Care for Environment: Zoroastrianism

Care for Environment: ZoroastrianismIt is the task of humans to respect and care for the Seven Bounteous Creations and to work against evil forces which oppose right order, and in so doing to bring the world back to its original state of harmony. Thus Zoroastrianism requires humans to protect the environment; to avoid harm, pollution, and waste; and to restore what has been damaged.


In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is seen as the first cause of all things Good in the universe. The universe in turn is set in accord with the concept of Asha, an ordered Truth, governed by Righteousness. In the Gathas, Zarathushtra’s sacred hymns, Ahura Mazda is seen as the Father of Asha, who has established the course of the sun, moon, and stars and upheld the earth and heavens. It is He who sustains the waters, the plants, the winds, and the clouds. He is the Creator of Light, Life, and Righteousness.

The role of mankind in the world is to serve and honor not just the Wise Lord but the Seven Bounteous Creations of the sky, water, earth, plants, animals, man, and fire—gifts of God on High to mankind on earth. In helping to bring about a state of perfection in this world and in the Seven Creations, Zarathushtra enjoined his followers to tread an ethical and righteous path.

This is only possible if one shows responsibility toward the Wise Lord’s creations. Those who perpetrate pollution and cause the defilement of all that is natural and good in the world are antithetical to the creations and to the Wise Lord Himself, as the physical world is made for the benefit of all who exist and live in the world. They must keep the Wise Lord’s world pure (pak) while living life to the fullest and participating in the goodness of the Seven Creations.— Zoroastrian Faith Statement: Prepared by the Athravan Education Trust and Zoroastrian Studies, the two main academic bodies responsible to the Zoroastrian faith for theological developments and study. (See Palmer and Findlay, Faith in Conservation).

Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zarathusthra, who lived around 1,000-1,200 B.C.E. The religion developed in the region that is today’s Iran and Afghanistan. Zarathushtra’s inspired words in his Gāthas (songs) are the earliest part of the Avesta, the Zoroastrian sacred writings. Zoroastrians worship one supreme God, Ahura Mazda or “Wise Lord,” who is the Creator of the universe and Author of its right order, the Asha or Divine Plan, based on truth and righteousness.

Zarathushtra Speaks:

The Wise lord creates and orders nature

This I ask Thee, tell me truly, Ahura. Who is by generation
the Father of Right, at the first? Who determined the path of
sun and stars? Who is it by whom the moon waxes and wanes
again? This, O Mazda, and yet more, I am fain to know.

This I ask Thee, tell me truly, Ahura. Who upholds the
Earth beneath and the firmament from falling? Who the waters
and the plants? Who yoked swiftness to winds and clouds?
Who is, O Mazda, creator of Good Thought?

This I ask Thee, tell me truly, Ahura. What artist made
light and darkness? What artist made sleep and waking? Who
made morning, noon, and night, that call the understanding
man to his duty? — Gāthas, Yasna 44.3-5

Zoroastrian Eternal Flame
Zoroastrian Eternal Flame at the Fire Temple in Yazd, Central Iran. Photo by Adam Jones.

The Faith of All

Of what faith are the waters,
Of what faith the trees,
Of what faith the bounteous Mother Earth,
Of what faith Ahura Mazda,
Of what faith was Zarathushtra,
Of that faith and of that Law as well,
A Mazda-worshipper am I. — Yasna 12.7

 

Worship for the benefit of all

I announce and carry out this Yasna [worship] for these places and these lands, and for these pastures, and these abodes with their springs of water and for the waters, land, and plants, and for this Earth and for yonder heaven, and for the Asha-sanctified wind, and for the stars, moon, and sun, and for the eternal stars, without beginning and self-disposing. And for all the Asha-sanctified creatures of Spenta Mainyu [the creative Spirit], male and female, the regulators of Asha. — Yasna 1.16

Seven great spiritual entities, the “Holy Immortals” or Amesha Spentas, manifest the divine attributes of Ahura Mazda: “Good Mind,” “Divine Law,” “Divine Kingdom,” “Holy Devotion,” “Perfection,” “Wholesomeness,” and “Immortality.” They also are the guardians of the seven aspects of material creation: sky, water, earth, plants, animals, humans, and fire. It is the task of humans to respect and care for the Seven Bounteous Creations and to work against evil forces which oppose right order, and in so doing to bring the world back to its original state of harmony. Thus Zoroastrianism requires humans to protect the environment; to avoid harm, pollution, and waste; and to restore what has been damaged.

Whoever teaches care for all these seven creations does well and pleases the Bounteous Immortals; then his soul will never arrive at kinship with the Hostile Spirit.

When he has cared for the creations, the care of these Bounteous Immortals is for him, and he must teach this to all humanity in the material world. — Shayasht ne Shayast 15:6

Nature is Animate

To a Zoroastrian, the ostensibly “inert” world is full of life, which is sanctified as it is imbued with the fravashi, “the transcendental divine essence.” All creatures, as well as plants, possess the fravashi. Nature is seen as not only having its intrinsic value, but is perceived as being sacred. All forms of life have a right to live and grow in the biosphere. Our concern for nature is not confined to only plants and vegetation; it respects all creatures. In one of the Afrins* a Zoroastrian recites, “I pray for the good of the life of all the living creatures which Ahura Mazda has created.”

The devout Zoroastrian regards the elements of nature with the most profound reverence. The Avestan texts clearly reflect this veneration for the earth, the air, the waters, and even plant life. In his daily prayers he is reminded of the beauty and majesty of nature, and from nature he turns to nature’s God. — Homi Dhalla, in “The Zoroastrian View of Ecology,” Third International Congress Proceedings, K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai, January 6-9, 2000.

*Afrin-i-ha Amesha Spandan, 16.

Passages from the Avesta and other Zoroastrian sacred literature can be found at Avesta-Zoroastrian Archives (www.avesta.org).

 

Care for Environment: Zoroastrianism

 


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