Roj Asman Mah Fravardin, 1381 Yz.
Devotees carrying sticks of sandalwood as offering to the Padshah Saheb is a common sight in our Agiaries and Atash Behrams. Behdins having prayers for their dear departed also carry sticks of sandalwood to handover to the priest before he begins the ceremony. This is a good practice, much recommended. Offering good quality sandalwood is the prime method of approaching the Padshah Saheb.
But a disturbing trend is seen in all our Agiaries over the last few years – the practice of wrapping currency notes along with the sandalwood sticks and then putting the same in the metal tray at the doorstep of the Kebla. The same practice is also seen when devotees handover sandalwood for their family prayers, along with currency notes wrapped around the sticks towards the Ashodad for the priests performing the ceremony.
To make it very clear – this practice is totally wrong and doctrinally invalid. One can never mix sandalwood with currency notes. Why?
Firstly, from the view point of hygiene, this is a disgusting practice. A recent newspaper report revealed that tests conducted by a reputed private health laboratory found traces of coliform, E coli and Staphylococcus aureus on currency notes. Traces of pseudomonas, another family of bacteria, too were found. The laboratory studied the microbes which stayed on a currency note from a random sample of notes collected from shoppers. Notes of all denominations from Rs. 2 to Rs. 1000 were tested. E coli, coliform and pseudomonas were swarming on Rs.10 and Rs.100 notes (which are the most common and most heavily transferred denomination of notes). The Rs.50 and Rs.10 notes also had Staphylococcus aureus.
The head of the laboratory which conducted this study pointed out that finding pseudomonas on the notes was alarming since it can cause severe infection if it enters an open wound. He also cautioned against that most unfortunate practice of wetting the fingers using the tongue while counting notes, since it greatly aids in spreading the infection. Another doctor remarked that people must wash their hands thoroughly after counting notes to avoid infection. It is also observed that many banks have now equipped their cashiers with hand sanitizer bottles.
This detailed study should immediately alert Parsis that mixing notes and sandalwood is very wrong. We take great pains to ensure that sandalwood is dry, has not been touched by any person in an impure state or is not mixed with noxious items. Then why do we insist of wrapping notes around the pure sandalwood? The notes would have passed through several hands, which may have been contaminated through various deeds. Worse, the imprint of someone’s saliva, while counting the note might still be remaining (in a minute quantity) on the note. How can we wrap such a dirty, impure and contaminated object along with the sandalwood? Does it not totally destroy the purity and negate the value of the offering to our Holy Padshah Saheb?
There is also a great and deeply spiritual reason to stop this practice. Our religion has explained the concept of Aipi, or personal aura, which is carried by every person. The Aipi is like a blank canvas on which imprints of our daily thoughts, words and deeds are pasted every second. The Aipi needs to be cleansed of these undesirable imprints on a regular basis, through the performance of the Kusti ritual. This is the main reason why there is a Baj prayer to be recited along with the Kusti ritual before and after each toilet visit. Ustad Saheb cautioned that Parsis, before starting their personal prayer routines should always perform the Kusti ritual, so as to cleanse their personal Aipi of such negative imprints. Once in that state of heightened purity, a person should avoid any contact with any object which can reduce the level of high purity obtained by performing the Kusti. This is the reason why we do not touch old clothes, the bed, unwashed vessels etc. after performing the Kusti or starting prayers.
When we enter the Daremeher and perform the Kusti, our Aipi is relatively much cleaner than it was when we were outside. It is therefore desirable not to touch anything which can reduce that level of purity. When we touch our wallet and take out the currency notes, we are totally destroying the purity which had been built up by the Kusti ritual. Wrapping the notes, which are abounding not only in physical impurities but which may also have the Aipi imprints of undesirable persons left on them along with the sandalwood is akin to spiritual suicide.
Notes and coins should NEVER be placed in the Chamach or the tray in which the sandalwood is placed. The Head Priests of Agiaries and Atash Behrams should ensure that there is a separate box in which currency notes and coins can be deposited by the Devotees. Similarly, Devotees wishing to offer Ashodad to Priests doing their family prayers should not mix the money with the sandalwood, but can always handover the cash after the prayers are completed. Better still, the Ashodad can be placed in a small 3×2 envelope and then presented to the Mobed Saheb. It is a much more dignified way of offerring Ashodad. The current practice debases the sacred role of the Priest and brings him down to the level of a car parking valet, being handed over a tip. Such crude practices should be avoided.
A better option would be to make it a practice of having a separate bundle of new currency notes at home in a separate, clean place. These notes should be used only in the Agiary. This would lessen the impurity to some extent, although even such notes should not be mixed with the sandalwood.
Dear readers, the bedrock of our religion is purity – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. But the basic physical purity is the foundation on which everything else can be built. In our modern times, we Parsis seem to have lost our sense of chokhai which was so prevalent in our grandparents and which was drilled into by our elders. The present generation does not have the benefit of that advice and hence we fall prey to such simple, but grave spiritual errors.
It is hoped that readers of Frashogard will think twice before mixing a pure, holy offering to the Padshah Saheb with the bacteria laden and spiritually inappropriate currency note.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram