Zarathushtra, the prophet of the Parsi Zoroastrians, was the first prophet in the world to reveal religion. Although he was born as a mortal to human parents, his status in the religion is that of a Yazad, that is a divine being.
This can be corroborated from the several instances in his life, before, at the time of and after his birth as well as throughout his life.
He was divinely selected and appointed as a prophet by Ahura Mazda and the Ameshaspands, much before his birth. The procedure to send the special physical and spiritual constituents of infant Zarathushtra to this world had started even before the birth of his parents.
There were several other indications of his divine status and divine mission even when he was in the womb of his mother. Even at the time of his birth, he smiled, which is a unique occurrence in the history of the world. This was a sure indication of the child’s divine destiny and future greatness.
After birth, whenever the evil Angra Mainyu tried to get him killed through the wicked Dorasrun, he came out unscathed. Throughout his childhood he was divinely protected and his great destiny once again emerged in his intense urge to know the answers to several of life’s existential questions.
His going on the mountains to find the answers to his questions, his conferences with Ahura Mazda and the Ameshaspands, the divine revelation, the miracles in the court of king Vishtaspa and finally his acceptance as a prophet all point out to his divine status.
Even his passing away was special, unique and fitting to his divine stature. The elements of his body immediately got merged into the elements of nature while performing the act of destroying the evil collected through centuries.
Though Zarathushtra was born a mortal and showed some human frailties, the Iranian texts clearly refer to him as a Yazata, a divine being. Moreover, in many Avestan texts, he is remembered immediately after Ahura Mazda, even before the Ameshaspands and other Yazads. Hence he was no ordinary mortal. His exalted divine status is established without any doubt.
Every religion believes in a Supreme creative power, an Uncreated Universal Force or a Primal Energy as the original source of everything. Though each religion gives it a different name, the power behind all these names is the same. Hindus call Him Ishwar (Lord of Will) or Bhagwan (Fortune/prosperity giver), Muslims call Him Allah (the sole God), Jews call Him Jehovah (Lord), Sikhs call Him Wāhe Guru (Wonderful teacher), and Christians call Him God (fit to be invoked). However, it needs to be mentioned that the understanding of this power differs from religion to religion.
Zoroastrians refer to this Supreme power as Ahura Mazda, Hormazd or Ohrmazd which means “the Wise Lord.” They also use other names like Dādār/Dādārji (creator), Yazad (worthy of veneration), Yazdān (foremost in veneration), Khudā/ Khudāiji (self-created), and Parvardegār (nourisher).
Over and above the main name of God, there are several other secondary names of God too. The main names of God in different religions are based on the perception of God in their religion. Some religions consider God as all good, some consider destruction also as a power of God. Some consider God to be strict, chastising and punishing, and some consider him kind and merciful. Some consider him as forgiver of mistakes and some consider him as a deliverer of justice, giving proper rewards and retributions for actions. Moreover some religions perceive God as personal or impersonal, anthropomorphic or non-anthropomorphic, immanent or transcendent.
All religions consider it essential to know God. This is very difficult, as He cannot be seen, since He has no form, shape or colour. One can only know Him through His creations and His work, and hence the best way to know God is to understand His names, as God’s names are based on His attributes, qualities and powers.
Zoroastrians can understand Ahura Mazda through His names which occur in the prayers 101 names of God, Hormazd Yasht and Doa Nām Setāyashne. Some of the names of Ahura Mazda in the 101 names, describe God as: Worthy of veneration, All Powerful, All-knowing, Without a beginning, Without an end, The cause of all causes, Judge, Creator and Redeemer.
Each of the 101 names of Ahura Mazda is very potent, powerful and have an effect of its own. That is why there is a tradition of chanting individual names from this 101 names, in a specific way, for particular problems or difficulties.
The Hormazd Yasht contains almost 70 names of Ahura Mazda. Among them the first 20 are mentioned numerically and are supposed to be most effective for protection and defense. Some of these names describe God as: Self-existent, The Protector, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Prudent, Wise, Prosperity-giver, Benevolent, Reckoner and Health-giver.
It is a Zoroastrian tradition to begin prayers or personal work by remembering Ahura Mazda and taking His name. That is why our prayers begin with the words Khshnaothra ahurahe mazdāo “for the happiness of Ahura Mazda” Ba nāme yazad “in the name of Yazad (a name of God).”
Zoroastrians have the tradition of “nām azbāitish” and Hindus of “nām smaran.” Both these words mean invoking or remembering the divine by name. In Hormazd Yasht itself it is mentioned that “If you wish to destroy the malicious acts of the demons and of wicked men….then you should recite reciting these names all days and nights.”
It is well known that Mahatma Gandhi continuously used to chant the name of ‘Rām’, and that is why this name was on his lips when he breathed his last. In Islam, the repeated reciting of one or more names of Allah is referred to as Zikar.
Repeated chanting of one or multiple names of God neutralizes negative emotions by diverting the mind from negative thoughts. It can also be considered a form of meditation.
The word for Time in the Avesta language is Zarvan. Zarvan is also the name of the divine being who presides over time and who was originally instrumental in the formation of creations.
The word for “time” in Pahlavi and Pazand language is Gah / Geh, which is also used for the 5 divisions of the day.
The period of time of about two hours just around sunrise is called Hoshbam. It is not a separate geh, and it occupies about an hour each of the Havan and Ushahin geh. It s regarded as the best time to offer prayers.
The concept of time is one of the most basic and important Zoroastrian teaching. The world was created as a fixed period of time (zravānahe daregho khadhāt) from Endless Time (zravānahe akaranahe).
During prayers, in order to be connected to Ahura Mazda, it is necessary to connect through ‘time’. Hence Zoroastrian religion divides time as follows: Endless Time, Created (specific) Time, year (ayara), month (māh), gahambars (seasons), days (asnya/roj) and periods of day (Geh).
The idea of dividing the day into parts is a very ancient one. Originally, in Zoroastrian religion, the day was divided into just three parts– Morning (Usha), mid-day (Arem-pithwa) and night (Khshapa). The five-fold divisions were done later keeping in mind fixed points in the 24 hours day: sunrise, mid-day, sunset and mid-night.
Each geh has an average time span of 4 to 5 hours. The first (Havan) and last (Ushahin) gehs are longer to facilitate performance of higher rituals – Yasna and Vendidad respectively. Havan geh is the best time to perform most rituals.
The beginning of each geh is marked by the performance of Boi ritual in the fire temple. This is done to periodically strengthen the sacred fire and the good forces in their on-gong battle against evil.