Roj Din Mah Khordad, 1379 Yz.
Over the next three days, Ustad Saheb continued his series of talks on Atash at the Bazm. In Manchersha Master’s sharp mind the obvious question arose: ‘where has this man got all this knowledge from’ since in all his years of study of religion, Manchersha had not come across any explanation anywhere close to what Behramshah was expounding. At the end of the third day of talks, Manchersha put across this question very politely to Ustad Saheb. Behramshah answered: ‘All I have learnt has been at the feet of my Ustad, Sraoshavarez Marzbanji Saheb, and I have got this knowledge of Khshnoom from the Abed Sahebs of Demavand in Iran.’ Now Manchersha, being a school teacher had a very good grasp of history and geography and immediately began to ask Behramshah questions about his journey to Iran, the route he had taken, the peculiar geographical features of Iran, in a way to find out if Behramshah really knew what he was talking about. But as Behramshah fluently answered his queries with deep, revealing answers and with the confidence which can only emerge from a spiritually advanced soul, Manchersha realized that he was indeed speaking to a person who was not only speaking the absolute truth but also one who had a depth of knowledge and spirituality which Manchersha had not seen in anybody else in all his life.
One of the things which most struck Manchersha Master about Behramshah – which would remain till the day Ustad Saheb died, was the Master’s absolute reluctance to reveal any more knowledge than was necessary for the topic under discussion. Manchersha understood that had a person been a fake, he would be most anxious to repeat his boasts and speak extensively about his adventures. But Behramshah was quite the contrary. Many times he would simply refuse to answer or would answer in a very short or non-descriptive manner. He would always repeat the two words which would forever be linked to the life of Ustad Saheb: “Mataa nathi”. What is the meaning of this arcane phrase? When using these words Ustad Saheb used to indicate that the time, place and mental composition of those around him were not suited to the topic under discussion. Ustad Saheb was very thrifty with the knowledge he had gained from the Abed Sahebs and was very fearful of the knowledge being misunderstood or ridiculed by persons of low intellectual powers. This reluctance to part with the knowledge – which he often used to call Ilm-e-Ilahi – Divine Knowledge, left a great impression on Manchersha, because this reluctance actually revealed the real brilliance of Behramshah and his total and absolute honesty. A Master is always sparing in imparting the knowledge to his disciple. As the disciple advances in his quest to come closer to the Absolute Truth, the Master slowly increases his quota of dissemination. This was the principle which Ustad Saheb followed and this convinced Manchersha of his genuineness. As the days passed, the bond between Behramshah and Manchersha grew stronger and deeper. On Manchersha’s insistence, Behramshah started giving talks to the Parsi students of the public schools in Surat at that time.
Around the same time in Mumbai there arose a brilliant scholar of Avesta, Pahlavi and Pazend. This young priest belonged to an illustrious family of the Bhagarsath Anjuman of Navsari. Brought up in near poverty, Ervad Phiroze Shapurji Masani was a man of giant intellectual capacity. All through his brilliant life, Ervad Phiroze never stood second in any exam – he always stood first, from the lowest class to his M.A. degree and through to his Solicitor’s Exam. As a student, Ervad Phiroze was deeply influenced by the Temperance and Prohibition movement going on at that time in the United States. Ervad Phiroze strongly believed that a life of temperance (i.e. not taking any intoxicating substances like alcohol, drugs, tobacco and any form of non-vegetarian food) was the first stepping stone to living a true Zoroastrian life. In order to further this aim, Ervad Phiroze, along with a few other sympathizers started the Parsi Vegetarian and Temperance Society and started giving talks and bringing out handbooks on temperance and the vices of intoxication and non-vegetarianism.
At about the same time, another gentleman in Mumbai was very concerned with the lack of religious knowledge and education among the Zoroastrian priesthood. Seth Kaikhushroo Burjorji Choksi strongly felt that if the priests understood what they were praying in the Avesta, they would develop a deeper dedication towards their job and perform their duties with greater sincerity and devotion. To encourage this, Seth Choksi started Avesta and Pahlavi classes for the priests at the Wadiaji Atash Behram in Mumbai. These classes were conducted by Mr. Khodabux Edulji Poonegar, a student of K. R. Cama and a formidable authority on Avesta and Pahlavi. But the opposite of what Seth Choksi had envisioned happened. Mr. Poonegar was steeped in the western study of the Zoroastrian religion at that time and merely repeated the fake and Christian oriented and influenced theories of that time. This in fact broke the faith of the priests who began to wonder whether it was really worthwhile to do all the ceremonies for the various Yazatas and Amesha Spentas if, as per the theories of those times, they were not divine entities but merely qualities or attributes of Ahura Mazda.
Both Ervad Masani and Seth Choksi used to meet regularly at the Wadiaji Atash Behram. As they discussed the state of affairs of the community, Ervad Masani told Seth Choksi that he had heard of a man in Surat who claimed to have learnt about the religion from some secluded Zoroastrian sages. They both wondered if there was any truth to these strange stories. Seth Choksi promised to find out more about this man on his next trip to Surat. When he went to Surat, Seth Choksi met with Manchersha Master and through him came into contact with Ustad Saheb. A few minutes of discussion with Ustad Saheb had a dramatic influence on Seth Choksi. He was convinced that Ustad Saheb was the right person to educate the priests of his class in Mumbai as well as to explain to the western educated Parsi scholars what the Zoroastrian religion was really about.
A short time later, Ervad Phiroze Masani arrived in Surat on a lecture tour of the Parsi Vegetarian and Temperance Society. He was introduced to Ustad Saheb and a few hours with the Ustad gave Phiroze the esoteric understanding of temperance and vegetarianism. Even Ervad Masani was completely astounded by the level of Ustd Saheb’s knowledge and in his mind decided that it would be best to get Ustad Saheb to Mumbai. The combination of Ervad Phiroze Masani, Seth Kaikhushroo Choksi and Manchersha Master (what a formidable combination!) set about to get Ustad Saheb to Mumbai. There was just one small hitch – the Master refused!
As I have mentioned earlier, Ustad Saheb was very sparing with his knowledge and had a deep fear of being misunderstood or that his Teacher and Ustad would be disrespected in any manner. Through his knowledge of Ilm-e-Kyafa, Ustad Saheb could immediately read the character and intellectual capacity of a person through his facial features. He would then behave with that individual in the manner best suited to his level. However, in a room full of people with varying levels, Ustad Saheb would find it difficult to explain the knowledge of Khshnoom. If he went too low, those with a deeper understanding would feel it were too simple. If he went at a higher level, those with a lower grasping power would not understand a word of what he would say. For this reason, Ustad Saheb was very particular about the dissemination of Khshnoom.
At another level, Ustad Saheb had been warned by his Masters that his destiny and public life would be of a somewhat unpleasant experience. The Ustad believed that by limiting his interaction with the outside world, he could perhaps avoid this unpleasantness in the later years of his life. Moreover, Ustad Saheb was very particular about his daily prayers and lived a life of very strict Tarikats, maintaining a high level of purity and piety. All this would be difficult to maintain should he go to Mumbai. For all these reasons, Ustad Saheb refused to come to Mumbai with Seth Choksi and Manchersha Master.
But Manchersha and Seth Choksi were not easily put off. They both insisted with Ustad Saheb and gave him various reasons and arguments in order to convince him to come to Mumbai. Finally, Ustad Saheb went in to Sezda and conferred with his Master, Sraoshavarez Marzbanji Saheb. His Master gave him permission, with a few words of advice and friendly warning, and thus reassured, Behramshah made preparations to go to Mumbai in 1908.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram