Roj Din Mah Amardad, 1380 Yz.
Tragedies have a habit of sneaking up on us. One minute we are laughing, content and full of plans for the future. An occasional visit to the doctor, a casual observation, a blood report, the next moment, brings all this to an end. Our carefully built edifice based on our best laid plans, years of hopes and aspirations – all comes tumbling down. Rare is the person who has not looked up to his Creator at such times and been at a loss for words, except that one: WHY?
Of these life shattering moments, perhaps the most painful, is the loss – or danger of loss, of someone who is most dear to us. Even though humans are mostly selfish, for each of us, there are a few persons in this world whose life is even more precious to us than our own – our spouse, our children, our parents, our spiritual guides… When a situation arises that the life of one who is so loved is put in such danger that his very existence comes into question, our mental equilibrium is deeply disturbed, and our mind goes through various stages of thinking and emotions.
Disbelief: The first emotion we go through invariably is disbelief. Is this really happening? Maybe it is all a big mistake. Maybe the report is not ours, maybe the sample got mixed up with someone else’s. How could it happen to us? All this only happens in movies and to other people, never to us or those around us.
Acceptance: After the initial shock and disbelief, our mind realizes that the escape routes we thought of earlier are not real. Faced with mounting evidence and the equally serious and glum looks of those around us, the mind slowly turns around to the critical stage of acceptance. Yes, this has happened, and it has happened to us.
Anger: With the growing acceptance of the reality, arises a strong anger within us. How could this happen to me? Me? Of all persons? How dare destiny bring us this? Doesn’t nature and God know that we are special?
Questioning: Along with the anger come the questions. The most difficult question is WHY? The mind enters into a cause and effect phase. What did I do that brought about this reaction? We try to establish some parallels as to how the tragedy could have been caused by our (or more likely, someone else’s) actions. This is a futile exercise, because the workings of nature are not within the comprehension of our little minds. After all, the mind remembers events of may be a few years ago. But what of the events which happened is our past lives? How do we draw conclusions based on such limited knowledge?
Bargaining: Failing to find answers to our questions, we enter the phase of bargaining. We begin offering all sorts of compromises and deals to God. I will never do this again, I will pray every day, I will offer Machi to the Padshah Saheb, take some of my own years and gift them to the person suffering… Being unaware of the workings of the Creator and His nature, such pleas are bound to fail, and they do.
Faithlessness: When our questions are unanswered, and our bargains find no acceptance, we go down the road of faithlessness. There is no God, He has abandoned me, this is all a figment of our imagination, it’s just there to make priests rich… What is the use of my many prayers? What use this Sudreh-Kusti?
Jealousy: Along with faithlessness arises the most dangerous negative emotion of jealousy. We see others, seemingly normal and leading happy lives, and our hearts burn with envy. Being self centred, our own anguish seems to be the most heavy load on the earth – and everybody else has it easy. Alas, if we could read the mind of the other person – maybe he would be thinking the same of us!
Despair: When our questioning does not get answers, when our bargaining fails and even the ‘freedom’ of faithlessness does little to help us, when jealousy eats our innards, there is nothing to hold on to. We begin to sink into despair. We feel that all is lost, that there is no one for us. The downward spiral accelerates, there is a real danger of losing all that we held dear to us. The night is dark, gloomy and full of despair. Sleep evades us. Tossing and turning in bed, our mind caught in a vortex of our own making, we ask: When will dawn come and what will she bring with her?
Our inability to think beyond the immediate is the root cause of our suffering. Our thinking is governed more by the present, and perhaps a few years ahead. Due to the limited boundaries of our physical mind, we believe that the 70-80-90 years we are destined to live in this life is the be all and end all of existence. This extremely short term span (compared in terms of the age of the universe) of our thinking and reasoning arouses in us an insatiable greed – the greed of acquisition. We believe that it is in our interest to acquire more of everything in the shortest possible length of time. This greed is not confined to material things alone. We are greedy in wanting happiness throughout our life. The love and respect of our children and elders, the companionship of our peers, the friendship of good health – all these are our desires. When this much sought after equilibrium is disturbed, or is found not attainable, we become most upset. When these desires are not met, we suffer.
Introducing the Frashogard Journal in the print medium a few years back, I wrote: ‘Not even a leaf flutters without the will of the Lord’. This is not poetic exaggeration, but rather the pure truth. The Will of the Lord is supreme. This is manifest in the beginning words of our most ancient and powerful prayer: Yatha Ahu Vairyo – the Will of the Lord. The prayer explains, in highly mystical terms, the 3-stage Grand Plan of Creation, which comprises of:
i) the establishment of the universe as a means of cleansing the evil that exists within each of us,
ii) our transformational journey through the ages as part of that process; and
iii) the final, ultimate merging of our self with Him.
The Plan of Ahu is so detailed, diverse, gigantic and comprehensive that it requires Divine Intelligence (Baodangh) to fathom even an insignificant aspect. It stretches over a seemingly infinite expanse of time, called Zravane Akarne (Endless time) in the Avesta. Endless does not imply infinity, but rather such a length that its beginning is lost in the end. Through this countless expanse of time, the total creation moves from imperfection to perfection. In this process, every aspect of creation has a role to play, from that insignificant leaf that flutters in the wind, to those whom we hold most precious and valuable.
So in these times of crisis and personal anguish, is there anything in our scriptures which we can fall on, to draw strength and sustenance from? How does our religion expect us to deal with such tragedies? The answer to these queries is found in a most simple but deeply mystical and devotional paragraph from the Gathas, which we shall explore in the next post.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram
[Editor’s note: I apologize to readers for the long gap between the last post and the current one. Events transpired in this period which made it impossible for me to write in a coherent manner.]