Roj Khorshed Mah Fravardin, 1381 Yz.
I wish all readers of Frashogard a happy, prosperous and spiritually enriching new year!
Our special sacred guests have departed after their 18 day stay, the tables have been cleared and stowed away, the hall cleaned and empty once again. After the intense activities of the Muktad days, it feels very quiet in the Agiary. On one hand is the relief that the heavy days are over, that we were able to serve our sacred visitors with the utmost piety and purity; on the other the silence and their absence makes the Agiary somewhat lonesome.
The beginning of the year also marks the completion of four years of the Frashogard blog. As we step into 1381 Yz, and our own fifth year, what thoughts occupy the minds of readers as well as the author of Frashogard? In these four years, we have read over 120 posts and many more comments. The question which has been troubling my mind for the last few days is: is this enough? The objective of the Frashogard blog was to make Parsis aware of the wealth of information available regarding our religion and its practices. While that objective may have been somewhat achieved, the real question is: has it made the readers of Frashogard better Parsis?
One thing is clear: reading posts at Frashogard, or another site, is not going to bring about anybody’s salvation. Writing posts on Frashogard is not going to bring about my own salvation either. The process of salvation lies entirely in doing, not thinking about doing, or reading about doing. Unless there is kinetics, salvation will remain a distant dream. But for many of us, the jump between thinking about doing something, and actually doing it, seems insurmountable.
Thus for the new year, it is my desire that readers of Frashogard read less, and do more. Each of us must strive to do more, strive to become better persons than we are, which will in turn make us better Parsis. This is of course a long-term and very complex development. The easiest way to make complex things simple is to break them up into small parts. Here are my thoughts on how we can all become better, by thinking less about doing, and doing more.
1. The desire to grow: the question we must all ask ourselves every day before we go to sleep is this: ‘did I grow in any manner today?’ If there is no clear cut answer to that query, then we must consider that day a waste.
2. The desire to learn: the desire to grow will come only when there is an intense desire to learn something new. Learning is not to be confused with the mere collection of facts and trivia. Life is not a general knowledge competition – it is a journey towards salvation. Thus true learning is that knowledge which uplifts us from the humdrum of life, which inspires us to stretch our boundaries, to do something which we may have not dreamt of doing before. It is not necessary to read heavy tomes to acquire real knowledge. It can be a one line inspirational quote which can strike at our very heart and make us think in ways we may have never thought before.
3. The right friendships: True learning and true growth can come only when we surround ourselves with persons who are wiser than us, or who can teach us something we never knew. Wisdom is never measured by university degrees, it is rather measured by the contentment a person radiates. A person with complete contentment is the most wise. A very regrettable sight is seen in our Parsi colonies, where groups of persons gather around and discuss the same garbage, day in and day out. Rather than while away time in this manner, could we not put it to better use? Do not consider anyone inferior to you, for he may have much to offer.
Every man I meet is in some way my superior. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Read: We must make a conscious effort to read at least one paragraph relating to our religion every day. The Ilm-e-Khshnoom SkyDrive project was created with this objective in mind. Very often I used to hear the complaint: ‘where are the good books on religion?’ Today, after digitizing over 80% of Khshnoom literature, this question is irrelevant. Nor is language the problem. There are many English books which have been digitized, along with over 300 English articles from issues of Dini Avaz and other magazines. The 101 Questions book by Adi Doctor is an excellent resource to start. One question a day is enough. Read, think and then implement.
5. Pray: There can be no salvation without prayer. Prayer opens a special window between you and God, which non can disturb or intrude on. It is not necessary to spend hours on prayer, neglecting the other responsibilities of life. Rather a time set apart, everyday, which cannot be compromised on, will create a habit that will soon become addictive. Start small – a Kusti with full concentration and devotion, the Sarosh Baj, the 101 Names of God. These beginner steps will soon awaken a deep craving to pray more – you will be guided yourself.
6. Explore: In Mumbai, Parsis have a treasure trove of religious institutions, many of which are deserted. Can we not make it a point to explore each one of them on holidays or whenever it is convenient? With over 50 Agiaries in Mumbai, a new Agiary visited each weekend can easily make a whole year’s worth of sightseeing. Offer a stick of good sandalwood and bow down before the Padshah Sahebs established by donors long forgotten, read the marble inscriptions which describe how the institution was founded and say a simple Ashem Vohu in memory of that departed worthy who was inspired to consecrate the Agiary. Our Parsi calendars come with detailed notes, giving the Roj and Mah of the Salgreh of each Agiary. If convenient, we can visit the Padshah on His birthday and recite an Atash Nyaesh.
