Fellow Traditional Mazdayasni Zarathushtris,
We fully support Ervad Bhadha in his opposition to the North American Mobed Council's UNZOROASTRIAN resolution allowing non-zoroastrians to enter our community through the evil of mixed marriages. Today at this critical juncture we must FIGHT mixed marriages, not encourage them.
Here is the entire correspondence between the NAMC and Ervad Bhadha, for the entire community to see. The combined pressure of the entire Traditional Zarathushtri population around the world should now be on the NAMC, so that they rethink their wrong definition of the term "Zarathushtri".
March 21, 1998
To, The President & Executive Committee North American Mobeds Council C/o Mehrban Guiv Dare Mehr Zoroastrian Temple 3590 Bayview Avenue, Willowdale, Ontario M2M 3S6, Canada
I am writing this letter to voice my concern on behalf of those Zarathustris who are not even familiar with your organization and activities affecting their future generations. From the last two annual general meetings, it seems like your group is trying to establish domination in imposing ultra-liberal socio-religious practices in the name of religion. Evidently, none of you are capable of visualizing current problems affecting the Zoroastrian community in North America. As an Athravan myself, I would expect this Body to rather work for the "spiritual progress" of our community than promoting activities that are detrimental to the "religious identity" of the Athravans.
Since last year, I have been receiving the minutes of your Annual General Meeting including the progress notes from Nozer Kotwal. After thorough research and understanding of your organization and its past and current activities, I am sorry to say that non-of you are qualified to perceive critical issues affecting the community at large. Preparing Mobedyars for future generations and Kobad Zarolia getting oral permission from Dasturji Kotwal to initiate Behdin into Priestwood is not going to educate our community in religious matters. Neither wasting efforts in defining who should be called Zarathustri can make our Prophet take rebirth to explain HIS authentic message for the Mazdayasnans alone. A point that I am trying to convey is ignorance of religion among the Athravans has caused serious threats to the religion and community and its survival in the next century.
My first concern is about the members of your group. I would like to put a question across the table: How many of you are knowledgeable in composition and application of the following basic terms in relation to calling oneself a Zarathustri and his/her mission and purpose in life :- Tarikats, Alaats, Aipi, Kharenah, Manthra, Urvaan, Karsh, Bunak Pasbani, 16 Energy Circles in human body, intrinsic values of Yazashne, Vendidad, Nirangdin, Baj, Funeral ritual and other invocatory and dedicatory ceremonies. I am asking this question to make you all realize that you need to qualify for the membership of this Congress. My dear Mobeds, if you call yourself an Athravan, you have to educate yourself first before holding an authority to make decisions on religious issues. Educate yourself about the communal problems before making an agenda to train Mobedyars in your area. If not a Pope, our community needs a strong able Body who can make decisions on socio-religious issues to support our traditional viewpoint. Our community counts on us to serve them spiritually. No matter who is in question, wealthy philanthropist, poor and unfortunate Zarathustri or an Athravan himself, Tarikats applies to all, regardless of where it is practiced in India, Iran or abroad.
Among Athravans, we have differences because of various groups that were originated in India (Kadmi, Fasli and Shenshahi) and also because of major differences in practicing rituals between Udvada Priests and Navsari/Surat- based Priests. That is the sole reason why some of us do not agree on short- cuts in ceremonies currently practiced by majority in India and abroad. For example, our learned Dasturji Kotwal has published books on Afringhan and Yazashne ceremony describing the types of prayers and its application which has no binding on Udvada Priest performing Yazashne with differences in arranging the Alaats and performing Afringhan or Jashan with an additional chapter. Dasturji H.K. Mirza of Udvada is one of the proponents of this Udvada-based Tarikats that has been followed since ages at our sacred Iranshah Atash-Behram and in Boyce Agiary at Tardeo. You mean to say, those Priests who practice differently at the above sites are wrong and rest of them are right? We are not here to decide on that issue however, my main concern is to strengthen our (NAMC) integrity in this part of the world. Remember, a Priest reciting an additional chapter in Jashan or perform differently will not reduce the effect of our prayers. However, common sense should not guide oneself to observe religious injunctions in performance of rituals and ceremonies. Our traditions and prescribed methods are the meaningful illustrations of observing Tarikats for the efficacy of our prayers.
