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ZOROASTRIANISM

(Also called Zarathustraism, Mazdaism and Magianism)

Objectives:
History Background of the religion Creed: doctrines of Zoroastrianism Code: proper patterns of action expected of the Zoroastrians

Cultus: ritual or acts of worship by believers

Community: the various forms of organization that develop with any religious tradition that reflect the relationship of Zoroastrianism to the wider society

Major Tenets of Zoroastrianism

God: Ahura Mazd


Meaning Wise Lord All good and created the world and all good things, including people He is opposed by Anghra Mainyu meaning "Destructive Spirit," the embodiment of evil and creator of all evil things.

Prophet: Zarathustra
Founder of the religion Received his revelations directly from Ahura Mazda, and from his Archangels (Amesha Spentas)

ZOROASTRIANISM: HISTORY
The dominant world religion during the Persian empires (559 BC to 651 AC); Oldest monotheistic religion

Source: http://www.theosophical.org/publications/1231

Zoroastrianism: History
Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion which was once widespread in what is now Iran, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East It was the state religion of the ancient Persian Empire, during which time it was one of the most important religions of the ancient world It has under 200,000 practitioners today, mostly in India, and much of its scripture and history has been lost

Zoroaster

Persian prophet Teachings: Basis of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. The name by which he is commonly known in the West Greek form of his original name, Zarathushtra, which means Shining Light.

Zoroaster
Date of Zoroaster
Scholars differ considerably about the date of Zoroasters 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 Zoroasters 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. 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).

Birthplace of Zoroaster

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.

Late 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.

Zoroasters 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.

Present
Zoroastrians are roughly split into two groups:

The Iranians The Parsis


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.

ZOROASTRIANISM: CREED
Doctrines and Sacred Texts

The Zoroastrain Creed


The creed is summarized in Yasna 12. It is likely to have been composed by Zarathushtra himself, and to have been used as an avowal of faith by early converts

1. I curse the Daevas. I declare myself a Mazda-worshipper, a supporter of Zarathushtra, hostile to the Daevas, fond of Ahura's teaching, a praiser of the Amesha Spentas, a worshipper of the Amesha Spentas. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda, 'and all the best,' Asha-endowed, splendid, xwarena-endowed, whose is the cow, whose is Asha, whose is the light, 'may whose blissful areas be filled with light'.

2. I choose the good Spenta Armaiti for myself; let her be mine. I renounce the theft and robbery of the cow, and the damaging and plundering of the Mazdayasnian settlements.
3. I want freedom of movement and freedom of dwelling for those with homesteads, to those who dwell upon this earth with their cattle. With reverence for Asha, and (offerings) offered up, I vow this: I shall nevermore damage or plunder the Mazdayasnian settlements, even if I have to risk life and limb.

The Zoroastrain Creed


4. I reject the authority of the Daevas, the wicked, no-good, lawless, evil-knowing, the most drujlike of beings, the foulest of beings, the most damaging of beings. I reject the Daevas and their comrades, I reject the demons (yatu) and their comrades; I reject any who harm beings. I reject them with my thoughts, words, and deeds. I reject them publicly. Even as I reject the head (authorities), so too do I reject the hostile followers of the druj. 5. As Ahura Mazda taught Zarathushtra at all discussions, at all meetings, at which Mazda and Zarathushtra conversed; 6. as Ahura Mazda taught Zarathushtra at all discussions, at all meetings, at which Mazda and Zarathushtra conversed -- even as Zarathushtra rejected the authority of the Daevas, so I also reject, as Mazda-worshipper and supporter of Zarathushtra, the authority of the Daevas, even as he, the Asha-endowed Zarathushtra, has rejected them.

The Zoroastrain Creed


7. As the belief of the waters, the belief of the plants, the belief of the well-made (Original) Cow; as the belief of Ahura Mazda who created the cow and the Asha-endowed Man; as the belief of Zarathushtra, the belief of Kavi Vishtaspa, the belief of both Frashaostra and Jamaspa; as the belief of each of the Saoshyants (saviors) -- fulfilling destiny and Asha-endowed -so I am a Mazda-worshipper of this belief and teaching. 8. I profess myself a Mazda-worshipper, a Zoroastrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well-done action. 9. I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; [which upholds khvaetvadatha], Asha-endowed; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zoroastrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.

The Old Iranian Religion is known for many sources

Avesta

("Book of the Law"), a fragmentary collection of sacred writings that may be approximately as old as the second millenium BC text, Rigveda. Compiled over many centuries, the Avesta was not completed until Persia's Sassanid dynasty (226641 AD). It consists of: liturgical works with hymns ascribed to Zarathustra (the Gathas); invocations and rituals to be used at festivals; hymns of praise; and spells against demons and prescriptions for purification.

In addition to the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, a number of texts were composed


texts in Middle Persian, the Pahlavi books, from Sasanian Period Manichean literature

in the 9th to 11th centures CE which supplement the fragmentary Avestan material; however, only the Avestan texts are considered sacred

The Avesta
The Avesta has two kinds:
Old Avesta Young Avesta

- divided into 21 parts or nasks

Old Avesta
- Has two sections:
Five Gths (literally songs) Yasna Haptanghiti (literally the sacrifice in seven sections)

-The Gathas were Zarathustras work and contains his teachings. -The Yasna Haptanghiti was the work of his followers

The Avesta
The Avesta has two kinds:
Old Avesta Young Avesta

Young Avesta -Represents pre-Zoroastrian time,pagan, beliefs -A relapsed and corrupt form of Zarathustras teachings.

The Avesta (Contents)


Yasna (Y.) A miscellany of texts recited during the yasna ritual Yashts (Yt.): collection of hymns to individual deities. Khorda Avesta (KhA.) little Avesta: a miscellany of hymns and other ritual texts for
commom use.

Niyyishns (Ny.) prayers to the sun, Mithra, the moon, Ardw Sr Anhit (the waters),
tash Bahrm (the fire).

Videvdad (V.) literally the law(s) or regulations (serving to keep) the demons away. mainly
a collection of texts concerned with purification rituals. It also contains some mythological material.

Hdkht nask (HN.): a text about the fate of the soul after death. hrbedestn and the Nrangestn (N.): religious legal texts.

Beliefs
The ancient Iranians imagined a world in which Order and Chaos constantly vied for supremacy. The partisans of Order were heavenly powers with Ahura Mazd, the All-knowing Ruler, at their head, who combated Chaos (darkness, decay, and death) with the wicked Aura Mainyu to reestablish Order (light, growth, and life)

Ahura Mazd is the one true God.

Beliefs
Dualism in Zoroastrianism: Cosmically (opposing forces within the universe) Morally (opposing forces within the mind) A.) Cosmic dualism refers to the ongoing battle between Good (Ahura Mazda) and Evil (Angra Mainyu) within the universe. B.) Moral dualism refers to the opposition of good and evil in the mind of mankind. God's gift to man was free will; therefore man has the choice to follow the path of Evil (druj - deceit) or the path of Righteousness (asha - truth). The path of Evil leads to misery and ultimately Hell. The path of Righteousness leads to peace and everlasting happiness in Heaven.

Beliefs
Amesha Spentas or Holy Immortals different personas of Ahura Mazda
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.

Beliefs
Creation of The World was depicted as an ordering of elements.

Heaven and Earth

Day and Night

Cow for Man

The world is then divided into two parts:


The World of Thought cosmic processes The World of Living Beings behavior of men

Beliefs
Belief in the basic goodness of the humanity.
Zoroastrians believe that human beings are essentially divine in nature and share the spiritual nature of God. Human beings are born pure and have a choice either to follow the teachings of God and remain righteous or follow the ways of the evil and be damned.

