The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
IRANIAN RELIGIONS: ZARATHUSHTRIAN
Metaphor in the Holy Gathas
The Amesha Spenta as Allegories
By: Dina G. McIntyre
The amesha spenta: Are they living beings or allegories.
Differences of opinion abound regarding the collective term amesha spenta.1 Are they actual living beings, as some contend, or are they divine characteristics? Do they number six or seven (i.e. do they exclude or include spenta mainyu)? What are the meanings of the words or terms that comprise the amesha spenta? And indeed, what does the term amesha spenta itself mean.2
The term "amesha spenta" does not appear as such in the Gathas although the words or terms that comprise the amesha spenta do indeed appear in abundance, and are a central feature of Zarathushtra's thought. As I use the term in this piece, it means benevolent immortals, and includes spenta mainyu, asha, vohu mano, aramaiti, vohu xshathra, haurvatat and ameretat.
It is not my purpose here to analyze what the collective term amesha spenta was intended to include in the later Zoroastrian texts. I use the term here purely as a convenient shorthand method of referring collectively to these Gathic words. For convenience, I will also include spenta mainyu in the discussion, because, regardless of whether or not spenta mainyu is one of the amesha spenta according to the later texts, its treatment in the Gathas is, in many respects, similar to the treatment of the other terms which were later included within the meaning of the collective noun amesha spenta.
There is no one English word that adequately translates each of the terms that are included within the collective noun, "amesha spenta". In addition, opinions differ greatly on the correct meaning of spenta mainyu, aramaiti, haurvatat and ameretat. A detailed study of the meaning of each amesha spenta based on how Zarathushtra uses those terms in the Gathas, is beyond the scope of this paper. However, some short definitions are necessary for convenience of discussion. The following definitions are far from complete, and they represent my understanding of these terms, based on their contextual usage in the Gathas. As you read them, you may notice that the definitions include not only ultimate objectives, but also the way of achieving them. This is not a flaw in the definitions, but an integral part of them. This is similar (but not identical) to an aspect of Gathic linguistics.3
Spenta mainyu means a virtuous or benevolent spirit. In my view "mainyu" means "spirit" as in a "way of being". Spenta mainyu is a way of being that advances the forward progress of creation by being in accord with asha. There is a respectable body of opinion that believes that mainyu should be translated as "thought" (Professor Gershevitch4) or as "mentality" (Dr. Jafarey5). I agree that thought or mentality is a part of mainyu (because thought and mentality are part of a given way of being as the following quotations show), but I am not persuaded that "thought" or "mentality" describes the full scope of mainyu. In Y30.3, Zarathushtra states, referring to the two mainyu: "…In thought and in word, in action, they are two…" Y30.3.6 And in Y45.2 the two mainyu are described as opposites in their "… thoughts… teachings… intentions… preferences… words… actions… conceptions [and] souls…" Y45.2. If all these things mentioned in Y45.2 are included within the concept of mainyu then it would be reasonable to infer that the word means the totality of a way of being, and not just "thought" or "mentality". Spenta mainyu is a divine quality.
Asha literally means “what fits”, hence "truth". Zarathushtra sees the material and abstract worlds (what he calls the worlds of mind and matter Y28.2) as complementary and interactive parts of our reality, rejecting neither. In the world of matter, “what fits” is what is correct – truth, the natural laws that order the universe, the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, et cetera. In the world of mind (i.e. the world of abstract ideas), what “fits” is also what is correct – i.e. what is right, which, in the Gathas, includes such notions as truth, justice (including the law of consequences), goodness, beneficence (generosity), solicitude, friendship, loving-kindness, et cetera. So in essence, asha comprehends the truth of things (or the true order of things) in the worlds of mind and matter. There is no one English word that captures the full meaning of asha. “Truth” is the closest in my view, although it should be remembered that this is not just truth in the world of matter. It also includes the truths of mind and spirit, i.e. goodness, beneficence, what’s right. And asha also is a divine quality.
Vohu mano means good thinking, a good mind, reason and intelligence committed to goodness. It is the instrumentality through which we quest for, and understand, truth (asha) (however imperfectly or incrementally). It is the means of accessing wisdom, and Wisdom Personified – Ahura Mazda (as shown both in Y29 and the writings of Zadsparam -- a later text). Ultimately, vohu mano is the comprehension of truth. In my view the distinction between "mind" and "heart" which exists in our society, was not a view that Zarathushtra shared. Zarathushtra may not have known anything about the right side of the brain (governing creativity, artistic expression, intuition, emotions, etc), and the left side of the brain (governing reason, analysis, logic, etc). But if you look at the ways in which Z uses vohu mano in the Gathas, you will see that the concept includes more than cold logic. It includes goodness, beneficence, lovingkindness (the activities of the right side of the brain), as well as reason, reflection, logic, et cetera (activities of the left side of the brain) -- both sides working in harmony to produce vohu mano -- a good mind, or good thinking, the quest for, and comprehension of, truth (asha). And vohu mano is a divine quality.
Spenta aramaiti: No scholar to date has come up with an unquestioned definition for the meaning of aramaiti. Linguists themselves are in substantial disagreement.7 Based on its contextual use in the Gathas, I think the term spenta aramaiti means the benevolent realization (or making real) of truth (asha) with thoughts, words and actions of truth. Aramaiti often has been translated as "rightmindedness". I do not think this is correct for two reasons. First, "rightmindedness" is not much different from good thinking (vohu mano). Zarathushtra would not have had two redundant amesha spenta. But even more important, "rightmindedness" does not always fit the context in which aramaiti is used in the Gathas. For example: Zarathushtra says: "But to this world He came with the rule of good thinking and of truth, and…enduring [aramaiti] gave body and breath (to it)…" Y30.7. How do we give "body and breath" to the rule of truth and good thinking? We cannot do it by "rightmindedness" alone. We can only do so by bringing these concepts to life with our thoughts, words and actions. Similarly in Y44.6, Zarathushtra says "…Through its actions, [aramaiti] gives substance to the truth…" Y44.6, indicating that actions are a part of the meaning of aramaiti. And a person of aramaiti is described in the following way: "Virtuous is a man of [aramaiti]. He is so by reason of his understanding, his words, his action, his conception….."Y51.21, indicating that the meaning of aramaiti includes all of these activities – understanding, words, action and vision. And aramaiti also is a divine quality.
Vohu xshathra or xshathra vairya means good rule, or the rule to be chosen, the desirable rule. It means exercising power in accord with truth (asha) and good thinking (vohu mano). It often is often referred to in the Gathas as the rule of truth and good thinking. It is the rule that aramaiti brings about ("…Grant thou, [aramaiti] your rule of good thinking…" Y51.2). Good rule also is a divine quality.
Haurvatat means completeness wholeness. It is the state of being in which truth (asha), its comprehension (vohu mano), its realization in thought, word and action (aramaiti), and its rule (vohu xshathra) have been attained completely, have been personified. And haurvatat is a divine quality.
Ameretat literally means "non-deathness". It is the state of being that occurs when haurvatat is attained, and the reason for mortality ceases. "Immortality" is used for ameretat for convenience of expression, but it does not quite capture the meaning. Ameretat is most frequently mentioned together with haurvatat. And ameretat is a divine quality.
While it is true that Zarathushtra sometimes refers to the amesha spenta as entities, to him, they are the concepts or characteristics that make for divinity. I think that his occasional descriptions of the amesha spenta as entities are intended to be allegorical, but sometimes, when collectively referred to, may include both the concepts and those life forms who have attained and personify these values of divinity – a double entendre. In Parts 3.1 and 3.2, I will discuss the evidence from the Gathas on which I base these conclusions, and indulge in some speculations as to why Zarathushtra may have chosen to present these key components of his thought – the amesha spenta – in allegorical form.
What is an allegory? An allegory is an extended metaphor. It is a reference to one thing, using the form of another.
For example, we are all familiar with the concept of Justice being represented by a blindfolded lady, holding a set of perfectly balanced scales. The blindfold indicates the idea that Justice is blind to anything not relevant to the matter that is to be judged, such as who a person is, his race, color or creed, how beautiful or ugly he may be, his power or lack of it, his wealth, poverty or social status. The perfectly balanced scales represent the idea that Justice means weighing the evidence (for and against) with perfect fairness.
The artist who created this allegory, used the form of a blindfolded lady with perfectly balanced scales to represent a concept – Justice. The "lady" is not a real, living, being. She is an allegory – the form of a lady with blindfold and balanced scales – used to represent the concept of justice.
In a delightful play of shifting references, Zarathushtra refers to the amesha spenta, sometimes as entities, and sometimes as concepts, activities or characteristics – sometimes in the same verse, sometimes in verses that succeed each other, and sometimes in verses that are disparate. The very first Yasna of the Gathas, Yasna 28, provides excellent examples of these shifting references, and the same technique is found throughout the Gathas. Here are a variety of examples to give you the flavor of this technique, and Zarathushtra's underlying thought:
In Y28.3, both truth and good thinking are entities, mentioned in tandem with the Wise Lord:
"I who shall eulogize all of you as never before – thee, o truth, and good thinking and the Wise Lord….." Y28.3.
In the very next verse, Y28.4, truth and good thinking are both concepts.
"I who thoroughly bear in mind to uplift myself with good thinking…..as long as I shall be able and be strong, so long shall I look in quest of truth." Y28.4.
In the very next verse Y28.5, truth is an entity, good thinking a concept.
"Truth, shall I see thee, as I continue to acquire … good thinking…..?" Y28.5
In Y29.7 good thinking is an entity.
"…..Who has (been found) by thee, good thinking,…..?" Y29.7
In Y28.7 truth and aramaiti are entities, good thinking is a concept.
"Give, o truth, … the attainments of good thinking. Give thou o [aramaiti] power to Vishtaspa and to me…." Y28.7
In Y51.1, aramaiti is an entity, good rule and good thinking are concepts.
"…..Grant thou [aramaiti] your rule [xshathrem] of good thinking for the glory of the Mighty One." Y51.2.
In Y43.16 aramaiti is a concept and so is rule:
"…..May there be [aramaiti] under the rule of Him who has the appearance of the sun…." Y43.16.
In Y28.1, the very first verse of the Gathas, spenta mainyu (the benevolent way of being) is referred to as an entity.
"With hands outstretched in reverence of him, (our) support, the spirit virtuous through truth, ….." Y28.1.
Similarly, in Y29, spenta mainyu is one of the cast of characters – entities, (although not mentioned by name8) along with truth, good thinking and the Wise Lord himself, to whom a plea is made for deliverance from cruelty, violence, bondage and oppressive might.
In Y31.21, and Y44.2, mainyu is a concept or way of being.
"…..the one who is His ally in spirit [mainyu] and actions." Y31.21.
"…..For such a person…..is a world healer and Thy ally in spirit [mainyu], Wise One." Y44.2.
Good rule is frequently referred to as a concept or activity. For example:
"…..the rule of good thinking and of truth." Y33.10.
"…..the rule of good thinking….." Y30.8.
"…the beneficent man…He serves truth during his rule, with good word and good action…" 31.22.
"…..the Lord, Wise in His rule…"45.9
In Y33.11 good rule, aramaiti, truth, and good thinking are all referred to as entities along with the Wise Lord.
"The Wise One who is the Mightiest Lord, and [aramaiti], and truth which prospers the creatures, and good thinking, and (good) rule – listen to me, ….." Y33.11.
In Y30.7, truth, good thinking, good rule and aramaiti are all concepts:
"But to this world He came with the rule of good thinking and of truth, and (our) enduring [aramaiti] gave body and breath (to it)….." Y30.7.
In Y34.11 completeness (haurvatat) and immortality (ameretat) are concepts or activities, as are good rule, good thinking and aramaiti.
"Yes, both completeness and immortality are for Thy sustenance. Together with the rule of good thinking, …[aramaiti] has increased these two enduring powers for thee…" Y34.11.
And in the beautiful Y47.1, all of the amesha spenta are referred to as concepts or activities.
"Through a virtuous spirit [spenta mainyu]and the best thinking, through both actions and the word befitting truth, they shall grant completeness and immortality to Him. The Wise One in rule is Lord through [aramaiti]." Y47.1.
Completeness (haurvatat) and immortality (ameretat) are the only amesha spenta which are not referred to as entities, unless the reference to "two companions" in Y33.9 refer to completeness and immortality mentioned in the preceding verse, a conclusion about which there is some disagreement based on linguistic considerations.9
These above verses (and many others) in which Zarathushtra treats the amesha spenta as concepts or activities, establish that when he treats them as entities, his intention is allegorical.
The amesha spenta appear in the Gathas as the word or teaching of the Wise Lord, and also as the way to implement these teachings. Here are some verses which illustrate these conclusions.
[Instruction] "Therefore do thou reveal to me the truth…" Y43.10.
[Implementation] "…(…those) who shall satisfy the Wise Lord continuously with true actions." Y30.5.
[Instruction] "Wise One, therefore tell me the best words and actions, namely those allied with good thinking and with truth…" Y34.15.
[Implementation] "…the beneficent man…..He serves truth, during his rule, with good word and good action….." Y31.22.
[Instruction and implementation] "…Instruct us to those paths of good thinking easy to travel in alliance with truth," Y34.12
[Implementation] "…the paths straight in accord with truth, wherein the Wise Lord dwells." Y33.5.
[Instruction] "…Be for us Wise Lord, the revealer of good thinking." Y31.17.
[Instruction] "…May the Creator10 instruct through good thinking (the course) of my direction…" Y50.6.
[Implementation] "…and through the very best thinking I shall seek for myself their rule of strength…" Y31.4.
[Implementation] "For Zarathushtra does give the breath of even his own person as a gift, in order that there be for the Wise One predominance of good thinking along with (predominance) of the action and the word allied with truth, that there be obedience and His (good) rule." Y33.14.
[Implementation] "Yes, those men shall be the saviors of the lands, namely, those who shall follow their knowledge of Thy teaching with actions in harmony with good thinking and with truth, Wise One. These indeed have been fated to be the expellers of fury." Y48.12.
In short, the amesha spenta comprise a teaching or a Word that is personified – a Living Word in every sense. Perhaps that is one reason why Zarathushtra sometimes chooses to treat them as allegorical entities.
Only spenta mainyu, is not specifically mentioned as being created by the Wise Lord. This is understandable. Mainyu (a way of being) is described as "primordial" (Y30.2), and the word is used to describe the Wise Lord's own way of being.
However, truth (asha), good thinking (vohu mano), aramaiti, good rule (vohu xshathra), completeness (haurvatat) and non-deathness (ameretat) are expressions of the spenta way of being. So it is understandable that these amesha spenta are all said to be created by the Wise Lord. And the amesha spenta are also brought to life (and in that sense, are continuously created and re-created) by the good thoughts, words and actions of man. Here are some examples of verses in which the amesha spenta are shown to be created by the Wise Lord, and also brought to life by man.
[By the Wise Lord] "…..I realized Thee to be…the real Creator of truth…" Y31.8.
[By the Wise Lord] "…..Thy most virtuous spirit [spenishta mainyu], Wise One, by reason of which Thou didst create the wondrous powers of good thinking allied with truth." Y43.2.
[By the Wise Lord] "…Thou didst create tranquility and [aramaiti]…" Y47.3
[By the Wise Lord] "…Virtuous is truth and the rule of good thinking. The Wise Lord created this, ….." Y51.21.
[By the Wise Lord] "…Thou, Wise One, who hast fashioned … the waters and the plants by reason of Thy most virtuous spirit, grant Thou to me immortality and completeness, ….." Y51.7. [the waters and plants are the material counterparts or metaphors for immortality and completeness].
[By the Wise Lord] "But to this world He came with the rule of good thinking and of truth, and [By both] … enduring [aramaiti] gave body and breath (to it)…"Y30.7.
[By both] "…Through its actions [aramaiti] gives substance to the truth…" Y44.6.
[By man] "…May truth be embodied and strong with breath…" Y43.16.
[By man] "…we are going to live in accordance with truth." Y31.2.
[By man] "…I who thoroughly bear in mind to uplift myself with good thinking…" Y28.4.
[By man] "Let those of good rule rule over us … with actions stemming from good understanding and with [aramaiti]…" Y48.5.
[By man] "Through his rulership (following) along the paths of good thinking, Kavi Vishtaspa reached this understanding of our task, …" Y51.16.
[By man] "…that vision which… would prosper my creatures…allied with truth through words and acts stemming from [aramaiti]…" Y44.10.
[By man] "…Those of you who shall give obedience and regard to this (Lord) of mine, they shall reach completeness and immortality….." Y45.5.
The fact that the amesha spenta are created by the Wise Lord and also are brought to life by man, illustrates that their occasional treatment as entities is an allegorical use.
Sometimes a given amesha spenta is described as a way to earn a reward, which reward is the same or another amesha spenta. When all these verses are considered together, the conclusion is compelling that the amesha spenta are both Zarathushtra's idea of reward, as well as the way to earn this reward. Here are some examples:
In Yasna 28.10, truth and good thinking are what make a person deserve a reward. And they are also the reward itself.
"Therefore, those whom Thou dost know, Wise Lord, to be just and deserving in conformity with truth and good thinking, for them do Thou fulfill their longing with these attainments….." Y28.10.
In Yasna 51.21, truth and the rule of good thinking, are the things that make a person deserve a reward. And they are also the reward itself.
"…Virtuous [spento] is truth and the rule of good thinking. The Wise Lord created this, (and) I shall entreat Him for this good reward." Y51.21.
In Yasna 31.21, good thinking is the reward for good spirit.
"The Wise Lord…shall give the permanence of good thinking's alliance to him, the one who is His ally in spirit and actions. Y31.21.
It should be remembered that mainyu (a way of being) derives its spenta (good, beneficent) quality from asha (Y28.1), and chooses asha (Y30.5). So it is not surprising that the above verse, Y31.21 tells us that a spenta way of being results in (or is rewarded by) the comprehension of asha (which is the concept of good thinking – vohu mano).
In Yasna 43.10 the reward for aramaiti is truth.
"Therefore do Thou reveal to me the truth …being in companionship with [aramaiti] I have deserved it…" Y43.10.
In Yasna 51.2, the reward for aramaiti is the rule of good thinking.
"…Grant thou [aramaiti] your rule of good thinking for the glory of the Mighty One." Y51.2.
In Yasna 46.12, the reward for truth and aramaiti is good thinking.
"Since thou, truth, didst arise among the noteworthy children and grandchildren of Friyana, the Turanian, the one who prospered his creatures with the zeal of [aramaiti], therefore did the Wise Lord unite them with good thinking….." Y46.12.
In Yasna 33.13, the reward for good thinking is the Wise Lord's good rule. And the reward for aramaiti is truth and its comprehension – good thinking (vohu mano)
"Lord of broad vision, disclose to me for support the safeguards of your rule, those which are the reward for good thinking. Reveal to me, by reason of my [spenta aramaiti], those conceptions in harmony with truth." Y33.13.
In Yasna 45.7, the reward for truth is ameretat (non-deathness).
"…That the soul of the truthful person be powerful in immortality…" Y45.7.
In Yasna 45.5, the reward for following the Wise Lord's path (which is the way of truth (asha), its comprehension (vohu mano), its realization (aramaiti), and its rule (vohu xshathra),) is completeness (haurvatat) and non-deathness (ameretat).
."…Those of you who shall give obedience and regard to this (Lord)11 of mine, they shall reach completeness and immortality….." Y45.5.
Finally, with a subtle and multi-dimensional technique, Zarathushtra suggests in a number of verses that the reward for truth is truth itself.12
At first glance, the above verses may seem like something of a jumble – with no logical order or progression from one amesha spenta to another. But a moment's reflection makes it clear that the attainment of the amesha spenta is achieved by following the path of the amesha spenta in an incremental fashion. The more we strive to bring the truth to life, with each choice in thought, word and action, the more such experiences help us to understand (vohu mano) what is true and right (asha), and realize it (aramaiti) in our beings and in our world (which is the dual purpose of existence – to perfect ourselves and our world).
This understanding of the truth, and the words and actions they generate, impact both the material and spiritual realities. They result in good rule (vohu xshathra) here in this material existence, and transform our way of being, so that eventually, we personify the spenta way of being, which is asha, its comprehension (vohu mano) and its realization in thought, word and action (aramaiti), a process that eventually results in completeness (haurvatat). And when that occurs, the reason for mortality ceases (ameretat).
If the amesha spenta are the reward, and also what earns the reward, then their occasional treatment as entities can only be allegorical. Perhaps Zarathushtra uses this allegorical technique to illustrate that the amesha spenta (as the way to earn the reward) need to be personified (as the reward) for the purpose of life to be fulfilled.
[Object of reverence] "With hands outstretched in reverence of him, (our) support, the spirit virtuous through truth….." Y28.1
[Object of reverence] "…..As long as I shall be able, I shall respect that truth is to have a gift of reverence." Y43.9
[Object of reverence] "Therefore, let us reverently give an offering to Thee, Lord, and to truth….." Y34.3
[Object of reverence] Come hither to me, ye best ones…..— Thou, Wise One, together with truth and good thinking – …..Let bright gifts and reverence (for all of you) be manifest amid us. Y33.7
[Object of worship and praise] "…..Thou, Wise One, along with truth and good thinking …..I shall very happily approach all of you, as I worship and praise." Y34.6
[Object of praise] "Yes, I shall swear to be your praiser, Wise One, and I shall be it, as long as I have strength and be able, o truth….." Y50.11 [in this verse, Zarathushtra appears to be calling the Wise Lord "truth" the way he calls him "Wisdom" – i.e. Wisdom personified is Truth personified].13
[Object of esteem] "…..virtuous [aramaiti] which is esteemed by Thy knowing follower….." Y34.9
[Object of service] "That good rule must be chosen which best brings good fortune to the man serving it with milk….." Y51.1 ["milk" here is used with double entendre, as both a reference to the milk offering of the ritual, as well as a metaphor for good thinking, as demonstrated in Part 1 The Natural Metaphors].
[Object of praise] "…immortality and completeness, those two enduring forces which are to be praised [way to praise] with good thinking." Y51.7.
[Way to praise] "…..praising with truth Him who is beneficent through His virtuous spirit to those who exist….." Y45.6
[Way to praise and worship] " Yes, praising, I shall always worship all of you, Wise Lord, with truth and the very best thinking and with their rule…" Y50.4.
