The Status of Zoroastrianism among the Reformists/Modernists

by Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia

(The following article is reposted to correct the wrong perception of the few)

The modern trend among the reformists/modernists of only looking at the Gathas and outright rejection of the later Avesta and Pahlavi Texts has created a real problem for them, which they have yet to realize. The recent Parsi and Irani Zoroastrian immigrants in the western world particularly in North America must know that they belong to a small religion in a vast country, which tends to efface religious differences by submerging old values beneath a flood of modern pseudo-values and are faced with the real prospects of assimilation into the main stream of Judeo-Christian culture.

With the modern trend created by the reformists to only look at the Gathas and discard their valuable other non-Gathic texts, heritage, rituals, and traditions, their youth, who are interested in their religion, seek support specifically in the Gathas only. And what do they find? First they have to choose between several third rate non-scholarly Gatha translations with complete disregard to the grammar and syntax of the text, or from the high class four scholarly 20th century translations which have appeared from 1959 to 1994, and once they found one they can not understand it.

Reformists trying to learn the Gathas in their religious study classes at their prayer halls have further complicated the problem. The teaching imparted is arbitrary and fanciful depending on what the 'religious' teacher chooses. Recently we are witnessing some Gathic words like 'Asha' and "Vohu manah' randomly used to their heart desire on every occasions sprinkled with their favorite non-Gathic word "Frasho.kereti'. One has only to see their Reformist Mailing List to get the general idea.

The mainstream moderate traditionalists follows the true tenets of Zoroastrianism, which includes the Gathas, and the whole corpus of Avesta with the valuable Pahlavi literature. These main stream traditionalists always look to their own culture as their religion is the oldest one in the world, and they find there what is that has enabled it to survive a millennium and a half of adversity and intense pressure from surrounding Islamic religion and culture after the fall of the Sasanian Empire

The Moderate Zoroastrian traditionalists know the fact that their religion and culture is not exclusively based on the Gathas only, but contains beside the Gathas, nearly four millennium. of human contributions in the form of religious thoughts and literary compositions.

It is this heritage embedded in what we refer to as the Avesta, as well as the later Pahlavi, Persian and Parsi literature that constitute the fundaments of the true Zoroastrian cultural identity. Dismissing it as not being the 'words of the Prophet'; beside 'Old and Outdated' and thus not worthy of consideration and 'to be confined to shelves', is an arrogant attitude which only courts disaster, because it leaves nothing but a set of texts, the meaning of which only few scholars agree upon, and thus not going to help the survival of the faith. This is comparable to the attitude of many Christians who dismiss everything that is not written in the Bible. Reformists should wise up and understand that in taking such arrogant attitude they will be denying their four millennium of Zoroastrian history and cultural achievements, which is a part of the Parsi/Iranian identity.

Although the Gathas are the oldest Zoroastrian literature composed by the Prophet and provide a good ethical fundament for Zoroastrainism and shows the Prophets' concern for truth/righteousness/correctness/order/rectitude (Asha) in the world and equal emphasis for the family values, Zoroastrian culture is much more and it is important that the young Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians should learn that they possess a wonderful literary and philosophical legacy quite capable to compete with those of the Eastern and Western cultures

(PS: One must note that all the present western scholars hold the same view).

Thank you for reading

With Kind Regards to all,

Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia.

Mainz University


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