Date: Mar 18, 2007 10:31 AM
Subject: Universalism and All That - Closing the Coffin of Conversion - Part 8 (final) - by Roni K Khan
Universalism and All That - Closing the Coffin of Conversion - Part 8 (& final) by Roni K Khan
THE REAL UNIVERSALISM
Right at the beginning of this article, our opening words had been: "Is Zoroastrianism a `universal' religion? It is, and it isn't. Sorry if that sounds like a contradiction, but it is just a way of saying that the balanced answer really lies some where in between."
It is now time to explain. What is the "balanced answer"?
For starters, we may remember something else we had said at the beginning: "Zoroastrianism is not universal in the sweeping sense in which it is made out to be by some heterodox elements in our community. By this, we are not implying that our `progressive' friends are proposing or attempting to convert the whole world to Zoroastrianism. But what we do see, and what we seriously question, is their presumption that the Zarathushtrian religion, including its many unique practices, is `universally applicable' to all souls on earth, and that every human being is free and able to join it."
Zoroastrianism is NOT universal in the sweeping heterodox sense of being potentially appropriate, applicable and accessible across the board to everyone, andindeed, we have devoted much time and space to substantiate this in previous sections of th is article. The reader may please recall our earlier detailed discussions about the soul, about the structural components of religion, and about the various heterodox fallacies.
But that still does not answer our present inquiry about how Zoroastrianism IS universal, in the genuine and non-heterodox view of the matter. This, then, is the task at hand, and what we now set about to address. What is the "balanced answer"? What is the real universalism? What is the real universality of Zoroastrianism? To answer that question, let us start by taking the help of a Zarathushtrian delegate to an international congress on religion, where he offered a paper presenting the heterodox "discovery" about the universality of Zoroastrianism. No, dear reader, we have not taken leave of our senses; help in a truthful cause can come from even the most unlikely quarters!
We shall assiduously attend to the Gathic references liberally cited by the Delegate, in deference to the purity of his heterodox convictions reportedly being up to the true-blue "Gathas alone" standard. In prefacing his Gathic discourse on universality to his audience, the Delegate informs that the Gathas are "full of a vision that Ahura Mazda's revelations were for all mankind." We couldn't agree more.
After this good start, he offers many edifying Gathic excerpts, from which we now proceed to quote, retaining the Delegate's own emphases and also accepting the translations provided (note: source-references for each are not given by him) at their face value, unless it becomes absolutely necessary to point out some error:-
"Now I will speak of the word which the most holy Ahura Mazda has told me as the best for all mankind to hear ... ." (Gatha Yasna 45-5.) We agree. Can the holy Word ("vacho") of Ahura Mazda Himself, the Creator of All, not be the best, or not be a blessing for all mankind to hear and to heed?
"Let wisdom come in the company of Truth, across the world." (G.Y. 50-5, according to the Delegate. As far as we know, however, no such words occur in 50-5.) All the same, we agree -- at least with the nobility of the sentiment. In fact, we would hope that Wisdom and Truth may spread across the entire universe, not just across our little planet.
"In Yasna 31, the Prophet offers himself as Ahura Mazda's instrument, to enlighten all people about key principles like those of divine justice, fight against evil thoughts and deeds, and choice to follow the path of Asha through Vohu Manah which all humans have," the Delegate comments. We agree. Indeed, it would be nothing short of criminal to withhold such "key principles" from all of humanity. To wield the sword of Asha and fight against Evil, within and without, is the great task before mankind, and every human being should become a soldier of Righteousness to help bring the whole world to Frasho-kereiti as soon as possible.
"Speak O Wise One with the words of Your mouth for us to know. By the means of which I might convert ["vaaurayaa"] all the living."G.Y. 31-3.) We vehemently disagree. This is a gross misrepresentation of this pristine Gathic verse, if the word "convert" is used in the proselytizing sense. The verse has absolutely NOTHING to do with converting from one religion to another, and that is conclusive. The word "religion" does not even exist there. Furthermore, "vaaurayaa" does not mean "convert" in the Avestan, Sanskrit or other Indo-Aryan languages. The context of G.Y. 31-3 is unquestionably the context of the Two Mainyus of Good and Evil, and the so-called conversion is purely from the Wrong path of Evil to the Right path of Good -- NOT from one religion to another. (Readers interested in a detailed analysis of this verse may please refer to my rejoinders in The Bombay Samachar of 14 July 1991, 31 January 1993, and 23 May 1993, and to Dasturji Dr.H. K. Mirza's comments in his article of 04 October 1992 in the same publication.)
"While I have power and strength, I shall teach men to seek Asha." (G.Y. 28-4.) We agree. Could we expect anything less from Asho Zarathushtra? And shouldn't all men be taught to seek Righteousness?
"O Mazda, give us the moral courage that we, Your devotees, may spread far and wide Your holy word." (G.Y. 28-7.) We agree. It is indeed the duty of every true devotee of Ahura Mazda, whether king or commoner, to spread His eternal Message of Truth as far and wide as he can, so that the wicked ("khrafstraa"; G.Y.28-5) may be overpowered ("taurvayaamaa"; G.Y. 28-6).
"The satisfaction which Thou shalt give to both factions through Thy pure fire and molten metal O Wise One, is to be given as a sign among living beings, in order to destroy the deceitful and to save the truthful." ( G.Y. 51-9.) We agree. Every human being does receive signs or signals from Ahura Mazda to show whether he is treading the path of Truth or has gone astray on the path of Untruth. Each one of us should be wise enough to heed the voices of conscience and experience, to know that "evil fate is in store for the Untruthful, while Illumination is for him who clings to Truth," as Asho Zarathushtra puts it in the immediately preceding verse ( G.Y. 51-8)
"Listen with your ears to the best things. Reflect with a clear mind upon the two choices of decision. Being aware, to declare yourselves to Him before the great retribution (final judgment)." ( G.Y. 30-2, erroneously referenced as "31-2" by the Delegate.) The learned Delegate informs his audience that this is where Zarathushtra "gives the crux of his teaching." How true! We agree. Indeed, the crux of the Prophet's teaching is to enjoin all men to choose wisely between the two choices of decision, between Truth and Untruth, Right and Wrong -- represented by Spanyaaand Angra, the Two Spirits of Good and Evil.
As Asho Zarathushtra expresses it in the immediately succeeding verse (G.Y. 30-3) with such perfect clarity, "Now, in the beginning were these Two Spirits ... these Two show themselves as Good and Bad ... and of these Two the Wise rightly do choose, but not so the Unwise." Unless the golden day dawns when all men and women who inhabit this earth, regardless of their race and religion, make the correct MORAL choice between Good and Evil in all their thoughts, words and deeds, the purpose of creation cannot be fulfilled and Frasho-kereiti cannot be ushered into the world.
The Delegate wraps up his Gathic discourse with this very sound observation: "It should be noted that in all these Gathas, Zarathushtra does not refer only to the people he preached. He talks of `all people,' `what is best for mankind,' `living beings,' the spread of Ahura Mazda's messages `far and wide,' so that all can be brought back to the path of Asha." We could not agree more.
Dear Reader, how could we possibly disagree? The Delegate is talking about the HAKIKAT component of our religion! As he himself puts it, "Like all profound PHILOSOPHIES of religions divinely revealed by God to men, Zarathushtra's transcends the narrow sense ... " (emphasis mine). As we know, the HOLY GATHAS are the quintessence and the summum bonum of the Hakikat of the Zarathushtrian religion.
And as we also know, Hakikat expounds the transcendent metaphysical philosophies of Ultimate Causes and Effects at abstract and esoteric levels. These are the Eternal Verities, the Final Truths. ETERNAL VERITIES ARE UNIVERSAL. If they were not universal, they would not be "eternal," and neither would they be "verities." The Truth is one, immutable, indivisible, and universal. Nobody has a patent on the Truth; it is nobody's monopoly. How could we ever disagree that the Hakikat aspect of our religion, most conspicuously enshrined in our holiest scripture, the Gathas, is utterly timeless, utterly transcendent, utterly UNIVERSAL?
Having said that, we quickly part company with our Delegate friend. In his learned paper, he has failed to perceive anything besides the philosophy of Zoroastrianism. A religion is more than a philosophy. A religion is a COMPLETE SPIRITUAL SYSTEM composed of all the four interrelated, interacting and integrated components of Hakikat, Marefat, Tarikat and Shariat. A philosophy is transferable, a religion is not.
The Great Heterodox Fallacy mistakes the whole Zarathushtrian religion for its Hakikat component, and this partial perspective is disastrous. A myopic view is always distorted. Remember the blind men and the elephant? Witness the heterodox howlers of "The Three H's Only," "The Gathas Alone," "Dismantle The Three R's," "Free Choice Unlimited," and "Universal Religion"! These are the wobbly legs of conversion -- distorted premises give distorted conclusions.
Our religion does not convert, in principle. And it does not need to, in practice.
* Charles Potter: "Numerically considered, Zoroastrianism is today the smallest of the world's living religions ... Yet it lives, unrecognized, in the churches of its successful rivals and quietly influences their most cherished doctrines."
* Mary Boyce: "Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed credal religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith ... Today external forces have reduced the Zoroastrians themselves to tiny scattered minorities, living mostly in Iran and India; but beliefs first taught by their prophet are still subscribed to by other peoples throughout the world."
* Duncan Greenlees: "Zarathushtra's mission has completed its task; what he had to give the world has been received by other religions and is now either universally accepted or is being adequately preached by them."
This is the balanced answer. This is the REAL universality of Zoroastrianism. Eternal Truths apply throughout the universe without exception. The eternal metaphysical messages of the Zarathushtrian PHILOSOPHY are universally applicable and univrsally accessible to all mankind. But the whole Zarathushtrian RELIGION is not.
Roni K. Khan
Roz Sarosh Mah Khordad 1364 A.Y.
07 November 1994 A.C.
End of Part VIII