Can You Follow Zarathushtra?

The Historic and Scholarly Case for Conversion

"Zarathushtra was and is in very Truth, the world teacher.
His message is meant for all humanity for all time."
Dr. Taraporewala

Web site created by Stephen Williamson




If you found this page it means that you have questions about Zoroastrianism.

This page is to support new seekers, converts, and inter-married couples.

Here is a link to pictures of my acceptance ceremony.




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.




First, The Arguments Against Converts & Inter-Married Couples  (All Refuted Below)

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 others.




Resolution by the North American Mobed Council,  Summer. 2000


From: Jehan Bagli
To: z-alias-2
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 3:30 PM
Subject: [zoroastrians] Re: Definition

Zarathushtrians:

Recently there has been some discussion about the definition of the term Zoroastrian/Zarathushti.

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 Anjuman

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 Zoroastrian religion.
·     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 discussion continues.

With Guidance and Enlightenment from Mazda

Jehan Bagli,  President NAMC





Sept 14, 1903  Bombay Parsi Panchayat Supports Conversion, over 100 Years Ago


Opinions of Dastur obtained by the Sub-Committee established by the Zoroastrian Anjuman to answer the question" Should non-Zoroastrians be allowed to convert to the Zoroastrian faith."


Opinion of Kaikhushru Dastur Jamaspji

Bombay, India

5th Gatha 1272 Y.Z. 14th September 1903

Dear Shams-Ulema Ervad
Jivanji Jamshedji Modi,
Secretary of the B.P.P.,

Dear Sir, 

You have requested me to give my opinion on whether or not to allow non-Zoroastrians to convert to Zoroastrianism. In reply, I have to state that there is no bar in our religion, to accept non-Zoroastrian converts. Every Zoroastrian reciting his obligatory daily prayers, such as Khorshed & Meher yashts, prays that our Mazdayasni religion may spread to all the Haftakeshwar Zamin. (i.e. the seven regions of the earth). The athornans of days gone by did not just sit around wishing this (spread of religion) to come true, but travelled to distant lands to spread the Zoroastrian religion (Refer to Yasna 4l.6). Such athornans met with oppositionfrom many people (see Yasna 9.24). We have referred to only Two passages from the innumerable in the Zoroastrian Scriptures confirming that the conversion of juddins to Zoroastrianism is permitted. 

The second edition of Ervad Tehmurasp Dinshahji Anklesaria's "Treatise on the Conversion of Juddins into Mazdayasni Religion" has just been published,in which this able Ervad Saheb has quoted examples from Avesta, Pahlevi and Persian texts - and we totally agree with quotation/examples. In the second edition of “Pashoke Nirange Javit Dinan" published in 1252 by our dear departed Dastur Jamaspji, further examples/ quotations have been given concerning the conversion/ acceptance of juddins into the Zoroastrian religion. From the writings of Ervad Tehmurasp (Anklesaria)and our dear departed Dastur Jamaspji, it can he said that there is hardly any material left on this matter for further research by any scholar. Therefore rather than state more quotations/ examples it is best that we give to your Sub-Committee these books (referred to above).

Yours sincerely,

Kaikhushru Dastur Jamaspji.



Zarathushtrianism: An Ancient Faith for Modern Man

By Dasturji Framroze A. Bode


Dastuji Bode was one of the leading Parsis Zoroastrian priests and intellectuals of the 20th century. You can read a good short biography of him at Vohuman.org. The link is below

http://vohuman.org/Author/Bode,Framroze.htm


Man is essentially a spiritual and moral being. Modern man is not satisfied with the present dogmatic conditions of religions, he is in 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 bread and material things alone, he is a thinking; feeling and willing being who needs spiritual nourishment. In the name of religion man is kept in separation.  Religion was intended to be a binding adhesive force, but unfortunately it has become disruptive.  The basic urge of man is to know himself by spiritual science of the soul to bring forth the Divine impulse operating in a new higher consciousness. Modern man needs a new perspective, a restatement a regeneration of an enlightened Faith in which he can experience the Divine Truth -and attain happiness, success and joy in life.

Now, some of the fundamental, pristine, pure, spiritual, philosophical, ethical and practical teachings of Zarathushtra could satisfy modern man in his need of an Enlightened Faith in which he can experience the Divine Truth and Reality.

The Advent of Zarathushtra was Cosmic Manifestation of the Divine Plan for the new cycle of evolution of mankind.  Zarathushtra was the 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 to then enslaved mankind from ignorance, superstition, ritualism and blood sacrifice.  He does not demand blind following, On the contrary he says: "Give ear, listen, ponder with the light of your shining mind, decide, discriminate, each man must choose his faith for himself. Thus, he gave freedom of thought and freedom of choice in the matter of religion."

Zarathushtra gave to the world pure Monotheism, a profound concept of the Supreme Godhead – Ahura Mazda. He contemplated with his Pure Mind, Vohu Manah over the Nature of Being and the laws governing the Universe.  Ahura Mazda is the Infinite Being.  Ever present, 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 to 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 life and to him life was light and illumination.  Ethical Philosophy of Zarathushtrianism is summarized in three Jewels, “Good Thought”, Good Word”, “Good Deed”.

Man being the thinker and the mind being his unique.potentiality, Zarathushtra emphatically propounded the philosophy of controlling and 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 of Asha .the law of harmony , order, truth, concision and purity.  Zarathushtra gave a scientific teaching regarding the law of cause and 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, Those who follow the law walk on the path of truth, righteousness and goodness out of which happiness comes, Those who break the law furnish 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 life 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 the twin mentality and relativity in the human mind, Vohu Manah the positive, constructive Good Mind and Ako-Mano the negative, distractive Evil Mind, There is no Cosmic dualism in the original fundamental Pure Monotheistic teachings of Zarathushtra.  He gave to humanity the spiritual philosophy of One supreme Godhead eternally the same,

It will be interesting for modern man to know that intellect is finite and it cannot reach the Infinities, Man must transcend the limitation of intellect and enter into what Zarathushtra calls the region of Sraosha -Intuition which dispels darkness, conflict, and confusion in the human mind, The relativity light of Good and Evil, right and wrong is transcended and the subject and object are merged together in one flash of intuitive light, then Truth draws upon the consciousness of man.

The concept of Fire in Zarathushtrianism is a deep scientific philosophy.  It does not mean the worship of physical fire.  Zarathushtra in his spiritual vision captured the experience of flaming cosmic mystic fire of Ahura Mazda. “Athro Ahuraha Mazdao Puthra”.  Athro means etheric energy, the purifying energy of Ahura Mazda.  Fire is the cosmic mystic symbol of Ahura Mazda.  Through this Fire of Spirit man can realize God and experience bliss.  Breath is fire and fire is life.  Thus, fire worship is reverence for all life everywhere.  Athra never means the physical fire of wood or sandalwood.  The association of Athra with Vohu Manah – pure Mind 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 prime function is to bum all impurities and cremate the dead body according to ancient Zarathushtrian Custom. Fire can never be made impure by any means.

Zarathushtrian spiritual philosophy of Self-Unfoldment, self-realization or God-realization is practical. Realization means to 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 living dynamic good life are assured.

In the light of all the above, we may say humanity today needs the true spirit of religion for revitalizing itself. There has been restlessness 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 might satisfy the spiritual yearnings of modern man and inspire him towards establishing a better world of brotherhood, humanity and love.  We can sum up the message of Zarathushtra in the Triple Yoga thus: Think creatively, constructively, rationally, originally and independently with your head; love fully, universally and joyously with your heart; and live dynamically in total goodness by using your hand to serve mankind in the cause of unity and peace.



CONVERSION IN ZOROASTRIANISM

The Truth Behind the Trumpery

 K. D. Irani  & Farrokh Jal Vajifdar


Professor K. D. Irani is a world renowned scholar and lecturer on Zoroastriansm.  With his kindness, his great sense of humor, and his profound knowledge, he is one of the most beloved figures in the Z world.  He was born in India, is a Parsi in fact, and his father,the late great Dinshah Irani was also a renowned scholar, who was a good friend of both Poure Davoud (in Iran) and Rabindranath Tagore (in India).  In fact it was a slim little book of Dinshah Irani's that first attracted me to the teachings of Zarathushtra. Prof. K.D. Irani is now professor emeritus of the City College of New York, where for many years, he not only taught philosophy, but headed its Dept of Philosophy. He has travelled and lectured on Zoroastrianism all over the world, -- in the United States, Australia, England, India.
 
Farrokh Vajifdar is a scholar who lives in England.  He spearheaded the first ever Gatha Colloquium in England, sponsored by 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 this 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 to be a Zoroastrian, such a claim would, and should, be rejected by the religious community of Zoroastrians. This view, though widely accepted, is intellectually absurd and morally inhuman and bigoted, beside being totally incompatible with the teachings of the Prophet.

That this view is incorrect, both conceptually and textually, is what we wish to present here. We examine briefly the theological perspective on the matter, and collect the various texts where the issue is adverted to. Our contribution is not wholly original: the position we hold, viz. the universality of Zarathushtra's teachings, had been affirmed in a pamphlet prepared in the first decade of this century by scholarly Zoroastrian priests; it was also supported by eminent Western scholars of Zoroastrianism. Several percipient dasturs over the last eighty years had expressed remarkably similar views. In recent years a pamphlet addressing this issue was published by the Zoroastrian priest 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 at 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 what they collectively mean by "illegal and invalid" -- which LEGAL criteria 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 to legislate against clearly formulated RELIGIOUS precepts? Conversion is not some idle hypothetical problem which can be dismissed through misconstruing and disinformation. It cannot be made to vanish through 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 of the community for the establishment of which. good reasons were perceived in the socio-political environment of the times. It must be clearly recognized, though, that it is a matter of social practice affected by social conditions, and NOT a matter of theological doctrine.

A theology like Zarathushtra's, based upon the grasp of the eternal and universal Truth by the divinely endowed Good Mind enabling us to implement the Righteous Order in existence, is so clearly a universal message that it would be altogether irrational to limit its acceptance 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 are aware of the bizarre thesis that God places each soul into the womb of a mother belonging to a tribe and expects the individual so born to believe in the religious doctrines of a tribe. Apart from the intrinsic 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 character of this view.

We have long been acquainted with the suspect methodology by which attempts to assert the reverse of our religion's injunctions regarding 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 time 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 Qisseh-ye Sanjan's "five conditions" as proof that Jaydev Rana granted asylum to our forefathers provided that no conversion of his Hindu subjects was attempted. There is NO SUCH CONDITION among the five to which we supposedly agreed.

Our eminently rational religion primarily urges a world-view based on 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 thousand eight hundred years, in the long course of which they responded to religious evolution, the conflicting ideologies of newer religions, and 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 PURPOSE: 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 against which we must take issue. Our priests surely should apply religious laws, for they too are subject to them, and not obscure socio-economic regulations which vaguely find their origins in dubious traditions. And the vociferous followers of such traditions would do well to also learn from our texts, being the root and branch of our universalist religion.


The evidence of the Gathic texts

Most of us are agreed that these very ancient texts are the product of 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 intensely logical series of precepts carefully worked into their main purport the transfiguration of man from brutishness towards saintliness. For whom is this message intended? The second of our Gathic kusti verses (Ys.44.16) clearly entreats Ahura Mazda, as Healer of existence, to let His hearkening (Sraosha) come to WHOMSOEVER He wills it: we actually pray this each time we prepare to fasten on the kusti. The first stanza of the Ushtavaiti Gatha (Ys.43.1) is Zarathushtra's benediction in the same vein: May Ahura Mazda, who exercises sovereignty at will, grant blessings to WHOSOEVER desires them. In neither passage do we encounter the slightest hint that Ahura Mazda's Revelation was meant only for a chosen few, still less a narrow ethnicity: it would be disrespectful to suggest otherwise.

And the message? This reflects the single-minded purpose of the Revelation: just as Ahura Mazda is acknowledged as the divine Healer of an existence corrupted by spiritual perversity, so too is man destined through his own FREE-WILL to wage an earthly combat to regenerate the world, towards which end the good powers of Mazda are invoked for help (Ys.30.9). "May we be those who shall renew THIS existence" urges Zarathushtra, and we dutifully echo this sentiment in a stray line of our kusti prayer (Yss.50.11 and 46.19). Elsewhere it is the sovereignty of Ahura which is invoked for the Healing in accord with OUR wish (Ys.34.15).

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 world. Armed with this inspired precept, the Prophet of the Righteous Order -- the New Order -- would convert ALL the living (Ys .28.5) ; again asking for the formula from the very tongue of Ahura Mazda's mouth whereby ALL the living would be converted (Ys.31.3); thereafter from Spenta Mainyu, 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 Ahura Mazda (Ys.44.11). His Gathas are replete with the idea of CONVERSION from dregvant to ashavan. We shall presently deal with its historical devolution. After our Prophet's demise, we continue to encounter the missionary activity of our fire-priests who ranged afar to spread his religion (Ys.42.7).

For emphasis we again stress that ALL the living are required for the work of Renovation, known to us as Frashokereti, the establishment of a universal Righteous Order. The Prophet did not, moreover, distinguish between the sexes when he assured both men and women: "O Ahura Mazda! 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 goodness and goodwill who would accept the Gathic Revelation. Reason tells us it 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 be surely rendered ineffective or even undone by the many NOT converted to the Mazdaean New Order. Prophet Zarathushtra and the community of believers in Iran, ancient and mediaeval, and even today, took this to 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 righteous men and women, past, present and future, WHEREVER THEY WERE BORN, which 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 wholly Gathic spirit, for their godly activity towards the Regeneration of the entire world.


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, as also its mythical and historical figures from the First Man to the future Saviours of Mankind. (Zarathushtra had counted ALL Truth-seeking persons as Saviours, or saoshyants, who had cultivated the Good Mind!). Here it is that we find the categorical statement that ALL Truth-owning men and women whose religious view contributes to the fulfilment of the Renovation are worthy of reverence (Yasht 13.154).

With every emphasis, this Yasht urges the veneration of the Fravashis of all righteous men and women from ALL lands, including the infamous Turanians, the traditional enemies of Iran whose injurious activities against Zoroastrianism form the substance of many an ancient legend! But even more important is the remarkable passage celebrating the birth 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 consider it!), has to be correctly taught to the ENTIRE physical world, whereupon ALL of the living shall transcend mortality (Ys.19.6-?,10-11).

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 pretend that a universalism directed towards the Frashokereti does not involve conversion! Our priesthood solemnly intones such passages in the course 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 true significance of our universally proselytizing prayers the moment they cease chanting them!

The Vendidad, frequently misused to conform to closedmindedness and religion overriding personal dislikes, also strongly comes down on the 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 should, 0 righteous Zarathushtra!" It could not be plainer.


The Pahlavi "Zartusht-Namag" (Denkard VII)

Prophet Zarathushtra's (here Zartusht) piously compiled biography was given its final revision in the ninth century of our Common Era, well after the murder of the last Sassanian king. Islam was then secure in its ascendancy, and despite the obvious danger to our ancient religion, 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 not 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 mouth and tongue, he will declare the faith to the world incarnate (ch.2).

After he is born, Vohuman/Vohu Manah escorts him before the spiritual assembly so that his Good Religion may spread among the seven regions of the earth. The Prophet's spiritual lordship is over the entire world (ch.3). A Turanian -- no less! .-- invites the kiks/kavis and karaps/karapans, both enemies of the new faith, to accept the Prophet's religion. It will be remembered that Vishtasp was a kavi, and Zartusht converts him to his religion by chanting aloud the Gathas. As token of the veracity and power of the new religion, Ohrmazd sends Vohuman, Ashavahisht and His spiritual Fire to Vishtasp for its propagation in the world (ch.4).

The righteous Adurbad-i Maraspand diffuses knowledge of the religion in the world, and through his ordeal convinced the wicked ones, the marvel 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 Kings, 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 Adurbad won the case by seemly discourse against all those sectarians, students of the nasks, and heretics, he (the king) said: 'Now that we have seen the religion in existence, we shall not let anyone approach evil religion. We shall exercise greater zeal over this' . He indeed acted in this manner" (Shaked's translation). What would have been the point of Adurbad's public disputation and demonstration of the potency of the Avesta before a 4th-century multi-faith assembly if his purpose had not been one of conversion through the universal validity of the religion?

Ancient mythico-geography divided up the world into seven keshvars, or climes, of which Khwaniras/Khvaniratha was the central, Zoroastrian, region. Fifty-seven years after Zartusht received the Revelation from Ohrmazd, its acceptance was proclaimed throughout these seven regions from whose SouthEast and South-West continents came their High-priests 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 renovate 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, summoned by Zartusht's own father to examine the supernatural infant -- "When I 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 that the men of this world came towards the north, and at their head strode Medyomah/Maidyoimaongha (traditionally, his cousin-german) ... who was 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 a crestfallen Zartusht (he had until then converted only Medyomah) being reassured by Ohrmazd: "There will be days when fewer persons shall be 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, then the Assault (of Evil) shall be destroyed; all of creation will attain 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 was expressly banned! Even later, we find conversion by the age of fifteen 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 and a woman of different faith, failing which duty the Zoroastrian father is deemed to have committed the gravest of sins -- he becomes MARGARZAN: "worthy of death"! (Pahlavi Rivayat of Emed-i Ashavahishtan, 42.4).


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 far less harsh, the Parsis of Gujarat had lapsed into an increased adoption of local Hindu customs and beliefs. Certainly Hindu names proliferated 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, and practices. The first emissary, Nariman Hoshang was sent, at great risk, along terrifyingly dangerous routes to the priests in Iran in 1478 and again in 1487.

Among the answers brought back in direct response to questions from the 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 converted to Zoroastrianism], and when they become intelligent, attentive to religion and steadfast, they should give them barashnum andit is also proper and allowable to eat anything out of their hands"! For some who irresponsibly wish to exclude children -legitimately born from exogamous unions or born out of wedlock by Parsi fathers from non-Parsi mothers -- from the religion of their Zoroastrian fathers, then we must present an even stronger guideline from the 1599 Kaus Mahyar Rivayat whose response includes categories from even lower-deemed persons: "Can a grave-digger, a corpse-burner and a darvand become Behdins (i.e. be converted to the Mazdayasnian religion)?" Its answer: "If they observe the rules of religion steadfastly and (keep) connection with the religion, and if no harm comes on the Behdins (thereby), it is proper and allowable"!

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 perhaps only a passing or selfish interest in our religion; in the West serious enquirers have exhibited an affinity and sure grasp of its knowledge far exceeding the average Parsi's whose xenophobia thinly masks his own 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 unauthentic!

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 from them by the mobeds and behdins of Hindustan. Yet when they die, those 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 be unseemly to mix the bones of the behdins with theirs. Thus, while these people are alive they make use of them for all the religious preparations, and after their death they do not allow them to be laid in the dakhma. The question is, therefore, whether it is proper or not to lay their bodies in the dakhma. Let them write to clarify this matter".

The answer came: "Concerning the acquisition of young men and women who are juddins as servants, the mobeds and behdins must first of all show care for their own religion, for their own rituals, for their personal property, and for their own soul so as not to face losses. TEACHING THE AVESTA TO THE SONS OF THE JUDDINS WHO HAVE BEEN ACQUIRED AND CONVERTING 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 youngsters while they live, and then once they die and stand to face God's mercy 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 dakhma. IT IS NOT RIGHT! Such iniquitous arguments do not profit the religion 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, according to the religion MARGARZAN and guilty before Mehr and Srosh. Indeed it is necessary for the mobeds and behdins to show greater mercy for these youngsters and to allow the bodies of the deceased ones to be laid in the dakhma according to the rules of the din-i behi, and this will be A 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 not 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 the Jud-div-dad [Vendidad] the Creator of the righteous material world has 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 WILL BE CONVERTED TO THE DIN-I BEHI. It follows that according to the din-i behi it is appropriate and necessary to convert these youngsters, IT IS 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 and of the other world. THEY PROCEED ALONG THE PATH OF ABERRATION AND VANITY AND ACCORDING TO THE RELIGION IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO DEFINE THEM AS BEHDINS, SINCE IF THEY WERE BEHDINS THEY WOULD INCREASE THE DIN-I BEHI." (We follow Mario Vitalone's translation with minor changes for ease of reading.)

Our learned Ervad Shehryarji BHARUCHA, an excellent philologian well-versed both in Zoroastrian religious traditions and Parsi social mores, had used the authentic Persian text and a Gujarati translation 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 wonder at the sharp contrast between the attitudes of our learned priesthood of former times and those of today who surely cannot be ignorant of our religious texts which so clearly and UNEQUIVOCALLY set out the case for 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 to novitiates? How are Irani Zardushti perspectives presented to them, if at all? Are the several problems arising at all seriously discussed in Zoroastrian seminaries, or are they simply brushed aside as irksome, irrelevant, perhaps even rated secondary to the ritualistic primacy of textual contents? It would be instructive to have straight answers to 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 a degree, either ignoring or deliberately confusing the evidence of royal inscriptions. Thus we see a foreign source -- Deutero-Isaiah -- brought in as evidence of the Achaemenid CYRUS II's tolerance of alien faiths and leniency towards the subject peoples. In itself the Iranian emperor's exaltation is praiseworthy: he is "the anointed of Yahweh", 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 is to stretch credibility too far, especially when we read in DARIUS I's political testament his strict religiosity. In a quite Gathic tone, he declares to his successors: "Proclaims Darius, the king: You, whosoever shall be king hereafter -- the man who shall be a FOLLOWER OF FALSEHOOD (martiya haya draujana), or (the man) who shall be an EVIL-DOER, to those may you not be friendly, (but) punish them severely" (Schmitt translation).

His son and successor XERXES I went one better: "Among these countries 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 expediency and astuteness. Historical hard facts do not lie; their fictionalizing 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 to Zoroastrianism were attested for Sassanian times, we feel it right to place the true historical facts before our readers. The major religious figure under the earliest five rulers of that dynasty was KIRDIR/KARTIR. The name was not his title; that most forceful prelate himself tells us of his rise through the priestly hierarchy from simple herbad/ervad to mobad of Ohrmazd, Judge of the (whole) Empire, Soul-saver of Bahram II, Director and Authority of the Anahid-Ardashir 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 were smitten in the Empire, and idols were destroyed and the abodes of the 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 the rites of the gods -- them I punished, and I tormented them until I made them better ... and MANY MEN WHO WERE UNBELIEVERS BECAME BELIEVERS, AND MANY WERE THOSE WHO HELD THE DOCTRINE OF THE DEMONS, AND ON ACCOUNT OF ME THEY LEFT THAT DOCTRINE OF THE DEMONS ..." (MacKenzie's translation, closely paralleled by others).

Our readers will agree that nothing less than FORCIBLE CONVERSIONS were being described. Kirdir's name and fame mayhave been marginalized in priestly memories and forgotten in our extant Pahlavi and Pazand texts; the great man has, however, left records incised on stone which may be 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 century research.

The new Zoroastrian orthodoxy was unsuccessfully forced upon the Christian Armenians by MIHR-NARSE, Prime Minister under three notable 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 the fifth century. That edict was refuted by eighteen unimpressed Christian bishops, and ultimately proved unenforceable despite the still-remembered bloodshed of 451 C.E. MihrNarse's conversion activity, like the above-mentioned precedents, has been passed over in silence by our present embarrassed priesthood, and it not being our purpose to further press historical issues dealing with forcible conversions, we 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 Samachar columns dated 3rd February 1991. It bore the heading, taken from the last paragraph: "WE MUST PERSEVERE TO PROPAGATE OUR RELIGION AND ACCEPT 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. Among the prayers PRONOUNCED BY THE OFFICIATING PRIEST and dutifully REPEATED BY THE CHILD is the Pazand Affirmation of the Faith, well known as the 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 perfect 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 the universalist passage into Gujarati thus: "... din, je dadar hormazde ae 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 Bharucha and Ervad Jivanji Modi have both closely agreed with Kangaji in their respective English renditions of our Din-no kalmo. The former had added: "In the face of this recital and acknowledgement would it not be ABSOLUTELY WRONG TO DENY THE RIGHT OF EVERY MAN OF THE WORLD TO EMBRACE 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 PART"! It is indeed assumed that there is clear understanding of the prayer's 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 communities abroad

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 does have its particular difficulties with regard to acceptance of outsiders into the Zoroastrian faith, but pleads especial SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC reasons for RELIGIOUS non-compliance! Emphasis is placed on the Parsi socio-religious funds set up with the provisos that they benefit only the Parsis and that strange class of the socalled "born Zoroastrian". The priests have, apparently, left a loophole to conveniently allow the return of some backsliders on the curious pretext that their conversion out was both "illegal and invalid". This is untenable, for were it really so then we should not have had any obstacles denying exogamous 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 hoc misogynistic premisses.

No less unpleasant is the sad tendency of our Bombay prelates -- to whom we once used to entrust our religious and spiritual guidance -- to 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 brought to light with references to the sound scholarship of Kavasji KANGA, Khodabax PUNEGAR, and Irach TARAPOREWALA -- all respected Gatha translators.

Much is being made of the fact that our Parsi translators had also utilized "to choose", "ward off/turn from (evil)", "to convince", "to 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 saying 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 not their CONVERSION? We shall not further labour the point, having done so at length precisely for reasons of countering so much manipulation of our religious texts and undermining of the real importance of the conversion issue. We ourselves having no personal or vested interest, and certainly NO HIDDEN AGENDA, we seek only a restitution of the Truth 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 India 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 BAR IN OUR RELIGION. Their conclusions were not based on blind beliefs but ON THE STUDY AND AUTHORITY OF ZOROASTRIAN SCRIPTURES. Few in Bombay now 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 CONVERSION. No' sensible Zoroastrian would advocate indiscriminate or mass conversion. However, he does maintain that in cases of intermarriage, non-Zoroastrian spouses and the children from increasing intermarriages 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 ABOUT CONVERSION and then explained that owing perhaps to personal distaste or disinclination, or economic and socio-political pressures, now. augmented by alien fundamentalist busybodies and wily opportunists, it 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 decades 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 are very different. Solutions similarly remain to be boldly tackled over the thorny questions of Calendars, Initiation, Intermarriage, Funerary procedures (especially regarding Burial, Cremation, Secondary Burials, non-Zoroastrian pallbearers, post-mortem Prayers) and all other matters which our communities continue to irresponsibly and hurriedly shelve as "controversial". Such pressing matters of real concern to every Zoroastrian will not resolve themselves through studied indifference.

Adding to the difficulties confronting our priesthood and the laity is the infiltration by those Parsis who rejected Zoroastrianism for a moribund THEOSOPHY: an insidious mix of doctrines incorporating ideas alien to Zarathushtra's theology are passed on to a gullible public as a modern extension of the Prophet's teachings. Then there are among the 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 'freedom of conscience', have the right to believe and declare the same, they must be seen for what they really are -- PERVERTERS OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE PROPHET ZARATHUSHTRA. Not only do they publish and preach in India; 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 life of moral striving and the goal of establishing the Rule of Righteousness is utterly ignored. For whatever unpleasant reasons, our authentically Zoroastrian priesthood seems paralyzed to denounce or counteract such unprincipled infiltrations, preferring to divert attention to imagined threats from phantasms. These difficulties indeed lie with the Bombay priesthood.

We do not wish to engage in pointless disputation. Ours is a plea for enlightenment, which is already embedded in the words of the Prophet. We urge our enlightened dasturs to articulate this Wisdom and not fail the Teacher whose teachings they profess. We jointly feel that a cultured, enlightened, educated and teaching priesthood represents our best hope for the propagation of the faith and the continuance of its glory well into the next millennium of our PROPHET ZARATHUSHTRA WHO WAS SENT TO US TO PERFECT THIS WORLD THROUGH OUR OWN PERFECTION.






RELIGION OF ZARATRHUSHTRA IS FOR ALL MANKIND

by Dr. Cyrus P. Mehta

Cyrus Mehta was born in Bombay, India into a Parsi family, and earned his Bachelors degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay in 1967, and his Masters and Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970 and 1973.  Dr. Mehta is a founder and president of Cytel Software Corporation and an Adjunct Professor of Biostatics at Harvard University.  (from Vohuman.org)

Excellent article by Dr. Mehta, from Vohuman.org



In the twenties and thirties, it was a common belief within the Parsi community that “A Parsi is a Zoroastrian and a Zoroastrian is a Parsi.”  At that time most Parsi boys and girls attended Parsi schools.  The community lived in large numbers in towns like Bombay, Surat, Navasari, Karachi and as few others.  As such it was natural for it to accept the belief quoted above.  Time has marched on since those days.  The Parsi community now lives in smaller scattered groups in the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and other countries.  It is anxious to preserve its traditional way of life and the communal-cum-religious identity.

            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 can be partially or fully integrated within the communal fold. 

            One of the main reasons why this difficulty has arisen is due to the fact that a large section of the community has not understood or is unwilling to accept the basic fact that Prophets address their messages to the whole mankind and not necessarily to a group of people or a community.  Once this fact is understood and accepted, the community will be in much better position to accept certain socio-religious changes within the communal structure.

            As to how this can be brought about is a matter for consideration by local and larger Zoroastrian bodies in different parts of the world.  It may be that no single course of action will be possible because of culture and political circumstances in different countries.

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 the comments of scholars of the Zoroastrian religion, on the above-mentioned subject:

Gatha Ahunavaiti 4.3 (Yasna 31.3)

What Thou hast through the Inner Fire disclosed,

The Bliss through Asha promise to us all,

The Law Divine for the discerning soul;--

All that to us, O Mazda, clear explain,

In words of inspiration from Thy mouth,

To help us to convert all living men.        [Dr. I.J.S.Taraporewala’s Translation]

Comments by Prof. A.V. Jackson on the above verse:
 
“Zoroaster’s 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]


Comments by Prof. Lawrence Mills:“
And he (Zarathushtra) declares that this is the doctrine which should be proclaimed for the conversion of mankind.  Here we observe that Zarathushtrian Mazda-worship was aggressive and missionary in its spirit, and in a proselytizing sense by no means indifferent to the final destiny of the Gentile World.” [“Sacred Books of the East” Vol. XXX1, The Zend Avesta, Part III, Page 37]  <>


Gatha Ushtaviti 3.1 (Yasna 45.1)
.

Now will I speak; give ear and mind as well,

All ye, who come from near and far to learn,

Remember well these clear Truths, I teach;--

Never again shall Evil Teachers seek

Life to destroy, nor offer unto dupes

<>With specious words the pleasant paths of wrong.[Dr. I.J.S. Taraporewala’s translation]

Here Zarathushtra clearly gives out his message to people, not only to Iranians, but also to those who may have come from distant lands and were not Iranians.

Comments by Prof. Wilhelm Geiger: 

“The conclusion that Ahura Mazda himself sent Zarathushtra into this world for the purpose of announcing the new doctrine to mankind, and that God stands always by his side as his adviser or guide, comes out prominently in the Gathas.  The Prophet directly expresses it in Yasna 45.5* when he says that God communicated to him the Word which is best for man. [“Zarathushtra in the Gathas” – Dastur Darab P. Sanjana’s translation, Page 21]

*Yasna 45.5:  Ushtavaiti Gatha 3.5

And I will teach what was revealed to me

In words of the Most Holy—best to hear;

      Those who obey them truly in their hearts,

      To these shall come Perfect Immortal Life;

      And Vohu Man shall lead them on to deeds

      Of Love; and thus they reach Ahura’           [Dr. I.J.S. Taraporewala’s translation]  


In detailing the life of Prophet Zarathushtra, the late Dastur Dr. M.N. Dhalla writes:-     

“He was burning with zeal to embark upon his great mission.  He was the chosen of Mazda, who speaks with sublime satisfaction that Zarathushtra alone among mankind had heard his divine commands and having heard them was now going to make them heard among all to mankind.  He tells Mazda that he will lead mankind on the path of righteousness and sing untiringly his praise all around as long as his life is blessed with power and strength.  He speaks of his faith in terms of Universal Religion.” [“History of Zoroastrianism” Dastur Dr. M.N. Dhalla. Page 17]  <>

            Yasna Ha 8.7 

“I who am Zarathushtra will make the heads of the houses, the villages, provinces and country to follow and think about this World Religion, thinking in conformity with, speaking in conformity with and acting in conformity with this religion as revealed to Zarathushtra by Ahura Mazda.” [1“Khordeh Avesta Ba Maini” Ervad K.E. Kanga Page 25: 2. English translation by T.R. Sethna vide his book “Yasna” Pages 33 & 34.]


            Haptan Yasht (Karda 8.6)

“We revere the flowing waters, we revere the flight of birds. We revere the return of priests who go to remote countries to promote righteousness.  We revere all the eternal holy laws.” [Yashts by T.R. Sethna Pages 21 & 23]


           Vendidad (Fargard 19,26) 

“Zarathushtra asked Ahura Mazda, ‘O the all-knowing Ahura Mazda, should I guide righteous men, should I guide righteous women, should I guide irreligious men, worshippers of evil and sinners that spoil the land, the flowing waters and spoil the increase of corn and other things of value in general created by Ahura Mazda?  Then spoke Ahura Mazda, ‘You should guide, O righteous Zarathushtra.’”

[Vendidad in Gujarati by Ervad K.E. Kanga –3rd Edition Page 312:  Vendidad in English by T.R. Sethna. Page 144]  <>

From all the foregoing passages, it is clear that it was Zarathushtra’s intention that his message was not only for Iran but also for other countries.  This intention was understood and carried out by his followers, during the Avestan Period (from about 800 B.C. to about 200 A.D.) and major part of Pahlavi Period (from the 3rd to the 9th century)

In a book called “Shikand Gumanik Vajar” written during Pahlavi period, it is mentioned that after King Vistasp (also known as Gushtasp) accepted the Faith of Zarathushtra, ordered his sons Aspandiar, Zarfar (Zarir) and other royal sons to spread the message as far as Arum in the west and to Hindustan in the east. [Source “Sacred Book of the East. Volume 24: Pahlavi Texts Part III. Page 171] 

Commenting on this information, Prof. Jackson wrote:
 

“The claim to Indian converts is quite persistent in the later writings, which is not strange, when, we consider the Indo-Iranian kinship and the fact that the Parsis found in India as asylum.” [Source: “Zoroaster, the Prophet of Iran” by Jackson. Page 85]

The “Shah Nameh” by the famous Persian poet, Firdausi Tusi also mentions that the King Gushtasp sent his son Isfandiar to foreign countries for the purpose of diffusing the new religion so that the whole world might be enlightened. [Source: “The Shah Nameh of Firdausi” by James Atkinson Page 263]

Below are two passages from both the Avestan and Pahlavi periods respectively.

(1) “Good fortune to us that Spitama Zarathushtra is born an athravan, to move with us, praising and calling for assistance with high mentality.  Henceforth, this good Mazdayasnian religion will go over towards all the regions which are seven.”   

[Source: Farvardin Yasht (Karda XXIV-94)  “Yashts” by T.R. Sethna. Page 231]


(2) ”May the knowledge, extent and fame of the Commandments of the excellent Mazda-worshipping religion ever increase over the world, over all its seven regions. So may it be.” [Source: “Zarthoshti Daily Prayers” by I.J.S. Taraporewala]   

Early in the twentieth century scholars like Darab Dastur Peshotanji Sanjana, Sir Jivanji Jamsjhedji Mody, Ervad Sheriar Dadabhai Bharucha,, Khurshdeji Rustomji Cama and Tehmurasp Dinshaji Anklesria had opined that if a person seriously wishes to become a Zoroastrian then there is no bar in our religion; their conclusions were not based on blind beliefs but on the study and authority of Zoroastrian scriptures.

The twentieth century is over but majority of the community is blissfully unaware of the teachings of their own Prophet and choose to cling to several socio-religious customs, which are incompatible with the teachings of Zarathushtra.  To debar or object to the presence of non-Zoroastrians in our religious ceremonies, just on the ground that they are non-Zoroastrians is a classic example of praying one thing and doing diametrically opposite to it, as can be seen from the under mentioned prayer:- 

‘Urvan-no-Kardo’

(a)   “May the brilliance of the excellent Mazdayasnian Religion be wide-spread over the seven regions.  May this be specially fulfilled!”

(b) “May the citizens ‘……..’ be more blessed with complete success, may their souls be glorified with the highest gratification and their brilliance be auspiciously increased! May it be so!”

            [Source: ‘Mazda Yasna – Some Daily Prayers from Zend Avesta’ by D.S. Framroze] 

Noble words indeed, but in reality is that nothing is being done to spread the message and those for whom blessings are invoked are debarred from receiving them in person.

During Muktad and Farvardian Jashans, some within the community oppose the attendance of non-Zoroastrians at these prayer meetings.  Let us consider the philosophy of Fravashis or Farohars, which is based on ‘Farvardin Yasht’ Briefly, stated Fravashi means Divine Essence of God in everything within the creation, including human beings and its purpose is to push forward all creations in the goal of evolution.  In order that we may better understand the nature of work done by Farohars.Farvardin Yasht’, tells us that there are three groups of Farohars.
  <>Group 1.  This consists of Farohars in all creations of Ahura Mazda as stated above.

Group 2.  The Farohars that work on spiritual plane and come to aid when invoked.

Group 3. The Farohars of Asho (righteous) that approach the domain of the living during ten days of ‘Muktad’ or ‘Farvardegan’, irrespective of their being invoked or not, to pour down their benedictions upon the “power of righteousness that pervades the earth.”


Our Mobedss, during the course of the ceremonies in question, invoke Farohars of righteous persons of all countries irrespective of caste, color or 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:-

Karda XXXI (143): “We revere the fravashis of righteous persons of Aryan countries. We revere the fravashis of righteous women of Aryan 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 righteous women of Sairim (Syria) countries.

Karda XXXI (144) “We revere the fravashis of righteous men of Saini (China) countries.  We revere the fravashis righteous women of Saini (China) countries.  We revere the Fravashis of righteous men of Dahi countries.  (These countries are supposed to be to the east of Caspian Sea where brave tribes once lived.) 

Karda 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 of the righteous, good, powerful, beneficent fravashis those from Gayomard to the Soshyant.”

            [Source: “Yashts” by T.R. Sethna – Page 259]    


          
So, in theory, these religious ceremonies can be open to one and all, but for a start we should immediately cease opposition to non-Zoroastrians spouses and their children who attend our ceremonies out of respect and reverences and wish to be associated with the Zoroastrian community.  This single step will go a long way to restore harmony within the community, whether it is in U.K. or elsewhere. 

 In conclusion, who can deny that in prayers and rituals what matters most is heart and devotion and not just observation under all circumstances of outward forms of worship.  It is no fault of non-Zoroastrians who were not born of Zoroastrian parents.  One God 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 ‘Brotherhood of Magavans’ and extend it to all who accepted his Faith. (‘Maga’ means message and ‘Magavan’ is one who has taken to heart Zarathushtra’s message.





FEDERATION MEET:

LOUTS 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 written in the annals of our communitys affairs. The Federation meeting at Ahmedabad degenerated into a brawl. Our leaders of eminence like Minoo Shroff, Dinshaw Tamboly, Nariman Mogrelia and Mani Clubwalla were terrorized into silence by louts. Physical violence was just inches away. If this sounds shocking, what has left us aghast is that some of the hosts from Ahmedabad egged on these louts to frenzy. PTA had asked the delegates to emulate Gandhi, instead, some of them behaved like goondas.

We have decided, and so have the PARSIANA and the JAME, to publish sordid details of this meeting, to enable the community and others know to what extent, fundamentalists are ready to go.

Tension was brewing in the air from the start. There was a pre-meeting skirmish between the President of the Youth Wing of Ahmedabad and the 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 Parsi Anjuman, in full view of fellow diners. Is this the famed Gujarati hospitality or is it a part of what Khojeste Mistree calls, Parsi-Panu?

When Nariman Mogrelia of Chennai spoke about the survey regarding allowing children of intermarried Parsi mothers into the Agiary, the louts began screaming that "we shall strip you of your Sudreh-Kusti and burn you alive". The same treatment was meted out to anyone who dared to dissent. The Chairman, Minoo Shroff, veteran of numerous corporate meetings, was speechless. The usually aggressive BPP CEO, B.T. Dastur was also terrorized.

The highly respected sociologist and demographer, Dr. Ava Khullar, was told to explain her Juddin surname and shut up. Khojeste challenged the veracity of PARSIANA statistics. Thereupon, the Chairman requested its editor, Jehangir Patel, to explain. He was hardly allowed 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 a din created. The atmosphere was so surcharged that violence was almost visible.

The frustration of the fundamentalist is understandable. As the noose tightens around the future of the Parsis, and as simultaneously, the Niagra of Neo-Zoroastrians roars round the world, they are almost breathless with fear. They have no answers to cold statistics. Their fruitcake arguments are being openly laughed at. This frustration and fear is lending them to be so aggressive, so crude, so boorish as to bring louts, in the guise of delegates, to the Federation meeting.

We are not, for a moment, denying their right to disagree. Whether to join the IZO or not, is, indeed their privilege. However, they have no business disrupting meetings and preventing discussion.

There was continual insistence by the orthodox to take a vote on the issue. The Chairman refused. So far, most decisions by the Federation have been by consensus. The voting rights of the Anjumans are utterly disproportionate. The BPP representing 40,000 Parsis has five votes, while the Khergaum Anjuman representing 4 Parsis has one vote. The so-called 24 out of 29 Anjumans which opposed the move collectively represented far fewer Parsis than the 5 Anjumans in favour! This then was the tyranny of the minority. Whoever decided the weightage of votes must have their heads examined. Why should the Bombay Parsi Panchayet let its voice be stifled by some cartoon Anjuman from Nowhere land. Khojeste Mistree represents the Belgaum Anjuman. Pray, what is your connection with Belgaum, Sir? Instead, why dont you represent the Oxford Parsi Anjuman? If the majority allows itself to be hijacked by some vociferous Hoon, Bawa ne Mangaldas Anjumans from the hamlets of Gujarat, woe betide the community.

So is the Federation of India going to abandon its collective intellect 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 publicly state that if any such behaviour is repeated at any Federation meet, they shall leave the Federation. Secondly, they should blacklist Ahmedabad as the venue of any Federation meeting. The same applies to Surat too. Let the official transcripts of the meeting (every word has been recorded at Ahmedabad) be published so that the community knows what was said by whom. Do not forget to delete the expletives first. 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 Bombay. Some of these Anjumans complained that they were being armtwisted into 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 publicly abuse and denigrate your donor, call them chors and still expect aid. If you repeatedly spit in the plate offered to you, then do not

the plate offered to you, then do not expect further aid. Fourthly, expel Anjumans which bring louts instead of delegates to these meetings. If all this does not work out, let the metropolitan Anjumans form a new Federation.

As for the BPP itself, let the Chairman spell out what exactly is the decision of the trustees. PTA has reliably been informed that all the trustees are in favour of joining the IZO provided the office bearers are only Parsi Zoroastrians atleast for ten years (Dinshaw Mehta denies ever having agreed to a ten year period and states that this restriction is to be permanent, while the Chairman and Tamboly say that a ten year period has indeed been agreed to!). The Chairman ought to place this item on the agenda and decide the issue conclusively. Mehta and the other orthodox trustees are insisting on this office bearer restriction, knowing fully well that it is a non-starter and will never be accepted by non-Indian Federations (and rightly so!). This is their clever by the half move to ensure that BPP never joins IZO. It is time the Chairman calls their bluff. PTA believes that a majority of the BPP Trustees will agree to join even without the office bearers to be Parsis clause. So instead of shuffling your feet, please decide 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 will not be the loser.

Parsis are a small, minority sect of people who practice Zoroastrianism. If they want to be xenophobic, racial and regressive, so much the better for the World Body to be without such people. Let it be a true Zoroastrian international organization whose doors are open to all Zoroastrians irrespective of race, colour, sex or caste. Let Unity of Faith be the sole criteria. Perhaps the IZO can do without members who disrupt meetings and indulge in hooliganism or members who insist upon blatantly offensive restrictions like only Parsis to be office bearers or members who put fascists to shame by talking about racial purity and preservation of semen-stock.

We always believed that Zoroastrianism will do fine even without the Parsis. We now think that it will be much better off only that way. The Cosmic wants Zoroastrianism to flourish and that perhaps is the reason why the Parsis are perishing.




May We Not Lose the Vision

Zareen Hakim, A Zoroasterian for Today


Zareen Hakim an active member of The Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York (ZAGNY), grew up in New York State. She holds a BS in biology from The State 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 related field. 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 Zarathushtra's Vision alive.  (from Vohuman.org)

http://www.vohuman.org/Article/May%20We%20Not%20Lose%20the%20Vision.htm
 


Zoroastrianism has survived for over 3 thousand years, and while we have come to various crossroads in our history, it seems that now is 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 one’s 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 there?

Zarathushtra’s vision is something that transcends ethnic, geographic, and generation boundaries.  It is at the ‘core’ of Zoroastrianism, that which ties us together, and needs to be explored and maintained in order for the religion to survive.

I understand that because of our history of persecution, we have had to keep the religion within our own walls, to protect the flame as best we could - isolation our only measure of hope…

But as much as this was a means of survival, in ways, it has proved detrimental to the growth of Zoroastrianism, and this may be why the mentality of exclusiveness remains today.

In the worst of circumstances, we and our forefathers and mothers kept the flame alive - we kept it alive in the hopes that one day, we would be blessed with the opportunity to openly practice our religion, to see it thrive, not just survive, for the betterment of all humankind!  That time is NOW!  No longer are we in danger...After thousands of years of preserving and protecting the religion, we are free!  Let’s rejoice and continue to carry out Zarathustra’s vision!

Presently, we as a community, know that the inevitable forces of change 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 of our 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 welcome enhancement, and not something to be feared.  After-all, change is 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 some 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 I hope that we can agree that Zarathushtra’s message is a universal one, one which grants each and every one of us the good mind, despite ethnicity.

Zarathushtra envisioned an eventual perfect world, a state of Hauvertat, which may be achieved through the conscious decisions of the Good Mind to choose the righteous path. Zarathushtra did not limit the 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 eventual utopian state without sharing his message with those who choose to accept it.

In fact, to keep Zarathushtra’s vision alive, it is our obligation to educate, encourage, and welcome into the religion, all who have made a 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 of any, either!  Some think that the religion will not remain "pure" if people from other ethnic groups practice it. 

But, if one Chooses, Accepts and Lives by Zarathushtra’s message, that person is one step closer in bringing the world towards “perfection” - that is quite the opposite of "impurity", and more importantly, is in conjunction with Zarathushtra’s vision….for he states in the Gathas in 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 it, ethnicity does not even become an issue.  We can not rely on intra-faith marriages alone to preserve our faith.  Eventually, with ethnically mixed marriages on the rise, it would be wise to explore other ways to increase the Zoroastrian population.  

Extinction, in my opinion, is not an option.  While our ethnicity may not flourish in the future, Zoroastrianism can and will!

Let’s be excited that so many people are interested in our religion, and that families of ethnically mixed marriages want to raise their children as Zoroastrians.  Look around you - I know that many, if not all, know someone who was not born into the faith, but is carrying out Zarathushtra’s universal message far more than many of us who were born into the religion are.  Let that be an example to all, esp. 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.  It’s not 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 our roots in Iran in discovering who I am.  In the same way, I look to 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 it, but because it gives you meaning in life, is a truly wonderful thing.  Unfortunately, while we may not be able to preserve our 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 end, whether or not we as a community decide to embrace it at this time.

Zarathustra’s vision represents this truth and will survive, must survive - why not nurture the evolution of the vision, while we still have a chance to shape it?





Dr. Ali Akbar Jafarey

Gathic Scholar & Founder of The Zarathushtrian Assembly   http://www.zoroastrian.org/

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Dr. Ali Akbar Jafarey, was born in Kerman, Iran. He received his schooling up to the University level in Karachi. He has a doctorate in Persian Language and Literature, and has self-studied thirteen living and ancient languages, and also studied linguistics, anthropology, Indo-Iranian literature, history, geology and research methods. In Saudi Arabia, he worked as a translator/anthropologist in the Arabian Research Division of Aramco. 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 it amount to repudiating one's religion of birth and accepting an alien religion not determined by destiny?  This is an argument repeatedly 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 those against 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 and Karma," the above theory is the product of the Hindu belief in reincarnation." The established fact, therefore, is that one cannot be born in religion but is brought up in the religion of his/her fosterer/s.
 
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 consider the existing major religions in a chronological order: 
 
Hinduism has been an evolving religion for some 4,000 years, and Good Conscience was founded by Zarathushtra 3700 years ago, Judaism by Moses some 3300 years ago, Buddhism by Buddha 2500 years ago, Jainism by Mahavira 2500 years ago, Christianity by Jesus and Paul 2000 years ago, Islam by Muhammad 1400 years ago, Sikhism by Nanak 500 years ago, and Baha'ism by Bahaullah in 1863, only 142 years ago. 
 
Conversion:
 
How could their numbers grow or decrease to their present extent if God had destined people to adhere to their "birth-religions"?  Why has none of these founders a clear commandment prohibiting conversion?  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 of interpretations in an attempt to make their point of view appear true?  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 Persian writings or from an alien history saying that Zoroastrians from Achaemenian to Sassanian times did not convert and that one had to be born Zoroastrian.  Had it been so, Greek, Roman, Christian, Armenian, Indian, and Muslim historians would have noted this strange custom. 
 
All the above-named religions have had conversion through propagation, persuasion, force and commingling.  Hinduism, a creed of the multi-races of Australoids, Dravidians, Aryans, Tibeto-Chinese and others, which had become restricted later by its rigid caste system, has now its missionaries in India and abroad.  Judaism, an ethnical religion, has all along accepted people who have been "hebraized" and that is why Jews hailing from various parts of Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southwest India, and Ethiopia are a mixed race of whites, browns and blacks.  The slow progress in their missionary zeal has mostly been due to tough and even cruel restrictions enforced by the ruling Romans, Christians and Muslims. The extension and expansion of Buddhism, from India to China and Indochina and now to other countries, has been only through propagation and conversion.  Jainism has been slow but now Jains are active even in North America.  Christianity, Islam and Baha'ism are quite open and active in their missionary work.  Christians and Muslims are again well known for forced conversions in their past records.  After the defeat of the Zoroastrian Iranian empire, the Muslims converted Zoroastrians by using a policy of both "carrot and stick," rather "concession and sword."  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 the cause of much hatred and frequent bloodsheds. We have recent bloody incidents between Christians and Muslims in Eastern Europe and between 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 expansion has been and is peaceful. I remember two incidents. In 1928, a Baha'i leader in Karachi told my father that there were 200 Baha'is in then undivided India and later I came to know that all of them were Zoroastrian converts. In 1993, I was told by a Baha'i, again an Iranian Zoroastrian convert in Delhi, that there were 700,000 Baha'is in [the present divided] India. No reaction against so many Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Zoroastrians silently and peacefully going over to Bahai'sm! Baha'is are quite welcome in India simply because the converts behave well with their former coreligionists.
 
Recent anti-Christian incidents in India are due to missionaries going after the lowest caste "untouchables' that consequently deprives the upper castes of the cheap labor doing the "dirty jobs," never touched by the upper the ones. It also elevates the converts to turn to higher education and better living! Mother Teresa, a zealous Catholic missionary, cared for the "uncared" poor on the streets, whom she eventually baptized, is praised and raised for her role in peaceful conversion. Baha'is go after upper classes and therefore no adverse reaction.
 
And let us not forget that Zoroastrianism, which spread from the 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 sides 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 that battle a religious color. The struggle between the two super powers was more political and it has been recorded as such. Logical and peaceful propagation of religion to convince and convert people has always its good rewards. The only exceptional instance is by the powerful Sassanian Mobedan-Mobed KARTIR. He recounts his forced conversions of Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and heretics into Zoroastrianism. (See his bas-reliefs on Naghsh-e Rajab and Naghsh-e Rostam, the only bas-reliefs by a person who is not a King-of-Kings of the Iranian Empire)
 
Traditionalists say that the Zoroastrian religion was and is meant for the Iranian people.  Although Avestan and Pahlavi scriptures and the bas-reliefs left by Sassanian authorities say otherwise, let us look at facts.  The Iranian Plateau, from the modern Iraqi borders to Tajikistan in the Pamirs, was inhabited by numerous indigenous peoples having their own creeds, cults and civilizations.  The Aryan supremacy Iranianized them.  They were all converted to the religion founded or as the Traditionalists present it, "reformed" by Zarathushtra.  If this was not true than how did Zoroastrianism became the dominant religion of an estimated 15 million people inside and outside the Sassanian Empire?  What about Armenians, non-Iranians Iranianized since the Achaemenians, who were Zoroastrians before they were converted to Christianity, and that too because of the wrong policy of the Sassanian sovereigns?  What about the Arab, Chinese and Turkic Zoroastrians we read in history books?  What about the phrase "Tâziân-e baste-koshtiyân -- koshti-girdled Arabs" in the daily prayers? Who were they? History records by early Muslims state that they were the Arab Zoroastrians on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf.
 
What do the Traditionalists say about the children of the people who were forced into non-Zoroastrian religions?  Should they be content with what is said that at present their birth in a religion, which was 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 changed the Divine Destiny for them?!?! If so, who sent Mohammad as the Prophet to be the cause of this disaster? The thought-provoking questions can go on until the notion of predestined birth becomes preposterous.
 
Conversion through propagation, persuasion, and force has been the main means of spreading the religion. In fact, had there been no conversion, each of founders would have been the sole follower of his own religion and since they were not to convert their spouses, their religions would have died with them! Once converted, the children are obviously brought up in the accepted religion.  Setting aside the Traditionalist Zoroastrian viewpoint, every religion, whether gigantic or small, is working to convert the entire world of six billion+ people.  Christianity, Islam and to an extent, Buddhism are engaged in a global missionary competition.  Unlimited conversion has turned Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism into large multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual fellowships. And Baha'is are having a quiet but sure progress.
 
Conversion has different shades.  In some religions, it means the use of every possible means to bring the person 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, consider its doctrine with an open and clear mind, and accept it through free will and personal choice.  That is why the word "conversion," in its modern usage, has not been used in the Gathas.




Freedom of Choice

Meaning and Message of Yasna 30:2

Dr. Ali A. Jafarey


The Gathas are a well-worded, well-versed, well-patterned, well-defined, well-rounded, well-turned, well-linked, coherent, cohesive, concise, and precise divan of the Divine Doctrine by the Master-Mâñthran (Thought-provoker) and Prime-Poet Zarathushtra Spitama. They have five meters, seventeen songs and 241 stanzas, small enough to fit into a pocketbook of only 40 pages. They discuss, in clear words, a unique Monotheism, Primal Principles of 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 supernal inspirations, sublime prayers, subtle rituals, simple directives, and sound advices for a superb splendid life. The Gathas are the Guide to Daênâ Vañguhi, Good Conscience, “the best religion …. for the living …. [because it] promotes the world through righteousness and polishes words and actions in serenity.” (Song 9:10 – Yasna 44:10) 

All 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 other songs. Understanding the Gathas is easy, provided one has the entire picture, the complete Doctrine, in his/her full view. A single sample, out of context, may lead to misunderstanding or even wrong deduction. 

Therefore 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 like

Happily the 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 the Fravarti (Yasna 12). It makes a total of 44 times in the Gathas and their Supplements in the same dialect. 

The 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 twelve times 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, prescriptions, proscriptions, 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 seen, although eight in number, they are a good help in understanding the significance of our subject of ‘Freedom of Choice’ as seen by the Avestan people. 

My translation of the our main stanza reads: 

Hear 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.

(Song 3 - stanza 2) 

But let me give also the translations by three Parsi scholars and three Iranian Zartoshtis:  

(1)  Ervad 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 hoê 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 this stanza in the Avestan script on the cover page of his book Gâthâ Maenî, Gujarati language, Bombay, 1895) 

(2)  D.J. Irani:  “…. Let each one choose his creed with that freedom of ‘choice,’ each must have at great events. ….”  

(3)  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.  

(4)  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, ….” 

(5)  Mobed Firuz Azargoshasb: “…. decide each man and woman 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 spread Ahura’s words (Zarathushtra’s message).” 

(6)  Mobedan Mobed Rostam Shahzadi: “…. Before the opportunity is 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 path.” 

The word âvarenâo has been translated as ‘etekâd, yekîn, belief, faith’ by Kangaji; ‘creed’ by Irani; ‘choices’ by Khabardar; ‘Path” by Taraporewala with the note “Bartholomae translates ‘avowal of belief or of faith’ and derives it from var (Skt. Vr), to choose and with [the prefix] â, to profess (a belief); ‘râh, aqîdeh (path, belief) by Azargoshasb, and ‘râh’ (path) followed by ‘Mazda-worship or Demon-worship’ by Shahzadi. 

The 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 Zarathushtrian 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 mentalities, which 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. 

Regarding 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, etekâd râkhvûñ), and nouns as ‘faith, creed, religion, doctrine, custom, path.’  

I 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. 

Ahunavar (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 righteousness only.” Lord, according to Song 2 (Yasna 29) is the person “who repels the fury of the wrongful,” and the leader is the person “who offers 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 mission. 

Song 1:5 (Yasna 28:5): Zarathushtra says: “With these greatest thought-provoking words, we shall convince the barbarians to choose (vâurôimaidi) the right religion.”
Kangaji:
“We shall be able to give faith to the wicked people.”
Taraporewala:
“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.”) 
Shahzadi
: “When shall I have the ability of leading the warriors, antagonists, robbers, and astray to the path which is the best and superior.” 

Song 4:3 (Yasna 31:3): Zarathushtra wants the Divine Message to help him “to guide all the living to choose for themselves (vâurayâ) the right religion.”
Kangaji:
“I may make all the living as believers. 
Taraporewala:
“to convert all the living” and in his note he mentions about ‘conversion” and adds “that Zoroastrians in India today are on the whole averse to proselytizing; some indeed regard it as positively ‘sinful’ (adharmî).
Shahzadi
: “…. Mazda has taught me the Religion of Mazda through his own tongue and talk and told me to convey it to mankind.” 

Song 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.
Kangaji:
“…. for fixing the deeds and religious commandments or for the belief or choice.” Taraporewala “Whereby one may hold whatever Faith one wills.”
Shahzadi: Subtitle: “…. You wanted every person to choose the way he/she prefers by his determination and in full freedom.” 

It 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 teachings without any push, persuasion and/or force. People may choose it through their knowledgeable discretion and Free Will only. 

Song 6:2 (Yasna 33:2):  Whosoever foils the wrongful by word, thought or action, or …. teaches good things, advances in his choice (vârâi).
Kangaji:
“He … presents for his religious belief i.e. he strengthens his belief.”
Taraporewala:
They accomplish (Thy) Purpose. (in the vocabulary vâra, wish, lit. ‘choice.’)  Shahzadi: “… or guides a wrongful person on the right path, … (Note: Propagation of religion and fighting evil is permitted according to this stanza.) 

Song 12:6 (Yasna 47:6): “…. With the growth of serenity and righteousness, (serenity) shall convert many a seeker.”
Kangaji:
“It is completely selected by the aspirants.”
Taraporewala:
She shall draw (into her fold) many Seekers.
D.J. Irani:
This shall cause many to hear Thy Message.  

Song 13:4 (Yasna 48:4):  Whoever, Mazda, has set his mind on the better or the worse, sets his conscience accordingly with actions and words. His desire follows his cherished choice (varenêng).  Kangaji: “He who keeps himself good and pure, maintains the religion the same way; his wish, belief and faith follow suit.
Taraporewala:
“His will follows his voluntary choice.”
Shahzadi:
 “His desire follows the same path.” (Note: a Persian couplet: You see exactly what you wish. You wish exactly what you see.) 

Song 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.
Kangaji:
“In order to guide the people of world, the religious preference …. has been laid down.
Taraporewala
: “It is laid down by Mazda as choice for all – the Teaching that Truth shall prevail, that Untruth shall be frustrated.” 
D.J. Irani:
“According to Thy Faith, O Mazda, the choice of Righteousness is its own vindication.” Shahzadi: “… the Mazda-worship Religion is based on Truth and therefore it is always beneficial, and the demon-worship religion on Lie and therefore always harmful.” 

Song 17:2 (Yasna 53:2): “And now, let Kavi Vishtaspa, the Zarathushtrian Spitama, and 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 to the benefactor.”
Kangaji:
.  “…. With faith in adoration rites ….”  
Taraporewala:
“Let each choose acts of piety … meditating on the Path of Truth – the Faith Ahura has revealed to the Saviour.”
D.J. Irani:
“May they teach all to keep to the established straight path, ….”
Shahzadi:
Subtitle: The 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 religion.” 

NOTE I: Mobed 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. Taraporewala’s. 

NOTE II: Mobed Shahzadi has given subtitles to most of the stanzas of the Gathas in his translation. Thirty-two of them present the Good Religion as the ‘universal’ and that it should be propagated and spread, and the Subtitles speak of Freedom of Choice.

Haptanghaiti: Song 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. 

Yasna 16:2: We venerate Zarathushtra’s Religion. We venerate Zarathushtra’s Choice (varena) and Doctrine. 

Yasna 57:24: This religion was forth chosen (fraoreñta) by Ahura Mazda the Righteous, also by Good Mind, Best Righteousness, Choice Dominion, Progressive Serenity, Wholeness, Immortality, Ahurian Questions, and Ahurian Doctrine. 

Vispered 5:3:  For You, Righteous Ahura Mazda, I choose for myself (verenê) this religion as a Mazda-worshipper, Zarathushtrian, void of false gods and of the Divine Doctrine.  

Yasht 10:92: This religion was chosen forth (fraoreñta) by Ahura Mazda the Righteous. …. The Amesha Spentas chose (vereñta) the religion …. . 

Yasht 13:89: Zarathushtra was the first to eliminate false gods and to choose (fraorenata) to be a Mazda-worshipper, Zarathushtrian, void of false gods, and Divine Doctrine. 

Vendidad 12:21: Should an alien-believer (anya-varena) alien-doctrined (anya-tkaesha) die, how many creations of the Progressive Mentality would he pollute? 

Vendidad 15:2:  He who teaches the alien-belief (anya-varena) and alien-doctrine (anya-tkaesha) to a righteous person knowing. 

These two passages show that other religions were known by the term ‘alien’ instead of what some religions do by calling others as heterodoxy, unbelief, heresy, paganism, or heathenism. 

Vendidad 19:2: Zarathushtra chose for himself (fraorenaêta) the Mazda-worshipping Religion. 

The 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 religion, a mission that firmly believed in “Freedom of Choice” after a good knowledge of the thought-provoking Message presented with a sweet tongue. To sum up what one understands from all the above references is:  

(1)    Freedom of Choice is for every individual person.

(2)    A good choice is made by considering the subject with a bright, clear, un-tinted and unbiased mind.

(3)    Zarathushtra wishes all to be awake to his Teachings also.

(4)    The message is universal and is not confined to race, color, and nationality.

(5)    It has to be peacefully spread with a soft and sweet tongue.

(6)    Force and coercion are not allowed.  

It 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 earth.” 

With 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) Declaration of Choice. 

The word ‘yâonghô/yâh’ is derived from the root yah/Sanskrit yas, meaning ‘to endeavor, to strive.’ It occurs in Song 3:2 (Yasna 30:2), Song 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 2:2 (Yasna 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. 

Yâonghô has been rendered as ‘mhoto banâv, agtyanûñ kâm – a great event, an important undertaking’ by Kangaji, ‘great events’ by D.J. Irani, ‘ushering-in-of the Great New Age’ by Taraporewala, ‘the great setting off 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.’ 

The 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 word. That 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 Ceremony. Aiwi-yâongh, the Koshti, is first girdled on Yâongh, the Great Event in one’s life. 

The Declaration of Choice begins with Yasna 12, known as Fraoreitish Hâitish, the 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. 

In 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 for myself (fravarânê) to be Mazda-worshipper, Zoroastrian, void of false gods and Divine Doctrinal. ….” 

 “1 do hereby choose (varemaidî) the progressive serenity for myself. May it be mine!”  

Then the Initiate declares that he/she will cleanse the world from theft and violence; guard the home of the Mazda-worshippers against harm and destruction; 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 malignities in thoughts, words, and deeds. 

He/she renounces the false gods just as the Righteous Zarathushtra did, and goes on to declare:

 "With the 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 Choice Belief Zarathushtra had, the Choice Belief Kavi Vishtaspa had, the Choice Belief Ferashaoshtra and Jamaspa had, and the Choice Belief each of the truth-practicing righteous Benefactors have, it is with the same Choice Belief and doctrine that I am a worshipper of the Wise One. 

 "1, with my appreciations and Choice Beliefs (fravaretas-châ), choose for myself (fravarânê) to be Mazda-worshipper and Zoroastrian.  

I appreciate well-thought thoughts,
I appreciate well-said words,
I appreciate well-done deeds. 

"I appreciate the Good Religion of Mazda-worship which overthrows yokes yet sheaths swords, teaches self-reliance, and is righteous. Therefore, of the religions 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 Wise." 

It is a daring declaration, and it is a great event. The very fact that one calls his/her religion as the greatest, best and the sublimest, 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 day. 

mazdayasnô ahmî, mazdayasnô zarathushtrish
fravarânê âstûtascâ fravaretascâ.
âstuyê humatem manô
âstuyê hûxtem vacô
âstuyê hvarshtem shyaothanem.
âstuyê daênãm mâzdayasnîm
fraspâyaoxedhrãm nidhâsnaithishem
khvaêtvadathãm ashaonîm
ýâ hâitinãmcâ bûshyeiñtinãmcâ
mazishtâcâ vahishtâcâ sraêshtâcâ
ýâ âhûirish zarathushtrish
ahurâi mazdâi vîspâ vohû cinahmî.
aêshâ astî daênayå mâzdayasnôish âstûitish!

* * * * * *

NOTE: The above article is the Speech made by Ali A. Jafarey at the Special Event, sponsored by FEZANA (The Federation of North American 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 his/her religion because it is against the Will of God Who alone gives one the 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 prescription? 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, and the emphasis is on the Divine Will and Will only. All one has to do is to blindly accept the "unproven" statement as TRUTH or one is subjected 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 one's religion by birth? No. It is a Sanskrit term and foreign to Iranian languages.
 
Let us see how it has been defined:
Literally, "karma(n)" means "act, action." In the Vedic literature, it also means "occupation, profession." It was in the later post-Vedic period, both among Hindus and the new-on-the-scene Buddhists, in which it gradually 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 and Jainism.

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 of his/her relevant caste must pass his/her entire life within the closed community of his/her birth in the Hindu society in all walks of life - grow, work, worship, marry, socialize, live and die. It is Karma that has given him/her that status by birth and it must not be changed. Needless to say that through centuries and centuries of reform movements, particularly the last 500 years with the recent Gandhiji's Harijan drive, the caste structure is falling apart and should finally disappear. Yet Shudras are still treated as serfs in many parts of India.

It is this Hindu doctrine of predestined reincarnation that has provided the Traditionalist Parsis with the excuse that "Religion is by Birth." Some are even more "karmic" in declaring that one is only born in the Zoroastrian Religion if his/her past actions are so subtle that he/she is exceptionally raised to be born as Zarathushti! All those born in other religions are of inferior status.
 
Let me elaborate: While the Hindu "Karma" birth applies to every 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 profession to maintain his/her living, this Divine Will does not apply to these 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 the same Divine Will in Surat, India can migrate to another town in India or forsake India altogether, and emigrate, settle and earn the citizenship of his/her choice country.  He/she can change the family profession and go for any profession he/she chooses. That is why a Traditionalist Priest, who does not believe in changing religion, is all for migration to the Western countries to change his citizenship and alliance and is also all for forsaking his sanctified class/caste/profession by birth to become a fulltime engineer, doctor or any other well-earning profession. The Divine Will in firmly fixing the birth of a person concerns religion only and nothing else for the Traditionalist Parsi, 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 HUMANITY RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING OF CREATION INTO DIFFERENT RELIGIONS AND REGIONS. Why these founders have appeared in different times and established their religions that have caused and are causing millions and millions of people to change their religions-by-birth? If it was His Will that the "blue-blooded Aryans" were to be born as Zoroastrians, why did he send Mohammad to found a religion that overran and converted almost all of them to Islam? And how did He tolerate to see that one born as Zoroastrian had his/her children born as Muslims thereafter for generations to come? Did He predestine them to this lasting curse of the forced change in religion?
 
How is it that a child, born in a family of a particular religion, if orphaned or otherwise adopted by person/s of alien religion, grows up to belong to the religion of his/her fosterer/s? Why does he/she not naturally grow up in his/her religion of birth? Is Karma working justice here? And lastly, God created innumerable species of animals that cannot cross breed. THEN WHY DID HE NOT CREATE SPECIES-IN-RELIGION THAT COULD NOT INTERBREED?
 
Let it be made clear. The "Karma" Doctrine, the predestined birth in a particular caste, which covers every aspect of one's life and living in Hinduism (and the two offshoots, Buddhism and Jainism), is narrowed to one point, Religion-by-Birth, by the Traditionalist Parsis ALONE and no other section of Zoroastrians, Parsis and Iranians. It has no place in the Universal Message of Zarathushtra.
 
WHY the Traditionalist Parsis alone? Because the choice means that one would study the Good Religion first and when convinced of its doctrinal sublimity and practical superiority over the creeds he/she knows, he/she would choose the Good Religion. This would bring in well-read, open-minded and progressive persons, persons who would not 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. The Traditionalists simply cannot afford to lose themselves in the Reform.
 
The Hindu Karma doctrine, by which the Parsis have survived over 1,000 years in a caste-ridden society, may help them to survive longer in face of the Reform movement, particularly the return to the Pristine Pure Good Conscience of Zarathushtra that stands firm on continuous renovation and updating of the mode of living based on the Primal Principles of the Divine Doctrine under the Gathic Guidance. Or their uproar of fabricated allegations may induce the readers to inquire and discover the TRUTH, a discovery which may strengthen the Reform movement and shorten the survival of Traditionalism and speed up their extinction.
 
Silly questions and simple arguments to provoke serious reflections!
 
* * * * * *
 
Ali A. Jafarey
31 Farvardin 3743 ZRE = 20 April 2005 CE

 


QUESTIONS & 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 accepted as Zarathushtris after they have converted, because it makes a difference *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, of our free will and wise discernment, chosen to join his  Zarathushtrian Fellowship. Mazdayasna, I have shown in one of my earlier articles, is a name which was adopted by early Zarathushtris to be distinguished from the daevayasna and the "insider" adulterators of the later Gathic age.

We do not want any recognition from any of the authorities of the "Traditionalist" or whatever they want to call themselves, and/or from any person or organization who/which considers him/her/itself as the "guardian" of the faith. We have declared right at the founding of the Assembly in 1990 that the Assembly is the sole Authority in this case. It *formally* recognizes and accepts the knowledgeable person who chooses the Good Religion for him/herself and joins the Fellowship. 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, Ahura, Mazda Ahura, and/or Ahura Mazda, *the Super-Intellect Being,* is the only creator, fashioner, maintainer, and promoter of the universe with no durbar of helpers - amesha spentas, yazatas, fravashis, angels, or any other "fanciful" being, and with no horde of opponents - Anghra Mainyu, Devil, Satan, daevas, demons, evil spirits, witches, wizards or any other "weird" wanderer.

The people who consider, rather believe, Ahura Mazda to be a "yazata" (venerated, adored, adorable), the greatest Yazata (Mazishta Yazata) among a host of yazatas, and recite "yazamaide" (we venerate, we worship) formulas while mentioning each of the yazatas by name or all of them together, may call themselves by the name of "Yazatayasna" with pride. It is more appropriate for them than Mazdayasna. They do not do so. Therefore, respecting them, we call them by the name they call themselves -Traditionalist/Traditional/Traditional Mazdayasni. We do not coin and use any sarcastic or derogatory name for our opponents.

It is the Traditionalists who are fond of calling those who follow the Gathas by the name coined by one of them - The Gatha-Alone-Cult (GAC). We smile. They are simply showing what Zarathushtra and his companions should be called! He, the companions and the following generations of what I term "the Gathic era" had the Gathas *only* plus a few prayers, all in the Gathic spirit, of their own. The pre-Gathic Avestan/Vedic compositions belonged to the daevayasna (devayâjin). Was it a "cult" Zarathushtra founded or a religion? We are following the very Doctrine he has given us. One may call him/us by any name. It only reflects his/her/their mode of mind and core of character.


QUESTION: If the same label is to applied to converts as well as those who are Zarathushtris by birth, then would the latter not feel *their* formal label to have lost some of its "lustre" - at least as far as *they* are concerned? Perhaps the best thing to do under the circumstances would be to have some qualifying label applied to the main label, much like the labels "Protestant" and "(Roman) Catholic" are applied to Christians. That way one can't be confused with the other. What is your opinion?

ANSWER: We need not. We are Zarathushtrians, Zarathushtris, Zartoshtis, Zoroastrians, and Behdins. And we are not denying others the use of these names. It is they who are denying others these names/labels. It is they who named themselves as "Traditionalists, Traditional Mazdayasnis" and others as "Liberals, Reformists, Cultists," and what not. They may take appropriate action to distinguish themselves from those whom they do not recognize. Let the naming begin at home and not by calling others by derogatory names.


QUESTION: Has history not shown that applying labels like this, especially in religion, can also cause much strife and even bloodshed? Is that such a good thing?

ANSWER: Not in today's world. The Sassanians and Inquisition Christians as well as the "crusaders" of all theocratic governments are gone. At present, in the wide world of the melting pots, the fast dwindling and spreading-thin "Traditionalists" are trying their best to survive. That IS their main concern. They cannot afford a strife. All they have been able to do and are doing, is the uproar they have raised, and that too in a teacup of their press and Internet. As far as we are concerned, the Gathas are guiding us through a peaceful progress. We have no quarrel with any person/group, and this particularly includes the Traditionalists.

The excuse that conversion "creates animosities and strife" does not hold true any longer. Conversion by force or against force has, no doubt, brought mighty misery to all the peoples of the world. Hinduism against Buddhists, Christianity against pagans, Islam against non-believers, and all these religions plus Sassanian Zoroastrianism against other sects and "heretics" of their relevant religions have 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 civilized world, any forced conversions. It has turned into a peaceful competition. And the great winners are the Baha'is, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims.

Some organizations, especially the charitable missionary establishments, are praised for their humanitarian works in the so-called "Third World" countries. Mother Teresa has been lauded by all, including the anti-conversion Zoroastrian Traditionalist diehards, for her noble work without ever mentioning the conversions she made and her establishment is making of orphans, homeless, and the poor in Bengal. Mothers Teresa and Fathers Francis are all over the world to help the poor live better as *Christians* converts.

The same holds true about other proselytizing religions. Conversion is widely practiced by the sects of one religion in winning over the members of other denominations. All in comparative peace and tranquility.

Here in North America alone, over 60,000 Muslim Iranians are reported to have formally converted to Christianity during the last 20 years without any reaction from any Muslim quarters. They have four churches in southern California alone.

Baha'is do not divulge their figures of the conversion of Muslim and 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 Zoroastrian parentage, as to the number of Baha'is in the then India, the reply was 200 -- all converts from Iranian Zoroastrians. Today, the Baha'is claim 700,000 Baha'is in the present-size India alone. Bangla Desh, Pakistan, and Shri Lanka have their own Baha'is. No animosity or strife but praise for the Baha'is, particularly by Indians. The new Taj Mahal-like Baha'i House is a tourist attraction in Delhi, and so is the Chicago one. All in good faith.

Although twice reported to the Iranian authorities by certain "Parsi-ized" Iranis and Traditionalist zealots, the Zarathushtrian Assembly is very well received by Iranians, most of whom are Muslims. We are quite at home with all. The only opposition is by some Traditionalists. This Alias is a firsthand witness to the uproar Online. The uproar also rages on the pages of the Bombay Parsi press. No other opposition. Admiration? Sure, very much. And increasingly on 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 at once?

ANSWER: A fair comparison of the existing religions shows that the contrasts between various religions are sharper than the similarities. The similarities, even among those of the same stock, are not so close as to enable one to say that he/she belongs to all of them.  If, therefore, someone likes to call him/herself an all-faiths fan, it is, in my frank opinion, because he/she is supposing, musing, presuming, assuming, pretending, or feigning, or simply because of his/her lack of a fair knowledge of fundamentals of these religions and orders.


COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: <<I don't see a problem in like-minded people forming their own organizations, as long as their objective and emphasis is on spiritual growth according to what they perceive as the *true* teachings of their preferred Prophet or Sage.>>

ANSWER: The Zarathushtrian Assembly has been formed to pursue and it pursues only the learning, practicing, teaching, and preaching on a 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 other word to avoid confusion of identity with the mainstream Zarathushtis? In this way, the concern of mainstream Zarathushtis about representation in world bodies could be alleviated. Otherwise you can also have confusion in the outside public as to who represents the mainstream Zarathushtis.

ANSWER: The other side stands with the qualifications it wants-Traditional, Traditionalist, and Traditional Mazdayasni. Then we have the "Parsi" label, again exclusively used by them.

Sometimes, names are given by the antagonist side. We already know about the "Gatha Cult Alone" and other name-callings. As already explained above, we are Zarathushtrians, Zarathushtris, Zartoshtis, Zoroastrians, and Behdins, and that is all. And we are Fundamentalists because we adhere to the original Divine Message of Zarathushtra, and not pre-Gathic, Gathic and post-Gathic "Traditions" combined. If others like, they, according to their degree of dignity, will give us names. We are satisfied with what we call ourselves.

I have no comment on calling the now proven narrowing course of the Traditionalists as the "mainstream" Zarathushtis except that are you not forgetting the Iranians and Parsi Reformists?


COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: "I do not want to keep the message of Prophet Zarathushtra exclusively among born Zarathushtis. I do feel that Iranians who were mostly converted through force, deception, or coercion, have a right to go back to their original faith, and would be more naturally accepted with fewer reservations in the Zarathushti community. Here we are not stealing anyone from another recognized faith, but merely accepting them back, and helping them to learn and assimilate.

Some of us may have valid reservations about the fact that while our ancestors did not waver and suffered death, persecution, humiliation, and poverty to keep the faith, others and their children who now want to come back, did not suffer or sacrifice. And, they may rightly question the motives of these people who want to come back - is it political (such as monarchists and others who oppose the mullahs), social (those who are suffering lack of personal freedoms) ?  We need to understand these concerns and respect such feelings, while encouraging people to forgive those that submitted to the invaders, if they are really sincere.
Even for Iranians wishing to come back, it would be advisable that they demonstrate their sincerity for some time, before they are fully accepted by the community.

ANSWER: Should one have a fair view of the conditions prevailing among the then Zartoshtis of the prostrated empire of the Sassanians, one would not make such a generalized statement. The merciless force used by conquerors was such that of the fifteen million Zartoshtis, only a handful has survived the disaster. All suffered equally the unending mental harassment and physical torture - those who died, those who submitted, and those who have survived in Iran. The sheer majority could not escape and gave in. Some Iranians have survived *only* because their turn for the breaking torture did not come. And some were able to escape and survive. The small community of Parsis exists because of their successful flight to a haven where the rigid caste system tolerated them as the fifth caste.

My studies show that the laity followed the Mobeds and other leaders who went over because of the circumstances.  And now, after 1400 years, the circumstances have turned such that many want to return to what is their inherent right.


COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: In India and Iran it could alleviate the concern about the use of charities by non-Parsis and non-Irani Zarathushtis, and the concern that some people might be calling themselves Zarathushtis mainly to take advantage of these benefits.

ANSWER: Please note these Iranians are not coming back to the Parsis. No Iranian has approached the Parsis to accept him/her.  None has asked them for any charity or favor. And the Iranian Zoroastrians do not have the charities the Parsis have. In Iran, and outside Iran, the non-Zartoshti Iranians are well off and to this day none has asked any Zartoshti for financial aid. Furthermore, they are not the "fourth caste" people who would grab a "golden" opportunity to have a free ride in the Parsi community. They are the elite and educated.

Iranians are returning to their *own* ancestral religion. And that is what the majority of Iranian Zartoshtis openly know and inwardly want. And they are silently looking for it.

One wonders why some speak on behalf of the Iranian Zartoshtis and the 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 in such situations. If need be, the Iranian Zoroastrians and the Reformists will, each, have their own spokesperson/s.

I repeat, the returning Iranians are not approaching the Parsis to accept them in the Parsi community. They do not need so. So why worry and throw conditions in the air? The Traditionalists can sit safe and sound within their closed doors, and enjoy all the charity facilities they have. I can assure you that no one, NO ONE, will knock at their doors, here or in India. If at all some freak does, throw him/her out 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 Message throughout the world, and that includes India. Indians will be welcome to study the Good Religion, decide for themselves to choose it, and join the Assembly. They will become Zarathushtris, Zoroastrians, Zartoshtis, Zartushtis, Jarthostis, and/or Behdins. But never, never Parsis. Parsis constitute the ethnic surviving community of those Iranian Zoroastrians who took asylum in Gujarat almost a thousand years ago. They have their doors closed to non-Parsis. These doors shall remain closed until they are opened by the Parsis themselves.

In fact, the Assembly makes it *quite* clear to all those, Iranians or not, who join it of what they should expect if they happen to meet a Parsi here, in India and in any other part of the world. They are explained as to ascertain if he/she is Traditionalist or reformist. They are told that while in Iran, they can go to the anjomans and enter fire-temples, but in the Indian subcontinent, they should never venture to enter any of the Parsi out-of-bound premises. The same holds true about Dar-e Mehrs and associations in the West. That is why one does not see any Assembly member trespassing any of the Traditionalist boundaries in any of part of the Zoroastrian world.


COMMENT by an Alias subscriber: Those who proselytize do so either for satisfying their ego, power, money, or they truly believe that they are saving the souls of people whose current religions according to their understanding are not teaching the right things.

ANSWER: What would you say about Zarathushtra and all others whom you call "prophets and sages?" Did they not teach, preach, and accept those who went over to their side after being fully convinced? Was it because of their ego, power, money, or they truly believed that they were saving the souls of people whose then current religions according to their understanding were not teaching the right things?

Proselytization, conversion, acceptance, choice, reformation, or whatever you like to call it has been initiated and promoted by every 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, prejudice, fanaticism, jealousy, fancy, or sheer fear, which drives them to take such a stand?


(1) A Marked Change: With foul uproars and personal attacks off the Zoroastrian Alias, we see a new atmosphere prevail. Proselytization/Conversion/Acceptance/Choice/Label is now being discussed in peace and respect by persons of different schools of thought. The same holds true about other subjects too. Many who had gone silent, are slowly returning to take part in expressing their views and exchanging information. It is a healthy sign.

We should all be thankful to the person/persons, whosoever he/she/they is/are, who brought the restraining order. But more than that, we should all be grateful to Mr. Mehrdad Khosraviani who suffered from both sides - from the restrainer/s and the restrained. Both were hard on him. It appears that the restrained and their behind-the-scene supporters and feeders are still harassing Mr. Khosraviani. His honorary services to the Zoroastrians and friends should be greatly appreciated.

Meanwhile, I hope that the persons who were behind the past uproars of distortions, lies, blasphemy, foul language, cheap shots, and personal attacks, have realized that it bore them no fruits. They only reflected their true selves.

One says that the Gathas are the guide. The other has the Vendidad as its practical partner. One speaks how powerful the Avestan prayers are with their vibrations. The other says that the prayers are good only when understood. One makes the reader know that only a select high can comprehend the true meaning of the Avesta. The other is "mistified* why there should be mysticism in the Message. One wants the Avesta to be understood through translations. The other believes that no one can translate the sacrosanct scriptures. One emphasizes the need to preserve the Traditions his/her community in Iran/India has kept alive to this day.  The other shows that the Good Religion is a modernizing way without any loss of the Primal Principles of Life. One is resolved to spread the Divine Message throughout the world. The other wants to promote the Parsi community to the heights it enjoyed in the British India.

All of them can present their viewpoints with logic, reason, and in peace on this List. They can, with tolerant and yet strong argument, prove their viewpoint to be correct. Etiquette and netiquette can present logic and maintain dignity. A fair competition for a fair result.

The subscribers are all elite and educated. It will give them a good opportunity to look at them all, understand what different schools of thought say, and decide to choose what they consider the best and the most practical.

Ali A. Jafarey

9 Dey 3736 ZRE = 30 December 1998
Reposted: 31 Farvardin 3743 ZRE = 20 April 2005 CE





THE GOOD RELIGION

and

THE INSTITUTIONALIZED ZOROASTRIANISM

Dr. Ali A. Jafarey

* * * * * *

Foreword

<> 
    
Good Conscience, the religion of Zarathushtra, is, historically, the first and foremost monotheistic religion in the world. But like other religions, it also has continually changed from its pristine purity to the present institutionalized form of Zoroastrianism. The Zarathushtrian Assembly has been established by its founding members with the sole aim of restoring the Good Religion of Zarathushtra to its pristine purity and activating its progressive universality. The unique movement has raised a few questions: What is the pristine purity of the Good Religion? How does it differ from the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism 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 increasing study of mâñthra, the thought-provoking message of Zarathushtra. They are embodied in the Gathas, his ever-fresh divine songs of guidance.



 

Introduction

      The 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 by Zarathushtra.  To express its true source of inspiration, it is also called Âhuiri, 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 Behdîni in Persian.  Zoroaster is the Anglicized form of a Greek mispronunciation of the name Zarathushtra. And since the 19th century CE, "the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism" means the 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 the Zarathushtrian Assembly.

      This book distinguishes between the pristine form of the Good Religion and the evolved, transformed, and transmuted state of the religion.  The Zarathushtrian Religion is the religion taught and practiced by Zarathushtra and his generating followers for centuries.  It is based only on the Gâthâs, the very Teachings of the Teacher. The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism 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, Institutionalization, Doctrine, Rituals, Outside Influence, Present and Future, Changing Attitudes, the Zarathushtrian Assembly, and Conclusion.

 

Source Scriptures

      The Good Religion: Zarathushtra practiced, taught, and preached his Divine Doctrine for a full forty-seven years. Finally, he reduced his teachings in seventeen songs as the all-time guidelines for "all the living beings" to come. Later 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), Fshusho-mâñthra (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 Religion). They are all in the same dialect, now termed Gathic.  The entire collection of a total of 312 stanzas or approximately 7,600 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 stimulating.

      The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism was quite rich in scriptures. In addition to the Staota Yesnya texts, it had compositions going back to pre-Zarathushtrian eras and writings ending as late as 1773 CE in three languages of Avesta, Pahlavi, and Persian over a span of more than 4,000 years. It was rich in subjects also: theology, myth, legends, history, geography, agriculture, animal care, medicine, pollution and purity laws, prayer preparations, elaborate rituals, potent spells, and commentaries of the Gathas, all en masse, of course, around the 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, administrative and social laws, or miscellaneous subjects of day-to-day life of the Sassanian theocracy.

      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 liturgical 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 lastly, the collection of Avestan and Pahlavi fragments of various lengths on various 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 modern Persian. Persian writings, written in Arabic script, began from the 15th century and 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.

 

History

      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, in their frustration, boycotted him.  He left them to discover the truth by himself.  His questioning search into the contrast between social disorder 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 Supreme 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 material existence.        

      The priests and princes, realized the threat to their vested interests, vehemently opposed him, and forced him and his few friends to leave home.  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 Zarathushtra converted Vishtaspa and his sagacious companions of men and women.  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 peaceful, but zealous propagation of its devotees.  About 2,500 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 Zoroastrian 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 benevolence and 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 theocratic government than on its own potentiality, and therefore, the fall of government 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 centuries.  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 Sassanian dynasty 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 stake. Conversion to Islam through force, persecution, propagation, and concession has drastically 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 trace.

 

Zarathushtra

      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 founded an 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 for ever.

      In the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism Zarathushtra is more of a reformer than a founder of an ancient Iranian religion which had deviated from its path. He cleansed the religion of its daeva worship and superstitions but perpetuated all the "good" old beliefs and rituals. He is the "Prophet" of an ethnic community, at present 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 as Saoshyants, meaning "benefactors," who were to be miraculously born of virgin mothers, each a thousand years after the other, to renovate the deteriorating world. Although approximately three thousand years have passed since Zarathushtra passed away, so far the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism has 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 writings. He 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 waiting has grown into the Bahram Varjavand legend.

 

Institutionalization

      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, enrich priests, 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" on this good earth, but does not set up do’s and don’ts to govern one’s every mental thought and physical movement.  His highly philosophical teachings are not commandments to govern minute details of 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.

      The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism: But the Aryan cult was a well-formalized establishment with an orthodox 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 and perpetuate 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 pantheon of deities under the godhead of Ahura Mazda.

      First the elaborate Haoma ritual was introduced.  However, 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 Immortals" and yazata, adorables. Seraosha, the inner-voice, was turned into a warrior deity, and then some of the prominent "heroically helping" gods and goddesses of the pre-Zarathushtrian 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 had their presiding deities. And still later, the Gathic personifications, called amesha spentas, lost much of their Gathic concepts and were given the task of guarding over cattle, fire, metal, earth, trees, and waters without infringing upon the authority of pre-Zarathushtrian deities presiding over the same elements.

      The priestly hierarchy, now firmly established, was at the head of two or occasionally three lower classes of warriors, professional producers, and 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").

 

Doctrine

      The Good Religion:  Zarathushtra presents 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 without any mediation.

      Ahura Mazda has created and creates the universe by his progressive mentality (spenta mainyu).  It is a good creation.  Among his creations, he has fashioned the "joy-bringing" living world of ours on the earth.  It is guided by the "Primal Principles of Life."  The Gathas present them in a beautifully intertwined, inseparable pattern 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 useful life.

      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 the right 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 one’s fellow creatures and for God. It is the positive, beneficial and unselfish precision par excellence.

      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.

      Âramaiti, means "tranquility, stability and serenity." It  is peace and prosperity.  When used with the adjective spenta, it means the "ever-increasing serene peace" achieved by adhering to the Primal Principles of Life.

      Seraosha means "listening" to the divine voice within us to guide us on the right 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 Conscience."

      All the above and more Primal Principles of Life given in the Gathas, when followed precisely, lead to:

      Haurvatât, wholeness and completion. It  is the perfecting process and final completion of our material and spiritual evolution.

      Ameretât means "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 become "godlike" and to live with God in an eternal bliss. The blissful state 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 there exists no fanciful eschatology. All it says is that the soul of a wrongful person "returns" to stay in the "house of wrong" or "house of the worst mind" until it realizes the truth to progress to wholeness and immortality. Yet, this "return" does not feed one with the elaborate doctrine of "reincarnation" and "transmigration of soul" as is found in other religions and beliefs. It is a fair deduction that a soul must evolve to become righteous to continue to live in bliss.

      Ahura Mazda has endowed mankind with a powerful mentality—one which can discriminate between good and evil.  Human beings are free to choose between a better or more progressive mentality (vahya 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 consequence for every wrong deed one does. The dualism of the Good Conscience is purely ethical and confined to human behavior only.

      Everything in nature, the entire environment, is a good creation and 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 perfection but being creative and "godlike," he and she should increase its pace to progress. The Gathic doctrine is a progressively ecological order. Zarathushtra stands high in protecting and promoting the environment in a happy scientific way.

      Man and woman enjoy equal status.  The religion of Zarathushtra is a universal religion which knows no sex, race, color, or national barriers.  It is historically the first missionary movement, a moderate movement.

      The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism has a well-balanced pantheon of deities and demons.  Ahura Mazda has created the six amesha spentas (Vohu Manah, Asha, Khshathra, Aramaiti, Haurvatat, and Ameretat), 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 Institutionalized Zoroastrianism is a cosmical dualistic religion in which all that is "termed" as good has been created by Ahura Mazda, and every "bad" event and object, from natural disasters to disease and death, and to the so-called "noxious" creatures, are the creations of the Evil Spirit.  Life on this earth and the cosmos is a continuous fight against Anghra Mainyu, the so-called Evil Spirit.

      The Gathic doctrine of harmony with nature was partially maintained. Air, water, plants, earth, and minerals were, and are, held in high regard. But ecology was not as protected as it should have been according to the Gathic doctrine. Good animals and plants were promoted and improved. "Noxious" animals, particularly ants and frogs,  and "evil" plants were meritoriously destroyed. The destruction of the "evil creation" is at present much reduced because of the prevailing circumstances, but the belief in fighting it in mind and matter continues.

      The fight has made the scriptural doctrine to cover every walk of life from birth to death. The Evil Spirit has created the all-spreading pollution, and rites of purification are elaborate and complex. Life in the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism means a constant watch against devilish moves.  It is patterned upon the directives given in the holy scriptures.  They include, among a multiple of old and new subjects:  priestly duties, kingship, judiciary, religious festivals, ownership, inheritance, agriculture, pastures, animal care, animal slaughter, medicine, prophecy, apostasy, charity, begging, initiation, marriage, polygamy, adultery, slavery, relations with non-Zoroastrians, religious conversion, warfare, retribution, punishment, fine, ransom, compensation, theft, murder, assault, witchcraft, sin, crime, death penalty, carrion, menstruation, and other "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 Avestan language, 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 intercommunicating and intermingling society.  The result is that only a dwindling number of priests try to follow as many of the directives as are possible within the prevailing conditions.  The laity have silently abandoned many and are gradually abandoning more.

      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 concrete 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 declared 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 heavier than their good actions are wrongful and likewise go to one of the four Hells.  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 Hammistagân, “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 resurrection when the dead will arise.  Then souls and bodies will again be judged and sentenced to bliss or a temporary punishment.  All will eventually be united in the blissful existence. The Evil Spirit and his creation will be doomed for ever.

      The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism 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, judgement, heaven, 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 is considered more prone to pollution because of her monthly menstruation and periodical 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 could marry 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 her parents, a "self-willed" if she married without her parents' consent, and a "serving wife" if remarrying as a widow. The husband had an upper hand in divorcing his spouse. At present, modified laws promulgated by Zoroastrian associations in Iran and India have restored the equality to a great extent.

      Nevertheless, marriage outside the community, generally places the woman outside the society among orthodox Parsis. Parsi women married to non-Zoroastrians are fighting for full rights. They are supported by many of their co-religionists. Iranian women are not faced with such social problems.

 

Rituals

      The Good Religion:  The Gathas are divine praises and guidance at the same time.  They contain barely any rituals.  One only 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, congregational prayers, marriage, and honoring the living and the dead for their good 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 one’s traditional good "living." Yet they advocate a happy life of radiating happiness to others whosoever they may be.

      Early non-Gathic Avestan texts show that the Gathas were sung, chanted 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 their supplements in a congregation. Pure priestly "profession" is absent in the Gathic texts. If required, persons of more knowledge led the prayers. Later texts show that people celebrated their age-old seasonal changes in their pastoral and agricultural life.  They are the six Gahanbars celebrated at the end of each change in activity.  Staota Yesnya was recited and explained to an inquisitive gathering.  It was followed by enjoying a feast collectively prepared by all the participants. One’s life, mentally and spiritually enriched by the Gathic doctrine, continued to progress with a higher, sublimer purpose.

      The Gathic age did not have priests, professional or otherwise. The prayers were not led by any particular individual. Persons with greater knowledge of the doctrine officiated at simple ceremonies and congregational rituals and in their spare time, taught and preached the religion. In fact, every person was, in his or her own capacity, a practicing, preaching Zarathushtrian.

      The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism, on the other hand, has an established hereditary priestly class with intricate rituals. It has its fire-temples of different grades. While in Iran non-Zoroastrians are allowed to enter a fire-temple, fire-temples in India and Pakistan bar any person who is not a "born" Zoroastrian. Zoroastrians in Europe, North America and Australia do not, to this date, have a "consecrated" temple. Fire altars in prayer sanctuaries fulfill the job. A few are gas-fired. With the passage of time, congregational prayers, which once comprised only of the Gathas and their supplements in the Gathic texts, have given way to ceremonies in which the Gathas do not constitute the 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 without Stoata Yesnya recitation, the reformed calendar, based on days and months named after deities, have given more festivals.  Whenever the name of the day and the name of the month of the same deity coincides, a 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 year.  Birth, initiation, marriage, death, disposal of the dead, and memorial ceremonies each have  their preparations and performances.  Pollution and 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 other island regions outside the Eurasian mainland.

      Prayers are recited in Avesta and in a later form of Middle Persian 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 beauty. 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. Moreover, 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 done one thing—eclipsed the Gathas so much so that they are only recited either along with the entire Yasna text or on the occasion of the last five memorial days, 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 Gathas.

      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 religions whose scriptures are in intelligible renderings, are looking and asking for good, understandable renderings.

 

Calendar

      The Good Religion, founded approximately 4,000 years ago, did not prescribe a calendar that would have become outdated. The Gathas and certain earlier parts of the Avesta show that the Gathic people continued to adhere to their ancestral luni-solar calendar 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 agricultural phases. The early Achaemenians, more Gathic in practice than the following dynasties, 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 times.

      The Institutionalized Zoroastrianism  too changed later to a purely solar calendar. It, however, had its months named, in a non-orderly sequence, 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 year. Intercalations of one day every four years or one month every 120 years kept the calendar in its place.

      But the downfall of the Sassanians deprived the community of a single calendarical authority. The Indian pocket was cut off from the Iranian community. Leap years were  observed only for few centuries and then were given up for good. As a result, until 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 following five 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 months carry Zoroastrian names and the Afghan months have Zodiacal terms. The days have their numbers—1 to 31.

 

Outside  Influences

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 religions.  Furthermore, the Good Religion is firmly based on the Primal Principles 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 by many.  Even children, who definitely lie outside the scope of adult "sins," are made to recite them on certain occasions.

      Islamic influence on the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism in Iran may be seen in the number of Zoroastrian shrines and the unconscious 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 rendering of Kalema-e Din.  One may also see a response to 99 names of Allah in the much popularized 101 names of "Hormazd." These names have, with a few exceptions, no roots in the Avesta and Pahlavi writings. They even lie outside the Hormazd Yasht, a late Avestan composition in which God enumerates His names and speaks about their potentials. Furthermore, the Muslim dominance has, for the past 1,400 years, made the Iranian 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, prostration before the fire altar, tinting the forehead with ashes, and many social customs are perhaps among older influences.  Once very strong, the attraction of the Theosophical order is on the decline.

       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, the discoveries 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 them esoteric, which is keeping many religious dogmas in place.  

      Meanwhile, Zoroastrians are no more confined to certain specific cities within their enclosed residential areas in Iran, India, and Pakistan.  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 number is increasing. 

      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 excommunication of persons marrying outside the community are also eroding the numbers.  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 the community alive and expanding. Some are awaiting the appearance of Bahram Varjavand to see the balance totally tilted in their favor.

      While many are alarmed at the dwindling number of "born" Zoroastrians, non-Zoroastrian Iranians are showing ever-greater interest in 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 community is increasing.  Enjoying the relative freedom, some educated Tajiks, people of Iranian stock in the Soviet Central Asia, are also anxious to join the fold.  Even some Armenians have made inquiries.  Moreover, as 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 neighborhood. They establish friendship with their adherents. They stand fully exposed to non-Zoroastrian environments. Mixed-marriages between Zoroastrians and non-Zoroastrians have become a common feature, and the figures of mixed-marriages are showing a steady rise at the loss of inter-community weddings.        

      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 challenges thrown by the fast changing circumstances wherever the Zoroastrians live, in good old India and Pakistan, or in new permanent residential countries of Europe, America, and Australia.  All these challenges cannot be brushed aside or taken lightly.  Conditions show that threats, intimidation, condemnation, boycott, excommunication, refusal to recognize a so-called convert as Zarathushtrian, 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 traditionalists and the liberals.

 

Changing Attitudes  

      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 discussion now.     

      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 traditionalists 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 of social changes, scientific progress and technological advances.  It can also live in friendly relations with other religions. 

      One of the subjects brought up by the movement has been conversion/acceptance. It has been vehemently opposed by the traditionalists, and condemned by their high priests in India.  Nevertheless, the process of accepting spouses is gaining favor.  First, many began supporting the idea that the children of a 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 of Zoroastrian wives and non-Zoroastrian fathers are more common than occasional.

      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 acceptance but 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 protest.  The number of those in favor of acceptance in India and Pakistan is considerable but so far no one has dared to come in open except a few.  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 supporters of acceptance and consequently change the balance.

      Among the Zoroastrians in North America and Europe, differences of 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 very, very 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, excommunications and boycotts.  Once alienated, a person cannot join a traditional association, attend a ritual performed by a 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 isolation.  However, there are faint signs that some are thinking about the need for a united action to solve the problem in open.

 

The Zarathushtrian Assembly

      But apart from the divided community, a number of prominent Zartoshtis, each in his or her city, have seriously been thinking of establishing a well-organized body in North America and Europe to promote the religion of 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 forward and establish an independent organization.  The Zarathushtrian Assembly is a non-profit, non-political religious corporation established in 1990 in Los Angeles. It declared its existence while celebrating Nowruz and Zarathushtra’s Birthday on 22 March 1991.      It is the first of its kind.  It is unique.  Contrary to what happens in reformative movements, the establishment of the Assembly is not a protestant, sectarian, or denominational one, a separatist move to split apart from an existing body.  It has been formed as an outside organization, an organization which does not identify itself with the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism as an ethnic entity or with any of its associations, institutions, and other sacerdotal, sanctified, social, financial, charitable, singular or federated establishments.  It lies outside the closed communal religious fold of traditionalist and orthodox Zoroastrians.  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 identity, maintaining their rituals and ceremonies, safeguarding their culture, opposing conversion/acceptance, excommunicating persons of mixed marriages, and inbreeding to increase their number.

      Nevertheless, the Zarathushtrian Assembly is a Zarathushtrian 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 the name "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 conviction, choose 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 other parts of the Avesta and Pahlavi have only their moral, historical, geographical, and anthropological values and therefore there is a placid place for them outside the doctrinal scripture-the Staota Yesnya.

      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 Zarathushtrian, either by free choice or by birth and upbringing, and has knowledgeably performed his or her initiation (navjote/sadreh-pûshi), can apply for the membership of the Zarathushtrian Assembly, and upon the 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 associate 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 person brought in by a member or with a prior request.

 

Conclusion

      A common problem faced by followers of the Institutionalized Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism, all of them comparatively recent immigrants, in Europe and North America, is adaptation to an entirely new environment.  Western culture and social orders are very different in these countries.  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 religious activities.  Inter-faith movements are working to bring most of the existing religions closer in reciprocally respectful meetings.  It is gaining popularity.  Parallel to this movement, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, 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 concerned.  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 erring.

      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 modern and 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 Further Information

The Gathas:

        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.

 

Later 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, 1932.

 

History and Doctrine:

        1. Dastur Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, History of Zoroastrianism, New York, 1938.  (The best and most comprehensive book to read on the chronological development 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, Their 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, 1992.

Rituals:

        1. Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, Bombay, reprint 1986.

        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 initiation ceremony, Westminster, California, 1988.

<>        4. .............., Zarathushtrian Ceremonies based on the Gathas, Cypress, California, 1992.
 

Note: 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 price.


Ali Jafarey Answers His Critics

http://www.factnfalse.com/


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 of 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 page prove.

Personally, I wish that Dr. J's critics could spend a several days with him as I have. He is an 85 year old great grand-father. His love of 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 05-08-2005





The Persian Rivayats # 236, # 237 & # 238

India Turns to Persia for Advise

Questions Written Circa 1480 AD.

Beginning In the fourteenth century priests from India sent a series of questions to their counterparts in Persia. Each question was answered by individual priests. Below are questions from historic letters, written over 500 years ago. They clearly show that the historic Zoroastrians accepted new converts into the faith.

These Persian priests helped settle many disputes in the Indian community. Below are quotes from the Persian Rivayats as 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 (tr. Dhabhar)

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 any person who has become riman is 60 farsangs away from a Barashnomgar [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 padyab for 30 times and dry himself with dust and then wash himself with water once: and he should yet abstain from whatever has been prepared 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 purified thus.

Persian Priest Kama Bohra and Kaus Kama (tr. Dhabhar)

Q:   If a person of a foreign faith who has his mind and speech 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 tyrannize 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 Yasna-service until the time he comes upon a Barashnomgar who administers Barashnom to him.

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. Whatever has been ordered (to be done in such a case) by the Herbad Payadar from the religion has been enjoined in the 8th fargard of the Vendidad, and the evidence thereof has been manifest in the Avesta: - thrisatathwem. frasnatee thrisatathwen. upasatee (Vd. 8.98) i.e., he should wash himself 30 times i.e., with padyab (or gomez) and he should (thus) was himself 30 times: The commentary (of the Avesta) is thus given. Let it be known that there is not manifest (herein) the evidence of the Avesta as regards drying the body with dust.

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. Thereafter 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 Yashts and Yasnas. One of a foreign faith who sets his heart on to the good religion should thus be ceremonially treated (parkikhtan) and washed.


# 237. On peaceful and forcible conversion.

Persian Priest Kaus Mahyar:

Q:    Can a grave-digger, a corpse-burner and a darvand (one of a foreign faith) become Behdins (i.e., be converted to the Mazdayasnian religion)?

A:     If they observe the rules of religion steadfastly and (keep) connection with the religion, and if no harm comes on the Behdins (thereby), it is proper and allowable.

Persian Priest Nariman Hoshang:

Q:  A Behdin turns darvand (i.e., goes over to another faith). If he returns to the religion of the Behdins, is it allowed or not?

A:     It is allowable. They should convert him to the religion in the way prescribed). He should be advised and admonished, should perform a patet and (then) Barashnom should be administered to him. He should again engage himself in performing penitential acts and should recant (his former deeds) Let it be known that he should be allowed (to be retaken) in this way.

Persian Priest Shapur Bharuchi:

A:    If a person (of a foreign faith) exercises tyranny over a man of the good religion and tells him to turn Musalman with his family, then out of helplessness he should commit suicide [lit. take poison] but he should not turn Musalman.

Persian Priest Suratya Adhyarus:

Q:  If Muslms convert a Behdin by force to Muhamedanism but the latter's heart is not set on Muhamedanism. (What is the decision)?

A:  Whenever (such a person) is converted by force to Muhamedanism and if his heart and mind are not set on Muhamedanism [the word is written in Avesta characters], then it is no fault of his.


238. On the Treatment of juddins and on conversion.

Persian Priest  Nariman Hoshang:

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 violence, but if (a juddin) shows enmity towards a Behdin, then it is allowable to take away the thing from him by force.

Persian Priest  Nariman Hoshang:

A:  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, and when they become intelligent, attentive to religion and steadfast, they should give them Barashnom and it is also proper and allowable to eat anything out of their hands.





Yale University's Dr. Stanley Insler on World Zoroastrian Organizartion Website


"The restriction concerning initiation into your religion arose at a time when other religions threatened its existence. In the free world, such threats hardly exist today. Zoroastrianism is a religion that honours the freedom of choice among its most important principles, and in essence this consists of the individual and personal choice of each human being to ally himself on the side of good or evil in the world. Because choice is a primary concept of the religion, it must also be extended in an equally effective manner to the question of acceptance 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 will to enter it, it is a demonstration in itself of that person's decision to support the forces of good in the world. It was exactly that way when Zarathushtra first founded the faith, because we see in his great hymns how he urges people to follow the path of righteousness by choosing to follow the principles of Ahura Mazda. Should it be any different today? The freedom to join the faith should be option left to every person's choice.  (from World Zoroastrian Website,

Read more about renowned scholar & translator Dr. Stanley Insler:

World Zoroastrian Organization http://www.w-z-o.org/

http://www.vohuman.org/Author/Insler,Stanley.htm





"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 Zoroastrianism


Spanish & English Website by Ron Delavega
http://www.zoroastrianism.cc/

Zoroastrian Stories for Kids - Great  Legends & Graphics
http://www.zoroastriankids.com/creation.html

Persia in the Bible, Excellent site by Christians
http://www.farsinet.com/iranbibl/

  The REAL Magi, Jesus & the 3 Wise Men
http://www.efn.org/%7Eopal/therealmagi.html

My Conversion & Photos from the Ceremony 

www.zoroasterfortoday.com

Email me: Stephen Williamson






Mrs. Dina Mcintyre is one of the most respected modern Zoroasterian scholars. She is respected by almost everyone on either side of the question of Conversion.  Dina is a born Parsi, who married a man of Irish desent. For years she was ostraschized by many of her friends and family, She has endured decades of name calling, returning ther hatred with kindness and more knowledge. Dina is one of the main people responsible for me selecting this faith over others.

I am constantly amazed at her wisdom and love for both Zarathustra and his followers - Parsi, Iranian, Euro, Hispanic or whoever from whereever. She deeply believes that Zarathustra's teachings are important for the whole world to hear. She has published many articles, some of which, along with a bio and photo are at www.vohuman.org  I almost forgot to mention: Dina Mcintyre has an active corporate law practice on the east coast. Perhaps this is where she gets her shrewd negotiating skills and ability to research the most likely answer to the riddles posed by Zarathustra's songs.

These were sent as a series of emails to the diverse Zarathustrain groups on the Internet.



Conversions by Dina

Here is the first one.

-----Original Message-----
From: dinamci@aol.com
To: zoroastrianfriends@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrians@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrianacceptance2@yahoogroups.com; Ushta@yahoogroups.com; xsatra@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 12:32 pm
Subject: 1. Acceptance in Y Avestan texts

Dear Friends,

In fulfillment of my promise to Maneck B, here is the first installment of evidence from Avestan texts (that are not the Gathas) which show that our religion was a universal one, which accepted anyone who wished to belong to it.  This evidence is just a sampling.  It is not intended to be exhaustive (or exhausting!).

Commentary on the Ahuna Yairya:  The Ahuna Vairya (Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer) is in Gathic Avestan, and in the same meter as the Ahunavaiti Gatha.  Many scholars believe that it was composed by Zarathushtra himself.  Several centuries after Zarathushtra, this prayer was commented on in Yasna 19.6, a later Avestan text in the Younger Avestan language (not in Gathic),  which has Ahura Mazda making the following promise to everyone in the entire world:  "And whoever in this world of mine which is corporeal shall mentally recall...a portion of the Ahuna-vairya, and ..... shall then utter it aloud, shall worship thus...I will bring his soul over the Bridge of Kinvat, I who am Ahura Mazda,....." (Mills translation as it appears in SBE Vol. 31, page 261).

The Farvardin Yasht was also composed several centuries after Zarathushtra, in the Younger Avestan language.  It expresses the hope and belief that the teachings of Zarathushtra will spread all over the entire earth.  It says in verse 94:  "...and there will the good Law of the worshippers of Mazda come and spread through all 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 opinions differ).  The Farvardin Yasht reverences the fravashi in all things.  As applied to different human races, verse 143 of this Yasht reverences the fravashis of good men and women in various enumerated countries -- Turanian, Sairimyan (which a footnote explains is Europe and Western Asia), Saini (which a footnote explains is China), and the verse concludes with reverence for the fravashis of 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 tradition of acceptance that is reflected in the Khordeh Avesta prayers, which were composed in Sasanian times.

Wishing you the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.


Here is the second one.


-----Original Message-----
From: dinamci@aol.com
To: zoroastrianfriends@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrians@yahoogroups.com; ushta@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrianacceptance2@yahoogroups.com; xsatra@yahoogroups.com; creatingawareness-owner@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 9:51 am
Subject: 2 Accptnce Phl and Skt Gathas

Dear Friends,
 
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 this controversy.  But I think I can provide you with some evidence which is not readily available, and which you may find useful.
 
We all know the famous verse Y31.3, which has been translated by so many scholars -- both Zoroastrian and non-Zoroastrian -- as evidence for the fact that Zarathushtra considered his teachings to be for all the living.
 
Many traditionalists, including some high priests in India, have argued that these translations of Y31.1 are incorrect, inaccurate, and they typically claim that such translations are the works of "western" scholars, ignoring the many Zoroastrian scholars who have also so translated this verse.
 
Well, the oldest translation of the Gathas that we have today, is the Pahlavi translation.  The second oldest translation we have is Neryosangh Dhaval's translation of the Pahlavi translation, into Sanskrit.  Both these translations have been translated into English by the late Professor Mills in his book, A Study of the Five Zarathushtrian Gathas, (Oxford 1892, AMS Press Reprint, 1997).  In this work the English translation of the Pahlavi, was derived from a collation of manuscripts from all known codices.   Mills' translation of Neryosangh was derived from a collation of five ancient texts of Neryosangh's Sanskrit translation.  Referring to Mazda's teachings, these Pahlavi and Sanskrit translations translate the last 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 translation:  "... which wisdom is enlightening or awaking all the living."  (p 57).
 
Thus we see that the two oldest translations of the Gathas -- made long before the present controversy on acceptance arose --  state that 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.

-----Original Message-----
From: dinamci@aol.com
To: zoroastrianfriends@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrians@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrianacceptance2@yahoogroups.com; creatingawareness@yahoogroups.com; xsatra@yahoogroups.com
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 prayers during Sasanian times, more than 1,400 years after Zarathushtra.  Because most people no longer understood Avestan, the Sasanian priests took parts of the Avesta (from both the Gathas and also from Younger Avestan parts), added parts in the language of the day, and thus gave their folks prayers, most of which the reciter could understand.   Honesty compels me to admit that I do not say all these prayers (much to the disappointment of my brother, who chants them beautifully).  But I like to read them in translation, to see what ideas they contain (as part of my personal quest for the truths of mind and spirit -- asha).
 
Many of these prayers specifically contain language to the effect that the religion is for all mankind.   Here are a few examples.  The translation is by T. R. Sethna, in his book Khordeh Avesta (3d Ed. reprinted 1980):
 
The quotation I like the best is in the Doa Nam Setayeshne which says: "Homage to the all knowing tolerator, who sent through Zarathushtra Spitman . . .  teachings of religion for the people of the world so that they may have friendship, inculcate faith and inner wisdom and knowledge gained from hearing. For the information and guidance of all men who are, who were, and who will be hereafter..." (p 63).   This quotation reveals several things: First,  a beautiful perception of our religion – as being one which promotes friendship, knowledge, and wisdom for  all mankind.  Second, that it is not a coercive religion, but is available "for 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 fame of the commandments of the most excellent Mazda worshipping religion ever increase over the world, over all the seven regions, so may it be." (page 61).  Almost identical words are also found in the Khorshed Niyaesh (p 51),  the Mah Bakhtar Niyaesh (pages 71 - 73), the Ardvi Sur Niyaesh (p 83), the Atash Niyaesh (p 93),  the Ardibehesht Yasht (p 123),  the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht (p 141), and
the Sraosh Yasht Wadi (p 165).
 
We pride ourselves on the fact that Zoroastrians are famed for their honesty.  One cannot help but wonder how anyone can truthfully and sincerely say these prayers daily, or weekly, or perhaps just on good occasions, and yet insist that the religion prohibits the admission of non-Zoroastrians.
 
It is important to remember that Zarathushtra does not teach aggressive proselytizing.  On the contrary, he teaches that each person should make choices for himself, after reflecting with a clear mind.   This teaching requires us to exercise tolerance, and respect other people’s choices of religion.  But this teaching also requires us to accept and respect a person who wishes to take Zarathushtra’s path to the Divine, as Zoroastrians have done for most of their history -- from Zarathushtra's time, until long after the Arab invasion (as we shall see).
 
Wishing us the best,
 
Dina G. McIntyre.


There is #5.

-----Original Message-----
From: dinamci@aol.com
To: zoroastrianfriends@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrians@yahoogroups.com; Ushta@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrianacceptance2@yahoogroups.com; xsatra@yahoogroups.com
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 that acceptance is forbidden by the religion.  But the fact that they say so, does not make it so.  They have to cite chapter and verse, 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 of Zoroastrian women who have married non-Zoroastrians.   According to the high priests of India, they are no longer considered Zoroastrians, cannot enter a fire temple, and their children cannot be admitted to the religion.  In support of this practice, some priests have cited Chapter 18,  verse 62 of the Vendidad, which (according to them) "prohibits union between a Mazdayasni and non-Mazdayasni."  (Quoting from page 2 of a letter dated August 22, 1990 from Dastur Kotwal to The Chairman & Trustees Bombay Parsi Punchayet, which letter is initialed on each page by Kotwal, and signed at the end with his full name and titles).
 
However, this verse of  the Vendidad which is in the Younger Avestan language,  does not refer to interfaith marriages at all.  Verses 61 and 62 state that Mazda is caused grief by a courtesan (Jahi), regardless of whether she sleeps with a Mazda worshipper or with one who is not a Mazda worshipper.  (Sacred Books of the East,  Vol. 4, page 200,  and footnotes 1 and 2, all as translated by Darmesteter).
 
The Pahlavi translation of the Vendidad in its commentary on this verse, translates the word "Jahe"  as an adulteress.  (Behramgore T. Anklesaria,  Pahlavi Vendidad,  published for the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, 1949, page  365 -- 366).   An adulteress is a married woman who sleeps with someone who is not her husband.   Whether the man is a Mazdayasni or a non-Mazdayasni should make no difference in deciding whether an adultrous act is "right" or "wrong".
 
So this verse has nothing to do with interfaith marriages.  It speaks against prostitution (according to the Avestan text) and against adultery (according to the Pahlavi commentary).  With one-sided justice, this verse makes no mention of the fellows who enjoy the woman's favors.  But that is another story.
 
If any priest or lay person knows of any ancient Z text (i.e. written before the migration to India) which specifically prohibits acceptance, I would like them to cite chapter and verse, so that I can look it up.
 
Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.


Here is #6

-----Original Message-----
From: dinamci@aol.com
To: zoroastrianfriends@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrians@yahoogroups.com; ushta@yahoogroups.com; zoroastrianacceptance2@yahoogroups.com; xsatra@yahoogroups.com
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, which is described (according to S. J. Bulsara's translation) as "being portions of the great Husparam Nask".   The text covers many aspects of the practice and administration of the religion in the society of that day.
 
It states that if a child of another religion wishes to come over to the Good Religion, then guardianship of the child is vested in the person who is the greatest and most beneficent in the entire district, even though a person of another religion  comes claiming guardianship over the child.  (Book I, Chap IV, verse 28,  page 38 of the S. J. Bulsara translation, published by the Bombay Parsi Panchayet, 1915).  To be fair, the text does not say that the person claiming guardianship was the child's parent or family.  What is clear, however,  is that if even a child (presumably one old enough to make an informed choice) chooses the Zoroastrian religion, the community accepted it, and took care of it.  How different from those Zoroastrians today who say that the religion 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 who converts to the Zoroastrian religion should not force his wife to convert.  He should not strike her, or stop supporting her, or "forsake her treacherously", nor does she "pass from the condition of being his wife",  because she refuses to convert.  (Book I, 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 husband should not sleep with her.  Whether such advice was taken by the converted husband is not known.  While I don't think priests have any business telling a husband whether or not he can sleep with his wife, it is clear that, the object was encouragement (though not coercion) to join the religion, not a refusal to accept anyone who wished to join.
 
In another part, this text (the Aerpatastan and Nirangistan) states:  "When a slave professing any other creed comes over to the Good Religion he then comes a direct subject of the King of Kings who shall give his price....." (Aerpatistan and Nirangastan, Chap. IV, verse 29, page 38 of the Bulsara translation).  The Fortification Tablets found in Persepolis indicate that it was built by laborers and craftsmen who were paid wages, and so could not have been slave labor.  I do not know to what extent ancient Zoroastrians owned slaves (or whether such persons were actual slaves or indentured servants).  However, the Persian empires of ancient times included many countries and many races, which traveled, traded, and mingled freely throughout the empire.  So it is noteworthy that this text does not limit the acceptance of slaves by race -- accepting only those slaves who are Persians.  
 
It is always distressing (to me at least) to read anything in any Z text which does not comport with the high ethical standards of the Gathas.  But we should remember that the later texts reflect diverse and changing cultural traditions which (sometimes wrongly) resulted in different perceptions as to the rights of different individuals.  Two hundred years ago, slavery was considered normal in the United States, and women were not able to vote.  It took two Constitutional amendments (and a civil war in the case of slavery) to change both of those time-bound (and wrong) cultural traditions.
 
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 right, and implement it with our words and actions.  As we grow in understanding, what may seem right to one generation or culture, may seem very wrong to another.  The beauty of the Gathas is that they enable us to grow, as individuals, and as societies, as our perceptions 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 India.   In the early 1980s, an American, Joseph Peterson, after long study, first by himself and then under a Zoroastrian priest, concluded that he wanted to become a Zoroastrian, and wished to have his navjote done.  An Iranian Mobed,  Bahram Shahzadi of the United States, a luminous soul, wrote a letter to the Council of Mobeds of Tehran, requesting guidance.  In an official written opinion (No. 466 issued in May of 1983), the Council responded.  Referring to Mobed Shahzadi’s letter, the Council's Opinion states: (in English translation):
 
"… The Council discussed the contents of your letter at an official meeting.  You have, in your detailed letter, asked the opinion of the Council regarding the acceptance of people into Zoroastrianism.  Let us glimpse through Zoroastrian scriptures and 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 from the Gathas, and concludes:
 
"The above stanzas show that Asho Zarathushtra does not advocate force to spread the religion, but has kept it open for all . . . . . He has never reserved it for the Aryans, or for a particular caste of people.  Yasna 46.12  shows that the religion had spread into the Turanian lands during Asho Zarathushtra’s lifetime.  Because he praises Friyana a Turanian Chief who supported Mazdayasna."
 
The Council's Opinion next gives references to later texts and concludes:
 
"The above citations show that the propagation and promotion of the religion is a meritorious deed…If we Zoroastrians believe that our religion is one of the great living religions of the world and that it is beneficial to all the peoples of the world, we ….. must accept persons who want to embrace the Zoroastrian religion."
 
This 1983 Opinion of the Council of Mobeds of Tehran is a shining example of leadership, courage, learning, and civility.  It has my sincere respect and admiration.
 
Wishing us the best,
 
Dina G. McIntyre.


Dear Friends,

(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 Zoroastrians to India, disputes arose among the priests in India about what the religion allowed and did not allow.  On various occasions over the course of several centuries, Zoroastrian priests in India sent emissaries to the Zoroastrian Mobeds of Iran to get answers to their questions.  These questions and answers are in written form, and have been preserved in texts called the Rivayats.  I do not have copies of most of these Rivayats, and the following information and quotations from the Rivayats are taken from an excellent article by Professor K. D. Irani, and Farrokh J. Vajifdar. ("Conversion in Zoroastrianism, The Truth Behind the Trumpery",  as it appears in "Humata", Journal of the Center for Ancient Iranian Studies, Winter 1998 -- 1999 issue).
 
One such Rivayat was given in response to questions taken to Iran by Nariman Hoshang in 1478 A.D (more than 800 years after the Arab invasion).  In one answer, the Iranian mobeds gave the opinion that slave boys and girls in Zoroastrian houses in India could be initiated into the religion with sudreh and kusti, and when they became intelligent, attentive and steadfast in the religion should be given 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 India, and taken to Iran by Mobed Kaus Jalal.  The replies to these questions were given in writing, signed by nine Iranian dasturs (priests), and nine religiously versed behdins [lay persons, the word literally means followers of the Good Religion].   One of the questions asks whether the religion allows the remains of deceased boys 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 their response included a clear denunciation of those who advocated exclusionary practices.
 
This Rivayat also answered the related question of whether it was appropriate to refuse to convert these young servant boys and girls as follows:   "Here we have heard from ….. 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 have agreed not to teach those youngsters the Avesta and not to convert them to the din-i beh-i mazdayasnan. This is unreasonable and alien to the tradition. May the Beloved ones prosper!   In the second fargard of the Jud-div-dad the Creator of the righteous material world has ordered the honourable Zaratusht Esfantaman anushe-ravan to lead all men to the Din-i Beh-i, to the Main Path, to edify His joy, His glory, and His honour…..  It is a very great merit and a righteous good deed ….. those who hinder this and are against it are not even aware of the Origin and of the other world.  They proceed along the path of aberration and vanity and according to the religion it is not possible to define them as Behdins, since if they were Behdins, they would increase the Din-i Beh-i."   In quoting from this Rivayat, Irani and Vajifdar say that they have followed the Vitalone translation, with minor changes for ease of reading, and that the translation of Ervad Shehryarji Bharucha, is in accord.
 
One can only feel deep respect, admiration, and affection, for these nine dasturs and nine behdins of 18th century Iran, who lived with severe persecution, and yet signed their names to this document expressing opinions which could have earned them death, but which were nevertheless true to the teachings of Zarathushtra, and the traditions of the religion.  
 
Wishing us the best,
 Dina G. McIntyre.
 
Dear Friends,

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 17.11, expresses this beautiful thought by speaking of the fire in all things -- in men and animals,  in trees and plants,  in the earth and mountains,  in clouds and lightning, in the entire world.  So too does the Bundahishn (a post-Sasanian, Pahlavi text).
 
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 Being’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 all men and women, of what relevance is ethnicity?   Can we 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 question of rejecting anyone.  Rather, it is a question of obeying God's will.  They argue that it is God's will that each person should remain in the religion of one’s birth, and that to change one's birth religion is an act of defiance against God's will.
 
Well, God caused us to be born naked.  Is it His will that we not wear clothes?   He caused us to be born ignorant.  Is it an act of defiance against God to get an education?  Some babies are born sick, or with birth defects.  Is it His will that such babies not be given medical treatment to save their lives?   What if one's parents are atheists?  Is it an act of defiance against God to want to believe in Him?  What if one's parents are religious fanatics?  Is it God's will that the child of such parents must be a religious fanatic also, and must massacre and torture 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 several billion people (to say nothing of the Vulcans and the Klingons!).  How did we sink from the high nobility of Zarathushtra’s thought to such a narrow view?  
 
Wishing us the best,
 
Dina G. McIntyre.