ZOROASTER – THE PROPHET OF THE PARSIS
Zoroaster, also known as “Zarathustra”, was an ancient Persian prophet who founded the first world religion – Zoroastrianism/ Zarathustrianism.
Zoroaster (Zarathustra), it is believed sprang up in the 7th century before the Christian era, somewhere in the land between the Indus and the Tigris. During the very lifetime of Zoroaster – if we accept the traditional dates – the Jews were carried into captivity in Babylon and their return from exile to Jerusalem takes place less than a generation after his death. If the Persian wars with Greece stand for anything in the world’s history, when Orient and Occident met at Marathon, Plataea, Salamis, when the East received its first shock and set-back from the West, certainly we must feel an interest in the life of that man who is commonly spoken of as the lawgiver of the Persians.
The form of the Prophet’s name in the Avesta consistently appears as “Zarathustra”, or with the fuller patronymic as “Spitama Zarathustra.” The familiar form, “Zoroaster” is adapted from “Zorostres” of the Latin, which in turn is modeled after the Greek form. The question as to the significance of the name of Iran’s prophetic teacher is not without interest. India’s princely reformer was the “Enlightened One” (Buddha) or the “Sakya Sage” (Sakya-muni); Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, was the Wonderful, The Counsellor, the Anointed (Christus). In Ancient Iran, Zoroaster, The Righteous, was called “Zarathustra” or “Spitama Zarathustra” or sometimes, simply as “Spitama.” The latter is a family designation and the name comes from an ancestor of the Prophet. The Spitaman name is elsewhere found early in Media. The derivative of this patronymic “Spitama,” used as an appellative, is apparently from the Av. Root, “spit” meaning ‘be white’ and the significance is probably ‘Descendent of White.’
The origin of “Zarathustra” is less clear than Spitama and the derivation has been much discussed by various scholars. The most probable significations that have been proposed are: ‘one whose camels are old’ (“zar” meaning ‘be old’ or ‘old camel’) or again, ‘one whose camel is fierce’ (“zar” meaning ‘be angry) or possibly ‘tormenting the camel;’ or ‘robbing a camel.’ Numerous other suggestions and explanations have been offered and some of them show a great deal of fancy; but doubtless the name is an unromantic, unpoetic name – a title which the man retained as his birthright even after he became famed as a spiritual and religious teacher. The very fact of his retaining this somewhat prosaic appellative testifies to a strong personality; Zoroaster remains a man and he is not dubbed anew with a poetic title when later sanctification has thrown a halo of glory about his head.
The Gathas (the sacred hymns of the Avesta) bring out the powerful personality of the Prophet. He taught people to accept the settled life of a farmer over that of a nomad and made known that peasantry was better than pillage.
Zarathustra was a fiery man – a man of action and deep thoughts. He made clear that the ideal of life was not to be reached by ecstasy and meditation alone or by observing the cloistered virtues of a hermit who flees from the temptations of the world or the ascetic who seeks salvation for himself.
Zarathustra was active, practical and militant. Those who served God best, he maintained, were those who rendered active service to God’s creation. The legitimate joys of this world are not to be stifled; life is pleasant and enjoyable and living in the midst of the world’s joys and sorrows enables one to touch the various chords of human life.
In this wholesome philosophy, life becomes fuller, more complete. Social and domestic virtues are developed and character strengthened. This enables man to not only contemplate righteousness, but to carry it through into action and in the process, destroy wickedness. In the final analysis, to destroy all evil in the world is God’s final goal.
Spitama Zarathustra appeared in Iran, by divine command, to strike out idolaters and to prevent the corruption of the religion by magicians and sorcerers. He established a community governed by new laws. His predecessors, the Saoshyanto (fire priests) of whom Zarathustra was one, worshipped a plurality of spirits called ‘Ahuras,’ the Living One or Wise Lord. The word, ‘Mazda’ or Great Creator, applied to those Ahuras with creative powers. Spitama reduced this plurality into unity and called the Supreme Being ‘Ahuramazda.’ In Sassanian times, the name was changed to Ahuramazdi and in modern Persian to Hormuzd or Ormuzd.
