From a talk given at WZO Colloquium, London, Nov'93
Dina G. McIntyre
It gives me great pleasure to be a
part of this distinguished colloquium on New Approaches to the Interpretation
of the Gathas. The perspective from which I speak is that of both a
practitioner and a student of Zarathushtra's teachings, as expressed in the
Gathas. One of the great challenges in studying the religious thought of
Zarathushtra is to endeavor to find out what he said, rather than what
we might like him to have said. So a measure of objectivity is necessary. On
the other hand, unlike science, religious thought cannot be studied on the
basis of clinical analysis alone. It needs to be understood in the context of
the vision that impels the prophet's thoughts. A successful study of the
Gathas, in my view, requires a combining of these two perspectives. So in
addressing my subject, I will attempt to bring to it as much objectivity as I
can. And I will also consider how Zarathushtra's abstract thoughts interact
with the subjective reality of experience.
It is a matter of deep regret to
me that I am neither a linguist nor a philologist. I do not know the Gathic
language. The translation on which I primarily rely is that of Professor
Insler, and all references to the Gathas in this paper, are to his translation
1, although he may, or may not, agree with all of the inferences
that I draw from his translation. One of the reasons why I like the Insler
translation so much, is that, for the most part, he assigns a specific English
word for a specific Gathic word, and he translates the phrases as literally as
possible. This gives a non-linguist like myself, a chance to become aware of
the subtle and multiple shades of meaning which abound in the Gathas. Often,
you will find a phrase which, at first glance, seems quite simple and obvious,
but which a more careful reading reveals has multiple meanings, all of them
valid. Such discoveries you will not be able to make, using an interpretive
translation. I truly think that we have barely scratched the surface of Gathic
thought. With our improved understanding of its ancient language, I believe a
careful analysis of its verses and puzzles will yield rich dividends of
thought and spirituality.
Using the tools of my profession,
I have developed a method, or a means, of studying the Gathas that has proved
both fruitful and interesting. This method is analytical. Of course, it is not
the only way of studying or appreciating the Gathas. There are many equally
valid ways to relate to these magnificent hymns. But if we want to puzzle out
the inner meanings of the Gathas, I think we must not neglect the analytical
approach. And if you use this approach, you will find that the beauty of the
ideas it reveals, is moving and exciting, and exquisitely complements the
beauty of verse and meter. The method I use entails first, analysing the
verses in detail, studying each strand of thought that a verse contains
2. The next step is to gather together, or correlate, verses
dealing with similar ideas or themes that are scattered throughout the Gathas,
-- the way a detective might gather clues -- study them, and then draw
reasonable inferences, based on this evidence.
But detailed analysis, and the
drawing of inferences alone are not enough. In dealing with a text as ancient,
and as full of ambiguities and metaphors and multiple meanings, as the Gathas,
we need a system of checks and balances to ensure that our analysis, and the
inferences we draw, accurately reflect Zarathushtra's own thoughts, rather
than what we might like his thoughts to have been. The system of checks and
balances that I use, is to look for corroborative evidence. Zarathushtra often
expresses the same idea in many different ways throughout the Gathas. If I
find corroboration, if I find that the analysis, or the inferences I have
drawn, are expressed elsewhere in the Gathas, I feel reasonably assured that I
am on the right track.
Of course the Gathas, with their
ambiguities, their many-layered meanings, and puzzles, do not always provide
rock-solid corroborative evidence -- the smoking gun type of evidence.
Inevitably, you will find yourself speculating on the basis of ambiguous,
multi-dimensioned verses. In my view, there is nothing wrong with speculation,
so long as we give the basis for it, and so long as we don't try to pass
speculation off as fact. So if you should hear anyone, myself included,
expound a conclusion that just doesn't make sense to you, don't accept it
automatically. Look for the evidence on which it is based. Then look for
corroborating evidence. And decide for yourself whether or not the conclusion
To summarize: the method I use, in
a nutshell, is: analyze, correlate, draw inferences, and corroborate. I'd like
to show you how this method plays out, with a few illustrations from the
Gathas themselves. Let's start with an analysis of two phrases in verses 5 and
7 of Yasna 28. In verse 5 Zarathushtra says:
"Truth, shall I see thee, as I
continue to acquire both good thinking and the way to the Lord?........(Y28.5).
