"hame iranian o poeriyodakeshan gehan daman, behdinane, tajiane baste kushtian, zarthushtian,..."
(Sarosh Yasht VadiNirang)
All Irani Zarthushtis, who are the descendants of the Peshdad Kings, staunchly adhere to wearing the sudreh-kusti...".
The first instructors of humanity, the "poeriyo-dakeshan" (Peshdad), of whom it is written that they gazed upon and conversed with the Spiritual Beings, transmitted to succeeding generations the doctrines which have proved necessary for the survival of the Mazdayasni religion. By relating the intimate connection between Man and the Universe, between Man and Ahura Mazda, Jamshed (Yim), of Peshdad Dynasty, taught the necessity of wearing sudreh-kusti. Sudreh-kusti are pre-Zarthushtrian and have been handed down from time immemorial. Our ancestors sealed their fate in blood and some left their beloved Iran-vej to safeguard the Zarthushti religion and religious identity as "baste kushtian". "Patyap-kusti" is the fundamental ritual without which no further prayer can be offered and no ritual performed. The scriptures prove that for those who are followers of the Mazdayasni Zarthushti religion, navjote and sudreh-kusti are mandatory.While the Parsis in India, due to religious freedom, zealously continued wearing sudreh-kusti, some Zarthushtis in Iran, due to their identification with the religion, began wearing them only within the sanctity of the fire temple. Today, sudreh-kusti are regarded by some as something which may be put on and off at will, as a matter of choice.
"...it is incumbent on all those of the good religion, women and men, every one who attains to fifteen years, to wear the sacred thread-girdle".
"O Creator! in whom is the manifestation of secretly-progressing destruction, that is, in whom is its progress?" And Auharmazd spoke thus: "In him who... does not wear a sacred shirt and thread-girdle, and his law also is this, that is not necessary to wear them." - and the law of no belting is so grievous that, when that law shall be accepted, it is observed that destruction is strengthened".
"...as to him who - as a worshipper of the sacred beings, ...wears upon the body that spiritual, customary, and doctrinal indication of the sacred beings with a wisdom which is truly religion, his steadfastness and religious service of the sacred being are audibly spoken thereby..."
Navjote (nav = new; jote = zaothra or a designated participant) is the most sacred and significant event in the life of a Zarthushti. "...it is declared in revelation, that although much duty and good work be performed, it is not possible to attain to the supreme heaven (garodman), except on that one occasion when the Navazud ceremony is performed, ...". Navjote usually takes place when a child is 7 years old. At this age, the mind engages in active, individual thinking. Astronomy teaches that every individual is under the dominion of Moon (Avesta:"Dae") for the first 7 years of life. Since Moon is occultly connected to "mind", the first 7 years of a child's life are mostly associated with the development of mental faculties. Navjote is preferably performed at this impressionable age to channel the mind towards spiritual progress and to encourage fulfilment of religious duties.
"Thus spoke Auharmazd: "When for him, of those who are Mazda-worshippers, there is this beneficial, star-spangled... garment, always (after seven years of age) first he covers up (that is, clothes) his own body in it, and with (that he is properly) a preserver of faith (that is, a preserver of attachment, and) he afterwards ties (that) girdle (over that starry garment) at the waist."
During the sacred ritual of Navjote, a child, born of both Mazdayasni Zarthushti parents, receives the sacred sudreh-kusti which are the most fundamental "alat" of our religion. An "alat" or a "zaothra" is a material or a living object in which certain spiritual energies are awakened through kinetics and the vibrations of the manthra. After navjote, through the sudreh-kusti, the Zarthushti child is united in righteousness with other Zarthushtis, and is able to consciously get connected with Asho Zarathushtra, the Yazatas and Ahura Mazda. A similar idea is prevalent in Christianity. The words to signify "baptism" are: "definite identification with Jesus as Messiah or Lord"; " after `baptism' in the name of the lord, a man is regarded as `in Christ'." This is exactly what happens at the time of the navjote of a Mazdayasni child: he/she is regarded as "in Zarathushtra".
