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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Zoroaster, Prophet of Zoroastrianism

"The Abrahamic religions were preceded, and decisively influenced by, followers of an earlier prophet.The tiny world wide communities of Zoroastrians are no doubt pleased to get any mention in Cif belief – even if it is only to provide alphabetical balance to a list starting with the Bahá'ís.:" The Guardian. Indeed, we have reversed the Alphabetical order for the Zoroastrians to start the program first. http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/07/zoroaster-prophet-of-zoroastrianism.html

The story in Guardian follow my comments;

Zoroastrians have always been a part of the foundation for pluralism in our workshops, radio shows (over 25 Hours) and my greetings at every interfaith event, which most of you know it by now. They are constantly mentioned in our writings and talks. We have to practice inclusion and exclude no religion, that’s what pluralism is all about; inclusion.

Indeed, the Mission of our other organization, World Muslim Congress is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.

They are a part of the Annual Thanksgiving Celebrations for the last 15 years, part of the Unity Day USA for the last 6 years and the Holocaust and Genocides event for the last three events. Our priest in Dallas Dr. Poras Balsara has graced us with his presence in many of my personal events including my son’s wedding and Mr. Firdosh Mehta has been a part of every event we have done.

As a group, I worked with them in removing the shameless “Alexander the Barbarian” (some call him the Great) form the movie poster of that name standing in front of the Farvahar, the Zoroastrian religious symbol.

A few of us from Dallas wrote and signed a petition a few years ago to the Iranian government to stop harassing the Zoroastrians. (Shame on all those majorities where the minorities are harassed..., any nation exception to this?)

The United Nations celebrated their 5000 years of heritage a few years ago.

My mother’s closest friend was a Zoroastrian in my town, we used to call her “Parsima”, they owned an estate in Yelahanka called “Bahramji Estate” and had huge rose flowers garden. Every week “Parsima” would come to buy groceries in the town and after that she will visit my mother and they talked for several hours. A frail woman and always I get the image of Mother Teresa and her toggle in my mind.

India’s industrial development is owed to Jamshedji Nasserwanji Tata and the information movement is also partnered by the Tatas’. One of the most respected Supreme courts Judges was Nana Palkhiwala. I believe one of the famous movie stars of India, Sohrab Modi was a Zoroastrian, some say he was Jewish but I have not done much research into it. The famous American New York Philharmonic conductor Mr. Zubin Mehta is a Zoroastrian. The Parsees own all the breweries in Pakistan and I had a chance to chat with one of their daughters on my flight to London, she was fascinating. There was a movie made about their struggle during the partition of India and Pakistan called Earth 1942 with Aamir Khan in it, it was a darn good movie. Pakistan founders wife was a Zoroastrian, India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s’ husband was a Zoroastrian and two Prime Ministers of India Sons of the Zoroastrian father. One of the world’s renowned Cricket commentators was a Parsee and was from Pakistan, I had the honor of speaking with him and had address the people of Dallas on my Radio show years ago…. Their celebration of New Year is green.

Dallas is blessed to have about 50 families and I am familiar with most of them. They are all in the community pictures of the links I have provided above.

Now the Parliament of Worlds Religion is possibly going to be held in Dallas in 2014, we are one of the three bid cities. A group of volunteers is working to bring the event here and if your organization and you, I mean any religious tradition would like to be a part of the bid, look us up at: http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/

The Concept of one God need not be threatening if we all understand the intent behind the word "One God". It is extensively used in the monotheistic traditions, it is not opposed to "many iconic representations" of God, and rather it is the oneness of universe, oneness of creator and oneness of humanity. When there is oneness, you would feel the pain for the rape victims in a remote village or pray for the people who are being washed away in floods. It brings the humanity together.

