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Messages for the Ages: The Uniqueness of Zarathushtra's Message

Personal Perspective

Ronald Delavega



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As a student of the Zarathushtrian Religion at first, and as a practicing Zarathushti later, I have always read and been told of the numerous and often literal similarities between Mazdayasna in general, that is both the Gathas and the latter writings and teachings, and all the major so called World Faiths or Religions. I am sure that all Zarathushtis are at least somewhat familiar with these assertions, which, of course, happen to be true; perhaps even beyond our wildest imaginings.

Indeed, I was very astonished as a Christian to realize the extent of the debt that Christianity owes to our great Zarathushtra. The discovery of these facts started a long spiritual trek for me and, I dare to say, for many others that has brought us to full appreciation of, and conviction in, the Glorious Ahuric Faith.

But if these similarities, with which most of us are so familiar, started our spiritual treks or simply reinforced our faith, it was another thing that convinced me personally, and made me truly appreciate and believe in, Zarathushtra's Good Vision. And that was the timelessness, the agelessness and uniqueness of Asho Zarathushtra's message as preserved in his Gathas.

Many have said that Zarathushtra's date, is not important and in a sense they are right. The message and not the date is the main thing with any doctrine. But in another sense, when we realize the antiquity of the man, we also become all the more impressed with his message.

Here is a man, for no god or Son of God is he, living, according to our best and most recent estimates, between 3500 and 4800 years ago. He was living in an isolated region of the world, thousands of miles from the main centers of civilization of his age. A man belonging to a culture barely out of the Stone Age. Yet this man had a vision. A vision of a GOD who was so great, that He/She had to be perceived through His or Her aspects or essences. A vision of a GOD who is a life force in constant creation, the source of all good, beneficence, righteousness and truth; who rules Creation through Asha. The order of physical and ethical laws, which uphold and promote the evolution of Creation towards its completeness, self-realization and fulfillment.

He names this GOD Ahura Mazda. Lord Wisdom. But digging a little deeper into this name or definition of GOD we start to encounter the uniqueness of Zarathushtra's message.  For Zarathushtra gave GOD a compound name. Ahura meaning, according to some scholars Existing or Self-Existing One, and to others Being or The Being. And Mazda, meaning Wisdom (according to the scholars, from Sanskrit). And the interesting and unique thing about this name is that Ahura is masculine and Mazda is feminine.

So Zarathushtra is telling us with the name of his GOD, that GOD is the Self Existent One or the Being, actually the Good Being or Existent One, if we break the work Ahu into its roots, and he is telling us that GOD is Wisdom. But he's also telling us that GOD is sexless and values both the masculine and the feminine aspects of HIS/HER creation.

This equal value to gender is seen all through the Gathas and even in some of the younger Avesta. For instance when referring to mankind Zarathushtra's most chosen word is maretan and its derivatives meaning mortal or mortals, which of course encompasses both sexes.

There is more, to this in the Gathas, for Zarathushtra addresses men and women in a way that clearly implies that neither he, nor Ahura Mazda makes distinctions on the basis of sex. As a matter of fact the only distinctions made in the Gathas are distinctions as to beneficence, truth and righteousness.

Then in the very last Gatha, Zarathushtra relates the wedding of his daughter. In Song 17.3 Zarathushtra addresses his daughter as follows "Pouruchista...youngest daughter of Zarathushtra: May HE grant you him who is steadfast in good mind, and united with righteousness and with the Wise One..." (All quotes are from Dr. Ali A. Jafarey’s translation) 

Notice that is not Zarathushtra who is granting, nor giving, nor arranging for Pouruchista's husband. Rather Zarathushtra is asking Ahura Mazda to grant his daughter a righteous person of good mind who is united to Ahura Mazda. This is 4000 or so years ago, folks. No arranged marriage here! How modern can this be?  Well it only gets better.

In 17.4 "She replies Him shall I emulate and choose...As a righteous woman among the righteous people, mine be the glorious union of good mind....". Confirming her free and equal status as a righteous woman Pouruchista freely chooses her husband with good mind (good thinking)!

Going on Zarathushtra later addresses other brides and bridegrooms - it must have been an occasion of multiple weddings - and states thusly in Song 17 .5 "...Master the life that belongs to good mind. May you each win the other through righteousness.”

What an advice! What a marvelous admonition: lean on a beneficent mind that thinks good; master this type of life, the beneficent life of good thinking, and strive to continually win each other’s love and companionship, through Asha, that is through beneficence, righteousness and truth. What a concept!

No domination of the male here, no considering the woman as a chattel, a property, impure or an inferior. This is nothing but a gospel of gender equality. But in spite of the timelessness and progressiveness of Zarathushtra's view of the genders; this is not all that is unique about his message.

The many-layered nature of Zarathushtra's message does not by itself make it unique. But when it is all fit together like a beautiful mosaic, it amazes you with its capacity to be at the same time simple and complex, logical and mystical. And also, because of its flexibility. I say flexibility, for the Gathic message can be understood, and grasped both by the learned and the simple with equal ease, because it speaks to each in his or her own level.

You can meditate and discourse on the merits, functions and effects of Asha, for example, for days on end with the most intellectual scholar, or you can talk to a youngster about Good thoughts, Good words and Good deeds for a few minutes and both will understand the core of the message perfectly each at his own level.

It can be extremely intellectual and complex yet easily reduced to simple and essential truths. But even in this, is not unique among world religions. But there's more still to Zarathushtra's unique message.

In the area of equality, it was not only in gender that Zarathushtra was ahead of his time and indeed ahead of our time. For in an age where being of another race or nationality usually carried with it the connotation than the stranger was somehow weird and less than human, an outsider, a gentile dog in Jewish terms for example; Zarathushtra extended equality even to his racial and national enemies.

But let Zarathushtra tell it himself. "Since through righteousness, the powerful children and grandchildren of the Turanian Fryana have risen to promote their world through serenity with zeal, Wise God has united them with good mind, in order to teach them what concerns their help." Song 11.12

Here, in one swift stroke, Zarathushtra deals the deathblow to ethnic hatred, racism and the idea of a tribal, national or racial GOD. For the Turanians were the sworn blood enemies of Zarathushtra's people; yet they received the message and had "...risen to promote their world..." This of course could only mean, that Zarathushtra or one of his companions had proclaimed the message to them in spite of the fact that they were their blood enemies!  And furthermore, Zarathushtra tells us that, none other than Ahura Mazda has "...united them with good mind..."

This furnishes us with absolute proof  that  the Gathic and Ahuric message preached by the man from central Asia, was the first truly universal gospel. One utterly devoid of the hatefulness and narrow mindedness of racism, ethnocentrism, tribalism and belligerent nationalism.

A message  we citizens of today's world will do well to take to heart, for it is still vibrantly alive and current today 4000 years later. It is in the light of statements such as these, that the true nature of Zarathushtra’s message, the Good Vision, should be examined and judged.

The Ahunavaiti or “choice of the Lord” prayer, is identified as  the most important Zarathushtian prayer by the later literature. In it we read; "Both the Lord and the leader are to be chosen because of their righteousness..." Zarathushtra continues to amaze us with the originality and uniqueness of his message. To wit, he is the only founder of a religion who asserts that the Lord, i.e. God is to be chosen.

This at first might confuse us; Is Zarathushtra saying that we have different gods to choose from? No, for in the context of the Gathas it is clear that what Zarathushtra is saying that our Vision of GOD is to be based in righteousness, but not only in righteousness however, for the word in the original is Asha, and as we have discussed elsewhere it connotes  beneficence, truth, what is right and what ought to be. Most importantly, he is saying that, any Vision of GOD that does not reveal a righteous, beneficent GOD is not a true Vision of GOD.

So in fact what the Ahunavar is saying; is that GOD has to have certain characteristics for HIM/HER to be really GOD, and that foremost among those is Asha, i.e. beneficence, righteousness and truth. And that a god that does not possess these is no true GOD. But the Ahunavar does not stop; there it goes on to say that the leader is also to be chosen because of his or her righteousness. Our leaders, both spiritual and secular are to have one foremost qualification, again Asha, expressed as righteousness, truth and beneficence or loving-kindness.

Therefore what we find in this, the “Choice of the Lord” Prayer, is nothing short of a truly revolutionary doctrine. It is a manifesto for Spiritual and Political Democracy. And one composed at the very dawn of history! This short prayer sets up the basis for such 'modern' ideas as, freedom of religion, separation of church and state and a representative democracy, in which even the right to recall is implicit.

