In certain religious traditions, God is perceived as a fearsome divinity (the adjective – ‘God-fearing’ is quite common in the English lexicon) or as the Lord or as Malik (Master). However, in our Zoroastrian tradition Ahura Mazda is neither to be feared nor a master to be pleased. The relationship that a Zoroastrian has with God is different and almost unique.
Ahura Mazda The Beloved Friend:
In the Zoroastrian tradition and particularly in the Gatha, the Supreme Divinity is referred to as ‘Friya’ (Sanskrit Priya or beloved) which means friend or beloved. In other words, a Zoroastrian’s relationship with God is built not on the basis of awe or fear but of friendship and love. God is to be loved, not feared for his wrath; to be considered as a friend and not as a domineering Lord who constantly puts his subjects to tests and demands sacrifices. Our loving friend, Ahura Mazda, expects only love and friendship in return and no scarifice or penance.
In the Zoroastrian tradition, God is not to be pleased with animal sacrifices or fasts. Ahura Mazda wants all His friends to enjoy Ushta or happiness. In the Zoroastrian calendar, there is not a single day set aside for fasting – all that Ahura Mazda wants His friends to fast from is from doing wrong, be it in thought, word or deed.
How To Befriend Ahura Mazda
How best can we befriend Dadaar Hormuzd? Those who pray the Hoshbam at dawn would recollect praying, “Asha vahishta, asha sraeshta, daresāma thwā, pairi thwā jamyāma, hamem thwā hakhma.” – which means, “Through the best righteousness, excellent righteousness, O Ahura Mazda, may we catch sight of Thee and may we come near Thee and attain Thy eternal friendship.”
From this we understand that we can earn God’s eternal friendship simply by walking on the path of Asha (truth and righteousness). May each one of us strive to earn Ahura Mazda’s friendship through our daily endeavors as we walk on the path of Asha. For indeed the Colophon to Yasna asserts: “There is but one path, that of Asha. All other paths are false”.
Living The Religion Of Zarathushtra
Try asking the average Zoroastrian what it means to be a follower of Zarathushtra and you are likely to hear the over-simplified and stereotyped message of, ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds’. Though these principles are the main pillars of the faith and perhaps no other Prophet has articulated or emphasized this more than Zarathushtra, there is more to our religion than these three tenets. Zarathushtra preached his message of leading a positive and productive life in an age we call ‘prehistoric’. And, yet, over the centuries, his message continues to remain fresh and relevant.
The Vision Of Excellence
It is said that Zarathushtra had his first vision of Ahura Mazda on Roj Dae-pa-Meher, Mah Ardibehest. According to the Zarathusht Nameh, the Prophet asked Ahura Mazda a question (the very first question) and in the answer that he received from Ahura Mazda, one may find an excellent summary of what is expected of a good Zoroastrian. It may be viewed as Ahura Mazda’s vision for us, His beloved friends, through Zarathushtra…
The question was, “Who is the best person among all people in the world?”
Ahura Mazda answered, “He who walks on the path of Asha (Righteousness); is charitable; is just; reveres fire; water and is kind even to animals”. How simple yet exalted is this vision for a better world and our relationship with various good creations of Ahura Mazda!
The Concept Of Asha
Zarathushtra’s teachings could be summed up in just one word – “Asha”, which stands for:
- Truth (as opposed to falsehood)
- Divine Order (or living in harmony with the Laws of Nature) and
- Purity (in thought, word and deed).
The Vision Of Ecological Harmony
Zarathushtra appears to have received the revelation from Ahura Mazda for ten years. All the mysteries and secrets of this universe were revealed to him.
Finally, the Amesha Spenta (Bounteous Immortals) gave Zarathushtra a message:
Bahaman: Look after and be kind to animals.
Ardibehesht: Revere fire (the giver of light and life).
Shehrivar: Use metals wisely (not for destructive purposes).
Spendarmard: Revere the earth.
Khordad: Revere the waters.
Amardad: Look after the plant kingdom.
In the message of the holy Amesha Spenta, one finds the timeless principles of ‘ecology’ and ‘living in harmony with nature’. Scientists advise us today to protect the rain forests, not to pollute the waters etc. However, Zarathushtra taught this to us thousands of years ago!
Wealth Is Positive
Many religious traditions, directly or indirectly, have looked down upon wealth and its acquisition. Zoroastrians, however, consider wealth to be fundamentally positive, provided it is acquired through righteous means and used for righteous purposes.
Life Is For Living
A Zoroastrian is not required to practice celibacy in order to attain salvation. In fact, getting married at the appropriate time and raising a family is itself an act of spiritual merit. A Zoroastrian is not required to renounce the world and lead an ascetic life. Life is a gift of Ahura Mazda and is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
Relationship With The Amesha Spenta
Zoroastrians follow an ancient calendar, which is full of meaning and relevance for day-to-day living. The first seven days of the month in the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated to Ahura Mazda and His Amesha Spenta. These represents at one level, a divine quality of Ahura Mazda and at another level, as guardian of a good creation. For example, Bahaman is Vohu Mana or the Good Mind and also the Guardian Angel of animals. Ardibehest is Asha Vahishta or Truth and presides over Fire.
The Formula For Sustainable Excellence
The first seven days of the month teach us how we may lead our life. It is the formula of living an ethical life and building a conscious relationship with the Bounteous Immortals.
Lets us look at the chart below:
- Hormuzd – The Good Spirit – Begin every endeavour in the name of and dedicate all your actions to Hormuzd or God;
- Bahman – The Good Mind – Do all your work using Bahman or the Good Mind;
- Ardibehesht – The Best Truth – Do it with Ardibehesht or Truth
- Shehrivar – The Divine Power – And, you will attain Shehrivar or Power
- Spendarmard – Piety – To power you must add Spendarmard or Piety and Humility;
- Khordad – Perfection – And you will get Khordad or Perfection
- Amardad – Forever (eternal) – Which will last for Amardad or for eternity
Thus, the Zoroastrian formula for achieving sustainable excellence is dedicating all endeavour to Ahura Mazda and do all acts in His name and act with wisdom and truth which will be empowering, but, must be tempered with piety and humility.
Good V/s Evil
Zarathushtra essentially saw life as a struggle between the forces of good and evil. Man’s duty is that of a spiritual warrior (Rathestar), fighting evil at the physical, social, ethical and metaphysical level.
- At the Physical level, all forms of impurity and pollution are seen as a manifestation of evil. A good Zoroastrian, therefore, always aims for purity and cleanliness.
- At the Social level, all forms of poverty, want, human suffering and ignorance are seen as an affliction of evil. A good Zoroastrian therefore is expected to be charitable and giving in order to alleviate suffering.
- At an Ethical level, every good Zoroastrian must guard himself/herself against the demon of wrath, greed, envy, and other such negative qualities.
The Pahlavi Dinkard recommends 5 virtues, which every Zoroastrian must cultivate.
- Give encouragement to others in good deeds.
The true value and beauty of Zarathustra’s religion lies in its simplicity and positive outlook to life. The religion enjoins happiness for everyone and asserts that true happiness comes to those who seek happiness for others. It is a religion, which is pro-life and pro-happiness. It recommends a golden mean path – neither fasting nor gluttony; neither celibacy nor lechery.
Despite its antiquity, the religion of Zarathushtra has and will always remain ageless and relevant for all times to come. What is important for us is to live the religion. Live it through better understanding and building our relationship with Ahura Mazda as our beloved friend, the Amesha Spenta as our philosophical and ethical guides and Zarathushtra as our beloved teacher of and for life!