Parsis and Vegetarianism

Every founder of every religion has been vegetarian. Jesus belonged to the Essene clan which is strictly vegetarian till today. Prophet Mohammad wrote extensively about the need to be vegetarian and was the originator of “Do not make your stomach a graveyard for animals”. Zarathushtra himself and his parents were vegetarian and his followers vegetarian. It is difficult to be godly while being cruel to the helpless and drugging yourself with dead putrid red flesh…


parsis-and-vegetarianismAll the Parsis I know, including our relatives, are unrelenting meat and egg eaters. All the Parsi cookbooks pay little attention to vegetables  except if topped up with eggs. This is one community that, for all its passion for animal welfare  and there is no doubt that they have done an extraordinary amount of real work cannot make the correlation between what they care for and what they eat.
Therefore I was delighted to see a wonderful book written by Ervad (this is a priestly title) Dr. Peshotan Framarz Peer, a priest, scholar and an authority on the Shahnameh ( the great epic of the Parsis ) on vegetarianism from the Zoroastrian religious point of view. He served as the President of the Parsi Vegetarian Society till 1997 and wrote in the community newspaper ‘Jam e Jamshed’ on religion and vegetarianism regularly.
Every founder of every religion has been vegetarian. Jesus belonged to the Essene clan which is strictly vegetarian till today. Prophet Mohammad wrote extensively about the need to be vegetarian and was the originator of “Do not make your stomach a graveyard for animals”. Zarathushtra himself and his parents were vegetarian and his followers vegetarian. It is difficult to be godly while being cruel to the helpless and drugging yourself with dead putrid red flesh.
According to Iranian history, the first to consume meat was the evil and tyrannical monarch Zohaak who was served meat by the devil Ahriman who came to him disguised as a cook. The devil intended to destroy all living beings on earth to such an extent that Zohaak would reach the point where he had to be fed with the flesh of human beings and the world would gradually empty out. A couplet in the Kutar Shahnameh says “except only the vegetation grown underground and things grown above ground, they did not eat anything else; then, that evil Ahrimaan consciously determined the thought of killing animals.” Another couplet says “That was the time of cereals and fruits; it was the time of great strength.”
Every religion has a period of fasting. The Parsis have the Shehenshahi Behman month in which many abstain from meat. There are four days every month which are recognised as Parhezi or abstinence days. The word Parhezi comes from the Avesta ( the original language of the Zoroastrians) Paitirich which means “to abstain from some evil thing” which is meat. In the entire Avestan literature either directly or indirectly, there is no directive to eat meat. On the contrary there are several directions as to what vegetarian food should be eaten and how animals should be nurtured with love.
The sacred teachers of Zoroastrianism have left a wealth of material asking the Parsis not to eat meat. I quote from some of them:
“Eating meat is improper according to our sacred religion. In the ceremony of a fringaan, it is required to offer dry fruits, flowers, milk and water, whereas our people offer meat, fish, chicken. Such offerings are not valid”.Dastur Erachji (author of ‘Rehbar-e-din-e-Zarthosthi’) of Navsari.

Every religion has a period of fasting. The Parsis have the Shehenshahi Behman month  in which many abstain from meat. There are four days every month which are recognised as Parhezi or abstinence days. The word Parhezi comes from the Avesta ( the original language of the Zoroastrians) Paitirich which means “to abstain from some evil thing” which is meat.

“One who eats flesh is worthy of punishment and after death he will be tormented by evil spirits in hell. In every offering and gahambaar ceremony if you eat flesh food, that action will bring hardships on you”. Dasur Darab (author of ‘Faraziyat Nameh’) of Navsari.
“Our religion teaches us to progress in every respect. If we were to stop the progress of innocent and useful animals by slaughtering them, then that would be considered quite contrary to the religion,” says Ervad Khushedji Behramji Sahiyaar.
“After obtaining subtlety for the urvaan or soul to reach a higher plane, we need to get the divine spark and for this to happen we can never resort to killing living creatures.” –Ustad Saheb Behramshah Shroff.
According to Dasturji Saheb Darab In the 6th Book of the Dinkard, it is mentioned that the diet of the Zoroastrians in ancient Iran was vegetarian. Ervad Faramji Rabadi of Surat who was the first to translate Avesta into Gujarati has stated that meats are entirely forbidden in any ceremonies.
Unfortunately some Parsi advocates of meat eating rely on faulty translations of the Avesta. In the Avesta the words “Geush, Gaam, Gav” etc mean “Gospand” which is domestic living animals, milk, ghee etc. They have been translated to be “flesh, meat”. The word for flesh in the Avesta is actually “khrum”. The word “Gav” means cow and not cows meat or beef. This is akin to the mistranslations made when the Bible was first translated from Greek to English in which the word “phago” which means “to eat” and “food” was translated as “flesh”.
In the golden rules of Zarathustra, in Gatha 32-12 “Geush Morendan” i.e. the slaughter of animals, is strictly forbidden. In Gatha 50.1 “Paseush-thraata” i.e. protection of animals is urged.
I could go on thousands of examples and dictates from the sacred texts but the best summing up is given by Ervad Saheb Pheroze Shapurji Masani who, with his brother studied the Avesta-Pahlavi languages and spent their lives in the study of the religious texts , becoming authorities known all over the world. They founded the Parsee Vegetarian Society in 1907 “Zoroastrianism has never advocated the killing of animals and partaking of non vegetarian food. On the contrary it is considered a heinous and evil act in the eyes of Ahura Mazda (the head of the Parsi pantheon of Gods). It is true that the bad habit of eating meat has afflicted the Parsis because of its so called taste. But to try and justify such a bad habit in the name of the Zoroastrian religion is tantamount to discredit one’s own prophet and one’s own religion.”
Zarathustra says “Ashtaa Ahmaii, Yahmaii, Ushtaa Kahmaaichit” Make others happy and you’ll also be happy.” Start with your food which causes millions of creatures so much suffering.

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