Roj Hormazd Mah Tir, 1379 Yz.
All this made no difference to Ustad Saheb, who had right from the beginning insisted that the knowledge he had got could not be mass propagated. Seth Choksi requested Behramshah to take the class for the priests on a regular basis. In addition, it was arranged for Ustad Saheb to give regular talks in the Contractor Hall of the Anjuman Atash Behram in Mumbai and in March 1910 the Master gave a series of talks on topics like Sarosh, Atash Behram, Jiram and Meher. The first of the talks in this series was presided over by the then leading Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet Seth B. D. Petit (later founder of the Parsi General Hospital). These talks left a great impression in the minds of those who attended and at last, as per Seth Choksi’s desire and original wish, a few Mobeds also came under the Master’s influence and began to incorporate his teachings and guidance in their daily practice. In December 1910, Ustad Saheb established the Ilm-e-Khshnoom Institute as a proprietary concern and began printing small handbooks and holding classes.
Ustad Saheb followed a very particular and organized style of speaking. Before the talk he would sit down in front of the audience and his lips could be seen moving as he prayed some unknown Nirang. He would then pass his hands over his face and beard and then stand up and begin speaking in a soft voice, full of humility yet with innate force. Before every talk, Ustad Saheb would always begin with the name of God, laying out the unique hierarchy which exists in the divine government, remembering the beginning of creation and then gradually coming down to the Amesha Spentas, the Yazatas, the various categories of Fravashis, then pay homage to the Prophet Zarathushtra, then draw the connection between the Prophet and His authorized descendants, finally paying glowing and very flowery tributes to his own Master, Sraoshavarez Marzbanji Saheb and then take his permission to begin the topic of the day.
The main topic would then be laid out, not in a linear manner but first by touching all those topics which had relevance to the main topic and then slowly working his way to the very core of the topic. Ustad Saheb always used to say that Khshnoom was like a spider’s web – you had to work your way inside from the outside to get to the real prize. The words and phrases which came out through his blessed lips were such that they left a lasting impression on all the listeners. His talks always had various phrases from the Avesta scriptures as well as the special language which he called ‘logats’ – technical words which have a deeper meaning than the normal literal meaning.
Accompanied by Manchersha Master and Seth Choksi, Ustad Saheb went on a speaking tour to all the major centres of Parsi population including Udvada, Navsari, Surat and Bharuch. In Udvada, Ustad Saheb gave talks in the hall of the Iranshah Atash Behram and made a great impression on many of the Mobed Sahebs there. The testimony of one such practicing Mobed, Ervad Behramji Jamshedji Unwalla, is contained in the Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff Memorial Volume.
Meanwhile Ervad Phiroze Masani and his close friend and associate Ervad Sohrab Jamasp Panthaki came under the Master’s spell too. Ervad Masani had started a quarterly magazine called ‘Frashogard’ (literally meaning ‘salvation’) (after which the current author’s Journal and this website is named) which published articles on vegetarianism and temperance. Now he joined hands with Ustad Saheb and articles on Khshnoom began to be printed in the Frashogard magazine. In 1915, the cover of the Frashogard magazine was redesigned based on the concept of Frashogard as explained by Ustad Saheb. An extremely short but very very difficult article was dictated by Ustad Saheb himself and published in this issue which gave the real meaning of the word Frashogard and the various stages in which the universe will go from being mortal to the ultimate salvation and immortality in the very technical language which the Master used to use. This short article of merely 6 pages had 166 footnotes written by Ervad Masani explaining the difficult words and phraseology used by the Master. Many years later, another ace disciple of the Master, Dr. Framroze Chiniwalla sat down to write the explanation for the Master’s short article – which went into over 100 pages!
Those of my readers who wish to transport themselves back in time and listen to the words of the Master himself are specially advised to try and read this article (in Gujarati) to get an idea of really who Ustad Saheb really was and the depth of his knowledge. Many times I bring down this volume from its place and glance over the article. After many readings I have now understood some part of it. But every time I read it, my mind transports me to another place – it seems as though the Master is in front of us, patiently explaining the real meaning of Frashogard. What I would have given to be there in those years! The mind’s eye yearns for that one glance of his handsome and illuminated face! The ticking clock and the pending pile of work brings me back to the present, where I have to be painfully and inadequately satisfied by the printed word and the memory that lingers of those golden years! Truly it was not in my destiny to lay my eyes on this wondrous man! Perhaps someday, in another place or dimension…
The period 1910 to 1916 was one of intense activity. The scholarly Phiroze Masani sat at the feet of Ustad Saheb and slowly but surely extracted the various gems which the Master had held close to his heart for all these years. Article after article, volume after volume – running into hundreds of pages were published by Ervad Phiroze Masani. But more than all this public activity, Ustad Saheb’s teachings and his great spiritual stature (which he tried his best to hide) made immense difference to many people’s lives. Those who came into contact with him – all, without any exception, were touched by him in ways that cannot always be explained. For the worried he offered succor, for the sick he had prayers, for the needy he gave all he had, but his greatest gift was reserved for those who had the maaddo – the spiritual equipment and intellectual power to absorb the difficult knowledge of Khshnoom. To them was showered the choicest of the Ustad’s blessings. There must have been hundreds of such lucky individuals – but they are all gone now – and they went away with their little secrets with them! Very few actually spoke about their experiences, even fewer wrote.
But many years after Ustad Saheb had passed away, a smear campaign was attempted to discredit him and his teachings by some misguided Parsis, led by the Dastur of an Atash Behram! These wise persons alleged that Ustad Saheb had never met any Zoroastrian sages in Demavand. They accused that Behramshah had actually been captured by some Arabs who had somehow given him some knowledge which was Islamic in nature! In proof of this ridiculous claim, they pointed out the large number of words which seemed to be of Arabic origin (forgetting that thousands of Arabic words were ‘loaned’ from Persian after the Arab conquest of Iran!). They further alleged than since Ustad Saheb was not educated, all the writings were actually the work of Ervad Phiroze Masani, and Behramshah merely signed the articles! It was this dirty campaign – which was played out in the Parsi newspapers of that day (some things never change, do they?) which brought out some close disciples whom Ustad Saheb had helped. One by one, they came out to defend the memory of their beloved Ustad Saheb. One such wondrous person was Bahmanshah Dosabhai Hakim.
I shall write more about him in the next post.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram