History Repeats Itself
My impetus to write this post is to address the recent posting by Bhujwala. He has very cleverly crafted his piece by including items such as inequality, environment, violence, which nobody could disagree with, and then sandwiching in between misinformation on our religion thus making his post palatable by the “gullibles”. Here is my viewpoint:
Many would agree that the phrase “history repeats itself” is true in most situations. As it pertains to our religion, history is most definitely seen to repeat itself. Zoroastrianism was a full-fledged state religion during the Sassanian Dynasty and according to various literature, our beautiful religion was practiced by most in the way that it was supposed to. However, evil’s head was raised during this era in the form of Mazdakism and Manichaeism, but they were all thwarted back by the passionate Zoroastrian kings of the time.
Fast forwarding to the period when we settled on the shores of Gujarat, our religion under the leadership of Dastur Nairyosang Dhaval was still completely intact with its rules, customs, traditions, and rituals. But history repeated itself when schism erupted between the Zoroastrian priests of the time, as to who should take care of the Fire and who should cater to Behdins’ various liturgical ceremonies. This further resulted into the divisions of Bhagarias and Sanjanas. The religion still seemed stable enough to have its rules and rituals in place.
Now, in the 15th century, the concept of Rivayats came into being when a Parsi from Navsari by the name of Changa Asa sent a person named Hoshang Nariman to go to Iran to consult with Iranian priests on religious matters. From this point one can easily identify the inception of the weakening of our religious leadership in India, where they thought that the Mobeds of Iran are better qualified in religious matters than themselves. Hoshang Nariman came up with the news that there was a difference of one month in the calendar between Iranians and Zarathushtis in India. This was a key point that started our religion to crumble apart as it saw a violent fight within the Parsis in India, some vying for the Iranian calendar and others for the one that they already had. People were even killed in this fight for the calendar!
This also started the advent of even more Persian Rivayats which were nothing more than the answers by Iranian priests to a list of questions brought to them from Parsis in India. Thus, Persian Rivayats gained popularity in the minds of both the priests and laities in India without much evidence that the answers brought forward were the truth. In fact, the concept of “mobedyar” got emanated from one of the Rivayats. This farfetched concept allowed history to repeat itself, where evil’s head was raised once again to harm the purity of our religion. The ugliness through this concept, unfortunately, is being propagated by an unknown reformist, Bhujwala, and others in the same camp.
- Little do they realize that the tenets of our religion cannot be changed simply due to their own inconveniences, but somehow their claim is now being presented very shrewdly under the guise of “adapting to the modern world”.
- Little do they realize that the disciples of Zarathushtra, and the sages during the Sassanian times, were way more spiritual and wiser than any of us, including the ones who are enthroned with the high status of “Dasturs” in our society today.
- Little do they realize that those wise followers of Zarathushtra were fully qualified to lay down the rules and rituals of our religion, but the pathetic pretenders of today simply cannot change those rules and rituals, as they are neither spiritual nor qualified in any way, shape or form.
- Little do they realize that religions are created with specific rules, traditions, and rituals. If the rules, traditions, and rituals are changed, then we simply do not have the specific religion that was created. Yes, one can completely change all the rules and rituals of Zoroastrianism, but then they simply cannot term their religion as Zoroastrianism.
Perhaps from the time that Persian Rivayats were considered the be-all and end-all on everything from proselytism to rituals, the “Dasturs” (the high priests) in India have been quite silent and have appeared to go along with the Rivayats, or perhaps they themselves are convincingly having the same opinion as the Rivayats. This behavior of the Dasturs is quite evident today when you see our religious leaders such as Dastur Kotwal of Mumbai and Dastur Ravji of Navsari not entering the arena to put these reformists in their places. This again is history repeated for our community where we saw people such as Dastur Dhalla in the early 1900s displaying the same type of behavior. He had no issues with proselytism and was openly demonstrating a very liberal viewpoint.
So, what’s the problem with the Persian Rivayats?
You will find below the arguments on this topic that I had posted a couple of years ago. No wonder, history repeats itself, I have to do it one more time.
There are differences in practices and beliefs between Parsee Zarathushtis and the ones from Iran, but one cannot categorically imply all the justifications given by the Rivayats as the gospel truth.
Also, clinging on to the Rivayats as some sort of strong evidence for a specific viewpoint is debatable at best. It is deplorable to believe the Rivayats on its face value, simply because they surfaced a cool 900 to almost 1000 years after the fall of our religion in Iran. During this time period, one can only imagine, the generations of Zarathushtis that went through the persecution and severe oppression by Islam. It is highly likely that somewhere in the lineage, those Zarathushtis were greatly influenced by the Islamic beliefs, thereby adapting many of the Islamic traditions as well, and unknowingly considering and incorporating them as Zarathushti practices. The bottom line is that it becomes totally ludicrous to think that the group we left behind in Iran, and who after undergoing tremendous amount of religious persecution are still able to articulate the original Zarathushti practices even after some one thousand years. This thinking forms the basis of the Rivayats. There may be an ounce of truth in its contents, but to consider Rivayats as the whole truth is utterly naive and foolish.
Caving in to the Rivayats as a mean to justify the authenticity of different rituals and practices, or for that matter a lack of them, simply undermines whatever was taught by our ancestors since they landed on the shores of Sanjan, 1387 years ago. The reality is that the Parsees escaped from the influence of Islam, whereas our Zarathushti brothers and sisters of Iran were not fortunate to do so.
However, this should not deter the Parsees to welcome the Zarathushtis from Iran, but their incorporations into the Parsee Zarathushti community ought to be done on the basis of the religious rituals and beliefs, as taught by our forefathers, starting with Dasturji Nairyosang Dhaval, and not by what is considered as Zarathushti rituals and beliefs as currently practiced in Iran.
No matter, how a reformist spins it – through Rivayats, or, through the concept of equality, or, through the need to change with the times, or through the need to be inclusive, or for that matter, through blatantly implying that our forefathers were wrong in their teachings – nothing works!
The fact remains that:
- If you are in the liberal/progressive camp, you will hopefully learn from this response.
- If you are in the orthodox/traditional camp, then this may come as no surprise to you!
The message sent by reformists such as this guy Bhujwala works on the “gullibles” and guilt redeemers. The former because they tend to accept things on their face value and are easily trapped by the conniving ways these people promote their message. One can’t be fooled into accepting proselytism on the basis of equality or mentioning that Zarathushtra accepted any and all into our religion. While this may be so, this reformist doesn’t tell the whole story – in those days, the people were mainly Mazdayasnis or had no religion. Therefore, in no way, shape, or form this ought to be considered as proselytism. The other one, the guilt redeemers, simply because they are feeling guilty and fooling themselves into thinking that they are still Zoroastrians despite having a non-Zoroastrian spouse.
I would like to conclude by capturing the central theme of our Prophet in Gatha Spenta-Mainyu, verse 49.3. It is in this verse we find that Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda to keep Him away completely from associating with people of untruth.
If Zarathushtra has asked for Ahura Mazda’s help to ensure that He does not associate with people who are untruthful to their religion and their souls, shouldn’t you?