Can we attend such ‘Navjotes’?

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Roj Jamyad Mah Ardibehesht, 1386 Yz: Baj of Seth Jehangirji S. Chiniwalla

The season for weddings and Navjotes will soon begin. Already the first invites have started trickling in. As is the case, many invites are for functions where, in case of marriages one party is non-Zoroastrian, or in the case of Navjotes, one of the parents is non-Zoroastrian.

What should we do? For many Parsis unfortunately, the question doesn’t even arise today – why, it’s an invite, so we have to go? What’s wrong? Everyone’s doing it anyway! Others try to be more judicial – we are only attending the reception, we will not take part in the ceremony…Some, very few, do not attend. These unfortunate few are then bombarded with questions from other family members…you didn’t attend the Navjote? Why? Arre, ema su thayu? Change with the times, ya! Have to baddhaj gher ma evo case hoi…how will you enjoy all the patras then? And so on…

But really, what should one do? Is it really wrong to attend such functions? What really happens?

Today, I received the Navjote invite of a friend’s daughter. The friend is married to a non-Parsi but shares a lovely rapport with me. We chat regularly, send each other articles of mutual interest and lean on each other in times of difficulty. The upcoming Navjote was of course discussed and logistics sorted out. Finally the invite, gorgeously designed and beautifully executed, arrived. On several occasions my friend had hinted on my attending the function, always maintaining that although my position was well understood by them and they would never want me to compromise on my beliefs, still… I maintained that my position was, indeed, well known and my reply would come once the official invite was received. Obviously one can’t RSVP unless the invite comes! So finally today, the invite came by post.

As promised, I sent a detailed reply to my friend. I thought it might be of interest to readers of Frashogard too, so am posting it here, after taking out all names and direct references.

By some coincidence (but as we all know, there are no coincidences!) today is also the Baj of late Jehangirji S. Chiniwalla, the lion of Khshnoom and the Master Orator and Editor of Parsi Avaz, whose hundreds of articles on this topic are well known, if not read. There exists a much deeper understanding of the spiritual consequences of inter-marriage and ‘Navjotes’ of the progeny of such alliances which can be easily found in the pages of Parsi Avaz as well as the writings of Dr. Framroze S. Chiniwalla.

But who has the time and energy to read through such articles! And how many have the deep understanding and intellect required to absorb what they have written! This letter to my friend is by no means a complete or comprehensive treatment on this subject. But it is a personal letter written out of the pain which arises when one sees the direction in which the Parsi community is moving, slowly but inexorably towards its nadir.

Writing to another friend a few days ago who was going through a period of intense suffering after another failed relationship (btw, suffering seems to be very common these days!) I remarked: ‘If there is a horizon on one end, there has to be a shore on the other… Patience, hard work, resilience, implicit trust in God and love and caring for those around you…all these will help you sail through the darkest night of your life.’ So also this long dark night of our community continues without a seeming dawn. But dawn will come, and sooner than we think!

May the Ruvan of Behdin Jehangir Behdin Sohrab progress ahead! Here is the letter to my friend:

 

My dear friend,

Thanks so much for sending me the beautiful invite for your function! It’s really well made and gorgeous! We’ve been communicating on this off and on and the question was always asked: will I attend? Due to some miscommunication on my part, for which I apologize, you felt that maybe I would attend.

Short answer: I won’t.

Longer answer: I wouldn’t attend such a function even if it were my own family or my child.

Really detailed answer, with reasoning: What is a Navjote? Is it, as so many invitation cards proudly proclaim, an initiation? No. One can never be initiated in Zoroastrianism. One is born into the faith. Either one is Zoroastrian by birth, or is not. The Navjote is a sacred ceremony, a beautiful process whereby the spiritual breath (called Ushtan) of the child is joined with the Spiritual Breath of Prophet Zarathushtra, which permeates the cosmos. Till the Navjote, the child’s Ushtan is tethered to Z’s through the parents. Once the Navjote is performed, the child is independently connected to Z’s power station in the cosmos and becomes eligible to receive the munificence that is rained constantly, and on special days, called Hingams or Spiritual Festivals, the special beneficial currents called Fasal, or Asere Roshni. These currents are caught by the child through the twin beacons of properly stitched, ritually correct and Manthra-enabled Sudreh Kusti. They enter the spiritual bodies (called Keherp, Ushtan and Tevishi) of the child, through the 16 Chakhras (Spiritual Receiving Stations) located at different points of the body, are processed there, and on opportune times, transferred to the physical bodies, bestowing health, vitality, intelligence, faith and many other characteristics to the child.

In order for a child to be part of this process, it should be born through Zoroastrian parents, raised in a Zoroastrian atmosphere and bestowed with the sacred, innate character that distinguishes people of different faiths from one another. The sacred, innate character is not some airy-fairy concept, but rather a Spiritual Energy, called Atash (not to be confused with Fire). This Atash, which resides in the innermost part of the spiritual DNA of every person, is different for persons of different faiths and has specific names like Atash Vohu Friyan, Mino Karko, Vazisht, Urvazisht and Spenisht. While all individuals have these different Fire Energies, some are latent and some dominant. The five major faiths – Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Z are all recognized because they each have a different Fire Energy active in the Spiritual DNA of their respective followers.

In order for a person to progress spiritually and achieve salvation (Frashogard) the Fire Energy present and active in his DNA needs to be further energized and fuelled to greater heights. This is possible through following the religious disciplines and Tarikats (religious methodologies) of the faith he/she was born into. For a Zoroastrian, that means putting on the sacred vestments of Sudreh Kusti, head covering, Manthra prayers, utilizing the spiritual institutions of Atash Behrams, Agiaries, Dakhmas, Yasna etc. to achieve spiritual progress and move towards Frashogard, one small step at a time.

Marriage is a sacrament in Zoroastrianism. The scriptures are replete with references to the benefits of a married life. It is a physical representation of the Divine Event of union of the two parts of a fragmented soul, called Khaetwodath, which will happen for all of us at some point of time. Our life partners are partners in our spiritual progress too.

The divine act of marriage and married life is of course beneficial when the Fire Energies of both persons is of the same type. That is the reason why union between persons of two differing faiths is strictly discouraged in Zoroastrianism, without any reference to whether the person is male or female. The rules apply equally to both.

When two persons of differing faiths indulge in sexual intercourse – with or without the ‘license’ of a marriage contract, a great disturbance arises in their spiritual bodies. No one will deny that sexual intercourse is much more and deeper than merely a physical act – it touches the core of both parties. When two bodies unite in this bond, their spiritual DNA also mixes. When both parties are of the same religion, their Atash energies are of the same type although of differing intensities. (this is the reason why in earlier days, marriage even between people of priestly class and Behdins was discouraged). The partner with the higher and deeper intensity may, over a period of time, raise his partner’s Spiritual Intensity to his/her higher level, or unfortunately, come down to the baser level of the other. But the Atash Energies are of the same type and hence no spiritual disturbance arises.

However, when both partners are of different faiths, the spiritual DNA cannot mingle freely – they clash. Over a period of time, the Atash Energies of both partners becomes suffused with that of the other – a dilution and mixing which gives rise to a totally different set of spiritual DNA for which nature has to bear additional time and expense. When a Zoroastrian commits such an act, his Fire Energy is gravely disturbed and diluted. This disturbance is further amplified in his spiritual bodies and, ultimately in his physical being. As such, the unique identity for which his soul had toiled for so many generations and lives is now diluted and compromised. Such a person cannot, unfortunately, continue to call himself or herself as Zoroastrian. Due to the emergence of cross-religious spiritual DNA in his body, such a person cannot reap spiritual benefits from any of the Zoroastrian institutions mentioned above. Their attendance at Fire Temples, ceremonies, and any other religious or spiritual function has no beneficial influence on them, but rather puts a load on the spiritual institution.

When the relationship is confined merely to cohabiting, these are the grave spiritual consequences. But when the partners decide to have a child, a totally new dimension arises. As the semen and ova also contain the spiritual DNA of each partner, the child is infused with characteristics of both faiths – but not enough to be classified as belonging to either faith completely. In case where either partner (male or female, it doesn’t matter) is Zoroastrian, under no circumstances can the child be classified as Zoroastrian. This is the unfortunate truth, despite whatever rights secular law may bestow on such children. Spiritually, such a child is not Zoroastrian.

Therefore, to invest such a child with the ultimate Zoroastrian sacred vestments of Sudreh Kusti is not only ritually incorrect, but a grave spiritual sin whose consequences are too severe to enumerate or imagine. For any ‘Priest’ to perform such a ‘ceremony’ is a sin beyond any redemption. In the case of a ‘Priest’ who is himself inter-married, and therefore, non-Zoroastrian, and bereft of any spiritual authority to do anything, this tragically deconstructs into a spiritual farce of the highest order. Those who encourage, abet, help, aide and otherwise take part in such a sham are not only submersing themselves in sin, but worse, are by their behaviour, placing a spiritual slap on the face of their beloved Prophet.

To be part of this function would only cause me intense pain and emotional trauma of a type I cannot put in words. I feel no hatred or animosity towards anyone, only a deep sense of agony, spiritual sadness and utter helplessness as I feel so totally incapable of either explaining my view or doing anything to stop such an event from happening. As a priest who loves his religion dearly, who puts his devotion towards Prophet Zarathushtra above all, to ever be part of this would not only be unthinkable, but akin to committing spiritual suicide.

I must therefore, very respectfully, decline your gracious invitation. That evening will be a tough one for me, wherever I will be, because my mind will be subsumed with thoughts of love and tenderness for your lovely child, who is without blemish and sin, a beautiful lotus about to bloom, a true child of God, whose very name points to the twinkling star we must all become – radiant, shining, orbs of goodness and Divine Light! Just now, we are all far from that state. Just now, we are rather like the muck that surrounds the lotus. And as the evening passes, I will spend time praying and beseeching God that He forgives us for the enormous wrong that we will do, that He will, in His Everlasting Glory and Kindness, treat us compassionately as His wayward children, and gently, but firmly, show us the True Path Ahead towards Salvation.

Please forgive me if I have hurt your feelings by what I have written, but as one who aspires to be a true friend – not just one who agrees with whatever you may say or do, I considered it my duty to let you know what I truly feel. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but this is what I was taught by my Masters and this is what I truly believe. I wish you nothing but the best, now and forever!

Best regards,

Marzban

 

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Comments

  1. Ruby Sanjana.  October 13, 2016

    Long awaited but truly truly a very strong message. Thank you once again.
    Tandarosti.

  2. Temus Bejon Maneckshana  October 14, 2016

    This article negates the long held belief that an off spring of a Zoroastrian father be considered Zoroastrian with all rights and privileges. I subscribe to the theory that a child born in a wedlock between a non-Zoroastrian man and a Zoroastrian woman should not be considered a Zoroastrian and as such the Navjote ritual will be outside the realm of possibility. While we must observe our rich Zoroastrian tradition(s), the idea that a child born to a Zoroastrian father not be allowed to participate in our Zoroastrian faith is in my opinion not only wrong, but also deprives the child of his/her natural rights to practice his/her father’s faith. This belief based on erroneous science also is not very conducive to the long term survival of our Zoroastrian faith. While it may not seem important to a purist, a strict constructionist, like Ervard MJH (and I respect his thoughts, I really do), I think we need to relax a bit and be more practical in our approach. Weather Ervard MJH appreciates or not, this Navjote ritual of a child born to a non-Zoroastrian mother and a Zoroastrian father, is practiced since – well not eternity – but as long as I can remember. Ervard MJH may not approve but I am sure the Pegambar himself would give his blessings to this/these child(ren).

  3. Silloo Mehta  October 14, 2016

    Please have an option to “Print” the post.

