Zoroaster and the Divine Gift of Preaching

  February 03, 2024   Read time 3 min
Zoroaster and the Divine Gift of Preaching
One of the greatest Zoroastrian prayers, believed to have been composed by Zarathustra, this prayer is spoken by the priest in confirmation, wedding, and funeral ceremonies. Yatha ahu vairyo, atha ratush ashatcit haca, vangheush dazda manangho, shyaothananam angheush mazdai, xshathremca ahurai a, yim drigubyo dadat vastarem.

From the age of 20 to the age of 30 Zarathustra lived in solitude on a mountain, searching for answers. At the age of 30, in order to participate as a member of a priestly family in the spring festival, he went to the famous Daitya River, where one of his priestly duties was to go to the river at dawn to draw water from the deepest and purest part of the stream for the morning ceremony. As he waded back to the riverbank a glorious angel, Vohu Mana, stood before him. The angel asked him who he was and what was the most important thing in his life. Zarathustra replied that he wanted most of all to be righteous and pure and to gain wisdom. With that the angel took Zarathustra into the presence of Ahura Mazda and the archangels.

Zarathustra understood that he had received a special calling. He also understood that the way would be diffi cult because it meant opposing the old religion and the princes who used it to their own ends. During the next few years he often felt despair and called on Ahura Mazda to help him. He received other visions, seven in all, in which one by one all of the archangels, or Benefi cent Immortals, appeared to him. These visions helped him to remain faithful to his work. From the age of 30, when he received his revelation, to the age of 42, when he was accepted as a prophet by Vishtaspa, the king of Bactria, Zarathustra wandered from place to place, from the west to the east of Iran.

Zarathustra arose as a prophet who strongly denounced the ritual practices of the warrior societies, the groups of young men who wandered the countryside in a state of drunkenness, stealing and slaughtering cattle and terrorizing people. An outspoken reformer, Zarathustra fought against the cruel and bloody practice of animal sacrifi ce, the use of intoxicating herbs, and the excesses of the old religion that whipped young men into a frenzy and sent them into battle. Never afraid to speak out, he openly scorned the “mumbling” priests and sacrifi cers. Instead of ritual he demanded that people turn their hearts and minds to Ahura Mazda.

Zarathustra preached the notion of one true god, Ahura Mazda, who had created human life and all things visible and invisible. Along with all the things of the earth, two opposing forces were created. One force, Spenta Mainyu, the holy spirit, represented Truth and Goodness. The other, a destructive spirit that came to be called Angra Mainyu, represented the Lie. Zarathustra saw a world of ethical good in which people worked to maintain life by marrying, bringing up children, raising cattle, and farming. They would think good thoughts and do good deeds, turning away from evil and creating a peaceful, loving society. After death people would be judged according to how they had chosen to live their lives. It was up to humans to choose Truth over The Lie. He also taught that the world would end and that at that time the righteous would be saved and the evildoers would go down into the underworld.

Zarathustra tells of his vision of Ahura Mazda in the Gathas: Then thus spake Ahura Mazda, the Lord of knowledge and wisdom: “As there is not a righteous spiritual lord, or secular chief So have I, indeed, the Creator, made thee, Zarathustra, the leader, For the welfare of the world and its diligent people.” —Ys. 29.6

Scarcely able to believe what he hears, Zarathustra asks whom Ahura Mazda has chosen to carry his divine word and the welfare of the world. Ahura Mazda responds: And thus spoke Ahura Mazda: “The one who alone has harkened to my command and is known to me is Zarathustra Spitama. For his creator and for Truth, he wishes to announce the Holy Message, Wherefore shall I bestow on him, the charm of speech.” —Ys. 29.8 In this way Zarathustra is ordained to be Ahura Mazda’s prophet and receives directly from him the gift of preaching.

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