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Zoroastrianism

 Holy text, beliefs and practices

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Zoroastrian Sacred Text:

The Zorastrian holy book is called the Avesta. This includes the original words of their founder Zarathushtra, preserved in a series of five hymns, called the Gathas. The latter represent the basic source of the religion. The Gathas are abstract sacred poetry, directed towards the worship of the One God, understanding of righteousness and cosmic order, promotion of social justice and individual choice between good and evil. The Gathas have a general and even universal vision.

At some later date (most scholars say many centuries after the death of Zarathustra), the remaining parts of the Avestas were written. These deal with laws of ritual and practice, with the traditions of the faith. The Zoroastrian community is sharply divided between those who would follow mostly (or exclusively) the teachings of the original Gathas, and those who believe that the later traditions are important and equally divinely inspired.

Zoroastrian Beliefs:

Beliefs include:

bulletA single god Ahura Mazda who is supreme. Communication between Himself and humans is by a number of Attributes, called Amesha Spentas or Bounteous Immortals. Within the Gathas, the original Zoroastrian sacred text, these Immortals are sometimes described as concepts, and are sometimes personified.

bulletOne school of thought promotes a cosmic dualism between:

bulletAn all powerful God Ahura Mazda who is the only deity worthy of being worshipped, and

bulletAn evil spirit of violence and death, Angra Mainyu, who opposes Ahura Mazda.

The resulting cosmic conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity who is required to choose which to follow. Evil, and the Spirit of Evil, will be completely destroyed at the end of time. Dualism will come to an end and Goodness will be all in all.


bulletAnother school of thought perceives the battle between Good and Evil as an ethical dualism, set within the human consciousness.

bulletAsha is a form of righteous, an all encompassing, natural law.

bulletLegends, which are probably not those of Zarathushtra's original teachings are:

bullet After death, a person's urvan (soul) is allowed three days to meditate on his/her past life. The soul is then judged by a troika consisting of Mithra, Sraosha and Rashnu. If the good thoughts, words and deeds outweigh the bad, then the soul is taken into Heaven. Otherwise, the soul is led to Hell.

bulletThe universe will go through a total of three eras:

bulletCreation;

bulletThe present world where good and evil are mixed. People's good works are seen as gradually transforming the world towards its heavenly ideal;

bulletA final state after this renovation when good and evil will be separated.

Eventually, everything will be purified. Even the occupants of hell will be released.


bullet A Saoshyant (savior) will be born of a virgin, but of the lineage of the Prophet Zoroaster who will raise the dead and judge everyone in a final judgment. This is a theme that is seen in many world religions.

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Zoroastrian Practices:

bulletTheir worship includes prayers and symbolic ceremonies.

bulletMembers are dedicated to a three-fold path, as shown in their motto: "Good thoughts, good words, good deeds."

bulletMembers can pray at home instead of going to a temple if they wish. 1
bulletZoroastrians use three calendars: Shenshai, Qadimi and Fasli. On 1992-MAR-21, the spring equinox and first day of the Zoroastrian year, all three calendars coincided. This is an event that only occurs only once every 120 years. Many Zoroastrian organizations recommended that the membership switch to the Fasli Calendar on that day. This has been reasonably successful. 2

As noted elsewhere:

bulletZoroastrians do not generally accept converts.

bulletMany Zoroastrians actively discourage and do not recognize inter-faith marriages.
bulletThey do not proselytize. 1

References used:

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

  1. Laurie Goodstein, "Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling," New York Times, 2006-SEP-06, at: http://select.nytimes.com/
  2. "Zoroastrian Calendar," at: http://www3.sympatico.ca/

Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2012-JAN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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