Holy text, beliefs and practices
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.
|A 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.|
|One school of thought promotes a cosmic dualism between:|
|An all powerful God Ahura Mazda who is the only deity worthy of being worshipped,
|An 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.
|Another school of thought perceives the battle between Good and Evil as an ethical
dualism, set within the human consciousness.|
|Asha is a form of righteous, an all encompassing, natural law.|
|Legends, which are probably not those of Zarathushtra's original teachings are:|
|Their worship includes prayers and symbolic ceremonies.|
|Members are dedicated to a three-fold path, as shown in their motto: "Good
thoughts, good words, good deeds."|
|Members can pray at home instead of going to a temple if they wish.
|Zoroastrians 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:
|Zoroastrians do not generally accept converts.|
|Many Zoroastrians actively discourage and do not
recognize inter-faith marriages.|
|They do not proselytize. 1|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Laurie Goodstein, "Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling," New
York Times, 2006-SEP-06, at:
- "Zoroastrian Calendar," at:
Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2012-JAN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson