ZARATHUSHTRA AND HIS GOOD RELIGION
THE MESSAGE OF ZARATHUSHTRA
ZARATHUSHTRA AND HIS GOOD RELIGION
Hear the best with your ears
and ponder with a bright mind.
Then each man and woman, for his or her self,
select either of the two, the better or the bad mentality.
Awaken to this doctrine of ours
before the great event of choice ushers in.
(Zarathushtra’s Gathas: Song 3.2)
ZARATHUSHTRA (Life and Teachings)
Tradition says Zarathushtra was born on 6th of Farvardin 30 Before Zarathushtrian Religious Era (BZRE = 26 March 1767 BCE). His father Pourushaspa of the Spitama clan of an Iranian tribe, raised cattle and was famous for his horses. His mother, Dughdav, was known for her enlightened ideas. The family lived near the bank of Oxus River in present day Central Asia.
Zarathushtra, inquisitive by nature, was a consummate thinker. He kept asking questions concerning the world and its creator. The priests of the ancient polytheistic cult could not provide him with satisfactory answers. His father invited the head priest to talk to him. The ensuing arguments enraged the priest so much that he is said to have dropped dead, perhaps from a heart attack, while driving back home.
Disappointed by the response from the priests, Zarathushtra turned to inner self and the thought-provoking nature around him. His search for the truth, for creation and its creator led him to God with whom he communed. At the age of thirty he proclaimed his mission and began preaching the new message to humanity.
That message, fresh today as it was 3800 years ago, shattered myths and established beliefs by challenging rites and rituals related to superstition and sacrifice, and made Zarathushtra an enemy of the rulers and priests. For over ten years, he and his small fellowship of companions were harassed and tortured. With determination and innate wisdom, and with great risk to his life, he decided to bring his divine doctrine to the chief ruler, Vishtaspa. Ancient Iran was vast. It included Afghanistan, Central Asia, eastern Iran, and Pakistan and was divided into many kingdoms with a council of kings. The council, a loose federation bound by mutual treaties, was presided over by the most heroic leader. The kings were known as “khshathras” or “habitation authorities.” Some of these rulers were both warriors and intellectuals and were called “kavis,” or sages.
Kavi Vishtaspa of the Helmand valley in southeastern part of the land was a powerful person and like other kavis, a man of learning. His court was full of sages, and he derived his power from the many conquests to his credit. Zarathushtra’s enemies had already reached the court of Vishtaspa to doom his mission. Zarathushtra undaunted faced the King and his court but it was a struggle of epic proportions. It took two years of rigorous perseverance to deliberate and deliver the divine message to the king and the queen, their court and their people. It took two full years to eradicate all evil ideas, intoxicating rituals, bloody sacrifices, and duping doses, and to replace them with “Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.” Zarathushtra was 42 years old at that time.
King Vishtaspa, Queen Hutaosa, their children, and the people underwent a complete transformation. The princes forsook the throne and became zealous missionaries. The result was that the Good Religion spread far and wide within the lifetime of Zarathushtra.
His mission was a great success. Satisfied that he had his “”best wishes come true,”” Zarathushtra passed away peacefully at the ripe age of 77 years and 40 days. By tradition his birth is hailed and celebrated every year, yet his demise has never been mourned into a rite.
His trained missionaries preached the divine message far and wide. The Zarathushtrian fellowship widened to include people of many races and nations. For the first time in history, a universal religion was born with a message to inspire all of mankind.
His divine message was a unique revelation, a fresh outlook, a new philosophy, a novel doctrine. It cleansed the human mind of prejudices, superstitions, and evil thoughts. It denied multiple illusory deities and proclaimed Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, as the only God, creator, maintainer, and promoter of the cosmos, the good, beautiful, and orderly universe. Zarathushtra’s message stood for peace, progress, and prosperity on this good earth and a blissful life beyond.
His message is a living message. It is divine. It is based on the triple principle of “Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.” It promotes the human mind and provokes its thinking faculty. It solves the complicated problem of Good and Evil by placing them in the human mind as two opposing “mentalities,” not entities. Good serves and promotes human society in an ecologically sound world, while evil damages and retards society’s good progress. A human being, endowed with a discriminating mind, is born free to choose between good and evil. This places a heavy responsibility on an individual. A person is good if he or she chooses to think good thoughts and, in turn, speaks good words and performs good deeds. One is evil if one chooses to think evil and consequently speak and do evil. Good deeds lead a person to wholeness and immortality, and evil deeds make one suffer and grope in darkness until light is found and truth realized. Moral rectitude, the good and the bad consequences of one’s deeds follow every act one performs. Zarathushtra’s divine message advocates that every person should choose to serve God, the society, and the living world. It advocates human progress through harmony with the beneficial nature. It accords perfect equality to men and women. Society is based on home, district, state, country, and world; or in other words, on family, community, nation, and world fellowship. There exists no racial superiority, no caste nobility, and no professional priority. Superiority, nobility, and priority belong to the virtuous wise, who can lead the world to spiritual and material completion, and consequently to the Source of Creation and Totality of Wisdom. With the wise leading the world, the message is ever fresh and ever present. The religion of Zarathushtra is a self-renovating religion. It is a timeless guide to humanity.
The message of Zarathushtra is aimed at knowing God, loving people, caring for animals, plants, water, air and minerals, and at promoting the spiritual and material world. The message provokes the mind, sweetens the tongue, and invigorates the body to make life mentally and physically, spiritually and materially progressive, prosperous, peaceful, refreshed, happy, and loving. The message is “Divine and Zarathushtrian.”
SALIENT POINTS OF THE ZARATHUSHTRIAN RELIGION
To all those friends who have asked for some salient points of the “Good Religion” founded and propagated by Zarathushtra and preserved in the Gathas, his thought-provoking songs, to guide humanity to perfection and eternity through the triple Principle of GOOD THOUGHTS, GOOD WORDS, and GOOD DEEDS.
- There is only one God, God of Subtle Wisdom, Ahura Mazda, continuous creator, sustainer, and promoter of cosmos (Songs 8 and 9).
- All superstitious beliefs in false gods, goddesses and similar imaginary beings, and in the performance of rituals to appease them should be abandoned and all irrational ideas and practices should be given up (Song 5).
- The religion of Good Conscience, the Gathic name for the Zarathushtrian religion, is universal and for all (Songs 9.10 and 17.1).
- The divine enlightenment (SERAOSHA — Persian “soroosh”) reveals many divine faculties which lead to the understanding of the principles that form the cosmos, an orderly universe. The most important are SPENTA MAINYU, progressive mentality, the divine faculty that creates, maintains, and promotes; ASHA, righteousness, the universal law that precisely regulates every move in the cosmos; VOHU MANAH, the wisdom behind every righteous move; VOHU KHSHATHRA, good rule and the benevolent power that keeps good order in the universe; ARAMAITI, serenity and tranquility acquired under a good rule and required to promote the cosmos; HAURVATAT, wholeness and perfection achieved under tranquil conditions; and AMERETAT, immortality and eternity attained through wholeness. (These abstract principles form the main paints of most of the seventeen songs.)
- The universe has been created good and is orderly progressing towards completion as intended by its Creator, Ahura Mazda (Songs 8 and 9).
- Mankind has been endowed with the freedom of thought, word and deed, and has a bright mind to discern between what is good and what is bad for human society (Songs 3.2, 4.9,11,12).
- Human being has two mentalities — “spenta mainyu,” progressive mentality, and “angra mainyu,” retarding mentality. The progressive mentality helps him to improve himself and the world around him. The retarding mentality harms him and the world. The wise would, therefore, choose and promote the better mentality (Songs 3,4,10).
- The human world on this earth is divided into two camps — the righteous and the wrongful. The objective of the righteous should be to win over the wrongful into the righteous camp and thus establish a good life for all (Songs 3,4,10, and many more references).
- What is good can best be understood by studying nature, advancing knowledge, harmonizing with all that is good and beneficial, and promoting the environment — our human society and the rest of the living world (Songs 7.3, 8.6, 9.12,13, 15.3).
- Mankind may, if it chooses, develop all the above divine faculties and become creative, in fact the renovator, maintainer and promoter of its endowed environment, and become spiritually perfect and eternally godlike (Songs 4.16, 8.3, 9.9, 13.3).
- If a person does not choose correctly, his world continues to be chaotic, and he suffers the consequences until he adopts these divine principles (Songs 8.5, 17.6,8,9).
- Sooner or later humanity will correct itself and attain perfection and eternal life (Song 10.7).
- Caste, color, race, and nationality do not play any discriminatory part in the universal message of Zarathushtra.
- Mankind is its own savior. Each person, guided by a discerning “good mind” and “good conscience,” should work for the betterment of self and fellow human beings and living the world (Songs 3 & 10).
- Men and women are equal and enjoy the same rights in a free and responsible society. Superiority lies in righteous deeds alone (Gatha songs 3.2, 17,5, A Airyema Ishya, and Haptanghaiti songs 1.6, 5.3).
- The smallest unit of the humanity society is the family and the largest unit the entire human world. All the units-home, town, state, country, and world-should be united and bound together by love and wisdom (Songs 4.16,18, 5.1, 6.3,4).
- Every person should acquire and promote wisdom. Human society should be an intellectual society consisting of selfless, devoted members (Songs 3.1, 4.6,17,19, 7.10).
- Free human society should select only fully qualified persons of righteous records and merits for both temporal and spiritual offices in a true democratic environment, and thus establish the cherished and chosen ruling system (Yatha Ahu, Songs 2 &16).
- The prime object of every person should be to make a better world in spirit and body. Human society must progress. Every member must persevere to promote it. (Songs 3.9, 7.5, 11.9, 13.11).
- The Good Religion is a “SELF-RENOVATING” religion. Its continuous progress with the advancing world makes it ever-fresh, ever-modern. Modernization of thoughts, words and deeds, including traditional practices and rites, should be the order of the day. (Songs 3.9, 7.15, 11.19,15.11)
It may be noted that the popular form of the Zoroastrian religion is what has become to be known as “the Traditional Zoroastrianism.” It is the “institutionalized’ form of the religion. It is this traditional Zoroastrianism, forced by the past 1400 years circumstances of being dominated in Iran by Islam and in India by Hindu caste system, that has become a closed club of “born-Zoroastrians” who do not accept any “alien.” Modern studies is enlightening an increasing number of “born-Zoroastrians” that Zarathushtra founded the first UNIVERSAL” religion in the world. Any religion, belief, or practice which gets “bound” into a “formal fixed form,” becomes stationary and fossilized, and therefore out-of-date. Zarathushtra established a SELF-RENOVATING religion which is solely based on the Primal Principles of Life and is not bogged down by outdated traditions of complicated rituals and cumbersome customs. Seasonal celebrations, in tune with Nature, such as Nowruz and “Gahanbars,” and scientific commemorations, such as Jashne Sadeh, the festival of the discovery of igniting and maintaining fire, are also fresh and enjoyable.
- Enlightenment and happiness come to the person who gives happiness to others without discrimination whatsoever. An enlightened and happy life is what every person needs to achieve and spread (Song 8.1).
- Prayers help a person to communicate with God. They are invigorating, guiding, and satisfying. They help to experience the divine love. One may pray whenever, wherever, and in whatever state one feels the urge to communicate with God. One may do it alone or in the company of others. Prayers may be said in silent meditation, in a few words, in long lines, in prose or poetry, recited loud and sweetly. They may be said plainly or with simple rituals that would help the person feel elevated in their experience. (This is repeated throughout the Gathas)