An Introduction to the Zoroastrian Religion
An Introduction to the Zoroastrian Religion
Zoroastrian religion is the oldest revealed religion in the world. It was started in remote antiquity by Prophet Zarathushtra Spitama, the first prophet in the world. He belonged to the Mazdayasni belief system. The origins of Zoroastrian religion is shrouded in antiquity and the probable dates of the prophet range from 1500 BCE to 6500 BCE
The Zoroastrians recognise Ahura Mazda as Almighty God and sole Creator of all creations. Hence they are referred to as Mazdayasni “worshippers of Mazda”
The Zoroastrians are also referred to as Parsis from the name of a south-western province in Iran from where they originated. The term ‘Parsi’ is an ethno-religious term describing the religion as well as the ethnic origins of the people.
Prophet Zarathushtra, was born in Eastern Iran, near Azarbaizan. He taught for the first time in the history of mankind, that there was only one God –Ahura Mazda – to whom mankind should direct their prayers, petitions and gratitude. Ahura Mazda means ‘the all knowing lord of life.’ He is depicted as a benign, merciful God, who is always willing, eager and ready to help mankind. However, he does not interfere in the workings of the Laws of nature, which He himself has set in motion. Man was taught to be careful about his thoughts, words and actions, as he was responsible for their consequences. Hence man was advised to always profess good thoughts, words and actions.
Fire is regarded by Zoroastrians as the living embodiment of Ahura Mazda in the material world. Ahura Mazda Himself is visualised as light and effulgence. Like Ahura Mazda, fire gives light and life. Among the creations, fire is closest to Ahura Mazda God, not only by virtue of its effulgence, but also due to its intrinsic qualities. Fire is consecrated and established in fire temples as the living, breathing representative of Ahura Mazda, where it is kept ever burning. In India the Zoroastrians have a consecrated fire continuously burning for the last twelve hundred years. There are several other consecrated fires burning from between 10 to 350 years.
Prophet Zarathushtra taught respect and veneration of nature and all natural creations. He explained that though the creations have been created for the use of mankind, its man’s bounden duty to look after them. and under no circumstances should he misuse them.
The philosophy of Zoroastrian religion is based on two basic teachings. The first being Monotheism, that is, belief in one supreme Uncreated Force in the Universe, referred to as Ahura Mazda who has no equal or opponent. His is the power and intelligence that governs the whole Universe. The second basic Zoroastrian teaching is the belief in the existence of 2 forces or spirits of Good and Evil – referred to as Spenta and Angra. Prophet Zarathushtra taught people about these diametrically opposing cosmic forces – the good and the evil – operating at all levels in the world.
Iran was the stronghold of Zoroastrian religion for several millennia. Zoroastrian religion was the state religion for the great Iranian Achaemenian and Sasanian empires. At one time, two thirds of the world was part of the Iranian empires. After the downfall of the last king of the last Iranian empire in 641 C.E., Zoroastrians migrated out of Iran, chiefly to save themselves from religious persecution. A majority of them went to India, which now has about 60% of the world’s population of about one hundred and thirty thousand Zoroastrians.
Zoroastrians believe that they have been able to survive and make a mark in almost all spheres all over the world, despite religious persecution for several centuries, and without having a homeland of its own, is only on account of its religious beliefs and teachings.
The Zoroastrians are a peace loving people. Due to their essential teaching of selflessness, basic ethical teachings of good thoughts, words and deeds, charity, justice and their emphasis on progress and prosperity, Zoroastrians have enjoyed prosperity friendship and acceptance all over the world.
Whereas the ethical, philosphical and spiritual message of Zoroastrianism is universal, the teachings based on a unique world view, and practices based on them, is exclusively for the ethnic and hereditary followers of the religion.