TELL ME WHY
TELL ME WHY
(Started as a column in Jame Weekly since October 2011)
Why should I love and follow my Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion
1. My religion has to be the greatest, best and most excellent for me, as God in His Wisdom chose to give me birth in this religion.
2. It is the first revealed religion in the world. The fact the Zoroastrian religion has survived for several millennia shows that its message is powerful, meaningful and beneficial.
3. As the oldest religion, it has influenced almost every other major religion of the world.
4. Inspite of being the oldest religion, it is regarded as a very spiritual, ethical, philosophical, ecological, rational, scientific and practical religion
6. The religion has the power and ability to give us roots so that we can be secure and confident in life, and the wings so that we can soar higher in spirituality
7. If understood and practiced properly, the religion gives us a healthy and radiant body, a joyful mind, material prosperity and a soul worthy of heaven – most important ingredients for a balanced and happy life.
Why should I pray?
1. Prayers soothe, calm and relax the mind in order to prepare it for spiritual evolution and higher experiences.
2. Prayer is the best way to communicate and be in touch with the divine world
3. Prayers help to establish and maintain links with Ahura Mazda, prophet Zarathushtra and the divine beings.
4. Prayer is the time tested way to obtain divine energy.
5. Secondary benefits of prayer include increased health, immunity and wellness leading to happiness.
6. Through prayers our thoughts of gratitude, apology and seeking help are conveyed to the divine world.
Why I should go to the Fire temple (Agyari / Atash Behram)?
1 Fire temples are places where there is constant presence of divine beings like Ameshaspands, Yazads and Fravashis and hence good energies.
2 We need to nurture the sacred fire with the spiritual food of prayer, especially Atash Nyaishna.
3 We need to care for the sacred fire – our ‘sitting friend’ by offering it fuel – sandalwood and / or kathi as physical food.
4 Fire temples are brimming with divine energy, on account of the countless rituals performed there, and hence it is an ideal place to recite prayers.
5. We are steeped in divine energy through the sacred fire, when we are near it. This leads to secondary benefits like a calm and relaxed mind and a healthy body.
Why should I wear Sadra-Kasti ?
1. Wearing of Sadra Kasti is a Mazdayasni practice started by King Jamshid, which was accepted later by prophet Zarathushtra.
2. Sadra is a divine armour that protects me from unseen negativities, all the time.
3. The Kasti is a powerful weapon against evil, as it is imbued with the power of our prayers.
4. The Sadra and kasti remind me of the divine garment and girdle symbolically worn by divine beings.
5. The Sadra and Kasti give me an identity and a sense of security of belonging to a Community and religion.
Why is it necessary to participate in rituals, like the Jashan?
1. One benefits from the presence of divine beings, invoked at the time of performance of rituals.
2. One benefits from sharing the divine energy drawn by priests during the rituals
3. One benefits by sitting next to like minded people who are praying (Sat-sang)
4. Important religious principles can be understood by following the ritual gestures performed by the priests during the ritual. For instance, the ritual of lower exchanged conveys the connection between the material and spiritual worlds and the ethics essential for this connection.
5. Sitting and listening to the prayers, after doing one’s Kasti, at the time of performance of the ritual, soothes the mind.
Why should I live in harmony with the spiritual world?
1. Zoroastrian religion expects us to live in the material world, but at the same time be aware of and consciously connect to the spiritual dimensions.
2. This idea is reinforced every day in the Kasti prayers when we recite the words tani ravaani (of my body and soul) and geti minoaani (of the material world and the spiritual world).
3. We have to connect to our soul and our Fravashi (guardian spirit) which are part of our human constitution.
4. We have to connect to Ahura Mazda, the Ameshaspands and the Yazads who are part of the spiritual world that surrounds us. We can connect to Ahura Mazda daily by remembering him the first thing when we get up in the morning.
6. We can connect to our divine beings by remembering the Ameshaspand/Yazad of the day by their name after our morning Kasti or Farazyat prayers. This can be done by saying the line” Yaa______________(to mention the name of the roz, for eg. Ardibahesht Ameshaspand or Behram Yazad) beresaad.
7. Living in harmony with the divine world gives us the confidence that we are not alone in this world and that we always have divine help when we need it and divine presence by our side.
Why I should keep happy and cheerful
1. Happiness is central to Zoroastrian religion. Its most basic prayer Ashem vohu teaches us to have ushta“inner happiness.”
2. Being happy and cheerful is also a way of expressing our faith and confidence in God.
3. It is necessary to be cheerful in adverse conditions. Cheerfully facing circumstances of life, favourable or adverse, makes Ahura Mazda khshnaothra, that is, “happy” and it defeats ahriman, the evil spirit.
4. When we maintain cheerfulness amidst adversities, we empower the good forces to help us change our life and destiny. Such an attitude turns the misfortune into a stepping stone for future success.
5. A cheerful mind is essential for a body radiating health and a soul worthy of heaven.
Why is the Shahnameh an important book?
1. The Iranian epic Shahnameh “Book of kings”, comprising about 60,000 Persian couplets, was composed about a thousand years ago by Firdausi Toosi (real name Abul Kasem Hasan). It was largely based on the Avestan and Pahlavi texts existing then.
2. The past is an integral part of our life. Though it is not correct to dwell in the past, one should learn from it, be inspired from it, emulate heroic deeds and avoid the pitfalls. The Shahnameh is a chronicle of ancient Iranian history which helps us keep in touch with our glorious past. It covers the Peshdadian, Kayanian and Sasanian times, encapsulating their greatness and pettiness, romance and tragedies, heroes and villains, glory and shame.
3. It has vignettes of information on Zoroastrian religion like praise of God, life of Zarathushtra, different types of Jashans, importance of dokhmenashini etc.
4. It also has wonderful maxims, admonitions and teachings for life on topics like love, impermanence, moderation, intelligence, shrewdness, friendship and death, which are full of worldly wisdom.
Why do we celebrate Jamshedi Navroze?
1. Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated by Zoroastrians and even some non Zoroastrians in many parts of the world on the 21st of March. The word Jamshedi Navroze means the “the new year day of (king) Jamshed.”
As a vernal/spring equinox festival, Jamshedi Navroz has been celebrated throughout Zoroastrian history. Today, in India, Jamshedi Navroz is mainly celebrated as a seasonal and historical festival, to commemorate the coronation of King Jamshed after he saved the world from the great deluge and established the settlement ‘Var-e-Jam-Kard’, “the settlement of Jamshed”.
2. Iranians have a special way of celebrating this festival, the main part of which is arranging a circular table in the house having seven items starting with the letters ‘shin’ or ‘sin’ of the Persian alphabet are arranged.
3. On the “Hafta-shin table” the seven items may include:Shir “milk”, sharab “wine”, shakar “sugar”, shama“candle”, somagh “sumac” shikeh “coin”, sib “apple”,sonbol “hyacinth”, sabzi “vegetables’, shisheh “glass”,sarkeh “vinegar” etc. Additionally items like a goldfish bowl and a picture of the Damavand mountain, are also kept for six to thirteen days.
4. Jamshedi Navroz is a festival of hope, life and colour. It brings the message of renewal, rejuvenation, hope, gratitude, joy, light, life, equality and victory of good over evil. May this Jamshedi Navroz bring a happy, cheerful and bright year for all humanity.
Why does Zoroastrianism prohibit walking barefoot, especially while praying?
1. While praying, Zoroastrians are enjoined not to keep their bare feet directly on the ground. They should be wearing a footwear, preferably a leather one. The bare feet may be placed on a carpet or a cotton mat, or after wearing thick socks, but never directly on the ground.
2. Prayer is an act in which, among other things, involves an exchange of energies. The soles of the feet are believed to be the places from where unwanted energies go out and are grounded to the earth.
3. The power generated by the Kasti prayers and rituals is vitiated if, after performing the Kasti, bare feet are placed on the ground. In Gujarati this is referred to as ‘Kasti tuti gai’, which implies that the protective power of the Kasti ritual is vitiated.
4. The Hindus generally go bare feet in temples. The general idea behind this practice is that dirt on the footwear should not be taken inside the temple. Though the Zoroastrian religion strongly believes in cleanliness and purity, it has a different outlook on this point, as seen above. This shows how practices change from religion to religion on the basis of their understanding of the world (world-view).
Why do Zoroastrians observe a time schedule for prayers?
1. According to Zoroastrian religion, a day is divided into 5 parts called Gah/Geh. Each Gah has special divine beings and a special prayer dedicated to it. We direct prayers to these divine beings at their particular times. A few prayers to certain creations and Yazads have also to be done in a particular Gah.
2. Prayers dedicated to the sun and sun light – the Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas, are recited only during the 3 day time Gahs – Havan, Rapithwin and Uziran. They, along with three other shorter prayers – Doa Vispa Humata, Doa Nam Setayashne and Char dishano namaskar – are the day time Farazyat prayers.
3. The prayers dedicated to the flowing waters – Avan Ardvisura Nyaishna and the divine being presiding over it – Avan Yasht, are also recited only during the 3 day time Gahs. The main reason why we cannot invoke Avan Yazad, the water divine being, at night is that the vital powers in water gets their strength and efficacy from the rays of the sun.
4. Sarosh Yash Vadi is recited only in the Aiwisruthrem Gah. It is the Farazyat prayer for this Gah. This is so because among Yazads, Sarosh Yazad is the most powerful destroyer of evils and his help is most required in the first part of the night (Aiwsruthrem Gah) when the forces of evil are at their peak.
5. Sarosh Yazad also helps mankind in other ways, and hence he can be invoked in the other four Gahs by reciting Sarosh Yasht Hadokht.
6. The Hoshbam prayer, dedicated to dawn, is recited just before and after the sunrise. Generally the prayer is recited about one and a half hours before and after sunrise. However, the best time to recite it is during the one and a half hours preceding sunrise, which is still the Ushahin Gah.