In Judaism and Islam there is an emphasis about no God but God, it is stressed to make the point of oneness with the creator, so we can feel the pain of other humans no matter where they are. It avoids the apathy that they are worshippers of XYZ God and their pain is not my pain. Which Hinduism titles as ekantha or Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or the other traditions call it one God. Reverend Moon, whom I admire, calls "one family under God”. We are seven billion unique beings God has intentionally created us to be different, look at our minds, our thumb prints and DNA's, each one is unique, if we can learn to respect the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

To read a summary about Zoroastrianism - http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Religion_Zoroastrianism.asp

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist, educator and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, Peace and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and is a frequent guest on the media. Mike's work is reflected at three websites & twenty two Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/


Zoroaster – forgotten prophet of the one God


The Abrahamic religions were preceded, and decisively influenced by, followers of an earlier prophet.

The tiny world wide communities of Zoroastrians are no doubt pleased to get any mention in Cif belief – even if it is only to provide alphabetical balance to a list starting with the Bahá'ís. Even those who take a close interest in the more exotic or esoteric of religions tend to have a vague grasp on what the followers of the ancient Persian (or maybe Bactrian) prophet, Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) – born around 800 BC – actually believed. This is a great pity since even a non-believer must be impressed with the evidence of how the religious ideas first expressed by Zoroaster were fundamental in shaping what emerged as Judaism after the 5th century BC and thus deeply influenced the other Abrahamic religions – Christianity and Islam.

Born at a time when the peoples of the Iranian plateau were evolving a settled agriculture, Zoroaster broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, and espoused the idea of a one good God – Ahura Mazda. What became known eventually in the west as Zoroastrianism was also the first to link religious belief with profound attachment to personal morality. In Zoroastrian eschatology there is much which has become familiar from reading the Jewish and Christian testaments: heaven, hell, redemption, the promise of a Sashoyant (Messiah), the existence of an evil spirit Ahriman and – most striking of all – the prospect of a final battle for the salvation of man at "the end of time" between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman leading to the latter's final defeat.

The main contact between westerners and Zoroastrians came in India where they were known as Parsees (Persians), descendants of those who took part in a large scale migration from Persia after the Muslim conquest of that country. Zoroastrians were held (quite wrongly) to worship fire because they kept a permanent flame in their temples. Some even questioned whether they were monotheists at all because Ahriman was referred to as an evil "god". But all the Abrahamic religions have also struggled to explain "evil" in the world which is why they gave Satan an important role.

The first encounter between the ancient peoples who developed historical Judaism and the Persian religious ideas of Zoroastrianism seems to have come either during or shortly after the captivity in Babylon. It was the Persian king of kings, Cyrus, who liberated the Hebrews from Babylon and one of his successors, Darius, who organised and funded the return of some of the captives (probably along with many Persians) to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Ezra also reorganised the traditional religion of the Judaeans and Israelites. What emerged was a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion – Zoroastrianism.

Those who might doubt how Persian imperial policy so decisively shaped what we know as Judaism should reflect on the remarkable and first ever declaration of belief in one, universal God by the biblical writer known as "Second Isaiah" during this period. Indeed Isaiah describes King Cyrus as a "Messiah" and the chosen instrument of Yahweh. Interestingly there is evidence that the Persian imperial policy towards the religion of their subject peoples – to allow the traditional name of their gods to be retained but to revise the religions themselves in the image of Zoroastrianism – was also applied in Babylon and Egypt as well as Palestine.

Some claim that a belief in monotheism in Judea developed a little before the Babylonian conquest and exile. But although there is evidence for a centralisation of the different Canaanite-style cults into the worship of Yahweh in the capital – Jerusalem – over this period the most which can be said was that a form of monolatry, a belief in one God for a particular people had emerged.
The Persian influence on Judaism was powerful and long lasting. Certainly the profound belief in the end of days exhibited by the Dead Sea Scroll communities in the immediately pre-Christian era and indeed the images employed by the Christian evangelist, John, in his Apocalypse, display a clear continuity of influence.

What – at the very least – were the deep affinities between Zoroastrianism and Judaism goes a long way to explain what over the centuries were the close and friendly relations between Persians and Jews. The influence of 20th century religious-political ideologies have poisoned that relationship. Perhaps a greater acknowledgement by Jews, Christians and Muslims of their Persian Zoroastrian inheritance would be a step to improving those relationships.


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