Monday, July 7, 2014

Mr. Farhad Panthaki Brings Light to Traditions and Beliefs of Zoroastrianism (Part 3)

written by Program Intern, Michaela Wolf. 

I think when I first heard of your religion, I made an assumption that reincarnation might be included, due to other mentions of rebirth and cycling. Can you explain why this is not so and what your belief regarding death and the after- life is?

In the Zarathushti faith, the soul is considered to be immortal, and death is viewed as a transformation for the soul from the physical to the spiritual realm. It is believed that on the fourth morning after death, the soul is self-judged at an allegorical bridge to the spiritual world and is drawn into Heaven or Hell depending on if the soul generated more good thoughts, words & deeds. It is believed that through the collective good acts of humanity, at the end of time, all evil will be eradicated and all souls from heaven and hell will have to pass through an allegorical river of molten metal to be cleansed of any imperfections and then will be reunited with their resurrected original bodies in a perfect state. These beliefs are not consonant with reincarnation. Also, there are annual prayers performed for remembrance of the departed soul, which would be pointless if the soul was reincarnated.

Do children learn Avesta today? What role does it have in your contemporary practice?

No. Children today do not learn Avesta. It has not been a spoken language for a really long time. We do pray our prayers in the original Avesta language, on an individual level for the daily kushti prayer and on a community level at communal thanksgiving Jashan prayers. However, we typically use books that have English translations of the Avesta prayers.

Honesty appears as a pillar in your practice. Can you explain how this shapes your life and the role it carries socially? Can you describe a time when this came up in your life and what you did?

As mentioned earlier, Truth & Righteousness is considered to be of paramount importance as highlighted in the Ashem Vohu prayer. We try to live by these ideals to be an example to our children at every opportunity possible. One evening as I was pulling towards the curb to park to pick up my kids after school, my vehicle clipped the corner of a parked vehicle and the corner light broke and was hanging by the wires. With dread and visions of increased insurance premiums, I quickly looked around and no one was there. So, on instinct, I ran in and picked up my kids. As I was sitting back in the car, I saw thorough the rear view mirror the driver of the other car with his child looking at the broken light, but I just sat there, frozen. Later, that whole evening, I felt really terrible until I resolved to call the other car owner. I looked up the last name from the directory (I asked the kids who else left at the same time they did), called the owner and apologetically explained everything, and gave him my insurance information. I suddenly felt extremely relieved, like a huge burden was lifted. It really drove home the old adage “The truth will set you free.”

How do you consider biomedical technologies aimed at extending the lifespan of humans?
I personally believe that quality of natural life is way more important than the lifespan.

Can you speak about the role of dualism in Zoroastrianism?

The dualism that is described is the continuing conflict between Good (Spenta Mainyu) & Evil (Anghra Mainyu) at a cosmic and individual level. Humans are enjoined to always actively promote good to collectively assist in achieving the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil. So, personally, at an individual level, it represents an ethical choice.

How does this impact your life and perspective?

It reminds me to always weigh the consequences of my words and actions, and attempt to always strive to make the right choice.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your religion or beliefs?

I wanted to thank you for your interest in the Zarathushti faith, and want to emphasize that I am also a student of the religion. Therefore, in order to provide the best information, I have relied heavily on the following two sources: a book titled “The Zarathushti Religion – A Basic Text” and a pamphlet titled “ Zoroastrians (Zarathushtis) Followers of an Ancient Faith in a Modern World”, both published by FEZANA (Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America).


Michaela Wolf is the program intern at Project Interfaith. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Biology and a minor in Sociology from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. She currently attends Clarkson College, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Her interests include reading, writing, running, the outdoors and art.

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