Teachings of Zoroaster - Intro- Pages 35-55 Aug 20, 2012 9:56:56 GMT 1
Post by Anne Terri on Aug 20, 2012 9:56:56 GMT 1
THE TEACHINGS OF ZOROASTER,
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE PARSI RELIGION
Pages 35 - 55
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE PARSI RELIGION
Pages 35 - 55
Zoroaster's Moral Philosophy. Vohumana (the Good Mind), Akamana (the Evil Mind)
"As to the right purity of one's own body, that is the purification of every one in this corporeal world for his own state,
"When he keeps himself pure by good thoughts, words, and works." *
Having made men invulnerable to diseases, Zoroaster proceeded to look after their morals. His moral philosophy deals with two attributes inherent in man the Good Mind and the Evil Mind. These two are allegorically termed "Vohumana" (the Good Mind) and "Akamana" (the Evil Mind).
Thoughts, words, and deeds are liable to the influence of either "Vohumana" (the Good Mind) or "Akamana" (the Evil Mind). Zoroaster has summed up the whole of his moral philosophy in three expressive words—"Humata" (good thoughts), "Hukhta" (good words), and "Hvarshta" (good deeds). The way to heaven is laid through these three mystic avenues, and the seeker of them is borne through with the self-consciousness of having spent his allotted span of life to the use and furtherance of God's good creation, and to His eternal glory.
"Turn yourself, not away from three best things—Good Thought, Good Word, and Good Deed."
By "Good Thoughts," a Zoroastrian is able to concentrate his mind in divine contemplation of
Good Thoughts (Humata), Good Words (Hukhta), and Good Deeds (Hvarshta) defined
Page 35 - 36
the Creator, and live in peace, unity, and harmony with his fellow-brethren. For the love of his fellowmen, he is enjoined to protect them in danger; to help them in need and want; to raise their understanding in education; to enable them to enter into holy bonds of matrimony; and to the best of his resources to enhance the prosperity and welfare of the community of his brotherhood in particular, and of all mankind in general.
By "Good Words," he is enjoined not to break his contract with others, to observe honesty and integrity in all commercial transactions, faithfully to pay back any borrowed money at the risk of being called a thief, to prevent hurting the feelings of others, and to engender feelings of love and charity in the Mazdayasnian fraternity.
By "Good Deeds," he is directed to relieve the poor, deserving and undeserving, to irrigate and cultivate the soil, to provide food and fresh water in places where needed, to encourage matrimony, and to devote the surplus of his wealth in charity to the well-being and prosperity of his co-religionists and others.
The Parsis of India are too well known for their disinterested charities amongst the people of all denominations to need any eulogistic remarks from me. It is a matter of great pride to me, as a Parsi, and a subject of deep thankfulness to God, as one of His beings, that in this matter my co-religionists in the East have truly
A Zoroastrian Household—Status of Women
Page 37 - 38
and faithfully, and with the utmost tolerance, distributed their wealth in wise and useful charities, to lessen the sorrows and untold miseries, and brighten the homes of our less fortunate brethren.
"I praise the well-thought sentiment, the well-spoken speech, the well-performed action.
"I praise the good Mazdayasnian law, the free from doubt, removing strife." *
One can picture to himself the properly ordained household of a Zoroastrian, who has carefully imbibed the abstract principles of "Humata," "Hukhta," and "Hvarshta," and put them to practical purposes in an ordinary workaday life.
Marriage is particularly recommended as a great factor towards leading a religious and virtuous life, in addition to the social comforts of physical, mental, and moral recreations. The household of a man 6f well-regulated mind is his peaceful domain, wherein he is the lord with his worthy consort, both entwined together and actuated by that religious affinity which the Zoroastrian religion, by wise and philosophical precepts, never fails to infuse. As the land improves by fertilization, so should mankind by union, says the Zoroastrian philosophy. One of the five things most pleasing to God, mentioned in Fargard III. of the Vendidad, is that a holy
Morality of Zoroastrian Women—Tolerance
man should build himself a habitation, provide himself with a wife, children, fire, and a herd of cattle. The husband is required to obey the laws of health and be brave, to protect and preserve his family from any outside violence, to be industrious, to provide them with necessaries of life, to be tolerant, truthful, and chaste, and to complete the domestic happiness of his family circle.
Chastity and implicit obedience from a wife to her husband are considered to be the greatest virtues in a woman, the breach whereof will be punished as a sin.
In every way, the wife is equal to her husband in social status, enjoying perfect liberty of action. These wise domestic regulations are so faithfully followed by the modern Parsis that misbehaviour or misconduct of a woman is altogether conspicuous by its absence. Divorce for misconduct is almost an unknown thing, and the writer cannot but congratulate his community on the fact of total absence of women of loose morals.
It is one of the ordinances of the faith that a father must look after the spiritual and temporal education of his children, and bring them up well fortified physically and morally to fight the battle of life with perseverance, diligence, honesty, and integrity, thus enhancing the reputation of his family and the honour of his community.
An Avesta Incident of Mercy and Charity towards the Fallen
"May the desirable obedience come hither, for joy to the men and women of Zarathustra." *
Tolerance is another great feature of the Parsi faith. Though taught to revere his own religion and despise and destroy idols and images, he is also impressed with the idea of observing great tolerance and discretion in passing judgment on the religious belief of others. Zoroaster himself set the example of this excellent precept, whilst praising the soul ("Fravashi").
"The Fravashis of the pure men in all regions praise we." †
It is evident that he prayed for all wise and holy men and women who believed in God. That the same spirit exists to the present day, is proved by the munificent gifts of the Parsis for charitable purposes to people, irrespective of creed or caste, having for their sole object the relief of mankind.
Strict as the law of chastity is, a great spirit of tolerance is shown in the Avesta writing in reference to an unmarried woman, who happens to fall a victim to the charms of an insidious man. True, it is a punishable sin, yet the Almighty, in His mercy, has taken due notice of such a misfortune happening in a household.
In the poetic language of the Avesta, it is laid down that a virgin, who whilst under the protection of her parents, either betrothed or not
betrothed, is in a way to become a mother, should not for the very shame of the act attempt to destroy herself. She must not add to the sin already committed, a further and more heinous crime of self-destruction. Further, she is forbidden, under the penalty of a grave sin, from seeking to destroy the fruit of her body, either with the assistance of her partner in the guilt or that of her parents in order to hide her shame from the world. She must not seek, at the instigation of her betrayer from the path of chastity, the assistance of "an old woman" versed in herbology. The putative father must protect the unfortunate partner of his guilt and the child.
Here is a tragic drama of the twentieth century, so of ten enacted in our criminal courts, written and commented upon by Zoroaster in his gospel, in the primitive pastoral age, at the beginning of the history of the world. What thoughts, what deep moral philosophy, what superhuman knowledge, must have been invoked by the great Iranian sage to soften the hardships of life, by introducing a ray of heavenly mercy, of which Tom Hood sang centuries after:
"Take her up tenderly
Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
Young and so fair.
God and His Hierarchy of Archangels (Ameshaspends)
"Touch her not scornfully;
Think of her mournfully,
Gently and humanly;
Not of the stains of her—
All that remains of her
Now is pure womanly."
The whole creation is placed under the guardianship of God as the head, and six Ameshaspends (archangels). Ameshaspends are mystical guardian spirits, who work night and day incessantly for the welfare and protection of the creation committed to their charge by the Almighty.
God is the protector of man.
(1) Bahman is given the custody of all useful domestic animals and birds.
(2) Ardibihist has the control of fire and life-giving heat.
(3) Shahrevar is the president of all kinds of metals and minerals.
(4) Aspandarmat is the custodian of the earth, with injunctions to keep it fruitful, clean, and cultivated.
(5) Khordat has to see to the purity of water and water-courses.
(6) Amerdad tends to trees and vegetation.
With the assistance of Yazats (angels) night and day they police this earth and guard their respective charges against the encroachment of the Evil Spirit (Angro Mainyus).
Zoroaster, having dealt with the welfare of mankind, has not forgotten lower animals in his
Kindness to Dumb Animals—Complaint of Geush-Urvan (the Over-Lord of the Herd of Cattle) to God—A Parable
moral philosophy. Special regulations are laid down for their kind and considerate treatment. He has recognized the necessity of slaughtering animals for human food, prescribed which kinds of animals and birds are fit for that purpose, and shown the most humane and expeditious methods of killing them methods which, curiously enough, are now recommended and adopted in this country by public authorities. Unnecessary slaughter is forbidden, and shooting for mere pleasure is absolutely discountenanced.
One instance, woven in traditional Oriental imagery, will suffice to convey the sentiments of the Parsis on this subject. The Over-Lord of the herd of the domestic cattle (Geush-Urvan) raises his plaintive call of heart-rending pathos to the Almighty Creator, and humbly beseeches His intercession to alleviate the pain and sufferings his fellow-kind have to undergo at the hand of men. The poor petitioner becomes aware of the fact, that in accordance with the pre-arranged plan, his herd was created for the support and advancement of the corporeal world; that it is expected of them to furnish flesh food and milk, and to be useful to the cultivator of the soil. In return men are enjoined, under penalty of severe punishment, to be kind and attentive to their many wants, and merciful in their necessary slaughter. The bovine leader is further informed that Zoroaster, by sweetness of speech, will
A Prayer of Repentance for Ill-Treatment or Unkindness to Domestic Animals
assuage their sufferings and engender a benevolent spirit of humanity amongst their cruel tormentors. The dumb petitioner, whose vision of protection being limited to the sole aspiration of obtaining the support of a powerfully armed warrior, is not able to understand that in many instances persuasive and convincing words are far more potent than a sharp-edged sword of the best tempered steel and more effective in their purpose than the brute force of a salient blow.
As to kindness to dumb animals, the following passage from Patet Erani * (Khordah-Avesta) will show what the Zoroastrians think:
"Of all kinds of sins which I have committed with reference to Heaven against the Ameshaspend Bahman [the protector of cattle] with reference to the world against the cattle and the various kinds of cattle, if I have beaten it, tortured it, slain it wrongfully, if I have not given it fodder and water at the right time, if I have castrated it, not protected it from the robber, the wolf, and the waylayer, if I have not protected it from extreme heat and cold, if I have killed cattle of useful strength, working cattle, war-horses, rams, goats, cocks, and hens, so that alike these good things and their protector Bahman have been injured by me and not contented with me, I repent."
Prohibition of Fasting from Food
This merciful and ancient teaching does not call for the intervention of any public society to prevent cruelty to animals, so far as the Parsis are concerned. I humbly venture to suggest, that it is not the imposition of fine or imprisonment by the Civil Law of the country that deters the evil-doer. What is wanted, is a sound doctrine of moral philosophy, as expounded by Zoroaster, preached and brought home to these people by a carefully organised system. Man has conscience and a soul to be saved; and, however hardened his nature may have become, it is within the bounds of possibility to awaken him to his wickedness and cowardice to dumb animals, who patiently and courageously work for him, and are the means of procuring him ease and comfort in his worldly existence.
Unlike other religions, it condemns fasting or total abstaining from food as a wicked and a foolish act, which injures and enervates the body.
"No one who does not eat, has strength to do works of holiness, strength to do works of husbandry. By eating, every material creature lives; by not eating, it dies away." *
"With us the keeping of fast is this, that we keep fast from committing sin with our eyes, and tongue, and ears, and hands, and feet. . . .
"Since I have spoken in this manner, and have
The Body and the Soul
brought forward the fasting of the seven members of the body, that which, in other religions, is fasting owing to not eating, is, in our religion, fasting owing to not committing sin [excess]." *
Readers, such are a few salient principles of the Zoroastrian theology of the Life on the Earth, which I now close by quoting from the Vendidad:
"Increase, live the whole Time of thy Life,
as long as thou wilt live." †
"Of the Life Hereafter"
as long as thou wilt live." †
"Of the Life Hereafter"
"Yet know, vain sceptics! know, th’ Almighty Mind,
Who breathed on man a portion of His fire
Bade his free soul, by earth nor time confined,
To heaven, to immortality aspire."
