Section IX: THE ZOROASTRIAN RELIGION
13) Attunement Exercises, #3
The Worshippers of Light "look at the sun and see what joy it brings. Where does it come from? Think of its source and goal, and how you are heading towards it.... It was the worship of Light that was the source and goal of all life." (Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sup. reading material)
After meditating upon the above quote, please answer one of the following.
a) For the Zoroastrians, nature is the most sacred scripture. In nature, they encounter God and discover the divine laws which order the creation. Contemplate the many manifestations of divine light and seek to realize the numerous aspects of God which are expressed through them. Please share three examples.
b) "Remember this sojourn on the planes of light and remember having been a being of light." (Pir Vilayat Khan) In accordance with the orientation of the Zoroastrians, Pir Vilayat Khan is constantly encouraging us to awaken to our inheritance of divine light by discovering that we are a being of light. Imagine that you are just light, or that your body is a temple which creates capasity for the light of your soul. Please describe in a poem, drawing or another mode of expression your experience of your light being.
c) The sun is a focal point in the worship of the Zoroastrian religion, for it draws the consciousness of humanity into an attunement of light. We all carry an inheritance from the sun, for it is the source of life and fulfillment of the earth. Meditate upon the sun and its various facets. Then examine your life and being while earmarking your solar inheritance. How is your inheritance from the sun incorporated in your life?
14) Review Exercises, #4
Pir Vilayat Khan recognises the Zoroastrian religion has a special significance in our time, for it strikes the note of ecology. The Zoroastrians and members of other nature religions experience a creation composed of beings and not things. The scripture selection above is one of many that illustrate the Zoroastrians' participation in a world alive with the communing of beings rather than one composed of isolated inanimate objects. Pir Vilayat Khan traces this realization to the Zoroastrian Cosnmology in which the universe is composed of smaller beings contained in larger ones: the archangels of the earth dwell in the archangels of the sun while the streams and lakes are the physical embodiment of ardvisura, the archangel of the Waters of Life.
Please answer on of the following.
a) what effects do you see in the world today which are a result of our losing a sense of the kinship of all life? If humanity were to awaken to the realization of the nature religions, that life is composed of beings and not things, what changes do you see occurring?
b) How would you instill a sense of the sacredness of all life in your children?
c) Through nature, the spiritual foundation of life can be touched by those who feel an aversion to traditional religous forms or the word "God". How would you conduct a cless for people with this perspective, on the theme of the one spirit which is contained in all life? What would you use as a title for this class?
d) Create a poster which conveys the livingness of all of the creation.
The life and teaching of Zarathustra give an example, to those who tread the spiritual path, of the manner in which to begin the spiritual journey. Zarathustra is said to have been born from the Haem-tree. The interpretation of this idea is that the Spirit of Guidance does not come direct from Heaven; he is born from the human family; the tree is the family.
It has been a great error of some religious people that out of their devotion for their Master they placed him, through their imagination, on a pedestal, where they themselves could not ever prove him to be when it came to reasoning. It can only stand in the horizon of faith. No doubt faith is in the foundation. Faith is the lamp which lightens the path, but reason is the globe over it to make its light appear.
The purpose of this whole creation is fulfilled in attaining that perfection which is for a human being to attain. All the Saints, Sages, Prophets, and Masters of Humanity have been human beings, and divine perfection they have shown in fulfilling the purpose of being human.
Zarathustra's spiritual attainment came by his communication with Nature first. He appreciated, adored, and worshiped the sublimity of Nature, and he saw wisdom hidden in the whole creation. He learned and recognized from that the being of the Creator, acknowledged His perfect wisdom, and then devoted his whole life to glorifying the Name of God. To those who followed him in the path of spiritual attainment, he showed the different aspects of Nature, and asked them to see what they could see behind it all. He pointed out to his followers that the form and line and color and movement that they saw before them, and which attracted them so much, must have been accomplished by an expert artist. It cannot all work mechanically and be perfect. The mechanism, however much perfected, cannot run without the help of an engineer. Therefore he showed to them that God is not an object which the imagination has made, though He is molded by man's imagination outwardly. In reality, God is the Being: such a perfect Being that, if compared with other living beings of this world, He is beyond comparison. He is the Only Being.
The Zoroastrian Way of Worship
The way of worship taught by Zarathustra was to worship God by offering homage to Nature. For Nature suggests to the soul the Endless and Unlimited Being hidden behind it all.
