Some Zarathushtis do not consider fire as a divinity. They consider fire merely as a symbol, in the presence of which they worship Ahura Mazda. This essay is for those who are of the above- mentioned opinion.
In our Yashts and Niyayeshs, we seek a "union" (yazmaide) with the Divine Powers/Channels of Ahura Mazda whom we refer to as the Yazatas and Amashaspands who are not separate from, but are "hamem" (one) with Ahura Mazda in their thoughts, words and deeds. We do not seek unions with symbols no matter how sacred a mere symbol may be. Fire is referred to as both an Amashaspand and a Yazata, making Him a "Mazishta Yazata".
a) In the Khordeh-Avesta-Ba-Mayeni, translated by Ervad Kavasgi Edulji Kanga (which is a standard translation), published by the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat Funds and Properties, (Bombay, 1993 A.C.), Kangaji's translation of the Atash Neyayesh is replete with the words worship, invoke, venerate, propitiate,and revere with reference to and in conjunction with Fire. Pg. 78, line 2, states, "for the worship (of all these) for (their) praise, propitiation and glorification," (Emphasis added.); the words "(of all these)" refers to the worship of different Fires.
The translation of the first karda, ibid, pg. 78, reads as, "O Fire, the purifier (of all things) pertaining to Ahura Mazda! I praise Thy worship, invocation, good health-giving and friendly gift. (O Fire), thou art worthy of worship and invocation; mayest thou be worthy of worship and invocation in the abodes of men! May there be greatness (or happiness) unto that man who shall always worship thee with fuel Baresman, milk and mortar in hand." (Emphasis added.) Please note that mortals invoke and worship Divinities and Fire in the Avesta is called the Greatest Divinity.
In the translation of karda 9, the word "atbishto" is translated by Kangaji as "revered". Note also that we "revere" Divinities and worship them. We do not revere and worship symbols. The word "revere" occurs in conjunction to asking for a boon. A mere symbol cannot grant boons; they are granted by Divine Beings. Again, at the end of the tenth karda, the words "I praise, worship with veneration," occur with regard to Fire.
In the Ardibehst Yasht, ibid, pg. 192, the first karda is translated as, "(The Creator) Ahura Mazda spoke unto Spitaman Zarathushtra: O Spitaman Zarathushtra! For the worship and for the invocation of us, the Amashaspands mayest thou appoint (or mayest Thou regard) Ardibehesht (Amashaspand) as the praiser, the invoker, the extoller, the glorifier of the good shining lights and brilliant (or marvellous) works." Please note that Ahura Mazda refers to Himself as "us, the Amashaspands", meaning He is One with all the Amashaspands and Ardibehesht or Asha Vahishta (Fire) is therefore synonymous with Ahura Mazda.
In the Hormazd Yasht, the Creator Hormuzd (Ahura Mazda) replies to Asho Zarathushtra revealing that part of the Holy Spell which is the most potent in the corporeal world as, "the names of us, (our names) the Bountiful Immortals." (ibid, pg. 152.) Here again, the Creator Hormazd is referring to Himself as "us", the Bountiful Immortals, meaning the Amashaspands. If Ahura Mazda Himself is one of the seven Amashaspands, to say that Asha Vahishta is not a Divinity, is to deny Ahura Mazda His Divine status.
In the Haftan Yasht, (ibid, pg. 178) in the second karda, it is stated, "the Worship of Fire is the means of (reaching) Ahura Mazda." (Emphasis added.) Also, "Through the agency of that (name) we may reach Thee, (O Ahura Mazda!)". That "name" refers to Fire.
The very first name out of the 101 names of Ahura Mazda is "Yazad", meaning "one worthy of worship". The name Yazad includes all the seven Amashaspands as well as the Yazatas who are all worthy of worship, who are all Divine Beings, and fire alone (besides Ahura Mazda) is mentioned as an Amashaspand and as a Yazata. Therefore, Fire is the greatest ("mazishta") Divinity.
There are countless references in the Avesta as well as the Pahlavi Texts to prove that Fire is worshipped as the Greatest Divinity by the Zarathushtis and it is equated with Ahura Mazda's Own Inner Light and Life. No Zarthushti ritual ever takes place without the presence of fire. The widely espoused view of "reflective" persons in the community that we do NOT worship Fire, nor is it a Divinity, is quite contrary to what the Religion teaches.
b) Being Divine and One with Ahura Mazda, Asha is Truth, Law, Order which we call "righteousness". Asha is Immutable. Asha Vahishta (Fire), the Divine Energy of Ahura Mazda, is in every atom of the Universe; it is the source of all Creation, of Life itself. It is Asha, the Divine Cosmic Fire of Ahura Mazda Himself which sustains and motivates Nature from the moment of Creation till Frashogard is attained; the rotation of the celestial bodies, the waxing and the waning of the Moon, the seasons, the rise and fall of tides, are all due to this Immutable Law of Asha (Cosmic Fire) which, through graded rotations, revolves the universe to Perfection and Immortality.
The Universe was created and exists due to Fire (energy) and in time, will be absorbed into the same Divine Energy which manifested it billions and trillions of years ago. The Earth was also born out of a ball of cosmic Fire in its primordial stages of creation and at the end, it will be consumed back into the cosmic Fire. As a purifier, Fire purifies everything in its Divine, Radiant Energy, making the event of Frashogard a reality.
c) Fire is expressly mentioned in the Gathas. Asho Zarathushtra seeks for a vision and communion with Ahura Mazda, through fire, which is worshipped as the "Spirit-Holiest" (yasna 33.6). In yasna 33.7, Asho Zarathushtra worships Ahura Mazda, Vohu Mano and Asha Vahishta (Fire) by offering "duty and the reverence due to You...". Yasna 33.4: "at Toi Atrem Mazda...", refers to Ahura Mazda's Own Spiritual Fire which grants courage and clear guidance in life to the earnest believers, and brings destruction to the deceivers of truth and to the unbelievers who are overcome by the power of Asha's flames. Significantly, Kai Siavux walked through fire to prove his piety to his father, Kai Kaus, just as Sita, in the Ramayana, walks through fire to prove her innocence after she is rescued from the evil Ravana.
d) When Asho Zarathushtra asks how he may worship and commune with Ahura Mazda, yasna 34.4, 34.12 reveal that Ahura Mazda can be realized by obeying His commands of worshipping Asha Vahishta (Fire).
The most sacred place in which worship is offered to Ahura Mazda is called "Atash Bahram". "Bahram" represents victory. Therefore, Atash Bahram means the Victorious Fire which converts all evil (matter) into the spiritual light (energy) through its Divine Flame. The consecrated Fire of an "Atash Bahram" is enthroned after performing elaborate rituals of purifying different earthly fires, alchemizing them to their purest corresponding celestial essences. In addition to 1128 Ijeshne (Yasna) and 1128 Vendidad, separate consecration rituals are performed for the land and building in which the Fire is enthroned. Thereafter, through perpetual kinetics and rituals involved, the Fire (Padshah), becomes a dynamo of Divine Energy in the physical world emanating Ahura Mazda's Divine Light and Radiance.
e) When Einstein theorized through elaborate scientific equations, he said that a) matter and energy are inter-related. Our ancestors also said that the two Mainyus (Spirit and Matter) are coeval and inter-related. The link between the two is maintained through Fire as it enables the spirit to descend and function on the physical plane and it also purifies all matter into a spiritual state. B) Space and time are connected; the Gathas also speak of the thought created spiritual world "Mainyava" which is the cause of the physical world "Gaethya" where time begins. Fire to us is not just the physical fire we see but it is heat, energy, light, whose source is the Divine unseen Cosmic Fire. Space is this Cosmic Fire filled with photons (light particles) which are imbued with intelligence. C) Matter can never be destroyed but changed into other forms of energy; the Gathas also teach us that as matter (Angra) cannot be destroyed, the very purpose and aim of creation is to change (convert) Angra (matter) into Spenta (spirit) by obeying Asha and Ashoi - by following The Path. The very goal of life is to transmute our physical bodies into the ethereal robes of Tanpasin, through the purification of the different Fires within ourselves, which will eventually enable us to become perfected and united with all the nine parts of our soul in Khaetwadath and thereby attain Frashogard. Through the mystic philosophy of the Gathas, we are taught to transmute matter into energy through the agency of Fire.
f) Fire is sacred and divine in all the religions. It is a Divinity, worded differently in different Religions. The Christians call God a "pillar of Light"; the Jews call "Burning Bush" (Fire), the Divinity which imparted the Ten Commandments to Prophet Moses; the Hindus also revere Agni as a Divinity.
The Zarthushtis worship Fire the same way the Muslims worship the Ka'ba and the Christians worship the Cross. The only difference is that the Zarthushtis worship Fire as a conscious, living Spiritual Being with intelligence, who assists Ahura Mazda in His work of Creation, and as Ahura Mazda's Son or Regent, evolves the entire Creation towards the Divine Aim of Frashogard (Renovation).
True monotheism does not renounce the worship of the Amashaspands and Yazatas. As stated, Ahura Mazda Himself is called "Yazad"; He is not separated from the Amashaspands and is often referred to as Sevenfold; the seven Amashaspands are all jointly referred to as Ahura Mazda's Own Self - as "Us, the Amashaspands" (ahmakem yasnaicha vahmaicha yat ameshanam spentanam). In every monotheistic philosophy, we find inevitably a host of archangels and angels worshipped as the manifestations of the One Supreme Creator.
g) Every morning the Zarathushtis pray to the Fire of the Celestial Divinities Khorshed (Sun) and Meher (the Radiance of the Sun), who are the Sustainers of Life. Our ancestors knew of different seen and unseen Atash (energies) and have described sixteen such energies functioning in Nature. Today, scientists are rediscovering these energies as different forms of the electromagnetic spectrum such as radiowaves, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves, etc. which are the sustainers of the universe.
In the Vendidad, which is the sacred law of Asho Zarathushtra, the main thrust is on how to keep the elements, especially fire, free from contamination. Pargard 18 deals with the 16 different kinds of fire, their functions and preservation.
h) Mazda is Wisdom; Ahura Mazda is the Supreme Lord of Infinite Wisdom. When a Zarathushti prays before Fire and worships It, he prays before Ahura Mazda Himself as science now proves that every particle of Light (photon) has intelligence. Only Life, in whatever form, has intelligence; mundane objects and symbols do not possess intelligence. A Zarathushti always prays to Light, Fire being Its purest representation on Earth. The physical Fire is the outcome of the spiritual Fire which is Ahura Mazda Himself!
i) In the Avesta, Atash is called Ahura Mazda's Own Son. From the seed of a plant, only a plant is reproduced; from the cell of an animal, only an animal is created; humans give birth to another human in its own likeness; will Ahura Mazda be any different from His Own Son?
j) Carved in rock, at Naqsh-e Rustom (near Persepolis), inscribed in cuneiform, in three languages (Old Persian, Babylonian, Elamite), are the words of Darius the Great: "Worship Ahura Mazda and Arta reverently. The man who has respect for that law which Ahura Mazda has established and worships Ahura Mazda and Arta reverently, he both becomes happy while living, and becomes blessed when dead". Arta means Fire.
The tableaux on the astodans at Naqsh-e Rustom reveal that our great Achaemenian Kings worshipped the three sacred fires: Burzin- Meher, Farnbagh and Gushnasp, in order to attain Frashogard which is carried out and made possible only through the agency of fire, the Supreme Divine Essence/Energy of Ahura Mazda.
k) The "reflective" thinking of some that fire is only a symbol may be based upon the great poet Firdausi's words in the Shahnamah that Zarathushtis are not Fire-worshippers; they worship Ahura Mazda through Fire.
The era in which Firdausi wrote this couplet was the time when the Zarathushtis in Iran were being put to the sword for their adherence to Mazda worship as the worshippers and venerators of Fire. Firdausi's words were for the defence of Zarathushti lives and to preserve the sacredness of our Fire from desecration by Islamic zealots. Moreover, Firdausi does not say that Fire is NOT a Divinity. Masterfully, without compromising the Divine Status of Fire, Firdausi defended both the Zarathushti lives as well as Fire.
Our ancestors gave their lives for the preservation of Divine Fire, some even left their Iranian homeland to settle in India so that they could continue the worship of Fire, a belief shared by their Aryan brothers.
Perhaps as worshippers of Fire, we Zarathushtis show more science in our belief than any scientist who merely studies energies but does not believe he himself is the aggregate of all these Atash energies and therefore, without that knowledge, holds no special reverence for Fire which is Ahura Mazda's Own physical manifestation. The words "nothing exists without God" may be read as "nothing exists without God's Essence or Divine Energy which is Fire."
I'm truly proud to say that I worship this Divine Energy (Fire) and I am Atash Parast, therefore Yazdan Parast.
"Yasnemcha, vahmemcha, huberetimcha, ushta-beretimcha, vanta- beretimcha, afrinami; tav atarsh puthra Ahurahe Mazdao, yesnyo ahi vahmyo, yesnyo buyao vahmyo nmanahu mashyaknam, ushta buyat ahmi naire, yasethwa badha frayazaite; aesmo-zasto, baresmo-zasto, gao- zasto, havano-zasto."
O FIRE! The Son of Ahura Mazda! I worship Thee who art the purifier of all things and the bestower of health. May Thou be worshipped with invocations in the abodes of men. May happiness be unto those who will worship Thee with barsam.
This article appeared in the Jam-e-Jamshed, May, 1994.
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