Zoroastrianism 101 Lecture on March 14, 2021
Category Archives: Avesta and Studies
Attached, for your information and circulation, is a Press Release announcing the establishment of the North American Institute of Zoroastrian Studies, as an educational arm of the North American Mobeds Council (NAMC).
A debt of gratitude goes to Rohinton Rivetna for his initiative in drafting the initial charter, and to NAMC (President Er. Arda-e-viraf Minocherhomjee) for their resolution to carry the proposal forward. NAMC Vice-President Er. Tehemton Mirza has been tasked by NAMC to set up this organization, create a curriculum and manage its operations.
This is an important milestone for Zoroastrians in North America, marking our coming of age and taking our rightful place as an established religion, among others, in North America.
In the words of Asho Zarathushtra…
The Gathas are the Heavenly songs of our Dear Prophet Zarathushtra. These divine hymns in essence, represent Zarathushtra’s communication with Ahura Mazda, in which the Prophet enquires about various aspects of the corporeal and spiritual worlds that embody the Almighty’s Holy Plan. It is through these Gathas that we learn that Ahura Mazda ordained Zarathushtra to propagate our great religion and lead mankind.
The five Gathas address a wide variety of information, which include, the creation of Nature, the concepts of Asha, Vohu Manah and the Twin Spirits, the choices that mankind has to make between Good and Evil, the expected outcome for the demons of the time, the punishment for the followers of falsehood, and a slew of other material. The devotional ‘Manthras’ that Zarathushtra prayed at the time to invoke the sacred Blessings from Ahura Mazda, is sprinkled in different verses of each Gatha. These specific verses could very well be a great source of divine prayers for us to recite as well.
To allow a true Zarathushti to pray these selected sacred verses that are relevant to our daily lives, I have extracted these verses from each Gatha and have compiled them in a PDF format. I have also provided the English translation for each stanza, to help with the understanding of the meaning of each verse for the reader. This translation is based on “Gatha ba Maani” by Ervad Cowasji Eduljee Kanga, and “Divine Songs of Zarathushtra” by Iruch Taraporewala.
I am well aware of the unfortunate degradation of our community members throughout the world, to shy away from following the tenets of our religion, let alone reciting our daily prayers. However, even if a handful of true Zarathushtis do get a chance to recite these verses, I will consider myself blessed by Ahura Mazda.
Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.
This is a story narrated to Roshnimai Godiwala by a pious lady. It is the story of a simple husband who was unfortunate to have a wife whose lavish spending habits left him greatly distressed. For a long time, he tried his best to cater to her incessant monetary demands till one day, out of sheer despair, he decided to end his life. Even as he stood, poised for a leap unto death, on a precipice overlooking the Wai Ghat near Panchgani, a Sadhu suddenly appeared by his side.
When questioned by the ascetic, this Parsi gentleman explained his predicament , saying he was going to meet his Maker. The ascetic laughed aloud and told the Parsi that if this was truly a way to be liberated from life’s worries and meeting God, then many mortals would have succeeded by now. He requested this troubled soul to visit his Ashram and assured him that he would help him to meet God. Since the desperate Parsi had nothing to lose anyway, he accompanied the Sadhu to his Ashram.
The ascetic gave this despairing soul a fruit to eat. No sooner was the fruit consumed, the Parsi went into a samadhi– like state, liberated from all flesh and blood needs-no thirst, no hunger, no sleep, no defecation for forty days! When he returned from this trance like state, he had partaken of many secrets and mysteries lying locked in Nature’s vault. The ascetic handed a Jamaspe to this enlightened soul, instructing him how to use the book to prescribe Nirangs , prayers to other long suffering Parsi souls that they may enjoy some relief and happiness. He also told this Parsi that, henceforth, every morning when he awoke, he would find a ten rupee note under his pillow. It is worth noting that this sequence of events occurred in the forties when a rupee held great value.
On returning home, the man went about using the copy of Jamaspe and recently acquired divine knowledge for the work assigned to him. As for his extravagant wife, there was always the ten rupee note every morning to satisfy her foolish demands. After some time, the man realised his natural end was drawing near. He called a pious lady neighbour whom he trusted, and told her to take away the Jamaspe and carry on the good work after his death. The lady disciple told him that she would collect the sacred book from the prayer shelf with the burning oil lamp only after he had passed away. She assured him that she would then put it to good use as instructed by him. However, after his demise, when she tried to collect the book from the secret place shown to her, the book was missing!
Roshnimai asked late Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwalla Saheb (disciple of Ustad Saheb Behramshah Navroji Shroff) to explain why the book had vanished from the secret place shown to the survivor. He explained that , in the Aravali mountains, even today, there are places cut off from the outside material world by talismatic kash. Here lie some Astral Libraries where Holy Books of all the Divinely Revealed Religions are kept. Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwala Saheb opined that, since the survivor lady was not found eligible to use the secrets of Jamaspe, it must have, so to say, ehtherialised and got restored to one such astral library! He also explained that there are many such advanced souls dwelling in these places cut off from the outside materialistic world. Though the Sadhu was not a Parsi, he could draw the relevant book from such an astral library by virtue of his spiritual stature so that the Parsi could do the good work he was destined to do for other suffering Parsis.
The cynic and the doubting Thomas, will dismiss this story as an unbelievable yarn. We wish him good luck!
Strange are the ways of Nature and stranger, the multidimensional truths and events lying beyond the grasp of our puny human intellect that always presumes to understand the multidimensional truths of Nature. But then,as Hamlet told his friend,
“There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy!.”
Courtesy : K F Keravala
Presented as a recitable prayer in English compiled from the following publications which give different versions of the Holy Gathas as per links below, (a compilation by Jimmy Wadia ( email@example.com) :
Thank you Jimmy for sharing.
MAY GOD REST HIS SOUL IN PEACE.
WHAT A GREAT NOBLE KNOWLEDGEABLE SOUL.
SOAS University of London has secured a £5 million donation to create the world-leading SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies.
The donation will enable the creation of the SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies, a resource dedicated to enhancing the research, learning and teaching in the field of one of the world’s oldest religions. The institute will be co-chaired by Dr Sarah Stewart, Lecturer in Zoroastrianism, and Professor Almut Hintze FBA, Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism. The donation will secure a long-term endowment for the Shapoorji Pallonji Lectureship in Zoroastrian Studies at SOAS in the Department of the Study of Religion, which will be held by Dr Stewart.
Three Magi in Parthian dress, exhibited at The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination, London 2013, Delhi 2016
SOAS has secured a commitment of £5 million over three years which will also see the creation of Shapoorji Pallonji Scholarships in Zoroastrian Studies as well as enabling a wide range of public engagement.
Baroness Valerie Amos CH, Director of SOAS, said: ‘Based in London, the home of the oldest Zoroastrian diaspora community outside India and Iran, SOAS is the perfect place to be home to an Institute of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS for nearly 90 years and through this donation we will be able to enhance our research and teaching in Zoroastrian studies and strengthen our relationship with the Zoroastrian Community.’
Mr Shapoor Mistry, Chairman, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said: ‘Through the creation of the Institute, Lectureship and Scholarships, this donation will ensure that SOAS continues to develop as the world’s leading centre of Zoroastrian Studies, advancing in perpetuity the understanding and appreciation of this ancient religion and its history, culture, languages and peoples.’
Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS since 1929 thanks to the Parsi Community’s lectureship, which was held by Sir Harold Walter Bailey and Walter Bruno Henning. Renowned scholar Professor Mary Boyce taught Zoroastrianism from 1947 until 1982. Many other distinguished scholars of Zoroastrianism and Iranian Studies have taught at SOAS, including Professor John Hinnells, Professor A D H Bivar, Professor Philip Kreyenbroek and Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams. SOAS also produced a major international exhibition exploring the cultural history of Zoroastrianism, The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in history and imagination, which was exhibited in SOAS’s Brunei Gallery in 2013 and in the National Museum in Delhi in 2016.