THE object of the editors of this series is a very definite one. They desire above all things that, in their humble way, these books shall be the ambassadors of good-will and understanding between East and West, the old world of Thought, and the new of Action. In this endeavour, and in their own sphere, they are but followers of the highest example in the land. They are confident that a deeper knowledge of the great ideals and lofty philosophy of Oriental thought may help to a revival of that true spirit of Charity which neither despises nor fears the nations of another creed and colour. Finally, in thanking press and public for the very cordial reception given to the “Wisdom of the East” series, they wish to state that no pains have been spared to secure the best specialists for the treatment of the various subjects at hand.
L. CR R-BYNG.
S. A. KAPADIA.
THE ORIENT PRESS,
4, HARCOURT BUILDINGS,
INNER TEMPLE, LONDON.
ZOROASTRIANISM is a religion much commented upon by a few enthusiastic oriental scholars, and less understood by the general public. Out of the millions of believers of this faith in the bygone ages, there now remains a handful of devout followers, known as the Parsis. I have, therefore, ventured to put before my readers a brief sketch of the teachings of this divine prophet. I hope, that the strangers to the faith may find in it food for philosophic enlightenment, and the Zoroastrians themselves a subject for deeper and wider researches in the untold wealth of sublime theology and philosophy, now looked up in the monumental tomes of the ancient Avesta writings.
For extracts in this volume, I am greatly indebted, amongst others, to the works of the following eminent oriental scholars: Dr. Martin Haug, Dr. E. W. West, Dr. L. H. Mills, Professors Max Müller, Spiegel, Bleeck, Westergaard, Z. A. Ragozin, J. Darmesteter, Mr. K. R. Cama, Ervard Kavasji Edalji Kanga, Mr. N. M. N. Kanga, Mr. J. A. Pope, and Dr. J. Adams.
I have also to thank the India Office authorities for their kindness in placing at my disposal their splendid library of the Persian and Zend literature, and my old friend Sir C. Purdon Clarke, the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, for his valuable suggestions regarding the ancient print of Zoroaster, which appears on the cover of this book, and my friend Mr. A. Kapadia, of Lincoln’s Inn, for his kind assistance.
S. A. KAPADIA.
INNER TEMPLE, LONDON,
January 1st, 1905.
“I WILL now tell you who are assembled here the wise sayings of Mazda, the praises of Ahura, and the hymns of the Good Spirit, the sublime truth which I see rising out of these flames. You shall therefore HEARKEN TO THE SOUL OF NATURE. Contemplate the beams of fire with a most pious mind! Every one, both men and women, ought today to choose his Dread. Ye offspring of renowned ancestors, awake to agree with us.” So preached Zoroaster, the prophet of the Parsis, in one of his earliest sermons nearly 3,500 years ago.
Imbued from his infancy with deep philosophical and religious thoughts for the welfare and well-being of mankind, this ancient prophet of Bactria derived his holy inspiration after thirty years of divine meditation on a secluded and inaccessible mountain-top of “Ushidarena.” Thus fortified in communion with Ahura-Mazda, “Spitama Zarathustra” proceeded to the city of Balkh, at the time the capital of the King of Iran, Kava Vishtacpa.
Clothed in pure white flowing vestments, bearing with him the sacred fire, “Adar Burzin Mehr,” and a staff or sceptre made of a cypress tree, this sage of antiquity appeared before the court of Kava Vishtacpa. By persuasion and argument he unfolded his religious mission; and proclaimed the mandate of Ahura, in order to elevate the ancient faith of the Aryas to its lofty and intellectual purity of monotheism.
Somewhere in the region washed by the eastern shires of the Caspian Sea, on the fertile soil of Atropatene, the primeval Aryas toiled and laboured in peaceful pastoral pursuit. In the early days of Zoroaster homage was paid and prayers were offered to the Supreme Being, usually through the recognized symbols of the Deity. The heavenly firmament, tinted with cerulean hue— one limitless vault of refulgence and indescribable splendour— the resplendent orb of the rising sun, the ethereal gentleness of the beaming moon, with her coruscating companions, the planets and the stars, the verdant earth, the swift-flowing river, murmuring in sweet cadence of eternity and bliss, the roaring sea of life and death, and the glorious fire of Empyrean,— all these, in the days of the primitive Aryan religion, were believed to be so many manifestations of the Almighty God, and were accordingly symbolized. Things, which were originally manifestations of God’s good work, became in course of time personified; assumed shapes of deities in the frail imagination of the devotees; and finally came to be adored in lieu of the Great Architect of the world. Thus, a religious system, in itself philosophically sublime, degenerated into a system of polytheism, having for its object adoration of idols and visible forms of good and evil spirits, reflective of human imagination. This was the great evil, the crime of ignoring the Creator for the created, which our prophet Zarathustra laboured to remedy; and to restore the then ancient faith to its pristine purity of Ahura worship was his chief object.