Skip to comments.Who are the Zoroastrians?
Posted on 07/29/2003 11:17:26 PM PDT by freedom44
Zoroastrians are the followers of the great Iranian prophet, Spitaman Zarathushtra (known to the Greeks as Zoroaster). Zarathushtra lived and preached somewhere around the Aral Sea, about three and a half thousand years ago, circa 1500 B.C.E.
Iran, at the time of Zarathushtra's birth, was a land where many pagan gods and goddesses were being propitiated through ignorance and fear. The prophet Zarathushtra, in his sublime hymns, the Gathas, revealed to mankind that there was the One, Supreme, All-Knowing, Eternal God of the good creations---Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom, who was wholly Wise, Good and Just. Ahura Mazda, he taught, was a friend to all and never to be feared by man, who in turn should worship Him. Locked in open conflict he proclaimed, were the two primordial spirits---Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit of Ahura Mazda and His diabolical adversary, Anghra Mainyu, the Hostile Spirit.
The Zoroastrian Doctrine
According to the Zoroastrian texts, Ahura Mazda (Ph. Ohrmazd), through His Omniscience knew of His Own Goodness and His Infinite Self, as well as He was aware of the Hostile Spirit's limited strength and finite existence. In order to destroy His adversary, Ahura Mazda created an immaculate material world of the seven creations to trap the Hostile Spirit. Ahura Mazda knew that Anghra Mainyu, because of his inherently destructive nature and ignorance, would attack the material world bringing within it disorder, falsehood, wickedness, sorrow, cruelty, disease, suffering and death. Man, Ahura Mazda's finest creation, is believed to be the central figure in this cosmic struggle. The prophet declared that it is during this period of conflict that man, through free will, should choose to fight and vanquish the Hostile Spirit using the ethical paradigm of Goodness, the Good Mind, Truth, Power, Devotion, Perfection and Immortality. These seven qualities collectively came to be known as the Amesha Spentas---"Bounteous Immortals". It is the responsibility of man to imbibe the virtues of these divinities in order to know how to generate the right thoughts, words and actions. Zarathushtra recognised that the use of these principles of righteous living, would enable man to bring about the eventual annihilation of evil in this world.
Man's unique spiritual quest, according to Zoroastrianism, is linked to the preservation and promotion of the Wise Lord's seven creations, namely the sky, waters, earth, plants, cattle, man and fire. The last creation, fire, is a potent reality in Zarathushtra's revelation, as the prophet saw fire to be the physical representation of Asha (Order/Truth/ Righteousness), and as a source of light, warmth and life for his people. All the religious rituals (the performance of which is an important Zoroastrian duty), are solemnized in the presence of fire, the life-energy which permeates and makes dynamic the Wise Lord's other six creations.
Living a Zoroastrian Life
Zarathushtra taught that since this world created by Ahura Mazda is essentially good, man should live well and enjoy its bountiful gifts though always in moderation, as the states of excess and deficiency in Zoroastrianism, are deemed to be the workings of the Hostile Spirit. Man, in Zoroastrianism, is encouraged to lead a good and prosperous life and hence monasticism, celibacy, fasting and the mortification of the body are anathema to the faith; such practices are seen to weaken man and thereby lessen his power to fight evil. The prophet saw pessimism and despair as sins, in fact as yielding to evil. In his teachings, man is encouraged to lead an active, industrious, honest and above all, a happy and charitable life.
The After-Life Doctrine
Upon physical death (which is seen as the temporary triumph of evil), the soul will be judged at the Bridge of the Separator, where the soul, it is believed, will receive its reward or punishment, depending upon the life which it has led in this world, based upon the balance of its thoughts, words and deeds. If found righteous, the soul will ascend to the abode of joy and light, whilst if wicked, it will descend into the depths of darkness and gloom. The latter state, however, is a temporary one, as there is no eternal damnation in Zoroastrianism. There is a promise, then, of a series of saviours the Saoshyants, who will appear in the world and complete the triumph of good over evil. Evil will be rendered ineffective and Ahura Mazda, the Infinite One, will finally become truly Omnipotent in Endless Light. There will then take place, a general Last Judgement of all the souls awaiting redemption, followed by the Resurrection of the physical body, which will once again meet its spiritual counterpart, the soul. Time, as we know it, will cease to exist and the seven creations of Ahura Mazda will be gathered together in eternal blessedness in the Kingdom of Mazda, where everything, it is believed, will remain in a perfect state of joy and undyingness.
For over a thousand years, from circa 549 B.C.E. to 652 C.E. the religion taught by Zarathushtra flourished as the state religion of three mighty Iranian empires, that of the Achaemenians (549 - 330 B.C.E.), the Parthians (248 B.C.E. - 224 C.E.) and Sasanians (224 - 652 C.E.), Amongst the many subjects of the Achaemenian empire were the Jews, who adopted some of the prophet's main teachings and transmitted them in due course to Christianity and later, to Islam.
The Parsi Arrival
In the 7th century C.E., the Arabs conquered Iran and many of them settled there and gradually imposed their own religion of Islam. In the early 10th century, a small group of Zoroastrians seeking freedom of worship and economic redress, left Iran and sailed towards the warm shores of Western India. They eventually arrived along the Gujarat coastline in 936 C.E. at a place they named Sanjan, some 180 kms north of Bombay. There they flourished and came to be known as the Parsis (Persians). Over the millenium, a small band of faithful Zoroastrians have continued to live in Iran and have tried to preserve their culture and religious traditions as best as possible.
Today, the Zoroastrian community consisting of about 1,30,000 individuals, live in India, Iran and in various parts of the English speaking world. Faced with the pressures of a secular unipolar world and the threat of cultural and religious assimilation within the diaspora, some members of the community are meeting the challenge with renewed interest in the study and practice of their religion, aided by the ancient strength of their optimism and guided by the Light of Ahura Mazda.
In spite of losing their religon, Persians were able to retain their language and ethnicity.
[from some line in a Clint Eastwood movie]
The Outlaw Josey Wales.