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What Should Zarathushtrian Education Be?[1]


Gathic Illustration


Irani, Kaikhosrov

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Regardless of the context of the educational situation, the religious teaching of the Prophet Zarathushtra must be the central focus. The religious vision we find in the Gathas must be presented with a minimum of interpretive gloss and no novel doctrinal creations such as those generated by deviant contemporary groups.

§1 It must be observed that Zarathushtra’s is not a mythological religion, it is certainly not magical; it is what may be call a Reflective Religion. Zarathushtra calls upon the prospective believer to reflect on the vision he offers and come to his or her own conviction. It is therefore not a prescriptive religion, contrary to the notion of some of our teachers. The Religious Vision Zarathushtra offer is a fusion of a View of the World and a Way of Life. This is generally the form of Enlightened Religions. This is the Form of the Religion.

§2 a) The View of the World is given in terms of an Ideal, the Ultimate Truth, called Asha. The Material World was supposed to evolve progressively to realize it. There are two moral polarities in the material world; one vector moving the world toward Asha, the other, in opposition, moving the world toward disorganization and destruction. This is the Dualism in the Religion. The world we live in is meant to evolve toward perfection, but is contaminated and its progress impeded.

b) The Way of Life is to work toward the actualization of Asha, the Divine Plan. This we do because we are endowed with Vohumano, the Good Mind, an aspect of the Divine Mind, which enables us to see, regarding any situation, what it ideally ought to be, i.e., according to Asha.

c) Thus the way of life is not an ethic of prescription, but one in which a person is required to take the responsibility of making righteous decisions, articulating and implementing them, i.e. Good Thought, Good Word, Good Deed. This is the content of the doctrine and must be disclosed in an adequate education.

§3 This life of reflective righteousness is what a human being offers to Ahura Mazda as religious offering. Such a life provides self-justifying existence leading to perfecting integrity – Haurvatat, and becomes the basis for final bliss – Amaretat.

§4 This moral vision is the religious teaching of Zarathushtra. One sometimes hears the complaint that this is just ethics, or that it is indistinguishable from contemporary humanist ethics. Such views emerge from two misconceptions: i) This is not an ethic based on social norms, it is rooted in an Ideal Righteous Order of Divine origin, Asha. ii) The religion of Zarathushtra is the life of Ethical Commitment. It has been known from ancient times as the Religion of the Good Life, or the Religion of Good Conscience. This is not a religion of supernatural drama, not one of pure submission, nor one of comfort or rest, but one of responsibility for instituting the Right.

§5 Of course all religions have ritual components. Personal rituals of Confirmation, Marriage, and Funeral Service must be taught as reaffirming our doctrinal commitment. Social rituals are significant as they bring the voice of the community in collective recollection and piety.

§6 Social practice which have emerged must become known, but their continuance must be evaluated in terms of the coherence with the doctrinal core. This is a faith of Reflective Commitment not a religion of blind obedience!


[1] Appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of the FEZANA journal under the overall heading “Zarathushtrian Education: Zarathushtra’s vision in a life time’s learning”, guest edited by Dr.  Mehrborzin Soroushian, and Dr. Natalie Vania