Roj Bahman Mah Shehrevar, 1384 Yz.
Fasli Roj Bahman Mah Bahman
Today is Fasli Roj Bahman, Mah Bahman – the Zoroastrian Day of respect for Gospands. Generally speaking, Gospand – derived from Avesta Gao Spenta, is translated as beneficent cattle. This superficial translation, however, does no justice to the important role played by one of the most important types of Ahura Mazda’s creations, which occupies a place of respect throughout the Avesta scriptures. The Gathas are replete with references to Gao Spenta, Geush Urva (the Soul of the Earth) and Geush Tashn (the moulder of the earth). Gao Spenta is intrinsically linked to Vohu Mana, or Bahman Ameshaspand, who overlooks all aspects of this creation.
The moot question however is – how to define Gao? Is it merely cattle? Our respected scholars opine that in the time when Prophet Zarathushtra lived, there was no currency. The wealth and importance of a person was measured by the size of the herd of cattle he had. Hence the importance of Gao Spenta in the scriptures. Such literal and historical translations not only do not do justice to the scriptures, but also break the faith of Parsis who try to understand what their scriptures really mean.
Our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah N. Shroff gave a completely new and beautifully deep and mystic understanding of the term and its real connotation. Ustad Saheb explained that there are two main forces in this world. One is the force of good, which aims to take man forward in his quest for salvation. This force of good offers the very best it has to another, without any remorse or expectation in return. Its sole aim is to help others climb the spiritual ladder. Such a good force is known in Avesta as Gao. This force is manifested in all the kingdoms – animal, vegetable, mineral and human.
On the other hand, there exists a force in nature which aims to appropriate everything that is good for itself, without any regard for others. Its sole purpose is to exploit, overuse, steal and even kill another in order to take away something which is not his but which catches his eye. This malevolent force lives purely for the present, has no thought about the past or the future. Instant gratification at any cost is its motto. Such an evil force is known in Avesta as Druj – those who deceive, lie. Examples of this evil force are also manifested in the animal, vegetable, mineral and human kingdoms.
Which are the representatives of the Gao Spenta creation? Ustad Saheb revealed that the prime example of Gao is the cow – the mother who gives her best produce – the milk to others without any remorse. The bull, which is equally revered in the Zoroastrian religion gives us the most important resource – Taro, which is converted to Nirang through the miraculous Nirangdin ceremony ad which forms the basis of all Zoroastrian ritual. But Ustad Saheb revealed a deeper aspect to this fact. He explained that the presence of such animals as cattle spread an aura of peace and compassion in the area they are kept. The Master described this giving-all-to-others-aspect of cattle with another Pahlavi word – Radih – righteous charity. The cow and the bull are prime representatives of Radih nature – which gives without asking, without expectation for anything in return and without the slightest hesitation.
Ustad Saheb further explained that when man’s own thoughts develop this Radih mentality, he begins his slow climb towards becoming the Zoroastrian ideal man. When man treads this path, all other facets of the Gao creation work with him, for him, helping him manifold. After many years of living such a mindful, giving and compassionate life, steeped in the Tarikats of the Zoroastrian faith, the Radih minded person becomes a Drighu – a true mendicant, a seeker of Truth above all. After years on this path he goes further to achieve the Dahm Nar status and after that finally qualifies to be known as an Ashavan – one who works on the good side of nature.
Ustad Saheb revealed that in addition to cattle, there are many representatives of the Gao Spenta in the animal kingdom. These include the horse, the crow, the dog, the camel, the peacock, parrots and the cock. Each of these animals help the cause of Gao Spenta in a particular fashion. The horse – the most favourite animal of the Iranians gives off a most beneficent vibration from its mane, which interacts with the spiritual Chakhras of the person riding the horse and strengthens the spiritual strength and power of the rider. This deep connection allows the rider to guide the speed, direction and stride of the horse merely by his thoughts.
