Friday, April 30, 2010

Zoroastrian Ethos

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In the Vaetha Nask, a Zoroastrian text, a question is asked about how a person can be recognized as a Zoroastrian. The answer given is through that person's good mind, intellect without deceitfulness, good speech and good actions. Middle Persian texts and travellers' observations about the shared characteristics of the Zoroastrians they encountered, provide us with additional information. The following are some traits and qualities that contributed to the reputation of Zoroastrians:
  • Persona: Grace, generosity of spirit, good manners.
  • Traits: Wisdom in thought, measured speech, and beneficent action.
  • Possessing six virtues: Reason, self-control, modesty, trustworthiness, gratitude, and hope.
  • Without six vices: Malice, anger, arrogance, deceitfulness, greed, and despair.
The Zoroastrian ethos was developed into a list of guiding principles that is read out during a Zoroastrian marriage ceremony. A condensed list of these guiding principles are provided in our page on marriages.

Amongst travellers' records are the observations of Johan Albrecht de Mandelslo, a German adventurer from 1638 CE, and those of an Anglican chaplain John Ovington in 1689 CE.

In the chronicles of his travels through Persia and India, Mandelslo writes that he saw the Zoroastrians of India, the Parsees, as 'diligent', 'conscientious' and 'skilful' in their work ethic.

John Ovington, a chaplain in the Royal Navy, reported in his work, Voyage to Surat published in 1696 CE, that in the Indian Gujerati city of Surat, Zoroastrians "assist the poor and are ready to provide for the sustenance and comfort of such as want it. Their universal kindness, either employing such as are ready and able to work, or bestowing a seasonable bounteous charity to such as are infirm and miserable, leave no man destitute of relief, nor suffer a beggar in all their tribe."

More recently, after a visit to Yazd Iran, Karl Vick wrote in a June 18, 2006 article in the Washington Post: "Zoroastrians appear to enjoy the most respect (by the majority Muslims from amongst the other rreligious minorities) inside Iran... Zoroastrians enjoy a vivid reputation for honesty. Prices in a shop owned by a Zoroastrian are regarded as the benchmark that competing shops are compared against. Children are told that when arriving in a strange town near dark, seek out a Zoroastrian home to spend the night in. 'I'm sorry to say it and it might sound offensive, but these Zoroastrians are better Muslims than we are,' said Mohammad Pardehbaff, a Yazd driver."

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