|Please note that this discussion group is no longer active. This is only an archive.|
Date: 19 Dec 1999
Zoroastrians do believe in a Savior, called the Saoshyant - a word meaning “The Bringer of Benefit”. In fact, many scholars believe that the concept of a savior in Judaism and Christianity was the result of Zoroastrian influence. It is certainly worth noting that it is the Shahnashah Cyrus the Great who is first described as “Messiah” in the Bible - before his time the word is never used by the Jews - and this monarch was certainly a Zoroastrian, and certainly a “Bringer of Benefit” to the captive Jews in Babylon, who may have flattered him by calling him, in their own words, God’s anointed. The true Saoshyant is still awaited, however, after all these centuries. Some Zoroastrians belive that there will, in fact, be three saviors: Ukhshyat-ereta (“He who makes righteousness grow”), Ukhshyat-nemah (“He who makes reverence grow”), and the final and true Saoshyant, Astvat-ereta (“He who embodies righteousness”). The belief in the Saoshyant is traced directly back to the Gathas of the Great Prophet Zarathustra himself, where he testifies to the words of Ahuramazda, “May Asha be given a body and breath” (Yasna 43:16). Similarly, down through the centuries, Zoroastrians have repeated a prayer many times every day that, in my reading at least, recall their minds to this passage in the Gathas. This is the Airyaman-isho, “May the longed-for Friend come to the men and women of Zarathutra for the support of our good purpose. I ask for the longed-for reward of Asha for the inner-self which deserves this reward, measured out by Ahuramazda.” Certainly Airyaman (“the longed-for Friend”), like Astvat-ereta, will bring the world to Frasho-kereti or Frahsegird - the Renovation of the world - so the two seem inseparably linked. While there are many legends surrounding the belief in the Saoshyant, he is not the Son of God, but a human who understands Asha fully, and can bring it in to the thoughts, words and deeds of others. This brings us to your second question, is Zoroastrianism based only on works? The central rule of the religion is “Good thoughts. Good Words. Good deeds.” That which is good is that which promotes Asha and, essentially, it would be difficult to promote Asha without understanding what it is. Asha is Ahuramazda’s truth and order and plan - to understand this one must believe in Ahuramazda - how can one believe in the plan, but not the Planner? - and belief in that which we cannot prove for ourselves is faith. So this faith must animate one’s thoughts, words and deeds in order for them to be judged “good”. As St. James reminds Christians “Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works” , there is no “only” about it. After death, there is a judgement. Once again this central Zoroastrian teaching influenced post-exilic Judaism and Christianity. Ahuramazda is a good of Justice and Truth; each soul is therefore judged in accordance with Truth and Justice. The good and the evil that a human has brought forth in his or her life is weighed. It is not necessary that one be without fault, but the good one has done exceed the evil. If the soul is, by and large, good, the soul enters heaven. If not then the soul is cast into hell. But hell, for those human souls consigned to it at least, is not a permanent destination - unlike Christianity. At Frasho-kereti the souls of those in hell will be purified and allowed to enter the World-made-new. The evil we do is punishable, certainly. But it is very much the product of ignorance, willfulness and other hardships inflicted upon the soul by forces beyond its control. The soul may have chosen to do ill, and others in the same position may not have made such an ill choice, since all are free to choose or not choose. But yet it is not wholly culpable since it is placed in a conflict not of its own making, and thus, ultimately, it is forgivable even in its error.