What is prayer – part 3

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Roj Tir Mah Bahman, 1378 Yz.

Prayers are known in the Avesta as ‘Manthra Spenta’. Manthra means Divine Words, a revelation, while Spenta implies something which gives spiritual progress and benefit. The Avesta Manthras are thus not compositions of a human, but are the essence of the Divine Wisdom received by Zarathushtra from Ahura Mazda, condensed and formulated into a language that can be spoken by the human tongue. These original Avesta Manthras were of various categories, which were then further expanded and added to by the authorized disciples of Zarathushtra, who are known by the name Zarathushtrotemo – those who best take forward the work of Zarathushtra. At different times, based on the spiritual advancement of the persons taking birth during that time period, Rainidars – the spiritual executors of Prophet Zarathushtra and the Repairers of the Faith, appear, and after proving their spiritual authority by passing through miraculous tests, rearrange the Avesta Manthras to better suit the needs of the people to be born thereafter. The last such Rainidar was Dastur Adurbad Mahrespand who lived around 320 AD during the reign of the Sassanian King Shahpur II (309-379 AD). The current Kusti prayers and the Khordeh Avesta are the compositions of Dastur Adurbad Mahrespand, from the original Avesta.

The core of the Avesta Manthra and their efficacy lie in the method of their construction. Avesta Manthras are based on the science of Staota Yasna, i.e. the knowledge of divine vibrations, colours and forms which arise through the working of any Divine Being. For example, the work of Khurshed Yazata – the Divine Being behind the physical sun which we see, causes several colours, vibrations and unseen forms which enable the physical sun to perform its function of sustaining life in our Universe. When a devotee prays the Khurshed Nyaesh, he is able to attune his own Ruvan to some part of the Divine Song which is being created by Khurshed Yazata and thereby take benefit of the same. Thus just as at a physical level, it is advantageous to stand facing the very early rising sun and absorb its invigorating rays, in the same manner, it is spiritual very advantageous to pray the Khurshed Nyaesh and assimilate the spiritual energy being distributed by Khurshed Yazata.

The Avesta Manthras have a dual function. At one level, the Manthras offer the spiritual sustenance which is required by our Ruvan, so that it may work tirelessly and efficiently in its mission to remove the deficiencies it has. By providing this sustenance to the Ruvan, the Gav element of the Ruvan becomes stronger, while the Vohun element becomes subdued. This eases the constant friction between the two and thereby causes less tension in the physical mind, which can be more at ease. The reducing of this stress on the physical mind causes the overall physical health of the individual to improve. It should be remembered that all physical ailments arise from the mental strain caused by the two competing parts of the Ruvan. When this competition is somewhat pacified (although it can never be completely removed, until salvation), the mental peace automatically reduces the physical ailments from the body. Therefore, man’s longevity – his ability to live a healthy life of many years is also directly attributable to the amount of Manthras which he recites during his lifetime. Manthras are the spiritual equivalent of physical exercise in the gym.

At another level, Manthras act as remedies to cure the ills which ail the Ruvan and which result in our physical mind behaving in the way we have described earlier. The remedial or curative power of the Manthras result in the Vohun element becoming less aggressive towards the Gav element. The Gav element is able to assert more power over the physical mind, which results in man taking a less selfish and more long-term view of his existence. Thus man veers more towards truth and righteousness. He begins to care more for those around him, and the environment that surrounds him. He is less inclined to take more than is needed and more inclined to give back to others what he has but does not need. This is the beginning of his long journey to salvation. This ability to transform man’s thinking and thereby his speech and action is the real power of the Avesta Manthras.

Thus we see that Manthras are multi-tasking in nature. It is the good fortune of Parsis to be presented with this storehouse of energy and divine salvation. It is incumbent on us to inculcate the practice of reciting some Manthras every day. The Kusti ritual itself is a powerful tool to cleanse our Ruvan and the environment around us. The Manthras like Gahs, Nyaeshes, Yashts etc. have been specially formulated for us by Dastur Adurbad Mahrespand and should be used as is, without any alterations, shortening, or mixing. There is an unfortunate trend in our community to shorten prayers, or come out with “short cut” Nirangs. These cannot be a substitute for the complete prayers as have been formulated. ‘Lack of time’ is not an excuse, since everyone is given 24 hours – no one is given 23 and no one is given 25. Time management and proper prioritizing of our activities will always give the individual enough time to pray the Avesta Manthras, which are like a doctor’s prescription – something to be taken and used with faith and as per instructions – or the results could be different from what we had envisioned.

In our next post we shall go slightly deeper into the ability of the Manthras to transform our lives.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram