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Zoroastrianism (Mazdaism ) II. Persian Religion Before Zoroaster A. Most of what we know is from the hostile Gathas, hard-to- interpret references in.

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Presentation on theme: "Zoroastrianism (Mazdaism ) II. Persian Religion Before Zoroaster A. Most of what we know is from the hostile Gathas, hard-to- interpret references in."— Presentation transcript:


2 Zoroastrianism (Mazdaism )

3 II. Persian Religion Before Zoroaster A. Most of what we know is from the hostile Gathas, hard-to- interpret references in inscriptions of Achaemenians kings and post- Gathic Avestan texts B. Popular religion was perhaps similar to that as reflected in the Vedas

4 C. Common people worshipped powers known as daevas 1. Usually identified with the devas or “shining ones” in Rig Veda 2. Associated with the powers of nature

5 D. Priests also recognized the ahuras (lords) 1. Considered to be the highest among the gods 2. Located in the heavens and concerned with cosmic order 3. Thus, a hierarchical order among the gods

6 E. Popular Gods 1. Indara or Intar (Vedic Indra)-- means he who struck down Verethra, an obstruction that held back the rain waters (Vedic Vritraa

7 2. Intar was overshadowed by Mithra (Vedic Mitra)--a popular god who seems to have been known by Aryans everywhere a. In a Hittite document of 1400-1300 B.C.E. found in Asia Minor, Mithra is mentioned under name of Midr b. He was chief god of the Mitannia, an Aryan group in northern Mesopotamia c. Mithra was known as the god of light d. In a later Avesta, he is portrayed as the god to whom the princes pray when they go forth to battle e. Mithra could mean treaty or pact

8 3. A Hittite document refers to a god called Uruwana (Greek Ouranos; Vedic Varuna) a. He is the god of the domed sky b. He is the lord (ahura) of the moral order with a high ethical character

9 4. Vayu, the wind, a companion of Intar a. Appears under the aspect of good and bad winds b. He blows from the beginning of time 5. Yima (Vedic Yama), the ruler of the dead, the first man to die

10 F. Underlying world order was a cosmic principle called asha or arta 1. Attributes are truth, right, justice, divine order 2. Similar to Vedic Rita

11 G. Fire Worship 1. The divine powers were worshiped under the open sky, with aid of priests, fire worship, and potion of haoma (Vedic soma) 2. Fire ceremonies similar to Vedic India 3. Atar was the god invoked and worshipped during these rites

12 4. The ceremony a. The sacrificial fire is lit and reverenced b. The grass around the altar was consecrated, sprinked with haoma- juice and would be made the table upon which were laid portions of the sacrifice c. Sacrifice might be animal or cereal d. In the case of an animal, the victim would be touched the barsom, a bundle of boughs worshipped as supernatural and held before the face during the adoration of the sacred fire

13 The Prophet Zoroaster The Prophet Zoroaster

14 A. His early life 1. Date and birthplace highly controversial a. Many scholars will place his birth around 660 B.C.E.

15 b. Greek scholars such as Aristotle place him at 6000 B.C.E.

16 c. Believing that certain features of Gathic language are older than Sanskrit and the Rig Veda being written in 1800 B.C.E. cause some to believe that he lived prior to this time

17 d. Birthplace according to the Avesta is on the banks of the river Vaejah

18 e. Some believe that he was born in the city of Ragha, near modern Tehran

19 2. Tradition has him assuming the kusti or sacred thread at the age of 15

20 3. At 20 he left his parents and wife to wander and seek truth

21 B. The Revelation 1. At the age of 30 he received his revelation

22 2. Legend has magnified the initial revelation to a series of miraculous visions

23 a. First and most dramatic vision occurs on the banks of the Daitya River near his home

24 b. A figure “nine times as large as a man” appeared to him

25 c. The figure was the archangel Vohu Manah (Good Thought) who questioned Zoroaster and commanded him to lay aside the vesture of his mortal body and appear before Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) as a disembodied soul

26 d. Ahura Mazda instructed him and called him to become a prophet of the true religion

27 e. During the next 8 years he would meet the six principal archangels and each meeting would make the revelation more complete

28 3. In the Gathas, Zoroaster’s own words tell the revelation: As the holy one I recognzed thee, Mazda Ahura, when Good Thought (Vohu Manah) came to me and asked me“ Who art thou? to whom dost thou belong? By what sign wilt thou appoint the days for questioning about thy possessions and thyself?” Then said I to him: “To the first (question), Zarathustra am I, a true foe to the Liar, to the utmost of my power, but a powerful support would I be to the Righteous, that I may attain the future things of the infinite Dominion, according as I praise and sing thee, Mazda,”

29 4. After the revelation he began to preach immediately, but was not very successful

30 a. Being discouraged he was tempted by the Evil Spirit Angra Mainyu, who encouraged him to renounce the worship of Mazda

31 b. Zoroaster refused him with the words, No! I shall not renounce the good religion of the worshipers of Mazda, not though life, limb, and soul should part asunder

32 5. After the revelation he began to preach immediately, but was not very successful a. Being discouraged he was tempted by the Evil Spirit Angra Mainyu, who encouraged him to renounce the worship of Mazda b. Zoroaster refused him with the words, No! I shall not renounce the good religion of the worshipers of Mazda, not though life, limb, and soul should part asunder

33 6. The next 20 years were spent in propagating the faith 7. Two holy wars would be fought defending the faith a. The first would see the rise of Isfender who would rout the invading northern nomads b. The second would led to the prophet’s death at the age of 77

34 C. According to the Younger Avesta, two persons served in semi-prophetic positions before Zoroaster 1. Gaya Maretan--the primeval man-- the first mortal who hears the divine tenets a. He is the first ruler of Iran b. He is the prototype of humanity

35 2. Yimi (Vedic Yama)--also a king of Iran and prototype of a good ruler a. His reign was associated with justice and peace b. God warned him of three consecutive cold winters that would destroy all living things on earth c. He constructed a cave into which he took the seeds of various plants, every kind of cattle, and the best of human beings d. He ascended to the spiritual world and returned to earth

36 The Teachings

37 A. The religion was one of ethical monotheism 1. The moral law required human righteousness and proceeded from the one good God, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) 2. His clan seemed to have given this god special devotion 3. Although no longer referred to as Varuna, many scholars see Ahura Mazda as taking Varauna’s place

38 B. Final Revlation of One Supreme Deity 1. The Gathas sets forth that he had been called by Ahura Mazda himself and that the religion revealed to him was the final and true religion a. Ahura stems from the root Ah, meaning “to be, to exist” b. Mazda stems from Mana, meaning wisdom and intelligence c. Thus, Ahura Mazda is the Essence of Being and Wisdom

39 2. Unlike, later followers who would create dualistic deities, his deity was the one supreme ruler, creating both dark and light 3. The Gathas state: Who is by generation the Father of Right (Asha) at the first? Who determined the path of sun and stars? Who is it by whom the moon waxes and wanes again?... Who upheld the earth beneath and the firmanent from falling? Who made the water and the plants? Who yoked swiftness to winds and clouds?... What artist made light and darkness, sleep and waking? Who made morning, noon, and night, that call the understanding man to his duty?... I strive to recognize by these things thee, O Mazda, creator of all things through the holy spirit

40 C. Spenta Mainyu--Good Actions 1. Ahura Mazda used a Holy Spirit (Spenta Mainyu) and various modes of divine actions called the “Immortal Holy Ones or Amesha Spentas to accomplish his deeds 2. These modes of ethical activity bear names such as: a. Vohu Manah--Good Thought or Sense b. Asha--Right c. Kshathra--Power or Dominion d. Haurvatat--Prosperity e. Armaiti--Piety

41 3. These modes appear to be abstract qualities or states, but some scholars believe he personified them

42 D. Angra Mainyu--Evil Actions 1. Ahura Mazda is supreme but not unopposed a. Against Asha (Right) is Druji (The Lie) b. Against Truth is Falsehood c, Against Life is Death

43 2. Zaehner believes that the Gathas teach that Ahura Mazda had twin “sons” and gave them free choice a. One became Spenta Mainyu--Good or Holy Spirit b. One became Angra Mainyu--Evil Spirit

44 c. The Gathas read: Now the two primal Spirits, who revealed themselves in vision as Twins, are the Better and the Bad in thought and word and action. And between these two the wise once chose aright, the foolish not so. And when these twain Spirits came together in the beginning, they established Life and Not-Life; and that at the last the Worst Existence (Hell) shall be to the followers of the Lie,but the Best Thought (Paradise) to him that follows Right. Of these twain Spirits he that followed the Lie chose doing the worst things; the holiest Spirit chose Right

45 E. The Struggle of the Soul 1. Each human soul is the seat of a struggle between good and evil 2. Mazda gave each human freedom to chooses between good and evil 3. It is necessary for each human to decide between Mazda and Mainyu

46 F. Good and Evil 1. The Gathas, devotional hymns, do not give a definitive definition of good or evil 2. They do, however, give an indication of the practical differences 3. The good are those who accept the true religion 4. The evil are those who reject the true religion, especially those who practiced the “old religion”

47 5. The good are those who till the soil, raise grain, grow fruits, root out weeds, reclaim wasteland, irrigate the barren ground, and treat animals kindly, especially cows 6. The evil have no agriculture He that is no husbandman, O Mazda, however eager he be, has no part in the good message The Liar stays the supporters of Right from prospering the cattle in district and province, infamous that he is. 7. The meandering nomads represented evil at its worst

48 G. Purification of ceremonies 1. The old Aryan ritual is purged of magic and idolatry 2. Orgies attendant upon animal sacrifices are eliminated 3. The ritual intoxication with Haoma- juice is condemned 4. The drinking of the urine from haoma- drinking priests was forbidden 5. The fire ritual was retained; fire was a symbol of Mazda

49 H. Final Victory of Ahura Mazda 1. A general resurrection will take place at the end of the present order 2. Good and evil persons will be subjected to an ordeal of fire and molten metal 3. Later teachings indicate that the righteous will go through the fire with no pain; the evil will suffer but will exit the fire pure

50 J. Final Judgment of the Soul 1. Individual judgment follows shortly after death and the state of the soul remains until the general resurrection 2. Each soul must face judgment at the Bridge of Separator (Chinvat) Bridge which spans the abyss of hell and paradise a. At the bridge the record of the soul is read b. A balance of merits and demerits is cast c. If good dominates over evil, the “pointing of the hand” of Mazda will be toward Paradise

51 d. If evil dominates over good, the hand will point to the abyss below the bridge: Their own Soul and their own self [daena] shall torment them when they come to the Bridge of the Separator. To all time will they be guests for the Houses of the Lie. e. The daena refers to the moral center of the personality

52 V. Development in the Later Avesta A. Information between 300 B.C.E. to 700 C.E. is scarce 1. It is not known whether Zoroaster’s reform made its way to the main Mesopotamian basin or whether another parallel reform took place

53 2. During the Achaemenid dynasty (559- 330 B.C.E.), under rulers such as Cyrus, Darius I, and Xeres, priests (magi) predominated 3. Mazda would be worshiped along with other deities 4. The Arsacids, Parthians, ruled from 250 B.C.E. to 226 C.E.

54 B. The Sassanid Revival, 226-651 C.E. 1. Zoroaster’s name would come to the forefront once again 2. The Avesta, later Zoroastrian scriptures would be assembled 3. Zoroastrianism became the state religion with great modifications

55 C. Zoroaster elevated through myth 1. A worshipful attitude came to be taken toward Zoroaster a. He became a godlike personage whose existence was attended by supernatural manifestations b. His coming was known and foretold three thousand years before by the mythical primal bull and King Yima, in the Golden Age warned the demons of their coming demise

56 c. The “Glory” of Ahura Mazda united itself with Zoroaster’s future mother at her birth and rendered her fit to bear the prophet d. Concurrently, a divinely protected stem of a haoma plant was infused with the fravashi (genius or ideal self) of the coming prophet e. At the proper time, his parents drank its juices mixed with a potent milk which contained the material essence (body protoplasm) of the child about to be conceived

57 2. After his birth, all nature rejoiced and demons and wizards surrounded him a. The baby would almost be killed in his cradle, burnt in a huge fire, and trampled to death by a herd of cattle b. He was placed in a cave with wolves whose young had been killed-- they allowed a ewe to suckle him

58 4. Greeks and Romans would be impressed by what they heard of him 5. Plato wanted to study Zoroastrianism but was prevented with the outbreak of the War of Sparta with Persia in 396 B.C.E.

59 D. The Sharing of Power with other Divinities 1. Even though Mazda was still considerred to be the supreme deity, old Aryan nature-gods (whom Zoroaster condemned) crept back into the faith 2. The early Gathas did recognize the existence of “Immortal Holy Ones” but they were regarded as “modes of divine action”

60 3. The later Avesta, depicts Yazatas (angels or sub-deities), most of whom were Indo-Aryan in character (about 40 are named) a. Mithra--the greatest of them all (1) His name would be repeated with Mazda in many later inscriptions (2) Although technically subordinate to Mazda, he attained a supreme stature as the god of light for the masses (3) He was seen as the rewarder of those who spoke truth (4) He was relied to help in the journey after death

61 b. Haoma--refined from earlier use, the intoxicant became deified (1) Animal sacrifices were made to him (2) He became again the “Averter of Death”, as associated in the Rig Veda with long life and immortality of the soul

62 c. Verethragna (Vedic Indra)--the strongest and most aggressive d. Vayu (Vedic Vayu), a winged god who had a double nature, a good and evil side

63 4. A group of beings called Fravashis were also recognized a. Originally they seemed to have been ancestral spirits, guarding and expecting worship from the living b. Later, they would stand for “ideal selves”, who were also guardian genii-- both of gods and of humans c. Each person was thought to have a fravashis (eternal element)

64 E. The concept of evil would be intensified 1. Concept of evil approached an almost complete dualism 2. The spirits of evil would be more sharply defined and individualized 3. In later Avesta, Angra Mainyu shared in the creation

