Roj Mohor Mah Tir, 1386 Yz.
As our Parsi brothers and sisters in America join many millions of their countrymen in observing the festival of Thanksgiving over this weekend, it seems to be an apt moment to think about what would be a truly Zoroastrian form of thanksgiving. Originally, Thanksgiving was a post-harvest festival celebrated to thank God for the rich and abundant harvest. Over the years, the seasonal and religious aspect has been quietly replaced by the excessive importance to the turkey, unmindful (and often wasteful) binging and drinking, and excessive materialism marked by ‘Black Friday’ sales.
In the Zoroastrian religion, thanksgiving to God is an essential and daily part of our routine prayers. The Pazend word Sepas means thanks and it occurs with great regularity in our Pazend prayers, especially in the 30 Roj as well as the 6 Major Setayashes. The word Setayash itself is derived from the Pahlavi ‘studan’ to praise, which is in turn derived from the Avesta staot ‘vibrationary energies/colors’. The Setayashes are beautifully devotional pieces, which complement the highly charged Avesta prayers as thought-force generators. It is easier to understand and run through the meanings of the Setayash prayers and hence they are obligatory recitals at the end of our daily Avesta prayers.
It is also interesting to note that the 31st of the 101 names of God is Hu-Sepas: One Worthy of Thanks.
But what should we be thankful to God for? In the current day and age we live in, it seems most people are highly dissatisfied with God. People stuck in unhappy jobs, non-working marriages, financial troubles, health issues… the list goes on – what is there to thank God about? Many, especially in the advanced countries, and now more often, many Parsis, equate thanksgiving with the possession of material goods. They live in an imaginary world where they have a list of items to acquire. They believe that once these items are acquired they will be happy and feel complete. But the satisfaction achieved by buying something of material value is very fleeting and temporary. We soon get jaded with it and our mind becomes fixated on the next acquisition. Once that is achieved, the mind wanders on to something else, and so it goes on. The search for material acquisition-led happiness is a one-way street leading to nothing but despair and frustration.
It is therefore important to note that the acquisition of material items can never be equivalent to satisfaction, or thanksgiving. The real satisfaction comes from understanding the working of the Lord, from becoming one with His Energy and Presence, from unraveling the mysteries of the universe. That satisfaction is real, everlasting and spiritually uplifting. The Avesta has a beautiful word for it – Khshnoom – that which arouses Spiritual Bliss in a person. This is the reason why the Abed Sahebs of Demavand told our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff, that the knowledge he was being given to propagate to Parsis around the world was to be called Ilm-e-Khshnoom – the Knowledge which brings about Spiritual Bliss and complete satisfaction.
For a Zoroastrian, thanksgiving is not an annual event but rather something that should be indulged in every living day of his existence. How can we do that? Is there a special prayer for Thanksgiving? Yes there is, and it is an essential daily prayer which unfortunately most of us were never taught completely. It is called the Din-no-Kalmo, or the Zoroastrian Creed. It is the prayer which we all recited when our Navjote was performed. But we recited only a truncated version. The full version, which I give below, shows the real reason for a Zoroastrian to observe Thanksgiving.
Ba nam-e Yazad bakshayandehe bakshayazgar-e Meherban!
Razishtayao chistayao Mazdadatayao ashaonyao Daenayao vanghuyao Mazdayasnoish.
Din beh rast va dorost, ke Khodae bar khalk, ferastadeh in hast, ke Zarthosht avordeh hast, Dine Din-e Zarthosht, Din-e Ahura Mazda dadeh Zarthosht, bishak va biguman, rast Dine Zarthosht Spitaman.
Ae Yazdan! Ba dargah-e to hazaran hazar, bivar hazaran hazar sepas mikunam, ke dar Din-e Zarthosht mara peda be-kard! Az barkate Dine u man dar Garothman yakin khaham shud!
Yakin khaham ke jumle baste-kustiane, niku-kerdarane, haft keshwar zamin, ba ma hamazor bad! Yak az ma shomordan hazar bad!
Kabulat bad yaksar puzeshe ma! Ba dargahat rasad amorzeshe ma!
Gunah guzarashne, kerfeh afzayashne! Ashem Vohu 1.
In the Name of the Lord, the Bestower of Good Things, the Redeemer of Sins, the Merciful!
Propitiation of the just and holy Wisdom, created by Ahura Mazda and of the good Mazda-worshipping Religion!
This is the good and just Religion, the perfect Religion, which the Creator Ahura Mazda sent for the people of this world, and which Prophet Zarathustra brought for us. That True religion, which is beyond doubt and unquestionable, is the religion of Zarathushtra, and the religion of Ahura Mazda, which was handed by the Creator to Holy Zarathushtra.
O Lord! I offer millions and billions of thanksgiving at your doorstep, that you gave birth to me in the Religion of Zarathushtra!
It is only by means of this religion and its efficacy that I will, without doubt, attain the Highest Heaven – the House of Songs where Ahura Mazda resides!
I sincerely pray that all true and virtuous Kusti-wearing Zoroastrians throughout the seven regions of the Cosmos become of one-mind and one-thought with me! May this, my one appeal, be equivalent to a thousand such appeals!
O Lord! May my earnest prayer be fully accepted by You! May my desire for penitence reach Your Doorstep!
May our sins be forever redeemed! May our meritorious deeds ever multiply! Ashem Vohu.
The greatest Thanks we can offer God is that we were fortunate to be born as Zoroastrians (not converted or ‘initiated’ through fake ‘Navjotes’). That we earned the right to wear the Sudreh and Kusti, to recite the sacred Avesta, to utilize the various instruments of the Zoroastrian faith – our Agiaries and Atash Behrams, our Dakhmas and wells, our age-old traditions (Daregayao Upayanayao) and our sacred Kinetics (ceremonies).
And it is only through the just and proper use of these tools of the Zoroastrian faith, and the limitless blessings of the Lord Ahura Mazda and His Prophet Zarathushtra, that we shall, without doubt, lose all vestiges of sin that are attached to us and become pure and sublime, ascending to the House of Songs (Garothman) where Ahura Mazda Himself resides, and take up our rightful place next to Him!
And we shall not rest just by doing that! We shall strive to lift each and every other true and virtuous Zoroastrian, in whichever corner of the Cosmos he or she may be in, and raise their consciousness to the level of Chisti – Divine Wisdom, created by Ahura Mazda, so that they too may ascend the Highest Heaven! In doing so we shall redeem all our sins and our virtuous deeds will ever multiply!
Readers of Frashogard! This is the true Thanksgiving, this is the true prayer which should be recited by all of us, at least once a day, or if possible at every change of the Gah, with full devotion and mindfulness! It is a prayer bursting with piety and optimism, with fervour and righteous energy! It can wash away all our blues and lift our minds to a most optimal level.
May we all offer true thanksgiving to the Lord and His Prophet Zarathushtra for what He has done and continues to do for us!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram