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Mankind and the Freedom of Choice in Zoroastrian Scripture.

By Kersi B.Shroff
(THis article is prepared for the nationwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. in cooperation with Human Rights USA).
Zarathushtra, says in his Gathas, the divine songs of reverence to Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord:
O Mazda, from the beginning you created soul and body. You granted man the mental power and knowledge. You placed life in the physical body and gave mankind the power to act, speak and guide. You wished that everyone should choose his or her own faith and path freely.
(Yasna 31, verse 11, translated from the Avestan language).

The significance of the verse is that having been given the faculties to make the right or free choice, mankind must bear the consequence of that choice.
The theme of freedom of choice is replete in the Gathas. In Yasna 30, verse 2, Zarathushtra urges mankind to decide with “sucha manangha” (an open mind) and make a clear choice “avaenata” (between the two paths) of good or evil:
Listen with your ears the highest truth, consider it with an open mind carefully and decide each man and woman personally between the two paths, good and evil.
A French scholar thus remarks on individual freedom manifested in the Gathas:
Freedom of thought, a zealous sense of self-respect, magnanimity in religion, a sharp intellect, and a zest and fervour for principles of ethics... are peculiarly manifested in the Gathas of Zarathushtra.

It is the spirit of forbearance and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of all people that is reflected by Cyrus the Great, a Zoroastrian King of the Achaemenian dynasty of Iran, in the Charter of the Rights of Nations inscribed on a clay cylinder in cuneiform. When he conquered Babylon, Cyrus liberated the Jewish population from slavery and allowed them to return to the Promised Land. His tolerance and magnanimity earned him the designation as “annointed of the Lord.”
*Compiled by Kersi B. Shroff, Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington, November 1998. This article was posted on on Nov. 10, 2004

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