In Search of the Zoroastrians

200 Short Questions & Answers : Part II














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101. What is the Zoroastrian ideal of being in tune with future?

:To be in tune with nature is to explore every possibility to be a source of joy to all creations following the fundamental principle observable in the workings of nature viz.it is better to give than to receive.

102 What virtue should a pure Zoroastrian follow in his dealings with nature?

:A true Zoroastrian should observe temperance or moderation in his dealings with nature,never to over-exploit the bounties of nature as that would seriously disturb ecological balance to the detriment of mankind.

103 How should a true Zoroastrian regard this world?

:A true Zoroastrian should regard this world as a battlefield and himself as a soldier under the chieftainship of Ahura Mazda to do battle against the forces of Darkness and Wrong.

104 How should a true Zoroastrian perform actions?

:A true Zoroastrian should perform actions in accordance with the will of Ahura Mazda,that is virtuous deeds completely devoid of egoism dedicating them to the supreme god.

105 What is the true Zoroastrian way of life?

:The true Zoroastrian way of life consists in spreading happiness all around - happiness unto him  through  whom  happiness  unto  anyone whomsoever.(Yasna 43-1)

106 What is Haoma?

:Avestic Hoama and Vedic Soma is the name of a plant known to the ancient iranians and the vedic Aryans from ancient times.

107 Who identified the Haoma plant?

:The man who identified the Haoma plant was a holy sage named also Haoma who was well advanced in matters spiritual and who got the Iranians acquainted with the excellent qualities of the plant.

108 What is the main quality of the Haoma plant?

:The Hoama plant is advantageous both for the body and the soul,because all other intoxicating drinks lead to anger,but the drink prepared from Haoma plant is joy-giving and leads to holiness,and it renders the mind of the poor exalted.Today in Yazashne ceremony juice is extracted from Haoma twigs.

109 What different kinds of Haoma were known to the ancient iranians?

:They were 1) Haoma Zaairi or the green Haoma, ii) Haoma fraashmi or the refreshing Haoma and iii) Haoma duraosha or the death-averter Haoma.

110 What is death according to  the Zoroastrian religion?

:In Zoroastrian terminology the phenomenon of death is spoken of as  the seperation of consciousness from the physical body (Vendidad 9-43)

111 Where does a man's soul remain after death according to Zoroastrian religion?

:According to the Zoroastrian belief a man's soul after death remains within the precincts of this world for three nights, under the protection of angel Srosh,the soul's guide (dastagire ravaan) and the soul of a holy man is happy and joyful because of his good conduct in the material world,whereas quite opposite is the case of soul of a wicked man.

112 Where does a man's soul go on the dawn of the fourth day after death?

:On the dawn of the fourth day after death the soul of the holy man meets face to face with his own conduct called Daena in the Avesta,in the form of a very beautiful maiden with a very fragrant wind blowing,and the maiden leading the soul across the Bridge of Selection; to the best existence,whereas quite opposite is the case of the soul of a wicked man(Fragmentess of Haadskht Nask,chs II and III)

113 What is Chinvat bridge?

It is not a bridge built of any material like iron,wood or stone,but it is the name of a place where selection for the soul is made, whether it has to proceed to heaven or to be dragged down to hell.

114 What is Behest(Heaven)

If a man's good deeds in the material world outnumber his evil deeds his soul is entitled to Behest which is of four different grades (i) Humata(star station) (ii)Hukta(moon station) (iii) Hvarshta(sun station) and (iv) Anagra raochaao (endless light) or garodemaan (house of songs) (fragments of Haadokht Nask chs II and III)

115 What is Dozakh(hell)

If a man's evil deeds in the material world outnumber his good deeds his soul is doomed for Dozakh which is also of four different grades (i)Dushmata (ii)Duzukhta (iii) Duzvarshta and (iv)Anagra temah (endless darkness)

116 What is Hamistagaan?

When a man's good and evil deeds are equal his soul is entitled to a place called Hamistagaan where there is neither happiness nor much sorrow.

