Who was Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff?
Why do we call him Ustad Saheb?
What is the real story behind the man?
The emergence of Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff (1858-1927) was a miraculous event that occurred in the Parsi community. Unfortunately, very few Parsis are aware of the details of his incredible life and deeply inspiring teachings.
From a life of total obscurity, marked by absence of education or much intelligence, the young Behramshah was drawn, through his extraordinary destiny, to the abode of the hidden Zoroastrian Saints (Abed Sahebs) of Demavand, in Iran at a tender age. He stayed there with them for over three years and was transformed from a stammering lad to a spiritual Adept – the Ustad.
After returning to India, Behramshah kept a very low profile for nearly thirty years, undertaking long travels within British India and keeping company of learned men of all faiths. Then, under the instructions of his hidden Masters, Behramshah first appeared in public life in Surat in around 1908, and soon thereafter his fame spread throughout the community.
In the following pages, we have tried to detail the life and adventures of Ustad Saheb Behramshah, starting with a broad historical overview from 10,000 BC to the present day. We then proceeds to describe the manner in which Behramshah was educated by the Zoroastrian Abeds and the mastery over various branches of science which he achieved. The known travels of Ustad Saheb and his subsequent public life are explored in detail.
We also write about the circle of close associates which grew around the Master and the intimate details of how many helped, and some harmed the Master. The history of the Fasli Takchian movement and the establishment of Behram Baug are dealt with in some detail.
This series of posts are based on a series of articles (in Gujarati) written in the old Parsi Avaz weekly by late Jehangirji S. Chiniwalla, its editor and one of the closest disciples of Ustad Saheb. This important resource, available only to those fluent in Gujarati, is being introduced into the English speaking world through a series of posts on this blog.
Several Parsis, especially those who claim to be ‘well read, modern, independent thinkers’ become very uncomfortable whenever the name of Ustad Saheb is taken. Even if an explanation for a difficult point in the religion is given to them, the fact that the source of this explanation comes from the revelations of Ustad Saheb makes them immediately reject the same, without applying their famous ‘rational mind’ to the explanation.
They also seem somewhat amused by the facts of the life of Ustad Saheb and the manner in which he was blessed to visit the Abed Sahebs of Demavand. One such ‘rational man’, writing in the FEZANA magazine some time ago made a vigorous demand that we should rise above such ‘troglodyte residents’. (Troglodyte means people who live in caves.) He felt very ashamed to even accept that the Zoroastrian religion could be preserved by some ‘primitive cave dwellers’ speaking in a fancy language.
Yet the same rational Parsis have no compunction in bowing their heads before various god men of dubious repute of other religions, who indulge in hocus-pocus and glib talking and who invariably get caught in immorality or financial capers later on. Rational Parsis flock to the shrines of some important holy men of India, yet refuse to believe that one of their own could have been fortunate to have received the blessings and teachings of our own hidden sages!
I have met Parsi men and women who are at the very pinnacle of their respective vocations – top shot lawyers, doctors, bankers, scientists, judges, artists and many more who adore and worship some or other non-Parsi god man or are deep into the Rosicrucian Order, Freemasonry or Yoga. When they hear the details about the life and miracles of Ustad Saheb they exclaim: ‘aapra maa bhi evu kai hoy?’ Some have changed their entire life after hearing about Ustad Saheb and after exploring his teachings with an open mind. Others would love to change, but are caught in a social trap of their own making – ‘loko su kehse?’, whereas some become very enthusiastic in the beginning, but when the chapter on Tarikats and truth is explained, miraculously become most un-energetic! ‘Arre baap re, aay badhu kon paaley ne muke!’
Some time ago, a vicious campaign was started on one of the Zoroastrian mailing lists on the internet by an American Parsi. He claimed that all those who believed in Ustad Saheb were traitors and deviants, since (in his words) ‘they gave more importance to Ustad Saheb than to Prophet Zarathushtra!’ He even went to the extent of counting how many times I had mentioned the words ‘Ustad Saheb’ in my writings compared to how many times I had written ‘Prophet Zarathushtra!’ Based on this very methodological and original research, he came to the conclusion that I (and others who write about Ustad Saheb ) loved Ustad Saheb more than our Prophet.
I had only one reply to this person. Ustad Saheb was the first person to reveal the Yazatic status of Prophet Zarathushtra. Ustad Saheb revealed that Zarathushtra was not some mortal poet, roaming from country to country till he finally managed to convince King Vistaspa and established the religion after doing some hocus-pocus and curing the King’s favourite horse! For the first time ever, Ustad Saheb explained each and every miracle listed in the Dinkard and other Avesta scriptures and gave a rational, fascinating and most satisfying explanation for all these incidents. And what have our scholars done? They are not even able to agree as to whether Zarathushtra existed! (Yes, that is right. Some scholars claim that he was a ‘mythical figure’, who never actually existed!) They are not able to agree on a date or even the century in which he was born, the place where he was born, and substantial details of his life and miracles. They claim that throughout his life of 77 years, Zarathushtra merely composed 17 chapters of poetry (the Gathas), which by the way, they are unable to translate with any reasonable certainty! While one scholar translated a particular Avesta word in the Gathas as meaning ‘salvation’, another translates the same word as ‘homosexuality’! What great research! What great uplifting and devotional fervour! God save us from these scholars! So who loves Zarathushtra more, those who talk about Ustad Saheb or these modern day scholars, for whom religion and controversy is their bread and butter?
In every religion and in every mystic tradition, the Guru or Ustad or Master is always immortalised. Are the followers of Ramakrishna less devoted to Lord Ram? Do the worshippers of Khwaja Chisti hold him more important than Allah? Do the lovers of Mother Teresa or Saint Xavier disregard Lord Christ? There is a beautiful couplet of Saint Kabir, where he explains the ‘problem’ of ‘choosing’ between Guru and God. Saint Kabir writes:
Guru, Govind dono khade
kaake laagoon Paaye?
balihaari Guru aapne
Govind diyo bataaye
When Guru and the Lord Govind both stand before me
Whose feet should I fall at?
Of course I choose the Guru – through whose mercy and intercession
I realised and had the Vision of Lord Govind!
Dear readers! This is the beauty of mysticism! There is no choosing or who is higher or lower! Without the revelations of our beloved Ustad Saheb, how could we have realized the brilliance and majesty of our religion and its most holy Prophet of Prophets! If we do love and take the name of our Ustad Saheb it is because he has truly revealed what our Zoroastrian religion really means, and has turned around my own life, and the lives of many others like me who were disillusioned and demoralized by the bumbling ‘research’ of our scholars and so-called community leaders.
On the Frashogard blog we are dedicated to revealing more about Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff. Every day, we renew our pledge to him and our Prophet Zarathushtra. We revitalize ourselves to write more and more about him and to demonstrate and show to our community in these troubled times, that truly our religion is mazishtahecha, vahishtahecha, sraeshtahecha – the most majestic, the best and the most beautiful!
To read the entire series on the Life of the Master please click here.
Many readers requested that the series be printed as a small book to enable more young Parsis to become aware of the life and teachings of Ustad Saheb Behramshah Shroff. We are happy to announce that the first edition of the book was brought out in March 2011. You can read about the book release function here.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram