KUSTI KIDHI KE? (Have you done your Kusti?): by Rustom C. Chothia

Fellow Mazdayasni Zarathushtris,

I was reading the "Travels of Marco Polo" in which Marco Polo traveleld to China and India in the 13th century AD, and wrote down descriptions of his travels. In the book he calls the Kingdom of Malabar in India the "RICHEST nation" in the world at that time. What struck me was his description of the pearl divers off the coast, it seems they asked the Brahmins (the Hindu priests) to pray their incantations in the morning, by the POWER of which THEY HELD OFF THE FEROCIOUS FISH IN THE SEA, to protect the divers. These were the Sanskrit Shlokas, of course, and Marco Polo said the Brahmins withheld their protection in the night, so that the pearl fields would be protected and unauthorized divers could not fish for the pearls in the night. Marco Polo said the Brahmins at that time had power, with their ancient incantations, over all beasts, big or small.

Religious Zarathushtris have always held that there is spiritual power in our Avestan Mathravani, and so this story did not come as a surprise to me. Some modern "scientific" Zoroastrians in the West often ridicule the faith we have in our Mathravani, so how can they explain Marco Polo's report of such powerful incantations in India? The pity is, these modern people are ridiculing THEIR OWN HERITAGE. When they throw off their sudreh-Kusti and refuse to wear it, saying "It's not scientific", "We dont need it", they are the real losers. Much ancient wisdom has been lost everywhere in the world - please, let us not loose ours. Let us not listen to those enemies of our faith who tell us that our ancient wisdom is "outdated" - it can never be.

Seeing that many Zarathushtris in the West have unfortunately discarded their Sudreh-Kusti, the most powerful spiritual tools that a Zarathushtri possessses, the following article by Rustom C. Chothia on the power and efficacy of our Kusti ritual is an important one, for this unfortunate day and age. Rustom C. Chothia, a powerful Parsi Zoroastrian who frequently lectures on our religion in India, joins the ever-growing list of Zarathushtris who have contributed their articles to this Traditional Zoroastrianism internet site. Any Zarathushtri who respects the religion of his forefathers and is not willing to let his religion be "changed" or "reformed", is welcome to join our spiritually fighting ranks and let his heart be known.

KUSTI KIDHI KE? (Have you done your Kusti?)

by Rustom C. Chothia

Jam-e-Jamshed Weekly, 16th March 1997.

"Have you done your Kusti?" is a question often asked by parents and the answers that this question sometimes evokes are as follows:

  • Who has the time? How does it help?
  • If others can live without the Sudreh Kusti, why do I have to wear them?
  • Looks so funny in front of my friends.
  • I think of God and pray to Him from my heart, so why do I have to wear these "bells and whistles"?
  • It is old fashioned and obsolete.

    When children come up with such answers, what does one do? Today, children question all sorts of things and if they do not get satisfactory answers, they tend to revolt. Parents say that they are helpless. "Ain modern generation na bachao evachh che" - "The children of the modern generation are just like that." The pity of the whole thing is that it is not the children of the modern generation but the PARENTS of the modern generation who are to blame. In the army, it is said "there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers." The real solution lies not in finding answers (or excuses) to the above questions but in preventing our children reaching a stage where they ask such questions. SAD TO SAY, THE MODERN GENERATION PARENT SPENDS NO TIME IN EDUCATING THE CHILDREN ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUDREH-KUSTI. Not only that, but the modern generation parents (though highly educated academically), are often themselves ignorant about the simple things of our Religion.

    We are told that from the day of our Navjot, we must perform the KUSTI prayer several times a day. Few people understand 'why', but in the olden days the FAITHFUL used to blindly obey and follow the instructions of their parents without questioning. Hence they ALWAYS GOT THE BENEFIT OF PERFORMING THE KUSTI PRAYER, even though they were otherwise ignorant. It is like a person knowing how to drive a car but ignorant of its mechanism. He knows that if he presses the accelerator, the car will zoom forward, if he presses the brakes, it will slow down, if he turns the steering wheel, it will go to the left or the right. But he does not know 'HOW' it works. He is not interested. He takes what is under the bonnet for granted. Most important, he DOES NOT RIDICULE ANYTHING THAT HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND. Our ancestors till the last century were somewhat like that.

