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  ZOROASTRIAN

CONCEPT OF
SIN AND SALVATION


Zoroastrianism started in 1400 BC circa by Zoroaster a hermit who lived in the mountains of Northern Iran. The religion was founded by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster in Greek; Zarthosht in India and Persia).  Though claims have been made to a date of 6000 BCE to the founding of the religion;  the literary criticism places it around  1500 and 1000 BC .  Zoroastrianism became the state religion of various Persian empires, by 7th Century BC.  during the islaic invasion of Iran, most of the Zorostrians fled to India where they are known as Parsees.

Zorastrian Sacred Text

The Zorastrian holy book is called the Avesta which contains the original five hymns called Gathas.  The Gathas define revelations regarding God , Good and Evil , worship,  laws of righteousness and cosmic order.  Later traditions embellished these principles and developed associated myths and philosophical teachings..  

Supreme God and Satan  

He claimed that God Ahura Mazda the true living all-powerful good God gave him the revelation. Ahura Mazda was so holy that he is unapproachable and unseeable. Ahura Mazda created all things visible and invisible. Because of his holiness his contact with prophets were always through mediatory attributes called Amesha Spentas or Bounteous Immortals. These are the angels who are depicted sometimes as concepts and emanations and at other times as persons. This almighty godhead Ahura Mazda along with Mithra – the sun (Son) whose glory cannot be looked upon and Spenta Mainyu (The Holy Spirit) formed a Trinity. There are theological controversies whether these were equal to Ahura Mazda and whether Spenta Mainyu is a person or a sentient. Ahura Mazda being good defines the evil, which is in every living being. The prototype of Satan is defined in Angra Mainyu (also called Ahriman) and his army of devils. Ahura Mazda has been fighting this "Lie" of Angra Mainyu since creation. The angelogy of the Jews essentially comes from the Zoroastrian concept. Zoroastrians were also looking forward to a messiah who would be born of a virgin - a savvier known as Saoshant. They also believe in the final judgement day when every one will be resurrected and will be judged according what they have done while on the earth. Good deeds and bad deeds are weighted against each other and hell or heaven are awarded accordingly. If they weigh equally they were placed in purgatory. It is easy to see that there is consonance between this ancient religion and Christianity concerning the beliefs surrounding God and Satan, the soul, heaven and hell, savior, resurrection, final judgment, etc. In fact the similarity runs deeper in the ceremonies as well such as baptism, communion, angels, worship on Sunday, the celebration of Mithra's birthday on December 25th, celibate priests and the dresses of the priests during ceremonies. Culturally also as the Church grew in Syria, Iran etc they adopted many of the worshipping styles including the architecture, praying facing towards the East and the beautiful stained glass windows etc. Mithraism as a subcult of Zorostrianism is very similar to Christian concepts in most areas.

Zorostrianism is also connected with the Aryan traditions and hence to Hinduism. Zoroastrians actually traces their Aryan origin from the Polar region. When the Zorostrian refugees came to India, they were therefore received with open arms just as Cyrus was received by the Jews during his conquest by the Jewish priesthood. Zorostrian influence on the Jewish revelation is found in the Pharisee group, with which Jesus identified himself (except for their extreme adherence to the Law in letters) and Paul became the spokesman. The name Pharisee itself may have phonetic connection to Farsee (Parsee) showing the influence of Zorostrian thought on Judaism. Paul himself was brought up in Tarsus, which was the main center of learning of Mithrites. When Jesus met him on the road to Damascus he was blinded and realized that Jesus was indeed the God of Light whom he was searching for. The Gnostic connection of the Christian Church right from the early growth period is also well known. Early church had to struggle through these varying concepts of God among the prevalent religions and cults to separate the wheat from the chaff. It was Paul’s scholarly understanding of these movements that made it possible. That is why the Eastern Churches consider Paul as the builder and the architect of the Church.

The main worshipping ritual of Zoroastrianism is the homa ceremony. The central altar is the Fire. "The Homa ceremony consisted in the extraction of the juice of the Homa plant by the priests during the recitation of prayers, the formal presentation of the liquor extracted to the sacrificial fire, the consumption of a small portion of it by one of the officiating priests, and the division of the remainder among the worshippers. Animal sacrifices were also made of the horse, the ox, the sheep, and the goat. After the ritual sacrifice, the flesh was put on fire and eaten first by the priest and then by the whole congregation

There are fundamentally two approaches to the problem of evil in the universe in Zorostrianism. One is the war approach. In this we are given two camps one at war with the other. The Army of Good is that which follows the laws and wishes of God – Ahura Mazda, and the Army of Evil is that which follows the orders and instructions of the Satan Angra Mainyu. It therefore concludes that Ahura Mazda is the progenitor of all Good and Angra Mainyu of all Evil. However Angra Mainyu is not equal to Ahura simply because Angra Mainyu is a creation of Ahura. This can therefore come about only with the assumption of free will of the creature. Good and Evil are therefore mental and moral choices. They are generated in our mind and in our conscience. If we are wise we will automatically choose good, and if we are ignorant we will choose evil. Both in the physical and moral dimensions the principle of duality is essential by definition. Defining Good means defining Evil. This leads to the second approach to the existence of evil as mental construct – simply the ethical dualism. Based on our understanding we do make choices, which are either good or evil. This defines the law of Asha – the law of Karma, which is immutable

You are Holy, O Lord Supreme Mazda Ahura,
You were the First, I know, when Life began;
All thoughts and words and deeds of every man shall bear
Fruit, as laid down in your Eternal Law
Evil to the Evil, Blessings to the Good,
This is ordained to the end of creations. - Yasna 43.

According to Zarathushtra, there is no Angra Mainyu in person. Angra Mainyu is in our own minds. When we choose evil we side with the Satan and when we do good we side with God. Though God is a person externally, Satan is not. Satan is to be feared only if we are evil.

Creation and Fall of Man

The Zorostrian Adam and Eve are called Matro (Mashye) and Matroyao (Mashyane)  Here is the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and their Fall because of the Evil One Ahriman and his devils.

CHAPTER 15.

1. On the nature of men it says in revelation, that Gayomard, in passing away, gave forth seed; that seed was thoroughly purified by the motion of the light of the sun, and Neryosang kept charge of two portions, and Spandarmad received one portion. 2. And in forty years, with the shape of a one-stemmed Rivas-plant, and the fifteen years of its fifteen leaves, Matro [Mashye] and Matroyao [Mashyane] grew up from the earth in such a manner that their arms rested, behind on their shoulders (dosh), and one joined to the other they were connected together and both alike. 3. And the waists of both of them were brought close and so connected together that it was not clear which is the male and which the female, and which is the one whose living soul (nismo) of Ohrmazd is not away. 4. As it is said thus: Which is created before, the soul (nismo) or the body? And Ohrmazd said that the soul is created before, and the body after, for him who was created; it is given into the body that it may produce activity, and the body is created only for activity;' hence the conclusion is this, that the soul (ruban) is created before and the body after. 5. And both of them changed from the shape of a plant into the shape of man, and the breath (nismo) went spiritually into them, which is the soul (ruban); and now, moreover, in that similitude a tree had grown up whose fruit was the ten varieties of man.

6. Ohrmazd spoke to Mashye and Mashyane thus: 'You are man, you are the ancestry of the world, and you are created perfect in devotion by me; perform devotedly the duty of the law, think good thoughts, speak good words, do good deeds, and worship no demons!' 7. Both of them first thought this, that one of them should please the other, as he is a man for him; and the first deed done by them was this, when they went out they washed themselves thoroughly; and the first words spoken by them were these, that Ohrmazd created the water and earth, plants and animals, the stars, moon, and sun, and all prosperity whose origin and effect are from the manifestation of righteousness. 8. And, afterwards, antagonism rushed into their minds, and their minds were thoroughly corrupted, and they exclaimed that the evil spirit created the water and earth, plants and animals, and the other things as aforesaid. 9. That false speech was spoken through the will of the demons, and the evil spirit possessed himself of this first enjoyment from them; through that false speech they both became wicked, and their souls are in hell until the future existence.

 From The Bundahishn ("Creation"), or Knowledge from the Zand
Translated by E. W. West, from Sacred Books of the East, volume 5, Oxford University Press, 1897.

Threefold Path to Heaven

Good Thoughts,
Good Words,
Good Deeds

are the ways to heaven. Salvation is essentially through work, which deviates very much from the salvation through faith – Bhakthi Marga of the Christian Approach. Faith is an impetus to do good deed. This concept is explained in the symbolism of Fravahar. Fravahar is a guardian angel, which is the personification of Forward Pulling Force.

Wings: upward progress of the soul. It has three segments representing the threefold path to heaven – Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.

Ring (in the center) represents the immortal soul, which has neither beginning nor end.

The Old Man represents the wisdom of the ages – revelations of God handed down through generations. One hand points upward showing the right direction. The other hand holds a ring of promise of heaven and immortality.

Tail, which is heavy, indicates the Bad Thoughts, Bad Words, Bad Deeds. These retard our upward movement.

Two Curly Threads at the Waist represents the freedom of choice. We make our choice, which decides the ultimate destiny of man.

Explanation of the Faravahar Symbol

1. The Faravahar’s face resembles the face of human being and therefore, indicates its connection to mankind.

2. There are two wings in two sides of the picture, which have three main feathers.  These main feathers indicate three symbols of “good reflection,” “good words,” and “good deed,” which are at the same time the motive of flight and advancement.

3. The lower part of the Faravahar consists of three parts, representing “bad reflection,” “bad words,” and “bad deed” which causes misery and misfortune for human beings.

4. There are two loops at the two sides of the Faravahar, which represent “Sepanta Minu,” and “Ankareh Minu.”  The former is directed toward the face and the latter is located at the back.  This also indicates that we have to proceed toward the good and turn away from bad.

5. There is a circle in the middle of the Faravahar’s trunk.  This symbol indicates that our spirit is immortal, having neither a beginning, nor an end.

6. One hand of the Faravahar, points upwards, showing that we have to struggle to thrive.

7. The other hand holds a ring.  Some interpreters consider that as the ring of covenant, representing loyalty and faithfulness which is the basis of Zarathustra’s philosophy.

 

Death, Heaven and Hell

After death, the urvan (soul) is allowed three days to meditate on his/her past life. The soul is then judged by a council of trinity Mithra, Sraosha and Rashnu. If the good thoughts, words and deeds outweigh the bad, then the soul is taken into heaven. Otherwise, the soul is led to hell.

The Redemption of the Universe

There are three eons for the created cosmos:
First the era of creation when things were formed
Second is the present eon where the duality of Good and Evil are fought out.
Third is the eon when the good and evil are separated. Good will be in Heaven and the Evil will be in the Hell.

A Saoshyant (savior) will be born of a virgin, in the lineage of the Zoroaster who will raise the dead and judge everyone in a final judgment. The cycle will repeat itself until finally everything will be redeemed including those in Hell.