Belief in afterlife
Death is as a result of the spirit leaving the body. The sanctity and purity of the body is lost once the spirit leaves it.

Beliefs
Belief in sin and expiation of sin 1. People can commit sin by: 2. not following the religious instructions of God 3. not practicing the three commandments declared by Zoroaster, namely good thoughts, good words and good deeds 4. indulging in sinful activities such as adultery, sodomy, theft, pollution of elements, practicing other faiths, not disposing of the dead according to the prescribed method, 5. touching the dead matter 6. Not offering prayers and rituals to God 7. performing sacrificial rituals for the daevas or evil spirits 8. not wearing kusti, the sacred thread and kadre, the upper garment in the prescribed manner 9. doing business with malicious intention or evil thoughts 10. not marrying according to the instructions given in the scriptures

Beliefs
Belief in the Judgment day
Zoroastrians believe that at the end of current cycle of 3000 years, God will destroy the evil forces in a final conflagration and herald the Judgment Day . On that day He would resurrect the dead and subject their lives to another scrutiny. Those who prove to be pious and obedient to his instructions would be suitably rewarded with an eternal life in heaven and the rest will be condemned to an eternal suffering in a purgatory.

ZOROASTRIANISM: CODE
Rules of Conduct and Behavior

Central Ethics (Humata, Hukhta, Huveshta)


"Ashem Vohu, vahishtem asti, Ushta asti, ushta ahmai Hyat ashai, vahishtai ashem To think a good thought, to speak a good word, to do a good deed, is the best. Everlasting happiness to those who follow the Path of Asha

ZOROASTRIANISM: CULTUS

Noruz
Noruz (also known as Jamshedi or
Jamshidi Noruz or Nowruz) is the seventh obligatory feast and it is dedicated to fire. It is the Zoroastrian New Year celebration, and occurs on the spring equinox.
Noruz is so deeply embedded in Iranian culture that it is still celebrated as the Iranian New Year in Islamic Iran, although without the religious connotations. Many fires are lit and there is feasting and celebrations. In modern times fireworks have also become part of the festivities.

Khordad Sal
Khordad Sal is celebrated as the birthday of Zoroaster. This is known as the 'Greater Noruz' and happens six days after Noruz. The chosen date is symbolic since the actual date of the Prophet's birth cannot be identified accurately.

This festival is considered one of the most important in the Zoroastrian calendar. Zoroastrians gather in Fire temples for prayers and then celebrate with feasting.

Zoroastrian Initiation
The Navjote is also known as Sedreh-Pushi. This is the initiation ceremony where a child, between the ages of seven and twelve, receives his or her sudreh and kusti and performs the 'Kusti Ritual' for the first time. The child will have already learned the daily prayers and will engage in ritual washing as part of the ceremony. The ceremony is performed by a mobed (Zoroastrian priest) and is obligatory for all Zoroastrian families.

Zoroastrian Initiation
The kusti is constructed of seventy-two white threads woven by women of the priestly class and consecrated by a priest. Each division of the kusti has religious significance: The 72 threads represent the seventy-two chapters of the Yasna, which is part of the Avesta. Those threads are divided into six sections, which represent the six main duties of a Zoroastrian. When the kusti is complete, the ends of the threads are turned into three tassels at each end, which together represent the six Gahambar seasonal festivals. Each tassel is comprised of twenty-four threads, representing the twenty-four sections of a liturgical prayer called the Visparad.

Six Gahanbars (Six Obligatory Feasts)


Maidyozarem ('mid-spring' feast) Maidyoshahem ('mid-summer' feast) Paitishahem (feast of 'bringing in the harvest') Ayathrem ('bringing home the herds') Maidyarem ('mid-year'/winter feast) Hamaspathmaidyem (feast of 'All Souls')

The origins of the gahanbars date back to the pre-Zoroastrian agricultural people of the Iranian Plateau and relate to the changing seasons. They became religious observances in Zoroastrianism and are jovial communal celebrations with feasting and general merrymaking.

Zoroastrian Weddings
Contract and Celebrations In the first stage the bride and bridegroom, as well as their guardians sign a marriage contract. The second stage is the service followed by feasts and the celebrations, which traditionally last from 3 to 7 days. A cord is tied around the bride and groom's hands during the ceremony. During the service married female relatives hold a fine scarf over the couple's heads. At the same time two crystallized sugar cones are rubbed together, to sweeten the couple's life Then two parts of the scarf are sewn together with needle and thread to symbolize the uniting of the couple for the rest of their lives. Traditionally, both bride and the bridegroom dress in white. The color white is a symbol of purity in Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrian Funerals
Laying out the Dead The Towers of Silence, Mumbai, India Zoroastrians believe that as soon as the breath has left it, the body becomes impure. Death is considered to be the work of Angra Mainyu, the embodiment of all that is evil, whereas the earth and all that is beautiful is considered to be the pure work of God. Contaminating the elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) with decaying matter such as a corpse is considered sacrilege. Instead of burying the corpse, Zoroastrians traditionally laid it out on a purpose built tower (dokhma or 'Tower of Silence') to be exposed to the sun and eaten by birds of prey such as vultures.

Zoroastrian Worship
Zoroastrians worship communally in a Fire Temple or Agiary. Fire is revered as a visual symbol of the Inner Light, the devine spark, that burns in each and every heart; a physical representation of the Illuminated Mind, Enlightenment and Truth. It is important to note that Zoroastirans do not "worship fire" as the religion denounces the worship of any idols or dieties. (Fire Ritual Video)

Zoroastrian Worship
For Zoroastrians, fire represents a pure creation and is a symbol of their religion, much like a cross is to Christians. The fire in this temple has, according to one of the priests, been kept alight constantly for more than 70 years.

ZOROASTRIANISM: COMMUNITY
Contributions to a wider part of the society

Acceptance of Converts

Traditionally, Zoroastrians do not accept converts. One must be born into the religion in order to participate, and marriage within the Zoroastrian community is strongly encouraged although not required. However, with the number of Zoroastrians in steady decline, some communities are now accepting converts.

Zoroastrianism to the Wider Society


Worldwide, there are 190,000 Zoroastrians at most, and perhaps as few as 124,000 by some estimates. Although Zoroastrians are few in number, their faith has influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam with its teachings of a single deity, a dualistic universe of good versus evil, and a final day of reckoning. The religion professes that humankind is designed to evolve toward perfection, but is complicated by evil forces such as greed, lust and hatred, explains Mehraban Firouzgary, the head priest of the Zoroastrian temple in Tehran.

Read more: The Last of the Zoroastrians - TIME http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1864931,00.html#ixzz2kLvNe662

TRIVIAS

Notable Zoroastrians

Freddie Mercury was a British musician, singer, and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band Queen. Mercury was a Parsi born in Zanzibar and grew up there and in India until his mid-teens.

Notable Zoroastrians

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was an Indian nuclear physicist, founding director, and professor of physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Colloquially known as "father of Indian nuclear programme. Homi Jahangir Bhabha was born into a wealthy and prominent industrial Parsi family.

Untainted Earth
The metal frames used to envelop the corpse are buried with the body to keep it away from the soil. (For people who arent able to go to Towers of Silence in India)

Zoroastrians believe the earth should not be tainted by human remains.

Untainted Earth
The metal frames used to envelop the corpse are buried with the body to keep it away from the soil. (For people who arent able to go to Towers of Silence in India)

Zoroastrians believe the earth should not be tainted by human remains.

Symbol

The Faravahar is one of the main symbols of the religion. It shows a man, possibly an angel, sitting on a winged disk. Now, it is used to remind Zoroastrians of their purpose in life, which is to strive for goodness.

Zarathustra
Followers of Zarathustra believed that he did not cry at birth, instead, he was laughing.