Mr. Chairman, distinguished scholars and friends.
It is true that since I come from Gujarat, I have long association with Parsis. In fact, I was one time Assistant Collector Sanjan to which you made a reference and Navasari was a part of district Surat and I had a very close connection with people of Navasari. In Navasari there is a big colony of Parsis and apart from this initial fact I came into contact with some of the biggest names in the Parsis community like Mr. J.R.D. Tata who was a very close friend of mine and Mr. Nariman the eminent jurist and several others and I must say that my association with Parsisim extremely warm and some of the insights of Zoroastrianism have emerged from this association.
I believe that Veda and Avesta have a close connection with each and just Veda is symbolic and even Avesta is symbolic and some of the concepts are very similar. You just now made a reference to dualism of Zoroastrianism. In fact many of the Veda if you read them without interconnection all of them, you will also find dualism also in the Veda but if you read as a whole and if you take a few verses from the Veda: ekam sad vipra bahuda vadanti and others, then you get the idea of monism or sometimes it is called monotheism.
In fact Dayananda Saraswati said that Veda does not believe in monism but it is monotheism in which there are three ultimate realities are recognised, god, soul and nature. So there are many ways by which you can look upon the Vedic thinking. I think even the name Ahura Mazda is very often praised to Asura Mahan. This is one of the names of Indra in the Rigveda and if you philological see how this word can be developed, it comes to Ahura Mazda. Aryaman is also Anga Manju and Manju is also a Vedic word and Agra is also a Vedic word. The chief of Manju you might say agramanyu.
The concept of the evil in the Veda is a subordinate concept not the ultimate concept and I think also in Zoroastrianism evil is not an ultimate concept because there is fight between the good and the evil and the good is supposed to prevail ultimate and this is because it is subordinate, ultimately conquerable and the conquerable cannot be ultimate. I think that in the Veda we have origin of evil.
We have a very important verse in the Veda, Aghamarshan Mantra. The mantra by repetition of which the sin can be eliminated and the sin that is evil doing can be eliminated by what; if you know the whole process by which it has arisen, by the knowledge of the rise of evil you can eliminate it, ritam ca satyam ca abhiddhat tapaso’dhyajayat. Tato ratyajayat tadah samudro arnavah. This is the beginning of the Aghamarshana Mantra and it is said that first was ritam ca satyam, out of tapas arises ritam ca satyam – the right and the truth, they arise first. If I speak in the Parsi language, it is Ahura Mazda who arises first and then tato ratyajayat – then comes the darkness, tatoh samudro arnavah – samudra is the intensity of darkness, ratri is not complete darkness, because there are still stars in the night, therefore, there is some kind of a light. It is a partial knowledge and partial darkness but then comes tatoh samudra arnavah, thereafter complete darkness comes about and in Zoroastrianism there is a great reference to darkness and there is further proposition in Zoroastrianism, it is darkness which is cause of the death and a great importance is given in Zend Avesta to the whole phenomenon of death. The Zend Avesta begins with the whole idea of purification which is a very important concept also in the Veda, purity is the fundamental process by which the yoga of the Veda, the yajna of the Veda can be performed and I personally feel as a result of this, awakening or rise of darkness and this darkness is also referred to in one of the suktas of the Rigveda, where darkness is supposed to enveloped in darkness. There is a legend of which we speak in the tradition of Chaldea, in the tradition of the Veda, in Kabala according to which the original reality put forth first for a narration, truth, light, life and delight. These are the four narrations according to this legend. And then they found such a huge empire to govern and there was a fall and a result of fall these four became opposed to themselves. Truth became falsehood, life became death, light became darkness, and delight became sorrow and as result of development this conflict arose between the original from the emanation had come out and these emanation which had now become darkened and there is a battle and if one of the ways by which the Veda is to be understood it is exactly in terms of the discovery that the world is in the grip of a battle and that all human beings are a part of that battle whether you like it or not, you are the part of the battle and this is also the Vedic teaching, the battle between the good and the evil.
And I there is a great need therefore to understand, one of the ways by which we can understand, also the fire worship which is both in the Veda and in the Zoroastrian system. I think even the Zoroastrian has the system of yajnopavita of a different kind, they don’t put in this way but they put it around the waist but the same system is present in the Zoroastrianism.
I think there is a great need to understand Zoroastrianism basically to my mind in a symbolical manner not as an historical genealogy, but in a symbolical manner, a psychological story of the world creation and therefore the psychological battle between good and evil which is going on the world of which you are a partner and therefore for need for purification by means of which we can rise from death, we conquer death. And that was also the message of the Veda where the conquest of immortality is conceived the highest goal of the Vedic Yoga. The reason why Zoroastrianism and Indian ethos have coalesced together so well is because that the root I feel is a great identity and similarity. And as India always open to new truths which have come up, it has been easier for Zoroastrianism to be mingled up with Indian ethos and Zoroastrianism has made a tremendous contribution to the development of India.
Professor Chattopadhyaya always tells me that it was the advise of Swami Vivekananda to the grandfather of J.R.D. Tata that he should establish the steel industry in India and also to establish the Institute of Advanced Study. That the beginnings of steel and the industrialisation of India in the modern India and the rise of science in modern India were founded by Zoroastrianism or the representatives of Zoroastrianism. We can see once again that Swami Vivekananda represents the Vedic culture and the grandfather of J.R.D. Tata, representative of Zoroastrianism coming together and building up the bridges and creating the foundation of modern India.
I am extremely happy that this Conference is being organised today and we shall have much to learn from it and this will also once again bring us both, both the trends – the Vedic and Zoroastrianism trends together in a great harmony.