117 what is Ristaakhez ?

Rishtaakhez means rising of the dead.Zoroastrianism predicts a time when all the dead will rise up with the help of Soshyos,the last great benefactor, and attain immortality after undergoing the final judgement.

118 What is Frashgird ?

Frashgird means the act of renovating.Zoroastrianism presages a time when the world will be completely renovated and it will be never decaying,never rotting ever living and ever progressing going on in nature with the change of old order yielding place to new.

119 What is Tan-i-pasen?

At the time of the final great renovation mankind will lead an existence devoid of disease,old age and death.This is known as Tan-i-pasen or final most bodily condition.

120 What is virtue ?

Virtue means good quality and virtuous deeds are approved by God because they are performed according to His Will which is that man should practise virtues in his day-to-day life.

121 What are the kinds of virtue ?

These are i)active virtues ii) passive virtues iii) private virtues and iv)public virtues.

122) What are active virtues?

If a person exerts himself to make others tread the path of virtues and actively resists evil, he is said to follow active virtues.This type of virtues is extolled by Zoroastrian religion.

123) What are passive virtues?

If a person is honest,just and truthful and rests satisfied with his virtuous life, he is said to follow passive virtues.

124) What are private virtues ?

Private virtues are those which make a person's private life happy, for example married life,contentment,simplicity,frugality.

125) What are public virtues?

Public virtues are those which benifit a large number of people,for example courage,bravery,generousity,public spirit to fight for truth and justice.

126) What is sin ?

To act against moral principles is considered a sin - All acts of sin slow down soul's progress towards perfection and they are a heavy burden on mind.

127) How are sins classified ?

Sins are classified as i) Sins of commission and ii) Sins of ommission.If a person performs an evil action knowingly it is a sin of commission, but if a person knowingly avoids an oppurtunity to perform a good deed it is a sin of ommission.

128) What is repentance?

To repent is to retract from sin and return to the path of virtue.

129) How does repentance benifit a person ?

Through repentance a person gives expression to his suppressed thoughts and feelings and thus lightens the burden off his mind.Sincere repentance before God helps man cease from sin.

130) How can one repent ?

One can repent of one's sins in three ways i) repentance through thoughts (Paititem mano) ii) repentance through words (Paititem vacho) and iii)repentance through deeds(paititem shyaothnem)

131) Why has the Zoroastrian religion stressed purity of elements ?

The four natural elements fire,air, water and earth enter into the composition of human body,hence on their purity depends the general health of mankind.Also, the four natural properties in human body viz. heat,moisture, coldness, and dryness are derived from those four elements.

132) How is the purity of these elements observed?

It is observed by not burning dead and decomposed matter on fire,nor throwing it into water,nor interring it in earth.

133) Based on the purity of elements which is the best method of disposing the dead ?

It is exposing a dead body to birds on the highest places.Also, on high open spaces sun-light and air act as very powerful purifying agents, and prevent decomposition from spreading around.

134) Why is it called the best method?

It is the most economical.Certain birds like vultures and ravens are meant specially for the purpose of devouring the corpses and carcasses, and they are called scavengers of nature.

135) What important purpose does this method serve?

All living beings have life-force to sustain them.This life force derives its strength from the food which is consumed.It is one of the teachings of the zoroastrian religion that nothing should be wasted.Thus, even a dead body is put to good use insofar as it is consumed by the carnivorous birds and strengthens their vitality

136) Of what, according to Zoroastrian teachings, does man's physical organism consist ?

Man's physical organism consists of physical body containing all the external and internal organs, and it is termed " tanu " in Avesta and there is also the bony skeleton called 'azda' supporting the fleshy part.To  energize and vitalize the physical body heat and energy necessary, and the process of respiration called 'ushtaana ' imparts vitality and life to the body.There is also the form of the body called 'kehrpa ' and strength to move about and will called 'tevishi '.

137) What according to Zoroastrian teachings, are invisible principles, which motivate the physical organism ?

They are: i) Ahu or life, ii) Daenaa or conscience, iii) Baodha or intellect, iv) Urvan or soul and v) Fravashi or guardian spirit.

138) What is Ahu ?

Ahu is the active principle of life which has its abode in the heart,and vitalizes all senses of perception.

139) What is Daena ?

Daena is the inner voice of conscience which guides one while performing actions which will ultimately determine one's future state.

140) What is Baodha ?

Baodha or intellect reacts to the impulse carried to the brain centre through sensory nerves, which reaction is carried back to the sense organs through motor nerves and perception results.

141) What is Urvan ?

Urvan or soul is purely spiritual principle in the human constitution. Every human soul is potentially divine and through the best righteousness one can so illumine one's soul as to be in the nearest relationship with Ahura Mazda.

142) What is Fravashi ?

Fravashi or the guardian spirit is the most spiritual of all the invisible principles in the human constitution,and its function is to guide the soul in its material existence.Fravashi is also associated with the function of providing energy to the body along with ushtaana.

143) What are the instruments or faculties of soul ?

Instruments or faculties of soul(ravaan avzaaraan) are mainly three : 1)reasoning (vir) which penetrates, 2)consciousness (osh) which protects, and 3) wisdom (khrat) which determines.

144) Wisdom is classified as innate wisdom (aasn-khrat) and acquired wisdom (goshosrut khrat).Without the former one is unable to acquire the latter.One can sharpen inate wisdom through acquired wisdom which can be obtained through learning and knowledge.

145) What is one of the fundamental theories of Zoroastrian cosmogony ?

One of the fundamental theories of Zoroastrian cosmogony is that at first there was the spiritual existence and Ahura Mazda first produced material creation in a spiritual form and then again He produced it in material form.Cosmogony means the birth of the whole creation.

146) What is another theory of Zoroastrian cosmogony?

Another theory of Zoroastrian cosmogony is that the material creations have come into existence at different stages.This is the evolutionary theory of Gaahambaars according to which the order of creations is the sky,the water, the earth, the vegetation, the animal.

147) What is the third theory of zoroastrian cosmonogy ?

The third theory is that the creations have emerged from light.Ahura Mazda out of his own light first produced a form of creation in the shape of fire,bright and white.

148)What is the fourth theory of Zoroastrian cosmonogy?

The fourth theory is that before anything came into existence Ahura Mazda uttered Ahuna Vairya,the holy spell,which may be called Zoroastrian logos.It must have produced vibrations,and step by step creations must have come into being.

149)What is behind the act of creations?

Zoroastrian concept of divine Mind is behind the act of creations.Ahura Mazda first thought and mingled happiness with luminaries and through wisdom produced the immutable law of Asha (Yasna 31-7)The workings of the universe also reveal the mental power of the Architect of universe.

150)How is the factor of time associated with Zoroastrian cosmonogy?

It is but natural.Creation cannot be conceived apart from time.It must have come into existence at some particular time.Ahura Mazda fashioned limited time from infinite time and the creation took place in the former.

151) By what name are the priests known amoung the Zoroastrians ?

Amoung the Zoroastrians the priest are known as Athravans.The word Athravan means one who tends the fire.In the eastern Iranian provinces in ancient times they acted as fire priests.

152) What were the different grades of Athravans in ancient times?

There were different grades of Atharvans in ancient times depending on their holiness and spiritual attainments at different levels.Three grades of Athravans are mentioned in the Avesta.(khurdaad Yasht - 9)

153) What are the three classes of Athravans today?

The three grades of Athravans today are Ervad,Mobed and Dastur.

154)Who is an Ervad?

The word Ervad is derived from Avesta aethrapaiti which means a teacher or an instructor.In ancient times one who was most advanced in righteousness,was deemed fit for priestly profession,and for three years he had to acquire holy wisdom under an able teacher.

155)Who is a Mobed?

The word Mobed is derieved from Pahlavi magupat which means a master Magian.Magians were the priests in Western Iran in ancient times.A mobed can perform high ceremonies of the inner circle like Yazashne,Visperad,Vendidad and Baaj.

156)Who is a Dastur?

The word Dastur is derieved from Pahlavi Dastabar meaning one who exercises authority.A Dastur should combine in himself the best qualities of head and heart.He is expected to be holy, having innate wisdom and spiritual insight which are the two important qualities expected of a high priest.

157)What is Naavar?

Before being initiated as an Ervad the son of the priest today has to undergo Naavar ordainment which consists of two Barshnums with nine nights of retreat in each to observe strict rules and gain self-control and four days for performing ceremonies.

158)What is Maraatab?

To become a Mobed an Ervad has to undergo Maraatab ordainment for which one Barshnum with nine nights of retreats is required and then two days for performing ceremonies.

159)What is Aalaat?

Aalaat is  an Arabic word which means implement,apparatus, and these are required for performing some high ceremonies like Yazashne,Visperad and Vendidad.The Aalaat are first of all rendered pure before being used in the ceremonies.

160)Who is  an Ashmogh?

The word Asmogh is Avesta ashemaogha which means one who violates Asha.The main teachings of the Zoroastrian religion are based on Asha.Therefore one who does not follow the principles of Asha is heretic,So an Ashmogh or a heretic is in contradistinction to an Ashavan or a holy person.

161)Who is a Dravant?

Dravant is an Avesta word which means 'a wicked person'. He is the one who deviates from the path of Asha or righteousness.There is a clear-cut distinction between an Ashavan or a holy man and a dravant or a wicked man.

162) What is Butparasti?

Butparasti is a Persian word which means idol worship which is castigated by the Zoroastrian religion.To offer prayers before any image made of stone or wood or any other material is against the spirit of Zoroastrianism,which categorically declares that the supreme god Ahura Mazda is the most invisible and hence cannot be represented by any material image.

163) What is Maachi?

Maachi is derived from Sanskrit manch which means a throne.While feeding the fire of the first grade fire-temple viz.Atash Behram. six pieces of sandalwood are placed on fire.The highest grade of fire is regarded as a king.Hence six pieces of sandalwood should be placed on it to make a kind of throne,pairs of two pieces one above the other.

164) Where did the religion of Zarathustra come into existence first ?

The religion of Zarathustra first came into existence in ancient Iran,because Zarathustra is spoken of as famous in Iran Vej(Yasna 9-14)

165) What religion was there in ancient Iran before Zarathustra ?

Before Zarathustra the religion of ancient Iran was Poryotkeshi Mazdayashni.

166) What is the meaning of Poryotkeshi Mazdayashni?

The meaning of Poryotkeshi Mazdayashni is the foremost creed of the worship of Mazda or the Omniscient.

167) What is meant by Saoshyant ?

The word Saoshyant means benefactor of mankind.

168) Who were the Saoshyants that preceded Zarathushtra?

They were Gayomard,Hoshang,Tehmurus,Hom,Jamshed,Faredoon,Kay kaus and Kay khusru.All these Saoshyants followed Mazdayashni religion.

169) Why did Zarathustra accept Poryotkeshi Mazdayashni religion?

There were many good elements in the Poryotkeshi Mazdayashni religion,so Zarathustra accepted it.It was a powerful deterrent against Daevayashni.

170) Against whom did Zarathustra preach his religion ?

Zarathustra preached his religion against the Daevas who refused to worship the one Omniscient Lord and were rooted in evil mind.

171) Who first supported the religion of Zarathustra?

King Gustasp of the Kayanian dynasty,who ruled at Balkh in ancient Iran,first supported the religion of Zarathustra after putting it to test in the assembly of the wise and the learned from different countries who put to the prophet several questions.

172) Who was the first disciple of Zarathusthra ?

