The founder of this religion was a person named Zarathushtra.[i] The ancient Greeks, called him Zoroastres, which became the Latin Zoroaster, which was adopted as his name by later European scholars, who called the religion Zoroastrianism.
But from the very beginning, those who practiced the religion called it mazdayasna. Mazda means 'wisdom', and yasna means 'worship/celebration'. So the religion is the worship, the celebration, of wisdom -- both the concept, and the Divine who personifies the concept. Several centuries later, its practitioners also called it din-i-behi 'the religion of goodness', because of the central role that 'goodness' plays in its tenets.
The religion originated in prehistoric Iran, but today, Zoroastrians live all over the world. The largest group (roughly 60,000) lives in India. Next in size are those who still survive in Iran. Some fairly large groups live in the USA, Canada, Britain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. And smaller groups live in other countries around the world. There are no separate religious denominations in Zoroastrianism, as there are in larger religions. But on various issues, Zoroastrians sometimes have differing views. There is no Pope or other religious authority who has the right to mandate religious beliefs. But priests and lay teachers offer knowledge and guidance.
[i] All references will be provided on request. Zarathushtra is pronounced as follows: Each 'a' is pronounced short as in 'fun'; the 'u' is short as in 'look'; with a slight emphasis on the 3d syllable -- Zarathushtra.
No one knows for certain when Zarathushtra lived. Archeological and linguistic evidence, suggests that he may have lived no earlier than 2000 BCE, and more probably around 1700 BCE, although dates as late as 589 BCE have been proposed. And no one knows for certain exactly where Zarathushtra lived. However, his language (Avestan) is the most ancient (known) form of all Iranian related languages, with closer linguistic ties to eastern Iranian languages.
In his day, most people were not literate, and knowledge was transmitted often through poems and songs. He composed 17 poems that are called the Gathas (which means 'songs'), and contain his teachings. They were passed down from generation to generation and were later written down. We no longer know the music to which the Gathas were sung. Their words are all that have survived of Zarathushra's own words. And they also give us glimpses of his life and times.
* All quotations from the Gathas are from the Insler 1975 translation.
The Gathas show that Zarathushtra lived in a time period that was beset by widespread misery and suffering; that cruelty, tyranny, greed, bondage, predatory violence, were rife; and that priests and princes combined to control people through fear and lies. He says "…the rich Karpan [a type of priest] chose the rule of tyrants and deceit rather than truth [asha]." Y32.12. In one Gatha, an allegorical lament is made to the Divine by all that is good in mortal existence, about "... the cruelty of fury and violence, of bondage and might, ..." Y29.1.
This state of affairs deeply troubled Zarathushtra. He opposed and spoke out against such practices; and as a result was persecuted, slandered, and exiled from his community. "To what land to flee? Where shall I go to flee? They exclude (me) from my family and from my clan..." Y46.1.
"...throughout my lifetime, I have been condemned as the greatest defiler, I who try to satisfy the poorly protected (creatures) with truth [asha-], Wise One ... come to me, and give support to me. Through good thinking, find a means of destruction of this." Y49.1.
He used his good thinking to search for solutions to the problems that were causing so much suffering, and arrived at a new understanding of the Divine, and how to bring about change through living our lives in ways that bring both spiritual joy and material happiness and well being. He travelled from place to place, enduring hardships, teaching this new envisionment, without success. He tells of an occasion when he sought shelter and was turned away although his "two draft animals were trembling from wandering and from cold." Y51.12.
Eventually a king and his queen chose to follow Zarathushtra's teachings. His teachings became better known and increased in popularity. In the centuries that followed, it spread all over the ancient world, and in time influenced many religions that are dominant today. But devastating wars -- first when Alexander destroyed the Achaemenian empire (around 331 BCE), and the final one when Arabs invaded Iran (around 650 CE) -- resulted in Zoroastrians becoming a persecuted minority in their own land, from which some of them fled to India to survive.
Do Zoroastrians believe in one God?
They do. Zarathushtra says,"...I choose (only) Thy teachings, Lord." Y46.3. The name by which Zarathushtra most often calls the Divine is Wisdom (mazda-), then Lord (ahura-), and a few times Lord Wisdom (mazda- ahura-), which later was standardized into the name Ahura Mazda.
He teaches that the Divine is wholly good. So more than 1,000 years later, certain Zoroastrian philosophers, wondering about how evil originated, raised the point that a wholly good deity could not create 'evil', so they speculated that there must have been 2 uncreated beings -- one all good, who is responsible for the good in existence, and one all evil who is responsible for the evil in existence. By that time, the Avestan language (in which the Gathas are composed) was no longer understood. So they no longer were aware of Zarathushtra's views on the origins of 'evil'.
Do Zoroastrians believe in one Devil?
The Gathas make no mention of the 'Devil' or 'demons'. The later texts feature a chief Devil and subordinate devils. In Avestan texts the chief 'Devil' was called Angra Mainyu, in Pahlavi texts Ahriman. Both these names have the same meaning -- a mind or way of being that is 'harmful, hate--filled, inimical, pain-causing'. And the name of each subordinate 'devil' was a human vice, -- Rage, Malice, Slander, Greed, Deceiver, (etc.).
If we look past the image of the 'Devil', and his 'demons' to the 'bad' qualities that are their names, it is easy to see that originally they were allegories indicating that a harmful, hate-filled, inimical, pain-causing mind or way of being, generates anger, malice, and all the other vices, wrongs that were the names of subordinate demons. This is confirmed by a Pahlavi text which, after enumerating the names of many of these demons, says that,
"Various new demons arise from the various new sins the creatures may commit, and are produced for such purposes...". Bundahishn Ch. 28, § 43, E. W. West translation.
Another Pahlavi text says, that the Devil as a living being does not exist and has never existed Dinkard 6, § 278. But (centuries after Zarathushtra), allegories tend to be taken literally, and many ancient Zoroastrians did indeed believe in the existence of the Chief Devil and his subordinate demons as living entities (and perhaps some believe so today as well).
Are Zoroastrians “fire worshippers”?
They are not. In the Gathas, and all other ancient texts, fire (a form of light) is used as a metaphor and symbol for Truth. Zarathushtra speaks of "...Thy truth-strong fire..." Y43.4. A physical fire cannot be made strong with Truth. But a physical fire gives light. And Truth enables enlightenment. So we see that he was using fire as a metaphor for the light of Truth. A later Avestan text says "Give me, O Fire, ... an expanded mind, ... and understanding, even an understanding continually growing in its largeness..." Yy62.4, Mills translation. A physical fire cannot expand the mind, or give understanding. Truth can. So we see that this ancient text was using fire as an allegory for Truth.
In this religion, there are no images of the Divine. The Divine is Truth (asha) personified (which is Wisdom -- an enlightened existence). And Zarathushtra's path is the path of Truth and the reward for taking that path. Later Avestan texts say (more than once),
(There is) one path, that of truth, all others (are) non-paths', Dina McIntyre translation,
aevo pantaw, yo ashahe; vispe anyaesham apantam
Yy72.11; Visperad 24.3.
So fire, as a symbol of Truth, enlightenment, became a central part of religious rituals.
Does the religion prohibit accepting those who wish to join it ?
For more than thousand years of its history, the religion welcomed anyone who wished to join it but prohibited forced conversions. In the Gathas, Zarathushtra asks for Wisdom's help, so that he "... might convert all the living." Y31.3. Speaking of efforts to spread Wisdom's teachings, he says,
"...the family, the community together with the clan, entreated for the grace of Him, the Wise Lord, (saying:) 'Let us be Thy messengers,...' " Y32.1;
"Lord, let wisdom come in the company of truth across the earth!..." Y50.5.
An ancient prayer, composed more than 1,000 years after Zarathushtra says,
"Homage to the all knowing tolerator [Tolerant One], who sent through Zarathushtra ... teachings ... for the people of the world so that they may have friendship, inculcate ... inner wisdom and knowledge gained from hearing. For the information and guidance of all men who are, who were, and who will be hereafter ..." from the Doa Nam Setayashne Sethna translation.
Another ancient prayer composed in the same era says,
"... May the religion of Zarathushtra be a source of glory unto all mortals..." from the Doa Tandarosti, Sethna translation.
But forced conversions are forbidden. An ancient text cautions, that if a man converts to the religion, he should not force his wife to convert. He should not stop supporting her. Her freedom to choose was respected.
After the Arab invasion of Iran in about 650 CE, Zoroastrians were persecuted almost to extinction, and accepting anyone who wished to convert from the dominant religion was punishable by the death and destruction of all concerned and sometimes their families, and communities as well. So to survive, Zoroastrians adopted a policy of non-acceptance. Those Zoroastrians who fled to India, took this tradition with them, and it continued to be practiced in India long after the reason for it no longer existed. But many Zoroastrian communities in diaspora are reverting to the original teaching of accepting those who wish to join the religion.
What is Zarathushtra's understanding of Truth (asha)?
Central to Zarathushtra's thought is Truth (asha). In the Gathas, Truth (asha) is the nature of the Divine, the path to the Divine, and the reward for taking that path. Its meaning includes factual truths as well as the truths of mind/heart/spirit. There is no one word in any language today that captures the meaning of asha. So we need to understand what he means by this word that has been translated as "Truth". And we need to keep its full meaning in mind when we read "truth" in quotations from the Gathas and later texts.
Zarathushtra speaks of Truth in the existences of matter (the material existence) and mind (the abstract existence of mind/heart/spirit). He seeks "... the attainments of both existences -- yes, of matter as well as of mind -- those attainments befitting truth [asha-] through which one might set Thy supporters in happiness." Y28.2.
In the material existence, Truth is all that is factually correct. It includes the factual truths of our universe, the laws that order existence, -- the laws of mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry etc. Speaking about various natural phenomena, Zarathushtra says "These things indeed and others I wish to know,..." Y44.3. And throughout the long history of Zoroastrianism, knowledge and learning have been highly valued.
In the abstract existence, the Truths of mind/heart/spirit are also all that is correct (right), which in the Gathas is equated with being beneficial, good, and includes such qualities as honesty, lovingkindness, generosity, compassion, friendship, justice (being fair), etc.
Truth is an idea, an ideal. Its personification is the nature of the Divine which has 7 qualities -- the wholly beneficial way of being (spenta mainyu), which is the true (correct, good) order of existence (Truth asha), comprising its comprehension (vohu manah), its beneficial embodiment in thought, word and action (spenta armaiti), its good rule (vohu xshathra), a perfected existence (haurvatat), that is not bound by mortality (ameretat 'non-deathness'). This personification of Truth is Wisdom (mazda-), an enlightened state of being. And in the Gathas, Zarathushtra uses 'Lord' (ahura-) in the sense of One who has acquired lordship over these qualities that make a being divine ("...for the very Wise Master [ahura-] of good thinking ... " Y30.1; "...Lord [ahura-] of the word and deed stemming from good [mainyu-] ..." Y45.8).
He sees that man presently (but imperfectly) has all of these divine qualities except for completeness and non-deathness; and says that man is capable of attaining them all completely, perfectly. So in his thought, man is not born sinful. Man is born with a mix of divine qualities and their opposites, and his salvation (from untruth) is in his own hands (with mutual loving help from the Divine and all that exists).
The search for Truth, and the freedom to choose.
If man's possession of these divine qualities is imperfect, incomplete, how are we to know, in a given situation, what is Truth and what is not? Zarathushtra's answer is simple. We have to search for Truth -- on-going -- a search from which he does not exempt himself,
"… as long as I shall be able and be strong, so long shall I look in quest of truth [asha]" Y28.4;
" Truth, shall I see thee, as I continue to acquire both good thinking and the way to the Lord..." Y28.5. The "way to the Lord" is the path of truth. So the search for Truth is incremental -- the more we search for and follow it, the more we understand and acquire it.
In the material existence, the search for factual truths enables continuing discoveries about the ways in which the physical universe has been ordered. In Zarathushtra's thought, there is no divide between religion and science. Physical truths and spiritual truths are part of a seamless whole -- the true (correct) order of existence (Truth, asha).
In the abstract existence (of mind/heart/spirit), the on-going search for Truth enables a continuing experience based evolution in thinking regarding what is correct, ('right', 'good'). So we are not imprisoned by obsolete cultural and generational perceptions. The search for truth allows our understanding to increase, change. In the Gathas, except for condemning fact-specific things that are intrinsically wrong (such as murder, theft, deceit, greed, cruelty, tyranny, bondage, etc.) there are no fact-specific mandates embalmed in the perceptions of a thousand or more years BCE, as to what is 'true', or 'good', or 'right'.
The Gathas offer advice on how to search for Truth. In those ancient times, books were non-existent (or scarce) and knowledge was transmitted "through the ear". The Gathas tell us to listen with our ears to what is most good (vahishta-); and then reflect, think, with a light filled (sucha) mind before arriving at conclusions (Y30.2). This advice generated a popular phrase in later texts which speak of,
'wisdom acquired by the ear, and the wisdom within', Dina McIntyre Translation.
Wisdom acquired by the ear is what we learn from others. It comes from many sources. It could be the teachings of great souls (like Zarathushtra); or something in a song we hear on the radio while driving; something a friend (or enemy!) tells us; something we read in a poem, or a novel. Whatever the source, we should listen with an open (but not vacant) mind to what is most good (vahishta); and then consult the wisdom within, when making our choices, "... man by man for himself..." Y30.2. The Gathas teach individual responsibility.
The freedom to make our own choices is an essential part of mental/emotional/spiritual growth. Will we make mistakes? Surely. Mistakes are a good way to learn. It is better to learn from our own mistakes. A slave mentality does not lead to Wisdom.
The Gathas offer insight about making choices. A person who chooses correctly is described -- not as 'just', not even as 'righteous', but as beneficent (hudah-), "... the beneficent have correctly chosen ..." Y30.3. Hudah- 'beneficence' means a bountiful generosity, springing from goodness, lovingkindness.
So on the path of spiritual growth, being just, being righteous, are good first steps. But an even higher step is being generous.
Is the Divine immanent in existence ?
Opinions differ. The Gathas do not specifically address the issue of immanence -- one way or the other. But many Zoroastrians, (including some well known ancient and more recent high priests), think that the Gathas and later texts imply that the Divine is immanent in all existence. In the Gathas and other ancient texts, divine qualities are associated with material metaphors. Fire is a metaphor for Truth (which the Divine personifies). Two later texts speak of the fire in all things -- in plants, in animals, in man, in the world itself. And a Pahlavi high priest, Zadsparam, speaks of 6 material elements into all of which fire was diffused,
"first, the sky; ... second, water; ... third, earth; ... fourth, plants; ... fifth, animals; ... sixth, mankind. Fire was in all, diffused originally through the six substances ..." Zadsparam, 1.20 - 21,
"... the Propitious fire itself in heaven (garodman) ... its propitiousness is this, that all the kinds are of its nature." Zadsparam, 11.1 - 2, E. West translation.
In the Gathas, completeness (haurvatat) is the complete personification of Truth -- a quality of the Divine that man can attain. Water is the material metaphor for completeness (haurvatat). When separate bodies of water are brought together, they form one body of water. The separateness no longer exists. And the same is true of fire. When separate fires are brought together, they become one fire.
There is much (implied) evidence that Zarathushtra sees all of existence (including the Divine) as one whole; and that the difference between the Divine and the rest of existence is that the Divine is the perfected part of existence, whereas the rest of us are not (yet!). But each person is free to decide whether to believe that the Divine is immanent in existence or separate from it.
What is the purpose of life?
The purpose of life is spiritual evolution. The long, slow process of changing our mixed (good/bad) existence until we personify the truths of mind/heart/spirit completely, an enlightend state of being -- an existence that is healed from all that is false, wrong, (predatory, cruel, harmful, hate--filled, inimical, greedy, ignorant, pain-causing etc.). This process of spiritual evolution is individual and collective -- encompassing existence as a whole.
The matrix for the perfecting process is the material existence which generates the many experiences that enable change from a mixed state of being to the wholly good end -- the true (correct, good) order of existence (Truth) personified. This good end is called frasho.kereiti in later Avestan texts which is based on a term in the Gathas that means 'making existence healed, (by) forwarding it to Truth'.
The good end -- a healed existence -- is not just a hope. In the Gathas and all later texts, the eventual attainment of the good end by all, is a certainty. Yet Zarathushtra teaches the freedom to choose. An seeming paradox which he resolves as follows.
In his thought, the acquisition of wisdom is experience based. These experiences include the law of consequences -- that we reap what we sow, that everything we do comes back to us. But when the 'bad' things we do come back to us, it is not for punishment. It is for enlightenment. This evolution to the good end, is inevitable, in part because people make choices and experience the consequences of their choices. Even the failure to choose is a choice.
So all our experiences -- earned and unearned, the 'good' and 'bad' ones (that come back to us) -- help to increase our understanding, our empathy, our compassion, so that in small steps, our 'bad' preferences are changed -- not out of fear, but because that is not the way we want to be. No matter how 'bad' an experience is, good will eventually come out of it -- a step forward to the good end -- confirming Zarathushtra's original premise that existence is indeed ordered in a good, beneficial, way (asha-).
But we cannot make it alone. To make it, we all have to both give and receive loving help -- from the Divine, man, and all the living. Mutual loving help is an essential requirement for attaining the good end. It helps to break the cycles of hatred generating hatred, abuse generating abuse. The Pahlavi high priest Zadsparam states that "mutual assistance" is the 3d requirement for the healing of existence.
An unknown ancient teacher of the religion (who must have been a genius!) wanted to convey these ideas in a nutshell, to make them simple and easy for people to understand and implement in everyday life. So s/he invented a simple maxim that has now become one of the defining sound bytes of the religion:
Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.
Some people today shrug this off as 'just ethics'. But that ancient teacher was so much wiser.
This simple little maxim expresses the personification (in thought, word and action) of the true, correct, wholly good, order of existence (asha vahishta) -- which is the nature of the Divine, and the path to the Divine (enabling the good end, fulfilling the purpose of life). Each time we think a good thought, say a good word, do a good deed, in that moment we bring the divine to life -- in our selves, and in our world.
This little maxim also expresses Zarathushtra's way to worship the Divine -- with Its own qualities, each of which is implemented in thought, word, action,
"... I shall always worship ... you, Wise Lord, with truth and the very best thinking and with their rule..." Y50.4;
"I shall try to glorify Him for us ... with prayers of [armaiti-], ..." Y45.10. Prayers of armaiti are prayers of thoughts, words and actions that embody Truth ("...Through its actions, [armaiti-] gives substance to the truth..." Y44.6). Why does Zarathushtra says for us? Because whether a person prays in words, or with thoughts and actions, he prays not just for himself, but for all the living.
So we worship the Divine in the temple of life -- in our homes, in the business world, in academia, in government, in the practice of our professions, in our treatment of other life forms, in our treatment of the environment -- with each beneficial thought, word and action. A 'living' worship, in every sense of the word.
It is true that a thought, a word, an action, however good, is a momentary thing. But each such moment has a ripple effect beyond its own immediate existence. And all such moments, collectively, have an exponential effect -- healing existence (with Truth asha) from the pain, grief, suffering, brought about by all the many wrongs that are the opposite of the true (good) order of existence (asha). So this simple little maxim -- good thoughts, good words, good actions -- expresses the nature of the Divine, the way to worship, and the path to follow, enabling spiritual evolution to the good end.
Does Zarathushtra teach reincarnation ?
Opinions differ. Neither the Gathas, nor any surviving later texts expressly state that there is, or is not, such a thing as reincarnation. But in the history of the religion, there were massive destructions of texts caused by military invasions and religious intolerance. A later text says there were 3 large Avestan texts devoted to commentary on the Gathas. None of them has survived.
Some Zoroastrians think that reincarnation is not part of the religion. Others think that it is necessarily implied in both the Gathas and certain later texts for the following reasons.
All ancient texts agree that we evolve spiritually to a wholly good existence. Yet no one at the end of one lifetime is wholly good, perfected. So if this teaching is true, then there would have to be multiple other occasions for the perfecting process to continue until it is complete.
All ancient texts agree that the Divine is wholly good, that His qualities include lovingkindness, caring, and justice ('being fair'). Yet there are wide disparities in the qualities of human lives -- long/short, health/sickness, disabilities, wealth/poverty, happiness/suffering, opportunities/lack of them, (etc.). If each person has only one life, then the Divine could not possibly be just -- let alone loving, generous, caring. But if each person has to experience all that there is to experience (with mutual, loving help) through multiple life times as part of the perfecting process, that paradigm is consistent with the Divine being loving, caring, and just. These multiple life times may not be limited to this earth. As Dastur N. D. Minochehr-Homji said in his Chicago lectures, "How can we limit the Divine to this one place, earth?".
A Pahlavi text somewhat ambiguously says the following,
"... the body is created only for activity; hence the conclusion is this, that the soul (ruban) is created before and the body after. And both of them changed from the shape of a plant into the shape of man, and the breath (nismo) went spiritually into them, which is the soul (ruban)..." Bundahishn, Ch. 15.4 - 5, E. W. West translation. The Pahlavi high priest Zadsparam expresses the almost the identical teaching, "... they changed from the shape of a plant into the shape of man, and the glory went spiritually into them." Ch. 10.5 - 6, E. W. West translation. These two Pahlavi texts were written in about the 9th century CE, to record and preserve the older traditions and beliefs of Zoroastrianism. It was not until 400 years later, in the 13th century CE, that the Sufi poet Rumi said something similar (but expressed in poetry).
"I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? ..." A. J. Arberry translation.
What is Zarathushtra's understanding of 'heaven' ?
