IN ZOROASTRIANISM: FREEDOM OF
and Message of Yasna 30:2
Ali A. Jafarey
The Gathas are a well-worded, well-versed, well-patterned, well-defined,
well-rounded, well-turned, well-linked, coherent, cohesive, concise, and precise
divan of the Divine Doctrine by the Master-Mâńthran (Thought-provoker) and
Prime-Poet Zarathushtra Spitama. They have five meters, seventeen songs and 241
stanzas, small enough to fit into a pocketbook of only 40 pages. They discuss,
in clear words, a unique Monotheism, Primal Principles of Existence, mental
enlightenment, physical soundness, Good and Evil, Freedom of Choice, progressive
life, constructive contribution, rehabilitation of the uprooted, renovation of
the world, radiating happiness in a natural and peaceful environment, and
advancing towards a godlike goal. They are supernal inspirations, sublime
prayers, subtle rituals, simple directives, and sound advices for a superb
splendid life. The Gathas are the Guide to Daęnâ Vańguhi, Good Conscience,
“the best religion …. for the living …. [because it] promotes the world
through righteousness and polishes words and actions in serenity.” (Song 9:10
– Yasna 44:10)
All the above subjects are interrelated and therefore interwoven within the 241
stanzas, a moving mosaic of Message. One may pick a subject in a stanzas but to
comprehend its meaning and message, he/she will have to see it in its context as
given in the stanza, then look at it in the song in which the stanza stands, and
then understand its interrelation with other stanzas in other songs.
Understanding the Gathas is easy, provided one has the entire picture, the
complete Doctrine, in his/her full view. A single sample, out of context, may
lead to misunderstanding or even wrong deduction.
Therefore to comprehend the second stanza of the third song, we shall have to
carefully look at its main point in the context of the entire Gathic guidance.
That main point is “Freedom of Choice” and the word on which it is based is
âverenâo. It is from the root var (Sanskrit vr), which means to choose, to
select with a secondary meaning to prefer, to like.
Happily the words derived from this root have been used for 30 times in the
Gathas, more than enough to give us the true meaning of it. They have been used
twice in the Haptanghaiti and 12 times in the Fravarti (Yasna 12). It makes a
total of 44 times in the Gathas and their Supplements in the same dialect.
The words from this root occur twice in the non-Gathic Yasna, once in the
Vispered, twice in the Yashts and thrice in the Vendidad, a total of eight times
in the entire Later Avesta. The non-Gathic Avesta is, in size, almost twelve
times larger than its Gathic part. One may wonder at the ratio of eight times
against the Gathic 44 times. The reason is simple. The non-Gathic part of the
extant Avesta is more concerned about rituals, customs, prescriptions,
proscriptions, legend, history, geography, medicine, and more. Its composers
knew well that the Gathas were the Divine Doctrine. That was enough and adequate
for them. They appended what they considered appropriate. As it will be seen,
although eight in number, they are a good help in understanding the significance
of our subject of ‘Freedom of Choice’ as seen by the Avestan people.
My translation of the our main stanza reads:
Hear the best with your ears
and ponder with a bright mind.
Then each man and woman, for his or her self,
select either of the [following] two choices.
Awaken to this Doctrine of ours
before the Great Event of Choice ushers in.
(Song 3 - stanza 2)
But let me give also the translations by three Parsi scholars and three Iranian
(1) Ervad Kavasji Edalji Kanga: …. (tę) mhotâ banâvo-ni agamcha daręk
jan-nę potânę-mâtę ę (potâni) pasandagi-no ętekâd (hovo joîyę – yâne
daręk mânasę khodâ-parasti tathâ dęv-parasti, ę bę-mâń-thi ję sârűń
hoę tę pasand kari-nę, tę műjab potâ-no dharm sańbańdhi ętękâd râkhvo
“…. Then before the great event, each person should, for his own self, have
his preferred belief. (It means that each person should prefer from the two –
God-worship and demon-worship, the one which is better and thus have his belief
concerning the religion.) ….” (Ervadji Kanga – Happily, he has this stanza
in the Avestan script on the cover page of his book Gâthâ bâ Maenî, Gujarati
language, Bombay, 1895)
(2) D.J. Irani: “…. Let each one choose his creed with that freedom of
‘choice,’ each must have at great events. ….”
