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Zoroastrianism, Tajiks, and UNESCO [i]

Cultural Events and Festivals
Gathic Illustration


Mehr, Emeritus Professor Dr. Farhang

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On this 4000 anniversary of Zoroastrianism
I Dedicate this article to Professor Khaikhsrow D. Irani
Who in our generation has done more than anybody else
to unravel and explain the truth of Zoroastrianism

Farhang Mehr, Boston, MA, Oct. 2003

Each year the UNESCO declares certain historical events and personages for commemoration under the title of anniversaries of the year. The event or personage is nominated by a Member State of UNESCO, considered by its Board and approved by its General Body.  The event or personage must be one that has had great impact on humanity and influenced the progress and advancement of the world.

This year “3000 year of Zoroastrianiasm”, proposed by Tajikistan, appeared on top of the list of 47 events. The Tajikis are proud that Zarathushtra was born in Khwarazm, the city now located in their country, and rightly consider it a part of their identity.

The greatness of Zarathushtra, as a prophet, thinker and noble man is in what he preached and propagated, perhaps 4000 years ago. All that are reflected in the Gathas, the holy Scripture of Zarathushtis

The major part of the Gathas is about the best way of life. It illustrates the life style that leads to individual’s happiness and community’s progress. The mode of life that guarantees the uplift of humanity and creation.

In his first sermon Zarathushtra preached the importance of liberality and freedom of choice even in the matter of religion.

“Hearken with your ears to these best counsels,
Reflect upon them with illumined judgment
Let each one choose his/her creed with hat freedom of choice
Each must have at great events,
O ye, be awake to this my announcements”

(Gathas, Yasna 30-2)[ii]

Freedom of choice is the greatest bliss granted to human being by Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrianism fully advocates human rights.

Freedom of choice must be exercised through reflection, consultation with mind and conscience (Manah and Daena). Zoroastrianism is a reflective religion. Nothing should be accepted  blindly as a dogma.

Besides rationality, Zoroastrianism is universal. Zarathushtra in his first sermon and subsequent pronouncement unambiguously refers to universality of the religion. In his first sermon he addresses his audience :

‘ O ye, coming to seek wisdom, now shall I proclaim
to you the message of  the Wise Creator”

And in another sermon he starts his preach by the following words:

“ Hearken unto me, O ye who come from near and from far!
Listen to me, as I speak forth now,
Ponder over these teachings with care and clear thought,
Never shall the False Teacher destroy existence a second time
For his tongue stands mute , his creed  stands exposed.”

(Gathas , Yasna 45-1

In his first sermon and subsequent messages Zarathoshtra   refers to the “Wise Creator”, Ahura Mazda, to the Good Mind (Vohu Mana) and the enduring Sacred Truth (Asha). He is the first who spoke of One Creator who is transcendent , immanent and a-personal. He defined God as the Essence and Giver of Life thus laid down the principle of ‘Oneness of

Being’. All beings are created by Ahura Mazda through the ‘Good Spirit (Spenta Mainyu)’. Spenta Mainyu also represents Ahura Mazda in material world. 

Zarathyshtra  defined Ahura Mazda as the Essence of ,and Sublime ,Wisdom, Truth, Peace and Love, and Constructive Power and thus Ahura Mazda is the Essence of Perfection and immortality. He was the champion of ‘true and rational Monotheism.’ A God that is Omniscient and Just.

As creator of Asha, Ahura Mazda  has prescribed  the eternal law of Asha to govern the whole creation. It is the law of cause and effect. Thoughts, words and deeds of human beings which reflect a person’s choice of good and evil are measured by this law and the reward (Mijdeh) accrues. One reaps what one sows. Nobody can change the effects of one’s acts. No penitence and no mediation works. There is no preordained fate. Fate is the product of ones thoughts, words, and deeds. These are the basis of God’s true justice.

Equality of human beings irrespective of race, gender, color of the skin in every respect exists. These were translated in the treatment of  Cyrus  of Achaeminean dynesty in freeing jews and followers of other faiths from captivity in Babylon and assisting them to rebuild their places of worship. Zarathushtra criticizes the princes and clergies who exploit people. He propagates the governance of the people for the people –what is called democracy.

The law of Asha does not only indicate the dry and mechanical truth. It signifies ideal truth and seeking the truth. Truth of the creation and of natural, physical, mental and social  phenomena. To eliminate or reduce the misery, human beings are expected to try and understand the truth of whatever happen around from hurricane and earthquake, to cancer, Alzheimer, and social maladies such as inflation and unemployment, pollution and greenhouse warming.  All phenomena should be investigated, the reasons for their occurrence researched and the remedy be discovered. Zoroastrianism does not enter the area of science. It does not address details about creation of man or the universes, the kind of food or drinks or attire one has to consume or use. These are the matters for scientist and experts to discover and the results may modify, be amplified or even change. Hence Zoroastrianism is supportive of scientific advancements. Gathas does not deal with minor problems of everyday life it deals with micro issues.

Protection of environment is a serious concern of Zoroastrianism. Prevention of pollution of soil, water, air and fire is strongly recommended. Human beings are the guardians of all the creation of Ahura Mazda and must care for them.

In Zarathushtra’ messages, inspired by Ahura Mazda, human beings are called friends and co-workers of God. As such they are duty bound to work with God for the advancement of the creation. For that purpose God deposited in human being at birth a glimpse of his own qualities. Human being has the option to strengthen these potentialities by treading the path of Truth (Asha). In his Justice Ahura Mazda has warned human beings of the existence of two ways of living and their consequences.

This is embedded in the doctrine of dualism Doctrine of ‘Moral Dualism’ is at one end related to the ‘principle of freedom of choice’ and at the other end to the law of consequences. It is a system of thought in which good and bad are in action. It is a behavioral attitude that manifests itself in the individual’s mind and conditions-the individual’s action. Zaratrushtra in his second sermon said:

In the beginning there were two spirits, Twins
Spontaneously active,
These were the Good and the Evil, in thought,
and in word, and in mind,
Between these two, let the wise choose aright;
Be Good not base.

(Gathas. Yasna 30-3)

Thus Evil is created by human’s choice and not by Ahura Mazda. Ahriman or Satan is not Ahura Mazda’s creation. Zoroastrianism offers the most logical solution for theodicy and existence of Ahriman without undermining the omnipotence and justice of God

Zoroastrianism  is the first religion that spoke about two worlds or two kind of existence: celestial or mental (Manahya) and terrestrial or material (Gaethya).  The idea of life after death, or an individual entering the second existence has had a profound impact on other religions. The notion of final triumph of good over evil is also authored by Zarathushtra. This gives a purpose to creation and instills hope in human being.

Zoroastrianism is a universal, a reflective, and a practical religion. Every body can by practice of Good thought, Good word and Good deed  (Humat, Hukht, Huvarsht) be a Zarathushti and join the Ashavan or Good People. Zarathushtra recommends that all good people must unite and become HAMAZOOR and work for the happiness of everybody else by consulting Vohu Mana (Good Mind), treading the path of Asha (Truth), use the  Xshatra (Constructive and Right-minded power), and work for Armaity (Peace) to achieve

Haurvatat (Perfection) and reach Ameratat (Immortality)

Happiness be the lot of him/her who works for
the happiness of others,
May the Lord grant him health and endurance.
For the effort to uphold Truth, I beseech these
Very gifts from Thee!
Mayest Thou, through Armaity, the Spirit of
Bless me with the perfection of a life guided by
The Good Mind.

(Gathas, Yasna43-1)

[i] This article first appeared in HAMZOR issue 3, 2003 (Special edition of the UNESCO declared 3000 anniversary of Zoroastrian culture)

[ii] Translation of Gathas reproduced from “The Gathas: The Hymn of Zarathushtra” by Dinshah J Irani  edited by K.D.Irani