MAH SPENDARMAD, FASAL SAL 1370; GATHAS 16th TO 20th MAR 2002
FEBRUARY - MARCH
FASAL SAL FARVERDEGAN
Ashaunam vanguish surao spentao fravashayo yazamaide.
Yau masyehish ahmat.
Yao aojyehish ahmat.
Yao tanshyehish ahmat.
Yao amavastrarao ahmat.
Yao verethrarvastarao ahmat.
Yao baeshazyotarao ahmat.
Yao yaskerestarao ahmat,
Yatha vacha framravaire.
Yao madhemedchitt myazdanam baevane
“We revere the righteous, good, powerful beneficent fravashish who are greater, stronger, more powerful, more courageous, more victorious, more health giving, more effective than can be expressed by these words, who come by tens of thousands in the midst of things dedicated”
(Farvardin Yasht Karda XII
“A friend is someone who knows the song of your soul
and sings it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.”
fera amesha spenta gatha geurvain
nemo ve gatha ashaonish!
Ideal are the thoughts, ideal the words, ideal the deeds
of the Righteous Zarathushtra.
Let the ever-living promulgators present the Gathas
Homage to the righteous
introductory salutation was most probably composed by one of the early chanters
of the Gathas, who himself/herself was a devout promulgator of the Sublime Songs
and a great preacher of the Divine Doctrine. Those who followed this teacher and
held it in high esteem faithfully preserved this
THEY ARE ALL ON MY SIDE!
There was a discussion between the head of Heaven and the head of Hell in connection with a gate that broke in between the two sides. Saint Peter who was in charge of Heaven appeared at the broken part, and called out from the other side of the fence, “Hey Satan, it is your turn to fix the gate this time.” “Sorry” replied the Satan, “my men are too busy to worry about fixing a gate.” “I will have to sue you for breaking your agreement with me.” Satan promptly replied, “Well, St Peter, you are free to go ahead, where will you find a lawyer? They are all on my side.”
arathushtra’s divine message advocates that every person should choose to serve God, the society, and the living world. It advocates human progress through harmony with the beneficial nature. It accords, perfect equality to men and women. Society is based on home, district, state, country and world; or in other words, on family, community, nation, and world fellowship. There exists no racial superiority, no caste nobility, and no professional priority. Superiority, nobility, and priority belong to the virtuous wise, who, can lead the world to spiritual and material completion, and consequently to the Source of Creation and Totality of Wisdom. With the wise leading the world, the message is ever fresh and ever present. The religion of Zarathushtra is a self-renovating religion. It is a timeless guide to humanity.
(Excerpt from “The Avesta at a Glance” – Ali A. Jafasrey)
HEROINES OF ANCIENT IRAN
The Marchioness of
hen good Prince Siyawush,
son of Kai Kaus, King of Iran, left his father’s palace in order to escape from
his malicious stepmother, Sadaba, he sought refuge in the court of Afrasiyab,
King of Turan, and there learned of the fair Princess Farangis. Piran, a
distinguished statesman in her father’s court, had spoken unceasingly to
Siyawush of her beauty and charm:
She bettereth the cypress tree in stature;
Her musky tresses form a sable crown;
Her parts and knowledge pass her loveliness,
While wisdom standeth as a slave before her.
Thus he sought to bring about an alliance between Frangis and the young Prince. He played upon the youth’s ambitions, dwelling on Afrasiyab’s partiality towards him and expressing certainty that he would be in favor of the union. Siyawush confessed himself but too eager, and Piran was delighted, since his own interest would be served thereby. He obtained an audience with the King, who readily gave his consent.
Siyawush and Frangis were much impressed when they beheld each other, and the wedding festivities took place without delay. Afrasiyab appointed his son-in-law ruler of the lands extending from Turan to the realm of the sea of Chin, on which Siyawush erected a magnificent palace, called Siyawushgird, and bestowed on his beloved Frangis every desire of her heart.
Afraiyab had a brother named Garsiwaz, who became extremely jealous of Siyawush, and endeavored to poison the King’s mind against him at every opportunity. He invented scandalous tales to the effect that Siyawush was in treacherous communication with Iran, and, by means of correspondence, negotiated to destroy Asfrasiyab and thus become ruler of Turan. Afrasiyab, enraged, sent a large army towards the province of Siyawush.
