Roj Hormaz Mah Dae, 1384 Yz.
[Editor’s Note: To say that the last few months have been challenging would be a gross understatement.
Buffeted by personal issues, workplace issues, medical crises, over-busy schedules and a fundamental questioning of the reason for one’s very existence, it has been an interesting time, to put it mildly. During such times, the mind oscillates between varying degrees of sanity, or otherwise. Myriad thoughts, not all pleasant, invade the deep personal space, where no one else is allowed to enter, and threaten to weaken the years of training, reading, faith and belief.
What does one do in such times? How does one combat these demons of the mind? How does one regain the equilibrium so necessary to live a fulfilling life, not one marked by dreary routine and unrewarding toil? How does one cope when the fundamental pillars of life-support – family, spouse, children, friends – all seem to have given up on you or seem to be saying things that are very antithetical to the way you see the same? Every breath of relief has to be taken with a little suspicion and with a furtive look to ensure that all is really well. Such a level of anxiety is, of course, unsustainable in the long run and can drive the mind to insanity.
Thankfully, my years of reading Khshnoom, writing a little about it as well as having counselled others in similar situations earlier, all helped to somehow overcome this obstinate hump in the roadway to salvation. To say that it is all over would be wrong, for who knows what little surprises Fate and our Khuda has in store for us?
Several times during this period, I thought about writing for Frashogard, but the mind was not in proper equilibrium. I did not want to write something which I would regret later on, or which would display a line of thinking which was not in consonance with what Khshnoom teaches. So although there was some amount of reading and a lot of introspection and inner thinking, it was necessary for the cooling salve of time to heal the wounds of the head and heart, which are by far more painful than those of the body, so that a state of stability was reached, to enable one to put what is in the mind onto paper, and posterity.
Of course the crises confronting me are far from over. But life has to go on. And I owe an obligation to the faithful readers of Frashogard to keep things going. And so, with due apologies for my longish absence, but without wasting any more time and words, let us resume. – Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram]
The fundamental question which we all ask, in moments of crises is, ‘why me?’ This question and the various stages that the mind goes through have been dealt with in my earlier essay ‘How to come to terms with a tragedy.’
But today, we delve a little deeper into the role of ourselves – and more properly, our mind, in bringing us to this state. Why do bad things happen to us? Because, to put it very bluntly, we ourselves bring it on to us! While this may seem overly harsh and judgemental, it is the truth. How did we arrive at this truth and what does Khshnoom say about it? The answer is to be found in the Patet Pashemani and our essay tries to explore this truth in greater detail.
Like many other things regarding our religion, the Patet Pashemani is a mostly misunderstood prayer. The word ‘Patet’ is not understood correctly by most of us. Due to the paucity of words in the English language, Patet is often equated with ‘repentance’ or saying ‘sorry’. But that is not the case. As is the case with every word in our scriptures, Patet has different levels of meaning which we shall explore later.
The first interesting fact about the Patet Pashemani is that this prayer was composed not by Prophet Zarathushtra, but by the last Rainidar (the great Restorer of the Religion, Pahlavi den-rast-wirastar), Dasturan Dastur Adurbad Mahrespand, who lived in the reign of the Sassanian King Shapurshah Hormazd, or Shapur II, the Great (309-379 AD). Those were the times when Christianity had started becoming an increasingly powerful faith in the world. The old-world beliefs of Europe and west Asia, including Mithraic worship (which had nearly 90% of Mazdayasni doctrine as its core) as well as Manichaeism (a heretic mixture of Zoroastrianism and Christianity) were destined to be replaced by Christianity. This was achieved by a gradual absorption of Mithraic beliefs into the new Christian fold, many of which exist to this day in the Roman Catholic Church.
In the very beginning of the Christian faith, when its Great Leader Jesus and many of His disciples and their followers were mercilessly persecuted and martyred, not only by the Romans but also the Jews, Iran was the only country that gave refuge, allowing them to settle peacefully in the then Iranian province of Armenia, with full freedom to follow their new faith. Over a period of time, the Christians went from strength to strength and prospered under the benevolent rule of the succeeding Iranian monarchs, who despite being Zoroastrian, allowed the Christians full religious freedom.
As a gesture of their deep indebtedness and gratitude towards the Iranian monarchy, the Christians of Armenia, much strengthened and increased in number, now began their proselytizing activities in other parts of Iran, trying to convert Zoroastrians into Christians! It was at this time of religious ignorance and disarray that Dastur Adurbad appeared on the scene. As the foremost advisor to Shapur II, Dastur Adurbad was responsible for the re-codification of the extant Avesta scriptures and weeding out all the non-Zoroastrian influences that had crept in over the centuries. Dastur Adurbad read the times correctly and realized that an exceptional display of the power of Zoroastrian doctrine was required to be displayed, so that the general populace of the empire were not swayed by the promises and fake glitter of the Christian missionaries.
To this end, Dastur Adurbad performed the great Nirang-i-Var or Miracle of the Faith (known in the Gathas as ayangha khshusta, the ordeal by fire) by having poured on his body many kilos of molten bronze, from which he emerged unscathed. This exceptional display of righteous authority and spiritual power re-energized the Zoroastrians of that time and along with the firm rule of Shapur II, who kept the missionaries in check – by persuasion or by harsh punishment, rescued the Zoroastrian religion from further decline. It is for these reasons that even today, the name of King Shapur II is taken in our Nam-Grahan (list of names of Zoroastrian worthies recited in every prayer) as Shapurshah bin Hormazd. He is also eulogized in the Zand-i-Vohuman Yasht as the one who ‘put the world in order’ (dad arayed) and ‘spread salvation in the world’ (boxtagih pad daman).
While Shapur II’s reign was long by historical standards, the spiritual reign of Dastur Adurbad was destined to extend for another nearly 1700 years – to the present times, when we await the arrival of the next great Rainidar, Shah Behram Varzavand. Keeping in mind his long reign, as well as knowing the level of spiritual advancement (or otherwise) of those Zoroastrians destined to be born in that time, Dastur Adurbad collated the extensive Avesta scriptures as well as the exegetical Pahlavi commentaries (called Nikeez) and arrived at a fresh set of the 21 Avesta Nasks. Knowing further, that even these collated Nasks were destined to be destroyed in the visible world through the atrocities of a yet-to-be-founded faith and the ravages of time, Dastur Adurbad composed several short prayers in the Pazend language, to supplement the expected loss of the Avesta scriptures.
Dastur Adurbad knew that being short, as well as being intertwined with the regular day-to-day Avesta prayers, the Pazend prayers would never be destroyed or lost. This core of regular prayers, collected, and interspersed with powerful Pazend Manthras that further strengthened the power of the Avesta formula hidden within, came to form the beloved Khordeh Avesta which every Parsi holds (or should hold) in his hands for his daily prayers. And of course the most basic prayer which every Parsi recites (or should recite) while tying his Kusti – the Nirang-i-Kusti-bastan, or more commonly known as the Hormazd Khodae prayer, was also composed by Dastur Adurbad. The various Nirangs and Bajs for day to day activities- waking up, taking Taro, going to the toilet, eating, cutting nails or hair, sleeping, even sneezing (yes, there is a Nirang for that!) were all composed by Dastur Adurbad. Yet how many Parsis remember him or even know about him? That is the sign of our times, and the precursor to the inglorious fall of our community and its subsequent, hoped for revival.
The Patet Pashemani and the Patet Ruvan ni are among the most important prayers composed by Dastur Adurbad. And hence they have been the subject of the most ridicule, which arises from an ignorance about their need, use and efficacy. Among the many superb essays written by Doctor Saheb Framroze in his Khordeh Avesta ba Khshnoom, his introduction to the Patet Pashemani stands very tall. We shall expand more on this in the next post.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram