The Zoroastrian Way Of Life And Living

A few days ago I got into a discussion with a friend who asked me a simple yet very profound question. The question was pertaining to the Zoroastrian way of life and living and whether it is any different from what persons of other faiths and beliefs follow. I responded briefly and assured him that I will elaborate in greater detail in Parsi Times so as to share the same with our readers.

Unity In Diversity

As a community, we respect all religious faiths and genuinely celebrate unity in the diversity of various faiths and beliefs. Every religious faith has a philosophical foundation and all are inspiring. Hinduism focuses on Dharma or the ‘right way of living’ and is quite similar to the emphasis on Asha or ‘righteous living’ that Zarathushtra emphasised in the Gatha. Christianity focuses on love and forgiveness while Islam focuses ‘absolute submission to the Divine’. Buddhism focuses on ‘compassion’ while Jainism focuses on ‘non-violence’. All these are universal values worthy of celebration and practice by all humanity.

Indeed, the quest of all faiths and beliefs is the same – ‘seeking the Truth’. However, the paths are somewhat different. Swami Vivekananda aptly used the analogy that just as various rivers flow on different paths to the same sea, so do different faiths prescribe different paths, but ultimately flow towards the same Divine Truth. Classic examples of different paths happen to be Jesus recommending that ‘if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also‘. However, in the Gita, Krishna tells Arjun: “If you will not fight this righteous war, then you will fail in your duty, lose your reputation, and incur sin.” A Jain considers long and rigorous fasts from food as a form of spiritual cleansing but a Zoroastrian is not required even for a single day to fast.

Clearly the way of life and living differs from faith to faith. However, the focus of this article is on living the Zoroastrian way of life.

The Zoroastrian Path

According to the Pahlavi Zarathusht Nameh, when Asho Zarathushtra asked Ahura Mazda the question: “Who is the best person among all people in the world,” Ahura Mazda replied, “He who walks on the path of Asha (Truth); is charitable; is just; reveres fire; reveres water and is kind even to animals.” This response in a sense encapsulates the Zoroastrian way of life and living.

Long before ‘Climate Change’, Zoroastrians made ecology a part of their religious ethos with a Heptad of Principles – The Seven Amesha Spenta. The seven Amesha Spenta are guardians of all good creations of Ahura Mazda, including human beings, animals, fire, metals, earth, water and vegetation. Adoration of the Amesha Spenta in essence is adoration of all good creations of Ahura Mazda and surely what one adores, must be treated with care and respect.

Every Zoroastrian also tries to imbibe the ethical qualities of the seven Amesha Spenta by starting all tasks in the name of and dedicating the result to Hormuzd or the Creator; perform all tasks engaging Bahman or the Good Mind; perform all task with Ardibehest or Truth and attain Sherevar or Strength and Power and to this strength and power add Spendarmad or Piety and Humility and attain Khordad or Perfection for Amardad or eternity.

Asha – The Best And Only Path

‘Humata, Hukhta, Havrashta’ (Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds) are good principles to practice in day-to-day life. However, Zarathustra’s wisdom for us could be summed up in just one word – Asha – which stands for Truth (as opposed to falsehood), Righteous conduct, Divine Order (or living in harmony with the Laws of Nature) and Purity (in thought, word and deed). Little wonder the colophon or preface to the Yasna asserts, “There is but one path, that of Asha. All other paths are false”.

In the Hoshbam, which we pray at dawn, we affirm, ‘Through the best righteousness, excellent righteousness, O Ahura Mazda, May we catch sight of Thee and May we come near Thee and attain your eternal friendship!” According to this prayer the devotee affirms at the very crack of dawn that he/she aspires to know and understand Ahura Mazda and the only way he/she can achieve this ultimate and sublime goal is by walking on the path of truth and, in doing so, the devotee earns Ahura Mazda’s ‘friendship’. Indeed, a good Zoroastrian need not fear Ahura Mazda, nor try to appease Creator by sacrificing any of his creations (human or animal).

At War With Evil

In life every good Zoroastrian is expected to be a Rathestar or Spiritual Warrior fighting evil at various levels. At the physical level, all forms of impurity and pollution are seen as a manifestation of evil. At the social level, all forms of poverty, want, human suffering and ignorance are seen as an affliction of evil. Indeed a good Zoroastrian is one who ensures cleanliness (mental, physical and spiritual) and attacks poverty and human suffering through acts of charity and giving.

Zoroastrians consider poverty, suffering and want as afflictions of evil. To remove poverty, deficiency, disease and human suffering is not only a religious duty but an act of spiritual merit, depriving ‘evil’ of sustenance. If Christ asked his followers to love their neighbours, Zarathushtra asked his followers to attain happiness by making others happy.

Path Of Happiness

A Zoroastrian is not required to renounce the world and lead an ascetic life. In fact, that would be considered a sin. Life is a gift of Ahura Mazda and is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. Zoroastrians consider wealth as fundamentally positive, provided it is acquired through righteous means and used for righteous purposes. Also, 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.

Finally, the Zoroastrian way of life and living is about Ushta or Happiness and according to Zarathushtra, the best way to attain happiness is by making others happy!

Leave a Reply