Ethics in Zoroastrianism
Ethics in Zoroastrianism (Summary)
Pallan Ichaporia, Ph.D.
The precepts of Zoroastrian ethics can be seen from two angles: maintenance of life and fight against evil as was proclaimed in ancient eastern Iranian lands byMazdean ethics. To maintain life one must earn one’s living by means of cattle-raising (cf. ‘fshuyant’ in the Gathas), and agriculture, and one must procreate. To fight against evil is to combat the demons, and whatever beings, men or animals belong to them.
In sense, the above two points of view seem to coincide, considering that the forces of evil are the forces of death: good is opposed to evil, as light is to darkness, as life to non-life. In fact the life-precepts can be transposed into fight-precepts, for instance, eating and drinking are interpreted by Zadspram as a struggle against she-demon ‘Az’ =concupiscence.
Now here is the problem, the two above points of view are contradictory, how can we fight the forces of evil without suppressing certain lives, for instance baneful animals? (xrfastra, Vd 16). It is then the second viewpoint that prevails.
If human lives are at stake, which view point will prevail? Must one kill the enemies of life? On this point Zoroastrianism varied. Zarathushtra urged that the forces of Lie should be combated by forces of arms, and to treat the deceitful ones badly (see Gatha Y44.14 : amawaitim sinam dawaoi dregwasu, aa ish dwasheng mazda anashte astascha “let him put his forceful sword upon the deceitful ones to bring ill and harm over them, O Mazda” ).
The “vitalistic” view point contains moreover its own condemnation about each living being feed on other living beings, which it must kill. Adurbad s/o Mahraspand (far late in later Sasanian period) enjoins “Abstain rigorously from eating the flesh of cow and all domestic animals …. as you have involved your hand in sin”. But Mazdeism does not tolerate fasting which is considered as weakening of faithful in their struggle against evil. But this is contradictory to making us all vegetarians and refuted by several Avesta references predating Adurbad, to animal food because of survival from nomadic times of Zarathushtra, when flesh was eaten when it had been sacrificed. (see Yasna offering).
Since sexual activity is subordinate to the duty of procreation the sin of homosexuality is banished, as well as sexual liaisons with courtesan and prostitutes who were typified as the Primal Whore as she mixed up the seed of the wicked with that of the good (see Vendidad –‘jahi’). The persons living in sin of homosexuality must be avoided by Zoroastrians at all cost as to prevent spreading of death and diseases. (note: Parsis of N America should note thiswhile inviting a homosexual professor from Harvard in their seminars and the Gatha Colloquium, This homosexual professor also refutes existence of Zarathushtra and the Prophets’ authorship of the Gathas).
In the same breath celibacy and absolute are proscribed as the human kind ought to be perpetuated and in the same fashion adultery and polygamy are condemned together with asceticism of the Christians, Buddhists and Manicheans etc.
It is said by the Sasanian sages that As long as even a small demon resides in you , Ahriman will live.