PAK VENDIDAD ON MIXED MARRIAGES
BY RONI K. KHAN
"Vendidad-baiting" is in high fashion these days, judging from the virulence of the vociferous smear-campaign against Pak Vendidad. At the heart of these shameful and motivated attacks lies the fact that in Chapter XVIII, Paragraph 62 (sometimes numbered 124), the Vendidad speaks out in no uncertain terms against the form of wedlock referred to nowadays as "mixed marriages." Of late, this important passage has had to be brought to the attention of the general public. Evidently, this has proved to be excessively irksome and inconvenient to some heterodox elements. So much so, that they have thought it fit to unleash a barrage of misinformation and disinformation in the press, based on ignorance, prejudice and sloppy scholarship, in an attempt to ridicule the Vendidad as a whole and mislead the unsuspecting into believing that it is merely an "historical footnote" instead of the authoritative religious text that it really is. Those labouring under such absurd and blasphemous misconceptions about a hallowed Avesta scripture would probably find it pointless to read any further.
Pak Vendidad is the time-tested, time-honoured and scientifically-based Law Book of the Ancient Iranians whose heirs we are. It is our "legal Nask," which, in most of its 22 chapters, transposes the abstract and metaphysical philosophies of our other lofty Avesta scriptures into a detailed set of concrete laws and practices - thereby providing a down-to-earth list of practical "do's and don'ts" to help govern certain important specifics of our day-to-day lives. Indeed, Pak Vendidad is the nineteenth volume in the precious series of Asho Zarathushtra's original 21 "Nasks," and the only one preserved in almost complete form to this day. Hence, the mischievous attempts to further fracture our little community into "Vendidadists" (sic) and "Gathists" (?) are detestable. The true Zarathushtrian always has, and always will, revere the entire catalogue of our sacred Avesta scriptures, ranging all the way from the most abstract (the holy Gathas) to the most specific (Pak Vendidad) - no exceptions!
Grossly misunderstood through the failure to grasp the esoteric principles underlying its various socio-spiritual prescriptions and proscriptions, which are expressly designed as potent therapies to facilitate a Zarathushtrian's evolution on the Path of Asha, the Vendidad has been systematically slandered. The extent (and superficiality) of the prejudice may easily be gauged from the following published sample: "If the Vendidad is religious authority we should be following ALL (sic) its injunctions." How ridiculous! Of course, we do recognize that the extreme materialism of this spiritually benighted age and the frenetic nature of pressured modern lifestyles are hardly conducive to the full and proper practice of religion. But pray tell, since when does a scripture's intrinsic authority become null and void just because we, by dint of disinterest, selfishness, convenience or compelling circumstances, fail to follow "ALL its injunctions"? Would the very same writer have ever dared to suggest that the obvious failure of most of us to follow "ALL" that is called for by humata-hukhta-hvarshta (good thoughts-good words-good deeds) likewise cancels the intrinsic authority of that immutable scriptural injunction?
It is not within the scope of this article to straighten out all the misrepresentations inflicted on Pak Vendidad. Our limited purpose here is an objective study of Paragraph 62 of Chapter XVIII, in order to determine the true meaning of this very relevant passage for the benefit of our imperilled community. But first, the reader should carefully note the following recent statements of a couple of writers from the West (one a Parsi jurist and the other a Muslim scholar) who seem to have uncritically accepted an erroneous 19th century translation of the passage and are cocksure in alleging that XVIII-62 merely deals with "courtesans" and "prostitutes" and has nothing to do with mixed marriages.
WRITER NO. 1: "The verse in question states that Ahura Mazda is caused pain by a courtesan, regardless of whether she sleeps with the faithful or with the unfaithful [the verse] has nothing to do with inter-faith marriages the Vendidad with its typically one-sided perspective doesn't say what punishment should be paid by the fellows who enjoyed the courtesan's favours."
WRITER NO. 2: "It is the Vendidad which states [that] a jahika mixes in her the seeds of the faithful and the unfaithful, the worshippers of Mazda and the worshippers of Daevas, the wicked and the righteous in other words, a jahika is a prostitute who sleeps with men of opposite classes and creeds."
A Fresh Translation of Vendidad XVIII-62
In the immediately preceding paragraph (i.e., Paragraph 61) Asho Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda the question: "O Ahura Mazda who grieves [Thee] with the greatest grief? Who torments [Thee] with the greatest injury?"
It is in Paragraph 62 that Ahura Mazda's reply in enshrined. Given below is its word-by-word literal translation into English. This translation has been made afresh with the utmost care and objectivity directly from the original Avesta text - without being influenced by any existing translation, and with scrupulous regard paid to K. E. Kanga's authoritative Avesta Dictionaries and Avesta Grammar.
In-Depth Analysis - A New Interpretation
Âat(1) mraot(2) Ahurô(3) Mazdâo(4):
Jahi(5) bâ(6) Ashâum(7) Zarathushtra(8)
Then(1) replied(2) Ahura(3) Mazda(4):
[between] the-Pious(12) and(14) the-Impious(13),
[between] the-Daevayasnians(15) and(17) the-Non-Daevayasnians(16),
[between] the-Sinful(18) and(20) the-Sinless(19).
We must begin with a close look at the JAHI of XVIII-62, who is alleged to be a "courtesan" or "prostitute" in this passage. The word "jahi" derives from the root jah = to live without restraint or to indulge. "Jahi" is a common noun of common gender, and it means: "a libertine; a person who leads a licentious life, either male or female."
- The FIRST QUESTION we need to analyze is: Does this passage merely deal with PROSTITUTES AND COURTESANS, as has been alleged?
Now, is it possible for us to identify the actual sex of this immoral "person"? Yes, it is - because XVIII-62 happens to provide precise evidence for doing so. The jahi of this particular passage is a man, not a woman! This key point is established beyond all doubt by the explicit use in XVIII-62 of the nominative singular masculine Relative Pronoun yô (i.e., "who"), which relates back directly to the word "jahi." (Note: In case this jahi happened to be a female, the Relative Pronoun would have had to be feminine yâ instead of masculine yô.) This plain fact of elementary Avesta Grammar demolishes at one stroke all the convenient fancies about "ladies of pleasure." It immediately throws out of the window Writer no. 1's "courtesan" and Writer no. 2's "prostitute." Sorry, but no such lady exists in XVIII-62 to give her "favours to fellows" or to "sleep with men."
This is conclusive. But we should not move on without taking a look at Writer no. 2's glaring application of the word JAHIKA; instead of "jahi" to this passage (refer to the earlier quote). Unlike "jahi" which is of common gender only, "jahika" takes on alternate genders depending on the context in which it is used. Thus, masculine "jahika" (meaning "a licentious or immoral man") occurs in only one passage in the Avesta, in Vendidad XVIII-54. On the other hand, feminine "jahika" (meaning "a woman of bad repute; a fiendish woman") occurs in various forms in no less than eight different passages in the Avesta, including Vendidad XIII-44,48. Did the far more common occurrence of feminine "jahika" in Avesta literature prompt Writer no. 2 to resort to employing this particular word to support his theme of "prostitute" for XVIII-62? Who knows! But this much is certain: any such move would be doomed to failure, because XVIII-62's masculine Relative Pronoun yô would immediately and decisively qualify any such jahika as a male!
Be that as it may. The really pertinent point is that the word "jahika" simply does not exist in the Avesta text of XVIII-62! A survey (from Geldner's monumental "Avesta") of representative and reliable manuscripts, covering all the various categories of Vendidad codices, reveals that MSS. K1, L4, Br1, L2, L1 & Mf2 have the word "jahi," while MSS. Jp1 & M2 have the slight and innocuous variant "jahe." This merely reflects the hand of different copyists, and both words (i.e., "jahi" and "jahe") are quite the same. In short, no word besides "jahe"/"jahi" belongs in the authentic Avesta text of XVIII-62, and any alteration, done innocently or otherwise, that might modify the original complexion of an Avesta passage, is unworthy of good scholarship.
Having settled the question of the alleged "prostitution" through philological means, let us now examine it further from another angle. But first, the following pieces of background information are necessary.
A striking feature of XVIII-62 is that it makes special distinctions and classifications within society by setting up three separate Classes of people, each with its own mixed couple of two contrasting partners. These are as follows:
Observe that the Inseparable Copulative Particle cha (used for joining together two persons or things) is used in XVIII-62 to join together the two partners specified within a given Class. For instance, dahmanânm adahmanânmcha = Pious and Impious. This clearly indicates that the sex act of "mixing seeds/semen" (which contaminates the procreative seeds and distresses Ahura Mazda) takes place between the two contrasting partners (mixed couple) of each Class - as for instance, between a pious and an impious person. (Note: This point is further supported by the fact that the verb hânm-raethwayeiti (= to completely mix things in a contaminative way) is used in Causal form and Parasmaipada Voice in this passage - but more on these other grammatical aspects later on.)
- Pious and Impious.
- Daevayasnians and non-Daevayasnians.
- Sinful and Sinless.
Keeping this necessary background in mind, we can proceed to examine the alleged "prostitution" scenario further, as under.
First, as Duncan Greenlees notes, "The Avesta is pitilessly harsh in speaking of sexual sin." This is an accurate comment. Pak Vendidad takes a very high moral stand, unreservedly, impartially and generally denouncing various sexual transgressions such as pre-marital sex, intercourse during menstruation, homosexuality, and so on. When the Vendidad speaks out against such improprieties indulged in purely for erotic gratification, it always does so in the most universal terms, censuring whosoever may commit them and drawing no distinction between different classes or categories of people. It could never be otherwise, because sexual sin can potentially be committed by any and all persons or groups throughout society, and requires to be universally condemned. No special categorization or classification of society is therefore called for or can be applied in such universally condemnable matters.
Now, as every right-thinking person realizes, prostitution is a serious sexual malpractice and a blot on society as a whole - irrespective of who may indulge in it. Hence, if this really happened to be the true subject matter of XVIII-62, Pak Vendidad, in its usual undiscriminatory and general manner, would most certainly have issued a blanket stricture covering anybody and everybody, without in the least bothering to specify only three special Classes from within the whole of society!
Second, as already explained, the sex act in XVIII-62 occurs only between the two contrasting partners (mixed couple) in each of the three Classes of people. Please consider! Is it at all possible to imagine that Ahura Mazda would object to the sordid business of prostitution only when it is carried on between the two partners of the mixed couple in each Class? For instance, is it ever possible to imagine Ahura Mazda being distressed only when prostitution is carried on between pious and impious people? Would He not be just as distressed if the very same thing were to take place among pious people themselves, or indeed, even among impious people themselves? Can we imagine Him selectively condemning prostitution in only the one case, while turning a blind eye to the selfsame malpractice in the other cases?
It is inconceivable to imagine Ahura Mazda conveying such warped and one-sided teachings to His prophet Asho Zarathushtra, whose doctrines, as K. E. Punegar aptly puts it, "were meant both for the wicked and the pious [whose] teachings were of equal utility to the good and to the bad and were not restricted to one class only [whose] mission on earth was not only to make the perfect more perfect but also to render the imperfect perfect."
We can wrap up the whole discussion by saying that from whichever angle we look at this question, we keep returning to the conclusion that the alleged "prostitution" in XVIII-62 is a total myth.
As already pointed out, Pak Vendidad denounces, in universal and impartial terms, certain deviant sexual practices indulged in for personal pleasure and not for procreation. The usual expression in the Vendidad for denoting these casual, self-indulgent sex acts is: khshudrâo avi frangherezaiti (refer Vendidad VIII-32, XV-7,8, XVI-17 and XVIII-67,69). This is derived from khshudra = procreative-seed/semen, avi = into/towards, fra-herez = to emit, to discharge, to send forth. The whole expression literally means, "to discharge the procreative seeds into," i.e., to have sexual intercourse. One might perhaps be a bit taken aback at the explicitness of this phrase couched in the Vendidad's usual forthright terms, but it certainly seems appropriate enough for the type of self-indulgent sexual behaviour it is designed to denote!
- The SECOND QUESTION we need to analyze is: WHAT SPECIFIC TYPE OF SEXUAL CONTACT among the mixed couples is the passage talking about?
In striking departure from this standard terminology designed for general sexual indulgence without procreation in mind, XVIII-62 does not employ this usual expression. Instead, it uses a different and special expression, which occurs in the sexual context only in this one passage and nowhere else in either the Vendidad or in the rest of the Avesta. This special and unique expression is: khshudrâo hânm raethwayeiti. It is derived from khshudra = procreative-seed/semen, hânm (or han, hen) = completely/wholly/together, raethwa (as noun) = contamination/defilement/pollution, raethwa (as verb base) = to be mixed or mingled with, to get integrated, to take the form of a particular thing, to give a form to.
The whole expression literally means: "to cause the procreative seeds to be completely mixed and mingled, with attendant contamination." Alternately, it can mean: "to cause the procreative seeds to be completely mixed and mingled, taking the form of some particular thing."
At the simpler level of interpretation, it goes without saying that when reproductive seeds "mix and mingle completely," there can be only one result - conception. In turn, conception leads to only one thing - procreation. And procreation points in only one direction - to progeny or lineage. These are the simple and inexorable implications of the sex act involving "the mixing of seeds."
At the alternative and perhaps deeper level of interpretation, the same conclusion is arrived at even more directly. "Taking the form" of a particular thing or "giving a form" to something (analogous to the usage of raethwayeiti in Tir Yasht para 13 and Fravardin Yasht para 81) is strikingly suggestive of the form of an embryo or foetus being created through the sex act.
Hence, XVIII-62 depicts the type of sexual contact where procreation and progeny are present as intrinsic ingredients of the sexual relationship. This is a far cry from mere erotic gratification where these conditions are absent. It is worth repeating that if XVIII-62 just contained one of Pak Vendidad's familiar strictures against general sexual self-indulgence, the usual phrase khshudrâo avi frangherezaiti would undoubtedly have been used, instead of the unique and different expression khshudrâo hânm-raethwayeiti with its built-in elements of conception, procreation and contamination of lineage through the "mixing of seeds" by the specified pairs of mixed couples in each of the three Classes.
(In passing, we might note that our Iranian ancestors were well aware of the biogenetics of sexual reproduction, as can be seen from the 'Setayeshn-e Ruz-e Avan' which correctly advances the theory that conception takes place when riman and khoon intermingle, i.e., the combination of sperm and ovum, the "mixing of seeds.")
Although we have thoroughly established that the true theme of Vendidad XVIII-62 is conception, procreation and progeny, it will be interesting and instructive to test this conclusion through another line of analysis. For this, we shall take the "Sanskrit Approach." Avesta and Sanskrit are similar, though not identical, languages. Grammatically as well as etymologically, they are close enough to be rightly called sister languages, with one often throwing light on the other. Accordingly there are standard rules for the transmutation of Avestan alphabets (vowels and consonants) into corresponding Sanskrit alphabets. Through this interchange of letters between the two languages, one seeks to find related or allied words whose similarity helps to discover, clarify or confirm the meaning of a particular word being examined.
We now apply this Approach to the key word raethwa, whose Avestan meanings we have already explored in depth. Per the rules of transmutation, raethwa turns into retva. Next, we find that retva does correspond to a similar word in Sanskrit. That Sanskrit word is ritva, which is derived from ritu. Now, what are the meanings of these Sanskrit words? Ritva means "timely or matured semen; proper time, time fit for generation." And ritu means "the time after the courses (i.e., menses) favourable for procreation, sixteen days after their appearance; sexual union at the above time." Very revealing indeed!
In sum, the "Sanskrit Approach" gives further confirmation of our finding that conception, procreation and progeny is the true theme of Vendidad XVIII-62.
Clearly, a cursory and casual relationship, based on mere sensual gratification, is ruled out straightaway for the mixed couples of Vendidad XVIII-62. It has to be much more than that, because the factor of procreation and progeny is involved. This presupposes a serious and steadfast union of the sexes, where the "mixing of seeds" is intended to take its natural course and the bearing of children is expected and desired by the couple.
- This brings us to the THIRD QUESTION: What is the KIND OF RELATIONSHIP that exists among the mixed couples of Vendidad XVIII-62, and do such relationships enjoy RELIGIOUS SANCTION?
This sounds very familiar - just like regular marriages that take place under the auspices of religion. But there are nagging contradictions. Why does this whole matter of mixed unions plainly incur Ahura Mazda's displeasure? Why does Ahura Mazda consider the "mixing of seeds" to be contaminative only in the case of these mixed unions? Why does Vendidad XVIII-62 convey the unmistakable sentiment that such mixed unions are forbidden?
The short answer lies in the fact that these unions are declared to fall within the area of influence of a jahi, and hence automatically fall outside the bounds of religion. Therefore, the religion cannot bestow on them the regular status of sacraments. It will be recalled (from Vendidad XVIII-61, cited earlier) that the jahi "grieves Ahura Mazda with the greatest grief" and "torments Him with the greatest injury." How then can a relationship said to be directly associated with a jahi enjoy the sanction or recognition of the Zarathushtrian Religion?
It is no surprise, therefore, that Pak Vendidad, being the religious Law Book that it is, takes a rigorously strict stand on the matter. Its silence speaking as loudly as its words, XVIII62 refrains from using the regular religious term "marriage" in the non-religious context of the three cases of mixed couples.
The message that comes across is quite unambiguous: such mixed unions are prohibited for Zarathushtrians.
Let us quickly recollect the three Classes of mixed couples as classified in XVIII-62 - Pious and Impious; Daevayasnians and non-Daevayasnians; Sinful and Sinless.
- The FOURTH QUESTION has therefore to be: What is the FULL SIGNIFICATION of the three different Classes of mixed unions prohibited in XVIII-62, and is the prohibition ENFORCEABLE?
A careful look at these Classes suggests certain shades of difference in the criteria of categorization applied. The criterion for Classes 1 and 3 may be envisaged as basically "spiritual," and that for Class 2 as "religious." This bifurcation is for convenience and clarity, and our further analysis will be along these lines.
FIRST, we take up the "spiritual" Classes 1 and 3.
A person who treads the Path of Asha (Righteousness) by practising piety or avoiding sin runs the risk of retarding his or her spiritual attainment by uniting with a life-partner who is impious or sinful. This does not require much explanation. We often talk about the risks that go with "keeping bad company" when it comes to choosing just friends. Consider, then, the gravity of the risk when it comes to choosing a spiritually unmatched spouse on a lifelong basis! Moreover, in such spiritually incompatible unions, the damage would not be confined merely to the enlightened partner - the uncongenial influence of the unenlightened partner would also adversely extend to the offspring of such mixed couples, with resultant "contamination" of lineage. In His wisdom, Ahura Mazda therefore seeks to prohibit spiritually mixed unions between the Pious and the Impious, and between the Sinful and the Sinless. Furthermore, since these spiritually mixed unions are forbidden by Ahura Mazda, they could not enjoy His sanction even if they were to satisfy the primary preconditions of a Zarathushtrian Marriage by taking place between two Mazdayasnians and being solemnized by the prescribed religious rites.
(Note: Needless to say, the question of spiritual incompatibility does not arise at all in the cases of spiritually advanced people, or spiritually backward people, marrying among themselves. This is precisely why the prohibition in XVIII-62 is set up exclusively between the unmatched partners of the spiritually mixed unions.)
The prohibition is valid and important - but there is a practical difficulty. In order to enforce it on an organized, community-wide basis, there would need to be a credible "competent authority" to pass accurate rulings on the spiritual status of individuals. It is too much to imagine that any regular outside agency could accurately evaluate the spiritual grade of person's soul. This is an esoteric exercise for which no litmus test is available. Therefore, the "external" enforcement of this prohibition is a virtual impossibility under normal conditions. It is only someone of the exalted stature of a genuine Zarathushtrotemo who has the "spiritual eyes" to correctly "see" and judge the grade of purity of the soul. Even if we were to suppose that such a personage is with us at all times, how realistic is it to expect him to personally vet each and every case of impending marriage?
These practical difficulties suggest that this prohibition is required to be selfadministered by the righteous devout - and thereby "internally" enforced for the spiritual protection of themselves and their lineage. It therefore falls upon the Pious and the Sinless to faithfully comply with Ahura Mazda's commandment by exercising the utmost personal discrimination and restraint for guarding against a rash choice of spouse.
In the final reckoning, it is only Ahura Mazda who can, and will, judge whether His "spiritual" injunction on marriage has been properly heeded by those who were entrusted with its enforcement.
SECOND, we take up the "religious" Class 2 , which contrasts Daevayasnians and non-Daevayasnians.
The designation Daevayasnian is culled from Daeva + yasna = Daevayasna, which means "worship of the Daevas." Yasna (from the root yaz = to worship, to adore, to attune with) denotes an act of worship, adoration or attunement. Daeva (from either of the two alternate but contradictory roots div = to shine, or dav/dab = to delude) is the distinctive name assigned to a particular type of conscious spiritual entity.
A pantheon of pre-Zarathushtrian deities had gained powerful currency in the remote Indo-Iranian era among the then United Aryans. These were called Daevas and were worshipped in a polytheistic and idolatrous way as autonomous gods and goddesses. A Daevayasnian was therefore a worshipper of the Daevas and an adherent of the religious system known as Daevayasna.
(Note: Although Daeva is applied in the Avesta in its alternative demoniacal connotation (from its alternate root dav/dab), it is the distinctive NAME given to a certain type of spiritual entity, and is NOT the generic term for "evil" per se (such as the terms aka, agha, dus, duzh, druj or tbaesha which are to be found in the Vendidad). Likewise, Daevayasnian is NOT the generic term for "a worshipper of evil," and does NOT literally signify a wicked person. Strictly speaking, and in the historical context, the Daevayasnians constituted a community of people who worshipped the Daevas instead of Mazda.)
When Asho Zarathushtra made his appearance on the Indo-Iranian stage, he opposed the polytheistic and other related tendencies that had by then vitiated the Paoiryô-tkaesha (Ancient Faith) of the United Aryans. He preached an uncompromising monotheism, in which Ahura Mazda stood alone and supreme at the apex of the entire universe as the One and Only Creator and Master of all that exits. In the perfect orthodoxy (from orthos = right + doxa = doctrine) of his reformed religion, there was no room for polytheism or henotheism, or for any channel-of-worship (mârefat) other than the Holy Fire. In the Zarathushtrian conception, there is absolutely nothing in the universe, including the high angelic forces that operate within it, which is not derived from, dependent upon and subservient to the One God who proclaims Himself to be Ahmi yat Ahmi Mazdâo nâma = I am that I am, Mazda by name. Mazda means "Great Creator," deriving from maz = great + dâ = to create. Yasna, as we have already seen, denotes the act of worship, adoration or attunement. Hence, Mazdayasna means "worship of Mazda."
A Mazdayasnian is therefore a worshipper of Mazda and an adherent of the religious system known as Mazdayasna - denoting that section of the United Aryans which subscribed to Asho Zarathushtra's reformed religion. In the Avesta, this is contrasted with the Daevayasnian section which subscribed to the religious system known as Daevayasna.
Just as the Daevayasnians constituted a community of people who worshipped the Daevas instead of Mazda, the Mazdayasnians constituted a community of people who worshipped Mazda instead of the Daevas.
Ample evidence exists, with much detail available especially in the voluminous Sanskrit literature, to trace the saga of the Indo-Iranian people who ultimately parted ways about 8,000 years ago in a Great Schism that split them into the Avestan and Vedic branches - due to irreconcilable religious differences. But that is another story.
What we need to know for now is that the United Aryans - among whom Asho Zarathushtra lived and preached - were operating under two religious systems (Mazdayasna and Daevayasna), and that the Aryan people were therefore subdivided into two religious communities (Mazdayasnians and Daevayasnians).
Reflecting this schismatic scenario of the two religious systems prevailing among the Aryans, the Avesta scriptures hold that Mazdayasna and Mazdayasnian are the exact contrary terms to Daevayasna and Daevayasnian. Hence, the phrase "Daevayasnians and non-Daevayasnians" - used in Vendidad XVIII-62 to depict the two contrasting partners of the mixed couple in Class - bears exactly the same meaning as would the phrase "Mazdayasnians and non-Mazdayasnians." Thus, Ahura Mazda's pronouncement in XVIII-62 PROHIBITS RELIGIOUSLY MIXED SEXUAL UNIONS BETWEEN MAZDAYASNIANS AND NON-MAZDAYASNIANS.
(Note: In passing, it is may be observed that even though the Mazdayasnians and the Daevayasnians belonged to the same Aryan racial stock and lived together in the same homeland, the divergence in religious outlook was sufficient in itself to necessitate the bar on inter-breeding. This underlines the concern about the likely stresses and strains upon the integrity of the religion - not the race alone - from the inter-religious couples and the hybrid religious attitudes of their progenies. And it corroborates the familiar Zarathushtrian formula of race-CUM-religion, as opposed to race-OR-religion.)
THE PRINCIPLE THAT MARRIAGE SHOULD OCCUR EXCLUSIVELY WITHIN THE MAZDAYASNIAN FOLD IS THE ESSENCE OF AHURA MAZDA'S PROCLAMATION TO ASHO ZARATHUSHTRA IN VENDIDAD XVIII-62. Accordingly, this becomes a tenet of the Ahurian religion and an intrinsic element of Zarathushtrian Religious Law - applicable to all adherents of the faith from age to age. Even though other faiths now exist beyond the twofold Mazdayasna-Daevayasna milieu of the United Aryan era, the basic principle of marriage within the fold does not change. It extends to all religiously mixed unions between Mazdayasnians and persons belonging to any other religious community, regardless of whether the partner from the other faith is of higher or lower spiritual calibre. In other words, what we now commonly refer to as "mixed marriages" remains out of bounds for those who profess the Zarathushtrian Religion.
As with everything in the pristine Religion of Zarathushtra, the antipathy towards mixed marriages (asserted not only in Pak Vendidad but in our other religious texts too) is based on the highest understanding of the universal divine laws of nature. It is beyond our present scope, however, to explain the profound esoteric principles, such as Jiram and Paevand, that underlie the prohibition. Suffice it to say that it is in accord with precise evolutionary laws based on Asha (Righteous Order), and not by chance or fluke, that souls with similar spiritual needs and make-up are grouped at birth, in an orderly and ordained manner, into specific religious communities. To consider the phenomenon of birth to be an "accident of nature" or a random drop by the proverbial stork is to deny the Law of Asha itself. Furthermore, the Zarathushtrian Religion's prohibition on inter-faith marriages - which violate pre-defined religious boundaries - is as much an expression of concern for its own healthy preservation as it is a recognition of the need for every other religion to go its own way without interference. In sum, the interdiction of mixed marriages is in keeping with Ahura Mazda's master-plan for the efficient spiritual evolution of diverse groups of pluralistic humankind.
For faithful and disciplined Zarathushtrians, it should not really be necessary to look much farther than the fact that Zarathushtrian Religious Law does not, and cannot, permit or recognize mixed marriages. Such unions are therefore necessarily excluded from the religious sanctification that is otherwise always provided through the essential Zarathushtrian Matrimonial Sacraments, where Nahân and Âshirwâd are prerequisites. As a matter of fact, it is explicitly affirmed in the Âshirwâd benediction that the marriage is taking place "in accordance with the foremost law and creed of the Mazdayasni Religion" - which in itself shows why it is impossible for a mixed marriage to be thus solemnized. The "external" enforcement of this "foremost law" presents no practical difficulties at all, since the religious denomination of each party to the marriage is objectively verifiable. Where either party is a non-Zarathushtrian, a "civil" marriage has to be contracted - and the very definition of the term "civil" is: lay, secular, temporal, not ecclesiastical.
To recapitulate: Upon the word of Ahura Mazda as enshrined in Vendidad XVIII-62, religious and spiritually mixed sexual unions are unlawful for Mazdayasnian-Zarathushtrians, with no distinction drawn between men and women. Zarathushtrian Religious Law requires a ZARATHUSHTRIAN MARRIAGE to fulfil the following twin conditions:
- On the "externally" enforced criterion of Religion, it should occur exclusively within the fold of the Mazdayasnian community.
- On the "internally enforced criterion of Spirituality, both the Mazdayasnian partners should be spiritually compatible.
Let us first quickly recall some points we had analyzed earlier:
- And finally, we ask the intriguing FIFTH QUESTION: What is the REAL ROLE OF THE JAHI who figures so prominently in Vendidad XVIII-62?
