Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Everyday Parsi: Farzana Cooper

Our second author in the Everyday Parsi 2014 series

Farzana Cooper writes

I grew up in a middle class Parsi family in Mumbai which had a mix atmosphere. My father was a jovial man who followed no concept of religion and on the other hand my mother was a very religious god fearing noble soul coming from a priestly family…People usually inherit their beliefs from their families but in my family, we were encouraged to find our individual path. My sister and I worked things out for ourselves, and we’re still doing it now.

farzana_cooper From my childhood days, if i have to recount Muktad, visually it was the most beautiful and divine experience. Fresh colorful flowers in lovely crafted silver vases and karasyas , tray full of fresh fruits, aroma of incense amidst smoky haze that fill up the halls in the Agiaries while priests recite prayers along with rest of the behdins in soft voices. As a child it was natural for me to ask my mother about its significance. She said, ” We recreate paradise on Earth to welcome the souls of our departed ones. Its a joyous occasion for us to meet them again, just as we feel pleased when we are visited by guests.” I was satisfied with the explanation but as i grew older, I started seeing it differently.

Muktad is Mukti, an ultimate freedom to our soul. A freedom from suffering, fear and worries. As I sat on a bench in one Agiary near Bazaar Gate where my Mother’s Muktad were taking place, watching other faithfuls sincerely participating, I couldn’t help wondering, what is the goal of our life? While each day contains moments of happiness, any happiness we do attain remains with us only temporarily. Then, after each phase of happiness passes, have you noticed that only an underlying dissatisfaction remains inside? This dissatisfaction prompts the next quest for happiness which again is, by nature, temporary. And so the cycle continues. The only goal we pursue all our life is to find happiness. So i believe, the goal of human life is to get permanent happiness. Happiness is liberation from sorrow of all kinds. I realized there are 2 stages of liberation in our life. In the 1st stage of liberation, we are liberated from ignorance and no problems and miseries of the world affect us. Its a state of knowledge, peace and bliss. The 2nd stage of liberation occurs when we leave this body and become one with the supreme soul. While Muktad in Parsi culture celebrates the 2nd stage of liberation, I decided to pursue the 1st stage of liberation while alive.

In Zoroastrianism, Urvan ( Soul) means consciousness which we can say is a general name for that part of us which is separate from body and is truly the “mainyu” or mental part of man, which is accountable for all deeds (and of course thoughts and words). In vocabulary the root of urvan is ‘var’, which means the power of distinguishing between right and wrong or the power of choice. We can also name this part as‘awareness’ which is made of two components: one is the conscious self and the other the unconscious self. The inner force of our soul that can tell the right path from the wrong and guide us towards righteousness and consciousness is Sarosha or Soroush. Its the inspiring power in our unconscious mind and self and one that inspires us from the inside and makes us move in order to follow the righteous path. This power is also called ‘the inner voice’, the ‘the conscience’ voice’ and the ‘divine hearing power’. The root of this word is ‘sravao’ meaning ‘to hear’, ‘the inner hearing power’. I see this inner voice as a manifestation of Ahura Mazda who is a part of our conscious state, our wisdom ( Baodha) and our guardian (Farvashi). God that we search everywhere all our life, lives within us, and this self realization and feeling of oneness with God is the Mukti in truer sense. For me Muktad today is much more than just celebrating the arrival of departed souls, its about recognizing the true self. Ushta Te

Farzana Cooper is a freelance illustrator. Her works have appeared in many lifestyle magazines and books including Verve, Maxim ,Vogue, IQ, Man’s World, Femina, Saturday Times, etc. She has illustrated books like Samar Halarnkar’s The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking (And Other Dubious Adventures) and Parsi Bol Farzana has a degree in Fine Arts from Sir J J institute of Applied Arts. Her other interests are in iconography, current affairs and south Asian archaeology and history. She lives with her family in Mumbai

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