Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism are world religions but Zoroastrianism is just a national religion now though it was a world religion in days of yore. It is the religion of the Parsees. The correct name for the religion established by Zoroaster is Mazdayasnism which means the worship of Mazda or the Lord.
Mazdayasnism was first revealed by Homa to King Jamshid. Afterwards it was revealed to King Fiedoon. Then it was revealed to Thirta. Lastly it was revealed to Zoroaster.
After the death of Zoroaster his son in-law Jamaspa became his successor. Jamaspa wrote down the teachings of Zoroaster which are known as Zend Avesta, the scriptures of the Zoroastrians. Frashaoshtra, father-in-law of Zoroaster, was the first apostle of this faith. He expounded the tenets of this religion. Zoroastrianism became the state religion of Persia.
After the time of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism underwent many changes at the hands of the priests who were called Magi. The priests re-introduced ritualism and the worship of the old nature-deities in a new garb by making them archangels of Ahura Mazda.
Persia is now a Mohammedan country. A few Zoroastrians are found there. They were persecuted and driven out of Persia. They took refuge in India. They are called the Parsees. They have become a self-contained community in India.
Zoroaster was not a philosopher or a metaphysician. He was only a Prophet who had the divine revelation.
Zoroastrianism is not a system of philosophy. It is a revealed religion of faith and devotion. During the days of Zoroaster there was an urgent need for ethics and virtuous life. The need for philosophy did not arise. At all times the need to lead a virtuous, divine life is far more imperative for the vast majority than the need to understand the various philosophical problems. If one leads the divine life according to the instructions of sages and scriptures, he will find a solution for all the philosophical problems from within through the voice of the Indweller.
Originally there was a common religion among the Aryans in Central Asia. There is similarity between the Vedic and Zend languages. Even the versification of the Zend Avesta is closely related to that of the Vedas. There is identity of divine names in the Zend Avesta and the Vedas.
The principal truths taught by Zoroaster were based on and derived from the Vedas. Zoroastrianism is based on the Vedic religion. The doctrines and ceremonials of the Zoroastrians have a mostly remarkable similarity to those of the Vedas.
The Yasna and the Visparad are the Vedas of Zoroastrianism. The first part of Yasna consists of Gathas or hymns which came from the mouth of the prophet. The Gathas are five in number. The Gathas are written in metres which correspond to the metres of the Sama Veda. The second part of Yasna contains prayers addressed to the Supreme Lord and other deities who form the spiritual hierarchy.
Visparad is a collection of invocations or litanies which are recited before other prayers and scriptures. The twenty-one Nasks deal with all kinds of Sciences, viz., medicine, astronomy, agriculture, botany, etc. They correspond to the Vedangas of Hinduism. Then there is the Khordah Avesta or little Avesta which contains Yashts (invocations) and prayers for the use of lay persons. The modern Parsees recite these prayers daily.
Zoroastrian scriptures are called Zend Avesta. They contain three parts. The first is Vendidad. This contains religious laws and ancient mythical tales. The second is Visparad. The third is Yasna. The Avesta contains direct conversations between Zoroaster and Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Lord.
Fire, The Symbol Of God
People believe that the religion of Zoroaster was fire-worship. This is a mistake. "Do not say that the Iranians were fire-worshippers. They were worshippers of one God." These are the utterances of the great Firdusi. Fire is a sacred and supreme symbol of God. It is a sacred symbol in the Avesta. Fire is considered as the son of Ahura Mazda. The prophet of Iran did not teach fire-worship. He taught the worship of the one Supreme Lord of the universe, Ahura Mazda. Fire is the symbol of divine in all sacrifices. It is a sacred object. It is the symbol of divine life. It is the sacred symbol most reverenced by the Zoroastrians of today.
In every religion, fire has been the symbol of the Supreme Lord. Brahman is fire in Hinduism. Ahura Mazda is fire. The Jews worship their God as a pillar of fire. The Christians declare that their God is a consuming fire. Fire symbolised the brilliance of the Lord. It is purifying. Fire stands for effulgence, illumination. The worship of Agni or Fire comes in the Vedas also. In the Bible it is said, "God is light." Upanishads declare "Brahman is Jyotirmaya (full of light)." In every religion fire finds a place in rituals. Fire brings the message that God is Light of lights. Zoroaster himself held Fire in great sanctity as a noble gift from God. He summoned Fire from the sky and pointed it to heaven. The Heavens burst into fire. Some of the flames darted downwards and fired the altar at his side. Sacred fire in the altar of a temple is a symbol that reminds the Parsee of the glory of Ahura Mazda. It is called Atar in the Avesta.