"It is like that which occurs when they are performing hama zor and hama asho, and have put on this sacred thread-girdle on that account, or when, similarly, some one in Kasmir, or Eran-veg, or Kangdez, or the enclosure formed by Jam, performs a good work and we are not able to perform it with hamazor, then they and we, who wear the sacred thread-girdle on the waist, are mutually connected and equally meritorious, one with the other".
"...even this well-looking garment, spiritually formed by the creatures of the spirits, is really (that which) the righteous Auharmazd granted me (who am Zaratust). ...therefore with that garment, which is purified (that is, pure), do thou worship, or practice invocation, as regards Auharmazd and as regards the archangels,...'" It is important to remember that navjote is not a legal document, a social celebration or an imaginary "door" which makes an individual a "Zarthushti". A child born of both Mazdayasni Zarthushti parents has the birthright to enter our sacred precincts and is entitled to all other religious privileges, including dakhme-nashini, even before his/her navjote is performed. This is so because the Mazdayasni Zarthushti religion accepts into its fold only the progeny of both parents who are themselves Mazdayasni Zarthushtis by virtue of birth/lineage alone. Navjote is a sacred religious ritual at which, a child born of both Mazdayasni Zarthushti parents, affirms its own responsibility before the community and in the presence of fire, to act according to the commands of the religion. Thereby the child unites "hama zor" with Ahura Mazda, the Divine Beings, Asho Zarathushtra and the community till Frashogard, through unbroken lineage (boonyad pasbani). The child pledges that he/she is a Mazdayasni by birth (Mazdayasno Ahmi), and will consciously obey the mandates of the religion which Asho Zarathushtra upheld, taught and practised (Mazdayasno Zarthushtrish). Followers of other religions go through their own prescribed confirmation and rituals which unite them in communion with their own Channels of Divine Light. Navjote and sudreh-kusti define and distinguish the Zarthushtis from the followers of the other revealed religions.
Sudreh is "sud" (good, beneficent) and "rah" (path). It is a guide to the Right Path which attunes a Zarthushti with the divine Yazatas and with Ahura Mazda. Ahura is called "Vafush", the Weaver (yasna 29.6). Ahura Mazda weaves and clothes Himself with the invisible robe of Cosmic Matter which is at the root of all physical and ultra-physical creation. The universe, including mankind, is fashioned from this Cosmic robe Ahura weaves around Himself. The Avesta name for sudreh is "stehr-paesanghem", meaning "heavenly garment". In the Avesta, Ahura Mazda is depicted as being clothed with the radiant firmament and star-studded belt. Yasna 305: ..." The Most Beneficent Spirit, who wears the heavenly firmament..."; Farvardin Yasht, 2-3: "... the sky... which Ahura Mazda wears as a star-decked garment". The Avesta mentions the heavenly garment and belt of Spiritual Beings and sudreh-kusti are earthly representations of these divine attire to guide us on the path of righteousness by reminding us of our divine heritage and destiny, and also to put us in communion with the Spiritual Beings. "... when the archangels came meeting Zaratust they likewise wore the sacred thread-girdle on the waist; and the distinctive characteristics (farq) amid the laws of the sacred being is the wearing of the sacred thread-girdle". It was the Peshdad King Jamshed (Yim) who, heeding a direct command of Ahura Mazda, advised his successors to wear sudreh-kusti to commune with the Divine, and to ward off the evils of body, mind and soul. Asho Zarathushtra continued this divine commandment of wearing sudreh-kusti and stressed their importance in the evolution of the soul on the path of Asha. "The first person who set the wearing of this sacred thread-girdle in view was Jamshed".
"...the sacred thread-girdle was worn even before the coming of Zaratust the Spitaman, so after the coming of that messenger (vakhsvar) of the sacred beings, the righteous Zaratust-who enjoined the commands of the good spirits and the exposition of the religion, with discourse praising the sacred beings and scriptures (avistako) about steadfastness in the good religion-the same religious girdle is put on, with a religious formula, around the body over the garment of Vohuman".Paradoxically, Jamshed caused his own spiritual destruction when he succumbed to the demon of disobedience and discarded sudreh-kusti. "In consequence of this apostasy, the royal glory departed from him, and he allied himself to the demons and remained in their power for most of the remaining century of his life" (Dadistan-i Dinik, SBE Vol. 18, p. 127). Considering himself invincible and equal to Ahura Mazda, when Jamshed discarded sudreh-kusti, he unwittingly dispersed the protective "kush" around his physical body thereby becoming defenceless against physical and moral decay. Since the physical and spiritual are inter-connected, consciousness transfers itself to different levels of spirituality from one "kush" (boundary) to another. Consequently, in the absence of the essential spiritual "kush" of sudreh-kusti, Jamshed could not transfer his consciousness to spiritual heights to commune with the Divine and became vulnerable to the army of Azi-Dahak. (Azi=snake; Dah+ak=10 vices, epitome of evil.) A similar tale exists in Hindu mythology where Sita steps out of "Laxman-rekha" (spiritual boundary), to be captured by the demon Ravana. It is interesting to note that every religion has enjoined a protective "girdle" in some form or another. Hindus have "janoi", Islam has "junnar", Judaism has "tallus", and Christianity has "rosary" and some clergy tie the symbolic "chord" round the waist. Sudreh-kusti are both stitched and woven in a precise, distinct manner, unlike any ordinary shirt or belt. It is important to comprehend that in creating the material universe out of the invisible robe of Cosmic Matter, Ahura Mazda, as "vafush" (weaver), first created the "Hasti" or the permanent heaven. He then created "Nisti" or the semi-transient world, and finally our world "Geti" which is transient. The Hasti (heaven) realm consists of 9 parts or layers. (The realms of the 7 planets, plus the two "minoi" realms which include the realm of the fixed stars and the abode of Ahura Mazda in boundless Light.) As the heavens are divided into number 9, the constitution of man is similarly divided into 9 components. Man is the microcosm of the infinite macrocosm since mankind is made in His image. According to the analogy: "as above, so below", Yasna 551 lists these 9 components of man as:
The 9 seams of the sudreh have a very spiritual bearing on the constitution of man. The number 9 reminds the wearer that he/she is a very integral part and an offspring of the very divine universe which works through the 9 corresponding parts into which an individual soul is divided. Due to the intimate connection between mankind and the universe, Zarthushtis are mandated to wear sudreh-kusti to attune with the entire creation of Ahura Mazda in "hama zor" so that Frashogard is fulfilled. Since the physical body is built like a fortress to protect the organs, we need the spiritual shield of sudreh to protect the Inner Spiritual Self. Just as Ahura Mazda clothes Himself with the fiery substance of the Cosmos, the sudreh acts as a spiritual munition to restrain negative influences which harm the body, mind and soul. The field of action for sudreh, when properly activated by prayers ("manthra") and connecting thoughts ("mithra"), is the human aura (proto-physical "bodies"). The corporeal body being composed of cells, is full of waste matter produced by the wear and tear of these cells. The effect of this is reflected in the proto-physical "bodies". Sudreh effectively minimizes such effects due to the following reason: The rays of the Sun pass through the 7 "dakhyu" (atmospheric layers) which act as filters or shields for the Earth as without them, direct radiation from the Sun would simply destroy every creation on Earth. When these filtered rays strike the surface of our body, they draw into the "azdebish" (etheric layer/linga sharira), the bodily impurities. While these impurities remain in the "azdebish", they gain strength due to the interaction of the constant radiation from the Sun. Hence, our body is a constant battlefield of powerful destructive forces of harmful microbes and bacteria from within and without. Therefore, to protect ourselves from diseases and unseen harmful forces, sudreh, worn next to the skin, acts as a spiritual filter by refracting, therefore minimizing the adverse effects on physical and proto-physical "bodies". The Sudreh is made of (1) white cotton cloth only. It must have these important features:
"...(the shirt) is needful to be perfectly pure white and single, which one fold is because Vohuman also is thus the one creature who was first, and afterwards from him the garment which is innermost and concealed is called in revelation". The other rationale for sewing the sudreh from one strip of cloth is also to remind the wearer that all the 9 parts into which a soul is divided (namely: fravashi, baod, urvan, keherp, tewishi, ushtan, azdebish, gaetha, tanu), must eventually merge into one complete union called "khaethwadat". When all the souls have achieved their individual "khaethwadat", the aim of creation to unite with Ahura Mazda will be attained.