The source of Zoroastrianism is the same as the source of Hinduism, although Hinduism has been practiced in India and the followers of Zoroastrianism have been in Persia. The original source of these sister religions of the Aryans was sun worship. These are the direct descendants of the parent religion of sun worship, though this is the ancestor of the religion of the Hebrew prophets also. No religion can escape from this ancestry.
The Symbol of Zunar among Zoroastrians
The Zoroastrians, even today, worship the god Ahura Mazda by looking and bowing to the sun. The symbolical meaning of this is the worship of the light, and especially one Light which has not its like anywhere, which shines upon all things, and by which all things are reflected, and upon which the life of the whole universe absolutely depends. This was the lesson given in ancient times to prepare men's minds to become fond of light, that the soul may unfold some day, and the light from within, the Eternal Sun, the reflection of which on the surface is the sun, may be vouchsafed and be worshiped.
People have called the Zoroastrians fire worshipers. It is a fact. They keep in their place of worship a constantly burning fire, but it is an object they keep before them when thinking of God, as fire purifies all things, and the light within purifies all souls. It is, in fact, a great comfort to have fire in the cold climate, and especially incense burning, which takes away the dampness of the place and gives a facility to the free and deep inhaling and exhaling of breath.
Another thing is that, on earth, it is fire which is the substitute of the sun, for its flame gives light. It is again awakening the mind to the light within.
They worship before the running streams of water and the different scenes of Nature which speak to the hearer of the Divine Immanence in them.
They have in their houses the pictures of Zarathustra, their Prophet, with a torch in his hand, somewhat in the likeness of Christ. The garb is different; it is of old Persia. As the Teacher of every community is pictured in some way, it always inspires those who look at it with that attitude of mind.
Every Zoroastrian woman or man wears in the vest a cord of silk, and considers it the most sacred thing for its religious significance. This is the custom that has been observed by Zoroastrians from the beginning of their religion, as Zarathustra himself wore this sacred thread, and it is seen till now with Parsis--those that have left Persia, their original land, for ages, and have adopted mostly the customs of India, the land where they took refuge after leaving their country, where a Brahman wears a thread crossways over one shoulder.
This thread they purify with water, fire, and air, and untie and tie it several times during the day, and, every time they do it, they consider it as the most important part of their prayer. It is true that few among them will be found who know the real meaning of this prayer with the thread, but it is mostly so with the followers of different religions.
The moral meaning of Zunar is service. A soldier, a policeman, a postman, or a gatekeeper, when on duty, has a belt on, which expresses that he is on duty--not free to do everything he wishes, but only that which he is appointed to his post to accomplish. This explains that man, as the most intelligent of God's creatures, is not supposed to lead his life as he wishes to lead it, but to consider the duty for which he is born and the service that he must render to God and His creatures. As man is apt to forget all that is not to his immediate interest, the loosing and the tying of the thread reminds him of his duty, as the belt reminds the soldier that he is on service. The idea is that we are all servants of God, and we must do all things for Him, Who has created us, supports us, and has engaged us in His service.
But the mystical meaning of Zunar is still greater. It makes the vertical figure of man, against the horizontally-worn Zunar, a cross. That means, as the Sufi understands, self-denial--"I am not." When that first I, the false I, is so denied, then the next I, which is the real I, awakens, when God Himself realizes His Being, and accomplishes thereby the purpose of creation.
A keen student of the Zoroastrian Scriptures, with illuminated mind, will be able to notice that every invocation that the holy Zarathustra has used is as if he prayed to the Light within to guide him by all evidences that Nature presented before him; to strengthen the conviction that all is of God, created by God and ruled by God. The mystical meaning of Ahura Mazda, upon whom Zarathustra called, is the Universal Breath.
Zarathustra has considered three aspects of sin and virtue: Manashni, Gayashni, and Kunashni; thinking, speaking, and doing--that a sin can be committed, not by action alone, but even by intending to commit it, or by saying, "I will do it." And the same is the nature of virtue.
The Teachings of Holy Zarathustra
The chief point in the teachings of holy Zarathustra is the path of goodness; and he separates goodness from badness, calling God the All-good and Satan the All-bad. According to this point of view of the Master, God was, as He is always, the Ideal of worship; and nothing but good can be praised, and none but the good worshiped, and all which is bad naturally leads man astray and veils from his eyes all good. The spirit of evil was personified by the Master, as it had already been personified by the ancients, as Satan.