Fire is declared to be the most helpful of all the spiritual intelligences or archangels. He is the most friendly. He comes down from Ahura Mazda. He is acquainted with all heavenly secrets.
The Jews received for the first time the ideas of heaven and hell, of angels and archangels of Messiah, of the resurrection and the last day of judgment from Zoroastrianism. These have laid the foundation to the doctrines of Christianity and Islam also.
Ahura Mazda is the Supreme Universal Lord. He is All-pervading. He is the source and the fountain of life. He corresponds to the Hiranyagarbha of the Hindus. He is the Brilliant, Majestic, Greatest, Best, most Beautiful, the strongest, most intellectual, the Highest through Holiness, the Holiest among the heavenly who created the world. He is changeless, mighty, just, merciful, most beneficial.
The prophet of Iran preached that all that is good and beneficial to mankind is the creation of Ahura Mazda and everything that is malignant is the creation of Ahriman or Satan.
The following are the commands which Ahura Mazda, the supreme Lord has sent to the followers of Zoroastrianism through His prophet Zoroaster. To know God as one, to know the Prophet Zoroaster as His true prophet, to have perfect faith in the religion and the Zend Avesta, to have unswerving faith in the goodness of God; not to disobey any of the commands of Zoroastrianism, to shun all evil actions, to do virtuous actions, to pray five times a day, to face some bright object like sun while worshipping God, to have perfect faith in the justice on the fourth morning after death, to exert for attaining heaven and to fear hell, to think always that God has done what He willed and shall do what He wills.
Ethics of Zoroaster
The following are the ethical teachings of Zoroaster: To do good actions; to be pure in thought, word, and deed; to have a clean heart; to wish others' good; to speak the truth; to do charity; to be kind; to be humble; to attain knowledge; to control anger; to be pious; to respect parents, the teachers, and the old and the young; to utter sweet and pleasant words; to be patient; to be friendly towards all; to be contented; to feel shame for doing forbidden actions.
Zoroastrianism teaches that Ahura Mazda created man and gave him his body and mind. Ahura Mazda is the protector and nourisher of all. Man is responsible for his thoughts, speeches, and actions. Individual will and individual intellect are connected with the cosmic will and cosmic-intellect.
Ahura Mazda created this world in six periods. Mashya and Mashyana are the first man and woman created by God. During the deluge an underground palace 'Vara of Yima' was built for the protection of all creatures.
Zoroastrianism is a religion of absolute faith and unswerving devotion to Ahura Mazda. A devotee bows, prays, and sacrifices. He makes offerings unto the Lord. He prays and Ahura Mazda grants all his wishes. He prays to remove his sins by repentance.
Zoroastrianism teaches that the goal of life is to attain perfect eternal happiness through companionship with Ahura Mazda. The means for attaining the everlasting bliss is Asha or holiness. Holiness or purity is the soul of Zoroastrianism.
Pure thoughts, pure words, pure deeds-this is the famous axiom of Zoroastrian religion. This is the constantly reiterated rule of the Zoroastrian life. Pure thoughts, pure words, pure actions can be practised only through faith in the Ahura Mazda, the Lord of righteousness. The word Asha includes all the principles of morality. The word Asha comes in almost every chapter of the Zend Avesta. Zoroastrianism teaches that holiness is happiness, and that is the most precious gift of Ahura Mazda and that is the best offering to be presented to the Lord by the virtuous.
A Zoroastrian must act in harmony with the will of God. He should study the scriptures and perform his duty to God and his fellowmen. He should strictly observe the divine laws. Then only he will attain holiness and happiness.
Just as the Jews place their hope in Messiah, the Hindus on the coming Kalki Avatara, so also the Parsees have been looking forward to the birth of Saoshyant who will establish on earth righteousness and happiness.
There is no Tapas or austerity in Zoroastrianism in order that the body may not be weakened and rendered unfit for work.
Reincarnation is not found in the scriptures as accepted by orthodox Parsees, but it is taught in the fragments preserved by the Greeks and in the Desatir.
Parsees perform prayers for the dead at stated fixed periods. They perform ancestor-worship and do anniversaries for the dead in an elaborate manner.