Zoroaster (Zarathushtra), the ancient Iranian Prophet and teacher, proclaimed his message in late antiquity to teach humanity to transition from magical thinking to critical thinking and to accept responsibility for all actions in life without emotional dependence on a prescriptive belief system. Furthermore, he discouraged the notion of blind faith. However, over the past few thousand years, the fusion of the philosophical teachings of Zarathushtra with the cultural and ceremonial practices of the various Iranian peoples gave rise to the organized religion we know as Zoroastrianism today.
No. Zoroastrianism started as a missionary belief system and remains a universal message for all humanity, but historically majority of Parsis (Indian Zoroastrians) have discouraged proselytizing, inter-marriage with non-Zoroastrians, and accepting converts from other religions to retain their ethnic identity in the social context of the Indian sub-continent. In Iran, the theocratic government of the Islamic Republic forbids Muslims to “abandon” Islam based on the Sharia Law of apostasy, so the Zoroastrians of Iran have been forced to discourage Iranian citizens inside that country from reclaiming their pre-Islamic heritage.
No. The Zarathushtrian Assembly welcomes people of all religious backgrounds to participate in our activities and join as a member. We are happy to discuss and share the ethical philosophy of Zarathushtra with all who are interested.
Zarathushtra’s original teachings only refer to one creator/life-force, namely Ahura Mazda (alternately, Mazda Ahura), the Wise Lord or Wise Bestower of Life. The only opposing forces are the abstract concepts of Angra Mainyu (destructive mentality) versus Spenta Mainyu (constructive mentality) that reside inside each person, who is faced with choices in life that lead to the respective consequences of one’s decisions. Angra Mainyu (Ahriman, in Middle Persian) was later interpreted by some later Zoroastrians as a literal embodiment of evil or the ‘devil’, which was dubbed as “Satan” in Abrahamic religions.
Traditionally, the Avesta has been regarded as the “holy book” of Zoroastrianism since it contains many of the daily Zoroastrian prayers as well as the Gathas, which are composed by Zarathushtra himself. But, in fact the greater Avesta is a collection of social, religious, and spiritual compositions that have been compiled over several thousand years and are written in Old Iranian (Avestan) and Middle Persian (Pahlavi) languages.
The Gathas are the poetic compositions of Zarathushtra, the Prophet of ancient Iran. They lay the philosophical foundation of Zoroastrianism. The thought-provoking mantras provide a non-prescriptive set of principles that serve as a progressive code of ethics to live by. The Gathas further teach the art of critical thinking, which may be applied to every facet of life. The end goal, as understood from the Gathas, is to gain cumulative wisdom for individual betterment to contribute to societal progress and renewal proactively and constructively. Zarathushtra’s universal message contained in the Gathas encourages the attainment of collective happiness, personal fulfillment, life balance, good health, prosperity, social justice, and harmony with nature and all its life forms.
The teachings of Zarathushtra are for the advancement of humanity and for the promotion of enlightenment in contrast to the blind following of religious edicts. So, according to Zarathushtrian principles, all adherents to his message are considered Zoroastrians by virtue of being free critical thinkers in contrast to becoming static “converts” in a conventional sense. To be a Zoroastrian is a function of commitment to reason and progress throughout one’s lifetime. In other words, being a Zoroastrian is a way of life and is not defined by specific rites, national origin, ethnicity, a certificate, or one’s birth family. One may choose to have the navjote (or sedreh pooshi) ceremony performed to declare one’s commitment to the teachings of Zarathushtra, but that symbolic act alone without living by Zoroastrian values does not automatically make one a Zoroastrian.
The Assembly does not proclaim a new interpretation of the teachings of Zarathushtra but simply encourages an objective look at the original content of the Gathas based on the latest and most accurate linguistic methodology to better understand the essence of this literary masterpiece of early antiquity. The Assembly considers the Gathas to be the fundamental guide for learning the message of Zarathushtra and the primary source for understanding Zoroastrian philosophy and its core teachings. Other texts of importance to Zoroastrianism, contained in the Avesta, were composed and compiled after Zarathushtra’s lifetime in various languages and dialects, including Old Iranian (Avestan), Middle Persian (Pahlavi), Pazand, New Persian (“Farsi”), and Gujarati. These later interpretations were for explanatory purposes in each era and are valued as important comparative, historical, literary, and anthropological references in the appropriate context. Over time, by tradition, segments of the Avestan literature, including parts of the Gathas, were adopted for ritual and ceremonial purposes and continue to be used in this manner to the present day by those who choose.
No. Fire is not an object of worship and is only seen as a powerful symbol and meditative focus adopted by Zoroastrians. The erroneous reference to “fire worship” was started by rivals of ancient Iranians and was perpetuated as a pejorative term by cultures hostile toward Zoroastrians, especially after the Islamic invasion of the Persian Empire in the 7th century CE. Zoroastrians see fire as an abstract representation of enlightenment and as a symbol of the energy contained within all living things. As this fire originated from Ahura Mazda and the act of creation, it is also symbolic of the life force permeating the universe. Also, during prayers in a fire temple or at home, Zoroastrians face the temple fire or a candle (or any light source) respectively as the direction of prayer. This is similar in concept to the prayer direction for Jews, which is Jerusalem (or Mizrah wall hanging on an eastern wall of a Jewish home), or for Christians, which is the cross hanging on the eastern wall of a Christian home, or for Muslims, which is the sacred mosque (Al Masjid Al-Haram) in Mecca.
Yes. LGBTQ+ individuals are welcomed in the Zarathushtrian Assembly and many other Zoroastrian groups, as there is no inherent wrong in diverse personal identities and sexual orientations. As it may happen with members of the broader society in any setting, some individuals in the Zoroastrian community may also hold harmful opinions based on misguided notions about gender and personal identities that exist in society. However, this is changing as many Zoroastrians are accepting Zarathushtra’s guidance and the responsibility to think and behave in an enlightened manner.
While each person and Zoroastrian group is free to make their own list to govern one’s daily conduct, the Zarathushtrian Assembly follows the example set by Zarathushtra with respect to each action by ethically weighing each inherent consequence. Naturally, life choices are dependent on context, so no arbitrary proscriptive list to micromanage individual actions or to forbid lifestyle choices would be recognized in Zoroastrian philosophy. Only actions that defy the Zoroastrian triad of “Good Thoughts”, “Good Words”, and “Good Deeds” and may be deemed deceitful, harmful, or destructive are to be avoided.