Seminar Report : Divine Message: Journey through Zoroastrian Scriptures
The North American Mobed Council (NAMC) held a very successful Seminar in Houston on Saturday April 11, 2009. The Zoroastrian Association of Houston (ZAH), under the dynamic leadership of Aban Rustomji, hosted the seminar at their beautiful Zoroastrian Heritage and Cultural Centre (ZHCC) in Houston.
The subject matter was “The Divine Message: Journey through Zoroastrian Scriptures”
The Videos of the Entire Proceedings are presented in 22 segments below with summaries.
1. NAMC Houston Seminar – Welcome and Introductions
The seminar started with 5 young Ervads leading all in the Hum Bandagi with the Vainit Ahmi Nmāne prayer followed by 2 Yatha and one Ashem Vohu. The Kershaw Khumbatta, ZAH President, welcomed all NAMC Members, the four speakers who will present this seminar, as well as all participants. On behalf of Ervad Kobad Zarolia, President NAMC, its Vice President Noshir Mirza welcomed all to this seminar and gave a brief overview of the NAMC objectives and projects.
2. Session I Khordeh Avesta – Ervad Behram Panthaki
Rustom Engineer introduces the first speaker, Ervad Behram Panthaki who spoke on the subject of Khordeh Avesta. In explaining the Avesta scriptures, he noted that there is no word in Avesta for reading or writing but only for comprehending and memorizing. Hence our scriptures were preserved by memorizing from generation to generation. The 21 nasks dealing with all subjects were kept in 2 Royal Treasuries during the Achaemenian dynasty. One was destroyed by Alexander in 330 BCE when he burnt down Persepolis and the other was stolen by Greeks. The scriptures were in complete disarray until King Valakhsh of Parthian Dynasty tried to gather its fragments from different sources. This was continued by Dastur Tansar in the reign of Sasanian king Ardeshir Babakan and completed by Dastur Adarbad Marespand in the reign of Shahpur II who translated them in Pahlavi language since Avesta language was obsolete then. The scriptures were again destroyed by Arab conquest of the last Sasanian king Yazdegard Sheheryar and there was a dark period of 2-3 centuries until Dastur Neryosang Dhaval in India translated some of them in Pazand and Sanskrit from original Avesta and Pahlavi. Avesta is used to refer to the total scripture as well as for the language. Khordeh Avesta was compiled during Sasanian times from the main scriptures for the daily use by all Zarathushtris. Khordeh Avesta literally means abridged Avesta. He gave examples of some of our daily prayers as compilation from Yasna, Visperad and Vendidad, the greater Avesta.
3. Session I Khordeh Avesta – Ervad Behram Panthaki (continued)
Behram continued the topic of Khordeh Avesta showing different ones in size, shape, color, etc. Most of them have our basic daily prayers, 5 Gahs, 5 Nyayeshes, and some Yashts. Some even have all Yashts, Gathas, Afringans and Afrins, with a brief translation to word by word translation. In 1880 Avesta scholar, Ervad Kawasji Edulji Kanga brought out Khordeh Avesta Ba Maeni (Khordeh Avesta with meaning) in Gujarati in a scholarly manner with word by word translation. This has been the most authentic Khordeh Avesta in use. It has gone through 14 editions to date. In 1985, Bombay Parsi Punchayat published the English version of the same book translated by another Ervad Kanga which has gone through second edition. He then explained the five divisions of our days in Gahs. However, he informed that in Gathas, only reference is for morning, noon and night which may indicate that during Zarathushtra’s time, there may be only 3 Gahs of a day. Five Nyayeshes are short prayers for sun, light, moon, water and fire. All of them have basic Avesta prayers interspersed with Pazand paras. Yashts are the prayers for the praise of different divinities. Currently, we have only 22 Yashts and fragments of others lost over time. Many Yashts are from the Yasna Has. From their compositions and contents, Yashts may have been written by different persons over different times. Farvardin Yasht is the same as the outer liturgy of Farokhshi prayed together with Afringan. The last seven chapters of Farvardin Yasht extols the fravashis of all men and women who furthered the cause of Zarathushtri religion. He then mentioned references in our prayers for both men and women in various prayers. He then explained the Farajyāt, the daily obligatory prayers for a Zarathushtri. Why we should pray? He explained that in Zarathushtri philosophy, the prayers are not meant for asking Ahura Mazda for material gains but for the general good of the mankind in the belief that good of all will lead to good of the individual.
4. Session I Khordeh Avesta – Ervad Behram Panthaki (continued)
Behram continued with the different variations of Khordeh Avesta like Shehenshahi, Kadmi and Irani. He enumerated differences in these three in basic Kushti prayers, Nyayeshes, Patets, and Doa Tandoorasti and even in remembering the names of women who have passed away. He ended his talk by summarizing that Khordeh Avesta is a collection of prayers for everyday life of a Zarathushtri for different times of the day, in different seasons, and in various situations of their lives. After a rousing round of applause to Behram, the questions and answers followed. Are there variations in translations of Khordeh Avesta among scholars? Basically, Ervad Kangaji’s book, in Gujarati and English, and Tehmurasp Sethna’s book in English are word by word translations. The others are extracts from various sources. Another question: The physics theory states that prayers create unique vibrations. What is your opinion about that? Prayers are between you and Ahura Mazda. As long as they give you satisfaction, that’s the essence of praying. What it creates, how you do it and when and what is not important. Two other people in audience gave also their views on the question.
5. Session I Khordeh Avesta – Ervad Behram Panthaki – Questions and Answers
Questions and answers. Firdosh Mehta asked about the basic prayer words pronounced different ways by different people. How to address that. Behram answered by suggesting that such mispronunciations are bound to occur and offered that Ervad Kawasji Edulji Kanga’s Khordeh Avesta Ba Maeni, originally written in Gujarati, is used as the authentic prayer book which now is also available in English and both are available in the website: www.avesta.org. The other questions were: the origin of Rapithwin Gāh – is it pre or post Zarathushtra; Prayer for Wind – Rām Yasht; Equality of women and men in our prayers; Why people pray?; Oldest Khordeh Avesta manuscript facsimile edition by Dastoorji Kotwal and Prof. Almut Hintze; Smallest Khordeh Avesta book printed.
6. Session II Yasna Ceremony – Ervad Jehan Bagli
Behroze Daruwalla introduced Ervad Jehan Bagli. Jehan’s topic: The Theory and Practice of Yasna Ritual. He explained the meaning of the word Yasna, where and when it is performed as an inner liturgy, and the old scriptures references about 8 priests performing it instead of current two priests. Yasna ceremony represents the whole universe, sun, moon, earth, fire, vegetable and animal kingdoms. Yasna tries to attain the highest form of ritualistic purity by its performers. The celebrant seeks all that is good and benevolent and challenges the forces of evil by maintaining absolute physical purity of the place of worship as well as all its implements. Reference in Bundahishna mentions the performance of Yasna by Ahura Mazda and His Amesha Spentas in Rapithwin Gāh to celebrate the creation of the world as well as the defeat of Ahriman at the end of time. He described the layout of Yasna Gāh where it is performed as well as the implements used in it like trays containing water, homa and pomegranate twigs, Darun and Ghee, Hāvanim and lālo (mortar and pestel), Goat milk, etc.
7. Session II Yasna Ceremony – Ervad Jehan Bagli (continued)
Explanation of Yasna implements continued. The importance of pure water from natural resources like wells (not taps) in Yasna ceremony is stressed. The three stages of cleaning the implements were described – Sāf, Pāk and Pāv. Paragna (before Yasna) ritual was explained (using photos) in which Raspi performs a shortened version of Yasna to create Homa (Pārāhoma). Joti then starts the Yasna ceremony proper with Raspi as his helper, standing on the Zot Gāh. Barsom originally consisted of plant twigs; however, after coming to India, the priests uses metal wires instead to represent Khshthra Vairya (Shaherevar) Ameshaspand who is responsible for the metal world. Usually there are 21 Tāis (twigs or wires) in Barsom representing 21 words of Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer and 21 Nasks. Significance of Barsom was explained as a channel between the Menog (spiritual) and Getig (corporeal) worlds as well as a homage to the plant kingdom. He then explained the content of individual groups of Yasna Hās (Chapters) 1 – 53 in this segment and continues with Hās 54 – 72 in the next segment.
8. Session II Yasna Ceremony – Ervad Jehan Bagli (continued)
Jehan continues the explanation of Gatha Ushtavaiti (Hās 43 – 45) in which Zarathushtra converses with Ahura Mazda and also in Hā 46 laments dejectedly that there is no one listening to his message. However, in the end of Hā 46, he finds King Gushtashpa listening to his message. He then explains the remaining Hās 54 – 72, ending the Yasna ceremony with Zota and Raspi performing Hamā Zor ritual handshake and Zota taking Homa and pouring it into the well of Dar-e-Meher.
9. Session II Yasna Ceremony – Ervad Jehan Bagli – Questions and Answers
Jehan ended his talk by quoting Dasturji Feroze Kotwal. A lively Questions and Answers followed after a well deserved applause. Question: You mentioned that sanctity of Yasna is vitiated if someone crosses the Pavi. How about birds flying over it? The Yasna is usually performed inside a Dar-e-Meher and no birds or animals will be allowed to fly inside it or to cross the Pavi. Question: Why the priests changed the Barsom with plant twigs to iron wires and when? It was done after we came to India. Why? May be it was difficult to get the correct plant in India. The wires are made from stainless steel. It was stated that Dasturji Kotwal informed them that the twigs were from Tamarisk tree which was not found in India and so replaced by wires. Statement: Prof. Almut Hintze in her latest research clearly indicates that Haptan Haiti Hās 35-41 were written by Zarathushtra. Jehan later on differed with Prof. Hintze’sview and gave a few points to make his case that they are not written by Zarathushtra. Question: The Yasna diagram you showed seems so similar to the Jashan Ceremony layout. Can you explain the difference between Yasna and Jashan ceremonies? All our ceremonies have representation of 7 creations of Ahura Mazda. The difference is that in Jashan ceremony the climax is achieved during the flower ceremony between Menog and Getig worlds; whereas, in Yasna ceremony, we do not have such a climax but it is between the priests and the oral recitation of prayers. Question: Making utensils (karasya) pure by swishing it three times in well and then filling it the fourth time. Why? The three times is to make it saf and pak. The fourth time is to make it Pav (pure). Question: Why purity laws are so prescriptive in Yasna? Why natural water is more pure than tap water? Purity Laws aim is to attain the highest purity possible. Natural water taken is from a well in the confines of a Dar-e-Meher and is more pure than tap water that comes from pipes which come from various places. Question: Why no Behdins are allowed to participate in the Yasna ceremony? Yasna ceremony is performed by two priests in a prescribed pure space after achieving ritual purity by taking Bareshnum and so no laity is allowed to participate in the ceremony or enter the Pavi. Question: Yasna cannot be performed in North America. What NAMC is doing about it? Kobad Zarolia, NAMC President: They are working to build a Dar-e-Meher that can perform Yasna. We cannot dig an open well in it due to legal restrictions but can drill a tube well and adapt the water so drawn to be pure for Yasna ceremony. Question: But what about bringing Alat from India? Cannot do it by air? Kobad gave example of Aden Dar-e-Meher Fire brought by air to Lonavla. So, we have to adapt to our surroundings.
10. Session II Yasna Ceremony – Ervad Jehan Bagli – Questions and Answers
Jehan surmised the need to adapt to our present situation in preserving our religion. Zarathushtra never mentions Yasna ceremony. It evolved later mostly in Sasanian times. Question: Yasna requires the hair of a Varasya. In NA it would be impossible to find one. How then we perform Yasna without it? We cannot perform Yasna as in India. However, we can adapt in NA to have a Yasna version suitable to our conditions in NA making sure of attaining the highest purity attainable. Behram later on informed that in Rivayat it is specifically mentioned that we can use horse’s hair in place of Varasya if that is not available. Question: What is the purpose of Yasna ceremony? It is performed for celebration, remembrance of dead, gratification for the living, etc. For a variety of reasons. Question: How long Yasna ceremony last? Between 2 and 2 ½ hours depending upon the experience of Zota and how it is recited. Question: Would Ahuranish you mentioned similar to ???? force – power of force which has two sides of it as essence of life? Ahuranish refers to feminine. Further elaborated: Ahura Mazda has 3 male and 3 female Ameshashpands and so it is the reference to the 3 female Ameshashpands. Question: Am I correct in suggesting that Yasna is a combination of the Homa priest from eastern Iran and Barsom priest from western Mesopotemia? Yes Median priests from west adapted the Zarathushtri religion and changed it to suit their environment. Jehan in ending acknowledge Dasturji Kotwal book from which he has taken all the Yasna illustrations. Lunch followed.
11. Session III Visperad – Ervad Soli P. Dastur
Arnavaz Sethna started the seminar after lunch with an announcement about her pet project – Kushti Weaving Video. She then introduced the third speaker, Ervad Soli P. Dastur. Soli started his topic by involving all in the Hama Anjuman with the traditional Hama Zor greeting. All Behdins participated in this Hama Zor. Then he started with the beautiful para from Visperad 15.1 – Zoroastrian Creed (named by Ervad Dr. J. J. Modi). The whole Hama Anjuman participated in this prayer with translation. Soli then gave a preview of the agenda. Visperad means all lords or all seasons. He explained its derivation from Avesta together with corresponding roots from Sanskrit. Visperad states that all creation of Ahura Mazda, animate or inanimate, have their own Ratu or Chief. He mentioned Ratus for FEZANA as well as for NAMC.
12. Session III Visperad – Ervad Soli P. Dastur (continued)
Soli continued with the connection between Ratu and Asha and mentioned that Ashahe Ratum – Righteous chief – is always used together. Both Asha and Ratu has the same root – Areta. He stated the purpose of the Visperad ceremony – to praise all the chiefs of the creation of Ahura Mazda. He used an agriculturist as an example for being the best in his class. He sites the conclusion from Bundahishna that he/she that does his/her work best has much value. This then brings us to the Zoroastrian Creed mentioned before. He then explained that Visperad is never recited as a ceremony alone but always intermingled with 72 Hās of Yasna and its own 23 kardas. It is also always recited in Vendidad. Visperad is recited at 4 special occasions – Navar ceremony, Geti Kharid ceremony, during all 6 Gahambars and in Vendidad ceremony. He explained the importance of performing Visperad during all 6 Gahambars. He challenged the ZAH Hama Anjuman to have a Visperad prayer only (Sadeh) during one of their Gahambar celebration.
13. Session III Visperad – Ervad Soli P. Dastur (continued)
Ervad Soli P. Dastur is finishing his discussion of Visperad – All Ratus – Spiritual Lords. He describes 33 Ratus mentioned in Visperad Kardas 1-2, and gives a brief overview of all 23 Visperad Kardas. After the conclusion, he presented a photograph of an actual Navar Ceremony, pointing out the places of 8 priests who were supposed to be in the Yasna, Visperad and Vendidad ceremonies in olden days. He also discussed the responsibilities of these 8 priests.
14. Session III Visperad – Ervad Soli P. Dastur – Questions and Answers
The question and answer period after Ervad Soli P. Dastur’s presentation on Visperad. Initially he informs all that the whole seminar will be uploaded on web by Yazdi Tantra in Mumbai so all will be able to see it on web. It also will be on NAMC website: www.namcweb.org. Questions about Geti Kharid, Jindeh Ravaan, 33 Ratus versus 33 Yazads in Fareshta ceremony, etc. were discussed. The new young 4 ZAH Mobeds who prayed at the beginning of the Seminar were introduced by Arnavaz Sethna and were given a well deserved applause.
15. Session IV Vendidad – Sarosh Manekshaw
The last speaker, Mr. Sarosh Manekshaw, was introduced by Meheryar Rivetna. Sarosh spoke about: Vendidad – The laws Against the Demons. He gave a good background about the original Aryans, their languages, their migration around 3000 BC in two groups, South East to India and West to Iran. He discussed how original 21 Nasks (Books) were destroyed by Alexander and their fragments reassembled by the Parthian Emperor Valakhsh during 1st century CE and later by Aedeshir Papakan of the Sasanian Dynasty in 3rd century CE. Vendidad may have been written in 1st century CE (about 50-75 CE) and recompiled in the 3rd century CE during Ardeshir time.
16. Session IV Vendidad – Sarosh Manekshaw (continued)
Sarosh continued his discussion of Vendidad by giving an overview of its 22 Fargards – 1-3 Historical similar to Shahnamah, 4-17 Laws and 18-22 Various subjects. He briefly summarized the contents of all 22 Fargards. He then discussed Vendidad Sadeh, simple reading of Vendidad and Vendidad Bā Nirang, the full ritual of Vendidad. Vendidad Sadeh can be recited anywhere like in a home to ward off evil. Vendidad Bā Nirang can only be performed in a consecrated space in Atash Behram, Adaran or Agiary. It is always recited after 12 midnight and takes 6-7 hours to complete. In olden times, it may have been recited by memory but now it is read. Vendidad is a combination of 72 Has of Yasna, 23/24 Kardas of Visperad and 22 Fargards of Vendidad all interwoven with one another. He then discussed the controversy about Vendidad not being Zarathushtrian. He discussed the pros and cons about the various arguments and offered his views about Gathas being Reflective versus Vendidad being Prescriptive. He compared Gathas and Vendidad with US Constitution and US Laws – one reflective the other prescriptive. Gathas lay out the means for attaining Spiritual Purity – Vendidad lays out the Laws of attaining Physical Purity and there is no conflict between the two. He concluded his discussion by stating that without our priests memorizing our scriptures and handing them down to their generations, our religion would have been wiped out years ago. So, he made a very fervent plea to respect our priests and our scriptures and rituals. A lively question and answer period followed.
17. Session IV Vendidad – Sarosh Manekshaw – Questions and Answers
Sarosh continued with Questions and Answers. Question: If our priests memorized all scriptures, why they are not preserved later on after Alexander and Arabs? Not all 21 Nasks were memorized. Only the prayers and inner liturgies were. Dinkard, written in 800 to 900 CE gives a summary of each Nask but not any details. At that time, what resources were available to these writers we do not know. Question: In Christianity, the priests in charge collected all “Bibles” and selected 4 of them as standard and destroyed the rest until in 1945 a number of them were discovered in what is referred to as Nag Hammadi library. The same can be applied to Zoroastrian scriptures during Sasanian times. They collected all available books, and Dasturan Dastur Kartir selected some as authentic and destroyed the rest. Could this be possible? That is quite possible. It is hard to believe that we had wholesale destruction of all our written scriptures after they were collected by Dasturs Tansar and Kartir. Iranians were the worst record keeper and so it shows. Kartir was almost like a Zoroastrian Pope and he had absolute powers for religious matters. Question: Vendidad is always recited at night to drive out evil spirits in Agiyaris. Why? Are they more susceptible to evil? No. Vendidad Ba Nirang is the inner liturgy and can only be performed in an Agiyari and always in night. Vendidad Sadeh can be prayed anywhere any time and usually performed to drive out evil spirits. A comment: One slide of Sarosh shows a page from Vendidad in Avesta with a Sanskrit sentence written upside down. That could be because two people sitting opposite to one another, one write in Avesta and other translates it in Sanskrit sitting opposite and so writing upside down. Question: You described a very good analogy between Gatha and Vendidad on one hand versus US Constitution and laws passed by legislature. In conflict, Supreme Court decided what is wrong and right. Is there a body of experts who acts as Supreme Court in our religion? No and that is our problem for 1300 years. We have no body to act like Supreme Court, no one listens to our Dasturjis, etc. Question: Always hearing about Alexander destroying our library. Can anyone tell what was in that library? No I cannot tell. One reason that all was lost is the theory that Greeks killed all the priests who memorized the scriptures and so no one left to tell about it.
18. Session IV Vendidad – Sarosh Manekshaw – Questions and Answers
Question: What is the controversy about prescriptions of Vendidad like taking 3 showers a day. I would not do it in today’s environment. What? The controversy is because there is a group of people who wants to throw away everything of our religion except the Gathas and particularly Vendidad they want to throw away. Question: The argument that we lost all Nasks is because they were memorized by our priests and Greeks killed all of them. This is very credible reason. Agree? Yes there were scripts like old Persian, Akadian and Elamite. But not the current Avesta script which was developed in the time of Noshirwan-e-Adel in 6th century. Pahlavi script had only 9 letters in the alphabet and one letter can be pronounced in 7-8 different ways. Very difficult to understand. Question: Was there a language to read and write in Zarathushtra’s time? No there was none. In fact, as Behram mentioned, there is no word for read and write in Avesta. The scriptures were taught orally from father to son and our priests are like human tape recorders. A similar trend in Hindu priests. Question: Do the Gatha group have ceremonies like Death, Navjote, Navar, wedding, etc.? Gathas are the basic tenets of our religion on a highly spiritual level. Vendidad gives us prescribed laws to achieve those tenets in the real life.
A point was raised to answer the question. There is no reason to recite Ahunavaiti Gatha for the dead body. However, in Vendidad, the question is asked about what prayers to recite in front of a dead body and the answer is that prayer in which a para is recited once, twice, three time and four times. Only Ahunavaiti Gatha is such a prayer and so is recited. Also, Navjote prayers are not original prayers. They evolved with time. Question: Zoroastrians went to India and also to China, Europe and to other places. Can we have some history about them? No because they were assimilated in the local population. He predicted that in 5 generations, Zoroastrians in NA will be non-existent – completely assimilated in the population. Finally, Aban stopped the session because of time.
19. Session Wrap Up, Gifts, Ervad Kobad Zarolia, NAMC President, Kaemerz Dotiwala – Wrap Up
Aban Rustomji summarized the day by thanking the team: Committee Members of the ZAH Library, Entertainment and Executive as well as NAMC, all came together to put this successful event and she thanked all of them as well as all the people in attendance. She acknowledge that ZAH Library has about 800 books completely on Zoroastrian Religion. A small gift was then given by Aban from ZAH Library Committee to all four speakers. Ervad Kobad Zarolia, NAMC President, then addressed the session. He thanked ZAH and the speakers for putting together a very successful seminar. He informed the group that the same session will be repeated in Chicago ZAC on May 16, in September in Toronto, and may be later in California. NAMC is trying to put his members in front of the NA Zoroastrian community to impart their research and knowledge of our religion. He hoped that the local mobeds in ZAH and other communities will be coached to come forward and speak to their communities imparting Zoroastrian Religion knowledge and not just say the prayers. He thanked Kaemerz Dotiwala to start the ball rolling for this seminar and Aban to organize it. He was in Russia last summer and collected some Zoroastrian books in Russian which he is donating to the ZAH Library. The Russian Zoroastrian community prayed with Kobad Doa Tandoorasti prayer translated completely in Russian! Kaemerz then wrapped up the session. He thanked NAMC and requested them to start a class for the young people to learn Zoroastrian Relion, its theology, its ceremonies just like the one conducted by the Ex-Student Association of MFCAI school annually. He ended the session by thanking once again Aban and her ZAH Library committee and Kobad and his NAMC Executive committee. A panel session followed with all speakers participating.
20. Panel Discussions – Questions and Answers
Question: Where are the parchments taken by the Greeks? Behram: There were 12,000 of them mentioned and you have to ask Alexander or Firdausi Tusi about them; we all do not know where they have gone.
