Category Archives: Avesta and Studies
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 ( firstname.lastname@example.org) :
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.
11 July 2017
In the Zoroastrian Calendar the year comprises twelve Mah (months) with each month aggregating exactly thirty Roj (days) and thus a year of three hundred and sixty days to which are added the stand-alone five days of the Gatha which are not linked to any particular month.
The fifteenth day every month is dedicated to Dae-Meher and the sixteenth day to Meher Yazata. Where the twelve Mah are concerned, the seventh month is dedicated to Meher. Hence, Meher occupies a central position in the monthly and annual time cycle.
Meherangan is celebrated when Roj Meher coincides with Mah Meher. According to folklore this day commemorates the victory of light over the forces of darkness and good over the forces of evil. It is the day when the legendary spiritual King, Shah Faridoon enchains Zohak or Azi Dahak, the epitome of evil to that great spiritual mountain called Damavand in Iran.
According to legend, Zohak (the living embodiment of evil) is still chained to mount Damavand. It is said, every night when darkness grows, the forces of evil gain strength and the chains weaken. However, at the crack of dawn when the cock crows and there is sunlight, the chains are again secured and the evil one is rendered powerless. This is an important truth in nature, wrapped in an easy-to understand legend. Neither darkness nor evil has its own existence. Darkness is merely the absence of light and evil the absence of good. The only way to negate darkness is with light and the only way to dispel evil is through thoughts, words and deeds that are good.
The Avestan name for Meher Yazata is Mithra — the Divinity presiding over all oaths, promises, contracts, bonds, friendship and love. Avestan Mithra finds an echo in the Sanskrit word Mitra which means friend. The equivalent of Mithra in the Hebrew tradition would be Micha-el or the later Archangel Michal of the New Testament who leads God’s army in war against the forces of Satan.
The Romans too were so inspired with Mithra (Mithras to the Greeks) that Mithraism was practiced as a religion across the mighty Roman Empire between the first and the fourth century A.D. The temples of Mithras were always an underground cave, featuring a relief of Mithras killing the bull. Many scholars believe that this is related to cosmic astronomy, where the bull represents the constellation of Taurus.
In the Zoroastrian tradition Meher is referred to as Meher Davar or Judge who presides over the trial of the soul on the chahrom or fourth day after death.
Meher is also depicted as light or more specifically sunlight. Therefore, the Khurshed and Meher Niyaish go together hand in hand and are recommended as daily obligatory (Faraziyat) prayers.
The Meher Yasht is one of the longest of the Avestan Hymns. It embodies invocations for mercy and protection. Mithra being the Divinity of heavenly light is depicted as knower of the truth and one that sees everything. He is therefore the Divine Witness of truth and protector of oaths and promises.
Praying the Meher Niyaesh together with the Khurshed Niyaesh or the much more elaborate Meher Yasht is considered spiritually beneficial. It dispels the darkness of ignorance and untruth and strengthens the devotee with a high sense of truth, justice and commitment.
Meher Yazata is also the presiding deity over all rituals and ritual spaces and therefore Zoroastrian places of worship, especially in Iran are referred to as Dar-e-Meher or Darb=e-Meher which means ‘House of Meher Yazata’ or the ‘House of Light’.
The name Meher is popular among Parsis and though Mithra or Meher is a male Divinity, the name is commonly used by both gender. There are also other name variants. For example among the male — Mehernosh and Meherzad and among female Mehernaz and Meherangis!
“The Gathas shows the path to heaven on Earth…a path gifted by the Wise Men to baby Jesus but lost to superstition. Now is the time to revive this gift for ourselves and the world.” — Fariborz Rahnamoon
Introduction by: Dr. Behram Pastakia
We would like to bring to your attention the Zoroastrian Studies Program at Stanford University. Stanford is one of the most prestigious universities in North America, ranked in the top 5 by U.S. News and World Report. For the last eight years along with Stanford, we have had a community effort led by Farrokh Billimoria of Redwood City, California to help create and sustain a program on Zoroastrian Studies at Stanford.
