By Cristina Thorson, Paul Laurance Dunbar High School
Most can claim that their religion has a lot to do with family, but few can say their kin transcribed the holy book from which they worship.
Maya Joshi is one of the few.
Her distant relatives translated and recorded some of the Parsi teachings of Zoroastrianism. Joshi accepted the faith as her own in a process called navjote — an induction ceremony to Zoroastrianism — at age 8. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s first monotheistic religions, originating in Persia (modern-day Iran) around 600 BCE.
Many Zoroastrians worship in the light of the open flame, in temples called Agiaries. In such temples, a fire is kept eternally burning. A core mantra of Zoroastrianism — often used during prayer — is “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.”
“The idea is that good thoughts, and good words will lead to good deeds, and I really like that concept,” Joshi said. “When I was young, I would hold the door for people, compliment them if they looked down.”
Coming across a member of this religion is rare, as it now has fewer than 190,000 members, according to an article in The New York Times. Neither of Joshi’s parents is devoutly religious. They did not impose Zoroastrian traditions on her. Rather, she took it upon herself to do so.
Joshi aims to discover her history, roots,and culture by delving deeper into the religion.
Pursuing this knowledge presents challenges, as Zoroastrianism is written in the Avestan language. According to The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS), while not technically a dead language, Avestan is “extinct from popular communication” and difficult to learn.
Difficulty does not deter Joshi. Her passion for learning burns as brightly as the eternal flame kept alive by her ancestors, Joshi said. She aims to learn Avestan as well as many other languages including Hindi, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Joshi is also invested in history and science. She said she believes historical patterns are important, and people are “doomed unless we understand the mistakes of the past.”
Joshi did not always enjoy school, though. From third to eighth grade, she attended Walden School in Louisville. Walden is a private school, and there were 30 children in her entire class.
“It wasn’t all bad, but…none of the other kids really cared a lot about school, or about anything besides social media,” Joshi said. “I felt very isolated.”
After eighth grade, Joshi had the opportunity to attend public school.
“My school was going through a turmoil,” she said. “They were struggling to find a new principal, and my parents were trying to save money to send my brother to college, so it wasn’t much of a decision.”
At first, DuPont Manual High School did not suit Joshi’s wants, especially in math, science and technology.
“My mom dragged me to open house kicking and screaming,” she said, “but then I found out about the journalism and communication program. They had all these resources that I’d never dreamed of and I just kind of fell in love.”
In 10 years, Joshi said she wants “to be happy.” For now, she’s happy as an upcoming junior at Manual, mentioning her friends as a contributing factor.
“Without them,” Joshi said, “I don’t think I’d be so happy at Manual.
“They give me stuff to laugh at. We lean on each other. We support each other. Even if we don’t always agree, they treat my thoughts as if they have merit… I guess you could say we’re kind of like a family.”