At first glance, what Zarathushtra
is saying seems quite obvious. If we make a diagrammatic sketch of this
quotation, it would look something like this.
|(1) As we acquire, or
attain, good thinking
|(2) As we acquire, or
attain, the way to the Lord
The meaning of the first part is
quite clear. An attainment of good thinking is truth. But in the second part,
what does Zarathushtra mean by "the way to the Lord?" ONE answer may be found
in Y33 verse 5: Here, Zarathushtra says:
"...I shall attain for
the long-lived rule of good thinking and
the paths straight in accord with truth
wherein the Wise Lord dwells." (Y33.5)
If you read these two verses
together, it would be reasonable to infer that "the paths straight in accord
with truth wherein the Wise Lord dwells" in Y33.5, is what Zarathushtra means
when he speaks of "the way to the Lord" in Y28 verse 5. If we factor this into
our diagram, it would look like this:
(1) As we acquire [or
attain] good thinking
[the paths of truth]
(2) As we acquire [or attain] the way to the Lord
So when we read these two verses
together, we see that Y28 verse 5 contains a meaning that is more subtle and
profound than was apparent at first glance. It says, among other things, that
as we acquire the paths of truth we see truth. Or, stated another way: the
reward for truth is truth itself. If we put the results of our analysis so far
into tabulation form, it would look like this.
The End (or reward)
way to the Lord
paths of truth
Before going on, let me leave you
with a question: If the "way" leads to truth, and if the "way" also leads "to
the Lord", is Zarathushtra equating God and truth? Let's now turn to Y28.7.
Here, Zarathushtra says:
"Give, o truth,
this reward, namely, the attainments of good thinking......"
At first glance, it seems obvious
that Zarathushtra is saying that truth rewards us with good thinking. On
further reflection, we might conclude that by "the attainments of good
thinking", Zarathushtra is referring to wisdom. So a second meaning might be
that truth rewards us with wisdom -- which makes good sense. But this phrase
has yet another meaning, which you understand when you read it together with
our old friend Y28 verse 5. In that verse, you may recall, Zarathushtra said
that as we acquire [or attain] good thinking, we see truth. In other words, an
attainment of good thinking is truth. Now, if we transplant this idea -- that
an attainment of good thinking is truth -- into to verse 7, the third meaning
becomes clear. If truth rewards us with the "attainments of good thinking"
(Y28.7), and if one of the attainments of good thinking is truth itself
(Y28.5), then in verse 7, the reward of truth is also truth itself
4. So that simple phrase in Yasna 28.7 which, at first glance has
one clear meaning, actually has at least three.
rewards us with
the attainments of good
rewards us with
(which is an attainment of good thinking)
rewards us with
(which is an attainment of good thinking)
We could derive even more meanings
from these two verses, especially from "the way to the Lord" in Y28 verse 5,
but this is enough to illustrate my point regarding Zarathushtra's
multi-dimensioned technique, and the benefits of analysis and correlation as a
method or means for studying the Gathas.
Before we leave these two verses,
I would like to show you in tabulation form, the results of the analysis we
have just gone through. It demonstrates the exquisite point-counter-point
technique which Zarathushtra so often uses to express his ideas:
The End (or
way to the Lord
paths of truth
If you look at this tabulation, it
becomes apparent that in these verses, truth and good thinking are both what
generate the reward, and they are also the reward itself. In short, in these
particular instances, truth and good thinking are both the means and the end.
This to me was a breathtaking discovery. But how could I be sure that I was on
the right track, that this is what Zarathushtra really meant. We turn to our
system of checks and balances. We look for corroborative evidence. And we find
it in abundance. Here is one example. In Y28 verse 10 Zarathushtra says:
"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).
If you read this verse carefully,
it becomes apparent that truth and good thinking are both what makes a person
deserve a reward, and also the reward itself. This verse corroborates the
conclusion we arrived at earlier, that truth and good thinking are both the
means and the end.
If I were to stop with this
conclusion, you would have an incomplete idea of Zarathushtra's means and
ends. If we were to collect all the verses which deal with means and ends in
the Gathas, we would see that Zarathushtra's means and ends encompass, not
just truth and good thinking, but other divine attributes of Ahura Mazda
as well. We cannot take the time to correlate and analyse each of these
verses. I'll simply mention a few examples, and let you analyse them yourself.
