Roj Amardad Mah Dae, 1379 Yz.
The essence of Zoroastrian yoga is the purification of the Aipi. The fundamental building blocks for the correct and effective practice of Zoroastrian yoga are Manthra, Mithra and Yasna. ‘Manthra’ implies the correct and audible pronunciation of specific Avesta or Pazend prayer formulations. ‘Mithra’ implies running the correct and powerful thought processes or ‘thought capsules’ which relate to the deep, inner meaning of the Manthra passages being recited. ‘Yasna’ means performing the special kinetics or ritualistic processes associated with the particular Mantra. Whenever we begin the process of performing the Kusti or any other form of Zoroastrian yoga, these three building blocks must always and compulsorily be in unison. This is the real Zoroastrian form of meditation – it’s not easy, but a conscious effort must be made to try and put it into practice.
To practically illustrate this concept, the correct and perfect recitation of the Kem na Mazda prayer, which forms the beginning of the Kusti ritual comprises the Manthra block of this yogic exercise. The running in the mind of certain specific thought capsules associated with the meaning of the Kem na Mazda prayer and its function in the Kusti ritual forms the Mithra block of the exercise. Finally the position of the arms and the untying of the Kusti at the end of the Kem na Mazda recital comprise the Yasna block of the exercise. Each of these three separate processes must be amalgamated to form one unique and unified exercise – that is what is called a real Kusti prayer.
Performing the perfect Kusti does not start with the Kem na Mazda prayer. It starts much before, with the act of putting on (or changing) the Sudreh over the body. Our Master explained that the act of putting on a Sudreh should be accompanied by certain Mithra – thought capsules which give – in a compressed form, the actual functioning and deep inner meaning of the Sudreh. Ustad Saheb revealed that the Sudreh is not some mere symbol of our religion (if so, why would we wear it where it cannot be seen?) but an ‘Alat’– a spiritual apparatus which helps us in our onward progress. This is the reason why the Sudreh has to be of a particular material (cotton), of a specific colour (white), of a certain length (covering the knees), and having 9 definite seams – the two sleeves, the front and back parts, the Gireban in front, the Girdo at the back, the parallel seam on the left (for males, reversed for females) and the triangular seam on the right (for males, reversed for females). There is a particular method to be used in sewing the Sudreh, which has to be done with the recitation of specific Manthra (which is why a Sudreh can never be sewn by a non-Parsi). We shall leave the detailed explanation of the Sudreh and its construction for a later post. Currently we shall confine ourselves to understanding how to put on the Sudreh.
Ustad Saheb revealed that while putting on the Sudreh, there is a specific order to be followed. While putting on the Sudreh, the eye should very briefly examine each of the 9 seams shown above, and pass a Mithra or thought capsule related to that seam. Readers may feel that this would take a long time. However, with practice, the thought processes are very easy to complete quite swiftly and after a short period of practice, passing the thoughts would become almost instantaneous. This passing of the thought capsule plays a critical role in ensuring that a Sudreh is never put on inside out, or a torn or improperly sewn Sudreh is not put on, since that lapse would be exposed while passing the Mithra.
While the thought capsules for each of the seams is important, Ustad Saheb laid great emphasis on passing the Mithra for the Gireban and the Girdo. The Gireban is the small pocket like bag sewn in the front of the Sudreh, which should rest near the heart. (More accurately, the Gireban should be positioned at the length of the individual’s hand span when placed from his chin downwards to the chest.) The Girdo is the small semi-circular patch sewn on the neck of the Sudreh. There is a misconception that only gents Sudreh should have the Girdo – both ladies and gents Sudreh should carry the Girdo.
What is the function of these two small patches? Ustad Saheb explained that the Girdo represents the load we have to bear – the load of the sins caused by the evil thoughts, words and deeds committed in earlier lives. It is this load we have to bear in the current life and try to mitigate and extinguish by the good thoughts words and deeds of the present life. Our position and state of the current life is largely determined by the obligations placed on us through our previous actions. This can be of both good as well as not good type. The Girdo on the neck of the Sudreh signifies to the Parsi Zoroastrian that he bears a load on his shoulders – a spiritual cross which he has to bear and carry himself. The weight and load of that spiritual burden depends solely on his own past thoughts, words and deeds. Thus an important practical lesson is learnt while passing our eyes over the Girdo – we have no one to blame but ourselves for the trials and tribulations we face in this life. In the same manner, our redemption shall come only through our own good thoughts, words and deeds. Nature and her Creator, Ahura Mazda helps by preparing the groundwork and background to enable us to do good. But the performance of good comes solely from our own effort and contribution. There is no short cut to spiritual redemption and salvation – it is hard work and the Girdo signifies this burden we have to bear.
On the other hand the Gireban (from the root Garew – ‘to hold on to, to catch on to’) – or the pocket of virtue, is our spiritual strongbox. Every good thought, word or deed done in the current life is symbolically stored in the Gireban. As more and more virtue is accumulated in the Gireban, the load of the Girdo eases on us. The Gireban is strategically placed near the heart – not only the most important organ of the body, but also the seat of the 10th Chakhra – where our store of our faith and conscience resides. As we collect more virtue, the swollen Gireban provides succour and nourishment to the 10th Chakhra, thereby making the our faith in our religion and the Creator and His Prophet Zarathushtra even more strong. Faith is the fundamental building block for spiritual progress and the more virtue that is gathered by the practice of good thoughts, words and deeds, the stronger our faith becomes. This strength of faith helps in bravely meeting the difficulties in our life. The 10th Chakhra is also the seat of our conscience – that inner voice which makes us feel guilty after committing a crime. Ustad Saheb explained that through the practice of the correct Kusti and the related Manthras, the bite of conscience becomes stronger in individuals. When the conscience bites BEFORE we commit the crime (that is, when the thought process to commit the crime originates), we can safely say that we have begun our journey to spiritual salvation.
To summarize, the following Mithra needs to be run while putting on the Sudreh and while glancing at the Girdo and the Gireban. “May my Lord Ahura Mazda give me the spiritual strength to bear the load of my past sins. In this current life, may I gather more and more virtue in this Gireban of my Sudreh, so that my faith in Ahura Mazda and His Prophet Zarathushtra grows, and this faith increases the bite of my conscience, so that I may not fall into any new sin.”
Dear readers, I implore you to try and pass this thought in your mind every day when you put on a fresh Sudreh. It does not take any time at all. It just needs to be cultivated as a habit. Over a period of time, you will yourself notice a great difference in your attitude towards life in general. This small Mithra or thought capsule will greatly encourage you to face the difficult times which come to bear on us, and will make your faith and conscience firmer and more receptive. This is a real spiritual exercise and the beginning of the performance of a perfect Kusti. May we all achieve this perfection in our lifetime!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram