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Transcript of Zoroastrianism
One of the worlds oldest monotheistic religions and for 1,000 years it was the most powerful religion.
Now it is the smallest religion, in 2006 the New York Times reported that there were probably less than 190,000 followers worldwide at that time. It was founded approximately 1200-1500 BCE, though uncertain when exactly.
It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster(or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3,500 years ago.
Zoroaster rejected the religion of the Bronze Age Iranians with their many gods and oppressive class structure, in which the princes and priests controlled the ordinary people.
He opposed animal sacrifices and the use of the hallucinogenic Haoma plant in rituals. Zoroaster's ideas did not take off quickly and at first only had one convert, his cousin.
The local religious authorities opposed his ideas, they felt their faiths, power, and particularly their rituals, threatened.
Many people did not like Zoroaster's downgrading of the Daevas to evil spirits.
So he left home to find a place more open to his ideas, and in Bactria the King Vishtaspa ,decided to accept his ideas and made them the official religion of his kingdom. This was a departure from previous Indo - Persian polytheism, and Zarathustra has been termed the first non - biblical monotheist. Olga Vargas and Rachel Lay The Zoroastrian sacred text is the Avesta ("Book of Law"), a fragmentary collection of sacred writings.
The Avesta can be roughly split in 2 main sections:
-The Avesta is the oldest and core part of the scriptures, which contains the Gathas. The Gathas are seventeen hymns thought to be written by Zoroaster.
-The younger Avesta has commentaries to the older Avestan written in later years. It contains myths, stories and details of ritual observance. Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds; this is the creed that Zoroastrians try to live by.
At the age of seven, they are given a sudreh(shirt) and kusti(cord) as part of an initiation ceremony.
These garments are considered sacred, they tie the kusti around the sudreh three times to remind themselves of their creed.
From then on, Zoroastrians preform this ritual with prayers serveral times a day. Unlike some religions where man is God's child or servant, in Zoroastrianism man is considered more as God's helper.
Through man's positive choices, evil will be eradicated and God's Paradise on Earth will be established.
Men and women, rich and poor, and young and old are all seen as equal.
One only surpasses the other through their righteousness. Dualism in Zoroastrianism is the existence of complete separation of good and evil. This is recogonized in two interconnecting way:
-Cosmically (opposing forces within the universe)
Refers to the ongoing battle between Good (Ahura Mazda) and Evil (Angra Mainyu) within the universe.
Angra Mainyu is not God's equal opposite, but rather the destructive energy that opposes God's creative energy.
With cosmic dualism we have life and death, day and night, good and evil. One cannot be understood without the other, life is a mixture of these two opposing forces. -Morally (opposing forces within the mind)
Refers to the opposition of good and evil in the mind of mankind. God's gift to man was free will; so man has the choice to follow the path of Evil or the path of Righteousness.
The path of Evil leads to misery and ultimately Hell, and the path of Righteousness leads to peace and everlasting happiness in Heaven.
The choice is crucial, and when all mankind chooses Righteousness, then Evil will be defeated and Paradise on Earth will be realized.
Whether a person goes to Heaven or Hell, depends on the deeds of their lifetime. Ahura Mazda is compassionate, just and is the creator of the universe.
-Omniscient (knows everything)
-Omnipotent (all powerful)
-Omnipresent (is everywhere)
-The Creator of Life
-The Source of all goodness and happiness Zoroastrians believe everything God created is pure and should be treated with love, and respect.
This includes the natural environment, so they don't pollute the rivers, land or atmosphere.
They are called "the first ecological religion".
Zoroaster himself is not worshiped, but through his teachings man can become close to God by following the path of truth and righteousness. Zoroastrians are not fire-worshipers, as some Westerners wrongly believe.
They believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God's light or wisdom.
They can choose whether they wish to pray and how.
Prayers are primarily invocational, calling upon and celebrating Ahura and his good essence that runs through all things.
Prayers are said facing the sun, fire or other source of light representing Ahura's divine light and energy. Purification is strongly emphasized in Zoroastrian rituals.
They focus on keeping their minds, bodies and environments pure in the quest to defeat evil.
Fire is seen as the supreme symbol of purity, and sacred fires are maintained in Fire Temples.
These fires represent the light of God as well as the illuminated mind, and are never extinguished.
No ritual or ceremony is performed without the presence of a sacred fire. "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds"; Zoroastrians try to live their daily lives by this creed.
The Navjote is the initiation ceremony where a child, between seven and twelve, recieves his or her sudreh (shirt) and kusti (cord) and performs the 'Kusti Ritual' for the first time.
These garments are considered sacred and they tie the kusti around the sudreh three times to remind themselves of their creed. Zoroastrians are famous for their tradition of exposure or 'laying out of the dead'.
In Mumbai the Zoroastrian 'Towers of Silence' is one of the few places in the world where this tradition can still be upheld.
Once a person is dead, their body is claimed to be impure, as death is considered the work of Angra.
Instead of burying the dead, they lay them out on the Tower of Silence to be exposed to the sun and eaten by vultures.
But in some western countries this is illegal and they just cremate them. There are two stages to a Zorastrian wedding; in the first stage the bride and the groom, as well as their guardians sign a marriage contract.
The second stage is the service followed by feasts and the celebration, which traditionally lasts for three to seven days.
During the service married female relatives hold a fine scarf over the couple's heads, and two crystallized sugar cones are rubbed together to sweeten their lives.
Then two parts of the scarf are sewn together to symbolize the uniting of the couple for the rest of their lives.
Traditionally, both bride and groom dress in white, as white is a symbol of purity. Iran When he was 30 he had a vision of God and his "Holy immortals" during a ritual purification rite.
This vision transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others.
Zoroaster believed in one creator God, teaching that only one God was worthy of worship.
Since some of the deities of the old religion (Daevas) appeared to delight in war and strife, Zoroaster said that they were evil spirits and workers of Angra Mainyu, God's adversary. The Zoroastrian calendar is full of holy days, feasts and festivals, giving the reputation of being a joyful religion.
Noruz, the Iranian New Year is the seventh obligatory feast and is dedicated to fire, and occurs on the spring equinox.
The Zoroastrian calendar is split into twelve months, each day is named after Ahura Mazda, Amesha Spenta (Holy Immortals) or a Yazata (gods or goddesses).
There are three different calendars: Falsi, Shahanshahi, and Qadimi, so depending on which calendar they use the festivals will be on different days. Zoroastrians have seven obligatory feasts, six of which are the gahanbars:
-Maidyozarem ('mid-spring' feast)
-Maidyoshahem ('mid-summer' feast)
-Paitishahem (feast of 'bringing in the harvest')
-Ayathrem ('bringing home the herds')
-Maidyarem ('mid-year'/winter feast)
-Hamaspathmaidyem (feast of 'All Souls')