Zoroastrian Doctrines and Rituals: A Short Article by Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia

Dear Friends: I hope you will enjoy the following short article.

Zoroastrian doctrines and rituals should be studied within the historical context. The elaboration and propagation of ritual practices over time must be elucidated in order to comprehend fully the values attached to beliefs and practices, as Zoroastrians and their culture cannot be separated from their heritage. IT WOULD BE FOOLISH TO SET ASIDE THE ZOROASTRIAN RITUALS and deny the importance of past experience, both individual and communal, on perception and faith.

In Zoroastrian rituals a symbolic relationship is established among the actions, words, objects and substances used in the rites and the religious universe itself. This relationship transmits the beliefs that underlie ritual practices to the Zoroastrian participants in terms of THE FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF ZOROASTRIANISM. The revelatory encounter with symbols, although present in everyday life, occurs most forcefully within the religious and social parameters of ritual practices.

According to Zoroastrian doctrine, every RELIGIOUS RITUAL serves more than a limted corporeal function; IT AIDS IN THE FINAL RENOVATION OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. The Pahlavi commentary to the Videvdat (Vendidad) emphasizes: "Purity of man [and] purity of the soul is best from birth (5:21)" thus the Zoroastrian purification rituals not only cleanse the physical body but ALSO PURIFY THE SOUL through prayers uttered during such rituals.

The theological linking of the spiritual and material aspects of the universe in the Gathas froms the basis of every action. All thoughts, words and deeds can serve to further the TRIUMPH of Ahura Mazda OVER EVIL, Anghra Mainyu. Truth over deceit/lie. It is firmly believed that only by adhering to the creed of "good thoughts, good words and good deeds" (Av. HUMATA, HUXTA, HVARSHTA; Phl. HUMAT, HUXT, HUWARSHT) can a Zoroastrian act in accordance with the will of Ahura Mazda and the laws of his religion. Also the cosmic and ethical dualism present in the Zoroastrian faith provides the basis for all the rituals in both doctrine and practice.

THE PURITY OF THE SOUL AND BODY is being embodied by the religion itself such as one finds in the purification rituals of Padyab, Barashnum, Nahn and other minor rituals. The other major rituals like performing Yasna ceremony and even outer rituals first require the Zoroastrian priests to undergo such purification rituals before performing any major or minor rituals.

The Zoroastrian beliefs and ritual practices are integrated into the religion over 3500 years and are doing well. ZOROASTRIANISM WITHOUT ITS INTRICATE RELIGIOUS RITUALS WILL NOT SURVIVE. Both beliefs and ritual practices are integrated into the religion and presented as a unified part of the planned and purposeful work of Ahura Mazda and they connect the material and spiritual worlds thus making the entire universe a holy singularity whose purity must be maintained at all times and all His seven creations must remain in the untainted state (in perfect ecological balance) to further His plan of renovation by making the existence brilliant and ushering the triumph of truth over lie and deceit.

Dr. Pallan R. Ichaporia.

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