In April 1998, members of the North American Mobed Council resolved to vote on the following definition of Zarathustri as a basis to serve Zarathustri community in North America. "A Zoroastrian is a person who is born of at least one Zoroastrian parent and who believes and practices the Zoroastrian religion as propounded by our Prophet Zarathustra and who has been initiated into our religion by having his or her Navjote/ Sureh Pushi performed by a duly ordained Zoroastrian Priest." That's not enough, this Council is trying to incorporate "personal preferences" and "conveniences" in corrupting our religious customs and traditions. For Example: The Minutes of the NAMC Annual General Meeting dated March 28 & 29, 1997 states that "Kobad Zarolia advised the Mobeds that during his recent trip to India, he was verbally assured by Dasturji Phiroz Kotwal that Navar ceremony for Behdin boys can now be performed in Bombay." In the absence of a religious authority, these Mobeds are taking upon themselves to make dangerously drastic changes in our religious beliefs and traditions. The question arise: Are we bound to follow these changes or should we authorize them to pass such resolutions?
Despite my prior opposition and minority voice of traditional Priests including NAMC President Ervad Jal Birdy, this definition was set in their agenda to vote. The fact is majority of their members are liberals from Canada supported by majority of their local Zoroastrians to "compromise" our traditions for meeting "conveniences" of the western world. With minority on his side, Ervad Birdy is unable to generate sufficient voting power to defeat this resolution. Despite my repeated opposition to those few traditionals entertaining "easy-going" Parsee approach to gain majority of votes on their side, it seems like nobody from the Internet TZ Alias group or community at large, wish to contribute or perceive a threat from these western Magavs.
The main issue is not just to gain majority of votes in traditional side but, how we as Athravans, and community as whole, can overcome the obstacle of inherent ignorance clouding the NAMC Priests to adopt liberal route. Even if we succeed in gaining the majority of votes, those "corrupted" Priests with the community support, will continue to practice what they are comfortable with or believe in. We cannot stop them physically, but we can generate "One Voice" to publicly unauthorize their practice in India and abroad. Ervad Birdy anticipates that gaining majority votes will resolve this problem, which is no doubt an optimistic judgment but certainly not a realistic one.
Ignorance of religion among the Athravans and Behdins is the prime cause of existing controversies however, when our learned Priest brings awareness by citing our scriptural evidences, he is treated as if he has committed an offense or cause destruction to the "natural law of mankind." A million dollars question is, would you sell your son and daughter at the price of somebody's convenience? I guess not. But, that is exactly what is going to be the result of the above definition if accepted by the majority. If this resolution takes effect, then our sacred rituals and ceremonies, and above all, religion will hold no value and respect in the eyes of our future generation.
There are only two choices for us to resolve this issue: 1) Either force NAMC committee (by attestment from religious authorities and majority of community around the world) to accept traditional flag and rewrite their constitution to encourage only traditionalism and, form a committee of ONLY selected knowledgeable Priests, OR, 2) Form an International Chapter of Traditional Mobed Council with restricted membership under the absolute control of learned traditional Priests around the world.
The most practical solution in this regard is, to form an International Council of Traditional Mobeds to defend our Faith from these self-made Saosyants of North America. As said earlier, majority of voting power may not stop them from doing something that they believe in or accept it as a "justifiable practice." Lets face the facts: a) Our High Priests or Parsee Panchayat is least concerned about our community affairs in the western countries; b) Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA) is well-known for its liberal membership and dealings with the community affairs; c) All scattered groups of Zoroastrians around the world are not linked with ONE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY OR COUNCIL in "practicing" our Faith. All groups are independently managed and controlled by their managing committee; d) Our traditional groups are scattered, unorganized, and lack interest in spreading our true Faith The only option we have at this juncture is to establish an "organized voice" under an International Chapter, and lay down strict rules and regulation concerning religious practices and traditions that applies to the entire community regardless of whether a person belongs to Shehnshahi, Kadmi or Fasli sect. We must recognize our religious taboos and Priests who are authorized to perform them in various parts of the world. Membership of such organization must be well regulated in compliance with our religious traditions.
The Parsee Anjuman meeting report dated April 16, 1905 states that "The Anjuman expressed its disapproval of any conversion being allowed, and ARE STRONGLY OPPOSED TO ANY CONVERSION IN THE PRESENT TIMES, AND RESOLVED henceforth NOT TO ADMIT EVEN THE CHILDREN OF PARSI FATHERS BY ALIEN MOTHERS." At the same meeting its was resolved that non-Parsees claiming to have entered the Parsee fold by any alleged procedure, and the Priests who perform such Juddin Navjote/ Wedding should be boycotted.
"This meeting of the Parsi Zoroastrian Samast Anjuman declares by this resolution that two foregoing resolutions which are unanimously passed today regarding and in relation to the persons belonging to other religions or communities, shall apply equally to any child born hereafter to a mother belonging to other religion or community and claiming to have married to or not married to a Parsi Zoroastrian father, and this meeting considers HARMFUL AND DOES NOT AT ALL ACCEPT THE ALLEGED CUSTOM OF ADMITTING SUCH CHILDREN IN THE PARSI COMMUNITY AND GIVING THEM THE RIGHTS AND BENEFITS OF THE COMMUNITY.
Athravans in North America
We accept the fact that not all Athravans in India or elsewhere are equally educated in religious matters. On the other end, we have Kaachcha Mobeds immigrating to North America and the western countries with absolutely least knowledge of Prayers, rituals and practices. They are first ones to join those liberal gangs who are performing their priestly duties based on "conveniences" and "compromises". In the midst of such controversy, those who wish to request our religious services to be performed correctly will suffer. We have continuous problems between traditional Mobeds and westernized Mobeds - those who do not mind non-Zoroastrian presence in rituals or performing their initiation on this western land. The most recent example is from Texas, where our traditional Mobed Peshotan Unwala refused to perform Muktad prayers in the presence of a mixed couple (A Parsi & his Mexican wife). People like Ervad Unwala constantly face strong opposition from liberals like Ervad ... who has no hesitation in performing mixed-marriages or inviting non-Zoroastrians in rituals and ceremonies, and above all, use Mobedi profession to earn money. In California, we have many Mobeds of this category which includes a recent addition, former top Athravan Education Trust student Ervad ..., who has been compromising his Mobedi ethics and responsibilities to encourage practices on the lines of the above liberals. Needless to say, we have many more in North America and, we, the traditional Mobeds cannot let them practice our religion in the way they want to, neither we can jeopardize the future of our next generation with their (liberal Priests) growing majority.
Athravan must be a Role-Model:
I have heard from the traditional sources in North America, especially from Canada and New York that majority of the local Priests are in favor of several reforms in rituals and religious traditions. In fact, they are the first ones to question the authenticity of scriptural evidences of our religious practices. I foresee a serious problem within our community with the ever- increasing liberals and their needs to abolish our religious beliefs. I won't be surprised, if the youth of tomorrow will identify himself or herself as belonging to an "Unknown religion" once existed in Persia. My dear Athravans, we have to educate ourselves first because this community depends on us in several religious events and special occasions like Navjote, Wedding, Jashan ceremony, and prayers for living or departed etc.etc. If we fail to practice HIS prescription, no one else but our own Urvaan has to take its blame that will be judged on return to HIS world. Our birth in the Athravan family is a blessing in itself. Lets make use of it by serving HIM by serving our community, rather than be the blindfolded slaves of our own "corrupted mind" to live through this life. Unfortunately, due to widespread ignorance of religion, very few among us realize the truth and consequences of the above definition and, most of these few orthodox Zarathustris prefer NOT to involve in such socio-political debate. However, their coward attitude will not stop Athravans like me to raise the issue to make people realize what they are facing at present and its consequences in the near future. We must raise our voice and show our community, what we can contribute towards their spiritual development. We must muster for "ONE VOICE" to implement uniformity in religious customs and practices to avoid criticisms and controversies surrounding the community. We have to preach and practice what is given in our scripture, and not something that is interpreted by some foreign scholar or simply by intellectual judgment or commonsense.
We Athravans are the caretakers of HIS Daena. If we start making rules and traditions than there is no meaning in naming our prophet or practicing HIS preaching! Look inside your Girebaan and ask yourself if you would allow your son or daughter to get married to an outsider despite your ignorance of laws and mysticism attached with its restriction? My dear Athravans, educate yourself and be a role-model first before it is too late for the community to abolish our age-old religious beliefs. Who knows, one of us could be the victim of our own corrupted action!
For a layman understanding, according to the inherent laws of Bunak Pasbani (Preservation of Seed) described in Vendidad, mix-marriage is an "anti- religious act" and such marriages are considered "null and void". Secondly, if that wedding with an outsider is considered "illegitimate", "unlawful", "impurity of Seed" and "destruction of our spirituality" as per our literature, whether it is Zarathustri male or female who is engage in such wedding, the outcome of such wedlock cannot be considered "pure" in spiritual sense and thus unacceptable into the Zoroastrian fold. Not to mention, Navjote or wedding of their offspring in Zoroastrian style is also restricted. Besides, a non-Zarathustri cannot "practice" our religion or can recite Avesta Maanthras as it is exclusively "designed" for Zarathustris only. (There are highly in-depth spiritual reasons that I would like to reserve for my separate article on Mixmarriages and its effect on Zarathustri Urvaan).
The NAMC Mobeds has no authority to make decision on whether to accept or reject a Zarathustri by making up a corrupted definition to please the community in US & Canada. Not even a proposal of the above definition is legitimate and acceptable. Religion is not for those who would like to PRACTICE religious tenets, rituals, and Tarikats based on their personal preferences or conveniences. Becoming citizen of some western country cannot make them stand as Saosyants to make religious decisions for our community. Our religion is not open for interpretation or compromises but to PRACTICE for the spiritual development of our Urvaan. Our community cannot afford to leave our religion and traditions in the hands of such "corrupted" council to set an example and resolution for preserving our religious identity! We have enough ignorance of religion in our community. Lets not use it to judge our religious scriptures for the safety and survival of our future generation. We need support from the Athravans as well as from the community at large in defeating this resolution before even it gets presented to the committee in April 1999. You may send your comments and concerned to either one of the following individual:
Ervad (Dr.) Hoshang J. Bhadha at, 9081 Grand Circle, Cypress, California 90630, USA
Ervad Jal Birdy at, 3371 Skyview Ln, Corona, California 91720, USA.
You are reminded that your letter will be presented to the NAMC committee in support of disapproving the contents of the above definition.-
Atha Zamyat Yatha Afrinami
In His Service,
Ervad (Dr.) Hoshang J. Bhadha
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