[Way to serve, reverence, and worship] "…With hands outstretched, Wise One, I shall serve all of you…..with truth and with the reverence (worthy) of a sincere person. You, moreover, with the skillfulness of good thinking. Praising, I shall encounter you with such worship, Wise One, and with actions stemming from good thinking allied with truth…" Y50.8 – 9.
[Way to glorify and pray] "I shall try to glorify Him for us with prayers of [aramaiti], Him, the Lord who is famed to be Wise in His soul….." Y45.10. ["prayers of [aramaiti]" are prayers of thoughts, words and actions that bring truth (asha) to life – a beautiful way to pray].
[Way to worship and reverence] "…(We shall offer) words allied with aramaiti while worshipping with reverence of the Wise One who offers support (to us)." Y51.20.
[Way to serve] "I who shall serve all of you, Wise Lord, with good thinking….." Y28.2
[Way to serve] "…..One chooses that rule of good thinking allied with truth in order to serve (Him)….." Y51.18.
[Way to worship] "…..Your enduring worshipful offering has been established to be immortality and completeness." Y33.8. [This way to worship, ties into the next quotation].
[Way to worship, serve, establish His rule] "Through a virtuous spirit [spenta mainyu] and the best thinking, through both action and the word befitting truth, they shall grant completeness and immortality to Him. The Wise One in rule is Lord through [aramaiti]." Y47.1
It is clear from the above that the amesha spenta are not only objects of worship, reverence, et cetera, they also are a way to worship, reverence, praise and serve – with thoughts, words and actions in the temple of life. To Zarathushtra, the fragrance of a life well lived is the incense of worship – a living prayer.
At first thought, the verses above, in which the amesha spenta are objects of worship, reverence, praise, esteem and service, may seem to require the conclusion that they must be living beings. However, if the amesha spenta are also a way to worship, as the above verses prove, then references to them as entities can only be allegorical.14
If, as the evidence establishes, the amesha spenta are concepts or qualities, we need to puzzle out why Zarathushtra also treats them as objects of worship, praise, reverence esteem and service, because, in the history of religions, to worship a concept (as distinguished from a being) is almost unheard of. This is something we will discuss in Parts 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 of this piece.
The amesha spenta appear in the Gathas as attributes of both man and the Wise Lord. For example:
Spenta mainyu, the benevolent way of being – the way of being that is spenta through asha (Y28.1) – is certainly the way of being of the Wise Lord, Himself.
"… Thy virtuous spirit [spenta mainyu]." Y44.7.
"…Him who is beneficent through His virtuous spirit [spenta mainyu] to those who exist…" Y45.6.
"…(I wish) for this person…to be understanding all his days, …understanding through Thy most virtuous spirit, Wise One, by reason of which Thou didst create the wondrous powers of good thinking allied with truth." Y43.2.
"Therefore, Lord, this Zarathushtra chooses that very spirit of Thine which indeed is the most virtuous of all, Wise One…" Y43.16.15
Spenta mainyu, the benevolent way of being, is also to be found in man.
"Through a virtuous spirit [spenta mainyu] and the best thinking, through both action and the word befitting truth, they shall grant completeness and immortality to Him….." Y47.1.
"…those who are properly truthful from this virtuous spirit…" Y47.4.
"…but in due course, [aramaiti] shall come to terms with one's spirit [mainyu] where there has been opposition." Y31.12.
"The Wise Lord…shall give the permanence of good thinking's alliance to him, the one who is His ally in spirit [mainyu] and actions." Y31.21.
"…the loving man…virtuous [spento] through truth, watching over the heritage for all, is a world-healer and Thy ally in spirit [mainyu], Wise One." Y44.2.16
Asha is a characteristic of the Wise Lord.
"…the Truthful One…" Y43.8.
"… the truthful Lord, virtuous in His action…" Y46.9.
"… the truthful Lord. Y53.9.
Asha is also an attribute of man, (or all the living):
"…for the truthful person [ashaune]" Y30.4.
"…the creatures of truth [ashahya gaethao]…" Y31.1.
"… the souls of the truthful ones [ashaunam]…" Y49.10.17
Vohu mano (good thinking) is an activity or characteristic of the Wise Lord.
"…'…May He dispense through His good thinking (each) reward corresponding to one's actions'." Y43.16.
"…Thy (good) thinking, …" Y46.7.
"…the very Wise Master [ahurai] of good thinking…" Y30.1.
"…Be for us, Wise Lord, the revealer of good thinking." Y31.17.
"…May the Creator instruct through good thinking (the course) of my direction in order to be the charioteer of my will and my tongue." Y50.6.
"… Thy words stemming from good thinking….Y51.3.
Vohu mano (good thinking) is also an activity or characteristic of man.
"…my good thinking…" Y28.1.
"I who shall serve all of you, Wise Lord, with good thinking…" Y28.2.
"…With words stemming from good thinking I shall call upon those whom Thou, Wise Lord, hast assembled in Thy abode." Y46.14.
"…through the very best thinking I shall seek for myself their rule of strength, through whose growth we might conquer deceit." Y31.4.
"…Through … his good thinking, he shall be someone like Thee, Wise One." Y48.318
Aramaiti is an attribute of the Wise Lord:
"Thine was to be [aramaiti]…" Y31.9.
Aramaiti as an attribute or activity or the Wise Lord, is also expressed indirectly. For example, we know from other parts of the Gathas that vohu xshathra is the Wise Lord's rule of truth and good thinking. Therefore, when Zarathushtra says: "…Grant thou, [aramaiti] your rule of good thinking…" Y51.2, he seems to be equating the Wise Lord with aramaiti – implying (among other things) that the Wise Lord is aramaiti personified.
Similarly, if the concept of aramaiti comprises thoughts, words and actions of asha, then when Zarathushtra speaks of the Wise Lord's thoughts words and actions of asha, Zarathushtra is describing His aramaiti. For example: "…Thou art the Lord by reason of Thy tongue (which is) in harmony with truth and by reason of Thy words stemming from good thinking of which Thou, Wise One, art the foremost revealer." Y51.3; "…the truthful Lord, virtuous in His actions…" Y46.9; a statement which is echoed in: "…for I have … knowingly through truth, seen the Wise One in a vision to be Lord of the word and deed stemming from good spirit…" Y45.8,. A thought that finds an equivalence in: "…The Wise One is Lord through such actions stemming from good spirit." Y45.5; and is re-echoed in the lovely: "…The Wise One in rule is Lord through [aramaiti]." Y47.1; thus indicating that the concept of aramaiti (thoughts, words and actions stemming from asha) is included within the notion of spenta mainyu – the benevolent way of being – the way of being that is spenta through asha (Y28.1).
The concept of aramaiti is also found in man. For example, in response to man's request: "…Let us be Thy messengers, in order to hold back those who are inimical to you" (Y32.1), the Wise Lord replies, with truth and good thinking: "We have chosen your good and virtuous [aramaiti]. It shall be Ours." Y32.2. See also:
"…Reveal to me, by reason of my [spenta aramaiti] those conceptions in harmony with truth." Y33.13.
"By his action stemming from good thinking, the man of good determination has expressed his understanding and his [spenta aramaiti]…" Y34.10.
"A person shall bring to realization the best…with his hands, through (every) act of [aramaiti]…" Y47.2.
"Virtuous [spento] is a man of [aramaiti]. He is so, by reason of his understanding, his words, his action, his conception…." Y51.21.19
Vohu xshathra, good rule, is an activity or attribute of the Wise Lord. For example:
"…..the Lord, Wise in His rule…"45.9
"…Thy rule that is in accord with truth…" Y43.14.
"…By your rule, Lord, Thou shalt truly heal this world in accord with our wish." Y34.15.
"…Thou, the Wise One, hast come into the world with Thy virtuous spirit (and) with the rule of good thinking, …" Y43.6.
"Where shall there be protection instead of injury? Where shall mercy take place? Where truth which attains glory? Where virtuous [aramaiti]? Where the very best thinking? Where Wise One, through Thy rule?" Y51.4
The last verse above (Y51.4) demonstrates that truth (asha), its comprehension (vohu mano), and its realization in thought, word and action, (aramaiti) are all components of His rule – a rule that offers protection instead of injury. A rule of compassion. Illustrating that the qualities of compassion, of protecting instead of injuring, are included within the notion of asha, its comprehension, its realization in thought, word and action, its rule.
The concept of vohu xshathra, good rule, is also an activity or characteristic of man. For example:
"…the beneficent man…He serves truth during his rule with good word and good action…" Y31.22.
"…I shall attain for us here the long-lived rule of good thinking…" Y33.5.
"Let those of good rule rule over us – not those of evil rule – with actions stemming from good understanding and with [aramaiti]…" Y48.5.
"That good rule must be chosen….. This very rule shall I now bring to realization for us." Y51.1.
"…One chooses that rule of good thinking allied with truth in order to serve…" Y51.18.20
Finally, haurvatat (completeness) and ameretat (non-deathness, immortality) are characteristics of the Wise Lord.
"The best shall be for him, the knowing man, who shall tell me the real precept concerning the truth of His completeness and immortality…" Y31.6.
"By whichever action, by whichever word, by whichever worship, Wise One, Thou didst receive for Thyself immortality, truth, and mastery [xshathremcha] over completeness…"Y34.1.
"…Whatever one has promised to Him with truth and with good thinking is to be completeness and immortality for Him under His rule, is to be these two enduring powers for Him in His House." Y45.10.
"Through a virtuous spirit and the best thinking, through both actions and the word befitting truth, they shall grant completeness and immortality to Him. The Wise One in rule is Lord through [aramaiti]." Y47.1.
"Yes, both completeness and immortality are for Thy sustenance. Together with the rule of good thinking allied with truth, (our) [aramaiti] has increased these two enduring powers (for Thee)…" Y34.11.21
Notice in Y47.1 (above) man grants completeness and immortality (non-deathness) to the Wise Lord, and in Y51.7 (below), the Wise Lord grants completeness and immortality to man, indicating, perhaps, that man and the Wise Lord complete each other – that haurvatat, completeness is achieved, both at an individual, and at a collective, level.
Here are examples in which haurvatat (completeness) and ameretat (non-deathness, immortality) are also a state of being which man is capable of attaining.
"…grant Thou to me immortality and completeness..." Y51.7.
"…a prize which is to inspire completeness and immortality in me, just as Thou hast received these two for Thyself?" Y44.18.
"…That the soul of the truthful person be powerful in immortality…" Y45.7.
"…Those of you who shall give obedience and regard to this (Lord) of mine, they shall reach completeness and immortality. The Wise One is Lord through such actions stemming from good spirit." Y45.5.
"…Your enduring worshipful offering has been established to be immortality and completeness." Y33.8.22
It is clear from all of the above evidence, that the terms which comprise the amesha spenta are described by Zarathushtra as concepts, as activities, and as characteristics of the Wise Lord, as well as man, and perhaps all the living. Therefore, Zarathushtra's references to them as entities can only have been an allegorical usage. No other conclusion is logically possible. Nor, if we think about it, could there be any living "entity" that is only one amesha spenta to the exclusion of all the others – any more than there could be a real, living lady (blindfolded with balanced scales) that is only justice – to the exclusion of all other qualities.
