By Noshir H. Dadrawala
Just as Roj Khurdad of Mah Fravardin is traditionally celebrated as Khurdad saal – the day when Asho Zarathushtra was born; Roj Khurshed of Mah Dae is observed as Zarathosht no Deeso – the day on which our dear Prophet Zarathushtra passed away from this material world to the spiritual world.
Zarathushtra’s era is shrouded in mystery. While Greek sources place his birth as far back as 6,000 to 7,000 B.C., modern scholars place his birth around 1,500 to 1,800 B.C. Some claim he was born in Balkh (Bactria) while others claim he was born somewhere near the Russian Steppes.
Traditionally we believe that Zarathushtra was born during the Kayan dynasty when the saintly king Lohrasp ruled over Iran. The Kayan dynasty however is a period that scholars call pre-historic. No archeological material of that period appears to have been excavated as yet.
However, despite the antiquity and the shroud of historical uncertainties covering Zarathushtra’s era, what emerges is the strength and eternal relevance of Zarathushtra’s religion – one which leading scholars claim has influenced three other religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In Zarathushtrian tradition, Zarathushtra is recognized as Yazata – a Divine Being. Little wonder there is a Khshnuman (dedicatory formula) in his honour.
Zarathushtra belonged to the family of Spitama (Spitama = very Holy). His Father’s name was Pourushasp while his mother’s name was Dogdo. His lineage goes back to Shah Faridoon – a saintly king of Peshdadian Iran.
Scholars have interpreted the name Zarathushtra in many ways. According to one popular interpretation, Zaratha = golden and Ushtra = Light (from Ush – to shine). Therefore, Zarathushtra means, ‘Golden Light’ or ‘Golden Star’.
The life and miracles associated with Zarathushtra’s birth and passing away are narrated in a Pahlavi work known as Zarthosht Nama.
According to legend, when Zarathushtra was seventy seven years old and praying at a fire-temple, he was stabbed by an evil Turanian (Turan was a sworn enemy of Iran) by the name Turbaratur. However, at the same time, Zarathushtra threw his prayer beads at Turbaratur and destroyed him.
Zoroastrian mystics have interpreted this legend as a parable with deeper esoteric meaning. They believe that Turbaratur was a cloud of accumulated negative energy – a manifestation of the evil thoughts, words and deeds collectively generated over the ages. Only a Prophet of Zarathustra’s spiritual powers could have attempted to and taken the impact of destroying this cloud of negative energy. In a sense, like Jesus Christ, Zarathushtra is believed to have sacrificed his life to save humanity from being destroyed by this negative force of evil called Turbaratur.
One may or may not believe in this story. It may appear fascinating to children and the devout and strengthen their faith and understanding. Skeptics on the other hand may dismiss this as a myth. However, whether a skeptic or a believer, no one can question or doubt the positive force and eternal relevance of Zarathushtra’s message.
Zarathushtra’s teachings are essentially embodied in the Five Gatha which form seventeen of the seventy two chapters of the Yasna.
The five Gatha are as follows:
1) Ahunavad (Possessing the Divine and Creative power of the Ahunavar)
2) Ustavad (Possessing Divine Happiness)
3) Spentomad (Possessing Piety / Devotion)
4) Vohu Kshtra (Possessing Good Power)
5) Vahishtoist (Possessing Best Spiritual Riches).
So holy are the Gatha that Yasna 55.2 asserts: “The Gatha are the Lords of our soul, protectors and providers of spiritual food and clothing”.
Zarathushtra essentially saw life as a struggle between the forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Man’s duty is that of a spiritual warrior always being on the side of good and 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 Zarathushtrian 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. “Parsi thy name is charity” is not just a common saying. It is a religious ethos.
· At an ethical level, every good Zarathushti must guard himself/ herself against vices like wrath, greed, envy, etc. Cultivating virtues and consciously shunning vices is an act of spiritual merit.
· Finally, every good Zarathushti battles the forces of evil at a metaphysical level through the power of Avestan manthra and other tarikat (spiritual disciplines).
If one were to sum up Zarathushtra’s teachings in just one word it would be Asha.
Asha at its most simplistic level stands for Truth (as opposed to falsehood). It also stands for Righteous Conduct. At a more universal level it stands for ‘Divine Order’ (and man’s duty to live in ‘harmony’ with that Divine Order). It also stands for ‘Purity’ (in thought, word and deed).
The colophon to the Yasna asserts “Aevo pantao yo Ashahe, Vispe anyaesham apantam.” (There is but one Path, that of Asha. All other paths are false).
In the Hoshbam we pray:
“Through the Best Asha, through the highest Asha, may we catch sight of thee (Ahura Mazda). May we approach thee, may we be in perfect union with thee”.
And, finally, Zarathushtra’s message is of happiness. We pray in the Ushtavaiti Gatha, “Ushta ahmai yahmai ushta Kahmai chit” – Happiness (be) to him through whom happiness (is caused) to another).
Believe in your Dreams and they May come true;
Believe in Yourself and they Will come true.