Why and when should I recite Ashem Vohu
1. Ashem Vohu is the shortest Avesta prayer. It has 12 words distributed over three lines.
2. The prayer is in praise of Asha Vahishta “the Divine Purpose of the Universe.” In order to understand this Divine Purpose, one has to practice Best Righteousness and understand the Cosmic Order, so that eventually one may attain Ushta “inner happiness”.
3. Recitation of the Ashem Vohu prayer soothes and relaxes the mind, and helps keep away negative thoughts.
4. An Ashem Vohu is to be especially recited while getting up from bed, while going to bed, after finishing any work and at the news of death.
5. In an emergency, this prayer, like the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, can be recited under any conditions even if one is without head covering, or when one is travelling or swimming or is in an hospital.
Why and when should I recite Yatha Ahu Vairyo
1. The Yatha Ahu Vairyo, also referred to as theAhuna Var, is the oldest Avestan prayer. It has 21 words, distributed over three equal lines, each having about 16 syllables.
2. This prayer tells us about the importance of Asha Vahishta (Divine Purpose of the Universe), the need to dedicate our life’s actions to Ahura Mazda and the benefit of helping deserving needy people
3. Reciting this prayer, gives one protection and helps fight evil. It is regarded as the most powerful and victorious of all prayers.
4. Ahura Mazda used it for creating the creations and thereafter for making Ahriman temporarily ineffective. Prophet Zarathushtra used it for defeating physical and spiritual evils. Sarosh Yazad uses it as a weapon against all evils.
5. Different numbers of Yatha Ahu Vairyo are recited for various purposes. One Yatha Ahu Vairyo is to be recited when leaving the house, when seeking protection or when taking a seat. Two have to be recited when beginning any work or for seeking help and blessings. Seven are to be recited to invoke the help of Yazads and Ameshaspands.
6. The 21 Volumes (Nasks) of the Avesta texts were named after each of its words. All of these Volumes except one, are now lost.
7. In an emergency, this prayer, like the Ashem Vohu, can be recited under any conditions even if one is without head covering, or when one is travelling or swimming or is in an hospital.
Why should we consider Ahura Mazda our friend.
1. We need to establish a one to one friendship with Ahura Mazda which is frank, open and honest.
2. For such a friendship, we need to infinitely trust Ahura Mazda and His wisdom, confide in Him and depend on Him for help.
3. The reassuring sentiments of safety, security and protection will always be with us if we consider Ahura Mazda as our friend.
4. If we always hold the hand of Ahura Mazda in good as well as adverse conditions, we will never be disappointed.
4. Beyond being a friend, we should also consider Ahura Mazda our guide, brother and father.
5. The thought that Ahura Mazda loves us, knows what is best for us and hence always works in our interest, should be forever etched in our mind. After our sincere, honest and best efforts whatever happens to us is on account of God’s will and His love for us.
Why do Zoroastrians venerate and respect nature
1. Respect and veneration of nature and all natural creations has been a part of all ancient religions including Zoroastrianism.
2. Respecting natural creations is part of Zoroastrian religious philosophy. Zoroastrian religion has special prayers to individually invoke and thank most natural creations. However it especially values all luminescent shining creations like the sun, stars, moon, fire, light and water as they are also the holders and transmitters of God’s divine energy.
3. All the seven creations have a special divine being – Ameshaspand presiding over it. Venerating and taking care of the creations makes the Ameshaspands beings happy. In rituals like the jashan all seven creations are represented.
4. All creations are for man’s use, but they should not be abused or misused. Even during rituals when priests have to use goat’s milk or date palm leaf, they pray to the goat and the date palm tree before taking the milk and leaf.
5. The basic Zoroastrian principle of veneration of natural creations ensures that environmental problems like global warming, ozone layer depletion, pollution of water and depletion of land covers do not arise. It is for this reason that Zoroastrian religion is regarded as the first and the most ecological and eco-friendly religion in the world.
6. It should be noted that Zoroastrians do not venerate natural creations as objects by themselves, but they respect the divinity presiding over them. They believe in the age old adage “From Nature to nature’s God.”
Why did Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis come from Iran to India?
1. The Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis lost the Sasanian empire to the Arabs in 641 AC.
2. After that, for about a hundred years they struggled to get back the empire, regain their lost glory and live in dignity, without much success.
3. Under the Arab rule, it was not possible to follow the tenets of the religion – like wearing Sudreh–kasti, performing rituals and maintaining a sacred fire.
4. It was not possible to maintain rules of ethnic exclusivity and ritual purity in personal lives.
5. In was not possible to follow rules of exclusivity for fire temples and rituals and survive as a religious community.
6. Most Zoroastrians had been relegated to the position of slaves from masters, and forced to pay heavy, back-breaking taxes.
7. Many Zoroastrians were forced to convert to Islam or their wealth and property were confiscated.
8. The lives and modesty of ladies were always in grave danger, especially as they were not able to pay taxes. Beautiful women were more at risk and hence were often purposely disfigured or made to look ugly.