How did creation take place according to Zoroastrian religion? / What is the Zoroastrian story of creation?
1. Who am I? From where have I come? What is the purpose of my life? These are the questions that man often asks himself. A world view, which comes from the story of creation, is necessary to answer these questions.
2. Cosmogony is the term used to describe the religious knowledge which helps man to answer these fundamental questions. Different religions give their creation stories in their holy books. The Christians have it in the Book of Genesis, the Hindus have it at several places in Vedas, Puranas, and Smritis. The Zoroastrians have it especially in the Pahlavi book Bundahishn. The name of this book itself means “beginning of creation.”
3. According to the Zoroastrianism, in the beginning there was Perfect Light (a synonym for the creative energy). The supreme being, later embodied as Ahura Mazda, decided to fashion creations from it.
4. There was a choice before Him – either to let the Perfect Light be as it is in static form, or make it dynamic by creating creations from this Perfect Light, but then contend with the existence of Angra Mainyu or Ahriman. He in His wisdom, decided on the latter choice, for he knew how to contend with Angra Mainyu.
5. The suprme being, now manifest as Ahura Mazda, first created Spenta Mainyu the creative Spirit which would assist in the creation of the spiritual and material worlds. In the spiritual world, divine beings would be created made from different strengths of the Perfect Light. On the basis of the Law of Polarity, Angra Mainyu, the Evil Spirit, came into existence. The first spiritual creation was that of Asha – the immutable Law on the basis of which all other creations would be created.
6. The period of creation as stated in the Bundahishn is symbolically of 12000 years, which is further sub-divided into four parts of 3000 years each. In cosmogony, 1000 years is a symbolic number, and it should not be compared to earth years.
7. The first two periods of 3000 years are referred to as bundahishn “the beginning of creations.” In the first 3000 years, perfect spiritual creations were created. At the end of it, Angra Mainyu, owing to his destructive nature, attacked them, but Ahura Mazda chanted the Ahunavar and Angra Mainyu was stupefied for the first 3000 years. Ahura Mazda conferred with the divine beings and set up the subsequent period of 9000 years as a contest, at the end of which Angra Mainyu would become incapacitated.
8. During the second 3000 years, Ahura Mazda created the material creations. These too were created from lesser strengths of the Perfect Light. All the seven material creations-man, animals, plants, water, earth, metals and fire – in that order, when created, were in a perfect, unsullied state.
9. From the beginning of the third phase of creation, that is, the next 3000 years, Angra Mainyu attacked and sullied the 7 material creations. This carried on in the fourth phase of 3000 years. These two phases or periods, that is from years 6000 to 12000 are referred to as Gumezishn “the period of Mixture.”
10. The latter part of the last 3000 years will be characterized by heightened conflict between good and evil. At the end of the last 3000 years, Vizarishn “the Separation” will take place, the Saoshyant “savior” will be born, last Judgement will take place, which will culminate with the spiritual happenings called Ristakhez (when all souls will be resurrected)and Tane-pasen (when all souls will get back the spiritual components of their physical form).
11. After the end of the 12000 years period, Frashogard will take place, that is, evil shall be completely annihilated and all creations will revert back to their perfect spiritual states. Frashogard will be brought about by the united, conscious efforts of men and Spiritual Beings.
What is Ristākhez, Tane-pasen and Fraoshokereti?
1. Zoroastrianism is an apocalyptic religion, that is, it has teachings about a specific beginning and end of the world. It has a particular world-view according to which the material world was created at a particular time and would end in a particular manner.
2. At the end of the world, three main events will take place. They are Rist-ākhez, Tan-e-pasen and Frasho-kereti / Frashogard. The names of these events occur in our prayers. All Zoroastrians are expected to be doubtless about the happening of these events. After these events, all creations would live forever in a spiritual existence.
3. The word Rist-ākhez means “rising of the dead.” It is the event when all souls will be made to rise and be ready for the final eternal existence. This event may be compared to Qayamat in Islam and Resurrection in Christianity.
4. The word Tan-e-pasen means “final body.” It refers to the souls getting spiritual bodies which would be similar in form and feature to their human bodies at their best appearance during life-time.
5. The word Frasho-kereti means “making fresh or making new.” It is the final event at the end of the world, when the whole world will be renewed. This new blissful spiritual existence would be free from evil, wickedness, hunger and thirst. All creations would have evolved to a perfect spiritual state.
Are Heaven (Behesht), Hell (Dozakh) and Chinwad bridge (Pul) real places?
1. According to Zoroastrianism, every human being is mortal, and death is destined for all, as it is an inevitable part of the world’s plan put in place by God for us.
2. Death is a transformation for the soul and not total destruction. It is the ‘passing away’ of spiritual elements from the physical body leading to its decomposition. What seems to be destroyed is the physical body, which too is later transformed from matter to energy.
3. The soul or ravān is a spiritual element in all humans which outlives the physical body. In this life, the soul has the choice to be either good or evil, and is responsible for its actions in this life.
4. At the dawn of the fourth day, the soul is judged by Meher, Rashna and Ashtad Yazads. The Fravashi of the soul remains with the soul, till its final evolution, tha is, till it enters Gaorthman – the House of Ahura Mazda.
5. After the Judgement, the soul crosses over to the spiritual world through the allegorical Chinwad Pul “the selection bridge.” This bridge symbolises the connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. From here the soul would go either to Heaven or Hell. It may go to Hamestagān (purgatory of Christians), if its good and bad actions are equal.
6. If the soul’s actions in life were good, it is easy for the soul to cross the bridge. But if the soul’s actions were wicked, the Chinwad bridge becomes narrow and the soul falls into hell.
7. Many Zoroastrian religious texts describe Heaven, Hell, Hamestagān and Chinwad bridge. The Pahlavi book Ardaviraf Nameh gives one of the most detailed descriptions.
8. Some argue that there are no special places like heaven and hell, and that they are just the allegorical states of happiness or sadness of the soul. If we believe in our religious texts, than they are a reality, though we may never be able to prove their existence. However, one may see it as a collective place for miserable and happy souls. Just as a place where many people throw garbage becomes a garbage dump, and a place where people grow flowers become a garden, a place where many miserable souls collect becomes Hell and the place where happy souls meet becomes Heaven.
What is the concept of Time in Zoroastrian religion?
1. 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.
2. The word for “time” in Pahlavi and Pazand language is Gāh / Geh, which is also used for the 5 divisions of the day.
3. The period of time of about two hours just around sunrise is called Hoshbām. 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.
4. The concept of time is one of the most basic and important Zoroastrian teachings. The world was created for a fixed period of time (zravānahe daregho khadhāt) from Endless Time (zravānahe akaranahe).
5. 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).
6. The idea of dividing the day into parts is a very ancient one. During the time of prophet Zarathushtra, the day was divided into 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 the universe, in their on-gong battle against evil. m