unsuccessfully forced upon the
Christian Armenians by MIHR-NARSE, Prime Minister under three
Sassanian kings, Yazdgard I , Bahram V and Yazdgard II. The first
monarch was detested by the priesthood for his tolerance of other
faiths coexisting in Iran; the second for his religious disinterest;
but the last was called "The Clement" (!) by the Mazdaean priests
because he enforced the conversion order against the Armenians in
fifth century. That edict was refuted by eighteen unimpressed
bishops, and ultimately proved unenforceable despite the
still-remembered bloodshed of 451 C.E. MihrNarse's conversion
like the above-mentioned precedents, has been passed over in silence
our present embarrassed priesthood, and it not being our purpose to
further press historical issues dealing with forcible conversions,
let these unpleasant matters rest.
Very much nearer in time, however, and again from Iran, came the
consensus statement under the seal of the Tehran Council of Mobeds,
signed by Mobed Ardeshir AZARGOSHASP, published in the Bombay
columns dated 3rd February 1991. It bore the heading, taken from the
last paragraph: "WE MUST PERSEVERE TO PROPAGATE OUR RELIGION AND
PERSONS WHO WANT TO EMBRACE IT" -- a carefully considered, and
responsible, document of intent. Is Iranian Zoroastrianism so very
different that it can unreservedly, yet so prudently, express such a
divergent -- indeed opposite! -- view on the subject of conversion?
A Pazand prayer: "Din-no kalmo"
The navjote, or formal initiation into the Zoroastrian fold, is
normally performed for a child of seven to eleven years of age.
the prayers PRONOUNCED BY THE OFFICIATING PRIEST and dutifully
BY THE CHILD is the Pazand Affirmation of the Faith, well known as
Din-no kalmo (or Kalma-i-din). It translates as "[Avestan prologue]
(This is) the truest, most insightful Mazda-given righteous Good
Religion of the Mazda worshippers. [Pazand] The good, true and
Religion, which God has SENT FOR THE PEOPLES OF THIS WORLD, is that
which Zarathushtra has brought. That Religion is the Religion of
Zarathushtra, the Religion of Ahura Mazda revealed to the righteous
Zarathushtra". Its veracity is ratified immediately after by the
recitation of the Ashem vohu, the Laudation of Truth!
This is the religion which the priests formally confer upon the
initiate IN THE SACRED NAMES OF AHURA MAZDA AND HIS PROPHET
ZARATHUSHTRA, and is a solemn turning-point of his/her life. Ervad
Kavasji Kanga (respected to this day as "Kangaji") has translated
universalist passage into Gujarati thus: "... din, je dadar hormazde
dunyana lokone mate mokli ..." He then glosses the passage "je asho
jartoshtne (ae dunyama felavane-mate dadar hormazde) api hati" --
"which He, the Creator Hormazd/Ahura Mazda, gave to the righteous
Zarathushtra FOR PROPAGATION IN THIS WORLD". Ervad Shehryarji
and Ervad Jivanji Modi have both closely agreed with Kangaji in
respective English renditions of our Din-no kalmo. The former had
added: "In the face of this recital and acknowledgement would it not
ABSOLUTELY WRONG TO DENY THE RIGHT OF EVERY MAN OF THE WORLD TO
THE RELIGION OF ZARATHUSHTRA; and when a person applies to a
Zoroastrian priest to admit him into his religion, how can he refuse
him? Surely, if he does, it would be DERELICTION OF DUTY ON HIS
It is indeed assumed that there is clear understanding of the
contents amongst us who since childhood devoutly offered it to Ahura
Mazda IN, ZARATHUSHTRA'S NAME. If so, then surely our belief must
reflect our piously uttered affirmation.
Difficulties with the Bombay Zoroastrian community and the
Despite exposure of the feeble canard on non-conversion falsely
implicating Jaydev Rana, we notice that this untruth is still being
peddled by unscrupulous anti-conversion lobbyists. Bombay indeed
have its particular difficulties with regard to acceptance of
into the Zoroastrian faith, but pleads especial SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC
reasons for RELIGIOUS non-compliance! Emphasis is placed on the
socio-religious funds set up with the provisos that they benefit
the Parsis and that strange class of the socalled "born
The priests have, apparently, left a loophole to conveniently allow
return of some backsliders on the curious pretext that their
out was both "illegal and invalid". This is untenable, for were it
really so then we should not have had any obstacles denying
Zoroastrian women their INALIENABLE BIRTHRIGHT of fire-temple visits
and dakhma exposure: on such occasions we were assured that by
outmarrying they had voluntarily and knowingly (!) renounced their
Zarathushtrian Mazdayasnian faith! It is distressingly evident that
religious adherence is being determined quite arbitrarily from ad
No less unpleasant is the sad tendency of our Bombay prelates -- to
whom we once used to entrust our religious and spiritual guidance --
manipulate texts to suit their predilections for a tribal religion
despite the clearest injunctions to the contrary. One such piece of
misinformation was noticed in a false statement that just one lone
Parsi scholar had translated the root VAR-, thrice located in the
Gathas, as "convert". That this was palpably untrue was quickly
to light with references to the sound scholarship of Kavasji KANGA,
Khodabax PUNEGAR, and Irach TARAPOREWALA -- all respected Gatha
Much is being made of the fact that our Parsi translators had also
utilized "to choose", "ward off/turn from (evil)", "to convince",
cause to believe". Permutations formed about the root VAR- can only
convey expressions unambiguously suggestive of the drive for
PROSELYTISM. A selective adherence to peripheral meanings, with the
careful exclusion of the embarrassing "CONVERT", is exactly like
of someone that "he strides, paces, strolls, saunters, promenades,
causes one foot to move ahead of the other, BUT he is not walking!"
What would be the point of Zarathushtra's energetically repeated
"convincing", "causing to believe", "turning away from (evil)" of
seekers after Ahura Mazda's Wisdom, if his purpose and intent was
their CONVERSION? We shall not further labour the point, having done
at length precisely for reasons of countering so much manipulation
our religious texts and undermining of the real importance of the
conversion issue. We ourselves having no personal or vested
and certainly NO HIDDEN AGENDA, we seek only a restitution of the
of our religious and commentarial texts.
Mr Cyrus P. Mehta of Harlow, Essex, recalls for us that the several
learned articles and factual religious statements made in Western
early in the twentieth century by the pious Parsi Zoroastrians Darab
SANJANA, Jivanji MODI, Shehryarji BHARUCHA, Khurshedji Rustamji CAMA
and Tehmurasp Dinshahji ANKLESARIA, all of whom had opined that IF A
PERSON SERIOUSLY WISHES TO BECOME A ZOROASTRIAN, THEN THERE IS NO
IN OUR RELIGION. Their conclusions were not based on blind beliefs
ON THE STUDY AND AUTHORITY OF ZOROASTRIAN SCRIPTURES. Few in Bombay
care to remember these judicious pronouncements of our enlightened
ancestors. Enlightenment is not some new fad brought about since the
Parsi and Irani emigrations world-wide: it has always illumined the
Zoroastrian psyche. Western scholars too, pioneer and modern-day,
applying common-sense to their disciplined scientific training, have
arrived at the same conclusion: that ZOROASTRIANISM ENJOINS
No' sensible Zoroastrian would advocate indiscriminate or mass
conversion. However, he does maintain that in cases of
non-Zoroastrian spouses and the children from increasing
be encouraged to embrace Zoroastrianism and integrate within the
communities. Family harmony would thrive, apostasy disappear, and
community stability benefit naturally from RELIGIOUSLY inculcated
social moves towards acceptance.
Had the Bombay priests come straight out with the RELIGIOUS TRUTH
CONVERSION and then explained that owing perhaps to personal
or disinclination, or economic and socio-political pressures, now.
augmented by alien fundamentalist busybodies and wily opportunists,
was not possible to put our religiously inculcated precepts into
practice, and called a moratorium on this vexing issue. The
self-respect of the Bombay community and its religious and populist
leaders would thereby have remained unassailed throughout the
of needless obfuscation. However, what is seemingly appropriate for
Bombay cannot be rigidly imposed as RELIGIOUS dogma upon the rest of
the Zoroastrian world where, evidentially, circumstances and needs
very different. Solutions similarly remain to be boldly tackled over
the thorny questions of Calendars, Initiation, Intermarriage,
procedures (especially regarding Burial, Cremation, Secondary
non-Zoroastrian pallbearers, post-mortem Prayers) and all other
which our communities continue to irresponsibly and hurriedly shelve
"controversial". Such pressing matters of real concern to every
Zoroastrian will not resolve themselves through studied
Adding to the difficulties confronting our priesthood and the laity
the infiltration by those Parsis who rejected Zoroastrianism for a
moribund THEOSOPHY: an insidious mix of doctrines incorporating
alien to Zarathushtra's theology are passed on to a gullible public
a modern extension of the Prophet's teachings. Then there are among
Parsis groups of followers of the latter-day receivers of secretly
communicated pseudo-religious teachings, the more revered as they
become less comprehensible!
Such non-Zoroastrian views are being espoused by small vocal
minorities. And though they certainly, under the principle of
of conscience', have the right to believe and declare the same, they
must be seen for what they really are -- PERVERTERS OF THE DOCTRINE
THE PROPHET ZARATHUSHTRA. Not only do they publish and preach in
they appear as itinerant preachers in parts of the world where
Zoroastrians have recently settled to promote their peculiar
theosophies, attempting to gain the support of the uninformed by
insinuating a tribal religion based upon blood. The illuminating
message of the Prophet is craftily avoided, or even displaced. The
of moral striving and the goal of establishing the Rule of
Righteousness is utterly ignored. For whatever unpleasant reasons,
authentically Zoroastrian priesthood seems paralyzed to denounce or
counteract such unprincipled infiltrations, preferring to divert
attention to imagined threats from phantasms. These difficulties
lie with the Bombay priesthood.
We do not wish to engage in pointless disputation. Ours is a plea
enlightenment, which is already embedded in the words of the
We urge our enlightened dasturs to articulate this Wisdom and not
the Teacher whose teachings they profess. We jointly feel that a
cultured, enlightened, educated and teaching priesthood represents
best hope for the propagation of the faith and the continuance of
glory well into the next millennium of our PROPHET ZARATHUSHTRA WHO
SENT TO US TO PERFECT THIS WORLD THROUGH OUR OWN PERFECTION.
RELIGION OF ZARATRHUSHTRA IS FOR ALL MANKIND
Dr. Cyrus P. Mehta
was born in Bombay, India into a Parsi family, and earned his
Bachelors degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in
1967, and his Masters and Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute
Technology in 1970 and 1973. Dr. Mehta is a founder and
of Cytel Software Corporation and an Adjunct Professor of
Harvard University. (from Vohuman.org)
article by Dr. Mehta, from Vohuman.org
With the passage of time,
inter-faith marriages have increased within the community. So far no concrete proposals have been
considered as to how the non-Zoroastrian spouses and their children
partially or fully integrated within the communal fold.
In the twenties and
thirties, it was a common belief within the Parsi community that “A
a Zoroastrian and a Zoroastrian is a Parsi.”
At that time most Parsi boys and girls attended Parsi
The community lived in large
numbers in towns
As such it was natural for it
accept the belief quoted above.
marched on since those days.
community now lives in smaller scattered groups in the U.S.A.
and other countries.
It is anxious to
preserve its traditional way of life and the
One of the main reasons why this
difficulty has arisen is due to the fact that a large section of the
has not understood or is unwilling to accept the basic fact that
address their messages to the whole mankind and not necessarily to a
people or a community. Once this fact
understood and accepted, the community will be in much better
accept certain socio-religious changes within the communal
The purpose of this article is 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
of scholars of the Zoroastrian religion, on the above-mentioned
by Prof. A.V. Jackson on the above verse:
religion was active and vigorous, seeking and gaining converts, as
we see from
many passages in the Gathas. [“A
Hymn of Zarathushtra – Yasna31” by Jackson. Page 27]
by Prof. Lawrence Mills:“
he (Zarathushtra) declares that this is the doctrine which should be
for the conversion of mankind. Here we
observe that Zarathushtrian Mazda-worship was aggressive and
missionary in its
spirit, and in a proselytizing sense by no means indifferent to the
destiny of the Gentile World.” [“Sacred
Books of the East” Vol. XXX1, The Zend Avesta, Part III, Page
Ushtaviti 3.1 (Yasna 45.1).
specious words the pleasant paths of wrong.[Dr. I.J.S. Taraporewala’s translation]
Zarathushtra clearly gives out his message to people, not only to
also to those who may have come from distant lands and were not
by Prof. Wilhelm Geiger:
was burning with zeal to embark upon his great mission. He was the chosen of Mazda, who speaks
sublime satisfaction that Zarathushtra alone among mankind had heard
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
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
Haptan Yasht (Karda 8.6)
Vendidad (Fargard 19,26)
[Vendidad in Gujarati by
Ervad K.E. Kanga –3rd Edition Page 312: Vendidad
in English by T.R. Sethna. Page 144]
all the foregoing passages, it is clear that it was Zarathushtra’s
that his message was not only for Iran
but also for other countries. This
intention was understood and carried out by his followers, during
Period (from about 800 B.C. to about 200 A.D.) and major part of
(from the 3rd to the 9th century)
on this information, Prof. Jackson wrote:
”May the knowledge, extent and fame of the Commandments of the
Mazda-worshipping religion ever increase over the world, over all
regions. So may it be.” [Source:
“Zarthoshti Daily Prayers” by I.J.S. Taraporewala]
twentieth century is over but majority of the community is
of the teachings of their own Prophet and choose to cling to several
socio-religious customs, which are incompatible with the teachings
Zarathushtra. To debar or object to the
presence of non-Zoroastrians in our religious ceremonies, just on
that they are non-Zoroastrians is a classic example of praying one
doing diametrically opposite to it, as can be seen from the under
“May the brilliance of the excellent
Religion be wide-spread over the seven regions.
May this be specially fulfilled!”
[Source: ‘Mazda Yasna – Some
Daily Prayers from Zend
Avesta’ by D.S. Framroze]
words indeed, but in reality is that nothing is being done to spread
message and those for whom blessings are invoked are debarred from
them in person.
Muktad and Farvardian Jashans, some within the
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,
Fravashi means Divine Essence of God in everything within the
creation, including human beings and its purpose is to push forward
creations in the goal of evolution. In
order that we may better understand the nature of work done by Farohars.
‘Farvardin Yasht’, tells us that there are three groups of Farohars.
1. This consists of Farohars in
all creations of Ahura Mazda as stated above.
Mobedss, during the course of the ceremonies in question, invoke Farohars
of righteous persons of all countries irrespective of caste, color
creed. A few countries are actually
mentioned by names --- the countries that were known to our
ancestors and where
Zoroastrian religion prevailed. The
relevant passages are as under:-
XXXI (143): “We revere the fravashis of righteous
persons of Aryan
countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous women of
countries. We revere the fravahsis
of righteous men and women of Turanian countries.
We revere the fravashis of righteous
men of Sairim (Syrian) countries. We revere the fravashis of
women of Sairim (Syria)
XXXI (144) “We revere the fravashis of righteous men
of Saini (China)
countries. We revere the fravashis
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 Caspian
Sea where brave tribes once lived.)
XXXI (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
righteous, good, powerful, beneficent fravashis those from
in theory, these religious
ceremonies can be open to one and all, but for a start we should
cease opposition to non-Zoroastrians spouses and their children who
ceremonies out of respect and reverences and wish to be associated
Zoroastrian community. This single step
will go a long way to restore harmony within the community, whether
it is in U.K.
In conclusion, who can deny
in prayers and rituals what matters most is heart and devotion and
observation under all circumstances of outward forms of worship. It is no fault of non-Zoroastrians who
not born of Zoroastrian parents. One
creates all humans, and we all worship the same God.
The aim of all Prophets has been to establish
a kind of ‘Brother of Mankind’ under the ‘Fatherhood of God’. Zarathshtra wanted to establish
of Magavans’ and extend it
to all who accepted his Faith. (‘Maga’
means message and ‘Magavan’ is one who has taken to heart
RUN AMOK AT AHMEDABAD: AGAINST INTERMARRIAGE
(Editor's note: does anyone know
what issue of Parsiana this article is from? please email me)
A sad and sorry chapter has been
in the annals of our communitys affairs. The Federation meeting
Ahmedabad degenerated into a brawl. Our leaders of eminence like
Shroff, Dinshaw Tamboly, Nariman Mogrelia and Mani Clubwalla were
terrorized into silence by louts. Physical violence was just
away. If this sounds shocking, what has left us aghast is that
the hosts from Ahmedabad egged on these louts to frenzy. PTA had
the delegates to emulate Gandhi, instead, some of them behaved
We have decided, and so have the PARSIANA and the JAME, to
sordid details of this meeting, to enable the community and others
to what extent, fundamentalists are ready to go.
Tension was brewing in the air from the start. There was a
skirmish between the President of the Youth Wing of Ahmedabad and
office bearers of the Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayet. At dinner, Areez
Khambatta, President of the Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayet and
host-in-chief, almost came to blows with Dady Mistry of the Delhi
Anjuman, in full view of fellow diners. Is this the famed Gujarati
hospitality or is it a part of what Khojeste Mistree calls,
When Nariman Mogrelia of Chennai spoke about the survey regarding
allowing children of intermarried Parsi mothers into the Agiary,
louts began screaming that "we shall strip you of your
burn you alive". The same treatment was meted out to anyone who
to dissent. The Chairman, Minoo Shroff, veteran of numerous
meetings, was speechless. The usually aggressive BPP CEO, B.T.
was also terrorized.
The highly respected sociologist and demographer, Dr. Ava Khullar,
told to explain her Juddin surname and shut up. Khojeste
the veracity of PARSIANA statistics. Thereupon, the Chairman
requested its editor, Jehangir Patel, to explain. He was hardly
to speak. That famous fruitcake, Yazdi Desai, told Arnavaz Mama of
PARSIANA that "you are not the Press, you are chors!".
