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The missing Zarathustra in Zoroastrianism

European Centre for Zoroastrian Studies

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The missing Zarathustra in Zoroastrianism
Bring back the true Zarathustra 
And Zoroastrianism in the 21st century
By Dr Khosro Khazai Pardis

Zarathustra is missing and his absence has disconnected many Zoroastrians from his sublime message in the Gathas.  

As the result, Zoroastrianism without Zarathustra is transformed into a closed and increasing narrowed community, walled in a nice castle

without doors and windows. Nobody can come in and nobody can go out!

The absence of Zarathustra and oblivion of his message, aim and ideal has led to a tragic sacrifice of two basic elements of

Zarathustra’s sublime doctrine in the Gathas: the universality of his message and its freedom of choice.

The elimination of these two important elements, not only distorted the Zoroastrianism, but have caused – by collateral

damage - the weakening of the two fundamental pillars of Zarathustra’s Existential Philosophy expressed 3700 years ago that are:

1-"The aim of our life is to live a happy and joyful existence on this earth, and   
2-the purpose of our creation is to help actively Ahura Mazda for the betterment of this world so that all living beings:

humans, animals and plants live in peace, fulfillment and flourish”.

An Existential Philosophy with such noble and highly humane ideals, cannot and must not be left hidden under the ashes of 4000 years of history

and ignored by the world. It would be a betrayal to humanity.

Therefore, in order to understand what happened and why it happened and when this cast mentality was installed we have to go deep into

4000 years of Zoroastrian history and find out the reasons why Zarathustra and his sublime message, the Gathas, disappeared from


This will be the condition to get Zarathustra back to the 21st century and trigger the glorious “Renaissance of Zarathustra and


What follows, is a brief and clear history of the different steps that led to this disappearance and the beginning of his reappearance.


The two steps that led Zarathustra
To disappear from Zoroastrianism
First Step 

Zarathustra announced around 3700 years ago, the core of his sublime doctrine or existential philosophy, in the form of 17 songs called the


At this time there was no adequate method of transcribing his words, nor any other means of recording them. Added to this problem, the

Zarathustra’s language, an Aryan dialect of Eastern Iran, in which, his Sublime Gathas had been proclaimed, fell into a long oblivion. This

oblivion, started after the fall of the Achaemenid Persian Empire in the 4th century BC., took about 2200 years, to the extent that during this very

long period not a phrase could correctly be understood.

Fortunately, Zarathustra’s disciples had learned the Gathas by heart as sacred songs, sang them in the temples, and passed them down as an

oral tradition from one generation to the next.  We have no words to express our deepest gratitude to those heroes who with a lot

of sacrifices preserved these most precious treasures of human culture, the Gathas, and in spite of the loss of their language

passed them down unaltered to us.

In the third century, in the beginning of the Sasanian Empire, they created a sophisticated alphabetic system of writing able to capture and fix

all the nuances, accents and pronunciation of this forgotten language.

Even though the Gathas could not yet be understood, the alphabet could be vocalized phonetically as sacred songs in the fire temples.

Second Step

The only tangible work that had been left by Zarathustra was “The Gathas” through which he had expressed the gist and heart of his sublime

doctrine. But what could be achieved when their language had been forgotten and thus could be no longer understood anymore?

Therefore, during this very long forgetfulness (about 2200 years), many tried to guess what Zarathustra had said. Every one offered his or her

views interpretations and opinions. Meaningless rituals and myths, both pre-Zoroastrian and post-Zoroastrian, were introduced, and beliefs

completely foreign to the original sublime doctrine of Zarathustra, which was based entirely on reason and wisdom, entered into the Avesta’s
texts  in the name of Zarathustra.

As the result, none of the Avestan texts, except the Gathas, are composed by Zarathustra. They are all written by persons, in

different periods of history of whom we know nothing, neither their names nor their functions.

Many of these texts are written either more than one thousand years after Zarathustra, or they belong to pre-Zoroastrian religions (the very

religions that had been rejected and fought against by Zarathustra himself).

Thus, oblivion of the language of the Gathas that last about 2200 years, until the 19th century, became the main reason that caused distortion of

the Sublime Message of Zarathustra and consequently his disappearance from Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism without Zarathustra interacted, mainly in the Sasanian period, with existing religions such as Zurvanism or the newly born

religion such as Christianity giving birth to other religions such as Manichaeism appeared in the 3rd century or the first communist doctrine

called Mazdekism after the name of its founder Mazdak, emerged in the 5th century. So the Zoroastrianism,  particularly in the second half of

the Sasanian period was very far away from the Zarathustra’s original message. Its true essence was evaporated

This was the main reason,  that a world superpower such as the Sasanian Empire that had defeated nine times the Roman Empire, another

world super power, and in the 6th century had extended the Iranian border from Egypt to China to be defeated so quickly , in the 7th century, 

by a small army that had come from the desert of Arabia.

With the Moslem invasion of Persia in the 7th century, the Zoroastrianism without Zarathustra fell further into decadence and froze in the form

we know today.

Even the discovery and recognition of the Gathas’ language and the Gathas as an independent book, conveying the sublime message and

teachings of Asho Zarathustra, could not change much. The Zoroastrians, since their childhood have been used to the Avestan texts and many

of them called “conservatives” have not yet been able to be separated from them.


In Search of The True Zarathustra
And The Zoroastrian Renaissance

The Renaissance means the renovation of the concepts and the visions that have stuck in time. Therefore, our actions, aim and direction are

entirely in conformity with the law of Asha, that means, to be in harmony with the orderly evolution and renovation of the world. We are also

in line with the important concept of Haurvatat, the fifth attribute of Ahura Mazda. That means we are going to get out of stagnation and

progress towards perfection. And we will have always in mind these golden words of Zarathustra who said: Let us be among those who

revive and refresh the world”. This is the goal of every Zoroastrian to endeavour for the betterment of the world. 

It is in the darkness that the flame of a candle whatever its intensity can become a priceless guide and show us the way.

The darkness that covered Iran after the second Moslem invasion in 1979, unlike the first one that happened in the 7th century, triggered an

extraordinary and powerful reaction, with a completely unexpected result which was: an unprecedented awakening of historical

  consciousness. The modern mass communications such as internet and television have been quite helping.

This unexpected turn of history is offering a new destiny full of light and hope and a new perspective to Zoroastrianism as a whole. Not only in

Iran but also in India and everywhere else in the world.

In my trip, (December 2013), to India, in Delhi where I was invited by Delhi Parsi Anjoman and its free minded director Mr. Yezad Kapadia and

in Mumbai where I attended the World Zoroastrian Congress, I could see with much pleasure, particularly among the Parsi youth, this thirst of

universalism and freedom of choice, these two forgotten basic precepts of Zoroastrianism in the Gathas.  They are bravely struggling to

break this carapace made of the countless vicissitude of a long history.

It is quite remarkable to notice that not only Zarathustra's message is universal, but he presents himself as a person who belongs to the whole


In the Gathas, he never says he is an Aryan, or Iranian or relates himself to a group of people, or a cast or a territory.  The country which

Zarathustra speaks about is all countries of the world, the people he talks about is all people in the world and the life about which he speaks is

that of all lives, human, animal and plant.  

Along this absolute universalism, the freedom of choice is another fundamental precept in the Gathic culture. The third song of the Gathas is all

about this matter.  Because in this culture everyone is responsible personally for his or her thought, word and action. And because the law of

action and reaction works all the time: Every thought, word and action triggers equal reactions and come back to one self with the same

intensity. Good, trigger Good and bad, trigger Bad. In this context the freedom of choice between good and bad is total and the

responsibility is also total. We cannot blame God or anyone else for the mistakes we make. Therefore, the freedom of choice, to choose the

direction we want to give to our life, is fundamental.

Look at this stanza:

O Mazda,
While in Your thoughts,
You created at the start
body, wisdom, and conscience for us,
and invoked life in us
and enabled us with words and deeds,
You intended that we choose
our way of life and existential doctrine
as suits us”.
song 4 stanza 11 of the Gathas

This newly found consciousness carries all the signs of a Renaissance.  A glorious rebirth of Zarathustra. The turning of history wanted that it

happens in our time. Therefore it is our mission; and this mission is precisely the restoration of the Gathic Zoroastrianism once again. 

