Zoroaster was an ancient Iranian prophet, philosopher and religious poet. He was a religious reformer of ancient Persia (now Iran) and the founder of the pre-Islamic religion of Zoroastrianism. The hymns attributed to him, the Gathas, are at the liturgical core of this religion.
Some of the fundamentals of the teachings of Zoroaster are:
1. The universe is the cosmic struggle between two primeval powers aša (asha) “truth”, “good” and druj “lie”, “evil”.
2. Good and evil are separate entities at war with each other, in the form of Ahura Mazda (Ormuzd -Persian) (the god of good, creation and truth) and Angra Mainyu (Ahriman –Persian) (the god of evil destruction and lies). The two great opposing principles are also called the king of light and the prince of darkness.
3. The cardinal concept of aša (asha) - is at the foundation of all other Zoroastrian doctrine, including that of Ahura Mazda - omnipotent God (who is aša), creation (that is aša), existence (that is aša) and Free Will.
4. The purpose of humankind is to sustain aša through active participation in life and the exercise of good thoughts, words and deeds (the ethical triad), such as the raising of children and the planting of trees.
5. Everyone must make choices between siding with Ahura Mazda and following the path of truth, or uniting with Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) and following the way of falsehood. Moreover the best way to overcome Ahriman is a joy, despondency is a sign of his victory.
Man's noble position, free and right choice and his good thoughts, words and deeds lead to triumph of Ahura Mazda, to victory of truth and to the achievement of human happiness. In assigning this choice to man, Zoroaster raises him to the process of active co-participation and co-creation.
Top Zoroastrian pantheon of deities – The supreme god and his Seven Angels, represent the personification of abstract ideas, devoid of flesh:
Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), Hshatra Variya (Desirable Dominion), Hourvatat (Integrity, Perfection or Health'), Amertat (Immortality), Vohu mana (Good Mind), Asha Vahishta (Best Righteousness ), Spenta Armata (Holy Humility), Sraosha (Obedience, awareness, keeping balance).
Futhermore it remained the most popular deities of ancient Iranian pagan religion: a beautiful Ardvi Sura, Anahita and Mithra, the god of sunlight.
Zoroaster founded dualistic religion which is not affected by a notion of original sin or by ascetic tendencies. The Fravahar (Guardian angel) is the best-known symbols of this religion. It is a figure with human face and two wings, which feathers indicate three symbols of good reflection, words and deed. One of his hand points upwards, showing that we have to struggle to thrive.
The holy book of Zoroastrianism is the Avesta ("Praise"), which includes The Gathas (the 17 hymns of Zoroaster) liturgical texts and prayers. Only the earliest part of the Avesta - The Gathas was composed by the prophet himself. The other parts, which include hymns, prayers, litanies, and religious law, were written over a period of perhaps several centuries.
Zoroastrianism is also sometimes called Parsiism, after the Parsi community of India where it is practiced. This religion is also called Mazdaizm on behalf of the supreme deity Ahura Mazda.
Zoroastrianism is one of the first monotheistic religions and considered an early strong influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In the Greek and Western culture Zoroaster was known as a great sage, magician, and miracle-worker. He is first mentioned by Plato, Plutarch and Heraclitus, who is often referred to as inspired by Zoroaster's thinking. Scolars pointed out the similarities between Zoroaster's philosophy and the ideas of Baruch Spinoza. Voltaire stated that Zoroastrianism was a form of rational Deism.
He became a priest probably around the age of fifteen. At the beginning Zoroaster was a priest in his tribal religion, with which he eventually became disillusioned.
Zoroaster received a religious vision from Ahura Mazda surrounded by seven shining beings when he was about 30 years old. After received a vision, he began teaching that Ahura Mazda was the highest god and alone was worthy of worship. For the first time he strengthened a monotheism concept that went against the polytheism of Iranian religion. He travelled throughout Persia and tried to awaken his people to the importance of righteousness and justice, forbade the orgiastic rites that accompanied animal sacrifice.
Moreover Zoroaster preserved the ancient cult of fire worship. Fire, as a symbol of 'Asha' and the 'original light of God,' even now holds a special place of esteem in the Zoroastrianism.
He met with the indifference of his people and the opposition of the communities' religious leaders. He was forced to leave his homeland (one prayer- mourning addressed to Ahuramazda has preserved in the "Gathas"- "Where to run?"). Harassed by his opponents at home, he fled to eastern Iran, where he converted the Kianid king, Vishtaspa, to his religion. After converting a king to his teachings, Zoroaster remained at the royal court. The religion then spread rapidly through Vishtaspa's domain.
It is said that Zarathustra laughed when he was born and whole world laughed with him.
He married the daughter of Vishtaspa's good vizier, Frashaoshtra, and gave his own daughter in marriage to Jamaspa, another good vizier of the King. With his wife, Hvovi (Hvōvi), Zoroaster had three son, Isat Vastar, Uruvat-Nara and Hvare Ciθra three daughters, Freni, Pourucista and Triti.
Zoroaster died about 551 bc. at the age of 77 years. In Shahnameh Zoroaster is said to have been murdered at the altar by the Turanians in the storming of Balkh.
The dates given for Zoroaster by ancient and modern writers differ considerably. The traditional Parsi people place the Prophet as older than 6000 BC. Some scholars believe that he lived sometime (1750 -1500 BC), other (1400 -1200 BC) or about the 10th century BC. The more modern authors have placed him between 1000 and 600 B.C. According to views of some reputable scholars Zoroaster must have lived “258 years before Alexander.” Alexander the Great conquered Iran in 331 B.C.
This places the Prophet in six century BC and makes Zoroaster a contemporary of Buddha, Laosi, Confucius, Phales, Anaximander and Pythagoras. In some incomprehensible way Zeitgeist simultaneously created this amazing constellation of geniuses.