I know, majority of you will not even perceive this as a threat because of either ignorance of such differences or because of so-called Parsi-style neutralized approach to communal problems. "Javaa deni hawe, wadhaare khatpat karwani jerur nathi" No doubt, today, we command no respect in the community. My dear Mobeds, we are Athravan and also Rathestar of this religion. We are not practicing priesthood to entertain our community following their conveniences but to serve HIM by following HIS commandments. Remember, in every ritual and ceremony, a Priest is considered an Alaat. We are the so- called spiritual mediators who are "destined" to spread HIS word among Mazdayasni Zarathustris. We cannot judge HIS divinity, neither we are entitle to auction our religious position by remaining neutral. We have to guard HIS Daena and do the right thing as HE prescribed, no matter how unreasonable, irrational or illogical it sounds.
In the western hemisphere, we (Athravans) face a different type of challenge in practicing our faith. Out of every ten Zarathustris migrating to the western country, nine of them are swayed by the glamour, money and freedom offered by the local cultures. And there is nothing wrong in it until they use them to oppose our religious beliefs, which is a very common phenomenon. On the other end, very few of our local Athravans are full-fledged Priests to know the Tarikats of our rituals and ceremonies. Those who are familiar with the Tarikats prefer to be neutral or lopsided, serving the community as per their conveniences regardless of its implications in conflict with our traditional practices. My dear Mobeds, initiation into Priesthood may be easy for those parents pushing their Aosta to Ervad overnight, but preparing that candidate to be a practicing Athravan is far more difficult than ones anticipation. It requires daily PRACTICE of Tarikats to understand the meaning and purpose of his responsibility first, before actually learning its implications. Unfortunately, today we have Kaaccho-Navar (half-hatched) Priests more in our community causing controversies than what we encounter from the outside sources. Religion is learned by PRACTICING in everyday life and not by reading books or writing articles on religion. We have to trained those half-hatched Priests first and then start progressing in to educating Mobedyars for our future generation. Be a role-model first before coming to the podium to preach.
Problems related to Athravans:
- Our Athravans are not aware of the Tarikats that needs to be followed before, during and after performing a particular ritual. Some are aware of but conveniently ignore its usage to face controversial questions from the mass.
- Very few commit themselves to teach prayers and religion to the local community. (Why not a Priest but our dedicated Kayomarz Mehta from Chicago volunteered to educate our Zarathustris?)
- Most of the Athravans are not even knowledgeable in tying Pagdi properly. (I have seen a full-fledged Priest from northern California sitting in a Jashan with a white cap.) Most of us lack knowledge of wearing Pagdi and its relation to performance of ceremonies. One has to also learn what prayers have to be recited before and after tying it.
- Some of us perform rituals and ceremonies without observing the principles of Ashoi and Tarikats. Ceremonies performed in the presence of non- Zoroastrians are a perfect example. In California, even an Athravan Education Trust (A.E.T.) student learned under Khojestee Mistree and Dasturji Kotwal has no objection in doing our sacred rituals without following Tarikats and that too, in the presence of non-Zoroastrians. Now justify this unfortunate condition: Who else is responsible for the destruction of our sacred religion?
- In India and abroad, majorities of our Athravans are losing their credibility because of some few ignorant, "half-hatched" ones with more material than spiritual needs. Most of them are not even knowledgeable about our prayers but they do sit with others claiming to recite Afringhan and Farokhshi. One can find such Athravans reciting God knows what, during our sacred Muktad days in most of our busy Agiaries and Atash-Behrams. Here again, the point that I am trying to make is, first think about our own progress and then proceed towards making one for others.
Problems related to the community
- It is a common Zoroastrian attitude to challenge our age-old traditions by questioning our priest to show proof of HIS divine version or implications and differences of our Tarikats practiced in India and abroad. (Yes, we have resources to shut those empty-vessels. Only requirement is, one has to follow and practice our religious traditions without corruption from personal judgement or outside influence.)
- Our community lacks religious leadership. We have scattered groups around the world. A fact is, we cannot control each and every group in the North America through this organization. We have to take charge of our local group and dedicate our time and energy in educating them, no matter how small group or poor response you get from your commitment.
