DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ZOROASTRIANISM
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# 190) Q: Alcohol and other drugs, what does it say about alcohol and other drugs? (intoxicans) . does it say drink responsibly or not drink at all?, and another qeastion i wanted to know what does it say about homosexuals? does it mention anything? i understand that befor in diffrent cultures it might have been diffrent views and most of the world pretty much was agaist gays, but what about now?

A: Zoroastrianism is not about ordering you what not to do, or even what to do. It is not a theology that is a command theology, not a theology that prescribes and proscribes behavior in minutia and ad nauseam. Zarathushtra says :

" Listen (carefully) to the best and highest, reflect and meditate on it with a clear and logical mind, then each of you, by yourselves, choose ... "

In other words, inform yourselves carefully, reflect and weigh this information and with a clear and logcal mind choose among the alternatives. Now to apply it to your question, is alcohol  good and bad for creation? For your family, for your society, to what extent, if at all, should it be imbibed?To help us choose, the Creator, acording to Zarathushtra, has given us a set of Principles to live life by. They can best be resumed by stating :

The  Correct Order is benevolent, it is the best and the highest. It is awakening to radiant light. That awakening to radiant light light comes to the one who is for the Correct Order and for what is best and highest only because the right thing is the Correct Order .

The above is a translation of the Ashem Vohu, which is, perhaps, the most well known prayer of Zoroastrianism. It lays out the framework for your choice. The Correct Order (Asha) is what is true and right in both the physical and ethical planes of this existence. Thus all the physical laws, such as gravity, osmosis, etc are the Correct Order.

But Zarathushtra states above that in the ethical plane, Benevolence, the Highest and Best aspirations and possible choices of man and the very awakening and realization of this, is also the Correct Order of things. Thus whatever supports life and its processess, like the physical laws do, whatever supports the well being of creation, like benevolence, like seeking what is best and highest in every situation and whatever leads us to an awakening of enlightenment and self realization, is the Correct Order. AND the Correct Order is Benevolent, Good , it is the Best and Highest that we
can achieve and it leads to awakening and enlightenment.

So getting back to alcohol. We are to choose what to do about it trying to align our choice to that Correct Order we spoke before. Important to note that , while Zarathushtra does not talk about alcohol, he does talk about Haoma, which was a hallucinogent used as a sacrament by the priests of the Daeva Yasna cult (see also # 111). He does this, not by mentioning Haoma directly, but by using its epithet Duraosha. The thing is that according to pronunciation Durosha could be either death-defying, or wisdom-wasting. By the way he uses the word and abhors its use, you can tell he considers hallucinogents wisdom-wasting and, lets not forget, that one of the names of the Creator is the Wise One! However, even when he obvioulsy abhors the use of the drink, he counsels not to use it but he does not forbid it, because, our choices are our own and very important, since the right to choose and the mind to help us make the right choice are God given attributes in humankind.

In fact, instead of condemning Haoma, (Zoroastrianism does not condemn or damn anything), Zarathushtra asks the Wise Lord when will man give up its use. Then, there is the medical fact that alcohol in moderation, specially wine, is good for us. If you add all this together and you apply the Fundamental Principles of Existence to this question and you choose accordingly, then some of us ought to choose not to drink and others ought to choose to drink only in moderation. I fail to see how any one following Zarathushtrian principles can endorse heavy drinking.

Same applies to drugs. Of course this applies only to recreational uses of alcohol or drugs, because addiction is something else and has to be opposed under another principle. The Principle of defending the Kingdom, the ideal order of community living under Zoroastrianism. Because addiction is life-denying, non-benevolent and worse and low rather than High and Best.

As to gays. While some Zarathushtrians are against homosexuality, the fact remains that in the Gathas, Zarathushtra does not even mention the word sex. Wrong/evil and right/good is strictly defined in ethical terms. It is not what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms, or who they do it with, that is good or evil. Rather, it is what we do to harm or benefit others and, indeed, all creation that can be qualified as good or evil. Thus, if we manipulate and abuse others to obtain sexual favors (or anything else) that is against benevolence and thus against the Correct Order and is wrong by definition. The objection voiced by many is that naturally humanity is equipped for sex between different sexes, happens to be only part of the truth, because humans are not equipped to fly or stay long periods under water or go into Earth-orbit, etc and yet they do, because through their use of their God given mind thery have designed methods of doing these things to obtain some sort of pleasure or advantage.

And we must not forget that there is pleasure involved in sex . If the Creator wished to make homosexual sex not an option, he could easily have made it unbearably painful and not pleasureable. In fact, he could had  made it so that it would give its participants nausea, or great unsustainable pain. Some will argue that sex is for pro-creation and that is true, but we all know that sex is not ONLY for pro-creation. Since gay sex, in the end, is like everything else our choice, I believe, that the teaching of the Gathas is that, as long as others are not harmed and the participants are willing and there is no abuse imposition or manipulation involved, all sex BY ADULTS, serves a good purpose. Sex is a tool for pro-creation, pleasure, emotional health, physical health and self respect. It is not something dirty, because it is God given.

To condemn gays on 'sin' and 'unnatural ' grounds is, according to clear evidence, unfair and unconscionable. There are some gays that visit upon themselves scorn for their behavior, it is true, but there are also heterosexuals that do so as well. Zoroastrianism is about free and informed choice as well as fair play and in opposition to manipulators and manipulation. By these standards gay discrimination is unacceptable from a Zoroastrianist view point.  (See also related topics in this forum  # 38 , # 70 , # 94 )

# 191) Q: In response to #188. That makes sence, because all the Christians I know of, mainly my wife, her mom and my mom all say, different religions worship different Gods. And they tell me "Better make sure its the right TRUE God". Personally I think Christians are more like atheists because they worship Jesus instead of God anyway. What would be your advice to tell them Its all the same God?

A: In dealing with Christians, my wife for example, I tend to emphasize tolerance. So I do not want to tell them you are wrong, although I pick my spots and show them examples of inconsitencies in what they believe in, what they practice, in what they are taught and in the Bible itself. But always
very carefully.

In the case of God, this what I tell my wife and some members of my family (we have both Zarathushtis and Christians). Does the Bible teach Monotheism? If it does, then there cannot be different Gods. Even if some one is worshipping or believing wrongly, he still is worshipping or believing in the only God that she or he can believe or worship, since there is no other. This argument  might be a tautology, but it's very true and simple and cannot
truly be overcome. Once I got them there, I try to make them see that if there is only one God, then all religions are theologies, that is ideas of how that God is and what is His relationship with us  and the rest of Creation. In doing that, I use the following argument, which I have found to be successful.

The Creator has given us a mind to discern things, think it through and  to tell right from wrong and also given us a conscience that helps us in that discernment between right and wrong. He created us and is Most Wise. It is thus irrational to believe that we ought not to use our minds, or that irrational illogical and contradictory beliefs and dogmas can be from Him. Furthermore, if God is as we believe Him to be, Most Powerful, Most Knowing, Most Loving, then it follows that we are talking about an entity that is greater than us in every respect, but specially so, ethically.

So when some theologies about God espouse the belief that  God would order or accept behavior and belief that is unethical, that theology cannot be from God. When God is seen, by a particular theology as tormenting, revengeful, etc, that is what an erred human might be, but not how a Perfect Being must be. When God is pictured as killing babies, given sicknesses, ordering genocide, etc, that picture that is being painted cannot be of the ONLY god, because those are things that only deranged humans, sociopaths, etc would do. If God is not greater than serial killers, baby killers and genocidal maniacs, then He cannot be greater than most imperfect humans, since most humans abhor, oppose and punish such a behavior when done by other human beings. If you agree that God must be ethically greater than man, then you must reject teachings about God that picture Him lower than men.

# 192) Q: In Zoroastrian sites I see the term "ushta te". What does it mean and how is it pronounced?

A: Well Ushta (pronounced ooshta)  is one of the more controversial terms. Instead of taking you through a byzantine discussion of different
philological analyses and interpretations, I will state that ushta either means a state of dawning or awakening, which implies bliss, or it is a state of wishing for something . Since ush means dawn and its radiant light  and wish comes from the root ish, and ta is a suffix that can be transilated as THE
or THIS , implying a state of, many of us prefer to translate it as radiant light, radiant awakening,  aradiant dawn.

In Iran, since the word was always with the blisss of being enlightened, it is also translated often as happiness or a combination, such as radiant happiness. Some consider this word as a state of Beautitude. Ushta te can thus mean An Awakening to Radiant Light for you, or a Dawn of Radiant Light for you. If the you is plural, than it is ushta ve. Te is pronounced teh and ve as veh.  So, ushta te!

# 193) Q: Also I been reading Mobed Firouz Azargoshasb's translation online and find that I really like it and want to know exactly how far removed is it from the original as you said. Because so far this translation speaks to me well. If he was a student of Taraporewala I imagine it shouldn't be too different from his. Except the issue with the Persian.

A: From what I have read Azargoshasp's is quite removed from the original meaning in some places and right on on others. Also, like most priests, he tends to be too flowery in his language use, but that is a matter of taste. What I find rather maddening, (although this applies  to a lesser degree to
most translators including Jafarey, as well) is that, just like Taraporewalla, he does not consistently translate the same key terms in the same way.

One last caveat, Taraporewalla finished his translation some 60 years ago. This might not seem too long to us coming from Christianity, where translations as much as 500 years old are still in wide use, but the fact remains that Old Avestan is not Hebrew nor Koine Greek. It is an older, more archaic language, which was isolated even in its prime and has been dead for 3000 years. New discoveries in the philology of both Sanskrit and Old Avestan are much more common than in Koine Greek or Hebrew, so that 60 years does outdate a translation somewhat. I nornally would not even use Taraporewalla's because of this, but, he was so good an scholar that when you take into account his Hindu bias and the fact that when he wrote, he had to compromise with the Parsi establishment, or don't get published, you can still use his translation and his theories and notes are essential for the study of the language to the lay man.

But this does not mean that I would tell you not to use Azargoshasp's . Its a matter of choice, just be sure that your choice is an informed one. Test out other translations, read Jafarey's web site - he is persuasive ( www.zoroastrian.org ). See if you can land Mary Boyce's translations (I do not believe she translated the whole of the Gathas, but she did translate some parts). Look at Wilkins-Smith's if you can find it, read Insler if you can find it. I do have some 22 versions that I have read and several more that I have used for comparison, just to give you an example.

While the two versions, Azar and Tarap are similar, there are some differences. I like Azargoshasp better than Tarap in some instances, but not in others. Tarap's notes are invaluable.  Azar has (in English) only perfunctory notes.

# 194) Q: I found Taraporewala's translation of the Gathas for sale on a Zoroastrian site. Would you say this is the next best translation to view after Jafarey? And since Insler is our of print.

A: With some caveats I would consider Taraporewalla the best translation after Jafarey. First, notice that Taraporewalla has two translations. One is the literal translation from the original and the other is a Free Verse English rendition. Both are good, but the literal is priceless as a study tool because of his notes. But only so if it comes in the annotated version, which has all his notes and opinions. This can cost upwards of US $130.00

Caveats?
1. Taraporewalla was a Parsi and a Sanskrit scholar . He has  what some consider and unduly large admiration for Hinduism and he is influenced to some degree by it, like most Parsis are.

2. Taraporewalla, while not a priest himself, was associated and sponsored by Parsi priests and this very fact restricted his freedom of expression somewhat. In fact, many times his notes would indicate his belief in a particular definition or idea  but his translation would reflect instead the priestly understanding of his era.

3. His translation is 60 years old. This might not sound like much, but the field of Gathic philology and Gathic translation is very dynamic and fluid and some of his concepts have become outdated. For example he leans somewhat on manuscripts that are no longer considered among the best.

4. Taraporewalla, while intellectually honest, was a product of Parsi thinking about the religion circa the first 40 years of the 20th century and he sustains the theory of Spenta as Holy and Mainyu as Spirit, plus he personalizes the so called Amesha Spenta's which most scholars consider abstractions

With these caveats in mind, Taraporewalla's is an outstanding translation with much to recommend it as one of the best.

# 195) Q: On what sites can I learn more about both latter traditional Zoroastrianism and reformed/restored Zoroastrianism from the Iranian perspective? So far many of the traditional sites I've seen, seem to be of Parsi origin and awfully fundamentalist.

A: There are many sites:
www.zarathushtra.com
www.zoroastrian.org
www.zartosh.org
www.vohuman.org
www.spenta.edu
www.bozorgbazgasht.com
www.efn.org/~opal/acceptz.html
http://makingwonderful.com/
www.californiazoroastriancenter.org/
http://ahura.homestead.com/files/IranZaminTwo/Fariborz_DUALISM.pdf

There are many nore but these ought to do.

# 196) Q: Is there a place for polygamy in The Good Religion?  Although Iran is an Islamic Republic this practice doesn't seem to be the norm. Is this perhaps still an influence of The Good Religion?

A: Although Zarathushtra does not address specific topics such as polygamy, the fact that he holds women in very high etseem and equal status, suggests to me that Polygamy would be considered against Asha.

# 197) Q: You mentioned 'The Door of Friendship'.  I found this to be a very interesting name for a meeting place.  Is this a modern name or has it come down through the ages?  Exactly why is this name used?

A: Door is often used in Iranian religions, both the Bab and baha ullah used it and Bagh dad  ( The Capital of Iraq) means the door of God . The name is ancient, but not as ancient as Atak Kadeh, Fire Temple. Its used today mainly in Iran Mehr, which was a daeva in Iran (if not in India), was re-introduced by unknown composers of the Young Avesta as a yazata (adorable one), which can best be understood as angel worthy of adoration.

But later Mehr ( who was the God of Contracts to the Arya) became a synonym of friendship and thus Dhar e mehr, which originally might had meant the door of Mithra, became the door of friendship. The name does work well with Zarathushtrian theology (Conservative), because God, that is Ahura Mazda, is seen as man's friend and ally and thus the Door of Friendship is interpreted asthe door of the place of communion with the Most Wise.

# 198) Q: I was wondering how good the translation of the Gathas from Piloo Nanavutty is?

A: Very good question. Ms Nanavutty  was the secretary of  Dastur Framroze Bode, who translated the Gathas in the 50's. She was a disciple of Taraporewalla, but struck a very independent stance, deviating in many points from Taraporewalla's conclusions. The latter also was influenced by esoteric schools, at least somewhat. In my opinion, from a philological point of view, Bode's is not the best but, outside of his esoteric leanings, is still a very good translation, which can be used to contribute some important, if more peripheral, points

Bode was a priest, but his translation is better than most priestly reanslation from the philological view point and he deftly avoids the excessively florid languague that mark most priestly translations. Nanavutty has some peculiar peripheral ideas of her own, and she  has introduced her translation at a time when there is, in India, a very charged politico-religious atmosphere since the debate pro & con on conversion and other issues has truly supercharged. In my opinion, she has gone out of her way not to be offensive to any ideological party or position. The result is a bland translation in which she skirts some issues. Her philology is  a step belows Bode. In conclusion  if I had to choose, I had rather use Bode's.

# 199) Q: What are Zoroastrian views on cremation? Is this allowed? I heard that Parsi-Zoroastrian singer Freddie Mercury of the group Queen was cremated after his death.

 A: Zarathushtra does not mention the form of burial or disposal. That is no surprise as his message is ethical and doctrinal and does not get involved on details, but gives principles to live by. How one's remains are disposed has bearing only in the ecological sphere. If one is buried, today there is little chance that the Earth or the waters will be polluted, that was not so millennia ago, but even back then, burial, abandonement, or cremation were not all universally practiced, or condemned.

The Persians, at least up to the early Achaemenids, had a practice of encasing the remains in wax and burying them in places away from water sources. Indian Vedics practiced cremation and the Sakas did as well. The Maggi tribes, and probably some others, practiced exposure. The point is that all these means and many more are good, provided that there is no damage to the environment and there are no health issues.

What happened to burial practices in Persiam is a study on what happens when religion abandons Doctrine  for practice imposed by authorities in god's name. Indeed they become the religion of the wrongful. Under the Clergy, dominated by ethnic Maggii, ( The Maggii were a tribe of the Medan Confederation), the religious authorities worked dogmatically and feverishly over centuries, until they made exposure in Towers of Silence (Dokhmas), the standard and indeed the approved procedure (Interestingly they were never successful in convincing the Emperors and presumably the nobility; because Persian Emperors were always buried, in ways were there was no actual contact with the Earth or the water).  Those sects that proposed alternative burial methods, were persecuted and stigmatized as heretical. This was done in the name of Zarathushtra, Ahura Mazda and the Religion of Tolerance!!!!

# 200) Q: Do you think that over time Zoroaster's ideas will become more well known and accepted over time?

A: If men of good will work tirelessly at spreading the Thought Provoking Message , yes it will! But we must partner with our friend and soul mate God and spread the message and uphold its way of life in thought, word and deed.

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