Questions: Matter and Energy: Education of Zarathushtrian Children: Meditation: Names
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Zoroastrian House, Camden, London on 22nd April 1979
How do we preserve our Faith?
The answer is very simple — by living the life, there is nothing else you can do. Supposing for instance a man is a very unhappy, miserable man, or he is a criminal or a sinner or something like that. If he were to give lectures about the life beautiful, the life perfect, do you think that what he says will influence the other person, the listener? It is what you are that matters, and if in your own being you are true to the Truth and the vision of the Truth as you see it, it will be such an influence around you without your having to say a word about it that it will interest the other person and make him enquire how, why is it that your features show that you are at peace, that you have realized something of superlative worth. It is because you are that, and that is what matters. The Faith is not merely preserved like a fossil in a museum, but it is a living power to influence for good everybody and everything around you. You may say, “But I don’t see the results of it.” It is not for me to see the results or to want to see the results. That is just personal vanity and personal egoism. “I want to see a result.” Why? Eternal God sees the result and knows the result, is that not good enough?
How can one concentrate on the meaning of every word of the prayer when one does not understand it?
Study! Learn the meanings, who is stopping you? No one, only your own laziness or your own disinclination or your own short-sightedness intellectually, and perhaps morally. So, study. If you really care for something, you know how you give all your energy to it, don’t you? If you are really in love with somebody, would you say, “Oh, I am too tired to go and see my beloved today.” You move heaven and earth! That is the way to do things.
How can one preserve the Zoroastrian community from dwindling?
This is more a Family Planning Association’s question! Live the Zarathushtrian life, live in the spirit of armaiti, that loving devotion in which one gives the whole of one’s being unreservedly to the partner. This has to be reciprocal, of course. Both must be like that, and let us see in the next 150 years what happens! I see hardly anybody smiles because we will not be alive in the next 150 years! But leave it to the Divine, to that Divine Creative Energy which knows just what it is about. And do remember, wheresoever a group of people, a nation, a culture fails in fulfilling at least sufficiently the trends of life which move all people towards their final culmination, then life in itself has no compunction in wiping out that particular species. Think of the dinosaurs. They had a long innings, 150 million years, and it will be wonderful if we can do the same as human beings, although, if the Earth, and the condition of the Earth remain what they are and are not tampered with by the folly, the greed, the violence and the stupidity of man, then we probably have just a couple of thousand million years in which to fulfil our functions.
You said about some beautiful phrases in our Sraosh Baj and Ahmai-raeshcha and also Hazanghrem. Then why is it that our most common Kusti prayer has not incorporated these prayers instead of the Kem-na Mazda, Ahurmazd Khodae and Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda which we normally pray?
The ordinary Kusti prayer is surely specific to that purpose. The others are added on as and when required. There is nothing to prevent you from adding on the other prayers. All the Yashts, the Nyaeshes are full of the profoundest teachings, they are very wonderful and they will all help. The Kusti prayer is the affirmation of yourself as a member of this religious group, the Zarathushtrian group, that is what it is. It is your affirmation, your statement of fidelity to that to which you have given your free and willing consent.
I do pray my Kusti prayers and sometimes even the hard ones with a book of course, but I always feel in the latter case, especially when I pray the Gathas, my pronunciations are not correct though I do concentrate and try my best. Does this make any difference, in other words, does it matter?
This is why I feel it is very important to know the meanings. I suppose all Parsis, all Zarathushtrians, can read Gujarati. There are Gujarati translations of the whole of the Avestan Scriptures, Gathas included of course, and they are quite good translations. I myself have used the three volumes of Kanga in the Gujarati translations which my parents used and had. The date of publication shows that some were published shortly after I was born, but they were originally translated before I was born. They are very good translations, I find, comparing them with other translations. There are some translators who get the spirit of it. They get the spirit of it, and they themselves by living the life have the necessary insight to use the right phraseology. This is very important. The best we can do is that we can use words which are less misleading than the words of others. Those who have lived the life and have this spirit of armaiti, this loving devotion, they have the imagination to choose the right word. And so those translations are more valuable than the purely dry, intellectualist translation of those who have Ph.D. and all the rest of it after their names. So get good translations, not only in Gujarati but in other languages. Compare them. I myself, because of my training as a scientist in Cambridge, am accustomed to look at the different versions which have been produced by different translators. And then I choose the version which accords best with what has actually come through into my own inner consciousness through trying to live the life, that is the important thing. And finally the one which you must choose is the one which accords best with your own living experience and with your own insight, and keep your mind completely open. There is no end to the process of the growth of the mind. You take the lives of the great teachers themselves. Don’t think that at the age of 30 or 33 or 35 they reached perfection and then — full stop — they reached perfection and then they taught for the rest of their days the same old stuff. All you had to do was to put the penny in the slot, turn on the machine, and out it would come! Not at all. They themselves continuously kept growing, and this growing is an intensifying of the deeps of your consciousness. So there is no end to learning. One is everlastingly the learner, if one is earnest and sincere about it. So, good luck to you and all the best attend your efforts.
Zarathushtra does not enjoin self-renunciation like Buddha. He does not forbid the good things in life. Is that correct please?
Let me start by disillusioning you about what the Buddha taught. The Buddha clearly taught the discipline of the sense-functions so that one did not fall into bondage either through attraction or through aversion. He also taught quite clearly that in the process of living the holy life, happiness in the true sense would always emerge quite naturally. As regards putting aside what we call the pleasures of life, is not mankind the slave of pleasure, the pleasure-drive, and is not this pleasure-drive to a considerable extent only an animal drive, unredeemed by the finer aspects of our humanity? If one is going to be enslaved by them, how can you pay attention, how can you have the intelligence and the power to perceive the deep and the true things which make for true human happiness and true fulfilment? And consider another thing. If living the religious life is important to you, would you not be prepared to naturally, not forcibly (at first you may have to compel yourself), but naturally to put aside whatsoever interferes with the truth that you seek? Take your great creative artists, your scientists, your philosophers, your philanthropists and so forth. When the urge for the better, the really good and wonderful fills their being, they devote all their energies to that and they put aside the unimportant things. This is the meaning, the true meaning of asceticism, not torturing the self. Let me quote something the Buddha said, “He who lives without harming or hurting himself, without harming or hurting anyone else, lives with the self become Brahman,” (the Supreme, the Absolute-All.) Just think of that! Without hurting yourself, without hurting anybody else. It is a case of whatever is the Divine urge in you (or if you haven’t got a Divine urge, whatever is the urge in you!), you will naturally devote yourself to that and put aside what interferes with it.