My grandma used to
say, “the more love you give, the more love you’ll have… the supply of
love is endless, and you will never run out.”
I used to think about
this like an endless ocean that was separated from a low lake by a
mountain. And I used to imagine myself like a pipe that cut through the
mountain and linked the ocean to the lake. I used to picture if I were a
bigger pipe, I would be able to carry more water to the lake… and the more
water I let flow, the more water I’d be able to give.
As I grew older, I
often thought about this, and I used to ask myself if this was the case
with love only, or if there were other things similar to this? Until one
day, it dawned on me, like a revelation, that this was a law – a spiritual
law, if you will.
I realized that our
real values, our spiritual values, the values that stem from our very
essence, our being, all obey the same law. And I saw that there were many
other things that worked in the same way.
Artists and writers
and poets all know that when we are in the flow, when we let our
creativity pour out, we enter a self-feeding cycle. The more we create,
the more creative we become. It is as if we exercise and strengthen our
Judges know that the
more they dispense true justice, the more just they become. It is as if
there is a faculty of discernment that is sharpened through practice.
Teachers know the
more they teach and share their wisdom, the wiser they become. As the
saying goes, “we learn best by teaching.”
And so it goes with
spiritual values such as truthfulness, compassion, appreciation, sense of
beauty or any other spiritual value that we may give ourselves to.
But the converse is
also true. The values that I have mentioned so far are all expansive and
life-affirming values. There may also be values that are contracting, and
life-negating. These are generally values that we have been indoctrinated
into. Rather than coming from our inner core, they actually come from the
veiling of our essence.
Perhaps another way
of describing these values is to label them as shadow-values – the shadow
side of our inner essence.
And these values too
are self-feeding and self-perpetuating. Values such as fear, and greed,
and acquisition of power. Values such as fabricated notoriety and cheap
renown, and acquisition of riches through exploitation.
Every one of us has
experienced periods of irrational fear in our lives. We all remember too
well that the more we feared, the more things we found to be afraid of.
And in the extreme cases, this could have led to paranoia.
Our history abounds
with people who were taken to the extreme by their greed, and lost
everything they had worked for. Our present day economy provides us a
plethora of fallen financial wizards who are either spending time in
prison, or are paying their lawyers handsomely to keep them out of jail.
Pursuit of the shadow
values is an addiction that given enough time and nurturing will only lead
As already mentioned,
real values are expansive and life affirming. Shadow values run away from
the real source. Because they cannot penetrate the veil of our inner
essence, they become protective of what they posses. They hold on ever so
tightly. Yet time passes and everything transient shall decay. Holding on
will neither stop the wheels of time nor slow down the process of
The only real
solution is to renew. Just as Zarathushtra said – may we be among those
who renew the world… He might just as well have said, “May we have an
expansive mentality and life-affirming attitude. May we act to renew and
rejuvenate and recreate. May we strive to give more of our real values,
until we discover our endless essence and infinite source.”
A community is also
like an individual. It has its external and worldly challenges. It also
has its soul or essence.
And just like an
individual, a community can also pursue its real values, or it can hold on
to the veil and fabricate shadow values.
The fiery test of
values for a community, just like in the case of an individual, is whether
these values are life affirming and expansive, or whether they are
contracting and life negating. Put another way, whether following these
values will lead to the endless supply and source, or whether it is merely
holding on to what can only decay with time. Entropy is a sure sign of the
presented a worldview that affirmed life. He painted a picture in which
our highest spiritual attainment would be the renewal of all that we come
in contact with. He asked us to look at what is, and look at what could
be. And then he asked us to do the real work of bringing what is, closer
to what could be. This is Zarathushtra’s spirituality in action.
Zarathushtra asked us
as individuals and as a community, to tap into our real values. Wisdom,
justice, love, truthfulness, compassion, happiness, are but a few values
that Zarathushtra wanted us to propagate.
He would never have
asked us to keep our love of wisdom and truth concealed, because we may
fear the community around us, or we may not trust the host culture in
which we live, or because our forefathers may have been persecuted, or our
numbers are dwindling.
He would never have
asked us to limit our charity to our kin, nor our compassion to our fellow
Zarathushtrians, nor our wisdom to our neighbors or ethnic group. He would
never have approved of the labels we give others and ourselves, which only
create boundaries and separate us from each other. He would not have
wanted us to confine ourselves to a particular locality or tribe.
Wisdom has an endless
supply that only needs to be shared. Truth is an open path that only needs
to be trodden upon more and more, until it becomes the only path. Love is
an infinite source that sees no barriers to its outpouring – except for
when we choose to withhold it. Courage is a choice that is available to
everyone at every given moment in time. It only needs to be chosen.
Yet there are
intelligent individuals among us who have chosen contracting values. They
have chosen those paths because the fog that veils their real values is so
thick that they do not see the life-negating aspect of their choices. To
the contrary, they do it in the name of affirming life as it is and as it
has always been. They do it to save the community in spite of the
so-called “heretics” like me. All they want is the survival of a way of
life, a cultural tradition that has come through generations (although
nobody quite knows how many generations).
What they do not see
is that a culture is like fine cuisine. It changes with time and place.
But the real value that creates the fine cuisine is the appreciation of
gastronomic fulfillment and sharing of a joyous experience. Similarly, the
real value that creates a culture is psychological happiness and social
To consider the
wisdom and the values we have inherited from Zarathushtra as an ethnic and
cultural tradition, is akin to replacing the shared joyous experience
merely with food.
Yet the truth is we
are all after the shared joyous experience. We all wish to uncover our
inherited wisdom as well as our real inner values. And we cannot fault
those who pursue the cuisine, or want to preserve the culture. Because as
the poem goes:
children chasing shadows in sight When in truth what they seek is
The solution is
As with any shadow,
its cause is the separation of our perception from the source. All we need
to do is to turn around – away from the shadow – but for a moment, and we
shall see the light source that created it in the first place.
Buried deeply within
any shadow value, if sought earnestly, is a source of light – a real value
– that when turned towards dispels the shadow.
To overcome the decomposition and demise of
our community, all we need to do is to turn within, and discover and
manifest our real inner values. And we shall find that our community is
regenerated and revived – vital and growing.
This article also appeared in the Spring 1372 YZ issue of the FEZANA