In the Gathas the ultimate 'good' reward (conventionally called 'heaven') is a state of being, not a place. In a thousand and one ways, the Gathas tell us that the reward for Truth is Truth itself. He calls the 'good' reward, by many other names, a few of which are the "most good existence (ahu- vahishta-)" Y44.2; the "most good thinking" Y30.4; the "House of Good Thinking" Y32.15; the "House of Song" Y51.15. These are not separate 'heavens'. These terms for the 'good' reward indicate a state of being that houses a wholly good joyful enlightenment. A state of being that is no longer bound by mortality because the perfecting process is complete. In many later Avestan texts, a standard description of the 'good' reward is also a state of being -- the "most good existence of the truth--possessing (vahishtem ahum ashaonam) -- light, all-happiness."
But with the passage of centuries, in some later Avestan texts the 'good' reward became a most good existence (ahu- vahista-) in a pleasant place. And by the time of the even later Pahlavi texts, composed after destructive wars, in which texts were burned, the learned killed, and much knowledge lost, only a very few texts describe the 'good' reward as a wholly good state of being. In most of them, it had become a good place (called vahesht), which became the later behesht 'heaven' as a place of reward -- deriving from Avestan vahishta.
What is Zarathushtra's understanding of 'hell' ?
No Avestan text -- not the Gathas nor any later Avestan text -- contains any mention of damnation, or a place of tortures and torment in an afterlife in which fallible beings are punished for wrongdoing.
In the Gathas, salvation is not being saved from damnation and a hell of tortures. Salvation is being saved from untruth. The 'bad' reward is a temporary state of being in mortal existence -- "… a long lifetime of darkness ... woe" Y31.20; the "House of Worst Thinking" Y32.13; the 'House of Deceit' Y49.11, indicating a state of being that houses what is wrong, false, ignorant. An unhappy, unenlightend (dark), deceived state of being.
But by Pahlavi times, in a few texts the 'bad' reward had become a temporary place tortures in which people are punished for wrongdoing. Yet even these texts still contain echoes of the 'bad' reward as a deceived, wrongful, state of being.
"And hell [dozhakh 'bad existence'] is first Dushmat (evil thoughts), and second Duzhukht (evil words), and third Duzhvaresht (evil deeds); with the fourth footstep, the wicked man arrives at that which is the darkest hell [dôzhakh 'bad existence']..." from the Pazand Mainyo-i Khard, E. W. West translation.
Blessing our world.
Zarathushtra's focus is not on an afterlife. His focus is on how we live our lives, here, now. The pleasures and joys of our material existence are not 'evil'. The material existence is not renounced. It is celebrated. It is used to advance the good. The ancient Zoroastrian wedding ceremony, which includes advise to brides and grooms on how to live their lives in accordance with the religion, states "... Create wealth from your own honest work and integrity. ... Do not look down upon those who are not so well off. Help them with your own wealth ...", translation by Shahin Bekhradnia.
It is not enough for us to ask the Divine to bless us. We have to bless each other and our world. It is not enough for us to increase our own goodness, individually. We have to increase goodness in our world -- for other people, for other life forms, for the environment. This emphasis on making our world a better place has been a feature of the religion throughout its long history.
In the 6th century BCE, Cyrus the Great ended frequent and destructive tribal wars, by bringing (comparative) peace and prosperity throughout an empire of 22 nations, whose many different religions and cultures, he respected and promoted -- a step beyond just tolerance. In the Gathas, "bondage" is evil (Y29.1). Cyrus freed the Jews as well as the peoples of Zamban, Meturnu, Der, and others, who were enslaved in Babylon. He allowed them to return to their own lands, and gave them funds from his Treasury to rebuild their temples and sanctuaries; a policy that was continued by his successor Darius I (also called 'the Great').
In the late 19th and early 20th century, J. N. Tata and his successors built a highly successful industrial empire in which the employees of Tata Steel had affordable housing, free health care, and other benefits -- many of which to this day are not provided for employees of major industries in developed countries.
Zoroastrians in Iran and India have built and endowed schools, universities, hospitals, that are open to all, not just to Zoroastrians, and their charitable foundations also help activities that protect the environment.
And today in North America, the adults and children of the CZC and other Zoroastrian organizations engage in various community activities, such as environmental clean ups, planting trees, helping the homeless, helping with food banks, providing clothing and school supplies for children who need them, helping in small and large ways to bring about the healing of existence, as Zarathushtra teaches,
"Therefore, may we be those who shall heal this world ! ..." Y30.9.
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