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!