Decades after he fled from Iran, Dr. Farhang Mehr, former deputy prime minister of Iran, is still driven by his hopes for the unity of the world’s Zarathushti communities. In his biography, “Triumph over Discrimination: The Life Story of Farhang Mehr,” he describes these dreams in his own words:
Zoroastrianism and Zarathushtis are undergoing a tumultuous intellectual and spiritual voyage: An effort by Zarathushtis in diaspora to preserve their cultural identity. Knowledge about one’s religion and culture, one’s jistory and heritage, are some of the tools needed in order to this odyssey successful. Other tools required for the journey are freedom of choice, protection of human rights, protection of the environment, golbal solidarity, and cooperation with the democratic process. Zarathushti’s must be dedicated to good thoughts, good words, and good deeds; tolerance and inclusiveness are essential to achieving our goal of maintaining a strong and solid community. We must hold fast to this dream…
I dream of the preservation of Zarathustra’s teachings, which make up the core of Zoroastrianism, and the preservation of the meaning behind our rituals and customs. The core of our religion is the beliefs and doctrines contained within the Gathas. They are everlasting and unchangeable. They give us the strength to undertake our mental quests. The rituals are described in the literature accompanying the Gathas. The actions of the rituals appeal to our senses. Imbued with meaning, the rituals are a manifestation of the faith, a reminder of our devotion and commitment. Without meaning, rituals become empty motions, devoid of significance. The core and the rituals together are necessary in order to maintain faith.
It is possible to be open-minded and acquire new and different political identities without sacrificing one’s religious identity. In the ever-changing, ever-expanding global community, religious minorities are not assimilated into the more powerful majority groups. They are encouraged to exist, allowed to flourish through cooperation, understanding, free interrelation, and tolerance. To encourage this is in the best interest of humankind, because it promotes peace and prosperity. Religion is a large part of this….
I dream of the formation of a large and flourishing Zoroastrian community. A living religion must also have a vibrant community rich in real religious commitment. Without a community of practicing believers, a religion becomes nothing more than a museum, an artifact, a relic to be viewed by the curios and studied by historians and scientists. We should maintain a community of Zarathushtis in mind and heart, treading together the path of truth and righteousness. As a single entity we should be showing love, upholding justice, exercising compassion, working for peace, engaging creatively in constructive work. Together we should be practicing good thoughts, good words, and good deeds in order to reach a community-wide goal of enlightenment and unity with Spenta Mainya and Ahura Mazda.
These goals cannot be achieved with the current social and religious attitudes of our fractured community. The core of Zoroastrianism as laid out in the Gathas is immutable; the traditions and practices not based in Gathic principals may be modified.
Liberty is the most precious of Ahura Mazda’s gifs to humankind. It is a component of divine law. The right to liberty is so undeniable that Ahura Mazda does not curtail humankind’s actions, even in regard to one’s choice of religion.
Intolerance is not a tradition sanctioned by the Gathas. A tradition of non-acceptance has established itself within the Zoroastrian community, and manifests itself in our attitude toward people who, thought not born to Zoroastrianism, are devoted to Zarathushtra’s teachings and desiring to embrace our faith. This tradition owes its existence to historical – not religious – facts…
Though at times difficult, some traditions can – and should – be modified as social conditions demand change. In a civil society, issues can be resolved through discussion and the application of reason, good will, and compromise. Compromises should not be confounded by hypocrisy, but should come through constructive confrontation and a willingness to work toward the greater good….
I dream of a revival of our ancient glory, this time in terms of culture, not politics or power.
In the modern world, political entities and natural independence are giving way to cultural entities and international interdependence. With our members so scattered around the globe, it is unrealistic to dream of Zarathushtis forming a political entity.
As a cultural entity, however, Zoroastrianism can be formidable. I dream that the Zoroastrian community will rediscover its history and culture, the lofty and well-regarded traits that enabled Cyrus the Great to present and promote humanitarianism to the world and Darius to produce a profoundly efficient judicial system. Through religious tolerance, these two great leaders created Pax Achaemedia, and were able to lead the world into a new era of progress and prosperity. The powerful influence Zoroastrianism has had on humankind was well known in ancient times; Zoroastrian ideology influenced Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and a host of agnostic faiths as well as ancient philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Pythagoras.
The Gathas, once regarded as a compendium of ethical rules, can once again be a beacon of light in a vast sea of moral darkness and decline, providing guidance and answers to modern ethical dilemmas. It is my dream that Zarathushtis so excel in their chosen professions that they once again influence the global community, entering into the uppermost echelons of honor and achievement in society as a whole.
I dream that the spirit of Zarathushtra will live on in our youths. It is up to you, especially those of you living outside of Iran and India, to prove that Zarathushtis have the talent, motivation, strength, and benevolence needed to flourish in the next millennium. You must lead the way. You must do what is right for righteousness’ sake. You must be vigilant, working hard to protect and promote Zoroastrian values, and to keep the eternal flame alight.
Excerpted from “Triumph over Discrimination: The Life Story of Farhang Mehr,” ISBN 978-0970-93370 by Lylah M. Alphonse. Reprinted with permission.