Druids, Dastürs, legal rulings and wise counsel
The role of dastürs in Zoroastrianism is very similar to the role of druids among the Celtic peoples of Gaul, Britain, Ireland and other Celtic lands. A druid was a member of the priestly class among the Celtic peoples, as dastürs are the scholar priests of Zoroastrianism.
Julius Caesar says concerning Druids that they are “concerned with divine worship, due performance of ceremonials, public and private, and the interpretation of ritual questions: a great number of young men gather about them for the sake of instruction and hold them in great honor.” (Caesar 335-337)
Next Caesar describes the Druid role in the Celtic justice system. Druids, as described by Caesar, settle all disputes ranging from property disputes to criminal offenses. Druids from different tribes are respected with the same power as Druids from other tribes, allowing them to punish foreigners.
“Of all these Druids one is chief, who has the highest authority among them (Compare with the Zoroastrian office of high priest or dastürán dastür.) At his death, either any other that is prominent in position succeeds, or if there be several of equal standing, they strive for the primacy by the vote of the Druids.” (Caesar 337)
Caesar further writes that Celtic families often attempted to induct their children into Druidic studies. Druidic schools lasted up to twenty years because all of their history was orally recorded. The few writings of Druids, according to Caesar, are done in Greek.
In Zoroastrianism, dastürs resolve legal and religious questions, and provide guidance for the rest of the community in spiritual matters.
The Zoroastrians are enjoined to choose a divine name/an angel as their guardian or patron spirit (ahvö) and a scholar priest or dastür with in-depth knowledge, wisdom and competence as their spiritual counsel and authority on all spiritual questions except those so clearly and universally resolved as not to require expert guidance (See the gáthic Varsht-manßar commentary on Yasna 30.9, 3rd rhymed verse line.)
Per Neirang-astan, all Zoroastrians including women and teenage children are encouraged to seriously partake in priestly seminars and scholarly studies, thus becoming scholar priests and experts in divine arts.
But in case, they do not become experts and scholars themselves, it is incumbent upon them to follow the counsel and rulings of a dastür of their choosing. Thus, Zoroastrians are divided into dastürs or scholar priests and those who require their spiritual guidance/counsel.
Individual Zoroastrians are enjoined to attach themselves to the most learned dastür of their day as determined by their own assessment if they are competent or by reputation. Where the available guides are equally qualified, the individual Zoroastrian is free to choose.
Following several dastürs where they are the most learned in different areas may be appropriate. Shifting allegiance from one dastür to another is not countenanced unless the first dastür is no longer the most learned or in some other way is no longer fit.
A Zoroastrian may continue to follow a deceased dastür whom he/she had already followed prior to his/her death, but with the approval of a living dastür.
All rulings/actions within the scope of a dastür in which a Zoroastrian acts without the guidance of a wise, learned dastür are potentially invalid (See verse 4 of gáthic Südgar commentary on Yasna 32.)
The qualifications for dastürship include mastery of the poetic gathas and their ancient commentaries, a brilliant mind, innate wisdom, great memory, superb reasoning skills, good grasp of the Avestan original, innate luminosity/goodness (ashöi) and integrity.
Unfortunately, in our community the respect for dastürs and learned priests has greatly diminished of late. It is common these days for many Zoroastrians and even the so-called traditionalists to pose a question and when they do not like the answer, to resort to nonsensical argumentation without any solid religious citation or justification.
Zoroastrianism is a very disciplined ancient Aryan faith. To say that Zoroastrianism has no rules, no do’s and don’ts is insincere nonsense and absolutely untrue.
Either a Zoroastrian is a learned expert or is not. In the case of the latter, they are admonished to follow the counsel and advice of their chosen dastür and not their personal whim and preferences.
To equate the local Indian Parsee or Irani customs in the past few hundred years in every matter with the ancient Aryan Zoroastrian faith is pure folly.
The rules of the religion are contained first and foremost in the poetic gathas, their ancient commentaries and the holy denkart. We shall follow them sincerely under the counsel of learned priests and dastürs.