Hânm-raethwayeiti is a Causal Verb, formed by appending the standard causative suffix aya to the root. A Causal Verb indicates that "a person or thing causes or makes or orders another person or thing to perform the action." This helps to answer our question - the jahi is a catalyst who "causes or makes or orders" others to "perform the action." The "action" is the sex act in which procreative seeds get mixed; and the "others" who are prompted by the jahi to perform this action are the mixed couples defined in the three Classes of people. Thus, the jahi of XVIII-62 is definitely NOT a direct participant in the sexual union, which occurs exclusively between the two partners making up the mixed couple (unless, of course, we would like to believe that there can be three partners in the sex act!). This is further confirmed by the use of the Inseparable Copulative Particle cha. Thus, the jahi acts as a promoter who causes the religiously or spiritually unmatched couples to enter into sexual unions and "mix seeds," with resultant "contamination" of lineage.
- A jahi is an immoral or licentious person, who happens to be a male in XVIII-62.
- The operative verb is hânm-raethwayeiti, signifying the complete and contaminative mixing of things - of procreative seeds in this instance.
- The copulative particle cha inseparably unites each of the three mixed couples: e.g., daevayasnanânm adaevayasnanânmcha = Daevayasnians and non-Daevayasnians.
In addition to being Causal, hânm-raethwayeiti is found to be conjugated in the Parasmaipada ("Active") Voice, formed by appending the standard termination ti for the third personal singular in the present tense. The Parasmaipada is used "when the fruit or consequence of the action expressed by the verb accrues to a person or thing other than the agent." How revealing! The "fruit or consequence" (i.e., children, progeny) of the "action expressed by the verb" (i.e., the procreative sex act or "mixing of seeds") does NOT accrue to the "agent" (i.e., the jahi)! This provides double confirmation that the jahi is only a promoter who influences the mixed couples to unite and beget children - these being the "fruits" of their union, belonging to themselves alone and not to the jahi.
The grammatical evidence conclusively clarifies the role the jahi plays in XVIII-62. He is an influential third-party who acts as a PROMOTER or agent to advocate, instigate and generally aid and abet mixed sexual unions, thereby misleading OTHERS to knowingly or unknowingly engage in a practice prohibited in the Zarathushtrian Religion.
In the specific context of Vendidad XVIII-62, it is unimportant whether the jahi is a libertine in his own personal life, at least in the narrower sexual meaning of the term. He is, however, an immoral person and a libertine in the broader sense, inasmuch as he exerts influence on others to flout Zarathushtrian religious law, tradition and custom - thereby causing dissension, discord, distrust, disruption and degeneration in the socio-religious fabric of the Zarathushtrian community. We gather from Vendidad XVIII-62 that jahis of this type did exist in ancient times. It is up to the reader to ponder whether their modern-day counterparts are to be found in our own times.
Before leaving our discussion on the jahi of Vendidad XVIII-62, we need to clear up two related misunderstandings which have unfortunately led to confusion and bitterness in the Parsi community.
Our in-depth study demonstrates that in Vendidad XVIII-62 the mixed couples are not considered to be jahis, and that the term "jahi" is not employed there to designate these couples. In XVIII-62, the appellation "jahi" is reserved EXCLUSIVELY for the influential third party who causes the mixed couples to enter into procreative unions. This is perfectly clear from the grammatical fact that the word "jahi" is the SUBJECT of the Causal verb hânmraethwayeiti.
- First, it has been opined by certain scholars that, on the basis of this passage, intermarried Parsis/Iranis are JAHIS. This, however, is not correct.
A jahi is a person, not a thing or a concept. "Jahi" is a common noun, whereas "adultery" is an abstract noun. The real term for "adultery" happens to be jaesh, although its usage in the Avesta is obscure. Clearly, "adultery" is NOT "jahi" in Avesta. In short, the word "adultery" DOES NOT EXIST in Vendidad XVIII-62.
- Second, it has also been opined by these scholars, on the basis of this passage, that intermarried Parsis/Iranis (the so-called jahis) are engaged in ADULTERY. This too is not correct. Our in-depth analysis finds this particular word inadmissible for Vendidad XVIII-62, for the reasons explained below.
In normal English usage, the established dictionary meaning of "adultery" is: "violation of the marriage-bed, whether one's own or another's." In short, sexual INFIDELITY in marriage. Self-indulgent sexual liaisons of this sort are at complete VARIANCE with the true purport of XVIII-62, which, as we have thoroughly established earlier in this study, has to do with procreation and progeny and NOT merely with sexual self-indulgence. It may also be pointed out that in adulterous affairs, getting pregnant is avoided like the plague!
