Author Archives: yazdi

Unite to Fight Hatred ( Not Giving in) 2l


The golden age,the silver

And the bronze, have all gone by

And the heroes who fought at Troy

And mankind is now in the iron age

And ” will never cease by day or night

From weariness and woe”– Hesiod

Reminds me of our

Beloved Asho Zarathushtra

Who put His own life on the line

For all of  human kind

Your Faith can move mountains

And your doubts can create them

Stick to your faith

Listen to no one

If one is a true Zoroastrian

I am not your “brother’s keeper”

Guarding the gates of Heaven

Or  for that matter Hell

I believe to each their own

Only Ahura Mazda can foretell

 Strutting into the Place of Worship

Praying mumbo jumbo

Near the Holy Fire

Expecting Him

To grant you boons?

(You must be kidding)

Alas! He is not all pleased

Au contraire He is more than

Displeased.

I am not showing off

My prowess in Poetry

But trying to bring sense

Following the rules

LIke meek little lambs

Is not going to guarantee

A place in Heaven or hell

But using one’s

Power of Reasoning

Will be the stupid

Bigoted Fatwa’s undoing

Choicest Blessings

Farida

The 5th Annual Kamran Seminar, July 20, 2019


RSVP for the 2019 5th ANNUAL KAMRAN SEMINAR

Featuring Professor Albert de Jong from Leiden University in the Netherlands, a Professor of Comparative Religion and Religions of Antiquity

July 20, 2019, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm 

RSVP here

http://www.thekamranseminar.com/

Morvarid Behziz, Mehraban Manoochehri, Ariel Ahram, Zarir Khademian, and Anne Khademian

The Kamran Dar-e-Mehr

15316 Barnesville Road, Boyds, MD 20841

Tickets are free, donations to ZAMWI are welcome

As this is a lecture series, you must be 13 years or older to attend

WZCC – Outstanding Zarathushti Awards


2019 WZCC RECOGNIZES – THE BEST OF THE BEST 

We are a small community of very talented and successful individuals.

WZCC recognizes the best in the following categories:

* Outstanding Young Entrepreneur/Professional
* Outstanding Entrepreneur
* Outstanding Professional
* Outstanding Social Entrepreneur

Please help us to identify and recognize these outstanding individuals by nominating them.

Nomination package with instructions available on www.wzcc.org 

Completed nominations must be received by July 26, 2019.  
  Edul Daver – WZCC Global President 
eduldaver@gmail.com 

Through the Lens of an Orthodox Canadian Zarathushti Priest …


I had recently read about the passing away of Dasturji Jamaspasa and I felt quite sad, as I fondly recalled having his presence during my Navar ceremony at Cama Baug in 1957.  He was a scholar and a very soft spoken gentleman. May his soul rest in eternal peace!  

Soon after the demise of Dasturji Jamaspasa, I learnt about the passing away of the Vada Dasturji of the Navsari Atash Behram, Kaikhusru Navroji Dastur Meherjirana.  Although I didn’t know him, the news of his demise triggered in me a very gloomy picture of the future of our religion, just simply realizing that the names of the Dasturjis that I grew up with are slowly but surely departing from this world. Dasturji Kaikobad Dastoor and Dasturji Peshotan Mirza of Iranshah, Dasturji Meherjirana of Navsari and Dasturji Minocher Homji are but a few other names who will be remembered, if not for anything else, for their integrity, religious knowledge, piety and simplicity.  Dasturji Feroze Kotwal is another old guard who has certainly made his mark as a scholar of our religion.  May he be blessed with a long life!

In the present time, the reformists of the Zarathushti religion all over the world, who simply for their convenience and own agendas are bent upon destroying the religious tenets and traditions that our ancestors have held on for centuries. One wonders in skepticism about the coming new generation of Dasturjis – would their knowledge base, piety and leadership qualities suffice to uphold the tenets of our beautiful religion?

Cleanliness and purity are crucial components embedded into our religion, and yet, one is bounded with utmost grief to see the shocking upkeep of our religious institutions, mainly our Agiaries.  On my recent trip to Mumbai, I visited Cama Baug Agiary which holds a special place in my heart – the place where my Navjote, Navar and wedding ceremonies took place.  It was nothing short of a painful experience for me to see both, the outside and the inside of that Agiary completely deteriorated.  Once a pristine place to worship is now just seen as an unclean structure called an Agiary. The total lack of cleanliness was a pitiful sight to bear.  I know there are other Agiaries with the same sad state of affairs and maybe worse.  It remains incumbent on the management and the trustees of these Agiaries to take full responsibility of this mess and not pretend that it is beyond their control.

Quite frankly, with my observation of the Cama Baug Agiary, and knowing that Ervad Kaikhushru Rawji has been the Panthaky for over two decades of that institution, I wasn’t much elated when I first found out that he is replacing Dasturji Meherjirana of Navsari.

Notwithstanding my bias, I was very impressed when Dasturji Rawji made a striking statement during his inauguration ceremony as the 18th Dasturji of the Navsari Atash Behram. He said that a Dastur’s rank is next to that of our Prophet Zarathushtra. He also added that a Dastur is expected to provide leadership to the Parsi Zoroastrian community.

His comments somehow exude a ray of hope for the orthodox Parsi Zarathushtis around the globe, particularly when it is clear that the names of the Dasturjis of today can hardly be said in the same breath as our Prophet, or for that matter, even next to Him. Their leadership to the community and their passion to preserve our religion the way it is supposed to, are at best quite debatable.

Will Dasturji Rawji be true to his comments? Will he have the courage to shun the reformists, most of whom appear to possess the political and financial powers?  Will he be able to stay away from any and all temptations for his own personal gains?  Will he be a role model ready to defend the core requirements to be a pure Parsi Zarathushti?  Well, let time be the only judge!

May Ahura Mazda guide the 18th Vada Dasturji of Navsari to follow strictly in His path, and may Dasturji Kaikhushru Rawji make a positive difference which is needed so desperately.  

…. Er. Jal Dastur <JalDastur@hotmail.com>

Zubin Karkaria named Global Game Changer in UK


Zubin Karkaria, founder and CEO of VFS Global, was presented with the honour by Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland at the Indian Awards event held in the UK Houses of Parliament complex this week.

A leading Indian entrepreneur who heads the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions has been named a Global Game Changer at an awards ceremony in London. Zubin Karkaria, founder and CEO of VFS Global, was presented with the honour by Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland at the Indian Awards event held in the UK Houses of Parliament complex this week.

“While VFS Global has been working with UK Visas and Immigration since 2003 in supporting their vision and agenda across the world, I would also like to acknowledge the role of the travel industry in the continuous development of UK-India relations,” said Karkaria.

“Driving business excellence through continuous innovation and the highest levels of customer service have been at the core of VFS Global’s philosophy ever since we launched our company in 2001, and prestigious awards such as this one keep us motivated in our quest to constantly raise the bar,” said the CEO, who divides his time between Dubai, India and Europe.

The Indian Awards are organised annually by the India Business Group (IBG) advisory and consultancy. Its Global Game Changer honour acknowledges an individual, based anywhere in the world, for their outstanding contribution to globalising India in any particular field.

https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/indian-entrepreneur-zubin-karkaria-named-global-game-changer-in-uk/1594745/

A Marathon 8 hour Workshop on Zoroastrianism


At ZTFE UK, A Life Well Lived – A Marathon 8 hour Workshop on Zoroastrianism

A life well lived

                                                                     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.

The audience at the talk

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.

Teachings of Zarathushtra and current practice of the religion


The religion founded by Iranian Prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster as called by Greek philosophers like Plato) over five thousand years ago, as described in his five Gathas (songs), give us the basic guidelines that are mostly timeless.

His followers added rituals, prayers and traditions that serve as tools which can help to structure our lives according to the guidelines. Just as we constantly improve tools that we use with the latest technologies, these tools which help us to apply the general guidelines may be modified if and as needed to be relevant for the time and society in which we live. 

Understanding the connection of all creations of God, Zarathushtra proclaims that true happiness comes to them who create happiness for others (Y.43).When we are not content with our honestly obtained wealth, position, status, etc., we are tempted to resort to unethical means to gain more than we have. With this realization, Zarathushtra tells us that Contentment is the greatest virtue. 

Practice of Zarathushtra’s Teachings in the Present Times Ultra-Conservative PracticesLike in other religions, some individuals follow the teaching of the founder more closely than others, and there are groups like orthodox, reformists, and mainstream who follow their preferred practices in a group setting.As the focus of Zarathushtra’s teachings is on ethical living in this world that would promote peace and happiness for all creations on earth, we should examine if we are following and prioritizing his ethical guidelines in our practice of religion. 

Among the Zarathushtis from India and Pakistan, we have a small but vocal population of ultra-conservative and a much smaller group of ultra-reformist individuals. The majority of Zarathushtis are not rigid in their religious beliefs and observances.

Most ultra-conservatives, especially from India/Pakistan, emphasize racial and ritual purity and do not think it important or necessary to learn the meanings of the prayers.

They believe that prayers in Avesta and Pahalavi were composed in a special way and have intrinsic beneficial effects from the vibrations emanating during their recital, and that there are many different translations of the prayers resulting in difficulty to know which one if any, is the correct translation. Their focus is on performing the rituals according to traditional rule as suggested by their Guru, a nineteenth century Zarathushti who claimed to have been given the knowledge by spiritual masters who live in the mountains in Iran. 

Comparing this belief to Zarathushtra’s teachings, we can observe that it does not appear to be in agreement with his teaching that each person should use his/her good mind and freedom of choice gifted by Ahuramazda, to think and freely choose what is right. The ultra-conservative belief that Zarathushtra’s religion is restricted to the Persian race is also contrary to his Gatha verses in which he mentions the soul of the world asking God for a Savior and Ahuramazda choosing him for that role.

Most ultra-conservatives believe that women during their menstrual period should be isolated at home and should not enter prayer areas. They believe that even a male person who is bleeding cannot enter prayer areas. This belief is not supported by Gatha teachings leading us to think whether under the availability of current hygiene practice and products this rule is still necessary.

The ultra-conservative belief in a rigid class system (similar to the Hindu caste system) separating priest class (Athravans) from non-priest class (Behdins), and not allowing Behdins to serve as priests (called Mobedyars), is also against Zarathushtra’s teachings of equality of all human beings. While the Iranian community is not against Mobedyars, the Parsi priests resisted training of Mobedyars until some open-minded priests were convinced of the need to break the roadblock for Behdins, considering the growing shortage of practicing priests. 

Not accepting people who voluntarily choose to learn and adopt the teachings of Zarathushtra, without evaluating each case, is another practice of ultra-conservatives, that is against Zarathushtra’s teachings of equality.  

Ultra-Reformist Practices

Most ultra-reformists claim to restrict their prayers and beliefs to the Gathas only, but even some of them interpret what is written in the Gathas without questioning, thinking independently, and understanding in the proper context.Some ultra-reformists justify their choice without thinking about the rightness of their choice, claiming that there is no specific restriction related to their choice in the Gathas.

For example, choosing not to cover the head and remove shoes in the prayer room of a community center in violation of posted rules would be wrong in the spirit of the Gathas, if done without questioning and understanding that the rule helps retain cleanliness by preventing loose hair falling and dirt from shoes worn outside. 

Mainstream Practices

The largest populations of Zarathushtis are generally flexible and more open-minded about racial and ritual purity. However, not having adequate knowledge about Zarathusthtra’s teachings in the Gathas, historical practices of the religion in Iran, they often tend to go along in public, with the opinions of the vocal ultra-conservatives or ultra-reformists in order to avoid controversy and ostracism.

Even those from priestly families who were trained in ritual performances as children (due to the wishes of the parents), and decide to practice priesthood, usually tend to go along with the preferences of whoever is in power socially or of giving compensation for their services. Due to poor compensation and lack of benefits for most priests, only those who lack adequate education and opportunity to pursue lucrative careers become practicing priests and that too part-time with a second job outside. Last year, two new Daremehers were inaugurated, and Mobedyars were not invited to sit with the Ervads (from priest families) to perform Groundbreaking Jashan and Inauguration Jashan rituals, and the mainstream community kept quiet about it.

This is against the teachings of Zarathushtra about speaking up against injustice and blind faith. Training of priests in India/Pakistan has been limited to some basic religious education and memorization and recital of ritual prayers without understanding the meanings of the prayers. Most recently there has been some additional information being offered to priests called EmpoweringMobeds in the form of seminars. There are only a handful of priests who have learned Avesta and Pahlavi languages and appointed as High Priests of Atashbehrams in India/Pakistan. Not knowing the meaning of what one is reciting in prayers goes against Zarathushtra’s teachings of gaining a thorough understanding of his teachings. 

Zarathushtis have generally retained basic ethics of honesty and charity that have earned them high respect and trust from the people in India, Pakistan and Iran. There is a general belief in good thoughts, good words, and good deeds that is carried forward to the children, and a continued observance of festival days like Nowruz, Ghahambars, etc. that brings the community together on those occasions. Involvement in interfaith organizations and events is helping educate other communities about our faith. 

In order to motivate our youth to continue the practice of the Zarathushti religion, we need to teach our history, so that they know that we are not some small cult but inheritors of one of the world’s oldest monotheistic faiths that once was the majority religion of Iran. We also need to welcome Mobedyars (Behdin Pasbans as known in India) and encourage anyone (man or woman) who wishes to serve the community as priests. We need to develop scholars who study Avesta, Pahlavi, and share their knowledge with the community via periodic lectures. We need to develop pastoral service by priests who can provide religion based counseling to individuals experiencing high stress situations.

And, we need to accept non-Zarathushtis who come to us and wish to learn about our religion and wish to practice our religion, after some screening. 

 Maneck Bhujwala was born in Bombay, India, to Navroji and Meherbai. He got his Bachelor in Engineering from India, and M.S. and M.B.A. in USA. He co-founded the Zoroastrian Association of California in Los Angeles in 1974, and Zarthushti Anjuman of Northern California in 1980. He currently works as a licensed real estate consultant, serves the community as a priest, and is President of the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council.Maneck has contributed articles in FEZANA Journal and WZO’s Hamazor magazine, and coordinated religion classes for adults. He also transliterates and translates the Shahnameh to English poetry form and distributes a page a month on the internet with Persian, Gujerati and English versions. Maneck lives in Huntington Beach. 

Posted 8th December 2018 by California Zoroastrian Center

Published in Chehrehnama 188

THE QUEST IS ON TO SAVE THE DYING ZOROASTRIAN TONGUE


Zoroastrians are dwindling, but Russian academic Anton Zykov is making sure their distinctive tongue is not forgotten.

Anton Zykov

Growing up in Moscow, Anton Zykov was surrounded by “all things Indian.” Jawaharlal Nehru Square, where the statue of India’s first prime minister stands, was just around the corner from his home. His bookshelf was lined with children’s biographies of Indian rulers like Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali. He learned to speak Hindi in school. With both his parents being doctors, he was quite sure one day he would grow up to be one too — a typically Indian thing, he admits.

While his calling in medicine never arrived, the Indian connection persisted. Today a scholar at the Oriental Studies School of Sorbonne University, Zykov, 31, is documenting the dynamism of Parsi-Gujarati — a language (some consider it a dialect) spoken by Parsis, a Zoroastrian community in India.

One of the world’s oldest religions, the monotheistic Zoroastrianism (named for the Persian prophet Zoroaster) probably influenced the development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Zoroastrians migrated to India between the eighth and 10th centuries A.D., fleeing persecution by the Arabs in Iran (then Persia). They found refuge off the coast of Gujarat, a northeastern state in India. While assimilating certain aspects of local culture, including their language with regionally spoken Gujarati, they retained their religious identity.

They flourished into one of the world’s most successful minority groups, with an intense focus on education that helped produce an incredible collection of billionaires and business titans in the Tata, Godrej, Poonawalla, Mistry and Wadia families. The late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and classical music conductor Zubin Mehta also come from the group. “Parsis can’t become complacent because they don’t have a country of their own,” Houtoxi Contractor, head of the Zoroastrian Association of Pennsylvania, told United Press International.

https://www.ozy.com/rising-stars/the-quest-is-on-to-save-the-dying-zoroastrian-tongue/94521

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