7. Simplicity and contentment: We tend to make our lives unnecessarily complex and hectic. We are determined to fill in any empty time slot with some or the other activity. Our children’s vacations are chock-full with camps, tuitions, expeditions and what-not. Our daily routine is so crammed that we have lost the ability to step back and think. I see with great pity and sadness the faces of those who come to the Agiary each morning. Their faces are set tight with tension, their actions are mechanical, their routine is lightning fast. Not too long ago, I too was part of that tribe. But we need to ask the question: what are we doing all this for? Is it just for a few rupees more? Or is it the central point of our existence?
The curse of money is on all of us. It compels us to compromise on all we hold dear. But remember, money can never buy happiness. From what little I have seen, in fact, the more we have it the more miserable it makes us. What use is money when no one looks on us with respect? what use is money when our loved one is taken away from us? what use is money when disease and old age make us incapable of performing even our basic functions with dignity?
‘Money will buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail.’ – Richard Friedman
What is missing from our life is love, simplicity and a feeling of contentment. Our religion lays great stress on simplicity and contentment. The core of our dissatisfaction lies in our lack of contentment:
There is no greater sin than desire, no greater curse than discontent, no greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself. Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich. – Lao Tzu.
8. Honesty and truth: Truth is the cornerstone of our religion. A true Zoroastrian will never lie, period. We must learn to say what we mean, and mean what we say. Lies arise when our heart feels one thing, the mind thinks another and our tongue says something else. Make your heart, mind and tongue work in beautiful unison and you will never lie! Another simple method to avoid untruth is to remain silent. There is great solitude in remaining quiet. There is too much noise in our lives. I see in so many Parsi homes, the radio blaring, the same cursed saas-bahu serials running loudly and persons talking without giving a thought to others staying around them. Parsi houses are filled with laughing Buddhas, floating turtles, evil eyes, bamboo shoots and what not, but where is the quiet murmur of Avesta prayers being recited? How can prosperity, righteousness and peace enter the house where the sacred chants of Avesta are not hummed, where this cacophony of materialism and evil has risen to a deafening crescendo?
9. Begin small: Readers of Frashogard, bring a definitive change in your lives. Start small. Recite one Ashem Vohu as soon as you get up. It does not matter if your head is covered or not. Pray five Yatha Ahu Vairyo and three Ashem before each meal, without making a show or attracting attention. Avoid moving barefooted at any time. Try and do a Kusti at each change of the Gah. Look at the Parsi calendar each day and realise what Roj it is. These are small exercises which don’t take any time, which no one can stop you from doing, but which will bring an immense change within you. Start small, it is the small steps which will lead us to salvation.
10. Learn to give away: Dr. Saheb Framroze Chiniwalla gives a beautiful lesson to all of us in his Khordeh Avesta. Writing on the practice of Tarikats, Doctor Saheb warns us that the true follower of Tarikats is not he who follows every rule and ridicules those who don’t follow any. Rather the learned Doctor says, the true Parsi is one who is ready to give up, without any hesitation or grudging, the fruits of all his Tarikats to one who may not be following any rules. Salvation is not born out of selfishness. Salvation can only come through true selflessness. When we become ready to offer all that we have to God, for Him to give to someone who may have nothing, then we can safely say that we are on the road to salvation.
Dear readers of Frashogard, not only our community, but also our country is passing through tumultuous times. The events of the last few days have shown the deep sense of frustration which lies in Indians who have endured the menace of corruption for too long. There are some in our community who have given calls for a Parsi Lokpal. But that is not the answer to our troubles. A Lokpal is already residing within us – our Fravashi, or Guiding Spirit, which causes our conscience to bite every time we think of evil. Every Parsi needs to develop this personal Lokpal. Every Parsi needs to be morally and spiritually accountable to himself for any wrongdoing. Every Parsi should be on guard so as to not fall into the trap of jumping the queue to get things done. If everyone behaves in this manner, where is the need for a community or even a national Lokpal?
Our ignorance and imperfectness is the cause of our misery. The beacon of Khshnoom, shown by our beloved Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff, is the guiding light which can remove this darkness of ignorance and put us out of our misery. It is the sacred objective of Frashogard to be a feeble mirror on which the beatific light of Khshnoom can reflect. May this reflection illumine our hearts and minds and inspire us to work for the salvation of others, which will then lead to our own ultimate salvation.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram