The following rebuttal is directed to the Editorial that appeared in Jam-e, March 30, 2003.
It is no secret that Jam-e has changed from being the voice of the community to becoming the predominant voice of those who belong to the WZO in order to propagate acceptance of practices that are against our scriptures and traditions. Any surprise then that Jam-e's Editorial (30-3-2003) strikes at the worthy Resolution passed by the respected Vada Dasturjis? This Resolution is in conformity with the scriptures whereas the practices of WZO are not! The tirade against the Dasturjis is unjustified and unwarranted.
First of all, Jam-e's immoral printing of an off-the-record mail circulated privately between two Zarthushtis is a breach of all journalistic ethics! Jam-e is an uninvited third party to a confidential exchange between two individuals. Jam-e has betrayed that trust for which I offer the `ghost' editor nothing but shear contempt!
The Dasturjis are commended by the majority of the Zarthushti community and are held in high esteem except by the renegades within the community who are not conformists and are not truly the practicing Zarthushtis. They voluntarily choose to deviate from the scriptural tenets of the Mazdayasni Zarthushti Religion that has been in existence since millennia. Our religious community has followed the same set of revealed doctrines since those millennia! This Resolution is not addressed to the followers, the practitioners. This Resolution and all the previous numerous, identical Resolutions passed since 1830 are directed to protect and preserve our religious community whose survival is threatened from time to time by those who commit heresy and who are flouting religious laws for personal preferences and conveniences.
Most importantly, please note that religion is not a political democracy wherein individuals choose whatever aspect of the revealed teachings they wish to obey and practice, and discard the rest `democratically'! Religion is a way of life to be followed by obeying certain revealed set of immutable, spiritual laws. The so-called `democratism' becomes a grave temptation to a denial of the Prophet's authority as well as the authority of the revealed scriptures. None of us ordinary mortals have held spiritual communion with the Divine except the Prophets who have subsequently revealed Nature's truth to the followers of those specific prescribed doctrines. If we could all make only the right moral choices, there was no reason for Prophets to show the specific Paths (religions). Looking around us, can anyone agree that all our decisions have been for the good? Today we suffer from more wars, discord, natural and man-made disasters and diseases than ever before because humanity as a whole is loosing touch with religion. By not obeying religious laws, we suffer from moral and spiritual destitution. Religion is divinely revealed; it is not man-made or a system of democracy wherein we choose and alter that which we find convenient.
We are not unique in our spiritual belief of "boonak pasbani" or preservation of the `seed essential'. In the sacred Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna advises Arjun that there is grave danger in adopting an alien faith, "par dharma maha bhai". Manu has given the distinct caste system in order to protect the Brahmins from loosing their denominational status and an undeviating fidelity to religious duties. In "Hinduism Today", July 19, 1994, in a short article, "Must We Marry Within Our Religion?", it is stated, "The mutual spiritual unfoldment of man and wife is a central purpose of marriage. When we marry outside our religion, we create disharmony and conflict for ourselves and our children. Such a marriage draws us away from religious involvement instead of deeper into its fulfillment. For marriage to serve its spiritual purpose to the highest, husband and wife should hold the same beliefs and share the same religious practices." (Emphasis added.) Through intermarriage, religious and communal identity is lost. This is so proven by an anthropologist from Boston University who studied the tribe of Birale in Africa. In the issue of National Geographic, July 1991, on the Geographica Page, this anthropologist bemoans the fact that the tribe of Birale is almost extinct due to intermarriage.
Inter-religious marriage, as proven, is a lethal poison for our community's survival. And, in a secular environment, the rate of such marriage is on the rise. It is taking such a grave scenario into consideration that the Dasturjis have restated the current Resolution that merely echoes all the previous ones. It is very unfortunate that non-Zarthushtis and media are involved in our communal affairs. The Hindus who comment upon our religion in other media are primarily unaware of their own scriptures! Besides, the Zarthushti community has been ultra faithful, for the past thirteen centuries plus to the land that gave us refuge, Hindustan, and to our host, the Hindus who in turn have appreciated us for our religious values, culture, traditions and scriptures that are very similar to their own. Our contribution to Hindustan (India) is phenomenal; yet, we do so without getting assimilated religiously. We adhere to our religion and never interfere with others'.
According to our revelation, marriage is a sacrament which necessiates certain rituals and does not recognize any other civil jurisdiction. Marriage contracted between two individuals of two different religions may be considered legal by a secular State such as India but its acceptance cannot be enforced on a religious community that follows its own religion and scriptural laws. Our sacred scriptures are specific regarding inter-religious marriage. The Vendidad, Husparam Nask, Patet Pashemani, Setayashes, Vahishta-Ishti Gatha, all declare inter-religious marriage as a spiritual sin against the religion as well as against one's soul. In the entire sacred Avesta, there is no reference to a Zarthushti marrying a non-Zarthushti. There is absolutely no scriptural acceptance of inter-religious marriage. Even after the downfall of the Sassanian Empire, when the times were worst for Zarthushtis in Iran, the books of Dinkard and Dadistan reveal that inter-religious marriage were condemned although it meant escape from certain death and unbearable persecution at the hands of the Arabs. Some Sassanian nobility married non-Zarthushtis for political reasons which led to disastrous consequences and the Empire rapidly collapsed from within, causing the Arabs to obliterate it completely. Historically, we left our native homeland of Iran in the seventh century A.C.E. to find sanctity in India in order to protect and preserve our religion and religious identity through `boonak pasbani'. If this were not so, and we simply wanted to preserve our racial or ethnic identity, we could have stayed behind in Iran and survived as a national or ethnic group by converting to Islam and assimilating through inter-religious marriage, still retaining our cultural and ethnic identity. But we followed our religious mandate of `boonak pasbani' through all the trials and through countless generations because we wanted to survive as a religious community.
This Resolution which enforces the religious laws is evidently not palatable to the rebels. Every religious community has its own share of apostates, unfortunately. Zarthushtis who have not attempted to study their own religion clamor to alter and re-structure its doctrines as something changeable and bargainable as and when it becomes convenient. Religion is not a social charter; it is based on Asha's (Nature's) laws that are immutable. It is the sacred duty and spiritual authority of the Vada Dasturjis to pass the necessary Resolutions in order to safeguard the continued existence of our microscopic religious community. In absence of a revealed doctrine, instead of an established religion (People of a Book), the path taken by the apostates would lead to the formation of a cult! To prevent such deviation from a revealed religion and to halt heretics from democratising our revealed doctrines and flouting established traditions, the Dasturjis have re-affirmed this Resolution which has been echoed time and again since 1830 when stray instances of inter-religious clandestine marriage were reported. In 1850, again, jurisdiction was passed by the community at large (Samast Anjuman Meeting), that the previous Resolution of 1830 still applied. These laws passed by the community possess the authority of `Acts' and are binding. The Resolution had condemned inter-religious marriage of either gender, acceptance of progeny of such religiously illegal unions, condemned the mobeds who clandestinely performed ashirvad of intermarried couples, and also navjote of progeny of such couples. The Resolution also condemned proselytism of any spouse through inter-religious marriage and the act of proselytism in general. Additionally, the 1830 Resolution also prohibited any inter-religiously married Zarthushtis, irrespective of gender, to take part in rituals. This automatically denied them entry in Agiaries and Atash Bahrams.
In 1905, a Samast Anjuman meeting was called and the community, again and emphatically, denounced inter-religious marriage as harmful to its survival and also as discordant with the teachings of the religion. It is important to note that an identical Resolution as of 1830 and what the Dasturjis have passed on March 7, 2003 was also executed then, in 1905! The Athornan Mandal (a conformist one then) and the Jashan Committee called a meeting of mobeds in November 1990. An identical Resolution was passed against intermarriage, acceptance of progeny of such religiously illegal unions, against acceptance of conversion and against the mobeds who performed such untenable actions. Jam-e reported this in its issue of December 2 1990. Again, at a mammoth Samast Anjuman Meeting held on 30th May 1991, signed unanimously by all the Dasturjis, an identical Resolution to the current one was passed by the applauding gathering of Zarthushtis! This was also reported by Jam-e in the issue of June 2, 1991. (Dates of the previous Resolutions are taken from articles in Deen Parast.) Times were still different then as seen by the brickbats Jam- e is currently lavishing on the Dasturjis for this Resolution! Always and throughout the history of our religion and our religious community, we have abided by the revealed teachings of our Holy Prophet Asho Zarathushtra! A few have always detracted, just as in all other communities!
The Udvada Samast Anjuman also passed a Resolution in the State of Gujarat, dated March 19, 1995 to enforce all the other Resolutions that were previously passed. It also affirmed that intermarried Zarthushtis are prohibited from entering Atash Bahrams. The past and present Dasturjis have affirmed and reaffirmed the same Resolution over the century. If there has been any deviation or aberration, and indeed there has been in the case of late Mr. Neville Wadia, the Dasturjis have openly declared such to be an exception only. Hence, I would request my non-Zarthushti friends and my non-conformist Zarthushti brethren to please stop oppressing our Dasturjis and community members. The orthodox (orth=correct, doxa=doctrine) may not have money power and a brazen display of disobedience, but we have Truth, traditional values and scriptures on our side! May Truth and Light prevail in these days of spiritual darkness, Kali Yug!
In conclusion, I emphasize that the Dasturjis are not inventing the scriptures themselves, neither are they re-writing or altering our sacred revealed scriptures, tenets, doctrines. They are merely enforcing the scriptural injunctions against inter-religious marriage, acceptance of progeny of such religiously unacceptable unions, conversion and chastise the renegade mobeds as is their ecclesiastical duty to do so! The Dasturjis, as prime custodians and leaders of our religion and community, cannot sit back or permit the renegades to do as they please. If religious doctrines are not enforced and the heterodox preach their personal `rights' and `freedom', we would all be following our own rules defining what is right and wrong as convenient choices, leading to total chaos of religious law and order. Kudos to the Dasturjis who are not giving in to peer or media pressure to let the apostates change or tamper with our revealed doctrines, even at the cost of personal unpopularity!
The Editorial's last sentence is meant as a threat to the Dasturjis and the community. It is a hollow threat! Can any man-made law or Law of the Land supercede divinely revealed religious laws? The laws of our religion are based on Asha, immutable and eternal. Times and circumstances change for either better or worse and we, as Zarthushtis, certainly do not have to subscribe to worse changes propagated by individuals who try to bend and distort truth to suit their convenience. There is only one Path. It is straight and narrow. The Path does not change or broaden to suit individual whims and satisfaction.
We uphold the fact that our religion is based on Asha (Nature). If Asha is Nature, then we must learn from Nature that in order to preserve and perpetuate itself, Nature prohibits the mixing of genes among all its species and sub-groups of species in all its varied kingdoms. This is the fundamental law of Asha and all creatures, except the humans, instinctively obey this rule. Would any scientist breed the endangered white tigers with other tigers to ensure their survival? The cub would neither be a white tiger nor be of the other kind. It is a fact that most children of inter-religious marriage do not follow any one particular religion. They follow what is known as "Universalism", meaning they follow any and all tenets they find convenient from any and all religions. Besides, whenever mankind has broken the rules of Asha, Asha has always won. Periodically Nature purges itself of dilution and pollution through periodic precise cyclic cataclysms. Nature preserves only the best seeds and destroys the rest as indicated by the universal `myth' of the deluge. Preservation of only the best seeds from all the varied species is indicated by the universal story of Manu Vyvaswat, Yim and Noah.
The heterodox are free to establish their cult devoid of spiritual revelation. Their doctrine can be one of individual choosing and convenience. They are free to set up their own rules to do as they please. However, they are not free to identify themselves as "Mazdayasni Zarthushtis" since they are the dissenters, the unbelievers, the non-conformists who disobey the prescribed, established rules of the Mazdayasni Zarthushti Religion!
The Editorial states, "We hope the High Priests will realize the embarrassment they will be subjected to when some priests ignore or oppose these Resolutions (fatwas)." For all the previous Resolutions, Jam-e had nothing but bouquets to offer to the Dasturjis for taking bold, timely stand! This is when Jam-e was still Jam-e, run by its Editor! The current Resolution, as reported in the Editorial, becomes a "fatwa"? The `ghost' Editor should come out of his woodwork and show his true self to the community if he has the courage and the morals to do so! Above all, Jam-e has shown how it can be influenced by money power than by journalistic ethics by calling this Resolution a "fatwa" that goes against its own previous stand whenever such Resolutions were passed in the past! And, any wonder that some priests will either ignore or oppose this Resolution? Money talks! This money comes primarily from an orthodox, illustrious family through the WZO and I pray that karma will spare this family since it is their money, without their direct involvement, that is corrupting the priests and encouraging them to oppose the Resolution. Why is it, I wonder, that ever since WZO made its way in the BPP, Athornan Mandal, Jam-e, and in other institutions that suddenly these have changed from working for the religion and community to working against its preservation?
I end by offering my utmost gratitude and respect to the Dasturjis for this bold and timely Resolution. May Ahura Mazda grant them good health.
Atha jamyat, yatha afrinami.
Pervin J. Mistry.
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