Zoroastrian View of the Afterlife A Closer Examination
Personal Eschatology: The Fate of the Person Immediately after Death • Humans are transformed into an immortal soul (urvan) at the time of death and receive reward or punishment for their deeds. • Urvan is not an individual’s personality, but an aspect of the former individual personality, the moral core of personality.
After lingering around the corpse for three days, the urvan passes over into the next life. The good person is greeted by a lovely young woman (Daena). The bad person is greeted by the demon (Vizaresha).
30. 'Then comes the beautiful, well-shapen, strong and well-formed maid52, with the dogs at her sides53, one who can distinguish54, who has many children55, happy, and of high understanding. 'She makes the soul of the righteous one go up above the Hara-berezaiti56; above the Chinwad bridge she places it in the presence of the heavenly gods themselves.” (Vendidad 30)
Daena and Vizaresha are personifications of the moral qualities of the person. (cf. Chonyid Bardo in Buddhism) The Judgment. . . . Each person undergoes individual judgment at the Chinvat Bridge, a bridge that stretches over hell and connects earth and heaven. As each person’s deeds are read, their crossing is made easy or difficult. The bridge widens or becomes thin as a knife blade. The wicked fall into hell. The righteous are guided to paradise by Daena or Zoroaster.
(55) The body is mortal but the soul is immortal. Do good works, for the soul is (real), not the body, the next world is (real), not this world. (56) Do not abandon the care of the soul and forget it for the body's sake. (57) Out of respect for persons (and out of forgetfulness) that all the goods of this world must perish, do not lust after anything that will bring punishment on your body and retribution on your soul. Desire rather those things whose fruit is an everlasting joy.” Zoroastrian Catechism
General Eschatology: The Collective Judgment of the Human Race There is a universal physical resurrection of all humanity at the end of time (general eschatology) when Ahura Mazda defeats all the forces of evil. He then judges the entire human race. “The dead will rise in their lifeless bodies.” (Yasna 54)
As part of the universal judgment, everyone must pass through a pouring molten metal. This will be a pleasant experience for the righteous but a painful experience for the wicked.
The suffering of the wicked in the hell of molten metal lasts only three days. Ultimately, this universal cleansing permits all people to achieve salvation. Zoroastrianism holds to universalism, the view that everyone is eventually redeemed. Hell for the wicked is thus only a purgatorial realm. On the final day of judgment, the world is not destroyed. It is restored and all humans inherit the earth and live forever in prosperity.
Introduction • Date of Composition: Probably 3rd to 6th century CE and redacted in the 9th or 10th century CE. Extant manuscripts: 9th through 14th century CE. • Theme: Destiny of souls after death, heaven and hell, special focus on punishments of souls in hell. • Goal of the Text: Provide a confirmation and justification of Zoroastrian teachings about the afterlife.
Who is Arda Viraf? • Holy man chosen to visit the afterlife during a seven-day drug-induced out of body experience or altered state of consciousness • Three cups of wine mixed with an hallucinogenic drug (2:29-31) • “Whatever you saw, explain to us.” (3:14) • He is guided through the afterlife by two angels, Srosh and Ataro. (4:2)
What is the Structure of the Text? • 101 chapters, 84 on hell, 79 have the same structure. Hell Chapters • Description of punishment • Viraf asks his spirit guides why the person is receiving a particular kind of punishment. • Spirit guide responds, “here’s the sin the person has committed.”
Four Realms of the Dead • Hamestagan for people whose good and evil works were balanced (chapter 6) • Cosmic Track (sun, moon, and star track) for non-Zoroastrians who have lived good lives (chapters 7-9) • Heavenly realm for the virtuous followers of Zoroastrianism (chapters 10-15) • Hell for people whose lives were on balance evil (chapters 16-100)
Separation of Souls • Soul (urvan) remains with the body for three days. • Each person thereafter comes to the Chinvat Bridge, the bridge of judgment. • The good person meets a lovely woman (Daena; 4:18-23), and the bad person meets an ugly old hag (Vizaresha; 17:10-14).
Daena and Vizaresha are personifications of the moral quality of a person’s life. • Good people encounter Daena (4:18-23) and are guided across the Chinvat Bridge to heaven (or presumably the cosmic track). • Bad people encounter Vizaresha (17:1-27) and are dragged into the pit of hell.
Chapter 12 • Souls of the liberal (12:1-6) • Souls of those faithful to Zoroastrianism (12:7-10) • Souls of those who contract next-of-kin marriage (12:11-13) • Souls of good rulers (12:14-17) • Souls of truthful speakers (12:18-19)
Chapter 13 • Souls of good women (13:1-12) Excellent thoughts, words, and deeds Submissive to control, consider husbands as lords Clothing embroidered with gold and silver Honored water, fire, earth, trees, cattle, and all other good creations of Ahura Mazda. Performed religious ceremonies and rituals Diligent in doing good works
Chapter 14 • Souls of those who perform religious ceremonies and rituals (14:1-6) • Souls of warriors (14:7-13) • Souls of agriculturalists (14:14-18) • Souls of artisans (14:19-21)
Chapter 15 • Souls of shepherds (15:1-8) • Souls of householders and justices (15:9-15) • Souls of the faithful (15:16-17) • Souls of peacemakers (15:18-20) • Souls of the pious (15:21-22)
Punishable Sins • Murder (21) • Stealing (46) • Lying (33, 51, 67, 29, 90) • Vanity/Narcissism (73) • Making and Dealing in drugs (84) • Cruelty to animals (48 – starving animals, 74 – murder of livestock, 75 – general cruelty • Destruction of Environment (96)
Sins against Children • Neglect of children (43, 59) • Abortion (44) • Abortion after adulterous conception (64, 78) • Starvation (94-95) Sins Relating to Religion • Violations of Zoroastrian ritual practice • (20, 25, 37, 38, 72) • Refusal to believe basic religious truths (61)
Sexual Sins • Sodomy (19, 71) • Adultery (24, 69, 85) • Lust for a married woman (60) • Refusal of a woman to offer sex to her husband (63, 70) • Tempting a woman to adultery (71, 88) • General promiscuity (88)
Violations of Civic Responsibilities • Dishonesty in commerce or business (39, 80) • Unjust judge (79, 91) • Bad ruler (28, 67) • Outlaws (99)
Punishments ReinforceZoroastrian Values • Truthfulness and Justice • Care for animals and the environment • Procreation (in the context of monogamous relationships) Behaviors that stabilize the community
Punishments • Punishments fit the sins or otherwise reflect the sins committed. • Punishments are often the deed in excess or some part of the body involved in the sin is mutilated or otherwise tortured (1) Sexual sins are punished by self-mutilation, infestations, and sexual abuse. (2) Sins of the tongue are punished by removal of the tongue, mutilation of the tongue or throat, and the forced eating of refuse and feces.