  4. Noshir M. Khambatta  October 14, 2016

    Once again a magnificent reply in keeping with our religious requirements. Long Live Ervad Hathiram for the benefit of our community.

  5. Khursheed b Irani  October 14, 2016

    It is because of such advice n moral n emotional support that I too have been able to take a stand. Pl keep on sending such articles to his strengthto keep in going n to make others realise the wrong they are committing

  6. Hootokshi thanawalla  October 14, 2016

    Respected Ervard Hathiram,
    Thanks for your enlightened message. It is a pleasure to read your article after a long span of time.I would appreciate if you could share your views on attending after death ceremonies held in prayer Hall
    Hootokshi.

  7. Hanoz Mistry  October 15, 2016

    Wonderfully explained, Marzban. But I am perplexed why you write : I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, ………. ??? This is what Ustad Saheb has taught us and it has to be right.

  8. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 15, 2016

    @Hanoz
    The reality and apparent reality are different. The reality will be revealed only on our Chaharum…hence the statement.

  9. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 15, 2016

    @Hootokshi
    Where an illegal act is in progress, even attending is akin to accepting it. Stay away.

  10. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 15, 2016

    @Temus
    The acceptance is not practiced since as long as you can remember, but only since the last about 100 years. Your closeness to the Prophet and your knowledge of His likes and dislikes is quite admirable sir! You seem destined for great things…

  11. Burjor Bharucha  October 15, 2016

    I wonder wether there was any truth in the recent press report stating that approx 100,000 Kurds established a zoroastrian Agiary in Kurdistant. Photographs showing Mobeds in perfect zoroastrian garb were shown performing supposedly the avasta prayers. The attendees were all wearing the Sudra Kusti and while the ladies were seen in beautiful saris the men folk were all wearing the white Duglee. It was a very pleasant sight and brightened the hope that after all the flame of the zoroastrian religion will keep burning for a some more centuries. Yatha Zamyad Yathafri Namee.

  12. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 15, 2016

    @Burjor
    The flame of Zoroastrianism will keep alive for ever …we need to stop worrying about that and think more on how we can each be better Zoroastrians ourselves… If each did that there would be no problems!

  13. FAROKH  October 16, 2016

    A religion teaches you the path of life to reach the Almighty. It seems from the post that a child born out of a wedlock, father being a Parsi cannot practise a good religion and lead a righteous life because it is the different DNA that prohibits him from adopting his father’s good religion. Which scriptures does one find a reference to the DNA theory? And why did our Asho prophet travel to different countries to preach and spread his good religion ? Did he selectively preach the religion ? The teachings were clearly belieiving in one Almighty (Mazda yasni). A religion is for the mankind (here child with a Parsi father)to lead and follow it’s teaching, to bring the wrong on the right path. People with different DNA will also reach heaven if they are on the righteous path shown by religion/s. Prohibiting its followers to practise their religion is a bigger sin. It’s like telling someone to not teach/follow the good path as you were not born into the faith with both parents following the same faith since their birth or since your parents sinned , you will have to continue as a sinner by not following a good religion. My humble request is Zoroastrianism is a good religion, spread the good religion with the right message supported with facts and not impose one’s interpretation (DNA theory)as if it were the preaching from the scriptures .

  14. Jehangir  October 16, 2016

    Articles like this, beliefs like this, and common people like yourself, “Ervad” Hathiram, are why young Zoroastrians, who will carry this religion on their shoulders long after you are dead and gone want NOTHING to do with our beautiful religion. Your archaeic beliefs, holier than thou attitude, and condescending tone are an embarassment to modern day Zoroastrians, and religion across the board.

    Irrespective of whatever rapport you think you have with said “friend”, how can you remotely think someone who extends an invite to a Navjote would not be offended by your verbal diahhrea all over their joyous occasion? Your lack of intelligence is only surpassed by your lack of respect.

    Furthermore the other sheep leaving comments here praising your words are also part of the problem. Good day, sir.

    To anyone else reading this, please be assured that these beliefs are not who we are, not what we represent, and are definitely not universal.

  15. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 17, 2016

    @Jehangir
    Thanks for your comments. The beliefs I carry and espouse are not mine alone but are what are enshrined in our scriptures, practiced by our forefathers for thousands of years and are the sole reason you and me both have the luxury of sitting at home and writing this. Were it not so there would have been no Parsi community. To agree or disagree with my views is your prerogative. But the language you use itself reflects the dignity, or otherwise, of your thinking, upbringing and current position. Each of the nice adjectives you have used for me can be equally, if not more, applied to you. Have a good day sir!

  16. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 17, 2016

    @Farokh
    Thanks for your comments. To compare a normal person with the Prophet, whose status in the very scriptures you seem to quote from is that of a Yazata – a Divine Worshipful Being is ridiculous. The Prophet has a Divine Mission, is appointed by God to carry out his Divine Plan. To put yourself, or me or any other person in that same category is disrespectful to the Prophet. Furthermore, you may be aware that over 95% of our scriptures are lost. If you are questioning me about the reference to my ‘theories’ surely I can ask you to point out the reference where the same is NOT mentioned? Isn’t the practice of our forefathers for thousands of years, both in Iran and India a reflection of which view is more dominant and correct? My humble request to you is to study the scriptures in detail, not superficially and try to understand the real truth behind the timeless practices and traditions of our faith.

  17. Chothia  October 18, 2016

    This is wonderful. Truly enlightening. Thank you for the explanation, at what i have always been on a divide.

  18. Sarosh Shroff  November 8, 2016

    I have 2 questions.
    1st. has anywhere in the avesta or shahnamah or any where in the holy books been mentioned that there cannot be conversions from other castes to Parsi/zoroastrians. If yes then kindly tell us where with some pictorial proof. (please don’t give diplomatic answers).

    2nd. has the only lord almighty who has created the universe (whom no one can see) made arrangements of different heavens and hells for different castes. i.e. hindu hell or heaven for Hindus, Parsi / Zoroastrian hell and heaven for Parsis and Zoroastrians, and Muslim hell and heaven for Muslims and so on and so forth. If yes then kindly elaborate on this topic. (here also please don’t give diplomatic answers). If no then why all people from different refrain from getting inter-caste marriages done, in the name of their own prophets.

  19. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  November 10, 2016

    @Sarosh

    I too have a question for you Sarosh:
    1. has anywhere in the avesta or shahnamah or any where in the holy books been mentioned that there CAN be conversions from other castes to Parsi/zoroastrians. If yes then kindly tell us where with some pictorial proof. (please don’t give diplomatic answers).

    2. Re your second question, the answer is Yes. There are different levels of heaven and hell and different places in the cosmos where Ruvans of varying religions go. I would advise you to read the series ‘Wondrous Circle of Life‘ to get more information.

  20. Temus Bejon Maneckshana  November 13, 2016

    My family and I join Mr. Khambatta in wishing Ervard Harthiram and his benevolent family a long and happy life. AMEN!!

    To Ms. Hootokhsi’s comments, sir, you have responded by writing that the Navjote of a half Zoro child is an illegal act. I respectfully disagree. While it may very well be a nonreligious act (subject to interpretation), the courts cannot rule the ceremony “ILLEGAL.” The Constitutions of all developed/developing nations (including India), guarantee our individual rights to believe in any God, any religion, regardless of our heritage at birth, color of skin etc., etc. It is just not a legal argument, it is as well a moral and an intellectual argument. We all believe in one God and rights as guaranteed by our respective Constitutions, then why should the argument be illegal.

    This leads me to my next comment that follow……..

  21. Temus Bejon Maneckshana  November 14, 2016

    This entire conversation leads me to ask – are we racist people? Is Zororastrian community a racist community? Is Zoroastriansim a racist religion? Let me explain……..