Slowly and solemnly, now I approach this subject of great theological mystery, of the migration from the known to the unknown universe.
". . . The worldly existence is, in the end, death, and disappearance, and of the spiritual existence, in the end, that of a soul of the righteous is undecaying, immortal, and undisturbed, full of glory and full of enjoyment, for ever and everlasting, with the angels and archangels and the guardian spirits of the righteous."
Severance of their Tie of Friendship—The Glorious Sunset of Life—The Soul's Departure—Its Arrival at "Chinvat Bridge"—The Recorder "Mehr Davar" at the Gate of Heaven
The hour of departure rings out in solemn silence, when the severance of terrestrial friendship and unity which existed in him as a man must take place—one to ascend, and the remnant to dissolve into its elements. The scriptures of Zoroaster most vividly describe this solemn event, and give evidence right through of the great belief in immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body.
At the glorious sunset of the pious life, the soul remains three days near his lifelong friend the body, and perceives and "sees as much joyfulness as the whole living world possesses." For him, the fourth day dawns in gloria in excelsis. From the midst of his worldly nearest and dearest relatives, friends, and neighbours, the soul, having been bidden pious adieux in holy blessings, ascends in the company of his guardian angel, Shros, to render his account at the gate of "Chinvat Bridge." In his upward ethereal journey, floating in the region of the sweet-scented balm of the south soft wind, he meets his own astral self, transformed into a handsome figure of gracefulness and seraphic beauty. This figure reveals itself to him as his Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. Pleased with his welcome, and having rendered his account to Mehr Davar, the recorder at the gate of Heaven, he passes the barrier to eternal bliss and happiness, and awaits his body on the great day
Doctrine of Reward and Punishment
of resurrection. On the contrary, there is a drastic picture drawn of the soul of a wicked man. It must suffer till the last day of the Great Gathering, when everybody will be judged, the battle will end, the Evil Spirit will no more have power to play man as a pawn, and there will be everlasting peace—peace and happiness. The subject is a vast one, and the space limited for this purpose does not permit me, as I should like, to deal with it in extenso. I hope the extracts given on this subject will interest the readers.
A sinful soul need never despair of mercy and forgiveness of God. Wicked as he may have been, a due notice of any good deed done by him will be taken into consideration by the Great Merciful. One of the numerous questions asked by Zoroaster of Ahura-Mazda, was in reference to a man whose body was feeling the torments of hell, with the exception of his right foot. It was participating in the heavenly bliss and comfort. The man was a wicked king in the world below, who ruled his country with oppression, lawlessness, and violence. He was incapable of practising any known virtue. One day, when he was out hunting for his pleasure, he saw a goat, tethered to a stake, vainly trying to reach a morsel of hay. The sight of a poor hungry beast straining at the rope kindled a spark of mercy in his otherwise obdurate heart. Thus moved by a
Duties of a Zoroastrian Youth after his Confirmation —The Way to Garothman Behest (Heaven)—The Result of the Zoroastrian Philosophy
sudden impulse, he, with his right foot, kicked the morsel of hay within reach of the famished beast. The incident was duly recorded in the Book of Fate, and the foot received its reward. This legend, savouring of antiquity, and backed up by ancient authorities, reveals to a Zoroastrian the sublime doctrine of reward and punishment.
After a youth has attained the age of fifteen and sought the Zoroastrian Law, he is enjoined to be liberal in thoughts and deeds, pious, and religious in ceremonial rites, just and wise as a ruler, truthful and honest in his dealings, careful in keeping the elements pure and undefiled, active in destroying evil, attentive to the care and want of the domestic animals, industrious in cultivating and irrigating land, persevering in education of himself and others, temperate in all desires, and useful to mankind in promoting harmony, concord, and unity amongst his kinsfolk, friends, and others. He must carefully weigh the merits and demerits of every step he has to take on the path of life. If by want of knowledge or ignorance, he does anything which turns out to be a sinful act, he must, at the earliest possible opportunity, rectify and remedy the same. From his early youth he is taught the belief that all his good and evil deeds will be duly recorded; that with the flight of time they will grow, multiply, and accumulate. On the day of the ascension of his soul, the recording angel Mehr Davar will ask him to render an
Incidents of Life where Religious Teachings are wanting
account of his short span of corporeal life, before bidding him enter that place of supreme bliss, known to the modern Parsis as "Garothman Behest."
Readers of this brief sketch might say that this is a philosophy couleur de rose. Nay, ask yourselves the question, What has been achieved by the teachings of Zoroaster? You will find that they have brought peace and happiness to Parsi households; they have made them loyal and peace-abiding subjects of the British Crown, and a benevolent community to the people of the world; they have lessened pauperism, crime, infamy, and immorality; they have made them a race worthy of its proud traditions, which command the respect, confidence, and admiration of those with whom they come in contact. It is very rare to find a Parsi of a criminal instinct. Crime mania, if it can be designated as such, has no suitable soil prepared for it to flourish in, in a Parsi community. It must wither in its very inception, for the antidote prepared by Zoroaster, and faithfully handed down from generation to generation to his disciples and followers, has raised an effective rampart against the approach of this foul and degrading instinct.
At the moment of writing this, a subject of vast importance to my fellow-creatures in this country passes in review before me. In the course of my professional duties I have been, on numerous
An Illustration from Life (from Ignorance to Crime, from Crime to the Gallows)
occasions, an unwilling spectator of many tragic dramas which are daily enacted in our criminal Courts. Within a few yards of gaiety and pleasure, prosperity and brilliancy, one can easily step into a veritable slum life of this great metropolis, A poor, half-starved, pale, and delicate-looking waif, bootless and hatless, with scarcely a semblance of garments, spies your intrusion into his domain. It is sad to contemplate his fate, his end, and his ultimate destination. This fruit, of ill-conditioned parents, grows up to look upon society as his natural foes to be preyed upon. Hardened and rendered callous by the rigour of the criminal law, the nation has in him an utterly worthless and a dangerous man. One asks, Has he heard a word of moral truth? Has he been taught the moral philosophy? Has he acquired the conception of God and Nature? Thoughtless, friendless, homeless, and Godless, he roams, a prey to the Evil Mind (Akamana). In the next scene of life we find him the willing slave of the devil (Angro Mainyus). One step further and a sentence from the black-capped judge, is his reward; a short delay, and then comes the end. Who can tell the terrible anguish, the torturing thoughts, and the painful agonies of unrestrained remorse of this wretched being, who is awakened and enlightened at the eleventh hour by the ministration of some holy man of God? Sad to say, it is too late for this earth. Standing on
the threshold of eternity for one brief moment, listening to the soothing words of his own burial service, he mutely prays what? For God's forgiveness for those who could have done better for him and his wretched kind. Let me ring down the curtain in mercy to one more miserable soul that has gone aloft to render his account.
It is not the fault of one class of men or the other; it is not the fault of the clergy that God's superior and gifted animal has been allowed to become a prey of the Evil Spirit and then hounded out of existence by our law: it is the fault of our system, want of unity, of proper charitable organisation, and of discriminate support by the well-to-do and prosperous class. Were Zoroaster to visit this country, I venture to say, that his first step in practical moral philosophy would be to organize a national institution, where these poor waifs and strays could be bent from their infancy to the righteous path of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.
Then the nation will be rewarded by the sight of the sons of the soil, marching in distant climes for the glory and honour of the British flag, as soldiers of God and the King, and pioneers of the ever-extending British Empire, as did their heroic brethren in Persia of old under the victorious flag of illustrious Gāo. *
Resurrection of the Body
I cannot do better than refer to the following passage in "Bundahis," on this subject.
Zarathustra asked Ahura-Mazda, "Whence does a body form again which the wind has carried and the water conveyed; and how does the resurrection occur?"
Ahura-Mazda answered thus: "when through Me the sky arose from the substance of the ruby, without columns, on the spiritual support of far-compassed light; when through Me the earth arose, which bore the material life, and there is no maintainer of the worldly creation but it; when by Me the sun and moon and stars are conducted in the firmament of luminous bodies; when by Me corn was created so that, scattered about in the earth, it grew again and returned with increase; when by Me colour of various kinds was created in plants; when by Me fire * was created in plants and other things without combustion; when by Me a son was created and fashioned in the womb of a mother, and the structure severally of the skin, nails, blood, feet, eyes, ears, and other things was produced; when by Me legs † were created for the water, so that it flows away, and the cloud was created which carries the water of the world and rains there where it has a
purpose; when by Me the air was created which conveys in one's eyesight, through the strength of the wind, the lowermost upwards, according to its will, and one is not able to grasp it with the hand outstretched; each one of them, when created by Me, was herein more difficult than causing the resurrection, for it is an assistance to Me in the resurrection that they exist, but when they were formed it was not forming the future out of the past."
According to the ancient "Bundahis," * at the time of the resurrection, the soul will demand its original body out of the custody of the three known elements the Earth, the Water, and the Fire. All the dead will rise with consciousness of their good and evil deeds. At the Great Assembly, in the presence of the righteous, they will penitently deplore their misdeeds. Then will there be the separation of the righteous from the wicked for three nights and days the wicked,
"Full in the sight of Paradise,
Beholding Heaven and feeling Hell." †
The reign of terror, at the end of the stipulated time, vanishes into oblivion, and its chief factor Ahriman goes to meet his doom of total extinction,
The Memory of the Dead
whilst Ahura-Mazda the Omnipotent Victor remains the Great All in All.
After this great penance, God in His mercy prepares a bath of purification, through which all pass, and arise in sanctified purity. Hallowed and conscious of all ties of relationship and friendship which existed in their terrestrial life, they glide, in company with the hierarchy of Heaven, into the domain of Immortality for ever and everlasting.
The memory of the dead is handed down, from generation to generation, in religious ceremonies, which are periodically performed by the priests. One incident I must mention before closing this sublime theme. On an occasion somewhat similar to the Christian "All Souls" Day, the souls of the Zoroastrians visit this sublunary earth once a year. Those, who have participated in the ceremonies on these occasions, can but feel that heavenly inspiration which becomes one's nature by faith and strict pious devotion. During the period of this pious visit, every Parsi household is thoroughly cleansed of the minutest impurity. In the best room of the house, a place is set apart, full of choice sweet-scented and fragrant flowers, and fruits—a perfect picture of peaceful bliss—with fire of sandal-wood burning, and the priests and members of the household, in the midst of a glorious illumination, chanting hymns of glory to God and His creation, Let there be
All Souls' Day
no dissent from a picture so nobly grand and a ceremony so sublime, as it is but an innocent homage to God's infinite blessings, and to us a source of comfort to hold communion with and feel in spirit the presence of those whom we have loved, respected, and adored—fathers and mothers, wives, brothers and sisters, relations and friends—who have done their duty and have gone before us, in accordance with the law, and with whom we hope to mingle—the body, dust to dust, the soul, in eternal bliss of "Garodemana." *
S. A. KAPADIA.
Inner Temple, London,
35:* Fargard X. of the Vendidad.
37:* Yaçna XIV.
39:* Yaçna LIII.
43:* A prayer of repentance for sin.
44:* Fargard III. of the Vendidad (Darmesteter).
45:* Sad Dar LXXXIII.
45:† Fargard XVIII. (Bleeck's Translation).
51:* See Notes.
52:* Means life or vitality.
52:† Conduit, canal or water ways.
53:* "Original Creation" (a book).
53:† "Lalla Rookh" (Thomas Moore).
55:* "House of hymns"—the highest Heaven.
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