The humble crow – a most common occurrence in our cities fulfils the most important role as a scavenger who picks up all contagious matter and stops the spread of disease and contagion. The cock and the parrot – favourite pets of Parsis, cleanse the air of any spiritual pollution through their piercing cries and crowing. The strong gaze of dog is always used in our Sagdid ceremony where the spread of Druj Nasu is stopped after death. Similarly the gaze of the peacock stops the spread of Druj Nasu and is the reason why they abound on the Dungerwadi grounds. The camel is the saviour of the traveller in the desert – giving its milk and the stored water in its hump as the ultimate sacrifice to its maters.
The Zoroastrian religion gives deep respect to each of these creations of God. That is why many of the older Khordeh Avesta books had a special Namaskar-i-Gospand – which was meant to be recited whenever we first lay eyes on any of these beneficent creations of Ahura Mazda. The Gospand Namaskar is actually taken from the first two paragraphs of the 21st Pargarad of the Vandidad.
Today’s day is an apt one to remember these beneficent animals. Such reverence shown for them in the Avesta should also make it absolutely clear that their meat or flesh can never form part of a true Zoroastrian’s diet. We may dream up all kinds of excuses to satiate our salivary glands but the truth is that a Parsi can never partake of these meats.
The ecological impact caused by the rearing of cattle purely for their meat is now obvious. While millions of humans die of starvation, precious grain is grown to feed cattle which is then slaughtered in a mechanical manner devoid of any compassion. The cow is ever ready to offer her most precious gift – her milk, but the wolf in us refuses the milk and goes for the meat, thereby literally killing the golden goose.
It is also apt to remember on this day the dire warning of Ustad Saheb, who explained that cattle instinctively realize when they are going to be slaughtered (whether ‘humanely’ or not is not relevant). At this time, the cattle send out a cry of distress to God and complain about their unfair fate – that it offered its best, but is being slaughtered in return. This cry of the slaughtered cattle, called Geush Morenden in the Gathas (see Yasna 32.11,12), sets up a terrible chain of cause and retribution which is manifested in all those who took part in its murder – including those of us who enjoyed the burger or the steak. Those nations and their inhabitants, who have built their economies on such slaughter of cattle are now facing the inevitable retribution.
Thousands of Duas and salutations to the Wise Ashavan Dastur Nairyosangh Dhaval, who guided us to a land where cattle has been worshipped for thousands of years and whose religion believes that the cow is the place where 33 crore Devatas reside. This is why Mahatma Gandhi rightly said: “One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats its animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world.” Compare the picture of the cow in many Indian homes and temples, showing the location of the various Devatas in different parts of the cow, with the picture of the cow shown in the Master Chef series and in schools all over US and Europe – showing the different cuts of beef from the various parts of the cow! Which civilization will triumph and which is doomed to fail?
Readers of Frashogard, on this Fasli Bahman Roj and Bahman Mah let us resolve to strengthen the Gao that exists in all of us, but which is being dominated by the Druj within. Let us resolve to fight for Truth and Gao and to suppress and defeat the Druj. Let us remember the wise and sagacious advise of our Ustad Saheb each time we see these magnificent animals. And let us all resolve to pray the Gospand No Namaskar as often as we can.
I give below the Gospand no Namaskar in English and Gujarati for the benefit of readers of Frashogard.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram
Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao! Ashem Vohu 3.
Az hama gunah patet pashemanum. Ahem vohu 1.
Nemase-te Gao Spenta, nemase-te Gaush Hudhao, nemase-te fradente, nemase-te varedente, nemase-te daathro bakhtem, vahishtai Ashaone, an-zanthaai Ashaone, ya jahi merenchaite ashemaogho an-ashava mashyascha dravao saasta-yayat dunma, yayat fraa-aapem, ni-aapem, upa-aapem, hazanghro vaarayo, baevare vaaraschit. Mruyaao Ashaum Zarathushtra! Ashem vhou.1 (repeat thrice).
Ahmai Raescha-Hazangrem-Jasa me avangahe-Kerfeh Mozd