Tag Archives: Persia

On Relation to the Past

“Monday Musings” for Monday March 16, 2015

Volume V, No. 11/219

persepolis

Norooz, Persian (Iranian) New Year

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

NOROOZ

We are only four days away from the Iranian New Year, Norooz. Yes, March 20, the first day of spring, vernal equinox, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. Iranians will celebrate year 5776 on Friday. My sources in Tehran tell me that the 70 plus million Iranians were hoping that a nuclear treaty with America will materialize by March 21, and sanctions will be lifted, giving the Iranians the best New Year’s present they could get. But it appears that it will not happen. We will not have a treaty. Sanctions will not be lifted and people will not get their hoped-for new year present (in Farsi, Eidee).

But it does not matter. The Persian people are used to political vicissitudes and domestic extremes.  After all, the Persian civilization was there before Moses (1590 BC-1470 BC, lived to be 120 years) wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament (scholarship not-withstanding)……

The Persians were there before the Code of Hammurabi, the Babylonian law code, was written in 1772 BC.

Persia, the Persian Empire and Zoroaster gave humanity monotheism, and issued the first declaration of human rights. Persia was there before the Old and the New Testaments….

Avesta, the Zoroastrian Bible, was there before the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation…. Monotheism was exhorted in Gatha and the Book of Gushtasb by Zarathustra before Moses wrote about Yahweh….

The Zoroastrian code of conduct: “good thought, Good word, and Good deed” was there long before the Ten Commandments…

Cyrus the Great of Persia liberated the Jews 500 years BC (Babylonian Captivity). There are dozens of references made to him and to the Persian Empire in the Bible. In Isaiah 45 Cyrus is named Messiah. Additional references may be found in Chronicles, Ezra, Daniels, Hezekiah, Maccabees 1, Maccabees 2, Maccabees 3, Maccabees 4, Maccabees 5, Esdras, Sirach, and Esther.

The world’s first charter of human rights, Cyrus Cylinder, housed in the British Museum, completed its American tour two years ago. It was exhibited in Arthur M Sackler Gallery (the late Dr. Sackler was a psychiatrist) and J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angles, before returning back to the British Museum. The writing is elegant cuneiform (Mikhi) script (link below).

America has a special historical link with Persia. When the founding fathers were contemplating the architectonics of the US Constitution and the relationship between the central/federal government and the 13 colonies, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin referred to the Persian Empire, and copied the form of Persian government, a Republic, where individual states are sovereign and autonomous. Also, Benjamin Franklin copied the ancient Persian postal service and adopted the Persian mail system (Peyk).

Persia’s contribution to music has been vast and innumerable. Let me illustrate one. No matter where in the world a symphony is playing when the concertmaster enters the symphony hall to tune the orchestra before the maestro takes over, it is the oboe, a pure Persian instrument, that gives the first note to guide the concertmaster to tune the orchestra. It is universal and with no exception, it is the Persian instrument, the oboe, that set the tune for the entire orchestra.

In more modern history, the late President Truman often in his speeches referred to Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire’s achievements.

The Persian New Year, vernal equinox, when the day and night are equal and exactly 12 hours long, representing nature’s exquisite justice, was celebrated 5776 years ago, in the month of Edar Awal which followed the month of Shavat, as the Persian New Year or Norooz. Therefore, on March 21, vernal equinox, we celebrate Norooz, the first day of the Persian calendar 5776.

We are Persians; we are inheritors of such dazzling history and civilization….

And with humility and gratitude, we share this joyous occasion with all humanity.  Happy Norooz (New Day, New Year) to All.

cyrus_cylinder

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/aroundthemall/2013/03/the-cyrus-cylinder-goes-on-view-at-the-sackler-gallery/?utm_source=smithsonianhistandarch&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=201303-hist

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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Remembering Mother’s Day

Monday Musings for Monday May 6, 2013

Volume III, No.17/120

mother

Happy Mother’s Day

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

 

(Editor’s Note: this year Mother’s Day, May 12, falls on the birth of Richard Wagner, the anti-Semite genius whose character as a person was as loathsome as his music was admirable, if not transcendental.  We have opted to dedicate today’s MM to honor Mother’s Day, and write about Richard next Monday.)

Mothers have a special place in the construction and fiber of every society- western, Eastern, Northern, Southern. Way before the prophets of the old testament, Avesta, the Zoroastrian Bible, recorded the “lofty status of mothers before the shrine of Ahoura-Mazda . . .” In the writings of Cyrus the Great, the liberator of Jews from Babylon, who reigned nearly 2600 years ago, he repeatedly insisted that “The wisdom and love of mothers should be employed in all ranks and posts of the government…”

Mothers indeed were more than slaves who cooked and kept the children clean. In the court of Cyrus the Great, there were many mothers as high functionaries and Viziers (ministers).  In the personal notes of Benjamin Franklin, credited for founding US Postal Services, he refers to Cyrus the Great the inventor of the postal service, and his first Postmaster General who was a woman by the name of Mithra.

In biological terms, the relationship between a mother and her fetus is unique and unparalleled. This is the ultimate in intimacy: fusion of two human beings, loving, protecting and nurturing of one person, the fetus, who is in the process of becoming, by another person, the mother. A pregnant woman- prospective mother- offers such an in depth and stirring example of “giving-of-one’s-self-totally-to-another” (altruism) that no psychiatrist or behavioral scientist has ever been able to fathom and explain. Freud has written much about women’s penis envy. I am afraid cannot have that ultimate form of intimacy in a relationship that women have. Only in recent years we have been looking at, and talking about, this form of ubiquitous pervasive envy that men unconsciously that he was blind to the fact that many men have womb (uterus) envy, because they hold for women. Frankly, a pregnant woman is angelic in sight. The rich hormones estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, and oodles of other cortico- steroids make her soft, loving, lovable and pure. The mere appearance of a pregnant woman stirs all kinds of noble and altruistic feelings in others. We want to reach out and help, carry their baggage, compulsively ask about how far along they are, and many other brotherly and platonic gestures of love and compassion. Frankly, I don’t know of any other sight that evokes more noble and altruistic feelings in mankind than the sight of a mother-to-be.

Mothers Are Saints. Have you noticed that at the time of extreme stress, even the most powerful people immediately think of their mothers. This is almost a reflex reaction as commonplace as the knee jerk. When Napoleon Bonaparte was captured in Russia, he cried vociferously, “ou es tu, maman? . . .” “Mother, where are you?” In our own era when the late former President Nixon was forced out of office, while almost crying, he spoke of “my mother was a saint …”, while 100 million people watched on TV. Much attention has been paid to this fairly inappropriate remark. However, it was most appropriate; because at the time of stress we tend to call on our most intimate and powerful friends. One’s mother, at the time of total impotence and distress is indeed the most intimate powerful and rescuing force.

Being a mother is the most important job on earth. It is also the least rewarded and the least recognized job by the western societies. It takes the nurturing, the selflessness, the staying up all night, the love and care of a mother to raise a child. No creature, under any circumstance, gives so much, so unselfishly, so constantly as does a mother.

My own mother, with whom I share the same birthday died in 1994 at the age 101. Kobra, who was always called Janbibi- means BiBi or Lady of the world- never ever anyone called her by her given name, Kobra, which would have been blasphemous- loved life. She loved music, dance, poetry, singing, chansons, and parties.  And yes, she loved to travel.  Like her parents, she, too, fed the poor and there were regular intervals that they made rice and lamb and served them in huge copper trays to the masses that would come to their vast court yard. Our mother was equally serious about knowledge, learning, education and studying. She had us all memorize Hafez, Saadi, Rumi and of course, the Holy Quor’an. Right up to the last days of her life, when I would talk to her on the phone, after the preliminary exchange of greetings she wanted to know “What did you learn today?” or “What are you reading today?”…

A Personal Note

One of the myriad of things my mother has done for me is to sharpen my sense of observation and awareness. Often when climbing stairs together, when we reached the top of the stairs, she would say “Ageh gufti tchand ta pelleh? Can you tell me how many steps?  We travelled together much and she counted the steps in all places- we climbed the 898 steps to the top of the Washington monument; we climbed the 710 steps of Eiffel Tower in Paris, not only once, but several times; we climbed the 354 steps to the crown of the Statues of Liberty in NY, not to mention the 463 steps going up to the top of Duomo in Florence, Italy and the 285 steps separating the upper hilly Buda and the lower Pest, in Budapest, Hungary, just to name a few adventures…

Well, my mother’s gift, in addition to the gift of medical education which puts extremely high value on observation and encourages paying attention to detail of what one sees, as well as memorizing facts, have made me a quite aware human being. We have all read the Holy Quor’an over and over.  Do we know how many times the name Allah has been invoked in the 114 Surahs 2,698 times.  How many times the name Buddha is invoked in Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book?  Do we know how many words are in the 66 books of the Old and the New Testament, especially in the 1611 King James translation? In the Old Testament there are 593,493 words and 181,253 in the New Testament giving a total of 774,746 words in the 66 books. I know many members of our families have travelled extensively. Well, in celebrating my heritage, I have set out to count the number of times the names of the Kings of Persia are invoked in the 66 books of the Bible. The result is astounding. Isaiah is the best press for the Old Persian kings. For example, Isaiah 45 is almost singularly devoted to the doings of King of Persia whom they called Messiah. Isaiah is pure PR and good press for the liberator King of Persia…In the book of Esther 3, Haman, assistant or Vizier to King of Persia, Ahashuerus, who hated Mordecai, shows how the wise king handled the dispute…At any rate according to my count there are dozens of references to the Kings of Persia in the Bible. The origins of the Persian months starting with Nisan (see my Monday Musings for Norooz, March 21, 2012 which lists all the months of the Old Persian calendar) are all recorded in the Old Testament.

Today, as I recall my mother, and with intoxication and spiritual élan, I celebrate that lady’s birthday. I wish all to be infused with love of knowledge, love of wisdom, love of sensitivity to the needs of others with beneficence and altruism. That would satisfy Kobra Meymandi, our Janbibi, and our Lady of The World. She was a magnificent teacher and learner. Right up to the last moment, she sang and wrote poetry. She had faith in herself, in her God and in her children.

Salute to all mothers.

Kobra Hanjari Meymandi died in 1994 at age 101. The Raleigh Concert Hall, home to the North Carolina Symphony which opened on February 21, 2001, was named for her.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On Persian History and Christianity

“Monday Mornings” for Monday March 18, 2013

Volume III, No. 11/115

persepolis

Norooz, Persian (Iranian) New Year

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

NOROOZ

March 21, the first day of spring, vernal equinox, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. Iranians will celebrate year 5774 on Thursday. The Persian people and the Persian civilization were there before Moses (1590 BC-1470 BC, lived to be 120 years) wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament (scholarship not-withstanding)……

The Persians were there before the Code of Hammurabi, the Babylonian law code, was written in 1772 BC.

Persia, the Persian Empire and Zoroaster gave humanity monotheism, and issued the first declaration of human rights. Persia was there before the Old and the New Testaments….

Avesta was there before the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation…. Monotheism was exhorted in Gata and the Book of Gushtasb by Zarathustra before Moses wrote about Yahweh….

The Zoroastrian code of conduct: “good thought, Good word, and Good deed” was there long before the Ten Commandments…

Cyrus the Great of Persia liberated the Jews 500 years BC (Babylonian Captivity). There are dozens of references made to him and to the Persian Empire in the Bible. In Isaiah 45 Cyrus is named Messiah. Additional references may be found in Chronicles, Ezra, Daniels, Hezekiah, Maccabees 1, Maccabees 2, Maccabees 3, Maccabees 4, Maccabees 5, Esdras, Sirach, and Esther. 

The world’s first charter of human rights, Cyrus Cylinder, housed in the British Museum, has started its exhibition tour in the United States. It is being exhibited in Arthur M Sackler Gallery (the late Dr. Sackler was a psychiatrist).  It will go to J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angles, in December. The writing is elegant cuneiform (Mikhi) script (link below).

And the Persian New Year, vernal equinox, when the day and night are equal and exactly 12 hours long, representing nature’s exquisite justice, was celebrated 5774 years ago, in the month of Edar Awal which followed the month of Shavat, as the Persian new year or Norooz. Therefore, on March 21, vernal equinox, we celebrate Norooz, the first day of the Persian calendar 5774.

We are Persians; we are inheritors of such dazzling history and civilization….

