Zoroastrianism dates back to the 6th century B.C.E. It was the main religion of pre-Islamic Iran, which was then called Persia. At one time it was a dominant religion and influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the 21st century it has small pockets of faithful in Iran and in the U.S., but the majority of followers live in India, where they are known as "Parsees."
Zoroaster, the founder of the Zoroastrianism religion, is also known as Zarathustra. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that little is known about him, but that Zoroaster's life definitely predates Alexander the Great's arrival in Persia, and that he was born in what is now Tehran. He was a religious man who received a vision from Ahura Mazda, the "Wise Lord" of the existing Persian religion, who asked Zoroaster to preach the truth. He went on to claim Ahura Mazda as the god of his new religion, and the only being worthy of worship. Indian teacher and founder of the Divine Life Society Swami Sivananda states that Zoroaster was a prophet who revealed a religion, and that it should not be confused with a system of philosophy. (ref. 3)
With Ahura Mazda at its center, Zoroastrianism is essentially monotheistic. The deity is regarded as the creator of the world and lord of light and darkness. He is the lawgiver, the source of all morality and the judge of the world. He is also found in every aspect of the natural world, according to ancient hymns of the religion. He Six or seven "amesha spenta," which means "beneficent immortal", serve as his assistants. The names of these beings are said to embody Zoroaster's concepts about the nature of God. According to the scriptures, Ahura Mazda is the father of the "spentas" that translate as: holy spirit, justice and truth, righteous thinking and devotion. Another three beings embody personal qualities of Ahura Mazda: immortality, wholeness and desirable dominion. Zoroastrians try to acquire all these qualities. (ref. 4)
The Law of Asha
Zoroastrians believe that the soul never dies. However, the way in which a soul lives in the afterlife is determined by the law of Asha and the principle of consequences. Good actions during life are rewarded with happiness and evil acts with misery. These rewards or punishments after physical death are decided by Asha which is God's will. During life, the individual has free choice but his thoughts, words and deeds set the principle of consequences into motion as determined by the law of Asha. There is no such thing as predestiny in Zoroastrianism, but a person's actions have predestined outcomes. (ref. 2)
Fire is very much associated with Zoroastrianism, although as Swami Sivananda says, this does not mean it is a fire-worshipping religion as some mistakenly think. In the Avesta, a Zoroastrian scripture, fire is the son of Ahura Mazda and it is also the God himself. It is the ultimate symbol of divinity and is Zoroastrians' most sacred symbol. Swami Sivananda says that the prophet Zoroaster taught that fire is the most important element because it brings the message that God is the "Light of Lights" and that if you look at every major world religion, fire plays an important role somewhere in it. (ref. 3)
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