List of lessons for religion class.
- The Fires before which we pray.
- The Kushti Prayers.
- Zoroastrian Prayers.
- The Zoroastrian Calendar.
- The story of Creation.
- Fravashi Soul and Body
- The Idea of Evil in Zoroastrianism
- The Navjote Ceremony.
- The Marriage Ceremony.
- The Jashan Ceremony
- The Amesha Spenta.
- Introduction to the Gathas.
The Fires before which we Pray.
Zoroastrians worship in the presence of fire. Fire is a symbolic representation of the presence of Ahura-Mazda in front of us when we pray. The fires, in whose presence we pray are consecrated that is they are holy fires as opposed to an ordinary fire such as a camp-fire, or a steel making furnace.
The holy fires are placed on a vase shaped vessel made of metal. In ancient times vases of stone were also used.
There are three ranks of Holy Fire
The highest ranking fire is called the Atash Bahram.
To establish the fire of an Atash Baharam. Fires from 16 different sources are collected. Each of these fires is purified by a very complex process that requires sequential lighting of a new fire from the heat of the collected fire without touching the old fire. This process may be repeated up to 91 times, depending on the kind of fire being purified. Each final fire is then consecrated by daily recital of the Yasna and Vendidad ceremonies for up to 91 days. These consecrated fires are then combined on the first Gatha day and the unified fire is also consecrated by the recital of the Yasna and Vendidad ceremonies for 30 days. Meanwhile the room in which the fire will be kept is consecrated by the recital of the same ceremonies for three days. On the final day, which is called the day of enthronement, a procession of priests carries the Atah Baharam fire into its permanent home. It is placed on its permanent fire-vase which sits on a square marble slab. The roof of the room is dome shaped and from the ceiling hangs a metal crown, since the fire itself is to be treated as a king. The fire then is never allowed to die down.
The 16 fires required for the Atash Bahram fire are:
1) The fire used in burning a corpse
2) The fire used by a dyer
3) The fire from the house of the king or chief citizen of the town
4) The fire from a potter
5) The fire from a brick-maker
6) The fire from the house of a monk
7) The fire from a goldsmith
8) The fire from an iron-smith
9) The fire from a person who makes arms
10) The fire from a baker
11) The fire from a brewer
12) The fire from a mint
13) The fire from the house of a soldier
14) The fire from the house of a shepherd
15) The fire produced by lightning
16) The fire from the house of a Zoroastrian
The Fire of the 2nd Rank is called An Atash Aderan
Only four different fires are required for the establishment of an Atash Aderan fire.
1) The fire from the house of an Athornan (Zoroastrian priest)
2) The fire from the house of a Rathaeshtar (Zoroastrian warrior)
3) The fire from the house of a Vastrioshan (Zoroastrian farmer)
4) The fire from the house of a Hutokhshan (Zoroastrian tradesman)
The purification, consecration and enthronement ceremonies are the same as for the Atash Bahram fire.
The Fire of the 3rd rank is called the Atash Dadgah.
It is the fire that all Zoroastrians should have in their homes. When this kind of fire is in a public place such as the Dar-e-Mehr, the room in which the fire is to be kept is washed three times with water and consecrated by the performing the Yasna and Vendidad ceremonies for three days followed by a Jashan ceremony on the fourth day on which the fire is installed in the room.
The Atash Dadgah fire may be allowed to die down. When it re-lighted, the reciting of the Atash-Nyaesh prayer can be used to re-consecrate it.
The Bui Ceremony
This ceremony is performed 5 times a day in an Atash Bahram or an Atash Aderan to keep the fires ever burning.
It is performed at the start of each Gah of the day at 1) sunrise 2) Noon 3) Mid-afternoon 4) Sunset and 5) Midnight.
At the start of each Gah 1) Havana 2) Rapithwin 3) Uzirin 4) Aiwisruthrem 5) Ushahin.
At each Bui ceremony, the priest first cleans the fire vase and the marble platform on which it stands.
He then makes sure there is enough wood to last through the period of the Gah. He then places 6 pieces of sandal wood on the fire in the shape of a throne and the Atash-Nyaish prayer is recited. While, for the the Atash Adaran and Atash Dadgah fires one Atash Nyaesh is sufficient, the Atash Bahram fire reqires the recitation of several Atash-Nyaesh prayers, depending on the Gah in which the Bui ceremony is performed.
Through countless Bui ceremonies the Zoroastrian holy fires are kept burning through the centuries. The Iran-Shah fire, our great fire now at Udvada, a small town, 100 miles north of Bombay, has been kept burning for more than a thousand years!
Rules and Procedures for Visiting a Fire Temple
1) A fire temple may not be entered without covering the head.
2) Wash hands before entering usually with well water.
3) Perform the Kushti facing the Sun during daylight hours.
4) Shoes are removed before entering the inner hall.
5) Only the priest enters the chamber where the fire is kept.
6) On entering in the presence of fire one bows to it with respect and offers a gift of sandal wood.
7) Any prayer may be said. The Atash-Nyaesh is the appropriate prayer.
8) One may place a pinch of the ashes of the fire on one’s forehead. These ashes are kept on a ladle on the ledge of the door or window of the room in which the fire is kept.
9) On leaving the presence of the holy fire, one bows to it once more and walks out without turning ones back to the fire as a sign of respect.
THE KUSTI PRAYERS IN ENGLISH
The Ashem Vohu
Righteousness is the highest good and the true happiness.
He who is good for the sake of being good will be truly happy.
The Yatha Ahu Vairyo
Just as the King is all powerful among man, so is the holy person because of his righteousness.
The person who works for Ahura Mazda, becomes good, pure and wise.
The strength of Ahura Mazda is granted to those who work for the poor and the weak.
The Yenghe Hatam
We adore and try to be like those men and women among us whose acts of worship are righteousness. These are the men and women who Ahura Mazda regards as the noblest of mortals.
The Kemna Mazda
Who, O Mazda, shall protect me, when those of evil mind try to over power me?
Only your Holly Fire and your Good Mind, which work together to fulfill your Eternal Laws.
O Mazda be my guide so that I may listen to my conscience and protect myself from evil.
My faith in Mazda shall protect me.
May all evil perish, May all untruth perish, May all those who are the followers of evil perish. May the Evil spirit never destroy Thy Good creation.
The Ahura Mazda Khodai
Ahura Mazda is the Lord.
May the Evil Spirit be thrown away far from us, may he be defeated.
May the Evil Spirit, the liars the tricksters, those who have left the path of good, those who are willfully blind, those who are willfully deaf, tyrants, those who do evil acts, those who think evil, those who change the truth, may all these be defeated.
May evil rulers be kept away from us.
Ahura Mazda, Lord, I am sorry for all my sins and from evil ways I turn back.
For every evil thought, evil word and evil deed, which I may have done, or which I may have been the cause of, I am sorry. I will make up for them with my good thoughts, my good words and my good deeds.
May Ahura Mazda be praised, may the Evil Spirit be frustrated. We who are the followers of the path of righteousness, we wish this.
The Jasa me Avenghe Mazda.
Come to my help, O Mazda.
I am a worshipper of Mazda, a follower of Zarathushtra. I am a devoted follower and supporter of my religion.
I solemnly believe in the true thought, the true word and the honestly performed act.
I solemnly believe in the excellent religion of Mazda worship.
My religion removes quarrels, causes swords to be sheathed, teaches self-sacrifice and leads me to righteousness.
Of all the religions that have been, or that will be, this is the highest, the greatest and the best—-This religion of Ahura Mazda as taught by Zarathushtra.
All that is good is due to Ahura Mazda.
This is the religion that I will follow with all my strength and all my faith.-
In our religion there are many different kind of prayers.
These are prayers in poetic form. They have a deeper meaning than what we can understand just by translating the Avesta words. Manthras have a power to help a person but to be fully effective the words must be pronounced clearly and properly.
Examples of Manthras:
Yatha Ahu Vairyo, Ashem Vohu and Yenghe Hatam.
2) PRAYERS FOR HELP AGAINST EVIL
The first duty of a Zoroastrian is to fight against evil both from outside and from within us and to work for the good. The prayers of the Kushti ritual the Kemna Mazda and the Ahura Mazda Khodai prayers are such prayers. A Zoroastrian who wears the Kushti and Sudreh and performs these prayers is protected from evil by Ahura-Mazda.
3) PRAYERS OF ALLEGIANCE TO THE RELIGION
In these prayers we recite what the religion teaches us, what we believe in as Zoroastrians and how we should live our lives. By reciting these prayers we remind ourselves that we are Zoroastrians, we always speak the truth, we work for the good, we fight evil, we learn the difference between good and evil and we try to perfect ourselves.
Examples of these prayers are Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda (recited at the end of the Kushti prayers).
And the Din No Kalmo prayer.
4) PRAYERS OF PRAISE
In our religion we have a large number of prayers in praise of Ahura Mazda, the Amesha-Spentas and the Yazatas who are in charge of his creations. Some of these are very long and some of them are used in our ceremonies. These are:
The Yashts: These are very long prayers.
Examples are: Ahura Mazda Yasht in praise of God
Khorshed Yasht in praise of sun-light
Haptan Yasht in praise of the Amesha-Spentas.
And there are many more.
The Nyaeshes: These are shorter than the Yashts
Examples are: Atash Nyaesh in praise of fire
Khorshed Nyaesh in praise of sun-light
The 5 Gahs: These are prayers in praise of the five Beings in charge of the 5 different periods of the days.
The prayers of praise are recited to get help from Ahura Mazda or His Amesha-Spentas and the Yazatas.
5) PRAYERS ASKING FOR BLESSINGS
The Tandorosti prayer is recited for the good health of a person, it can be recited for the good health of oneself or for the good heath of another.
There are four short prayers , the Ahmai Rascha, the Hazangaram, the Jasa Me Avenghe Mazda, and the Kerfeh Mazda, which are recited at the end of the longer prayers such as the Yashts and Nyaeshes. They ask for various kinds of blessings for the person who has recited the longer prayers.
6) Rituals and Ceremonies
These are groups of prayers which are recited in a particular way for a definite purpose.
Navjote Ceremony; To accept a child into the Zoroastrian religion.
Marriage Ceremony: To join a couple in marriage
Jashan Ceremony: To celebrate happy and sad occasions, by inviting the Fravashis of all good Zoroastrians to be with us and bless us and to help us lead our lives as true Zoroastrians.
7) THE GATHAS
These are the songs of Zarathushtra in which our prophet taught us the principles of our religion. These are recited on the last five days of the Zoroastrian calendar, the five Gatha days. To understand what our religion as taught to us by our prophet, we must study the Gathas as well as recite them.
LANGUAGES OF OUR PRAYERS
GATHIC. The oldest language is the one in which the Gathas are written. It is the language that our prophet Zarathushtra used when he was alive. It is a sister language of Sanskrit, an old Indian language in which the religious literature of Hinduism and Buddhism is written.
AVESTA. It is a later from of Gathic. It is the language in which all the Yashts and Nyaeshs are written as is the Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda prayer. The language used by the Hakhamanian kings Cyrus and Darius (Old Persian) was very similar to Avesta.
PAHLEVI. The prayers written in the Sasanian period, from 226-600 CE are in this language. This language is the precursor of modern Persian. The Ahura Mazda Khodae and the Doa Tandorosti prayers are in Pahlevi.
The Zoroastrian Calendar
King Jamshid of the Peshdadian dynasty is said to have established the day of the spring equinox as New Year’s Day.
Some time in the Achaemanian dynasty a solar calendar of 360 days (12 months of 30 days each) was established. Later, the Sasanian king Ardeshir I, is believed to have added the five Gatha days at the end of the 360 days to make a calendar of 365 days. To correct for the missing one fourth day the Sasanians added one month of 30 days every 120 years (called an intercalation) to keep the New Year in spring.
This practice of intercalation was forgotten sometime after the Arab invasion of Iran. The Zoroastrians who came to India carried out one intercalation after coming to India which was not done by the Iranian Zoroastrians.
In 1720 CE Jamasp Vilati (a priest from Iran), while visiting Surat (a town on the western coast of India) realized that the Zoroastrians residing in India and Iran were following a calendar which were a month apart. The calendar followed by Zoroastrians in Iran was called Qadimi, meaning “the old”.
The calendar followed in India was called Shahanshahi. Both date back to the coronation of the last Sasanian king Yazdegard III, in 631-632 CE. (This is year 1 of the present Zoroastrian calendars. The calendar does not start from the date of arrival of Zoroastrians in India or the Arab conquest of Iran.) Some Zoroastrians living in Surat, decided to follow the Qadimi calendar, after the visit of Jamasp Vilati, while the majority of Parsis follow the Shahanshahi calender.
With a view to resolve the problem caused by two different calendars, Mr. Khursedji R. Cama, an eminent Orientalist, suggested that the Zoroastrian year should coincide with the Spring Equinox (i.e. March 21) in accordance with the original tradition. The people who agreed with the view of Khursedji R. Cama follow the Fasli (i.e. following the seasons) calender, which adds an extra day (Awardad Sal Roz) every four years, not unlike the leap year.
So now we have three calendars:
- Fasli, which starts on March 21, and follows the seasons correctly.
- Shanshahi, which begins towards the end of August and loses one day every four years of the Gregorian calendar.
- Quadimi, which runs a month prior to Shahanshahi and otherwise is similar to the Shahanshahi.
Days and Months
A day in the Zoroastrian calendar begins at sunrise. Each day, called Roz, bears the name of a divinity. Months are called Mah. The months are named after Ahura Mazda, the 6 Amesha Spenta and 5 Yazatas.
Months have thirty days. At the end of the twelfth month five days are added bearing the names of the five Gathas. Each month has four primary days dedicated to Ahura Mazda and they are marked as holy days viz., 1st, 8th, 15th and 23rd.
Following are the 12 months of the year
1)Fravardin, 2)Ardibehest, 3)Khordad, 4)Tir, 5)Amerdad, 6)Shehrevar,
7)Mehr, 8)Avan, 9)Adar, 10)Dae, 11)Bahaman, 12) Asfandarmad
Following are the thirty days of each month:
1)Hormazd, 2)Bahaman, 3)Ardibehest, 4)Shehrevar, 5)Asfandarmad, 6)Khordad, 7)Amerdad,
8)Dae-pa-adar , 9)Adar, 10) Avan 11)Khorshed, 12)Mohor, 13)Tir, 14)Gosh
15)Dae-pa-meher, 16)Meher, 17)Srosh, 18)Rashne, 19)Fravardin, 20)Behram.21)Ram,22)Govad,
23)Dae-pa-din, 24)Din, 25)Ashishvangh, 26)Ashtad, 27)Asmaan, 28)Zamyad, 29)Marespand 30)Aneran.