Who is the true Zarathustra ? 

In the Gathas his name is Zarathushra, that means “shining golden star”. Pline the famous Roman scientist and philosopher of the 1st

century writes “Zarathustra was born with a smile”, and he was known to be born with a smile, lived with a smile and died with a smile”. This

myth reflects his philosophy and world view in the Gathas: A shining philosophy of happiness and joyfulness.

It is a very pity that his images in Iran or in India depict him in the form of a bearded Indian guru, or an Islamic mullah or at best in the shape

of Jesus Christ with a finger towards the sky !  That means these painters who lived or are living  the  Zoroastrian decadence did not know

much about Zarathustra’s personality or philosophy.

The true Zarathustra is a person who should always be depicted with a smile. A person who can laugh, who can sing, who can be joyful and

even dance.

Unlike Jesus Christ, he is not looking for God only in the sky. Zarathustra’s God, Ahura Mazda, is everywhere and in everything: in the sky, in the

earth, in human beings, in animals, in plants, in the sun and stars…  because his  God is the very Existence that constantly creates and unifies

everything, with harmony and order.   Therefore, we need in this period of Renaissance painters who can depict the real Zarathustra.

The true Zarathustra  is not a “prophet”.

Because the word “prophet” that is coming from “prophecy” meaning “prediction of what is to come” is exclusively a Semitic  notion.  But

Zarathustra  was not a Smite. He was born and grown in an Aryan culture where the notion of prophecy is completely unknown . It is in this

context that Semite religions speak of one hundred twenty four thousand prophets!    All these prophets, from Adam to Mahomet have been

living in the area between Yemen and Palestine, including countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan. They all spoke with their gods,

Yahweh or Allah, in one of the branches of Semitic language.

Nowhere in the Aryan or non Semitic area of the world we have seen the rise of a “prophet”: neither in India, nor in China, nor in Central Asia,

nor in Europe, nor in America, nor in Africa or nor in Australia. The prophets are exclusively from the Smite area of Middle East.

With regard to Zarathustra all the historical and linguistic researches of the past two hundred years show clearly that he is an Aryan, who lived

and died in the east of Iran, where the Semitic culture had never reached in his time.

Moreover, if the Semitic culture considers God, who is in the sky, needs having a “prophet”, or a “messenger” to transmit his messages to

human beings who are on earth,  it clearly indicates that their God is separated from his creatures. But Zarathustra’s God, Ahura Mazda, is

everywhere and in everything, therefore he does not need a messenger to transmit his messages. Ahura Mazda can communicate directly with

all his creatures through “ Good Thought” or vohumana..

In the Gathas, Zarathustra calls himself a “manthran”, “ a person who teaches the thought awakening songs”, the Gathas, the seventeen

songs that are the most powerful tool for social and spiritual transformation.  

For the first time in history, these songs connect the world of thought to the world of spirituality and make out of them a one and a single world.

 This is one of the biggest gifts that Zarathustra offered to humanity.

This universe, Zarathustra sayshas an ultimate principle that creates and unifies everything that exists. This ultimate creative and unifying

principle of existence which makes this existence one, he called “Ahura”, and different elements of this universe, which are not created  at

random,  and follow a great wisdom or knowledge called “Mazda“. They displays a basic order based on Righteousness is called “Asha” or


The Gathas are not a book of faith or belief. It is a book of knowledge. Zarathustra does not believe in Ahura Mazda, nor he

has faith in Him/Her. Zarathustra wants to know Ahura Mazda.

O Mazda,
the moment I knew You in my thoughts,
I realized that you are the beginning and the end of existence,
and You are the source of Good Thought.
And as I envisioned you with my inner sight,
I knew that You are the true creator of Righteousness 
Gathas, song 4, stanza 8

The Gathas are an “Existential Philosophy”, a “World View”, a way of life They have neither commandments nor orders, neither do this

nor do that. They do not stifle people in rigid structures.

Here I finish the first part of this paper. The second part will be focused on the expansion of Zoroastrianism and its noble message among the

generations of 21st century.

Dr. Khosro Khazai Pardis

Brussels, 3rd December 2014

*The Missing Zarathustra from Zoroastrianism, by Khosro Khazai Pardis

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