Zoroaster: early monotheism in Iran

Zoroaster

Zarathushtra (also spelt Zarathustra), or Zoroaster as he is known in the west, is the founder of the religion that came to be known as Zoroastrianism. Zarathushtra lived and preached in the ancient land of Airyana Vaeja, or Aryan land.

When Zoroaster was 30 years old, he went into the Daiti river to draw water for a Haoma ceremony; when he emerged, he received a vision of Vohu Manah. After this, Vohu Manah took him to the other six Amesha Spentas, where he received the completion of his vision.[37] This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others. Zoroaster believed in one creator God, teaching that only one God was worthy of worship. Furthermore, some of the deities of the old religion, the Daevas(Devas in Sanskrit), appeared to delight in war and strife. Zoroaster said that these were evil spirits and were workers of Angra Mainyu, God’s adversary.

Zoroaster’s ideas did not take off quickly, and, at first, he only had one convert: his cousin Maidhyoimanha.[38] The local religious authorities opposed his ideas. They felt their own faiths, power, and particularly their rituals, were threatened because Zoroaster taught against over-ritualising religious ceremonies.

Mazda logo

(not the same Mazda)

In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is the beginning and the end, the creator of everything that can and cannot be seen, the Eternal, the Pure and the only Truth. In the Gathas, the most sacred texts of Zoroastrianism thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, the prophet acknowledged devotion to no other divinity besides Ahura Mazda.

Daena (din in modern Persian) is the eternal Law, whose order was revealed to humanity through the Mathra-Spenta (“Holy Words”). Daena has been used to mean religion, faith, law, and even as a translation for the Hindu and Buddhist term Dharma.

Childhood
Zoroaster was born to Porushaspo and his wife Dughdhvo, in the west of Iran, in Takht-e-Suleman (Azerbaijan district). Third out of the five children of Porushaspo, Zoroaster had two elder brothers and two younger brothers. It is believed that at the time of his birth, instead of crying like a new-born usually does, Zoroaster laughed loudly. A direct descendant in the royal line of the house of Manushcihar, the ancient King of Iran, angels and archangels (divine messengers of the highest order) came to adore Zoroaster’s birth, whereas the demons expressed their fright.

An amusing fact associated with the birth of Zoroaster was that Ahura Mazda descended from heaven and entered the house of the would-be mother of the prophet. Angels also came in the house and worshipped and praised the unborn child. In his early years, Zoroaster displayed great wisdom. A knowledgeable lad right from the very beginning, he argued with wise men and criticized the heretics. Although the demons and evil spirits tried to kill him, he was miraculously saved. Turanian King Durasrobo also tried to harm him, but his efforts went in vain as well.

Early Life
At the early age of 16, Zoroaster was indifferent of all the worldly pleasures. For the young Zoroaster, all that mattered was love and care. He rose above all the materialistic desires and displayed intense love and compassion for all living beings. Four years later i.e. at 20 years of age, Zoroaster left his home, to lead a life of purity and virtue. In his quest for knowledge, he moved from one place to another. Zoroaster explored not only cities, but also forests and mountains. He did not speak much and dominated his other senses as well. Zoroaster spent most of his time in meditation and reflections and had also moderated his diet.

The Seven Visions
On the top of Mount Sabatam, Zoroaster experienced Samadhi or communion with Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Lord of the Universe. Thereafter, Zoroaster had prophetic divine visions. Upon conversations with Ahura Mazda, Zoroaster received wisdom in the form of the seven revelations, which turned him into the Prophet of God. He, thence, became the renowned messenger of Ahura Mazda. In his spiritual path, Zoroaster had direct conversations with archangels, who helped him immensely.

Vohumanah, the archangel of good thought and the presiding Lord of domestic animals, directed Zoroaster’s soul to the supreme abode of Ahura Mazda. While coming down from the celestial abode, after receiving the divine wisdom, Zoroaster was also attacked by the evil force Ahriman, the Satan of Zoroastrianism. However, the attempt failed, as the spiritual powers of the Prophet presided over the evil.

After conquering the Satan, Zoroaster became a master of the other demons. He experienced a second vision from Vohumanah, which asked him to take great care of the animals and to protect them. A third vision came from Asha Vahishta, the archangel of righteousness, the presiding Lord of sacred fires. The vision commanded Zoroaster to protect the sacred fire and all fires. After the conversation with Khehathra Vairya, the archangel of good royalty, the presiding Lord of metals, Zoroaster was asked to take care of the metals.

Zoroaster’s fifth vision was with Spenta Armaith, the archangel of modesty, the presiding Lord of earth. Thereafter, he communicated with Hauravatat, the archangel of health, the presiding Lord of the waters. Zoroaster’s last conversation was with Ameretat, the archangel of immortality who presides over plants. These visions enabled Zoroaster to have a perfect vision of the hierarchy of Gods. The Holy Book, Zend Avesta, include the wisdom that the Prophet received from Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Lord.

Failed Attempts & Success
Zoroaster did not like the Kavis and the Karpans, the chiefs of the demon-worshippers. The two were addicted to the intoxicating drink Homa, in their religious ceremonies. Prophet’s attempt to convert them failed. Thereafter, he traveled far and wide, to countries such as India and China. Roaming from one place to the other, Zoroaster tried to convey his message, but was not paid heed to, by anyone. The first success came with his own cousin Maidhyoi-madnha, who remained loyal till the end of his life.

Conspiracy & Wishes
The Kavis and Karpans conspired against Zoroaster. They poisoned the ears of Vishtasp, the Sovereign of Iran, against the Prophet, stating him to be a sorcerer, before the king. They also succeeded in convincing the king to put Zoroaster behind the bars and make him die of starvation. However, much to their dismay, Zoroaster was saved by the Lord. The king’s much loved black horse became unwell, as its four legs were drawn up into its belly. Zoroaster promised to cure the horse, but only if the king accepted his four conditions.

The first condition that Zoroaster put before Vishtasp was that he had to believe in the new faith. The second condition was that the king’s son, Isfendiar, would defend the new faith. Thirdly, he asked that Queen Hutaosa should also be converted to the new faith and lastly, the king had to reveal the names of the conspirators and punish them. Each time Zoroaster managed to get one leg out of the horse’s belly, the king fulfilled one condition. However, in return, the king demanded Zoroaster to accept four of his wishes.

The first wish was that the king wanted to know his final destiny and his place in heaven. Secondly, he wished for an invulnerable body. The king’s third wish was to attain universal knowledge and lastly, he wished that his soul might not leave his body, until the resurrection. At this, three archangels came down from the heaven abode. Dazzled by the light, the king and the queen trembled at the sight of the archangels, who informed them that God had sent them down to show the two, the glory of the religion of Zoroaster.

Zoroastrianism – The Beginning
After being stunned by the visit of archangels, King Vishtaspwas convinced of the supernatural powers of the Prophet. He made Zoroaster, the Prophet of Iran. This marked the beginning of Zoroastrianism. Right from the king to the queen, chieftains, king’s brother and the father-in-law of Zoroaster, all became loyal and faithful followers of the new religion. With the royal patron at Zoroaster’s aid, Zoroastrianism spread far and wide. Both the masses and classes started believing in the new faith, making it the religion of the Iranian Kingdom.

War between Iran and Turan
The success of Zoroastrianism rubbed the King of Turan at the wrong end, resulting in two bitter religious wars between Iran and Turan. In the first war, both the king and his brother, Zarir defeated the enemies. However, in the process, Zarir, a gallant young man, was treacherously killed. In the second war, the King Aryaspof Turandestroyed the temples, killed the priests and burnt the Zend Avesta, but was finally defeated by Ispendiar, the son of King Vishtasp.

Death
While Zoroaster was praying before the altar in the temple of Nush-Adar, with a rosary in his hand, he was attacked by Bratrok-resh, a Turanian. The latter killed the Prophet of Iran with his sword. At the time of his death, Zoroaster tossed his rosary at Bratrok-resh. A fire emerged and engulfed Bratrok-resh, finally destroying him. Zoroaster was seventy-seven at the time of his death.

His Miracles
Obeying all the commands of Ahura Mazda and the archangels, Zoroaster performed various impossible tasks. He protected the fires and cattle, healed the sick and even restored the sight of a blind man. He established many fire temples and spread the new faith all over the country. Zoroaster censored the worship of demons, witchcraft and sorcery. It is said that the Prophet removed all the deadly diseases, national calamities and disasters. Zoroaster cured people suffering from various incurable diseases, thwarted the harmful, toxic creatures and brought plentiful rain on earth.

(not the same Zorro)

Principles of Zoroastrianism
One of the first monotheistic religions in the world, Zoroastrianism influenced other religions, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well. The principle of Zoroastrianism stresses on the fact that good and evil are separate entities, at war with each other, both send by the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda. While the good is represented by Ormuzd, the God of good, creation and truth; Ahriman, the God of evil destruction and lies, plays the role of the evil. It is up to a man to choose between good and evil. The end of the world would be when the good would win over the evil. Followers of Zoroastrianism follow the Holy Book, Avesta, which includes the hymns of Zoroaster, liturgical texts and prayers.

The doctrines of Zoroastrianism are little known to general public. But as you familiarize yourself with this religion, you find, to your surprise, that it has much in common with other religions, including the Bible. Zoroastrianism, too, indoctrinates with such notions as Creation of the world, Paradise and Hell, the Messiah’s Advent, Doomsday and Last Judgement. Actually these notions were to a large extent borrowed by Christianity, Islam and Judaism from Zoroastrianism.

Zoroaster Timeline:
628 BC – Zoroaster was born
612 BC – Became indifferent with all the worldly pleasures
608 BC – Left his home, to lead a life of purity and virtue
551 BC – Left for the heavenly abode
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra)[1] is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche‘s philosophical treatise of the same name.[2] The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour.

[became the theme song for 2001 Space Odyssey]

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