What is prayer? part 2

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Roj Avan Mah Bahman, 1378 Yz

Khshnoom – which is the mystical knowledge of the Zarathushtrian religion explains that man’s soul, called Urvan in Avesta or Ruvan in Pahlavi is on a long journey. This journey took the Ruvan from its original destination, which was very close to the Supreme Lord Ahura Mazda, to very far away. Currently, the Ruvan is on its way back ‘home’ – to Ahura Mazda. Why did the Ruvan have to set out on this journey? For the limited purpose of understanding our primary subject of prayer, we can say that the Ruvan was found lacking in certain aspects. These deficiencies had to be removed from the Ruvan to bring it back to its pristine state. In order to remove these deficiencies, it was necessary to set up a whole apparatus and procedure through which this could be done. Further, the Ruvan had to go through a process of fragmentation through which the original Ruvan was broken down according to certain laws of decimalization. Thus the Ruvan which is present within ourselves, as well as in all animate as well as inanimate objects is part of the original whole Ruvan.

Before it can reach the ultimate destination, the Ruvan fragments have to undergo a process of purification and reformation in order to remove the deficiencies. How is this to be done? Khshnoom explains that the Ruvan itself is of the highest degree of purity and has the greatest devotion towards Ahura Mazda. It has no physical shape or form. These conditions are not conducive to removing the deficiencies. Therefore, the spiritual machinery and government of Ahura Mazda, which is run by the various divine entities known as Amesha Spentas, Yazatas, Gathas etc. have devised and created the physical world which we see around us. The deficiency of the Ruvan is known in the Avesta as ‘Dravao’ – ignorance. [Ignorance implies unknowing about its ultimate goal. All evil arises out of ignorance.] This Dravao is mixed and iterated with other spiritual ingredients which gives rise to another form called ‘Vohun’. The Vohun is then mixed with Gav – the life giving element which pervades the entire Cosmos. The combination of Gav and Vohun, along with other ingredients, gives rise to Anasers, which are the spiritual DNA, or building blocks of nature. A variety of permutations and iterations of the Anasers gives rise to physical DNA, which is the ultimate building block from which the various parts of physical body – bone, tissue, organs, blood etc. is formed.

One can now appreciate the amount of effort put in by the Divine Apparatus of Ahura Mazda to create the conditions which will enable the Ruvan to remove its deficiencies. Each fragment of the Ruvan is given a physical form, which in our case as humans can be either the male or female body. The Ruvan is placed in this body through an intricate process and then begins its life on this earth as one of us. As an infant, the Ruvan is active, but as the child grows, the Ruvan falls into a slumber. As the physical mind becomes active, the child interacts with the world outside and develops its personality. As the physical mind becomes more mature, the Dravao, which is intertwined in every atom of our body now rears its head. In our minds, and in this physical world, the Dravao finds fertile ground for its own development! This arising of the Dravao and the exhibition of its tendencies is the root cause of man’s irresponsible and immoral behavior. The Dravao, which is ignorance itself, refuses to see the long term goal of the Ruvan – its salvation, and instead tries to take everything and more which is available in the surrounding environment. This exhibits itself as the various sins mentioned in our religion: lust, envy, anger, jealousy, revenge etc.

At the same time, it must be remembered that the body also has the Gav element in it. Gav is the Divine Life Force which enables us to breathe and live and survive as an organism. The fundamental characteristic of Gav is its ability to give everything it possesses for the good of another. This characteristic of selflessness [known in Gujarati as ‘para-dukha-bhanjan’ – taking the suffering of another on oneself] is the key to removing the deficiency from the Ruvan. The truly spiritual man is he, who, without even a moment’s thought or doubt, is willing to sacrifice all he has attained, for the purpose of helping another who is far worse off than him. This spirit of sacrifice is seen most visibly in the cow, which gives its most precious possession – its milk, for the use of others. If the cow is not milked, it is likely to die. This is the reason why the cow and the bull occupy such an important position in our religion.

Thus within our bodies, and almost unknown to us, there is a constant fight going on between the forces of Gav and Dravao. The Dravao, which can be portrayed as a wolf, sees the Cow, embodying the Gav, and tries to kill the cow in order to eat it. The cow, on the other hand, sees the ignorance of the Dravao and offers its milk to the wolf, in the hope that the his ignorance will be removed through the Divine Realization contained in its milk. The wolf runs behind the cow and the cow runs behind the wolf, in a never ending race! This battle is also the same battle which is played in our mind whenever we are tempted to do think, speak or do some evil. The brain, which as we have seen before, is composed of the Dravao and Gav elements, is in a tussle. Whenever a choice is presented to the individual, the Dravao rises and tries to influence the brain to take the short-term, and almost always, wrong, path. The Gav element tries to influence the mind by trying the make it understand the futility of taking the short-term approach and thinking long-term, and moving on the Path of Truth and Righteousness. Given this battle, sometimes our brain and mind decides to go with the Dravao, and hence commits sins; and sometimes agrees with the Gav, and commits virtue.

Thus any ‘prayer’ made by such a mind or person, who is composed of two competing sides can never be a real prayer to God. This is the reason why in our religion, the Manthras, are always the word of God, through His Authorized Prophet Zarathushtra, and His own Authorized descendants. True prayer or Manthra is thus that, which when prayed or recited, removes the confusion from our minds and helps us make the right choice – the choice of Truth and righteousness. In our next post, we shall try to understand how reciting the Manthras given to us by Prophet Zarathushtra help us in making this right choice.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. Darius Bharucha  June 15, 2011

    I am imperfect. How can I make prayers?

    I (my mind) is in a constant state of conflict between sin and virtue. How can a mind like that create prayers?

    Sir, thank you again for answering another point of confusion. As I’ve grown older I’ve just accepted certain things about religion and Zorastrianism in particular and given my great faith the benefit of the doubt. Your explanations have done a great job of removing some doubt from my mind. Thank you!
    I think I’ll stop posting my thanks to you. As I read each article I’ll mentally thank you!
    Take care,
    God Bless,