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This electronic edition copyright 2003 by Soli Dastur. Used with permission.




Chapter XVI

MY FIRST FOUR YEARS IN AMERICA

On entering a harbour a light-house usually greets us, but as we approach the New York harbour our ship sails by the Statue of Liberty, a gigantic iron monument symbolic of the goddess of freedom. The people of the Republic of France had gifted it to the American nation which had become, like them, a democracy. The right hand of the goddess is raised and at night a flaming torch can be seen in its grasp, as if to show the entrant the light of mankind's freedom from bondage. An idea of its enormity dawns on us when a lift carries us up its interior from its feet to its neck. Thence onwards an iron winding stairway takes us up her extended arm right up to the palm of her hand.

Americans never weary of extolling their country's freedom. With great pride they boast that they were the first to enjoy freedom. The melody of their National Anthem is attuned to Britain's National Anthem — God Save the King. They sing: "Our Country 'tis of thee, Sweet land of Liberty." Once, at the conclusion of an important function everyone stood to attention and sang this anthem. Some Red Indians were present at this function. Hearing them sing this song, quite a few people could barely suppress a smile because their country had been appropriated by the whites and they were subjugated as a conquered race.

During the last five centuries wherever the whites have gone as conquerors, their deeds have been recorded as black chapters in history. True that the backward races of American Red Indians, or the Bantus or Basutos of Africa or the Bushmen of Australia and other savage tribes were conquered in battle. Yet many a time brushing aside humaneness they have not hesitated from lacerating [144] the young and the old of these retarded races, merely for their pleasure, even as the stag hunts the deer. Such facts have been recorded by their own people. And yet those who conducted ,themselves in so inhumane a manner were staunch Christians and these backward people were converted to Christianity. The holy prophet Jesus, preached that should your right cheek be slapped immediately offer your left cheek. It is a pity that the followers of this great religion of forgiveness should drag themselves down to such depths of degradation.

Americans declare their country to be a universal asylum of freedom — and it is truly so. Traitors and rebels flee from Russia, Turkey and other European countries and settle here to safeguard their life and property. The largest majority of the world's harassed Jews live in America. Those coming in search of employment at times outnumber such persons in their own native land. More Irishmen live here than in Ireland, Rome; the capital of Italy, is the seat of the Holy See, yet its largest diocese is in the USA. The largest number of its followers reside here. Her doors are wide open, without restriction, to all who wish to make it their home. I myself witnessed more than 75,000 people coming every year from different parts of the world and becoming American citizens. People of all the nations of Europe can be found here, also many Chinese, Japanese. Turkish, Egyptians, Armenians, Persians, Afghans and Indians. Later, when the Japanese migrated in larger numbers via California, the American Government altered its policies.

During our stay a co-religionist residing in New York experienced a great deal of difficulty before he could acquire American citizenship. He was the last to do so. Since then no one has succeeded. Gradually America closed its doors permanently to Asians.

[145] Our world has been divided into two parts — the Old World and the New World. America is known as the New World — and verily, in form and features, in ideas and ideals, in mode and manner America has become 'new', Man (man's) first shelter, thousands of years ago was a hut. Then we learned to erect five or seven storied buildings. But here were sky-scrapers, fifteen, twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy-five and even more storeys high. Similarly, in all fields of life, something 'new' was visible.

Primitive people settled here thousands of years ago. For generations the Red Indians had been its owners. When the Puritans first set foot in Plymouth Park, nature had provided sufficient food and clothing for the Red Indians who were living there. However they were not even aware of the unlimited wealth that the Almighty had hidden in their soil. Before their very eyes the Niagara Falls gushed forth day and night. Fearing nature's wrath, they bowed down in veneration to the spirits believed to be living within those falls. They worshipped them, chanted hymns and psalms, performed ceremonies, sacrificed men and animals to appease them and did all they could to pacify them, but the gods and goddesses paid no heed. They could not. The wise whites exercised their superiority over them. They bridled and subdued them and set them to work at will. By the power of electricity generated through them, they put into motion thousands of factories which catered to their economic growth and welfare.

The American soil that the whites had occupied was virgin land. With the twin aids of machinery and science they began to dig and delve and develop it and with no thought of past or future, they exploited it.

[146] From early times Society and the State had been considered absolute. The individual had no voice. In the 17th Century, with the breakdown of autocracy in the West, the individual came to the forefront and his rights were acknowledged. At such a time the industrial age was born — first in England and later in other countries. The proprietors of mills and factories, bent upon amassing as much wealth as possible, became unmindful of their labourers and behaved ruthlessly towards them. They exacted ten to twelve hours daily labour from them. Women and children were made to work under pitiable conditions. When a voice was raised in protest, they took shelter under the rights of the individual. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a heart-rending poem about cruelty to children. When Queen Victoria chanced to read it , she prevailed upon her Prime Minister to frame new regulations governing labour laws.

As the machine age progressed, industrialists began to realise that instead of making certain items in a small factory, mass production would lower their cost considerably. For instance, a car produced in a gigantic factory in large numbers costs five times less than one made in a small factory. Hence huge factories valued at crores of rupees, manufacturing every type of article came into existence. These organisations were known as 'trusts' or 'cartels'. The owners of small-scale factories could not compete with this. No one listened to their complaints. The millionaires captured all the oil, coal, iron, wool and other resources of the whole country. These chiefs were looked upon as Oil Kings, Coal Kings, Steel Kings and Cotton Kings. Under the pretext of patronising national industry they contrived to raise their tariffs against imports so that goods could not be brought in from other countries to compete with their own.

[147] One of the Ten Commandments of the Bible is "Thou shalt not steal." Mankind has added one of its own to these ten. In addition it seems to say: "Thou shalt not be found out.'.

However, although these 'trusts' were found out, whereas lesser criminals could be punished, the country's laws were not strong enough to touch even a hair of these master-plunderers who openly swindled people to the tune of thousands.

Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United States when I was studying in America. He resolved to undermine these trusts. In the religious law books of the Hindus we read about the 'rod' for those who break the rules. Even so was the name of Roosevelt associated with the "Big Stick". With courage, determination and skill he set forth to shatter the 'trusts' while the proprietors of the 'trusts' in turn gave him a tough time. If the government was successful in confiscating a 'trust' in New York State, according to the regulation of that state, the Trustees would cross the Hudson River, set up a small cabin on that bank and publicise that their head office had been established there so that the laws of that state would apply to them.

At such a time Roosevelt apprehended John Rockfeller, the Oil King of kings, in the tentacles of law. A warrant was issued against him in 1907. This unprecedented event caused an upheaval in the whole country. For days Rockfeller was untraceable. Large headlines announced in the daily papers and on the cinema screens: "John D. was missing" or "Try to trace John D." The State order was conveyed to him one evening while he was playing golf with his friends at Terry Town, the city where the famous author Washington Irwin is buried. The hearing commenced and he was fined nine crores, a fine unheard-of in the annals [148] of law. The case was annulled in the appeal, and the fine was never exacted. Today the power of the Trust is vanquished. Formerly, at the time of the election of presidents, governors, or mayors, large trusts contributed thousands towards the cost of running the elections and thousands of votes were bought over. As a result high officials, judges and magistrates thus elected were under the obligation of the Trusts, and justice was but in name. Today there is a vast improvement in the situation.

A church situated near our University was in need of a new organ, On hearing this Rockfeller sent them an organ of superior quality, The priest of the church returned the organ with a note saying, "We do not want an organ purchased with your tainted money," And yet Rockfeller was a noble, pious, kind-hearted, simple and perfect gentleman, He was the wealthiest man in the world and at the same time the most charitable,

From ancient times western writers have associated the East with the showmanship and grandeur of the Shahs and Rajas of the States and qualified it as barbaric and ostentatious. Conditions prevailing in America would outdo all such barbaric ostentations. At times I read that a club had organised a dinner at a price so high as unrecorded in history. On reading further it became evident that things that were not available in the country were sent for from two to five thousand miles, thus enhancing the rates of the banquet. I n order to satisfy the craze of those who wished to live in the most expensive hotels, pictures costing thousands were hung up in the rooms and they were decked with the richest of carpets and the finest furniture. Rockfeller avoided this kind of life. In first class ships expensive cabins were reserved for the wealthy. Rockfeller would not utilise these. Besides, he had a religious bent of mind. At times his only son would even deliver sermons from [149] the priest's pulpit of his favourite church on Fifth Avenue. Yet this billionaire who knew full well how to put his money to good use, saw no wrong in amassing wealth through the most unethical business tactics.

Why was this so? Whenever great wars break out and the astute get the unique opportunity of making quick money through all kinds of fair means or foul, a new class of people comes into existence — 'the nouveau riche'. The present disastrous war has brought in its wake famine and acute dearth of life's necessities, unparalleled in history. Even at such a time we read of black-marketing in our country. To reap maximum benefit from the nation's travail at the cost of national welfare, to become rich in the least possible time, has tempted the most pious.

Shopkeepers and businessmen, noble and humble in normal times and renowned for their kindness and mercy, to whom non-violence is the highest form of religion, and who refrain from injuring a worm or an insect, turn into pagan hunters at such times.

Man's life is truly tinted with the strangest hues of foibles and fantasies!

The inhabitants of the Old World exhibit a feeling of dislike for the Americans of the New World and brand them as worshippers of wealth. The mighty dollar is their god. Mankind has always prayed to gods and goddesses. Amongst them, laxmi Devi, the goddess of wealth, is dear to all. The poor have begged a livelihood from her while even those rolling in wealth have never wearied of asking her for favours.

Americans had the unique opportunity of accumulating untold wealth. It was the first of its kind in history and will remain the last. Overflowing [150] with wealth in its virgin glory, this land had fallen into their hands, Nowhere in the world is there left any soil so untilled and so uncultivated. Man has delved into every nook and corner of the five continents. Nothing new is left for him. Besides, this land of precious raw material, came to the Americans at an extraordinary period. For the first time in history the strange and completely new tools of machinery and science came into their hands whereby they were able to dig, drill, discover and even accumulate everything. They were enterprising, diligent, industrious and persevering, They tilled and they toiled and they took. To ridicule them is akin to saying, "grapes are sour,"

During my four years stay, very interesting and exciting elections were held for the American President, the Governor of New York State and the Mayor of New York. As far as possible I tried to be present at the functions of rival parties. My sympathies were with the Democrats, but as my purpose was to learn, I attended the gatherings of both parties. In the mayoral elections the candidate of one party spoke with such seeming authority about the amount and number of bribes his opponent had accepted that I fully believed that the opponent was undone and he would surely withdraw his candidacy. But when it came to the opponent's turn at another function, he related such stories of the first speaker's crooked ways and means that it became difficult to judge which of the two was more depraved. Yet the people living there were perfectly aware of the vagaries and wickedness of political machinery.

A millionaire named Thea shot a famous architect called White on the roof-garden of a large New York hotel in the presence of a huge gathering at a banquet. He was arrested and for some time a farce administering justice was enacted but due punishment was not meted out to him. During [151] the same period in London a story a bout Dr. Gripp came to light. He murdered his wife in collaboration with his typist and within two months he was arrested, a trial was conducted and he was sentenced to death. The American press published the two cases side by side commenting upon the obvious difference between justice and injustice in England and America. The United States of America is the largest Republic in the world, yet experienced Americans themselves who form unbiased opinions, believe that the honesty, justice and freedom in political administration that exist in England are lacking in America. I had my sympathy with our country's demand for a larger share in the government of the land; yet at the time, after my studied observation of the governmental conditions prevalent in the world's greatest American Republic, my respect for the British nation and its political administration continued to grow.

To a large extent conflicts arising from religious differences were done away with in this country. Forty-five lakh harrassed Jews of the world lived here and worshipped in accordance with their own dictates without interference from anyone. At times there would be some disputes between 1hem and the Christians but these would be largely for other reasons. Very often, in business and in banking, the Jews by their talent forged ahead of others, causing some measure of envy. Of a big city like New York it was said: "The Jews own New York and the Irish run New York". Such a state of affairs was noticeable sometimes at the University also. When bright Jewish students and equally talented Jewish professors out-shone the Christians in their individual fields, some communal conflicts arose, but ultimately common sense prevailed. The differences between Protestants and Catholics, which in normal times remained [152] dormant, came to the forefront at periods such as presidential elections. The Catholics number approximately two and a quarter crore whereas there are five times as many Protestants, so a Catholic is never elected a President.

But a colour-bar and an aversion to the shade of the skin was apparent in its keenest form against the Negroes. When the whites came and settled here and began to develop the country, they were in dire need of labourers to work in the cotton, wheat and other fields. In that age of slavery, ship-loads of Negro families were imported from Africa. Today their population of over one and a quarter crore has become America's gravest problem. Decade by decade the old fanaticism is decreasing. It is stronger in the South than in the North, though even there a gradual change is setting in. Formerly the entire course of their lives ran along different channels. Even on church doors there would be a sign to say "Dogs and Negroes prohibited". Today disrespect does not go to such an extent. I had heard the lectures of Principal Booker Washington, the learned Negro Principal of the College for Negroes at Tuscany. From there he proceeded to Washington. President Roosevelt invited him to lunch at the White House one afternoon. The extraordinary event that the President of the United States of America had dined with a coloured man set the entire nation in a state of agitation and, for days the daily papers waged war against it. Just then another incident occurred which added fuel to the fire. A chimpanzee came to the zoo at Bronx in New York. Of the whole animal kingdom man alone can stand upright on his two feet. Chimpanzees can do almost the same. The newspapers published articles stating that according to the theory of evolution mankind was born after animals, and the last of the animal kingdom was the monkey. They printed a picture of the chimpanzee [153] with a caption that it resembled the Negro and that monkeys were the forefathers of the Negroes.

Once some white scholars elected as the Chairman of a literary seminar Du Bois, the learned Negro author of the book, the 'Souls of Black Folks' and other books. A dinner was organised at the conclusion of their three days' sessions, but the hoteliers objected that they would not allow a Negro to enter the hotel. Eventually the dinner was cancelled.

The population of a crore and a quarter Negroes is Christian. Christian priests proclaim a place for them in heaven after they die, but while they live the white Christians cannot exist side by side with the black Christians.

In our country the white people we come into contact with are the Englishmen. From olden times all ruling races have treated their vanquished subjects with arrogance. The Muslims who had conquered and extended their Empire right up to Spain and had settled in Europe behaved likewise with the white races there. Hence it is understandable that, with the pride that is born in them as rulers, Englishmen should maintain a certain degree of dignity and aloofness in mixing with the natives. In fact, even temperamentally they are reserved and serious. Americans are completely contrary to them. They are extremely sociable, affable and full of good humour. Should we be travelling with them by train or ship they go out of their way to get acquainted. The Englishman will not do so. The Americans mix with us unmindful of caste or creed and are always eager to know something more about our country and its people. They never tire of conversations and discussions. I got to know much and learn much by going to their homes for tea or dining with their families. There were Literary Clubs allover the country. We [154] would assemble at the homes of the members fortnightly, read papers on various subjects or conduct talks and I gained a great deal from the discussions that ensued.

The people of the East have always been termed slow, and cool and those of the West as quick and alert. The pace of the East is likened to that of an elephant and the speed of the West to that of the horse. That has given rise to the saying: 'Slow and steady wins the race'. But slowness and steadiness do not fit in with the speed and flight of this machine age. It becomes necessary to run and fly with the times. Speed is the essence of today's culture and progress. Many scholars consider speed to be the curse of present-day civilisation and progress. This is most apparent in America. People do not walk-they run; instead of living their lives coolly and calmly they become restless and agitated. This puts a great strain on existence. In Wall Street, New York, there are cafeterias that offer 'standing lunch'. Ridiculing Europeans, the inhabitants of the Old World, my American friends would tell me that they are so slow that should someone happen to fall from the second storey of his house it would take him two hours to reach the ground! The Greek philosopher Aristotle advises the 'Golden Mean' in all matters. It is good to follow his teaching. I was not a worker at a snail's pace, but, from my contact with the Americans I did think it advisable to accelerate my speed during the remaining years of my life.

I learnt some valuable and unforgettable lessons from my contact with the Americans.

[155]

Chapter XVII

A NEW OUTLOOK ON LIFE

I began to look at life from a fresh angle. My religion took a new turn. All that existed perished while the non-existent became a reality. It was the renaissance of my religious life, and all this transpired within the span of less than four years of my study. This seems exaggerated and unbelievable. But circumstances were such that they could fashion something out of the ordinary. I was thirty when I went to America to study. My interest had already been awakened. My ability to think, to discriminate, to observe, to assimilate and to discuss had matured.

We are able to see better and further with the help of spectacles than with the naked eye. Similarly it seemed as though America had provided me with a pair of new glasses which helped my mental vision to see more clearly and more minutely. A thousand remedies will not cure a persistent ailment, but should the physician find the root cause of the illness, it can be rapidly cured.

As each individual is different in form and figure, even so does his mental make-up differ. Man has to live intelligently and cultivate the qualities of his heart and soul. Day and night we pray to God for physical health. To the extent that man stands in need of physical well-being, he has need of mental health also — in fact, in greater measure. In the Atash Nyaish we pray for the grace of an active and alert mind. God has bestowed on me an alert mind but that in itself is not sufficient. Man's words and actions are born of his thoughts. It is not within the capacity of all to think honestly and clearly. At times we see around us highly educated people having nebulous [156] thinking. Therefore when thought itself is not honest, their spoken or written word is apt to mislead a community.

While photographing a person if the lens of the camera is clean and clear, the resulting picture will be good. The role of education is to give the student knowledge about various subjects. At the same time it must help his thinking to develop to its fullest capacity. The machinery of his mind must be made beautiful and sound. The four years of study at Columbia University on a scientific basis made my naturally gifted mind more inquiring. I developed clear thinking, critical acumen, historical perspective and common sense.

Under the advice and direction of Professor Giddings the world-renowned Professor of Sociology, in my spare time I commenced a study of the social history of savages and semi-civilised and civilised people. As a sapling in time grows into a tall, strong tree and as a child develops physically and mentally every day according to the laws of evolution, even so does a society and its religious, moral, mental, social and economic institutions and movements grow gradually from childhood to adulthood, from immaturity to maturity and from barbarism to civilisation.

By reading books on anthropology and sociology, I began to examine scientifically, questions relating to superstition, magic, customs, ceremonies, prayer, priesthood, society, marriage and other allied subjects. I studied their origins historically, and, for the very first time I began to see vividly how they have progressed from the primitive stage to their present condition.

My three years and nine months of scientific and critical study at Columbia University of subjects such as theology, ethics, anthropology, [157] sociology and philosophy eradicated religious misconceptions that had gathered in my mind due to my blinded mental vision, traditional beliefs and up-bringing. As the clouds of superstition dispersed, the mist of mental darkness was rent asunder. I was free of the religion of fear that was the belief of infant humanity and turned towards the pure religion of love, the religion as preached by the prophets and uncorrupted by their fanatical followers.

Now that J had been enlightened by scientific study, and now that I had come to know and gain so much, I no longer adhered to old ideas. My thinking, my outlook, my ideals and my philosophy of life changed. The purpose and meaning of living changed — everything changed.

I was now eager to become the thinker of new thoughts, the student of new ideas and the propagator of new concepts. In 1905 I had set foot on American soil as an orthodox. Now in 1909 I was leaving the shores of the New World as a reformist.

The following pages will reveal how I viewed religion and religious scriptures after the radical changes that had come over me.

[158]

Chapter XVIII

OBSERVING RELIGIOUS LITERATURE FROM A NEW ANGLE

Man's unparalleled treasure of thought, idealism, ambition, art, music, knowledge, and science is his secular literature. Man's innate spiritual wealth of meditation, ethics, contemplation, philosophy, devotion and ceremony manifesting the holy words of prophets is his sacred literature.

The followers of every faith have reckoned their own religious literature to be God-given and sacred — the language of their religion to be divine and celestial.

Likewise, since childhood I had heard and read that Avesta was a celestial language and that Ahura Mazda and His Yazads and Amshaspands (angels and archangels) spoke in that tongue and heard and accepted prayer in that language only. It was also stated that our ancestors possessed the esoteric knowledge of the laws of evolution and were aware of all the problems of birth and death. Hence whatever they had written was transcendental and supernatural and should be accepted unquestioningly with humility and credulity.

We should not deal with this sacred literature in the way we discuss, criticise, and judge secular literature. We cannot even think of doing so. Religious literature can never be reduced to the level of secular literature. To examine it is out of question. It is something extraordinary, heavenly, divine. It has to be accepted submissively, obeyed implicitly, without question, without scrutiny and without criticism.

[159] It was the bounden and sacred duty of religious scholars — particularly of religious leaders, dasturs and mobeds — to establish through whatever means possible, the traditions of our forefathers as correct, intelligible and equally applicable to all ages. Believing that "Old is gold," they must be preserved intact.

I had been reared in the midst of such thinking and had left the shores of Karachi for America with such bigoted thoughts playing in my mind.

Ever since Charles Darwin discovered the Law of Evolution and Herbert Spencer threw new light upon the progress of social institutions, the thinking of the entire educated world has undergone a tremendous upheaval. This law of evolution is abiding. It teaches us that as a tiny seed is sown and sustained in the soil and strengthened by water, sunshine and air and after its first appearance as a tender sapling, gradually grows into a large tree; or as a babe develops from childhood to adulthood and on to old age and during this process enlarges its mental horizons, even so do man's smaller and larger groups — its tribes, communities or nations from their primitive savage state blossom into semi-civilised and later into a civilised state. Man in his original form is an animal and it has taken eons for him to develop from his bestial stage to humanity. Millions of years ago, a man sitting on the bank of a river saw a log of wood floating on the surface of the water. This gave rise to the idea that a piece of wood can also float like a fish. That thought grew and developed until small boats were built and then ships and now huge steamers weighing twenty-five to seventy-five thousand tons are being constructed.

Similarly all human institutions — their education, art, craft, language, literature, science, commerce, politics, law, marriage and all such [160] social customs, prayer, ceremonial and religion and every kind of institution without exception — are born, and they bloom and blossom into maturity with the passage of time.

True to this law of evolution, religion had its birth in its primitive form .amongst primitive men and after a very long time became the companion of civilised man in its refined aspect. According to the Frawardin Yasht the first man to hear the word of Ahura Mazda was Gayomard. In other words religion was born with man. As long as there was no creature on earth more evolved than an animal there was no sign or shadow of religion. It was only with the advent of man with his wisdom, his mental capacity, his ability to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, that religion came into existence. From dawn to dusk man experienced many a strange phenomenon. Some gave him courage, some frightened him, some brought happiness while others caused sorrow. But everything was a puzzle to him. He could understand nothing. Bewildered, he beheld everything. Nature brought him laughter, pleasure and joy; yet in the twinkling of an eye, she would frown on him, frighten him and make him weep. He began to think that he was surrounded by an environment of invisible beings and powers stronger than himself, on whom depended birth and death and the joy and sorrow of his life. Just as he tried to please people who lived around him and pampered their whims and fancies, he began to appease these invisible creatures who positively existed somewhere. This was the beginning of religion. As a child believes that during the monsoons some celestial beings pour buckets full of water upon the earth, or that God comes unseen and places a child upon the cot, even so man's ideas in his infant stage about life, death and the invisible beings were similarly childish and ridiculous. Man is a thinking creature, hence he thinks, he experiences and learns [161] something new everyday. As his capacity to think is still feeble, his knowledge is limited. If he is doing something at a certain time and some particular event occurs at that same time, he makes a mental note of it. While setting out on some mission if a bird or an animal comes within the orbit of his vision, depending upon whether the mission is successful or unsuccessful, that particular object becomes the symbol of auspicious or inauspicious augury. Similarly innumerable such coincidences are termed as discoveries and their discoverers are deemed worthy of worship. Thus a childish religion full of superstitions, barbaric customs, traditions, magic, good and bad omens is born. The guardians and repositories of these customs and traditions and of the rules and regulations guiding them were the elders of the tribe. As the age of writing had not yet dawned it became essential to learn by rote the customs and practices of a tribe, its beliefs, magical chants, ceremonies, myths and legends. As these passed down from mouth to mouth they turned into oral traditions. Passing down from generation to generation they became a sacred heritage. They became the guiding principles of the behaviour patterns of that tribe. Men of learning and character contributed their own wisdom to its development. Their words of wisdom, their lessons, the hymns composed to please and pacify the invisible spirits, the practices of sacrifice continued to be added on to them. With the commencement of the age of writing these various items were composed into manuscripts without either cataloguing them or culling out what was worthy of preservation, taking for granted that whatever was handed down to posterity was equally precious and sacred.

Whereas man has existed on earth since ages the great religions that are followed today were born barely ten thousand years ago. The oldest available historical evidence of religious theories [162] and injunctions is to be found in Egypt and dates back about seven thousand years. The most ancient writings of the Aryans are of the Vedic Rishis. The science of philology does not ascribe more than four thousand years to it. Accordingly the great religions born in India, Persia, China, Palestine and Arabia which mould man's spiritual life today, are merely four thousand years old in comparison with mankind's advent into the world thousands of years ago. The sacred scriptures of all these great religions as they have come down to us are not entirely the personal writings of their founder-prophets nor are they in their pristine form. Blended with it is much of the pre-prophet legendary literature considered as sacred, as well as later additions by their disciples. Consequently in religious books, besides religious theories, prayers and hymns, philosophies, ethics and ceremonials, historical myths, interpretations, legal codes, medical science, animal science and various other sciences and also the customs, practices, traditions, commercial regulations together with superstitions magical charms and many a thing considered irrelevant in a religious book, can be found. Prof. Max Muller spent his whole life in the service of oriental religions. Besides contributing many a precious treasure of his own, in the last century he made known to the world the religions of the East through a large series of volumes of "The Sacred Books of the East". Above all other oriental religions he was a special scholar and admirer of the Hindu religion. Swami Vivekanand introduces him as an incarnation of a Rishi. While deeply appreciating many a fine quality in the holy scriptures of the Hindus, Max Muller states there are some things that sound like the 'babbling of infant humanity'. This criticism can, to a certain extent, be applicable to most of the religious books that have so far fallen into our hands.

[163] What is the reason for this? The prophets establish new religions. Prophets like Zarathushtra and Mohammed have left their teachings in the form of the written word, while others like Jesus spread it by word of mouth, which afterwards his pious disciples put into writing. But these religious books, either prepared by the prophets themselves or by their followers, do not contain only their own teachings. Religious books are continuously increasing and by the time they are declared perfect or sealed by royal or ecclesiastical command, much of the ancient teachings before the prophets' birth and also much of their later disciples' teachings, have found a way into them. The followers of every religion possess a fund of mythical legends built up on traditions, customs and beliefs which have woven themselves so closely into the web and woof of their lives, that even when their prophet proclaims a new religion they are unable to rid themselves of those past links. This is because they are reared to look upon them as equally sacred as the new religion. When the prophets establish a new religion they do not include customs and practices of a nation in its infancy in their new religion. But their fascination is so captivating that even though they have been buried they manage to seep into the new religion. Besides, they are presented as emanating from the prophets themselves. In the bibles of all religions, past traditions mingle with fresh concepts and are re-born and become immortalised. Hence, naturally, the purity of the new faith is fettered with much childish and ridiculous matter and the holy books contain a mixture of sacred and secular material worthy as well as unworthy of preservation. The burden of this pseudo-religion and infant religion grows too weighty for the new religion as time goes by. Place, time and conditions alter, yet [164] that which is unsuited to them and what seems superstitious, ridiculous and wrong for the development of a nation is not abolished. Due to ignorance or to appease a large conservative majority, leaders volunteer to prove them correct and to make them applicable to all ages. They are obliged to do so because unthinkingly they deem everything equally sacred and persist in presenting them as part of religion.

To meet with the meaningless responsibility that has been shouldered under the pretext of religion and to find a solution to this problem, from very early times, eastern as well as western religious literature is considered to have a dual meaning. The propagators of this theory of duality declare that the meaning that can be gleaned from the surface of religious literature is not its intrinsic meaning. They encompass within its depths a hidden and true purport. The exoteric meaning is for the masses while the esoteric meaning is for scholars, saints and highly evolved souls. Let IUS take an example to explain this. Jaidev, a renowned poet of the 12th century, writes in the Gita Govind — "The Song of the Shepherd"- "Shri Krishna is enjoying with his gopis. On {seeing this his first, and rightful Radha weeps and wails bitterly because this irresponsible youth has forsaken her." Here Krishna is the soul of man and the gopis are his senses. The spirit of man is bewildered by the play of his senses and is dragged again and again into the lower rungs of evolution. Radha, the divine love, finally works out his salvation"

When materialists and atheists attacked mythologies that were found in ancient Greek religion, philosophers called stoics and sophists defended them as being allegorical. In the second and third centuries A. D., Alexandria was the centre of Jewish, Greek and other renowned scholars. There [165] the Jewish philosopher Philo and the later Christian Origen, declared that there are two facets to the scriptures. One was its material aspect meant for the masses and the other, the spiritual aspect for the chosen few. Later, the Gnostics and Neo-Platonists solved the legends of the East and West in a similar allegorical light. In the ninth century A.D. the Ismail is who came into prominence in Persia became the upholders of this system. They introduced such religious literature having a dual meaning as exoteric and esoteric and this method of explaining religion they termed as a "key" to religion. Luther says: "To allegorize is to juggle with Scripture." This Protestant reformist further adds: "This system degenerates into a mere monkey game." Calvin goes even further: "In order to keep mankind entangled in a maze of misconceptions in the name of religion, Satan thus cunningly misguides them." Let us not go to this extreme, but we can justify this sort of solution of the problems of religion and philosophy as jugglery and monkey tricks.

It is quite understandable that our writers of the Pahlavi age, while translating Avesta or interpreting this obsolete language made free use of this popular method. It is possible that such occultists existed in that period and have left behind them literature that can solve the so-called mysteries of Zoroastrian scriptures. But the Pahlavi literature that has come to us contains no such references. Posterity has not preserved them.

We have positive evidence of the existence of such an esoteric group in India in the seventeenth century. Mohsin Fani in his book called 'Dabistan' gives details of such Zoroastrian occultists. Azer Kayvan, a Zoroastrian religious savant had come from Persia and settled in Patna. He speaks of having seen six or seven of his disciples in Patna, Kashmir, Lahore and other places. There is no reference to [166] the existence of this group of Masters in our authentic literature of that age. Nor are their names preserved in the genealogy of the mobeds. But some of their writings in Persian have chanced to survive. With the impression that Zoroastrian religion and some historical events had a dual meaning, efforts have been made to explain their esoteric purport.

As each individual observes nature and solves it according to his own light and paints his own pictures, conservatives and reformists, materialists and spiritualists, scientists and sociologists, with varied mental capacities and mental make-up try to solve the scriptures in various ways and confuse people with the complexity of opinions.

The study of eastern languages and religion commenced in western countries at the end of the eighth century. After a ten years' stay at Surat and a study of Avesta under Dastur Darab, Anquitolle du Perron translated our Avestan prayers into Latin and published them in Europe in 1771. At the request of Warren Hastings, the Governor- General of India, Charles Wilkins translated the Bhagvad Gita from Sanskrit in 1785. In 1789 Sir William Jones translated Kalidasa's play Shakuntala. Thus a great deal of moral and spiritual translated literature found its way into Europe during this period and captured the interest of its scholars. With the study of these languages certain strange matters came to light. Words like mother, father, sister, brother and many others, with slight differences, existed in the European languages just as they did in Sanskrit and Avesta. From this research a new science was born — the Science of Language- in other words, Comparative Philology.

Simultaneously, the study of the religions of the world was conducted with the same enthusiasm. The study of Hindu and Iranian religions [167] soon revealed to the scholars that the two religions had striking resemblances in their reverence for divine beings and in their ceremonials. In ,the same way some of the basic precepts of the Zoroastrian religion were to be found in the Old Testament of the Jews. Calm and unprejudiced studies probed into the origin of these similarities and of the time and extent of their influence upon each other. This came to be known as 'The Comparative study of Religion.'

Comparative philology and the comparative study of religion brought in its wake a third new system — the Historical Method. The study of philology, depending on structural variations in languages, has classified the religious writings according to the age in which they were used. It is true that beginning with the Rig Vedas, Arthva Veda, the Upanishads, the Bhagvad Gita, etc. are all written in Sanskrit, but philology reveals at a glance that some are archaic and others of a later period.

Our religious books — the Yasna, Visperad, Vendidad and the Yashts are all written in Avesta. But the student of Avesta through philology will be able to state at once that the language of the Gathas is Avesta, but it is different and older than the Avesta of the Vendidad. A hundred years ago we firmly believed that Zarathushtra himself had written the Gathas and the complete Avesta, so they are equally sacred and important. A large majority of the community stirred by sentiment, still clings to this mistaken belief.

As the Gayatri of the Hindus and the Lord's Prayer of the Christians are their main prayers, the basic prayer of Zoroastrians is the Ahunavar. It is said in the Yajeshna that Ahura Mazda composed the primary verse of the Ahunavar before the birth of either of the two worlds. The Ahunavar is composed of twenty-one words. On the strength of this a [168] legend took birth over two thousand years ago, that each of these twenty-one words represents a volume and that Ahura Mazda sent his holy Prophet Spitaman Zarathushtra into this world with twenty-one Nasks. About a century ago the mobeds as well as behdins believed that these nasks were God-sent or that Zarathushtra, having received a divine inspiration, had composed them himself. Even today a large majority of the community credulously accepts the validity of this myth.

With the passage of time a very large portion of these Nasks have been lost, yet the Vendidad in it completeness, together with other bits and parts have been preserved in the existing Avestan literature. Hence an unbiased study of philology has proved that all the Nasks have not been the composition of one person or of one period. The construction of the words, their composition, their grammatical structure clearly manifest that they have been written by different people and at different epochs.

There has elapsed a span of about five thousand years between the time when Zarathushtra wrote his own words and those written by his last disciples.

Many a time Zarathushtra, in his Gathas, begins a verse in the form of a query. For example: "Tat thva perasa areshmoie vaocha Ahura": "Tell me clearly what I ask of you, 0 Ahura Mazda." There is no reply from Ahura Mazda. Zarathushtra himself replies or it can be gleaned from the meaning of the script. The later writings of the Vendidad function in another manner. They assign to Zarathushtra their own personal beliefs as questions and paint Zarathushtra as the questioner. Parest Zarathushtra Ahurem Mazdam "Zarathushtra asked Ahura Mazda, 'Oh, Ahura Mazda' and after that, "Aat mroot Ahura Mazda" [169] "To that Zarathushtra replied." This method is very objectionable and misleading. Thoughts that did not emanate from Zarathushtra, opinions which he did not uphold, have been accredited to him. The authors intention was that anything written in the name of the Prophet or under his authenticity would be faithfully believed by the people. The aim is noble but the method :s most confounding.

Amongst the Roman Catholics the heir to St. Peter's throne is known as the Pope; according to the Yajashne the disciples of Zarathushtra have been qualified as 'Zarathushte-tamo" — 'greatly resembling Zarathushtra'. Greek authors have written that there was not just one single Zoroaster but many bearing that name. This Nask of the Vendidad has been written hundreds of years after Spitama Zarathushtra, the founder of the Zoroastrian religion. The prophet himself has not composed, compiled or written it. Some disciple of his has written it and handed it down as Zarathushtra's. This is the plain truth.

Zoroastrianism has passed through many forms of existence. One was when the Achaemenians were defeated by Alexander and another when the Sasanian dynasty was destroyed by the Arabs. Besides, such hardships have been inflicted on the religion as to alter permanently the tone and texture of the pure and pristine faith of Zarathushtra. When Zarathushtra propagated his new religion in Persia, the Persian Aryans followed the Indo- Iranian faith of their forefathers. They remained aloof from this new religion. Some time before the fall of the Achaemenian dynasty there was a large- scale syncretism of religions in Persia. There was a fusion of the ancient Indo-Iranian religion and the new Zoroastrian religion and this new-born synchronized religion gave rise to the belief that Ahura Mazda's own holy prophet, Spitaman Zarathushtra had founded it. The vast literature of both [170] these religions on various subjects was collected. It was then apportioned into twenty-one parts and interwoven with the twenty-one words of the Ahunavar and the twenty-one Nasks were propounded in their entirety as composed by Zarathushtra. This myth still exists.

To a very large extent the idea of the educated class about the study of theology is basically mistaken. Our religious-minded people believe that whatever has fallen into our hands in the name of religious literature is equally sacred. They expend all their scholarship in trying to prove the works of different people written in different ages as valid and flawless. We are often told that we have not the authority to stray even by an iota from our literary heritage. We have no right even to suggest any alterations to it. Yet the history of religion reveals that ancient tales have not been preserved intact. They have undergone various changes. As generations passed, some of these changes were wrought in ignorance while others were made knowingly. It is not correct to say that the prayers as recited today and the ceremonies we perform are exactly as they were during the days of our forefathers. Let us take a few examples that can be easily understood by the masses. On important occasions like Navjotes and marriages almost half of the prayers recited during the Navjote and almost the whole of the marriage ceremony are recited in Pazand, the new language of later times. If Spitaman Zarathushtra or his disciples were present on these occasions they would be bewildered because of their ignorance of this language. Their state would be similar on hearing the "Dhupnirang" prayers recited at an Uthamna. On the solemn occasion of a funeral the Ahunavad Gatha is recited today. This sacred prayer has no relationship with death. Zarathushtra has included therein the philosophy of his religion and the pure precepts of ethics. As the prayer for the funeral [171] rites has not been preserved, it has become a tradition to recite this first sacred Gatha. Many such instances can be quoted. Those who state that it is impossible to suggest the addition or alteration or deletion of a single syllable or a sentence in the ancient Avestan prayers are ignoring historical facts and speaking and writing from sheer sentiment and lack of study.

The primary lesson that philology teaches us is that religious language is not celestial and its writings follow the rules and regulations of philology. In secular matters the collection of prose and poetry makes up literature. Writings related to divine and spiritual life are also classified as literature. Whereas religious literature is considered sacred, the other is termed secular. But both are definitely literature and since the middle of the last century it has been examined and criticized in accordance with literary rules and regulations. In the West a study of the Bible commenced on these lines and its writings began to be criticized. This was termed Higher Criticism. Such a study threw new light on many of the writings of the Bible, and many of the concepts born of unscientific study were falsified. The priest class objected that the Bible was a sacred document and its sacred scripture could not be studied on the principles of secular literature. The orthodox sect naturally, participated in these objections. Needless to say there is no validity in their arguments and as time passes, such meaningless objections are diminishing.

When the Christians of Europe launched upon the three-fold scientific principles of philology, comparative religion and the historical method, coincidentally our community also began to interpret religious literature on the same lines. When it was announced that the pages of the Bible from beginning to end were not written by Jesus alone, [172] that they did not emanate from a single pen nor were they written in the same age, that all was not equally important nor were they all at the same high level, there was a great upheaval. Learned scholars were annoyed and in their excitement said and wrote all kinds of things. Dr. Talmadge Spurgeon and others stated vehemently; "Either the Bible is all true or false". Mudie gave his opinion: "Unless every word and every syllable from Genesis to Revelation is true, we have no Bible." Others added: "The Bible is all perfect and infallible." From all sides the echo resounded: 'All or none.'

Similarly, ninety years ago, when the reformer, Khurshetji Cama, came from Europe after studying the Zoroastrian scriptures according to this new method, and, on the strength of that new, scientific knowledge, declared that only the five Gathas had been composed by Zarathushtra and other works were written by his disciples from time to time, that by comparing the languages, by weighing them historically, everything was not equally important, there was a great uproar in the community. What the orthodox sect, led away by fanatism and zeal, did in Europe, our conventional religionists, under the leadership of pious Mansukh did in our community.

The science of philology has thrown much light on our religious scriptures. It has supplied us with correct translations. Philology is not infallible nor has it ever posed to be so. Even he who translates on philological lines is liable to err; or it is possible that some scholar, bypassing precision in his enthusiasm, may arrive at a faulty and hasty conclusion. But the true philologist cannot do so, because philology is a science; and, like all sciences, philology demands the scrutiny of every sentence, every word. Before expressing an opinion, he must give sound evidence of his statement. According to the rules of philology [173] he has no right to announce anything authentically without accounting for every single syllable. like every other science, philology too follows certain principles and minute rules and regulations. He is bound to work within those laws. Avesta is an obsolete language. Its literature is limited. Sanskrit is its sister-tongue and its literature is vast. Hence, very often, the explanation of some difficult Avestan words can be derived from similar Sanskrit words. At times it so happens that in the entire existing Avestan literature some word appears only once or twice and even in Sanskrit no word can be found to correspond with it. Even at such a time the philologist has not the privilege to let loose the reins of imagination and arrive at unfounded conclusions. Philology teaches him that if a suitable word is not to be found in Aryan languages, it is possible that, due to the contacts which the Persians had with Semitic languages, it may be found therein. He can try to unravel these complexities through scholarly research. In spite of doing this, if he is not able to arrive at a positive result then, as a genuine philologist it is his duty to confess his inability to translate such a sentence.

The history of religions teaches us the undisputed lesson that, with the passage of time, religions have not preserved their pristine purity and from the abstract have leaned towards the concrete. In the same way, legends have made of prophets what they were not. It is written in Persian: "Saints do not fly but their disciples give them wings." Even so do the later Avestan and Pahlavi writings entwine the sacred name of Zarathushtra with all kinds of myths and legends, making them unbelievable and very different from the characterization gleaned from the Gathas. Such scientific research is possible through this new science of philology.

[174] Of all the methods used by theologians of all ages to explain the sacred scriptures, on the whole the most exact and most literary is this new system. It had its birth in the West in the last century and comprises of the triad of philology, the comparative study of religion and the historical method.

Since the end of the last century there has been an increasing number of occultists in our midst. Time and again they, in ignorance, defame philology and discredit philologists as "dry grammarians". To them everything in the scriptures seems esoteric. They declare that philologists can scan only what is on the surface and cannot fathom the latent implications. They make an airy claim of understanding these hidden secrets. Zoroastrian occultists of the 17th century introduce Asho Zarathushtra as a mystic and present all his writings as mysterious or secret. Thus these present-day occultists think that by presenting the works of the prophet as having an incomprehensible and concealed meaning they are enhancing Its value and pride themselves as being able to decipher the secrets. For example, they inform us that the description of sixteen cities that appears in the first stanza of the Vendidad and what is in the 13th to 15th stanzas which relates to dogs, according to ancient Pahlavi and Persian or the 125 year old Gujarati and modern philological translations are all wrong, because Zarathushtra would not waste time in writing about such mundane matters. The details about cities and dogs are merely superficial and their hidden purport is deeply philosophical. The primary fact is that Zarathushtra has not written the Vendidad. It has been written by others long after him and many of the items included relate to customs and practices prevalent prior to Zarathushtra's age. For example, in the 7th stanza, giving an account of how a physician should be repaid for his services, it is stated that according to one's means these [175] doctors should be given cows and cattle, horses, camels etc. In other words this refers to a primitive age when currency was not in vogue. In the 9th stanza of the Vendidad there is an injunction that should a person ignorant of the laws governing the giving of a sacred bath to him who has touched a corpse, perform such rites, then he should be hand-cuffed, dismantled and beheaded. The same punishment is meted out to the corpse bearer who carries a dead body alone. Many such ancient customs and traditions and various subjects which are absolutely unsuited to changing times and circumstances and matters mingled with superstitious animism of the infancy of religion are included. The task of the true scholar is to differentiate between these. Religion, ethics, philosophy, ceremonies and prayer should be set apart and the rest discarded. The mistaken belief that everything written in Avesta or whatever inherited is equally sacred and religious has placed an impossible burden upon the shoulders of occultists. Besides a few subjects that can be enumerated under different headings in the field of literature, a vain attempt is made to give some deep meaning to subjects completely unrelated to religion but believed to be religious. Imaginary explanations are offered at will and the mental chords are stirred and these are announced as intuitions and prophecies. One follows another and so there is no dearth of occultists and religionists in the community today. These spiritualists — solvers of secrets — claim that they are not guided so much by reasoning as by innate, spiritual intuition and inspiration. They refuse to accept any intelligent laws and regulations that have guided the evolution of accumulated knowledge through the ages or to come to conclusions after examining and criticising examples and arguments with the yard-stick of history. Hence, with childish abandon, without any principles, limitations or regulations, under the pretext of listening to the voice of conscience and the capability to envisage [176] with a spiritual perception, they give unbridled vent to their imagination and assign meanings and explanations at will, thereby confusing and miguiding the public.

True scholarship demands that for the solution of any religious problem, all available data and historical background should be collected. Any injunctions from other religions that can compare with the questions in hand must be sought. Its true meaning should be culled with the help of philology. After such an over-all research the question should be studied with an open mind and an opinion framed and expressed. This alone is the true, scientific method of a research student. Our spiritual leaders do not work in this manner. On the contrary they work very differently. They try to wean out from religious literature their own preconceptions and beliefs, without inspection or examination, guided only by sentiment. They select paragraphs that have no relevance to the main subject under consideration, assign imaginary meanings to words and as a result pose as occultists and evangelists and satisfy the credulity of the illiterate and uneducated. They attempt to appease their soul's hunger by offering undigestible fare.

To throw some light on the above we shall take up the debatable question of vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism that has been discussed in our community repeatedly. These good people stress that the eating of flesh is prohibited according to Zoroastrianism and they believe and make others believe that their statement is beyond doubt and well proven. They are initially guided by their temperament, their compassion, their quality of mercy, their reading about kindness to living beings, etc. They have every right to hold such noble beliefs and to abide by them. The cultured society of the 20th century has no right to interfere with their [177] individual opinions. From the depths of their hearts they believe that animal slaughter is irreligious and criminal. It is their privilege to believe this. But they go further. Since they hold the personal belief that animal slaughter is irreligious and sinful, they also believe that a religion cannot possibly allow flesh-eating and they attempt to make others believe likewise. The history of the origin and progress of the religions of the world proves their opinions as unfounded. Our Indo- Iranian forefathers were totally flesh-eaters and constantly sacrificed cows, bullocks, horses, Iambs and goats in their ceremonials. Rishis, Pirs and prophets consumed meat and fish. Animal slaughter prevailed in the age of Rig Veda. The Rishis of the Rig Veda, Zarathushtra, Moses, Buddha, Jesus or Mohomed have not prohibited animal-slaughter in their religions. With the advent of Jainism the religions of India, coming under its influence, gradually began to express opinions against animal slaughter. There is sufficient evidence in the Avesta that our ancestors three thousand years ago included flesh in their daily meals and offered meat-dishes in ceremonials. There is ample proof in our Pahlavi books that our fore-fathers two thousand years ago did so. Amongst the twenty-one Nasks, (litanies) pages and whole chapters are assigned to animal- slaughter; the particular verses to be recited by the mobed while killing the animal that is to be used for ceremonies, how its various parts are offered to different Yazads, how to offer them, which animals to use are described at length. We are obliged to reveal such facts, since Zoroastrian vegetarians; openly and with emphasis declare that flesh-eating is prohibited in Zoroastrianism. When we do so, these gentlemen pose to be pious and accuse us of disgracing our religion by publicising such evidence. The truth is that they do not hesitate to say and to write whatever they please under cover of religion, only to substantiate, without scrutiny or examination, their own pre-conceived ideas. Hence we [178] must write this to show that their doctrines are incorrect, that they are not supported by any religious literature. Some years ago, on two occasions some people well-versed in vegetarianism expressed many things without the least restraint, so I had to reply to refute their statements. At that time I received private letters. written with honesty and real feeling, telling me that my statements were absolutely correct. The paragraphs that I had pointed out were so clear and flawless as to assure the audience. In spite of that I should not have revealed them — I should not have given such lectures. When sentimentalists profess to pass wrong as right under the pretext of religion, then as a true scholar I am obliged to give lectures that would reveal the truth and to write such articles. Besides. religion is truth. There is no religion higher than truth.

Fifty years ago on the occasion of laying the foundation-stone of a building or while inaugurating it and on any such auspicious occasion, we were wont to sacrifice a goat or at least a chicken. Today happily we hardly ever do that. But merely to protect the fair name of our elders of about fifty to seventy-five years ago, it is wrong to indicate with baseless arguments, that they never did so. According to the 11th verse of the Yajashne, as per age-old tradition, right up to the last century, we offered a goat's tongue and his left eye in ceremonies dedicated to Hom Yazad. It is false to say that it is a misconception that our fore-fathers of the last century did any such thing or that should there appear any such references, they are merely allegorical. Today many of our families refrain from eating flesh on Bahman, Mohar, Gosht and Ram Roj. They are doing so voluntarily now, but a hundred years ago it was obligatory on all. For, like a child's fear of a school-master's rod, the trustees of the Panchayat of those days kept our fore-fathers under their thumb. In 1796 the General [179] Body of the Anjoman of Bombay assembled and passed a resolution to the effect that should a behdin be caught making use of flesh on those four 'Anroja' days he would be fined a 'doti' and given a sacramental bath. Should a mobed be guilty of such a crime, he would be prohibited from practising his profession for a year. In 1823 they placed this resolution again before the community and amended it to read that perchance should 'Chahram' of a deceased person coincide with one of the four Anrojas, even on such an occasion meat should not be utilised. To protest against this resolution certain gentlemen approached the Anjoman at Navsari. They unanimously replied: "Should a Chahram fall on Behman, Mohar, Gosht or Ram roj, you may certainly perform the ceremony with meat and its fat be placed on the sacred fire with incense and agar. This would please the deities of the animal world."

Today we neither place the fat on the sacred fire nor do we sacrifice a goat's tongue or its left eye to the Hom Yazad as our forefathers in ignorance did for three hundred years. But it is futile to nullify what has been recorded in history. What existed cannot be eradicated as non-existant. It is wrong to white-wash what came down to us through the ages. It is dangerous to blind and deafen ourselves to historical proof. It is a mistake to assign a latent and esoteric meaning to clear and straight-forward statements. It is meaningless to try to establish every custom and tradition as valid and valuable. That is not a logical mode of study. It is not right.

Religion has always befriended philosophy and has called her to its aid to simplify its task. The present age is an age of science, so these esoteric spiritualists frivolously make use of the power of electricity, vibrations etc. to bring to light the so- called unseen meanings of our prayers, to solve the [180] mystery of our ceremonies and to prolong age-old queer practices that are best buried.

The present-day Parsi graduates and post- graduates of Arts Science, Law and Medicine believe and try to make others believe matters that only children or illiterates can accept. If legend related that Dastur Adarbad Marespand poured nine maunds of molten metal on his chest without any harm to himself, just to prove the greatness of the Zoroastrian religion, they accept it as a historical fact. If folklore tells that as Ram and Sita flew in an aeroplane from Ceylon to Ayodhya, or as Ravan flew towards the forests of Dandak in order to kidnap Sita, King Kaus flew in a plane towards Mazandaran, they would deem it as genuine without the least suspicion. If it is rumoured that in Akbar's reign some magician by his feats manifested two suns in the sky instead of one, and at that time Dastur Meherji Rana, by the strength of his mystical incantations brought down the artificial sun, they accept it as a historical fact. Should some fictitious author write that to waylay some Arabs who were following King Yazdezard's daughter a dastur recited the Tir Yasht and at once there was a downpour of hail and snow and on reciting the Avan Yasht immediately, there was a flood in the River Jechem, and all the Arabs were drowned, they would believe this imaginary tale to be plain truth. Moreover, the ignoramus question us verbally or in print: "Is there any dastur or mobed to be found today, so staunch and so religious?"

The people who delight in keeping themselves entangled in the web of such ideas abide in a world of fantasy. If they were to be wise and seek real miracles in this living world, today's extraordinary and bewildering discoveries of science would supply them with a fund of such experiences. Rather than these imaginary spirits the inventions [181] of intellectuals, like the talkies or the aeroplanes that enable us to breakfast in Bombay and lunch at Karachi or the wireless and the radio or many such latest inventions, are believable miracles.

Some good people shut the doorways of reason and make-believe that they are guided by intuition and continue to profess that they are throwing light on religious literature. This is an era of science. Brilliant scientists have changed the face of the earth. The community today has need of men who work with such keen scholarship, research and mathematical precision.

At such a time all around us are people who, carried away by religiosity, weaken the minds of our youth by offering superfluous teachings through lectures, newspapers and books and attempting to pass off as real, stories that are like Arabian Nights or fairy tales and investing meaningless rumours with the garb of truth and authenticity. This attitude ;s most dangerous for a microscopic minority numbering approximately a hundred and twenty- five thousand, struggling for existence in a vast majority that runs into crores.

Despite all intentions to avoid hurting any- one's feelings, it is necessary to state that our occult friends, in their imaginary notions of explaining the mysteries of religion, wantonly say whatever they please and are carried away on flights of fantasy. In every community there are men and women who credulously believe anything, however unscholarly and unscientific. Similarly there are many such amongst us also. Depending on the level of individual mental capacity and strength, many an educated and uneducated man and woman of the community finds satisfaction in this medley that goes on in the name of religion; they are attracted by it; they derive serenity through it.

[182] Asho Zarathushtra with great emphasis tells his audience that has come from far and near that they should listen to his teachings attentively, think about them calmly, meditate on them, and then only should they accept them from the choice of their head and of their heart. Gautama Buddha says in his 'Kalmo Sutta': "Believe not what you hear: believe not legends; believe not gossip, believe not what you are habituated to listening to since childhood; believe not only because it comes from the lips of your elders; but apply to it your own study, examine it, ponder on it and believe only what your intelligence accepts."

The first lesson that I learnt through my study in America was to discard all pre-conceived ideas. The fetters of prejudice should be shattered. All facets of a question should be rationally examined through historical perspective. the laws of philology, comparative religion, scientific reasoning and an intuitive awareness of humanity.

Not led away by sentiment, nor pampering popular opinion, free from selfish motives, the one and only sacred purpose of studying religious literature should be the truth and nothing but the truth. The result of such research must be revealed to the community independently, courageously and courteously.

[183]

Chapter XIX

RENUNCIATION OF CONVENTIONAL RELIGION

It is necessary to keep in mind the meaning we assign to the word convention or tradition. Philology reveals that certain words convey different or even completely contrary meanings as time passes. It also happens that some words, finding their way from the language of one nation to that of another, begin to be utilized in a new sense. The Sufis attribute a very exalted interpretation to the word 'tradition'. We have learnt that to reach the Almighty, to know Him and to understand Him, there is but one path-the path of Righteousness. The Sufis call that path 'tradition'. (Fana Fil Haq). Since a long time we have been using this word in another light. The formal or external facets of religion are its customs and practices — such as the regulations regarding not moving about bare- headed, the taking of 'taro', the observance of the menses, the taboos regarding hygiene and numerous such practices we call 'tradition'. In short our science of tradition is the science of desecration'.

First amongst the creations of the Almighty were the sky and the earth and the oceans and vegetation and animals and lastly man was born to raise himself up to his immortal and divine destiny. But when he first set foot upon this earth about 500,000 years ago, he was akin to a beast. He had still to learn even the rudiments of living. The benevolent Father had endowed him with the inestimable blessing of reasoning, but that itself, like everything else in the world, had to grow, develop, blossom and after a long lapse of time radiate its brilliance. Having evolved through the winged kingdom and the animal kingdom he was progressing step by step towards human existence. Just as quadrupeds, void of reasoning and speech, found security by living in cooperation with their [184] fellow-creatures, man, the social animal, as Aristotle states, also passes his existence gregariously with his own kith and kin. Our religious books divided society into four groups — in geographical terms — the home, the city, the province and the country; and, in social parlance, the family, the tribe, the community and the nation. Man lives where he is born and loves his native land dearly. In spite of not having seen any other country to compare with, each feels that his native land is beyond comparison. In the first stanza of the Vendidad, it is stated that Ahura Mazda has created many lands. but Aryavaeja, the home of the Aryans, was the best of all. Similarly each one says whatever he pleases about his motherland. This dedication to the home-land inspires and enthuses each one to work for the progress, prosperity and glory of his country.

As the population increases with the passage of time, the modes of earning a livelihood are diversified. The Indo-Aryans divided their society into Brahmans, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Likewise their Iranian cousins divided it into the following four groups: Athravans, Rathashtars, Vastroyash and Hooitis or religious leaders, warriors, farmers and craftsmen.

Thus man's social, religious, economic and political progress develops from small beginnings to larger dimensions, from immaturity to maturity. In all these fields of life, from the beginning man has realized that social living is impossible without certain rules, regulations and laws. Economic and political progress are later developments, but the social and religious aspects commenced with man's advent on earth. Long before cooperative living in groups, tribes, communities and nations developed, people lived together with their own kith and kin in families for their own advantage, happiness and security, and customs were created. [185] Man had not yet learnt the lessons of life; he was completely ignorant of its aims, its ideals and its mysteries. But each new day brought some fresh experience. Some were born, some fell ill and some died. He was unaware that all this follows nature's plan, for he had not the least idea of nature or its laws. People conferred among themselves and worked accordingly, and they fashioned their existence upon the advice of elders who had lived through similar circumstances. Thus social experience expanded.

It is believed that the happiness and safety of society depend entirely upon the faithful observance of such customs and traditions; each feels that it is his bounden duty to abide by them. Those who fail to do so are either excommunicated by the elders or some other punishment is meted out to them.

It dawns upon man that in this gradual fashioning of the art of living, there exists someone besides man himself. Between the rising and the setting of the sun a thousand inexplicable events take place which he begins to think are the workmanship of some hidden craftsman; he is surrounded by other beings like himself but invisible, who have power over him, make him happy or unhappy, permit him to live or condemn him to death. He is not able to see them, hear them or know them, so he fears them. Like a child he contrives to placate them and control them by some magical feats. Hence, as various customs and practices are born in man's living with other men, in his relationship with these hidden forces so also all kinds of rituals and traditions come into existence. As time passes these socio-religious traditions become the guiding principles of society. After thousands of years of the infancy of religion, Rishis and Munis, Saints and Sadhus, Abeds [186] and Pirs have given a kind of direction to religion since the last four or five thousand years. The appearance of prophets dates back to approximately three thousand years or more, to the advent of Zarathushtra. Then Moses, Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus and Mohammad established their great religions. Wherever these religions are founded, the nations already have their own unique socio-religious age-old customs practices and traditions which the masses are unable to renounce in spite of accepting the great new religion. The prophets try to abolish them and to replace them with more sound and intelligible principles, but all are not able to abandon the practices to which they have become accustomed through the ages. What the prophets themselves are unable to attain in their own life-time cannot be achieved by his followers. On the contrary, the disciples themselves are so enamoured of ancient customs, observances and rituals of pre-prophet days that they entwine them with the teachings of the new religion. They do not stop at that, but, in order that the people may cling to them with tenacity, they expound, through speeches and writings, that those have emanated from the prophets themselves. Thus they lower religion from its exalted status. The commandments to lead a good life, a noble life, an honest life, a pure life — these alone are the eternal verities of religion. The followers try to place them on par with traditions born out of the ignorance and superstitions of mankind's infancy; with the result that while it is sinful to tell a lie or to lead an immoral life, to trespass upon traditions is considered not merely to violate the laws of society but also to disobey God's commandments and to merit divine punishment.

Ahura Mazda measures the religiousness or irreligiousness of a person according to his noble or ignoble life and from his character alone. But mankind does so from his external adherence to [187] socio-religious practices. We do the same. I began to study carefully the customs and practices prevalent amongst us.

A Zarthosti's day begins with the application of 'taro' on his face, his head and his feet, by warding off the evil spirit by incantations and waging war against Satan. About a hundred and twenty-five years ago it would be impossible to find a Zoroastrian home which did not have a bottle of 'taro' throughout the year. This has been going on for generations.

Ever since the dawn of man's progress when he roamed about from jungle to jungle to bring cattle under his domination and to domesticate them, they have been his most precious possessions. Besides supplying him with milk products, man began to put them to use as beasts of burden. The bull attained a sacred status amongst the Indo-Iranian Aryans as well as the Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians. As Gayomard, the first man, is looked upon as the procreator of mankind in Persia, so also Gaviodad — 'the only created ox' is believed to be the progenitor of all animals. The moon (Mahongh Gao-chitra) is known as originating from the seed of the bull' (The Taurus). When Cambysses conquered Egypt he jestingly killed their sacred bull, Apis, and deeply injured the feelings of the Egyptians. On the facade of the temples and palaces of Assyria and Babylonia are carved huge stone winged-bulls as guardians of those sacred and important places. Later, when the Achaemenian kings won these lands, they began to carve into their architecture two huge winged bulls with a human face on the frontage of their palaces in Persia. When Mithraism went from Persia to Europe, the bull began to be worshipped as a 'devata' (minor god).

[188] Amongst the Indo-Iranians the urine of these presumed-to-be sacred cattle was also credited as a purifier. After the two nations separated, each took back to its own country the sanctity of the cow's urine. When Spitama Zarathushtra revealed his grand new religion in Persia, he uprooted all the Indo-Iranian gods and goddesses, ceremonies and customs. But his reform did not remain in its pristine state after his death. The Indo-Iranian religion with its gods and goddesses, its ceremonials and rituals was resurrected, and became a part and parcel of Zarathushtra's exalted religion.

The hair of a pure white bull means 'Varas' which gave rise to the name 'Varasio', a consecrated bull which became an intrinsic part of Zoroastrian rituals. This Varasio's urine and that of other bulls of the village is consecrated by an extensive and expensive ceremony called the Nirangdin and is then known as 'Nirang'.

In Avesta cow's urine is called gayomaj. Later the common people termed it 'taro'. Among the many alien Semitic words that crept into the Pahlavi language, the word for bull is 'tora' From this emanated the word 'taro' for bull's urine. The sacred formula, or spell, of Avestan Manthra is known as Nirang in Pazand. The wrong usage of the word Nirang for consecrated cow's urine is a later development. As the mistaken custom of using the term Ardibesht which is the name of the spirit that presides over the fire, for the fire itself still persists, and as we say "Bring the 'Ardibesht'" when asking for the fire, the consecrated urine itself has come to be termed Nirang. The history of religion teaches us that, with the passage of time, religions lose their pristine purity. We find the same in the 'Rivayat' written in Persian about four hundred years ago about Nirang or consecrated bull's urine. In the sacred Gathas Asho Zarathushtra tells us that the life and spirit of Zoroastrianism is Ashoi- [189] righteousness-whereas in the Rivayat it is written that Nirang, the urine purified by prayers and ceremonies, is the soul and substance of the Zoroastrian religion. All the important as well as minor ceremonies are based on Nirang and as the warp and the woof are interwined, Nirang is the basis of Zoroastrian rituals. At the time of the Navjote ceremony the child is given some 'taro' to sip, and so is the bridal couple on the occasion of their marriage. This custom now remains merely as a mental palliative, An increasing majority hardly puts the cup to the lip. Some credulous men and women who believe that by performing ceremonies and adhering to customs they can improve their characters and attain spiritual enlightenment and salvation still take the sacred bath and drink 'taro',

Before proceeding to America for study I had lived a life steeped in 'taro'. I foolishly imagined that miracles and wonders would happen by applying it to the body and by using it in ceremonies; but I had not fallen to the depths of quaffing cupfuls of it as some people gulp down potfuls of toddy. A deeply religious behdin gentleman of Karachi, who spent hours in prayer had great faith in the miraculous powers of the application and intake of taro. He was a great admirer of mine. I could not read or write with my right eye, so he very affectionately urged me constantly to leave off the craze of medical treatment and to lie flat on my back and place cotton-wool compacts dipped in taro over my eye every night. God be praised I did not abide by the advice of my noble, taro-worshipping physician. Perchance my eye would have been burnt and my slight vision lost.

I renounced the taro-tradition in New York. Taro disappeared from my whole family.

[190] Only our own community is aware of our usage of taro, but there is another major communal practice that cannot remain hidden from the knowledge of other communities — and that is our observance of a woman's menstrual period. Approximately half of the community's strength abides in Bombay. From olden times as per tradition, every Parsi home in Bombay had set aside a large room on the ground floor to be used by ladies during this period or during confinement due to the lack of lying-in hospitals in those days. ladies living on the fourth or fifth floor spent five to seven days in this ground -floor room and forty days during confinement. Fifty or sixty years ago every hawker going from door to door to sell his wares or any stray passer-by was aware of this phase of Parsi life. In those days it was common to hear the mobeds who came for prayers or for persons bringing consecrated food shout in a clear voice, "Unclean women, turn away your unholy gaze".

I was always very eager to study this very important question carefully, particularly because I would never find the same facility on returning to India as I had in the magnificent library of the Columbia University. A scientific study of anthropology and sociology had already commenced in American colleges. The library was replete with books about the experiences of learned western travellers who had voyaged during the last two hundred years to the distant corners of the globe where dwelt savage and semi-civilized tribes. They had lived with them for quite some time and studied their customs and practices, their beliefs and superstitions and published their findings. I made a careful bibliography of whatever information I could collect about this practice from the literature of various religions, from ancient folklore, from history or from the books of these discoverers. The greater part of my long summer vacation I spent in studiously reading about this question. In [191] doing so I was able to collect a fair amount of literature on the subject.

My personal study revealed that detailed and lengthy writings regarding this question are available in our Avestan books and in old Sanskrit books of the Hindus. There are some references to this custom prevailing in other primitive nations also. Even today in some uncivilized and uncultured communities this practice continues.

When a woman reaches puberty, there is this natural flow of blood. Primitive man, in his ignorance looked upon this as a very serious and dangerous event. Blood was always used in sorcery. When it made its appearance in women-folk, it was believed that during that period some impure and evil spirit had surrounded her. In such a condition she was kept apart in a little hut away from the home. It was supposed that her gaze, her touch or her voice would desecrate the atmosphere. Even the sun, moon and stars would lose their immaculacy if they happened to come within the orbit of her vision, so she had to hold an umbrella-like canopy over her head whenever she stepped out of the hut. Almost a hundred years ago, here as well as in Persia, at such times a woman would go and live in some isolated house in a Parsi locality and return home only after she was well again. During this period, except for drinking, water was not used for any purpose — not even for cleanliness. The Saddar-book of the olden days- informs us that as the gaze of a woman in her menses defiled the moon, stars, sun and water, she was obliged to perform some important ceremony to atone for her sin.

As knowledge increased this custom ceased in advanced nations. It is non-existent now amongst the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Chinese, Japanese and almost all communities. Barring all [192] uncultured, undeveloped tribes, in the advanced world this custom has remained only amongst the Parsis and a portion of the vast population of Hindus.

When I crossed the threshold of Columbia University I held the same views about this subject as I had expressed in my book 'Pavitrai ni Paidari' (The Preservation of Purity) published in 1900. Neither through the 'spectacles' of accepted Zoroastrian principles, nor through the eyes of unthinking Parsi faith, but through the unbiased vision of a thinking person and with an open mind, my intensive study at New York of this custom has brought me to the conclusion that the opinion of scholars that the practices connected with a woman's menstrual period were the outcome of primitive man's fear of blood. was correct. The belief that at such times a woman's aura is diffused or that her glance or touch desecrates purity is completely invalid under scientific and sagacious scrutiny.

God has not created woman — the immaculate mother of mankind — to be kept away from normal living in the years between her adolescence and old-age as a disturber of the piety and sanctity of man's religious life, as one worthy of renunciation or as a channel of irreligiousness. A woman's monthly ailment is not Satan's curse on womanhood. It is merely a natural phenomenon of her physiological structure.

If this opinion, born of knowledge and science, is not acceptable, then what is the queer make-up of man's piety that it is not dimmed by an iota by the glance or touch of the most vile, immoral and sinful male yet is destroyed by the monthly illness of an innocent, virtuous and pious maiden? What quality of man's glory is it that is not in the least soiled by the glance or the touch of the most wicked, corrupted and debased male, but is made [193] unclean by the customary monthly flow of a noble, honourable and honest lady?

What is this queer turn of man's religions mentality that creates even in our country so-called educated pundits who, in this age of science and knowledge, succeeded by a patch-work of ill-gotten scientific notions in prolonging the unnatural existence of traditions that had their roots in the darkness and ignorance of past ages?

Most of our customs and practices have been handed down to us from the time of the Vendidad which dates back over four thousand years. It was a Pastoral Age when our forefathers wandered from field to field and from season to season in search of fodder for their cattle. Later when Spitaman Zarathushtra advised them to settle in one place and to till the soil the agricultural age began. In both these ages the dog was man's constant companion and guide. He was a necessary part of people's lives. As he was considered an essential part of man's social life, he began to earn a place of prominence in his religious life. According to the Vendidad he was "Pashushah Urva" — the protector or shepherd of the flock. The people of those days, according to their own light, reposed sanctity in the dog. They believed that he possessed some secret power to destroy the spell of evil spirits. His presence was necessary at the time of the sacred bath taken by mobeds qualifying for Bareshnum. Our forefathers believed that his glance had the miraculous power to defeat the devs and devatas that hovered over the corpse. Hence the ceremony of Sagdid — 'the dog's glance' — at the time of the funeral rites, came to stay. From the time a person dies to the time he is taken to the Tower of Silence, his gaze is fixed on that of the corpse. Four thousand years have gone by, yet this custom is retained.

[194] In the savage age hair and nails formed an integral part of sorcery and black — magic; hence as a precaution against their evil effects the literature on conventions in the Vendidad demands that any hair or nail that has been cut should be buried half a span under hard ground and a full span under soft soil, ten feet away from pious people, twenty from fire, thirty from water and fifty from Barsom. A boundary line should be drawn around it and some Avesta prayers recited. A few devout people did this right up to the last century. The Pahlavi books 'Bundahishn' and 'Shayast la Shayast' and the Persian book Saddar mention that if these regulations are not abided by, the scattered nails would become weapons in the hands of magicians.

The main purpose of the observance of certain customs and codes is to evade defilement and to conserve purity. People who travel around the world find such observances widely prevalent in our country. While journeying by train vendors are heard calling: "Brahmani Pani" — 'Water for the Brahmins'. The dining-cars bear separate placards for Hindus and Muslims. Seeing such practices, westerners jeer at us with justification and ask how people who live in the same country but seldom dine together can unite to form one nation and be worthy of self-government. Hindus who deem themselves to be of high birth avoid a very large majority of the inhabitants of the country, presuming they are untouchable. These Hindu untouchables are prevented from entering into temples. They are forbidden to draw water from the wells of high- caste Hindus. In their fanaticism for cleanliness, Brahmins imagine themselves to be paragons of purity and believe that even the shadow of an untouchable would contaminate them. When we hear of such customs we ridicule the Hindu community. But we forget there are occasions when we must confess that we are [195] sailing in the same boat. Our Persian law books written four hundred years ago tell us that we should abstain from ghee prepared by non- Zoroastrians. We should not write with ink that is made by them. We should not dine with them. It was tabooed to eat or drink with Hindus, Muslims or Christians only a hundred years ago. Even today our mobeds are forbidden to dine at the same table with Brahmins, Mullas or priests.

Keeping pace with changing times and climes, nations alter their various customs regarding dress, food and eating habits and also those concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance, distribution, etc. There are differences in minor matters also such as regulations regarding behaviour patterns. Orientals squat cross-legged on the floor. Westerners sit in a completely different fashion. Orientals assume that it is respectful to keep the head covered, whereas westerners uncover their heads as a mark of respect. When we go to see the world-renowned Niagara Falls, while we are in the United States we are driven on the right hand side of the road; but the moment we cross the bridge into Canada the driver swerves to the left. Canada being under British domination it follows their driving regulations. Our Hindu brethren, adhering to ancient codes of customs, observe various practices from the time a woman is pregnant up to the end of her life.

We consider it improper to dine or drink or move about bare-headed. The world does not hold the same opinion. We believe smoking to be sinful. The world does not believe so. To dispose of the dead in any other way besides Dakhmanshin is supposed to be an iniquity. The world does not look upon it as such. For a Zoroastrian not to wear the sudre and kusti and for certain Hindus not to put on the janoi is believed to be a sin. But the world [196] does not believe so. sinful is not so to us. Similarly what to others is

Traditions are born of events, circumstances and common-sense. Traditions terminate with the change of times, circumstances and with enlightenment. But traditions die hard. Tradition-addicts do not wish to see the end of them. They are completely enamoured of them. They fight tooth and nail to defend the most impracticable customs. When the British Government started a movement to abolish the practice of Sati amongst the Hindus, the theologians and thinkers showed evidences according to their own light; but the Brahmins strongly opposed them. When the legislative council of the south proposed a bill to save maidens who had been dedicated to the god Khandoba from becoming prostitutes, a jihad was raised on the plea that individual freedom of worship was being trespassed upon.

Traditions are transitory. Traditions are perishable. It is a folly to ask God to place on them the stamp of immortality. It is neither wise nor advantageous to sing elegies about traditions in and out of season, setting aside all other work and forgetting the important issues of life. The continuity of a tradition has no relationship with virtue or vice. Tradition is not religion.

The religion of truth which is the quintessence of all religions is a unifying force and leads mankind on to the ideals of love and devotion. Conventions that float on the surface of religions, under the pretext of maintaining the solidarity of each community, only raise barriers between the various faiths of the world and, in the name of religion divide mankind into sects and separate man from man, community from community, nation from nation. All the prophets of the world desire the unification of mankind. All those who are [197] burdened with tradition-worship seek a thousand ways to preserve their compartmental aloofness. They give rise to sects that divide men by thousands of years. Traditional religion is not a man's innate religion. It is not the religion of his heart. Conventional religion is a curse to mankind.

Since birth my child-mind had been garnering impressions of the conventions of religion. I had absorbed them and made them my own. I had grown up in an environment of the observance of conventions. From childhood to adulthood I had been reared on traditions. Four years ago I had entered Columbia University as a devotee of traditional religion. In 1908, I stepped out of my temple of learning renouncing traditional religion.

[198]

Chapter xx

MY FASCINATION FOR RITUALISTIC RELIGION FADES

Man, in his social relationship with his fellow-beings, tries to augment his feelings of respect and affection by greeting them and welcoming them with endearing terms and respect according to their status and the sentiment that exists between them. Similarly man expresses his bond with the spiritual powers by words and gestures while praying to them and worshipping them. Again, as man manifests his sentiments of love and reverence for another through the offering of some beautiful gift, he sacrifices animals or even human beings to please and appease spirits. With a grateful heart he offers to them nature's seasonal flowers, fruits and grain with prayer and pleading. This difficult task or ceremony of offering sacred gifts to the assembly of saints is performed by priests through the recitation of certain verses in a particular mode and manner.

For the devotee, ceremonies create an atmosphere of serenity, solemnity and sanctity. With a pure mind and a heart over-flowing with exalted feelings he longs to pray and worship with concentration in solitude. Ceremonies are a unique, efficacious and inestimable means of kindling the flame of love in the heart of a devotee and to enthuse him with devotion and faith to sacrifice his body, mind and spirit to his Creator.

Man is not content with this invaluable blessing of ceremonies. He is incapable of evaluating their usefulness or estimating their worth. Through his ignorance he assigns various non-existent meanings to ceremonies. He tries to foist upon them purposes for which they are not meant and succeeds in doing so. He visualizes miracles [199] through ceremonies and gives them a place of priority in religion. From the outset a faith is created that there is a certain force in ceremonies. It is believed that ceremonies have the power to attract spiritual forces and to ward off evil spirits. In the Som ceremony of the Rig-Veda the Brahmin who performs the rituals in full faith, tells Indra and Varuna repeatedly that they will be invested with great strength by virtue of those rituals. In the Tir Yasht, Tishtar, the rain-bearing Yazad, loses his battle against Aposh, the god of drought. He complains to Ahura Mazda that mankind does not worship him with the same fervour as it does the other Yazads. Later people pray to him so his strength is renewed, and he succeeds in his fight with Aposh. Such misconceptions mar the main purpose of prayer which is to unite the devotee with his Maker. Ceremony becomes a secret talisman that helps to secure what is wanted, to cement what needs to be cemented. It matters not whether that ceremony influences the mind, the heart and the character of the devotee or whether he participates in the ceremony or not, so long as it has been performed in his name and at his expense. In sheer ignorance man begins to believe that ceremonies will fulfil all his desires, that they will purchase virtue on his behalf, that they will absolve him from sin; and as with the living, so also with the dead. The efficacy of the ceremonies performed for the dead will release a sinful soul and carry it onwards step by step from hell to the eternal abode from there onwards to the highest heaven and ever onwards to the habitation of Light where dwell the pure of heart.

In the sacred Gathas, Spitama Zarathushtra teaches us quite the contrary. Taking into consideration that every man and woman is an individual in his own right, he teaches life's eternal and infallible lesson that progress depends entirely upon the actions of each individual. The accumulated treasure [200] of one man's good deeds cannot be loaned to another, and no man's burden of sin can be lightened by another. By his own hands he sows sweet or sour seeds in this mortal world and reaps the harvest of sweetness or sorrow in the spiritual abode.

If the repetition by rote of Zarathushtra's immortal commandments about the law of retribution can be considered as a faithful adherence to it, the community really deserves credit. For it is common to hear the young and the old, the poor and the rich, the learned and the illiterate of our community repeat frequently: "As you sow, so shall you reap". "You will get the reward of your own deeds". "You will take along with you only what you have given away with your own hands". Yet the daily living of Parsi men and women is quite contrary to this. 'To preach one thing but to practice another applies literally to our community in connection with rituals. People perform ceremonies for the dead with the firm belief that, in proportion to the ceremonies conducted by the living for the soul of the departed one, they will merit a place in heaven and that a fair portion of happiness can be earned by them by many ceremonies. If the faith that ceremonies dedicated to the dead have the power to alter his destiny and improve his status in the spiritual abode should falter or fade, the ritualistic creed would be ruined.

The lofty Zoroastrian precept that man's deeds and not his creeds or ceremonies are his salvation began to weaken after Zarathushtra's passing away, by the mingling of ancient Indo-Iranian religious beliefs with his own unadulterated faith. Pahlavi and Pazand books openly drift away from it and invest ceremonies with the power to expiate sin and give them a place of prestige.

[201] According to the Patet prayer composed in the Sasanian era, the supplicant prays that at the time of his death his heir should recite the Ashem Vohu and the Patet. He continues that it is his wish that after his death his surviving children should be penitent for his sins and they should perform the Sarosh and Getikhardi ceremonies for the salvation of his soul. It is said in the Sad Oar, the popular book of the orthodox sect, written after the Persian Empire had disintegrated, that the grace of having performed the Getikhardi ceremony grows according to the number of years the performer lives after its performance. When he dies he is immediately shown his place in heaven which has been reserved for him, but if he fails to perform the Getikhardi ceremony his soul cannot find accommodation in heaven.

Amongst us, at the time of the Uthamna ceremony the son of the deceased or his heir is made to recite certain set verses known as Gai, Sosh or Lakh. Before the assembly the heir promises to pray 1,25,000 Ahunavars and to consecrate 30 daroons in dedication to the deceased. In 1686 there was a major fight between the Sanjana and Bhagaria mobeds of Navsari where two mobeds and six behdins were killed. Legal proceedings commenced against the accused at Surat. At that time Mody Cooverji Nanabhoy, a leader of the Anjoman used his influence and had the mobeds acquitted. After four years when there was a death in the Mody family, the Anjoman at Navsari took up the responsibility of performing the Uthamna ceremony for the deceased and to pray twenty-five lakh Ahunavars for him, as a mark of gratitude. This custom still prevails in Persia. There, at the dawn of the Chahrum, after the Uthamna ceremony, the leading mobed or the panthaky of the town goes to the assemblage of men and women and makes a note of the prayers each volunteers to pray for the [202] salvation of the deceased. At such a time, each according to his or her own free will offers to pray five- hundred or one-thousand or two-thousand Ahunwars or Ashem Vohus or a certain number of Patets or Yashts.

During the last fifty years the various communal institutions that have been established in many a town and city, perform public Jashans during the course of the year. They appeal to the community that if they wish to include the names of their dear departed ones in these prayers they should pay Rs. 100/- per name or more or less according to the amount stipulated by the association, and have it registered. There is a generous response to this request from the community. Some families pay for the inclusion of the names of their dear ones in the Namgrahn and believe to have earned for themselves a quota of virtue.

About the middle of the last century the Rahnumai Mazdayasnian Society established by the educated reformists of the community, began to discuss the question of the ceremonial creed in a scientific manner. There were complaints about the poor of the community incurring heavy debts for having expensive ceremonies performed merely to imitate the rich. The Parsi Panchayat of Bombay and the thinking members of the community objected to the distribution of trayfuls of sweets and dry-fruits on the occasion of a death anniversary. But these objections had no effect. The reformists took up the responsibility of speaking and writing in protest of such extravagant practices. They conceded that ceremonials were an essential part of religion. Ceremonies create in the mind of the honest participant a sense of devotion, a feeling of religious fervour, stir the nobler qualities of his heart and enrich his character. All this they did not deny. They recognized ceremonies as auxiliaries to religion. They accepted that they are linked with religion as aids, but at the same time [203] they taught that a ceremony is merely the outer shell whereas religion is the kernel. They gave priority to religious devotion, religious knowledge and religious behaviour over ceremonies. The orthodox majority did not approve of this and accused the reformists of shutting the doors to ceremonials.

As the economic prosperity of the community grew the ceremonies performed for the benefit of the living and of the dead also increased. From the beginning of the last century some wealthy co-religionists started to specify large amounts in their wills to ensure the performance of ceremonies for the eternal peace and happiness of their own souls and the souls of the members of their families, generation after generation. later, when some disputes arose in such families regarding the distribution of inheritance and cases were taken to court, the legal authorities refused to sanction such permanently earmarked funds not for the welfare of the living but for the supposed benefit of the dead. Thus the trusts for ceremonies for the dead began to be annulled. Eventually, in the beginning of this century, when the conservative co-religionist, Justice Sir Dinshaw Davar, sat on judgement, he declared such trusts legal.

Ceremonies continued to be performed in the community and views for and against them continued to be expressed. With the passing of time as economic conditions altered, the trayfuls of sweets and dry-fruits that had become part of the ceremonial creed lessened. On the one hand, while increasing expenses has been the cause of a decrease in ceremonies family-wise, due to the continued zeal and zest of the orthodox to maintain the ceremonial creed, funds for the performance of ceremonies have been established running into lakhs. The new Atashbehram at Bombay and other Atashkadehs hold large permanent funds for [204] ceremonies. The officials of one such Atashkadeh appeal yearly to the community that as the fund of Rs. one lakh collected for the purpose of performing ceremonies for Hama Anjoman to accumulate a store of virtue on behalf of the community was not sufficient, and as it was extremely benefactory to have the Nirangdin and other ceremonies performed year after year, it should contribute generously towards the fund. As in Bombay so also in other smaller and larger towns, the orthodox sect continues to make public appeals to have more and more ceremonies performed. And our ceremony-ridden community continues to extend its generous support. Hence, instead of decreasing, ceremonies are on the increase in the community.

As the performance of ceremonies increases, the conservatives falsely proclaim that it is an infallible proof of the increasing religiousness of the community. Here their accounting is at fault. Ceremonies are not the criteria by which to weigh the worth of religiousness. The religiousness or irreligiousness of an individual or a society can only be measured according to its moral ethics. Is the community sound in its sincerity and its honesty? Is the community clean in its public and private dealings? On this basis alone can its religiousness be estimated. If an unbiased survey shows us that the community is losing its characteristic of depending upon its own resources, that the ardour of self-respect is diminishing, that the former ideal that death is better than begging is being dimmed, that enthusiasm, industriousness and diligence are lacking in the able-bodied, that indolence and ingratitude have found a footing in the community, that the love of comfort and pleasure has increased, then know that the morale of the community is in jeopardy and that the moral backbone of the community has been injured. If that is [205] lost, then all is lost. A hundred and one Nirang- dins or a hundred and one Hamayashts cannot fill the void.

As ceremonies increase, the burning of sandalwood increases. The fire plays a central part in our religious life. A fire is essential in our religious ceremonies. We place the consecrated fire in a sanctum sanctorum as a symbol of Ahura Mazda. We consider it our sacred duty to keep this fire burning eternally. In ancient Iran the fragrant fuel that kindled the fire or was used in daily ceremonials was not as expensive as present-day Sukhad and Agar. Even today they are not used in Persia. We burn sandalwood, frankincence and agar excessively. Just as the new custom of performing ceremonies in the name of the Anjoman has become prevalent, there has arisen a zest for collecting public donations for performing expensive Agar Macchis at the Atashbehram at Udvada on behalf of the Anjoman, as if individual sandalwood is not burnt in sufficient quantity. Again, after collecting such public sums a large amount of sandalwood is being sent to the Atashkadeh at Iran. New customs are created continuously. Thus, from funds so raised, on four occasions during the year, in approximately two-hundred Atashkadehs of India, Iran, Aden, Zanzibar and other places, sandalwood is offered at one and the same time. The vast wealth that is expended on our ceremonies at least gives the satisfaction that it provides for the livelihood of priests. But the unlimited and reckless expense to feed the fire is, to say the least, a sheer wastage of money. Asho Zarathushtra has certainly not recommended this.

The vast amounts expended on ceremonies and sandalwood pose a serious question to the community from the economic and ethical standpoint. The false notion that by performing many ceremonies and by burning much sandalwood all [206] worldly desires are fulfilled and heaven is attainable gives signs of the community's degradation. Instead of relying upon our own strength and fashioning our own material and spiritual destiny by the toil and sweat of our brow, according to the precepts of our religion, we lean upon the supposed magical powers of ceremonies and the imaginary merits of burning sandalwood and crave in an un-Zoroastrian manner the privilege to purchase salvation without personal effort. This increasing craze of the community demands serious thought.

Even while fully appreciating the place that ceremony has in the religious life of man, the unlimited faith that the community places in the performance of ceremonies merits careful consideration. It poses not merely an economic problem but also a moral one. The desire to attain unearned credit through the power of ceremonies does not end with the community's craze for performing excessive ceremonies, Despite our advanced education of a hundred and twenty-five years, the belief in ceremonies of other religions, in devas and temples, in pirs and tombs has not abated. Even today such beliefs are prevalent in towns and villages. In the local 'Daily Gazette' of Karachi a Catholic priest takes pride in publishing that even non-Christians are attracted in large numbers to the newly established church dedicated to St. Philomena and, among those, the largest number is of Parsis who devoutly offer candles to that saint so that their desires may be fulfilled. Our community's lamentable mania for such idol-worship only reveals their pitiable mental attitude. They try to snatch ready-made fame, success and happiness from whatever source possible. They are not self-reliant. They have not the courage to stand on their own feet. They do not have the skill to shoulder life's burden. They do not have faith in their own kind. They do not realize that in man's communication with man, subservience and servility are [207] shameful. It is equally regrettable to depend upon the efficacy of a few rupees to purchase ill-gotten and undeserved rewards from some celestial spirits instead of moulding their own personality by the force of their innate intelligence. Their wild attempts to attain their desires through saints and pirs and priests is a painful proof of their feeble mentality, their faint morality and their failing Zoroastrianism.

In order to prevent the poorer section of the community from unnecessary expenditure on religious ceremonies, the Rahnumai Mazdayasnian Society started in 1851 to give guidance on proper lines. In 1859 it published a list of the obligatory ceremonies at the time of a Zoroastrian's death for the guidance of the community and had it re~ printed time and again and distributed freely amongst the members of the community. Yet there has been no decrease in ceremonies. On the other hand complaints regarding the drain on the poor due to the performance of ceremonies continue to be heard. Nowadays in Karachi and at other places, the Anjoman publishes such pamphlets and distributes them in every home with an appeal to abide by the ceremonies enlisted, should such an inauspicious event occur in the family. As a result of continuous complaints from the community, the very gentlemen of the orthodox sect who are untiring in their praise of the blessings of ceremonies and who are actually responsible for the unessential ceremonies that are being performed, are themselves obliged to publish such a list through organizations under their auspices. And yet those who perform rituals continue to do so. Even those who accept its validity at normal times, when there is a death in their own family take no cognizance of such guiding lists but are led away in having unnecessary ceremonies performed on the advice of elders and neighbours.

[208] There are two main reasons for the community's excessive devotion to rituals and their anxiety to have the greatest amount of ceremonies performed at any sacrifice. Firstly, through speeches and articles the members of the orthodox group continuously impress upon all, the potency of ceremonies and declare that they reap a rich harvest and that any desired objective can be attained through them. They state that ceremonies have the miraculous power to gain health, wealth, prosperity, fame, happiness and everything for him who performs them. They can even tilt the scales in his favour on the Day of Judgment. Not only does the ceremonialist reap personal benefit, but by the extra ceremonies performed on behalf of the Anjoman at his behest, the entire community automatically prospers. With this in view, those who have the means, besides having minor ceremonies like Jashans and Fareshtas performed on various occasions, also perform major and more expensive ceremonies like the Nirangdin, Getikhardi, Hama- yasht, etc. Many a time they are not even present at the ceremonies. So long as the ceremony has been performed under their behest (Farmayeshni) it matters little whether it be done at Udvada or at any other distant place — its performance alone guarantees a quota of virtue.

The following belief is also responsible for the continuance of ritualistic zeal. The fate of man's soul after his death is not sealed by his deeds in this world, but the ceremonies performed in his memory have the power to expiate his sins. If that soul is sinful ceremonies can wrench it from the jaws of hell, and by their force the soul is elevated in its spiritual status. With this conviction, the wealthy man or woman takes precautions about the future during his or her own lifetime. They have the "Zinderavan" ceremony performed while they are still alive to derive its benefit, though normally that ceremony is performed on the first three [209] days after a person's death. Some even have the ~hole year's ceremony performed. After death their dear ones besides having these ceremonies performed at the place of demise, have additional rites performed at the birth-place of the deceased or at Udvada. Besides the regular Baj, Afrinagan, Stoom and other normal ceremonies performed 365 days of the year, they perform other major ceremonies like Barashnum, Getikhardi, Nirangdin, Hamayasht, Davajdeh, Navar, etc. If the poor spend Rs. 400/- to As. 500/- on the year's ceremonies, the rich expend, on an average, approximately Rs. 3000/- to As. 4000/- or even Rs.7000/- to 8000/-, if performed at different centres. Seeing the rich, the poor and the middle-class are remorseful and envious of their fortunate wealthy friends who have been able to buy a store of virtue which will bring them happiness in the next world, whereas their poverty prevents them from performing ceremonies so that the souls of their dear ones will remain eternally in hell. They are not to be blamed for such thoughts, for such un-Zoroastrian precepts have been ingrained in them since childhood. How can two diverse things happen at one and the same time? If preachings are of a certain type how can results of another kind be expected? In season and out of season by preachings and by precepts the young and the old are taught that every worldly boon can be secured through ceremonies and even the blessing of heaven. Then how can we grow wise and accuse them when they become bankrupt because they even incur debts to perform limitless, unnecessary and burdensome ceremonies? In Heaven's Hall of Judgment, those very sanctimonious directors who lead the community astray will be called to account.

[210] The history of religion reveals that as Hindu and Zoroastrian priesthood is hereditary, the brahmins, dasturs and mobeds have made these two religions more ritualistic than any other religion in the world. However, in the Hindu religion, from the time a child is in the mother's womb, and continuing through his birth, christening, janoi, marriage and all aspects throughout the course of his life are interwined with ceremonies. A Zoroastrian's life is not so interwoven with rituals during his lifetime, but where ceremonies for the dead are concerned Zoroastrians have out-done their Hindu brethren, both in the number of ceremonies and in the length of time that they are continued. The belief that rituals arter the destiny that the soul ha~ forged for itself is completely contradictory to Zarathushtra's religion and is the offspring of false precepts of later Avestan and Pahlavi periods.

As the day dawns the prince and the pauper pray to their Creator to send them sufficient means of livelihood. One morning we were in the garden when a beggar came by and my son gave him a paisa. He turned towards the sun and with the coin lifted heavenwards he stood full five minutes in silent meditation. In other words he sent up a heartfelt prayer to God to be equally benevolent throughout the day so that the day's earnings could sustain his hearth and home.

A mobed's livelihood ceremonies he performs. morning prayer would be monies to fall to his lot. way. We are responsible sustaining our priest class depends solely upon the It is but natural that his a pleading for many cere- For him there is no other for this unethical mode of

In this imperfect world man often experiences imbalance, irregularity and injustice. Social justice is not impartial or infallible. The innocent suffer and the guilty enjoy. The good endure pain and the [211] bad are happy. Such things are common. It is because of this that Spitama Zarathushtra and the prophets after him teach the law of reward and retribution,-that 'as a man sows so shall he reap'. For the masses such a hope, such consolation or threat and fear are essential The dilinquents of society are deterred from evil-doing because of the fear of the country's laws or a society's disapproval. But, the nobler members of society know that to break the law is a dishonour to humanity and so are worthy citizens of society. Whereas a large majority try to lead a good life just to save themselves from society or to earn a reward in the next world, pious men and saints do not value a morality that seeks reward and do not mould their lives according to those precepts. They are good for the sake of goodness itself — truthful because of truth — pious for the sake of piety. They do not deem it great to be good and true just for the sake of reward. The bribery of rewards and the threat of the stick is for a child. The loving mother cajoles her child that if he is good, he will be given chocolates but if he is naughty he will not be given a new set of clothes. Even so are the masses tempted by heaven's happiness into following the right path. They keep away from wrong merely through fear of hell's suffering. Enlightened men and women are above such a common code of morality.

To contrive to purchase the fruits of heaven through ceremonies instead of self-endeavour is definitely wrong; but even to attempt to accumulate individual happiness through good deeds or to seek salvation, making it the aim and end of life — to live merely in constant preparation of it — is not the highest ideal. That is self-centredness — selfishness. Asho Zarathushtra holds before us the perfect ideal that a neighbour's salvation is our salvation — the salvation of self lies in the salvation of mankind. The world is imperfect. It is [212] imperfect in every field of life — be it physical, mental, moral, social or religious. Man's purpose is to steer it towards perfection. The perfected world, the perfected man — that is his salvation. To work for the progress of mankind — to seek its perfection and its salvation through a life of sacrifice and service — that alone is the religion of the individual. His salvation lies in that. In the Gathas Spithama Zarathushtra prays: "May we be the perfectors of the world, O Ahura Mazda".

All the minor and major Zoroastrian ceremonies are summed up in the combined prayers of the Yajashne, Visparad and Vendidad. Various ceremonies contain extracts from these prayers. The greatest ceremony is known as the Hama Yasht. It costs approximately Rs.25001- to Rs. 3000/-. In this 144 Yajashnes and 144 Vendidads are recited. The Devajadeh Hamayasht costs twice the sum and lasts for 264 days and an equal number of prayers are recited.

If we were to express an unbiased opinion about the Vendidad which is considered the most important book on ceremonials, it can be stated that there is nothing like prayer or ceremony in it. Its 22 chapters contain completely irrelevent topics like the principal cities of Iran, King Jamshed, agriculture, taxation, systems of disposal of the dead, defilement, purification, Bareshnum, physicians dues, social and economic laws, regulations regarding comfort and happiness, punishment ranging from 50 whippings to 10,000, other military crimes, care of dogs, customs of cutting the hair or nails and reciting prayers prior to burying them, pregnancy, menstruation, confinement, narration about Ahriman's torment of Zarathushtra, Mantras to cure illnesses, etc. And yet [213] the community squanders, lakhs of rupees every year over these supposedly incomparable prayers of the Vendidad.

Fifty years ago when I commenced writing my first book (Ravan ni Rahabari) "Guidance of the Soul," — in the hope that Ahura Mazda may direct my pen and my thoughts, I had this ceremony performed through sheer ignorance. That was the first and last time.

My illusion that ceremonies fulfil desires in this mortal world and save the soul in the spiritual realm, is now dispelled.

[214]

Chapter XXI

ACCEPTED ETHICS AS THE HIGHEST RELIGION

Where there is righteousness there is religion. They were born together and they exist side by side. One is secular, the other sacred. Both have the same mission. Morality moulds man's character. Religion designs man's destiny for the spiritual existence. Character makes man worthy of a seat beside the saints. His spiritual status gives him a place with the angels in the other world. Man himself creates a code of ethics. Man makes religion also, but the heralds of heaven — God's own messengers — perfect it. Yet man does not hesitate to undermine it.

Rightly did wise Sophoceles say 2500 years ago in Greece that, to lead the chariot of his life to safety, two bulls named Morality and Religion have been attached to it. Thus will they be attached, to the Day of Judgment.

'No man is an island' — he cannot live a life of solitude. Man is a gregarious animal. For a peaceful existence, cooperation, coordination and codes have been essential from the beginning. Man continues to fashion such laws as he lives and learns. The Greek philosopher, Plato, tells us that even a gang of thieves cannot survive unless it abides by the ethics of its group. Morality is imperative in their dealings with one another, their loyalty to each other, the fairness in the distribution of stolen treasures, etc. Instead of being faithful to his clan, if one betrays it to suit his own selfish ends, the entire tribe is ruined.

Morality means the sum total of man's behaviour. It has two aspects. One compasses day-to-day living according to the times, conditions, and customs of a country. The other reflects the [215] eternal verities of life. The English word 'morality' is akin to the word 'mores' which means 'customs'. Ethics is derived from the Greek term 'ethos' which means 'custom'. Man's everlasting virtue 'truth', is the unchanging aspect of righteousness. Examining the history of the progress of ethics we find that what is considered just and honest in a certain clime or a certain country is regarded unfair and improper elsewhere or in another age. Let us take a few examples. 'Sacred prostitution' was aligned with many religions of the world for generations. On particular religious festivals people would collect from various towns and villages to participate in ceremonies and pujas on a large scale. On such occasions all barriers between the prince and the pauper, or the wealthy and highborn were set aside, and all men were recognized as equal devotees of God. At such times each was f~ee to choose his own pleasure-the princess with the pauper, or the mistress with her servant. Nothing was considered immoral on such religious occasions — on the contrary it was deemed a sacred religious rite. Such uncouth practices ended with increasing enlightenment.

In the East and the. West, when the religious leader was considered a representative of the 'devata' -- a portion and essence of it, -- many such queer practices were prevalent. In certain places, even in this civilized age, there was a custom that the bride should spend the first night of her marriage with the spiritual head of the clan. An idea of this can be gleaned from the 'Maharaj libel case' which was conducted in Bombay against Karsan- das Mulji, the reformist editor of the 'Satya Prakash' a co-paper of Dadabhoy Naoroji's 'Rast Goftar'.

For generations concubinage was common in all the nations of the world. Society did not frown upon it and in some religious books it has been mentioned candidly.

[216] Slavery was prevalent throughout the world. Men and women were sold like cattle or commodities of trade, and labour was exacted from them. Even a philosopher like Aristotle did not consider it improper. Slavery was abolished in the new age.

The practice of polyandry came to an end as knowledge advanced. Even today the custom of one man taking many wives exists. Those who are against it, find it immoral. Those who believe in it, think there is nothing wrong about it. Time does its own work and if God wills it, the practice of polygamy and even bigamy will be adjudged equally immoral. Morality progresses along such lines.

Truth, honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, benevolence, mercy. large-heartedness, goodness, virtue, diligence contentment, service, these are the eternal and abiding facets of ethics. The founders of religions, through meditation, devotion, prayer, ceremony and the eternal virtues, strive to make man self respecting and a devotee of God. On the strength of society man frames a code of ethics. God's messengers reveal them through the strength of spiritual authority. Society punishes social transgressions — even so do the spiritual law-givers mete out justice according to man's good and evil deeds and his soul gets its just reward.

Religion points to purity and unblemished morality. Living in an environment of changing morals man is groping towards the eternal verities of life; he nce, it is but natural that there is a comingling of the transitory with the permanent values. He begins to raise his embellishments and his traditions to the level of the eternal truths. As time passes and more light dawns on him, and his emotions are more refined, he will begin to realize his error. He will then renounce customs; he will break the chains of illusion. Then only will [217] the religious conflicts between man and man be resolved and one Religion will be born of various religions.

The Rishis, Zarathushtra. Moses, Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Jesus, Mohammed — all have from time immemorial and in various places given different names to the one Creator of the Universe. They have called Him Brahma, Ahura Mazda, Jehova, God, Allah. All will, with one accord and with united hearts and an enlightened vision accept this unique, fundamental and all-embracing religion.

In my studies at the university philosophy was my 'second minor' subject and ethics as a subsidary. Philosophy is a close companion of all the religions of the world. The prophets of the world, through intuition and inspiration explain the underlying secrets of God and his angels, the world of the spirit, the origin and immortality of the soul, the future life, heaven, hell, the Day of Judgment, etc. This field of philosophy is known as 'Abstract Metaphysics'.

Besides this, as a handmaid of religion, it also develops the art of living. This aspect of its work is known as 'moral philosophy. I was more attracted to this facet of philosophy. I considered it more practical, useful and valuable than the nectar of the immortality of the soul. In my syllabus the study of both these branches of philosophy was compulsory. The first I studied un-willingly, where.;. as the second had my whole-hearted attention and dedication. For this reason, I favoured Confucius, the philosopher-prophet of China of the 6th cen.. tury B.C. and the Greek philosopher, Socrates, 500 B.C. Confucius has said "Respect the spirits but keep them at a distance". The purport of his teach" ing was that, instead of continuously striving to [218] solve imaginary problems like man's origin and his future, it is better to study the ethics of simple, straight forward and pure Jiving.

With reference to Socrates, Cicero writes in the century before Christ that Socrates brought philqsophy from the etherial heavens to solid earth and became the founder of a truly ~ssential moral philosophy. To him the success of philosophy lay in making man honest and virtuous and leading him along the pathway of purity.

During my four years' study of philosophy at the Columbia University, beginning from the philosophy of Thalis (600 B.C.) and Hereclites to Hogel and Schopenhaeur of the last century, I gave a place of priority to their moral philosophy.

Thenceforth the ideal all-encompassing moral guiding star. of a complete and an philosophy became my

[219]

Chapter XXII

CHOSE THE PATH OF DEVOTION

Food satisfies physical hunger; the hunger of the mind is appeased by knowledge and noble thoughts. The soul too, has a hunger all its own. Traditional religion and ceremonial religion could not appease the hunger of my soul. They could not quench its thirst. The heart dies if it is starved, it cannot exist if it is parched, it cannot remain vacant; it cannot exist in a void. Love alone can quench the thirst of the heart. Without love it perishes. The heart craves for human love. The soul is athirst for divine love.

Ritualistic and ceremonial religions are external, alien, foreign. They give promise of vain miracles through ceremonies. The soul needs something deep and abiding. The soul is not satisfied by offerings of consecrated flowers and fruits. It is always longing for an offering of love and devotion. All is incomplete if the love-link between God and man has not been forged.

Zarathushtra's religion of the Gathas is a religion of devotion. Zarathushtra is the devotee of Ahura Mazda. Zarathushtra sacrifices his own life and soul. He offers to His maker the sum and substance of his existence. Zarathushtra tells us that he who makes an offering of the divine love of his soul to Ahura Mazda is the true devotee — the true Zarathosti.

The words commonly used to express communion with God are 'to worship Him' 'to adore Him', 'to honour Him'. These words convey a sense of separation between the Creator and His devotee. To fold hands, to touch the feet, to bow down are signs of respect and reverence. They give an idea of the continuity of the tradition a I respect between [220] the master and the servant. the king and his subjects. But the words, to see God, to reach Him, to meet Him, to embrace Him — these express love. They clearly manifest the direct and durable link between man and his Maker. The veil between them is rent assunder. Love joins their hands and unites their hearts and makes them one.

Zarathushtra calls Ahura Mazda his Friend. Through the gift of the good mind, through concentration and through a pure life, each one can be Ahura Mazda's friend. Zarathushtra introduces Ahura Mazda as the friend, brother and father of the good and the noble. Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda for the help that a brother gives to a brother.

Zarathushtra wishes that those who accept his faith may ever strive to attain and assimilate Armaiti — the Vedic Armaiti or the spirit of devotion. He says that those who greet Armaiti are made pure in heart. He teaches us that the noblest prayer of the aspirant is: "Armaiti's devotion be mine; may she become my very own; through her may I reach Ahura Mazda."

Man asks his Maker for innumerable gifts- gifts of cattle and corn, comfort and wealth, pros- perity and progress, success and fame, happiness and health, longevity and loving progeny and many a blessing. People believe that Ahura Mazda is pleased with man's staunch adherence to customs and traditions and gives him all that he asks for. Zarathushtra asks not for alms but for the giver of alms himself. Rather than receive gifts he prays for the giver that lurks behind the gift. In the Gathas, the words that frequently flow from his sacred lips are '0, Ahura Mazda, I seek but a glimpse of thee. I long to look through thee, to think through thee and to converse with thee. I crave to know thee, to reach thee, to be by thy side. I am athirst for thy divine love.

[221] The noblest desire that he infuses in us is: 'Oh, Ahura Mazda, may we enjoy your everlasting bliss and your constant companionship. Come to us, greet us, make us your channel, be a part of us. May we see you through our own pure life, surround you, be with you, enjoy your abiding friendship and love you ever'. There is no need for an intermediary — the assistance of an ambassador is unnecessary — no offering is called for at the feet of the King of kings. This, then, is the religion of devotion — the religion of Zarathushtra.

References to the above-mentioned devotional religion can be found in Zarathushtra's own Gathas composed in poetic form and from the eighth chapter of the Yasne Haptanga Haiti written in prose in the ancient Gathic language by his fol10wers and from a few verses of the Yasne. It cannot be traced in the later Visparad, Yashts and Vandidad. These revised versions are a mixture of Zarathushtra's basic precepts and the rilualistic and ceremonial religion of the Indo-Iranians. In India the Indo-Iranian religion survived amongst the Aryans and progressed. Philosophy, the companion of religion, developed. Beginning from the Bhagvad Gita it continued to create devotional literature through Chaitanya, Valabhacharya, and others on to Tagore of present time. It was not so in Iran. Traditional and ceremonial religions prevented this issue. In the vast Pahlavi literature which was born after Avesta, there is no trace of it. Nor has it a place in Pazand prayers except in the verses that have been derived from the Avesta.

After the Muslims conquered Zoroastrian Iran, many Zoroastrians who were converted to Islam, contributed a valuable share in composing precious Arabic and Persian literature. The Sufis have r.omposed a vast devotional literature in the Persian language.

[222] In the 17th century, Dastur Azar Kaivan and tlis companions who migrated from Iran to India lived like Hindu Yogins and Muslim Sufis. Many of their writings are in Persian, but they do not contain devotional literature. In the Monajats composed in Persian some attempts seem to have been made.

After Zarathushtra and a few of his disciples, devotional literature is not to be found in Zoroastrian Iran nor has Zoroastrian India created any.

I now turned to Zarathushtra's ancient religion of devotion. I held before me the ideal of devotional religion as my direct link with Ahura Mazda and made it my life-long religion.

[223]

Chapter XXIII

NO ATTRACTION FOR MYSTICISM

Traditional religion and ceremonial religion are of a kind. Society fosters them. Devotional religion and mysticism are of another class. They are individualistic religions. They differ from the way in which society demands the continuity of traditions and ceremonies. Mysticism is the individual's revolt against such social harassment and barren rationalism.

Man has an investigating mind. He has unfolded many a secret of life and the universe by his periodical discoveries since ancient times and has gained much from such researches and nurtured them to maturity. From its infancy mankind has had an awareness of the existence of another world apart from his own, an invisible, idealistic world. From the very beginning man has been in search of this invisible world. Through hypothesis and reasoning, through observation and inference, through intelligence and meditation man has arrived at some knowledge about the immortal and conscious spirit and soul. Together with this, he also imagined the existence of various kinds of angels and demons, gods and goddesses. Beginning with a belief in innumerablA gods he has progressed to faith in a God-head, a Creator, a Saviour, Sustainer, an omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient God. A friend of man, his Father and his Brother, the Spirit of spirits — such is the unique Personal God of the great religions of the world.

Mysticism considers such a rare, individualistic God that has been limited within narrow bounds to be an imperfect God. The divine Being whom man can address as Thee and Thine and pray to, is incomplete. The [224] God that can be qualified is not God at all. The true God can have neither a name nor an identity. He cannot be identified. To speak of Him is to deny Him. It is preferable to be silent when He pervades the mind. If it becomes absolutely necessary to speak to someone while praying or conducti ng a ceremony, the message is relayed through sealed lips. Even that much liberty may not be taken.

Such an unmanifested non-existence that penetrates only the regions of the intellect is the Impersonal God of the mystic.

But man is enamoured of a God who can be his friend, philosopher and guide, his beloved, his sustainer and hIS saviour. He has need of someone who can be his succour in times of difficulty, who can stand by him in sorrow, who can wipe away his tears, and bring solace to his suffering heart; one who can liberate him from the torments of anxiety, bring new hope to the hopeless. Man has need of a God who will lend an ear to his pleadings, forgive him his trespasses, soothe his sinful heart. Man asks for such a merciful, forgiving Father, a friend of the friendless, near though far away, visible though invisible. Man's devotional soul is athirst for God — he longs to be immersed in divine love, his love-lorn heart aches to hold the image of his beloved within himself. As the well-springs of energy run dry he seeks a God who can rejuvenate his love.

An Impersonal God is not such a God. The mystic believes that whatever is derived through the five senses, through the unenlightened intellect, is incomplete. This is not the media for knowing God. It is only possible through the development of some secret sixth sense. Since generations thousands of people have renounced this unreal world of illusion and solicited solitude and through meditation, fasting, penance and [225] self-abnegation have sought union with the one, allpervading and omni-present Reality. In this modern age the number of such sanyasis is on the decrease.

In the history of Zoroastrianism, at no stage do we find any reference to renunciation of the world, penance or mortification of the flesh, or to a monastic life. From the reign of the Parthian dynasty down to the glorious Sasanian period there were numerous monasteries of Christian monks and nuns in the Persian Empire. Great thinkers and mystics like Plotinus, Pophirus and others had been to Iran. Emperor Ardeshir's Prime Minister, Tanser, was a Neo-Platonist. In spite of that, history has not recorded the existence of any Zoroastrian monasteries. Mysticism too, is a sort of unfulfilled urge in the religious life of man. Hence it is just possible that even in Zoroastrian Iran there may have been a handful of such individuals or sects.

In certain verses of the Khordad and Behram Yashts, it is stated that the sacred litanies should be taught by a religious leader to his son only, or by a brother to a brother, and its knowledge should be strictly guarded. Similar passages are found in the later Pahlavi — Pazand Sad Oar also, as well as in the Upanishads of the Hindus.

Together with mysticism there have also been Mystery Religions. When Cambyses conquered Egypt he expressed a desire to join the Mystery sect of the goddess Naiti. Such sects existed in Babylonia also. St. Paul states that such esoteric knowledge is to be kept secret for the initiate only.

When 'moon-worship' came to Europe, its followers were initiated into the secrets of Mithraism. They conducted their ceremonies in secret within caves or behind closed doors. The aspiring [226] occultist underwent various types of mortification of the flesh. Some slight idea of this can be had in the Meher Yasht itself.

However, there is no reference to large numbers of people in Iran renouncing the world and going into "maths" and "ashrams" in the forests to seek hidden knowledge through intuition rather than through intellect.

Righteous and enlightened Zoroastrian men and women did not become monks or nuns.

We have reason to believe that such sects were consjdered exotic, alien and un-Zoroastrian.

We learn from Mohsin Fani, a Persian writer of Dabistan, that in the 17th century there lived some Zoroastrian mystic dasturs and mobeds in Sind and the Punjab, who followed the doctrines of Hindu Yogis and Muslim Sufis. Parsi history of those times makes no reference to them. The geneology of mobed families has been compiled and recorded very carefully since generations. No trace can be found in these records about those Zoroastrian mystics as they were considered to be people outside the Zoroastrian fold.

Since very early days I have been opposed to the idea of renouncing the world, of fearing the challenges of life and going into seclusion to attain individual salvation instead of living in this world and gleaning the lessons of life and being moulded by its many and varied experiences. Even before leaving India I had written some articles on this subject and had delivered a few lectures.

The life of a true Zoroastrian is not for himself alone. He does not live for himself nor should he concentrate entirely upon his own salvation. To seek one's own individual liberation is selfish. Man is destined to live in this imperfect world, to [227] wage continuous war against its imperfections and to participate in its progress towards perfection. Man fulfils only half his obligation by saving himself from vice and pursuing the path of virtue. The remaining half of his duty is to radiate goodness around him and to lend a hand to those who have been entangled in the net-work of evil. This unfulfilled, his obligation remains incomplete. Man is Ahura Mazda's soldier in the battlefield of life — in the fight for goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, virtue over vice, that is being carried on continuously in the world. It is his sacred duty to abolish ignorance, injustice, immorality and poverty and to lead mankind and not to seek God in solitude for himself alone. To live with people, for people, in the service of people and to help humanity to reach Ahura Mazda is his goal. On the Day of Judgment Ahura Mazda will perfect this imperfect world and man has to be His cooperator and His companion.

In the first year of my course in philosophy I began to study the History of Philosophy Before going to America I had read much about mysticism in the East and in the West. At the Columbia University I got a special opportunity of studying neo-Platonism and Christian Mysticism. In spite of that my opinion against mysticism remained as firm as it was years ago.

[228]

Chapter xxiv

MY ANTAGONISM FOR WESTERN CULTURE TURNED TO AMITY

A hundred years ago Dadabhoy Naoroji and his compatriots sipped the nectar of western culture and stepped forth into the world. Modern western education and all who belonged to the West began to be declaimed and denounced from all quarters. Our community qualified these newly-educated youths as 'waifs of society' and scorned the education they had acquired as anti-religious, dangerous, and materialistic. Parsis were not alone in thus demeaning the West. Sister communities also added their voice to it. In fact they were even more vociferous than we were.

Just as people consider their own religion to be perfect, ultimate and the only true faith, or their race as God's chosen and choicest race, or their country as superior to all other countries, even so do they think that their own culture is incomparaable and supreme. It is commonly acknowledged that Hindu philosophy, literature and culture are of a very high order. But our Hindu brethren are not content with that. They proclaim repeatedly that God has ordained their culture for the whole world, and that mankind must ultimately accept it. With regard to the West some of their scholars openly write even today that God has appointed the East to guide the West and to fashion it according to its own image. If the West is good and wise and obedient enough to follow in her footsteps it will be happy, otherwise it will reap nothing but pain and sorrow. Everywhere it was written and spoken that the East was religious whereas the West was irreligious and atheistic; that the East was virtuous, : the West full of vice. The East was deemed [229] spiritualistic while the West was materialistic. It was also glibly declared that for these very reasons God in His wisdom had contrived to make the East the birth-place of air the prophets and of all the religions. In all matters the East was good — the West was evil.

The Zoroastrian books of later periods have labelled the North as the abode of the devil (Ahriman). The progenitor of evil with his harmful bodyguards is believed to have established himself there. Because of this we do not build our places of worship facing the north. As long as the body of a dead person is in the house, great care is taken that its head is never kept towards the north. A babe's head is never allowed to be turned towards the north while it sleeps. While performing the Kusti prayer, time and again we swish the Kusti to the north and whisk away the evil spirit. We frequently snap our fingers to the north and scare away this demon.

I had grown from childhood to manhood listening to such tirades against the sinful West. Hence, on reaching adulthood I too would shroud the West in darkness and oftentimes, in a fit of heroism, was not afraid to flaunt at it in imagination. When everyone everywhere wreaked vengence upon western culture, it must surely be a hideous monster. In truth, I had not the faintest notion of its features, form or figure or of its qualities and characteristics. We blindly imitate what everyone does. Hence, like an unthinking member of a driven flock, I too believed that the West had caused naught but destruction.

Now, for the first time in my life, viewing it, listening to it, studying it, pondering upon it, I tried to understand systematically the culture of the West.

[230] About five thousand years ago the Aegian Islands were inhabited by white people. They had learnt their first crafts and skills from the Egyptians and the Hittites. Crete was their centre of abode and they were known as Cretans. Approximately four thousand years ago, when there were rifts in the Aryan fold and their tribes separated from the main family, one of these came down from the north, founded a home-land midst the Cretans and mingled with them. From this blending inheritance was born the Grecian race. They worshipped the heavenly gods and goddesses of the Aryans, Zeus Deus and also those of the Egyptians and Syrians and cultivated their culture. As happened in the East, thinking men of those places also began to solve the eternal questions of how, why and whither. In this world if evil pain and death did not exist then there would be no need for virtue and religion. This intricate problem of life began to trouble the thinking minds of the East and West alike. People began to question why this God Zeus was so cruel that he should thus exhaust and exasperate mankind. Homer explained to them that there was no purpose in blaming the gods. Man suffers because of his own deeds. To pacify them he added that it was unwise to look at the darker side of life constantly and to be perturbed by meditating upon such thoughts.

When Buddha and Mahavir were spreading their religion in India, Thales and Parmenides were expounding their philosophies in Athens. When the sun was setting on the glory of the Greece of Socrates, Aristotle, the Sophists and other great philosophers, and the star of Rome was ascen ding, slaves like Cicero, Seneca and Epictetus or their Emperor Marcus Aurelius and others became the fountain-heads of philosophy. The stoics taught that we should be virtuous for the sa ke of [231] virtue alone and not in the hope of a future heaven. They were the first to hold up before mankind the supreme ideal of being a citizen of the world and not of anyone country.

In the West the first glimmerings of philosophy were in Greece. Its great philosophers were always keen and eager to glean knowledge from whichever source it could be found. They were always anxious ~o drink the nectar of knowledge that flowed from the East. With deep humility they would inculcate Zoroastrianism and Judaism, and from the Brahmins, Egyptians, Babylonian and learned men of various nations who assembled at Alexandria, they borrowed whatever was worth knowing, worth studying. Later this famous culture of the West merged with the Christian tenets of love and mercy. After that Western culture was influenced by Mithraism and Manichaeism which had their birth in Parthian and Sasanian Iran and which spread in the West for many centuries. "Lux de l'Orient" — 'Light from the East' — has become proverbial in the West since generations. Western culture flourished on the same universal wisdom.

Thus whatever was encompassed in religion and righteousness in the East was also present in the West. If the East was well-versed in the path of knowledge, the path of devotion and the path of duty, the West was capable of matching it at all levels. If the East had mysticism, the West was not void of it. If the East had sanyasins, sadhus, sadhvis, yogins, yoginis, brahmacharis and brahmacharinis, the West was not lacking in any of them. If there were a handful of materialists in the West, there were some in the East as well. If there were evil-doers and evil-thinkers in the West, there were some in the East too. If there were lunatics and sinners in the West, they could be found in equal measure in the East also. The East was not the sanctuary of religion. The West was [232] not insolvent in religion. Both were equally religious. Neither was more religious than the other.

In fact we must confess that in certain matters the West has proved better than the East, To utter profanities is mankind's weakness. Yet the profane utterances of the West are not as common or as disgusting and unclean as those of the East. Eastern profanities involve all the fema1e relatives. The west is free of such a stigma.

The seventeenth century heralded a new era. The old was rolled out, the new was rolled in. New knowledge changed everyone's angle of thinking in all things.

At the same time it was all-embracing — all encompassing. It threw new light, new interest, new vitality on man's physical, spiritual, social, political and economic life. It was the starting-point of man's individual existence. Mankind was beginning to form a new social pattern.

By the grace of God the dawn of the Renaissance was in the West.

In the world of knowledge, the opinion of Aristotle, the wisest sage of the West, was considered infallible in all matters. If there was a fresh discovery, or if an opinion was expressed against a traditional belief, the question would at once be asked: "What has Artistotle to say about it? If he has not written about a certain subject then it is not worth debating." The history of religion tells us that a religious person, too has to pass through the same test. Some of our orthodox friends behave in a manner that would seem ridiculous in this twentieth century. Supporting their statements on a sentence in an ancient Pazand writing they declare: "Whatever is absent from the Avesta is non-existent." In other words all that is worth [233] knowing in the world is included in the Avesta of the Parsis.

In the West were born Descarte, Bacon, Hobbes, Hume, Locke and others who viewed learning and scholarship from a new angle. Bacon's advice was to leave la priori speculation' and to follow the experimental method. New discoveries continued, unseen and unknown things became apparent. The discovery of the law of evolution enabled men to look at life with a new vision. Everyone's attention turned towards our living, vibrant world. This earned for itself the epithet of materialism and the culture of the West came to be known as a materialistic culture.

In olden days our earth was said to be the centre of the Universe. Science proved the fallacy of this concept and informed us that there are myriads of planets like and even greater than ours. From time immemorial it was considered that the sun revolved round the earth. The new science proved this to be false. Since ages many things were wrongly explained as supernatural in the name of religion. Now they were clearly understood as natural consequences. The belief that men's illness and sufferings originated through some imaginary evil forces and that these could be brought under control by the recitation of prayers and litanies and cures could be effected by the power of certain feathers, gave way to sound, medical knowledge and science.

Ahura Mazda is the radiance of light. He is light itself. It is through light alone that man progresses. Homes and streets that were once lit by candles and oil-lamps are now made brilliant by electric lights. Historians tell us that in kingly splendour and glory there was none to compare with the court of Emperor Khushro-Parviz. Yet even this renowned Emperor with myriads of lamps [234] and chandeliers could not have turned his royal paface into the fairy-land home of the present. day commonman', .', .'

Transportation is one of man's main media of progress. Beginning with caravans of bullocks and horses and camels, today man travels by land, sea and air.. Emperor Darayas' "postal service" extended for one thousand five hundred miles and he would proudly declare that his postmen carried messages with the speed of birds. A hundred years ago our forefathers sailed from Surat to Karachi in fifteen days. Today it is possible to breakfast in Karachi and fly to Bombay for lunch; if it be a Mosquito Fighter Bomber then Bomba y can be sighted within an hour and a half.

Formerly, when there was a famine in one part of the country and men and cattle would starve to death, at the same time in another part of the country a huge quantity of grain wou1d be lying waste. Before a caravan could convey it to the famine-stricken area, thousands of people 'and beasts would perish. Last year there was a severe famine in Bengal. Within days ships brought food from America, ten thousand miles away. When the rich fall ill, talented doctors fly across thousands of miles to treat them.

It seems as if the whole world is at our service today. Sounds and scenes reach us from all the continents of the world. What happened last night a thousand miles away can be read at dawn.

Impatiently our friends question, "What do you mean to convey through all this information? Of what benefit is it to us? All these are mere materialistic changes. Physical comforts increase. What man needs is peace of mind and serenity of soul. All that is lost. Formerly a little sufficed to make us happy. We moved forward at a slow pace but [235] we were content. Western inventions have created a germ in the social structure. Western education has brought disaster everywhere"

What is surprising is that in these accusations of the East against the West, the West itself gives testimony. Why should that be so? The West admits that the new education and the new science of the new generation has changed the course of man's life; that it has enhanced its joys and its comforts in untold measure. But ,in the same breath it adds that it has created fresh problems.

In this age of competition, the good is ent- wined with the bad. In this twentieth century, wherever you turn, the discoveries of science have brought restlessness, discontent and unemployment. Speed has made man a wanderer — it has disturbed his mental stability. In America, the New World, this is particularly apparent. Nature has provided man with two hands. The machine has given him a myriad hands. Night and day he runs, he flies, just to snatch as much as he can and to accumulate the largest gain. He has not a moment's leisure.

Time accomplishes its own work. It brings in its stride changes to suit conditions. Two thousand years ago, when the population of the five continents was much less and mankind had all the time in the world, our forefathers could afford to move about in bullock carts at a leisurely pace of twelve miles in twelve hours. How can this fit in with the extremely busy life of the two billion population of the present world? Four hundred years ago it took a whole year for our questions on religious matters to reach our co-religtonists in Iran and to receive a reply from them. News of the death of dear ones across the seas reached us after six months. We were completely ignorant of what was going on in the world. Can we afford to [236] regress to that condition? Can we live today with- out the morning newspaper, without the teleprinter information of world news, wi thout the telephone, the telegraph, the wireless, the railway, the steamship, the aeroplane and the innumerable modes of speedy transportation? These have become necessities toda,"

Throu!~h his immortal Gathas Asho Zarathush- tra has taught us that contentment is the quintessence of life. Contentment is the harbinger of happiness. Discontent brings sorrow. Man is a creature of desires. The fulfilment of desires gives contentment; when unfulfilled it causes discontent. Science and machinery have opened new venues for man's happiness, comfort and ease. Man craves for all these. All cannot get everything. It is certain that each can get much more than what is obtained at present. But the selfish and avaricious economic structure of ~iociety is so unjust, so one-sided, that a few people get a great deal, a great mamf get very little and some get less than little.

It is said that the culture of the West has impaired tt!e course of life and that the foundations of social morality have been shaken. This is a matter of grave concern. It needs a candid answer and it will be gladly given. The new age has not only ushered in science and machinery but has brought in infinitely more. It has heralded a complete change in the life of man. Bacon, an outstanding pioneer of the new age declares: "Begin from the beginning." And man, in the new age, has begun his career afresh.

For the first time in history man attained individual freedom through the Rebellion and Constitutional Revolution in Englarld in the seventeenth century and the American DE!claration of [237] Independence and the French Revolution in the eighteenth century. Men attained it first. Today women are a1so enjoying its fruits..

With the invention of machinery and the dis- covery of gunpowder and the compass, the West gained supremacy over many countries and enslaved the East. The raw material of the East began to pour into the West, and western mills and factories turned it into finished products which found a ready market in the East. There was a great demand for labour and with the idea that if women earned side by side with men the family income woufd be supplemented, women began to forsake their household duties and stepped out to earn. Then came female education and educated women started working in offices and gradually began to do whatever was entirely within man's field upto that time. In western countries thousands of women got jobs in business firms and government offices, in hotels, restaurants, shops stores and in various other places. The Minister of the Home Depart.;. ment of Ramsay Macdonald's labour Government once declared publicly that one of the causes of the country's unemployment was that women had started competing with men for jobs and had appropriated many fields of employment. Thus, naturally family ties loosened. Economic strength made women independent. Opining that marriage was a yoke. girls began to evade the responsibitity' of a married life as formerly young men had don~. Thi~ naturally affected the morality of a nation.

Time and again it has been said or written that we should not imitate the West but should we be obliged to borrow from it, the good should be inculcated and the evil avoided. Female education found its way into our lives. At fi rst we strongly opposed it. Eventu,ally common sense prevailed and in our country fema1e education "made its debut [238] in our community and later in the sister communities. Today in the Parsi community many girls graduate every year. Fifty or sixty years ago a few took up the teaching profession an d some became doctors or nurses. Now conditions have changed. The number of educated girls as typists, private secretaries and clerks is on the increase. Mankind progresses and, in normal circumstances, continues its onward march at a slow stride. But when some abnormal conditions arise, its speed is 'suddenly accelerated. During the last Great World War many unforeseen things happened. New venues of large and small earnings opened up for women and advantage was taken in all fields. In Karachi alone during the six war years approximately a hundred young girls of our community got jobs in military offices earning from Rs. 30/- to Rs. 300/- a month. In Bombay and in other places girls began to work in greater numbers not only in their own home-towns or cities but they lived and worked alone hundreds of miles away from their homes. The horizon of girls has widened. They have become courageous and independent. The war has ended, but the altered outlook on life has come to stay. In our community marriages are on the decline. The younger generation of the community does not seem eager to shoulder the responsibility of a married life. This has definitely posed a serious question and affected the morality of the community.

Everywhere the awakened East is widening its mental horizons. As it educates its men, it educates its women also. Men's temperament and characteristics are alike everywhere. Therefore, whatever influences of good and ill that higher education of women have had in the West, are beginning to be felt in the East as well. But, because of that, will anyone dare to say that the East should suppress female education? Will that be a wise decision?

[239] Today the weaker sex has become the strong sex. In the history of mankind this is an unprecedented event. It has turned the tide of the social and moral concepts of all advanced nations. Then how can we escape from its clutches?

It is true, that what we term as western culture and western education has originated in the West; but, as we have seen, fundamentally, from the spiritual standpoint, there is nothing wrong with western culture. The merging of ancient western culture with the knowledge and science of the modern age commenced in the West and it has come to us in its elaborated form. Western culture means the culture of the new age. Neither we nor our sister communities can scorn what this new age of knowledge and science and machinery has offered us and is still offering through this new culture. It is imperative that we become a part of this new culture, and of its progress in knowledge and science. At the same time, to meet the demands of the industrial age, it is necessary for us and for everyone to change the pattern of our lives to suit existing times and conditions. We have to go hand in hand with the march of time and assimilate it.

In a population of forty crore we are a microscopic minority of a hundred and twenty-five thousand all told which can easily be accommodated in a tiny corner of this beloved land. Due to unfortunate circumstances we have not been able to preserve our culture in its totality. Without drinkIng at the fountain of an advanced culture it is not possible to live a full and complete life.

At present three great cultures are fashioning the destiny of our country. It is twelve hundred years since we settled in Gujarat, the home of our tndo-iranian Hindu cousins. Yet, hardly twelve hundred of our men and women are able to read or [240] understand or benefit by words written in their chaste language. Another great culture is of our Muslim brethren. Its precious and invaluable treasure lies hidden in the Persian literature which took birth in ancient Iran. But we can barely write Persian. That leaves only the culture of the new age which comes from the West. To cull the essence of a culture so as to enlighten our minds and to refresh our hearts, a very sound knowledge of the language is needed. Since the last hundred years we have been able to acquire a fairly sound knowledge of the English language. Thousands of our boys and girls have been able to attain and to imbibe the knowledge of the whole world and of all ages thanks to the English language of this western culture.

My four years of intensive study at the Columbia University have taught me to witness and to understand that the western culture of the twentieth century does not mean the culture of anyone of the four directions of the world nor of only one of the continents of the earth, but it is a world- culture belonging to the new age — the newest, the latest, all-embracing, universal and fully experimented.

Henceforth I abstained from accusing without reason the culture of the West. I began to admire it and to view it with affection.

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Chapter xxv

FROM NEW YORK TO INDIA VIA LONDON

In those days the larger and faster steamers of the White Star Co., which plied between England and America spanned the distance between Liverpool and New York within seven or eight days, while smaller and slower vessels took nearly eleven or twelve days. The rates of the latter were lower. Besides, their first and second class cabins had varying rates. The 2nd Class had divisions of A, B, C, D and E, so the prices of those cabins ranged respectively, the rates of the E division being the least. I voyaged in the fifth division of the S.S. 'Homrick', reaching Liverpool on the thirteenth day and thence by train to London where I resided at a small hotel;

During my stay in New York, Shapurji Saklatvala had been transferred to the London Office of Tata & Sons. Within a short period of his stay in London he married an English lady and a son was born to them. On hearing of my arrival in London they came at once to my hotel and informed me that arrangements for my accommodation had been made in their own home and they took me there. I was to live in London for about a month.

When Dr. E. West, the famous student of the Pahlavi language, died his precious manuscripts in the Iranian language were handed over to the library of the India Office. Through Prof. Jackson I had been entrusted with the job of listing and cataloguing the colophons etc. of these manuscripts. I was aware that Americans were more advanced than Europeans in the application of scientific researches to enhance the joys and comforts of everyday living. I was beginning to get some practical experience of this. The system of central heating prevalent in all public and private buildings [242] in New York was non-existent in the grand building of the India Office Library attached to the parliament. In America, even if it were snowing outside and the temperature had fallen 12 or 15 below zero and it was unbearably cold outside, hot steam could raise the room temperature to 70 or 75. A coal fire was constantly kept burning in the room where I was working, but the heating system that I had enjoyed in New York was lacking here. Within three weeks all my work was completed and the catalogue of the manuscripts which I had prepared was published in the booklets of the Royal Asiatic Society.

There was a tremendous change in the Sha- purji that I had seen in 1905 when I left Bombay and the Shapurji of 1908. This change was apparent not only in his dress and demeanour but also in his thinking. European attire had taken the place of his deep fentah (headgear) and long, loose dagla (coat). His bushy beard and long moustaches had disappeared for ever. I had known him as a ritualist. He had a special inclination towards Christianity. Now he had become an atheist. H is beliefs in heaven or hell had definitely abated, but now he even found amusement in challenging the existence of God. His views on politics had also altered. He had become a socialist. To see such a vast change in such a short span of time was surprising indeed.

The Indian nation was illiterate, ignorant and uneducated. It was not conscious of its political rights. It had not yet awakened. After reading the works of Burke and Mill and Macaulay and studying the freedom-fights of the West our sons of the East came forward for the first time about the middle of the last century. Then, like the western nations, they too began to demand a voice in the government of their country. After discussing and passing resolutions in the annual sessions of [243] the Indian National Congress established in 1885, they presented their legitimate demands to the government. The systematic fight for political freedom in the West depended completely on the sup~ port of the people behind these movements and their effectiveness was due to strong public opinion. The National Congress was working for the masses, but it did not work with the masses. As lawyers plead the cases of their clients in courts of law, even so did our patriots send requisitions to the government and year after year passed resolutions with laudable and indefatigable perseverance and forwarded them to the ruling authorities. A few thousand educated people held brief for the crores of illiterates, without involving them, without awakening them, without even caring to press upon the government the sheer strength of their numbers, even though as blind, driven cattle. The government paid no heed to the speeches and writings, of these "briefless barristers." It is said that even one's own mother does not feed the child who does not ask for food. Then how can an alien government be expected to surrender to the feeble cry of a handful of educated people which was not supported by the strong voice of collosal public opinion? Anglo-Indian newspapers ridiculed their requests or scorned them and labelled them as self- appointed, restless representatives of a dumb nation. The government termed their legitimate and moderate demands as thoughtless and exaggerated. They shelved the resolutions and requisitions as fantastic notions of people who try to run before they know how to walk.

All cannot endure such injustice. A new group was formed in the country which revolted against the traditional policy of political struggle, proclaiming it unfit. Unrest was rampant in the Congress camp and in 1907, at the memorable meeting of the Congress at Surat, the representa- tives of the new policy dealt a death-blow to [244] those of old methods. In the history of the country's political struggle the Mehta-era ended and the Tilak-era commenced.

Now there came into existence two parties which were known as the Moderates and the Extremists. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpatrai — collectively called Bal, Pal and Lal — were the leaders of the extremist party at that time. Pal and Lajpatrai together with Khaparde of the Central Provinces, having come into disfavour with the government, had emigrated to England. In Bombay I had seen Shapurjias a member of Pherozesha Mehta's moderate party. Now I saw that he had joined the extremist party. Pal, Lajpatrai and Khaparde met Shapurji at his residence daily. On all these occasions very interesting poritical discussions were carried on and I participated in them eagerly. Older members of the moderate party or national leaders who cooperated with the government were termed parasites and self-seekers by these gentlemen. So long as the Congress remained undivided, the government viewed all its members with equal distrust and doubt. Now that a body of strong-willed extremists had been born out of the Congress Camp, the government began to look upon the moderates as good, wise and balanced. Those who but yesterday were unjustly and unhesitatingly qualified as traitors were now honoured as faithful servants of the crown. To the extent that the government was gracious to the moderates and favoured them, they fell in the esteem of the extremists. Pal and hi~ friends looked upon such moderates as traitors to the country. I did not agree with their opinions, but I learnt a great deal about the political movements of the country through a month's constant discussions with them.

[245]

Shapurji arranged my lecture on "Ancient Iran and its Religion" under the auspices of an organisation of his socialist party. I had noticed in New York that members of the socialist party and labour organisations were indifferent and unconcerned about religion and that they were in open opposition with religious leaders and with any established church. They affirmed that since olden times when capitalists crushed the dependent labolJr class for their own greed and selfishness, the priests always stood by the wealthy and upheld them. It was the same in London. In my lecture I briefly sketched ancient Iranian history, the principal precepts of the Zoroastrian faith and the influence of the Zoroastrian religion on Christianity through Judaism. During the discussions that ensued at the end of the talk an intelligent gentleman remarked that in the world due to the avarice, greed, pride and heartlessness of the rich, the poor have had to suffer a great deal. Instead of teaching people to avenge these wrongs in this world only, religious teachers have done a great disservice to humanity by holding out the vain promise that God would repay in the the next world all injustices and sufferings. In this world whatever the poor have had to suffer has been meted out by nature; whatever God has done is just; He alone understands the mystery of their sufferings, therefore the poor must endure everything with patience and in silence in the hope of future recompense and justice. The poor have' been misled by such teachings of Jesus Christ and they have done injustice to themselves, and instead of fighting against the rich and solving their own problems they have been made to suffer unnecessarily through the ages. He added that he had always blamed Jesus for teaching people to live in the imaginary hope of having wrongs redressed in a future existence but it appears from what the lecturer has stated that the doctrine of reaping the result of good and evil deeds has been handed down to Christianity through the Zoroastrian [246] religion, hence Zarathushtra should be held more responsible than Jesus for the untold hardships of the downtrodden! I replied that man's greatest enemy is man himself. Through avarice, jealousy, enmity, hatred and other vices man has created unhappiness. Religion cannot be held responsible for that. The prophets have always directed man to the path of righteousness and have stopped him from being steeped in selfishness, greed and evil. They have clearly made known to the wealthy their obligations and have given to the poor hope and courage. To the extent that man has disregarded these virtuous commandments, he has spread destruction in the world through :his own pride and prejudices. Innumerable people, enduring hardships midst the seeming inhumanity and injustices of life, have found solace through their abiding faith in a future life of reward and infallible justice. It has brought comfort to those who have shed tears of grief. Rays of hope have dispelled the darkness of despair. They have lightened lives which were being crushed in the grindstone of hardships and have eased many tensions.

I delivered three lectures to the Zoroastrians living in London. At the conclusion of one of those lectures an elderly barrister remarked critically that had such a learned mobed guided the community twenty-five years ago, many an unwise youth would have been prevented from conversion. This evoked some amusement and all glances turned towards a certain gentleman. I came to know later that these remarks had been directed against Rev: Dr. Bhabbha who was in the audience. He had been a Zoroastrian who was converted to Christianity. Rev: Bhabha invited me to tea at his residence. Hinting with good humour at the remarks occasioned by my talk, he spoke with such concern and feeling for the community that I was very favourably impressed by him. Later Shapurji informed me that though Rev: Bhabha was a [247] Christian convert, it would be difficult to find such an ardent well-wisher of the community. When some Parsi youths, coming to England to study, got involved in some trouble, Rev. Bhabha .immediately went to their rescue and rendered silent service to all. He had renounced his faith in his youth, but he did not forget his beloved community. He was always eager to serve his co-religionists in whatever capacity he could.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Mills, the famous professor of the Oxford University, had spent a life-time in the study of Zoroastrian literature and on throwing some light on it. He had become very well- known in our community through the publication, in 1894, of his voluminous book containing English and Latin translations of the sacred Gathas together with English translations of the transliterations of the Gathas in the Pahlavi. Sanskrit and Persian languages. I was invited to be his guest for a day. At that time Prof. Mills was .quite advanced in age. His health was failing, hence he had grown rather irritable. During the course of the day, while taking some medicine or applying some ointment he related the story of his troubles about half a dozen times. Rather than any bodily ailment, he was more perturbed mentally. He had become dissatisfied with life, wearied of life. His bitter complaint was that apart from his scholarly work not being fully appreciated, it was viewed with envy by learned men and ridiculed by them. He believed that German scholars were his worst enemies and this made him very miserable. I had already heard these reports about him in New York. It is possible that there was some truth in these reports and he may have had to suffer injustice from some quarters. Yet, even those who were not opposed to him in any way, although they appreciated his work and his untiring labour, did not greatly commend his works. They said that although his literary grindstone turned night and day and ground a large [248] amount of flour, the product was not sufficiently rich and refined, It is true that quantity is not the criterion of a man's work. It must possess a certain quality. In the learned circles of the West he was known as 'Papa Mills', I once heard a famous Ulema say that Papa Mills writes a great deal, but he writes in such a style that the reader would require a commentator like Sion to understand him. I pacified the good professor and told him that whatever others may say, our community always remembers him with respect and gratitude. He was very happy to hear this.

As my work was over I prepared for my return to India. The committee had sent the amount for my second class passage from Bombay. From that amount I bought Steirgasse's Persian and Monier William's Sanskrit dictionaries for Rs.125j-. Besides these I purchased many other valuable books and from the balance I bought a third class ticket for the steamer. Just as those unfortunate dead who are condemned to the eternal fires of hades cannot go anywhere near the precincts of heaven, third class passengers are prohibited from extending their wretched footsteps towards the happy abode of the first or second class inmates. Because of this I had not set eyes on the co-religionists who were voyaging by first class in my ship. Eight passengers had been crowded into my cabin. Darkness and dirt prevailed there, so most of my time was spent in reading on the deck. On the fifth day after the ship had left the harbour, I was surprised to find that my luggage had taken wings. Someone had worked with such dexterity that all my large and small bags had disappeared. After a short while, about half a dozen kind Zoroastrian ladies and gentlemen rallied around me and 'midst mutual amusement assured me that my luggage was safe and that there should be no anxiety on that score. They added that on scanning the passenger-list they had come to know about me so they [249] had paid the necessary extra amount to the purser and had had my luggage shifted to the higer class, hence I should go there. Later I lectured on Zoroastrian religion on the ship.

On 3rd December 1908 our steamer anchored at Bombay.

Those who aspire for a doctorate of philo- sophy from Columbia University have to write a dessertation. For my subject I published a book entitled, 'Nyaishes or Zoroastrian litanies' and dedicated it to Camaji. Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata had sent the entire cost of printing this book direct from Paris to Jackson. Camaji and other members of the committee — Jeevanji Mody, Sohrabji Warden and Navroji Patuck — expressed great satisfaction with my work at Columbia and declared that the expenditure that the community had incurred on my education had been well worth it.

For a long time Camaji had harbourd a hope that a dasturship of the community be established in a growing and very promising city like Karachi. .!t had a very bright future. Our co-religionists had left Gujarat and settled in various places. Of these, the Parsi settlement of Karachi was the most prosperous. In economic status Karachi was second only to Bombay and the communal population increased every year. Not restricting their area to Karachi alone, Camaji and Jeevanji were endeavouring to draw Sind, Baluchistan and the Punjab into their purview. They had started working on this two or three months prior to my return to India and had started correspondence with leading people of these places. The committee had arranged a function for me in Bombay and the Hon'ble Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy presided over it. On that occasion he made a joint appeal to the Zoroastrians of Sind, Baluchistan and the Punjab to establish a new dasturship for that part of the sub-continent and to [250] nominate me as its Dastur. According to information given by Camaji and Jeevanji, from amongst Zoroastrians outside Karachi, Khan Bahadur Burjorji Patel, C.I.E., a leading co-religionist of Quetta, was taking a great deal of interest in this matter. The committee's suggestion was that a seat for a dastur for that part of the country be established at Karachi on a monthly emolument of Rs. 150/- and the Zoroastrians of Sind, Baluchistan and the Punjab should help Karachi to meet this expenditure. It appears that the committee was not as successful in its endeavour as it had anticipated. I am not aware who contributed towards the Dastur Fund from outside Karachi, but I do know that K. B. Patel sent his contribution directly to the Anjoman for a number of years. Later he stopped this practice, but whenever he came he never failed to give me a generous personal gift. He continued to do this to the end of his life. No direct link was forged between the Anjomans of Sind, Baluchistan and the Punjab and the Dastur of Karachi. Yet, since the committee had once started a public movement under the joint auspices of the three provinces; because the Karachi Anjoman continued to receive minor contributions from each of these three provinces for some time; as the Karachi Anjoman had, as per the request of the Bombay Anjoman, opened the Dasturship Maintenance Fund in the name of the Dastur of Sind, Baluchistan and the Punjab and, as all the correspondence had been carried on in that name, a false nomenclature was given by calling the Dastur of Karachi, the Dastur of Sind, Baluchistan and the Punjab.

The enterprising co-religionist of Karachi, Khan Bahadur Nusserwanjee R. Metha, had sent Rs. 1,800/- to the committee with a request that, while returning from America to India, I should go to Iran en route and visit the historical places there. As four years had elapsed since I had left the shores of India, I postponed going to Iran for [251] some future date. Since the laudable work of the Bombay committee was completed, it was being dissolved, so it sent this amount to the Karachi Anjoman to give it to me whenever I decided to go to Iran. Besides this, Sir (then Mr.) Hormusji Ardeshir Wadia had handed over to the committee Rs. 1,200/- at the rate of Rs. 50/- per month for two years, stating that should there be no immediate means of livelihood, a monthly stipend could be paid to me from this amount. As the Dasturship of Karachi had been formalized the committee sent this amount also to the Karachi Anjoman to be credited to my Iran fund.

After delivering a series of six lectures in Bombay, I set out with my wife to give two talks at Udvada before returning to Karachi. We were in a third class compartment. Three fashionable Zarthosti boys and one girl entered and settled in the seats opposite ours. As the train steamed out of the station they began to stare at us and with gestures and jokes in English seemed to be amusing themselves at our expense. One of the boys said to his companions in a low voice: "The 'gorani' is up-to-date". We heard this, but with pretended ignorance continued with our own conversation. After some time I felt I too should show my worth. Bringing out my attache case from under the seat I took out a book and placed the bag in my lap in such a manner that they could clearly read the marking of I Dhalla' thereon. There was the expected reaction immediately. The Parsi paper of Bombay had published my arrival from America and my name had been advertised since some time due to my lectures. Just as soldiers at a parade Immediately stand to attention at a word of command from their officer, even so did our merry-makers come to attention. At last one of them asked me politely: "Sir, are [252] you in any way related to the Ervad Dhalla who has just returned from America?" On heari ng that I was neither a near nor a distant relative of Ervad Dhalla but that person himself, they were even more embarrassed and began to talk with us most respectfully and with real reverence.

Such is the honour of a name. 'May you be more renowned than your father' is the blessing bestowed upon a couple during the Ashirvad [asirvad] ceremony. King Darayus [Darius], through his immortal inscriptions, advises us to uphold the glory of the Parsi name even as he had done by his renowned regime. We may be born unknown and reared in the utmost poverty yet, by the strength of our knowledge, our character, our enterprise, our service, we could make a name in this world. To glorify that name and to remain humble in renown should be the aim of our lives. [253]

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