(3) Dr. Irach J.S. Taraporewala: “…. Before you choose which of the Paths to
tread, deciding each man by man, each for each; before the great New Age is
ushered in, wake up, alert to spread Ahura’s word.
(4) Ardeshir Faramji Khabardar: “…. the careful selection of the two
‘choices,’ man by man for his own self, before the great setting off on
life’s journey, ….”
(5) Mobed Firuz Azargoshasb: “…. decide each man and woman personally
between the two paths, good and evil. Before ushering in of the great day, or
the day of the judgment, arise all of you and try to spread Ahura’s words (Zarathushtra’s
(6) Mobedan Mobed Rostam Shahzadi: “…. Before the opportunity is lost, each
man and woman should for his/herself choose between the two – the right path
(Mazda-worship) or the wrong path (demon-worship). May you, with the help of
Mazda Ahura, be successful in your choice of the right path.”
The word âvarenâo has been translated as ‘etekâd, yekîn, belief, faith’
by Kangaji; ‘creed’ by Irani; ‘choices’ by Khabardar; ‘Path” by
Taraporewala with the note “Bartholomae translates ‘avowal of belief or of
faith’ and derives it from var (Skt. Vr), to choose and with [the prefix] â,
to profess (a belief); ‘râh, aqîdeh (path, belief) by Azargoshasb, and ‘râh’
(path) followed by ‘Mazda-worship or Demon-worship’ by Shahzadi.
The stanza speaks of the full Freedom of Choice of Belief as the right of each
man and woman, and has a request to awaken to the Zarathushtrian Teaching of the
Divine Doctrine before the Great Event. The stanza is one of the eleven stanzas
of the Song devoted to the first sermon on vahya mainyu and aka mainyu, the
better and the bad mentalities, which translate in human thoughts, words and
deeds. It expounds this unique theme of Good and Evil that has confounded many
an exponent. The following Song 4 (Yasna 31) guides how to choose the better
mentality and lead a good life, and Song 5 (Yasna 32) exposes the wrongs done by
Regarding the remaining 29 instances of the words derived from var, all the
above five persons give the meanings of verbs as ‘to choose, to prefer, to
like (pasand karvűń), to please, to believe, to put faith in (mânvűń, etekâd
râkhvűń), and nouns as ‘faith, creed, religion, doctrine, custom, path.’
I have, in a larger version of my essay, given the renderings of the above
persons for almost all the 44 instances in which the derivatives of the root var
occur. Here I will confine myself to only those passages, which are more related
to our subject of the day.
Ahunavar (Yathâ Ahű): We begin with Ahunavar, the stanza which has given the
first Gatha its name Ahunavaiti. It says: “Just as the lord (ahu) is vairyo,
meaning ‘to be chosen,’ so is the leader (ratu) on account of their
righteousness only.” Lord, according to Song 2 (Yasna 29) is the person “who
repels the fury of the wrongful,” and the leader is the person “who offers
civilization, nourishment and strength” to the living world. The person ‘to
be chosen’ as both the “Lord and Leader” by the Living World was and is,
of course, Zarathushtra Spitâma. He was the only person who had listened to the
Divine Message and was prepared to proclaim it through his Songs. He was granted
the sweetness of tongue to carry out his universal mission.
Song 1:5 (Yasna 28:5): Zarathushtra says: “With these greatest
thought-provoking words, we shall convince the barbarians to choose (vâurôimaidi)
the right religion.”
Kangaji: “We shall be able to give faith to the wicked people.”
Taraporewala: “May we e’er convert with force of tongue those gone astray.,
(with a note: “… At any rate this passage is clear proof of the great desire
of Z. that His New Message should spread all over the world.”)
Shahzadi: “When shall I have the ability of leading the warriors, antagonists,
robbers, and astray to the path which is the best and superior.”
Song 4:3 (Yasna 31:3): Zarathushtra wants the Divine Message to help him “to
guide all the living to choose for themselves (vâurayâ) the right religion.”
Kangaji: “I may make all the living as believers.”
Taraporewala: “to convert all the living” and in his note he mentions about
‘conversion” and adds “that Zoroastrians in India today are on the whole
averse to proselytizing; some indeed regard it as positively ‘sinful’ (adharmî).
Shahzadi: “…. Mazda has taught me the Religion of Mazda through his own
tongue and talk and told me to convey it to mankind.”
Song 4:11 (Yasna 31:11): God has “fashioned for us the living world,
conceptions and intellects, put life in the physical frame, and gave deeds and
doctrine, so that one makes his ‘choice’ ((varenęng) through free will.
Kangaji: “…. for fixing the deeds and religious commandments or for the
belief or choice.” Taraporewala “Whereby one may hold whatever Faith one
Shahzadi: Subtitle: “…. You wanted every person to choose the way he/she
prefers by his determination and in full freedom.”
It may be pointed out that Mobed Firuz Azargoshasb has written notes on stanzas
1:5, 4:3 and 4:11 that the Good Religion of Zarathushtra is a universal religion
for all mankind and that it is to be spread through teachings without any push,
persuasion and/or force. People may choose it through their knowledgeable
discretion and Free Will only.
Song 6:2 (Yasna 33:2): Whosoever foils the wrongful by word, thought or action,
or …. teaches good things, advances in his choice (vârâi).
Kangaji: “He … presents for his religious belief i.e. he strengthens his
Taraporewala: They accomplish (Thy) Purpose. (in the vocabulary vâra, wish,
lit. ‘choice.’) Shahzadi: “… or guides a wrongful person on the right
path, … (Note: Propagation of religion and fighting evil is permitted
according to this stanza.)
Song 12:6 (Yasna 47:6): “…. With the growth of serenity and righteousness,
(serenity) shall convert many a seeker.”
Kangaji: “It is completely selected by the aspirants.”
Taraporewala: She shall draw (into her fold) many Seekers.
D.J. Irani: This shall cause many to hear Thy Message.
Song 13:4 (Yasna 48:4): Whoever, Mazda, has set his mind on the better or the
worse, sets his conscience accordingly with actions and words. His desire
follows his cherished choice (varenęng). Kangaji: “He who keeps himself good
and pure, maintains the religion the same way; his wish, belief and faith follow
Taraporewala: “His will follows his voluntary choice.”
Shahzadi: “His desire follows the same path.” (Note: a Persian couplet: You
see exactly what you wish. You wish exactly what you see.)
Song 14:3 (Yasna 49:3): This has been put as a choice (varenâi) that
righteousness is for the promotion of the doctrine, and wrong is for harming it.
Kangaji: “In order to guide the people of world, the religious preference ….
has been laid down.
Taraporewala: “It is laid down by Mazda as choice for all – the Teaching
that Truth shall prevail, that Untruth shall be frustrated.”
D.J. Irani: “According to Thy Faith, O Mazda, the choice of Righteousness is
its own vindication.” Shahzadi: “… the Mazda-worship Religion is based on
Truth and therefore it is always beneficial, and the demon-worship religion on
Lie and therefore always harmful.”
Song 17:2 (Yasna 53:2): “And now, let Kavi Vishtaspa, the Zarathushtrian
Spitama, and Ferashaoshtra pursue, with mind, words, and deeds, the knowledge
for the praise and for the choice (fraoret) of venerations of the Wise One, in
order to establish in straight paths the religion which God has granted to the
Kangaji:. “…. With faith in adoration rites ….”
Taraporewala: “Let each choose acts of piety … meditating on the Path of
Truth – the Faith Ahura has revealed to the Saviour.”
D.J. Irani: “May they teach all to keep to the established straight path,
Shahzadi: Subtitle: The Best Course to Teach the Religion to Mankind. “For the
pleasure of Mazda, all should sincerely spread the best religion through
thought, word and deed. …. Vishtaspa and Ferashaoshtra became supporters of
Zarathushtra and succeeded as the Benefactors (Saoshyants) …. in teaching
people the right path of the religion.”
NOTE I: Mobed Azargoshasb follows closely his preceptor, Dr. Taraporewala, in
his translations of the Gathas. Nevertheless, he has his independent way also.
His renderings of the above stanzas are in quite harmony with Dr.
NOTE II: Mobed Shahzadi has given subtitles to most of the stanzas of the Gathas
in his translation. Thirty-two of them present the Good Religion as the
‘universal’ and that it should be propagated and spread, and the Subtitles
speak of Freedom of Choice.
Haptanghaiti: Song 1.3 = Yasna 35.3: That we have chosen (vairîmaidî), Lord
Wise, through sublime Righteousness, Which we have thought, spoken and done. Of
these deeds, the best be for both the [mental and physical] existences.
Yasna 16:2: We venerate Zarathushtra’s Religion. We venerate Zarathushtra’s
Choice (varena) and Doctrine.
Yasna 57:24: This religion was forth chosen (fraoreńta) by Ahura Mazda the
Righteous, also by Good Mind, Best Righteousness, Choice Dominion, Progressive
Serenity, Wholeness, Immortality, Ahurian Questions, and Ahurian Doctrine.
Vispered 5:3: For You, Righteous Ahura Mazda, I choose for myself (verenę) this
religion as a Mazda-worshipper, Zarathushtrian, void of false gods and of the
Yasht 10:92: This religion was chosen forth (fraoreńta) by Ahura Mazda the
Righteous. …. The Amesha Spentas chose (vereńta) the religion …. .
Yasht 13:89: Zarathushtra was the first to eliminate false gods and to choose (fraorenata)
to be a Mazda-worshipper, Zarathushtrian, void of false gods, and Divine
Vendidad 12:21: Should an alien-believer (anya-varena) alien-doctrined (anya-tkaesha)
die, how many creations of the Progressive Mentality would he pollute?
Vendidad 15:2: He who teaches the alien-belief (anya-varena) and alien-doctrine
(anya-tkaesha) to a righteous person knowing.
These two passages show that other religions were known by the term ‘alien’
instead of what some religions do by calling others as heterodoxy, unbelief,
heresy, paganism, or heathenism.
Vendidad 19:2: Zarathushtra chose for himself (fraorenaęta) the
The use of the words derived from var show that they do carry the idea of the
choice of religion and also that the Gathas are the Divine Message for mankind.
That means that the Good Religion is the first missionary religion, a mission
that firmly believed in “Freedom of Choice” after a good knowledge of the
thought-provoking Message presented with a sweet tongue. To sum up what one
understands from all the above references is:
(1) Freedom of Choice is for every individual person.
(2) A good choice is made by considering the subject with a bright, clear,
un-tinted and unbiased mind.
(3) Zarathushtra wishes all to be awake to his Teachings also.
(4) The message is universal and is not confined to race, color, and
(5) It has to be peacefully spread with a soft and sweet tongue.
(6) Force and coercion are not allowed.
It is because of such a meaningful mission that the composer of the eulogy in
honor of Zarathushtra in the Farvardin Yasht declares: “Henceforth the Good
Religion of Mazda-worship will spread all over the seven climes of the earth.”
With our main subject of Song 3:2 (Yasna 30:2) in view, we now turn to two
important points: (a) Mazę Yâonghô, the Great Event and (b) Declaration of
The word ‘yâonghô/yâh’ is derived from the root yah/Sanskrit yas, meaning
‘to endeavor, to strive.’ It occurs in Song 3:2 (Yasna 30:2), Song 11:14 (Yasna
46:14), and Song 14:9 (Yasna 49:9). It also occurs as ‘mazishtâi yâonghâm
– the greatest of events’ in Haptanghaiti Song 2:2 (Yasna 36:2). The two
Gathic instances show that the occasions refer to the days King Vishtaspa and
Jamaspa chose the Good Religion and the Haptanghaiti occurrence speaks of the
day when the congregation of early Zoroastrians had encircled the Fire altar in
their community enclosure for a special occasion called the greatest of the
events, perhaps a group initiation into the Good Religion.
Yâonghô has been rendered as ‘mhoto banâv, agtyanűń kâm – a great
event, an important undertaking’ by Kangaji, ‘great events’ by D.J. Irani,
‘ushering-in-of the Great New Age’ by Taraporewala, ‘the great setting off
on life’s journey’ by Khabardar, ‘ushering in of the great day or the day
of judgement’ by Azargoshasb, and ‘opportunity (sic)’ by Shahzadi. In Song
11:14 and Song 14:9, the some of the above scholars have translated it as ‘The
Day of Judgment.’
The word yâh does not occur in the Later Avesta but the word for Koshti, the
religious girdle is derived from it. It aiwi-yâongh. The prefix aiwi meaning
‘to, towards, for’ also imparts ‘intensity’ to the word. That expresses
what the Koshti stands for: to strive for the New Age begun by Zarathushtra’s
Divine Message. The Koshti, we all know well, is girdled on the occasion of the
Declaration of Choice – the Initiation Ceremony. Aiwi-yâongh, the Koshti, is
first girdled on Yâongh, the Great Event in one’s life.
The Declaration of Choice begins with Yasna 12, known as Fraoreitish Hâitish,
the Religious Choice Chapter, a declaration that was/is made by the Initiate for
the Choice of the Good Religion. It is, in fact, the responsible response to
Zarathushtra’s call for consideration and choice.
In Yasna 12 (repeated in Yasna 1:13, 3:24, 11:16, 14:4, 57:24), the Initiate
states: "1 do hereby eliminate the false gods. I do hereby choose for
myself (fravarânę) to be Mazda-worshipper, Zoroastrian, void of false gods and
Divine Doctrinal. ….”
“1 do hereby choose (varemaidî) the progressive serenity for myself. May it
Then the Initiate declares that he/she will cleanse the world from theft and
violence; guard the home of the Mazda-worshippers against harm and destruction;
give the wise people, who live on this earth with their cattle, full freedom of
movement; does not intend to hurt any body or soul; renounces false gods and
their devotees; renounces sorcerers and their devotees; renounces each and every
mental malady and physical ailment; in fact all falsities and malignities in
thoughts, words, and deeds.
He/she renounces the false gods just as the Righteous Zarathushtra did, and goes
on to declare:
"With the Choice Belief (varena) in waters, with the Choice Belief in
plants, with the Choice Belief in the bountiful world; with the Choice Belief in
God Wise who created the living world and the righteous man -- the Choice Belief
Zarathushtra had, the Choice Belief Kavi Vishtaspa had, the Choice Belief
Ferashaoshtra and Jamaspa had, and the Choice Belief each of the
truth-practicing righteous Benefactors have, it is with the same Choice Belief
and doctrine that I am a worshipper of the Wise One.
"1, with my appreciations and Choice Beliefs (fravaretas-châ), choose for
myself (fravarânę) to be Mazda-worshipper and Zoroastrian.
I appreciate well-thought thoughts,
I appreciate well-said words,
I appreciate well-done deeds.
"I appreciate the Good Religion of Mazda-worship which overthrows yokes yet
sheaths swords, teaches self-reliance, and is righteous. Therefore, of the
religions that have been and that shall be, this is the greatest, best, and
sublimest. It is divine and Zoroastrian. I do attribute all good to God
It is a daring declaration, and it is a great event. The very fact that one
calls his/her religion as the greatest, best and the sublimest, means that
he/she considers all other religions as great, good and sublime and that he/she
has made the choice after a comparative study of as many of them as possible
with a bright mind. The declaration explains the full meaning of the Gathic
stanza. It gives the salient points of the Good Religion. Enjoying the Freedom
of Choice, it is a highly desirable, proper and practical response to
Zarathushtra’s call for awakening to his Divine Message, our subject of the
mazdayasnô ahmî, mazdayasnô zarathushtrish
fravarânę âstűtascâ fravaretascâ.
âstuyę humatem manô
âstuyę hűxtem vacô
âstuyę hvarshtem shyaothanem.
âstuyę daęnăm mâzdayasnîm
ýâ hâitinămcâ bűshyeińtinămcâ
mazishtâcâ vahishtâcâ sraęshtâcâ
ýâ âhűirish zarathushtrish
ahurâi mazdâi vîspâ vohű cinahmî.
aęshâ astî daęnayĺ mâzdayasnôish âstűitish!
The above article is the Speech made by Ali A. Jafarey at the Special Event, sponsored by FEZANA (The Federation of North American Zoroastrian Association) as a concurrent event on 30 December 2000 to the 7th World Zoroastrian Congress, also sponsored by FEZANA and hosted by the Zoroastrian Association of Houston, held at J.W. Marriott, Houston, Texas from 28 December 2000 to 1 January 2001.