Allegory has been a popular device in literature from time immemorial. It is to be found even in the later Yasnas, where such things as the Mazdayasnian law23 and the Gathas24 are referred to as entities (i.e. an allegorical usage). Indeed, even in the later Avestan texts, there are indirect allusions to the fact that the amesha spenta are attributes of divinity – the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda.25 If it had not been for the killing of the learned, the burning of books and the general loss of knowledge that followed the invasion of Alexander, and later, the Arabs, with the resulting loss of an understanding of Gathic grammar, I do not think there ever would have been any doubt that the references to the amesha spenta as living beings are allegorical.
It is true that Zarathushtra calls the Wise Lord the "father" of truth, good thinking and aramaiti.
"…..the Wise One is the Father of truth." Y47.2.
"…..I know the Wise One…..to be the Father of effective good thinking. And His daughter is [aramaiti] of good actions….." Y45.4
But in light of the fact that Zarathushtra also refers to asha, vohu mano and aramaiti as concepts and as characteristics of the Wise Lord and man, it would be reasonable to conclude that Zarathushtra is using "father" as a metaphor for "source" or "origin" – that He begets or generates these good values. This conclusion is consistent with the many verses in which He is also called the "creator" of asha, vohu mano and aramaiti,26 just as man also gives life, to these qualities with his thoughts, words and actions (“But to this world He came with the rule of good thinking and of truth and (our) enduring [aramaiti] gave body and breath to it…..” Y30.7).
In passing, one might wonder why these three amesha spenta – asha, vohu mano and aramaiti are so singled out as offspring of the Wise Lord, and why the Wise Lord is not also called the "father" of good rule or completeness and immortality. I think the reason may be that good rule, completeness and immortality are all states that are brought about by the other three. Good rule is brought about by truth (asha), its comprehension (good thinking), and its realization in thought, word and action (aramaiti) – that is why it is often described as the rule of truth and good thinking; that also is why it is referred to as aramaiti's rule ("…..Grant thou [aramaiti] your rule [xshathrem] of good thinking for the glory of the Mighty One." Y51.2). Similarly, completeness and immortality describe the state of being that is attained when a person personifies truth, its comprehension (good thinking), and its realization in thought, word and action (aramaiti) – as does the Wise Lord.
I have heard it argued that the whole concept of the amesha spenta was an arbitrary and mistaken invention of the unknown authors of the later texts, that there are many ideas or concepts in the Gathas that are equally important, and that the concepts which later came to be known as the amesha spenta should not be singled out for special consideration in the Gathas.
With due respect, this argument overlooks the fact that if asha includes the notion of what is right, then all of the "good" concepts mentioned in the Gathas would of necessity be comprehended within the term asha. But more importantly the argument overlooks the fact that Zarathushtra himself treats spenta mainyu, asha, vohu mano, aramaiti, vohu xshathra, haurvatat and ameretat in a manner that is markedly different from his treatment of all other concepts mentioned in the Gathas. Only these (comprising the amesha spenta) are referred to as allegorical entities. But even more important, only these (comprising the amesha spenta) are specifically referred to, or treated, in the special ways described above – as the Word or teaching of the Wise Lord and also the way to implement these teachings; as the reward and also the means by which the reward is obtained; as objects of reverence, worship, praise, esteem, and service, and also as a way to reverence, worship, praise and serve; as aspects or characteristics of the Wise Lord Himself, which also can be attained by (and exist in) man. So we see that far from being a mistaken later convention, the terms that comprise the amesha spenta are central to Zarathushtra's teachings.
Even if we agree that the amesha spenta are not living beings, we still are left with the question: Why does Zarathushtra sometimes portray them as allegorical entities? Doubtless, these allegories are a function of his poetic art. But is poetic art his only reason for using allegories? I think not. I think Zarathushtra uses this technique to convey certain key aspects of his thought regarding the quality, nature, and attainment of the divine. Let us consider the evidence.
To understand this aspect of Zarathushtra’s thought, we need to put ourselves in his shoes and consider the society in which he lived.
No contemporary texts or inscriptions have survived from Zarathushtra's day which describe the religion(s) that existed in the society in which Zarathushtra lived. But from the things he says in the Gathas, we can gather some idea of what those existing religions were like. He uses the following words when discussing the local gods and their religions:
"…fierce gods…" Y34.5
"But ye gods – as well as the one who worships you – all of you are the offspring stemming from evil thinking, deceit and disrespect. Hateful too are your actions,…"Y32.3.
[referring to the local gods and their religions]"The gods did not at all choose correctly…Since they chose the worst thought, they then rushed into fury, with which they have afflicted the world and mankind."Y30.6.
[referring to the local gods and their followers] "…ye have deceived mankind out of the good way of life…by such evil thinking and the [akascha mainyush]…" Y32.5.
"…the rich Karpan [a type of priest] chose the rule of tyrants and deceit rather than truth." Y32.12.
"During their regimes, the Karpans [priests] and the Kavis [princes] yoked (us) with evil actions ….." Y46.11.
"When, Wise One, shall men desist from murdering? When shall they fear the folly of that intoxicating drink, through the effects of which the Karpans as well as the evil rulers of the lands torture our (good) intentions in an evil way?" Y48.10.
[the allegorical good vision speaking] "…(For) the cruelty of fury and violence, of bondage and might, holds me in captivity…" Y29.1.
From these and other parts of the Gathas we get the picture of a society in which the local gods and their practices were tyrannical, violent, oppressive and cruel,27 a state of affairs that deeply troubled Zarathushtra – especially since he was on the receiving end of their malice, probably because of his outspoken criticism of their practices (“To what land to flee? Where shall I go to flee? They exclude (me) from my family and from my clan…..” Y46.1). Using his mind to address the problem, he concluded that such fierce and hateful deities were not worthy of worship; that bondage, cruelty and violence could not be divine qualities, and that therefore, those "gods" who embodied such values could not be divine. Zarathushtra not only rejected these gods, he demoted them from “godhood”, concluding that only a being who personifies pure goodness, truth, beneficence, reason, intelligence, understanding, wisdom, in all its thoughts, words and actions, could be divine, could be worthy of worship.28 A significant step in man's quest for the divine.
To Zarathushtra, the amesha spenta are the qualities that comprise divinity. They are what make a being divine – it is not who the being is, but the quality of his being, that makes him divine – the spenta way of being; the being that has attained completely, that personifies, asha (truth, beneficence, what's right), vohu mano (its comprehension), aramaiti (its realization in each thought, word and action); the being whose rule is not a rule of cruelty, deceit or tyranny, but the rule of asha, vohu mano, and aramaiti.
In short, the amesha spenta are the qualities that must be acquired before a life force can be considered divine. I think one reason why Zarathushtra sometimes describes the amesha spenta as allegorical entities who are worshipped, praised, reverenced, served and esteemed, is because he wants to make this point – that these values are the essence of divinity.
Perhaps he has another equally important reason for describing them as allegorical entities, and that is to suggest that the amesha spenta as concepts alone are empty – mere ideas, possibilities, potentials, without substance. These concepts come to life, they acquire substance, only when they are expressed in the thoughts, words and actions of living beings – when they are personified by a life force, such as the Wise Lord, and other life forms who attain completeness (haurvatat).
If Zarathushtra were to refer to the Wise Lord always in the plural, we might conclude that he does so, as a mark of respect, the way royalty is often referred to in the plural. But he doesn't. He refers to the Wise Lord mostly in the singular, but sometimes in the plural. This varying use of the singular and the plural, to refer to the Wise Lord – often in the same sentence or verse – represents a significant Gathic puzzle.
Not being a linguist myself, I am thankful for the Insler translation, which, with the meticulous integrity of good scholarship, translates "thou," "thee", "thy", and "thine" when the pronouns referring to the Wise Lord are singular, and "you", "ye" "your" and sometimes for emphasis, "all of you" when the pronouns are plural. Let us consider the evidence with a view to puzzling out Zarathushtra's intention in using this technique. In all of these quotations, I have inserted "singular" or "plural" in square brackets, to draw attention to the applicable pronouns.
There are numerous verses in which Zarathushtra refers to the Wise Lord only in the singular. Examples are legion, and need not be detailed here.
There are some instances in which Zarathushtra uses a plural pronoun to refer to the Wise Lord in a context that is easy to understand. These are instances in which he addresses sometimes truth (asha), and sometimes both truth (asha) and good thinking (vohu mano), as allegorical entities, in tandem with the Wise Lord. So understandably, the pronouns used to refer to them collectively, are plural. For example:
"I who shall eulogize all of you [plural] as never before – thee, o truth, and good thinking, and the Wise Lord…" Y28.3. [Here the plural refers to truth, good thinking and the Wise Lord].
" …'Let us be Thy [singular] messengers, in order to hold back those who are inimical to you [plural].' "Y32.1. [a puzzle].
"To them did the Wise Lord reply as befits His [singular] rulership, …He [singular] who is allied with good thinking and the good companion of sunlike truth: 'We [plural – presumably the Wise Lord, good thinking and truth] have chosen your good and virtuous [aramaiti], it shall be Ours [plural].' " Y32.2. [not a puzzle].
"Come hither to me, ye [plural] best ones. …..Thou, Wise One [singular], together with truth and good thinking…" Y33.7. [plural refers to Mazda, truth and good thinking].
"I do urge you [plural] – Thee Wise One [singular], and the truth – to tell (us) what the intentions of your [plural] will are…"Y49.6. [plural refers to Mazda and truth].
"These things indeed first belonged to you [plural] – to Thee, Wise Lord, and to truth…" Y51.2. [plural refers to Mazda and truth].
Except for Y32.1 quoted above, in each of these verses, truth alone, or truth and good thinking together, are allegorical entities referred to in tandem with the Wise Lord. So the use of the plural (to include all of them) poses no mystery.
However, there are instances in which Zarathushtra uses singular and plural pronouns to refer to the Wise Lord, when truth and good thinking are not mentioned as allegorical figures in tandem with him, but rather are concepts or activities of man or the Wise Lord. Here are some examples.
"Take ye [plural] heed of these goals of mine, which I shall enact with good thinking: worship of all of you [plural], Wise One [singular], and words praiseworthy with truth. Your [plural] enduring worshipful offering has been established to be immortality and completeness." Y33.8.
"When shall I know, Wise One [singular], if ye [plural] have mastery through truth over anyone whose threat is inimical to me?…" Y48.9.
"With hands outstretched, Wise One [singular], I shall serve all of you [plural29] with the renowned footprints of milk. You [plural], moreover, with truth and with the reverence (worthy) of a sincere person. You [plural], moreover with the skillfulness of good thinking." Y50.8.
"Praising, I shall encounter you [plural] with such worship, Wise One [singular], and with actions stemming from good thinking allied with truth. When I could rule at will over my reward, then I would, exercising such power, be in the stride of the blessed one [singular]." Y50.9.
"Lord, [singular] grant ye [plural] to these (mortals) strength and the rule of truth and good thinking, by means of which one shall create peace and tranquility. I have indeed recognized the first possessor of this to be Thee [singular], Wise One." Y29.10.
