Post Reply Zoroastrianism
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Posted 3/9/08 , edited 3/9/08
Zoroastrianism, which originated in Iran, is a fading but historically priceless religion. Today many historians consider it the keynote to linked development in western and eastern religion. Though there are only about 130,000 modern practitioners many scholars believe it to have been the state religion of the Iranian Empire-a massive faction controlling Iraq and India-for more than ten centuries.

In Iran the preferred name of the religion is Mazdayasna or: “the worship of the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda.” Zoroastrianism is a western name that scholars gave after one of the religions great reformers, Zarathustra. During the time of Plato the Greeks called him a great prophet.

Zarathustra was a priestly man trained in the Indo-Iranian traditions, as well as a seeker of the mystical. Zarathustra, it is said, received a great vision at the age of thirty. (The thirties are also seen as an age of spiritual awakening in many other religions. In Islamic traditions Muhammad was supposed to be in his thirties when Gabriel brought him the Qur’an. In Christianity Jesus Christ in his thirties when he began to teach.)

In the vision he was visited by an celestial entity he called Vohu Manah, who lead him to the supreme and loving creator Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda was exalted above all other beings, but surrounded by angelic entities thought to have been derived from indo-Iranian deities.

According to Zarathustra, Ahura Mazda created a universe of goodness and was himself a perfect being who should be praised and worshiped with good deeds. He recorded his admiration of the Supreme in a series of hymns called Gathas.

Zarathustra also spoke of two opposing powers. One was the spirit of life, order, perfection, health happiness, and increase. The other was “un-life,” chaos, flaw, disease, sorrow, and destruction. The former he called Spenta Mainyu, or “the good spirit,” and the latter Angra Mainyu, “the evil spirit.”

In order to ensure victory for The Good Spirit over Angra Mainyu Zoroastrians must become warriors of Ahura Mazda so that they can cast out all cruelty, hypocrisy, and selfishness. One ritual that symbolizes one’s readying themselves as soldiers of Ahura Mazda on the spiritual path involves a sacred cord.

Within this ritual one must tie the sacred cord, or Kutsi, around one’s midsection five times a day. The Kutsi is considered similar to the sacred thread of Hinduism, but contrasts in that it is to be worn not only by men but also by women. (Zoroastrianism considers men and women equals.)

Zathurastra is commonly called the origin of Western monotheism. Some disagree and say that the religion is polytheistic-except in the most liberal definition of the word monotheism. Despite this we do believe that, originally, it truly did elevate Ahura Mazda above all others.

None the less, in modern Zoroastrianism Ahura Mazda is supposedly at war with an opposition of equal magnitude. While this is a later development within the religion, it has lead most scholars to describe modern Zoroastrianism’s theology as a cosmic dualism. In this struggle good is always at war with evil.

Zoroastrianism is considered greatly similar to Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma,) and probably influenced Buddhist development. At the same time many of the characters and creatures that appeared within later Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religions seem to find their origin within Zoroastrianism.

Within the Christian bible there are two separate sections. The Old Testament and the New Testament. The first book within the latter is called Matthew, after the author. Within this a group of magi were said to have followed a shining star to the newborn Jesus Christ.

Modern Christians often view the magi as Persian scholars who had studied the Jewish scriptures and identified the star with Numbers 24:17. (A book in the Old Testament.)

However, the magi are actually a tribe of priestly teachers and students of astrology/mysticism within Zoroastrianism. Some believe that the “legend” was introduced into Christianity in order to attract new believers from amongst Zoroastrians. However, others argue that the book of Matthew was originally written to the synagogues when the Ebionites began to conflict with other Jews, and that the magi were simply common characters.

Other examples can be found within the celestial hierarchy seen in Judaism and Christianity, as well as the Jinn within the Islamic cannon called the Qur’an.

Despite all the theories the actual and direct influence of Zoroastrianism on outside and later religions is at best ambivalent. Some similarities within it and other religions may have coincidently developed through separate circumstances, like the discovery of bronze in the eastern and western world. At the same time, much of the theology within Zoroastrianism remains shrouded in mystery.

A major reason for the uncertainty is the loss of ancient texts. Many of these were burnt or forgotten, neglected, or poorly translated. Others were simply left alone and, subsequently, cannot be translated, for many of the languages in which they were written have been forgotten.

Alexander the Great became a great threat to the religion, which survived only because many of the teachings were memorized by heart. In 224 CE these were recorded into the Avesta, or Holly Texts, which are the main source of insight into Zoroastrian theology.

Another threat was born in 632 CE (the year of the Islamic Prophet’s death,) when Muslims began to rise up in opposition of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrians in the area were also pinned by the Mongol invasion, and forced to migrate to India where their religion would be met with more understanding and open minds.

Here the Zoroastrians took on yet another title. In India they are called Parsis, a word meaning, “Persians.” Those who remained in Iran were mostly converted to Islam, but a few remained and recorded into what they called the Pahlavie instructions on customs and rituals of the Zoroastrians.

Although Ahura Mazda is considered to be the Supreme divinity there is a “celestial hierarchy,” within Zoroastrianism. At the top of this hierarchy are the Ameshta Spenta. Zarathushtra described these entities as radiating from Ahura Mazda. They were: The Good Mind (Vohu Manah,) Righteousness, Absolute Power, Devotion, Perfection, and Immortality. Ritual worship to these is used as a mechanism for sustaining natural order.

Other entities within the angelic hierarchy include the Ahura or, “lords.” Beneath them were the daevas, similar to Hindu devas, or “Shinning ones.” The Ameshta Spenta are considered guardians of Ahura Mazda’s creation, and descend from the heavens to the earth to bring divine revelation. Speaking their names is considered to bring great power. Mantras are also a part of Zoroastrian worship.

Heaven and hell are called the Kingdom of Light and the House of Lie within the Zoroastrian religion. Whenever a human dies Ahura Mazda presents them with a bridge to the Kingdom of Light. The bridge, however, stretches over the House of Lie-and how wide it is depends on how many good and bad deeds that person committed in their life. The more good deeds the wider the bridge, but the more bad deeds the narrower.

Even still, there is no concept of eternal hell within Zoroastrianism, for good will eventually conquer evil. Those who fall into the House of Lie are eventually freed from the horrible place.

Rituals within the religion are many, and seen in other faiths. Concepts similar to karma are seen in Zoroastrianism, as well as elements of purification as seen in the Shinto religion. Just as it is in the Shinto teaching, water is considered a purifying element within Zoroastrianism. A ritual of purification by water involves dipping the fingers into a lake and applying the water to your eyes and forehead before raising your hands in prayer to Ahura Mazda.

Another common attribute in the Way of the Kami and the worship of Ahura Mazda is that polluting is a great sin. A dead body is considered corrupt, and cannot be buried, burnt, or left into the water; therefore, tradition dictates that practitioners bring their dead to an open-roof complex called the Tower of Silence, where vultures are allowed to devour the dead.


Main Source:

Living Religions, Copyright © 2005, 2002, 1999, 1997, 1994, 1991, Mary Pat Fisher. Published by Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 07458. Pearson Prentice hall. Printed in Hong Kong.
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Posted 4/25/08
I've heard stuff about this religion. their funeral practices seem very interesting. If I can find a legitimate source that confirms what I 've heard I'll post stuff about it
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Posted 6/27/08

artgeek707 wrote:

I've heard stuff about this religion. their funeral practices seem very interesting. If I can find a legitimate source that confirms what I 've heard I'll post stuff about it


Grand, I would love that.
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Posted 6/27/08
Angra Mainyu over Spenta
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