By Jayaram V
According to Zoroastrian teachings, Angra Mainyu is the architect of evil, the
anti-God principle, who represents evil, untruth, arrogance and death and subjects people
to torment once they come under his influence. He is emotionally unstable, lazy,
lacks confidence, cowardly and ignorant, but has a blind ambition to overpower God
and infest His creation by whatever means that are available to him. He is assisted
in his effort by a host of evil entities, the Daevas and the Druj whom he created.
Jeh, the primeval woman is his partner, who instigates him and reminds him of his
duties, whenever he is depressed or frightened by the memory of God, and goads him
into action. Despite his weaknesses and evil intentions, he is somehow endowed with
the power to create his own forces. Though God is omnipotent, Zoroastrian texts
do not give the impression that he is created by God, because God being pure light
and truthfulness, cannot create evil that is centered in darkness, falsehood and
malice. God will only destroy him when the times comes. Until then Ahirman exists
by himself, presenting a problem to the forces of light. They have to contend with
him and do all they can to maintain the sanctity and order of the worlds so that
he remains confined to his own domain until God destroys him in a manner already
planned by Him.
Zoroastrian religion is based on the belief that the world is a battleground
between good and evil forces, with far reaching consequences for the humanity, depending
upon which side they join. Zoroastrian texts vary in their interpretations of this
epic battle. According to one version, Ahura Mazda is constantly opposed by an evil
being called Angra Mainyu. The battle between the two will continue until the end
of creation when God will ultimately triumph and confine the evil to one particular
region, the hell. According to another version, at the beginning of creation, Ahura
Mazda created the twin spirits, the good Spenta Mainyu and the other named Angra Mainyu or Ahirman.
He gave them the freedom to choose between life, light and good on one hand and
death, darkness and evil on the other. Spenta Mainyu chose life, truth, light, order
and goodness, while Angra Mainyu chose death, darkness, chaos and evil. Spenta Mainyu
presides over the world of Truth and Justice while the latter over the kingdom of
lies or falsehood (Druj). The material world in between is a playground in which
the opposing forces meet and determine the fate of human beings. Angra Mainyu is
presently trapped in metals and material things and will continue to trouble people
until God brings him to justice on the Judgment Day. Some later day texts describe
the opposing twins as children of Zurvan or Time.
Traditional accounts favor the first version according to which in the beginning
there was only Infinite Time. In it God and Angra Mainyu were both infinite and
finite. They were infinite on one side where there were no boundaries to their domains.
On the other side, they were separated by a great Void. Because the void limited
their domain on one side, they were also finite. God was not only the more powerful
of the two, but also omniscient. with the knowledge of the past, present and future.
Before He even met him, He was aware of Angra Mainyu, residing on the other side
of the Void. He also knew about their impending battle. But Angra Mainyu was not
omniscient. He was also not as brave and courageous as God. He was weak, timid,
ignorant and lazy. Fear and malice were his weapons. In the Infinite Time, when
there was perfect balance in the universe, Angra Mainyu crossed the Void and saw
God for the first time. He made an attempt to attack Him. God made a covenant with
him, knowing well that the time to contain the evil was yet to come.
According to the covenant, God offered a truce to Ahirman, that would last for
9000 years. According to the agreement, God's will alone would prevail in the first
three thousand years. The will of both would prevail in the next three thousand
years during which the material world and things would become susceptible to the
forces of evil and suffer from instability, death and decay. The next three thousand
years would begin with the birth of Zoroaster, who would spread the teachings of
God among humanity and make them aware of the conflict between the forces of good
and evil and prepare them for the final confrontation, teaching them the right way
to live and support the forces of good. Another prophet would be born a thousand
years later to continue the teachings. Finally at the beginning of the third millennium,
a future son of Zoroaster would manifest on earth. He would be called Saoshyant.
He would herald the Final Judgment Day, distribute the drink of immortality among
people and help God and his forces destroy the evil for ever.
As projected by God, Ahirman attacked the material world when he was instigated
by his partner, Jeh. He burst through the sky. He invaded the earth. He attacked
the primeval man, the primeval ox and all the elements, namely, fire, water, earth
and air. He attacked the stars, the planets, the plants and the animals. According
to Zoroastrian beliefs, the presence of evil in the material plane makes our world
unstable and ever changing. Evil renders the things in our world susceptible
to decay, death and disintegration. Mountains were formed when the evil pierced
through the otherwise plain earth and caused earthquakes deep inside. It is also
responsible in our world for droughts, deserts and the stench that comes sometimes
from the earth. Smoke and black soot is formed when evil overtakes the fire. It
makes air noxious with stinking smells, water susceptible to pollution and impurities,
plants, men and animals to fever and sickness and the sun and the moon to eclipses.
Human beings are also susceptible to the invasion of evil forces. Especially,
their minds and bodies can succumb to the influence of evil. Their minds and bodies
can fall prey to evil thoughts and evil temptations. They can intentionally or unintentionally
come into contact with evil things such as dead or putrid matter or contaminated
water, air or earth. The Zoroastrians scriptures therefore urge men to be very careful
in their day to day lives. living very responsibly, religiously and ethically, remembering
God all the time and practicing righteousness by observing the three commandments
taught by Zoroaster, namely: good thoughts, good words and good deeds. They are
advised to protect themselves by chanting the sacred mantras like Ashem Vohu and
Ahunwar mantra and abide by the instructions given in the scriptures to keep their
minds, bodies and environment as pure and clean as possible.
The concept of duality, or the battle between good and evil forces is found in
all religions. Rejection of evil and adoration of the divine for one's own good
is the common theme that runs through all religious scriptures. However Zoroastrianism
presents its in a rather dramatic way, not as something that has been happening
only in some higher worlds between beings of light and darkness, but as something
that has been happening right here, right now, in oneself and in every aspect of
the material creation, in everything that one can see, touch, smell and feel. It
presents it as an inherent problem of our existence, from which escape is possible,
by a conscious and ethical choice, by practicing righteousness and emulating all
the qualities represented by God and His six Immortal Beings.
Suggested Further Reading