"What help by truth hast Thou [singular] for Zarathushtra who calls? What help by good thinking hast Thou [singular] for me, who shall propitiate all of you [plural] with praises, Wise Lord, [singular] while continuing to entreat for the best which exists in your [plural] power?" Y49.12.
"Those who (already) are allied with you [plural] by their actions, let them (also) join with you [plural] with their ears. (For) Thou [singular] art the Lord [singular] by reason of Thy [singular] tongue (which is) in harmony with truth and by reason of Thy [singular] words stemming from good thinking, of which Thou [singular], Wise One, art the foremost revealer." Y51.3.
In all the verses above except the last three, "ye", "you", and "your" – all plural pronouns – are used to refer to the singular noun Mazda, (Wise One). In the last three verses above, the singular pronouns "Thou" and "Thy" are used interchangeably with the plural pronouns "you" and "your" to refer to the singular nouns "Lord" "Wise Lord" and "Wise One". In these verses, truth, good thinking, good rule, completeness and immortality appear as concepts or activities. There are no specific references to any of them as allegorical entities with the Wise Lord, such as might grammatically justify the use of plural pronouns.
A second piece of this puzzle is found in verses in which the Wise Lord alone, is referred to with both singular and plural pronouns, often in the same sentence, without any reference to the amesha spenta either as allegorical entities, or as concepts or activities. Here are a few examples. I have given more than just one or two, to demonstrate that these examples cannot be explained away as aberrations. They are too numerous, and too deliberate, for such a dismissive explanation.
"…And do Thou [singular] give, Wise Ruler [singular], that promise through which we may hear of your [plural] solicitude (for us)." Y28.7.
"Therefore, those whom Thou [singular] dost know, Wise Lord [singular] to be just and deserving in conformity with truth and good thinking, for them to Thou [singular] fulfill their longing with these attainments. For I know that words deriving from good purpose and from love are not to be left wanting by you [plural]." Y28.10.
"Lord [singular] of broad vision, disclose to me for support the safeguards of your [plural] rule, ….." Y33.13.
"…they further the good understanding of your [plural] will with truth, Lord [singular], throughout the (whole) community." Y34.14.
"Wise One [singular], therefore tell me the best words and actions, namely, those allied with good thinking and truth, as the just claim for my praises. By your [plural] rule, Lord [singular], Thou [singular] shalt truly heal this world in accord with our wish." Y34.15.
"…'Grant ye all [plural] to me that wish for long life to which no one has dared you [plural] to accede, and that wish for the desirable condition which is said to exist under thy [singular] rule.' " Y43.13
"…..thus satisfying your [plural] wish with truth, Wise One [singular]…" Y46.18.
"Lord, let wisdom come in the company of truth across the earth! Yes, if ye [plural] shall be pleased with your [plural] prophet, reveal Thyself [singular] with visible help, mighty through Thy [singular] hand, through which he [Zarathushtra] might set us in happiness." Y50.5.
A third piece of this puzzle is found in a group of verses in which Zarathushtra refers to unspecified "lords" in tandem with the Wise Lord and the amesha spenta, or makes reference to unspecified those of "your kind" or "sincere ones" or "those others". Here are the examples:
"Therefore may we be those who shall heal this world! Wise One and ye other lords, [mazdaoscha ahuraongho plural] be present to me with support and with truth, so that one shall be come convinced even where his understanding shall be false." Y30.9.
"(to the adherents). When I might call upon truth, the Wise One and the other lords [mazdaoscha ahuraongho plural] shall appear; also reward and [aramaiti]. (And) through the very best thinking I shall seek for myself their rule of strength, through whose growth we might conquer deceit." Y31.4.
"…thee, o truth, and good thinking and the Wise Lord and (those others) for whom [aramaiti] increases their unharmable rule – come ye [plural] to my calls for support." Y28.3.
"Moreover, all these things have been granted to Thee [singular] by the (correct) thinking stemming from good spirit, by the action of the virtuous man whose soul is in alliance with truth, (and) by songs of praise (sung) in universal glory of your [plural] kind, Wise One [singular]." Y 34.2.
"Therefore, let us reverently give an offering to Thee Lord [singular], and to truth, all of us creatures under Thy [singular] rule whom one has nourished with good thinking. Indeed let salvation be granted to the beneficent man by all those among your [plural] kind, Wise One! [singular]" Y34.3.
"…Someone like Thee [singular], Wise One, should declare to me, his [singular] friend, how reverence for your [plural] kind is to be from the reverent person, and how friendly associations with truth are to be established by us, in order that it shall come to us together with good thinking." Y44.1.
"Wise Lord [singular], whoever – be it man or woman – would grant to me those things which Thou [singular] dost know to be the best for existence, namely, the truth for the truth and the rule of good thinking (with that person) as well as those whom I shall accompany in the glory of your [plural] kind – with all these I shall cross over the Bridge of the Judge." Y46.10.
"All ye [plural] (immortals) of the same temperament, let that salvation of yours be granted to us: truth allied with good thinking!…" Y51.20).
[the words "of the same temperament" in this verse echo "…the Lord who art of the same temperament with the best truth…" Y28.8, and "The Wise Lord, who is of the same temperament with truth…" Y29.7 ].
"Wise One [singular], where are those sincere ones [plural] who through the possession of good thinking make even immoral decrees and painful legacies disappear? I know of none other than you [plural]. Therefore protect us in accord with truth." Y34.7.
"Yes, praising, I shall always worship all of you [plural], Wise Lord [singular], with truth and the very best thinking and with their rule through which one shall stand on the path of (good) power. I shall always obey (you) [plural] the truly sincere ones existing in the House of Song." Y50.4.
In verses 30.9 and 31.4, (quoted above in this last group of verses), what does Zarathushtra mean by the words "mazdaoscha ahuraongho"?
There are those who suggest that he is referring to Indo-Iranian deities such as Mithra, Apam-Napat, et cetera who in the later texts were objects of worship and were sometimes called yazatas (adorable ones). I do not find this conclusion persuasive for two reasons.
First, Zarathushtra never once refers to Mithra, Apam Napat or any of the other Indo-Iranian deities by name, and never once mentions them as objects of worship, reverence, praise or esteem, or as sources of help and support. By contrast, each of the amesha spenta, in allegorical form, are referred to by name in the Gathas, as objects of worship, praise, reverence, esteem, and service. And many of them are also described as sources of support and help.
Secondly, Zarathushtra specifically states that his commitment is to the worship of the Wise Lord alone. This would be inconsistent with interpreting "other lords" in Y30.9 and 31.4 as a reference to other Indo-Iranian deities. He states:
"….. I choose (only) Thy teachings, Lord." Y46.3.
"For Zarathushtra does give the breath of even his own person as a gift, in order that there be for the Wise One predominance of good thinking along with (predominance) of the action and the word allied with truth, that there be obedience and His (good) rule." Y33.14.
The focus here is on a commitment to the Wise Lord alone. The focus is not on the syncretized religion that Zoroastrianism later turned into, with its pantheon of Indo-Iranian deities (some being worshipped by the Wise Lord himself !), as appear in the later texts. If we are to draw inferences as to who the "other lords" might be, such inferences must have some reasonable basis in the evidence of the Gathas themselves. There is no evidence in the Gathas at all – reasonable or otherwise – on which to base the conclusion that the "other lords" refer to Indo-Iranian deities.
Who then are the "other lords" referred to in verses 30.9 and 31.4?
Here again is Y30.9.
"… Wise One and ye other lords [mazdaoscha ahuraongho], be present to me with support and with truth, so that one shall be come convinced even where his understanding shall be false." Y30.9.
There is no indication in this verse as to what Zarathushtra may have meant by "other lords" except that he asks the Wise One and the "other lords" to come to him with support and with truth. And we know from other parts of the Gathas that spenta mainyu, truth, good thinking and their rule are the way in which the Wise Lord supports us.
"With hands outstretched in reverence of him, (our) support, the spirit virtuous through truth…" Y28.1
"Come Thou together with good thinking. Along with truth, grant in accordance with Thy lofty words, Wise One, the long-lived gift of strong support…" Y28.6
"Yes, Wise One, (grant) to me Thy proper support, ….. which has been obtained through Thy rule that is in accord with truth….." Y43.14.
"…..I lament to Thee. Take notice of it, Lord, offering the support which a friend should grant to a friend. Let me see the power of good thinking allied with truth!" Y46.2.
"Yes, throughout my lifetime I have been condemned as the greatest defiler, …..come to me and give support to me. Through good thinking, find a means of destruction of this." Y49.1.
In the verse under discussion, Y30.9, Zarathushtra says: "… Wise One and ye other lords, be present to me with support and with truth,…". Since truth is mentioned separately from the "other lords" in this verse, it might be reasonable to infer that the "other lords" refer to the other three (in allegorical form) – spenta mainyu, good thinking and good rule – which are specifically identified in the Gathas as the means of support, in addition to truth. But if that had been Zarathushtra's intent, one cannot help but wonder why he did not simply refer to them by name, as he has so frequently done in other verses. Why did he prefer the ambiguous "and ye other lords"? Let us put this question, and Y30.9, on the back burner, and proceed to consider Y31.4.
"….. When I might call upon truth, the Wise One and the other lords [mazdaoscha ahuraongho] shall appear; also reward and [aramaiti]. (And) through the very best thinking I shall seek for myself their rule of strength, through whose growth we might conquer deceit." Y31.4.
One of the difficulties in understanding the first sentence of this verse, Y31.4, (and also Y30.9), is the uncertainty that exists in the translation of mazdaoscha ahuraongho.
Insler gives no commentary on these words. In Y31.4, he explains these words in a footnote as follows: "Here, truth and good thinking",30 possibly because truth and good thinking appear in tandem with the Wise Lord in so many other verses.31
Humbach translates: "O Wise One and You (other) Ahuras" (Y30.9), and "the Wise One and the (other) Ahuras" (Y31.4).32 In his general commentary, he states:
"General opinion takes mazdaoscha ahuraongho as a plural of mazda- ahura-, unattested elsewhere. But the ao of mazdaoscha is monosyllabic in both occurrences [i.e. 30.9 and 31.4], proving that mazdao here is nom.sg. [nominative singular]….."33
Mills translates as follows: "the Ahuras of Mazda may we be" (Y30.9), and "Mazda's (own) Ahuras (Y31.4). In his commentary on Y31.434, he expresses the opinion that these Ahuras are the amesha spenta (which he translates as Bountiful Immortals). In his footnotes to Y30.9 and Y31.4, citing Roth and Hubschmann, he states in his footnote to Y30.9
"Otherwise, 'the Ahura-Mazdas' or 'O Mazda and the Ahuras!' ….. 'All the Ahura-Mazdas,' has been seen by Roth in chapter XXXI,4 [Y31.4]."35
Moulton translates: "O Mazdah, and ye other Ahuras" (Y30.9) and "Mazdah and the other Ahuras" (Y31.4).36 In his footnote to Y30.9, he gives the following explanation:
"By an idiom frequently paralleled in Aryan, "ye Mazdah Ahuras" means "Mazdah and the others (see p. 241) who bear the title Ahura (Lord)."37
And in his footnote to Y31.4 Moulton states:
"…Provided that we limit the Ahuras to Mazdah and the Six [amesha spenta], with the other Gathic abstractions of the same class, we do not compromise Zarathushtra's unmistakable monotheism."38
Taraporewala notes Andreas' translation and comments as follows:
"Andreas trans. simply 'the (other) wise Lords', evidently taking Mazdaos- as an adj., 'wise'."39
Taraporewala also gives us Professor A. V. W. Jackson's view as follows:
"Jack.[son] takes this to be an 'appeallative in force' and adds that [quoting Jackson] 'the concept was later expressed under the Amesha Spentas; here even more than that is meant, it is the heavenly host – the name of ….. Ahura Mazda predominating and including in itself all others'."40 (Emphasis added).
However, Taraporewala is not persuaded by Professor Jackson's view, and states:
"I am convinced that this phrase in the plu. Can only mean the Heptad of Ahura-Mazda and the Amesha Spenta and that it could include none besides.41
Azargoshasb gives an interpretive translation, without commentary: "O Lord of Life and Creation" (Y30.9), and "O Mazda and Amesha Spentas" (Y31.4).42
Haug translates without commentary: "The wise living spirits" (Y30.9), and explains by footnote: "These are the archangels (Amshaspends)."43 No translation by Haug is available (to me) for Y31.4.
Jafarey translates, without commentary: "You lords of wisdom" (Y30.9), and "the wise lords" (Y31.4)44.
Sethna gives an interpretive translation, without commentary: "brotherhood of Ahura Mazda" (Y30.9), and in Y31.4 he simply uses "Ahura Mazda".45
It is clear from the above, that a substantial number of scholars who have addressed this issue interpret the words mazdaoscha ahuraongho to mean the Wise Lord and the amesha spenta, while others have translated them as "wise lords" or the equivalent (ahura mazdas – in the plural) without expressing an opinion on who these wise lords might be. I am inclined to think that Zarathushtra uses these words mazdaoscha ahuraongho with double entendre. Let us consider the evidence.
For purposes of this argument, let us assume that mazdaoscha ahuraongho means "Wise One and the other lords". We will re-visit these words later. Here is the first sentence of Y31.4.
"….. When I might call upon truth, the Wise One and the other lords [mazdaoscha ahuraongho] shall appear; also reward and [aramaiti].” Y31.4
The first question that arises is: what does Zarathushtra mean by "reward" in this sentence. We have already seen the evidence (Part 3.1.4), that Zarathushtra's idea of "reward" includes the attainment of each of the amesha spenta. We also know that haurvatat (completeness) and ameretat represent a state of being which includes the complete attainment of all of the other amesha spenta, and therefore is, logically, Zarathushtra's idea of reward in a nutshell. With this understanding of "reward" let us analyze the first sentence of Y31.4, which is in the form of three equations.
It states that when Zarathushtra "…might call upon truth [an allegorical entity]…", mazdaoscha ahuraongho appear (the first equation); also reward (the second equation); and aramaiti (the third equation).46 In other words, truth as an allegorical entity is equated with all three – with mazdaoscha ahuraongho; with reward (haurvatat / ameretat) and with aramaiti. If we were to diagram these equations, they would appear as follows:
We well might ask: are these equations valid (bearing in mind that if the allegorical truth is equated with each of the other three, then these other three must also be equivalent to each other)? I am inclined to think that these equations are indeed valid. Let us start with the third one. If aramaiti is the realization, (or the making real), of truth in thought, word, and action (see Part 3.1), then aramaiti involves personifying truth (asha) in thoughts, words and actions. Thus, truth, as an allegorical entity, is equated with the personification of truth in thought, word and action.
The second equation says the same thing but from a different perspective. Haurvatat / ameretat is a state of being in which all of the other amesha spenta have been perfected or attained completely. Now we know that the other amesha spenta include truth (asha), its comprehension (vohu mano), its realization in thought, word and action (aramaiti), and its rule (vohu xshathra) – the rule of truth, good thinking and aramaiti – which collectively also describe the personification of truth. So a person who has attained haurvatat / ameretat is a person who has attained completely, or personifies, truth.47 Thus, (returning to our second equation), truth, as an allegorical entity, is equated with "reward" (haurvatat / ameretat), which is the personification of truth.48
Which brings us to the first equation. Now we know that Zarathushtra equates the Wise Lord with truth ("Yes, I shall swear to be your praiser, Wise One, and I shall be it, as long as I have strength and be able, o truth….." Y50.11). So if the "other lords" mean the amesha spenta, (which describe a state of being which personifies truth), then the first equation says the same thing. Once again, the allegorical truth is equated with the personification of truth – as the Wise Lord and as the amesha spenta which personify truth – except for one thing: we know that other life forms (besides the Wise Lord) also are capable of attaining haurvatat, and thus personifying truth (see Parts 3.1.2 through 3.1.6 of this piece). Which leads me to believe that by "other lords" Zarathushtra intends not only the amesha spenta but also all those living beings who attain or personify them, and thus, like the Wise Lord, are mazda and ahura – Wisdom personified. I think Zarathushtra may have intended to use mazdaoscha ahuraongho with this double entendre (both in Y30.9 and also in Y31.4). Thus the first equation in Y31.4 is also complete. The allegorical truth is equated with the personification of truth – as the Wise Lord, as the amesha spenta, and as all living beings who personify the amesha spenta and therefore personify truth. In essence: Wisdom personified, is truth (asha) personified.
A second dimension of thought appears when we consider that in the first half of each of these equations, Zarathushtra says "When I might call upon truth…" Y31.4. To "call upon truth" is to search for it. So this verse also tells us that when we quest for truth, the Wise Lord and all who have attained and personify the amesha spenta "appear" i.e., they respond to our efforts, and assist us to attain and personify the amesha spenta as well, thus indicating,49 the mutual, loving help which is a fundament of Zarathushtra's thought, and a necessary part of the perfecting process (as discussed in Part 1.2 of this series).
A third dimension of thought (there well may be more) that these equations bring to mind, is the descending order of achievement in these equations. Although each represents a personification of truth, the first is the epitome – the complete personification of truth in concept and in being. The second is the complete personification of truth in concept (haurvatat – reward). The third is the beginning of the personification process, (aramaiti – thoughts, words and actions of truth). All three together indicating not only the linear nature of spiritual evolution in Zarathushtra's thought that occurs when we "call upon truth" but also that we all are a part of the process, from the earliest and smallest thought, word or action of truth (aramaiti), to its complete personification in concept and being – the Wise Lord and the other lords (mazdaoscha ahuraongho). You may question whether this descending order of achievement invalidates the equivalence of the equations we have been discussing. I do not think it does. The equivalence is in the quality, not the quantity, of the achievement. Each thought, word and action that has something of truth (asha) in it, however small, is, in that instance, a personification of asha – a tiny expression of the divine.
The conclusion that by mazdaoscha ahuraongho Zarathushtra means the Wise Lord, the amesha spenta and also all those living beings who attain or personify the amesha spenta is corroborated in the Gathas in a number of ways:
First, it is corroborated by the way in which Zarathushtra uses "lord" (ahura) (and its related concept "xshathra", rule). Most frequently, he uses ahura to address or refer to the Wise Lord. He also uses it to indicate the Wise Lord's mastery of (or lordship or rule over), good thinking, its realization in word and action (which is the concept of aramaiti), and completeness (which includes the attainment of all of the amesha spenta, as the following verses demonstrate.
"…the very Wise Master [ahurai] of good thinking…" Y30.1,
"…Lord [ahurem] of the word and deed stemming from good spirit…" Y45.8 Accord: Y51.3.
"…The Wise One in rule is Lord [ahuro] through [aramaiti]…" Y47.1.
"…Thou didst receive for Thyself immortality, truth, and mastery [xshathremcha] over completeness…" Y34.1.
And Zarathushtra also uses ahura to refer to a human being who is master of (or has lordship over) the good vision – the vision of a world governed by truth and good thinking.
[referring to the metaphoric cow – good vision] "…Whom do ye wish to be her master, [ahurem] one who might destroy the fury (caused) by the deceitful?" Y29.2.
[referring to the metaphoric cow – good vision] "And, of these two, she chose for herself the cattle-breeding pastor to be her truthful master [ahurem] (and) the cultivator of good thinking….." Y31.10.
The good vision is the vision of a world governed by truth (asha) and good thinking (vohu mano). Therefore, a master or lord of the good vision would be one who has attained mastery of (or lordship over) truth and good thinking, i.e. someone who has attained and personifies asha and vohu mano. Which is another way of saying those who personify (or have attained lordship over) wisdom – mazdaoscha ahuraongho.
Second, this conclusion (that by mazdaoscha ahuraongho Zarathushtra means the Wise Lord, the amesha spenta and all those who have attained or personify them) is also consistent with the many parallel references to the Wise Lord and man. For example:
The Wise Lord (and His divine forces, truth, good thinking and a benevolent spirit) are referred to as "pastor" of the good vision (Y29.1), and so is man (Y29.2 and 6).
The Wise Lord is referred to as the "companion of truth" (Y32.2), and so is the man who offers solicitude (Y46.13).
The Wise Lord and the spenta man are both described as being "allied with truth" (Y50.10, 34.2) and with "good thinking" (Y32.2, 33.6).
The Wise Lord is described as a "world healer" (Y44.16, 50.11, 34.15), and so is a good man (Y31.19, 44.2, 30.9).
The amesha spenta are attributes of the Wise Lord, and they also exist in, and can be attained by, man (or all the living), as demonstrated in Part 3.1.6 of this piece.
Finally, this conclusion that in Y31.4, and Y30.9, Zarathushtra is referring to the Wise Lord, the amesha spenta and those who personify them, is suggested by the Yenghe Haatam prayer, and the lovely verse from the Gathas, Y51.22, on which the Yenghe Haatam is based. Y51.22 states:
know in whose worship there exists for me the best
[i.e. the immortal forces, the amesha spenta and those who personify them]
Them all shall I worship with their own names,
[i.e. I shall worship truth with truth, good thinking with good thinking etc.,50]
And I shall serve them with love." Y51.22
Most scholars agree that the Yenghe Haatam prayer is based on this verse. And some scholars translate the Yenghe Haatam as referring to good men and women. Yet the oldest Avestan commentary on the Yenghe Haatam (Y2151, not a part of the Gathas) states that it refers to the amesha spenta. Dr. Kersey Antia, with inspired insight, has suggested that perhaps this verse, Y51.22, and the Yenghe Hataam prayer, refer with double entendre, to both – i.e. to the amesha spenta as well as those men and women who have attained, or personify, them. This appears to be consistent with the language of the earliest commentary in Y21, and I am inclined to agree with Dr. Antia.
The conclusion that by "other lords" in Y31.4 and Y30.9, Zarathushtra is referring to the amesha spenta as well as to those who attain them completely, fits the other verses (quoted above), which speak of "your kind" and "sincere persons" and "those others", and explains Zarathushtra's lack of specificity in these references. If these references include all those who attain and personify the amesha spenta, Zarathushtra could not, of necessity, have named them with any greater specificity, because they describe an ever expanding group of beings, including, those who have, and who will in future, attain these divine values.
If these conclusions are accurate, it would be reasonable to infer that Zarathushtra's idea of the divine includes the amesha spenta (the qualities that make for divinity), the Wise Lord who personifies these values, as well as all other life forms that attain completely, and personify, these divine qualities, and are therefore, with the Wise Lord, mazdaoscha ahuraongho (Y30.9, 31.4).52
Thus Professor A. V. W. Jackson's luminous insight becomes meaningful – mazdaoscha ahuraongho being "the name of ….. Ahura Mazda predominating and including in itself all others."53 And the many enigmatical verses using the singular and the plural for Ahura Mazda fall into place. Let us re-read a few of them with this understanding in mind, and then ask ourselves a question:
" …'Let us be Thy [singular] messengers, in order to hold back those who are inimical to you [plural].' "Y32.1.
"…thus satisfying your [plural] wish with truth, Wise One [singular]….." Y46.18.
"…By your [plural] rule, Lord, Thou [singular] shalt truly heal this world in accord with our wish." Y34.15.
"…Grant ye [plural] all to me that wish …..for the desirable condition which is said to exist under thy [singular] rule." Y43.13.
"…And do Thou [singular] give, Wise Ruler [singular], that promise through which we may hear of your [plural] solicitude (for us)." Y28.7.54
"… Wise One and ye other lords [mazdaoscha ahuraongho], be present to me with support and with truth, so that one shall be come convinced even where his understanding shall be false." Y30.9.
What thought is Zarathushtra attempting to convey through this technique? Consider the material metaphor that Zarathushtra uses for haurvatat (completeness). It is water. Water can be found in many separate bodies of water, but each is still water, and when these separate bodies of water are joined, the result is one body of water. The separateness no longer exists.
Zarathushtra's use of the singular and plural to describe the Wise Lord, and his selection of water as the material metaphor for haurvatat are not consistent with the notion that the Wise Lord and each of the living, are inherently and permanently separate and distinct beings.
Such techniques suggest that we all are parts of the same whole (temporarily fragmented in this material reality to enable the experiences necessary for the perfecting process). And that as each part of this whole attains completely the values of divinity, it re-joins the other parts that have done so as well, so that the one [singular] who achieves haurvatat includes the many [plural] who have done so, but, like water, in union, the many are again one, the result being ultimate completeness, thus indicating that we achieve completeness (haurvatat) both individually and, ultimately, collectively (the ultimate Gathic paradox).
If this is so, then Zarathushtra's idea of the Divine is a life force [singular] which includes within itself all of its parts [plural] as they attain, and personify, the values that make for divinity, the amesha spenta.
If the above conclusions accurately reflect Zarathushtra's thought, one might wonder why didn't he come right out and say them, without using such enigmatical techniques as the varying ways in which he describes "reward", the amesha spenta, and the singular and plural in references to the divine?
Some of the most profound teachings of the Gathas are derived through inferences. There could be many reasons why Zarathushtra chooses to express his thoughts through these enigmatical techniques – the sheer excellence of his art in crafting these poems, the value of analysis and discovery as a teaching device, the desire to not be persecuted or killed, and not have his ideas banned or destroyed, by small-minded authorities incapable of understanding the breadth of his thought.
But perhaps the most important reason may have to do with human ego. To think that we can become divine, could be quite intoxicating to the human ego, leading to all sorts of thoughts, words and actions that are quite inconsistent with the amesha spenta. As a species, we seem addicted to the notion that we know with certainty what is best for others, and often are not bashful about enforcing our views (in their best interests of course). History is replete with the grief and devastation wrought by such thoughts and actions. When premised on human pride they are bad enough, but if premised on divine prerogative, such activities would be alarming indeed, and could retard one of the most fundamental of Zarathushtra’s teachings. A teaching that is essential for the evolution or growth of the soul – the freedom to choose and the enlightenment that comes from experiencing the consequences of our choices (including our mistakes). Perhaps Zarathushtra opted to camouflage these conclusions because he had before him the example of Jamshid (Yima).
Jamshid's (Yima's) sin was that he thought he was divine, before he attained haurvatat.55 His pride and arrogance were a sure sign that he had not yet attained that state of pure goodness. For in pure goodness, in completeness, there is no place for pride and arrogance. Jamshid's pride and arrogance were foolish. The pure goodness that is haurvatat, is Wisdom personified.
Gathic words throughout are spelled in English as closely as possible to the way
in which they sound. My apologies for not reproducing them with the
diacritics used by linguists. My fonts do not support such characters.
2. "Amesha spenta" as a collective noun appears in the Younger Avestan texts. These words first appear in reverse order (but not defined) in the Haptanghaiti. See Professor Humbach's discussion in Humbach, The Gathas of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, (Heidelberg 1991) Volume 1, pages 13 – 16.
3. For example, Insler comments that "manah- signifies the faculty 'mind', its process 'thinking' and its object 'thought'…" Insler, The Gathas of Zarathushtra, (Brill 1975), page 118.
4. Ilya Gershevitch, Dissent and Consensus on the Gathas, in Proceedings of the First Gatha Colloquium 1993 (WZO 1998), page 24.
5. Jafarey, The Gathas, Our Guide, (Ushta 1998), page 89.
6. All references to, and quotations from, the Gathas in this paper are from the translation of Professor Insler, as it appears in The Gathas of Zarathustra, (Brill, 1975) (“Insler” hereinafter), unless otherwise specified, although Professor Insler may or may not agree with the inferences that I draw from his translation. In quotations from the Gathas, round parentheses appear in the original translation and indicate interpretative aides inserted by Professor Insler. Square brackets in a quotation indicate explanations inserted by me. For example, after the word karpan, I might insert [a type of priest]. And I leave “aramaiti” untranslated, inserting the word “aramaiti” in square brackets in place of the translated word. A string of dots in a quotation indicates that I have deleted parts of the verse which are not relevant to the particular point under discussion. These deletions are for the purpose of providing focus. Often a verse will contain many different thoughts and ideas. If I am quoting a verse as evidence of one particular thought or usage, it helps to focus on that part of the verse only, so that the mind is not distracted by all of the other thoughts in the verse.
7. For example: Insler translates the word as "piety" (page 25). Hanns-Peter Schmidt states: "For armaiti and taremaiti I have substituted "respect" and "disrespect" for the awkward "proper thought" and "perverse thought" I used previously (1974). "Respect" is less specialized than "devotion" and "humility" and lacks the overtones of the present-day usage of "piety" (Insler) and the negative connotations of "conformity" (…Humbach)." The Form and Meaning of Yasna 33, (American Oriental Society, 1986), page 4. Jafarey translates the word as "serenity, stability, tranquility" (Jafarey, The Gathas our Guide, (Ushta Publications 1989), page 116. Sethna translates it as divine wisdom (Sethna, The Teachings of Zarathushtra, (1978), page 17). Taraporewala translates it as "Faith and Devotion" (Taraporewala, The Divine Songs of Zarathushtra, (Hukhta Foundation Reprint, 1993) page 100). Thieme, rejecting such translations as "fittingness", "submission" and "humility", suggests that aramaiti means an attitude "characterized by satisfying intention." (Thieme, Reflections on the Vocabulary of Zarathustra's Gathas, in Proceedings of the First Gatha Colloquium, 1993, (WZO, 1998), page208), expressing the opinion that as an attribute of Ahura Mazda, it is characterized by care/solicitude, and as an attribute of man, by loyalty/devotion. (page 206).
8. Yasna 29 does not mention spenta mainyu, the benevolent spirit, by name. It mentions "the fashioner of the cow" ("cow" being metaphor for the good vision). However, other verses in the Gathas identify the fashioner of the cow (good vision) as spenta mainyu. If you look past the metaphors of spenta mainyu as an allegorical entity fashioning the cow, what Zarathushtra is saying, is that the benevolent way of being [spenta mainyu] fashions the vision of a world governed by truth and good thinking [metaphoric cow]). For example:
"…the spirit who fashioned the joy-bringing cow [good vision] for this world…" Y47.3.
"Thou, Wise One, who hast fashioned the cow [good vision] … by reason of Thy most virtuous spirit…"Y51.7.
9. See the interesting discussion on this issue in Hanns-Peter Schmidt, Form and Meaning of Yasna 33, published by the American Oriental Society, pages 15 – 16.
10. "Creator" does not necessarily mean that the Wise Lord created everything in the form in which it now is. It could as easily mean that He created the first elements or particles of matter as well as the natural laws, which, through a process of evolution, have resulted in the material world that we see today, and may evolve into something quite different several million years from now, assuming that they have not been blasted back into their original elements or particles by that time.
11. Professor Insler has inserted "(Lord)" here as an interpretive aid. But I am inclined to think that Zarathushtra was referring to his message which is mentioned in the first part of this verse. On the other hand, since his Word is Wisdom personified, "Lord" is also accurate.
12. For a discussion of these verses, see Of Means and Ends, in Proceedings of the First Gatha Colloquium 1991 (WZO 1998), pages 88 – 91, which also may be read in the Site Map of www.vohuman.org, and www.zarathushtra.com.
13. While we might agree that truth as it relates to the world of mind (i.e. abstract ideas like goodness, beneficence, what's right) can be personified, we might question how truth as it relates to the world of matter could be personified. It could, if as Zarathushtra implies, the divine is immanent in all things.
14. The Later Yasna, Y12.17, corroborates this thought that the amesha spenta are both objects of worship and a way to worship. This Yasna (12.7), although not a part of the Gathas, is written (according to Mills), in the Gathic dialect. Mills translates amesha spenta as "Bountiful Immortals". Yasna 12.17 says: "Here I give you, O ye Bountiful Immortals, sacrifice and homage with the mind, with words and deeds, and my entire person…" Y12.17, SBE Volume 31, page 247 (Mills translation).
15. See also: Y33.12.
16. See also: Y33.6, 34.2.
17. For other examples of asha as a characteristic of the Wise Lord and man, see the following: In the Wise Lord: Y31.13, 43.16. In Man: Y31.14, 31.17, 31.20, 32.10, 32.11, 33.1, 33.3, 43.4, 44.12, 45.7, 46.5, 46.14, 47.4, 47.5, 48.2, 51.9, 51.15.
18. For other examples of vohu mano as an activity or characteristic of man, see the following: Y28.4, Y28.5, 28.10, 31.5, 31.6, 31.10, 31.22, 32.6, 33.8, 33.9, 34.10, 34.14, 44.8, 45.9, 46.12, 47.1, 47.2, 47.3, 50.8, 50.9, 51.11, 51.15, 53.2, 53.3, 53.4, 53.5.
19. For other examples on aramaiti in man, see: Y43.1, 44.10, 49.5.
20. For other examples of vohu xshathra in the Wise Lord and in man, see the following: In the Wise Lord: [on occasion referring to the Wise Lord, spenta mainyu, asha and vohu mano) Y28.7, 29.2, 31.4, 31.21, 32.2, 32.6, 33.13, 33.14, 34.3, 34.10, 43.1, 43.10, 43.16, 45.7, 45.10, 47.1, 48.8, 49.5, 49.10, 51.6, 51.17, In man: Y31.16, 44.9, 50.4, 51.16, 51.19.
21. For immortality and completeness in the Wise Lord, see also: Y31.21.
22. For immortality and completeness in man, see also: 32.5, 44.17.
23. "…and thou, the Mazdayasnian law…" Y8.3 (Mills translation, SBE Vol. 31, page 229).
24. "…I call upon the Gathas here, the bountiful holy ones…" Y71.11 (Mills translation, SBE Vol. 31, page 329).
"…to the bountiful Gathas which rule…within…the Ritual…"Y55.1
"…That which Gathas (may) be to us, which are our guardians and defenders, …"Y55.2 (Mills translation, SBE Vol. 31, page 294).
25. That the amesha spenta are attributes of the Wise Lord is corroborated in part in the Ormazd Yasht, a later text, where they are specified as the names of the Wise Lord. In verses 1 – 3 of this Yasht, (written centuries after the Gathas), Zarathushtra is described as asking the Wise Lord: "…What … Holy Word is the strongest?…Ahura Mazda answers: 'Our Name, O Spitama Zarathushtra! Who are the Amesha-Spentas…' " as translated by James Darmesteter, SBE Volune 3, pages 23 – 24.
26. It is interesting that there is no undisputed verse in which Ahura Mazda is described as the father of spenta mainyu. Humbach, Insler, Moulton, and Taraporewala all translate Y47.3 as "Thou art the virtuous Father of this spirit, ….." The Gathic version reads "ahya mainyeush tvem ahi ta spento". However, each of these translators arrive at "father" by inserting a "p" before the word "ta", believing the omission to be a mistake in the oral transmission. I am not persuaded that this is so. Mills does not read "father" into this phrase. His translation (while not easy to follow) seems to imply that Ahura Mazda is this spenta mainyu (SBE Volume 31, page 148).
27. According to the Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 2, in the reign of Xerxes (486 BC to 465 BC), sacrifices were made to various rivers, and "after the crossing of the Strymon, which the Magi propitiated by sacrificing white horses, nine local boys and girls were buried at a place called Nine Ways, ….. burial alive was a Persian practice; further we learn that Xerxes' wife Amestris, in her old age, supposedly had seven pairs of Persians killed in this manner as a thank-offering to a subterranean divinity." Pages 691 – 692. Although the reign of Xerxes was more than 100 years after the latest date postulated for Zarathushtra, (speculations on Zarathushtra's dates range from 6,500 BC to 600 BC), such practices give us an idea of the cruelty which the worship of certain local gods entailed.
28. That this is a core teaching of Zarathushtra may be seen from the fact that it survived as late as the 8th or 9th century AD, where it appears in a later Zoroastrian text, the Sikand Gumanik Vijar, written by Mardan-farukh, a Zoroastrian intellect of that time. He states:
"If the sacred being be perfect in goodness and wisdom, the folly and evil of any one are known not to arise from him. If it be possible for them to arise from him, then he is not perfect. If he be not perfect, it is not proper to glorify him for the sacredness of complete goodness….." (Chapter VIII, verses 108 – 109, SBE Vol. 24, page 160).
Mardan-farukh started with Zarathushtra's premise, that to be worthy of worship – to be divine – the being must be pure goodness. But he used this premise as the foundation of dualism – the idea that there are two uncreated beings, one all good (Ahura Mazda) and one all evil (Aharman), because he approached the problem from a different perspective than Zarathushtra. He started with the premise that the all good god was all good to start with. If, however, we are all part of the same being (as the Farvardin Yasht and the Gathas imply – though in very different ways), and if the two mainyu (ways of being) are primordial, as the Gathas specifically state (Y30.3, Y45.2) then all the living would be a part of the perfecting process and the attainment of divinity would be the culmination of this process – that which we call "God" being that part of the life force that has attained haurvatat. By the time Mardan-farukh wrote his treatise, knowledge of Zarathushtra's teachings had already undergone two massive destructions of texts, and the killing of the learned – first by Alexander the Greek which ended the Achaemenian empire, and then by the Arab invasion which ended the Sassanian empire. By Mardan-farukh's time (700 or 800 AD), Judaism, Christianity and Islam were well established, as was their notion of a patriarchal "God" – an entity separate and apart from his creation, an entity who was not part of the perfecting process.
29. In Insler’s commentary, “all of you” is in fact “you” plural, see Insler, page 308.
30. Insler, ibid., footnote 4, page 37.
31. For example: Y28.2, 33.7, 34.6, all of which have been quoted earlier in this piece.
32. Humbach, The Gathas of Zarathushtra ((Heidelberg, 1991), Volume 1, pages 125 and 127.
33. Humbach, ibid., Volume 1, page 13, footnote 16.
34. Mills, in SBE Volume 31, footnote 1 to Y31.4, page 37.
35. Mills, in SBE Volume 31, footnote 1 to Y30.9, page 34.
36. Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, Hibbert Lectures at Oxford, (AMS Reprint), pages 350-351, and 352.
37. Moulton, ibid., footnote 1 to Y30.9, page 351. Moulton states, that "there are other abstractions there [in the Gathas] with the rank of ahura…" Page 241. Because of the differences in translation, it is difficult to validate (or invalidate) this statement.
38. Moulton, ibid., footnote 2 at page 352.
39. Taraporewala, ibid., page 184.
40. Taraporewala, ibid., page 184.
41. Taraporewala, ibid., page 184.
42. Azargoshasb, Translation of the Gathas, (CIMNA 1988), pages 11, and 13.
43. Haug, Essays on the Language, Writings, and Religion of the Parsis, ((Philo Press reprint, 1971), page 150.
44. Jafarey, ibid., pages 34, 35.
45. Sethna, The Teachings of Zarathushtra, (Sethna, 1978 reprint) pages 27, and 29.
46. This idea that when Zarathushtra might call upon truth, aramaiti appears, is echoed in the following (although at first thought, it might seem the reverse): "Therefore do Thou reveal to me the truth…Being in companionship with [aramaiti] I have deserved it." Y43.10. ("deserved" in the sense of "earned").
47. Spenta mainyu also is a way of being that generates, and ultimately personifies, all of the amesha spenta, as in the Wise Lord's own way of being.
48. If the allegorical truth ("When I might call upon truth…") is equated with "reward" and "aramaiti" (in the second and third equations of Y31.4), then logic requires that there would have to be some equivalence between "reward" and "aramaiti" if our equations are valid. That there is such an equivalence is demonstrated (or corroborated) in Y51.21 which reads as follows:
"Virtuous [spenta] is the man of [aramaiti]. He is so by reason of his understanding, his words, his actions, his conception. Virtuous [spenta] is truth and the rule of good thinking. The Wise Lord created this, (and) I shall entreat Him for this good reward." Y51.21.
Now if, as Y51.21 states, a man of aramaiti is one who is spenta in his thoughts, words and actions, it is clear that spenta thoughts, words and actions are included within the concept of spenta aramaiti. We also know that the rule of truth and good thinking is brought about by aramaiti ("But to this world He came with the rule of good thinking and of truth, and (our) enduring [aramaiti] gave body and breath (to it)…"Y30.7), and we further know that this rule is in fact the rule of aramaiti ("…Grant thou [aramaiti] your rule of good thinking for the glory of the Mighty One." Y51.2). So when Y51.21 (quoted above) equates "reward" with "truth and the rule of good thinking" it is, in fact, equating reward with aramaiti, thus corroborating the equivalence between reward and aramaiti in the second and third equations in Y31.4.
49. That "calling" upon truth means to quest for it, to desire it, to ask it to come to us, is demonstrated in other verses. For example: In Y29.3, the allegorical truth states, referring to mortals: "…to whom I of ready ear shall come at his calls." Y29.3, indicating that truth comes to those who "call" it i.e. look for it, want it; see also: "What help by truth hast Thou for Zarathushtra who calls?…"Y49.12. The first equation in Y31.4 is also echoed in Y30.9 without the metaphor of calling "…Wise One and ye other lords, be present to me with support and with truth…"Y30.9. Asking them to "be present", i.e. to come, is another way of "calling" them, and always, Zarathushtra recognizes that they respond, or are present to him, with truth (asha).
50. If a person personifies completely the amesha spenta, his "name" (i.e. the quality of his identity) would also be that of the amesha spenta. However, this verse may have generated the practice in the later texts, of reciting long litanies of the names of holy men and women.
51. SBE Volume 31, page 269.
52. In this respect, there is a significant difference between the Gathas and the Later Yasnas. In the Gathas, only the Wise Lord (in the singular and plural) and the values that make for divinity – the amesha spenta – are objects of worship. No place in the Gathas does Zarathushtra ever express the notion of worshipping any human beings, however good or righteous they may have been. By contrast, in the Later Yasnas, good men and women (i.e. humans who have not yet reached haurvatat), are frequently mentioned as objects of worship (e.g. Y1.15, 18, SBE Volume 31, pages 200-201). In this respect, I think the unknown authors of these Later Yasnas misapprehended Zarathushtra's thought. They may have understood Zarathushtra's idea of the divine being immanent in all things. But they missed Zarathushtra's point that only a life form who has attained completely, and personifies, the values that make for divinity – the amesha spenta – is worthy of worship.
53. Moulton's fear that such a construction might compromise Zarathushtra's evident monotheism is not well founded. For Zarathushtra's monotheism is not that of a God who was perfect to start with and is separate and apart from a creation which He (inexplicably) created imperfect. Zarathushtra's monotheism is that of a Being which comprehends all the living, which primordially had within it the capacity for both good and evil, which is a part of the perfecting process of all living things (is immanent in all the living), and which finally attains completeness when all the living have attained and personified the values that make for divinity. A more immense conception of monotheism, in my view, than the one Moulton feared to lose.
54. The same thought, expressed without the singular / plural technique, is found in Y46.11:
"…With words stemming from good thinking, I shall call upon those [the amesha spenta and those who have attained them completely] whom Thou, Wise Lord, hast assembled in Thy abode."Y46.14
The Wise Lord's "abode" is His state of being, as discussed in Part 2 of this series.
55. Many of the later texts speak of Jamshid’s fall from grace by saying that the glory deserted him, but they don’t give the specifics of what caused this fall. In the Shahnameh we are told that he became so full of pride and arrogance, that he demanded that his subjects worship him. In “Shah Namah of Firdaosi” Dr. Bahman Surti summarizes Jamshid’s fall from grace as follows:
“ After a certain period of peace, prosperity, and plenty, pride entered JAMSHEED’s soul. Since nobody questioned his suzerainty, and everybody acknowledged his greatness and power, he began to think he was God Almighty Himself. He sent for his army officers and recalled to them how he had taught mankind arts and crafts, eradicated disease and death, and brought about peace and prosperity. He therefore commanded them to worship him alone as God. Such an exhibition of megalomania caused feelings of disgust and revulsion among the people. One by one, everybody deserted him, and in the course of 23 years he found himself alone without a helper or a sympathizer.” Volume 1, page 10.
Significant is the difference between Jamshid’s idea of worship and that of the Wise Lord, as expressed by Zarathushtra. Jamshid’s idea of worship was having the worshipper abase himself and acknowledge the one worshipped as his superior. By contrast, Zarathushtra tells us that the Wise Lord asks that we worship Him with the qualities that make for divinity – truth, its comprehension, its realization in thought, word and action, and its rule, with the objective that, choice by choice, we acquire and personify these divine qualities and so achieve haurvatat, completeness (see Parts 3.1.5 and 3.1.6). There is no pride or arrogance in the Wise Lord’s notion of worship. Only pure wisdom, pure beneficence.
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