Who was Zarathustra?
Zarathustra was believed to have lived during 600 B.C, and was a religious teacher and prophet of ancient Persia, which is the region covered by modern-day Iran and Iraq. Zarathushtra’s complete name is Zarathushtra Haechataspa Spitama. He is also referred to as Zoroaster, which is the Greek rendering of his name.
It is a well-known fact that very little documentary evidence about the times and life of Zarathushtra has reached our times, as he lived during a society where the people kept no written records. His teachings were passed down by oral tradition. Due to the invasion of Arabs, particularly Alexander of Macedon and the destruction of the Iranian libraries, much of what was written has been destroyed or lost. Scholars have take much of what is known today from the text of his Divine Songs, the Gathas.
There are sufficient indications to be able to piece together some basic background information. However, this has left ample room for various mythologies to evolve around his life.
It is believed that Zarathustra left his family and traveled at the age of twenty. At the age of thirty he had his first series of revelations from Divine Beings and came into the Presence of Ahura Mazda. It is believed that he spent years in the wilderness communing with God before his first vision, in which Vohu Manah came to him in the form of an Angel. All the heavenly entities, the Amesha Spentas, instructed Zarathustra in heaven, and he received perfect knowledge of past, present, and future.
The Gathas of Zarathustra are not “dictations” – but are regarded as the inspired composition of a poet-prophet rather than a text dictated by a heavenly being. Zarathustra was inspired by God, through the Divine Beings of Vohu Manah, Asha, and the others – but he was not a passive recipient of the divine wisdom. In accordance with Zoroastrian philosophy, he reached God through his own effort simultaneously with God’s communication to him.
His message was one of deliverance from evil and the demons (daevas) of the old religion. His attempts to proselytize at home failed, as he was persecuted by the priests and the followers of the daevas. After some years of no converts and constant persecution, he fled east to ancient Chorasmia (now largely Persian Khorasan), where he converted King Vishtaspa (who may have been Hystaspes, the father of Darius).
Legend has it that the Karpans (manipulative priests) surrounding the King conspired against him and he was sent to jail. But he miraculously cures the king’s horse, and afterward requests four favors, which were subsequently granted. One of which was that he be allowed to teach his faith to the Queen. She embraced the faith and went on to become one of his greatest supporters. The king, however, required a sign. So Ahura Mazda is said to have sent three angels in all their splendor, showing the king he would have a long life if he took up the religion, and his demise shortly, if he didn’t. Thus he embraced the faith, and his entire court followed suit.
It is believed that Zarathustra was assassinated by a priest at the age of seventy-seven, but the legends vary. Most agree, he led a long life, and was murdered in his later years.
Today we know Zarathustra as an Ascended Master, who teaches the path of the Ascension through the right use of the Sacred Fire.
Legends of The Life and Times of Zarathustra
By Ervad Yazdi Maneck Pir
Life of Lord Zarathustra
This is the life-story of the holy Prophet Zarthustra, the first divine soul of the Mazdayasni Religion, who showed us the correct path of life.
The meaning of the word Zarathustra is Zar = driver or mover arth = of usthra = camel.
The Greeks had very high regards for the writing of Zarathustra they named him father of all philosophers and called him Zoroaster which means shining star.
The times when he lived is being put from around 7000 BC to even A.D. An attempt is being made to put the date from geographical as well as linguistic evidence. Before coming to Iran people belonged to Indo Iranian stock and spoke the language known as Indo-Iraninan. Later that stock split one going towards Iran and the other going towards India. The language also split one becoming Avestan and the other Sanskrit. As our prayers are in Avestan language i.e. older Avestan so that was what the spoken language of those times. The oldest veda is Rigveda the date on which is put at around 1800 BC. The Avestan language being also of the same time is put at 1500 BC and the Prophet is also believed to have been around at that time. Gathas also talk about metals, chariots, weapons etc. so Zarathustra was not a stone age man which he would be if the date is pushed back. In 6000 BC the Indo Iranian stock had not yet split.
Different people claim the place of birth of the Prophet in their own home town. But considering the language of the times, it cannot be western Iran. It would be around North East Iran. The place of birth is put around modern day Kazakhastan. It was an integral part of Iran in olden times.
The information on the Prophet is available through the following sources:
- Younger Avestan and Pahelvi texts.
- Chirdar and Spend Nasks
- Zadsparam Chapter 21
Before the birth of Zarathustra, the magicians and wicked people knew that a person who would teach the people the true worship of Ahura Mazda was to be born to Dughdova. They wanted to kill her so that the people would not turn to Zarathustra for help from their wickedness. They told Frahimurva the father of Dughdova to let them kill her. Fearing for his daughter he sent her to live at the house of friend Paitarasp. Paitarasp had a son whose name was Pourushaspa. Dughdova married Pourushaspa and they were the parents of Zarathustra.
They had a dream that they would have a child which would change the world. Pourushaspa took the twigs of homa tree, milked the cow mixed the milk with homa twigs in front of hearth fire, drank the milk, for the Khorena, Fravashi and Tanu, to come together. Dry wood, Frankenstein and fat were offered to fire.
Before Zarathustra was born, a very bright light shone all around the house. His birth was a very special event. Most babies cry at birth but baby Zarathustra laughed at birth. This was an indication of the birth of a divine person.
Zarathustra was born in a priestly Spitaman family. The Spitamans had 5 sons in all. Rathushtar, Rangushtar, ZARATHUSTRA, Nodariga and Nivedis.
Soon after his birth an evil man named Durasarun planned to kill Zarathustra. He had heard that Zarathustra was sent by Ahura Mazda to get rid of evil.
The evil men put baby Zarathustra into burning fire, but the angel Asha-Vahishta which look after the fire i.e. Adibest Amesaspand caused the fire to get cold.
Next they placed him in a lane frequented by cattle, with the intention that he would be trampled to death. But Bahman Amesaspand the angel that protect the cattle, came to the rescue by inspiring a cow to stand over him and protect him from the stampede. A similar attempt made by placing him in a passage of horses also failed.
Durasarun continued his efforts to kill Zarathustra. He took him to a wolf cave to be eaten by wolves. Angels Meher Yazad and Sarosh Yazad came to the baby’s rescue in the form of goats who suckled the baby, until he was rescued by his parents.
In the end Durasarun tried to carry out the murder himself. He entered Zarathustra’s house when all were asleep and was going to strike him with his deadly dagger, when angel Behram Yazad permanently paralysed and twisted his hands so that he could never ever use them again.
Zarathustra grew up to be a good and happy boy. He was kind and always tried to make other happy. Once he saw a starving dog. He lifted it, fed some bread and water and nursed it to good health.
When there was famine in Iran, Zarathustra and his family shared food with hungry people making them happy.
Zarathustra spent many years studying the faith of Ahura Mazda. When he became 20 years old he felt the need to get closer to God. He left home and spent ten years in prayer and meditation on the mountains. Satan offered Zarathustra the entire world if he would forsake his worship of Ahura Mazda the Lord of Wisdom. When he refused, Satan threatened to destroy him.
One day when Zarathustra was 30 years old, something very special happened to him as he was wading through the river Daitya. He had vision of God, in the form of glowing light. The glowing entity was Bahman Ameshsaspand. Bahman Ameshaspand led him to the Court of Ahura Mazda where he beheld the Lord Supreme and the luminous Amesha Spentas. They revealed to Zarathustra what each of them protected i.e.
- Spenta Mainyu or Dadar Ohrmazd which means the good spirit which looks after the man.
- Vohu Manah the Good Mind or Bahman Amesaspand which looks after the cattle, and helps man to think and understand correctly.
- Asha Vahishta or Adibehest Amesaspand which look after fire and stands for The Best Truth and Order and helps man to be truthful and to live in order.
- Kshathra Vairya or Shahrevar Amesaspand which looks after the sky meaning desirable power and helps man to be powerful and strong so that he can do more good.
- Spenta Armaiti or Spendarmad Amesaspand which looks after the earth meaning Devotion and helps man to be dutiful and hardworking.
- Hauravatat or Khordad Amesaspand which looks after the water meaning perfection and helps man to be very good in his work.
- Ameretat or Amardad Amesaspand which looks after plants. It stands for immortality and helps to preserve God’s good creations.
Zarathustra saw Ahura Mazda as a “Manthran” or One who created and spelt out the Holy Word. He realized that it was with the vibrationary power of the ‘Pak Avesta Kalaams” that creations which were formerly inanimate were brought to life. Thus, the Prophet made the Holy Word his own weapon to fight evil with, and through the power of this Holy Word, light would spread throughout this world. He requested Ahura Mazda to bestow him with the knowledge of the twenty-one Nasks. The seeker was now the Enlightened One. Ahura Mazda also gave Zarathustra a Haoma tree (representing wisdom and peace born of the good Mazdayasni religion). Most importantly Ahura Mazda gave Zarathustra the spiritual fire, Adar Burzin Meher, or the “Exalted Fire” which burned without fuel and emitted no smoke whatsoever. This was like the spiritual scepter of the spiritual monarch.
Zarathustra was then commanded by the Ahura Mazda to instill into the minds of the people the Divine Thought, that in the world of men where life is brief, those that act unrighteously find in the spiritual realm not happiness but grief, discontentness, and pain of mind, for such is the abode of their soul.
Zarathustra revealed all the messages he received from Ahura Mazda, in a series of 5 Hymns called the Gathas. The names of the 5 Gathas are Ahunavaiti, Ushtavaiti, Spentomad, Vohukhshathra and Vahishtoisti.
The essence of the religion is Humata, Hukhta and Huvarashtra, Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds given to us by Zarathustra which every child knows. and other important prayers which relieve us from the influences of evil people and planets and help us to achieve peace and prosperity.
Zarathustra left the mountains and went forth to preach the Mazdayasni religion. Maidyomah, his cousin was his first disciple.
Zarathustra went to the court of King Vistasp of Bactria. The King was interested in his teachings, but the courtiers were evil and framed Zarathustra. He was imprisoned. While in prison, he heard that the king’s favourite horse Aspa-Siha was paralysed and very ill. In despair, the king turned to Zarathustra for help.
Zarathustra agreed to help, but only on the following four conditions. That
- The king should follow his teachings.
- The queen would follow the religion.
- The prince would protect the faith, and
- The king should punish those who framed him.
As each condition was fulfilled, each leg of the horse was freed from paralysis.
Mazdayasni Zarathustri religion spread across the world from China to Europe.
Zarathustra had three wives but they may have been one after another. Their names were Orwiz, Arniz and Havovi.
The children of Aurvij were Isatavastra, Thrity, Freny and Pouruchisti Arniz had Urvatanara, Hvarechithra. Havovi was childless and will bear three posthumous sons: Hoshedar, Hukshatnama, Asvatereta
Zarathustra lived a long and good life. One day at age of 77 years and 40 days, when he was praying, an evil man named Bradres, crept up behind him and stabbed him in the back. Zarathustra threw his prayer beads at him and forgave him, but the assassin dropped dead as soon as Zarathustra died. Sarosh Yazad took Zarathustra to heaven.
a) “Zoroaster – The Prophet of Ancient Iran” by A V. Williams Jackson
b) “In Search of My God”