And with humility and gratitude, we share this joyous occasion with all humanity.  Happy Norooz (New Day, New Year) to All.

cyrus_cylinder

 *The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012)

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/aroundthemall/2013/03/the-cyrus-cylinder-goes-on-view-at-the-sackler-gallery/?utm_source=smithsonianhistandarch&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=201303-hist

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The Night of Yalda, A few words about Christianity, and King James Bible

Monday Musings for Monday December 17, 2012

Volume II, 41/93

img_interfaith_world_symbols

The Night of Yalda, A few words about Christianity, and King James Bible

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

 

The month of December portends four events carefully choreographed by aligning stars to produce a cosmic feast. The first event, of course, is Christmas on December 25. The other events are winter solstice, December 21, the longest night of the year and shortest day of the year; and Hanukkah, the festival of lights which this year began on December 8.  The fourth event, to some of us equally important, is the birth of Ludwig Van (not Von) Beethoven on December 16.

Although not a religious holiday like Yom Kippur, Hanukkah is about rededication to the will of Yahweh. Reading religious holy books including Zoroaster’s Avesta; Hindu’s sacred and magnificent book, Bhagavad Gita; Moses’ Torah, Christians’ Bible, especially Paul’s letters in the New Testament; and Islam’s Qur’an, one becomes acutely aware of commonality of the message of these books: love, duty, responsibility, redemption, promise and possibilities for all humans, for all children of God. Here are some thoughts on some of these matters:
I-SHAB-E YALDA

December 21 is the longest night of the year.  In Mede and Persian history and Zoroastrian tradition, it is a holy night, “Night of Birth”, the birth of Mithra, the God of illumination and salvation. The birth of Ahura Mazda.

Persian poets have written extensively about the night of Yalda (Shab-e-Yalda).  Here is a stanza from Baba Taher Oryan (950-1019), the mystical Persian poet who roamed the mountains of Hamadan naked

Shab-e-Yalda is the longest night of they year,

To have more time to read and learn…

To have more time to worship….

To have more time to reflect…

To have more time to connect with the beloved and

To have more time to nurture one’s soul…”

We know that Plato wrote extensively about the soul, Zoroastrianism, and the night of Yalda

May you have a fruitful and joyous Yalda night.

II-A Few Words about Christianity:  Commercial vs. Spiritual

Christmas as a religious observance and Christmas a secular event may co-exist, woe unto the cynics and to the intolerants. In ancient days of Egyptians, Persians and Romans, they celebrated the winter solstice called the Saturnalia which ran December 17 to 24. They closed offices and exchanged gifts. This is the time when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb, once more, in the sky. In its earliest days, Christianity did not celebrate the Nativity at all. Only two of the four Gospels even mention it. Instead, Easter was the most important day in the Christian year. In 325, when the Church fathers convened in Nicea, they focused on this issue and decided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of the spring, making it a moveable feast. In 354, the year Saint Augustine of Hippo was born, Pope Liberius decided to add the Nativity to the Church calendar. So, it was he who decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on the fixed day of December 25. It was not until the 1800s that commerce got a hold of Christmas and resurrected the ancient gift giving of the Roman Saturnalia. In 1828, for example, the American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, brought the plant poinsettia to the US. It has been associated with Christmas ever since. We have room to celebrate the secular feast of Saturnalia, winter solstice, on the 25th of December. To get us closer to God, eternity and spirituality, observe the mystical and holy phenomenon of the birth of Christ religiously both at the same time. It is unhealthy to engage in extremes of either or and to be cynical and intolerant of others. After all, Christmas and Saturnalia are to enhance love and understanding.
III-Reflections on the end of the year:

To the thousands who read us and hundreds who write us from across the globe, we offer our thanks.  We will, from time to time, publish some of the issue-centered letters that deepen our understanding and elevate the level of discourse.  After all, that is the primary purpose and the etymological meaning of education, from Latin educata: to uplift and elevate knowledge and understanding…

Our faithful readers remember at the end of 2011, we wrote an essay about the King James Bible.  In 2011, the Holy Book became 400 years old.  There were quadricentennial observances of the birth of the Bible throughout Europe.  In my view, the King James Bible translated and written by “Secretaries of God” (see my review of the book by the same title in Wake County Physician magazine , Volume IX, July 2004) is a work that ennobles your soul.  The accuracy, elegance, and lapidary Elizabethan English and the Shakespearian stylistic influence on the translators are unparalleled.  We will write more on the subject in 2013.

*The writer is a Distinguished Life Fellow American Psychiatric Association, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill.  He is the Founding Editor and Editor in chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012)

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