    We Zoroastrians are not in favor of inter-racial marraige. We seem to be vehemently opposed to the Navjote of half non-Zoro kids. We think that they are lesser children of God who are not privilege to our faith. We Zoros do not touch a non-Zoro after our bath and on our way to the Fire Temple. We prohibit non-Zoros from participating (asked to sit in another room) in our funerals and other religious ceremonies. In fact, we do not allow them, non-Zoros, to see the face of a deceased Zoro after the holy bath. We do not share our chasni with non-Zoros.

    Have you noticed – we are the only faith in the world that does not allow non-Zoros entrance to our Atashbehrams and Agyaris! Why is that? I can humbly say that I have traveled this globe and seen many places of worship. Every church, every mosque, every synagogue, every temple, I have seen welcome ALL WORSHIPERS. They have welcome mates on their front door. In contrast, every Fire Temple I have been to, has a sign hanging on the front door “PARSIS ONLY.”

    I have many Zoro friends married to non-Zoros. When asked, would you like to worship with a non-Zoro in our places of worship, the answer is a strong NO. Truly makes me scratch my head.

    Yes we are proud Zoros, but should we – the modern generation living in a modern era – blindly accept our very ancient practices, our rituals, our believes, without a challenge. Without questioning the true meaning and the significance of it all. We Zoros are highly educated, responsible and modern in our lifestyle, yet in our religious practices we are – well a dinosaur of the millenniums gone by.

    My thoughts are not meant to offend the readers. My apologies if I did.

  22. Anu Modi  December 3, 2016

    Aren’t all persons of any religion converts? Was Zarthustra saheb BORN a Parsi? Why are we fostering and encouraging sectorism? Is it because Parsis feel they are somewhat superior and don’t want their blood ‘tainted’? Reminds me of a benign Hitler. The community is dying out because of those who would use religion and a sort of puritism to deny others becoming part of it. Chaalo, I could even understand not allowing conversion into the religion (though I don’t think it fair) but to deny a child of a Parsi parent–mother or father–space as a Zorashtrian is just wrong and will eventually sound our death knell.
    Agree with last post.

  23. Anu Modi  December 3, 2016

    I hadn’t read many previous comments, but having done so, I will say:

    Jahangir, your personal attack is uncalled for. Criticise the opinion, not the person. Just my opinion.
    Farokh, I liked your comment.
    Ervad Marzban, re your reply to Sarosh and another, it is illogical to ask someone to prove a negative or quote your own work. Your opinion is valid to you, and all respect to it, but it could be wrong, as I think you yourself have humbly suggested.

  24. Avan  December 25, 2016

    Even if you cannot be invested or are stopped from being invested with a Sadra or Kusti for whatever reason, and so your Navjote is not performed, still if you believe in the principles of Zoroastrianism which is good thoughts, good words and good deeds and try to live by them, these being the essence of Zoraostrianism , then you are a true Zoroastrian. Thats what I beleive. I may be corrected.

  25. Keyur  March 3, 2017

    This man who has written this whole thing cannot believe in the Great Prophet Zoroaster…people make a religion….prophet Zoroaster’s teachings are so amazing that everyone should get a chance to live by those values and principles….you cannot as a human come in between the great lord and the human soul…please read history…also
    I am sorry if this logic is right than the main Atash Behram in Iran would have had the same policy of not allowing non zoro’s to the temple…

    I mean your individual thought is fine on this matter do not make it the voice of the prophet. I am a Hindu bhramin boy who prays to propher zoraster and he has always been my support..

    By your saying I should have been cursed by him…lord so untrue…more on the fact about energies…your ancestors left your country of origin, your Lang to save the teaching to be passed on…please don’t do the grave sin of stopping an innocent child from learning the teachings of the lord. You are only human…the lord and his teachings his greatness has existed for much longer..I plead to let it be spread in a pure way. By 2050 hardly 19k Parsis will be left and by 2100 may be none. You need the teachings to be passed on for the next 5000 years…the greatness that I have felt needs more believers…the faith of the good should be carried on and on and if you bel Zoroastrianism can only be passed if you are born into it than possibly prophet zoraster was not born into it…

    Just a request. Btw Good deed is not about selfish beliefs but in sharing joys.

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