Paper presented at the 7th World
Freedom of choice is the bedrock of faith revealed to Zarathushtra by Ahura
Mazda. This teaching of the Prophet is ingrained within all Zarathushtris.
It might nevertheless be worthwhile to remind ourselves of his vision of
that freedom. If we all understand it clearly, and live according to it, it
could not only bring us greater personal happiness, but help us free our
community from issues like pluralism, intermarriage and inclusion which have
haunted it in this century. Why do I say this?
Zarathushtra’s Gathas are suffused with the thought that as Ahura Mazda’s “hamkars”,
the purpose of one’s journey on earth is to renovate and perfect our souls
progressively, and thus help Him to renovate and perfect a world and
universe that is contaminated by imperfections and inequities. This is his
ultimate rationale for the freedom of choice given by Ahura Mazda to every
human being. Zarathushtra says in many ways, that we may see those doing
wrong and harm prosper on this earth, but on leaving it, their reward will
be eternal woe in the “realms of darkness”, whereas eternal happiness in the
“realms of light” awaits those who have made the right choices in life.
help make the right choices, Ahura Mazda has even given every person a dual
support system to do so.
First, He has placed within each of us, the same “attributes” which He has
in Himself. These “attributes” later became known as the Amesha Spentas,
and in human beings translate as: Vohu Mana, Good Mind; Asha, Absolute
Righteousness; Khshathra, Service or Love of Mankind; Spenta Armaity,
Inner Serenity; Haurvatat, Spiritual Perfection; and Ameretat, Immortal
Bliss after death. They work in a complementary relationship with each
other. Second, to guide in so using them and in making the right choices,
Ahura Mazda has also endowed every person with Daena Vanghui, His Good
Conscience or Voice, which is always in communication with Spenta Mainyu –
His Progressive Mentality.
Gatha 34, stanzas 1 and 2, and Gatha 47, beautifully encapsulate how this
support system can help everyone to renovate one’s soul progressively and
attain Immortal Bliss. Here is stanza 1 of Gatha 47, which summarizes this
gift given to all persons:
“Led by Thy Spenta
Mainyu and Thy Vohu Mana,
Led on by best thoughts, and words and deeds of Asha,
Haurvatat and Ameretat shall Man attain
Through his Khshathra and his Holy Armaity;
Mazda Ahura has on all mortals these bestowed.”
(Paraphrase of Taraporewala translation).
person can choose to heed, or ignore, this support system. But in every
moment of life, it prompts a recognition when one’s Good Mind has grasped
the path of Absolute Righteousness, that by choosing to follow it, one can
provide Service and Love to Mankind, achieve Inner Serenity and move towards
Perfection and Immortal Bliss.
Zarathushtra thus wisely tells us that freedom of choice does not imply
unconstrained freedom to do what, and how, one pleases. He wants us to
honestly test each choice that we make, by using the support system within
us. If a choice is made with a Good Mind, it is based on Absolute
Righteousness, and it is in the best interest of All concerned, then it
enhances Inner Serenity and leads to Perfection and Bliss for one’s soul,
and of Ahura Mazda’s world and universe. The tools for doing all this
intuitively, are crystallized in the simplified trilogy of our faith: Good
Thoughts, Words and Deeds. If we understand and live according to the
freedom of choice as Zarathushtra envisioned it, then it might also help us
to better understand how we must deal with broader community issues.
First, Ahura Mazda has gifted His support system to all human beings, not
merely those born into Zarathushtra’s faith. With its help and guidance,
all have the freedom to learn and understand his teachings. Thereafter, if
they conclude, that it would be the Absolutely Righteous choice for them to
pay obeisance to our common Creator in the way Zarathushtra taught, then
surely they have the freedom to do so. Such persons include those from
other faiths, who may thus make that choice. They include our sons and
daughters who, despite marrying their soul mates from other faiths, choose
to be devout to the faith in which they were born. They include children of
such marriages, and spouses who decide that they want to pay obeisance to
the Creator in the same way that their Zarathushti parents and spouses do.
Indeed, Zarathushtra repeatedly asks mankind everywhere – “living mortals”
“those from near-by and afar”, “men and women of all lands” – to heed his
teachings and choose his path towards Ahura Mazda. No where in my reading
of the Gathas, or about the practice of the faith until some 200 years ago,
have I been able to find any explicit or implicit suggestion that he wanted
only those who would be born into his faith, to choose to live by its
concepts. Nor can I find that he taught that except for them, no other
human beings are blessed with Ahura Mazda’s Daena Vanguhi and divine
attributes to guide them towards choices which can contribute to the
progressive perfection of their souls, world and universe.
Neither can I find anywhere that he wanted Zarathushtri women to be barred
from entering our places of worship, and worse still, to be cast out of the
faith, if they married spouses of other faiths. In a religious teaching
which repeatedly equates women and men, I cannot find any suggestion
anywhere that this should be their fate, whereas Zarathushtri men who
intermarry can continue to practice the faith. Nor can I find anywhere that
the spouses of both, or their children, even after studying Zarathushtra’s
teachings, cannot choose to follow them the use of Ahura Mazda’s divine
attributes and Inner Voice placed within them.
Since Ahura Mazda has placed these in all human beings so that they can each
make the right moral choices in the course of their lives, how can any
person dictate to any of them that they cannot use those gifts to choose
Zarathushtra’s path towards Him?
do realize that not all of you will share these views. I fully respect your
right to continue to believe that unconstrained freedom of choice
corresponds with Zarathushtra’s vision. My only purpose is to give another
input which explains why it does not. All I ask is, place it in the scales
of your individual judgment, ponder over it carefully and honestly! Those
who see some merit in it, may then decide to adopt Zarathushtra’s vision of
freedom of choice, as their Way of Life. It is my conviction that as
increasing numbers do that, our community can – and will – free itself of
such issues in the Millennium ahead.