Our dear friend Noshir H. Dadrawala wrote this article that was first published in the Parsi-Times.
The novel coronavirus is neither ‘Divinity’s Wrath’ nor ‘Nature’s Vengeance’. From a Zoroastrian perspective, this virus is the opposite of all that is good, God-given, life-giving and health-promoting. However, there are all kinds of posts on social media about the coronavirus being ‘Divine Anger’ on mankind and COVID-19 being ‘Mother Nature’s Vengeance’ on human beings!
The Zoroastrian Perspective: The God of Zarathushtra is neither an ‘Angry God’, nor a ‘Testing God’ or a ‘Vengeful God’. Zarathustra’s God (Ahura Mazda) is the Lord of Wisdom, the Bestower of Life and a ‘Loving Beloved Friend’. In the Gathas, (Divine Songs) Zarathushtra calls his God as ‘Friya’ (Sanskrit Priya) – a Beloved Friend.
As intelligent human beings, we have been given the freedom to choose and what we reap is the fruit of our individual and collective choices – Good or Evil. Let us not blame the Divine or assign it to Divine Anger. The sum total of humanity’s collective Thoughts, Words and Deed (Actions) lead to Re-Actions. It’s a scientific law.
Zoroastrians believe that human beings find happiness or sorrow according to moral and ethical choices made at an individual and collective level. A school of thought also emerged during Sassanian times, postulating the theory that Ahura Mazda (God) is ‘Totally Good and Very Powerful’ and Ahriman or the evil spirit/mentality is not a creation of Ahura Mazda and at the end of time, the latter will be completely vanquished. According to this school of thought, Ahura Mazda cannot and should not be blamed or held responsible for death, disease, suffering or pain in this ‘perfecting world’.
There are two mentalities Anghra Mainyu (negative mentality) and Spenta Mainyu (positive mentality). As human beings, we have the freedom to choose positive or negative mentality. What we individually and collectively reap, is the consequence of our choices.
Fate And Destiny: Fate is what puts opportunities in front of us while destiny is determined by our decisions. For instance, if one finds himself in a position of power or a position of poverty, that is fate. But what one does being in the position of power or poverty, shapes his destiny and impacts that of those around him. The one in position of power may use that power positively or negatively. In like manner, the person in position of poverty may justify becoming a thief and harm his destiny and that of his victims or work honestly to better his destiny and that of others.
The Virus… And the REAL Virus
Scientifically, coronavirus is not even a living organism. It is a parasitic destructive particle. Let’s shun it. Let’s work to destroy it following credible health and safety guidelines. But let’s not give it importance by elevating it to the stature of ‘God-induced’ or ‘Mother Nature inflicted’! It is anti-Nature at best!
A virus is a biological agent that reproduces inside the cells of living hosts. When infected by a virus, the host cell is forced to quickly produce thousands of identical copies of the original virus. Unlike most living things, viruses do not have cells that divide; new viruses are assembled in the infected host cell. In other words, a virus is an inanimate, complicated, non-living matter. It lacks any form of energy or carbon metabolism. Viruses reproduce and grow only within host cells.
The REAL virus, to worry about, is the virus of panic and paranoia; The virus of fake news; The virus of hypocrisy propagated by those who attempt to instill guilt and fear from the safety of their homes but do not lift a finger to help anyone. Real heroes do not wear the badge of religion or spirituality. Besides doctors and health-care givers, there are innumerable unknown and unsung heroes who run errands for the sick and the elderly, provide food and medication and do all the good they can, without seeking reward or recognition. Indeed, all these hands that help, are holier than those lips which only preach.
Origin Of Evil: There is no way we can fathom the deep mysteries of this universe, including the origin of evil, with our very limited intellect. It would be akin to measuring the Pacific Ocean with a six-inch scale! To be honest, we do not know why, during any calamity, some die and some survive. Perhaps, what is more important to know is what one can or should do when evil strikes. Gautam Buddha had a good anecdote to explain this. When one is shot with an arrow, does one waste time finding out whether it was shot on purpose or by accident, by a king or a commoner, from the ground level or from horseback? The real and immediate need is to remove the affliction, pain and discomfort and not waste time on the unnecessary.
The conflict in a human mind is much like this. Who and what caused the Coronavirus? Was it created accidentally or deliberately, during a research experiment or at a wet market in Wuhan? Worse, why is God punishing the innocent or Mother Nature taking revenge on the already ailing and the elderly? A more objective response would be – yes, we have been struck by a pandemic. Why waste crucial time assuming conspiracy theories? Is that going to solve the problem? Instead, why not find out what one can do by way of a remedy or solution to the problem. How best to flatten the curve?
Between stimulus and response, is space. In this space, lies our freedom to choose our response. When something negative happens in our lives, we cannot expect a positive change with a negative attitude. We win some battles and we lose some battles. The issue is not whether we win or lose. It’s how we fight or respond. The true reward of a well-fought battle is not what we get at the end of it, but who we become at the end of it.
Health And Hygiene: As Zoroastrians, we believe that cleanliness is not next to godliness, but is a part of goodness and godliness. Washing hands comes as part of our upbringing. We are required to wash our hands and face before praying or entering a place of worship or before cooking or eating. Even social-distancing and self-quarantine is observed by priests for nine nights during the Bareshnoom (a purification) ceremony. Social distancing and self-quarantine also used to be observed by women during menses and for forty days after child birth.
Don’t Ask ‘Why’! Ask ‘What Now?’: Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author of numerous books including ‘Living a Life that Matters’ rightly says, “The question we should be asking is not, “Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?” That is really an unanswerable, pointless question. A better question would be, “Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?”
Martin Gray, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust writes about the travails of his life in a book called ‘For Those I Loved’. He tells how, after the Holocaust, he rebuilt his life, became successful, married, and raised a family. Life seemed so good after the horrors of the concentration camp. Then one day, his wife and children were killed when a forest fire ravaged their home in the south of France. Gray was distraught, pushed almost to the breaking point by this added tragedy. People urged him to demand an inquiry into what caused the fire, but instead he chose to put his resources into a movement to protect nature from future fires.
He explained that an inquiry, an investigation, would focus only on the past, on issues of pain and sorrow and blame. He wanted to focus on the future. An inquiry would set him against other people: “Was someone negligent? Whose fault was it?” Being against other people, setting out to find a villain, accusing other people of being responsible for your misery, only makes a lonely person lonelier. Life, he concluded, has to be lived for something, not just against something.
It’s the same with the coronavirus pandemic. Was someone in China negligent? Whose fault is it? Is it government policy or man’s greed or God’s anger? Our response should be, “life has to be lived for something, not just against something”. Look at the positive outcome of this pandemic. Look at the milk of human kindness that is flowing across India and the world. The pandemic is a matter fate. Our response to this fate is what will shape our individual and collective destiny.
The Role Of Prayer: When prayers are offered with devotion and understanding, they become a powerful source of positive and healing energy. Just as food is essential for physical sustenance, prayers are vital for spiritual sustenance and mental equilibrium, especially in times of fear and anxiety.
In the Zoroastrian tradition there are several healing prayers. One of the best healing prayers is the ‘Ardibehest Yasht’; and for mental peace there is the ‘Mah Bakhtar Nyaish’. ‘Vanant Yasht’ is also a very powerful prayer which helps the one who recites it to overcome all negative and evil forces. In the very powerful and potent ‘Nirang’ of Vanant. we affirm that all calamities may vanish and disappear!
Praying the 34th and 35th name (out of the 101 names) of Ahura Mazda is also very beneficial. The 34th name affirms Ahura Mazda as “vanquisher of all kinds of afflictions and diseases” and the 35th name upholds Ahura Mazda as “victorious over all evil”!
Pray daily with full faith and positive affirmation that Ahura Mazda will assist us all in vanquishing coronavirus and assist humanity in victory over this negative, life-threatening, parasitic particle.