ZARATHUSHTRIAN ETHICS AND MORALS
Noshir H. Dadrawala
The Zarathushti religion lays tremendous emphasis on morals and ethics. A Zarathushti is expected to make a conscious effort every moment of his life, to reject all forms of evil and the lie - in thought, word and deed and endeavour at all times to walk on the path of Asha. Asha is the Law Immutable, the Law Eternal, the Cosmic Law of Order and Harmony on which the entire Universe is based. It is through Asha that Ahura Mazda created the universe and it is through Asha that mankind will attain perfection and be one with Ahura Mazda. In the Hoshbam prayer we aspire, "Through the best Asha, through the highest Asha, may we catch sight of Thee (Ahura Mazda), may we approach Thee, may we be in perfect union with Thee".
It is only by walking on the path of Asha that man can attain union with his maker. The colophon to the Yasna is quite explicit on this point, "There is but one path, that of Asha, all other paths are false paths".
According to Zarathushtrianism, it is the sum total of a man's thoughts, words and deeds which will determine the fate of his soul in the other world - it is these thoughts, words and deeds, good or bad, which will lead his soul either to he gates of heaven or to the pathway of hell.
The Zoroastrian scriptures enumerate a number of virtues, which a Zarathushti should aspire and endeavour to cultivate and imbibe, and a number of vices from which he should guard himself and struggle to keep away.
Some of the virtues (not necessarily in the order of importance) are as follows:
(a) Unflinching faith, devotion and love for Ahura Mazda and His prophet, Zarathushtra;
(b) Offering the obligatory prayers and thanking Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas and Yazatas for Their Grace and Bounty;
(c) Observing and upholding all the tenets and traditions of the religion and community, particularly with regard to:
respect and reverence for fire and' offering worship through the medium of Atash Behram, Atash Adaran and Atash Dadgah, to the one and only supreme being,
ritual purity in day-to-day life and observing seclusion during menses and forty days after child birth,
mental and physical hygiene with the performance of padyab-kusti and a ritual or ordinary bath on contact with certain forms of druj. For example, an ordinary but complete head bath after a hair-cut, shave, paring of nails or attending a funeral,
Wearing the sudreh kusti at all times of the day and night, except when having a bath,
Performing and participating in all the necessary high and holy liturgical ceremonies and rituals,
Offering the manthravani prayers only in the original language of the revelation or composition, for its full, potent and robust effect,
Observing the Zarathushti calendar and remembering the Amesha Spentas and Yazatas presiding over the thirty days and twelve months,
Remembering the holy fravashis of the dead and observing all the parabhs, gahambars and other feasts and festivals;
(d) Speaking the Truth always. According to Herodotus, the Persians laid great stress on speaking the truth, riding a horse and archery and this formed the basic education for all Persian children. According to Yasna 31.19 "A truth-speaker receives honour and is a master without fear", while according to the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht, "By speaking true words we receive many victories;
(e) Moderation in matters of food, drink and other worldly pleasures. Neither fasting nor gluttony and neither celibacy nor lechery is desirable;
(f) Charity and love for all human beings. Zarathushtrianism does not look down upon acquisition of wealth. In fact, wealth is seen to be fundamentally positive, provided it is put to judicious use and used for the well being of others. According to Yasna 43.1 "He is a good man through whom goodness reaches other persons in all places. God gives such persons greatness;
(g) Industry and honest toil. According to Yasna 46.12 "those who make the world prosperous through good thoughts and honest endeavours are those who live a virtuous life in good thoughts. The Visperad (7.1) also praises, "industry and courage." Conversely according to the Visperad (18.2), "a man who is idle is worthy of hell";
(h) Keep a promise at all cost. In fact Yasna 61.3 strongly advises, "keep away from a covenant breaker and from one who tampers,"
(i) Aspire for higher knowledge and acquire wisdom under a proficient teacher;
(j) Respect ones elders and superiors. "He who does not show respect to an elder will never receive honour" (Yasna 29.6);
(k) Honesty and integrity in ones dealings in this world;
(l) Forgiveness, mercy and tolerance- According to the Denkard, a good Zarathushti must strive to make enemies his friends; purify the sinful and make the ignorant well-informed;
(m) Sincerely atone for ones sins (committed knowingly or unknowingly) by doing patet.
And now for the vices from which a Zarathushti should guard himself and struggle to keep away:
a) Anger and jealousy- According to the Yasna 49.4 "Those who promote wrath and jealousy are of evil intellect;"
b) Greed and idleness- Yasna 16.8 warns "Keep away from the greed of a wicked man", while the Visperad(?>,l) states, "a man who is idle is worthy of hell";
c) Arrogance-Little knowledge, power and wealth often makes a man arrogant. Arrogance leads to other vices and the road of ruin. The Ardibehest Yasht warns us to "keep away from these who have arrogant thoughts";
d) Apostasy - According to Vendidad (15.2) "if a person, being a member of the good religion, willingly accepts the commandments of another religion and speaks pejoratively of our religion, he becomes a tanapuhr sinner";
e) Adultery -Vendidad 18.6162 Zarathushtra asks God: "0 Ohrmazd, who is vengeful, toward you and who harms you most among those who cause harm?" Ohrmazd replied: "An adulteress";
f) Sloth - In the Atash Niyayesh 5.11, we pray "I sleep for the third part of a whole day (i.e. eight hours). May God give me no more sleep so that I can wake up on time." In the Vendidad (11.9) we pray, "May the demon of slothfulness which increases idleness depart";
g) Foul language - The Denkard consider use of foul or abusive language as a sin equal to telling lies;
h) Petty and unwarranted quarrels, arguments and violence;
i) Bad company and literature;
j) Malice and vengefulness;
Remember it is not easy to change overnight. Change, in order to be effective should come from within. Prayers and repentance also help to a great extent. Virtue is its own reward and the wise say, "if someone speaks evil about you let your life be such that no one would believe him."