2. Zarathushtra, the Prophet

Status of a Prophet:

Generally the term ‘prophet’ is defined as a divinely inspired and divinely appointed teacher who brings the message of religion, reveals and interprets God’s commandments, and instructs men as to the conduct of life in this world. The prophet is a higher soul, inspired by God and Spiritual Beings and advanced in spiritual insight.

According to the Avesta, Zarathushtra was the divinely appointed and divinely inspired prophet.In Avesta, Zarathushtra is accorded a very high and lofty status. He is referred to as a Yazata, that is, a divine Being. In many places he is remembered immediately after Ahura Mazda, before other Divine Beings. Zarathushtra himself was also a priest. He belonged to the brotherhood of priests called Magava

Antiquity:

ZOROASTRIANISM is the oldest revealed religion in the world and its prophet, the first prophet in the world. The extant Avesta scriptures do not provide any direct evidence as to the age in which Prophet Zarathushtra lived, and hence it is calculated from various other indirect sources based on historical, literary, linguistic, astronomical, geological and archaeological evidences. The existing general opinion of the scholars place him between 6500 B.C. to 2000 B.C.

Birth place:

The actual birthplace of Zarathushtra is a contentious issue, but it is generally agreed that he was born in the North-Western part of modern day Iran. The Avesta (Vd.19) only mentions that the house of Zarathushtra’s father was in the Airyana Vaejah near the river Veh Dāiti. Bundahishna chapters 20.32 and 24.15 corroborates this reference. Some Pahlavi sources place him in West Iran in Azarbaizan, Ragha or Shiz.

Name and Family:

The personal name of the Prophet, as it occurs in the Avesta, is Zarathushtra which means  “one possessing An old camel” and  “the golden star.” However in esoteric writing ushtra also means consciousness. Thus the word Zarathushtra can also mean “one having exalted consciousness.” The meaning of Zoroaster, the Greek form of the prophet’s name, is “golden star.”

Zarathushtra’s father was Pourushaspa “one possessing gray horse”, who was the son of Peteraspa. Zarathushtra’s mother’s name was Dughdhova often shortened to Dogdo “one who milks.” She was the daughter of Frahimvā Zavish.

Divine appointment:

According to Yasna 29.1 Geush Urvan (the Soul of the Earth) complained to the Creator about the abuses being heaped upon her. The Creator consulted the Divine Beings and proclaimed that there was just one being who can help – Zarathushtra Spitama. The Soul of the Earth was not convinced at first, but afterwards, she accepted the appointment of Zarathushtra.

Three days before Zarathushtra’s birth, his entire village was bathed in white light, one of the signs signaling the coming of the great prophet. Finally, Zarathushtra was born during the early morning hours. on Roj Khordad, Mah Fravarden. This day is celebrated presently as Khordad Sal.

Zarathushtra is the only child who laughed at the time of his birth, since he was aware of his divine mission and the victory of good over evil in the end. Seven neighbouring ladies, who had come with the intent to hurt the child, retreated on seeing this great miracle.

At the birth of the prophet, all creations in nature rejoiced and cried out in joy ‘Ushtā no zātō āthrava yō spitāmō zarathushtrō’, that is, “Rejoice, for us is born the priest Spitama Zarathushtra.”

Childhood & attempts on life:

The evil and wicked persons were terrified by the divine light. As soon as they came to know of the birth of this divine child, they trembled as they were afraid that he would put an end to their evil powers and practices. They decided to kill babe Zarathushtra.

Chief among the wicked followers of Ahriman was the evil chief Dorasrun.He tried several times to have Zarathushtra killed, but each time the child was divinely saved.

Dorasrun had the baby thrown into a fire, but the fire did not burn the child. Then Doroasrun then had the child placed in the pathway to a herd of cattle, so that he may be trampled upon by the animals. However when the herd came that way, a white cow, stood over the child, protecting it from the rest of the cattle.

Infant Zarathushtra was then kept in the pathway of horses going towards their watering hole. There too a white horse protected it. Finally, the angry Dorasrun tried one last dirty trick. He placed Zarathushtra in a den of wolves, but there too the child was divinely protected.

Finally Dorasrun decided to kill baby Zarathushtra himself with a dagger, but as he tried to stab, he lost strength in his hands and his hands were paralysed. Thus child Zarathushtra grew up protected by Ahura Mazda.

When Zarathushtra reached the age of 7, he was sent to be educated under a teacher named Burzin Kurush. Here he kept asking about the reason for there being so much evil, pain and misery in the world, but was not satisfied by the explanations.

Attempts on his life continued. When he was 12 years old, two evil magicians- Bratrokesh and Dorasrub tried to frighten Zarathushtra by their magic. Once when Zarathushtra’s was ill, they went to his  house dressed as physicians and gave him poisonous potions instead of medicine, but Zarathushtra, by divine guidance came to know of the evil trick and did not drink it.

At 18, Zarathushtra’s quest for divine truth intensified and he decided to set off in search for the Truth. He sought permission from his father, who, knowing the divine destiny of his son, readily agreed. When he asked Zarathushtra as to what he would like from his possessions, Zarathushtra answered that he would just like to have the Kasti. This showed that Zarathushtra was eager to accept the good teachings and practices from the Mazdayasni religion in which he was born.

Divine Revelation:

When Zarathushtra was 20, he was divinely guided to a secluded place on Mount Ushidarena, ‘the Mount holding divine intellect’. He stayed on the mountain for 10 years, and devoted his time and energy in prayer, meditation and communion with Divine Beings. There he received divine inspiration and message of the Religion through Divine Beings, particularly Vohu Manah and Sraosha.

Early Struggle:

At the age of 30, Zarathushtra returned to the people to preach the religion. Prophet Zarathushtra accepted many of the teachings and practices of the Mazdayasni faith into which he was born.  In the initial stages, the Prophet had to struggle to spreading his unique message, as he had no following. Finally, Prophet Zarathushtra triumphed. His first disciple was his paternal cousin Maidyoimaongha, the son of Arastya.

In the court of King Vishtasp:

In Balkh, Kayanian King Vishtasp / Gushtasp invited him to his court and given a high status.

Jealous courtiers poisoned the king’s mind by planting materials used for black magic in his room. The king was heart-broken when the materials were found. He ordered Zarathushtra to be imprisoned, where he spent his days with great dignity.

Once the king’s favourite horse, Aspe-sihā’s legs got embedded in his stomach. None was able to cure the horse. Zarathushtra offered to heal the horse on certain conditions to which the king agreed. Zarathushtra healed the legs by chanting the Ahunavar prayer. As per the condition, the king, Prince Aspandiyar, queen Katabun / Katayun / Hutaosa accepted Zarathushtra and the guard of the room was questioned, whereby Zarathushtra’s innocence was proved.

Prophet Zarathushtra preached his religion in the court of King Vishtasp. After intellectual discussions and spiritual experiences King Vishtasp recognized Zarathushtra as the true prophet of Ahura Mazda and he became the patron-king of Zarathushtra.

Gifts for the King:

Prophet Zarathushtra presented three gifts to King Gushtasp as a further proof of his prophetship:

1) Adar Burzin, a spiritually burning fire which did not need fuel to burn, and did not give out smoke while burning. This fire is often seen in prophet Zarathushtra’s hand in some of his pictures. Later the King enthroned the Adar Burzin fire on Mount Raevant.

2) A Cypress tree named ‘Azad-Sarva’ which had an advise for King Gustasp on its every leaf .

3) 21 Volumes (Nasks) of Avestan texts, containing all the knowledge of the world. Each of the Nask was based on one of the 21 words of the Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer.

One of the 21 Nasks also contained the 5 Gathas of prophet Zarathushtra.

The Gathas contain the prophet’s personal experiences and his spiritual teachings in a highly mystical poetic language. The five Gathas are: Ahunavad, Ushtavad, Spentomad, Vohukhshathra and Vahishtoisht. Because of the highly philosophic teachings in the Gatha, the prophet is referred to as one of the greatest philosophers of all time. However, for this reason, many people just consider the prophet as a great philosopher. This is a very mistaken idea as prophet Zarathushtra was a divine being of a high spiritual status and one who was born for a divine purpose.

Wife and children:

In the Avestan there is no reference either to the prophet’s marriage or about his wife and children. In later works we are told that prophet Zarathushtra married Havovi, daughter of Frashoshtra, and had six children – three sons Isad-vastra, Haurvatat-nar and Khurshed-cheher; and three daughters Freny, Thrity and Pouruchishti.

Ascension (Passing away):

Zarathushtra spent the later part of his life at the Navbahar Atash Behram with Kae Lohrasp, father of King Vishtasp.

Prophet Zarathushtra  passed away at the age of 77 years and 11 days. Nothing has been stated, directly or indirectly in the Avesta about passing away of Prophet Zarathushtra. It is mentioned only in Pahlavi and Persian books. The special phrae used in Pahlavi for passing away of the Prophet is vihez i zartusht  ‘rising up/ ascension of Zartusht.’

The day of passing away of the Prophet is known in Gujarati as Zarthosht no diso “the (death-)day of Zarthosht”, and is observed on Roz Khorshed, Mah Dae.

After the prophet’s passing away from this world, Jamasp, the minister of King Gushtasp who was one of his foremost disciples, became the religious head. Jamasp, and all religious heads after him came to be known a Zarathushtrotemo.

Zarathushtra’s legacy:

Prophet Zarathushtra gave a powerful religion to the people of Iran by reinforcing the teachings of the existing Mazdayasni belief system and adding to it his own teachings. In this religion there was a strong moral order, a set of rituals, practices for daily life and 21 Volumes (Nasks) of religious scriptures in the Avesta language.

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