Was Prophet Zarathushtra an ordinary mortal or a divine being?
1. Zarathushtra, the prophet of the Parsi Zoroastrians, was the first prophet to reveal religion in the world. 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.
2. This can be corroborated from several instances in his life, before, at the time of and after his birth as well as throughout his life.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. His going to the mountain to find 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Why did prophet Zarathushtra smile at birth?
1. Prophet Zarathushtra is the only infant known to have smiled at birth. This unique occurrence is acknowledged and recorded by the Greek Philosopher Pliny (1st century AC) in his “Natural History.”
2. This incident is also mentioned in our Pahlavi book Denkard, where it is further stated that seven nurses, who were present at the time of his birth, were confused on seeing this great miracle. They did not know what to make of this strange happening. But they felt it was an auspicious sign as it was the smile of a being “who has joy on account of knowing his duty.”
3. When Zarathushtra’s parents, Pourushaspa and Dogdobanu, noticed their child smile at birth, they were assured, once again, of their child’s exalted destiny and future greatness.
4. It is believed that children cry at birth on account of coming into a totally new environment, and as they are afraid of their uncertain future. Infant Zarathushtra was aware of his future and hence did not have any fear and hence did not cry. Even as an infant he had the awareness of his divine appointment as a prophet and his pre-destined mission of over powering evil.
5. Even after birth, whenever the evil Angra Mainyu tried to get him killed through the wicked Dorasrun, he came out unscathed. When his anxious mother Dogdobanu went searching for him, he was found smiling, perhaps at the failure of Angra Mainyu to hurt him.
What are the miracles associated with the life of prophet Zarathushtra?
1. Many miracles have been associated with prophet Zarathushtra, starting from the time much before his birth. He was divinely selected and appointed a long time before his birth. The procedure to send his physical and spiritual constituents to this world had started even before the birth of his parents.
2. The account of putting together his different physical and spiritual constituents is truly miraculous. His Khoreh (divine energy) travelled from Endless Light through all spiritual stations and then to his mother Dogdo. From her, it entered into Zarathushtra when he was in the womb.
3. His Fravashi (guardian spirit) was brought into a stock of Hom plant through two birds on a tree near the house of his father. Bahman and Ardibahesht Ameshasands fixed the thought in the mind of Pourushasp to get that Hom. When Pourushasp felt that the Hom was too high for him, the branch was miraculously brought down to his level. Then Pourushasp gave the branch to Dogdo for safe keeping.
4. The Gohar (essence/nature) of Zarathushtra came to him through water and plants with the help of Khordad and Amardad Ameshaspands. First it was sent to the clouds, then through the rains to grass, which was eaten by six white cows, who, without giving birth, gave milk with Zarathushtra’s essence in it. Then Dogdo milked those cows.
5. The Hom twig with the Fravashi of Zarathushtra, kept with Dogdo for safe-keeping, was pounded with milk and so when Pourushasp and Dogdo drank it, the Fravashi, Gohar and Khoreh of Zarathushtra came together and helped in nurturing Zarathushtra in Dogdo’s womb. Then Dogdo gave birth to Zarathushtra
6. Three days after Zarathushtra’s birth, the whole village was illuminated. Wicked persons were terrified by the divine light as they realised that the child would put an end to their evil. They decided to kill the child. Dorasrun, the evil chieftain, tried several times to have it killed, but each time it was miraculously saved.
7. Dorasrun had the baby thrown into a fire, but the fire did not burn the child, as Adar Yazad, made the fire cool, and so the baby was unharmed. Dorasrun then had the child placed in the pathway of a herd of cattle. However when the herd came, a white cow, inspired by Gosh Yazad, stood over the child, protecting it from the rest of the cattle. The infant was then kept in the pathway of horses. There too a white horse, inspired by Dravasp Yazad, stood over the child and protected it.
8. The angry Dorasrun then placed the child in a den of wolves after having the wolf cubs killed, thinking that the wolves will tear the infant Zarathushtra apart. When the wolves returned, they tried to attack the child, but they were stopped by an unseen fortification, and could not approach the child. Later, Bahman Ameshaspand and Sarosh Yazad came in the form of goats and fed the hungry child.
9. Dorasrun now decided to kill baby Zarathushtra himself. He took a sharp dagger and went to the house of Pourushaspa. As soon as he came near the child, he brought out his dagger and raised it to stab the child. But instantly, he lost strength in his hands and they were paralysed.
10. Another miracle happened when Zarathushtra was twelve years old. Two evil magicians, Bratrokesh and Dorasrub came to his house dressed as physicians and gave him poisonous potions. Zarathushtra was divinely guided not to drink it. He drove them away. When they were returning, they were struck by a fatal disease.
11. The next miracle happened when Zarathushtra, in seclusion on Mount Ushidaren, was nearing 30 years. One day, near the Vehdāiti river, Bahman Ameshaspand led him to a conference with Ahura Mazda. He received divine knowledge of the Mazdayasni Zoroastrian Religion through Bahman Ameshaspand and Sarosh Yazad. By this divine revelation, he became the prophet.
12. The next miracle was in the palace of king Vishtasp where he cured his horse Aspe-Siha by chanting the Ahunavar. Later, he was able to give miraculous gifts to his foremost disciples, after performing a Jashan. King Vishtasp was given the consecrated wine and his wish of visiting heaven was fulfilled. Minister Jamasp was made to smell a flower and he got the gift to see into the past and foretell the future. Prince Peshotan was given milk and he gained immortality in the material world. Crown prince Aspandyar was given pomegranate seeds and he became Rooin-tan, that is, his body became as strong as bronze.
13. Another miracle was the giving of the three gifts by the prophet to King Vishtasp as a proof of his divine mission. They were, the spiritually burning fire Adar Burzin Meher, a Cypress tree by the name Azad-Sarva, which had a message for the king on every leaf and 21 Nasks (Volumes) of Avestan scriptures, containing all the knowledge of the world.
14. The passing away of the prophet was also miraculous. The elements of his body directly merged into the elements of nature, and his soul ascended directly to the highest Heaven, in the act of destroying the collective evil. True to his lofty stature, the life of our beloved prophet Zarathushtra was full of miracles.
Why did prophet Zarathushtra go to Mount Ushidaren? (JJ 28-6-15)
1. Since the time Zarathushtra was a child, he had many questions related to the beginning of the universe, the existence of good and evil in the world, and the causes of the pain and misery in men, which nobody was able to satisfactory answer.
2. Zarathushtra’s father Pourushaspa was also unable to satisfy his quest and so he sent him to a teacher Burzin-Kurush. He too was unable to give answers to Zarathushtra’s questions.
3. Finally Zarathushtra decided to himself find the answers by directing his questions straight to Ahura Mazda. For that he needed peace and quietitude.
4. At the age of 20, with his father’s permission, Zarathushtra set off to a secluded place where he could spend time in contemplation to seek answers to his questions about life. He went to Mount Ushidaren where he spent ten years, after which he received the divine revelation.
5. The word Ushidaren means “holder of consciousness”, so one can surmise that Zarathushtra’s going to Mount Ushidaren may also be considered his going inside own mind, which is in fact the “holder of consciousness,” and exalt it to a level whereby the answers to life’s eternal questions can be revealed to it.
What are the core teachings of the Gathas of Zarathushtra? (JJ 3 & 10-4-16)
1. The Gathas are the sublime poetical compositions of prophet Zarathushtra in the oldest Avestan language. They are the loftiest of Zoroastrian prayers. The Avestan word Gatha is derived from gā “to sing,” and hence literally means “a song.”
2. In the Gathas we come across the life of prophet Zarathushtra and his communications with Ahura Mazda, right from his quest for the Truth to his ultimate acceptance as the Prophet.
3. The Gathas are five in number, divided into 17 chapters. They have 896 lines and about 5660 words. At present, these 17 chapters form a part of the larger text of Yasna comprising 72 chapters.
4. Each of the five Gathas are named after the first word/s of the first chapter of that group. The names of the five Gathas are: Ahunavad, Ushtavad, Spentomad, Vohu-khshathra and Vahishtoisht.
5. The word Gatha is also used to denote the last five days of a Zoroastrian Calendar year. These days were named after the Gathas of prophet Zarathushtra, as these compositions were held in high esteem by Zoroastrians.
6. The teachings in the Gathas are highly abstract, ethical and philosophical. In simple words, the five main teachings of the Gathas are:
i. Belief in One God: Prophet Zarathushtra was the first to proclaim the belief in one Supreme Uncreated Force, referred to as Ahura Mazda
ii. The Spiritual world: Ahura Mazda first created the spiritual world and spiritual beings in it and then created the material world. In the spiritual world the following beings were created– Vohu Manah (Bahman), Asha Vahsishta (Ardibahesht), Khshathra Vairya (Shahrevar), Spenta Ārmaiti (Aspandād), Haurvatāt (Khordād) and Ameretāt (Amardād). Later these divine beings were called Ameshāspnds. After the material world was created, they helped mankind to improve their ethical, mental and spiritual selves, as each of the above stands for the virtues of consciousness, righteousness, strength, devotion, perfection and immortality.
iii. Two spirits or forces: From the beginning, two opposite cosmic forces were at work – Spenta Mainyu “the good spirit” and Angra Mainyu “the evil spirit.” They operate at various levels. The good spirit is life-giving and benefiting. The Evil Spirit is harmful, wicked, destructive and life-destroying. Man is expected to be on the side of the good spirit, and not allow physical, mental, moral, emotional and spiritual evils to thrive on him, since, evil is parasitical in nature and can exist only if man allows it to grow and thrive on him. Man has the free will to choose between Good and Evil.
iv. Immortality of the soul: Every human being is mortal, and death is destined for all. After death, immortal spiritual elements of life outlive the physical body. The soul, a key spiritual element crosses over to the spiritual realm on the fourth day after death, and is judged for its actins in life. The soul keeps on evolving till it reaches garothman – the house of God.
v. Sanctity of Creations: All creations are sacred and their purity has to be maintained. A divine being presides over each creation. Respecting the creation, amounts to respecting the divine being presiding over it. Man has to care of all creations and not pollute them in any way.
Who was Aspe-sihā?
1. Aspe-siha was the name of the favourite horse of King Vishtaspa, the patron king of prophet Zarathushtra. Literally the word āspe-siha means “a black horse.” The horse has become famous in Zoroastrian religious tradition, since events in the life of prophet Zarathushtra are closely connected to this horse.
2. It is stated that the four legs of this horse got embedded in its stomach and none in the kingdom was able to heal the horse from this condition. Finally prophet Zarathushtra, who was wrongly imprisoned by the king at that time, offered to heal the horse with the power of the prayers of Mazdayasni religion, thus proving his credential as a true prophet of Ahura Mazda. This incidence not only proved Zarathushtra’s innocence but also sealed his place as the true prophet of Ahura Mazda.
3. This story has an allegorical explanation too. Aspe-sihā literally meas “black horse.” This is considered symbolic of the king’s mind and senses being “blackened” by lies by detractors against the prophet and his religion. The healing of the horse by the power of prayers is symbolic of clearing the mind of the king from the lies by the power of prayers.
Why did prophet Zarathushtra give 4 gifts to his disciples?
1. According to the Zarthosht-Nameh, once King Vishtasp, the prophet’s patron king expressed the desire before the prophet to have four wishes. The Prophet explained that all the four wishes cannot be granted to one person, but assured him that he can grant him any one of the wishes and the other three wishes will be individually granted to any three persons of his choice. The king suggested the names of his sons Peshotan and Aspandyar and his wise Minister Jamasp, as the recipients of the gifts.
2. The following day, prophet Zarathushtra performed a Jashan and presented its offerings to the four people. To King Vishtasp the consecrated wine was given and his wish of visiting heaven was fulfilled.
3. Minister Jamasp was made to smell a flower and he got the gift to see the past and foretell the future. Prince Peshotan was given milk and he gained immortality in the material world. Crown prince Aspandyar was given pomegranate seeds and he became Rooin-tan, that is, his whole body, except his eyes, became as strong as bronze.
