Roj Khordad, Mah Ardibehest, 1377 Yz.
We live in very troubled times today, where each person seems to be trapped in his or her personal hell. Our miseries seem never ending as one after another calamity, both natural and man-made strikes us. At such times, some of us feel angry with or betrayed by God. Does He not see the pain we are going through? Why does He allow so much evil to flourish on this earth? Why is it that the just suffer whilst the wicked make merry? Many Parsis seem to have given up faith in their Creator and often flock to alien places of worship, or turn to fake babas and charlatans in the hope of some short term benefits. But the real answer to our sorrows can be found in our scriptures themselves.
The Zarathushtrian religion has a very positive and proactive outlook towards evil and human suffering. One of the foremost exponents of proactive Zoroastrian philosophy was the wise sage Dastur Adurbad Mahrespand, who was the Prime Minister and Pontiff of the Sassanian King Shahpur II, who reigned in Persia in 309 – 379 AD. Those were extremely difficult days for the Persian monarchy. The growing influence of Christianity threatened the monarchy as well as the Zarathushtrian religion, and the faith of the ordinary Zarathushtrian was badly shaken. To convince the Parsis of the excellence of their own faith, the spiritually advanced seer publicly poured molten brass on his chest and miraculously escaped unhurt. In this way he removed the doubts from the minds of the Zarathushtrians and brought them back to their faith.
On his death bed, Dastur Adurbad dictated a series of lessons to his son, Zarthosht, which have been handed down till today as the Handarz i Adurbad Mahrespandan, the admonitions of Adurbad Mahrespand. These teachings, while being extremely simple and pithy, are of relevance even today, and give us important lessons of how to deal with life’s various challenges and yet remain faithful to one’s faith.
The golden rule of moderation was Dastur Adurbad’s key to living a good life. ‘Do not be unduly glad when good fortune comes to you and do not be unduly downcast when misfortune befalls you’ he said. ‘Be contended in adversity and patient in disaster.’ This is not a fatalistic approach to life, but rather an extremely healthy and positive approach which he has expounded beautifully in the Handarz.
Every time a misfortune befell me, says Dastur Adurbad, I derived six kinds of comfort and solace from it. The first comfort was this: The misfortune could have been much worse. I am thankful to God that it was only so much and no more. This is an extremely important lesson for us. In our suffering, we fail to realize that it could have been much worse. Hence it is appropriate to be thankful to God that the calamity that befell us was only so much grievous and not more.
The second solace I found, says the wise sage, was this: That the blow was to my body, and not to my soul. It is important to realize that the body is but a shell, given to us by God to further the progress of the soul. Hence it is much better that something happens to our physical well being, rather than a spiritual tragedy.
The third solace I derived from my misfortune was this, says Dastur Adurbad: That of all the misfortunes I have to endure, one more has passed. The sum total of a man’s suffering is dependant on his past thoughts, words and deeds, and is hence of a finite number. When a misfortune attends us, it is a source of solace to know that of the blows due to us, one more has passed.
The fourth comfort I realized, says the learned sage, was this: That I must have been a good man, so that Ahriman – the evil spirit, took the trouble to place misfortune on me on account of my goodness. Dastur Adurbad counsels us that when misfortune, which is the work of the evil spirit, visits us, we should be quietly contented, for it shows that the evil spirit has taken notice of our goodness and hence troubled us in the hope that we will be led astray from goodness.
The fifth comfort is this: That the effects of our evil thoughts, words and deeds fall either on us, or our children. Dastur Adurbad found solace that the misfortune fell on him and not on his child.
The final solace to be found in grief, says Dastur Adurbad, is this: That the total evil that can happen in the world is limited. When one such misfortune visits us, we should find comfort in the fact that the world is one evil less, and moving forward on the path to Ahura Mazda, the supreme lord.
Such are the counsels of this wise, but unknown sage. They effectively show us that misfortune and grief are part and parcel of everyday life, and that a positive attitude to our trials shall help us cross the greatest hurdle. What is needed is patience, faith in the mysterious ways of God, and the wisdom to realize that whatever happens happens for the best. That is why, Dastur Adurbad Mahrespand told his son: ‘remember, my son, of all things, wisdom is the best.’