    They devotedly performed the Kusti prayer without questioning. But, today's people think themselves too smart. If they cannot understand their religion, or its ceremonies, they resort to RIDICULE. "It is old-fashioned. It has no relevance today. It needs to REFORM, to CHANGE WITH THE TIMES..." are some of the replies one hears.

    Everyone knows that a car has a 12-volt battery. That seems quite safe. BUT what would you say if I told you that a dangerously high voltage of 40,000 to 60,000 volts is required to operate a car? Most people would not believe the existence of such a deadly voltage. They cannot see it. Does it, therefore, mean that it does not exist? BUT when it comes to prayer or religion, these same people become skeptical. They will only believe what they see, (or what they want to.) The rest is all in the imagination of the faithful believers who are old-fashioned, fanatic and stupid enough to blindly accept what their ancestors taught them.

    When they untie and retie the KUSTI, they see nothing happening. They cannot see the invisible spiritual forces acting in nature. BUT, does that mean that they are not there?

    Do you see the radio and the television waves which are right now in the room you are sitting? No? Switch on a radio or a TV set, and see how many waves you can tune into. They are all there in the air, but you can only see and hear them with the right equipment. Our eyes and ears by themselves are not the right equipment. In the same way, our five senses are not the right equipment to see or experience the spiritual waves working in nature when we pray the Kusti prayer. But that does not mean that the Kusti prayer is an exercise in futility.

    What is the 'KUSTI Prayer' ? It is certainly not a meaningless exercise to be mechanically performed, with wandering thoughts flowing in our mind. It is a CEREMONY, a KRIYA. It is a serious and important event that puts us in ritual contact with Ahura Mazda. It is a communication between us and HOME. Communication is important in every field of life. From the humble carrier pigeon to the satellite telephone and E-mail technology, communication has come a long way. As soon as we leave our headquarters and go somewhere, we need to communicate. When a plane takes off, the pilot is in constant communication with the ground control stations till he lands. Today, mobile phones are not a luxury or a status symbol any more. If we need to communicate so much among ourselves, do we not need to communicate with our real HOME?

    Why do we have to perform a Kusti prayer so often? Just as we eat and drink three to five times a day, to keep our physical body intact and healthy, we also need to cater to the inner self (our spiritual body). When we get up in the morning or go to the toilet, we are physically and ritually impure. We wash our face and hands, but we must also become ritually pure again "by doing the Kusti" so that the spiritual forces in nature can again be in tune with us and help us. IF WE HAVE NOT "DONE THE KUSTI" THE HELPFUL ASHO-FAROHARS CANNOT COME TO OUR GUIDANCE AND ASSISTANCE. It is these guardian angels who guide us in our day to day decisions, and protect us from invisible harm, if we lead a righteous life. They are even instrumental in helping us to lead a righteous life. We must be humble enough to remember and accept that on our own we can do nothing. It is only with help and guidance from some 'power' above us that we can achieve anything. This power could be from Ahura Mazda or some other source. As worshippers of one God, Mazda, we should NEVER try to tap any other source.

    Let us now see what the KUSTI prayer actually consists of. It is not just an unitelligible babble. It has passages from the Holy gathas and the Vendidad in it. Yes, you pray passages that Prophet Sahib has Himself composed. Is not that itself a matter of pride? Let us take the first stanza of the KEM NA MAZDA Prayer. It translates thus:

    "When any wicked man glares at me for taking revenge, (or for injuring me), what man, O Mazda, shall grant protection unto me and my followers? (Who other than Thee shall grant protection) to the Fire and the Mind (ie. Household happiness and Peace of Mind?) Through the action of which two, O Hormuzd! righteousness increases? Do Thou declare that knowledge of the religion to me (O Hormuzd)." This is Gatha Ushtavaiti Ys. 46.7. The 'wicked man' called 'dregvao' could either be an external evil or one of our own internal passions like selfishness, envy, wrath, pride, lust, greed, hatred, grudge or deceit. In this stanza we are asking Ahura Mazda to save us and protect us from these evils.

    The second stanza goes lke this: "Who (shall be) the Smiter of the foe by the help of Thy (Avestan) words which (by reciting at the time of calamity) are protecting? Do Thou clearly reveal unto me a wise leader for both the worlds? (O Hormuzd), let Sarosh (Yazata) approach with Good mind, (through Vohu Mano), to anyone whom Thou dost love." By reciting the Avesta Manthras in times of calamities, we get spiritual protection ie. Sarosh Yazad and Bahman Ameshaspand come to our help. This stanza is, Gatha Ushtavaiti Ys. 44.16.

    The third stanza translates thus: "O Homuzd and Spenta Armaiti, protect us from the envious ones. (From here) Perish thou, O devilish druj, perish thou, o devil's spawn, perish thou, O (evil) sown by the daevas, perish thou, O folower of devil's law; perish O druj, disappear utterly, vanish and entirely perish, in the North, O druj, (so that) corporeal settlements of righteousness (may) not (be) fit to be destroyed." We continue to ask Ahura Mazda and Spento Armaity for protection. At the same time we ourselves PRAY AWAY the various evils. The evils include the 9 passions within us. It is to be remembered that these passions have been planted into us by the evil one and are not God given. God has created us all good. It is our duty to fight these passions during our lifetime, and GOD AND THE ANGELS HELP US TO DO SO IF WE PRAY THE AVESTA MATHRAS. This stanza is Vendidad 8.21.

    The final line translates as follows: "Homage (be) unto right thought and prosperity." Spento Armaiti is piety and devotion. When one recites this prayer in humility with piety and devotion, Spento Armaiti bestows spiritual peace and prosperity. This line is from Spento Mainyu Gatha Ys. 49.10.

    The next prayer is the HORMUZD KHODAY Prayer. This prayer is in Pazend except the last paragraph which is in Avesta. It translates thus: "Dadar Hormuzd (is) the Lord (of the entire Universe) (and) keeps the withholder and keeper at a distance of the wicked and powerless ahreman. May (that ahreman) be smitted and defeated. May all these ahreman, daevas, drujas, sorcerers, wicked ones, kiks, karaps, tyrants, sinners, ashmogs, impious ones, enemies, witches be smitten and defeated. May the wicked rulers cease to exist. May the enemies be confounded. May the enemies be non-existant and perish." This stanza shows us the importance of PRAYING AWAY the various evils. It is a spiritual defence for us against the evils. This protection is VERY NECESSARY because if we are not safeguarded, then evil can attack us and we are harassed and suffer untold miseries. Most people do not know the reason for their travails and even blame destiny or God for their ills.

    The second stanza translates thus: "O Lord Hormuzd, I am in renunciation of, and desist from all sins; wicked thoughts which in (this) world I have thought, wicked words which I have spoken, wicked deeds which I have committed, (and) which have occured through me and which have originated by me. All these sins mentioned above relating to thought, relating to word and relating to deed, pertaining to (my own) body, pertaining to (my own) soul, pertaining to this world, pertaining to the world beyond, from all these sins, O Hormuzd, I am in renunciation and keep myself away, and with the three words, (Manashni, Gavashni, Kunashni) I repent." In this stanza, the devotee acknowledges that he is a sinner and humbly repents for his misdeeds. Since the evil one attacks all men, (with the nine evils mentioned above), God knows that man will fall into sin. But God does not condemn us. If we sincerely repent, God will forgive us, just as a loving father forgives his erring child. Repentance should be followed by a determination not to repeat the sins. For example, if a person constantly uses foul language as a habit, he has to make a sincere effort not to use this language. Otherwise, the so called 'repentance' has no meaning.

