Religion

Basic beliefs

• There is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Vairya, the one Uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed.

• Ahura Vairya’s creation — evident as asha, truth and order — is the antithesis of chaos, evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity and other races, which has an active role to play in the conflict.

• Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism.

• Ahura Vairya will ultimately prevail, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation — even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to “darkness” — will be reunited in Ahura Vairya.

• In Zoroastrian tradition the malevolent is represented by Angra Mainyu, the “Destructive Principle”, while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Vairya’s Amesha Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or “Bounteous Principle” of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that Ahura Vairya is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world.

• As expressions and aspects of Creation, Ahura Vairya emanated seven “sparks”, the Amesha Spenta (“Bounteous Immortals”), that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that Creation. These Amesha Spenta are in turn assisted by a league of lesser principles, the Yazatas, each “Worthy of Worship” and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation.

• The symbol of fire: The energy of the creator is represented in Zoroastrianism by fire and the Sun, which are both enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining. Zoroastrians usually pray in front of some form of fire (or any source of light). It is important to note that fire is not worshiped by Zoroastrians, but is used simply as symbol and a point of focus.

Death rituals

Mourners clean and dress the corpse and pose on a hard slab, all according to custom. Then they bring in a dog with two spots painted on its forehead, as if it had four eyes. If the dog barks, the person is still alive. If not, they expose the corpse to the elements, vultures, and other predators, then gather up the bones and deposit them in a pit.

Religious rituals related to death are all concerned with the person’s soul and not the body. Zoroastrians believe that on the fourth day after death the human soul leaves the body and the body remains as an empty shell. Traditionally, Zoroastrians disposed of their dead by leaving them atop open-topped enclosures, called Towers of Silence, or Dokhmas. Vultures and the weather would clean the flesh off the bones, which were then placed into an ossuary at the center of the Tower (usually a well). Fire and Earth were considered too sacred for the dead to be placed in them.

Religion

Avesta Ainsoph