What started out as a lecture series between 2005 and 2009 is now a Lectureship with 4 courses offered during each academic year. The current faculty is Dr. Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina (Ph.D., Harvard University) who has been a fulltime faculty for Zoroastrian studies at Stanford University since winter quarter of 2010-2011.
We as a community have sustained this program by major contributions from individuals in India, Hong Kong, FEZANA and contributions from various North American Associations and personal contributions from many North American Zoroastrians.
We are extremely happy that Dr. Vevaina is a fantastic teacher; his reviews at Stanford from his colleagues and his students are at the top of the review scale. Students love and enjoy his courses, and through him a lot of students at Stanford at both the undergraduate and graduate levels have been introduced to Zoroastrianism. He has taught 8 distinct courses related to Zoroastrianism, Ancient Iran, or Parsis in the four plus years he has been at Stanford which represents the broadest and most diversified teaching curriculum for Zoroastrian Studies. In addition, he has taught 18 independent studies (1-on-1 designer courses) to undergraduate and graduate students, including Parsi and Iranian students. One of his former undergraduates has just been accepted to do a Ph.D. in Late Antique Iranian History at The University of Chicago.
Here is what Professor Hester Gelber, Former Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford had to say about Dr. Vevaina: “His classes continue to get rave reviews from the students, and he has participated very actively in the life of the department. A first year graduate student who has joined us from Iran has worked with him this year, and he has also taught an extra-curricular course in the Persian language. Of his four regular courses for 2011-12: ‘Priests, Prophets, and Kings: Religion and Society in Late Antique Iran,’ and ‘Emperor, Explorer, and God: Alexander the Great in the Global Imagination,’ taught in the fall, each helped cement ties with our Classics Department. In the Winter he taught ‘Sugar in the Milk: Modern Zoroastrianism as Race, Religion, and Ethnicity,’ which he marketed to South Asian Studies, Anthropology, and the Program on Race and Ethnicity as well as to students interested in Religious Studies. In the spring, he taught ‘The Sun Also Shines on the Wicked: The Problem of Evil in Religious Thought,’ which he hoped would be of interest to students in philosophy and the Ethics in Society Program.”
In addition to his teaching, Dr. Vevaina has recently published as a co-editor with Michael Stausberg, The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism (2015), which is the largest single volume reference work on Zoroastrianism ever published with articles by 30 plus world authorities from 10 countries totaling almost 700 pages.
Dr. Vevaina presented the FEZANA, Jungalwala Lecture at the 16th North American Zarathushti Congress in New York in 2012, the topic was: “Thinking with Zoroastrianism in the 21st Century” and he spoke at the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress in Mumbai in Dec. 2013 where his topic was: “Can You Recommend a Good Book? Studying Zoroastrianism in the 21st Century.” He also spoke at The 17th North American Zoroastrian Congress in Los Angeles in Dec. 2014 where his theme was “Wisdom from the Ancients in the Age of the Moderns.” In addition, he has spoken to Zoroastrian communities at centers in San Jose, Houston, Westminster, CA, Mumbai, and London.
This undergraduate and graduate teaching program is jointly funded by the community and Stanford University. Stanford is bearing 34% of the program costs. After 2 generous donations, we are still $15,000 short. FEZANA has committed $5,000/yr., which leaves us with a shortfall of $10,000/yr.
At the last FEZANA AGM in Valley Forge, PA, FEZANA enthusiastically voted to support the program for another three years with a contribution of $5000/yr., and a number of Associations present also showed a willingness to individually support the program. We would like every FEZANA member Association to contribute $1,000/yr. for the next three years so that we can continue this program. We will also look for a major donor who can sustain this program perpetually and have their name associated with the program. The idea would be to have eventually a named, chaired professorship in Zoroastrian Studies.
We would like to hear from you on your Association’s contribution as soon as possible (latest by September 30, 2015), since there is urgency with regard to Stanford deciding to continue the program for the next three years.
Chair, Education, Scholarship and Conference Committee, FEZANA