On the other hand, the fundamentalist speakers were applauded and
created. The atmosphere was so surcharged that violence was almost
The frustration of the fundamentalist is understandable. As the
tightens around the future of the Parsis, and as simultaneously,
Niagra of Neo-Zoroastrians roars round the world, they are almost
breathless with fear. They have no answers to cold statistics.
fruitcake arguments are being openly laughed at. This frustration
fear is lending them to be so aggressive, so crude, so boorish as
bring louts, in the guise of delegates, to the Federation meeting.
We are not, for a moment, denying their right to disagree. Whether
join the IZO or not, is, indeed their privilege. However, they
business disrupting meetings and preventing discussion.
There was continual insistence by the orthodox to take a vote on
issue. The Chairman refused. So far, most decisions by the
have been by consensus. The voting rights of the Anjumans are
disproportionate. The BPP representing 40,000 Parsis has five
while the Khergaum Anjuman representing 4 Parsis has one vote. The
so-called 24 out of 29 Anjumans which opposed the move
represented far fewer Parsis than the 5 Anjumans in favour! This
was the tyranny of the minority. Whoever decided the weightage of
must have their heads examined. Why should the Bombay Parsi
let its voice be stifled by some cartoon Anjuman from Nowhere
Khojeste Mistree represents the Belgaum Anjuman. Pray, what is
connection with Belgaum, Sir? Instead, why dont you represent the
Oxford Parsi Anjuman? If the majority allows itself to be hijacked
some vociferous Hoon, Bawa ne Mangaldas Anjumans from the
Gujarat, woe betide the community.
So is the Federation of India going to abandon its collective
and be dictated to by butchers, bakers and sodawatermakers. The
question, is, where do we go from here.
Firstly, the BPP, the Delhi, Calcutta, Madras Anjumans must
state that if any such behaviour is repeated at any Federation
they shall leave the Federation. Secondly, they should blacklist
Ahmedabad as the venue of any Federation meeting. The same applies
Surat too. Let the official transcripts of the meeting (every word
been recorded at Ahmedabad) be published so that the community
what was said by whom. Do not forget to delete the expletives
Thirdly, there should be a complete revamp of the Federation
constitution to link weightage of votes to the number of Parsis
represented by each Anjuman. It is a bad, Dhanshaak joke that four
Parsis of Khergaum can cock a snook at the 40,000 Parsis of
Some of these Anjumans complained that they were being armtwisted
silence by the threat of cutting off WZO donor help. We would
ordinarily condemn such fetters on free speech and free thought.
However, the situation is slightly different here. You cannot
abuse and denigrate your donor, call them chors and still expect
If you repeatedly spit in the plate offered to you, then do not
the plate offered to you, then do not expect further aid.
expel Anjumans which bring louts instead of delegates to these
meetings. If all this does not work out, let the metropolitan
form a new Federation.
As for the BPP itself, let the Chairman spell out what exactly is
decision of the trustees. PTA has reliably been informed that all
trustees are in favour of joining the IZO provided the office
are only Parsi Zoroastrians atleast for ten years (Dinshaw Mehta
ever having agreed to a ten year period and states that this
restriction is to be permanent, while the Chairman and Tamboly say
a ten year period has indeed been agreed to!). The Chairman
place this item on the agenda and decide the issue conclusively.
and the other orthodox trustees are insisting on this office
restriction, knowing fully well that it is a non-starter and will
be accepted by non-Indian Federations (and rightly so!). This is
clever by the half move to ensure that BPP never joins IZO. It
time the Chairman calls their bluff. PTA believes that a majority
the BPP Trustees will agree to join even without the office
be Parsis clause. So instead of shuffling your feet, please
this issue once and for all. What, however, if the BPP decides to
continue to insist on this clause and never joins the IZO. The IZO
not be the loser.
Parsis are a small, minority sect of people who practice
Zoroastrianism. If they want to be xenophobic, racial and
so much the better for the World Body to be without such people.
be a true Zoroastrian international organization whose doors are
to all Zoroastrians irrespective of race, colour, sex or caste.
Unity of Faith be the sole criteria. Perhaps the IZO can do
members who disrupt meetings and indulge in hooliganism or
insist upon blatantly offensive restrictions like only Parsis to
office bearers or members who put fascists to shame by talking
racial purity and preservation of semen-stock.
We always believed that Zoroastrianism will do fine even without
Parsis. We now think that it will be much better off only that
Cosmic wants Zoroastrianism to flourish and that perhaps is the
why the Parsis are perishing.
May We Not Lose the Vision
Zareen Hakim, A Zoroasterian for Today
an active member of The Zoroastrian Association of Greater New
grew up in New York State. She holds a BS in biology from
University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, and has been
working for J.P.
Morgan Chase & Co. since 1996. Her interests include
art and graphic
design, and she is now working towards pursuing a career in a
Zareen was one of the 34 pilgrims who traveled to Iran in May
2000. She was
thoroughly amazed by the experience, which has sparked an even
greater desire to
learn more about Zoroastrianism and to find ways to keep
alive. (from Vohuman.org)
Zoroastrianism has survived for over 3 thousand years, and while
have come to various crossroads in our history, it seems that now
the time for us to re-assess and capture its essence once again!
Imagine a world, not just a small community, where the use of
good mind, Vohu Mana, leads humankind to the path of
righteousness. Is this not Zarathushtra’s vision, Our
Vision? Can we work to fulfill it, and if so, how do we get
Zarathushtra’s vision is something that transcends ethnic,
and generation boundaries. It is at the ‘core’ of
that which ties us together, and needs to be explored and
order for the religion to survive.
I understand that because of our history of persecution, we have
keep the religion within our own walls, to protect the flame as
could - isolation our only measure of hope…
But as much as this was a means of survival, in ways, it has
detrimental to the growth of Zoroastrianism, and this may be why
mentality of exclusiveness remains today.
In the worst of circumstances, we and our forefathers and mothers
the flame alive - we kept it alive in the hopes that one day, we
be blessed with the opportunity to openly practice our religion,
it thrive, not just survive, for the betterment of all
That time is NOW! No longer are we in danger...After
years of preserving and protecting the religion, we are
Let’s rejoice and continue to carry out Zarathustra’s vision!
Presently, we as a community, know that the inevitable forces of
are upon us, but we don’t quite know what to do or how to go about
channeling this change in a positive way. What is the goal
Zoroastrian community? What do we want our future to look
like? Do we even want to make a difference?
Perhaps we are afraid to take the first step in what may result in
change. This is understandable, but I view change as a
enhancement, and not something to be feared. After-all,
inevitable - and change is a tool to open our minds and progress
towards the future, a very Zoroastrian concept. In fact,
re-assessing the religion and re-awakening the vision, will do us
necessary good. What better way to clarify our minds and to
revitalize our collective conscience than to come together and
re-educate ourselves and others on the ‘core’ elements of the
religion?! Surely, we may differ on what the vision is, but
hope that we can agree that Zarathushtra’s message is a universal
one which grants each and every one of us the good mind, despite
Zarathushtra envisioned an eventual perfect world, a state of
Hauvertat, which may be achieved through the conscious decisions
Good Mind to choose the righteous path. Zarathushtra did not limit
use of the religion to his first followers - his vision was to be
spread to all of humanity!
Because his vision is universal, we, alone, can not reach that
utopian state without sharing his message with those who choose to
In fact, to keep Zarathushtra’s vision alive, it is our obligation
educate, encourage, and welcome into the religion, all who have
conscious decision to embrace it.
Let’s think for a moment - What are the benefits of isolating
Zoroastrianism from the rest of the world? I couldn’t think
any, either! Some think that the religion will not remain
if people from other ethnic groups practice it.
But, if one Chooses, Accepts and Lives by Zarathushtra’s message,
person is one step closer in bringing the world towards
that is quite the opposite of "impurity", and more importantly, is
conjunction with Zarathushtra’s vision….for he states in the
one of many examples:
“As long as I have power and strength, I shall teach all to seek
for Truth and Right.”
Being a Zoroastrian is founded on personal choice. As I view
ethnicity does not even become an issue. We can not rely on
intra-faith marriages alone to preserve our faith.
with ethnically mixed marriages on the rise, it would be wise to
explore other ways to increase the Zoroastrian
Extinction, in my opinion, is not an option. While our
may not flourish in the future, Zoroastrianism can and will!
Let’s be excited that so many people are interested in our
and that families of ethnically mixed marriages want to raise
children as Zoroastrians. Look around you - I know that
not all, know someone who was not born into the faith, but is
out Zarathushtra’s universal message far more than many of us who
born into the religion are. Let that be an example to all,
to the youth.
I think the vision is what the Zoroastrian youth find comfort in,
today. This is what we feel needs to be preserved.
that we don’t believe in practicing the ritualistic aspects of the
religion, but the connection becomes weak if the message is being
lost. With the influence of both Indian and North American
cultures, for example, I find that I have to go further back to
roots in Iran in discovering who I am. In the same way, I
Zarathushtra’s early teachings in the Gathas, where he clearly
communicates a universal vision!!
To find comfort in your own faith, not because you were born into
but because it gives you meaning in life, is a truly wonderful
thing. Unfortunately, while we may not be able to preserve
ethnicity, we have enough knowledge and enthusiasm to let
Zoroastrianism live on and encourage the lives of many!
Let’s unite and attempt to re-establish the core elements of the
religion - The Vision - not only for ourselves, but for humanity!
This is no easy task, but I believe that truth will triumph in the
whether or not we as a community decide to embrace it at this
Zarathustra’s vision represents this truth and will survive, must
survive - why not nurture the evolution of the vision, while we
have a chance to shape it?
Dr. Ali Akbar Jafarey, was born in
Kerman, Iran. He received his schooling up to the University level
Karachi. He has a doctorate in Persian Language and Literature,
self-studied thirteen living and ancient languages, and also
linguistics, anthropology, Indo-Iranian literature, history,
and research methods. In Saudi Arabia, he worked as a
translator/anthropologist in the Arabian Research Division of
In 1991, Dr. Jafarey established the Zarathushtrian Assembly in
Los Angeles. Read more of Dr. Jafarey's articles on the Assembly
web site or here: http://vohuman.org/Author/Jafarey,AliAkbar.htm
CONVERSION AND CHOICE OF RELIGION
by Ali A. Jafarey
Several readers have asked us to write on conversion. Does
amount to repudiating one's religion of birth and accepting an
religion not determined by destiny? This is an argument
said by those who, for reasons known best to them, are against any
change of religion. Generally the argument is that God
assigns one a
religion at birth and one must not disobey God. Some of
conversion elaborate that God created various races of mankind and
divided them to belong each to a certain predestined religion.
Let us first understand the meanings of conversion and
choice in relation with religion. Conversion is derived from
Latin "conversion, conversio, from convertere,
to turn around, transform, convert, from com- + vertere,
to turn." It means: "An experience associated with a definite and
decisive adoption of religion."
Choice is derived from Old French choisir, to choose,
and "choose" means "to select freely and after consideration."
(Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 1997)
Now that we understand the two words in their contexts, let us
turn to our subject: Conversion/Choice.
As already explained in the previous posting Religion-by-Birth
Karma," the above theory is the product of the Hindu belief in
reincarnation." The established fact, therefore, is that one
born in religion but is brought up in the religion of his/her
How many creeds and cults have died a natural or violent death
through migration, invasion, commingling and fostering, we do not
know. They could number in the thousands. Let us
existing major religions in a chronological order:
Hinduism has been an evolving religion for some 4,000 years,
Good Conscience was founded by Zarathushtra 3700 years ago,
Moses some 3300 years ago, Buddhism by Buddha 2500 years ago,
by Mahavira 2500 years ago, Christianity by Jesus and Paul 2000
ago, Islam by Muhammad 1400 years ago, Sikhism by Nanak 500 years
and Baha'ism by Bahaullah in 1863, only 142 years ago.
How could their numbers grow or decrease to their present
if God had destined people to adhere to their
has none of these founders a clear commandment prohibiting
On the contrary, most of them have advocated the spread of their
respective religions. Why do those Zoroastrians who are against
conversion beat around the bush in long articles and go in circles
interpretations in an attempt to make their point of view appear
All they need to do is to produce a terse prohibitive
commandment against conversion. They
have none, not a single evidence from the Avesta, Pahlavi and
writings or from an alien history saying that Zoroastrians from
Achaemenian to Sassanian times did not convert and that one had
Had it been so, Greek, Roman, Christian, Armenian, Indian, and
historians would have noted this strange custom.
All the above-named religions have had conversion through
propagation, persuasion, force and commingling. Hinduism, a
the multi-races of Australoids, Dravidians, Aryans, Tibeto-Chinese
others, which had become restricted later by its rigid caste
has now its missionaries in India and abroad. Judaism, an
religion, has all along accepted people who have been "hebraized"
that is why Jews hailing from various parts of Europe, the Middle
Central Asia, Southwest India, and Ethiopia are a mixed race of
browns and blacks. The slow progress in their missionary
mostly been due to tough and even cruel
enforced by the ruling Romans, Christians and Muslims. The
and expansion of Buddhism, from India to China and Indochina and
other countries, has been only through propagation and
Jainism has been slow but now Jains are active even in North
Christianity, Islam and Baha'ism are quite open and active in
missionary work. Christians and Muslims are again well known
forced conversions in their past records. After the defeat
Zoroastrian Iranian empire, the Muslims converted Zoroastrians by
a policy of both "carrot and stick," rather "concession and
One can confidently state that 90% of the Iranian people are
descendents of Zoroastrians.
This brings us to another excuse against conversion. Conversion
creates hatred and enmity. Quite true! Brutal force used by
Christianity and Islam to convert their conquered peoples has been
cause of much hatred and frequent bloodsheds. We have recent
incidents between Christians and Muslims in Eastern Europe and
Hindus and Muslims in India. And let us not forget the bloody
Israeli-Palestinian tug-of-war going for more than half a century.
Against this, we do not see any violent reaction, even
hatred, against Buddhists and Baha'is. Why because their
been and is peaceful. I remember two incidents. In
Baha'i leader in Karachi told my father that there were 200
then undivided India and later I came to know that all of them
Zoroastrian converts. In 1993, I was told by a Baha'i, again an
Zoroastrian convert in Delhi, that there were 700,000 Baha'is in
present divided] India. No reaction against so many Hindus,
Sikhs and Zoroastrians silently and peacefully going over to
Baha'is are quite welcome in India simply because the converts
well with their former coreligionists.
Recent anti-Christian incidents in India are due to
going after the lowest caste "untouchables' that consequently
the upper castes of the cheap labor doing the "dirty jobs," never
touched by the upper the ones. It also elevates the converts to
higher education and better living! Mother Teresa, a zealous
missionary, cared for the "uncared" poor on the streets, whom she
eventually baptized, is praised and raised for her role in
conversion. Baha'is go after upper classes and therefore no
And let us not forget that Zoroastrianism, which spread from
Nile to the western parts of China and India, did not use force to
expand. The 800-year war by the Parthians and Sassanians with the
"Pagan" and Byzantine Romans has never been remembered by the two
as religious. Even a single incident of taking the "Cross on which
Jesus was Crucified" as a war booty by the Sassanians did not give
battle a religious color. The struggle between the two super
more political and it has been recorded as such. Logical and
propagation of religion to convince and convert people has always
good rewards. The only exceptional instance is by the powerful
Sassanian Mobedan-Mobed KARTIR. He recounts his forced conversions
Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and heretics into
(See his bas-reliefs on Naghsh-e Rajab and Naghsh-e Rostam, the
bas-reliefs by a person who is not a King-of-Kings of the Iranian
Traditionalists say that the Zoroastrian religion was and is
for the Iranian people. Although Avestan and Pahlavi
the bas-reliefs left by Sassanian authorities say otherwise, let
look at facts. The Iranian Plateau, from the modern Iraqi
Tajikistan in the Pamirs, was inhabited by numerous indigenous
having their own creeds, cults and civilizations. The Aryan
them. They were all converted to the religion founded or as
Traditionalists present it, "reformed" by Zarathushtra. If
not true than how did Zoroastrianism became the dominant religion
estimated 15 million people inside and outside the Sassanian
What about Armenians, non-Iranians Iranianized since the
who were Zoroastrians before they were converted to Christianity,
that too because of the wrong policy of the Sassanian
about the Arab, Chinese and Turkic Zoroastrians we read in history
books? What about the phrase "TÃ¢ziÃ¢n-e
koshti-girdled Arabs" in the daily prayers? Who were they? History
records by early Muslims state that they were the Arab
the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf.
What do the Traditionalists say about the children of the
who were forced into non-Zoroastrian religions? Should they
with what is said that at present their birth in a religion, which
brutally forced upon their ancestors, is what God has destined for
them? What made God to send Islam to convert His predestined
Zoroastrians into Muslims? Or was it the stronger Ahriman who
the Divine Destiny for them?!?! If so, who sent Mohammad as the
to be the cause of this disaster? The thought-provoking questions
go on until the notion of predestined birth becomes preposterous.
Conversion through propagation, persuasion, and force has been
main means of spreading the religion. In fact, had there been no
conversion, each of founders would have been the sole follower of
own religion and since they were not to convert their spouses,
religions would have died with them! Once converted, the children
obviously brought up in the accepted religion. Setting aside
Traditionalist Zoroastrian viewpoint, every religion, whether
or small, is working to convert the entire world of six billion+
people. Christianity, Islam and to an extent, Buddhism are
a global missionary competition. Unlimited conversion has
Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism into large multiracial,
multicultural, and multilingual fellowships. And Baha'is are
quiet but sure progress.
Conversion has different shades
. In some
religions, it means the use of every possible means to bring the
over. In others there are certain rules and
regulations. In the Good Religion of Zarathushtra,
it is only through study, acceptance, and choice.
One has first to acquire sufficient knowledge of the religion,
its doctrine with an open and clear mind, and accept it through
will and personal choice. That is why the word
"conversion," in its modern usage, has not been used in the
Dr. Ali A. Jafarey
Gathas are a well-worded, well-versed, well-patterned,
well-rounded, well-turned, well-linked, coherent, cohesive,
concise, and precise
divan of the Divine Doctrine by the Master-Mâñthran (Thought-provoker)
Prime-Poet Zarathushtra Spitama. They have five meters,
seventeen songs and
241 stanzas, small enough to fit into a pocketbook of only 40
discuss, in clear words, a unique Monotheism, Primal
Existence, mental enlightenment, physical soundness, Good and
Evil, Freedom of
Choice, progressive life, constructive contribution,
rehabilitation of the
uprooted, renovation of the world, radiating happiness in a
natural and peaceful
environment, and advancing towards a godlike goal. They are
inspirations, sublime prayers, subtle rituals, simple
directives, and sound
advices for a superb splendid life. The Gathas are the Guide to
Good Conscience, “the best religion …. for the living ….
promotes the world through righteousness and polishes words and
serenity.” (Song 9:10 – Yasna 44:10)
the above subjects are interrelated and therefore
interwoven within the
241 stanzas, a moving mosaic of Message. One may pick a
subject in a stanzas but
to comprehend its meaning and message, he/she will have to see
it in its context
as given in the stanza, then look at it in the song in which
the stanza stands,
and then understand its interrelation with other stanzas in
Understanding the Gathas is easy, provided one has the
picture, the complete Doctrine, in his/her full view.
A single sample,
out of context, may lead to misunderstanding or even wrong
to comprehend the second stanza of the third song, we shall
have to carefully
look at its main point in the context of the entire Gathic
guidance. That main
point is “Freedom of Choice” and the word on which it
is based is âverenâo.
It is from the root var (Sanskrit vr), which
means to choose,
to select with a secondary meaning to prefer, to
words derived from this root have been used
for 30 times in the Gathas, more than enough to give us the true
meaning of it.
They have been used twice in the Haptanghaiti and 12 times in
(Yasna 12). It makes a total of 44 times in the Gathas and their
the same dialect.
words from this root occur twice in the non-Gathic Yasna, once
in the Vispered,
twice in the Yashts and thrice in the Vendidad, a total of
eight times in the
entire Later Avesta. The non-Gathic Avesta is, in size, almost
larger than its Gathic part. One may wonder at the ratio of
eight times against
the Gathic 44 times. The reason is simple. The non-Gathic part
of the extant
Avesta is more concerned about rituals, customs,
legend, history, geography, medicine, and more. Its composers
knew well that the
Gathas were the Divine Doctrine. That was enough and
adequate for them.
They appended what they considered appropriate. As it will be
eight in number, they are a good help in understanding the
significance of our
subject of ‘Freedom of Choice’ as seen by the Avestan
translation of the our main stanza reads:
the best with your ears
and ponder with a bright mind.
Then each man and woman, for his or her self,
select either of the [following] two choices.
Awaken to this Doctrine of ours
before the Great Event of Choice ushers in.
3 - stanza 2)
let me give also the translations by three Parsi scholars and
Kavasji Edalji Kanga: …. (tê)
mhotâ banâvo-ni agamcha darêk jan-nê
potânê-mâtê ê (potâni) pasandagi-no
êtekâd (hovo joîyê – yâne darêk
mânasê khodâ-parasti tathâ dêv-parasti,
ê bê-mâñ-thi jê sârûñ
tê pasand kari-nê, tê mûjab potâ-no dharm
sañbañdhi êtêkâd râkhvo …
Then before the great event, each person should, for his own
self, have his
preferred belief. (It means that each person should prefer
from the two –
God-worship and demon-worship, the one which is better and
thus have his belief
concerning the religion.) ….” (Ervadji Kanga – Happily, he has
in the Avestan script on the cover page of his book Gâthâ
Gujarati language, Bombay, 1895)
D.J. Irani: “…. Let
each one choose his creed with that freedom of
‘choice,’ each must have at great events. ….”
Dr. Irach J.S. Taraporewala: “…. Before you
choose which of
the Paths to tread, deciding each man by man, each for each;
before the great
New Age is ushered in, wake up, alert to spread Ahura’s word.
Ardeshir Faramji Khabardar: “…. the careful
selection of the
two ‘choices,’ man by man for his own self, before the great
setting off on
life’s journey, ….”
Mobed Firuz Azargoshasb: “…. decide each man and
personally between the two paths, good and evil. Before
ushering in of the great
day, or the day of the judgment, arise all of you and try to
words (Zarathushtra’s message).”
Mobedan Mobed Rostam Shahzadi: “…. Before the
lost, each man and woman should for his/herself choose between
the two – the
right path (Mazda-worship) or the wrong path (demon-worship).
May you, with the
help of Mazda Ahura, be successful in your choice of the right
word âvarenâo has been translated as ‘etekâd, yekîn,
belief, faith’ by Kangaji; ‘creed’ by Irani; ‘choices’ by
‘Path” by Taraporewala with the note “Bartholomae translates
belief or of faith’ and derives it from var (Skt. Vr),
and with [the prefix] â, to profess (a belief); ‘râh,
(path, belief) by Azargoshasb, and ‘râh’ (path)
‘Mazda-worship or Demon-worship’ by Shahzadi.
stanza speaks of the full Freedom of Choice of Belief
as the right of
each man and woman, and has a request to awaken to the
Teaching of the Divine Doctrine before the Great Event.
The stanza is one
of the eleven stanzas of the Song devoted to the first sermon
on vahya mainyu
and aka mainyu, the better and the bad
translate in human thoughts, words and deeds. It expounds this
unique theme of
Good and Evil that has confounded many an exponent. The
following Song 4 (Yasna
31) guides how to choose the better mentality and lead a good
life, and Song 5
(Yasna 32) exposes the wrongs done by the aberrant.
the remaining 29 instances of the words derived from var,
all the above
five persons give the meanings of verbs as ‘to choose, to
prefer, to like (pasand
karvûñ), to please, to believe, to put faith in (mânvûñ,
and nouns as ‘faith, creed, religion, doctrine, custom, path.’
have, in a larger version of my essay, given the renderings of
the above persons
for almost all the 44 instances in which the derivatives of
the root var occur.
Here I will confine myself to only those passages, which are
more related to our
subject of the day.
(Yathâ Ahû): We
begin with Ahunavar, the stanza which has given the
first Gatha its name Ahunavaiti.
It says: “Just as the lord (ahu) is vairyo,
meaning ‘to be
chosen,’ so is the leader (ratu) on account of their
only.” Lord, according to Song 2 (Yasna 29) is the person “who
fury of the wrongful,” and the leader is the person “who
civilization, nourishment and strength” to the living world.
The person ‘to
be chosen’ as both the “Lord and Leader” by the Living World
was and is,
of course, Zarathushtra Spitâma. He was the only
person who had listened
to the Divine Message and was prepared to proclaim it through
his Songs. He was
granted the sweetness of tongue to carry out his universal
1:5 (Yasna 28:5):
Zarathushtra says: “With these greatest thought-provoking
shall convince the barbarians to choose (vâurôimaidi)
“We shall be able to give faith to the wicked people.”
“May we e’er convert with force of tongue those gone astray.,
(with a note:
“… At any rate this passage is clear proof of the great desire
of Z. that
His New Message should spread all over the world.”)
“When shall I have the ability of leading the warriors,
and astray to the path which is the best and superior.”
4:3 (Yasna 31:3):
Zarathushtra wants the Divine Message to help him “to guide
living to choose for themselves (vâurayâ) the right
may make all the living as believers.”
“to convert all the living” and in his note he mentions about
‘conversion” and adds “that Zoroastrians in India today are on
averse to proselytizing; some indeed regard it as positively
“…. Mazda has taught me the Religion of Mazda through his own
talk and told me to convey it to mankind.”
4:11 (Yasna 31:11): God
has “fashioned for us the living world, conceptions and
intellects, put life
in the physical frame, and gave deeds and doctrine, so that
one makes his
‘choice’ ((varenêng) through free will.
for fixing the deeds and religious commandments or for the
belief or choice.” Taraporewala
“Whereby one may hold whatever Faith one wills.”
“…. You wanted every person to choose the way he/she prefers
determination and in full freedom.”
may be pointed out that Mobed Firuz Azargoshasb has
written notes on
stanzas 1:5, 4:3 and 4:11 that the Good Religion of
Zarathushtra is a universal
religion for all mankind and that it is to be spread through
any push, persuasion and/or force. People may choose it
knowledgeable discretion and Free Will only.
6:2 (Yasna 33:2): Whosoever
foils the wrongful by word, thought or action, or …. teaches
advances in his choice (vârâi).
… presents for his religious belief i.e. he strengthens his
They accomplish (Thy) Purpose. (in the vocabulary vâra,
guides a wrongful person on the right path, … (Note:
Propagation of religion
and fighting evil is permitted according to this stanza.)
12:6 (Yasna 47:6): “…. With the growth of serenity and righteousness,
convert many a seeker.”
is completely selected by the aspirants.”
She shall draw (into her fold) many Seekers.
This shall cause many to hear Thy Message.
13:4 (Yasna 48:4): Whoever,
Mazda, has set his mind on the better or the worse, sets his
accordingly with actions and words. His desire follows his
cherished choice (varenêng).
“He who keeps himself good and pure, maintains the religion
the same way; his
wish, belief and faith follow suit.
“His will follows his voluntary choice.”
desire follows the same path.” (Note: a Persian couplet: You
see exactly what
you wish. You wish exactly what you see.)
14:3 (Yasna 49:3): This
has been put as a choice (varenâi) that righteousness
is for the
promotion of the doctrine, and wrong is for harming it.
“In order to guide the people of world, the religious
has been laid down.
“It is laid down by Mazda as choice for all – the Teaching
that Truth shall
prevail, that Untruth shall be frustrated.”
“According to Thy Faith, O Mazda, the choice of Righteousness
is its own
the Mazda-worship Religion is based on Truth and therefore it
beneficial, and the demon-worship religion on Lie and
17:2 (Yasna 53:2): “And now, let Kavi Vishtaspa, the Zarathushtrian
Ferashaoshtra pursue, with mind, words, and deeds, the
knowledge for the praise
and for the choice (fraoret) of venerations of the Wise
One, in order to
establish in straight paths the religion which God has granted
With faith in adoration rites ….”
“Let each choose acts of piety … meditating on the Path of
Truth – the
Faith Ahura has revealed to the Saviour.”
“May they teach all to keep to the established straight path,
Best Course to Teach the Religion to Mankind. “For the
pleasure of Mazda,
all should sincerely spread the best religion through thought,
word and deed.
…. Vishtaspa and Ferashaoshtra became supporters of
Zarathushtra and succeeded
as the Benefactors (Saoshyants) …. in teaching people the
right path of the
Azargoshasb follows closely his preceptor, Dr. Taraporewala,
in his translations
of the Gathas. Nevertheless, he has his independent way also.
His renderings of
the above stanzas are in quite harmony with Dr.
Shahzadi has given subtitles to most of the stanzas of the
Gathas in his
translation. Thirty-two of them present the Good Religion as
and that it should be propagated and spread, and the Subtitles
speak of Freedom
1.3 = Yasna 35.3: That
we have chosen (vairîmaidî), Lord Wise, through sublime
Righteousness, Which we have thought, spoken and done. Of
these deeds, the best
be for both the [mental and physical] existences.
venerate Zarathushtra’s Religion. We venerate Zarathushtra’s
religion was forth chosen (fraoreñta) by Ahura Mazda
the Righteous, also
by Good Mind, Best Righteousness, Choice Dominion, Progressive
Wholeness, Immortality, Ahurian Questions, and Ahurian
5:3: For You, Righteous Ahura Mazda, I
myself (verenê) this religion as a Mazda-worshipper,
void of false gods and of the Divine Doctrine.
religion was chosen forth (fraoreñta) by Ahura Mazda
the Righteous. ….
The Amesha Spentas chose (vereñta) the religion ….
Zarathushtra was the first to eliminate false gods and to
to be a Mazda-worshipper, Zarathushtrian, void of false gods,
an alien-believer (anya-varena) alien-doctrined (anya-tkaesha)
die, how many creations of the Progressive Mentality would he
who teaches the alien-belief (anya-varena) and
to a righteous person knowing.
two passages show that other religions were known by the term
instead of what some religions do by calling others as
heresy, paganism, or heathenism.
for himself (fraorenaêta) the Mazda-worshipping
use of the words derived from var show that they do
carry the idea of the
choice of religion and also that the Gathas are the Divine
Message for mankind.
That means that the Good Religion is the first missionary
a mission that firmly believed in “Freedom of Choice” after a
of the thought-provoking Message presented with a sweet
tongue. To sum up what
one understands from all the above references is:
of Choice is for every individual person.
choice is made by considering the subject with a bright,
clear, un-tinted and
wishes all to be awake to his Teachings also.
message is universal and is not confined to race, color, and
It has to
be peacefully spread with a soft and sweet tongue.
coercion are not allowed.
is because of such a meaningful mission that the composer of
the eulogy in honor
of Zarathushtra in the Farvardin Yasht declares: “Henceforth
the Good Religion
of Mazda-worship will spread all over the seven climes of the
our main subject of Song 3:2 (Yasna 30:2) in view, we now turn
to two important
points: (a) Mazê Yâonghô, the Great Event and (b)
word ‘yâonghô/yâh’ is derived from the root yah/Sanskrit
meaning ‘to endeavor, to strive.’ It occurs in Song 3:2 (Yasna
11:14 (Yasna 46:14), and Song 14:9 (Yasna 49:9). It also
occurs as ‘mazishtâi
yâonghâm – the greatest of events’ in Haptanghaiti Song
36:2). The two Gathic
instances show that the occasions refer to the days King
Vishtaspa and Jamaspa
chose the Good Religion and the Haptanghaiti occurrence speaks
of the day when
the congregation of early Zoroastrians had encircled the Fire
altar in their
community enclosure for a special occasion called the greatest
of the events,
perhaps a group initiation into the Good Religion.
has been rendered as ‘mhoto banâv, agtyanûñ kâm – a
an important undertaking’ by Kangaji, ‘great events’ by D.J.
‘ushering-in-of the Great New Age’ by Taraporewala, ‘the great
on life’s journey’ by Khabardar, ‘ushering in of the great day
or the day
of judgement’ by Azargoshasb, and ‘opportunity (sic)’ by
Shahzadi. In Song
11:14 and Song 14:9, the some of the above scholars have
translated it as ‘The
Day of Judgment.’
word yâh does not occur in the Later Avesta but the
word for Koshti, the
religious girdle is derived from it. It aiwi-yâongh.
The prefix aiwi
meaning ‘to, towards, for’ also imparts ‘intensity’ to the
expresses what the Koshti stands for: to strive for the New
Age begun by
Zarathushtra’s Divine Message. The Koshti, we all know well,
is girdled on the
occasion of the Declaration of Choice – the Initiation
the Koshti, is first girdled on Yâongh, the Great
Declaration of Choice begins with Yasna 12, known as Fraoreitish Hâitish,
Religious Choice Chapter, a declaration that was/is made by
the Initiate for the
Choice of the Good Religion. It is, in fact, the
responsible response to
Zarathushtra’s call for consideration and choice.
Yasna 12 (repeated in Yasna 1:13, 3:24, 11:16, 14:4,
57:24), the Initiate
states: "1 do hereby eliminate the false gods. I do hereby choose
myself (fravarânê) to be Mazda-worshipper,
Zoroastrian, void of
false gods and Divine Doctrinal. ….”
hereby choose (varemaidî) the progressive
serenity for myself.
May it be mine!”
the Initiate declares that he/she will cleanse the world from
violence; guard the home of the Mazda-worshippers against harm
give the wise people, who live on this earth with their
cattle, full freedom of
movement; does not intend to hurt any body or soul; renounces
false gods and
their devotees; renounces sorcerers and their devotees;
renounces each and every
mental malady and physical ailment; in fact all falsities and
thoughts, words, and deeds.
renounces the false gods just as the Righteous Zarathushtra
did, and goes on to
Choice Belief (varena) in waters, with the Choice
Belief in plants,
with the Choice Belief in the bountiful world; with the Choice
Belief in God
Wise who created the living world and the righteous man -- the
Zarathushtra had, the Choice Belief Kavi Vishtaspa had, the
Ferashaoshtra and Jamaspa had, and the Choice Belief each of
truth-practicing righteous Benefactors have, it is with the
same Choice Belief
and doctrine that I am a worshipper of the Wise One.
my appreciations and Choice Beliefs (fravaretas-châ),
for myself (fravarânê) to be Mazda-worshipper and
appreciate well-thought thoughts,
I appreciate well-said words,
I appreciate well-done deeds.
appreciate the Good Religion of Mazda-worship which overthrows
yokes yet sheaths
swords, teaches self-reliance, and is righteous. Therefore, of
that have been and that shall be, this is the greatest, best,
and sublimest. It
is divine and Zoroastrian. I do attribute all good to God
is a daring declaration, and it is a great
event. The very
fact that one calls his/her religion as the greatest, best and
means that he/she considers all other religions as great, good
and sublime and
that he/she has made the choice after a comparative study of
as many of them as
possible with a bright mind. The declaration explains the full
meaning of the
Gathic stanza. It gives the salient points of the Good
Religion. Enjoying the
Freedom of Choice, it is a highly desirable, proper and
practical response to
Zarathushtra’s call for awakening to his Divine Message, our
subject of the
ahmî, mazdayasnô zarathushtrish
fravarânê âstûtascâ fravaretascâ.
âstuyê humatem manô
âstuyê hûxtem vacô
âstuyê hvarshtem shyaothanem.
âstuyê daênãm mâzdayasnîm
ýâ hâitinãmcâ bûshyeiñtinãmcâ
mazishtâcâ vahishtâcâ sraêshtâcâ
ýâ âhûirish zarathushtrish
ahurâi mazdâi vîspâ vohû cinahmî.
aêshâ astî daênayå mâzdayasnôish âstûitish!
* * * * *
The above article is the Speech made by Ali A. Jafarey at
Event, sponsored by FEZANA (The Federation of
Zoroastrian Association) as a concurrent event on 30 December
2000 to the 7th
World Zoroastrian Congress, also sponsored by FEZANA and
hosted by the
Zoroastrian Association of Houston, held at J.W. Marriott,
Houston, Texas from
28 December 2000 to 1 January 2001.
Religion-by-Birth and KARMA
by Dr. Ali Jafarey
We all hear and read certain Traditionalist Zoroastrians
untiringly repeat that one does not have any Choice to change
religion because it is against the Will of God Who alone gives
birth in a religion of His Choice.
How have the Traditionalists come to such a VITAL
conclusion? Any clear or even a hazy proof? Any precise
Not that I have seen or any person else can claim he/she has
read it in
any of the "Zoroastrian" scriptures. It is said again and again,
the emphasis is on the Divine Will and Will only. All one has to
to blindly accept the "unproven" statement as TRUTH or one is
to all insults they can hatch and hurl.
Occasionally a "moderate" Traditionalist will speak of "Karma"
to explain the reason behind the predestined birth in a
religion. Is it
an Avestan, Pahlavi and/or Zoroastrian Persian word that defines
religion by birth? No. It is a Sanskrit term and foreign to
Let us see how it has been defined:
means "act, action." In the Vedic literature, it also means
"occupation, profession." It was in the later post-Vedic period,
among Hindus and the new-on-the-scene Buddhists, in which it
acquired the notion that the sum total of one's actions has its
consequence in the status of his/her re-birth. It has acquired a
central doctrinal status in Hinduism and its offshoots, Buddhism
In Hinduism, it is what makes a person to be born as a Brahmin
(belonging to the priestly caste), Kshatriya (warrior
caste), Vaishya (merchant caste) and Shudra
(servile caste). The caste system has determined how each member
his/her relevant caste must pass his/her entire life within the
community of his/her birth in the Hindu society in all walks of
grow, work, worship, marry, socialize, live and die. It is Karma
has given him/her that status by birth and it must not be
Needless to say that through centuries and centuries of reform
movements, particularly the last 500 years with the recent
Harijan drive, the caste structure is falling apart and should
disappear. Yet Shudras are still treated as serfs in many parts
It is this Hindu doctrine of predestined reincarnation that
has provided the Traditionalist Parsis with the excuse that
is by Birth." Some are even more "karmic" in declaring that one
born in the Zoroastrian Religion if his/her past actions are so
that he/she is exceptionally raised to be born as Zarathushti!
those born in other religions are of inferior status.
Let me elaborate: While the Hindu "Karma" birth applies to
phase of one's life, the Traditionalist Parsi narrows it down to
"Religion" alone. Although one is born in a family, which
resides in a
certain locality in a certain land and pursues a certain
maintain his/her living, this Divine Will does not apply to
predestined conditions. As far as the
Traditionalist Parsis are concerned, the Divine Will does not
apply to one's place and nationality of birth.
It does not apply to one's family profession. A person born by
Divine Will in Surat, India can migrate to another town in India
forsake India altogether, and emigrate, settle and earn the
of his/her choice country. He/she can change the family
go for any profession he/she chooses. That is why a
Priest, who does not believe in changing religion, is all for
to the Western countries to change his citizenship and alliance
also all for forsaking his sanctified class/caste/profession by
to become a fulltime engineer, doctor or any other well-earning
profession. The Divine Will in firmly fixing the birth of a
concerns religion only and nothing else for the Traditionalist
and no one else!
None of these propounders of Religion-by-Birth has ever
discussed this point that HAD
THIS BEEN THE DIVINE WILL, THEN WHY GOD DID NOT SEND HIS
PROPHETS/MESSENGERS/AVATARS ALL AT ONE AND SAME TIME TO DIVIDE
RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING OF CREATION INTO DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
REGIONS. Why these founders have appeared in
and established their religions that have caused and are causing
millions and millions of people to change their
it was His Will that the "blue-blooded Aryans" were to be born
Zoroastrians, why did he send Mohammad to found a religion that
and converted almost all of them to Islam? And how did He
see that one born as Zoroastrian had his/her children born as
thereafter for generations to come? Did He predestine them to
lasting curse of the forced change in religion?
How is it that a child, born in a family of a particular
if orphaned or otherwise adopted by person/s of alien religion,
up to belong to the religion of his/her fosterer/s? Why does
naturally grow up in his/her religion of birth? Is Karma working
justice here? And lastly, God created innumerable species of
that cannot cross breed. THEN WHY DID HE NOT CREATE
THAT COULD NOT INTERBREED?
Let it be made clear. The "Karma" Doctrine, the predestined
in a particular caste, which covers every aspect of one's life
living in Hinduism (and the two offshoots, Buddhism and
narrowed to one point, Religion-by-Birth, by the Traditionalist
ALONE and no other section of Zoroastrians, Parsis and Iranians.
no place in the Universal Message of Zarathushtra.
WHY the Traditionalist Parsis alone? Because the choice means
one would study the Good Religion first and when convinced of
doctrinal sublimity and practical superiority over the creeds
knows, he/she would choose the Good Religion. This would bring
well-read, open-minded and progressive persons, persons who
follow many of the prescriptions that have become outdated and
impractical. It would mean reform. It would mean the end of all
impractical traditions, especially the mute, illegible rituals.
Traditionalists simply cannot afford to lose themselves in the
The Hindu Karma doctrine, by which the Parsis have survived
1,000 years in a caste-ridden society, may help them to survive
in face of the Reform movement, particularly the return to the
Pure Good Conscience of Zarathushtra that stands firm on
renovation and updating of the mode of living based on the
Principles of the Divine Doctrine under the Gathic Guidance. Or
uproar of fabricated allegations may induce the readers to
discover the TRUTH, a discovery which may strengthen the Reform
movement and shorten the survival of Traditionalism and speed up
Silly questions and simple arguments to provoke serious
* * * * * *
Ali A. Jafarey
31 Farvardin 3743 ZRE = 20 April 2005 CE
& ANSWERS BY DR. ALI JAFAREY, May, 2005
Dear Companions-in-Asha: The
following are my answers to the questions asked and comments
made by some of our companions:
QUESTION: Is it important for some people to formally be
Zarathushtris after they have converted, because it makes a
*as to how they are perceived by others*?
ANSWER: Those who joined the Manthran in his own days, called
themselves *Zarathushtris,* and so do we, because we too have,
free will and wise discernment, chosen to join his
Fellowship. Mazdayasna, I have shown in one of my earlier
a name which was adopted by early Zarathushtris to be
from the daevayasna and the "insider" adulterators of the
We do not want any recognition from any of the authorities of
"Traditionalist" or whatever they want to call themselves,
any person or organization who/which considers him/her/itself
"guardian" of the faith. We have declared right at the
founding of the
Assembly in 1990 that the Assembly is the sole Authority in
It *formally* recognizes and accepts the knowledgeable person
chooses the Good Religion for him/herself and joins the
He/she is Zarathushtrian.
We are the Mazdayasna Zarathushtris. Mazda is a word,
explained in my
articles posted Online, coined by Zarathushtra. To us Mazda,
Mazda Ahura, and/or Ahura Mazda, *the Super-Intellect Being,*
only creator, fashioner, maintainer, and promoter of the
no durbar of helpers - amesha spentas, yazatas, fravashis,
any other "fanciful" being, and with no horde of opponents -
Mainyu, Devil, Satan, daevas, demons, evil spirits, witches,
any other "weird" wanderer.
The people who consider, rather believe, Ahura Mazda to be a
(venerated, adored, adorable), the greatest Yazata (Mazishta
among a host of yazatas, and recite "yazamaide" (we venerate,
worship) formulas while mentioning each of the yazatas by name
of them together, may call themselves by the name of
pride. It is more appropriate for them than Mazdayasna. They
do not do
so. Therefore, respecting them, we call them by the name they
themselves -Traditionalist/Traditional/Traditional Mazdayasni.
not coin and use any sarcastic or derogatory name for our
It is the Traditionalists who are fond of calling those who
Gathas by the name coined by one of them - The
We smile. They are simply showing what Zarathushtra and his
should be called! He, the companions and the following
what I term "the Gathic era" had the Gathas *only* plus a few
all in the Gathic spirit, of their own. The pre-Gathic
compositions belonged to the daevayasna (devayâjin). Was it a
"cult" Zarathushtra founded or a religion? We are following
Doctrine he has given us. One may call him/us by any name. It
reflects his/her/their mode of mind and core of character.
QUESTION: If the same label is to applied to converts as well
who are Zarathushtris by birth, then would the latter not feel
formal label to have lost some of its "lustre" - at least as
*they* are concerned? Perhaps the best thing to do under the
circumstances would be to have some qualifying label applied
main label, much like the labels "Protestant" and "(Roman)
are applied to Christians. That way one can't be confused with
other. What is your opinion?
ANSWER: We need not. We are Zarathushtrians, Zarathushtris,
Zoroastrians, and Behdins. And we are not denying others the
these names. It is they who are denying others these
is they who named themselves as "Traditionalists, Traditional
Mazdayasnis" and others as "Liberals, Reformists, Cultists,"
not. They may take appropriate action to distinguish
those whom they do not recognize. Let the naming begin at home
by calling others by derogatory names.
QUESTION: Has history not shown that applying labels like
especially in religion, can also cause much strife and even
Is that such a good thing?
ANSWER: Not in today's world. The Sassanians and Inquisition
as well as the "crusaders" of all theocratic governments are
present, in the wide world of the melting pots, the fast
spreading-thin "Traditionalists" are trying their best to
IS their main concern. They cannot afford a strife. All they
able to do and are doing, is the uproar they have raised, and
in a teacup of their press and Internet. As far as we are
the Gathas are guiding us through a peaceful progress. We have
quarrel with any person/group, and this particularly includes
The excuse that conversion "creates animosities and strife"
hold true any longer. Conversion by force or against force
doubt, brought mighty misery to all the peoples of the world.
against Buddhists, Christianity against pagans, Islam against
non-believers, and all these religions plus Sassanian
against other sects and "heretics" of their relevant religions
shed more blood than any other strife in the world.
Even conversion through persuasion, practiced by zealot
missionaries, is not pleasant.
Ways have changed. We hardly see, particularly in the
any forced conversions. It has turned into a peaceful
the great winners are the Baha'is, Buddhists, Christians, and
Some organizations, especially the charitable missionary
establishments, are praised for their humanitarian works in
so-called "Third World" countries. Mother Teresa has been
all, including the anti-conversion Zoroastrian Traditionalist
for her noble work without ever mentioning the conversions she
her establishment is making of orphans, homeless, and the poor
Bengal. Mothers Teresa and Fathers Francis are all over the
help the poor live better as *Christians* converts.
The same holds true about other proselytizing religions.
widely practiced by the sects of one religion in winning over
members of other denominations. All in comparative peace and
Here in North America alone, over 60,000 Muslim Iranians are
to have formally converted to Christianity during the last 20
without any reaction from any Muslim quarters. They have four
in southern California alone.
Baha'is do not divulge their figures of the conversion of
other converts. When I was a small boy, my father asked the
owner of an
Iranian restaurant in Karachi, an active Baha'i of Iranian
parentage, as to the number of Baha'is in the then India, the
200 -- all converts from Iranian Zoroastrians. Today, the
700,000 Baha'is in the present-size India alone. Bangla Desh,
and Shri Lanka have their own Baha'is. No animosity or strife
praise for the Baha'is, particularly by Indians. The new Taj
Baha'i House is a tourist attraction in Delhi, and so is the
one. All in good faith.
Although twice reported to the Iranian authorities by certain
"Parsi-ized" Iranis and Traditionalist zealots, the
Assembly is very well received by Iranians, most of whom are
We are quite at home with all. The only opposition is by some
Traditionalists. This Alias is a firsthand witness to the
Online. The uproar also rages on the pages of the Bombay Parsi
No other opposition. Admiration? Sure, very much. And
an international scale.
QUESTION: What do you say about those who like to be called a
"Zarathushtri", a "Christian", a "Muslim", and a "Hindu" as
well not to
mention "Buddhist", "Taoist" and every other "-ist" in
addition - all
ANSWER: A fair comparison of the existing religions shows that
contrasts between various religions are sharper than the
The similarities, even among those of the same stock, are not
as to enable one to say that he/she belongs to all of
therefore, someone likes to call him/herself an all-faiths
fan, it is,
in my frank opinion, because he/she is supposing, musing,
assuming, pretending, or feigning, or simply because of
his/her lack of
a fair knowledge of fundamentals of these religions and
COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: <<I don't see a problem
like-minded people forming their own organizations, as long as
objective and emphasis is on spiritual growth according to
perceive as the *true* teachings of their preferred Prophet or
ANSWER: The Zarathushtrian Assembly has been formed to pursue
pursues only the learning, practicing, teaching, and preaching
universal basis the "true" teachings of Zarathushtra?
QUESTION: "Should not the use of the label "Zarathushtrian" or
"Zoroastrian," if absolutely necessary, be qualified by some
to avoid confusion of identity with the mainstream
this way, the concern of mainstream Zarathushtis about
in world bodies could be alleviated. Otherwise you can also
confusion in the outside public as to who represents the
ANSWER: The other side stands with the qualifications it
wants-Traditional, Traditionalist, and Traditional Mazdayasni.
have the "Parsi" label, again exclusively used by them.
Sometimes, names are given by the antagonist side. We already
about the "Gatha Cult Alone" and other name-callings. As
explained above, we are Zarathushtrians, Zarathushtris,
Zoroastrians, and Behdins, and that is all. And we are
because we adhere to the original Divine Message of
not pre-Gathic, Gathic and post-Gathic "Traditions" combined.
like, they, according to their degree of dignity, will give us
We are satisfied with what we call ourselves.
I have no comment on calling the now proven narrowing course
Traditionalists as the "mainstream" Zarathushtis except that
not forgetting the Iranians and Parsi Reformists?
COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: "I do not want to keep the
Prophet Zarathushtra exclusively among born Zarathushtis. I do
that Iranians who were mostly converted through force,
coercion, have a right to go back to their original faith, and
more naturally accepted with fewer reservations in the
community. Here we are not stealing anyone from another
faith, but merely accepting them back, and helping them to
Some of us may have valid reservations about the fact that
ancestors did not waver and suffered death, persecution,
and poverty to keep the faith, others and their children who
to come back, did not suffer or sacrifice. And, they may
question the motives of these people who want to come back -
political (such as monarchists and others who oppose the
social (those who are suffering lack of personal freedoms)
need to understand these concerns and respect such feelings,
encouraging people to forgive those that submitted to the
they are really sincere.
Even for Iranians wishing to come back, it would be advisable
demonstrate their sincerity for some time, before they are
accepted by the community.
ANSWER: Should one have a fair view of the conditions
the then Zartoshtis of the prostrated empire of the
would not make such a generalized statement. The merciless
by conquerors was such that of the fifteen million Zartoshtis,
handful has survived the disaster. All suffered equally the
mental harassment and physical torture - those who died, those
submitted, and those who have survived in Iran. The sheer
could not escape and gave in. Some Iranians have survived
because their turn for the breaking torture did not come. And
able to escape and survive. The small community of Parsis
because of their successful flight to a haven where the rigid
system tolerated them as the fifth caste.
My studies show that the laity followed the Mobeds and other
who went over because of the circumstances. And now,
years, the circumstances have turned such that many want to
what is their inherent right.
COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: In India and Iran it could
the concern about the use of charities by non-Parsis and
Zarathushtis, and the concern that some people might be
themselves Zarathushtis mainly to take advantage of these
ANSWER: Please note these Iranians are not coming back to the
No Iranian has approached the Parsis to accept him/her.
asked them for any charity or favor. And the Iranian
not have the charities the Parsis have. In Iran, and outside
non-Zartoshti Iranians are well off and to this day none has
Zartoshti for financial aid. Furthermore, they are not the
caste" people who would grab a "golden" opportunity to have a
in the Parsi community. They are the elite and educated.
Iranians are returning to their *own* ancestral religion. And
what the majority of Iranian Zartoshtis openly know and
And they are silently looking for it.
One wonders why some speak on behalf of the Iranian Zartoshtis
reformist Parsis. Their views are different from those of the
Traditionalists. The Iranian Zoroastrians are neither dumb nor
silenced. In fact, I have found Iranians more daring and vocal
situations. If need be, the Iranian Zoroastrians and the
will, each, have their own spokesperson/s.
I repeat, the returning Iranians are not approaching the
accept them in the Parsi community. They do not need so. So
and throw conditions in the air? The Traditionalists can sit
sound within their closed doors, and enjoy all the charity
they have. I can assure you that no one, NO ONE, will knock at
doors, here or in India. If at all some freak does, throw
and set an example!
Let it be clear, that the Good Religion is for mankind. It is
universal. The mission of the Assembly is to spread the Divine
throughout the world, and that includes India. Indians will be
to study the Good Religion, decide for themselves to choose
join the Assembly. They will become Zarathushtris,
Zartoshtis, Zartushtis, Jarthostis, and/or Behdins. But never,
Parsis. Parsis constitute the ethnic surviving community of
Iranian Zoroastrians who took asylum in Gujarat almost a
ago. They have their doors closed to non-Parsis. These doors
remain closed until they are opened by the Parsis themselves.
In fact, the Assembly makes it *quite* clear to all those,
not, who join it of what they should expect if they happen to
Parsi here, in India and in any other part of the world. They
explained as to ascertain if he/she is Traditionalist or
They are told that while in Iran, they can go to the anjomans
fire-temples, but in the Indian subcontinent, they should
to enter any of the Parsi out-of-bound premises. The same
about Dar-e Mehrs and associations in the West. That is why
not see any Assembly member trespassing any of the
boundaries in any of part of the Zoroastrian world.
COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: Those who proselytize do so
satisfying their ego, power, money, or they truly believe that
saving the souls of people whose current religions according
understanding are not teaching the right things.
ANSWER: What would you say about Zarathushtra and all others
call "prophets and sages?" Did they not teach, preach, and
who went over to their side after being fully convinced? Was
of their ego, power, money, or they truly believed that they
saving the souls of people whose then current religions
their understanding were not teaching the right things?
