A. In what languages are the Kasti prayers composed? (TMY, JJ of 24-2-19)

1. The Zoroastrian Kasti prayers are actually composed in two languages, Avesta and Pazand. However the Avesta language is further sub-divided into two distinct and fairly different dialects – Gathic Avesta and standard Avesta. Thus the Kasti prayers are made up of the Pazand language as well as two dialects of Avesta language.

2. The Ashem vohu, Yatha ahu vairyo and much of the Kem na Mazda is composed of Gathic Avesta. Kem na Mazda has two stanzas from Ushtavaiti Gatha, and also has a passage from the Vendidad, which belongs to the other Avestan dialect.

3. The Ahura Mazda Khodai prayer is entirely in the Pazand language, but there are a few lines at the end in standard Avesta. The Jasa me Avanghe Mazda prayer is entirely in the standard Avestan language.

4.  The Kasti prayers were compiled in fourth century AC during the Sasanian times by Dastur Adarbad Mahrespand, by selecting prayers from the Gathas, Yasna and the Vendidad.

Advertisements

How can we believe in the existence of God if we cannot see Him? (TMY, JJ of 17-2-19)

1. God is the name given to the power that is the source of and sum total of all energy and intelligence in the universe. Different religions give different names to this supreme source, on the basis of their perception of this power.  Thus, though the power is the same, its perception is different and hence the different names of God. Zoroastrians refer to this power as Ahura Mazda, as they perceive it to be the all intelligent creator of life.

2. In Zoroastrian religion, God is referred to as spirit among spirits. He cannot be seen either by men or divine beings. God does not have any shape or form, as He is essentially energy and it is not possible to see energy in any form.

3. Even energies from physical sources like electric energy, magnetic energy or wind energy cannot be seen. Yet, we believe in their existence. We essentially know about the existence of these energies through the work that they do.

4. The intrinsic order inherent and underlying in the universe, is also a compelling reason to reinforce a belief in God. If one notices, there is nothing random in the universe. The universe and our world is perfect, symmetrical and systematic, running on immutable laws. There is an intelligence that has conceived it, planned it, and that runs it. That intelligence is God.  That macrocosmic intelligence is reflected in the microcosmic intelligence of every atom in every creation and every cell in every living organism. e

Who was Mr. Khurshedji Rustamji Cama? (TMY, JJ of 3 & 10-2-19)

1. Mr. K.R.Cama was a noted oriental scholar, social reformer and educationist. The debt of gratitude that the community owes to this gentleman is phenomenal. He is the father of systematic, scientific philological study of Iranian languages like Avesta and Pahlavi in India. Professor Dr. James Darmesteter had called him ‘the lay Dastur.’

2. He was born in 1831. Between 1855 and 1859, when he was barely 25 years old, he travelled extensively all over Europe, mainly for the purpose of acquainting himself better with Free Masonry. It was during this period that he studied Iranian and European languages like Avesta, Pahlavi, French and German.

3. In 1859 Mr. Cama went to Paris and Erlangen and studied the system of application of rules of grammar and philology to the study of ancient Iranian languages under eminent orientalists like Professor Julius von Mohl in France and Professors Jules Oppert and Dr. Friedrich Spiegel in Germany. Through his studies, he also came into contact with renowned scholars of Avesta, Pahlavi, Persian, Germanic, Greek, Latin, Vedic and Sanskrit languages, like Professors Eugene Barnouf, Franz Bopp, Albrecht Weber, Martin Haug, James Darmesteter and Dr.A.V.Williams Jackson  who had greatly contributed to the study of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European languages.

4. After returning to India, he became the bridge between the Traditional Method of philological study and the scientific philological study of sacred Zoroastrian texts. In 1861, he started a private class at his residence in Fort to teach Avesta & Pahlavi languages in a scientific manner on the system of comparative philology to a small group of students who comprised mainly of Parsi priests.

5. His first batch of students reads like a Who’s Who of Indo-Iranian philology in the last century. Almost all of them greatly contributed to the understanding of Zoroastrian prayers and religious texts comprising Avesta, Pahlavi, Sanskrit and Pazand texts. The main among them are: Ervad Tehmurasp Dinshaji Anklesaria, Ervad Edulji Kersasji Antia, Ervad Sheriarji Dadabhai Bharucha, Ervad Kavasji Edulji Kanga, Ervad Khurshedji Minocherji Kateli and Ervad Jamshedji Dadabhai Nadirshah.

6. In 1885, Mr. Cama became the Superintendent of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Zarthosti Madressa, which was a prominent Institute teaching Indo-Iranian languages, and served there till he passed away in 1909.

7. In 1888, Mr. Cama got Avesta and Pahlavi introduced as a second language for the degree of M.A. in the University of Bombay. Subsequently, in 1896, the University extended its limits and allowed Avesta-Pahlavi as a second language at all the arts Examinations and subsequently even at the Matriculation Examination.

8. The K.R.Cama Oriental Institute at Lions Gate, Mumbai, housing one of the finest libraries of books on Zoroastrian religion and Iranian languages in the world, stands as a living testimony to this great Oriental scholar.

Why do people sponsor a Navar – the Zoroastrian priestly initiation? (TMY, JJ of 20 & 27-1-19)

1. Priests play a very important role in every religion. In Zoroastrianism, the role of the priest is much magnified as it is a ritual intensive religion. A boy belonging to a priestly family can be ordained as priest after undergoing proper training. The ritual for being initiated into Zoroastrian priesthood is called Navar and it has to be undergone before puberty, that is before the age of about 13 years.

2. The Navar initiation is an elaborate and hence expensive process, which goes on for about 25 days, and hence there is a meritorious practice of sponsoring a child to become a Navar. A Navar can be sponsored either in memory of a departed person or by a living person for the merit of his or her own soul.

3. In the Navar ritual, the child has to undergo two Bareshnums, which are purificatory rituals, each of which is for nine days and nine nights. The first Bareshnum is for one’s own self and the second is for the living/departed person who sponsors the Navar. This means that throughout the nine days and nights, the candidate prays for the sponsor, every time he does his personal prayers – Patet Ravān-ni for the departed one, and Tandarosti for the living one.

4. As part of the Navar initiation, two senior and highly proficient priests perform the Yasna ritual for 6 days, called Gewra. This is to give spiritual power to the priests who would later ordain the child. Here too, the Yasnas are performed for the benefit of the soul of the person, living or deceased, who sponsors the ritual.

5. For the next 4 days, the boy himself performs 3 Yasnas and a Visparad ritual, with one of the priests who has done the Gewra, again for the benefit of the soul of the person who has sponsored the ritual.

6. It is customary to remember the name of the sponsor of Navar, by the boy throughout his life, whenever he performs any ritual, as a mark of gratitude to the person, who sponsors him to become a priest. Thus sponsoring a Navar is a highly meritorious and rewarding act of bringing in a new boy into the priestly fold.

7. The Navar ritual is very similar in performance to another very high Zoroastrian ritual, called Geti-Kharid. Therefore, sponsoring a Navar is as much, or even more meritorious, than having a Geti-Kharid ritual performed. fffffffffffffff

Why is the use of mobile phones prohibited in fire temples? (TMY, JJ of 13-1-19)

1. Mobile phones run on the principles of converting sound waves to electronic signals and then transmit them as radio waves while sending, and the other way round while receiving. All this activity emit a lot of electromagnetic radiation.  A Zoroastrian fire temple is a place where the exchange of lot of spiritual energies take place, especially in the sanctum sanctorum where the sacred fire is placed. High concentration of electric and electro-magnetic energies inhibits and hampers the divine work of these sacred fires.

2. If one may recollect, there is no electricity in the keblā “sanctum sanctorum” of any fire temple in India. Moreover, in rare cases, in a few fire temples there is no electricity even in the entire main building. One of the main reasons for this is, that the electrical energy hampers the divine work of these sacred fires.

3. Moreover, the incessant beeps, alerts and rings of the mobile phones would be very disturbing to the devotees. Worse still would be the conversations that different people would engage in, in the sublime house of worship, thus vitiating its tranquil environment. The atmosphere of a place of worship should be calm and quiet to enable concentration and relaxation of the mind.

Who is Shah Kae Lohrasp? (TMY, JJ of 6-1-19)

1. After long wars, Kayanian King Kae Khushru decided to leave his throne and kingdom and spend time in prayers. He often went into long periods of seclusion, and finally decided to leave his kingdom. Before leaving, Saorsh Yazad asked him to give his throne not to his sons, but to a just, gentle, noble and religious knight by the name Lohrasp. Then Kae Khushru retreated into the mountains and disappeared, never to return.

2. King Kae Lohrasp had two sons Gushtasp and Zarir. Gustasp always felt a sense of insecurity to his right to the throne and approached his father with a request to nominate him as his successor. After a few times, finally, Lohrasp instituted Gushtasp on the throne. He spent his days at the Navbahar Atash Behram, where later, prophet Zarathushtra also prayed.

3. Once when king Gushtasp was not in the capital, the evil Turanian king Arjasp attacked Balkh. The elderly Lohrasp single-handedly and valiantly fought many Turanians, but when the cowardly soldiers attacked him simultaneously, he lost his life.

4. Apart from being a pious king, Kae Lohrasp is revered as a highly evolved, spiritually advanced soul. He is credited with the ability of astral projection, that is projecting his astral body at another place in such a way that it appears that he is simultaneously present at two places.

5. In religious tradition, he is referred to as mithra-nā-sāheb “lord over thoughts.” People who are not able to concentrate, whose mind is agitated and who are harassed by negative thoughts should think of Shah Lohrasp, keep his picture in their mind and pray to him for help.

What are the different usages of the term Baj in Avesta? (TMY, JJ of 23 & 30-12-18)

1. The origin of the word bāj is doubtful. There are two probable derivations. First, from vac “word, speech.” This derivation seems meaningful in some of the uses of the term. The other from Persian wāj, used in the sense of “tribute, tax” This derivation makes senses when the word bāj is used for the after-death ritual, and serves the sense of repaying debts to the ancestors.

2. In contemporary Parsi usage, the word bāj is used for several purposes:

i) Prayers which precede and follow an action, in other words ‘frame’ an action.  It is generally a daily act like eating, drinking, bathing or answering the call of nature. Once the initial portion of the bāj preceding the action has been recited, silence has to be maintained till the bāj is concluded by the recitation of the concluding portion. The initial portion of the bāj is referred to as ‘taking the bāj’ (G. bāj levi, bāj dharvi) and the concluding portion as ‘leaving the bāj’ (G. bāj chhodvi, bāj mukvi). These bāj are found in the Khordeh Avesta. These bāj protects the person when the act is being performed, as the act somehow breaches some boundary of religious appropriateness.

ii) The term bāj is also used for the prayer formulae before and after prayers like the Nyash, Yasht and certain Nirangs. These prayer formulae have a common invocation at the beginning and the end.

iii) In modern Parsi parlance, the term ‘praying in bāj’ refers to a particular suppressed tone of prayer, especially used to recite Pazand passage/s occurring between two Avestan texts.

iv) A Zoroastrian is not supposed to talk whilst reciting prayers. However, if he has to perforce talk, he is supposed to speak ‘silently’ or ‘inarticulately’ in a suppressed tone by pursing the lips together. Such a mode of conversation is referred to as ‘speaking in bāj.’

v) The Bāj-dharnā ritual is also referred by the shortened name bāj.  In the set of 4 after death rituals, this ritual is referred to as just the bāj. The other 3 are Afringan, Farokshi and Stum.

vi) Since the Bāj-dharnā ritual is generally performed in memory of departed ones, the days of monthly and annual commemorations are also referred to as ‘the person’s bāj.’

vii) One more unique use of the term bāj is in the short prayer Sarosh Bāj. Though this prayer is not a bāj in any sense of the word discussed above, and is a normal basic prayer, still it is called a bāj.

3. Thus, there are various understandings and connotations in which the word bāj is used by the Parsis.