65 4. Mainyu created demons to help him a. Aka Maah--Bad Thought b. Andar (Vedic Indra) c. Naohaithya (Vedic Nasatyas)--the heavenly twins now reduced to one being d. Druj--the Lie, appearing in the likeness of a female demon e. There were also myriads of evil spirits and daevas

66 F. The development of Zurvan (space- time) 1. Another answer to the dualism saw Mazda and Mainyu springing as twins from a unitary world-principle called Zurvan (boundless Time or Space) 2. Thus, God and devil would be co- equal 3. But the ultimate victory of good over evil was declared to be certain

67 G. Concepts of the Final Judgment grew in detail 1. The future life was worked out in graphic detail 2. At death, the soul remains for four days on earth and mediates upon its good and evil deeds 3. On the fourth day the soul comes to the Chinvat Bridge to stand before judges--Mithra, Sraosha, and Rashnu

68 4. In a Pahlevi text called the Bundahishn the would walks on the bridge... there is a sharp edge which stands like a sword... and Hell is below the Bridge. Then the soul is carried to where stands the sharp edge. Then, if it be righteous, the sharp edge presents its broad side.... If the soul be wicked, that sharp end continues to stand edgewise, and does not give a passage... With three steps which it (the soul) takes forward-- which are the evil thoughts,evil words, and evil deeds that it has performed--it is cut down from the head of the Bridge, and falls headlong to Hell

69 H. Final Rewards and Punishments 1. A concept of world-ages developed, each age lasting three thousand years 2. Zoroaster appeared at the beginning of these ages

70 3. He would be succeeded by three savior-beings, each appearing at an interval of 1000 years a. Aushetar--born a thousand years after Zoroaster b. Aushetarmah--born two thousand years later c. Soshyans (Saoshyant)--at the end of the world

71 d. Zoroaster would be the father of each (1) His seed was being miraculously preserved in a lake in Persia (2) At intervals of 1000 years, three pure virgins would bathe there and conceive the deliverers

72 e. With the appearance of Soshyans, the “final days” will begin (1) All the dead would be raised (2) Heaven and Hell would be emptied (3) Righteous and Wicked would be separated (4) A flood of molten metal would pour out upon the earth and hell, purifying each reunion (5) All living souls would have to walk through the flaming river; to the righteous it would appear to be like warm milk, to the wicked it would bring terrible agony as their sins are being purged (6) The fate of Mainyu has several versions, but somehow will be destroyed (7) Adults would remain forever at the age of 40 and children at 15

73 I. The Holy Scriptures 1. The size of the original Avesta is unknown 2. Two early Muslim scholars stated that the whole Avesta was written on 12,000 cowhides; two copies were written a. One copy was deposited in Persepolis and burned during the invasion of Alexander b. The second copy would be taken to Athens where it was translated into Greek

74 3. This early Avesta consisted of 21 volumes (nasks); later reorganized into three parts a. Gassanik (Garthic or devotional hymns) b. Hadha Mansarik (combination of spiritual and temporal teachings c. Datik (law)

75 4. Contemporary Avesta is divided into five parts a. Yama (reverence)--72 chapters (haiti) (1) Contains the two Gathas (2) Deals with the creator, revelation, eternal law, freedom of choice, purpose of life, immortality of soul, law of consequences, and renovation of the world

76 b. Vispred (revered)--Composed in praise of the Yazatas c. Yasht (all festivals)--24 chapters-- relates to the six thanksgiving festivities-- the Gahanbars d. Vendidad (law against demons and false deities)--mainly rules of hygiene e. Khordeh Avesta is bilingual and contains the daily prayers, part of which are in Persian--represent the Sassanian and post-Sassanian prayers

77 5. The Zend Avesta is a translation of the Avesta in Pahlavi with commentaries during the Sassanians 6. The Gathas are considered to be the most sacred and authentic part of the Avesta

78 VI. Modern Zoroastrianism A. Effects of Muslim Conquest 1. Islamic armies conquered the Sassanids in 651 (652) 2. For a century, the Arab conquerors attempted no wholesale pressure for conversion 3. However, within a hundred years a great number of them left Persia

79 4. From the eighth century onwards there was considerable migration to India 5. They would be called Parses in India

80 B. The Gabars 1. Zoroastrians in Persia would be called Gabars (infidels) by the Muslims, they called themselves Zardushitians or Bahdinan (those of the good religion) 2. A series of persecution made them secretive 3. They strive to maintain the old sacred rituals and ceremonies

81 C. Fire Temples 1. Both in Persia and India the fire- temples cannot be distinguished from other buildings 2. But the sacred fire is kept inside 3. Various sacred fires have different qualities of holiness 4. The more holy fire has to be compounded of sixteen different fires, all purified after a long and complicated ritual

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