Proselytization, conversion, acceptance, choice, reformation,
whatever you like to call it has been initiated and promoted
founder of a religion, order, sect, or denomination.
What would you say about the persons who stand opposed to
proselytization? Is it their ego, power, money, politics,
fanaticism, jealousy, fancy, or sheer fear, which drives them
such a stand?
(1) A Marked Change: With foul uproars and personal attacks
Zoroastrian Alias, we see a new atmosphere prevail.
Proselytization/Conversion/Acceptance/Choice/Label is now
discussed in peace and respect by persons of different schools
thought. The same holds true about other subjects too. Many
gone silent, are slowly returning to take part in expressing
views and exchanging information. It is a healthy sign.
We should all be thankful to the person/persons, whosoever
is/are, who brought the restraining order. But more than that,
should all be grateful to Mr. Mehrdad Khosraviani who suffered
both sides - from the restrainer/s and the restrained. Both
on him. It appears that the restrained and their
supporters and feeders are still harassing Mr. Khosraviani.
honorary services to the Zoroastrians and friends should be
Meanwhile, I hope that the persons who were behind the past
distortions, lies, blasphemy, foul language, cheap shots, and
attacks, have realized that it bore them no fruits. They only
their true selves.
One says that the Gathas are the guide. The other has the
its practical partner. One speaks how powerful the Avestan
with their vibrations. The other says that the prayers are
when understood. One makes the reader know that only a select
comprehend the true meaning of the Avesta. The other is
there should be mysticism in the Message. One wants the Avesta
understood through translations. The other believes that no
translate the sacrosanct scriptures. One emphasizes the need
preserve the Traditions his/her community in Iran/India has
to this day. The other shows that the Good Religion is a
modernizing way without any loss of the Primal Principles of
is resolved to spread the Divine Message throughout the world.
other wants to promote the Parsi community to the heights it
the British India.
All of them can present their viewpoints with logic, reason,
peace on this List. They can, with tolerant and yet strong
prove their viewpoint to be correct. Etiquette and netiquette
present logic and maintain dignity. A fair competition for a
The subscribers are all elite and educated. It will give them
opportunity to look at them all, understand what different
thought say, and decide to choose what they consider the best
Ali A. Jafarey
9 Dey 3736 ZRE = 30 December 1998
Reposted: 31 Farvardin 3743 ZRE = 20 April 2005 CE
THE INSTITUTIONALIZED ZOROASTRIANISM
* * * * *
Conscience, the religion
is, historically, the first and foremost monotheistic religion in
the world. But
like other religions, it also has continually changed from its
to the present institutionalized form of
Zoroastrianism. The Zarathushtrian Assembly has been
its founding members with the sole aim of restoring the
Good Religion of
Zarathushtra to its pristine purity and activating its progressive
The unique movement has raised a few questions: What is the
pristine purity of
the Good Religion? How does it differ from the Institutionalized
practiced by the remnants of a once great world religion?
How would a restoration to a remote past place the religion
on the path
to progress and promotion in a fast-moving modern world?
This booklet provides the answers to these questions and
more. It is
hoped that it will illuminate the subject and open the way to an
study of mâñthra, the
thought-provoking message of Zarathushtra. They are embodied in
his ever-fresh divine songs of guidance.
religion founded by Zarathushtra is known by several names. He
himself called it
Daênâ Vañuhi, meaning the
"Good Conscience," or
freely rendered, the "Good Religion."
His disciples chose to add
Zarathushtri, Zarathushtrian, to show that it was founded
To express its true source of inspiration, it is also
belonging to Ahura, divine. A
little later, they coined a new befitting term,
Mazda-yasna, to make it clear that they regarded their
only god as Mazdâ,
the "Supreme Intellect," a Wise Being quite unique and above the
human-conceived, human-natured deities known as daêvas,
whose cult came to be called daêva-yasna.
The name Zarathushtra has been contracted
into Zartosht in Persian and Zarathusht
or Zarthusht in Gujarati. Daênâ
Vañuhi is Dîn-e Behi or
Persian. Zoroaster is the
Anglicized form of a Greek mispronunciation of the name
Zarathushtra. And since
the 19th century CE, "the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism"
final institutionalized version of the Good Religion.
With all the forms in view, a follower of the Good
Religion is a
Zarathushtrian, Zarathushti, Zartoshti, Zoroastrian, Mazdayasni,
or Behdin. The
two forms of Zarathushtrian and Zartoshti have been preferred by
This book distinguishes between the pristine form of the
and the evolved, transformed, and transmuted state of the
The Zarathushtrian Religion is
the religion taught and practiced by Zarathushtra and his
for centuries. It is based only on
the very Teachings of the Teacher. The
is the massing shape it has taken over the last 2,500 years.
Some call it the
"Traditional" Zoroastrian religion.
The pristine state and the evolving form will be
explained under the
subtitles of Source Scriptures, History, Zarathushtra,
Doctrine, Rituals, Outside Influence, Present and Future,
the Zarathushtrian Assembly, and Conclusion.
The Good Religion:
practiced, taught, and preached his Divine Doctrine for
a full forty-seven years. Finally, he reduced his teachings in
as the all-time guidelines for "all the living beings" to come.
the songs were called Gathas, meaning
"sacred songs," His immediate followers, adhering fast to his
teachings, wove more songs and composed several pieces to
supplement the Gathas:
They are Haptañhâiti (Seven-chapters
in poetry), Hadhaokhta (a short piece
advising people to listen to seraosha,
the inner-voice expounding the divine message of Zarathushtra),
(another short piece on one preparing oneself to serve the
progressive cause in
thoughts, words, and deeds), Yeñhe Hâtâm
(a paraphrase of a Gathic verse in veneration of men and women),
and Fravarti (a section on Initiation in which
one renounces one’s
superstitious beliefs and cultic practices and chooses the Good
are all in the same dialect, now termed Gathic.
The entire collection of a total of 312 stanzas or
words, is called Staota Yesnya, reverential
praises, by Zarathushtra’s followers.
It is also known by its Pahlavized form of Stot
Yasn. It is homogeneous in doctrine and very inspiring and
was quite rich in scriptures. In addition to the Staota
texts, it had compositions going back to pre-Zarathushtrian
writings ending as late as 1773 CE in three languages of Avesta,
Persian over a span of more than 4,000 years. It was rich in
theology, myth, legends, history, geography, agriculture, animal
pollution and purity laws, prayer preparations, elaborate
spells, and commentaries of the Gathas, all en masse, of course,
Staota Yesnya. The canonized collection, duly selected and
collated by the
priestly authorities of the Sassanian order, was completed in
about 550 CE It
consisted of 21 volumes. Only one volume, called Stot
Yasn, contained the Gathas and its supplements. The
remaining volumes were
commentaries, interpretations, later liturgies, religious epics,
and social laws, or miscellaneous subjects of day-to-day life of
The Arab conquest and the subsequent conversions dealt a
heavy blow to
the 21-volume collection. Most of
the collection was lost and less than one third of the volumes
was salvaged and
re-arranged into six volumes: the Yasna containing the Staota Yesnya and later
compositions; the Vispered on the Gâhânbâr
seasonal festivals; the Yasht, praises
in honor of Ahura Mazda and his "assisting" deities; the Vendidâd,
mainly concerning pollution and purification laws; the Khordeh Avesta, a handy popularized late
collection of mostly
non-Gathic daily prayers in Avesta and Middle Persian; and
collection of Avestan and Pahlavi fragments of various lengths
subjects. Fresh compositions
appeared in Pahlavi during the 9th century in order to make some
good of the
loss. Avesta was a dead language
long before and Pahlavi died a consequent death to produce
Persian writings, written in Arabic script, began from the 15th
lasted until the close of the 18th century.
Further writings, in Persian, Sanskrit, Gujarati, and
English, have been
solely based on this comparatively vast literature.
Only a comprehensive study of this literature could
project the full form
of the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism. This booklet is,
therefore, confined to
the main points of the subject. A better presentation is made in
the author’s The
Zarathushtrian Religion, a chronological perspective.
Zarathushtra was born, according to a conventional
reckoning, 3,757 years
ago. His family raised cattle and
horses. They belonged to an
Indo-European people who called themselves
Aryans, meaning "noble." They
were polytheists and believed in superstitions and magic. The
greedy priests put
on a good show of bloody sacrifices, instant intoxicants, and
loud chants to
please the gods and repel magic, and exploit the simple laity.
The people were
also exploited by their ruling princes.
Zarathushtra, an inquisitive person, looked at the Aryan
cult with doubt
at the tender age of seven. His doubts increased when the
priests could not
satisfy him with their dubious answers. They,
their frustration, boycotted him. He
them to discover the truth by himself.
His questioning search into the contrast between social
and natural order led him to a discovery: the Being
whose supreme wisdom
created the order which prevails throughout the universe.
His discovery of, and communion with the "Being of
Intellect," Ahura Mazdâ, gave
him a message he conveyed to others. Zarathushtra founded a
religion based on
the "Primal Principles of Life" he had divinely discovered. He
publicly proclaimed his divine message at the age of thirty with
the sole aim of
leading the entire human society to an ever-fresh spiritual and
The priests and princes, realized the threat to their
vehemently opposed him, and forced him and his few friends to
Zarathushtra left home, only to go to the court of
Vishtaspa, the leading
ruler in the region. They had a two-year long discussion, and
converted Vishtaspa and his sagacious companions of men and
They became fervent peaceful preachers of the new
religion, and it spread
fast, far, and wide.
A thousand years passed and the Good Religion was
accepted by all the
Aryan and Aryanized people on the Iranian Plateau through the
zealous propagation of its devotees. About
years ago, Cyrus the Persian founded the first world empire,
known as the Achaemenian empire, based on the
Zarathushtrian doctrine of freedom,
benevolence, tolerance, and progress. It extended from Libya to
the Pamirs and
the Indus. It lasted 220 years (550-330 BCE).
After a short rule by alien Macedonians and Greeks, the
Parthians took over and ruled a shrunk empire, mostly confined
to the Iranian
Plateau, for 478 years (254 BCE-224 CE) with the same spirit of
tolerance. It was taken over by the
Sassanians who turned the empire into a tight theocratic state
of one sect.
Other Zoroastrian sects were condemned as heretics.
Theocracy means total dependence of religion’s sustenance
on the ruling
power, consequently causing the religion to weaken much.
It turns it into a parasite which depends more on the
government than on its own potentiality, and therefore, the fall
proves disastrous for the religion.
Meanwhile, Christianity, the religion of the Byzantine
Empire west of the
Sassanians, posed as a rival. The
two empires fought several wars over a period of several
Both were badly weakened and were not able to stop the
rise of Islam in
the Arabian Peninsula. Zealous
Muslim warriors defeated both, and completely overthrew the
and overran the vast Iranian empire within a short span of
twenty years— 532
to 652 CE
With the empire gone, Zoroastrian survival has been at
to Islam through force, persecution, propagation, and concession
reduced the number of Zoroastrians in Iran.
Outside Iran, only one group of Iranian emigrants has
survived. They are
the Parsis of the Indian
sub-continent. All other pockets,
Iranian or not, have disappeared without leaving any noticeable
In the Good Religion Zarathushtra
is a human being who, in his persistent
search for truth, discovered and realized the Supreme Entity;
called it Ahura
Mazda, the Wise God; renounced and discarded the old
cultic beliefs and
practices; communed with his God; was inspired to convey the
Divine Message he
had realized, to all men and women of all climes and times; and
entirely new universal religion. He is the foremost Ahu
(Lord), Ratu (Leader), and Mâñthran
(Thought-provoker); in fact, the primal mental and
material, spiritual and physical Guide of a righteous life for
every person and
In the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism
Zarathushtra is more of a reformer than a founder of an ancient
which had deviated from its path. He cleansed the religion of
worship and superstitions but perpetuated all the "good" old
and rituals. He is the "Prophet" of an ethnic community, at
represented by Iranis and Parsis. Yet some Zoroastrians consider
him a Divine
Being of supernatural knowledge and power.
Zarathushtra was to be followed by three saviors, known
meaning "benefactors," who were to be miraculously born of
mothers, each a thousand years after the other, to renovate the
world. Although approximately three thousand years have passed
Zarathushtra passed away, so far the Institutionalized
recognized no one as a Saoshyant. Many Zoroastrians are now
eagerly awaiting the
appearance of Bahrâm Varjâvand. This
person is not mentioned, even casually, in the Avesta or Pahlavi
appears more in Persian and oral tradition. Some historian
scholars say that he
could be Bahram Chobin, a defiant Sassanian chief who left Iran
for India and
China to form an army and return to expel the invading Arabs. He
was never heard
of but people, looking for a savior, waited for his return. The
grown into the Bahram Varjavand legend.
The Good Religion:
Zarathushtra founded an altogether new religion on the
basis of his
divine realization. He eliminated
every rite and ritual that was performed to appease false gods,
and exploit people. He cleansed
minds of superstitions. He taught a
very sublime and strong doctrine.
His meaningful prayers make the soul divinely soar high
but his simple
rituals hardly distract one’s mind to ceremonial performances.
His doctrine is based on the "Primal Principles of Life"
this good earth, but does not set up do’s and don’ts to govern
mental thought and physical movement. His
philosophical teachings are not commandments to govern minute
every day life. It is a progressive
doctrine that wants its adherents to wisely progress with time
and adjust their
lives accordingly. The motto is:
Continuous renovation and refreshing of life.
Zarathushtra is ahu, an improving lord
and a ratu,
a true guide "chosen" by the people for his righteous actions.
He is a manthran, a
thought-provoker. He has put his
entire doctrine in seventeen songs of a total 241 stanzas or
less than 6,000
words—the Gathas—enough to guide
humanity of all ages to wholeness, immortality and God without
depriving them of
their mental and physical freedom and choice.
But the Aryan cult was a well-formalized establishment with an
hierarchy, colorful rituals, and a detailed way of life. When
the leaders of the
cult joined the spreading religion, many of them wanted to save
their leading profession. They very
cleverly reintroduced many old beliefs and rituals, and
reinstated many gods and
animated more from Gathic conceptions and thus created a large
deities under the godhead of Ahura Mazda.
First the elaborate Haoma ritual was
the original intoxicant drink was substituted by an ephedraic
drink. The ritual
was blended in with the Staota Yesnya
recitation. It was followed by
personifying some of the Gathic abstractions under the term of amesha
spenta, conventionally rendered as " Incremental
yazata, adorables. Seraosha, the
inner-voice, was turned into a warrior deity, and then some of
"heroically helping" gods and goddesses of the
era—Mithra, god of tribal contract; Verethraghna,
god of war and victory; Tishtrya, god
of rain; Anâhitâ, goddess of waters;
Vayu, god of wind; Drvaspa,
goddess of animal health, and many more—were
re-introduced as yazatas.
Bloody sacrifices accompanied the heroic gods.
Still later sun, moon, stars, earth, and other objects
presiding deities. And still later, the Gathic personifications,
spentas, lost much of their Gathic concepts and were given
the task of
guarding over cattle, fire, metal, earth, trees, and waters
upon the authority of pre-Zarathushtrian deities presiding over
The priestly hierarchy, now firmly established, was at
the head of two or
occasionally three lower classes of warriors, professional
artisans. At present, Zoroastrians
are divided into two classes
only—The Priests known either as Mobeds
or Athornâns (misreading of
Avestan/Pahlavi âthravan/âsravan or âsron)
and the Laity called Behdins
(meaning" [of] the Good Religion").
The Good Religion: Zarathushtra
a progressive monotheism. Ahura
Mazda, literally "the Being [of]
Supreme Intellect, " is the "continuous" creator, sustainer, and
promoter of the universe. Ahura
Mazda is the "most progressive." He is also transcendental and
impersonal, and therefore without any pantheon at all.
Yet he is so close, that one can easily commune with him
Ahura Mazda has created and creates the universe by his
mentality (spenta mainyu).
It is a good creation. Among
his creations, he has fashioned the "joy-bringing" living world
ours on the earth. It is guided by
the "Primal Principles of Life."
The Gathas present them in a beautifully intertwined,
to provide one with a well-blended, progressive way of life.
Here they are given
separately with the sole view of giving a glimpse of
the most important of them:
Vohu Manah, good mind, good
thinking. It stands for the
discerning wisdom and thorough thinking required for leading a
Asha stands for "truth,
order, righteousness." It is the
universal law of righteous precision. It may best
be explained by stating that it means "to do the right thing, at
time, in the right place, and with the right means in order to
attain the right
result." It should result in
constructive and loving good not only for oneself but also for
creatures and for God. It is the positive, beneficial and
Khshathra denotes the
"power" to settle in peace. Used
with the adjective of vohu,
good, or vairya, to be chosen, it
stands for benevolent power, good rule, and the chosen order.
It is chosen by free and wise people as their ideal order
in spirit and
matter. It is the divine dominion.
"tranquility, stability and serenity." It
is peace and prosperity. When
with the adjective spenta, it
means the "ever-increasing serene peace" achieved by adhering to
Primal Principles of Life.
"listening" to the divine voice within us to guide us on the
path. It means inspiration, divine
enlightenment, communion with God.
Daênâ is a person’s
inner-perception, the conscience. It
also stands for one’s chosen religion.
Zarathushtra named the religion he founded as the "Good
All the above and more Primal Principles of Life given in
when followed precisely, lead to:
Haurvatât, wholeness and
completion. It is the perfecting
process and final completion of our material and spiritual
"deathlessness" and "immortality."
Together with Haurvatât, it is the
ultimate goal and represents the completion of
our evolutionary development and the final achievement of our
life on the earth.
In short, the Primal Principles lead one and all to
"godlike" and to live with God in an eternal bliss. The blissful
is called garo demâna, the abode of
songs, or one may as well call it "the house of music."
