"Spirituality comes when we transform our barriers of love into carriers of love."

 


In the
LAP (Love-Appreciation-Power) of the Divine
  

 



 
 
Vision of the Visionaries
From the forefronts of North America
 
 

© 2003, Meher Amalsad, Author of Bread For the Head™

 

 

The other day, when I told someone that, "I am a Zarathushti", his reflective response was, "All Zarathushtis that I have known in my life have had ONE thing in common… they are SIMPLE but POWERFUL."

I wonder if the SUCCESS of our forefathers' VISION had something to do with it being SIMPLE but POWERFUL.

So, what makes a SIMPLE VISION POWERFUL? I believe that is CLARITY.

If CLARITY is POWER, then do we have that in our communal VISION today?

With that in mind, I wanted to know what the present Zarathushti Leadership Vision had in store for the future of our youth in North America.

Since the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA) officially represents the North American Zarathushti community, I decided to acquire individual Vision Statements from the Presidents of each FEZANA Member Associations along with those of the past and present FEZANA Presidents. I did this because I see FEZANA as an orchestra with each Member Association as a unique musical instrument. And I wanted to see if there is a way to tune in the visions of all these leaders so that they could collectively become instrumental for the welfare of our youth in the North American Zarathushti community.

To keep it SIMPLE and POWERFUL, I asked my self the following question:

What are the integral elements of a model VISION?

To begin with, should customs and traditions have any place in a VISION? Our visionary leader of the leaders - Rohinton Rivetna, the founder President of FEZANA (1988-94) insightfully shares: "The future is ours to make. If we badger the daylights out of the whole system of beliefs, traditions and customs that have been developed carefully and wisely over the centuries to make us a model community that has the respect of all, we will be left with its carcass. But, if we nurture, sustain, understand and learn them and then evolve forward, we will make it a golden age."

So, what else is required for a VISION to evolve? Dolly Dastoor, Ph.D., the first lady and second President of FEZANA (1994-98) masterfully indicates that: "Each generation stands on the shoulders of their forefathers and hopes that they can contribute more to life. If my generation has set a good example of living by the principles of HUMATA, HUKHTA, HVARSHTA and has followed the path of ASHA and righteousness, I can only dream that the youth of tomorrow will rise to all challenges and move the community forward."

So how can we rise to acquire a wise VISION? Framroze Patel, the third President of FEZANA (1998-2002) wisely guides in his vision that: "There will be an Athornan Madressa in North America with qualified young Mobedyars, who will preserve our traditional religious practices and will continue to perform our age-old rituals because without the priest class there will be no Zarathushti religion."

So, is there a key that opens the door for building such a VISION? Firdosh Mehta, the present President of FEZANA eloquently unlocks this mystery by stating that: "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future…. by providing them with opportunities and infrastructure that promotes religious education and social interaction."

Now, sometimes while trying to promote religious education, we come across indifferences among the various viewpoints of different generations. So, is there any room for indifference in a VISION?

Daryoush Jahanian, M.D., President of the Zoroastrian Association of Kansas (ZAKA) addresses it compassionately: "The worst act is to write off the new generation by having an attitude of indifference toward them. It is our utmost duty to instill the Zoroastrian faith in our youth by making them aware of their rich culture, history and the sacrifices our forefathers made to preserve our religion."

Preservation seems to be at the heart and spirit of all religions. So, how can we incorporate preservation in a Vision? Ervad Kobad Zarolia, President, Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation, provides some guidance by stating that: "If our youth adhere to Zarthosty values which made Parsi community a formidable force in India and abroad, then they will have no problem of repeating the same achievement in North America."

And, Khushroo Daruwalla, President, Zoroastrian Association of Florida, dovetails on this advice by re-affirming that: "The Zoroastrians have come to America for reasons comparable to their original migration to India. Following the tenets of our religion, and standing united to meet the challenges that come, there is no reason why we cannot reach to greater heights."

So, what does it take for a VISION to be guided by the core tenets of our Zarathushti Faith? Jamshid Goshtasbi, Ph.D., President, Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington, Inc. (ZAMWI) wisely states: "Information Age provides Z-Youth with such unprecedented resources and opportunities for education in--and dialogues with scholars of--Zarthushti religion and culture that would mold their future into a life guided by tenets of Zarathushtra's religion and teachings, in its purest form."

Now, I believe that INFORMATION LIKE CLARITY IS POWER. But the strength of this power will depend on how and what information is transferred to the next generation when the torch is passed on to them.

When it came to passing the torch, two promising women leaders in our North American Zarathushti community share a synonymous Vision

Arnavaz Elavia, President, Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Chicago (ZAMC) firmly believes that "Our youth will carry on the torch of our ancient religion because they present a very bright future with goal oriented leadership abilities."

But, in order to do so, "We must invite our youth to actively participate in our community because they must carry the torch in order to preserve our religion. Unity is very important, even when our cultures vary." stresses Fereshteh Yazdani Khatibi, President of the Board of Directors of the California Zoroastrian Center (CZC).

So, how can an environment of different cultures be conducive for a successful VISION?
The vision of Kourosh Dinyari, President of the Persian Zoroastrians Organization (PZO) of Northern California contributes: "To create an environment where our youth have ample exposure to culture and values that differentiate our religion from others, so that they can internalize the three mantras that should be part of everything we do in life."

Now, it is of vital importance that when we choose to differentiate our religion from others that we do that with unconditional love in our Vision.

Rumi Engineer, President, Zoroastrian Association of Rocky Mountain (ZARM) lovingly expresses this aspect of the vision: "The Youth of today learn awareness and love for all human beings transcending parochialism, prejudice and fear and they live in freedom, wholeness and inclusivity according to the teachings of Zarathushtra."

Now, I believe that FREEDOM comes when we FREE ourselves from DOM-inating others. With that in mind, how should freedom be incorporated in our Vision?

Ness Lakdawalla, President, Zoroastrian Association of Quebec (ZAQ) enlightens us by stating: "May they have the fortitude and intelligence to accept and permit their brethren to practice " Liberal " " Conservative" or " Ultra Conservative " paths. Thus in adversity, create a unified harmonious Zarthusti Community."

This, I find to be a challenging endeavor. But two bold leaders (both from Texas) in our North American Zarathushti community have taken the challenge to creatively handle that in their vision.

"The FEZANA leadership will be challenged to create an atmosphere which will foster intellectual growth and harmony amongst our youth and at the same time reinforce their religious unity, values and traditions", emphasizes Kersi Engineer, Chairperson, Zoroastrian Association of Houston (ZAH), and Mehrban Roshanravan, President, Zoroastrian Association of North Texas (ZANT) takes it one step further by providing an insightful avenue in his vision: "The future leadership for Zoroastrians will depend on the present leadership. We all need to work harder to pay attention to the concerns of our community. If we do not take seriously the relationships we forge right now with both old and young, then there is no way that a solid sense of who we are and what we want to become can be generated and sustained into the future."

Talking about the future of our youth, two Homis from opposite coasts of North America share a common vision of affirmative hope.

"It is my vision that our Zarathushti youth will lead a unified Zarathushti community in the future by savoring their similarities rather than focusing on their cultural or social differences," says, Homi Gandhi, President, Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York (ZAGNY) because "In every organization, youth are the pillars of the future. And, ours is no different. So, let us support our present youth leadership and equip them with the strength to handle the challenges of tomorrow," adds Homi Italia, President of the Zoroastrian Society of British Columbia (ZSBC).

One of the prime challenges that we Zarathushtis presently face in North America is the development of a close working relationship between the Parsis and the Iranis. Arman McCleary, President, Zoroastrian Society of Washington State (ZSWS) intuitively addresses this aspect: "I believe that by organizing cultural and religious events we can create a closer community among our Iranian and Parsi friends. We should also educate our youth with the teachings of Zarathushtra by offering them regular classes supplemented with resource materials from websites, books and tapes."

Along with this education, "It is important to provide an infrastructure that supports our youth because they represent our future," says Khushroo Lakdawalla, Ph.D., President, Zoroastrian Association of California, and "if we want them to feel proud of our community, then we need to support activities that promote youth interaction."