The Avesta word for kusti is "aiwyaonghana" meaning "spiritual belt". Hom Yasht, .26: "O Hom! ...Mazda brought for Thee, the sacred star-adorned girdle, (aiwyaonghana), made by the Spirits (Yazatas), of the good Mazdayasni religion. Since then, girded with this, Thou hast made Thy abode on the tops of the mountains for a long time, chanting the hymns of the Holy Manthra". This establishes the divine origin of kusti, together with the sudreh. As demonstrated earlier, sudreh-kusti are the representations of the spiritual garment and belt worn by the Divine Beings. They are the "fortress of angels", and as indicated in Dadistan-i Dinik (SBE Vol. 18, p.126), the Yazatas assist in bringing about Frashogard through the efficacy of their spiritual "garment" and "belt". It is further mentioned (ibid), that even Orion, the Keeper of the Mysteries of Heaven (and who is related to the Pleiades), is thrice girded by a belt as witnessed in the night sky by the three stars which represent his heavenly belt. They, i.e. the sudreh-kusti, protect us just as they protect the Celestial Beings from being invaded by Ahriman, and, as spiritual "alat", they attune us with Ahura Mazda, His Divine Host and Asho Zarathushtra. Our physical body is of the Earth, earthly; but the soul is immortal and needs to attune itself with the Immortals. Therefore, the spiritual necessity for a Zarthushti to wear sudreh-kusti can never be over-emphasized. Kusti is compared to a spiritual barricade and rampart between Ahriman and the Divine Host. It is referred to as the "girdle of the omniscient wisdom [which] has girded the all-intelligent angels" (Dadistan-i Dinik, SBE Vol. 18, p. 126). When the army of Ahriman declared war on the Spiritual Creation of Ahura Mazda, Ahriman could not defeat the Divine Host who are indestructible because of the "starry belt" and "heavenly garment" which guards Them. "...none of the demons and fiends, who are the mightiest of the demons, rushed upon the creatures of that uppermost third of the sky, who are in purity and indestructibility [due to the girdle]".
"Every one who has tied the sacred thread-girdle round the waist is out of the department of Aharman, and is established in the department of Hormazd". It should be noted that the navel or the waist is referred to as the equator, or the median in man, which divides and protects spiritual inspiration from lesser instincts .
"This is also betokened by its equally-dividing (ham-bur) position and determining fashion; for, as a wise man becomes a discriminator between benefit and injury, between good and evil, so also the place of the sacred thread-girdle is between below and above". Man is always considered as the greatest and grandest symbol of all the Divine Mysteries as he is created in His likeness and is the measure of all that exists. In all occult drawings of man, the regions or parts under the solar plexus (navel) are regarded as inferior and in darkness while the parts north of this plexus are superior and in light. Man's highest inspirations, wisdom and conscience reside in his upper reaches while the carnal emotions reside south of his equator, the navel. Kusti reminds Zarthushtis to concentrate the spiritual energies on the upper hemisphere.
"And from the heart, which is the place of thought and dwelling of life, on the upper side (lalaih) are the eye, ear, tongue, and brain, which are the dwellings of sight, hearing, speech, understanding, and intellect; and on its lower side (frodih) is the abode of a father's generativeness". Kusti is to be worn on top of the Sudreh, wound round the waist 3 times.
"A token and sign of worship is of great use, and a great assistance...therein is this belt (band), which is called the Kustik, that is tied in the middle of the body".
Kusti is never made from Cotton or any other thread except white wool. This white wool is taken from a lamb to remind us to be as gentle and self-sacrificing. Lamb's wool is not "hair". Whereas hair is considered a "naso" (defiled matter), wool is not since it differs in its structure. Kusti is woven by Zarthushti men or women, preferably of the priestly class. The weaver of kusti first performs the "patyap-kusti" before beginning the weaving. During weaving, he/she recites continuously the holy manthra of Yatha, Ashem and YengheHatam. Wool being a good conductor, retains the vibrations of the Avesta manthra which guide us to righteousness. Kusti is begun with 144 threads, twisted together to make 72 threads. This twisted thread is passed around the loom 72 times, divided into 6 strands, each of 12 threads. A continuous thread is made to pass, in the process of weaving, to represent the "paevand" or link between Ahura and all His creation. When the weaving is finished, Kusti is removed from the loom and handed to a priest to be consecrated. After the consecration, the rest of the weaving is done by hand. Kusti, which is hollow, is turned insideout. 3 tassels, each of 24 threads are formed at each end of the Kusti. The number 144 represents Immortality. 1+4+4 = 9. The 72 (7+2=9) strands stand for the 72 "ha" of Ijeshne. Hormuzd Yasht declares 72 names of Ahura Mazda to be talismatic. 72 is also the number connected to the heavenly astronomical cycles because it takes the Sun 72 years to pass one degree along its zodiacal round. An average man in good health has a pulse rate of 72 per minute, proving that mankind and Nature are intimately connected. The soul also requires 72 hours in order to resurrect itself in the spiritual world after the death of its corporeal body. The 6 strands represent the 6 gahambars which are connected to different stages of creation. The 24 threads symbolize the 24 kardahs of the Visparad and the 24 hours of the day.. The number 12 denotes the 12 houses of the Zodiac and their connection to number 8 as these zodiacal houses are located on the eighth heaven, which is the abode of the fixed stars. "Duwazdah Homast" is a ritual performed in honour of the 12 Yazatas who preside over these 12 divine, zodiacal mansions. It is said that he who ties the kusti, establishes a connection with these Yazatas. While tying the 4 knots, we are reminded of the 4 directions and the 4 elements to be kept pure, namely: fire, air, water, earth, which are the building blocks of everything which exists in the universe, including our world and everything in it. "And those four knots, with which they tie it on, are on this account, that it may give four attestations".
The four attestations are: 1) Ahura Mazda is the Creator of all, 2) the good Mazdayasni Zarthushti religion is the revealed Word of Ahura Mazda, 3) Asho Zarathushtra is His Prophet, 4) to consciously practise good thoughts, words, deeds through prayers, rituals (which begin by untying and tying the kusti knots) and service to the needy. The 3 tassels at each end of kusti and the 3 circles around the waist, remind us of the 3 fundamental tenets: Humata, Hukhta and Huvarashta; the 3 important cycles (zurvane akarne, zurvane daregho khadate and thwashe khadate) which are interlinked; the 3 creations: Minoi, Hasti and Nisti which are interconnected. The three rounds also signify the three stages of the Ahunavar Plan whereby the "Word" became the "Law" and creation became manifest. The 3 stages of the Ahunavar are: i) all worlds (Hasti, Nisti, Geti), and souls are created ii) imperfect souls are transferred to the mortal world (Geti, of which "khwanirath" is a part) for their Reformation and iii) the souls are repatriated back to Ahura (Resurrection) and Frashogard (Renovation) is accomplished. When Kusti is woven, before the ends are knotted by hand, it is turned insideout, to create a hollow space which symbolizes the earth and the sky, or Hasti and Nisti. The hollow space reminds us to accumulate good deeds since the two worlds are interconnected with the space in between. It is a reminder that our actions here have similar reactions in the spiritual world. Also, whatever little knots have to be tied to join the strands together, are hidden on the inside surface to warn us that our imperfections should be turned and transmuted into virtues. Kusti also demonstrates the necessity of exercising constant discrimination in day to day life. When praying "Sarosh Baj", two spheres are made whilst reciting "manashni, gavashni, kunashni", followed by "tani ravani, geti minoani". These remind the wearer to always adhere to those beneficent thoughts, words, deeds which are for the progress of our soul in this world. The physical body "tanu" is related to the physical world "geti", but the soul "urvan" or "ruvan" partakes of the spiritual world "minoi"; therefore, attention must be paid to the progress of the soul while living. Just as "tanu" and "urvan" are related, so are "geti" and "minoi".
These explanations are written for the unbelievers who do not consider sudreh-kusti to be mandatory "alat" for Zarthushtis, in order to progress on the Path of Asha, by establishing a spiritual link between the wearer, Asho Zarathushtra, and the Divine Beings. For the believers, this explanation is not necessary. Faith, devotion and obedience are their boon, together with the spiritual benefit they receive by wearing sudreh-kusti throughout their lives. Dadistan-i Dinik (p.133), states that in order to follow the commands of the religion, it is essential to wear sudreh-kusti, recite the proper manthra, and have faith in the scriptures. The Gathas do not mention the words sudreh-kusti but they refer to them as spiritual garments of the Divine: "stehr-paesanghem" (heavenly garment) and "aiwyaonghana" (spiritual belt). Without sudreh-kusti, there can be no communion with the Divine as consciousness transfers itself on different levels of spirituality from one "kash" (boundary) to another. Since the spiritual and physical are inter-connected, sudreh-kusti are that essential "kash" and link to establish communion between us and Ahura Mazda; between the physical and the spiritual. It is important to note that sudreh-kusti are not merely any ordinary "garment" or "shirt" and "belt" worn by all humanity. Both sudreh-kusti are designed in a specific way (with "girdeau", "gereban", specific numbers, etc.), and are worn by the Mazdayasni Zarthushtis, after the performance of navjote, preferably at age seven and definitely before age fifteen. The references and quotations are included from the Pahlavi Texts (especially Dadistan-i Dinik), to establish that during the worst days the Zarthushtis faced, they honoured navjote and sudreh-kusti to be mandatory in spite of the latter's identity and threat. They found it preferable to seal their fate in blood than discard their spiritual "alat". Is it not an irony that today, when we enjoy religious freedom, we are desecrating the very "alat" our ancestors died for? While our ancestors referred to sudreh-kusti as an "alat" and as a spiritual garment (replica of the heavens), we are calling the same as "outer symbol", and "unnecessary"! If sudreh-kusti are only outer symbols, would the scriptures specify the sudreh as "innermost" and "concealed"? Have we become so profane that we do not believe in the Revealed Word (scriptures) any more and consider ourselves "free" to chose to do whatever we think is convenient and appropriate? "And, in former days, if any one should have become completely fifteen years of age, and should not have worn the sacred thread-girdle, they would have done for him by stoning, as bread and water are forbidden (haram) for him". Such was the dedication to religion! "Freedom" does not mean freedom from the spiritual link which binds Ahura Mazda and His creation into a stupendous whole. Freedom of choice is an incentive to choose right actions, which, for the Zarthushtis, prescribe the necessity of wearing sudreh-kusti throughout the lifetime and even unto death. "At night when they lie down, the shirt and girdle are to be worn, for they are more protecting for the body, and good for the soul".
"...when thou risest up from the bed-clothes, it is necessary to tie the sacred thread-girdle again at the same place, and it is not desirable to put forth a step without the girdle". In the Vendidad (fargard 18), when Asho Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda what makes the power of death increase, the answer was teaching the wrong law of not wearing the sacred girdle "kusti" over the spiritual garment "sudreh". It is sudreh-kusti which are a Zarthushti's identity and link with Ahura Mazda, Asho Zarathustra and the community, as they are essential to any prayers, rituals and "hama zor". They are mandated; those who disobey, choose to relinquish the privilege of being identified as "Zarthushti" because they sever the link with the community, Asho Zarathushtra and Ahura Mazda of their own choosing. Please, let us honour and safeguard our spiritual inheritance: sudreh-kusti, which are the replica of the heavenly firmament and star-studded belt Ahura Mazda and the Divine Beings wear. Good and evil will survive as long as the material and spiritual universes coexist. Those who obey the commands of the religion will remain "baste kushtian"; those who are ignorant of spirituality and lack faith, will fall victims to doubt and disobedience, and like Yim (Jamshed), bring about their own spiritual destruction. May spiritual wisdom prevail. Atha zamyad, yatha afrinami. May it be so is my sincere prayer.
May 4, 1996
West, E.W., Sacred Books of the East, v.5, ed. F. Max Muller; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1987. West, E.W., Sacred Books of the East, v.18, ed. F. Max Muller; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1994. West, E.W., Sacred Books of the East, v.24, ed. F. Max Muller; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1987. West, E.W., Sacred Books of the East, v.37, ed. F. Max Muller; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1988.
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