ZoroastrianismWho are Zoroastrians?
Zoroastrians (or Zarathushtrians) are the followers of a visionary messenger
named Zarathushtra who lived in Iran over 1000 years before Christ. His 200,000
or so followers are scattered throughout the world, the largest numbers
remaining in Iran and India.
The Greater Toronto Area has the largest
population of Zarathushtrians in North America, approximately 5000 in number. When was Asho Zarathushtra born?
No one knows for sure. Dates fixed by different scholars range between 6000 BC
to 630 BC. But does it really matter to us when he was born? Isn't it enough to
know that he lived and revealed one of the most enlightened guidelines for human
behaviour? Why do we call him Asho Zarathushtra Spitama?
Asho is a title of respect derived from the Avestan word Asha
. Zarathushtra, meaning "one possessing a golden-coloured
camel," was his given name. Spitama was the family name. What was his life like?
Very little is known about him. You have to remember that the era was
prehistoric, writing, as we know it today, hadn't been invented. What is
definitely known and universally accepted is that he was born to Dughdova and
Pourushaspa in Aryana Vaeja (land of the Aryans i.e. Central Asia). At the age
of twenty years, he went to Mount Ushidaren to meditate. After ten years of
self-study, he received the revelation that there is only one universal source
of wisdom Ahura Mazda, and that the aim of human life is to strive to be
reunited with Him. It took Asho Zarathushtra many years of struggle before the
superstitious and gods-fearing people accepted his word. And this acceptance
happened largely through the support and patronage of Kai Vishtasp, the ruler at
that time, and his consort Hutaosa. Nothing has been stated, directly or
indirectly, about Asho Zarathushtra passing away, leading one to believe that it
must have been through natural causes.
Thousands of years later, dramatic
embellishments were added to the story of Asho Zarathushtra's life. This
includes the saga of Durasobrab's attempts on the life of baby Zarathushtra and
his miraculous escapes; Zarathsuhtra's confrontation with the jealous sorcerers
at Kai Vishtasp's courts; and his murder in the temple by Turi Bradosh.Will Zarathushtra be resurrected as a Saviour at the end of time?
In Persian mythology, three saoshyant (those who bring benefit) will appear, one
every millennium after Zarathushtra's death. Each will be born of a virgin
miraculously impregnated with Zarathushtra's "seed" while bathing in Lake
Kansaoya (geographical location unknown).
The three Saoshyants will
1) Ukhshyat-ereta - he who makes righteousness grow.
Ukhshyat-nemah - he who makes reverence grow.
3) Astvat-ereta - he
who embodies righteousness.
It is important to qualify, that the myth
of coming of the three saoshyants emerged in the Achaemenian time, more than a
thousand years after the time of Zarathushtra. It was later documented in great
descriptive detail in the Bundahisn (circa 6 AD), and was definitely influenced
by the other beliefs of that time. (Saviour born of a virgin....sound
The term saoshyant relayed by Zarathushtra in the Gathas is
unrelated to these mythical men. He spoke of a man who will lead the world on a
"Path that leads up to the World of Truth" (Yasna 43.3). However, whether this
is interpreted as one particular man, or as each righteous human being who seeks
out the path of Asha is up to individual belief. I believe that it is up to all
human beings to work individually, but as a collective force, to "save" the
universe, both at a physical and at a spiritual level. The word saoshyant, is
sometimes said to be saviours in a superhero sense, but if you go back to the
original meaning "one who brings benefit" then any benefactor of humanity in any
field of human endeavour can possibly be a saoshyant.