Now, my daughter Anahita is presently taking a class on World Religions in High School. On the first day of the class the teacher asked children to introduce themselves.

When Anahita said: "I am a Zoroastrian."

The teacher remarked: "Anahita, we are truly blessed to have you in our class."

I believe that so far our Zarathushti community has been a blessed community. So, what will it take for us in the future to continue being blessed in the same manner?

Ervad Jal Birdy, Vice President, Traditional Mazdayasni Zoroastrian Anjuman (TMZA) shares a vision with a guided perspective: "Our future youth have realized that in the North American 'Salad Bowl' each ingredient can exist separately while still making up a most delectable dish. They have taken a lesson in survival from their forebears and are actively practicing selected rituals, customs, and a disciplined Zarathushti way of life allowing them to live as a distinct and respected entity. Most significantly, they have come to realize the importance of marriage within the fold and are actively promoting it."

Shirin Kiamanesh, President, Iranian Zoroastrian Association (IZA) compliments this perspective with a blessed solution in her vision. "The timeless essence of Ashu Zarthusht's message endorses harmony, unity, respect for one's freedom of choice, equality, and strive towards perfection. We are awarded Vohu Mannah (the good mind) to achieve Asha (the ultimate right) and to make the responsible choice to follow the ethical and righteous path."

So, how is a righteous path carved in a Vision? Pervin Irani, President, Zoroastrian Association of Alberta, Canada (ZAA) believes "It takes place when we approach the faith with an open mind and a fresh vision, so that our youth can have a more promising future. This is the key to strengthening the faith and unity in our community."

I believe that it is not the faith we follow but the faith that follows us, which sometimes determines the direction of a viable vision.

And to further strengthen the conviction of this faith, Houtoxi Contractor, President, Zoroastrian Association of Pennsylvania (ZAPA) says: "I am very optimistic about the future of our community because I believe in the sincerity and strength of our youth. I am confident that as capable future torch bearers of our community, they will be instrumental in spreading the message of Zarathushtra."

And finally, here is another affirmative outlook from our dynamic veteran leader Sam Vesuna, President, Zoroastrian Society of Ontario (ZSO): "Seeing the enthusiasm and interest of our youth, I feel confident that the Zarathustrian torch will continue to burn brightly. Our youth have the wisdom, courage and conviction to ensure Zarathustra's message remains spiritually and culturally, inspiring and dynamic."

In spite of the fact that we have seen multi-faceted attributes, it is apparent from the VISION OF OUR VISIONARY LEADERS in NORTH AMERICA that success of a vision hinges on our COMMITMENT to nurture and structure it.

And, Sherazade Mehta, President, Zoroastrian Association of Greater Boston (ZAGBA) and Co-Chair, Zoroastrian Youth of North America (ZYNA) is asking for a COMMITMENT of recognition and support for our youth when she emphatically states: "Being actively involved with 'youth', and facing the age debate; I envision FEZANA to have another Committee for YOUNG ADULT ZARATHUSHTIS of NORTH AMERICA (YAZNA), having Zarathushtis from 20 to 36 years of age, and maintain Zoroastrian Youth of North America (ZYNA) committee, for 12 to 19 year olds, to be more in-tune with the North American way of recognizing the term 'YOUTH'".

IN OTHER WORDS, OUR YOUTH NEED A VISION OF RECOGNITION.

And interesting enough that Bomi Patel, President, Zoroastrian Anjuman of Northern California is providing that in his vision by stating that: "Our youth is active, strong and united. Being born in this country and understanding the great history of our religion they will maintain the balance of tradition and changes and lead our religion well into the next century. Youth is our future."


In a nutshell, VISION to me is a Valuable Insight Sown In Our Nature.

A kindergarten teacher asked her kids to confer with each other and come up with "ONE" color that best describes her, and collectively the kids came up with the color "CLEAR".

In order for our vision to be CLEAR it is important to recognize that sometimes, we may not be on the same page but we are all a part of the same book. So, let us at least open our minds even if we choose to close our eyes on someone else's vision. It is because by nature each individual is blessed with a different vision but I believe that "What Nature Divides, the Spirit Unites."

Let us support a vision that promotes the spirit of unity within diversity in our community.

 




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