- Majorities who emigrate from India and Pakistan to the US bring with them various local religious beliefs. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet some new students in my religion class. On asking one eight years old boy about the name of our Prophet, he replied, Shriji Hanuman. Similarly I have seen many Zarathustris including our dear Mobeds, reciting prayers in front of the pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses at home. (Do we have anyone in NAMC who has Sai Baba or other God's statue at home? Obviously, who is going to confess it.) It will take me five pages to describe why a Zarathustri can practice no other than our Zarathustri religion. If one know the spiritual implications of those terms in the second para, and how does it relate to a Zarathustri Urvaan, one needs no motivation to practice ONE & ONLY Mazdayasni Zarathustri religion.
- Our community is far more materialistic in thoughts, words and deeds to understand the esoteric meaning and application of our Manthras and Tarikats. As a result, convincing explanation and guidance from other religions and beliefs sways many.
In reference to the letter from Pallan Ichaporia to Jal Birdy about Jafarey's speech and his popularity in Pune, India, and I would like the Mobed Counsel to channelize your thoughts for its cause and not effect of this unfortunate event. Once again, the cause is IGNORANCE among the community and the priestly class to honor such individuals. Although opposition by way of writing letters and articles will help people to recognize our true religion, one cannot stop people like Jafarey to spread his version around the world. If each one of us make a commitment to concentrate our efforts in educating members of the local community and practice our faith in its entirety, we have fulfilled our obligation and responsibility as Athravans. Rest is up to HIS PLAN and each individual family and their destiny to believe and practice our religion in everyday life. Though, we are recognized by our Profession as the protector and preservers of HIS religion, we cannot be the policemen for every action and reaction in the community.
We have many capable minds to hold Public Relation type responsibilities but very few who can dedicate their lives for educating our community. Writing letters and articles against those abusing the tenets of our religion is not going to help our future generation to understand and preserve our religion. Neither it is going to help us in developing integrity among ourselves to preserve our race and identity. We, the Athravans collectively can make a difference if, each one of us educate ourselves first and then, make a commitment to educate our local community and follow our Tarikats and Ashoi in performance of rituals and ceremonies. Recently, some of our dedicated Zarathustris from California presented the earth-shaking proposal to the Senate to name 21st March as the Zoroastrian day. What a great achievement for the community that could not even survives in unity and breath religiously to understand their own "spiritual identity? A false pride and recognition among our local society will not elevate our Urvaan's Daena (Conscience), neither it will help the community at large to practice Zarathustri religion in its entirety.
Most in our community are not even familiar with the intrinsic values of the most basic practices of Zarathusti life. Forget about intrinsic values, they have no idea why and what makes them a Zarathustri. Presenting oneself as Zarathustri has many connotations in the light of ones spiritual identity. The reasons for wearing Sudreh Kusti has far more spiritual Urvaan-related value than simply consider as having a symbolic value. I know, some of you may have read books on religious implication and Tarikats however, very few actually PRACTICE them in daily life. Becoming a role model for our family and community at large is something that we all need to consider. Residing in western country does not make us more intelligent or secluded from our majority in India. Neither it makes us Saosyants to decide on our sacred customs and traditions. We all must collectively sense the true need of this community to bring our majority in the limelight of HIS divine wisdom.
None of us (including our High Priests) can claim to be perfect and fully knowledgeable about Zarathustri religion however, some do have enough knowledge to spread among their local group. As an Athravan, I am proud to serve a small traditional group in Southern California. I respectfully follow our sacred traditions and commit myself to practice it with no exceptions. For those who are unknown to my communal activities, I am conducting religion classes for young and adults in California and educate Zarathustris around the world by e-mail and lessons on Internet. (Refer my articles on Traditional Zoroastrianism Home Page at www.ParsiZoroastrianism.com.) My prayer cassettes are distributed among the interested traditional-minded Zarathustris around the world. (For those who are from Canada, contact Jaloo Cooper.) No matter if my contributions are left unrecognized by the community, I strongly believe that I am serving HIM by serving my fellow Zarathustris. I expect no returns for my services as, I consider it my DUTY which I am honored to perform in this birth following HIS Daena. Needless to say, I have no personal opinion for any one of you in the Congress; you may lead your group as you wish. Hope this letter will throw some light on your future programs leading towards spiritual progress of our community.
Atha Zamyat Yatha Afrinami.
In His Service,
Ervad Hoshang J. Bhadha, PH.D.
