Regardless of the context of the educational
situation, the religious teaching of the Prophet Zarathushtra must be the
central focus. The religious vision we find in the Gathas must be
presented with a minimum of interpretive gloss and no novel doctrinal
creations such as those generated by deviant contemporary groups.
§1 It must be observed that Zarathushtra’s is
not a mythological religion, it is certainly not magical; it is what may
be call a Reflective Religion. Zarathushtra calls upon the
prospective believer to reflect on the vision he offers and come to his or
her own conviction. It is therefore not a prescriptive religion, contrary
to the notion of some of our teachers. The Religious Vision Zarathushtra
offer is a fusion of a View of the World and a Way of Life.
This is generally the form of Enlightened Religions. This is the
Form of the Religion.
§2 a) The View of the World is
given in terms of an Ideal, the Ultimate Truth, called Asha. The Material
World was supposed to evolve progressively to realize it. There are two
moral polarities in the material world; one vector moving the world toward
Asha, the other, in opposition, moving the world toward disorganization
and destruction. This is the Dualism in the Religion. The world we live in
is meant to evolve toward perfection, but is contaminated and its progress
b) The Way of Life is to work
toward the actualization of Asha, the Divine Plan. This we do because we
are endowed with Vohumano, the Good Mind, an aspect of the Divine Mind,
which enables us to see, regarding any situation, what it ideally ought to
be, i.e., according to Asha.
c) Thus the way of life is not an ethic of
prescription, but one in which a person is required to take the
responsibility of making righteous decisions, articulating and
implementing them, i.e. Good Thought, Good Word, Good Deed. This is the
content of the doctrine and must be disclosed in an adequate education.
§3 This life of reflective righteousness is
what a human being offers to Ahura Mazda as religious offering. Such a
life provides self-justifying existence leading to perfecting integrity –
Haurvatat, and becomes the basis for final bliss – Amaretat.
§4 This moral vision is the religious teaching
of Zarathushtra. One sometimes hears the complaint that this is just
ethics, or that it is indistinguishable from contemporary humanist ethics.
Such views emerge from two misconceptions: i) This is not an ethic based
on social norms, it is rooted in an Ideal Righteous Order of Divine
origin, Asha. ii) The religion of Zarathushtra is the life of Ethical
Commitment. It has been known from ancient times as the Religion of the
Good Life, or the Religion of Good Conscience. This is not a religion of
supernatural drama, not one of pure submission, nor one of comfort or
rest, but one of responsibility for instituting the Right.
§5 Of course all religions have ritual
components. Personal rituals of Confirmation, Marriage, and Funeral
Service must be taught as reaffirming our doctrinal commitment. Social
rituals are significant as they bring the voice of the community in
collective recollection and piety.
§6 Social practice which have emerged must
become known, but their continuance must be evaluated in terms of the
coherence with the doctrinal core. This is a faith of Reflective
Commitment not a religion of blind obedience!
Appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of the FEZANA journal under the overall
heading “Zarathushtrian Education: Zarathushtra’s vision in a life time’s
learning”, guest edited by Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian, and Dr. Natalie