Why does prophet Zarathushtra wear a white Pagri on his head?
1. Since the Peshdadian times, king Jamshed divided the Mazdayasni society into 4 professional groups– the priests, the warriors/administrators, the farmers and the craftsmen/artisans.
2. Till the end of the Sasanian times these divisions were more or less observed with a very few exceptions.
3. From the Avesta, we learn that Prophet Zarathushtra was the first person who, as a prophet, had the privilege to belong to all the four groups at the same time. However, by birth he belonged to the priestly family, as we see the title athravan (priest) prefixed to his name.
4. Since the white pagri (turban) is one of the main insignia of priesthood even to this day, prophet Zarathushtra is shown in pictures wearing the white pagri.
What is prophet Zarathushtra holding in his hands in his photographs?
1. In different photographs of prophet Zarathushtra, we see him holding different things. It is either a nine knotted stick called Navgar, a gurz, a fire or a scroll of the Avesta.
2. The most common thing that we see in his hand is the nine knotted stick called Navgar. This stick is used by priests mainly whilst performing certain higher rituals like the Bareshnum. Hence the Navgar stick is symbolic of priestly profession. Prophet Zarathushtra represented the priestly profession and he was even called an athravan, that is, belonging to the priestly family.
3. Zarathushtra is also seen holding the gurz in his hand in some pictures. Gurz was originally a weapon devised by Peshdadian king Faridun to overpower the evil Zohak. It was a mace with the head of the cow. Later it became a symbol of the victory of good over evil. Since Zarathushtra epitomizes the victory of good over evil, he holds it in his hands.
4. The third thing that we see him holding in his hand is the fire Adar Burzin Meher which is one of the three spiritually created fires. It was one of the three gifts that the prophet gave to king Gushtaspa as the mark of his prophetship. This fire had the quality of not being hot (so that it would not burn the hand if held in the hand), not giving out smoke and consuming very little fuel. The fire was later established by king Vishtasp on Mount Raevant.
5. The fourth thing that we see in the hands of prophet Zarathushtra, is a scroll of the Avesta. It is symbolic of the 21 Nasks (Volumes) which he was divinely gifted and which he gave as one of the three gifts to king Gushtaspa as the mark of his prophetship. The 21 Volumes of the Avesta embodied all the wisdom in the world.
What are the days in theZoroastrian religious calendar which are specially connected with prophet Zarathushtra?
1. Three days in the Zoroastrian calendar year are directly connected with the prophet. They are: Khordad Sal, Din-beh-Mino Marespand and Zarthost-no-diso.
2. Khordad Sal is the birthday of the prophet and it falls on Khordad roj of Fravardin mah. On this day the entire nature rejoiced at the birth of the prophet and exclaimed: Ushtā no zāto āthrava yo Spitāmo Zarathushtro, which means “Rejoice that for us Zarathushtra Spitama is born, who is an Athravan (belonging to the priestly family).” On this day we thank Ahura Mazda for sending the prophet and pray to the Fravashi and soul of the prophet to help and guide us.
3. The festive day of Din-beh-Mino Marespand is on Marespand roj of Aspandad mah, which falls during the Muktad days. It is to celebrate the day on which king Vishtaspa accepted Zarathushtra and proclaimed him as the chosen prophet of Ahura Mazda.
4. Zarthost-no-diso, or the “Day of death of Zarathushtra” is on Khorshed roj of mah Dae. It is the day when the prophet passed away from the material existence to the spiritual existence in a special manner, wherein his physical body and all the other constituents immediately and simultaneously merged with their sources, bringing an end to his journey in the physical world.
5. Incidentally, the last 5 days of the year, which are called the Gathas, are also connected with prophet Zarathushtra as they are named after the five Gathas which are the celestial metrical prayers personally recited by Zarathushtra.
6. Zarathushtra is the beloved prophet of Zoroastrians, and the above mentioned days are the special days connected to him. However, the teachings and memory of the prophet should always resonate in the hearts and minds of Zoroastrians, every day of every month, year after year.