Teachings of Zoroaster-Intro Pages 24 - 34 Aug 20, 2012 8:53:54 GMT 1
Post by Anne Terri on Aug 20, 2012 8:53:54 GMT 1
TEACHINGS OF ZOROASTER,
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE PARSI RELIGION
Pages 24 - 34
Meaning of the Word Daêva in the Avesta Language
"Unspeakable who sit’st above these heavens,
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these Thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine."
. . . . .
Having established the belief in the Great Creative Power, Zoroaster proceeded to strengthen and fortify his followers by carefully warning them against the influence of the Evil Spirit. One of the greatest evils in the time of the prophet was the tendency of the populace to adore and worship God's manifestations or created elements. Slowly, superstitious belief, for want of good guidance, created imaginary and fanciful gods, who were materialized in idols, and worshipped at the whim of the believer. In the language of the period, amongst the ancient Aryas, the word Daêva signified God, from the Aryan root div, to shine, and consequently all those personified manifestations of Nature were called Daêvas. Zoroaster quickly perceived that the ancient monotheistic religion of the Aryas was degenerating into a state of image and idol worship. He had already taught the people "The Soul of Nature." It became necessary that he should stamp out the so-called idol-daêvas.
Thenceforth Zoroaster, in the Avesta language, used the word Daêva in the sense of an evil or wicked spirit. The old root div, to shine, has given us such words as Deus in Latin, Daêva in Sanskrit, Zeus in Greek, and Tius in German,
for God. The Avesta language of Zoroaster is the only ancient language in which quite a contrary and evil meaning is attached to this word, and, so far as this religion is concerned, the word daêva still has an evil meaning. Had the great Xerxes been successful in his wars with the Greeks, the Mazdayasnian faith would have been established in the West, and all the modern languages would probably have been now using the word Daêva for the Devil, or the Evil One.
Let me but for a moment lift the veil, and show you the most hallowed and impressive picture of Zoroastrian speculative philosophy. In the plenitude of the creation there, one perceives the hand of the Creator in His Mighty Majesty, creating and completing this universe at six different periods—first, the heavenly firmament; second, water; third, the earth; fourth, plants; fifth, lower animals; and sixth and last, man. Man is created free to act after his own heart and understanding.
"I have made every land dear to its dwellers, even though it had no charms whatever in it," * said Ahura-Mazda to Zoroaster.
Sixteen different regions and countries created by Ahura-Mazda are carefully described in the first Fargard of the Vendidad, giving a more or less geographical notion to modern readers of the origin of the population in Central Asia.
Zoroastrian Speculative Philosophy—Spenta Mainyus (Creative Spirit) and Angro Mainyus (Destructive Spirit)—Their Incessant Conflict in the State of Nature
But the most important speculative philosophy, disclosed by this Fargard, is the existence of two primeval Causes in the state of Nature, working in opposition to each other, known in the Avesta language as Spenta Mainyus (the Creative or Augmenting Spirit), and Angro Mainyus (the Destructive or Decreasing Spirit). Since the creation, there has been an incessant state of conflict between these rivals; the records of these encounters, in which man as a free agent plays his part with his soul for a stake, are bound up in the annals of the world, to be finally unfolded, read and adjudged on the great Day of Judgment.
This philosophy of the Good and the Evil Spirit, creative of the material world, is not to be confused with the idea of dualism. Many learned writers, of European fame, have clearly proved that Zoroaster did not preach dualism. The Evil Spirit is not endowed with any of the attributes of the Almighty; neither is he placed in opposition to, or made a rival of, God. I have carefully read the exhaustive comments made by Western scholars on this subject, some in favour, and the majority of them against the theory of dualism.
As a great deal of controversy has been raised on the doctrine of two rival spirits, I think it necessary to quote from the Avesta, and also from the later Pahlavi text, to prove that dualism is not one of the doctrines preached by Zoroaster.
Doctrine of Dualism refuted
"Ahura-Mazda, through omniscience, knew that Ahriman exists. . . .
"The Evil Spirit, on account of backward knowledge, was not aware of the existence of Ahura-Mazda. . . .
"He [Ahura-Mazda] sets the vault into which the Evil Spirit fled, in that metal; he brings the land of hell back for the enlargement of the world, the renovation arises in the universe by his will, and the world is immortal for ever and everlasting. . . .
. . . So it is declared that Ahura-Mazda is supreme in omniscience and goodness, and UNRIVALLED in splendour.
Revelation is the explanation of both spirits together: one is he who is independent of unlimited time, because Ahura-Mazda and the region, religion, and time of Ahura-Mazda were and are and ever will be; while Ahriman in darkness, with backward understanding and desire for destruction, was in the abyss, and it is he who will not be."
Amongst others, the celebrated Dr. West, to whom the Parsis are greatly indebted for his researches in the Avesta writings, finally refutes the charge of dualism brought against Zoroastrianism by some learned divines, who discovered dualism through the spectacles of modern religions.
"The reader will search in vain for any confirmation
Evils employed by Angro Mainyus
of the foreign notion that Mazda-worship is decidedly more dualistic than Christianity is usually shown to be by orthodox writers, or for any allusion to the descent of the good and evil spirits from a personification of 'boundless time' as asserted by strangers to the faith." *
Reading carefully Fargard I. of the Vendidad, I cannot help admiring the sublime theory of Nature, so far as it relates to the Destructive Spirit. Now, what are the evils employed by Angro Mainyus? A great serpent; winter months freezing water and earth, and retarding the growth of fruit-bearing trees and other vegetation useful to mankind; a poisonous wasp; evil thoughts; wild beasts destructive to animal kind; doubt or unbelief in the Creator; indolence and poverty; idol and image worship; devastation or plague; sorcery; fevers; falsehood; darkness; noxious smells; and wickedness.
These are the few evils employed by Angro Mainyus to retard the progress of, and if possible, destroy mankind. It is quite evident, that the sole aim of Zoroaster's teachings is to raise God's best and fairest work—man—to that level of human perfection by good words, good thoughts, and good deeds, so as to enlist the services of the Good Spirit. Spenta Mainyus being thus
Invocation of Spenta Mainyus—Of the Life on the Earth—The Creation of Sixteen Regions
invoked, a protection from evils can be obtained; and the soul of man at the trumpet-call can be clothed in a fit and proper state of piety to render homage to his Creator.
Of the Life on the Earth
A graphic description of sixteen of the regions and countries created by the Almighty is given in the Vendidad. They extend from the shores of the Caspian to the banks of the Indus in Hindustan. The favoured man of God was Yima, known in the Shah Nameh as Jamshid. To him God's command, "Enlarge My world, make My world fruitful, obey Me as Protector, Nourisher, and Overseer of the World," was given. Yima was presented with a plough and a golden spear, as symbols of sovereignty. He set to work to carry out this holy mandate, brought large tracts of land into cultivation and filled them with men, cattle, beasts of burden, dogs, birds, and ruddy burning fires.
Imagination soars high at this picture of pastoral bliss, of peaceful occupation in cultivating the virgin soil and propagating the species. Evil was unknown. The day of perpetual brightness, the summer of radiant joy, and all heavenly peace had cast their mantle of transcendent glory over the land of Iran, of which Yima was God's chosen overseer.
Little did Yima know that there existed in
Yima (Jamshid), the Ruler of Airyana-Vaêjâ—God's Warning to Yima of the Disaster to his Kingdom (Noah and his Ark)
the state of Nature the Evil Spirit (Angro Mainyus), to attempt to mar his handiwork by snow, frost, and deluge.
"He [Evil Spirit] does not think, nor speak, nor act for the welfare of the creatures of Ahura-Mazda; and his business is unmercifulness and the destruction of this welfare, so that the creatures which Ahura-Mazda shall increase he will destroy; and his eyesight [evil eye] does not refrain from doing the creatures harm."
Yima, by his piety and devotion to the Creator, had enlisted the services of the Good Spirit, and through him it was made manifest to him that on this corporeal world snow, frost, and deluge would come. He was warned of this disaster in time, and ordered to prepare an enclosure large enough to hold cattle, beasts of burden, useful animals, men and women, of the largest, best, and most beautiful kinds, together with birds, red burning fires, and seeds of all kinds of trees—"all these in pairs"—without any blemish or tokens of the Evil Spirit (Angro Mainyus).
Pious Yima, like Noah of old, benefited by this timely counsel, and ultimately succeeded in saving the chosen creation, which formed his ancient domain of Airyana-Vaêjâ.
One cannot help noting in the Zoroastrian Scriptures a certain similarity to the later-day history of Noah and his ark. Spenta Mainyus
Spenta Mainyus and Angro Mainyus, a Contrast between Good and Evil
planted the seed of a good fruit-bearing tree, nourished it with water of purity, cultivated it with honest industry and diligence, watched its growth in divine contemplation of its blossoming forth good thoughts, good words, and good deeds (humata, hukhta, and havarahta), when from "the region of the North . . . forth rushed Angro Mainyus, the deadly, the Daêva of the Daêvas," and with one chill blast of snow and frost ("Falsehood" and "Wickedness," vide Avesta) smote and retarded the rising sap of the growing tree. Thus, high from above, war was declared between Good and Evil, between the Pious and the Wicked, between Light and Darkness,—one preserving and the other smiting God's glorified works.
A good portion of the Zoroastrian theology is directed towards protecting mankind in his efforts to fight against Angro Mainyus and his wicked accomplices.
"That one wish which Ahura-Mazda, the Lord, contemplates, as regards men, is this, that 'Ye shall fully understand Me; for every one who fully understands Me, comes after Me and strives for My satisfaction.'" *
Zoroaster, in order to stem the tide of destruction, went to the root of the evil and laid the foundation-stone of his great moral philosophy,
Hygienic Rules laid down by Zoroaster—Preservation of Bodily Health—Fight against Pestilence and Disease (Drukhs Naçus)
by making certain well-defined hygienic rules and regulations to preserve the pastoral community from being totally destroyed by pestilence, which we know as a visitation of God. In this brief sketch I shall enumerate a few of them for the appreciation and due consideration of my readers.
Putrefaction or decomposition, occasioned by the dead bodies, from which thousands of untold evils may arise, was the first subject dealt with in the sacred books of the Avesta. It is written, that directly death occurs, the evil element of putrefaction, known in the Avesta language as "Drukhs Naçus," takes possession of the dead body. In the figurative language of the period, "Drukhs Naçus" (putrefaction) is personified into a pernicious fly, full of filth and disease, and capable of spreading great harm among the living creation. The duration of the period at which it takes possession of the dead body greatly depends on the nature and the cause of death. Modern medical science has nearly elucidated this mystery of cadaverous rigidity and the exact time of the putrefaction of the body. These have been graphically described in Fargard VII. of the Vendidad.
Careful instructions are given as to the part of the house, and the manner, in which the dead body should be kept, pending its ultimate disposal; the place of its final rest, where it may
Precepts of Purity—Cultivation and Care of the Soil
dissolve into its natural elements; the subsequent purification of the place where the body may have lain in the house; the people who carry the corpse; the clothes that may have come in contact with it; and the purification of the flowing water in which the corpse may have been found.
"Purity is the best thing for men after birth," says the Avesta. Those who are desirous of further investigating the subject will be handsomely repaid their trouble in perusing Fargards V., VI., VII., VIII., and IX. of the Vendidad, wherein they will find scientific instructions as to the germ theory and the preservation of the public health. Though enunciated thousands of years ago, they are now carefully and minutely followed by western nations in the twentieth century.
Next in order comes the command to cultivate the soil, to produce corn, provender, and fruit-bearing trees, to irrigate dry land and drain the marshes, and to populate the whole with men, cattle, and useful beasts of burden. Zoroastrian philosophy shudders with horror at the contemplation of the motherly earth being defiled by the burial therein of dead bodies, and consequently means are devised of disposing of corpses on high mountain tops by birds of prey or by the process of nature. The modern Parsis, in accordance with the ancient regulations, have devised Towers of Silence. The Parsis of Bombay are
The Bubonic Plague and the Parsis of Bombay—The Armour of Health forged by Zoroaster
grateful to their ancient prophet, who taught them the great hygienic principle of sanitation.
During recent years it has saved them, a handful as they are, from the bubonic plague. This great "Drukhs Naçus" carried away thousands of natives, hour by hour and day by day, and yet signally failed in his wholesale attack on the Parsis. The reason is obvious. The armour of health, forged by Zoroaster during his pious contemplation of thirty years’ duration on the mount "Ushidarena," and so fittingly worn by the Parsis of the present day, is invulnerable to the attack of Angro Mainyus and such of his satellites as "Drukhs Naçus." Strict ordinances are made for the care and welfare of women during certain periods, including those of gestation and child-birth, so that no injury may happen in the latter instance to the parent and the offspring and to those who have to assist at this great function of Nature.
Besides these, there are numerous directions as to observing cleanliness in ordinary daily life, all tending to the care and purification of the body and prevention of infectious diseases by contact.
"This is purity, O Zarathustra, the Mazdayasnian law.
"He who keeps himself pure by good thoughts, words, and works.
The Teachings of Zoroaster by author S. A. Kapadia - 1905GOD'S LIVING BIBLE - THE THIRD TESTAMENT - RESEARCH LIBRARY :: THE HISTORY OF RELIGION :: The Lost - Coptic Gospels :: The Teachings of Zoroaster
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