This is Part VII of the famous article "Universalism and All that" by the Zoroastrian scholar RONI KHAN of India, published in the Jam-e-Jamshed paper in Bombay, India in 1995. The article is reproduced with kind permission, and great encouragement, from the Author as well as the newspaper.
UNIVERSALISM AND ALL THAT
Closing the Coffin of Conversion
by Roni K. Khan
(4) "Free Choice Unlimited"
The engine of the Great Heterodox Fallacy would cough, sputter and stall, were it not kept constantly lubricated by an oil called "Free Choice Unlimited." Ecologists, however, express concern that this engine violates pollution standards, and also point out that the situation is exacerbated by the quality of the oil, which laboratory tests show is an adulterated and repackaged product mixed with kerosene.
The genuine Free Choice as first revealed to mankind by Asho Zarathushtra in the holy Gathas (Yasna 30-2), has been transmuted by some mysterious experiment of heterodox alchemists into a licence for "Free Choice Unlimited," which encourages people to do anything their unrestrained instincts and uninhibited free will may dictate, including "choosing" to convert from their own religion to another; this also provides limitless scope to chop and change the religion of Zarathushtra in any way convenient to heterodox ideology.
Hand in hand with this "carte blanche" goes the facile argument that man can easily exercise his free choice correctly. As simplistically explained by a champion of heterodoxy: "How to make a correct choice? Ahura Mazda has put in each and every one of us vohu manah, the faculty of right mind."
Vohu Manah is the "Good Mind" ("vohu" = good; "manah" = mind), one of the Amesha Spentas (literally, the "Holy Immortals"). These exalted spiritual Entities personify the divine qualities of Ahura Mazda, and they may also be envisaged as the six divine "Rays" or Aspects of God, emanating directly from the Supreme Godhead. VohuManah is thus the Divine Mind of Ahura Mazda Himself. It smacks of arrogance and ignorance to attribute the purity-perfect Divine Mind to the puny and imperfect mind of mortal man, or to fancy that Vohu Manah is always awake and active there. Man is made in the image of God, but man is not as yet God!
Yes, the human mind has the potential to attain the perfected divine state of Vohu Manah, but only after eons of spiritual evolution when man reaches Perfection, achieves Union with God, and becomes One with Him. Yes, the seeds of Vohu Manah lie in man's mind, but they do not sprout until man uplifts his spiritual consciousness and showers them with the waters of Piety and Righteousness. Yes, man must constantly strive to work towards and cultivate Vohu Manah as a goal of evolution, but he cannot yet dare to flatter himself that he has made the Divine Mind his own.
Yes, man must exercise his mental faculties, but without claiming infallibility. No, Vohu Manah does not appear at every beck and call of the unillumined mind, and cannot be conjured up by the non-saintly mortal with just a snap of the fingers.
This is precisely why all religions, including our own, provide a whole catalogue of commandments, laws, maxims, prescriptions, proscriptions, rules and regulations, as guides to making the right choices. These ready-made guidelines would not be provided at all if our minds were capable of divine levels of discrimination to make the right decisions, or if Vohu Manah were to come to our rescue every time we called.
Unfortunately for us all, heterodox "ratus" included, Frasho-kereiti is still far, far away.
For the present, we must accept that our mortal minds and our rational thinking are bogged down in the world of duality, with a mixture of the dual mentalities of good and evil. The potentiality of Vohu Manah, the Good Mind, co-exists with the potentiality of Aka Manah, the Evil Mind (see Gatha Yasna 32-3, 33-4, & 47-5). This is why, when he offers the Freedom of Choice to mankind, Asho Zarathushtra advises that the mind should FIRST be illumined ("soochaa mananghaa"; G.Y. 30-2) BEFORE the act of choosing takes place -- ONLY THEN can the right choice ("ereshveeshyaataa"; G.Y. 30-3) be made. If our heterodox friends can insure that all of us act with "soochaa mananghaa" all of the time, we would be quite willing to concede the point of "Free Choice Unlimited."
Man's freedom to choose is not a licence, for the non-illumined mind is more than likely to make the wrong choices, especially in our materialistic, hedonistic times. This is precisely why Asho Zarathushtra warns that along with the freedom to choose, man has to simultaneously accept the responsibility of shouldering the consequences of his wrong choices too ("akem akaai"; Gatha Yasna 43-5).
What makes our heterodox friends so sure that for every flash of Vohu Manah, there will not be two of Aka Manah? The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Just look around you.
Take a good hard look at the appalling state of the world in our own time. Almost never before in history has there been such a horrific and profligate century. The happy result of our "Free Choice Unlimited," yes? 9.8 million battle deaths in the First World War, and 15.6 million in the Second: but that is the tip of the iceberg -- please add 39.2 million civilian deaths to the latter alone. Entire races sought to be wiped out. Hatred, brutality, greed. Our "correct choices," yes? Hundreds of million men, women and children allowed to live in abject misery at sub-human levels, racked by hunger and ravaged by disease. An entire planet put into jeopardy, with its ecology damaged and the continued existence of life itself seriously in question. Our "right free choices," yes? Look closely at the qualitative standard of living.
Morality dying, strangled by Licence. Evil doing. Vice. Corruption. Roguery. Depravity. Homosexuality, lesbianism, AIDS, child pornography, single parenthood, "free love." All approaching epidemic levels. "Free Choice Unlimited," yes? Religion under attack, abandoned by the faithless, or twisted by the self-interested for personal convenience and self-justification. Our own lustrous ethno-religious heritage, preserved by untold generations with untold sacrifice and untold faith, brought to a pass where our very identity and survival now hang by a thread.
This is not cynicism. It is realism. Just pick up your newspaper and count how many "wrong choices" you can spot, compared to "right choices." Judge whether man's mentality is soaring towards divinity or sinking into bestiality. And then assess the claim that modern man's mind is in active communion with the Divine Mind.
Conversion is the breaking of consecrated allegiance with one's own religion. In the heterodox doctrine, however, it is considered the epitome of "right choice." And pulling an ace from the sleeve in a remarkable sleight of hand, the doctrine's cardinals flash it in the face of the world, broadcasting that Asho Zarathushtra himself has provided mankind with a "freedom of religious choice" in his Gathas. We have briefly touched upon this blockbuster in an earlier section, and now, after examining it more closely, we shall demonstrate how quickly the ace turns into a joker.
Absolutely NOTHING like a "freedom of religious choice" exists anywhere in the holy Gathas, and there is no reference, direct or indirect, to a "choice of religion." Even a nodding acquaintance with the Gathas should bear this out. Besides, the question cannot even arise, because the other great religions of the world had not yet seen the light of day in the remote era of Asho Zarathushtra. To call a spade a spade, it is all purely and simply a fiction of heterodox enthusiasts, manufactured and marketed with surpassing subtlety and professional packaging in order to willy-nilly canvass credibility for their conversion mania. Though it is said that an untruth repeated often enough assumes the garb of truth, it is hard to believe that one of our most eminent and respected jurists, known for his insight and integrity, seems to have been taken in by the heterodox hoax of "free religious choice."
What does exist in the holy Gathas is the pristine Freedom of Moral Choice. This first appears in the second verse of Gatha Yasna 30. For an appreciation of this Choice within its correct Gathic context, it will be enough to examine, either in whole or in part as may be relevant, just the first four verses from the eleven contained in Chapter 30. (Note: Literal translation from Dr. Irach Taraporewala's magnum opus, The Divine Songs of Zarathushtra, Bombay 1993 reprint. Emphases mine.)
(1) In the first lines of the first verse, Asho Zarathushtra indicates the overall scope and context of Chapter 30 to be an exposition of the epochal doctrine of THE TWO SPIRITS OF CREATION, THE ANTITHETICAL "TWIN MAINYUS": "Now to those eager shallI speak of the Two, who are created by Mazda --all this teaching is for the wise ... " (G.Y. 30-1).
(2) In the second verse, Asho Zarathushtra reveals THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE: "Listen with your ears to the highest Truths, consider them with your mind illumined, before deciding between the Two Paths; man by man, each for his own self ..." (G.Y.30-2).
(3) In the third verse, it becomes evident that the Choice has nothing at all to do with choosing between one religion and another, because Asho Zarathushtra DEFINES THE TWO SPIRITS AS THE MORAL OPPOSITES OF GOOD AND EVIL AND MAKES IT VERY CLEAR THAT THE CHOICE IS BETWEEN THESE TWO ONLY: "Now, in the beginning were these Two Spirits ... these Two show themselves as Good and Bad; and of these Two the Wise rightly do choose, but not so the Unwise" (G.Y. 30-3).
(4) Likewise, in the fourth verse it becomes evident that the Choice has nothing at all to do with the followers of one religion as opposed to those of another, because Asho Zarathushtra makes it very clear that he is referring to ONLY THE FOLLOWERS OF UNTRUTH ("DREGVANTS") AGAINST THE FOLLOWERS OF TRUTH ("ASHAVANS"), WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE TWO OPPOSING SPIRITS: "And now when these Two Spirits together did foregather, they created first of all Life and Not-Life; and thus Creation's purpose shall be fulfilled -- the worst for the Followers of Untruth, but for the Follower of Truth the Best state of Mind" (G.Y. 30-4).
Can it be any the clearer that the Choice between the "Two Paths" is set wholly and solely within the ethical context of the "Two Spirits" of Good and Evil, Spanyaa Mainyu and Angra Mainyu? Or that the "Two Paths" are the Path of Good and the Path of Evil, and that mankind must "choose" between "these Two" only? Or that the genuine Freedom of Choice is exclusively a MORAL choice?
It is man's first duty to choose wisely between the eternal ethical alternatives of Righteousness and Unrighteousness, Right and Wrong. These diametric opposites are represented in the Zarathushtrian doctrine by the mutually exclusive pair of Spanyaa and Angra, the primordial Mainyus, Spirits, Mentalities, Forces or Energies of Creation. These Two are the basis for morality, and for the functioning of the cosmos as well.
Asho Zarathushtra exhorts each and every one of us to make the right moral decision between the Path of Truth ("Life") and the Path of Untruth ("Not-Life") asdelineated by the Two Spirits, through the exercise of our own free will; while simultaneously cautioning that this requires an "illumined mind." By making man aware of this Freedom of Choice, Asho Zarathushtra made him the architect of his own destiny, for the first time in human history. But at the same time, our holy Prophet reminds man that Freedom and Responsibility go together -- man must be ready to bear the consequences of his chosen mode of life: "the worst for the Followers of Untruth, but for the Follower of Truth the Best state of Mind."
It is unimaginable that so pristine an ethical conception could be TWISTED and DEBASED into an argument for religious floor-crossing. By what mental jugglery or tortured argument can Asho Zarathushtra's sublime Freedom of Moral Choice be torn out of its unshakable ethical context of the Two Mainyus and repackaged as an unrecognizable Freedom of Religious Choice? Where is the ambiguity? Where does the matter of religion enter the picture? Where does the question of conversion arise?
The jugglery may be sought to be justified on the plea that Gatha translations differ. But that is just eyewash. No translation can ever change the utter clarity and firmness with which Asho Zarathushtra sets the Choice in its moral context of the Two Mainyus. Such being the overriding premise, any deductions that conflict with it have to be taken as misinterpretations or fabrications. One can establish this in no better way than by allowing a heterodox "ratu," a scholar and an exponent of conversion, to paint himself into a corner with his own published words.
"Hear the best with your ears and ponder with a bright mind. Then each man and woman, for his or her self, select either of the two (the better and bad mentalities). Awaken to this doctrine of ours before the Great Event (of Choice) ushers in." (Note: Emphasis mine.) This is the translation of Gatha Yasna 30-2 as provided by the scholar himself, brackets included.
We take special note of the specific indication, given by him in brackets, that the selection is to be made between the "better and bad mentalities," in what is a clear and correct allusion to the Two Spirits or Mainyus of Good and Evil. We shall not quarrel with the scholar's translation, despite a reservation or two which do not materially affect our present discussion. We take it as correct. So far so good.
But we gasp in amazement when we find that in the same breath this scholar informs his readers that Gatha Yasna 30-2 is "the famous stanza of the `choice of religion'"! And we take another gasp when he proceeds to talk about people "who make the right choice and join the Good Religion"! (Note: Emphases mine.)
There is a wild leap of imagination between the scholar's objective translation and his subjective comments -- an obvious case of inconsistency. What on earth does "making the right choice and joining" the Zarathushtrian religion have to do with anything, when, according to his own translation of our Prophet's Gathic verse, the only thing possible is to join either the "better mentality" or the "bad mentality"?
But it is not our job to sort out these inconsistencies on behalf of the scholar, we being aware of the heterodox maxim: "Consistency is the bugbear of little minds." Our job is to take the inconsistencies as they are, and see where they logically lead.
After having correctly admitted that the Choice of selection given by Asho Zarathushtra is between the "better and bad mentalities," if you still insist on calling this a "choice of religion" and invite people to "make the right choice and join the Good Religion" of Zarathushtra, one and only one logical conclusion follows:- the other religion from which you are converting to Zoroastrianism is BAD.
The Gathic Syllogism that destroys the "Free Religious Choice" hoax is simple:- If you declare that you can switch over from Religion `X' to Zoroastrianism under the authentic Gathic terms of reference (viz., the mutually exclusive Two Mainyus of Goodand Evil), those very same terms of reference would simultaneously compel you to make the BLASPHEMOUS and absurd declaration that Religion `X' is EVIL.
Thus the heterodox ace turns into a joker; the swan's white paint wears off and reveals the ugly duckling. Insulting other religions by brazenly claiming that the "right choice" consists in converting to Zoroastrianism, and insinuating that other religions are in the grip of the "bad mentality," is utterly reprehensible and ALIEN to the Zarathushtrian ethos, and a wanton slur on the holy name of Zarathushtra. Such odious misinterpretations or fabrications are the inevitable result of tinkering with the holy scriptures and trying to twist the genuine Freedom of Moral Choice into a fake Freedom of Religious Choice in a bid to ride the lame hobby-horse of conversion.
The Gathic Freedom of Choice is man's MORAL choice between the two Paths of Right and Wrong. It is neither a "Free Choice Unlimited" to cater to one's instincts and do whatever one likes, nor is it a "Free Religious Choice" for floor-crossing between religions. The Choice is a matter of Morality; the holy Gathas of Asho Zarathushtra are the supreme expression of Supreme Ethics.
5) "Universal Religion"
This is the last of our five selected aspects of the Great Heterodox Fallacy. Though it is also probably the most wishy-washy aspect with even less substance than the other four, it has been pumped into life by strategic repetition. The very expression "universal religion" is attractive and alluring, with a certain emotive appeal of its own; and when it is bolstered by a few plausible arguments, it percolates into undiscriminating circles and then gradually seeps into community folklore.
In earlier sections of this article we have thoroughly examined the expression "universal religion" in the "universally applicable and accessible" meaning that is assigned to it by heterodoxy, and we have also pointed out that this is nothing but another heterodox "research discovery" aimed at conversion. For fundamental spiritual reasons pertaining to the soul and to the structure of religion, there can never be anything like a blanket universal religion suited to everyone. Indeed, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Never in the history of the world has there been a single religion followed by all mankind -- not even the oldest religion, Zoroastrianism, which heterodox theoreticians now position as "universal" in a ploy to prop up the conversion cult. If Zoroastrianism, the very first revealed religion, was really meant to be universally applicable to all mankind, it would be the only religion on the face of the earth, instead of one among many other religions promulgated by other saviours. God does not play dice, and neither does He indulge in senseless duplication.
No propaganda machine can do without slogans, and the less the substance in the arguments, the greater is the use of slogans to sway the masses, in the hope that ultimately the slogan will be taken as the truth upon its face value alone. The captains of heterodoxy are no strangers to such tactics in their campaigns; in fact, they have demonstrated a talent for this Goebbelsian technique of influencing others.
"Universal Religion" is the latest buzzword in the heterodox dictionary. Please let us take early warning before the distorted connotation of this noble expression is allowed to infiltrate the Zarathushtrian dictionary.
End of Part VII
Written by Roni Khan
Published in the JAM-E-JAMSHED Weekly, Bombay, India
Part VIII of Roni K. Khan's "Universalism and all that"
Part VI of Roni K. Khan's "Universalism and all that"
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