A Marathon 8 hour Workshop on Zoroastrianism
At ZTFE UK, A Life Well Lived – A Marathon 8 hour Workshop on Zoroastrianism
By Bapsy Dastur
Khojeste P. Mistree’s association with Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE) is a long standing one. A life member since the early 1980s, Khojeste has given talks at ZTFE, beginning soon after completing his studies at Oxford University, where he read for a degree in Oriental Studies and since then he has been a frquent visitor.
His recent eight hour marathon workshop on Zoroastrianism, on Sunday, 2 June, 2019, attended by over a 100 participants, was a runaway success and was probably the largest workshop ever held at ZTFE.
Known for his articulation and a clear interpretation of the classical theology of the faith, this time Khojeste surpassed himself. In a world torn by threats of war, the agony of dispaced refugees and the flexing of muscles by powerful nations, the title itself had special relevance, “ A Life well Lived – Zoroastrian Values in Todays Word”; And his talk exhibited the need to draw strength from one’s own value system and to believe that hope and optimism isnt a bad thing, and can if promoted, enhance productively, life as lived on earth. Khojeste conveyed this with remarkable alacrity, citing hope, optimism, harmony and the discernment and appropriation of the Good, as the basis of bringing about progress in the world, giving even non- Zoroastrians and scholars, present at the workshop, a valid justification to uphold the Zoroastrian rational for doing Good. He was reassuring, promising that a world directed and dominated by Zoroastrian values can make the world a better place to live in. His emphasis was on the “microcosm of the self”the need for the inner being of a person to adopt Zoroastrian values and emerge as ‘ a Warrior of Truth and Promoter of Peace’ .
Mistree’s narration of the Bundahishn, the creation of the world by Ahura Mazda, and the antagonism of the Evil Spirit, transported those who attended, on a cosmic journey, almost like an epic episode from Star Wars.
Like a master story teller, he posited an advocacy of Zoroaroastrianism, taking the participants from the birth of Zarathushtra and its many attendant legends, through the time line of the Creation Story, the cosmic battle field in which the forces of Good triumph over those of evil, the splendid moment of harmony, when the 7 creations are created by Ahura Mazda and the ethicality of Zarathushtra’s revealation in a period when right was defined by the unrestrained exercise of brute power.
One was left with the feeling that enforcing the world of a rational wise and omniscient divine being, Ahura Mazda, on earth, and helping to perpetuate a Good world, as defined by the cosmology of the faith, is foundational to the understanding of Zoroastrianism and one that can be easily adapted by anyone. As one of the participants said you don’t have to be a Zorostrian to bring about these values and perpetuate this understanding of the world, as it should be, making it relevant today.
He stressed that in Zoroastrian thought, Knowledege and Wisdom eclipses power and its surrogate use of force and every Zoroastrian has a role to play in extending wisdom and enhancing knowledge to bring harmony into the world. The idea that, the microcosmic adaptation of the Good brings about the perpetuation of Good in the larger world, was an engulfing idea which reasonated with many participants.
Khojeste advocated the Zoroastrian idea of charity by quoting the Denkard “ That a generous person is most praiseworthy who seeks to become wealthy…and who gives it to worthy people.”
The topics discussed, ranged from the esoteric understanding of the Ashem and Yatha prayers, to the sacred fire as a living being, fuelled by the breadth of Ahura Mazda, to the complex ritual practices of the faith, reflecting the depth and understanding of Khojeste’s command over the faith.
As they always say, where there are Parsis there is always food, and in the Zoroastrian month of Dae, day of Bahram, 1388 Y (3 June 2019), it was appropriate that the workshop held as it was, in the memory of Sheroo Framroze Darukhanawalla, especially the lunch, with offerings of fragrant biryani, cashew chicken and rice firni for desert, nourished the soul of Sheroo Darukhanawalla, a devout Zoroastrian, as much as it did the participants of the workshop.