Zoroastrian Faith Statement
|"The most frequently performed Zoroastrian ritual is the jashan ceremony, which is a thanksgiving ceremony reenacting the perfect moment of creation, when all was harmony. ."
This statement was prepared by the Athravan Education Trust and Zoroastrian Studies, the two main academic bodies responsible to the Zoroastrian faith for theological developments and study.
“Whoever teaches care for all these seven creations, does well and
pleases the Bounteous Immortals;
then his soul will never arrive at kinship with the Hostile Spirit.
When he has cared for the creations, the care of these
Bounteous Immortals is for him,
and he must teach this to all mankind in the material world.”
Shayasht ne Shayast (15:6)
These actions, according to Zoroastrianism, will lead toward “making the world wonderful,” when the world will be restored to a perfect state. In this state the material world will never grow old, never die, never decay, will be ever living and ever increasing and master of its wish. The dead will rise, life and immortality will come, and the world will be restored to a perfect state in accordance with the Will of Ahura Mazda (Lord of Wisdom).]
The Seven Bounteous Creations
The role of mankind in the world is to serve and honor not just the Wise Lord but the Seven Bounteous Creations of the sky, water, earth, plants, animals, man, and fire—gifts of God on High to mankind on earth.
|The Zorastrian Story of Creation recounts the malicious assaults of destruction by the Hostile Spirit. The sky is ravaged and rent apart; the waters and earth are despoiled; the primordial plant withers... As God’s finest creation, mankind must strive toward a perfect world by combating the forces of Evil through a process of restoration and renovation
The great strength of the Zoroastrian faith is that it enjoins the caring of the physical world not merely to seek spiritual salvation, but because human beings, as the purposeful creation of God, are seen as the natural motivators or overseers of the Seven Creations. As the only conscious creation, mankind has the ultimate task of caring for the universe.
The faith endorses the caring of Seven Creations, as part of a symbiotic relationship. Zoroastrianism sees the physical world as a natural matrix of Seven Creations in which life and growth are interdependent if harmony and perfection is to be the final goal.
This goal is to be achieved by recreating the primeval unity of a perfect world, unpolluted and unsullied, as was first conceived by Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord.
An Ethical and Righteous Path
In helping to bring about a state of perfection in this world and in the Seven Creations, Zarathushtra enjoined his followers to tread an ethical and righteous path.
This is to be accomplished by integrating in one’s life the divine attributes imbued by Ahura Mazda in each of the Seven Creations. For Zoroastrians, it is essential to recognize the essence of wisdom (spirit of man) and through it assimilate the right knowledge (the good mind symbolically represented by the cow and in turn the animal kingdom) in order to promote truth, order, and righteousness (the personification of truth as fire). This in turn will help one to exercise proper sovereignty (the all-encompassing sky) over life, the world, and the universe.
The proper exercise of sovereignty (best power) will create a just order, which in turn will result in extending devotion (spirit of the earth) to the Seven Creations, creating perfection (of the blessed waters) and making the world wonderful and immortal (spirit of plants) for all times to come.
This is only possible if one shows responsibility toward the Wise Lord’s creations. Those who perpetrate pollution and cause the defilement of all that is natural and good in the world are antithetical to the creations and to the Wise Lord Himself, as the physical world is made for the benefit of all who exist and live in the world. They must keep the Wise Lord’s world pure (pak) while living life to the fullest and participating in the goodness of the Seven Creations.
A Fundamental Dualism
Zarathushtra also recognized the existence of a fundamental dualism operating in the relative world, which at present is subject to a cosmic struggle. The Bounteous Spirit, Spenta Mainyu, guardian of the sky, upheld the foremost principles of existence, and is seen as the life-giving force, bringing light and righteousness into the world. In antagonism to the Bounteous Spirit is the transient existence in the relative world of the agency of excess and deficiency, a malevolent, hostile Evil Spirit. This spirit is held to be a life-negating force, bringing disorder and death, for its innate nature is to seek to destroy the Good Creation of Ahura Mazda. The world is seen to be in eternal conflict that will eventually resolve in the triumph of Good over Evil at the end of the limited time, in fulfilment of a firm promise made by Ahura Mazda.
Mankind is commanded to play an active role in this struggle, to assist Ahura Mazda in annihilating evil from the world. This eventual triumph of Good is achieved through the constant use of the ethical principle of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, the baseline from which all actions of a Zoroastrian must spring.
A further injunction imposes an even greater responsibility: the cumulative righteous actions of all humanity are vital as they strengthen the power of Ahura Mazda and diminish the power of the Evil Spirit, Ahriman. This power energized through the implementation of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds is necessary in the present world to combat evil. This continuous strengthening of Ahura Mazda is required in order to make God truly omnipotent at the end of limited time, when evil will be vanquished forever.
The Zoroastrian devotion to the creations is not only brought to the fore in the form of litanies of praise dedicated to the creations, but is inextricably woven into the ritual practice of the faith.
The most frequently performed Zoroastrian ritual is the jashan ceremony, which is a thanksgiving ceremony reenacting the perfect moment of creation, when all was harmony. It is interesting to note that in the elaborate layout of the ritual the demarcated area on which the ceremony is performed is seen as representing the sacred earth, and the other six creations of sky, water, plants, animals, man, and fire are symbolically represented on it. The ceremony propitiates the Seven Creations, making a Zoroastrian conscious of the responsibilities toward reestablishing the pristine order of the universe as created by Ahura Mazda.
The Zoroastrian concern for regarding the earth as sacred extends beyond life into the practices relating to death as well. In Zoroastrian tradition, death is not seen as the work of God but as the temporary triumph of the Evil Spirit, and this unparalleled eschatological understanding has given rise to a unique system. The method used for disposal of the dead body reflects this religious view. The corpse, seen as being afflicted by Evil and therefore polluted, is neither interred nor burned, nor cast in the sea, but is exposed to the elements and birds of prey in a roofless stone tower. Thus, there is little despoiling of the elements.
The Prophet Zarathustra
The Zoroastrian Prophet Spitaman Zarathushtra (Greek Zoroaster) lived and preached in the great Iranian homelands, northeast of the Aral Sea. The Prophet in his divinely inspired hymns, the Gathas, spoke of a perfect world created by One Supreme, Eternal God, whom he recognized as Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom. He perceived Ahura Mazda in his primordial preeminence to be Wholly Wise, Good, and Just. Zarathushtra saw God to be perfect and ethically excellent.
In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is seen as the first cause of all things Good in the universe. The universe in turn is set in accord with the concept of Asha, an ordered Truth, governed by Righteousness. In the Gathas, Zarathushtra’s sacred hymns, Ahura Mazda is seen as the Father of Asha, who has established the course of the sun, moon, and stars and upheld the earth and heavens. It is He who sustains the waters, the plants, the winds, and the clouds. He is the Creator of Light, Life, and Righteousness. Aiding Ahura Mazda in ensuring the welfare of the universe is the guardian spirit of man, the Fravashi. It is with the splendor and glory of the Fravashis that Ahura Mazda is said to have set in order the physical world, and it is through them that the world is kept in motion.
As part of the message of revelation, Zarathushtra defines in the Gathas the best existence for all mankind. “This man, the holy one, through righteousness, holds in his spirit the force which heals existence and is beneficent unto all as a sworn friend is” (Y.44.2).
Moreover, there is assurance that fury will be suppressed, violence put down and that righteousness will be ensured by rewarding the Good Mind (Y.48.7). His followers are promised that a future Savior will be sent to redeem the world torn by strife. Ahura Mazda’s world was created with an ordered moral purpose of ultimately engineering the defeat of the Evil Spirit, and mankind functions to ensure the best existence by removing all that is evil.
The Story of Creation
The Zorastrian Story of Creation recounts the malicious assaults of destruction by the Hostile Spirit. The sky is ravaged and rent apart; the waters and earth are despoiled; the primordial plant withers; the good cow along with man is afflicted by disease and vices of all kinds; and into fire, the seventh creation, is mingled darkness and smoke.
The primeval despoiling of the world created with a good purpose mirrors society’s role today, and this is what Zoroastrianism seeks to reverse. The religion uniquely attributes all that brings misery, hatred, vice, and pollution not to the whimsical acts of a Divine Being but to the unthinking attack of a malicious and hostile spirit whose innate nature is to destroy. As God’s finest creation, mankind must strive toward a perfect world by combating the forces of Evil through a process of restoration and renovation.
This was printed, along with Statements from ten other faiths, in Faith in Conservation by Martin Palmer with Victoria Finlay, published by the World Bank in 2003.