Roj Amardad Mah Amardad, 1382 Yz.
As the season of weddings and Navjotes gathers steam, an important part of the festivities needs to be reinforced into the Parsi consciousness. It is our age old custom, that on all festive and important occasions like Navjotes, weddings, births, Navars, betrothals, etc. we always begin the festivities by remembering the Ruvans and Farohars of our dear departed relatives, generally called ‘Hama Asho Farohar’. What is the reason for this practice and what is the proper method to be followed?
The performance of Navjotes and weddings are significant events in an individual’s life, which happen only once. Not only are these events of social significance but they are also days of immense spiritual significance for the individual himself. A man’s circle of life – from birth to death; the journey to the unseen regions of Chinvat; his ultimate Day of Judgment and his return to this earth; or progress to the realms above – is called in the Avesta as Zravane Thwashe Khadata – the short time cycle. In one Zravane Thwashe Khadata cycle, the Ruvan or soul of the individual makes progress – either greatly or very little, but at least some progress, in its long journey to alchemize the evil it carries and transmute it into goodness.
The aim of physical life is not a successful career, a happy marriage or a brilliant public life, but rather the spiritual progress of the soul, as it utilizes the physical body and the favourable environment of the earth to fulfill its various obligations with other souls of the human, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The physical body, within which the soul descends for the short period of a person’s life, is a valuable tool, which if used properly, can really accelerate the soul’s progress and even earns its redemption in a very short time frame of 70-80 years. But at the same time, the physical body also contains the five physical senses, which always lead man into temptation. Once the soul enters the physical shell, it is unable to communicate with its physical body. However, it keeps out sending signals, asking the physical mind to control its behaviour and follow the path of goodness. These messages are what we term as pangs of conscience.
Whenever the physical mind slips out of control and commands the mind or the tongue or the body to commit a sin, the soul sends out its SOS (a very apt moniker), asking the physical mind to remember the promise the soul had given Ahura Mazda at the time of its departure from the regions above to come down into the physical shell. By the constant practice of Zoroastrian Tarikats, our ability to receive and read these SOS signals from the soul increases manifold. A true Zoroastrian is one whose soul sends out the SOS even before the mind thinks of perpetrating a sin. As the physical mind is brought into control by these pangs of conscience, the true meaning of our life becomes clear to our mind and we remain girded on to the straight and narrow path of righteousness and truth, which our religions describes as the Path of Asha.
Thus on the most significant days of Navjote and marriage – events which will shape the further destiny of the person – it is prudent and helpful to ask for correct guidance and the blessings of those who care for us. Who cares for us more than those who have passed on – our parents and grandparents – those with whom we have shared a link – which may be biologically broken now, but which will endure spiritually till the time of Frashogard – salvation. On these days of spiritual import, the soul itself becomes more conscious of its role. It shakes itself of the slumber induced by the load of being trapped in a physical body, and, for a brief moment, exudes its radiance and aura.
It is for this reason that our Master, Ustad Saheb explained that on the day of the Navjote, every child will seem to beam and project an aura of happiness and radiance which is not seen on any other day. Having attended and performed so many of these ceremonies, I can totally vouch for this. Even those unlucky children, whose parents, in the trap of social niceties and convenience, choose to perform this most vital ceremony in the evening and in the presence of non-Zoroastrians, seem to gleam and glow. There is a look of utter happiness and radiance in their faces, which makes one feel all warm and tingly inside.
And for those fortunate children, whose parents take the time and trouble to understand the spiritual requirements of this important occasion, make the right choice and perform the ceremony in the Agiary or Atash Behram in the early hours of the morning, there is a veritable treasure which awaits them. A grand radiance envelopes the child as the Nahn is given. The child is then lead out to the carpet and invested with the sacred vestments of Sudreh and Kusti, in the Divine Presence of the Fravashi of Lord Zarathushtra Himself. That moment when the Sudreh is slipped over their bare shoulders and the Kusti is tied on to their tiny waists, a small tremor passes through the child as well as the priest, as time stands still for a Divine Moment to occur and the August Presence of the Fravashi of Lord Zarathushtra is felt by us.
Similarly, the institution of marriage is a most important spiritual event. It is a sacrament, not a legal contract. Two souls, at different levels of spiritual progress, get together and promise to help each other attain the goal of salvation, by working together to overcome the traps and pitfalls of physical temptation. A true marriage of souls lasts not only in this lifetime, but endures till the moment of Frashogard. This is why it is so important to choose a life partner based not on physical considerations, but by understanding the true nature of an individual, by becoming ready to give up all that one has for the other. This is the true import of marriage, which is totally lost in today’s times when marriages are more about convenience and money.
It is therefore, most apt, that our forefathers, who have passed on to the other world, but who are still very interested in our progress and who yearn to help us, are remembered on these two most vital days of our life. What is the procedure to be followed for doing so?
In case of the Navjote, a special Jashan ceremony can be performed a couple of days in advance of the event, where the Anusheh Ruvans of the family are remembered and venerated. It is also appropriate to perform the Navjote itself on the Baj day (death anniversary) of a close relative. On the day of the Navjote, it is a common procedure to book Machis in all the five Gahs at the Agiary where the normal prayers of the family are performed. While the Havan, Rapithwin, Uzirin and Ushahin Gahs can be used to offer Machis with Tandorasti prayers, the Aiwisruthrem Gah Machi should be recited with the Ruvan ni Patet, taking the name of the most recent relative who has passed away. Alternately, the Mobed Saheb can be asked to recite the Stum no Kardo after the Machi, with the names of all the dear departed taken in the Kardo. If resources are available, the Baj, Afringan, Farokshi and Stum prayers should also be performed on the day of the Navjote itself, by the priests after the morning ceremony is over. In case the Jashan ceremony is not done before the Navjote, a better alternative would be to have the Fareshta ceremony peformed a few days after the Navjote and the mandatory visit to Iranshah.
In case of marriages, a specific day before the marriage is set aside for remembering the Ruvans of the departed. On this day, special Baj, Afringan, Farokshi and Stum ceremonies are recited in the morning for the Ruvans of the dear departed. At the same time, the special Varadh nu Stum is also performed, where blessings are sought from Mino Ram, the Divine Being looking after marriages and happiness for the marrying couple. As this is being done, another priest should perform the Mino Ram ni Baj. After the Baj is over, the marrying couple should partake of the Chasni of the Daran consecrated in the Baj. It is the duty of the priests to instruct the couple as to how to correctly partake of the small piece of the Daran, dipped in the cow’s ghee and topped with a few pieces of pomegranate seed, put directly into the mouth without the hands touching the mouth.
As in the case of the Navjote, for the marriage too, the family can book all the five Gahs of their family Agiary or Atash Behram for the Machi. The same procedure for reciting Tandorasti and Patet Ruvanni should be followed.
Unfortunately, I observe that in all these important events, the marrying couple is almost always absent, and a single old or retired member of the family is sent to the Agiary to attend the prayers. This is a very wrong practice. The family Panthaky should impress upon the couple as well as their parents the importance of these rituals and the need for the couple to be present for the duration of the ceremonies. If these things are explained carefully and patiently, then the couple will realize that there is a world outside the social world in which they are trapped for those few days where everything is a rush. The couple needs to spend time in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere like the Agiary, where they can pray for some time and realize the importance of the step they are about to take. In these moments of peace in days of hectic behaviour, they will find much needed solace and help from not only their loved ones but also the Ruvans of those Advanced souls who have already earned their Salvation and who are eager to help others do so.
Readers of Frashogard will now realize the importance of these two days in our lives, and the role our dear departed play in our spiritual progress. It needs to be re-emphasized here, that however troubled a relationship one may have had with a relative, the grudge should not be carried over to the soul of the person. The trials and tribulations of the modern day world all disappear when we depart from here and go on to the higher regions. The Ruvans of those who may have accidently hurt us during their lifetime, also realize the enormity of their mistake and offer true Patet for their sins as they progress on in the regions of Chinvat. Such relatives are even more eager to help us and thereby rectify their inappropriate behaviour while they were alive.
It is therefore our solemn duty to forget the bitterness and harsh words which may have been exchanged here and to look forward to a peaceful union on the other side. We must offer even more prayers for their Ruvans and also accept our own mistakes and shortcomings while dealing with them when they were alive. Remember, it takes two hands to clap.
It is also apt to mention here that those who display no feelings of warmth and remembrance for their dear departed are themselves doomed to such neglect by their own offspring when they pass on. A civilization and culture which places no importance and respect towards those who have left us will not last long and will soon join the long list of those whose very existence has been erased from the memories of time.
It is hoped that readers of Frashogard will remember these words and ensure that the appropriate religious disciplines are followed at the time of the Navjote and weddings of close members of their family.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram