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Founders of the Divine Religions
Section Five:

ZOROASTER


by NJB


“This is true religion; to cleanse oneself with pure thoughts, pure words, and pure deeds.”
Zoroaster, Zend-Avesta
(quoted in “God’s BIG Instruction Book”, p. 36)


Index to this page:



The Zoroastrian Faith [index]


Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra or Zartosht, lived roughly six hundred years before Xerxes’ invasion of Greece (i.e. He lived c. 1080 BC). He lived about 750 years after Moses, and about 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. He came to the land of Irán, and His Faith was eventually to become the official religion of the Persian Empire, the greatest civilisation of the time. The fruit of this Faith was a great civilisation with moral and spritual values. The religion was first adopted by the Chorasmian house of Vishtáspa and later by the Achaemenids, a dynasty founded by Cyrus the Great, although it cannot be said for certain that Zoroastrianism became the official religion of Persia until Artaxerxes I in the fifth century BC. It remained the official religion until the Persian Empire was overthrown by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. It became the state religion again during the reign of the Sassánians. It once again lost its official status when the Persian Empire became Muslim in 652 AD. (see R.C. Zaehner: “The Dawn & Twilight of Zoroastrianism”, pp. 19-23) The Zoroastrian Faith still survives, in Irán and India, but it numbers are greatly reduced.

The following account of His life is from an ancient Zoroastrian text called the Denkard:

“Furthermore, God, in order to give joy to the good creation, had, from the beginning of the world, created, in pure and luminous essence, the holy Zartosht as an associate of the Amahaspands, endowed with all their good qualities, thoughtful, and fully attentive. And His essence was made in the Spiritual World fitted for (the task of) proselytism, and of propagating the religion throughout the world. And at the right time He was sent down to the world as a Man, invested with the earthly Body. At that time (i.e. when the pure Spirit of Zartosht entered this tenement of clay), a superior kind of light and effulgence began to flash forth from His house, through the medium of a star (in the heavens). And he was born of his father Pourushasp -- a descendant of (the Peshdadian King) Jamshed -- and of his mother Dukdaub. Further, when He (the Prophet) was born, there was a light like the blaze of fire-a glare and a twilight -- irradiating from His house in all directions, high in the air, and to great distance on the earth, as a token of His greatness and exaltation.” (Denkard: 5.2.1)

Although opposed by “such of Pourushasp's relatives as were addicted to sorcery and devil-worship” He eventually “won the final victory in the cause of God. And He became worthy of the manifest good recompense, and a wielder of the power pertaining to God's Dominion. And He showed to the people the way to mar the blemish-giver, (Ahriman), and He kept in progress the work pertaining to the final triumph of God.”


The Prophethood of Zoroaster [index]


His father was a nobleman of royal ancestry, but was not very powerful. Zoroaster was the third of five brothers and He became a priest. He first received His Relevation and Prophethood when God (Ahura Mazda or Ohrmazd) sent Him a vision. The Spirit Vohu Manah (‘Good Thought’) ordered Him to oppose the bloody sacrifices of the traditional Persian cults and to aid the poor. He received a vision in which He saw the beginning of the world and knew that He had been chosen in the beginning of time for His Mission. He said that He had seen and heard God. (See: Zaehner, pp. 35, 44)

The Denkard continues: “And when He (the Holy One) went into the presence of Ohrmazd to crave for an insight into and to accept the Faith, Ahriman, and many devils, and evil spirits came to him to frighten Him, to trouble Him, and, by fighting with Him, to crush his aspirations about the religion. But He defied them all, and they retired routed and overcome by that weapon -- the chanting of the sacred Avesta (of the Ahunwar), embodying the sublime goodness pleasing to Ohrmazd.”

He came into conflict with the followers of the Mithra cult. Persecuted and exiled, separated from His family, Zoroaster suffered the fate of all God’s Prophets. Like the Prophets in every age, He was opposed by the priests of His time. Zoroaster says: “To what land shall I go to flee, whither to flee? From nobles and from my peers they sever me, nor are the people pleased with me [......], nor the Liar rulers of the land. How am I to please Thee, Mazda Ahura?” (Yasna 46.1)

However, He triumphed at last. He obtained asylum from King Vishtasp. The Denkard continues: “When the (Holy Zartosht) after having thoroughly received His Mission from Ohrmazd went to the Kayanian King Vishtasp for the purpose of winning over the people of the world to the belief in the religion, for the sake of their own happiness, He wrought many glorious deeds of smiting the evil spirits: and He enlightened the mind of Vishtasp by unfolding to him many of the sublime mysteries. And He brought his august Person into unison with the good of the people of the created world; while with His own animated body he withstood the antagonism of the various sorcerers, devil-worshippers, devil-seekers, demoniacal impostors, and stubborn fighters.

“That is He performed in the presence of King Vishtasp and his courtiers, for the purpose of convincing them of the truth of the Mazdayasnian Zoroastrian Religion, many sublime miracles and stupendous marvels, superhuman, awe-inspiring, and influenced by spiritual agencies.

“To Him came all wise men... that is those who were called astrologers; (they came) with the evident desire (of attaining to truth), sent by the rulers of Khwaniras [= Xwaniratha] to put to Him certain questions. He convinced them by explanatory arguments, by making everything clear to them with logical evidence exoteric and esoteric, and by illustrating the same with similar tenets from the previous religion of (king) Jamshed. Moreover, Vohuman (the Amahraspand) connected with him, Ardwahisht, Adar, and other good Heavenly Yazads, becoming manifest, finally came to the court of King Vishtasp to testify to (the truth of) the religion of Ohrmazd, to instill (into the minds of men) the comprehension of it, to express their views about it, and to expound it.” (Denkard, 5.2.7-8)

Zoroaster converted “debaters of the highest class”. “In the same way the holy Zartosht, by means of his glorious deeds came safely out from all conflicts. In Him were manifest all the traits and characteristics of the Prophets and of the glorious Messengers (the Yazads). And owing to this supreme testimony and evidence, the people acknowledged Him to be the Prophet of God ” (5.2.9) Vishtasp made Zoroastrianism the official religion of his kingdom. The rulers of the provinces also adopted this religion and “promulgated religious mandates to be observed by the people of the world”. Thus Zoroastrianism eventually became the religion of the Persian Empire.

Zoroaster called upon His followers “to control all their desires in accordance with the ordinances of Ohrmazd... to show to good men the full benefit of every virtue, and to make the people of the world comfortable in every way, and to teach them to earn their livelihood by honest means. Man in this world can obtain comfort (i.e. happiness) in three ways. Firstly by regulating himself in accordance with all the ordinances of Ohrmazd, secondly by guarding the soul from all sorts of harm, and thirdly by attaining to the comprehension of the happiness of Tane-pasin (i.e. of the coming spiritual world).” (5.5.1-2)

Furthermore, He taught that “thought of adoring the one Life-giver is due to living in accordance with His laws.” This can be accomplished through indulging in “good thoughts, good words, good deeds, and eschewing the ways of evil thoughts, evil words, evil deeds.” (5.6.2)


The World-Saviour [index]


Zoroaster is not the first or the last Prophet. “The advent of true Prophets in this world is for the purpose of revealing to the people the mystery of the spiritual world, with the view of checking their longings for sinful acts, and of confirming their resolve for striving after good deeds.” The Prophets “should be recognized and their ways followed”. (5.8.2). Zoroaster prophecied that in the future there would be a Resurrection and and the coming of a Promised Saviour. This Saviour would be His descendant.

"He shall be the victorious Benefactor (Saoshyant) by name and World-renovator [Astavat-ereta] by name. He is Benefactor because he will benefit the entire physical world; he is World- renovator because he will establish the physical living existence indestructible. He will oppose the evil of the progeny of the biped and withstand the enmity produced by the faithful." --- Avesta, Farvardin Yast 13.129

Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh is the Saoshyant awaited by Zoroastrians. Shoghi Effendi states: “To His Dispensation the sacred books of the followers of Zoroaster had referred as that in which the sun must needs be brought to a standstill for no less than one whole month. To Him Zoroaster must have alluded when, according to tradition, He foretold that a period of three thousand years of conflict and contention must needs precede the advent of the World-Savior Sháh-Bahrám, Who would triumph over Ahriman and usher in an era of blessedness and peace.” (Shoghi Effendi: “God Passes By”, pp.:95-96)

“To the priestly caste, holding sacerdotal supremacy over the followers of the Faith of Zoroaster, that same Voice, identifying itself with the voice of the promised Shah-Bahram, has declared: "O high priests! Ears have been given you that they may hearken unto the mystery of Him Who is the Self-Dependent, and eyes that they may behold Him. Wherefore flee ye? The Incomparable Friend is manifest. He speaketh that wherein lieth salvation. Were ye, O high priests, to discover the perfume of the rose garden of understanding, ye would seek none other but Him, and would recognize, in His new vesture, the All-Wise and Peerless One, and would turn your eyes from the world and all who seek it, and would arise to help Him." "Whatsoever hath been announced in the Books," Bahá’u’lláh, replying to a Zoroastrian who had inquired regarding the promised Sháh-Bahrám, has written, "hath been revealed and made clear. From every direction the signs have been manifested. The Omnipotent One is calling, in this Day, and announcing the appearance of the Supreme Heaven." "This is not the day," He, in another Tablet declares, "whereon the high priests can command and exercise their authority. In your Book it is stated that the high priests will, on that Day, lead men far astray, and will prevent them from drawing nigh unto Him. He indeed is a high priest who hath seen the light and hastened unto the way leading to the Beloved." "Say, O high priests!" He, again addresses them, "The Hand of Omnipotence is stretched forth from behind the clouds; behold ye it with new eyes. The tokens of His majesty and greatness are unveiled; gaze ye on them with pure eyes.... Say, O high priests! Ye are held in reverence because of My Name, and yet ye flee Me! Ye are the high priests of the Temple. Had ye been the high priests of the Omnipotent One, ye would have been united with Him, and would have recognized Him.... Say, O high priests! No man's acts shall be acceptable, in this Day, unless he forsaketh mankind and all that men possess, and setteth his face towards the Omnipotent One." (Shoghi Effendi: “The Promised Day is Come”, pp. 77-78)

“Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One. The Call of God hath been raised, and the light of His countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behoveth every man to blot out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to gaze, with an open and unbiased mind, on the signs of His Revelation, the proofs of His Mission, and the tokens of His glory.”
(Bahá’u’lláh: “Gleanings”, pp. 10-11)


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