With respect to everyone’s beliefs, and with the main aim of shedding light on this topic, I share my knowledge and my beliefs on the concept of Organ Donation in order to provide clarity by doing away with any misinformation that may lead our Zarthostis to form opinions based on well-intentioned myths or worse, baseless fears.
So let’s start with the facts – the truth is that Zoroastrian scriptures are silent on the subject of organ donation, because surgery was not as advanced in those days. When scriptures are silent, tradition is often invoked. But, higher than tradition is the truth. And, the Truth is, our religion is based on Ushta or happiness and happiness comes to one who makes others happy. Let us never stray away from this fundamental precept. Our religion is also based on Asha or Truth and Righteousness. So first seek the truth before you fall prey to myths. Ask yourself this question, is it righteous to allow human suffering to persist or perish?
Who’s Body? Who’s Soul? The human body is all that we, in our physical form, really own in this material world – it is the cover we acquire in our mortal existence through this temporary journey called life. Our soul is eternal and theologically the soul returns to the spiritual world when we pass on and leave the mortal physical body behind. If that could be of use to reducing the physical misery of another soul, sent forth by the same Creator that sent us, would that make it right or wrong?
Of Karmic Debts… According to esoteric theories, the physically impaired are challenged due to some ‘karmic’ debt. In like manner, some are poor, hungry and roofless, also due to ‘karmic’ debt. By this logic, Jeejeeboy, Petit, Tata, Godrej and the Wadia families should all have kept their wealth to themselves and let the poor and roofless endure their ‘karmic’ fate! No? Who are we to lessen the burden of those who suffer due to their past or present karma? Is being charitable putting a spoke in the karmic wheel of Divine Retribution? Is this how we will justify our lack of empathy or charity when we meet our Maker?
The real essence of charity is wilfully ‘giving away something even though we may need it’. But just as we give our wealth when alive and our estates after we depart in our will, we could contribute blood or plasma while alive to save lives, and organs when we are no more! Charity can be done as much during life as after death.
Debunking Dokhma Myths: Some believe that amputed or severed body parts should be consigned to the Dokhma, after performing the GehSarna ritual. I’m certain, like me, a number of you may have had your tonsils removed as children, or maybe an appendix or a cyst? I’m sure, like me, you wouldn’t know what your doctors did with that! An uncle had his gall bladder and appendix removed. There is high incidence of breast and ovarian cancer among Parsi women and prostrate and testicular cancers among Parsi men. I really can’t think of priests performing ceremonies over these body parts and consigning them to the Dokhma!
In fact, if one goes strictly by the scriptures, the Dokhma should be situated far away from habitation. But we don’t cater to that – and have in fact, built a Parsi colony where there was once a jungle! According to esoteric Zoroastrianism, the body should be fully disposed by the fourth day and the ‘anasaar’ (spiritual components) handed over to Daham Yazata. But, it is a fact that today, bodies take months to decompose. Would you rather have a crow or a kite peck out your loved one’s eyes or a surgeon skilfully save the cornea to light up someone else’s darkness?
Ponder This: I have a dear Parsi friend (now 83 years young) who lost vision in one eye 40, years ago. From a super active and creative Bank executive, he suddenly became a helpless, dependent individual. 17 years later, he lost vision in the other eye. Thanks to a donor, he got back his vision and his life returned to normalcy, and he’s now immersed himself in social work, thanks to which, over a thousand Parsis have visited Iran over the last two decades! Think about it – should he have accepted blindness as karmic retribution or undergone surgery and made a difference in this world with the gift of sight? Thanks to this experience, several members of his family (including his mother and wife) have already donated their eyes after death!
In Conclusion: Please let’s not make an issue of this noble and ultimate gesture of humanity – If you feel like donating blood to save a life, go ahead and donate. If you wish to donate your cornea, kidney, liver or heart after death, go ahead! You could also donate your skin and bring relief to a person who is badly burnt and in agony. But, if you do not wish to do so, that also would be alright. After all, whose body is it anyway?
This article has been written neither with the intent to fan the flame of this controversy nor to offend any orthodox/traditional sentiments. To each their own … for those who wish to donate their organs after death, no coaxing will be needed, and those who do not wish to, no argument will be convincing. From dust I came, and to dust I shall return… or from life I came and to life I shall give back and live on in someone else’s eyes or heart. That choice is entirely yours!