The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
.THE COUNSELS OF ADHURBÂDH, SON OF MEHRESPAND
By: Adhurbâdh, Son of Mehrespand (Azarbâd Mehrespendân)
Moabedan-Moabed & Chancellor of Emperor Shapur II (309-379 CE)
by: R. C. Zaehner
son, think upon virtue and do not turn your thoughts to sin, for man does
not live eternally and the things of the spirit are the more greatly to be
Put out of your mind what is past and do not fret and worry about what has
not yet come to pass.
Put not your trust and confidence in kings and princes.
Do not do unto others what would not be good for yourself.
Be single-minded among rulers and friends.
Do not deliver yourself up as a slave to any man.
Stay far away from any man who approaches you in anger or in enmity.
Hope always and everywhere in the Yazads and
make friends with such men as will profit you.
Strive for the things of the Yazads and of the Amahraspands and lay down
your life for them (if need be).
Tell no secret to a woman.
Listen to all that you hear and do not repeat it at random.
Do not let your wife and children (out of your sight) except for reasons
of good manners (frahang) lest care and grievous annoyance come
upon you and you rue it.
Do not give (alms) out of season.
Give a quick (? si' pas 'ut pêsh) answer (only) if it accords with
Do not mock at anyone.
Do not share your secrets with a wrong-headed man.
Do not make a choleric [bad tempered] man your traveling companion.
Do not take a frivolous man for your counselor.
Do not make a rich man the companion of your table.
Do not make a drunkard your boon-companion.
Do not borrow from a man of bad character or base lineage or lend to him,
for you will pay heavily in interest, and he will be forever at your door
or will always be sending messengers to your house, and great loss will
you suffer thereby.
Do not summon an ill-disposed person to help you.
Do not show your property to an envious man.
Do not put into force(?) a false judgment in the presence of rulers.
Do not listen to the words of calumniators and liars.
Do not be over-zealous in punishing others.
Do not pick a quarrel at a feast.
Do not strike others.
Do not strive for position.
Consult men who are of gentle stock, experienced in affairs, clever, and
of good character; make these your friends.
Take great care that no heavy burden is laid on you in battle.
Keep away from vengeful men in a position of power.
Do not come into conflict with a scribe.
Do not tell your secrets to a babbler.
Hold a wise man whose position is exalted in high esteem, ask his opinion
and listen to it.
Do not tell a lie to anyone.
Do not accept the goods of any man who is devoid of shame.
Do not consciously wager on anything at all.
Do not take an oath on either what is true or what is false.
When you are about to set up house, first take stock of the expense.
Woo the woman who is to be your wife yourself.
If you (already) have property, start by buying more irrigated
agricultural land, for even if it fails to yield interest, the capital
So far as you possibly can, do not bore your fellow men.
Do not seek to be avenged on others and do not try to cause them loss.
Be as generous with your property as you can.
Do not deceive anyone lest you come to grief thereby.
Hold your superiors in high esteem, make much of them, and listen to what
Borrow only from relations and friends.
Cherish the woman who is modest and give her in marriage to a clever and
knowledgeable man; for clever and knowledgeable men are like the good
earth which yields all manner of produce when once the seed has been
planted in it.
Be plain in your speech.
Never speak without reflection.
Lend money only under agreed conditions (pat adhvên).
Cherish a wise and modest woman and ask her in marriage.
Choose a son-in-law who is good-natured, honest, and experienced even
though he be poor, for he will (surely) receive riches from the yazads.
Do not mock at your elders, for you are subject to them.
Do not send a proud and pitiless man to prison, but choose prison-warders
from among big men and (set) an intelligent man (over them).
If you have a son, send him to a grammar-school when he is still a boy,
for the art of reading and writing is exceedingly well seen.
Speak sharply only after much reflection, for there are times when it is
better to speak out and times when it is better to hold your peace; (on
the whole) to hold one's peace is better than to speak.
Choose a man who tells the truth as your messenger.
Do not appoint a bought slave above trustworthy and faithful servants.
Spend according to your means.
Be courteous in your speech.
Keep your conversation courteous.
Keep your thoughts righteous.
Do not praise yourself; only so will you perform righteous deeds.
When in the presence of kings and princes do not appear to be without
Ask the advice of good men of mature age.
Accept nothing from a thief nor give anything to him: drive him rather
As you fear Hell, punish others only after due reflection.
Do not put your trust or confidence in anyone or anything at all.
Make good use of authority so that you may obtain a good position
Be without sin so that you may be without fear.
Be grateful so that you may be worthy of good things.
Be single-minded so that you may be faithful.
Speak the truth so that you may be trusted.
Be humble so that you may have many friends.
Have many friends so that you may enjoy a good repute.
Be of good repute so that you may live at ease.
Choose the better part and love your Religion so that you be saved (ahrov).
Think on the state of your soul so that you may go to Heaven.
Be generous so that you may go to Paradise (garothman).
Do not seduce other men's wives, for that is a grievous sin for thy soul.
Do not maintain mean and ungrateful men, for they will not thank you.
Do not destroy your own soul for the sake of anger or vengeance.
When you feel an urgent desire to do or say (something), <ask>
politely and say a prayer, for no one ever broke his back by saying his
prayers or got foul breath by asking politely.
Do not address a low-born person first.
When you attend a gathering, do not sit next to a wrong-headed man so that
you may not yourself appear wrong-headed.
Wherever you sit at a banquet, do not sit in the highest seat lest you be
moved away there from and made to sit in a lower seat.
Do not rely on property and the goods of this world, for property and the
goods of this world are like a bird that flies from one tree to another
and stays on none.
Honor your father and mother, listen to them and obey them, for so long as
a man's father and mother live, he is like a lion in the jungle which has
no fear of anyone at all; but he who has neither father nor mother is like
a widowed woman who is despoiled by men and can do nothing about it and
whom all men despise.
Give your daughter to a clever and knowledgeable man, for a clever and
knowledgeable man is like the good earth which yields up much grain once
the seed is sown in it.
If you would not be abused by others, do not abuse anyone.
Do not be violent or ill-considered in your speech, for the man who is
violent or ill-considered in his speech is like a fire that falls upon a
forest and burns up all birds and fish and creeping things.
Do not collaborate with a man who ill-treats his father and mother and
with whom they are displeased, lest your justice be turned to injustice(?)
and you be deprived of friends and have no pleasant intercourse with
Do not out of false modesty or shame deliver your soul up to Hell.
Do not say anything that has a double meaning.
When you sit in an assembly, do not sit next to a liar lest you yourself
should suffer greatly thereby.
Take things easy (lit. 'be easy-footed') so that you may be a welcome
Rise before dawn so that your work may prosper.
Do not make a new friend out of an old enemy, for an old enemy is like a
black snake which does not forget old injuries for a hundred years.
Renew your friendship with old friends, for an old friend is like old wine
which becomes better and more fit for the consumption of princes the older
Praise the yazads and be glad of heart, for it is from the yazads that you
will obtain an increase in the good things (of this world).
Do not curse a man of princely rank, for there are security officers in
(all) the realm who decree what is good for (the king's) subjects.
I say unto you, my son, that in the affairs of men the greatest(?) helper
and the best is wisdom, for if one's wealth is scattered and lost or if
one's livestock die, wisdom remains.
Strive to be firmly anchored in your Religion, for contentment is the
highest wisdom (dânâkîh) and the greatest spiritual hope.
Keep your soul ever in mind.
Do not forsake your duty to preserve your good name.
Keep your hands from stealing, your feet from treading the path of
undutifulness, and your mind from unlawful desires (varan), for
whoso practices virtue obtains his reward, and whoso commits sin receives
Whoso digs a pit for his enemies will fall into it himself.
The good man lives at ease but the bad man suffers distress and grievous
Marry a young wife.
Drink wine in moderation, for whoso drinks wine immoderately falls into
many a sin.
Since you know well that a snake has many wiles, do not be over-hasty to
touch one lest it bite you and you instantly die.
Even though you know well a stretch of water much frequented by bathers,
do not be over-hasty in going into rough water lest the water carry you
away and you instantly die.
Do not on any account be false to a contract lest you be held
accountable(??) for it.
Do not rob others of their property nor keep (what has been robbed) nor
add it to your own, for (then) your own (property) will be destroyed and
vanish away, for when you carry off property that is not your own and keep
it and <add> it to your own ... (gap in text)...
... do not rejoice, for men are like a water-skin full of air. When it is
deflated, nothing remains. Men are like suckling babes, creatures of habit
who cling to their habits.
On the day of Ohrmazd drink wine and make merry.
On the day of Vohuman put on new clothes.
On the day of Ardwahisht go to the Fire Temple.
On the day of Shahrewar rejoice.
On the day of Spandarmad till your land.
On the day of Hordad dig your irrigation channels.
On the day of Amurdad plant shrubs and trees.
On the day of Dae-pa-Adar wash your head and trim your hair and nails.
On the day of Adar (Fire) go for a walk and do not bake bread for it is a
On the day of Aban (the Waters) abstain from water and do not vex the
On the day of Khwarshed (the Sun) take your children to the grammar-school
so that they may become literate and wise.
On the day of Mah (the Moon) drink wine and hold converse with your
friends and ask a boon of King Moon.
On the day of Tir (Sirius) send your children to learn archery and
jousting and horsemanship.
On the day of Gosh (the Bull) see to the stables and train your oxen to
On the day of Dae-pa-Mihr wash your head and trim your hair and nails, and
(pick) your grapes from the vine and throw them into the wine-press so
that they may become good.
On the day of Mihr, if you have been wronged by anyone, stand before Mihr
(Mithra) and ask justice of him and cry out aloud (to him).
On the day of Srosh ask a boon of the blessed Srosh for the salvation of
On the day of Rashnu life is gay: do, in holiness, anything you will.
On the day of Frawardin take no oath, and on that day sacrifice to the Farohars
(departed spirits) of the blessed so that they may be the better pleased.
On the day of Warharan lay the foundations of your house so that it may be
speedily completed, and go out to battle and warfare so that you may
return the victor.
On the day of Ram summon your wife and do (with her) what is done and
enjoy yourself take any suit (you may have) before the judges so that you
may return victorious or acquitted.
On the day of Wad (the Wind) confine yourself to words(?) and do not
undertake anything new.
On the day of Dae-pa-Den do anything you like, bring your wife into your
quarters, trim your hair and nails and clothe yourself.
On the day of Den (the Religion) kill noxious beasts and reptiles.
On the day of Ard buy any new thing (you need) and bring it home.
On the day of Ashtad deliver over your mares, cows, and pack-animals to
their males so that they may return in good health.
On the day of Asman (the Sky) set out on a long journey so that you may
On the day of Zam (the Earth) do not take medicine.
On the day of Mahraspand mend your clothes, stitch them, and put them on,
and take your wife to bed so that a keen-witted and goodly child may be
born (to you).
On the day of Anagran (the Endless Light) trim your hair and nails and
take your wife to bed so that an exceptional child may be born (to you).
Do not be overjoyed in  good times nor over-distressed in bad times,
for the good fortune of Time turns <to> misfortune and the
misfortune of Time turns to good fortune, and there is no "up"
that has not been preceded by a "down," and no "down"
that is not followed by an "up,"
Do not be gluttonous (varanîk) in eating your food, and do not
partake of all foods. Do not be over-hasty to attend the feasts and
banquets of the great lest you return from them abashed.
For there are four things which are most harmful to the body of (mortal)
men and make them have wrong ideas about their body. One is to glory in
one's strength. One is the luxury of pride which (leads one) to pick a
quarrel with a well-established (hangat) man. One is (the case of)
the elderly man with a puerile character who weds an adolescent girl; and
one is (the case of) the young man who weds an old woman.
It should be known that love of one's fellow men (proceeds) from a
balanced mind (bavandak-mênishnîh), and good character from being
I say unto you, my son, that of all the things that give help to man
wisdom is the best".
These are some of the sayings of Adhurbadh, son of Mahraspand, spoken by
him on his death-bed to the people. He taught them (on these lines):
"Remember (what I say now) most particularly (pat dakhshak)
and act accordingly. Do not hoard against the day when you may be in need,
for what you hoard . . . except to . . . want does not come sparingly. (2)
Strive to hoard up only righteousness (ahrâyîh), (that is)
virtuous deeds, for of (all) the things that one may hoard, only
righteousness is good.
Do not harbour vengeance in your thoughts lest your enemies catch up with
you. (4) Consider rather what injury, harm, and destruction you are liable
to suffer by smiting your enemy in vengeance and how you will
(perpetually) brood over vengeance in your heart (varom). Do not smite
your enemy in vengeance, for it is plain enough that whoever puts
vengeance even for a trifling thing out of his mind, will be spared the
greatest terrors at the Bridge of the Requiter.
Whether you are defendant or plaintiff (at a court of law) tell the truth
so that you may be the more certain of acquittal at the trial. (6) For it
is clear that by giving true witness a man will be saved, and damned will
be the man who perjures himself.
Show moderation in your eating (and drinking) so that you may live long;
(8) for moderation in eating (and drinking) is good for the body as
moderation in speech is good for the soul. (9) Though a man be very poor
in the goods of this world, he is (nevertheless) rich if there is
moderation in his character. (10) Pay more attention to your soul than to
your belly, for the man who fills his belly usually brings disorder on his
Take a wife from among your kin so that your lineage may be more
protracted; (12) for most of the disorder and vengeful spirit and loss
from which the creatures of Ohrmazd have suffered has been caused by the
giving of one's daughters <to the sons of strangers> and the asking
of the daughters of strangers in marriage for one's sons. So does a family
Abstain rigorously from eating the flesh of kine and all domestic animals
(gôspandân) lest you be made to face a strict reckoning in this
world and the next; (14) for by eating the flesh of kine and other
domestic anunals, you involve your hand in sin, and (thereby) think,
speak, and do what is sinful; (15) for though you eat but a mouthful(?),
you involve your hand in sin, and though a camel be slain by (another) man
in another place it is as if you <who eat its flesh> had slain it
with your own hand.
Make the traveller welcome so that you yourself may receive a heartier
welcome in this world and the next; (17) for he who gives, receives, and
(receives) more abundantly. Seat yourself at a banquet where (your host)
bids you be seated, for the best place is where a good man sits.
Do not strive for (high) office, for the man who strives for (high) office
usually brings disorder on his spirit.
Live in harmony with virtue and do not consent to sin. Be thankful for
good fortune and contented in adversity. Avoid an enemy; do not cause harm
in doing good works; do not aid and abet evil.
Even should the most fearful calamity befall you, do not doubt concerning
the yazads and the Religion.
Do not be unduly glad when good fortune attends you, (22) and do not be
unduly downcast when misfortune befalls you.
Be contented in adversity, patient in disaster. Do not put your trust in
life, but put your trust in good works; (24) for the good man's good works
are his advocate and an evil man's <works> are his accuser, (25) and
of thoughts, words, and deeds, deeds are the most perfect.
For there is no misfortune which has befallen me, Adhurbadh, son of
Mahraspand, from which I have <not> derived six kinds of comfort.
(27) First, when a misfortune <befell me>, I was thankful that it
was no worse. (28) Secondly, when a misfortune fell not upon my soul but
upon my body, (I was thankful), for it seemed better that it should befall
the body rather than the soul. (29) Thirdly, (I was thankful) that of all
the misfortunes that are due to me one (at least) had passed. (30)
Fourthly I was thankful that I was so good a man that the accursed and
damnable Ahriman and the demons should bring misfortune on my body on
account of my goodness. (31) Fifthly (I was thankful) that since whoever
commits an evil deed, will be made to suffer for it either in his own
person or in his children, it was I myself who paid the price, not my
children. (32) Sixthly, I was thankful that since all the harm that the
accursed Ahriman and his demons can do to the creatures of Ohrmazd is
limited, any misfortune that befalls me is a loss to Ahriman's treasury,
and he cannot inflict it a second time on some other good man.
Abstain rigorously from churlishness, self-will, enmity to the good,
anger, rapine, calumny, and lying so that your body be not ill-famed and
your soul damned.
Do not plot evil against the evil, for the evil man reaps <the fruit
of> his own bad actions. (35) In order to bear with(?) evil men keep
the power of goodness in mind and make it your model. (36) Has there ever
been a man who associated with evil men who did not regret it in the end?
Do good simply because it is good. Goodness is a real good (nêvak)
since even evil men extol it. (38) Do whatever you know to be good and do
not do anything that you know to be not good. (39) Do not do to others
anything that does not seem good to yourself.
Do not underestimate the value of confessing your sins of omission (?
mandak) to the religious judges, of submitting to the disciplinary whip,
and of performing the ... (?) ...
You have (only) one name, you are men. Do not pay attention to both the
desires (of the body and the soul); (42) for the body and the soul do not
both have the same desire. (43) The bodily desires of the body should be
satisfied and the soul-desires of the soul.
Never commit a sin out of vengeance, but always strive your utmost to do
good works. (45) Do not forsake the righteous law out of lust. (46) Do not
violently strike innocent people because you are angry with someone. (47)
Do not be false to a contract out of vengeance lest you be caught up in
(the consequences of) your own actions.
Put not your trust in women lest you have cause to be ashamed and to
repent. (49) Do not tell your secrets to women lest (all) your toiling be
Do not take orders from the crafty lest you meet with ruin. (51) For these
four things are most useful to men, wisdom (combined with) courage, vision
(combined with) knowledge, wealth (combined with) generosity, and good
words (combined with) good deeds. (52) For courage divorced from wisdom is
(very) death in a man's body; (53) vision divorced from knowledge is
(like) a pictured image of a body; (54) wealth divorced from generosity is
like a treasure of Ahriman; (55) good words divorced from good deeds are
manifest unbelief (ahramôghîh).
The signs of the unbeliever are six; he has the outward appearance of good
character, but does the works that beseem a bad character; he performs the
liturgy correctly(?), but does evil; he "talks big" to others,
but is himself stingy though seeming generous; he is a giver of evil gifts
and patient of abuse; his thoughts, words, and deeds do not agree.
Do not say anything that is not specifically of profit except as a joke (huramîh),
and when joking consider the time and the occasion. (58) For wisdom guards
the tongue, the body's fruit is civilized behaviour (frahang), and
the reward of virtue is Heaven and the receiving and giving of the fruits
of the earth; (59) for all forms of courage need wisdom, wisdom knowledge,
knowledge experience. To be respected one must have a good name. All
actions depend on the proper time and place, while wealth needs to be
received and given away, and all enjoyment depends on freedom from fear.
Do not rejoice overmuch when good fortune attends you, and do not grieve
overmuch when misfortune overtakes you, (61) for both good fortune and
misfortune must befall man. (62) Be grateful to the yazads for any good
fortune that may befall you in this world and share it with the yazads and
with good men. Leave (all such things) to the yazads, for any reward (that
is due to you) will come of its own accord from the place whence it must
Till the earth and do good, for all men live and are nourished by the
tilling of Spandarmad, the Earth.
Do not sin against water, fire, kine, or other domestic animals, or
against the dog and the dog species, lest you find the way to Heaven and
Paradise (garothman) closed to you.
Do good and keep your doors open to any who may come from far or near, for
he who does not do good and does not keep his doors open, will find the
door of Heaven and of Paradise closed.
Be zealous in the pursuit of culture (frahang), for culture is an
adornment in prosperity, a protection in distress, a ready helper in
calamity, and becomes a habit in adversity. (67) When you have learnt
something, put it into practice, for the man who knows a lot and believes
little is the greater sinner. (68) The wisdom of a learned man, if
unaccompanied by goodness, turns to injustice (sâstârîh) and his
intelligence turns to unbelief (ahramôghîh).
Do not mock at anyone at all, for he who mocks himself becomes the object
of mockery, he loses his dignity (khwarr) and is execrated, and
only rarely will he have a decent and warlike son.
Go every day to wherever good men gather together to consult them; (71)
for whoever goes most frequently to where good men gather together for the
purpose of consultation, receives a greater share of and holiness.
Go to the Fire-Temple three times a day and recite the liturgy to the
fire, (73) for whoever goes most frequently to the Fire-Temple and recites
the liturgy to the fire, receives a greater portion of worldly goods and
Keep your body rigorously aloof from the sin of the Lie (sodomy?), from a
woman in her menses, and from a harlot in milk so that your soul may not
be involved in the hurt such evil does to the body.
Do not leave any sin for which penance is demanded (unconfessed) even for
a moment so that the pure Religion of the worshippers of Ohrmazd may not
be your enemy.
The body is mortal, but the soul does not pass away. Do good, for the soul
(really) is, not the body; spirit (really) is, not matter. (77) Out of
respect for the body do not neglect your soul; and do not, out of respect
for anyone, forget that the things of this world are transitory. Desire
nothing that will bring Penance on your body and punishment on your soul.
(78) Do not, out of affection for anyone, neglect the respect due to your soul so that you may not have to suffer a grievous punishment against your will".
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