The Gathas speak about urvan, soul,
and its final destiny to "live where the Wise God lives." but
exists no fanciful eschatology. All it says is that the soul of
person "returns" to stay in the "house of wrong" or
"house of the worst mind" until it realizes the truth to
wholeness and immortality. Yet, this "return" does not feed one
the elaborate doctrine of "reincarnation" and "transmigration of
soul" as is found in other religions and beliefs. It is a fair
that a soul must evolve to become righteous to continue to live
Ahura Mazda has endowed mankind with a powerful
mentality—one which can
discriminate between good and evil. Human
are free to choose between a better or more progressive
or spanya mainyu) and an evil or
retarding mentality (aka or angra
mainyu). The reward for the
choice of the better mentality is eternal
bliss, and the consequence of choosing the evil mentality is a
long suffering by
the soul until it is refined to achieve wholeness and
immortality. Every person
receives the reward for every righteous act or suffers the bad
every wrong deed one does. The dualism of the Good Conscience is
and confined to human behavior only.
Everything in nature, the entire environment, is a good
should be looked upon as such. Light and darkness, day and
night, water and
plants, in fact, the very world alive with life, should be
promoted according to
asha, the universal law of nature.
Mankind is not on the earth to interfere in its evolution to
being creative and "godlike," he and she should increase its
progress. The Gathic doctrine is a progressively
Zarathushtra stands high in protecting and promoting the
environment in a happy
Man and woman enjoy equal status. The
of Zarathushtra is a universal religion which knows no sex,
color, or national barriers. It is
historically the first missionary movement, a moderate movement.
has a well-balanced pantheon of deities and demons.
Ahura Mazda has created the six amesha
spentas (Vohu Manah, Asha, Khshathra, Aramaiti, Haurvatat,
numerous yazatas (adorables consisting of
Gathic concepts and
pre-Zarathushtrian deities), innumerable fravashis
(conventionally rendered as Guardian Spirits), and righteous
human beings to
assist Him in the continuous cosmic fight with His Adversary, Añhra
Mainyu (the Evil Spirit), the horde of daevas
(demons) created by him, and evil human beings who follow him.
In contrast to the ethical dualism of the Gathas, the
is a cosmical dualistic religion in which all that is "termed"
has been created by Ahura Mazda, and every "bad" event and
from natural disasters to disease and death, and to the
"noxious" creatures, are the creations of the Evil Spirit.
Life on this earth and the cosmos is a continuous fight
Mainyu, the so-called Evil Spirit.
The Gathic doctrine of harmony with nature was partially
water, plants, earth, and minerals were, and are, held in high
ecology was not as protected as it should have been according to
doctrine. Good animals and plants were promoted and improved.
"Noxious" animals, particularly ants and frogs,
and "evil" plants were meritoriously destroyed. The
of the "evil creation" is at present much reduced because of the
prevailing circumstances, but the belief in fighting it in mind
The fight has made the scriptural doctrine to cover every
walk of life
from birth to death. The Evil Spirit has created the
and rites of purification are elaborate and complex. Life in the
means a constant watch against devilish moves.
It is patterned upon the directives given in the holy
They include, among a multiple of old and new subjects:
priestly duties, kingship, judiciary, religious
inheritance, agriculture, pastures, animal care, animal
prophecy, apostasy, charity, begging, initiation, marriage,
slavery, relations with non-Zoroastrians, religious conversion,
retribution, punishment, fine, ransom, compensation, theft,
witchcraft, sin, crime, death penalty, carrion, menstruation,
"do’s and don’ts" to fight the evil and lead a righteous life.
The canonized text was, and its salvage part is, in the
the translations and added commentaries were, and what remains
of them are, in
Pahlavi or Middle Persian.
Many of the directives given in the scriptures are
difficult and some of
them are impossible to be followed in a modern world of
intermingling society. The result
is that only a dwindling number of priests try to follow as many
directives as are possible within the prevailing conditions.
The laity have silently abandoned many and are gradually
The eschatology is elaborate and picturesque.
The soul remains for three days and nights beside the
dead body on the
earth and ascends on the fourth morning to reach the "Bridge of
Separation," originally a Gathic allegory, now turned into a
construction. There, it is judged by three yazatas—Mithra,
Sraosha, and Rashnu.
Here one is not judged separately for each of his or her deeds,
but the total of
good acts are placed in one pan and all the evil actions in
another pan of the
balance. Those whose good deeds outweigh their evil actions, are
righteous and go, according to merits, to one of the four
categories of the
Heaven and live a life of bliss, and those whose evil deeds are
their good actions are wrongful and likewise go to one of the
There they are grotesquely tortured, ironically, by the
Evil Spirit and
his horde of demons. For those who
have equal weights of good and evil, there is the purgatory
(Avesta Misvâna Gâtu, "mixing place" or Pahlavi
“place of equal mixing”) to eventually purge them of their evil.
Here the souls are not tortured but made to suffer only
from cold and
heat. In spite of these assignments, there is also the bodily
the dead will arise. Then souls and
bodies will again be judged and sentenced to bliss or a
All will eventually be united in the blissful existence.
The Evil Spirit
and his creation will be doomed for ever.
has transformed the Gathic conception of the mental state of
enjoying good and
suffering evil and the subsequent achievement of wholeness,
immortality, and the
eternal divine bliss into an elaborate eschatology of death,
hell, purgatory, bodily resurrection, and salvation, an
eschatology which has
greatly influenced other religions, including, Judaism,
Christianity and Islam.
Man and woman continue to enjoy equal status. Yet woman
more prone to pollution because of her monthly menstruation and
childbirth. She has to undergo elaborate and lengthy
purification rites to
regain her purity. Many modern
Zoroastrians have, as already said, given up most
of the purification rites. During the Sassanian times, while man
more than once and yet keep his status, woman had several
standards. Among them,
she was a "royal wife" if married as maiden with the consent of
parents, a "self-willed" if she married without her parents'
and a "serving wife" if remarrying as a widow. The husband had
upper hand in divorcing his spouse. At present, modified laws
Zoroastrian associations in Iran and India have restored the
equality to a great
Nevertheless, marriage outside the community, generally
places the woman
outside the society among orthodox Parsis. Parsi women married
non-Zoroastrians are fighting for full rights. They are
supported by many of
their co-religionists. Iranian women are not faced with such
The Good Religion:
The Gathas are divine praises and guidance at the same
They contain barely any rituals. One
finds some outlines of simple ceremonies in the Staota
Yesnya texts concerning the Initiation of a person
choosing the Good
Religion, meditation for enlightenment, individual prayers,
prayers, marriage, and honoring the living and the dead for
services—outlines that give one the virtuous freedom to keep in
good tune with
the changing times and climes. The Gathas do not interfere in
traditional good "living." Yet they advocate a happy life of
happiness to others whosoever they may be.
Early non-Gathic Avestan texts show that the Gathas were
and recited by people whenever they were in a mood and urge to
do so. They also
gathered around a hearth or fire altar to recite the Gathas and
supplements in a congregation. Pure priestly "profession" is
the Gathic texts. If required, persons of more knowledge led the
texts show that people celebrated their age-old seasonal changes
pastoral and agricultural life. They
the six Gahanbars celebrated at the end of each
change in activity.
Staota Yesnya was recited and explained to an inquisitive
It was followed by enjoying a feast collectively prepared
by all the
participants. One’s life, mentally and spiritually enriched by
doctrine, continued to progress with a higher, sublimer purpose.
The Gathic age did not have priests, professional or
prayers were not led by any particular individual. Persons with
knowledge of the doctrine officiated at simple ceremonies and
rituals and in their spare time, taught and preached the
religion. In fact,
every person was, in his or her own capacity, a practicing,
on the other hand, has an established hereditary priestly class
rituals. It has its fire-temples of different grades. While in
non-Zoroastrians are allowed to enter a fire-temple,
fire-temples in India and
Pakistan bar any person who is not a "born" Zoroastrian.
in Europe, North America and Australia do not, to this date,
"consecrated" temple. Fire altars in prayer sanctuaries fulfill
job. A few are gas-fired. With the passage of time,
which once comprised only of the Gathas and their supplements in
texts, have given way to ceremonies in which the Gathas do not
body of the prayer text but are, in certain longer rituals, a
part of a much
longer whole. While seasonal
festivals of Gahanbars gradually have been turned into a feast
Yesnya recitation, the reformed calendar, based on days and
months named after
deities, have given more festivals. Whenever
name of the day and the name of the month of the same deity
festival (Pahlavi yazishn, Persian jashn,
and Gujarati jashan, [ritual]
veneration) is celebrated in honor of the deity.
The total of such deity-festivals comes to fifteen in a
Birth, initiation, marriage, death, disposal of the dead,
ceremonies each have their
preparations and performances. Pollution
purification rituals are elaborate and difficult to perform.
Certain laid conditions make some of the rituals almost
impossible to be
performed "overseas" on American continents, Australia, and
island regions outside the Eurasian mainland.
Prayers are recited in Avesta and in a later form of
basically learned by rote. Both the
languages lie beyond the comprehension of the reciting priests
and the listening
laypersons. Only a small number of
Zoroastrian scholars know what the prayers mean.
No standard translation of the holy texts exist in
English, Persian, or
Gujarati. Most of the available
translations, especially of the Gathas, are by non-Zoroastrian
scholars in a
scholarly language that rob the "scriptural" texts of their
The sublime songs of Zarathushtra lie too philologically
analyzed to inspire and
deliver the divine message. The
laity has only one book to be spiritually contented with:
Khordeh Avesta, usually in
Persian, Gujarati, or English script and without a translation.
neither the priests nor the laity know the relevance or
irrelevance of the
ritual to the texts recited during the performance.
The elaborate ceremonies, some running for hours have
thing—eclipsed the Gathas so much so that they are only recited
with the entire Yasna text or on the occasion of the last five
the Muktâd or Panjeh.
The Ahunavaiti Gatha, the first
seven songs, are recited during a funeral ceremony.
And it is the officiating priests who do the recitations,
not the laity.
It is just a generation that a movement has been generated to
turn to the
Metaphysical interpretations of the Avestan texts
presented by certain
circles satisfy those in search of mysticism, but the common men
and women, who
are coming in ever-growing contact with science and other
scriptures are in intelligible renderings, are looking and
asking for good,
The Good Religion, founded
approximately 4,000 years ago, did not prescribe a calendar that
become outdated. The Gathas and certain earlier parts of the
Avesta show that
the Gathic people continued to adhere to their ancestral
with a precise intercalation of 11 days to keep the Gahanbar
festivals in line
with the agricultural life. There is no clue as to what were the
names of the
months. One can only look at the Gahanbar names and the Vedic
months to presume
that they might have been names after seasonal changes and
The early Achaemenians, more Gathic in practice than the
had a solar calendar of their own with specific names of the
months. The days of
the month were numbered the way one does in modern times. That
shows that they
found themselves free to change the calendar to suit their
too changed later to a purely
solar calendar. It, however, had its months named, in a
after the amesha
spentas and yazatas. It also named the
thirty days of the month, here in a more
or less, orderly sequence, after the amesha spentas and yazatas.
The last five
days were dedicated to the five Gathas to provide a 365-day
of one day every four years or one month every 120 years kept
the calendar in
But the downfall of the Sassanians deprived the community
of a single
calendarical authority. The Indian pocket was cut off from the
community. Leap years were observed
only for few centuries and then were given up for good. As a
recently, there were two calendars, the Qadimi
(Old) followed by the Iranian Zoroastrians and the Shâhanshâhi
(Royal) by the Parsis, both drifting months from the vernal
equinox. At present,
the Qadimi year begins in July and the Shahanshahi begins one
full month later.
A few decades ago, some rose to reform it into a solar year of
365 days with its
leap year. It begins with the vernal equinox and is called Fasli
(seasonal) by many.
Meanwhile, Iran and Afghanistan have changed to the
precise solar year of
365.2422 days. It has the first six months of 31 days each, the
months of 30 days each, and the last month either of 29 or 30
days. It is the
most correct current calendar. It is very practical. The Iranian
Zoroastrian names and the Afghan months have Zodiacal terms. The
days have their
numbers—1 to 31.
The Good Religion
stands pure and pristine and is based upon the Gathic guidelines
with no alien
religious influence. Zarathushtra
"renounced" the old cult after he discovered the truth and was
divinely enlightened. He did not
have any contacts with any of the then existing cults and
Furthermore, the Good Religion is firmly based on the
of Life and that is sufficient to lead a wise, righteous, and
practical life of
usefulness to the living world. As already stated, the Gathas
did not, and do
not, interfere in one’s good mode of living. They guide and
inspire one to
lead a better life.
Orthodox Christianity came into close contact with the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism
during the Sassanian period. Its
confession of sins has been instrumental in creating
numerous Patets, penitence pieces in
late Middle Persian, in which all the possible sins are listed
and repentance is
expressed for each of them in daily prayers faithfully recited
Even children, who definitely lie outside the scope of
"sins," are made to recite them on certain occasions.
Islamic influence on the
in Iran may be seen in the number of Zoroastrian shrines and the
ascribing of every event, good or bad, to God.
While the later Avesta would begin an act with Khshnaothra
Ahurahe Mazdâo (for the pleasure of Ahura Mazda),
post-Sassanian prayers in
Zoroastrian Persian begin with be nâm-e
Îzad bakshâyande-ye bakhshâyeshgar-e mehrabân (In the
name of God, the
compassionate, merciful, and kind), an echo of Bismillâhi
al-Rahmân al-Rahîm. The same
holds true about Peimân-e
Dîn or Dîn-no Kalmo.
It follows the Islamic profession of faith Shahâdah,
also known as Kalema-e Dîn among
Indo-Iranian Muslims. In fact, Din-no Kalmo is a mere Gujarati
Kalema-e Din. One may also see a
response to 99 names of Allah in the much popularized 101 names
These names have, with a few exceptions, no roots in the Avesta
writings. They even lie outside the Hormazd Yasht, a late
Avestan composition in
which God enumerates His names and speaks about their
the Muslim dominance has, for the past 1,400 years, made the
Zoroastrians behave very protectively.
Hindu influence on the Zoroastrians of the Indian
sub-continent may be
found in the growing number of persons attracted to Hindu
saints, gurus, sâiñs,
bâbâs, mâtâs, and shrines and other pilgrimage centers.
Turning the community into a closed, caste-like society,
before the fire altar, tinting the forehead with ashes, and many
are perhaps among older influences. Once
strong, the attraction of the Theosophical order is on the
Finally, the Good
Religion is a universal, progressive,
and modernizing religion meant for the humanity at large. The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism,
in its present traditional form, is an ethnical, static, and
closed religion of
a specific community The two stand apart in their outlook..
Present and Future
The present, with the drastic changes in social orders,
by science and the rapid progress of technology, challenges
every religion, old
and new. Many of the religious
rules and regulations appear to many a modern person as
outdated, obsolete, and
impractical. It is mostly the
simple or blind faith, strengthened by interpretations, some of
which is keeping many religious dogmas in place.
Meanwhile, Zoroastrians are no more confined to certain
within their enclosed residential areas in Iran, India, and
They are fanning out of their old strongholds and
thinning into far-flung
cities in which they can find a better and safer place to live. Estimates put the present number of
Zoroastrians in North
American cities at 10,000 persons. The
But the story in India and Pakistan is different.
There the number is fast decreasing because of more
deaths and less
births. "Exodusic" emigration and
persons marrying outside the community are also eroding the
Experts on demography are warning of the day, not far,
when the community
will disappear. The faithful
adherents of ethnical the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism
express their confidence that it will never be so.
Zealous inbreeding, they confidently predict, will keep
alive and expanding. Some are awaiting the appearance of Bahram
Varjavand to see the balance totally tilted in their
While many are alarmed at the dwindling number of "born"
Zoroastrians, non-Zoroastrian Iranians are showing ever-greater
their ancestral religion. A jump of
60,000 persons in the recent census of Zoroastrians
in Iran has surprised many. The
number of persons approaching Zoroastrians and Zoroastrian
associations in North
America and Europe to seek knowledge with a view to join the
increasing. Enjoying the relative
freedom, some educated Tajiks, people of Iranian stock in the
Asia, are also anxious to join the fold. Even
Armenians have made inquiries. Moreover,
more and more Americans and Europeans are getting acquainted
with the name of
Zarathushtra and his teachings, the number of inquiries is
showing a steady
rise. A few have declared themselves Zarathushtrians and others
have expressed a
desire to do so.
Zoroastrians today see other religious orders in their
establish friendship with their adherents. They stand fully
non-Zoroastrian environments. Mixed-marriages between
non-Zoroastrians have become a common feature, and the figures
mixed-marriages are showing a steady rise at the loss of
So far excommunication of persons marrying outside the
community has been
the usual reaction by the self-styled "traditionalists" and
"orthodox" who consider themselves as the ultimate authority.
But the action does not seem to be working in face of new
thrown by the fast changing circumstances wherever the
Zoroastrians live, in
good old India and Pakistan, or in new permanent residential
Europe, America, and Australia. All
these challenges cannot be brushed aside or taken lightly.
Conditions show that threats, intimidation, condemnation,
excommunication, refusal to recognize a so-called convert as
blasphemy and abusive language do not work. On the contrary,
they turn many to
become increasingly curious to know the truth.
The matter warrants serious consideration, both for the
and the liberals.
Attitudes are undergoing a change since Western scholars
began taking an
increasing interest in the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism
almost 200 years
ago. They have, with their translations and interpretations,
brought the mute
Avestan and Pahlavi texts to speak for themselves. The Gathas,
once outranked by
daily Avesta/Pazend recitation, are the subject of much
The reformist movement started by those trained in
Western schools has
gained much strength during the last century.
It has made, and continues to make, even the staunch
to reform without acknowledging the change.
Gathic studies have helped some to believe that if the
Good Religion is
restored to its pristine purity, it can well meet the challenge
changes, scientific progress and technological advances.
It can also live in friendly relations with other
One of the subjects brought up by the movement has been
conversion/acceptance. It has been vehemently opposed by the
and condemned by their high priests in India.
