Good thoughts, good words and good deeds



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Zoroastrianism

“Good thoughts, good words and good deeds”


Introduction & the Basics

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic (single-god) religions. Zoroaster (Zarathustra), a prophet, founded the religion in Persia, modern Iran, about 3500 years ago. Now one of the world’s smallest religions, Zoroastrianism was one of the world’s most powerful religions for nearly 1000 years.


-Zoroastrians believe in one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), the creator of the world.

-Zoroastrians believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents the light and wisdom of God.

-The truth was revealed by Ahura Mazda to the Prophet, Zoroaster.

-Traditionally, Zoroastrians pray multiple times daily.

-The Avesta is the Zoroastrian Holy Book.

-The Avesta is traditionally split into two sections:

-The Avesta: the oldest and main part of scripture, which contains the Gathas. The Gathas are 17

hymns supposedly composed by Zoroaster.

-The Young Avesta: commentaries written on the original Avesta. In addition to myths and other

stories, the Young Avesta also outlines religious rituals.


Zoroaster & the History

The precise date of Zoroaster’s life and the establishment of Zoroastrianism is technically uncertain, but it is credited to the late Bronze Age (1500-1200 BCE) according to archeological evidence, etc. Born into a polytheistic religion that was similar to early forms of Hinduism, Zoroaster himself actually became a priest; however, he rejected the belief in many gods taught by polytheism and did not like the oppression of a strict class structure or the use of animal sacrifices or intoxicants.


At this point in his life, around the age of 30, Zoroaster had a conversion experience. An angel called Good Thought appeared to him and took him before Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord). Zarathustra recognized Ahura Mazda as the one true God. That was when Ahura Mazda, the creator, sent the Prophet Zoroaster down to earth to teach the people a new religion. Zoroaster started teaching people that there was one God, Ahura Mazda, and that he was all powerful. He taught them that God was the supreme creator of all things and that he would reward their good deeds and punish their wrongdoing justly. This is how the teachings of Zoroastrianism were established and spread.


What was life like on Earth before Zoroaster’s experience?

What is a conversion experience? What specific changes come about because of Zoroaster’s conversion experience?

Zoroastrianism was not quickly accepted; however, by the time of the Archaemenian Period (550-330 BC), Zoroastrianism was a well-established religion in Persia. During this period in the Persian Empire, under Cyrus the Great specifically, who was a practicing Zoroastrian and ruled justly and according to Zoroastrian law of asha (truth and righteousness), was relatively liberal for the time and was tolerant of other religions, even going so far as to permit the exiled Jews (exiled in Babylon) to return and rebuild their temple. Because of this tolerance as well as that of some of the subsequent rulers, Zoroastrian influence can be seen in other monotheistic religions.


Two major blows were dealt to the Zoroastrian religion over the course of history. The first came from Alexander the Great, who defeated Darius III in 331 BCE and conquered most of Persia within five years. While Alexander killed many priests and burned many books, the religion regained strength after his death, eventually becoming a wealthy, ritualized, and dominant, though ready for reform because of these things. Ultimately, Zoroastrianism fell to Islam during the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. During this conquest, Zoroastrians were given the option to convert or keep their religion but pay extra taxes. In addition to additional laws and social implementations those who did not choose to convert would have to follow, Zoroastrian libraries and places of worship were burned. Ultimately, many Zoroastrians either converted or left the region, diminishing the number of followers. Those who fled [in the 10th century] wound up in India and founded the Zoroastrian Parsi division. As other cultures and religious influences continued to impact the religion, especially Christianity in the 19th century, Parsi Zoroastrianism made some intentional reforms that were also adopted by Iranian Zoroastrianism. The Zoroastrian survival reaction was one of flexibility and integrity to values, adopting the mantra of “good thoughts, good words and good deeds.”
Against overwhelming odds, the Zoroastrian religion has survived until the present; however, there are fewer than 200,000 still practicing the religion today. Most of these are in India, Iran (modern Persia), North America, and Australia.


What factors have allowed Zoroastrianism to survive until the present?


Doctrine

Monotheism: Zoroastrians believe in one God. This was a radical idea at the time as all other religions were polytheistic. For Zoroastra, the one true God was Ahura Mazda who is eternal and universal goodness. He controls the universe and the destiny of all human beings.
Dualism is the belief in and total separation of universal forces of good and evil. In Zoroastrianism, there is Cosmic Dualism and Moral Dualism
Cosmic Dualism: The battle between Good (Ahura Mazda – Zoroastrian creator) and Evil (Angra Mainyu – destructive energy against God’s creative force) Because of this we have life and death, day and night, etc. One can’t exist without the other, and life is a battle of the two opposing forces.
Moral Dualism: The battle of good and evil in the mind of man. Because God gave man freewill, he is always choosing between the two, and this choice aligns the followers as either a helper of Ahura Mazda or Angra Mainyu.
Zoroastra believed that the universe was a battleground for the forces of good and evil. He believed the battle would eventually be won by good (When all of mankind chooses the side of good, Paradise will be found on earth.) and predicted a future savior who would help restore this goodness to the world. This is the concept of apocalypticism. In practice, modern Zoroastrianism has a positive outlook. It teaches that Mankind is ultimately good and that this goodness will finally triumph over evil. This could be seen as a retrenchment from the faith's original purity of dualism.


What other religions do you know of that teach the concept of apocalypticism and that a savior will come to save the world?



In your own words, describe dualism.


Daily Life & Values/Vices

Zoroastrians try to live their daily lives by the creed of “good thoughts, good words and good deeds.” The religion is a very action-driven one in which followers are expected to place emphasis on keeping good morals but also working to improve the family, community, and society. Zoroastrianism is a family and community-oriented religion, and its followers are often very generous in the community, especially the Parsi division. People are seen as equals (men and women, rich and poor, etc.) and are considered not as subordinates of God but rather as helpers. Ultimately, people only distinguish themselves through their righteousness, and the total sum of an individual’s actions will determine his/her fate.


Values (in no particular order):

Unflinching faith, devotion and love for Ahura Mazda and His prophet, Zoroastra;

Offering the Faraziyat (obligatory) prayers

Observing and upholding all the tenets (laws) and traditions of the religion and community, particularly

with regard to:



respect and reverence for fire and offering worship to the one and only supreme being, ritual purity in day-to-day life, mental and physical hygiene, marrying only within the community, the lawful method for the disposal of the dead, performing and participating in all the necessary high and holy liturgical ceremonies and rituals, remembering the holy fravashis (festivals)of the dead and observing all the parabhs, gahambars and other feasts and festivals;

Speaking the Truth always. Avesta: 31.19 "A truth-speaker receives honour and is a master without fear”

Moderation in matters of food, drink and other worldly pleasures. Neither fasting nor gluttony and

neither celibacy nor lechery is desirable;



Charity and love for all human beings. Zoroastrianism does not look down upon acquisition of wealth.

Industry and honest toil. According to Yasna 46.12 "those who make the world prosperous through good

thoughts and honest endeavours are those who live a virtuous life in good thoughts.

Keep a promise at all cost.

Aspire for higher knowledge and acquire wisdom.

Respect ones elders and superiors. "He who does not show respect to an elder will never receive honour" (Yasna 29.6);

Honesty and integrity in ones dealings in this world;

Forgiveness, mercy and tolerance


Which value do you most agree with? Why?


Which value do you least agree with? Why?


Which values would be accepted within our society?


Which values do you think our society would disagree with?



Vices (in no particular order):

Anger and jealousy

Greed and idleness- Yasna 16.8 warns "Keep away from the greed of a wicked man", while the Visperad

states, "a man who is idle is worthy of hell";



Arrogance

Apostasy - According to Vendidad (15.2) "if a person, being a member of the good religion, willingly

accepts the commandments of another religion and speaks pejoratively of our religion, he becomes a sinner";



Based on the quotation from the Vendidad, define apostasy.

Adultery

Sloth - In the Vendidad (11.9): "May the demon of slothfulness which increases idleness depart";

Foul language - The Denkard consider use of foul or abusive language as a sin equal to telling lies;

Petty and unwarranted quarrels, arguments and violence;

Bad company and literature

Malice and vengefulness

Which value do you most agree with? Why?



Which value do you least agree with? Why?


Which values would be accepted within our society?



Which values do you think our society would disagree with?


Human Destiny

After death, Zoroastra teaches, each soul undergoes a judgment. The ethical record of the soul is judged; the good are allowed to pass into paradise, but the wicked are cast into the abyss. For Zoroastrianism, heaven is a place of joy and sunshine. Hell is a foul-smelling, dark place where the tormented are cursed to remain alone for eternity.




In one sentence only, explain what Zoroastrians believe happens after death.

There is a promise also, of a series of saviors, the Saoshyants, who will appear in the world and complete the triumph of good over evil. Evil will be rendered ineffective and Ahura Mazda, the Infinite One, will finally become truly omnipotent in Endless Light. There will then take place, a general Last Judgment of all the souls awaiting redemption, followed by the Resurrection of the physical body, which will once again meet its spiritual counterpart, the soul. Time, as we know it, will cease to exist and the creation of Ahura Mazda will be gathered together in eternal blessedness in the Kingdom of Mazda, where everything, it is believed, will remain forever in a perfect state of joy.




How does the Zoroastrian teaching regarding human destiny align with its doctrine?


Zoroastrianism. 2014. BBC. Aug 2015. .



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