The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
ANCIENT IRANIAN RELIGIONS: ZOROASTRIAN
Zoroastrian Ethics and Morals
By: Noshir Dadrawala
Zoroastrian religion lays tremendous emphasis on morals and ethics. A
Zoroastrian is expected to make a conscious effort every moment of his or her
life, to reject all forms of evil and the lie - in thought, word and deed and
endeavour at all times to walk on the path of Asha (truth and righteousness).
is the Law Immutable, the Law Eternal, the Cosmic Law of Order and Harmony on
which the entire Universe is based. It is through Asha that Ahura Mazda created
the universe and it is through Asha that mankind will attain perfection and be
one with Ahura Mazda. In the Hoshbam prayer we aspire, "Through the best
Asha, through the highest Asha, may we catch sight of Thee (Ahura Mazda), may we
approach Thee, pay we be in perfect union with Thee".
is only by walking on the path of Asha that man can attain union with his maker.
The colophon to the Yasna is quite explicit on this point, "There is but
one path, that of Asha, all other paths are false paths".
to Zoroastrianism, it is the sum total of a man's thoughts, words and deeds
which will determine the fate of his soul in the other world - it is these
thoughts, words and deeds, good or bad, which will lead his soul either to he
gates of heaven or to the pathway of hell.
Zoroastrian scriptures enumerate a number of virtues, which a Zoroastrian should
aspire and endeavour to cultivate and imbibe, and a number of vices from which
he should guard himself and struggle to keep away.
of the virtues (not necessarily in the order of importance) are as follows:
devotion and love for Ahura Mazda and His prophet, Zarathushtra;
Offering the Faraziyat
(obligatory) prayers and thanking Ahura Mazda, the Amesha
Spentas and Yazatas for Their Grace and Bounty;
Observing and upholding
all the tenets and traditions of the religion and community,
Speaking the Truth
always. According to Herodotus, the Persians laid great stress on speaking the
truth, riding a horse and archery and this formed the basic education for all
Persian children. According to Yasna 31.19 "A truth-speaker receives honour
and is a master without fear", while according to the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht,
"By speaking true words we receive many victories;
Moderation in matters
of food, drink and other worldly pleasures. Neither fasting nor gluttony and
neither celibacy nor lechery is desirable;
Charity and love for
all human beings. Zoroastrianism does not look down upon acquisition of wealth.
In fact, wealth is seen to be fundamentally positive, provided it is put to
judicious use and used for the well being of others. According to Yasna 43.1
"He is a good man through whom goodness reaches other persons in all
places. God gives such persons greatness;
Industry and honest toil.
According to Yasna 46.12 "those who make the world prosperous through good
thoughts and honest endeavours are those who live a virtuous life in good
thoughts. The Visperad (7.1) also praises, "industry and courage."
Conversely according to the Visperad (18.2), "a man who is idle is worthy
Keep a promise at all
cost. In fact Yasna 61.3 strongly advises, "keep away from a covenant
breaker and from one who tampers,"
Aspire for higher knowledge
and acquire wisdom under a proficient teacher;
Respect ones elders and
superiors. "He who does not show respect to an elder will never receive
honour" (Yasna 29.6);
Honesty and integrity
in ones dealings in this world;
Forgiveness, mercy and
tolerance- According to the Denkard, a good Zoroastrian must strive to make
enemies his friends; purify the sinful and make the ignorant well-informed;
Sincerely atone for
ones sins (committed knowingly or unknowingly) by doing patet.
Anger and jealousy-
According to the Yasna 49.4 "Those who promote wrath and jealousy are of
Greed and idleness-
Yasna 16.8 warns "Keep away from the greed of a wicked man",
power and wealth could makes a man arrogant. Arrogance leads to other vices and
the road of ruin. The Ardibehest Yasht warns us to "keep away from these
who have arrogant thoughts";
Sloth - In the Atash
Niyayesh 5.11, we pray "I sleep for the third part of a whole day (i.e.
eight hours). May God give me no more sleep so that I can wake up on
Foul language - The
Denkard consider use of foul or abusive language as a sin equal to telling lies;
Petty and unwarranted
quarrels, arguments and violence;
Bad company and
it is not easy to change overnight. Change, in order to be effective should come
from within. Prayers and repentance also help to a great extent.
is its own reward and the wise say, "if someone speaks evil about you let
your life be such that no one would believe him."
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