An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Zoroastrians – an incredible community

There are many religions in the world but there is one that does not have very many adherents – or rather whose adherents are declining in numbers as the time goes on – is of Zoroastrianism. It is a very interesting blend of people – who are very rich and are successful in business and very peaceful too. Mostly very highly educated and successful, this group of people despite having been persecuted by many countries and religions have rarely ever retaliated! Most of these folks came to live in India after being persecuted by Arab Muslims.

In 7th century, Arabs had overthrown the Sassanids and ruled Persia. There they persecuted the Muslims most by imposing the Jizya (a tax on non-Muslims). The people from that region came over to the Western coast of India to settle down and known as Parsis.

Below are some basic belief in Zoroastrianism. They sound very similar to what would have been originally and initially prevalent in Vedic times too. Is there a relation? Specially the concept of “Uncreated Creator” who is gender-neutral!

  • There exists a transcendental and universal God, Ahura Mazda, who is the one uncreated Creator and to whom all worship is directed. With the name being a playful combination of a masculine and a feminine word, it should be stressed that this divinity – contrary to the divinities of Islam, Judaism and Christianity – is not gender specific.
  • Creation is attacked by violence and destruction. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict. Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail, at which point time will end.
  • Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds are necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay.
  • There is a concept of free will, to decide whether to perform good thoughts, words and deeds.
  • Not of Zarathushtra’s original teachings, but nonetheless accepted by some as doctrine, are:
    • Evil is represented by Angra Mainyu (literally ‘destructive spirit’), and good is represented by Spenta Mainyu, the ‘good spirit’. In articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula, Ahura Mazda made his ultimate triumph evident to Angra Mainyu, who then fell back confounded.
    • After death, the soul is allowed three days to meditate on his/her past life. If the good thoughts, words and deeds outweigh the bad, then the soul is taken into the light of Ahura Mazda. Otherwise, the soul falls into darkness.
    • The universe will go through three eras:
    1. creation;
    2. the present world where creation is under attack.
    3. a final state when Spenta Mainyu will dominate and Ahura Mazda prevail, all the universe will revert to its pure state and the souls trapped in darkness will be released.
  • Precepts include:
  1. equality of all people
  2. respect, kindness to all living things
  3. the values of hard work, charity
  4. loyalty, faithfulness to family, country

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