2 Zoroastrianism Learning Objectives (1) Comprehend the concepts/ termsUnderstand and explain the main beliefs/ teachingsUnderstand and explain the practicesUnderstand historical development of Zoroastrianism with the cultural, political, and social contexts and how foreign influences impacted the religionBe able to explain the nature and goals of this relig.Develop an appreciation for the contributions this religion made to history of thought, religion, etc.
3 Zoroastrianism Learning Objectives (2) Know, identify, comprehend, and explain the following:The type/classification of the ZoroastrianismIts concepts and thought patternsThe country where Zoroastrianism aroseIts origin, its founder & his teachings, the storyThe main beliefs of Zoroastrianism and practicesThe main sacred texts and teachings the main divisions/ sects of ZoroastrianismZoroastrianism today and its festivals
8 Ancient Persia (center) and extent of Ancient Persian Empire
9 Pre-Zoroastrian Persian Religion The peoples of this land generally known as the Aryans (noble ones): some migrated to Indus Valley, and some remained in the Persian landThe religion of both groups essentially the same: worshipped the same deities, nature deities
10 Pre-Zoroastrian Persian Religion The Gathas (Zoroastrian Sacred Scriptures) indicate the Ayrans were nature worshippers who venerated many deities, sun, moon, earth, sky, fire, water, etc, some of whom are mentioned in the Vedic textsThe Aryans were generally nomadic & worshipped at altars w/ blood sacrifices
11 Pre-Zoroastrian Persian Pd., continued Mithra, giver of cattle, a god of light, could not be replaced in the minds of the Persians, even Zoroaster who attempted a new monotheistic religion (Mithra later appears in Zoroastrianism as the judge on Judgment Day)
12 Pre-Zoroastrian Persian Pd., continued Above & beyond the local nature gods, one Supreme Lord was recognized, called Ahura Mazda, the “Wise Lord”As the case in many Basic Religions, a Supreme deity was recognized but in actual day-to-day life, worship for the common peoples seemed to revolve around local lesser deities
13 Pre-Zoroastrian Persian Pd., continued Aryans of this pd. Also believed that when religious practices strayed from the truth, prophets or reformers called Saoshyants would restore the purity of the religion. Some saw Zoroaster as one of the last and greatest of these reformers
14 Zoroaster Enters the Scene Zarathustra Spitama, his full name (but Zoroaster via Greek) lived between 1400 to 1000 B.C.E. His name indicates born into a warrior clan connected to the royal familyHistorical Sources to his existence: Persian: Gathas; non-Persian: mentioned by Plato, Pliny, & PlutarchHe received a vision by river bank in which an angel tells him there is only one God, Ahura Mazda, and that He is to become a prophetZoroaster declared all the other gods the people worshipped, false godsAhura Mazda was the distant High God for Aryans for centuries; Zoroaster simply made him the only God; the “lord” means the one who created & governs the universe, and “Mazda,” all wisdom
15 Teachings of Zoroaster (1): God & His Nature Only one God,Ahura Mazda, who created the worldAmesha Spenta– the “Holy Immortals” 6 attributes, Good Mind, Righteousness, Absolute Power, Devotion, Perfection, and Immortality (3 masculine, 3 feminine)Deified after Zoroaster
16 Teachings of Zoroaster (2): Nature of God and Other Immortals In addition to the 6 divine powers of the Holy Immortals, a multitude of Yazata (Adorable Ones), hosts of angels surrounding the throne who serve God & may be angels to help humans; ; 3 that receive regular mention: Sraosha, Ashi Vanguhi, & Mithra. (Angelology)
17 Teachings of Zoroaster (3): Nature of God & Dual Opposing Forces Zoro taught the dual opposing forces, good and evil, but good is victorious, evil is not all-powerfulSpenta Mainyu--the good/ Beneficent SpiritAngra Mainyu--the Evil Spirit;Mazdayasna religion appears to have been corrupted after Zoroaster:the two forces emanating from the same God in a continual equal cosmic battle (a dualism of the nature of God, not of the universe as it later came to be understood)
18 Teachings of Zoroaster (4): Dual Opposing Forces They do not exist independently but relate to each other & meet in unity in Ahura Mazda; compare the yin & yang in DaoismAngra also known by names of Ahriman, Shaitin/ Satan. He is surrounded by a host of demons who do his bidding. All the daevas of pre-Zoroast. Aryan religion came to be identified as demons in the corps of Angra Mainyu (source of demonology)
19 Teachings of Zoroaster (5) The Nature of Humankind:Human beings play a part in the struggle of the forces of good and the forces of evil in the worldMen & women are born in a pure, sinless state, & can chose either good or evilTheir lives & ultimate destiny depend on exercising their free will whether they choose good or evilBecause of emph. on free will, w/ belief in ability to chose path of righteousness & reach perfection, ethical conduct is urged, making this a very strong ethical religion, because it also determines people’s ultimate destiny
20 Teachings of Zoroaster (6) The Destiny of Humankind:Organized scheme of eschatology (concerning end of the world) Zoroastrianism appears to have passed on to the M.E./Western religionsUpon death, the soul stays w/ body for 3 days; On 4th day, soul journeys to place of judgment. Mithra judges the soul according to the deeds during their lifetime. The deeds are balanced on a scale. If scale tips even slightly toward good, person will go to paradise
21 Teachings of Zoroaster (7) The Destiny of Humankind, continued:Souls of dead abide in heaven and hell until point when end comes-final consummation. Mazda will wipe out every trace of evil work of Angra Mainya. Souls from hell will be brought up & purified & join the resurrected souls of the righteous. Then world will enter a new cycle without evil & misery. In the restored world, no one will ever grow old or decay. Angra Mainyu & his demons will be destroyed forever
22 Teachings of Zoroaster (8) The Central Teaching Flowing from the premise of oneGod only, Ahura Mazda, and the dual opposing good and evil forces at work in the world:Good thoughts, good words, and good deedsForms the basis for this ethical religion
23 Teachings of Zoroaster (9) Ethics in relation to the Elements A sacredness of the elements ofearth, fire, water,& airWhatever violates or pollutes these sacred elements is wickedThis in part forms a basis for the Zoroastrian ethics and worship
26 Review of Zoroastrianism Key Terms/Concepts Zoroaster/ Zarathustra Spitama ( B.C.E.) founderAhura Mazda-the one GodGathas-hymns of early pd., a part of the Sacred Scriptures, the AvestaSaoshyants-prophets/reformersSpenta Mainyu- Beneficent Spirit of MazdaAngra Mainyu- Evil Spirit of MazdaAmesha-Spenta, “Holy Immortals” modes of GodYazata- “Adorable Ones” Immortals, Angels
27 Review of Zoroastrian Beliefs (1) Belief in one Supreme God, Ahura Mazda,Who has two emanating spirits, one good and one evil, not independent, the evil one also being called SatanAhura Mazda also has 6 modes called “Holy Immortals,” and also countless “Adorable Ones,” angelic beingsHumankind is born pure & sinless and has free will to chose good and evil
28 Review of Zoroastrian Beliefs (2) Human destiny is determined by the deeds & thoughts of humans, whether they go to heaven/paradise or hell (ethics very important!)All humans will be judged for their deeds & thoughtsA final day of consummation-evil will be destroyed, no more misery, & those who were in hell will be brought up, purified, and join the righteous
29 Zoroastrian Practices (1): Overview Worship consists mainly of prayers offered to Ahura Mazda, emphasis on living the righteous life and in avoiding temptationsThe only sacrifices are burning of incense (sandalwood) on the sacred fireOn special occasions, adherents visit the fire temple, & offer bundles of sandalwoodDaily tying the kusti cord prayerfully, rituallyFaithful Zoroastrians pray that the six immortals may come to their homes & bless themDakhma Tower Burial practiceEthical Conduct through life is very important
30 Zoroastrian Practices (2): Rites of Passage: Puberty Young boys and girls are received into their religion w/ the investiture of a sacred shirt (sadre) and sacred thread (kusti). They must wear these the rest of their life except when bathing.
31 Zoroastrian Practices (2): Rite of Passage: Burials Overarching purpose and concern of their handling the dead bodies is purity and not contaminating the earth’s ground, water, thus a part of their purification ceremoniesThe deceased body is washedAfter 3 or 4 days, they carry the body to Dakhma (tower of silence) for burial, not in the groundThe dakhma is round and open. When the mourners finish, they leave the tower and allow the vultures to fly into the tower to eat all the flesh off the bones of the deceased.
32 Historical Development of Zoroastrianism (Overview) Was a well-established religion of the Persian people by the 6th cent. B.C.E.With Jews living in Babylon during the 6th cent. & coming under the Persian influence, this may have had a profound effect on the beliefs/theology of Judaism then later Christianity then yet more centuries later, IslamZ. suffered decline after Alexander the Great’s conquest and remained quiescent during the era of Roman empireA revival of Z. occurred in the 3nd cent. C.E. under the Sassanid rulers of Persia
33 Historical Development of Zoroastrianism: chronology B.C.E. Birth of Zoroaster600 B.C.E. Zoroastrian. spreads in Iran, and the first Zorast. Scriptures are written550–330 B.C.E.) Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian empire537 B.C.E. Cyrus the Great takes Babylon, at which time Jews are still in Babylonian captivity; Zoroastrian priests may have been brought to Babylon330 B.C.E. Alexander the Great conquers Persia & Z. religion suffered a decline
34 Zoroastrianism: Chronology continued into modern times 220 B.C.E.-650 C.E. Zoroastrian Sasanid Empire in Iran900 C.E. Beginning of migration to India1381 C.E. Thousands of Zoroastrians killed by Mongol invaders in Iran1979 C.E. Iranian Revolution leads to increased persecution & migration to India, Europe, Australia, N.Z, and USA
35 Zoroastrian Holidays (Practices) The Jasans-monthly feast/observanceNew Year’s Day- 1st day of the 1st month, Farvardin; day of good fortune, joyous feast; renewal of creation; springSix Seasonal Feasts called Gahambars: each dedicated to aspect of creation: heaven, water, earth, trees, animals, & humansAll Souls’ Day- Honors the departed ancestors
36 Zoroastrianism Overview: Founder, Sacred Text, Class, Region Founder: Zoroaster/ ZarathustraAvesta, the sacred book of Zoroastrianism, which contains the Yasna which contains the Gathas (Pahlavi texts date from 9th cent. C.E.)MonotheisticAncient Religion of Persia
37 Zoroastrianism Conclusion One of the oldest living religions of the worldThe smallest of the world religionsVery influential on the M.E./Western religions on Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, eschatology
39 Zoroastrianism Discussion Is this religion purely monotheistic? Explain.Zoroastrianism has been called a dualism. Explain and contrast it with the dualism of JainismIn what way may it have incorporated the indigenous polytheism?How does its ethics fit into its belief system, specifically, on the destiny of humankind?How does its ethics affect souls in the afterlife?How do you think its eschatology influenced Judaism, then later Christianity?