Ervad (Dr.) Hoshang J. Bhadha 9081 Grand Circle, Cypress, CA 90630
August 24, 1998
To, Nozer Kotwal Secretary, NAMC 4244 Taffey Cres Mississauga, ON L5L 2J2
Dear Nozer Kotwal,
Thank you for sending me the minutes of your last General Body Meeting, which I received on August 22, 1998. I do not understand why it takes four months to prepare the minutes of AGM meeting held in April 1998. I suppose it doesn't take that long to draft, review and print or, is there something else under the carpet that I am not familiar with?! Anyway, allow me to address my concerns on the operation of your liberal North American Mobed Council.
a) First of all, my previous letter mailed to you at the official address of your Council was meant for discussing in the Annual General meeting, which was left ignored because of some unknown reason, and you didn't present it to the committee. I am not available to hear any excuses but, I certainly am upset about the way you and other committee members operate to maintain majority of liberal votes in your committee. Subsequent to your AGM, I have contacted the President Ervad Jal Birdy about the committee response to my letter and he said, it was not presented to us. Few days later he called and said that, nobody had collected that letter from the Center, as a result it wasn't discussed in the meeting. Why would you use Mehrban Guiv Dare Mehr address when you are not committed to collect mail or take responsibility of your position?
b) In the recent AGM Meeting, the Council decided on the following issue (AGM Minutes Page 10) "After some discussion it was agreed to put the following definition to vote at the next meeting. "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." First of all, according to the inherent laws of Bunak Pasbani 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 consider "illegitimate", "unlawful" and "destruction of our spirituality" as per our literature, the outcome of such wedlock cannot be considered "pure" in spiritual sense to be a part of our religion. Thus, Navjote of such offspring's is invalid and not acceptable. Besides, a non-Zarathustri cannot "practice" our religion or can recite Avesta Maanthras. I question you all across the table, would you sell your son and daughter in the market 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 your resolution takes effect then, it seems like we don't need to follow HIS commandments described in Vendidad and start "practicing" what your Council finds it appropriate! Are you all trying to enforce a revised version of HIS Daena using your corrupted values or working for the spiritual progress of the community? I suppose your Council is not concerned about the latter one, and neither it holds any authority or jurisdiction over our religious tenets and traditions. You people collectively or independently cannot 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.
c) Religion is not for those who would like to PRACTICE religious tenets, rituals, and Tarikats based on personal preferences or conveniences. Neither anyone of you has authority to accept or reject any Tarikats prescribed by our Saosyants and Rainedars. Your committee should understand and realize that its role in this western society is more like an educator and facilitator rather than a reformer of our Faith. Our religion is not open for interpretation or compromises but to PRACTICE for the spiritual development of our Urvaan. Your council cannot corrupt our religion with a "compromised definition" of Zarathustri to promote unity and fraternity among the community and outsiders. Unfortunately, due to widespread ignorance of religion, very few among us realize the truth and consequences of your 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 the Athravans like me to raise the issue at surface to make people realize what they are facing at present and in the near future. Do you have any idea about its consequences on our majority residing in India and Pakistan? I guess not. Becoming a citizen of some western country cannot make you a Saosyant or spiritually advanced to make religious decisions for our community. Learn to be a student first and understand the intrinsic values of our religious philosophies and traditions before raising to the podium to dictate. We Athravans are the caretakers of HIS religion. If we start making rules and traditions than there is no meaning in naming our prophet or practicing HIS preaching! Have some sense in what you all are propagating and proposing in every annual meeting. 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 blame us for destroying our religion and heritage. Who knows, one of us could be the victim of our own corrupted action! Let us not destroy our religion following the local customs and personal excuses to enjoy conveniences in practicing our religion.
d) I have heard from the traditional sources in Canada, that majority of your 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 among your group where ignorance among Athravans is the prime cause of ever- increasing need to abolish our religious beliefs. I won't be surprise, if that influences NAMC in making decisions in annual general meeting and, youth of tomorrow in Canada identify themselves 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 events and occasions like Navjote, Wedding, house-warming ceremony, Jashan for living or departed souls and on death of a family member. If we Athravans 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 "corrupted mind" to live through this life.
e) As per my knowledge, this Mobed Council was initially proposed to be a part of FEZANA that was bluntly declined by its members to be independent in its operation. A part of this judgment was to encourage Mobed voice in the community for implementing religious actions in support of spreading religious education and spiritual development among the Zarathustris of the western world. Today, if the same Council decide on accepting a non-Zoroastrian spouse as a member of our community in our sacred Ashirwad ceremony and consider their offspring's as Zarathustris, there is no difference between FEZANA activities and goals of NAMC. This Council would be better of, if it were to become a part of FEZANA, and yes, stop calling it a Mobed Council. You liberals do not deserve to have such title, and neither you all can have it, as it is meant for those Bareshnum Priests who perform high liturgical ceremonies in Agiary and Atash-Behram. It is a shame and disgrace to use that title for even thinking of admitting a non-Zoroastrian into the Zoroastrian fold.
I would like your committee to know that, I strongly oppose your meeting agenda and will do everything possible to bring awareness of its incorrectness among your Council members and community at large. In order to preserve our race and religion, we have to follow HIS Daena without making any compromises in Tarikats or our age-old traditions. I do not request but, ask you all to reconsider looking into your Girbaan and feel threat of that Judgment day, before passing any anti-religious resolutions to jeopardize the sanctity of our religious beliefs that would seriously harm our religion and its followers around the world. Hope, my previous letter and this following one will be conveyed to the members and, not to mention, be acted on rather than be a part of your rusty files. Regardless, I will continue to uphold our traditional values and expose NAMC anti-religious actions to the community in every part of the world. Remember, we Athravans are the servants of HIS Daena. People count on us to protect and preserve the tenets of our religion. We are not serving those who do not believe or wish to follow HIS Commandments. Nothing in the world should stop us adhere to HIS Daena. We are not born to make people happy by altering our traditions to match with their conveniences. Black Sheep's are in every society and ours is not an exception however, if we Athravans do things right as per HIS prescription, no one else in the world, from within or outside our community, can cause division or deformity in our religious faith and community as one.
In His Service,
Ervad Hoshang J. Bhadha, PH.D.
THE NORTH AMERICAN MOBEDS COUNCIL c/o Mehrban Guiv Dare Mehr Zoroastrian Temple 3590 Bayview Avenue, Willowdale, Ontario M2M 3S6, Canada August 26, 1998
Ervad (Dr.) Hoshang J. Bhadha 9081 Grand Circle Cypress, CA 90630
Sent by e-mail to Ervad Bhadha
I have read your three letters, one written to NAMC on March 21, 1998, one to Nozer Kotwal on August 24, 1998 and your e-mail posting to the Traditional-Zarathushtris alias of August 25, 1998. I commend you on your steadfastness of traditional beliefs in religious matters and the genuine concern you feel towards the perpetuation of our faith and identity. Unfortunately, there are not many mobeds left who feel the way you do and who are not afraid to speak their minds.
First of all, let me apologize on behalf of NAMC for not picking up your March 21 letter from the Darbe Mehr in time to review and discuss it at our April meeting. I can assure you that our secretary, Nozer Kotwal, is normally very particular and responsible in bringing matters before the Council and this seems to be a genuine lapse on our part for not checking the mail at the Darbe Mehr in proper time. I can assure you that it was not done intentionally. The letter was, however, sent to all members with the meeting minutes.
Secondly, we have three note-takers at our meetings and it usually takes some time before they can agree the contents among themselves, then send it out to the Executive Committee members for their input and finally before the secretary can type and distribute the minutes. It is difficult to get members to volunteer for this work and therefore we are not super critical and particular in enforcing a strict time limit for the production of minutes, provided the job gets done right.
Coming to the more important matter about mobeds educating and spiritually uplifting themselves before pontificating on making changes to traditional practices, almost all of our members will agree with you. Not all mobeds have had the good fortune to gain the religious knowledge and training that you seem to possess. With the exception of a very few mobeds who may consider themselves to be "Scholars", most of us can be termed "Casual Part-time Students". With what little spare time we have left after earning our livelihood during the week and attending to our religious demands on week- ends, we try to acquire some religious knowledge on our own to be better able to guide our community. In doing so, we have come to realize that to gain proper religious knowledge is a major uphill battle.
We find that scriptures written in ancient and extinct languages have been interpreted differently by Zarathushti and non-Zarathushti "scholars" alike. Some interpret Ahura Mazda as Omnipotent, while others do not. Some interpret re-incarnation in our scriptures, while others interpret otherwise. Some believe that to belong to a religious group is a matter of choice, others believe it is not. Some believe that philological and linguistic interpretation of the scriptures will provide all the answers while others feel philology is misleading and mysticism in the scriptures is the real key.
Moreover, mobeds, like any other migrant to the west, have been conditioned to ask questions and not taking anything for its face value, as you and I were expected to do. Further, there is no incentive or compulsion on their following any particular doctrine; their life or livelihood does not depend upon it. Under these circumstances, getting a consensus in any matter of religious belief becomes extremely difficult. If you have a specific plan on how you can pass on your knowledge and training convincingly to our members so that they can uplift themselves spiritually and intellectually, we will be very interested to know.
Lastly, not all the mobeds in NAMC are "liberal". We have all shades right from the most orthodox to the most liberal. There is lively discussion and argument at every AGM and we do our best to win others over to our own point of view, without being too disagreeable or coming to blows. You cannot do this by merely writing angry letters and staying away from the meetings. Such letters seldom get acted upon. Further, in this land where everything gets decided democratically, you have to stand up and be counted by votes if you want your point of view to prevail. Much to the chagrin of many mobeds, the matter of defining a Zarathushti has found its way on to the voting floor again, having been defeated once last year. Since you feel so strongly about it, I hope you and others of your persuasion will participate in the voting, otherwise it will get rubber stamped without proper representation. It will then be too late to complain.
So once again, Hoshang, we look forward to your participation in NAMC and hear more of your positive plans to impart your religious knowledge and training so that mobeds can improve both spiritually and intellectually. We hope you will be able to attend the next AGM and participate personally. If you need financial assistance with travel do let me know so we can arrange for a subsidy. Living expenses are free as the mobeds families graciously accommodate out of town mobeds.
With kindest regards to you,
NAMC - AND DEFINITION OF A "ZOROASTRIAN"
Early last year Ervad Jehangir Panthaky of the Zoroastrian Society of British Columbia (ZSBC) wrote to NAMC President Ervad Yezdi Antia seeking our guidance on the definition of the term "Zoroastrian" for their constitution. It was a frantic plea since he felt ZSBC's executive were intent on adopting an extremely liberal definition which would be harmful for his local community.
At our last AGM in Chicago we decided that since we could not find an explicit definition of "Zoroastrian" in NAMC's constitution and since this was an important issue relating to our Council policy, that an Extra Ordinary General Meeting would be required to amend our constitution before we could adequately reply to Ervad Jehangir. An appropriate explanation to that effect was sent to him following our last meeting.
Since that time, and in the face of much opposition, ZSBC has gone ahead and approved a definition which neither requires their members to be born of Zoroastrian parents nor to have had a traditional Navjote ceremony performed.
Our Associations in North America have adopted a wide spectrum of definitions of the term "Zoroastrian", ranging from the traditional one of having been born of both Zoroastrian parents and having undergone a traditional Navjote ceremony to the most liberal one noted above. Can you imagine the embarrassment and anger of a person who thinks he is a Zoroastrian in British Columbia, but is barred from attending religious ceremonies in California?
At the time of writing our constitution some ten years back, we had not thought it necessary to define the term "Zoroastrian", since there was no doubt in our minds of what it meant and since the definition was described implicitly in the requirement for our members to have undergone the traditional Navar ceremony. The traditional Navar ceremony can only be performed on a person who is born of both Zoroastrian parents and who has undergone a traditional Navjote ceremony earlier.
This, therefore, is NAMC's definition of a "Zoroastrian", implicit in its constitution - i.e., a person born of both Zoroastrian parents, who has undergone a traditional Navjote ceremony performed by an ordained Mobed and believes and practices the faith revealed by Asho Zarathushtra.
NAMC's task is not to dictate to the various associations what definition they should or should not use, but to inform them of how we ourselves define a "Zoroastrian" with reference to our own constitution. There appears to be neither a need for an amendment to explicitly define the term, nor for a special meeting for that matter. Admittedly, this is a little late for Ervad Jehangir and ZSBC, which is to be regretted.
NAMC is an association of Parsi Mobeds. Historically, Mobeds have been men of backbone who played a vital role in keeping the community intact through thirteen centuries in India. They realized that the only reason why the Parsis survived for so long, while other migrants from Iran to other countries did not, was our adherence to certain tough rules formulated by our Parsi ancestors. Some of the most important rules for avoiding our assimilation into the mainstream Indian population pertained to mixed-marriages, conversion and rituals. If we are to maintain our faith and identity on this continent also, we cannot ignore past lessons learned from our history.
For a minuscule community like ours, the effects of flouting our mixed- marriage rule, in particular, will be felt far quicker here in North America than on the Indian sub-continent. Compound this with conversion and rejection of rituals and within a generation or two our community will become well and truly assimilated into the mainstream American population. The Zoroastrian faith will likewise become so diluted that it will be difficult to distinguish it from other faiths. The Hawaiians find themselves in the same predicament as ourselves and are just waking up to realize what happened to them during the past century. They are only now beginning to do something about it. Either we lack the foresight to grasp this eventuality, or we are too busy furthering their own agendas or trying to appease our wayward friends for short term gain.
Up till now, given the freedom on this continent, a number of our Mobeds seem to have opted for the path of least resistance. They are afraid to speak up lest they will rock the boat or will lose some of their friends. They have just "gone-with-the-flow" and have closed their eyes to our rules which have safeguarded our faith and identity in India and which can do the same again here. Some of them feel that if they have performed a mixed-marriage or a Navjote of a child from a mixed-marriage for someone once, that they cannot refuse to do it again for someone else. They do not realize that to err is human and it is far worse to continue doing a wrong thing than to accept a mistake and stop repeating it. In fact they will gain back some of the respect which they have lost if they admitted to their mistake.
The North American community looks to the NAMC Mobeds for guidance more than we realize. If we feel that a bitter pill has to be swallowed for the well- being of our community, then we must take it. Let us not let our community down.
Ervad Jal N. Birdy President, NAMC Corona, California. 03-23-97
Ervad (Dr.) Hoshang J. Bhadha 9081 Grand Circle, Cypress, CA 90630
August 29, 1998
To, Ervad Jal N. Birdy President, NAMC Corona, California.
First let me thank you for elaborated response to my concerns. I would like you to understand that I am perfectly familiar with your views and ideas. So please do not misunderstand that I am trying to challenge your views by writing this letter. Neither I have intended or planning to "harm" you in any way. I respect you very much and would like you to be the voice of our traditionals in NAMC.
I very much understand your position as the President of NAMC. I regret that I couldn't attend your last meeting. It was not only costly but, I had problems at my work also, as a result I couldn't attend. Besides, my presence is not of much importance if, you as President and few traditionals will not support me to bring the hammer down to establish rules like "No discussion or resolution on any term or practice related to our religious identity." We are not here to judge HIS decision for us or abuse HIS DAENA and its followers by challenging HIS prescriptions. WE are here in this world to follow and that should end the conversation. With your outstanding reputation among the Priests in NA, you could very well represent traditionals in any meeting, conference or Council like NAMC. Unfortunately, I do not have that qualification to make them realize or enforce rules and policies among our Mobeds. If I were in your place, I would do exactly as I have written above "No contesting on our religious identity". "What our scriptures says is right and no ones commonsense is valid or judged in the meeting." I do not understand what is stopping you to use your authority to make decisions in religious matters? Do you wish to put your name in the history of NAMC to be the traditional President who allowed to pass anti-religious issue for voting? Do you want our future generation to blame you for not taking stand against liberals in NA? Take for example Kersi Antia; first he was very traditional but when he did Peterson's Navjote, he not only become bad in HIS books but also became unpopular among the community. Jal, you have a very responsible position in NAMC. I hope you know the future consequences of such anti- Zarathustri resolutions in question. Again, it is not the physical presence of traditionals like me at the meeting but, the "enforcing attitude" with tradition values that one person like you can make a difference. If you hold the next meeting in CA, probably I will attend and show the Council what I got to share and say about its operation.
Now, let me list my response to your concerns.
1. NAMC is an association of few Priests who are organized because of our RELIGION and COMMUNITY without which it has no meaning and obviously survives in vacuum. NAMC makes decisions for WHO? NAMC proposed a definition of Zarathustri for WHO? Why are we here to serve and WHO are we serving? ZARATHUSTRI COMMUNITY, isn't it! Then, why shouldn't we broadcast this issue on the Internet and let the community know about NAMC and what does it trying to accomplish? My intention to paste on the Internet is not to attract more Priests on the Traditional side but, to make our Zarathustris aware of their future. If a group of people like NAMC will start making decision on our "religious identity", what's going to happen to our future generation? Tomorrow, some more politically powerful group will challenge our identity in India and ask us to stop our religious practices and start practicing Hinduism or Islam because most of us have no faith in our religious practices anyway. Would that decision or comment acceptable to us? We cannot drop our traditional weapon with the threat of liberals around us. Yes, we do accept that we all are not that religiously oriented however, whatever we know we humbly and respectfully follow because those are the treasures that our forefathers left for us, giving their lives to preserve them for US and no one else. If we start giving up and let these liberals drive the van, WE ATHRAVANS ARE NOT DOING OUR DUTY TO PROTECT HIS DAENA. We should not expect support from the Priests but COMMUNITY at large to compel these so-called liberals to drop down their weapon against traditionalism.
2. What Constitution and, what Council policy? Why do you think these man-made taboos are more important than our religious beliefs and traditions that has its bases in our scriptures? That means, our Vendidad and other scriptures has no meaning if NAMC or such association has right to challenge our traditions? We Athravans are not born to please the community to practice our religion as per their conveniences? And neither we are suppose to support them. No matter how small we are in group, we traditionals have and will uphold our true Zarathustri traditions. Yes, I am realistic and optimistic in my comments as, I foresee a light around the horizon in the near future. If we keep the same pace of vigilance and respect in practicing our age-old traditions, no matter how ignorant we are, whatever we know from our forefathers, we will honor them and PRACTICE our religion as given to us which will help our Urvaan reach its destination.
3. Getting consensus on religious issue is difficult however, that doesn't limit NAMC members to research and educate themselves, before even thinking of passing such definition! If they accept that they are ignorant in religious matters then there is no contest in taking vote on something that is beyond the members understanding. Besides, none one of you is appointed Saosyants or Rainedars to make decision on such matters. Tomorrow, someone will oppose our rituals stating that they are not Zoroastrian in its true sense and we should void it completely. Would your Council vote on such issue? Probably yes and that too in its favor, since majority of Priests from NY, CA, NJ (majority of community) and surrounding States are liberals who are not only unfamiliar with our religious rituals and traditions but, oppose them with their westernized attitude and openly disapprove its efficacy. Our approach in making community and not religious decision should be aiming at unity and fraternity among our groups however, we cannot sacrifice HIS WRITINGS AND SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCES as its price in return.
4. About getting consensus among our Priests, we must invite our traditional scholar someone like Ervad Kaikhusroo Dastur as an expert on religious matters with an assumption that everyone in the Council is unfamiliar with the true meaning and explanation of a particular religious philosophy or practice in question. I suppose there is no contest on this assumption. Our High Priests in India are no more religion-oriented in their explanation about various socio-religious issues creating controversy among the NA community. During his visit to NY in 1980, Dasturji Kotwal openly said :THESE ARE EXACT WORDS :- "VOICE OF PEOPLE IS VOICE OF GOD YOU FOLKS ARE LIVING IN A DIFFERENT LAND. IF THE MAJORITY OF YOU THINK THAT A CERTAIN THING SHOULD BE DONE IN A CERTAIN WAY THEN YOU HAVE THE POWER TO AMMEND WHATEVER YOU SO WISH." Jal, your conscience is familiar with the voice of my concern. I do not have to elaborate on this any further. I hope you understand that, we strongly need a traditional body to guide us in religious matters. Unlike Christians and other faiths, we are unsuccessful in voting for one person as our religious leader. Under that circumstances, I suggest, we Athravans must take initiative in learning and enforcing HIS Rules and Practices prescribed in our scriptures. People like you and me can make a difference.
Jal, I do not expect your reply in return. I just wanted to express my views in favor of our community survival in the years to come. Give my regards to everyone at home.
In His Service,
Ervad (Dr.) Hoshang J. Bhadha
Traditional Zoroastrianism Home Page
Chapters of the Saga
Saga of the Aryans Home Page
How to get the Saga in book form