The five Gatha days are added after Aneran roz of mah Asfandarmad, they are:
Each day of a Zoroastrian calendar is divided into 5 parts (Gehs):
- Havan (sunrise to noon)
- Rapithwan (noon to mid afternoon)
- Uziran (mid-afternoon to sunset)
- Awisruthrem (sunset to midnight)
- Ushahen (midnight to sunrise)
Maediozarem (Mid Spring)
(April 30 to May 4, by Fasli Calendar)
Roz Khorshed to Roz Dae-Pa-Meher of Mah Ardibehest
2) Maedioshahem (Mid Summer)
(June 29 to July 3, by Fasli Calendar)
Roz Khorshed to Roz Dae-Pa-Meher of Mah Tir
3) Paeteshahem (Harvest time)
(September 12 to September 16, by Fasli calendar)
Roz Ashtad to Roz Aneran of Mah Sharivar
4) Ayathrem (Returning Home)
(October 12 to October 16 by Fasli calendar)
Roz Ashtad to Roz Aneran of Mah Meher
5) Maediarem (Mid Winter)
(December 31 to January 4, by Fasli calendar)
Roz Meher to Roz Baharam of Mah Dae
6) Hamaspathmaedaem (All Paths Equal)
The five Gatha Days
Other Holy days
Whenever the month and day have the same name that is a holy day.
Examples: the day Adar in the month of Adar is a holy day,
the day Avan in the month of Avan is a holly day.
Day Hormazd of month Farvardin, Norooz, New Year day
Day Khordad of month Farvardin, Zarathushtra’s birthday
Day Aneran of month Meher, Jashan of Rapithwan, from this day to Novrooz there is no Rapithwan Geh, the Havan Geh is used during the time.
Day Khorshed of month Dae, Death day of Zarathushtra
Days Ashtad to Aneran, of month Asfendarmad, the first five Muktad days, combined with the Gatha days make the ten days of Muktad. These are days at the end of the year to remember the dead.
The Story of Creation
According to our religion Ahura Mazda created the Universe in two stages.
Stage 1 (MENOG).
This stage is called the Menog or the Spiritual stage. In this stage Ahura Mazda created all beings and things in the spiritual state. Nothing had physical form. This was a pure state in which there was no evil. In this stage the Fravashis of all things were created. Then Ahura Mazda asked the Fravashis if He should give them physical form (that is bodies and soul). He also warned them that once the physical form was given to them Evil would enter creation and they would have to fight it in a long battle. The Fravashis replied that they desired to have a physical form. By having their bodies and souls, they would be free to act as they wanted, rather than remain in a pure state of inaction. They were willing to do battle against Evil in return for having their bodies. There upon Ahura Mazda brought the material world into existence and asked Spenta Mainyu to guide the souls to do good and fight evil.
Stage 2 (GETIG).
When Ahura Mazda brought the material world into existence, the second stage of creation started. It is called the Getig stage. The act of creation was thus completed.
The period of Gumesin.
As Ahura Mazda had warned, with the creation of the Getig stage (the material world), the Evil Spirit, Angre Mainyu attacked creation bringing into it, wickedness, greed, cruelty, deceit and all such bad things which did not exist before. The world now entered a state in which good and bad co-exist and fight each other. This period is called the period of the Mixture (of good and evil) in the Pahlevi language it is called the Gumesin period. This the period in which we now live and in which man has to fight evil, with the help of Ahura Mazda, Spent Mainyu, the Amesha Spenta and the Yazatas. This period will continue, until by the action of all good men, Evil will be completely destroyed. When all of mankind learns not to do Evil, Evil will become powerless. Towards the end of the period when most of mankind has turned away from evil three Saviours will come at intervals of 1000 years, who will help mankind in the final battle against Evil.
The period of Frashokereti
When evil has been completely destroyed, there will come the moment of Frashokereti (in Pahlevi it is called Frashogard). This is the moment of the glorious freshening (purification). Creation will now be in a perfect state, as it was in the Menog stage of creation, except that it will now have both a spiritual and a material existence. This period of Frashokereti is eternal and is the final goal of creation. This period is also called the period of Separation because in this period evil is separated from good.
There are three periods
3) Separation or Freshening or Purification
Creation has two stages
1) The spiritual stage or the Menog stage
2) The material stage or the Getig stage
The period of Mixture is the present stage in which good exists with evil and it is mankind’s duty to fight for the good and to fight against evil.
The period of Mixture ends with the moment of Glorious Purification (Frashokereti or Frashogard). This last period also called the period of Separation (because Evil has been separated out) in which creation exists in a pure state both spiritually and materially.
According to our religion it is the responsibility of mankind to bring about this final stage of creation. Because of all of Ahura Mazda’s creation, Mankind is the only one that is given the power to differentiate between and to choose between good and evil.
Fravashi, Soul and Body.
Each and every thing that Ahura Mazda has created has a Fravashi. The Fravashi is the pure spiritual idea of each thing or being that Ahura Mazda creates. They represent the way Ahura Mazda would have created the universe if there were no evil. The Fravashi of each person is pure and cannot be corrupted. The Fravashi is an example to the Soul, it guides the Soul to be pure like itself.
The Soul is the real you. It is the spiritual part of you which is responsible for the good and bad thoughts, words and deeds that you perform while living. It is the Soul that is judged after death and pays the consequences of evil deeds and gets the rewards of good deeds.
This is the physical you. Ahura Mazda has given you a body so that you can act (do things). The body can sense the world around it, through the five senses and it can react and make things happen by the use of its nervous system and muscles. The body is the instrument of the soul. If one compares the body to a car, then the soul is the driver of the car, making it go wherever the driver wishes.
The Idea of Evil in Zoroastrianism
According to our prophet Zarathushtra, when Ahura Mazda gave rise to creation, two twin Spirits or Forces appeared at the same time.
One was the Holy Spirit called Spenta Mainyu and another the Evil Spirit called Angre Mainyu. These two Spirits are the exact opposite of each other and without their presence there is no physical life or creation. While Spenta Mainyu supports the good creation, Angre Mainyu works to oppose it and destroy it.
Spenta Mainyu helps the good creation of Ahura Mazda move along the Path of Asha, which is the path along which Ahura Mazda wants creation to move. It is the path which will lead to the perfection of creation.
Angre Mainyu is the opposing negative force which tries to prevent creation from moving along the Path of Asha.
Spenta Mainyu leads mankind to be good and create happiness for themselves and those around them (the family, the society and the country).
Angre Mainyu leads mankind to be Evil and create unhappiness around themselves.
All religions have to answer this question: “If God is good and all powerful, why is there evil in this world”
Zarathushtra answers that Ahura Mazda is all good and eventually powerful, he could not create life without the appearance of the two Forces or Spirits, Spenta Mainyu and Angre Mainyu. Therefore Evil exists wherever life exists. Just as shadows appear when one turns on the light, Evil appeared when life was created. Since Ahura Mazda is all good, he is incapable of creating Evil, therefore the source of Evil is outside of Ahura Mazda’s creation.
Zoroastrianism, the religion of the good choice
Man is the only part of creation that is given a choice between good and evil, it is the choice between
being led by Spenta Mainyu or by Angre Mainyu
If a man chooses 1) to learn what is good, 2) to do good 3) to tell the truth and 4) to fight evil which may come from outside of him or from within him, then that man chooses the path of righteousness. This kind of person chooses to help move all creation along the Path of Asha. This kind of person will be happy in this life and the next. He will also create happiness for himself and those around him.
If a man chooses 1) not to learn to distinguish between good and evil, 2) to do evil 3) speak lies and not to fight evil, then that person prevents creation from moving along the Path of Asha. Such a person is on the side of Angre Mainyu. Such a person has no wisdom. Such a person creates unhappiness for himself and those around him and in the end will be unhappy in the next life.
A Zoroastrian’s Duty
The duty of a Zoroastrian is to learn the difference between right and wrong and always to make the right choice in his thoughts, words and actions. The right choice is always to fight on the side of Spenta Mainyu and to oppose Angre Mainyu. If all men did this at all time, creation would move very fast along the Path of Asha. At the end of this path, Angre Mainyu will be totally defeated because no one will take his side. When this happens all creation will exist in a pure state as Ahura Mazda wanted it to be.
The story of two wolves
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
What is death?
Death is the separation of the body and soul. It is the end of a person’s ability to make things happen in this world. Before death a person can do good or evil, after death the person is able to do neither good nor evil. The results of that person’s action before death, may continue through the actions of others.
What happens at death, according to the Zoroastrian religion?
At death the soul and body separate. The soul which has existed with the body for many years and which has been its home, does not leave the body immediately. It stays around in this world for three nights after death. The body in the mean time starts to decompose. It must be gotten rid of as soon as possible. Otherwise it will rot and smell and spread disease to those who are around it. According to our religion the dead body is an impure thing. It must be washed as soon as possible and dressed in a sudreh with a kushti tied around the waist, with recitiation of the Kushti Prayers. Over this the body must be dressed in white clothes with only the face showing. The body is then placed on a stone platform so that it does not pollute the earth. A circle is drawn around it to show that it is a polluted area. Once the body is prepared this way no one must touch it, except two men who will handle it from this point onwards. A fire is lit next to the body and a priest or family member prays continuously near the body, until the time of disposal.
The body is usually disposed of on the second day after death. In North America, burial or cremation is the usual mode of disposal. In Iran the custom of using the Towers of Silence (Dokhma) is not used any more and burial is the preferred method. In India wherever there are Dokhma, they are the preferred method of disposal. The Dokhma consists of a tower of stone with three concentric platforms inside. The bodies are placed and exposed to the elements on these platforms. Birds of prey, usually vultures devour the flesh within a few hours. The bones are left to dry in the sun. Eventually the bones are pushed into a central well. This method of disposal is ecologically very sound. The dead body does not take up space in the earth, nor does it require huge amounts of energy to burn it. In the jungle this is exactly what happens to any animal that dies and the dead animal becomes a part of the natural cycle of life.
Before the body is disposed of, a ceremony called the Geh Sarna ceremony is performed. This is an extremely important ceremony, in which the entire first Gatha of Zarathushtra is recited by two priests. In the absence of priests, laymen can also perform the ceremony. Up to the time of this ceremony the soul does not like to leave the vicinity of the body. This ceremony helps the soul to break the connection. The body can now be disposed of.
The soul now remains in this world for two more nights protected by the angel Sraosha. At sunset, before these two nights, ceremonies are performed, which ask the special favor of the angel Sraosha to protect the soul of the deceased. On the dawn of the fourth day, it is time for the soul to depart for the spiritual world. It is also the time of judgment for its actions while living. At this time a very important ceremony, called the Early Morning Ceremony, is performed in the honor of the angel Sraosha, and the angels Meher, Rashnu, and Ashtad, who will judge the soul.
