Individual and Social Responsibility
Zoroastrians regard their religious duty as practicing good thoughts, words and deeds. At the time of judgment, after death, the good will be balanced against evil thoughts, words and deeds. If the good outweighs the evil the soul passes across a bridge of judgment (Chinvat Bridge) to heaven; if the evil outweighs the good then the soul falls into hell where it is punished until the day of resurrection. Thus it is an individual’s deeds and not beliefs that determine their fate in the afterlife. Ultimately, all people are equal, from the same initiation ceremony (Naujote) for males and females, to the rituals after death where everyone regardless on social or religious status are exposed in the same Tower of Silence (Dokhma).
Zoroastrians believe that idleness is a sin. A word for evil is ‘the Lie’ so being truthful is very important. Charity is an important virtue for Zoroastrians with many becoming significant benefactors within their community. For example, Bombay’s first western-style hospital, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the National Centre for the Performing Arts were all established through Zoroastrian philanthropy.
In Zoroastrianism, beliefs in human rights and social justice flow continuously from religious beliefs. Humans are individually created as fellow workers (hamkars) of God in the fight against evil. Humans should care for other human beings and the creation, as all are part of the Good Creation. All human beings are born with free will and so can choose to reject their religious duty. However, any rejection of religious or social responsibilities will be punished in the afterlife.
While not all are born equal, all people are equally called, created and cared for by Ahura Mazda. Historical Zoroastrian Iran identifies people being born into distinct classes – royalty, priests, nobles and workers. However, even during ancient times, everyone had the same religious duties and underwent the same religious rites at birth, initiation before adolescence and after death. Among Parsis in India all, rich and poor alike, priest and lay, are exposed in the same Tower of Silence (dokhma). Even where there is no dokhma everyone’s funeral is the same.