Roj Dae-pa-Din, Mah Spendarmad, 1381 Yz.
The question is often put to me by many devotees: ‘Dasturji, for how long should we do the Muktad prayers?’ There is really no easy answer to this question. But I generally drive the conversation in the following manner.
Me: It’s all a question of feeling, what we call ‘laagni’ in Gujarati.
Devotee: What do you mean, Dasturji?
Me: How many children do you have?
D: Two (if they say none, then I ask how many children their parents had. Obviously the answer is one or more.)
Me: So how old are they now?
D: Oh, one is 35, married and has a child, the other is 27 and looking around for a good partner. What to do, Dasturji, koi sojju maltuj nathi…’
Me: Hmm, so now that they are quite old they must be all leading their separate lives, right?
D: Of course, but Dasturji, they are still our children, no?
Me: Of course, you are totally right. Even if they be 50 and you be eighty, they will still call you mummy and you will still call them your dikra or dikri, correct?
D: Of course, Dasturji, aapra bachcha te aappraj vari! Tame bhi su vari…
Me: So basically, there is no time limit for you to be a father or mother and for them to be children, the bond ensures till we are alive, right?
D: Yes, Dasturji… (thinking in her mind: the recent operation seems to have affected his memory a little I think, poor Dasturji!) but what has that got to do with my question about the Muktad?
Me: So if there is no time limit for your children to be yours, how come you want to put a time limit to your own deceased parents? Do they stop being your parents/relatives after one year is over? Does the fondness and affection you had for them diminish after a certain period? Then why put a time limit to performing their Muktad?
D: (in her mind: marere, ai to fasi gayaa! Dasturji to bo chaalaak thai gayaach operation pachi!) (Loudly) Oh, I had not thought about it in that way! But what to do, someone says one year, someone says five years, someone says 12 years, someone even told me 57 years! Whom to believe, Dasturji, after all who has seen whether all this is really true, no? And nowadays it has become so expensive to perform the Muktad! (In her mind: Let’s see him answer that, smarty pants!)
Me: Of course! Don’t you know, someone HAS seen all of this!
D: (in her mind: there he goes again… The operation has really affected him, poor chap!)
Me: There are two persons whom we know and believe, who have given us this information. The first was of course the pious Dastur Arda Viraf, whose Ruvan was taken on a tour of heaven and hell by Sarosh Yazad and Adar Yazad for several days, while his physical body remained on earth. He then came back and recounted his entire journey which is preserved in the book called Arda Viraf Nameh. The second was of course our own Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Shroff, who was shown in Sezda the Divine regions of Nisti where the souls arrive after death and the various regions where they progress. He recounted these visions to many of his disciples who have documented many interesting tidbits about his experiences. As per the guidelines given by our Ustad Saheb, the ideal period to do the Muktad is, indeed, 57 years!
D: Really? (in her mind: Dasturji seems to have a nice business, 57 years of income…) But many Agiaries ask Behdins to stop the prayers after a few years, then what is one to do?
Me: That is correct. Unfortunately, due to the lack of well qualified and dedicated priests, and the increasing number of Parsis dying, many Agiaries indeed do ask the Behdins to stop the prayers after a few years. But you can still continue doing the Muktad.
D: Really? How can I do that, Dasturji?
Me: If your Agiary or Panthaky refuses to perform separate prayers for your deceased ones, you can still always put their Karasya on the Anjuman table and have their name taken in the Anjuman prayers. Even if the Agiary does not accept the Karasya, they will surely not say no to adding a name to the Anjuman list. If they say no to that also, there are a few Agiaries and Atash Behrams where names are taken for any deceased Parsi in common Anjuman prayers. Some people even advertise in our Jame Jamshed for such prayers. You can always do that.
D: Yes, indeed, that is a good idea. But who knows Dasturji, they must be getting so many names, when must they be saying all of them, must they be doing everything correctly…?
Me: Please remember, maiji, Ustad Saheb has given us a very important teaching regarding this. The Behdin’s responsibility is to ensure that he instructs a Priest to perform the ceremonies and prayers for his deceased relative. That is the Behdin’s obligation. Once he has done that, the responsibility shifts to the Panthaky or Priest who has taken on the job. If he commits any error, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the quantum of sin will be added to his account. A large amount of his good deeds will be cancelled and that credit will go to the account of the deceased’s Ruvan, who is waiting eagerly for the benefit of the prayers and ceremonies to reach him. So please, do your part, and leave the rest to Nature. But there is an even better alternative and much cheaper, in fact!
D: There is? Please tell me, Dasturji! (in her mind: now he’s beginning to make some sense! Aai kon vari Ustad Saheb ne badhaa Aasman ne badhi havaai jevi vaat…)
Me: Of course I will tell you. Our Ustad Saheb…
D: (in her mind: Aai vari paacha Ustad Saheb ka vach maa aavi gaya, aai su mandyuch, jaraa jaraa vaar maa Ustad Saheb, Gustad Saheb…)
Me: Our Ustad Saheb explained that the best person to do the prayers for the deceased is the relative himself!
D: (in her mind: Chaalo! Aai to vari aapraj maatha par aavi gayu…)
Me: The best alternative, maiji, is to maintain a clean and pure place in your house, keep a constant Divo for the 18 days of the Muktad, and pray daily the Stum no Kardo available in our Khordeh Avesta book. This is the best way to remember our gujrela vaahla! Go to the Agiary daily, pray the Muktad no Namaskar over there, remember the fond memories that our departed gave us all those years ago. Even if you recall some unpleasant experiences, please realize that those errors were committed by the person. We are now remembering the Ruvan of the person, not the person. Hence there should be no ill-will or regret towards the Ruvan of the deceased. As our Ustad Saheb explained, when a person arrives at the doors of Chinvat, ten generations of his past relatives come to receive him there with open arms. There is no kajio-kankaas there, maiji, all that we leave over here! So please continue to have the Muktad done for as long as is financially possible. Taking one name in the Anjuman list costs less than one rupee per day – just think! Can we not spare even one rupee per day for each of our departed? How can we bring in money into this equation? It is all a question of laagni, maiji! And do remember, what we do for our deceased relatives, our own children will do for us! Please bear in mind that we too will have to go one day…
D: (in her mind: Marere muo absugan jevo! Next time I will be very careful what I ask this person! He is too sharp for me!) (Loudly) Of course you are correct, Dasturji, badhi laagni nij vaat che! Chaalo have hu jaav…
I wish all readers of Frashogard a spiritually uplifting 18 days of the Farvardegan. May you relive the fond memories of those who have left us and may you prove to be their worthy sons and daughters, or relatives! You will excuse me for the next few days as I fulfill my responsibilities towards my own departed relatives and those many who have transferred their spiritual responsibility on to my shoulders. May the Sahebs give me the strength and fortitude to bear this heavy burden!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram