Can a Religion or its tenets and customs and traditions be changed, modified, reformed in any way? Modern reformist minded people feel that our Religion is old fashioned, outdated and needs what one would call a new coat of paint. But can this be done? And if so by whom? God in His wisdom has given us the Religion and its tenets and customs. So if a change has to come about it can only be done by God. The next question is: Does God do such a thing? The answer is YES.
God does change, modify, renovate His Religions when He feels the need to do so. When the Mazdayasni Religion got corrupted God sent Asho Zarathushtra to rectify it and that is why today the Religion is known as "The Mazdayasni Zarthosty Religion". Thereafter, when the religion was again at its nadir, due to destruction by Alexander the accursed, God sent our present Rainidaar Sant Aderbaad Marespand, during the reign of Shapur ll. Once more we are reaching a breaking point and as such we are eagerly awaiting Shah Behram Varzavand to come and sort things out. Adarbaad Marespand and Behram Varzavand are both called "Rainidaars". They are 'Saoshyants' of a very high order. A Saoshyant is a saviour, a renovator, who has the authority of Ahura Mazda to change, modify, or temper the tenets, traditions, customs and ceremonies of the Religion. In the Jewish Religion, when people started forgetting the teachings of Prophet Moses and went astray, God sent Jesus Christ as a saviour.
BUT BESIDES SUCH GOD SENT SAVIOURS NO ONE CAN TAMPER WITH THE RELIGION, ITS TENETS, CUSTOMS, CEREMONIES OR TRADITIONS.
Maharukh Shroff in her article "Let Religious Traditions be Tempered with Logic and Reasoning" suggests that we change and modernise what we feel has become obsolete, old fashioned and has no significance today. She gives the example of crossing the sea. Even today if a Zoroastrian dies at sea his body has to be brought to the shore. It is a grevious sin to dispose it in the sea. I may mention here that the garbage and waste from the oil and gas drilling rigs and production platforms off Bombay High have to be brought to shore for disposal. This is a law. They cannot just throw it into the sea.
Maharukh then quotes the Vendidad, on the chapter of menstruation. She dismisses it as just a 'natural process'. She does not know that today modern science has proved that menstruation is an unhealthy state that the woman has to go through. Scientists at the John Hopkins University Laboratory have proved the existence of certain toxins (poisonous substances) called menotoxins in various body fluids of menstruating women. Also there is loss of blood - what type of blood? Blood that is very impure. The body becomes anaemic. In many people physical signs like aches, pains, fever and a general feeling of being unwell manifest. No one will deny that something unnatural is taking place. Mentally the person feels that something is wrong. Her mood is depressed. She doesn’t feel her normal active self.
There is a distinct change in the aura of a person during menstruation from her normal aura. The aura changes colour and density. The aura can be photographed by a method called Kirlian Photography. The aura which under normal circumstances is bright and light becomes dark and dense and morbid during menstruation. Kirlian photography also shows a change in the emanations from the body. These emanations are poisonous and can kill delicate plants if watered by a woman in her menses. Even foodstuff like pickles and wine get spoiled if handled by a woman in her menses. The very air around her gets polluted. Even her breath smells foul. Is that not reason enough why a woman in menstrual condition needs special care and rest to recoup herself? Spiritual impurities are known as 'DRUJ' in Avesta. Putridity from a dead body is called druj-e-nasu, and putridity from a menstruating woman is called druj-e-buji. Impure blood is a dead part of the human body and therefore it becomes druj. In the Jamyad and Khordad Yashts the devotee asks for protection against this druj-e-buji.
It is said that the magnetic emanations from a menstruating woman can damage the aura of a saintly person upto a distance of around 10 feet. It is recorded in the Holy Bible that as Jesus was on His way to heal a sick child, a woman whose menses were unnaturally long, touched His robe to which He immediately said: "Who is it who touched me?" Nobody answered, so Jesus said: "Someone touched me for I percieve that power has gone forth from me." Such is the effect of menses, even though it may be a normal monthly affair for all women. Not only women, but even if a priest has a festering wound, or bleeding wound, he is not allowed to perform religious ceremonies.
Maharukh says that: 'In those days it was believed that menses was sent by ahreman, especially when it lasted beyond the usual time". This statement is 100% true even today. Sickness, disease, unnatural menses are NOT of Ahura Mazda. They are all of ahreman (if not of our own making). It is pertinent to understand that ahreman has vowed to destroy all God's good creations. Ahreman attacks mankind after birth by planting the nine evils into him. These are selfishness, envy, vanity, greed wrath, lust, grudge, hatred and deceit. It is man's duty on earth to fight these evils. Also man has to protect himself against other attacks of evil by wearing the Sudreh Kusti, reciting prayers and respecting and invoking Atash Padshah, and venerating other creations of Ahura Mazda, like Avaan Ardvisur etc.
Maharukh talks about a woman who delivers a stillborn child and the accompanying rituals. It needs a mother's heart to realise and imagine the pain and trauma that a woman under such circumstances undergoes. She is not only physically weakened due to the delivery but also mentally depressed, upset and demoralised at losing the child she has nurtured inside her lovingly for so long. Such a woman needs extra care and love and rest to recoupe. This is why the Vendidad places such importance on the issue. The idea is not to ostracise the poor woman but to give her a chance to recoup physically and mentally. One has to understand and appreciate the deeper meanings in the Scriptures. The word unclean is not to be taken literally with its surface meaning only. Literal translations do not bring out the complete meaning. It has been wisely said that 'A little knowledge is dangerous'. One cannot treat our Holy Scriptures in a cavalier way.
Maharukh then comes to the matter of "Contracts and Offences". Here again she literally translates the Vendidad on its surface. What she has missed out is the seriousness of breaking a contract or promise. The cornerstone of our Religion is "ASHOI" truthfulness. It is these very properties of truthfulness, integrity, and loyalty which the Parsi community is known for. It is in our tokhem, our genes. In the faithful it goes down from generation to generation. Now breaking a promise or breaching a contract is a violation of the most basic principle of our Religion. In the Meher Yasht in the second Karda Ahura Mazda tells Asho Zarathushtra thus: "The criminal who is false to his promise ruins the entire country. O Spitama it is like 100 wicked persons tormenting a righteous person. Do not break your promise O Spitama neither which the evil one has asked nor which the righteous co-religionist. Because a promise both to the evil and righteous is binding".
The next thing Maharukh ignorantly trumpets is "Freedom of Choice" . This is the most famous fallacy of the reformists. She talks of the "dictates of our good mind" - Vohu Mano. Now, Vohu Mano is not our good mind. Vohu Mano pertains to the Good Mind of Ahura Mazda. It is the first Bountiful Immortal. (Bahman Ameshaspand). The human mind with all its selfish, narrow, materialistic thoughts is anything but a 'good mind'. In the Holy Gathas, Vohu Mano, personified, appeared to Asho Zarathushtra and asked Him: "Who are you? And to whom do you show allegiance?" To which Asho Zarathushtra replied: "I am Zarathushtra, the enemy of the followers of falsehood, but a friend of the righteous". (Ys 43. 7-8).
Maharukh says that Asho Zarathushtra gives us freedom of choice 'in every situation'. Our liberal minded brethren and sisters conveniently misinterpret it to mean choice of Religion. One cannot take 3 words spoken by asho Zarathushtra and make a sweeping generalised statement. Let us see what Asho Zarathushtra said and in what context. In Ys. 30-1 He proclaims to all those who have assembled what is to be learned from Mazda, namely, the hymns of the Lord, the praises of the Good Mind, Vohu Mano, and the noble principle of righteousness. In the second stanza He tells the people to "Listen with many ears (carefully), consider with an enlightened mind, man for man, each one for himself, and then choose before the big judgement". Clearly the choice referred to is between righteousness taught by Mazda and the evil, druj and deceit. Then in the third and fourth stanzas Asho Zarathushtra describes the two mentalities, (mainyus). In the fifth stanza He tells us that evil people chose to perform worse deeds, while honest people chose righteousness which pleases Ahura Mazda. In the sixth stanza He says that even the daevas could not discriminate aright and in their confusion, as they stood in doubt, they chose the worst mentality. In doing so they rushed away in anger and polluted our mortal life. In Ys. 31-1 Asho Zarathushtra repeats that he is proclaiming Ahura Mazda's commandments to those who destroy the world of righteousness through falsehood, and repeats that these divine decrees are best for those who have given up their hearts to Ahura Mazda.
Then Asho Zarathushtra goes a step further. In the second stanza He says that: "Since the better path is not clearly seen by the soul for her choice, because of the evil attraction, I have come to you all as the Prophet ordained by Ahura Mazda to guide the people between these two mentalities, so that they, one and all, live in harmony with righteousness." The above is the full context of the CHOICE given to us by Asho Zarathushtra.
Among the divine decrees given by Mazda to Asho Zarathushtra is the method of disposal of the dead. He talks of the sinfulness of burying the dead and polluting the earth. He advocates Dokhmenashini and Khurshed Nagirishni.
There is a difference in a system getting weakened and a system failing. A system getting weakened is akin to a person falling sick, while a system failing is akin to a person dying. The sick person seeks medical help and recovers. The doctor does not kill him to end his sickness. (There is an advertisement in many doctors waiting rooms which says "smoking cures cancer").
Instead of strengthening the hands and efforts of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat in their search for a cure, the DDD group are hell bent on destroying and annihilating the very system itself. The hypocrisy of their action is that even as they are threatening the Trustees, and trying to brainwash the ignorant laity, they still claim to be staunch Zoroastrians and all for Dokhmenashini. This is like the proverbial snake with a mouth at both ends.
If these people are for Dokhmenashini why don't they support the efforts of the BPP in setting the system right again? Why do they spread blatant lies that paste is applied by the nassesalers on the naked bodies - they make it sensational by adding "of young females also". (Jamsed Kanga in Jame 8th April). Why do they lie that our system is a health hazard? Has any harm come to anybody like what comes to people staying near crematoriums? Where the air is so polluted people have to close their windows all day and even then a white layer builds up on the surface of water that has been stored?
Why do not these people lend support to the new Dokhma coming up at Vasai? Why do they spread lies that there are no vultures in Vasai? Are they not acting unZoroastrian by spreading lies and falsehood. Truly they are DDD (Din Dabao Dushmans). What is dignity? Is the stench of a burning corpse, the accompanying smoke emanated, the white cloud that settles all around dignity? Or is a corpse rotting under the ground, which is being eaten by millions of maggots for months together dignity? And only our method is undignified?
What one fails to understand is the double talk by these people about the Dokhmas. They are bent on using alternate so called "dignified" methods. But they still insist on performing the ceremonies at the "undignified" place called Doongerwadi where according to them there is a stench, there is a health hazard, where everything has failed and what not. What a paradox.
Today the railways have totally failed in giving dignified transport to the ticket buyer. He can hardly get a foothold leave aside a seat and clean breathing air. Perhaps these people should pioneer a movement to stop rail travel and only travel by air because the system has failed.
We the simple humble followers of Asho Zarathushtra stand faithfully by His teachings. If any system has to be changed we await the coming of the Rainidar to guide us in the name of Ahura Mazda. Today our prosperity, monetary and social status is because for generations we have faithfully stuck to our Religious teachings, tenets, practices, even if we have not understood them. Let the faithful continue to do so. The hallowed lands at Doongerwadi have been specifically acquired for the performance of Dokhmenashini, The bunglies have been built with that intention in mind. No question ever arose of any alternate method of disposal, because our Religion strictly and catagorically upholds only the Dokhmenashini method of disposal. Disposal of a corpse in fire (Electricity, called "Atash e Vazishta" is also one of the 16 fires mentioned in our Religion) is a major sin. Hence the question of performing 'Ceremonies' for a sinful act never arose and that is why the Trust Deed has not made any specific mention of it. No right thinking Parsi of those days would ever even wildly think of such a thing. There is no use hairsplitting the words of the Trust Deed when the meaning is crystal clear.
Once again I mention that people are free to do what they like. Let them go where they like. We will not interfere if they build their own crematoriums and have their own bunglies and do what they want. If priests in the lure of money want to perform their ceremonies that is a matter for them and their conscience. But I humbly urge and appeal to these people to leave the age old system alone, and leave the faithfuls of the Religion led by the High Priests alone.
May Ahura Mazda's wisdom dawn upon them.
RUSTOM C. CHOTHIA.
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