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Real Values [i]


















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 creativity muscle.


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 to destruction.

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 decomposition.


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 shadow.


Zarathushtra 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 cohesiveness.

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:

“They are children chasing shadows in sight When in truth what they seek is light.”

The solution is enlightenment.


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.

[i] This article also appeared in the Spring 1372 YZ issue of the FEZANA journal.