Since the 1980s, a new group started in the Western world, which relies on only the Gathas as Zoroastrian scripture and accepts no other Avestan scripture. This was known as the Gatha-alone cult. By it's very nature, this is a radical cult since it has discarded the huge extant of Zoroastrian scripture such as the Holy Yashts and Vendidad, and most of the Khordeh Avesta that thousands of Parsi Zoroastrians pray daily. The cult is so radical that it also discards all our sacred ritual ceremonies, the sanctity of our Atash Behrams, and our Dakhma-Nashini method of dead body disposal. It doesnt believe in either fire temples or fire priests!
Since the 1960s, the Western world has become the home of many cults like this, unlike India which since 1000s of years has given refugee to and nourished several authentic great religions like Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and even Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama selected India for bringing his Tibetan people since he knew that his people's culture and religion would best be preserved on the soil of India. So too did our wise Zoroastrian priests when they brought our forefathers after the Arab conquest from Iran to India.
The Gatha-alone cult and their followers speak only of the Gathas, they do not have faith in the Nirang Din ceremonies, or even our great Atash Behrams - since even those are not mentioned in the Gathas! For that matter, there are no rules of right and wrong in the Gathas, so one can do anything we want - right? This is exactly what some cult members are doing in the West, they say any sexual behaviour is ok in our religion just because it is not mentioned in the Gathas! Do we realize what just believing in the Gathas will lead to? A free-for-all so far as morality and rules of right/wrong are concerned!
Our Prophet Zarathushtra's message had two parts to it. One the universal philosophy of love for God and happiness, and the other part was the one of TARIKAT or method of worship. Every religion has philosophy as well as method. The Gatha-alone cult seems to forget that Zarathushtra Himself was an Athravan, a Fire Priest. To say that an Athravan had no rituals and no sense of right/wrong things is quite erroroneous.
The religion's rules of right and wrong are in the Avestan Vendidad, in the form of conversations between Dadar (Creator) Ahura Mazda and the Prophet Zarathushtra, and the scripture has strict rules against any impurity, and also against wrong sexual behavior. The scripture also enjoins that the dead body of Zoroastrians must be exposed to the sun for destruction, known as Khorshed-Nigareshni, which we also call as Dakhma-nashini. This is an ancient Aryan practice and similar to the method of "sky-burial" practised by some native American tribes, and also by Tibetan Buddhists on their mountain tops.
Power of our ancient ceremonies - scientific tests
Our rituals are also very important, they are very ancient, and similar to the Indian Vedic rituals. The Nirang Din ceremony has the power to purify by the power of AVestan sound alone, see the article:
NIRANG, THE WATER OF LIFE
by Dasturji Dr. Sohrabji H. Kutar
In this article, a scientific test has been described on Nirang that proved that bacterial growth was stopped just by this ancient ceremony. We should be proud we have retained such powerful ancient rituals, not ashamed. We should not discard our heritage. In fact, the Gathas were also memorized by our fire priests as part of the Zoroastrian rituals, and that is how the Gathas were preserved - as a part of the traditional Zoroastrian rituals. Did you know this?
The Gathas are poetic and divine songs to God. Saint Tukaram wrote Abhangs (poems of praise) to God. They are great works of devotion, but are they the sole basis of the Hindu religion? There is a very big fallacy in the thinking of the Gatha-alone cult. If you ask someone to read the Psalms of David in the Bible, which are poems to God, and ignore the rest of the Bible, is that the right thing to do? Is religion just a song, without any morality or rules of right and wrong? If religion doesn't tell us these things, who then to tell us what is righteousness and what is not?
In fact all reliigons teach humanity what is good and what is bad. Zoroastrianism too has scriptures that teach these things. So too does Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and even Buddhism. Please dont say that whereas all these religions have rules, our Zoroastrian religion is the only one which doesnt have morality or rules of right and wrong. This is not right.
This is the main fault of the few Parsi followers of the Gatha-alone cult, that they have discarded our scriptures. Our forefathers preserved them through 1000s of years, we lost a lot of them to the accursed destroyer Alexander, but we still preserved 10-15 %. And in the space of a few years of the modern age, some modern Parsis who think they are superior to their own ancestors, have thrown away what our forefathers preserved for 1000s of years.
Is the religion Universal?
About the Zoroastrian religion being universal, please read the articles by the Zoroastrian scholar Roni Khan on the subject. These are on http://tenets.zoroastrianism.com/roni33a.html and are titled "Universalism and all that".
In a nutshell this series of articles explains that the message of every religion is indeed universal. However the Tarikats (methods to worship and to reach God) of each religion are specific and must be followed by certain peoples to whom the message (Paigham) was given by the prophet (Paighambar). So for example, Iran was sent the Prophet Zarathushra, and the Jews were sent the Prophet Christ. If God had intended only one universal religion, he would not have sent multiple prophets to different people, since that would mean religious wars. Our Creator is Wise and not so foolish. However, when the followers of a religion started saying their religion is "universal", it let to conversion and then religious wars in the last 2000 years. And the world has never been the same since conversion started.
Our Avestan Yashts are so divine, have you read the English translations? The Gathas are fantastic, but only the Gata-alone cult relies only on the Gathas. So, please dont be a radical cult member. Please believe, like the majority of Zoroastrians in India do, in all our sacred scriptures. This is the first step in your coming back to the path of your righteous Parsi forefathers, who made you what you are - a proud Parsi in modern India.
If the forefathers had not believed in our scriptures, if they had discarded our religion and dakhmas as "unhygienic", if they had thrown open our religion to the crores of people around us - breaking their promise to the Indian King Jadav Rana, if they had started inter-marriage with the non-Zoroastrians around them, you would not be here today as a Parsi Zoroastrian in India. You are here because of their faith, their belief in our religion, and their saying no to inter marriage. God Bless you and yours.
Porus Homi Havewala.