The iniquitous Garsiwaz, proceeding in advance of the hosts, sought Siyawush and counseled him to flee for his life---a traitorous ruse calculated to bring about his capture. Siyawush, however, suspected nothing, and urged on by his faithful Farangiz, was at length persuaded into taking the advice of his betrayer. He parted from Farangis in great despair and woe, and journeyed towards Iran with his forces.
On his way thither, he fell into the hands of Afrasiyab, who would not listen to none of his explanations or entreaties. When the news reached Farangis, she went to her father and implored him to spare her husband. But the King’s heart was hard, and his daughter’s tears failed to move him. Summoning all the wit and eloquence at her command, she brought forth every argument, even dwelling on the futility of imagining that, because he was a King, he was omnipotent. She bade him recall the fate of the tyrant Zahhak, and bear in mind that retribution would alike overtake him. Said she:
The world is fleeting, and is full of sobs and sighs,
One man, though crowned, it casteth into prison;
One who ne’er had a crown it maketh king.
Yet fate hath laid the grave’s grip on them both,
And, in the end, both lie alike in dust.
Afrasiyab, fearful of her prognostications, burst into a fit of bitter anger. Calling his guards, he commanded them to take her in a secret chamber in the castle. He then gave orders to one of his chiefs to stab Siyawush. On learning the fate of her beloved husband, Farangis, broken-hearted and distraught, cursed her father, who forthwith commanded that she be scourged and put to death.
A wail of sorrow arose from the entire country at the news that the fair Princess was to be executed. The people cried out that they would no longer recognize Afrasiyab as their King. Then Piran the Wise went to the monarch and pleaded with him to spare the life of Frangis, since she was soon to be a mother. The King told him he might do with her as he wished. So Piran took her to his home, where his good wife cared for her.
Later, a son was born to the Princess, on whom she bestowed the name Kai Khusrau. Afraisyab, learning of the event through Piran, became filled with remorse, and besought him to take steps to have the boy brought up in ignorance of his cruelty.
Meanwhile, the tragic story of Farangis had traveled to Iran, where much compassion was felt for the unfortunate Princess. Kai Kaus dispatched Giv, one of his chiefs, to fetch her and the child. Frangis, received Giv with tears of gratitude, and presented him with Siyawush suit of mail; then herself disguised, the three set forth across the River Jihun into Iran.
her stay at the palace of Kai Kaus, his son Fariburz demanded the hand of
Frangis in marriage. She was, at first, greatly; troubled in mind, with the
memory of Siyawush ever in her heart; but the union being approved by all, she
was finally persuaded into giving her consent. Her son Kai Khusrau later became
the King of Iran on the death of King Kai Kaus. (To be
There are a few things in life so final as the sound of a door that has just slammed. May be a strong gust of wind has been the cause. Or perhaps a friend or a family member has fled the room in a momentary burst of temper. When a door closes, remember it will not stay that way for ever. Often there is another door that will open at the most unexpected moment.
So, when the door of
happiness closes, another opens, and never keep gazing so long at the closed
door that you don’t see the one that is opening for
“Going fast is no advantage unless you are going in the right direction”.
AETHRAPAITI, THE TEACHER
uring the later part of the Gathic period, we see the ratu (Righteous Guide) hold a new title---aethrapaiti. It means the master of an aethrta, and therefore teacher. No satisfactory etymology has been found, but most likely, it is derived from “a+i”, to approach, to come near, with the agentive suffix of aethra, Whatever the derivation, it means a school, a place of instruction. The term for the pupil is aethrya, belonging to school. The first person to carry this title is Saena son of Ahumstuta, the sixth celebrity mentioned after Zarathushtra in the Farvardin Yasht list. It depicts his close association with the Prime Master Zarathushtra. Aethrapaiti literally means “school-master, teacher, preceptor.” It is herbad in Pahlavi, hirbad and hirbod in Persian and ervad in Gujarati. Saena is said to have trained “one hundred disciples who taught on this earth”, a proof of the universal missionary work of the early Gathic period after the passing away of Zarathushtra. (Yasht 13.97) It is, compared to today’s religious teachers, a fairly large number for a small growing community of the thinly populated world of those days.
In the Avesta, an aethrapaiti is the teacher who teaches the Gathas and its philosophy only. The disciple took at least three years to finish his or her education. He or she worked hard from dawn till late morning and again in the afternoon till late in night, to learn the lesson.
Any Zarathushtrian could become a religious teacher. All it required was that the candidate should be the “most aspirant” member of the family, that he or she did not deprive the family of its income, that he or she was unanimously chosen to become an aethrapaiti. Age did not matter. He or she could be the oldest or the youngest in the family. If he was a partner in a property with another person, he had to be chosen by the people concerned to take up the task. He could accept the new profession only if he did not harm the economics of the partnership. Both man and woman could assume the office of zoatar or of any of the assistants. When called upon to perform a ritual, a husband and wife engaged in earning their livelihood from their regular occupation, had to decide which one of the two could economically be spared to attend the task. A wife, if required, could help another male officiate even without the consent of her husband. One could even take a competent child to assist one in the performance. A rare example of equality of sexes, a high regards for competency, and a great sense of priorities, indeed. (Aerpatistan & Nirangistan 1-37; Vendidad 4-45)
The Aerpatistan calls the person thief, even a robber, who takes a woman to assist him in a ritual but with an ultimate intention of seducing her. Sexual harassment is nothing new. It also gives details on how far one can take a child without the consent of the parent, but it has no words on barring a woman from officiating during menses, pregnancy, or immediately after birth, or of a male becoming polluted through wet dreams. In fact, with the exception of the Vendidad, no other text speaks of such “pollutions”, not even the Yashts that prohibit specific persons from partaking their oblations. Evidently, the non-Vendidad school did not consider these natural occurrences to be polluting.
When did the education start? The Aerpatistan and the Vendidad would welcome it at any age. However, the assistance of a competent child in a ritual shows that there were people who started early with their education. Greek sources on the education of the royal young say that it began at the age of seven and continued until the age of seventeen (Zoroastrian Civilization p225). This could also be a clue of an early start. The teacher---atherapaiti or the pupil---aethrya could be a male or female. (Aerpatistan and Y.26.7-8, 68.12). The teacher was loved and respected (FrD.4).
A person had to study for three years under the guidance of a competent teacher in order to acquire the proper knowledge and understanding of the texts. The pupil had to study hard during the first and last parts of the night. He could only rest during the middle parts of the day and the night. He followed the routine “until he can say all the words which former teachers aethrapaitis have said” (V.4.5) of the bulk of the extant Avesta texts and of the estimated bulk of the twenty-one nasks of the Sassanian canon.
It shows how long it took to master a short but very valuable volume. The teaching consisted of understanding and memorizing reciting, and chanting, singing and discussing, deliberating and practicing the Gathic Message. The three-year time shows how deep one had to learn the thought-provoking Message of Zarathushtra. That is why Aban Yasht describes a competent priest as “a person of debate and discussion, thoughtful, artful, indeed the thought –provoking message personified.” (Yt.5.91)
It may be kept in view that in those days the Avestan language was the mother tongue of the teacher and the taught. The pupil fully understood what was taught and discussed. Furthermore, there was a question and answer period to encourage a pupil to be a debater.
The Avesta or the relevant Pahlavi commentaries have no data on the initiation of a pupil into a priest. But such an important task could not be completed without an initiation. There was definitely one, most probably a simple and solemn one performed between the teacher and the initiate. Unless one accepts the traditional initiation to be an elaborated form of a simpler ceremony, one should come down a number of centuries to turn to Greek sources to give us a description of the initiation of a western Iranian Magi in the year 160 CE.
commenced, according to Lucian (Greek “Lukinos”) in Necymantia on a new
moon day and continued for full twenty-nine days. Each day, the initiate took a
morning bath while the teacher facing the rising sun, recited holy texts. He
looked into the face of the pupil thrice during his recitation. The two ate
nothing but fruit and drank nothing but milk, honey and water. They slept
outside in open. The last bath was by the master in a running stream. The
initiate was perfumed, and then given the priestly robes. (Aerpatastan and
Nirangistasn, Introduction page xxxi)
ashem vohu, vahistem asti
ushta ahmai hyat ashai vahistai ashem.
he Ashem Vohu is the most
frequently recited prayer, with the sole exception of the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, in
the Zoroastrian liturgical tradition. It is not quite accurate to call it a
prayer, for it is not an address to the Divinity, neither an offering nor a
glorification, and certainly not a petition. The tradition calls it a
manthra, meaning, according to Dr. A. Jafarey, a thought-provoking
statement. It is a declaration of the foundation of Zarathushtra’s ethics. It
has serious philosophic implications and evinces the central moral focus of his
The language is so elliptical and condensed that a literal translation becomes utterly incomprehensible. Its meaning however, is quite clear. It is a statement about Asha. Asha literally means Truth, but since in Zarathushtra’s theology, Truth is basis for right action, Asha does have the sense of Righteousness. We shall therefore use both terms in the translation. Here it is:
Truth, Righteousness is the highest virtue,
It leads to Illumined Happiness,
Happiness for one who does right for the sake of Right.
As we examine these lines we learn the framework of the ethics of Zoroastrianism. The first line declares that Righteousness, i.e. acting according to Truth, is the highest virtue. There are of course other virtues, kindness or compassion, loyalty, diligence, temperance, etc., but the import of the first line is that Righteousness, being the highest, takes precedence over all. Thus Asha becomes the pivotal concept in the Zoroastrian way of life. It is the supreme value, that toward which the strivings of life must tend.
The second line is a statement in moral philosophy. It states that Righteous Conduct leads to happiness. We have used the expression “Illumined Happiness” to capture the meaning of the word Ushta. Often translated as ‘wish’, here its meaning is surely much deeper; it is the aspiration of life, and thus happiness. The word also has a sense of illumination, enlightenment or radiance. So the happiness that comes from the righteous life is not just a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction, which may pass away. It is a sense of propriety of conduct of one’s life, an understanding of the rightness of one’s actions bringing a sense of enlightened justification, and peace and contentment, from which regret and remorse are altogether absent. In this short and elliptical line, Zarathushtra probably meant not just that Righteousness leads to happiness, but that only through Righteousness could one be truly happy.
The third line examines the matter of immorality. Moral rectitude is not merely a matter of right conduct. It must be for the right reason. Recall the requirement of Humata, good thought. Why is one asked to do right for the sake of Right? He must examine the relation between Right and Truth, both integral to Asha.
Asha, the central concept of this prayer, and also of Zoroastrian theology, means Truth. This concept of Truth is a philosophic notion, it stands for the ideal form of existence intended by Ahura Mazda. The ideal is not realized in this world because of the contamination of evil. Righteous conduct aims to implement the Truth, to bring the world to its ideal good state, i.e. to establish order and justice in society, honesty and humanity in all human relations. That is the Right for the sake of which we are to perform specific right actions, not for personal advantage and certainly not to gain the better of others.
Thus the Prophet distilled profound moral notions into the three lines of this recitation form posterity over 3000 years ago. It is hoped that, Zoroastrians reciting it today acquire these insights and thereby call themselves followers of the religion of Good Life --- Beh din.
Journal – Summer 1994)
“If your luck isn’t what it should be, put a ‘p’ in front of it”.
DOES GOD TAKE SIDES IN WARS BETWEEN NATIONS?
eligious questions, if not commitment, regularly surface in times of duress. The terrorist attacks of Sept.11 have led record numbers of people searching for answers to churches, mosques and synagogues. This conflict has been fraught with religious connotations from its very inception. But does God take sides in conflicts between nations and groups? What are we to do when both parties claim God’s blessings upon their bellicose programs? What dangers come from claiming unqualified divine blessings on human causes and conflicts? Do we not lose our capacities for irony, detachment and self-criticism if we come to believe that God stands for our cause?
Most important, do we not run the risk of idolatry when we give our important but less than ultimate concerns and programs divine sanctions? This rhetorical tradition reminds us that God cannot be made captive to political or national agendas. and God cannot be monopolized by some regardless of the putative justice of their cause. In times of grief and anger, it is easy to forget that God’s love calls us to check the instinctive furies released when those we cherish have been destroyed. It becomes too easy to bless our causes with unqualified divine approbation, only to find ourselves made over in the likeness of those enemies who have injured us. We even sound like them when we speak of crusades and God’s favor, and when we picture ourselves as instruments visiting “infinite justice” on evil incarnate.
While those who long for peace hold only a fragile hope that the nation will exercise military restraint, we can at least vigorously call for rhetorical restraint in order to remind the nation that God is not at our disposal.
(Excerpted from an article
in “Wichita Eagle”)
“Deal with the fault of others as gently as with your own”.