The first disciple of Zarathustra was his own cousin Medyomah

173) After his acceptance of the Zoroastrian religion whom did King Gustasp send to propogate it?

After his acceptance of the Zoroastrian religion King Gustasp sent prince Asfandyar to propogate it in distant lands.

174) Who destroyed the literature of the Zoroastrian religion?

Alexander the great, after conquering Persia in the 4th century B.C. burnt the library of Zoroastrian writings at Daz-i-Nipisht, at Persipolis, and the writings which were deposited in another library, named Ganj-i-Shapigaan,fell into the hands of Greeks,who took them to Greece and translated them into Greek.

175) Who rejuvenated the Zoroastrian religion and literature ?

King Ardeshir Baabegaan, the founder of the Sasanian dynasty in the 3rd century A.D. made commendable efforts to rejuvenate the Zoroastrian religion and literature with the help of his high priest Tansar.Thereafter other Sasanian Sovereigns like Shapur I, Shapur II and Noshirvan Adil made efforts in various directions to reorganise and revitalize the Zoroastrian religion and literature.

176) In what language is the Zoroastrian scripture written?

Zoroastrian scripture is written in Avesta.

177) Originally how many Nasks or books were there of the Zoroastrian religion ?

Originally there were 21 Nasks or books of the Zoroastrian religion divided into three classes as per their contents viz. Gaasaanik or religious, Daatik or pertaining to laws and handhmaansrik or the intermidiate between the two,each group consisting of seven books.

178) What is the extant Avesta literature?

The extant Avesta literature is in a very small quantity.It consists mainly of Yasna,Visperad,Vendidad,Yasht and Khordeh Avesta

179) What is Yasna ?

Yasna has 72 chapters and contains prayers with offerings unto Ahura Mazda and other divine spirits like Amesha Spentas,Yazatas and other spiritual entities presiding over divisions of time.

180) What is Visperad ?

Visperad has 23 chapters and contains prayers in praise of all the divine entities presiding over the creation.It is recited on the occasion of Gaahambaars or seasonal festivals.

181) What is Vendidad ?

Vendidad has 22 chapters and covers topics as geography of the ancient Aryans,history of king Jamshed of the peshdadian dynasty,five kinds of different places producing joy and sorrow,instructions to keep away from nasaa or decomposing matter,Barshnum ceremony,different species of dogs and their care,qualifications of the priests etc.

182) What is Yasht?

A yasht is a prayer in praise of a divinity.Some of the Yashts contain valuable information about the history of ancient Iran.There are 22 Yashts in all

183) What is Khordeh Avesta?

Khordeh Avesta means Smaller Avesta.It contains short prayers to be recited daily such as five Gaahs,Five Nyaaishs,some smaller Yashts,Stum prayer and one or two Monaajaats. 184) What is Avesta?

The sacred literature of the Zoroastrians and its language are called Avesta The word is variously derived by different scholars,but the most probable derivation seems to be from he stem vid to know  so Avesta means 'What is known'.It is generally acknowledged that Avesta was the language of east Iran.

185) What is the relationship between Avesta and Sanskrit?

Avesta and Sanskrit are sister languages,having much in common.Not only is there a close relationship between the words of the two languages but at times even the whole sentences are found identical.In particular there is a close affinity between the Vedic sanskrit and the Gathic Avesta,and by applying some rules of phonetics entire Gathic stanzas can be changed into sanskrit.

186)What is Zand?

When Avesta language ceased to be properly understood,translation and commentary were made in another language viz Pahlavi, by the learned for the use of the general public in the Sasanian times,that is, from 3rd century A.D. onwards.

187) What is Pahlavi?

Pahlavi language was he language current in Iran in the Sasanian times from 226 A.D. onwards.It is a polyphonous language as the letters of its alphabets are variously pronounced.There are some words of Semetic origin in Pahlavi because ancient Iran was under Semetic influence at different periods in its history.Pahlavi is also called Middle-Persian because it stands midway between the old Persian and Modern Persian.

188) What is Pazand.?

Pahlavi being a curious admixture of Iranian and Semetic elements was difficult to be understood.Hence,to simplify the language all the Semetic words were banished from Pahlavi and substituted by their Iranian equivalents.Hence a new and simplified language viz.Pazand came into being.It is written in Avestan characters.

189)In what age did Zarathustra live?

It is not certain when exactly Zarathustra lived.Greek and Roman writers place his age in a very remote past.Aristotle,pliny and Plato place his age at 6000 B.C. and Hermippus at 7000 B.C. Some have attempted to place him between 2500 to 1000 B.C. and still others after 1000 B.C.

190) Who were the main opponents of Zarathustra?

They were Kavis and Karapans or the willfully blind and the willfully deaf who refused to embrace his teachings which aimed at moral and spiritual uplift.

191) What is Zarathustra's greatest contribution to spiritual philosophy ?

Zarathustra's greatest contribution to spiritual philosophy is the Gathas.They are the prime-utterances of the prophet and forms the quintessenee of his religious faith.They are five in number Ahunavaiti,Ushtavaiti,Spentamainyu,Vohukhshatra and Vahishtoisti,composed in archaic metres.Spiritual element preponderates in the Gathas.

192) What types of evil plagued society when Zarathustra was born ?

Anger,robbery,rapine and all kinds of wickedness stalked the face of the earth at the time of Zarathustra's birth and mankind was plunged into the darkness and gloom of materialism

193) What new theory did Zarathustra offer to solve the problem of evil ?

Zarathustra traced the origin of evil to one of the twin spirits who differ in thoughts,words and deeds,one being better and the other evil(Yasna 30-3) Further it is said that the two spirits produced life(gaya) and non-life.(ajyaaiti)

194) What is meant by saying life and non-life ?

Any form of life can be produced but what about non-life? How can it be produced ? The implication is that life (gaya) refers to positive life-force, and non-life (ajyaaiti) to negative force of decay and destruction which acts against life.And it is a fact that all life-force in existence meets with resistance which seeks to stifle it.

195) What do the terms Spenta and Angra Signify?

Spenta and Angra are the two spirits instrumental in the administration         of the affairs  of the universe.Spenta means increasing or benificient,and Angra means destroying or straitening.

196) Does this theory lead to the belief in two gods?

No.The two spirits in the Gathas, are personified.But the gathas are composed in poetic form and personification is the characteristic feature of poetry.This personification does not endow the two primeval causes with real personality,but it is apparent in poetry.

197) How did Zarathustra fight evil?

Zarathustra carried on a constant crusade against evil arising out of magic,sorcery and materialism which in his days were rampant in those days.The propagators of evil creed in his days were known as Daevas whom Zarathustra has singularly denounced.

198) In which categories is mankind,according to the zoroastrian religion divided ?

Mankind according to the Zoroastrian religion may generally be divided into two categories i) ashavan or those who are on the path of rectitude and ii) dravant or those who detract from that path.All kinds of evil in society emanate,for the most part,from the second category of people and it is the bounden duty of every Zoroastrian to exert himself to resist and stem the tide of evil.

199) What type of life is a true Zoroastrian expected to lead to resist evil in society ?

A true Zoroastrian is expected to lead a life of active virtues and must always be on his feet to rise against any injustice or oppression done to the righteous or the downtrodden.He should under no circumstances, be a party to injustice tyranny or wickedness.

200) Is only fight against evil enough?

No.According to Zoroastrian teachings struggle against evil should proceed hand-in-hand with the zeal to reform.Not only to strike a blow in the teeth of wrong but also to improve and rehabilitate the wicked on the path of virtue should be ideal of a crusader against evil.Druj should be handed over to Asha,that is the wicked should be reinstated on the path of rectitude.

Taken from the book :
200 short questions & answers
on
Z O R O A S T R I A N I S M
BY
Ervad R.R. MOTAFRAM

 
















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