On the morning of the fourth day after death, the soul leaves the material world and enters the spiritual world and comes to the bridge of Judgment, ‘The Chinavat Bridge’. There it sees the reflection of its inner self. If the person has lived a good life the reflection appears as a beautiful young woman, calling it to the House of Light and Happiness. If the person has lead an evil life the reflection appears as an ugly witch, calling the soul to the House of Darkness and Woe. To the soul who has lived a good life the ChinavatBridge becomes a wide and easy road to the House of Lights and Happiness. To the soul that has led an evil life, the Bridge becomes a knife edge, which the soul tries to cross but falls to the House of Darkness and Woe.
The soul remains in a happy state or a state of sorrow until the end of time, until Frashokereti. Then, creation will be purified through the actions of all good persons who have helped to move creation along the path of Asha, and evil will be destroyed. Then the soul of the evil person is also purified and joins all creation, which now exists in a pure state.
Our religion requires that the soul of the dead be remembered by performing the Baj ceremony, which is a kind of Jashan ceremony, on the 10th day, the 1st to the 12th month, and then every year on the death anniversary. The ceremony is to be requested by the next of kin for one generation. If it is not possible to have the ceremonies performed than the recitation of the Prayer for Remembering the Dead should be performed by the next of kin. The souls of the dead are also remembered in the Muktad period, which is the 10 days consisting of the last 5 days of the Zoroastrian calendar, followed by the 5 Gatha days.
THE NAVJOTE CEREMONY
The ceremony of investing the Zoroastrian child with the sacred shirt and thread is called the Navjote. Nav means new, as in Navrooz (new day) and Jote means follower. The navjote ceremony confirms the child as a new follower of the religion. It also gives the child a uniform to wear as a new follower, which is the Sudreh and Kushti.
The Sudreh is a shirt made from white, light fabric. It is made from a single piece of cloth with a hole for the neck and sewn on the two sides. It has two small pockets one on the front at the bottom of the neck hole and one at the back. The front pocket symbolically stores the good deeds of the person. The Sudreh signifies purity and righteousness.
The Kushti is made from lambs hair spun into 72 threads, these are divided into six strands each of twelve threads. These are then woven together with a single continuous thread through the six strands. The two ends are left unwoven, to form the tassels. Before the tassels are made, the Kushti is consecrated by a priest, by performing the Sarosh Baj. The Kushti is then inverted inside out like a sock being turned inside out and then the tassels are woven by hand. The 72 threads represent the 72 chapters of the Yasna ceremony, the highest Zoroastrian ceremony, which is only performed in the fire-temples. The performance of the Kushti ritual is a symbol of the necessity of fighting evil through ones good thoughts, good deeds and good words. During the Kushti prayers one also pledges allegiance and commitment to the Zoroastrian faith and a promise to live ones life following the teachings of Zarathushtra.
The Kushti ritual is to be performed on getting up from bed, every time after going to the bathroom, before saying prayers, after a bath, and before meals. In these modem times some of these may be difficult and it is up to each individual to decide when and how often one should do the Kushti ritual.
On the day of the ceremony the child first has a sacred purification bath. This is donewith the help of a priest who recites the necessary prayers and helps the child pray some of the prayers required of him/her. This part also involves the drinking of a few drops of the nirang, saying “I drink this for the purification of my body, for the purification of the soul”. After the bath the child must not touch anything dirty or any person, except the priest during the ceremony.
The ceremony starts with the child sitting in front of the priest with the sudreh in the hands. The priest recites the Hormazd Yasht in honor of Ahura Mazda, while the child recites the Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer. Then child and priest stand facing the sun, the priest behind the child and investure proper takes place.
They recite together the Confession of Faith, (the Din No Kalmo) prayer and the Sudreh is put on. This is followed by recital of the introductory part of the Hormazd Yasht, and then the Kushti is put on the child with the recital of the Ahura Mazda Khodai prayer. This is followed by the final recital of the Mazdayasno Ahmi prayer (Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda). This finishes the investure and it is followed by the benediction where the priest wishes all kinds of good things for the child. The priest then recites the Tandarosti prayer for the good health of the child and the family.
The most important part of the ceremony is the confession of the faith (Jasa me Avanghe Mazda) in which the child publicly declares in the presence of the community and friends, his or her acceptance of the religion. From this point on the child is morally responsible in the eyes of God for all his or her good or evil deeds. The child must learn to distinguish between right and wrong, think before acting, do what is right and fight against evil.
ZOROASTRIAN MARRIAGE CEREMONY
The marriage ceremony that we are going to learn about is the one used by Parsi Zoroastrians and differs considerably from that used by Iranian Zoroastrians.
Like the Navjote ceremony this one is also performed in the presence of a large gathering of friends and family. While the Navjote should be done before sunset the wedding ceremony is usually performed after sunset (at least in India, because of a promise given to the Indian king Jadav Rana when the Parsi ancestors came to India.)
Like all Zoroastrian ceremonies this one is also performed in the presence of fire, which is tended by the priest. Two priests are usually present one from the bridegroom’s side and the other from the bride’s side. Both the bride and the bridegroom take the purifying bath (Nahan) before the ceremony.
