The Prophet Zarathushtra
Zarathushtra, the great Prophet of Zoroastrianism was born in ancient Persia, approximately 3,600 years ago. The name of the Prophet is made of two words—Zarath meaning Gold and Ushtra meaning Light.
When Zarathushtra was born, a bright light shone around Him. All babies cry when they are born but Zarathushtra was smiling. He was happy because He knew God had sent Him into the world to make others happy. It is said that Nature itself rejoiced when Zarathushtra was born—with thunder and rain (on a land parched with famine), rivers of plenty and a bountiful harvest.
Zarathushtra grew up to be a fine young boy, always smiling and happy. When asked about His happiness, Zarathushtra would explain: "You can be happy too, if you think and do all that is good, share what you have with others and be kind to everyone.”
As a young man, He left His home in search of truth and the meaning of life. He went far away and lived in a mountain cave for ten long years. He talked to God or Ahura Mazda and asked Him many questions.
Having discovered the truth and the meaning of life, He went back and told His people what Ahura Mazda had taught Him. The ancient Persians described Ahura Mazda as the Lord of Life and Wisdom, saying His body is the light and His spirit is the truth.
The word of God was conveyed to his people through the medium of song. The Gathas or the Divine Songs of Zarathushtra defined the laws of life and nature and became a channel to communicate with God.
The Gathas defined the major laws of Ahura Mazda, including Asha or the Divine law (HIS truth) to bring order, beauty and harmony in the Universe; and Vohu Mana, the good and loving mind, to teach all beings to love one another and help one another always.
The Gathas describe the seven major creations of Ahura Mazda and the reverence due to each —Sky, Waters, Earth, Plants, Animals, Man and Woman and Fire.
Each of these creations is presided over by Immortal Shining Beings or Amesha Spenta’s. They are a part of Ahura Mazda and they help each other in their work to maintain order in the Universe.
The sixth creation is Man and Woman. They are under Ahura Mazda's special protection, for He places His Holy Spirit within them to guide and protect them. Man and Woman are given a pure mind to think good thoughts (HUMATA), a mouth and tongue to speak good words (HUKTA) and hands to do good deeds (HU-VARASH-TA). He gives them the inner vision to see and adore Him and SAROSH, His voice in their hearts so that they can hear Ahura Mazda's Holy Word and obey it. He gives them a soul (REVAN), which is free to choose the good or the bad, and understanding or BUDDHI, which helps the Soul to choose the right path.
To guide the Soul and for understanding, He gives everyone the FRAVASHI or His own un-dying light, which can do no wrong and which no one can hurt or destroy.
All Zoroastrians wear a sacred undergarment or shirt called the SUDREH and a sacred girdle called the KUSTI which is tied three times round the waist as one recites the KUSTI prayers. The SUDREH and KUSTI is the badge of service to Ahura Mazda. Once a child between the ages of 7 and 9 has learnt the meaning of the Kusti prayers and can recite them by heart, they are worn for the first time in a religious ceremony called the NAVJOTE or new birth.
The Sudreh and Kusti are worn next to the skin all through life, to remind everyone of their promise to Ahura Mazda to do the right thing and make others happy.
All Zoroastrian prayers are vibrationary in nature. As one recites the Kusti prayers after a bath in the morning, they form an invisible shield of good vibrations that protect one from the forces of evil.
Influence of Zoroastrianism
Zarathushtra is considered a Persian Prophet who at the age of 30 had visions of GOD.
AHURA MAZDA—the Creator, in the form of ‘Divine Light’. Zarathushtra firmly believed that through these visions, the one formless GOD (AHURA MAZDA or the Lord of Wisdom) had entrusted Him with a message for all mankind.
Zarathushtra’s divinely inspired teachings were handed down orally in His community in the form of seventeen great hymns known as the Gathas—from generation to generation until they were committed to writing under the Sasanians, the rulers of the third great Persian Empire.
Zoroastrianism, originating over 3,600 years ago in a Bronze Age culture on the Asian steppes, became the state religion of three mighty Persian Empires in succession, and so was endowed for many centuries with great temporal power and wealth. Its lofty original doctrines exerted great influence throughout the Middle East—an area where Judaism developed, and Christianity and Islam were born.
The Aryan race flourished in Persia and the northern parts of the Indian sub-continent. The Avestan language spoken by the Prophet Zarathushtra is very similar to the Rig Vedic hymns composed around 1500 BC.
The Persian Empire with its Aryan culture, extended from the Mediterranean in the West to North India in the East, where Zoroastrianism made a profound contribution to the development of Mahayana Buddhism.
A breakdown of social order on the steppes may well have been one of the primary causes of the mass migrations within the extent of the Persian Empire. The early Avestan texts of the Prophet’s teachings mirror a new society, with three fixed groups—Priests, warrior nobles (including kings) and farmers. These social groupings, also evolved in parallel among the Indo-Aryans. Turbulent times such as this are recognised as conducive to the birth of salvation faiths, with hopes of peace and justice shifting from this world to the next; and Zoroastrianism is the oldest of such faiths
In the history of world religions, Zoroastrianism is seen not merely as a mighty seminal influence but also as a noble faith in its own right, which has held the loyalty of its followers for millennia, through harsh persecutions. Despite the subsequent years of oppression, two large groups of Zoroastrians persevered in their beliefs and faith and migrated to distant lands—one overland to Europe (in the region of present day Germany) and the other over the ocean to the West coast of India, where they assimilated into local society and prospered, with their adherence to truth and hard work.
Hinduism and Zoroastrianism are widely considered a ‘way of life’ into which one is born. Conversion is not practiced. The societal influence exerted by the Zoroastrian priesthood is very similar to that of the Brahmins of Hinduism.
Many of the remaining ancient Zoroastrian texts which were not destroyed may be found in the Library of the University of Heidelberg in Germany.
Professor Nosh Vadoli, USA