Role of Man in the universe:
Human being is the most precious of God’s creations. He has been entrusted sovereignty over other creations, by virtue of the power of his thought and speech. Man has been created with a purpose. It is with the active and willing participation of man, that Frashokereti – the final renovation will happen. Man has been endowed with several faculties to help him fulfil his divine purpose.
Man has the freedom to either tread the good path of virtue, industry and philanthropy; or the evil path of vice, slothfulness and selfishness. However, he will have to face the consequences of his actions.
Man and evil:
In this world, man has to safeguard himself from various types of evils (daeva) – physical (men, animals, creatures, germs, contagion, disease), moral (vices and bad temperament) and spiritual (evil spirits and forces).
The human body is considered sacred in Zoroastrian religion. It is the duty of each person to keep it pure. Purity is not just bodily and physical, it also extends to the unseen aspects encompassing material creations. In order to safeguard oneself from evil and be in touch with the spiritual world, man has to observe laws of ritual purity in his daily life.
Ritual purity – a safeguard and a medium:
All Zoroastrian religious institutions, rituals and acts are governed by laws of ritual purity. Zoroastrian fire-temples and places of worship are built with special boundary lines (Av. karsha, Phl. Kash, P.Guj. pāvi), which are furrows or channels, marked on the ground or constructed in the floor, to enclose ritually purified places. When the ritually purified place is in use, the boundary lines must not be crossed or else the ritual purity is vitiated.
All Zoroastrians –males and females, priests and laymen – have to observe the laws of ritual purity (tarikats) in their daily lives, in order to preserve Divine Energy in accordance with the principles of Asha and Khvarnah. Goodness and Prayers are the main mediums through which man can augment his Khvarnah “Divine Energy.” Fire is the means though which Khvarnah travels. There are special laws of ritual purity in Zoroastrian religion to generate, develop and protect the Khvarnah.
According to the Avesta, a human being is made up of nine constituents (Yasna 55.1), three of which are physical (Av. tanu, gaetha, azdi), three semi-spiritual (Av. kehrp, ushtan, tevishi) and three spiritual (Av. baodh, urvan, fravashi). After death the three physical constituents decompose as they are attacked by the fiend of putrefaction (Av. druj-i-nasu) and have to be disposed as soon as possible. The three invisible destructible constituents disintegrate gradually, and the three spiritual constituents are immortal and survive indefinitely after death. A human being is made of earthly elements which are endowed with spiritual powers, without which life cannot be sustained.
A human being is geared towards spirituality from birth for two main reasons. Firstly he has come from a spiritual world and deep down within he knows that his original home is the spiritual world. Secondly, the composition of a human being is essentially spiritual along with physical constituents.
I The Physical
The Avestan tradition about the physical body is different from the Western or Indian notions. It is neither hedonistic and materialistic on one extreme, nor ascetic and puritanical on the other.
Spiritual beings including God, can reach deep down into matter. The very purpose and eventual outcome of existence is to realise divinity in perfect bodily form. It is one’s duty to make the body so clean and pure that it can serve as an abode for the divine beings. When man does not allow Evil to dwell in his body, it will disappear from the world.
Physical evil can either generate within the body or may come from outside the boundaries of the body. In the struggle between good and evil, the body is an outer wall of defense. It is for this reason that one has to be vigilant and alert about safeguarding one’s body. This idea is unique to the Avestan tradition and is in stark contrast to some of the Eastern and Western attitudes, which see the body as a citadel of sin.
Moreover, one’s body is the gateway to one’s moral and spiritual nature. The body has to fight a battle against spiritual demons and in particular prevent the following five demons from entering one’s body: Greed (Av. āzi,), Envy (Av. arēshk), Lust (Av. vasna), Wrath (Av. Aēshma) and Shame (Av. fsharema).
In the material world, the body is more important than the soul, as it is the ‘shield of the soul.’ The body and the soul need to complement each other so that no evil comes to the other because of it. In Zoroastrianism, spirituality is not meant to be separate from the body, since at every stage of spiritual growth, the body is the greatest ally of the spirit.
The three physical components make up the visible corporeal body. They are necessary for survival. As long as there is life, the human body has power to resist evil. However, when life departs, the physical constituents decompose and the human corpse becomes a source of contagion, as it is attacked by druj-i-nasu, the fiend of putrefaction. They are a danger to all living creations and hence are to be disposed off as soon as possible, with the least contamination to the other creations. A speedy disposal of the body is also beneficial to the release and progress of the soul. The physical constituents are:
- Tanu, the physical body, which comprises of the outer covering made up of muscles, sinews and skin.
- Gaethā, the body’s soft organs like the eyes, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
- Azdi, the skeletal frame of the body.
After death the three physical constituents start decomposing as they are attacked by the fiend of putrefaction (Av. druj-i-nasu) and have to be disposed as soon as possible.
II The Semi-spiritual
The semi-spiritual constituents are the main vivifying force of the humans. They link the physical and spiritual constituents. They are invisible, yet perishable. They gradually disintegrate after death. They are:
- Kehrp is the invisible etheric body. It is also referred to as astral /subtle/energy body. It is the receptacle of energies and the location of energy centres. The baodhangh (Av. divine intellect) and ravān (Phl. soul) are also connected to the kehrpa. Even spiritual creations and inanimate creations have a kehrpa.
It is the counterpart of the physical body (Bnd. 17.9) and it reflects the form of the physical body, Its condition reflects on the condition of the physical body and vice versa. Hence it is an important component in healing.
Zoroastrian practices for ritual purity (tarikats) are meant to safeguard the kehrp and keep it clean. It is the unseen boundary which protects one from physical, mental and moral evil. If breached, it has to be repaired as soon as possible. It is highly susceptible to good as well as evil influences in the surrounding environment. The soul of a deceased is housed in the kehrpa till its judgement on the dawn of the fourth day. The speed of the disintegration of the kehrpa partly depends on the speed of the disintegration of the physical body. After death it merges with the spiritual fires or cosmic lights.
- Ushtān is the life-breathe energy which gives heat and energy to the body. It circulates in the body along with oxygen, which we breathe. It vivifies and gives life to the body. It permeates every cell of the body and keeps it warm. A healthy Ushtan can keep the body healthy for a longer time. After death it merges with air. It is also referred to as Jān in Pahlavi and Pazand. It is akin to the Prana of the Indian and the Ki of the Oriental traditions.
- Tevishi is the desire body, created and nurtured by the thoughts, feelings and emotions arising out of the mind. It can be compared with the vāsnā sharir “desire body” in the Indian tradition. It is a cumulative result of man’s tendencies, desires and inclinations. Values, beliefs and religion the driving force for our thoughts and actions, which then mould and shape the Tevishi.
Each individual has a distinct Tevishi. When man starts shedding the attitude of attachment, he transcends Tevishi and gets closer to attaining divine status. Animals too have the chain of desire-thoughts-actions, but man has the power to transcend it.
The Tevishi has a tremendous effect on the physical body. Psycho-somatic medicine delves at length on this body-mind combination and its effects on the physical body. A balanced mind and emotions, help the body to heal itself.
The Tevishi is very compelling at the time of untimely and violent deaths like accidents, suicides, murder and wars. A strong Tevishi at the time of death makes it difficult for the soul to break free from its worldly bonds. Hence, as death approaches, man is advised not to think of the materialistic things but to engage in reciting or hearing divine chants.
Tevishi is made up of thought energy and after death it merges with similar energies in space.
Thze spiritual constituents are invisible and indestructible. They survive indefinitely after death in the spiritual dimension. These components by themselves, do not make man divine, but their proper use lead man to spiritual evolution.
- Baodh is the consciousness which permeates every cell of the body. When it separates from the body, death takes place (Vd.19).
It is also the repository of knowledge and wisdom – both innate and acquired wisdom. It keeps a watch over reason, understanding, wisdom, intellect and memory (Dhabhar Revayats, p.570).
It is the Consciousness which encompasses the conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious levels of the mind:
Conscious level: Senses, sense perceptions, reasoning, rationalizing, decision making.
Sub-conscious level: Automatic functions of the body and the involuntary processes that regulate life, like breath, heart pumping and blood pressure. It also governs instincts for survival.
Super-conscious level: Works with divine currents and energies and is instrumental in receiving signals inspiration and divine guidance, when properly prepared and trained.
- Urvan is the Soul, which is primarily pure and potentially divine. It is the Chooser of man’s actions, after receiving inputs from the mind and other faculties.
Purity of the soul consists in keeping it away from its six enemies viz. anger, avarice, attachment, lust, pride and jealousy. To keep these enemies at bay the five gates of the body which are the five senses should be properly guarded so that outside impressions may not rush in at random and damage the soul.
When the lower mind is in control of the soul, it is coarse. When the higher mind is in control of the soul, it is sublime and exalted as the higher mind is directly in touch with the Fravashi.
The soul is judged on the fourth day after death, and then gets reward or retribution after death for actions performed during the life time. It is given its due place in Vahishta–ahu “Heaven”, Hamestagān “purgatory” or Dushakhva “hell.”
Before the end of time, all souls which have not reached Garothman will have to undergo a second and final Judgement.
- Fravashi is the essence of God which guides man. Every human being has a personal Fravashi, which acts like its Guardian spirit for the soul during life and even after death. It reminds man of his relationship with creations, and is also a constant reminder of his divine origin and purpose. The Fravashi is incorruptible, and hence it is never judged.
Amulets and seals bearing the impression of a winged human figure have been found in the Bactriana-Margiana complex, dating back to 2000 B.C. Winged figures in different forms were a part of the iconography of Egypt and Asia Minor.
The image of the Fravashi is an enduring ancient Iranian symbol, since the Achaemenian times. In this image, the central circle is symbolic of Perfection and God. The wings signify spirituality. The human face is the connection of the Fravashi to humans. The two tassels at the bottom are reminders of the principle of polarity.
As far as the three spiritual constituents are concerned for other animate creations:
Plants have Fravashi, a very elementary Baodh and no Urvan
Animals have Fravashi, Baodh at a slightly higher level than plants, but no Urvan
Humans have Fravashi, Baodh and Urvan.
A human being is born with a divine plan and purpose. To fulfil this divine purpose should be the endeavour of each and every soul. God has given every human several faculties and powers to help him fulfil the trust and faith that He has kept in him as His trusted soldier.
Religion is meant to help man fulfil this potential to the fullest. But that is the correct use of religion and neither the abuse or misuse of it