Nevertheless, the process of accepting spouses is gaining
First, many began supporting the idea that the children
mixed-marriage in which the father is Zoroastrian should be
initiated into the
religion. Now, those who stand for
equality of the sexes are pressing for the admittance of the
children of a
Zoroastrian wife. This opinion is
strong in Europe and North America and it appears that
Zoroastrians of these two
continents will eventually admit both. Initiations of children
wives and non-Zoroastrian fathers are more common than
The number of Zoroastrians who believe in accepting
converts is also
increasing. The Iranian Mobeds
Councils in Iran and North America have given a green light to
are not, for obvious reasons, making any special efforts to
propagate and win
converts. If a
"qualified" candidate, generally one marrying into a Zoroastrian
family, comes forward, he or she is quietly initiated
into the religion. There are
several associations in North America who hold the
same opinion and occasionally follow the same policy. Against this, the traditionalists in
America are already
protesting against the move and are quite vociferous in their
The number of those in favor of acceptance in India and
considerable but so far no one has dared to come in open except
It means prompt condemnation by the orthodox who wield
the power in the
society. A bold step by a few in future may change the silent
acceptance and consequently change the balance.
Among the Zoroastrians in North America and Europe,
opinion have divided the immigrants and their children into two
main camps: the
orthodox and liberals. Although met with stiff opposition,
echoed louder in
remote India than in North America and Europe, so far the odds
have been in
favor of the liberals. They have
been successful in most of the unorthodox actions they have
dared to take.
The orthodox, although never admitting, are yielding but
slowly. The question now is:
how far the orthodox are going to stretch themselves to
meet the changes
brought in by the liberals, especially by their own children
who are growing
in a typically open western society?
The fear of a split, expressed mostly by the orthodox,
may come true
because of the stand taken by the orthodox themselves. It
is they who alienate others by their condemnations,
boycotts. Once alienated, a person
cannot join a traditional association, attend a ritual performed
traditional priest, enter a fire-temple in the Indian
sub-continent, or receive
a Zoroastrian funerary end. Such
persons have two alternatives: go and get lost, as has been the
case so far, and
as a result, further aggravate the present decline in
population, or form their
own establishment. The alienated
and excommunicated persons, each feeling isolated and rejected,
have never made
an effort to come together to find a solution to their
However, there are faint signs that some are thinking
about the need for
a united action to solve the problem in open.
But apart from the divided community, a number of
each in his or her city, have seriously been thinking of
well-organized body in North America and Europe to promote the
Zarathushtra. They have been
consulting each other but so far no concrete steps have been
taken to form
groups and start it. Only one group has felt encouraged to come
establish an independent organization. The
Assembly is a non-profit, non-political religious corporation
established in 1990 in Los Angeles. It declared its existence
Nowruz and Zarathushtra’s Birthday on 22 March 1991.
It is the first of its kind. It
unique. Contrary to what happens in
reformative movements, the
establishment of the Assembly is not a protestant, sectarian, or
one, a separatist move to split apart from an existing body.
It has been formed as an outside organization, an
which does not identify itself with the
as an ethnic entity or with any of its associations,
institutions, and other
sacerdotal, sanctified, social, financial, charitable, singular
establishments. It lies outside the
closed communal religious fold of traditionalist and orthodox
It does not seek any recognition by any
authority/authorities of the
traditional Zoroastrian community. In fact, it is not interested
at all in any
of the traditional/orthodox activities of keeping their
their rituals and ceremonies, safeguarding their culture,
conversion/acceptance, excommunicating persons of mixed
inbreeding to increase their number.
Nevertheless, the Zarathushtrian Assembly is a
organization. It has, in theory and practice, restored the
religion of Good
Conscience to its Gathic purity and Zarathushtrian universality.
It reserves the right to call itself and its members by
"Zarathushtrian" and any of its variants—Zarathushti, Zartoshti,
Zoroastrian, Mazdayasni, and Behdin. Based on the Gathic
Doctrine, it considers
itself the Authority to follow its course.
Membership of the Zarathushtrian Assembly is open to all
those who, of
their own individual accord and after full consideration and
the Good Religion and wish to belong to its World Fellowship.
The Zarathushtrian Assembly belongs to the knowledgeable
persons who are
sincerely committed to the good, Gathic religion of the Manthran, the thought-provoker, Righteous
Zarathushtra. The Gathas
are the only guide in life for the members of the Assembly.
Other Gathic texts
are of explanatory importance. Its
ceremonies are based on the Gathic texts. All
parts of the Avesta and Pahlavi have only their moral,
geographical, and anthropological values and therefore there is
a placid place
for them outside the doctrinal scripture-the Staota
The Assembly teaches, preaches, and practices the
religion of Good
Conscience. It does not convert
people simply because the Good Religion is a religion of
personal choice and
does not indulge in persuaded, pursued, and pushed conversion.
It is opposed to such conversions. Any person who is a
either by free choice or by birth and upbringing, and has
performed his or her initiation (navjote/sadreh-pûshi),
apply for the membership of the Zarathushtrian Assembly, and
approval of the application become a member and enjoy all the
rights provided by
the Constitution and Bylaws of The Assembly.
Those who are interested in the Good Religion, and those
who, for certain
reasons, are not in a position to get themselves initiated, may
themselves with The Assembly by becoming "friends."
Friends can participate in all Assembly activities with
the exception of
elections and being elected to administrative positions.
Assembly activities are
open to all. Even administrative meetings may be attended by any
in by a member or with a prior request.
A common problem faced by followers of the
Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism, all of them comparatively recent
Europe and North America, is adaptation to an entirely new
Western culture and social orders are very different in
While the first generation of immigrants wants to
preserve intact the
ways of life as they were in the old world, an impossible task
in the long run,
the new generation looks at America and Europe as its homeland
and its culture
as its own.
Meanwhile, the spiritual world is witnessing increased
activities. Inter-faith movements
are working to bring most of the existing religions closer in
respectful meetings. It is gaining
Parallel to this movement, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians,
Mormons, Baha'is, and even Jews are preaching and are out to win
people to their
respective religions by peaceful means. Conversion
is the order of the day.
The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism has its own stand: Safeguard and
continue the identity
and culture it has acquired through the ages of its existence,
no matter what
the conditions prevail in the homeland or the acquired homes.
It has, however, a growing group of its members who are
They favor a reform, some fast and fundamental, others
slow and surface.
Only time, now moving fast, will prove as to who is right
and who is
As far as the Good Religion of
Zarathushtra is concerned, the restoration
has given it a new impetus. With
the eternal "Primal Principles of Life" taught by Zarathushtra
approximately 4,000 years ago as its motive and goal, it stands
progressive. It has entered the
peaceful competition and is determined to spread the
Zarathushtrian Message far
and wide. After all, every
Zartoshti, orthodox or liberal, understanding or just chanting,
has been wishing
in his or her daily prayers: "May
the religion of Good Conscience spread all over the seven
regions of the
earth." Their prayers, clear signs show, have been answered.
Atha jamyât yatha afrinâmahi.
Books Recommended for
1. Irach J.S. Taraporewala, The
Divine Songs of Zarathushtra, Bombay, 1951.
2. S. Insler, The Gathas of
Zarathustra, Leiden, 1975.
3. Ali A. Jafarey, The Gathas, Our
Guide, Cypress, California, 1989.
Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian:
1. Sacred Books of the East,
ed. F. Maxmuller, volumes IV,XXIII, and XXXI for Avesta texts
and volumes V,
XVIII, XXIV, and XXXVI for Pahlavi texts, Oxford, 1895,
reprinted by Motilal
Banarasidas, Delhi, 1970.
2. The Persian Rivayats of
Hormezdyar Framarz and others, Ervad B.N. Dhabar, Bombay,
1. Dastur Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, History
Zoroastrianism, New York, 1938. (The
and most comprehensive book to read on the chronological
of the Good Religion and the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism.)
2. Rustom Masani,
The Religion of the Good Life, London, 1954
3. Dastur Hormazyar K. Mirza, Outlines
of Parsi History, Bombay, 1974.
4. Prof. Mary Boyce, A History of
Zoroastrianism, three volumes, Leiden, 1975-91.
5. ................, Zaroastrians,
Religious Beliefs and Practices, London, 1979.
6. Erach J.S. Taraporewala, The
Religion of Zarathushtra, Bombay, 1980.
7. Homi B. Minocher Homji, O Wither
Parsis? Placate and Perish or
Reform and Flourish, Karachi, 1978.
8. ......................, Zoroastrianism,
contemporary perception of ancient wisdom, a search for the
true meaning and
scope of zarathushtra’s gathas, Toronto, 1989.
9. Cyrus R. Pangborn, Zoroastrianism,
A Beleaguered Faith, 1982.
10. Ali A. Jafarey, The
Zarathushtrian Religion, a chronological perspective,
1. Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, The
Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, Bombay,
2. Mobed Ardeshir Azargoshasb, Marasem-e
Mazhabi va Adab-e Zarthoshtian (Religious Ceremonies and
Customs of the
Zoroastrians) (Persian), Tehran, 2nd ed. 1979.
3. Ali A. Jafarey, Fravarane, I
choose for myself the Zoroastrian Religion, a guide for the
Westminster, California, 1988.
4. .............., Zarathushtrian
Ceremonies based on the Gathas, Cypress, California, 1992.
The author has, in his research
essays in English and Persian,
discussed at length many of the points which are but briefly
mentioned in this
book. If requested, copies of the original essays will be
provided at the cost
Ali Jafarey Answers His Critics
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Jafarey has been one of the most
active and effective proponents of conversion to modern day
Zoroastrianism. Because of his activism he has attracted a number
enemies. You have probably read some of his critics on the
Internet. Now, he has set up his own
website to answer their questions and accusations.
Many of these critics believe that once he is
dead and gone then the whole conversion movement will die. Nothing
could be further from the truth as the other scholars on this web
Personally, I wish that Dr. J's critics could spend a several days
him as I have. He is an 85 year old great grand-father. His love
people and for Zarathushtra are unmistakable. He speaks over a
dozen languages and is widely respected as one of the most
knowledgeable scholars of the Gathas. At age 85 he keeps up a busy
schedule people half his age would envy ..... Stephen Williamson
The Persian Rivayats # 236, # 237 & # 238
India Turns to Persia for Advise
Questions Written Circa 1480 AD.
Beginning In the fourteenth century priests
India sent a series of questions to their counterparts in Persia.
question was answered by individual priests. Below are questions
historic letters, written over 500 years ago.
They clearly show that the historic Zoroastrians accepted new
into the faith.
These Persian priests helped settle many
in the Indian community. Below are quotes from the Persian
found on Joseph Peterson's excellent website www.avesta.org
# 236. How
should Barashnom be administered to one of foreign faith?
Persian Priest Kama Bohra
- Q: An infidel (aniri) or one of a foreign
faith has set his heart
on the good religion, and Barashnom cannot be administered to
him for fear of others. What is the decision?
- A: It is said in the 5th fargard of the Vendidad that if
person who has become riman is 60 farsangs away from a
[qualified purifier] then he should proclaim (his case) aloud
to a person (on the way) who should purify him with gomez and
make (his body) dry (with dust). With a loud proclamation, he
should take the padyab of the bull and with loud proclamation,
it should also be poured on his head so that all parts (of the
body) may be wet and then he should make himself dry with dust
from the moisture of the padyab. He should wash himself with
for 30 times and dry himself with dust and then wash himself
water once: and he should yet abstain from whatever has been
or is being prepared for Yasht and Yasna. One of a foreign faith
who sets his heart on the religion and who is riman should be
Persian Priest Kama Bohra
and Kaus Kama (tr. Dhabhar)
- Q: If a person of a foreign faith who has his mind
set on to the good religion becomes riman by nasa and if they
are unable to administer Barashnom to him on account of some who
are of bad nature, i.e., on account of this that the wicked
over the virtuous, what is the decision?
- A: In the 8th fargard of the Vendidad, it is so enjoined that
if (such) persons are away from a Barashnomgar, i.e., between
them and the Barashmongar there is (a distance of) 30 farsangs
and if a person (from amongst them) becomes riman (vadyab), then
it is necessary that he should wash himself 15 times with padyab
and make (his body) dry with dust, and then he should go to a
Barashnomgar who will administer Barashnom to him. (He should
wash himself) for these 15 times for the reason that if a stream
or a river or plants come on his way, they are less afflicted.
- If he is 60 farsangs away from a Barashomgar, he should act
30 times as I have said, and then he should engage himself in
work, but should abstain from (the performance of) the
until the time he comes upon a Barashnomgar who administers
- And one should act in the same way in the case of one of a
foreign faith who has set his heart on the good religion.
has been ordered (to be done in such a case) by the Herbad
from the religion has been enjoined in the 8th fargard of the
Vendidad, and the evidence thereof has been manifest in the
- thrisatathwem. frasnatee thrisatathwen. upasatee (Vd. 8.98)
i.e., he should wash himself 30 times i.e., with padyab (or
and he should (thus) was himself 30 times: The commentary (of
the Avesta) is thus given. Let it be known that there is not
(herein) the evidence of the Avesta as regards drying the body
Persian Priest Shapur
Bharuchi (tr. Dhabhar)
- Q: If one of a foreign faith who sets his heart on
the good religion
becomes riman and for fear of others, the Barashnom cannot be
administered to him, what is the decision?
- A: It is said in the 8th fargard of the Vendidad that if that
Behdin is 100 farsangs away from a Barashnomgar and has become
riman, then he should recite patet before another Behdin.
the (latter) Behdin may give him padyab so that he may wash his
head and body clean therewith and then make them dry with dust
for 30 times; then he should wash himself with pure water once.
Then he should abstain from whatever has been prepared for
and Yasnas. One of a foreign faith who sets his heart on to the
good religion should thus be ceremonially treated (parkikhtan)
# 237. On peaceful and
Persian Priest Kaus Mahyar:
Q: Can a grave-digger, a corpse-burner and a
(one of a foreign faith) become Behdins (i.e., be converted to the
A: If they observe the rules
religion steadfastly and (keep) connection with the religion, and
harm comes on the Behdins (thereby), it is proper and allowable.
Priest Nariman Hoshang:
Q: A Behdin turns darvand (i.e., goes over to another
he returns to the religion of the Behdins, is it allowed or not?
A: It is allowable. They
convert him to the religion in the way prescribed). He should be
advised and admonished, should perform a patet and (then)
should be administered to him. He should again engage himself in
performing penitential acts and should recant (his former deeds)
be known that he should be allowed (to be retaken) in this way.
Priest Shapur Bharuchi:
A: If a person (of a foreign faith) exercises tyranny
a man of the good religion and tells him to turn Musalman with his
family, then out of helplessness he should commit suicide [lit.
poison] but he should not turn Musalman.
Priest Suratya Adhyarus:
Q: If Muslms convert a Behdin by force to Muhamedanism but
latter's heart is not set on Muhamedanism. (What is the decision)?
A: Whenever (such a person) is converted
force to Muhamedanism and if his heart and mind are not set on
Muhamedanism [the word is written in Avesta characters], then it
fault of his.
238. On the Treatment of
juddins and on conversion.
Q: What is the retribution for taking away anything by
force from the juddins and appropriating it?
A: One should give four for one in the
spiritual world for (what is taken away by) oppression and
but if (a juddin) shows enmity towards a Behdin, then it is
to take away the thing from him by force.
Persian Priest Nariman
A: If slave-boys and girls have faith in
good religion, then it is proper that Kusti should be (given to
be) tied, and when they become intelligent, attentive to religion
steadfast, they should give them Barashnom and it is also proper
allowable to eat anything out of their hands.
Dr. Stanley Insler on World Zoroastrian Organizartion
restriction concerning initiation into your religion arose at a
when other religions threatened its existence. In the free
threats hardly exist today. Zoroastrianism is a religion that
the freedom of choice among its most important principles, and
essence this consists of the individual and personal choice of
human being to ally himself on the side of good or evil in the
Because choice is a primary concept of the religion, it must
extended in an equally effective manner to the question of
into the faith of those people not born as Zoroastrians.
If a person
sees the benefits of the religion and chooses of his own free
enter it, it is a demonstration in itself of that person's
support the forces of good in the world. It was exactly that way
Zarathushtra first founded the faith, because we see in his
how he urges people to follow the path of righteousness by
follow the principles of Ahura Mazda. Should it be any different
The freedom to join the faith should be option left to every
choice. (from World Zoroastrian Website,
Read more about renowned scholar & translator Dr. Stanley
Zoroastrian Organization http://www.w-z-o.org/
"Zarathushtra was and is in
very Truth, the world teacher. His message is meant for
all humanity for all time."
Dr Taraporewala, (Parsis scholar
& university chancellor)
See These Websites About
My Conversion & Photos
from the Ceremony
Mrs. Dina Mcintyre is one of the most respected modern
scholars. She is respected by almost everyone on either side of
question of Conversion. Dina is a born Parsi, who married
of Irish desent. For years she was ostraschized by many of her
and family, She has endured decades of name calling, returning
hatred with kindness and more knowledge. Dina is one of the main
responsible for me selecting this faith over others.
I am constantly
amazed at her wisdom and love for both Zarathustra and his
Parsi, Iranian, Euro, Hispanic or whoever from whereever. She
believes that Zarathustra's teachings are important for the
to hear. She has published many articles, some of which, along
with a bio and photo are at www.vohuman.org I almost
mention: Dina Mcintyre has an active corporate law practice on
coast. Perhaps this is where she gets her shrewd negotiating
ability to research the most likely answer to the riddles posed
These were sent as a series of emails to the diverse
Zarathustrain groups on the Internet.
Conversions by Dina
Here is the first one.
Sent: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 12:32 pm
Subject: 1. Acceptance in Y Avestan texts
In fulfillment of my promise to Maneck B, here is the first
of evidence from Avestan texts (that are not the Gathas) which
that our religion was a universal one, which accepted anyone who
to belong to it. This evidence is just a sampling.
not intended to be exhaustive (or exhausting!).
Commentary on the Ahuna Yairya: The Ahuna Vairya (Yatha
Vairyo prayer) is in Gathic Avestan, and in the same meter as
Ahunavaiti Gatha. Many scholars believe that it was
Zarathushtra himself. Several centuries after
prayer was commented on in Yasna 19.6, a later Avestan text in
Younger Avestan language (not in Gathic), which has Ahura
making the following promise to everyone in the entire
"And whoever in this world of mine which is corporeal shall
recall...a portion of the Ahuna-vairya, and ..... shall then
aloud, shall worship thus...I will bring his soul over the
Kinvat, I who am Ahura Mazda,....." (Mills translation as it
SBE Vol. 31, page 261).
The Farvardin Yasht was also composed several centuries after
Zarathushtra, in the Younger Avestan language. It
hope and belief that the teachings of Zarathushtra will spread
the entire earth. It says in verse 94: "...and there
the good Law of the worshippers of Mazda come and spread through
the seven Karshvares of the earth." Yasht 13.94.
The fravashi of the Younger Avestan texts is believed by many
Zoroastrians, to be a reference to the divine within (although
differ). The Farvardin Yasht reverences the fravashi in
things. As applied to different human races, verse 143 of
Yasht reverences the fravashis of good men and women in various
enumerated countries -- Turanian, Sairimyan (which a footnote
is Europe and Western Asia), Saini (which a footnote explains is
China), and the verse concludes with reverence for the fravashis
good men and women "... in all countries....." (as translated by
Darmesteter, in SBE Vol. 23, pp 226 - 227).
In the next installment, I will show you some evidence on the
of acceptance that is reflected in the Khordeh Avesta prayers,
were composed in Sasanian times.
Wishing you the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.
Here is the second one.
Sent: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 9:51 am
Subject: 2 Accptnce Phl and Skt Gathas
I know I said that I would limit my evidence on acceptance to
post-Gathic texts. I did this to keep the Gathas out of
controversy. But I think I can provide you with some
which is not readily available, and which you may find useful.
We all know the famous verse Y31.3, which has been translated by
many scholars -- both Zoroastrian and non-Zoroastrian -- as
for the fact that Zarathushtra considered his teachings to be
Many traditionalists, including some high priests in India, have
that these translations of Y31.1 are incorrect, inaccurate, and
typically claim that such translations are the works of
scholars, ignoring the many Zoroastrian scholars who have also
translated this verse.
Well, the oldest translation of the Gathas that we have today,
Pahlavi translation. The second oldest translation we have
Neryosangh Dhaval's translation of the Pahlavi translation, into
Sanskrit. Both these translations have been translated
English by the late Professor Mills in his book, A Study of the
Zarathushtrian Gathas, (Oxford 1892, AMS Press Reprint,
this work the English translation of the Pahlavi, was derived
collation of manuscripts from all known codices.
translation of Neryosangh was derived from a collation of five
texts of Neryosangh's Sanskrit translation. Referring to
teachings, these Pahlavi and Sanskrit translations translate the
part of Y31.3 as follows:
Mills' free translation: "...declare it, that we
teach all living the Faith." (p 57).
Mills' literal translation of the Pahlavi: "...tell that
to us...thus the living of all kinds believe." (pp 56-57).
Mills' literal translation of Neriosangh's Sanskrit
"... which wisdom is enlightening or awaking all the
Thus we see that the two oldest translations of the Gathas --
before the present controversy on acceptance arose --
Zarathushtra's teachings are for all the living.
Wishing us the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.
NUMBER 3 IS MISSING
I think my numbering must have been mixed up. Here is # 4,
but I could not find #3.
Sent: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 10:11 am
Subject: Acceptance 4 Khordeh Av Prayers
Dear Maneck B and Friends,
The Khordeh Avesta prayers, were collated and composed as
during Sasanian times, more than 1,400 years after
Because most people no longer understood Avestan, the Sasanian
took parts of the Avesta (from both the Gathas and also from
Avestan parts), added parts in the language of the day, and thus
their folks prayers, most of which the reciter could
understand. Honesty compels me to admit that I do
all these prayers (much to the disappointment of my brother, who
them beautifully). But I like to read them in translation,
what ideas they contain (as part of my personal quest for the
mind and spirit -- asha).
Many of these prayers specifically contain language to the
the religion is for all mankind. Here are a few
examples. The translation is by T. R. Sethna, in his book
Avesta (3d Ed. reprinted 1980):
The quotation I like the best is in the Doa Nam Setayeshne which
"Homage to the all knowing tolerator, who sent through
Spitman . . . teachings of religion for the people of the
so that they may have friendship, inculcate faith and inner
knowledge gained from hearing. For the information and guidance
men who are, who were, and who will be hereafter..." (p
63). This quotation reveals several things:
beautiful perception of our religion â€“ as being one which
promotes friendship, knowledge, and wisdom for all
Second, that it is not a coercive religion, but is available
information and guidance". And third, that Mazda is
tolerant. I really like that.
The Din-no-Kalmo (Pazand) speaks of "...The good, righteous and
complete religion which God has sent for the world..." (p. 169).
The Doa Tandarosti (Pazand) prays "... May the religion of
Zarathushtra be a source of glory unto all mortals..." (p 173).
The Meher Niyaesh says: "May the knowledge, extent and
the commandments of the most excellent Mazda worshipping
increase over the world, over all the seven regions, so may it
(page 61). Almost identical words are also found in the
Niyaesh (p 51), the Mah Bakhtar Niyaesh (pages 71 - 73),
Ardvi Sur Niyaesh (p 83), the Atash Niyaesh (p 93), the
Ardibehesht Yasht (p 123), the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht (p
the Sraosh Yasht Wadi (p 165).
We pride ourselves on the fact that Zoroastrians are famed for
honesty. One cannot help but wonder how anyone can
sincerely say these prayers daily, or weekly, or perhaps just on
occasions, and yet insist that the religion prohibits the
It is important to remember that Zarathushtra does not teach
proselytizing. On the contrary, he teaches that each
should make choices for himself, after reflecting with a clear
mind. This teaching requires us to exercise
respect other peopleâ€™s choices of religion. But this
teaching also requires us to accept and respect a person who
take Zarathushtraâ€™s path to the Divine, as Zoroastrians have
done for most of their history -- from Zarathushtra's time,
after the Arab invasion (as we shall see).
Wishing us the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.
There is #5.
Sent: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 11:16 am
Subject: Acceptance 5, Vendidad
Dear Maneck B and Friends,
Most if not all high priests in India have expressed the opinion
acceptance is forbidden by the religion. But the fact that
say so, does not make it so. They have to cite chapter and
and this, to date, they have not been able to do -- not a single
ancient text, or prayer, or law, or tradition.
A corollary to the practice of non-acceptance is the treatment
Zoroastrian women who have married non-Zoroastrians.
According to the high priests of India, they are no longer
Zoroastrians, cannot enter a fire temple, and their children
admitted to the religion. In support of this practice,
priests have cited Chapter 18, verse 62 of the Vendidad,
(according to them) "prohibits union between a Mazdayasni and
non-Mazdayasni." (Quoting from page 2 of a letter dated
22, 1990 from Dastur Kotwal to The Chairman & Trustees
Punchayet, which letter is initialed on each page by Kotwal, and
at the end with his full name and titles).
However, this verse of the Vendidad which is in the
Avestan language, does not refer to interfaith marriages
all. Verses 61 and 62 state that Mazda is caused grief by
courtesan (Jahi), regardless of whether she sleeps with a Mazda
worshipper or with one who is not a Mazda worshipper.
Books of the East, Vol. 4, page 200, and footnotes 1
all as translated by Darmesteter).
The Pahlavi translation of the Vendidad in its commentary on
verse, translates the word "Jahe" as an adulteress.
(Behramgore T. Anklesaria, Pahlavi Vendidad,
the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, 1949, page 365 --
366). An adulteress is a married woman who sleeps
someone who is not her husband. Whether the man is a
Mazdayasni or a non-Mazdayasni should make no difference in
whether an adultrous act is "right" or "wrong".
So this verse has nothing to do with interfaith marriages.
speaks against prostitution (according to the Avestan text) and
adultery (according to the Pahlavi commentary). With
justice, this verse makes no mention of the fellows who enjoy
woman's favors. But that is another story.
If any priest or lay person knows of any ancient Z text (i.e.
before the migration to India) which specifically prohibits
I would like them to cite chapter and verse, so that I can look
Wishing us the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.
Here is #6
Sent: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 11:14 am
Subject: Acceptance 6 Aerpatistan and Nirangistan
Dear Maneck B and Friends,
There is an ancient text called the Aerpatastan and Nirangastan,
is described (according to S. J. Bulsara's translation) as
portions of the great Husparam Nask". The text
aspects of the practice and administration of the religion in
society of that day.
It states that if a child of another religion wishes to come
the Good Religion, then guardianship of the child is vested in
person who is the greatest and most beneficent in the entire
even though a person of another religion comes claiming
guardianship over the child. (Book I, Chap IV, verse
page 38 of the S. J. Bulsara translation, published by the
Panchayet, 1915). To be fair, the text does not say that
person claiming guardianship was the child's parent or
What is clear, however, is that if even a child
old enough to make an informed choice) chooses the Zoroastrian
religion, the community accepted it, and took care of it.
different from those Zoroastrians today who say that the
prohibits Zoroastrian couples from adopting non-Zoroastrian
children. I would be very interested to see what textual
authority they claim for such exclusionary actions.
In one part of this text, it takes for granted the right of a
non-Zoroastrian to convert to Zoroastrianism, and focuses on
prohibiting forced conversions. It states that a man
converts to the Zoroastrian religion should not force his wife
convert. He should not strike her, or stop supporting her,
"forsake her treacherously", nor does she "pass from the
being his wife", because she refuses to convert.
Chap. V, verses 4 and 5, page 40 of the S. J. Bulsara
translation). It is only fair to note that this text also
recommends that as long as the wife refuses to convert, the
should not sleep with her. Whether such advice was taken
converted husband is not known. While I don't think
any business telling a husband whether or not he can sleep with
wife, it is clear that, the object was encouragement (though not
coercion) to join the religion, not a refusal to accept anyone
wished to join.
In another part, this text (the Aerpatastan and Nirangistan)
states: "When a slave professing any other creed comes
the Good Religion he then comes a direct subject of the King of
who shall give his price....." (Aerpatistan and Nirangastan,
verse 29, page 38 of the Bulsara translation). The
Tablets found in Persepolis indicate that it was built by
craftsmen who were paid wages, and so could not have been slave
labor. I do not know to what extent ancient Zoroastrians
slaves (or whether such persons were actual slaves or indentured
servants). However, the Persian empires of ancient times
many countries and many races, which traveled, traded, and
freely throughout the empire. So it is noteworthy that
does not limit the acceptance of slaves by race -- accepting
slaves who are Persians.
It is always distressing (to me at least) to read anything in
text which does not comport with the high ethical standards of
Gathas. But we should remember that the later texts
diverse and changing cultural traditions which (sometimes
resulted in different perceptions as to the rights of different
individuals. Two hundred years ago, slavery was considered
in the United States, and women were not able to vote. It
two Constitutional amendments (and a civil war in the case of
to change both of those time-bound (and wrong) cultural
One of the things that make me love the Gathas, is that they
tell us to
use our minds/hearts to try to figure out what is true and
implement it with our words and actions. As we grow in
understanding, what may seem right to one generation or culture,
seem very wrong to another. The beauty of the Gathas is
enable us to grow, as individuals, and as societies, as our
of what is true and right change.
Wishing us the best
Dina G. McIntyre.
Dear Maneck B and Friends,
The Council of Mobeds of Teheran in Iran, have expressed a very
different opinion from that of the high priests of
In the early 1980s, an American, Joseph Peterson, after long
first by himself and then under a Zoroastrian priest, concluded
wanted to become a Zoroastrian, and wished to have his navjote
done. An Iranian Mobed, Bahram Shahzadi of the
States, a luminous soul, wrote a letter to the Council of Mobeds
Tehran, requesting guidance. In an official written
466 issued in May of 1983), the Council responded.
Mobed Shahzadiâ€™s letter, the Council's Opinion states: (in
"â€¦ The Council discussed the contents of your letter at
an official meeting. You have, in your detailed letter,
opinion of the Council regarding the acceptance of people into
Zoroastrianism. Let us glimpse through Zoroastrian
find an answer to it."
Notice, we have no fatwa here, no mandate, no "my way or the
highway!". The Council invites us to accompany it in an
exploration of evidence. The Opinion starts by quoting
Gathas, and concludes:
"The above stanzas show that Asho Zarathushtra does not advocate
to spread the religion, but has kept it open for all . . . . .
never reserved it for the Aryans, or for a particular caste of
people. Yasna 46.12 shows that the religion had
the Turanian lands during Asho Zarathushtraâ€™s lifetime.
Because he praises Friyana a Turanian Chief who supported
The Council's Opinion next gives references to later texts and
"The above citations show that the propagation and promotion of
religion is a meritorious deedâ€¦If we Zoroastrians
believe that our religion is one of the great living religions
world and that it is beneficial to all the peoples of the world,
â€¦.. must accept persons who want to embrace the
This 1983 Opinion of the Council of Mobeds of Tehran is a
example of leadership, courage, learning, and civility. It
sincere respect and admiration.
Wishing us the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.
(Maneck, I have not specifically addressed you as that seems to
make you uncomfortable, and I don't wish to do so).
In the centuries that followed the migrations of some
India, disputes arose among the priests in India about what the
religion allowed and did not allow. On various occasions
course of several centuries, Zoroastrian priests in India sent
emissaries to the Zoroastrian Mobeds of Iran to get answers to
questions. These questions and answers are in written
have been preserved in texts called the Rivayats. I do not
copies of most of these Rivayats, and the following information
quotations from the Rivayats are taken from an excellent article
Professor K. D. Irani, and Farrokh J. Vajifdar. ("Conversion in
Zoroastrianism, The Truth Behind the Trumpery", as it
"Humata", Journal of the Center for Ancient Iranian Studies,
1998 -- 1999 issue).
One such Rivayat was given in response to questions taken to
Nariman Hoshang in 1478 A.D (more than 800 years after the Arab
invasion). In one answer, the Iranian mobeds gave the
that slave boys and girls in Zoroastrian houses in India could
initiated into the religion with sudreh and kusti, and when they
intelligent, attentive and steadfast in the religion should be
barashnum (the cleansing ritual).
In 1599 A.D., the Kaus Mahyar Rivayat gave the opinion that even
non-Zoroastrians who performed burials and cremations, should be
allowed into the religion, provided that they were steadfast and
occasioned no harm to the faith.
Finally, there is the Itthoter Rivayat of 1773. Here, 78
questions were prepared by the priests of Broach and Surat in
and taken to Iran by Mobed Kaus Jalal. The replies to
questions were given in writing, signed by nine Iranian dasturs
(priests), and nine religiously versed behdins [lay persons, the
literally means followers of the Good Religion]. One
questions asks whether the religion allows the remains of
and girls who were servants, and who had been converted to
Zoroastrianism, to be placed in the dakhma.
In their unanimous answer, the nine Iranian Dasturs and nine lay
Zarathushtis, replied that it was indeed allowed. And
response included a clear denunciation of those who advocated
This Rivayat also answered the related question of whether it
appropriate to refuse to convert these young servant boys and
follows: "Here we have heard from â€¦.. the
dasturzade Dastur Kaus, worthy successor of the deceased Dastur
that several dasturs, mobeds and behdins across most of the
[Hindustan] stand in the way â€¦.. and have agreed not to
teach those youngsters the Avesta and not to convert them to the
beh-i mazdayasnan. This is unreasonable and alien to the
the Beloved ones prosper! In the second fargard of
Jud-div-dad the Creator of the righteous material world has
honourable Zaratusht Esfantaman anushe-ravan to lead all men to
Din-i Beh-i, to the Main Path, to edify His joy, His glory, and
honourâ€¦.. It is a very great merit and a righteous
good deed â€¦.. those who hinder this and are against it
are not even aware of the Origin and of the other world.
proceed along the path of aberration and vanity and according to
religion it is not possible to define them as Behdins, since if
were Behdins, they would increase the Din-i Beh-i."
quoting from this Rivayat, Irani and Vajifdar say that they have
followed the Vitalone translation, with minor changes for ease
reading, and that the translation of Ervad Shehryarji Bharucha,
One can only feel deep respect, admiration, and affection, for
nine dasturs and nine behdins of 18th century Iran, who lived
severe persecution, and yet signed their names to this document
expressing opinions which could have earned them death, but
nevertheless true to the teachings of Zarathushtra, and the
of the religion.
Wishing us the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.
This is the last in my series of posts on Acceptance.
In the Gathas, Zarathushtra implies that the Divine is immanent
(present) in all things. A later Avestan text, Yasna
expresses this beautiful thought by speaking of the fire in all
-- in men and animals, in trees and plants, in the
and mountains, in clouds and lightning, in the entire
world. So too does the Bundahishn (a post-Sasanian,
A later Persian poet, Jami, expressed this same thought of the
divine within, in one of his poems. He said:
"The essences are each a separate glass
Through which the Sun of Beingâ€™s light is passed.
Each tinted fragment sparkles in the sun,
A thousand colors, but the Light is One."
(as translated by Dr. S. H. Nasr).
If our religion teaches that the Divine is immanent (present) in
men and women, of what relevance is ethnicity? Can
reject any person without rejecting the Divine which is immanent
(present), within such a person?
Those who favor exclusion contend that this rule is not a
rejecting anyone. Rather, it is a question of obeying
will. They argue that it is God's will that each person
remain in the religion of oneâ€™s birth, and that to change
birth religion is an act of defiance against God's will.
Well, God caused us to be born naked. Is it His will that
wear clothes? He caused us to be born
ignorant. Is it
an act of defiance against God to get an education? Some
are born sick, or with birth defects. Is it His will that
babies not be given medical treatment to save their
What if one's parents are atheists? Is it an act of
against God to want to believe in Him? What if one's
religious fanatics? Is it God's will that the child of
parents must be a religious fanatic also, and must massacre and
people as his parents do?
If Mazda is the God of the Universe, how can anyone shrink His
relevance to only 100,000 born Zoroastrians on this planet of
billion people (to say nothing of the Vulcans and the
How did we sink from the high nobility of Zarathushtraâ€™s
thought to such a narrow view?
Wishing us the best,
Dina G. McIntyre.