The ceremony starts with the couple sitting opposite each other. Some close members of the family stand around them. Two male Zoroastrians one from each side act as witnesses and also as authorizers of the wedding. The couple is separated by a curtain of white cloth. A long piece of white cloth is also put around the two chairs so as to enclose them in a circle. The senior priest joins the right hands of the couple and fastens them with yarn and the remaining yarn is passed seven times around the couple while the Yatha Ahu Variyo prayer is recited seven times. At the end of this the curtain of cloth is dropped and the couple throw on each other a few grains of rice which symbolize good luck and prosperity. The above ceremony signifies that the separation that existed between the couple, no longer exists and that they are now united in the bonds of matrimony. They now sit side by side for the rest of the ceremony.
The senior priest blesses the couple: ” May the Creator, the Wise Lord grant you sons and grandsons, plenty of means to provide for yourselves, heart-ravishing friendship, bodily strength, and long life”.
He then puts the following question to the witness representing the bridegroom’s family: “Have you agreed to take this maiden (name) in marriage for this bridegroom in accordance with the rites and rules of the Zoroastrians?”
The witness replies: “I have agreed”.
Then the question to the witness from the bride’s side: “Have you and your family, with righteous mind and truthful thoughts and actions for the increase of righteousness, agreed to give forever this bride in marriage to (name of bridegroom)?”
The witness replies: “We have agreed.”
The priest then asks the consent of the couple individually: “Do you choose to enter into this contract of marriage up to the end of the life of the righteous mind?”
Each reply: “I choose.”
To make doubly or trebly sure, the questions are asked three times. If any of these answers are negative the priest will not proceed with the marriage.
After this the priests invoke the admonition. This is a very detailed admonition but essentially the priests ask the couple to live their lives as true Zoroastrians, shunning bad thoughts and bad behavior and committing only good thoughts, good words and good deeds towards each other and to others.
This is followed by the priests praying to Ahura Mazda to confer on the couple certain moral and social virtues through the Yazatas. “May Ahura Mazda bestow upon you good thoughts through Vohuman, good words through Asha Vahishta, good actions through Sharevar, devotion through Aramaiti, sweetness through Khordad and fruitfulness through Amerdad.
And the prayer continues on listing the blessings of all the Yazatas.
Then the priests recite the following benediction:
The twain into one are joined today. May their right hands be tied by the bond of love in lasting union. May the mind and heart of one blend with that of the other. May the two come nearer to each other in good thoughts, good words and good deeds from day unto day.
May each take the best that is in the other and give something better than the best. May each give of one’s goodness what the other lacks and give mutual completion to each other in life.
Locked in the embrace of their wedded love, may they live for each other, may they share each other’s feelings, may they lighten each other’s load of life. May each elevate what nature has endowed the other. May he be hers and she be wholly his for all the days of their lives. May better than good come unto them. May it be so even as we pray. Ahura Mazda, Amen. ”
The marriage ceremony then ends with the recitation of the Tandorosti prayer for the health of the couple and their families.
The Jashan Ceremony
The Jashan ceremony is an important Zoroastrian ritual which when performed reaffirms the harmony between the physical and spiritual worlds and is a memorializing link between the two worlds. The performance of a Jashan sets up a connection between the spiritual and the material worlds and is an invitation to beings in the spiritual world such as Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, the Yazatas and the Fravashis of all departed good people to participate in the celebration. This ceremony is performed on happy occasions such as weddings, navjotes, house warmings or on certain festivals such as Ghambars. A form of this ceremony is also used on the death anniversary of a beloved person.
The Jashan is a ceremony performed by two or more priests; the senior priest is known as the Zaotar and his assistant is called the Raspi.
The ceremony consists of four parts.
- 1. The consecration of the fire by recitation of the Atash Niyaesh prayer.
- 2. The Dibache which is the remembrance of the souls of the departed who have played an important part in our history, the great kings, heroes, priests etc. and finally the departed members of the family sponsoring the Jashan.
- 3. The Afringan. The central part of the Jashan in which the spiritual and material worlds are symbolically connected as the flowers are passed from the Zoatar to the Raspi and returned back. The Afringan is repeated three times, one in honor of Ahura Mazda and the two others in the honor of different Yazatas depending on the occasion.
- 4. The Afrin. The invocation of the blessings on the congregation attending the Jashan. The blessings are invoked in the form of “May we be righteous as Zarathushtra”, “May we be strong as Rustom” etc.
At the end of the Jashan ceremony the Tandorosti prayer is said for the family sponsoring the Jashan or for the whole congregation if it is a public Jashan.
THE AMESHA SPENTA, THE HOLLY ATTRIBUTE S OF AHURA MAZDA.
THE WAY ZARATHUSHTRA CONCIEVED THE IDEA OF GOD AND HOW THE AMESHA SPENTA CAN BE USED TO BECOME A TRUE ZOROASTRIAN
Zarathushtra described the concept of his one God, Ahura Mazda by discussing His six Holly Attributes, the Amesha Spenta.
Avesta Name Pahalevi Name
Vohu Mano Bahaman
Asha Vahishta Ardibehest
Kshathra Vairya Sharevar
These attributes not only help us to understand the nature of Ahura Mazda but they are also gifts from Ahura Mazda to Mankind.
In order to understand the nature of God, Zarathushtra starts with a number of questions, such as:
Who determined the path of the sun, the moon and the stars? Who balanced the earth and the heavens to keep then apart? Who created the waters and the plants? Who created light and darkness, wakefulness and sleep?
And another set of questions:
Who created truth? Who created benevolence? Who with foresight made the son reverential of the father?
On pondering over these questions Zarathushtra seems to have arrived at the conclusion that there is a certain order in the universe and a law that drives that order. The order is not only in the physical world but also in the moral behavior of mankind. This order, or in other words the way that things ought to be both in the physical world and the moral world, Zarathushtra called it Asha and the law that controls this order, we call it the law of Asha. In the physical world, Asha represents all the laws of physics and mathematics etc that control the physical phenomenon. If these laws were to be broken there would be chaos. Similarly, if the laws of the moral world are broken there would be a different kind of chaos. Because Asha is also the moral law, it encompasses Righteousness and the ultimate Truth. Asha is the way things should be in a perfect universe (the ultimate Truth) and the correct way to act (Righteousness). Zarathushtra came to the conclusion that Ahura Mazda conceived the ideal creation in accordance with the principle of Asha. Creation in its physical form is not perfect but must progress according to the Law of Asha to achieve perfection. Thus righteous thoughts words and actions (according to Asha) move creation towards perfection and are Good. Thoughts words and actions that oppose Asha prevent creation from moving towards perfection and are Evil.
Zarathushtra came to the conclusion that Asha is an integral part of Ahura Mazda, He is Asha. By that very fact, even He can not go against the Law of Asha. Asha is then the first attribute of Ahura Mazda.
This is the second of the Amesha Spenta. It is the attribute of Ahura Mazda which is described as the highest or best Mind. Ahura Mazda being in possession of Vohu Mano is incapable of making a wrong decision. Thus by this nature Ahura Mazda can not do any Evil. Thus He is perfectly good.
The gift of Vohu Mano is given to Mankind. Thus Mankind is given the ability to discern between Good and Evil. This ability allows us to tell, in any given situation, what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, what is in accordance with the Path of Asha and what is against it. Vohu Mano in us tells us how one should act in an ideal way. This gift has to be cultivated by regular use. When one does not use this gift and makes wrong decisions, this gift can be lost and then our actions will tend towards Evil.
The third Amesha Spenta can best be described as the love of Ahura Mazda for his Creation and an expectation that Creation is good and that it will eventually become perfect. It is therefore the spirit of Ahura Mazda’s benevolence.
The gift of Aramaity to mankind creates in us the desire to do Good and have faith in the Goodness of Ahura Mazda and to drive away the doubts when Evil seems to have an upper hand.
Aramaity is the bond between Ahura Mazda and mankind, the bond that makes us co-workers with Ahura Mazda in driving Creation towards perfection. In a sense it is like the love of a parent for the child. When a spark of Aramaiti resides in man, then man trusts and believes in Ahura Mazda
The fourth Amesha Spenta is Kshathra Vairya. It is the Power of Ahura Mazda that is always used for the Good. Mankind must always use power with wisdom and knowledge so that a society is created in which order and goodness thrive. Good power is obtained by good service. The Yatha Ahu Vairyo says that the gift of Vohu Mano is given to work for Ahura Mazda, the Strength of Ahura Mazda (Kshathra Vairya) is granted to him who works for the poor. The gift of Kshathra Variya (good power) is given to mankind so that they can establish a perfect society and political structure on earth. This perfect society does not just refer to human society but includes the care and nurturing of the plant and animal kingdom. When this is achieved then one realizes Ahura Mazda’s kingdom on earth.
Houravatat and Ameretat
The fifth Amesha Spenta is Houravatat. It is Perfection and Completeness, Ahura Mazda is Perfect and Complete. When man develops within himself the four gifts described above than he attains wholeness and perfection. Such a person’s soul attains the state of immortal bliss which is the last Amesha Spenta, Ameretat. The last two Amesha Spenta are the rewards of living a life according to the first four Amesha Spenta and are the ultimate goal of life on earth.
Let us see now how these ideas work. Ahura Mazda created the world which was supposed to progress along the path of Asha. However in the physical state creation is not perfect and evil exists which works against the progress of creation. Human beings are able to possess Vohu Mano, the Good Mind and therefore are able to understand what is good and evil. They can tell what is working according to the Law of Asha and that which is working against it. This is Good Thought. When this is expressed and communicated it is Good Words. When we act according to these thoughts it is Good Deeds. The Good Deeds of mankind bring about a society where there is goodness and justice and happiness, where right prevails over wrong. This is the ultimate goal of creation to reach perfection (Frasho-Kereti), in which goodness and happiness exists for ever.
Therefore a Zoroastrian tries to understand the concept of Ahura Mazda by understanding the concept of the Holly Attributes of Ahura Mazda and could become like Ahura Mazda by developing these attributes in himself.
Introduction to the Gathas.
I use the book:
The Gathas-The Hymns of Zarathushtra
Translated by D. J. Irani
The Introduction chapter by Prof. K. D. Irani is very useful.
The book is available on line at http://www.zarathushtra.com/z/gatha/dji/gathtml.htm