As the point of view makes all the difference in every teaching, so it made a difference in this teaching of Zoroaster. So that many, instead of taking the true spirit of this idea, have drawn a line between good and bad, and produced, so to speak, two gods: God, the All-good, and Satan, the Lord of Evil; which helped morally to a certain extent, but deprived many, who could not catch the real spirit of the Master, of the realization of God, the Only Being. The good God is named by Zoroaster Ahura Mazda, the first word meaning literally 'indestructible', the next word meaning 'supreme God'.
The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The wise have given lessons to the world in different forms suited to the evolution of the people at a particular time, and the first and most original form of education that the wise gave to the world was symbolical. This method of teaching has been valued in all ages, and will always have its importance. That is not beauty which is not veiled. In the veiling and unveiling of beauty is the purpose of life. Beauty is that which is always out of reach. You see it and you do not see it. You touch it and you cannot touch it. It is seen and yet veiled; it is known and yet unknown. And therefore words are often inadequate to express the beauty of Truth. Therefore symbolism is adopted by the wise.
The religions of the old Egyptians, of the ancient Greeks, of the Hindus, and of the Parsis, all have symbols which express the essential Truth hidden under a religion. There is a symbolism in Christianity, and in many ancient religions of the world. Man has often rebelled against symbolism; but it is natural: man has always revolted against things he cannot understand. There has been a wave of opposition to symbolism in both parts of the world, the East and the West. It came in the East in the period of Islam, and in the West it re-echoed in the Reformation. No doubt when the sacred symbols are made as patents by the religious who want to monopolize the whole Truth for themselves, then it gives rise to that tendency of human nature which is always ready to accept things or reject them. However, one can say without exaggeration that symbology has always served to keep the ancient wisdom intact for ages. It is symbology that can prove today the saying of Solomon: "There is nothing new under the sun." There are many thoughts relating to human nature, the nature of life, relating to God and His many attributes, and relating to the path towards the goal, that are expressed in symbolism.
To a person who sees only the surface of life, symbols mean nothing. The secret of symbols is revealed to souls who see through life, whose glance penetrates through objects. Verily, before the seer the things of the world open themselves. And it is in this uncovering of things that beauty is hidden. There is a great joy in understanding, especially in understanding things that to most people mean nothing. It requires intuition, even something deeper than intuition--insight--to read symbols. To the one to whom symbols speak of their nature and of their secret, each symbol is in itself a living manuscript. Symbology is the best means of learning the mysteries of life, and one of the best ways of leaving behind ideas which will keep for ages after the Teacher has passed away. It is speaking without speaking; it is writing without writing. The symbol may be said to be an ocean in a drop.
The Symbol of the Sun
Light has the greatest attraction for the human soul. Man loves it in the fire and in things that are bright and shining, and that is why he considers gold and jewels as precious. The Cosmos has a greater attraction for him than the earth, because of the light. As man evolves, he naturally ceases to look down on earth, but looks up to the Cosmos, the Heavens. The most attractive object that he sees is the sun in the heavens, the sun which is without any support and is more luminous than anything else in the heavens. Therefore, as man is attracted to beauty and surrenders to beauty, he bows to the sun as being the greatest beauty in heaven, and man took the sun as Nature's symbol of God.
This symbol he pictures in different forms. In Persia, China, Japan, India, Egypt, whenever God was pictured, it was in the form of the sun. In all ages man has pictured his Prophet, Master, Savior, with a sun around his head. In ancient Persia there used to be a golden disc behind the head of the king, picturing him as the sun, and they used to call this disc Zardash. The name Zarathustra has the same origin; the word simply meant the golden disc. In Hindu temples and Buddhist temples around the image of different Avataras there is this sign of the sun, and this symbol was used both in the East and in the West in turbans and hats. There are now people in India who put on their turbans a brass band, which represents the sun.
A deeper study of the sun suggests the four directions of lines that are formed around it. It is this sign that is the origin of the symbol of the cross. The ancient traditions prove that the idea of the cross existed in the East long before the coming of Christ, especially among the Brahmans. It is from this sign that the two sacred arms were made, Chakra and Trissoun. Islam, the religion which allows no symbolism, has in the building of the mosques the same symbolism of the sun. Whether the name of the sun be written in Persian or in Arabic, it makes the form of the mosque.
Man, as happens to be his nature, has blamed the sun worshipers
and mocked at them, but he has never been able to uproot the charm, the
attraction for human souls held by the sun.