    The last para translates thus: "(May there be) propitation of Ahura Mazda! May there be contempt of anghre mainyu, the evil spirit! Whatever is the wish of the doers of righteous deeds, is superior (to all other wishes.) I praise righteousness." This is a stanza in praise of Ahura Mazda and righteousness. It reminds us to do only righteous deeds. Here again, there is no sense in babbling this prayer and leading an unrighteous life. The prayer has to be put in action from our side.

    The third prayer is the Zoroastrian Creed. It is an affirmation of our faithfulness as worshippers of one God Ahura Mazda and of followers of Prophet Sahib Zarathushtra. The prayer is taken from the holy Yasna and the Hormuzd Yasht. It translates thus:

    "O Creator Hormuzd, do Thou come to my help. I am a Mazda Worshipper, I profess myself to be a Mazda-worshipping follower of Zarathushtra, a devotee and ardent believer (in this Nazda worshipping Faith.) I praise the true conceived thought, I praise the true spoken word, I praise the well done deed. I praise the excellent religion of Mazda worship (which is) quarrel removing, weapon lowering, self-dedicating and holy, which of those that are and of those that shall be (hereafter) (is) the greatest, the best, and the most excellent, which is the religion of Ahura revealed by Zarathushtra. I acknowledge all good (things) (which are) from hormuzd. Such is the praise of the Religion of Mazda worship."

    When we proudly declare "MAZDAYASNO AHMI, MAZDAYASNO ZARATHUSHTRISH" and testify to the above Creed, how can we even imagine going to worship babas, idols, churches and graves? Let us all be faithful to our Holy Religion and to the teachings of Prophet Sahib. How can we expect happiness and answer to our prayers WHEN WE FALTER IN OUR FAITH? We are most eager to try out anything alien, BUT DO NOT HAVE THE TIME OR INCLINATION TO REFLECT UPON OUR TREASURES LYING BURIED IN OUR OWN BACKYARD.

    Several of our brothers and sisters do not even know the correct way of performing the Kusti, so let me briefly describe the correct method. Start by washing your hands and face and the soles of your feet (if wearing open type footwear) wih water. Select a place to pray in such a way thatothers do not walk in front of you. In the morning, one should face East, around noon one should face South and in the evening one should face West (following the direction of the sun). At night, one has to face towards a light. Pray "Khshnaothra Ahurahae Mazdao" (bowing your head in reverance) and one Ashem Vohu, followed by the Kem Na Mazda prayer. Then untie the Kusti, (many make the mistake of untying the Kusti as they are reciting the Kem Na Mazda prayer.) The Kusti is held in the left hand, (centre) looped around the thumb, while the right hand holds the two lengths. The distance between the hands should ensure that the ends of the Kusti do not touch the ground. As you pray the Hormuzd Khoday prayer, whip the Kusti gently as you denounce ahreman and the demons and the evils. Whip it again as you pray the words "Dushmata, Duzukta and Duzvarshta." Direction of whipping should be from front right to back left. At the words "Manashni, Gavashni, Kunashni" the Kusti is looped and held equally in both hands. When you pray "Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao" bow respectfully touching the Kusti to your forehead. The Kusti is then tied once around the waist and the ends are again brought to the front. At this time you have to be careful to ensure that the Kusti does not touch the ground or your feet. As you pray the first "Yatha Ahu Vairyo", tie the first knot with the right hand at the word "Shyothenanaam". Repeat for the second knot with the left hand while praying the second "Yatha Ahu Vairyo". Now take the ends to the back and tie the rear double knot while praying "Ashem Vohu". While praying the last prayer, you can adjust the Kusti by means of the front knots.

    Pray with piety and devotion. Do not let your mind wander as you are praying. Do not talk to anybody as you are praying. Do not move your position or sway like a pendulum. In an Atash Behram or Agiary, do not enter the sanctum without performing the Kusti prayer. Do not pray the Kusti prayer in fromt of an Atash Dadgah. Always pray outside and then enter the room where the Dadgah is located.

    It is imperative that we pray the Kusti prayer properly, and we shall reap the benefits of protection and guidance from Ahura Mazda and His ministering angels.

    - by Rustom C. Chothia

    Jam-e-Jamshed Weekly, 16th March 1997.

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