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Iranian Religions: Zoroastrianism

AMESHA ESPENTAS


 

 

Amesha Spenta (Aməša Spənta) is an Avestan language term for a class of divinity/divine concepts in Zoroastrianism, and literally means "Holy/Bounteous Immortals" (Pahlavi meshāspand and [A]mahrāspand; New Persian amshāspandān).

 

Etymology:

Although the expression does not occur in the Gathas, "it was probably coined by the Zoroaster himself. Spenta is a characteristic word of his revelation, meaning 'furthering, strengthening, bounteous, [and] holy’."[1]

The oldest attested use of the term is in Yasna 39.3, which is part of the Yasna Haptanghaiti and in which the two elements of the name occur in reverse order, that is, as Spenta Amesha. Like all other verses of the Yasna Haptanghaiti, Yasna 39.3 is also in Gathic Avestan and is approximately as old as the hymns attributed to Prophet Zoroaster himself.

 

 

Concept:

The Amesha Spentas are the abstract concepts and the essences of which the good religion of Zarathushtra constructed. The Amesha Spentas are aspects of Ahura Mazda, through which he is known. Ahura Mazda establishes the independent existence of the Amesha Spentas in the ideal realm of Being. Sometimes they are personalised and venerated as such in the Gathas.

 

Sometimes Ahura Mazda is characterised as their father. Some of the essences we can incorporate in our own lives, e.g. the Good-Mind, and Piety or Benevolence. Others are to be viewed as ideals, which may be actualised in concrete existence by the actions of right-thinking humans. Here we should note that the distinction between an ideal realm of existence, and a physical realm of existence is made in the Gathas.

There are One Hundred and Seven aspects of the Lord Mazda. The six Amesha Spentas, along with Sraosha,
[2] are the duties of beings in this material world, and as every single Zoroastrian should follow them. The submission or Sraosha to Lord Mazda. The six Amesha Spentas are the following:

1. Asha Vahishta (New Persian: Ordibehesht): The Highest (Best) Truth, also the Highest form of Righteousness. This Truth describes how the World ought to be in its ideal form. Consequently, the intention to actualise it is Righteous Intention, and action according to it the highest form of Righteousness.

2. Vohu-Mana (NP: Bahman): The Good-Mind. The mental capacity to comprehend Asha, to understand the nature of our actual world, and recognise the resulting disparity between the ideal and the real. It is thus the instrument of moral cognition.

3. Spenta Armaity (NP: Esand / Esfand-Armadh): The Holy Attitude. Theologically, it is the attitude of Piety toward the Source of Being and the Ultimate Truth; Ethically, it is the attitude of Benevolence, a concern for the Good. It characterised as Right-Mindedness.

4. Khshathra-Vairya (NP: Sahrivar): The Ideal Dominion. It is the ideal social (and political) structure of the human world. In human terms, we may call it the ideal society. In theological terms, it is the Kingdom of Heaven.

5. Haurvatat (NP: Khordad): The state of complete Well-being, physical and spiritual integrity. In its full form it is a state of perfection on earth.

6. Ameretat (NP: Amordad): The state of Immortal Bliss.



[1] Boyce, Mary (1983), "Aməša Spənta", Encyclopedia Iranica, vol. 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul: 933-936

[2] Sarosha (NP: Soroush) is the concept of Hearing, i.e. receiving a divine message. Since what is heard is a communication from the Divinity, the concept also implies acceptance of the Creator, and obedience.

 

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