In specialized English usage, one finds that the word "adultery" can also be "applied opprobriously, especially by theologians, to marriages disapproved of"; or that in Biblical language it signifies "unchastity generally"; or that it indicates "image-worship"; or that in its obsolete usage it once meant "adulteration, falsification." Some of these meanings may be thought to bear some relationship to XVIII-62 in a general way. But that is not good enough for the scholarly rigour of a literal translation. None of these specialized usages denotes "a licentious person," which is what is meant by the term "jahi." Moreover, none of them denotes sexual faithlessness in marriage, which is what adultery is normally understood to indicate.
Considering the consternation that it has created, one cannot help but wonder how the inflammatory term "adultery" came to be wrongly applied to Vendidad XVIII-62 and thence to intermarried Parsis. It would appear that this arose from trying to seek an English equivalent for the Gujerati word vyabhichâr, which had been used in a classic 1884 translation of XVIII-62 into Gujerati. A standard Gujerati-to-English dictionary shows that vyabhichâr can take one of various meanings: "going away or deviating from the right course; adultery; unchastity; lapse from duty; anomaly; [logic] absence of invariable concomitance." It would seem that the word "adultery" was chosen from this array of meanings as the English equivalent of Gujerati vyabhichâr. Having seen and understood the semantic complexities of the term "adultery" in the English language itself, this does not appear to have been the happiest of choices; one of the other meanings, such as "going away or deviating from the right course," would have been far less problematic.
It has been contended that If "adultery" were to be viewed in a FIGURATIVE SENSE as an act of infidelity towards the Religion, it would appropriately reflect the apostatical conduct depicted and denounced in XVIII-62 - since the jahi and the mixed couples are, after all, involved in a breach of faith towards the Zarathushtrian Religion by disobeying its matrimonial laws. This may be so. But scholarship cannot possibly depend on hypothetical figurative meanings - especially for words which do not exist! - in a passage that is being subjected to the rigours of literal translation.
Our research into Vendidad XVIII-62 shows that although the mixed sexual unions entered into by the mixed couples are certainly prohibited for all those who profess the Mazdayasni-Zarathushtri faith, neither does the grammatical nor the conceptual evidence support the view that these Mazdayasnians are jahis or that they are engaged in adultery.
The principal conclusions from the new translation and interpretation of Vendidad XVIII-62 are very briefly summarized below for purposes of clarity and convenience.
- The passage deals neither with prostitution nor with other general sexual transgressions which are casually undertaken for erotic self-indulgence.
- Instead, it deals with conception and procreation through the steady and serious sexual union of religiously or spiritually mixed couples.
- Since these relationships are indicated as falling under the sway of a jahi and are stated to be contaminative, they cannot be sanctioned, sanctified or recognized under Zarathushtrian Religious Law.
- The Zarathushtrian Religion therefore seeks to prevent their occurrence and prohibits Mazdayasnians from forming such unions.
- No discrimination is found to be made between men and women in the application of this prohibition.
- A Zarathushtrian Marriage is considered to take place only when it occurs (under the prescribed marital sacraments) within the Mazdayasnian religious community and between Mazdayasnians of comparable spiritual calibre.
- The jahi - a male in this passage - is a distinct and separate entity, a third-party who is not one of the partners in the mixed union.
- However, he plays a role of influence in advocating and encouraging mixed unions, thereby causing their occurrence and grieving Ahura Mazda.
- Although these mixed unions - nowadays called "mixed marriages" - are prohibited, the view that intermarried Mazdayasnians are jahis or that they are engaged in adultery is untenable.
In any field of scholarly endeavour, there is always the freedom to dissent, but never the licence to distort. Intellectual integrity and moral courage demand that commentators first verify what a scriptural text really has to say, and then disagree if the scriptural viewpoint happens to be unpalatable to them.
Unfortunately, we increasingly find the reverse, with some writers first twisting the real meaning out of shape either deliberately or through want of sufficient care, and then flashing that distorted image before the world to "prove" a preconceived notion. In matters of religion this is obnoxious - especially on sensitive religious topics with serious and widespread ramifications, where often it is even necessary to go directly to the original text rather than relying blindly or uncritically on existing translations. Vendidad XVIII-62 is a case in point, and Pak Vendidad a prime target of scholarly vandalism.
It is hoped that our research into XVIII-62 will serve to establish the religious authenticity of our community's strong and age-long disfavour of mixed marriages. Although this passage leaves nothing unsaid, its complexities take some doing to unravel. Therefore, for those who may prefer to have the Zarathushtrian Religion's unwavering insistence on marriage within the fold spelt out in a short, simple and self-explanatory way, we conclude with the following excerpt culled from Vendidad IV-44:
If a man of the SAME FAITH (narô hâmô-daena)
Roni K. Khan
Approaches [you], wishing for a wife (nâiri chinanghô),
Give [him] a bride in MARRIAGE (nâirikânm vâdhayaeta).
Meher/Hormazd 1361 A.Y. February 20, 1992 A.C.
[Slightly revised from the original published in The Jam-e-Jamshed Weekly
in five parts from April 19 to May 17, 1992.]
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