Ahura Mazda

Ahura Mazda


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Ahura Mazda (also known as Ahuramazda, Harzoo, Hormazd, Hourmazd, Hurmuz, Ohrmazd, 'Lord' or 'Spirit') is the highest spirit worshipped in Zoroastrianism, the old Mede and ancient Persian mythology which spread across Asia predating Christianity. Ahura Mazda is the creator of the universe and all the things in it, being at the same time wise and good.

Name & Characteristics

As with all supreme deities, Ahura Mazda carries a long list of titles and characteristics. He is the supreme being in Garothman (heaven), the uncreated spirit. Beyond, apart and without him, there is nothing in existence. He is changeless, moving all while not being moved by anyone, has no equal, and no one can take the heavens from him. He favors the just man, upholding the truth and proper behavior. Ahura Mazda created the twin spirits, Angra Mainyu, the destructive spirit, and Spenta Meynu, the good spirit.

Mazda, or the Avestan form of the Mazdā, reflects the proto-Iranian word Mazdāh which is a feminine noun. Considered the proper name of the god, it may also come from the Sanskrit word medhās, meaning 'intelligence' or 'wisdom'. During the Achaemenid era, the name was Ahuramazda, during the Parthian the form of Hormazd was used and, finally, in the Sassanian we find the name Ohrmazd.

Ahura Mazda is changeless, moving all while not being moved by anyone. He has no equal & no one can take the heavens from him.

Ahura Mazda & Zarathustra

Ahura Mazda was revealed to the prophet Zoroaster/Zarathustra through a vision he had when he was 30 years old. When Zoroaster was 15, then, according to local custom, he was considered an adult and took up adult duties. Because he was born during violent times he grew up questioning the concept of righteousness and the conflict of good versus evil. As a result, he left his home, living in solitude, between the ages of 20 to 30, on a mountain. When he was 30 he participated in a spring festival as a member of a priestly family and one of his duties was to draw water from the deepest and purest part of the stream for the morning ceremony. Here at the Daytia river, he met the angel Vohu Mana. The entity asked Zoroaster who he was and what was the most important thing in his life. To which Zoroaster answered that he wanted most of all to be righteous, pure and wise. By this answer, he was granted a vision of Ahura Mazda and his archangels from whom he learned the principles that would lead to the religion known late as Zoroastrianism.

Historical Evolution

Achaemenid Empire

During the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 – 330 BCE) the prophet, Zoroaster/Zarathustra is not mentioned in the inscriptions of the Achaemenid kings while Ahura Mazda is mentioned in opposition with the daeva. There are no solid links between the teachings of Zoroaster and the Achaemenid kings besides the emphasis on moral behavior.

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Darius I

An inscription was made on a cliff at Naqsh-e Rustam, near Persepolis, the summer palace of Darius I (r. 522–486 BCE). Here Ahura Mazda is named creator of the world, creating the earth, the sky, and man, and also making Darius the king. The most important mention of Ahura Mazda from this period is the Behistun Inscription written by Darius I in 516 BCE. The inscription accompanies a bas-relief depicting the victory of Darius over the pretender Gaumata, where the victor stands over the fallen and above them hovers Ahura Mazda represented here as a king within a winged solar disc. The text of the inscription mentions how Ahura Mazda helped the victor defeat his enemy and that he, Darius, was chosen to lead his kingdom by the "grace of Ahura Mazda".

Parthian Empire

In the time of the Parthian Empire (247 BCE - 224 CE), Zoroastrianism was embraced by its rulers, many temples were rebuilt which were previously destroyed during the campaigns of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. Also, Parthian rulers were more tolerant, besides Zoroastrianism religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jews, Christians are also present. Ahura Mazda was worshipped among deities like Mithra, an older god turned archangel in Zoroastrianism, and Anahita, a female deity. Also, towards the end of the Parthian era, Ahura Mazda was represented as a male figure standing or on horseback, an image that will dominate the next era.

Zurvanism

Another form of Zoroastrianism, known as Zurvanism, formed during the Sassanid Period (224-651 CE). During the reign of Shapur I, the message of Zoroaster was discarded, Zurvan was named the supreme being and Ahura Mazda, now a created spirit, becomes a son of Zurvan besides Angra Mainyu/Ahriman. During the reign of Bahram II, Ahura Mazda was given the title which after would become one of his names, Ohrmazd-mowbad.


Ahura-Mazda

Locked in eternal battle against his counterpart and brother Ahriman the god of evil, Ahura-Mazda is the god of light and goodness in the ancient Persian religion known as Zoroastrianism.

According to legend, Ahura-Mazda has since the beginning of time been the benevolent spirit, Spenta Mainyu, while the evil spirit, Angra Mainyu, is personified by Ahriman. Ahriman’s taint upon creation made the world what it is today, an imperfect amalgam of good and evil. Although constantly at odds with his brother Ahriman, Ahura-Mazda will one day be victorious, and with the help of the Amesha Spentas (the holy immortals, roughly equal to an angel or a minor deity) and the Saoshyant (the saviour), he will raise the dead and purify the world. In our times, Ahriman killed Ahura-Mazda and fled to Earth with his brother's living heart.

In Las Vegas, Ahriman was finally captured by Ahura-Mazda's lover, Nubia and her fellow Amazon Wonder Woman,brought back to the mythic realms. It is believed that Nu'bia then engineered Ahura-Mazda's resurrection.


Contents

The name Zoroaster (Ζωροάστηρ) is a Greek rendering of the Avestan name Zarathustra. He is known as Zartosht and Zardosht in Persian and Zaratosht in Gujarati. [31] The Zoroastrian name of the religion is Mazdayasna, which combines Mazda- with the Avestan word yasna, meaning "worship, devotion". [4] In English, an adherent of the faith is commonly called a Zoroastrian or a Zarathustrian. An older expression still used today is Behdin, meaning "The best religion | beh < Middle Persian weh ‘good’ + din < Middle Persian dēn < Avestan daēnā". In the Zoroastrian liturgy, this term is used as a title for a lay individual who has been formally inducted into the religion in a Navjote ceremony, in contrast to the priestly titles of osta, osti, ervad (hirbod), mobed and dastur. [32] [33] [34]

The first surviving reference to Zoroaster in English scholarship is attributed to Thomas Browne (1605–1682), who briefly refers to Zoroaster in his 1643 Religio Medici. [35] The term Mazdaism ( / ˈ m æ z d ə . ɪ z əm / ) is an alternative form in English used as well for the faith, taking Mazda- from the name Ahura Mazda and adding the suffix -ism to suggest a belief system. [36]

Theology

Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, all-good, and uncreated supreme creator deity, Ahura Mazda, or the "Wise Lord" (Ahura meaning "Lord" and Mazda meaning "Wisdom" in Avestan). [37] Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas yet sometimes combines them into one form. Zoroaster also claims that Ahura Mazda is omniscient but not omnipotent. [4] In the Gathas, Ahura Mazda is noted as working through emanations known as the Amesha Spenta [26] and with the help of "other ahuras", [38] of which Sraosha is the only one explicitly named of the latter category. [ citation needed ]

Scholars and theologians have long debated on the nature of Zoroastrianism, with dualism, monotheism, and polytheism being the main terms applied to the religion. [39] [38] [40] Some scholars assert that Zoroastrianism's concept of divinity covers both being and mind as immanent entities, describing Zoroastrianism as having a belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute, thereby putting Zoroastrianism in the pantheistic fold sharing its origin with Indian Brahmanism. [41] [42] In any case, Asha, the main spiritual force which comes from Ahura Mazda, [22] is the cosmic order which is the antithesis of chaos, which is evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. [23] The resulting cosmic conflict involves all of creation, mental/spiritual and material, including humanity at its core, which has an active role to play in the conflict. [43]

In the Zoroastrian tradition, druj comes from Angra Mainyu (also referred to in later texts as "Ahriman"), the destructive spirit/mentality, while the main representative of Asha in this conflict is Spenta Mainyu, the creative spirit/mentality. [20] Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind and interacts with creation through emanations known as the Amesha Spenta, the bounteous/holy immortals, which are representative and guardians of different aspects of creation and the ideal personality. [26] Ahura Mazda, through these Amesha Spenta, is assisted by a league of countless divinities called Yazatas, meaning "worthy of worship", and each is generally a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula, Ahura Mazda made the ultimate triumph of good against Angra Mainyu evident. [44] Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu, at which point reality will undergo a cosmic renovation called Frashokereti [45] and limited time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to or chose to descend into "darkness"—will be reunited with Ahura Mazda in the Kshatra Vairya (meaning "best dominion"), [46] being resurrected to immortality. In Middle Persian literature, the prominent belief was that at the end of time a savior-figure known as the Saoshyant would bring about the Frashokereti, while in the Gathic texts the term Saoshyant (meaning "one who brings benefit") referred to all believers of Mazdayasna but changed into a messianic concept in later writings. [ citation needed ]

Zoroastrian theology includes foremost the importance of following the Threefold Path of Asha revolving around Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. [28] There is also a heavy emphasis on spreading happiness, mostly through charity, [29] and respecting the spiritual equality and duty of both men and women. [30] Zoroastrianism's emphasis on the protection and veneration of nature and its elements has led some to proclaim it as the "world's first proponent of ecology." [47] The Avesta and other texts call for the protection of water, earth, fire and air making it, in effect, an ecological religion: "It is not surprising that Mazdaism…is called the first ecological religion. The reverence for Yazatas (divine spirits) emphasizes the preservation of nature (Avesta: Yasnas 1.19, 3.4, 16.9 Yashts 6.3–4, 10.13)." [48] However, this particular assertion is undermined by the fact that early Zoroastrians had a duty to exterminate "evil" species, a dictate no longer followed in modern Zoroastrianism. [49]

Practices

The religion states that active and ethical participation in life through good deeds formed from good thoughts and good words is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will and Zoroastrianism as such rejects extreme forms of asceticism and monasticism but historically has allowed for moderate expressions of these concepts. [51]

In Zoroastrian tradition, life is a temporary state in which a mortal is expected to actively participate in the continuing battle between Asha and Druj. Prior to being born, the urvan (soul) of an individual is still united with its fravashi (personal/higher spirit), which has existed since Ahura Mazda created the universe. The fravashi before the urvan's split act as aids in the maintenance of creation with Ahura Mazda. During life, the fravashi act as aspirational concepts, spiritual protectors, and the fravashi of bloodline, cultural, and spiritual ancestors and heroes are venerated and can be called upon for aid. [52] On the fourth day after death, the urvan is reunited with its fravashi, in which the experiences of life in the material world are collected for the continuing battle in the spiritual world. For the most part, Zoroastrianism does not have a notion of reincarnation, at least not until the Frashokereti. Followers of Ilm-e-Kshnoom in India believe in reincarnation and practice vegetarianism, among other currently non-traditional opinions, [53] although there have been various theological statements supporting vegetarianism in Zoroastrianism's history and claims that Zoroaster was vegetarian. [54]

In Zoroastrianism, water (aban) and fire (atar) are agents of ritual purity, and the associated purification ceremonies are considered the basis of ritual life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and fire are respectively the second and last primordial elements to have been created, and scripture considers fire to have its origin in the waters. Both water and fire are considered life-sustaining, and both water and fire are represented within the precinct of a fire temple. Zoroastrians usually pray in the presence of some form of fire (which can be considered evident in any source of light), and the culminating rite of the principal act of worship constitutes a "strengthening of the waters". Fire is considered a medium through which spiritual insight and wisdom are gained, and water is considered the source of that wisdom. Both fire and water are also hypostasized as the Yazatas Atar and Anahita, which worship hymns and litanies dedicated to them. [ citation needed ]

A corpse is considered a host for decay, i.e., of druj. Consequently, scripture enjoins the safe disposal of the dead in a manner such that a corpse does not pollute the good creation. These injunctions are the doctrinal basis of the fast-fading traditional practice of ritual exposure, most commonly identified with the so-called Towers of Silence for which there is no standard technical term in either scripture or tradition. Ritual exposure is currently mainly practiced by Zoroastrian communities of the Indian subcontinent, in locations where it is not illegal and diclofenac poisoning has not led to the virtual extinction of scavenger birds. Other Zoroastrian communities either cremate their dead, or bury them in graves that are cased with lime mortar, though Zoroastrians are keen to dispose of their dead in the most environmentally harmless way possible. [ citation needed ]

For a variety of social and political factors the Zoroastrians of the Indian subcontinent, namely the Parsis and Iranis have not engaged in conversion since at least the 18th Century. Zoroastrian high priests, have historically opined there is no reason to not allow conversion which is also supported the Revayats and other scripture though later priests have condemned these judgements. [55] [38] Within Iran, many of the beleaguered Zoroastrians have been also historically opposed or not practically concerned with the matter of conversion. Currently though, The Council of Tehran Mobeds (the highest ecclesastical authority within Iran) endorses conversion but conversion from Islam to Zoroastrianism is illegal under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. [56] [38]

Classical antiquity

The roots of Zoroastrianism are thought to have emerged from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system dating back to the early 2nd millennium BCE. [57] The prophet Zoroaster himself, though traditionally dated to the 6th century BCE, is thought by many modern historians to have been a reformer of the polytheistic Iranian religion who lived in the 10th century BCE. [58] Zoroastrianism as a religion was not firmly established until several centuries later. Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus' The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) includes a description of Greater Iranian society with what may be recognizably Zoroastrian features, including exposure of the dead. [59]

The Histories is a primary source of information on the early period of the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), in particular with respect to the role of the Magi. According to Herodotus, the Magi were the sixth tribe of the Medes (until the unification of the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great, all Iranians were referred to as "Mede" or "Mada" by the peoples of the Ancient World) and wielded considerable influence at the courts of the Median emperors. [60]

Following the unification of the Median and Persian empires in 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great and later his son Cambyses II curtailed the powers of the Magi after they had attempted to sow dissent following their loss of influence. In 522 BCE, the Magi revolted and set up a rival claimant to the throne. The usurper, pretending to be Cyrus' younger son Smerdis, took power shortly thereafter. [61] Owing to the despotic rule of Cambyses and his long absence in Egypt, "the whole people, Persians, Medes and all the other nations" acknowledged the usurper, especially as he granted a remission of taxes for three years. [60]

Darius I and later Achaemenid emperors acknowledged their devotion to Ahura Mazda in inscriptions, as attested to several times in the Behistun inscription, and appear to have continued the model of coexistence with other religions. Whether Darius was a follower of the teachings of Zoroaster has not been conclusively established as there is no indication of note that worship of Ahura Mazda was exclusively a Zoroastrian practice. [62]

According to later Zoroastrian legend (Denkard and the Book of Arda Viraf), many sacred texts were lost when Alexander the Great's troops invaded Persepolis and subsequently destroyed the royal library there. Diodorus Siculus's Bibliotheca historica, which was completed circa 60 BCE, appears to substantiate this Zoroastrian legend. [63] According to one archaeological examination, the ruins of the palace of Xerxes bear traces of having been burned. [64] Whether a vast collection of (semi-)religious texts "written on parchment in gold ink", as suggested by the Denkard, actually existed remains a matter of speculation, but it is unlikely. [65]

Late antiquity

As late as the Parthian period, a form of Zoroastrianism was without a doubt the dominant religion in the Armenian lands. [67] The Sassanids aggressively promoted the Zurvanite form of Zoroastrianism, often building fire temples in captured territories to promote the religion. During the period of their centuries long suzerainty over the Caucasus, the Sassanids made attempts to promote Zoroastrianism there with considerable successes, and it was prominent in the pre-Christian Caucasus (especially modern-day Azerbaijan). [ citation needed ]

Decline in the Middle Ages

Most of the Sassanid Empire was overthrown by the Arabs over the course of 16 years in the 7th century. Although the administration of the state was rapidly Islamicized and subsumed under the Umayyad Caliphate, in the beginning "there was little serious pressure" exerted on newly subjected people to adopt Islam. [72] Because of their sheer numbers, the conquered Zoroastrians had to be treated as dhimmis (despite doubts of the validity of this identification that persisted down the centuries), [73] which made them eligible for protection. Islamic jurists took the stance that only Muslims could be perfectly moral, but "unbelievers might as well be left to their iniquities, so long as these did not vex their overlords." [73] In the main, once the conquest was over and "local terms were agreed on", the Arab governors protected the local populations in exchange for tribute. [73]

The Arabs adopted the Sassanid tax-system, both the land-tax levied on land owners and the poll-tax levied on individuals, [73] called jizya, a tax levied on non-Muslims (i.e., the dhimmis). In time, this poll-tax came to be used as a means to humble the non-Muslims, and a number of laws and restrictions evolved to emphasize their inferior status. Under the early orthodox caliphs, as long as the non-Muslims paid their taxes and adhered to the dhimmi laws, administrators were enjoined to leave non-Muslims "in their religion and their land." (Caliph Abu Bakr, qtd. in Boyce 1979, p. 146).

Under Abbasid rule, Muslim Iranians (who by then were in the majority) in many instances showed severe disregard for and mistreated local Zoroastrians. For example, in the 9th century, a deeply venerated cypress tree in Khorasan (which Parthian-era legend supposed had been planted by Zoroaster himself) was felled for the construction of a palace in Baghdad, 2,000 miles (3,200 km) away. In the 10th century, on the day that a Tower of Silence had been completed at much trouble and expense, a Muslim official contrived to get up onto it, and to call the adhan (the Muslim call to prayer) from its walls. This was turned into a pretext to annex the building. [74]

Ultimately, Muslim scholars like Al-Biruni found little records left of the belief of for instance the Khawarizmians because figures like Qutayba ibn Muslim "extinguished and ruined in every possible way all those who knew how to write and read the Khawarizmi writing, who knew the history of the country and who studied their sciences." As a result, "these things are involved in so much obscurity that it is impossible to obtain an accurate knowledge of the history of the country since the time of Islam…" [75]

Conversion

Though subject to a new leadership and harassment, the Zoroastrians were able to continue their former ways. But there was a slow but steady social and economic pressure to convert. [76] [77] The nobility and city-dwellers were the first to convert, with Islam more slowly being accepted among the peasantry and landed gentry. [78] "Power and worldly-advantage" now lay with followers of Islam, and although the "official policy was one of aloof contempt, there were individual Muslims eager to proselytize and ready to use all sorts of means to do so." [77]

In time, a tradition evolved by which Islam was made to appear as a partly Iranian religion. One example of this was a legend that Husayn, son of the fourth caliph Ali and grandson of Islam's prophet Muhammad, had married a captive Sassanid princess named Shahrbanu. This "wholly fictitious figure" [79] was said to have borne Husayn a son, the historical fourth Shi'a imam, who claimed that the caliphate rightly belonged to him and his descendants, and that the Umayyads had wrongfully wrested it from him. The alleged descent from the Sassanid house counterbalanced the Arab nationalism of the Umayyads, and the Iranian national association with a Zoroastrian past was disarmed. Thus, according to scholar Mary Boyce, "it was no longer the Zoroastrians alone who stood for patriotism and loyalty to the past." [79] The "damning indictment" that becoming Muslim was Un-Iranian only remained an idiom in Zoroastrian texts. [79]

With Iranian support, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750, and in the subsequent caliphate government—that nominally lasted until 1258—Muslim Iranians received marked favor in the new government, both in Iran and at the capital in Baghdad. This mitigated the antagonism between Arabs and Iranians, but sharpened the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Abbasids zealously persecuted heretics, and although this was directed mainly at Muslim sectarians, it also created a harsher climate for non-Muslims. [80]

Survival

Despite economic and social incentives to convert, Zoroastrianism remained strong in some regions, particularly in those furthest away from the Caliphate capital at Baghdad. In Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan), resistance to Islam required the 9th-century Arab commander Qutaiba to convert his province four times. The first three times the citizens reverted to their old religion. Finally, the governor made their religion "difficult for them in every way", turned the local fire temple into a mosque, and encouraged the local population to attend Friday prayers by paying each attendee two dirhams. [77] The cities where Arab governors resided were particularly vulnerable to such pressures, and in these cases the Zoroastrians were left with no choice but to either conform or migrate to regions that had a more amicable administration. [77]

The 9th century came to define the great number of Zoroastrian texts that were composed or re-written during the 8th to 10th centuries (excluding copying and lesser amendments, which continued for some time thereafter). All of these works are in the Middle Persian dialect of that period (free of Arabic words), and written in the difficult Pahlavi script (hence the adoption of the term "Pahlavi" as the name of the variant of the language, and of the genre, of those Zoroastrian books). If read aloud, these books would still have been intelligible to the laity. Many of these texts are responses to the tribulations of the time, and all of them include exhortations to stand fast in their religious beliefs. Some, such as the "Denkard", are doctrinal defenses of the religion, while others are explanations of theological aspects (such as the Bundahishn's) or practical aspects (e.g., explanation of rituals) of it. [ citation needed ]

In Khorasan in northeastern Iran, a 10th-century Iranian nobleman brought together four Zoroastrian priests to transcribe a Sassanid-era Middle Persian work titled Book of the Lord (Khwaday Namag) from Pahlavi script into Arabic script. This transcription, which remained in Middle Persian prose (an Arabic version, by al-Muqaffa, also exists), was completed in 957 and subsequently became the basis for Firdausi's Book of Kings. It became enormously popular among both Zoroastrians and Muslims, and also served to propagate the Sassanid justification for overthrowing the Arsacids (i.e., that the Sassanids had restored the faith to its "orthodox" form after the Hellenistic Arsacids had allowed Zoroastrianism to become corrupt). [ citation needed ]

Among migrations were those to cities in (or on the margins of) the great salt deserts, in particular to Yazd and Kerman, which remain centers of Iranian Zoroastrianism to this day. Yazd became the seat of the Iranian high priests during Mongol Il-Khanate rule, when the "best hope for survival [for a non-Muslim] was to be inconspicuous." [81] Crucial to the present-day survival of Zoroastrianism was a migration from the northeastern Iranian town of "Sanjan in south-western Khorasan", [82] to Gujarat, in western India. The descendants of that group are today known as the Parsis—"as the Gujaratis, from long tradition, called anyone from Iran" [82] —who today represent the larger of the two groups of Zoroastrians. [ citation needed ]

The struggle between Zoroastrianism and Islam declined in the 10th and 11th centuries. Local Iranian dynasties, "all vigorously Muslim," [82] had emerged as largely independent vassals of the Caliphs. In the 16th century, in one of the early letters between Iranian Zoroastrians and their co-religionists in India, the priests of Yazd lamented that "no period [in human history], not even that of Alexander, had been more grievous or troublesome for the faithful than 'this millennium of the demon of Wrath'." [83]

Modern

Zoroastrianism has survived into the modern period, particularly in India, where the Parsis are thought to have been present since about the 9th century. [ citation needed ]

Today Zoroastrianism can be divided in two main schools of thought: reformists and traditionalists. Traditionalists are mostly Parsis and accept, beside the Gathas and Avesta, also the Middle Persian literature and like the reformists mostly developed in their modern form from 19th century developments. They generally do not allow conversion to the faith and, as such, for someone to be a Zoroastrian they must be born of Zoroastrian parents. Some traditionalists recognize the children of mixed marriages as Zoroastrians, though usually only if the father is a born Zoroastrian. [84] Reformists tend to advocate a "return" to the Gathas, the universal nature of the faith, a decrease in ritualization, and an emphasis on the faith as philosophy rather than religion. [ citation needed ] Not all Zoroastrians identify with either school and notable examples are getting traction including Neo-Zoroastrians/Revivalists, which are usually reinterpretations of Zoroastrianism appealing towards Western concerns, [85] and centering the idea of Zoroastrianism as a living religion and advocate the revival and maintenance of old rituals and prayers while supporting ethical and social progressive reforms. Both of these latter schools tend to center the Gathas without outright rejecting other texts except the Vendidad. The Ilm-e-Khshnoom and the Pundol Group are Zoroastrian mystical schools of thought popular among a small minority of the Parsi community inspired mostly by 19th-century theosophy and typified by a spiritual ethnocentric mentality. [ citation needed ]

From the 19th century onward, the Parsis gained a reputation for their education and widespread influence in all aspects of society. They played an instrumental role in the economic development of the region over many decades several of the best-known business conglomerates of India are run by Parsi-Zoroastrians, including the Tata, Godrej, Wadia families, and others. [ citation needed ]

Though the Armenians share a rich history affiliated with Zoroastrianism (that eventually declined with the advent of Christianity), reports indicate that there were Zoroastrian Armenians in Armenia until the 1920s. [86] A comparatively minor population persisted in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Persia, and a growing large expatriate community has formed in the United States mostly from India and Iran, and to a lesser extent in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. [ citation needed ]

At the request of the government of Tajikistan, UNESCO declared 2003 a year to celebrate the "3000th anniversary of Zoroastrian culture", with special events throughout the world. In 2011 the Tehran Mobeds Anjuman announced that for the first time in the history of modern Iran and of the modern Zoroastrian communities worldwide, women had been ordained in Iran and North America as mobedyars, meaning women assistant mobeds (Zoroastrian clergy). [87] [88] [89] The women hold official certificates and can perform the lower-rung religious functions and can initiate people into the religion. [90]

Some scholars believe [92] that key concepts of Zoroastrian eschatology and demonology influenced the Abrahamic religions. [93] [94] On the other hand, Zoroastrianism itself inherited ideas from other belief systems and, like other "practiced" religions, accommodates some degree of syncretism, [95] with Zoroastrianism in Sogdia, the Kushan Empire, Armenia, China, and other places incorporating local and foreign practices and deities. [96] Zoroastrian influences on Hungarian, Slavic, Ossetian, Turkic and Mongol mythologies have also been noted, all of which bearing extensive light-dark dualisms and possible sun god theonyms related to Hvare-khshaeta. [97] [98] [99]

Indo-Iranian origins

The religion of Zoroastrianism is closest to Vedic religion to varying degrees. Some historians believe that Zoroastrianism, along with similar philosophical revolutions in South Asia were interconnected strings of reformation against a common Indo-Aryan thread. Many traits of Zoroastrianism can be traced back to the culture and beliefs of the prehistorical Indo-Iranian period, that is, to the time before the migrations that led to the Indo-Aryans and Iranics becoming distinct peoples. Zoroastrianism consequently shares elements with the historical Vedic religion that also has its origins in that era. Some examples include cognates between the Avestan word Ahura ("Ahura Mazda") and the Vedic Sanskrit word Asura ("demon evil demigod") as well as Daeva ("demon") and Deva ("god") and they both descend from a common Proto-Indo-Iranian religion. [ citation needed ]

Manichaeism

Zoroastrianism is often compared with Manichaeism. Nominally an Iranian religion, it has its origins in Middle-Eastern Gnosticism. Superficially such a comparison seems apt, as both are dualistic and Manichaeism adopted many of the Yazatas for its own pantheon. Gherardo Gnoli, in The Encyclopaedia of Religion, [100] says that "we can assert that Manichaeism has its roots in the Iranian religious tradition and that its relationship to Mazdaism, or Zoroastrianism, is more or less like that of Christianity to Judaism". [101]

But they are quite different. [102] Manichaeism equated evil with matter and good with spirit, and was therefore particularly suitable as a doctrinal basis for every form of asceticism and many forms of mysticism. Zoroastrianism, on the other hand, rejects every form of asceticism, has no dualism of matter and spirit (only of good and evil), and sees the spiritual world as not very different from the natural one (the word "paradise", or pairi.daeza, applies equally to both.) [ citation needed ]

Manichaeism's basic doctrine was that the world and all corporeal bodies were constructed from the substance of Satan, an idea that is fundamentally at odds with the Zoroastrian notion of a world that was created by God and that is all good, and any corruption of it is an effect of the bad. [ citation needed ]

Present-day Iran

Many aspects of Zoroastrianism are present in the culture and mythologies of the peoples of Greater Iran, not least because Zoroastrianism was a dominant influence on the people of the cultural continent for a thousand years. Even after the rise of Islam and the loss of direct influence, Zoroastrianism remained part of the cultural heritage of the Iranian language-speaking world, in part as festivals and customs, but also because Ferdowsi incorporated a number of the figures and stories from the Avesta in his epic Shāhnāme, which is pivotal to Iranian identity. One notable example is the incorporation of the Yazata Sraosha as an angel venerated within Shia Islam in Iran. [103]

Avesta

The Avesta is a collection of the central religious texts of Zoroastrianism written in the old Iranian dialect of Avestan. The history of the Avesta is speculated upon in many Pahlavi texts with varying degrees of authority, with the current version of the Avesta dating at oldest from the times of the Sasanian Empire. [104] According to Middle Persian tradition, Ahura Mazda created the twenty-one Nasks of the original Avesta which Zoroaster brought to Vishtaspa. Here, two copies were created, one which was put in the house of archives and the other put in the Imperial treasury. During Alexander's conquest of Persia, the Avesta (written on 1200 ox-hides) was burned, and the scientific sections that the Greeks could use were dispersed among themselves. However, there is no strong evidence historically towards these claims and they remain contested despite affirmations from the Zoroastrian tradition, whether it be the Denkart, Tansar-nāma, Ardāy Wirāz Nāmag, Bundahsin, Zand i Wahman Yasn or the transmitted oral tradition. [104] [105]

As tradition continues, under the reign of King Valax (identified with a Vologases of the Arsacid Dynasty [106] ), an attempt was made to restore what was considered the Avesta. During the Sassanid Empire, Ardeshir ordered Tansar, his high priest, to finish the work that King Valax had started. Shapur I sent priests to locate the scientific text portions of the Avesta that were in the possession of the Greeks. Under Shapur II, Arderbad Mahrespandand revised the canon to ensure its orthodox character, while under Khosrow I, the Avesta was translated into Pahlavi.

The compilation of the Avesta can be authoritatively traced, however, to the Sasanian Empire, of which only fraction survive today if the Middle Persian literature is correct. [104] The later manuscripts all date from after the fall of the Sasanian Empire, the latest being from 1288, 590 years after the fall of the Sasanian Empire. The texts that remain today are the Gathas, Yasna, Visperad and the Vendidad, of which the latter's inclusion is disputed within the faith. [107] Along with these texts is the individual, communal, and ceremonial prayer book called the Khordeh Avesta, which contains the Yashts and other important hymns, prayers, and rituals. The rest of the materials from the Avesta are called "Avestan fragments" in that they are written in Avestan, incomplete, and generally of unknown provenance. [108]

Middle Persian (Pahlavi)

Middle Persian and Pahlavi works created in the 9th and 10th century contain many religious Zoroastrian books, as most of the writers and copyists were part of the Zoroastrian clergy. The most significant and important books of this era include the Denkard, Bundahishn, Menog-i Khrad, Selections of Zadspram, Jamasp Namag, Epistles of Manucher, Rivayats, Dadestan-i-Denig, and Arda Viraf Namag. All Middle Persian texts written on Zoroastrianism during this time period are considered secondary works on the religion, and not scripture. Nonetheless, these texts have had a strong influence on the religion. [ citation needed ]

Zoroastrianism was founded by Zoroaster (or Zarathushtra) in ancient Iran. The precise date of the founding of Zoroastrianism is uncertain and dates differ wildly from 2000 BCE to "200 years before Alexander". Zoroaster was born in either Northeast Iran or Southwest Afghanistan. He was born into a culture with a polytheistic religion, which included excessive animal sacrifice [109] and the excessive ritual use of intoxicants, and his life was defined heavily by the settling of his people and the constant threats of raids and conflict. Zoroaster's birth and early life are little documented but speculated heavily upon in later texts. What is known is recorded in the Gathas—the core of the Avesta, which contains hymns thought to be composed by Zoroaster himself. Born into the Spitama clan, he refers to himself as a poet-priest and prophet. He had a wife, three sons, and three daughters, the numbers of which are gathered from various texts. [110]

Zoroaster rejected many of the gods of the Bronze Age Iranians and their oppressive class structure, in which the Kavis and Karapans (princes and priests) controlled the ordinary people. He also opposed cruel animal sacrifices and the excessive use of the possibly hallucinogenic Haoma plant (possibly a species of ephedra), but did not outright condemn completely either practice in moderate forms. [111] [112]

Zoroaster in legend

According to later Zoroastrian tradition, when Zoroaster was 30 years old, he went into the Daiti river to draw water for a Haoma ceremony when he emerged, he received a vision of Vohu Manah. After this, Vohu Manah took him to the other six Amesha Spentas, where he received the completion of his vision. [113] This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others. Zoroaster believed in one supreme creator deity and acknowledged this creator's emanations (Amesha Spenta) and other divinities which he called Ahuras (Yazata). Some of the deities of the old religion, the Daevas (Devas in Sanskrit), appeared to delight in war and strife and were condemned as evil workers of Angra Mainyu by Zoroaster. [ citation needed ]

Zoroaster's ideas were not taken up quickly he originally only had one convert: his cousin Maidhyoimanha. [114] The local religious authorities opposed his ideas, considering that their faith, power, and particularly their rituals were threatened by Zoroaster's teaching against the bad and overly-complicated ritualization of religious ceremonies. Many did not like Zoroaster's downgrading of the Daevas to evil ones not worthy of worship. After twelve years of little success, Zoroaster left his home. [ citation needed ]

In the country of King Vishtaspa, the king and queen heard Zoroaster debating with the religious leaders of the land and decided to accept Zoroaster's ideas as the official religion of their kingdom after having Zoroaster prove himself by healing the king's favorite horse. Zoroaster is believed to have died in his late 70s, either by murder by a Turanian or old age. Very little is known of the time between Zoroaster and the Achaemenian period, except that Zoroastrianism spread to Western Iran and other regions. By the time of the founding of the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism is believed to have been already a well-established religion. [ citation needed ]

Cypress of Kashmar

The Cypress of Kashmar is a mythical cypress tree of legendary beauty and gargantuan dimensions. It is said to have sprung from a branch brought by Zoroaster from Paradise and to have stood in today's Kashmar in northeastern Iran and to have been planted by Zoroaster in honor of the conversion of King Vishtaspa to Zoroastrianism. According to the Iranian physicist and historian Zakariya al-Qazwini King Vishtaspa had been a patron of Zoroaster who planted the tree himself. In his ʿAjā'ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā'ib al-mawjūdāt, he further describes how the Al-Mutawakkil in 247 AH (861 AD) caused the mighty cypress to be felled, and then transported it across Iran, to be used for beams in his new palace at Samarra. Before, he wanted the tree to be reconstructed before his eyes. This was done in spite of protests by the Iranians, who offered a very great sum of money to save the tree. Al-Mutawakkil never saw the cypress, because he was murdered by a Turkish soldier (possibly in the employ of his son) on the night when it arrived on the banks of the Tigris. [115] [116]

Fire Temple of Kashmar

Kashmar Fire Temple was the first Zoroastrian fire temple built by Vishtaspa at the request of Zoroaster in Kashmar. In a part of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, the story of finding Zarathustra and accepting Vishtaspa's religion is regulated that after accepting Zoroastrian religion, Vishtaspa sends priests all over the universe And Azar enters the fire temples (domes) and the first of them is Adur Burzen-Mihr who founded in Kashmar and planted a cypress tree in front of the fire temple and made it a symbol of accepting the Bahi religion And he sent priests all over the world, and commanded all the famous men and women to come to that place of worship. [117]

According to the Paikuli inscription, during the Sasanian Empire, Kashmar was part of Greater Khorasan, and the Sasanians worked hard to revive the ancient religion. It still remains a few kilometers above the ancient city of Kashmar in the castle complex of Atashgah. [118]

Humata, Huxta, Huvarshta (Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds), the Threefold Path of Asha, is considered the core maxim of Zoroastrianism especially by modern practitioners. In Zoroastrianism, good transpires for those who do righteous deeds for its own sake, not for the search of reward. Those who do evil are said to be attacked and confused by the druj and are responsible for aligning themselves back to Asha by following this path. [28]

In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is the beginning and the end, the creator of everything that can and cannot be seen, the eternal and uncreated, the all-good and source of Asha. [4] In the Gathas, the most sacred texts of Zoroastrianism thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, Zoroaster acknowledged the highest devotion to Ahura Mazda, with worship and adoration also given to Ahura Mazda's manifestations (Amesha Spenta) and the other ahuras (Yazata) that support Ahura Mazda. [119]

Daena (din in modern Persian and meaning "that which is seen") is representative of the sum of one's spiritual conscience and attributes, which through one's choice Asha is either strengthened or weakened in the Daena. [120] Traditionally, the manthras, spiritual prayer formulas, are believed to be of immense power and the vehicles of Asha and creation used to maintain good and fight evil. [121] Daena should not be confused with the fundamental principle of Asha, believed to be the cosmic order which governs and permeates all existence, and the concept of which governed the life of the ancient Indo-Iranians. For these, asha was the course of everything observable—the motion of the planets and astral bodies the progression of the seasons and the pattern of daily nomadic herdsman life, governed by regular metronomic events such as sunrise and sunset, and was strengthened through truth-telling and following the Threefold Path. [22]

All physical creation (getig) was thus determined to run according to a master plan—inherent to Ahura Mazda—and violations of the order (druj) were violations against creation, and thus violations against Ahura Mazda. [25] This concept of asha versus the druj should not be confused with Western and especially Abrahamic notions of good versus evil, for although both forms of opposition express moral conflict, the asha versus druj concept is more systemic and less personal, representing, for instance, chaos (that opposes order) or "uncreation", evident as natural decay (that opposes creation) or more simply "the lie" (that opposes truth and goodness). [22] Moreover, in the role as the one uncreated creator of all, Ahura Mazda is not the creator of druj, which is "nothing", anti-creation, and thus (likewise) uncreated and developed as the antithesis of existence through choice. [23]

In this schema of asha versus druj, mortal beings (both humans and animals) play a critical role, for they too are created. Here, in their lives, they are active participants in the conflict, and it is their spiritual duty to defend Asha, which is under constant assault and would decay in strength without counteraction. [22] Throughout the Gathas, Zoroaster emphasizes deeds and actions within society and accordingly extreme asceticism is frowned upon in Zoroastrianism but moderate forms are allowed within. [51] This was explained as fleeing from the experiences and joys of life, which was the very purpose that the urvan (most commonly translated as the "soul") was sent into the mortal world to collect. The avoidance of any aspect of life which does not bring harm to another and engage in activities that support the druj, which includes the avoidance of the pleasures of life, is a shirking of the responsibility and duty to oneself, one's urvan, and one's family and social obligations. [23]

Central to Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on moral choice, to choose the responsibility and duty for which one is in the mortal world, or to give up this duty and so facilitate the work of druj. Similarly, predestination is rejected in Zoroastrian teaching and the absolute free will of all conscious beings is core, with even divine beings having the ability to choose. Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and in the way they act toward one another. Reward, punishment, happiness, and grief all depend on how individuals live their lives. [122]

In the 19th century, through contact with Western academics and missionaries, Zoroastrianism experienced a massive theological change that still affects it today. The Rev. John Wilson led various missionary campaigns in India against the Parsi community, disparaging the Parsis for their "dualism" and "polytheism" and as having unnecessary rituals while declaring the Avesta to not be "divinely inspired". This caused mass dismay in the relatively uneducated Parsi community, which blamed its priests and led to some conversions towards Christianity. The arrival of the German orientalist and philologist Martin Haug led to a rallied defense of the faith through Haug's reinterpretation of the Avesta through Christianized and European orientalist lens. Haug postulated that Zoroastrianism was solely monotheistic with all other divinities reduced to the status of angels while Ahura Mazda became both omnipotent and the source of evil as well as good. Haug's thinking was subsequently disseminated as a Parsi interpretation, thus corroborating Haug's theory, and the idea became so popular that it is now almost universally accepted as doctrine though being reevaluated in modern Zoroastrianism and academia. [38] It has been argued by Dr Almut Hintze, that this designation of monotheistic, is not wholly perfect and that Zoroastrianism instead has it 'own form of monotheism' which combines elements of dualism and polytheism. [123] It has otherwise been opined that Zoroastrianism is totally monotheistic with only dualistic elements. [6]

Throughout Zoroastrian history, shrines and temples have been the focus of worship and pilgrimage for adherents of the religion. Early Zoroastrians were recorded as worshiping in the 5th century BCE on mounds and hills where fires were lit below the open skies. [124] In the wake of Achaemenid expansion, shrines were constructed throughout the empire and particularly influenced the role of Mithra, Aredvi Sura Anahita, Verethragna and Tishtrya, alongside other traditional Yazata who all have hymns within the Avesta and also local deities and culture-heroes. Today, enclosed and covered fire temples tend to be the focus of community worship where fires of varying grades are maintained by the clergy assigned to the temples. [125]

Cosmology: Creation of the universe

According to the Zoroastrian creation myth, Ahura Mazda existed in light and goodness above, while Angra Mainyu existed in darkness and ignorance below. They have existed independently of each other for all time, and manifest contrary substances. Ahura Mazda first manifested seven divine beings called Amesha Spentas, who support him and represent beneficent aspects of personality and creation, along with numerous Yazatas, divinities worthy of worship. Ahura Mazda then created the material and visible world itself in order to ensnare evil. Ahura Mazda created the floating, egg-shaped universe in two parts: first the spiritual (menog) and 3,000 years later, the physical (getig). Ahura Mazda then created Gayomard, the archetypical perfect man, and Gavaevodata, the primordial bovine. [122]

While Ahura Mazda created the universe and humankind, Angra Mainyu, whose very nature is to destroy, miscreated demons, evil daevas, and noxious creatures (khrafstar) such as snakes, ants, and flies. Angra Mainyu created an opposite, evil being for each good being, except for humans, which he found he could not match. Angra Mainyu invaded the universe through the base of the sky, inflicting Gayomard and the bull with suffering and death. However, the evil forces were trapped in the universe and could not retreat. The dying primordial man and bovine emitted seeds, which were protect by Mah, the Moon. From the bull's seed grew all beneficial plants and animals of the world and from the man's seed grew a plant whose leaves became the first human couple. Humans thus struggle in a two-fold universe of the material and spiritual trapped and in long combat with evil. The evils of this physical world are not products of an inherent weakness, but are the fault of Angra Mainyu's assault on creation. This assault turned the perfectly flat, peaceful, and ever day-lit world into a mountainous, violent place that is half night. [122]

Eschatology: Renovation and judgment

Zoroastrianism also includes beliefs about the renovation of the world (Frashokereti) and individual judgment (cf. general and particular judgment), including the resurrection of the dead, which are alluded to in the Gathas but developed in later Avestan and Middle Persian writings. [ citation needed ]

Individual judgment at death is at the Chinvat Bridge ("bridge of judgement" or "bridge of choice"), which each human must cross, facing a spiritual judgment, though modern belief is split as to whether it is representative of a mental decision during life to choose between good and evil or an afterworld location. Humans' actions under their free will through choice determine the outcome. According to tradition, the soul is judged by the Yazatas Mithra, Sraosha, and Rashnu, where depending on the verdict one is either greeted at the bridge by a beautiful, sweet-smelling maiden or by an ugly, foul-smelling old hag representing their Daena affected by their actions in life. The maiden leads the dead safely across the bridge, which widens and becomes pleasant for the righteous, towards the House of Song. The hag leads the dead down a bridge that narrows to a razor's edge and is full of stench until the departed falls off into the abyss towards the House of Lies. [122] [126] Those with a balance of good and evil go to Hamistagan, a neutral place of waiting where according to the Dadestan-i Denig, a Middle Persian work from the 9th century, the souls of the departed can relive their lives and conduct good deeds to raise themselves towards the House of Song or await the final judgement and the mercy of Ahura Mazda. [127]

The House of Lies is considered temporary and reformative punishments fit the crimes, and souls do not rest in eternal damnation. Hell contains foul smells and evil food, a smothering darkness, and souls are packed tightly together although they believe they are in total isolation. [122]

In ancient Zoroastrian eschatology, a 3,000-year struggle between good and evil will be fought, punctuated by evil's final assault. During the final assault, the sun and moon will darken and humankind will lose its reverence for religion, family, and elders. The world will fall into winter, and Angra Mainyu's most fearsome miscreant, Azi Dahaka, will break free and terrorize the world. [122]

According to legend, the final savior of the world, known as the Saoshyant, will be born to a virgin impregnated by the seed of Zoroaster while bathing in a lake. The Saoshyant will raise the dead—including those in all afterworlds—for final judgment, returning the wicked to hell to be purged of bodily sin. Next, all will wade through a river of molten metal in which the righteous will not burn but through which the impure will be completely purified. The forces of good will ultimately triumph over evil, rendering it forever impotent but not destroyed. The Saoshyant and Ahura Mazda will offer a bull as a final sacrifice for all time and all humans will become immortal. Mountains will again flatten and valleys will rise the House of Song will descend to the moon, and the earth will rise to meet them both. [122] Humanity will require two judgments because there are as many aspects to our being: spiritual (menog) and physical (getig). [122] Thus, Zoroastrianism can be said to be a universalist religion with respect to salvation in that all souls are redeemed at the final judgement. [ citation needed ]

Ritual and prayer

The central ritual of Zoroastrianism is the Yasna, which is a recitation of the eponymous book of the Avesta and sacrificial ritual ceremony involving Haoma. [128] Extensions to the Yasna ritual are possible through use of the Visperad and Vendidad, but such an extended ritual is rare in modern Zoroastrianism. [129] [130] The Yasna itself descended from Indo-Iranian sacrificial ceremonies and animal sacrifice of varying degrees are mentioned in the Avesta and are still practiced in Zoroastrianism albeit through reduced forms such as the sacrifice of fat before meals. [111] High rituals such as the Yasna are considered to be the purview of the Mobeds with a corpus of individual and communal rituals and prayers included in the Khordeh Avesta. [128] [131] A Zoroastrian is welcomed into the faith through the Navjote/Sedreh Pushi ceremony, which is traditionally conducted during the later childhood or pre-teen years of the aspirant, though there is no defined age limit for the ritual. [121] [132] After the ceremony, Zoroastrians are encouraged to wear their sedreh (ritual shirt) and kusti (ritual girdle) daily as a spiritual reminder and for mystical protection, though reformist Zoroastrians tend to only wear them during festivals, ceremonies, and prayers. [133] [121] [132]

The incorporation of cultural and local rituals is quite common and traditions have been passed down in historically Zoroastrian communities such as herbal healing practices, wedding ceremonies, and the like. [134] [135] [121] Traditionally, Zoroastrian rituals have also included shamanic elements involving mystical methods such as spirit travel to the invisible realm and involving the consumption of fortified wine, Haoma, mang, and other ritual aids. [136] [25] [137] [138] [139] Historically, Zoroastrians are encouraged to pray the five daily Gāhs and to maintain and celebrate the various holy festivals of the Zoroastrian calendar, which can differ from community to community. [140] [141] Zoroastrian prayers, called manthras, are conducted usually with hands outstretched in imitation of Zoroaster's prayer style described in the Gathas and are of a reflectionary and supplicant nature believed to be endowed with the ability to banish evil. [142] [143] [44] Devout Zoroastrians are known to cover their heads during prayer, either with traditional topi, scarves, other headwear, or even just their hands. However, full coverage and veiling which is traditional in Islamic practice is not a part of Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrian women in Iran wear their head coverings displaying hair and their faces to defy mandates by the Islamic Republic of Iran. [144]

Zoroastrian communities internationally tend to comprise mostly two main groups of people: Indian Parsis and Iranian Zoroastrians. According to a study in 2012 by the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, the number of Zoroastrians worldwide was estimated to be between 111,691 and 121,962. The number is imprecise because of diverging counts in Iran. [15]

Small Zoroastrian communities may be found all over the world, with a continuing concentration in Western India, Central Iran, and Southern Pakistan. Zoroastrians of the diaspora are primarily located in the United States, Great Britain and the former British colonies, particularly Canada and Australia, and usually anywhere where there is a strong Iranian and Gujarati presence. [ citation needed ]

In South Asia

India

India is considered to be home to the single largest Zoroastrian population in the world. When the Islamic armies, under the first caliphs, invaded Persia, those locals who were unwilling to convert to Islam sought refuge, first in the mountains of Northern Iran, then the regions of Yazd and its surrounding villages. Later, in the ninth century CE, a group sought refuge in the western coastal region of India, and also scattered to other regions of the world. [ citation needed ] Following the fall of the Sassanid Empire in 651 CE, many Zoroastrians migrated. Among them were several groups who ventured to Gujarat on the western shores of the Indian subcontinent, where they finally settled. The descendants of those refugees are today known as the Parsis. The year of arrival on the subcontinent cannot be precisely established, and Parsi legend and tradition assigns various dates to the event. [ citation needed ]

In the Indian census of 2001, the Parsis numbered 69,601, representing about 0.006% of the total population of India, with a concentration in and around the city of Mumbai. Due to a low birth rate and high rate of emigration, demographic trends project that by 2020 the Parsis will number only about 23,000 or 0.002% of the total population of India. By 2008, the birth-to-death ratio was 1:5 200 births per year to 1,000 deaths. [145] India's 2011 Census recorded 57,264 Parsi Zoroastrians. [146]

Pakistan

In Pakistan, the Zoroastrian population was estimated to number 1,675 people in 2012, [15] mostly living in Sindh (especially Karachi) followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. [147] [148] The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan claimed that there were 3,650 Parsi voters during the elections in Pakistan in 2013 and 4,235 in 2018. [149]

Iran, Iraq and Central Asia

Iran's figures of Zoroastrians have ranged widely the last census (1974) before the revolution of 1979 revealed 21,400 Zoroastrians. [150] Some 10,000 adherents remain in the Central Asian regions that were once considered the traditional stronghold of Zoroastrianism, i.e., Bactria (see also Balkh), which is in Northern Afghanistan Sogdiana Margiana and other areas close to Zoroaster's homeland. In Iran, emigration, out-marriage and low birth rates are likewise leading to a decline in the Zoroastrian population. Zoroastrian groups in Iran say their number is approximately 60,000. [151] According to the Iranian census data from 2011 the number of Zoroastrians in Iran was 25,271. [152]

Communities exist in Tehran, as well as in Yazd, Kerman and Kermanshah, where many still speak an Iranian language distinct from the usual Persian. They call their language Dari (not to be confused with the Dari of Afghanistan). Their language is also called Gavri or Behdini, literally "of the Good Religion". Sometimes their language is named for the cities in which it is spoken, such as Yazdi or Kermani. Iranian Zoroastrians were historically called Gabrs, originally without a pejorative connotation but in the present-day derogatorily applied to all non-Muslims.

The number of Kurdish Zoroastrians, along with those of non-ethnic converts, has been estimated differently. [153] The Zoroastrian Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has claimed that as many as 100,000 people in Iraqi Kurdistan have converted to Zoroastrianism recently, with community leaders repeating this claim and speculating that even more Zoroastrians in the region are practicing their faith secretly. [154] [155] [156] However, this has not been confirmed by independent sources. [157]

The surge in Kurdish Muslims converting to Zoroastrianism is largely attributed to disillusionment with Islam after experiencing violence and oppression perpetrated by ISIS in the area. [158]

Western world

North America is thought to be home to 18,000–25,000 Zoroastrians of both South Asian and Iranian background. A further 3,500 live in Australia (mainly in Sydney). As of 2012, the population of Zoroastrians in USA was 15,000, making it the third-largest Zoroastrian population in the world after those of India and Iran. [159] It has been claimed that 3,000 Kurds have converted to Zoroastrianism in Sweden. [160] In 2020, Historic England published A Survey of Zoroastrianism Buildings in England with the aim of providing information about buildings that Zoroastrians use in England so that HE can work with communities to enhance and protect those buildings now and in the future. The scoping survey identified four buildings in England. [161]

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  155. ^ While estimates for the Achaemenid Empire range from 10–80+ million, most prefer 50 million. Prevas (2009, p. 14) estimates 10 million 1. Langer (2001, p. 40) estimates around 16 million 2. McEvedy and Jones (2001, p. 50) estimates 17 million 3Archived 2013-10-13 at the Wayback Machine. Strauss (2004, p. 37) estimates about 20 million 5. Aperghis (2007, p. 311) estimates 32 million 6. Scheidel (2009, p. 99) estimates 35 million 8. Rawlinson and Schauffler (1898, p. 270) estimates possibly 50 million 9. Astor (1899, p. 56) estimates almost 50 million 10. Lissner (1961, p. 111) estimates probably 50 million 11. Milns (1968, p. 51) estimates some 50 million 12. Hershlag (1980, p. 140) estimates nearly 50 million 13. Yarshater (1996, p. 47) estimates by 50 million 14. Daniel (2001, p. 41) estimates at 50 million 15. Meyer and Andreades (2004, p. 58) estimates to 50 million 17. Jones (2004, p. 8) estimates over 50 million 18. Safire (2007, p. 627) estimates in 50 million 19. Dougherty (2009, p. 6) estimates about 70 million 20. Richard (2008, p. 34) estimates nearly 70 million 21. Mitchell (2004, p. 16) estimates over 70 million 23. West (1913, p. 85) estimates about 75 million 24. Zenos (1889, p. 2) estimates exactly 75 million 25. Cowley (1999 and 2001, p. 17) estimates possibly 80 million 26. Cook (1904, p. 277) estimates exactly 80 million 27.
  156. ^
  157. "Zoroastrianism". jewishencyclopedia.com. 2012 . Retrieved 23 February 2012 .
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  159. ^Duchesne-Guillemin 1988, p. 815.
  160. ^ e.g., Boyce 1982, p. 202.
  161. ^
  162. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism. John Wiley & Sons. 2015. pp. 83–191. ISBN9781444331356 .
  163. ^ Š. Kulišić P.Ž. Petrović N. Pantelić. "Бели бог". Српски митолошки речник (in Serbian). Belgrade: Nolit. pp. 21–22.
  164. ^ Juha Pentikäinen, Walter de Gruyter, Shamanism and Northern Ecology 11/07/2011
  165. ^ Diószegi, Vilmos (1998) [1958]. A sámánhit emlékei a magyar népi műveltségben (in Hungarian) (1. reprint kiadás ed.). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. 963-05-7542-6. The title means: “Remnants of shamanistic beliefs in Hungarian folklore”.
  166. ^ Gherardo Gnoli, “Manichaeism: An Overview”, in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (NY: MacMillan Library Reference USA, 1987), 9: 165.
  167. ^ Contrast with Henning's observations: Henning, W.B., The Book of Giants, BSOAS, Vol. XI, Part 1, 1943, pp. 52–74:

It is noteworthy that Mani, who was brought up and spent most of his life in a province of the Persian empire, and whose mother belonged to a famous Parthian family, did not make any use of the Iranian mythological tradition. There can no longer be any doubt that the Iranian names of Sām, Narīmān, etc., that appear in the Persian and Sogdian versions of the Book of the Giants, did not figure in the original edition, written by Mani in the Syriac language

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  • Data from Wikidata

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The Religion Was Founded By The Prophet Zoroaster

Illustration of Zarathustra by Kaveh Kazemi, via Getty Images

Zoroastrianism was developed from this earlier Persian mythology by a prophet called Zarathustra , also known by the Greeks as Zoroaster. Following his father’s footsteps, Zoroaster entered the priesthood from a young age and seems to have been born into a relatively wealthy family. When he was around thirty, Zoroaster had a vision while performing a purification ritual.

On the other side of the riverbank, Zoroaster saw a glowing being who beckoned to him. The being called himself Vohu Manah, meaning “Good Mind”. He led Zoroaster to discover Ahura Mazda and his six spiritual beings called Amesha Spentas. They informed him that the old beliefs were falsehoods and that Ahura Mazda was the one true God. Zoroaster then began to spread his teachings and develop them over subsequent visions, each time asking further questions of Ahura Mazda.

There is debate amongst scholars about when Zoroaster preached his teachings. The consensus is that he dates between 1500 and 1000 BC. However, some scholars believe that Zoroaster was a contemporary of Cyrus the Great the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Despite his status as a prophet, Zoroaster himself was not worshipped.


Powers

Possibly those of his Yazatas, or superior.

Ahura has extra-ordinary ability to tap into and manipulate mystical energies in a cosmic scale, such as in perceiving and preserving astral energies, commanding vast amounts of energy and moving between different levels of existence. His level of power and expertise is unknown, but he may be just as powerful as such deities as Vishnu, Odin and Zeus. Like the All-Father Odin, all magic of the Yazatas flows from Ahura Mazda. Β]

His abilities include the creation of life, including the Yazatas, lesser gods that he imbued with portions of his divine power. If he was to become incapacitated, the Yazatas' superhuman powers would cease to exist. Ώ]

Physical Strength

Ahura possesses superhuman strength to an unknown degree. If he is on par with his Yazatas, he can lift about 25 tons. Ώ]


Page options

One God

Zoroastrians believe in one God, called Ahura Mazda (meaning 'Wise Lord'). He is compassionate, just, and is the creator of the universe.

  • Omniscient (knows everything)
  • Omnipotent (all powerful)
  • Omnipresent (is everywhere)
  • Impossible for humans to conceive
  • Unchanging
  • The Creator of life
  • The Source of all goodness and happiness

God is worshiped as supreme. Zoroastrians believe that everything he created is pure and should be treated with love and respect. This includes the natural environment, so Zoroastrians traditionally do not pollute the rivers, land or atmosphere. This has caused some to call Zoroastrianism 'the first ecological religion'.

Exterior of a fire-temple ©

Zoroaster and God

Zoroastrians believe that Zoroaster is the prophet of God. Zoroaster himself is not worshipped, but through his teachings man can become close to God by following the path of truth and righteousness (asha).

Zoroaster's Vision

At the age of thirty, Zoroaster had a divine vision whilst bathing in a river during a pagan purification rite. On the bank of the river he saw a 'Shining Being' made of light who revealed himself as Vohu Manah ('Good Mind').

Vohu Manah led Zoroaster to the presence of Ahura Mazda (God) and five other radiant beings, which are called the Amesha Spentas (Holy Immortals). This was the first of a number of visions in which Zoroaster saw Ahura Mazda and his Amesha Spentas during each vision he asked many questions. The answers given to Zoroaster are the foundations of Zoroastrian religion.

Amesha Spentas, who are they?

Amesha Spentas translates as 'Holy Immortals'. Just as light rays are emanated from the sun but are not the sun, so the Amesha Spentas are emanated by God but are not God. These emanations are seen as the divine attributes of God. They helped God fashion the world and each is associated with a particular aspect of creation.

Western scholars have likened the Amesha Spentas to the Archangels in Christianity. This is not strictly correct as they also represent spiritual attainments. Zoroastrians believe that man can know God through his Divine Attributes.

The six Amesha Spentas are:

  • Vohu Manah - Good mind and good purpose.
  • Asha Vahishta - Truth and righteousness.
  • Spenta Ameraiti - Holy devotion, serenity and loving kindness.
  • Khashathra Vairya - Power and just rule.
  • Hauravatat - Wholeness and health.
  • Ameretat - Long life and immortality.

Good and Evil

In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda has an adversary called Angra Mainyu (meaning 'destructive spirit'). Angra Mainyu is the originator of death and all that is evil in the world.

Ahura Mazda, who is perfect, abides in Heaven, whereas Angra Mainyu dwells in the depths of Hell. When a person dies they will go to Heaven or Hell depending on their deeds during their lifetime.

It is generally accepted that in the Abrahamic religions, the concepts of Heaven and Hell, as well as the Devil, were heavily influenced by Zoroastrian belief.


Ahura Mazdā and the beneficent immortals

Zarathustra’s teachings, as noted above, centred on Ahura Mazdā, who is the highest god and alone is worthy of worship. According to the Gāthās, Ahura Mazdā is the creator of heaven and earth—i.e., of the material and the spiritual world. He is the source of the alternation of light and darkness, the sovereign lawgiver, and the very centre of nature. He is surrounded by six or seven beings, or entities, which the later Avesta calls amesha spentas, or “beneficent immortals.” The names of the amesha spentas frequently recur throughout the Gāthās and may be said to characterize Zarathustra’s thought and his concept of god. In the words of the Gāthās, Ahura Mazdā is the father of Spenta Mainyu (the Good Spirit), of Asha Vahishta (Justice, or Truth), of Vohu Manah (Righteous Thinking), and of Armaiti (Devotion). The other three beings (entities) of this group are said to personify qualities attributed to Ahura Mazdā: Khshathra Vairya (Desirable Dominion), Haurvatāt (Wholeness), and Ameretāt (Immortality). This does not exclude the possibility that they, too, are creatures of Ahura Mazdā. The good qualities represented by these beings are also to be earned and possessed by Ahura Mazdā’s followers. This means that the gods and humankind are both bound to observe the same ethical principles. If the amesha spentas show the working of the deity while at the same time constituting the order binding the adherents of the Wise Lord, then the world of Ahura Mazdā and the world of his followers (the ashavan) come close to each other.


Zoroastrianism god | All about god in Zoroastrian

When talking about the Zoroastrianism god, we can only speak about Ahura Mazda that is the creator and highest deity of Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism god is one God

Zoroastrians believe in one God, called Ahura Mazda (Meaning: “Wise Lord”) also spelled Ormizd or Ormazd. Ahura Mazda is the creator and highest deity of Zoroastrianism.

He is compassionate, just, and is the creator of the universe.

Ahura Mazda is a Zoroastrianism god and is the creator of the universe and all the things in it, being at the same time-wise and good.

Who is Ahura Mazda?

According to Zarathustra, Ahura Mazdā created the universe and the cosmic order that he maintains. He created the twin spirits Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) the former beneficent, choosing truth, life, and light and the latter destructive, choosing deceit, death, and darkness.

The struggle of the spirits against each other makes up the history of the world and is reflected in the choice between good and evil that humanity constantly faces.

In Zoroastrianism, as reflected in the Avesta, Ahura Mazdā is identified with Spenta Mainyu and is directly opposed to Angra Mainyu. Ahura Mazdā is all-wise, bounteous, undeceiving, and the creator of everything good.

The beneficent and evil spirits are conceived as mutually limiting, coeternal beings, the one above and the other beneath, with the world in between as their battleground.

In late sources (3rd century CE onward), Zurvān (“Time”) is made the father of the twins Ormazd and Ahriman, who reign alternately over the world until Ormazd’s ultimate victory.

Zoroastrianism god is:

  • Omnipotent (all-powerful).
  • Omniscient (knows everything).
  • Omnipresent (is everywhere).
  • The Source of all goodness and happiness.
  • Unchanging.
  • Impossible for humans to conceive.
  • The Creator of life.

God is worshiped as supreme

Zoroastrians believe that everything he created is pure and should be treated with love and respect. This includes the natural environment, so Zoroastrians traditionally do not pollute the rivers, land, or atmosphere.
This has caused some to call Zoroastrianism ‘the first ecological religion’.

Zoroastrianism God and Evil

In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda has an adversary called Angra Mainyu (meaning ‘destructive spirit’). Angra Mainyu is the originator of death and all that is evil in the world.

Ahura Mazda, who is perfect, abides in Heaven, whereas Angra Mainyu dwells in the depths of Hell. When a person dies they will go to Heaven or Hell depending on their deeds during their lifetime.

It is generally accepted that in the Abrahamic religions, the concepts of Heaven and Hell, as well as the Devil, were heavily influenced by Zoroastrian belief.

The prophet and God

Zoroastrians believe that Zoroaster is the prophet of God. Zoroaster himself is not worshipped, but through his teachings, man can become close to God by following the path of truth and righteousness (Asha).


In the beginning, only Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu co-existed alongside one another, both of them representing light and darkness respectively. Ahura Mazda once had control over the universe, having established both the Ahura and the City of the New Dawn granting them both of his own powers during this period.

Until his brother learned how to convert the heart of humans with his dark powers. Due to the ease of dark intent in human hearts, the tables quickly turn in Angra Mainyu's favor, with him gaining more power from each follower that he gained. Ahura Mazda had then retaliated by attacking his brother and cause an all-out war between the two gods. Understanding his power growing from his followers, Ahura Mazda began striking them down before they could further empower Ahriman. He now leads his forces to fight against Angra Mainyu.


Zoroastrianism: History, Beliefs, and Practices

Originally printed in the January - February 2003 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Contractor, Dinshaw and Hutoxy. "Zoroastrianism: History, Beliefs, and Practices." Quest 91.1 (JANUARY - FEBRUARY 2003):4-9.

By Dinshaw and Hutoxy Contractor

Zoroastrianism, although the smallest of the major religions of the world in the number of its adherents, is historically one of the most important. Its roots are in the proto-Indo-European spirituality that also produced the religions of India. It was the first of the world's religions to be founded by an inspired prophetic reformer. It was influential on Mahayana Buddhism and especially on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To the latter three, Zoroastrianism bequeathed such concepts as a cosmic struggle between right and wrong, the primacy of ethical choice in human life, monotheism, a celestial hierarchy of spiritual beings (angels, archangels) that mediate between God and humanity, a judgment for each individual after death, the coming of a Messiah at the end of this creation, and an apocalypse culminating in the final triumph of Good at the end of the historical cycle. —Editor

ZOROASTER WAS THE PERSIAN PROPHET on whose teachings the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is based.The name by which he is commonly known in the West is from the Greek form of his original name,Zarathushtra, which means "Shining Light."

Date of Zoroaster

Scholars differ considerably about the date of Zoroaster's birth. Greek sources place Zoroaster at 6000 years before the death of Plato, that is, about 6350 B.C. Archeological remains in Turfan, China, state that Zoroaster was born "2715 years after the Great Storm," placing his birth at 1767 B.C. The latest dates for his life come from Persian writings that place him 258 years before Alexander, that is, about 600 years B.C. Many other scholars place Zoroaster's birth between 1500 and 1200 B.C.

According to Annie Besant in her lectures on Four Great Religions, the Esoteric Tradition dates the beginning of Zoroastrian teachings far earlier than any of those dates. That Tradition is based on two kinds of records. First, the Great Brotherhood has preserved the ancient writings, stored in underground temples and libraries. There are people today and have been those in the past who have been permitted to set eyes on these ancient writings. Second, there are the imperishable records of the Akasha itself.

According to these records, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism are the two oldest religions of our modern humanity. The Iranians, in their first migration into Iran, were led by the great teacher Zoroaster, who belonged to the same mighty Brotherhood as Manu of the Indic tradition and was a high Initiate of the same Great Lodge, taught by the same primordial Teachers, called the Sons of the Fire. From this great teacher came down a line of prophets, who superintended the early development of the Iranian peoples and all of whom bore the name Zoroaster. The Zoroaster the Greeks refer to may have been the seventh Zoroaster in this line of prophets.

Birthplace of Zoroaster

Scholars are equally divergent about the birthplace of Zoroaster. They suggest such locations aseastern Iran, Azerbaijan (south of the Caspian Sea), Balkh (the capital of Bactria, in present dayAfghanistan), Chorasmia and Sogdia (in present-day Tajikhistan), or near the Aral Sea (in present-day Khazakhstan).

Achaemenian Empire

Zoroastrianism flourished during three great Persian Empires. The first was the Achaemenian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great (ca. 585 -529 B.C.). He established an empire that extended from Asia Minor in the west to India in the east and from Armenia in the north to Egypt in the south. Cyrus showed great respect for the nations he had conquered. He allowed them to govern themselves and to follow their own religious beliefs. When he invaded Babylon, he set the Jewish captives free to return to their country, Judea, and even provided them with resources to rebuild the Temple of Solomon, which had been razed by the Babylonians. For these deeds, Cyrus is mentioned in the Old Testament (Isaiah 45.1 -3) as a savior and as "the Anointed One."

The Achaemenians had constant conflict with the Greeks in the west of their empire. Darius, a successor of Cyrus, dispatched 600 ships and a large land force to capture Athens. The Achaemenians were on the Plain of Marathon, and their ships were to sneak towards Athens and surprise the city. When the Greeks heard of the Persians' plan, they sent one of their runners, Phillippe, to Athens to warn the citizens there. The distance from Marathon to Athens was 26 miles and this run has been immortalized in the Marathon races held all over the world. The Persians had to withdraw from that battle.

The Achaemenian Empire came to a close with the rise of Alexander, who in 334 B.C. conquered Persia, plundered the treasury, and burned the libraries in Persepolis. Many of the priests were killed, and these priests were considered to be the living libraries of the religion, since they had committed to memory most of the sacred texts. Alexander is thought of as "the Great" by the Greeks, Egyptians, and others but is known as "the Accursed" by the Persians. Alexander died young, and the Greek-based Seleucid Empire, which succeeded him, lasted a relatively short time.

Parthian Empire

About 250 B.C., the Parthian tribe from northeast Iran overthrew the Greeks and established an empire that was just as extensive as the Achaemenian Empire. The Parthians were also Zoroastrians and were also tolerant of the religious beliefs of conquered lands. During the approximately five hundred years of the Parthian Empire, there were continuous battles with the Romans. The Roman Empire extended to Scotland in the west. However, in the east, they were stopped by the Parthians. The Romans never took to Zoroastrianism but instead practiced Mithraism, in which the deities Mithra and Anahita were worshipped. The Romans established Mithraic temples throughout the western part of their empire, many of which are still standing today. During the five hundred years of the Parthian Empire, Zoroastrianism was quite unregulated, and hence differing forms of the religion developed.

Sasanian Empire

To counteract the resulting chaotic state of the religion, the Sasanians (who were also Zoroastrians) rose up against the Parthians and overthrew them in 225 A.D. The Sasanians wanted to unify Zoroastrianism and to establish rules about what Zoroastrianism was and what it was not. A High Priest was established, who was next to the King in authority. Zoroastrianism was made the state religion of the Empire, and conversions were actively made to counteract the proselytizing zeal of Christians. This missionary activity shows that Zoroastrianism was really a universal religion and not an ethnic religion, limited to one people.

Later History

The Sasanian Empire lasted till 641 A.D., when the Arabs invaded Persia and established Islam in the land. The new regime gave the local population three choices: conversion to Islam, payment of a heavy tax imposed on nonbelievers (called the Jizya tax), or death. The Arabs mistreated the Zoroastrians in many ways and made life very difficult for those who chose not to convert. Consequently, in 936 A.D., a group of Zoroastrians from the town of Sanjan in the Khorasan Province of Iran made their way south to the port of Hormuz on the Persian Gulf, from where they set sail for India. They spent nineteen years on the island of Div before making final landfall on the western coast of Gujerat.

These immigrants to India became known as the Parsis (that is, "those from the Persian province of Pars"). The Parsis prospered in Gujerat and later on began to move out to other parts of India. They particularly excelled and prospered when the British established themselves in India.

Meanwhile, the Zoroastrians left behind in Iran continued to suffer under very adverse conditions. When the prosperous Parsis in India heard of the woeful plight of their coreligionists, they dispatched emissaries to Iran, notably Maneckji Hataria in 1854. He spent many years in Iran, rebuilding educational and religious institutions and helping the Zoroastrian community there to regain its social strength. In 1882, he was successful in persuading the Islamic Qajar King to abolish the burden of the Jizya tax.

Today, the Zoroastrian community in Iran is doing well and has an unusually high number of successful people. Within the past few decades, there has been an emigration of Zoroastrians from Iran and India to the Western world. These two communities, the Iranian and Indian, are now united, go to the same fire temples, intermarry, and prosper in harmony.

In Zoroastrian cosmology, the head of the manifested universe is Ahura Mazda, the "Wise Lord." He is the universal and pervasive source and fountain of all life. But behind or beyond Ahura Mazda is Zarvan Akarana, Boundless Time and Boundless Space, the unmanifested absolute from which the manifested Logos, Ahura Mazda, came forth.

Ahura Mazda is depicted in the Zoroastrian scriptures as a kind of trinity: "Praise to thee, Ahura Mazda, threefold before other creations." From Ahura Mazda came a duality: the twin spirits of Spenta Mainyu (the Holy or Bountiful Spirit) and Angra Mainyu (the Destructive or Opposing Spirit). The twin spirits are popularly thought of as good and evil, but rather they are two principles that represent all the opposites of life. In her lecture on "Zoroastrianism," Annie Besant has this to say of them:

Good and evil may be said to only come into existence when man in his evolution develops the power of knowledge and of choice the original duality is not of good and evil, but is of spirit and matter, of reality and non-reality, of light and darkness, of construction and destruction, the two poles between which the universe is woven and without which no universe can be. . . . There are two names again that give us the clue to the secret, the "increaser" and the "destroyer," the one from whom the life is ever pouring forth, and the other the material side which belongs to form, and which is ever breaking up in order that life may go on into higher expression.

After the trinity of Ahura Mazda and the twin spirits that emanated from him is a sevenfold expression of the divine reality. These seven are called the Amesha Spentas or Holy or Bountiful Immortals, the Highest Intelligences. They are sometimes thought of as archangels and sometimes as aspects of Ahura Mazda himself. These seven mighty intelligences are also guardians of various kingdoms of nature. They are as follows:

Ahura Mazda himself. Just as the One Wise Lord is part of a trinity including also the twin spirits of bountiful increase and of destructive opposition, so too is he one of the sevenfold intelligences. The One Lord is present everywhere.

Vohu Manah, Good Mind. It is divine wisdom, illumination, and love—the mental capacity to comprehend the next one of the Amesha Spentas, Asha Vahishta. Vohu Manah is associated especially with the animal kingdom.

Asha Vahishta, Highest Truth. Often translated as "righteousness," the word asha is etymologically the same as the Sanskrit term rta, and thus is the dharma or Plan by which the world exists. Asha Vahishta is the order of the cosmos, the ideal form of the universe. It is associated with the element of fire.

Khshathra Vairya, Desirable Dominion, is divine strength and the power of Ahura Mazda's kingdom. In theological terms, it represents the Kingdom of Heaven in human terms, it represents the ideal society. Khshathra Vairya is associated with the sky and with the mineral kingdom. Human beings can realize the power of Khshathra Vairya when they are guided by Good Mind and Highest Truth.

Spenta Armaiti, Holy or Bountiful Devotion, theologically is the attitude of piety and devotion ethically, it is the attitude of benevolence. It is associated with the element of earth.

Haurvatat, Wholeness, is the state of perfection, complete well-being, spiritual and physical integrity. It is associated with the element of water.

Ameretat, Immortality, is the state of immortal bliss. It is associated with the plant kingdom.

These seven can be thought of either as cosmic principles or as human principles (the macrocosm-microcosm). It is through our use of a good mind (Vohu Manah), practicing love and devotion (Spenta Armaiti), and following the path of righteousness (Asha Vahishta) that we can bring about the ideal state of things (Khshathra Vairya), in which ultimately perfection (Haurvatat) and immortality (Ameretat) will prevail. Human beings are not bystanders in life. We are the prime agents through whose actions the promise of Ahura Mazda will be fulfilled. With Ahura Mazda, we are co-creators of the ideal world.

Under the Amesha Spentas are other intelligences called Yazatas, sometimes compared to angels. Together with human beings, the Yazatas are the hamkars or helpers of Ahura Mazda.

Zoroastrianism views the world as having been created by Ahura Mazda and as meant to evolve to perfection according to the law or plan of Asha, the divine order of things. The law of Asha is the principle of righteousness or "rightness" by which all things are exactly what they should be. In their most basic prayer, the "Ashem Vohu," repeated every day, Zoroastrians affirm this law of Asha: "Righteousness is the highest virtue. Happiness to him who is righteous for the sake of righteousness." This is the central concept in the Zoroastrian religion: Asha is the ultimate Truth, the ideal of what life and existence should be.

Duality exists as part of manifestation, but human beings also have freewill to choose between the dual opposites. As they have the power of choice, they have also the personal responsibility of choosing well. Spenta Mainyu, the Bountiful Spirit, promotes the realization of Asha. Angra Mainyu, the Destructive Spirit, violates Asha. We have a choice between them, between spirit and matter, between the real and the unreal.

Personal salvation is attained through making the right choice. And the salvation of the world, called "Frashokereti," is the restoration of the world to its perfect state, one that is in complete accord with Asha. As human beings make the right choices in their lives, they are furthering the realization of Frashokereti.

Life after Death

What happens after death? According to the Zoroastrian tradition, after the death of the body, the soul remains in this world for three days and nights, in the care of Sraosha, one of the Yazatas or angels. During this period, prayers are said and rituals performed to assure a safe passage of the soul into the spiritual realm. On the dawn of the fourth day, the spirit is believed to have crossed over to the other world, where it arrives at the allegorical Chinvat Bridge.

At the Chinvat Bridge, the soul meets a maiden who is the embodiment of all the good words, thoughts, and deeds of its preceding life. If the soul has led a righteous life (one in accord with the divine Plan), the maiden appears in a beautiful form. If not, she appears as an ugly hag. This image, fair or foul, confronts the soul, and the soul acknowledges that the image is an embodiment of its own actions and thereby judges itself, knowing whether it is worthy to cross over the bridge to the other side or must return to earth to learn further lessons.

By another account, after the soul meets its own image, it appears before a heavenly tribunal, where divine justice is administered. Good souls go to a heaven called Vahishta Ahu, the Excellent Abode. Evil souls are consigned to a hell called Achista Ahu, the Worst Existence. One account reflects a belief in reincarnation the other does not.

In the oldest Zoroastrian scriptures, heaven and hell are not places, but states of mind that result from right or wrong choices. Zoroaster spoke of the "drujo demana" or "House of Lies" and the "garo demana"or "House of Song," to which souls are sent. Some say that the fall of the soul into the House of Lies means a return of the soul to earth, the realm of unreality or lies.

Zoroastrianism places great emphasis on purity and not defiling any of the elements of Ahura Mazda'screation. For that reason, traditionally, neither burial nor cremation were practiced by Zoroastrians. Instead, dead bodies were taken to a Tower of Silence and laid out under the sun, where vultures devoured them. At the present time, there is great controversy about this practice.

Fire is the major symbol in Zoroastrianism and has a central role in the most important religious ceremonies. It has a special significance, being the supreme symbol of God and the divine Life. In Zoroastrian scriptures, Ahura Mazda is described as "full of luster, full of glory," and hence his luminous creations—fire, sun, stars, and light—are regarded as visible tokens of the divine and of the inner light. That inner light is the divine spark that burns within each of us. Fire is also a physical representation of the illumined mind.

Zoroastrian places of worship are called Fire Temples. In them an eternal flame is kept burning with sandalwood and frankincense. The first fire to be lit upon an altar is said to have been brought down from heaven by Zoroaster with a rod.

When the Parsis fled from Iran and settled in India, fire was again brought down from heaven by lightning to create the sacred symbol of Ahura Mazda. The fire altar where that historic fire is still burning is an important pilgrimage site for the Parsis. Because the fire is such a sacred and holy symbol, the fire temples are open only to Zoroastrians.

Social Practices

Today, Zoroastrians do not proselytize, and consequently Zoroastrians are born to the faith. If a Parsi woman marries outside the religion, her children cannot be Zoroastrians, but if a man marries outside, his children can become Zoroastrians, although his wife cannot. No doubt these restrictions are later aberrations not befitting the lofty ideals and teachings of the religion.

The Zoroastrian scriptures are called the Avesta, and the ancient language in which they are written is called Avestan. That language is closely related to the Sanskrit of the ancient Vedic hymns. The term Zend Avesta refers to the commentaries made by the successors of Zoroaster on his writings. Later, commentaries to the commentaries were written in the Persian language of the Sasanian Empire, which is called Pahlavi. So the Zoroastrian scriptures are in several languages and their composition spans vast periods of time. Yet they are fragmentary because of the destruction of written texts and the persecution of priest-scholars by foreign invaders.

The oldest part of the Zoroastrian scriptures are the Gathas, which are the direct teachings of Zoroaster and his conversations with Ahura Mazda in a series of visions. The Gathas are part of a major section of the Avesta called the Yasna, a term literally meaning "sacrifice," consisting of texts recited by priests during ceremonies. The Vendidad is a manual in the form of a catechism giving rules of purification and for preventing sins of both commission and omission. The Khordeh Avesta or "Little Avesta" includes invocations with beautiful descriptions of the Yazatas or angelic intelligences.

Fundamental Moral Practices

The basic moral principles that guide the life of a Zoroastrian are three:

Living these three principles is the way we exercise our freewill by following the law of Asha. These three principles are included in many Zoroastrian prayers, and children commit themselves to abide by them at their initiation ceremony, marking their responsible entry into the faith as practicing Zoroastrians. They are the moral code by which a Zoroastrian lives.



Comments:

  1. Tinashe

    You have abstract thinking

  2. Nat

    Yes, I understand you. In it something is also thought excellent, agree with you.

  3. Amhlaoibh

    Agree, very useful phrase



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