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Environmental concerns

Zoroastrianism responses

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Zoroastrianism:

Zoroastrianism is the world’s oldest revealed religion. 1 It is a pragmatic teaching concerned with the improvement in the quality of life on earth. 2 The Zoroastrian religion has preached ecology and care of the environment and all natural creation right from its very inception, which makes it also the first proponent of ecology.

Zoroastrians believe that the genesis of ecology is the belated realization that in its progress humankind has disregarded the effects of its activities on the rest of the nature. Since the power of science that was given to man has not been used wisely, the success of humanity has taken a great toll on the other species. 3 Ecology is an attempt to remedy that. The re-interpreted original message of how to establish a just dominion, in which all species can thrive, is a part of current Zoroastrian religious practices that teach great respect and even reverence for nature. Note that four thousand years before the first ‘Greens’ the priest-prophet Zoroaster preached that humankind, as the seventh creation, must protect the other six (sky, water, earth, plant, animal, and fire) – human beings have been seen as the natural motivators or overseers of the Seven Creation. 1

In the Gathas, the key concept of all well ordered existence and of the establishment of justice is referred to as Asha. It is similar to the Tao within Taoism, 4 and is translated as cosmic order or structure, eternal law, the mainspring of all manifestations, etc. Understanding Asha is science when applied to the physical world, and is religion in its truest sense when applied to the moral world.

Among the points of Zoroastrian religion, which are of interest with respect to ecology, are:

bullet The material world has been created as a means to help humans progress. At the end of time, humanity must give it to Ahura Mazda in its original perfect form. 1
bullet All the creations on the earth are interconnected to each other, and need each other for survival. 5 The faith demands that Zoroastrians love God as well as their fellow creatures. 6
bullet Zoroaster taught his followers to be constantly active in furthering creation, with each human being sharing responsiblity for the its progress and prosperity.
bullet Humans have been given the responsibility to fight anything that is harmful to the very purpose of creation.
bullet A Zoroastrian has a religious duty to care for both the material and spiritual aspects of his existence. Their life needs to exhibit simplicity, selflessness, purity, and charity. Selflessness is one of the cornerstones of the religion. Zoroastrianism inculcates the highest moral standards.
bullet Neglect of the environment is considered a capitulation to the forces of darkness and evil. 2

In practical matters, Zoroastrianism:

bullet Encourages the traits of risk-taking, fighting for one’s rights, fighting against injustice, and helping the poor and down-trodden.
bullet Insists that the disparity between the rich and the poor has to be resolved. The creator provided enough for each and every creation. It is the greed of human beings that leads to the unequal distribution of income and wealth among people.
bullet Treats men and women on equal footing.
bullet Views science with a healthy respect.
bullet As to procreation, Zoroastrianism puts great emphasis on personal responsibility.

In everyday life:

bullet Zoroastrian purity laws are comprehensive but are now largely neglected by urban dwellers.
bullet Prayers are said at sources of pure water, and noble trees are venerated.
bullet It is a tradition that Zoroastrians never enter a river to wash in it or pollute it in any way. 1
bullet The wedding liturgy specifically reminds newly weds that the carry a duty to maintain the purity of running water, 2
bullet It is held a sin to cut a sapling or kill a young animal (since neither has yet fulfilled its part in the scheme of things).
bullet Zoroastrians plant a tree to celebrate the birth of a new family member.
bullet Animals are treated well, especially dogs. By custom, still locally observed, bread is given regularly to a dog before the family eats.
bullet A member of the Zoroastrian religion in India is called a Parsi (a.k.a. Parsee).  Hindus drive cows into Parsi quarters; the Parsis acquire merit by feeding them.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "What does Zoroastrianism Teach About Ecology?" at: http://www.arcworld.org/
  2. Shahin Bekhradnia, "Zoroastrianism and the Environment," at: http://www.rsesymposia.org/
  3. Lovji D Cama, "Zoroastrianism and Science," at: http://www.vohuman.org/
  4. Edward Goldsmith, "The Way," Themis Books, (1996).
  5. "End Factory Farming," at: http://www.factoryfarming.org.uk/
  6. Mary Evelyn Tucker & John A. Grim, "Introduction: The Emerging Alliance of World Religions and Ecology," at: http://www.amacad.org/

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Copyright © 2006 by Vladimir Tomek
Original publishing date: 2006-AUG-27
Latest update on: 2006-AUG-27
Author. Vladimir Tomek

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