Once again we can perceive, in the Ahunavar, the seminal role of Zarathushtra in western thought. This is indeed another, of his great achievements as a thinker and as an inspired guide or teacher. But there is even more uniqueness to be found in Zarathushtra's message. All these are great achievements and advances in human thought. The equality of the sexes, races and nationalities, the concepts of freedom of thought, assembly, recall, belief, indeed the very nature of democracy; all find expression in this wonderful revelation of Ahura Mazda by Zarathushtra in the Gathas.

But the relevance of the Gathic message for today does not end there. In a time when environmental concerns were probably the very least of mankind's worries, Zarathushtra and his followers preached a message calling for the preservation and promotion of all of Ahura Mazda's creation, making renovation and healing of the world the utmost aspiration of the righteous Zarathushtian. Water and earth are to be preserved pure and clean. Pollution is to be avoided, and personal and community hygiene must be emphasized.

The fact remains that four millennia ago, a simple man of the central Asian steppes had a vision of GOD. But not just any vision, a vision so clear so modern, so earth shakingly powerful, that it transformed a simple semi-nomadic people into the first world empire. An  empire extending from Western China to Ethiopia.

But this was not all this message achieved. It survived through cataclysms and calamities that destroyed all traces of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Sumerian, Canaanite and many other religions of antiquity. And today, it is still reaching us with even more moral and spiritual force than it reached those simple people 4000 years ago. For this message is so current and relevant today; that I cannot help but imagining myself turning the television on and seeing the man from central Asia himself, speaking and preaching to us this, his ever modern message.

And yet having enumerated all these great and eternal qualities, of Zarathustra inspired and inspiring Good Vision; I have still failed to communicate to you, the full import of its uniqueness. For it is my contention that there's a lot more uniqueness to Zarathushtra’s message than those qualities I have touched on so far.

I am a man possessed by an idea, an idea that did not originate with me. No I am possessed of Zarathushtra's 4000-year-old idea. An idea of a world ruled by beneficence, righteousness, truth and good thinking. A world under the good rule, in which, righteousness, truth and beneficence are not just words. A world in which these transcendental principles are alive in every day life.

As a possessed man, I find myself actually looking around for people who are into seeking spiritual truth. What I have found during these spiritual journeys, that I engage in; is what has brought me to a fuller appreciation of the uniqueness of Zarathushtra's message. For it does indeed strike a chord deep in humanity’s soul.

There is something more, something deeper, something that can only be appreciated, when one attempts to communicate this truly liberating message of the Gathas, outside of our immediate and familiar comfort zones. When we take this truly thought provoking and inspiring message out of the close Zarathushti circles, and into the market place of ideas; something truly amazing, inspiring and beautiful happens.

The more you present Zarathushtra's message to people, the more you realize a truly amazing fact. Complete strangers, from totally divergent cultures, races, nationalities and backgrounds; not only grasp the essential concepts of the message right away, but they have already meditated and pondered along the same lines and reached very similar often identical conclusions.

It is an eerie feeling, you are talking to a complete stranger, one who had never heard of Zarathushtra in his or her life; and all of a sudden he or she tells you " That is exactly what I think, or believe" or  "Yes, I have always thought something like that". It never ends, the more you talk to these people, and I do not mean everyone, but a sizeable portion, the more you find they are in basic agreement with what Zarathushtra taught 4000 years ago, or they believe something that can be supported easily from a certain minor interpretation of Gathic teaching.

It never ceases to amaze me, how this people were able to reach Gathic like ideas without having ever heard from Zarathushtra. And this has led me to a conclusion that truly identifies this Zarathushtian message as a totally unique message. I have come to believe that so many people espousing so many similar beliefs and ideas all on their own, is not totally coincidental or the result of common cultural threads.

I have come to the conclusion, subjective and unscientific as it may be, that there is something so logical, so in tune with the normal thinking and feeling processes of mankind, in Zarathushtra's message; that it is almost like if, it were the natural theology or religious doctrine of humanity. This might be something for sociologists to study in the future. All I can say not being a sociologist or psychologist, is that this experiences I have summarized here are so common as to be classified as some sort of a Jungian archetype.

So here we are. We have briefly done a bird's eye view study of Asho Zarathushtra's message as it pertains to its uniqueness. I can safely state, that there's no more unique message in all the religions of mankind. Its breath, actuality, freshness and naturalness are non-pareil. It is reasonable, and spiritually inspiring at the same time. It is, as in the words of our Initiation Prayers "... Of all religions that have been or will be, the greatest, best and sublimest. It is Divine and Zarathushtian."