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The Ethical Thought Proposed by Zarathushtra


Dr. Jose Luis

The Ancient Wisdom..
Ethical Principles..
Zoroastrian Ethics..


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1) The Ancient Wisdom about Right and Wrong: "The Righteous Origins of Ethics"

Ethics is the philosophical science that studies “what is right and wrong.” Socrates, (470-399 BC), Plato (428-348 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC) are considered by the vast majority of philosophical researchers as the first to study and promote the concepts of ethics. However, approximately 1305 years before any one of them even existed, a prophet and philosopher named Zarathushtra established that the human world on this earth is divided into two areas -the righteous and the wrongful (Gathas songs 3,4,10 and other references).

As a human being and as a philosophical scientist, Zarathushtra, in his search for truth, found and realized the Supreme and Divine Entity of Creation called "Ahura Mazda.” From that point, He recorded the divine teachings in seventeen songs as the eternal guidelines for humanity. These songs were referred as "Gathas" , which means "sacred songs". The divine philosopher wanted to maintain an ever-fresh message, so, using a poetic approach was  the easiest way of transmitting the knowledge.

The Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary defines the basic terms this way:

Philosophy: Science that deals with the inquiry into the most comprehensive principles of reality in general, or of some sector of it, as human knowledge or human values. The love of wisdom, and the search for it (Greek).

Philosopher: A student or specialist in philosophy. Lover of wisdom (Greek).
It can be affirmed without the slightest shadow of a doubt that besides being a religious person, Zarathushtra was the first historically known philosopher. It can be found in Gathas songs 3.1, 4.6, 17, 19, 7.10, that Zarathushtra promotes the love for wisdom, which fulfills the aforementioned definitions. In addition, the name of Zarathushtra's God "Ahura Mazda" is a compound one. “Ahura” means Existing or Self-Existing One, and “Mazda” means Wisdom; God is therefore  known as Lord Wisdom, which perfectly fits the definition of a philosophical God.

The idea is not to diminish the valuable contribution of some of the greatest philosophers to the ethical field of Science, but to clarify for the sake of mankind’s memory and history the divine truth involved in ancient teachings of what is right and what is wrong. These teachings, under the influence of time and human forgetting, have deviated from their primal sources, as the result of human intellectual limitations. Some of the later teachings attributed to Zarathushtra seem far away from the limitless universal vision offered by Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra in the original text, the Gathas.

The sacred ethics of Zoroastrianism provide a perfect guide to every person on this planet to reach immortality and enlightenment without renouncing  mental and physical freedom and choice. The Zarathushtrian philosophy respects the issues of human rights which are currently studied under the criteria of applied ethics. For instance, in Zarathushtrian ethical philosophy, men and women are considered equal and should enjoy the same rights according to this way of thought ( Gatha songs 3.2, 17, 5 ). There should be no discrimination against sex, color, race or nationality.

With respect to Environmental Ethics, an aspect widely studied by academic researchers interested in ecological issues and human responsibility, it is interesting to find out that the Good Religion of Zarathushtra proclaims that everything in nature is a divine creation and as such, should be respected and loved profoundly. This doctrine promotes a progressive ecological order in a highly scientific manner. It means that the sacred teachings are eco-compatible.

The virtue theory of Aristotle in ethics established that the basis for morality depends upon the development of good elements of character, or virtues. The Gathic approach, however, goes beyond this theoretical appreciation with a more universal vision and reveals that there are divine emanations or aspects of the creator that are immanent in all of the elements of creation, including ourselves.

2) Ethical Principles and Values in the Gathas

Theory of Values
Theory of Values or Axiology ( from axios=values, logos=treatise ), is the philosophical discipline that is in charge of the studies about values.  It is believed by many researchers that this discipline was born and initiated its first steps during the second half of the 19th century. Before the existence of Axiology, values were understood in an isolated and asystematic manner.

Rockeach ( 1976 ), is one of the world authorities in the studies of values and his classic definition of value is: "It is a conviction or belief stable in time that  a determined way of behavior or an existential performance is personally or socially preferred to its opposite way of behavior or opposite existential performance."

Values are strategic learning processes ...stating that one way of acting is better than its opposite, in order to accomplish our goal, in other words, to make sure that things are done right (Garcia and Dolan, 1997)

Many scholars classify values in two groups:

1) Personal values: These are the kind of values the person wants for him- or herself. They answer the question: What is (for you) the most important thing in life?
They range from "being happy" to "having prestige". Some examples are: to have a good life, happiness, health, salvation, family, success, self realization, good status, material wellbeing, wisdom, friendship, work, respect, courage, love, etc.

2) Ethical-Social Values: These are aspirations or purposes that benefit our society, such as: respect for the environment or respect for human rights. They answer the questions about: What do you want for the world? Examples: Peace, ecological respect t for our planet, social justice, etc.

When the Gathas are studied it can be concluded that the Theory of Values had its first roots, long before the 19th century, in the philosophical and sacred teachings of Zarathushtra. Every song promotes the cultivation of values. Without any doubts the formulation of  this important theory was first made by the Leader of the Living World: Asho Zarathushtra.

In order to support our explanation, a list of ethical values and principles compiled from the Gathas (Jafarey´s version) is presented:

  1. Adoration

  2. Advice

  3. Beneficent person

  4. Brilliant Happiness

  5. Charity

  6. Clarity

  7. Communion

  8. Courage

  9. Creative mentality

  10. Dedication

  11. Devotion

  12. Discernment

  13. Divine inspiration

  14. Divine voice

  15. Dominion

  16. Duty

  17. Endurance of body

  18. Enlightenment

  19. Felicity

  20. Fellowship

  21. Fire

  22. Friendship

  23. Good conscience

  24. Good Deeds

  25. Good Mind

  26. Good Words

  27. Goodness

  28. Guidance

  29. Happiness

  30. Harmony

  31. Health

  32. Helpful person

  33. Honesty

  34. Humbleness

  35. Illuminated Mind

  36. Illumination

  37. Immortality

  38. Independence in dominion

  39. Intellect

  40. Intelligence

  41. Invocation

  42. Joy

  43. Justice

  44. Kindness

  45. Knowledge

  46. Leadership

  47. Life healing

  48. Love

  49. Loyalty

  50. Meditation

  51. Mighty

  52. Moderation

  53. Nobleness

  54. Peace

  55. Physical enlightenment

  56. Powerful

  57. Progressive conscience

  58. Progressive mentality

  59. Progressive serenity

  60. Progressiveness

  61. Proper actions

  62. Prosperity

  63. Radiant Happiness

  64. Revelation

  65. Reverence

  66. Right choice

  67. Righteous conceptions

  68. Righteousness

  69. Self reliance of good mind

  70. Serenity

  71. Sincerity

  72. Soul harmony

  73. Sovereignty

  74. Strength

  75. Support

  76. Sweetness of Speech

  77. Thought provoking message

  78. True actions

  79. True leader

  80. True speech

  81. Truth

  82. Victory

  83. Wholeness

  84. Wisdom

If the reader finds some other values that are not on this list, please let me know, because this information will be used for academic purposes.

3)Zoroastrian Ethics in Management

Concept of Ethics and Asha
There is a movement of thought in the management field that postulates the need of an ethical approach to management. This theme proposes that  many ancient values, which are almost forgotten in the modern world,  now seem to be necessary to build a more morally healthy society. In this order of ideas a notable number of scholars perceive commercial companies and business as agents of social renovation. If we go deeper into this aspect of the field, the concept of organization can be characterized from the point of view of the philosophy of ethics as well as that of business management.

Among the diverse ideas about ethics in management, the teachings of Zarathushtra are finding a place. It is due to the fact that the Gathas may well be the first ethical treatise in human history.

The field of Ethics, sometimes called Moral Philosophy, by definition “comprises the concepts of defending, recommending, and systematizing good and bad behavior”. This is easy to relate to the Gathas (Jafarey, song 3,1) “Now I shall speak to those who wish to hear of the two principles, which are of importance even to the wise.” Also it can be acknowledged in “Now, the two foremost mentalities, known to be imaginary twins, are the better and the bad in thoughts, words and deeds. Of these the beneficent choose correctly, but not so the maleficent. And in “Of these two mentalities, the wrongful mentality chose worst actions, and the most progressive mentality, as steadfast as a rock, chose righteousness...” (Jafarey, song 3, 3 and 5)
A profitable organization is composed of groups of human beings capable of generating wealth, who can respond to social needs and who can evaluate their productivity. Considered in this way, a business company constitutes an area of human relations that can contribute directly to the creation of a just society. In this approach, one of the main Zarathushtrian “Primal Principles of Life”, can be seen as a model of how a company should be managed. This is ASHA ( truth, order, righteousness ). It is, in Zarathushtra’s philosophy, the Universal law of righteous precision, which means “to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, and with the right means in order to obtain the right result” . This concept of Asha establishes the direction for successful management, in which the right decisions and right results can have a vital impact on the survival of any organization. Asha is something that is of constructive and loving benefit not only for oneself but also for one’s fellow creatures and for God. It is a constructive, beneficial and unselfish precision, aimed at excellence. Thus, Asha is the best guidance for  high level management, because it brings success to the organization, to its members and to society.