European Centre for Zoroastrian Studies

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The Zoroastrian Identity

This fact sheet "The Zoroastrian Identity" is a short adaptation from the original text produced by ” California Zoroastrian Center” with a review and endorsement of “Yale University" in U.S.A.


The Zoroastrian existential philosophy is ancient and historic, but not old or outdated. It offers the means of a happy life based on a set of ethical principles and moral standards. It reflects the sublime thinking and enlightened outlook of a highly learned man named
Ashu* Zarathushtra, born in the Iranian highlands of the Spantaman Aryan family.
He never claimed to be a prophet. His teachings of friendship, honesty and righteousness bear the global messages of progress and good fortune for the entire world. Zarathustra’s message does not address or mention a specific race, ethnicity or nationality. The messages are universal.
(*The word ASHU with its plural form as ASHAVAN is applicable to someone who has a clean conscience for good thoughts, words, and deeds, plus clean demeanor and performance. He is conscientious for keeping his body, attire, home, district, city, county, region, country and the world clean .He is a pragmatic environmentalist for both the material and spiritual world. )

Ahura Mazda is the Supreme Intellect, the creator of universe and the Lord of Life and Wisdom, as Ferdowsi, the great Persian Epic Poet of 10th century, described Ahura Mazda with the same words in Shahnameh - the Book of Kings. He is the only God, supreme and unique. He has no physical attributes but is a genuine friend, an all-present companion to man in his life-long struggle against evil.

The Gathas is the name of the thought provoking songs of Ashu Zarathushtra, and the foundation of the Zoroastrian existential philosophy. Although other texts reflecting later thoughts, practices, traditions and customs have been compiled in the Avesta, the Gathas are the precious jewel of the Avesta and the only holy words for the Zoroastrians.
The Gathas are accepted as the only words proclaimed by Ashu Zarathushtra himself.

The teachings of Ashu Zarathushtra are based on ethics, humanism, logics and goodness depicted on the three Paramount pillars of “GOOD THOUGHTS, GOOD WORDS, and GOOD DEEDS”. The Gathas tells us;
“There is one path only and that is the Righteousness. Compliance with it leads to Hapiness.” (The Gathas 43-9)

In the Zoroastrian existential philosophy , Ahura Mazda created the world to provide happiness for all beings on this earth, and in the rays of Good Thoughts and Love, peace and tranquility were granted for man's bliss. (The Gathas 44-6)
The foundation of worldwide happiness is summarized in the following Hymn of The Gathas: “Happiness belongs to the one who brings happiness to others.” (The Gathas 43-1)

The most precious gift of Ahura Mazda to man is his rightful Freedom. In Zoroastrian existential philosophy , no one has the right to take away the freedom of thoughts, will and choice from anyone.
In The Gathas (30-2) Ashu Zarathushtra has reminded us that man is free to choose his way as he wishes, however has high hopes for man to use his good mind, along with the help of Ahura Mazda, to reach the right path and happiness.

The Zoroastrian religion considers all men and women equal regardless of creed, ethnicity, race, nationality, religious persuasion, political views, etc. Superior is only the one who follows the path of “GOOD THOUGHTS, GOOD WORDS, and GOOD DEEDS.” In Zarathushtra's message one sees that happiness, salvation, and good fortunes have been the desire and the focal points for all peoples of the world regardless of their backgrounds.
The first Declaration of Human Rights in world’s history issued by Cyrus The Great, the Zoroastrian king of Achaemenian Dynasty in 538 B.C. roughly 2500 years ago was based on the teachings of Ashu Zarathushtra in equality of men. "God has created man free" (The Gathas 31-11)

In the Zoroastrian Existential Philosophy, the value of human status is considered to be equal with Ahura Mazda's rank, provided men and women promote righteousness, goodness and betterment of life. In this belief system, the world is a sacred place and life is a gift of God. Therefore, it is absolutely worthy of protection and preservation to keep life intact and in good faith. The burning torch of life is to be passed on to the next generations, brighter and shinier than before.
" The ultimate goal of life is to become one with Ahura Mazda."(The Gathas 45-11); "Ahura Mazda is the kind friend and savior for all." (The Gathas 43-14)
In Zoroastrian Existential Philosophy, men and women enjoy equal rights. Wherever in the Gathas, Ashu Zarathushtra speaks to people, he mentions men and women together. In religious writings, there are always references to good men and women of beneficence. (The Gathas 30-2)
Darius the Great, a Zoroastrian king of Achaemenian Dynasty depicts his good wishes for all, carved on bas-relief stones of ancient remains of the Persian Empire.

In the Zoroastrian Existential Philosophy, one must resist evil doers and abusers of power. First, an attempt should be made to approach the abuser(s) with kindness and friendship and direct him to the right path. Otherwise, resistance and fighting the evil is the next course of action, to achieve truth and eradicate lies. ”"To promote truth and righteousness one must resist lies and liars".” (The Gathas 43-13)

One of the outstanding philosophies of the Zoroastrian Existential Philosophy is renewal, renovation, and re-creation of the living world. Regression and non-creativity is discouraged and looked down in this faith.
We wish to be amongst those who promote the world to progress and development and lead man to achieve righteousness and purity.” (The Gathas 30-9)

In Ashu Zarathushtra's vision, one draws his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds. Men and women do have the freedom of choice, but the consequences of their choices are the logical results of their actions. This is part of ASHA and is governed based on the physical laws of action and reaction.
Good luck and bad luck are the making of one’s deeds respectively.” (The Gathas 31-20)

In The Gathas 32-12, killing of animals is prohibited. In The Gathas 32-10 protection of useful elements of life has been pointed out distinctly. Keeping the environment clean is one’s religious duty. The major elements of life, namely, Air, Water, Earth and Fire must be kept clean at all times.

The Gathas tells us that good and evil are the two opposing forces in the world and often the product of the human mind. Good Thoughts or Spenta Mainyu is opposed with Bad Thoughts or Angra Mainyu (Ahriman). These are the philosophical description of man's thinking processes. They have nothing to do with believing in duality or having two gods in Zoroastrianism. Ahriman is not a competing supreme entity against Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda is the monotheistic supreme creator of the universe. (The Gathas 30-3,4,5)

The word 'ASHA' in the vision of Zarathushtra means the world order. ASHA is based on logical organization of physical laws that govern the entire creation in our universe. As such there are no superstitions in Zoroastrianism.
It should be noted that interfering with this orderly system yields undesirable consequences damaging the quality of life. A good example in our time is the environmental pollution. Fortunately nowadays, scientists and researchers with their advances in science and technology have discovered some laws of Asha and know how to protect man from the catastrophes of man-made events resulting in mental and material losses to the living world. "Ahura Mazda, May we get closer to you by following the rules of Asha and discover the values of our body and soul." (The Gathas 28-2)

From the ethical perspective and clear conscience man has to take steps toward perfection to reach spiritual wholeness. This strategy is based on the concept of evolution. Fravahar symbolizes the ideal of perfection in Zoroastrianism.
”The reward for well doers is attainment of perfection and spiritual power.” (The Gathas 31-21)
"Only with thinking good and having clear conscience one can achieve perfection." (The Gathas 33-8)

Fire and Light are the symbols of Zoroastrianism. Fire is the purest form of worldly substance, purifies and exterminates the unclean, provides energy and warmth. And light as an offshoot of fire, made of photon particles is the purest form of Energy in the vast universe. Fire and light overcome darkness and enable vision, and have been chosen by Zoroastrians as their prayer altar and a symbolic link to Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Intellect.
Fravahar is another symbol of Zoroastrianism. For a long time it was confused with Ahura Mazda the Supreme Intellect. It is a symbol of uplifting progress, evolution, perfection and bliss for man, based on the three paramount principals of GOOD THOUGHTS, GOOD WORDS, and GOOD DEEDS as shown in the three-sectioned wing of Fravahar and the limitless universe (the large central ring), combined with two essential ideals of wisdom (the facial features of Fravahar) and love (the smaller ring of devotion to trust in the hand of Fravahar), moving forward and upward leading man toward progress, righteousness, and the blissful destiny (the spread wings of Fravahar)

The word 'Behdin' in Avesta is used for someone who is a adherent of Ashu Zarathushtra. Behdin is a Persian word-meaning bearer of Good Conscience. Behdinan is the plural form for Behdin. Thus Behdin's objectives should be betterment of the living world.
The “Good Conscience' is an existential philosophy of choice, not a mandatory obligation forced on us by a supreme and fearful entity. In another word the good religion is reflective rather than prescriptive as many other religions are. Each person can by his or her own mind, personal preferences and free will select what he or she wants to believe in for conducting his or her life. "Wisdom is man's means for choosing the right or wrong path for living." (The Gathas 31-12) (2)

Let us point to this final fact that: The Message of Ashu Zarathushtra is fulfillment of peace, love, hope, happiness and a positive view of existence.

(**) Translation of The Gathas put forward in this text is by Mobed Mobedan, the late Rostam Shahzadi

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