Sarosh: He found some 5 ¼ floppies in his bottom drawer that now he cannot find any readers to read them. He cautioned that we all should be adapting to the new technologies and convert our religious knowledge into up to date technology for the future generations. Observation: Every religion has a spectrum from highly spiritual (like Gathas) to very ritualistic (like Vendidad) knowledge and each of its follower has a choice to select from this spectrum to suit her/his needs at different times. Sarosh: Absolutely correct about your observation. His point is respect the total spectrum and do not throw away anything from it. Observation: Vendidad is an excellent document for preserving purity and thereby keeping the environment unpolluted. We should find a way to take guidance from Vendidad and adapt it to our current situation so our youth can take interest in it and in preserving the earth and its environment. Question: When Vendidad ceremony should be performed? Sarosh: When a priest completes Maratab ceremony. On the 4th night of the death for the departed and in Nirangdin ceremony. Soli: Vendidad was performed almost every other night in the little town of Tarapore where he was raised. It can be performed in the memory of dead as well as for the living ones. He stated how a priest has to read it from a big font type book because at 1 AM and onwards there is no light except the deevo to read it from a book. Behram: Vendidad not performed on the last day of the month since the month changes. Also, in Rivayat, it is mentioned that it should not be performed on Ava Mahino and Ava Roj. Reason: To preserve water. Question: What are some things you think we should do to reverse the decline in our community due to assimilation? Sarosh: Accept the children of one Zoroastrian parent – men or woman. Educate our youth.
21. Panel Discussions – Questions and Answers (continued)
Panel discussion continued. Sarosh: If you do not do Kushti prayer every day, youth will not also and then will not wear it. Do a deevo every morning before going to work or school and have them participate. Little things like that. Jehan: Within the four walls of the home, youth should see the religion practiced. All the classes and outside training is no good if it is not practiced in home. Kaemerz: Apathy of our community. In this excellent program today, we have say 50 – 60 people. Tomorrow at the mela, we will see 200 people. Somehow we have to find a way to get some more people into these types of programs. May be each one of us bring one another member to such programs. Sarosh Collector: He teaches adult ZAH Religious class. He gave some examples of how our youths are doing OK and are interested. If parents are involved with them, so much the better. Question: In some talks, mention was made about treating our women and men equal. Does that mean that we do not do so currently? Behram: Yes we do not treat women equally. One example: Navjote of interfaith marriage children is performed if father is Zoroastrian but not the mother. This was the result of the Indian Supreme court decision in 1906. This is clearly a discrimination of women which is never mentioned anywhere in our religion. Jehan: Same as Behram for performing Navjote. A Zoroastrian woman married outside and still following the religion is thrown out of our fold and not allowed in our Agiaries. Such a woman is also not allowed to be consigned to the Dokhmenashini. Question: In this respect, what are NAMC’s resolutions? Kobad: We accept the children of interfaith marriages irrespective of man or woman being Zoroastrian and perform their Navjote. Sarosh Manekshaw: Jews have a wonderful infrastructure support for their interfaith marriages. We have none and that’s the main problem
22. Panel Discussions – Questions and Answers (continued)
Panel discussion continued. Kaemerz: He does not support interfaith marriages. He sees a progressive/liberal group in NA and wish them luck. It is a new experiment and we have to see what develops. He is one of the traditionalist group and they will maintain the traditions and will not accept interfaith marriages. Research has shown that in Jewish community, after 4 generations, the interfaith marriages were assimilated in the other majority religion. He wants to see both groups support one another so that the community does not die out. He predicted that in 1 ½ to 2 years, just few yards away, the traditionalist ZAH group will have a consecrated Dar-e-Meher with all traditions, 24 hour burning fire, and we are sorry to say that any interfaith marriage man or woman will not be allowed. Question: An interfaith marriage child at Navjote professes to be a Mazdayasni Zarathushtri and then does not follow the religion. Are you not allowing the child to lie while performing the Navjote? It is the responsibility of the parents and not the performing priest to see that child follows the religion. Question: Is NAMC doing anything to train women priests? Jehan: NAMC has passed a resolution to accept any Zarathushtri, man or woman, who wants to be a Mobedyar. Behram: I am going to have the last word. He mentioned that hand written Vendidads about 200 years old are the personal property of Dasturji Kotwal and are housed in the Meherjirana Library in Navsari. The prayers are written in Avesta script but the comments for the ritual performance are written in Gujarati. So we have preserved old manuscripts like that. The session ended on that note.