In Y33.13 7, the reward for good thinking is good rule
(which is the rule of truth and good thinking 8). In
Y31.21 9 the reward for good spirit and actions is good
thinking. In Y43.10 10, the reward for
aramaiti (loving service to the rule of truth and good thinking
11) is truth. In 46.12 12 the reward for
truth and aramaiti is good thinking, and so it goes.
By now, you are probably aware
that I am addressing the subject of my talk, Of Means and Ends, at more
than one level -- at the level of a method or means for studying the Gathas,
and also at the level of Zarathushtra's philosophy regarding the ultimate goal
of existence, and how we reach it. Let's move on and consider the use of
inferences as a tool for studying the Gathas.
Many of Zarathushtra's most
interesting and profound ideas are derived from inferences. But there is a
danger in drawing inferences unless you are sure of the underlying facts. To
illustrate: suppose, before you went to bed at night, you looked out of your
window, and everything was clear and dry. And when you woke up the next
morning, everything was covered with snow. Even though you did not actually
see it snowing, it would be reasonable to infer that it snowed during the
night. That's a very strong inference. What else could it have done. I suppose
one could infer that a large plane flew over the neighborhood during the
night, with a snow machine, creating artificial snow as they do on ski slopes,
and blew it down on us. But that would be very unlikely. That would be a very
weak, improbable inference to draw from the facts. But if you listened to the
evening news and heard that a nearby ski resort had decided that this would be
a great way to advertise, and if in addition, the weather report said that
there had been no precipitation the night before, then that weak, improbable
inference becomes a strong inference. In short, if an inference is to be worth
anything, we first have to ascertain the underlying facts, with accuracy, and
then draw inferences from those facts.
There are many wonderful themes or
strands of thought in the Gathas that yield fascinating conclusions when you
correlate them, draw inferences, and look for corroboration in the internal
evidence of the Gathas themselves. But to use this method successfully, it is
important to gather together all the verses that deal with a particular theme
or idea, before you attempt to draw inferences, otherwise, your inferences may
not be accurate.
To illustrate this method, let's
look at Zarathushtra's use of the term "BEST" (Vahishta). If you
gather together, or correlate, each use of the word "best" (vahishta)
you will see that he uses this word primarily in five different ways. I will
give you a few examples of each of the five ways, and put the corroborating
evidence in footnotes, so you have the full picture.
First, Zarathushtra uses the word
best, vahishta, to refer to Ahura Mazda, Himself, and also to
His cardinal attributes, truth (asha), good thinking (vohu mano),
and His benevolent spirit (spenta mainyu). Here are some examples. He
"Thee, Best One, the
Lord who art of the same temperament with the best truth, ....."
"May we not anger all of you,
Lord, by these entreaties -- not Thee and the truth and that thinking
which is best -- ....." (Y28.9).
"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."
"The priest who is just, in
harmony with truth, is the offspring from the best spirit. ....."
In the second group, Zarathushtra
uses "best" (vahishta) to refer to God's Word, His teachings
"Listen with your ears to the
best things. Reflect with a clear mind -- man by man for himself --
upon the two choices of decision, ......" (Y30.2)
"Now, I shall speak of what
the most virtuous one told me, that word which is to be heard as
the best for men..." (Y45.5).
"Yes, for the person who
accepts this, there applies the best of commands, which the Lord,
beneficent through truth, virtuous and knowing, commands, even His
profound teachings. ....." (Y48.3).
At first, it might seem that there
is no connection between the use of the word "best" to describe God and his
divine attributes, as we saw in the first group, and the use of "best" to
describe His teachings. But we know from other parts of the Gathas, that His
Word, His command, His teaching, is, the path of God's divine attributes
14. -- of which truth, good thinking, and a benevolent spirit are
the cardinal attributes.
Third, Zarathushtra uses the word
"best" (vahishta) to refer to words and actions which implement God's
teachings 15. For example:
"Wise One, therefore tell me
the best words and actions, namely, those allied with good thinking
and truth....." (Y34.15).
Fourth, Zarathushtra uses "best" (vahishta
) to refer to the reward for such actions 16.
"...those who are yoked with
truth have yoked their conception on the best prize..." (Y49.9).
"And through this very
virtuous spirit, Wise Lord, Thou hast promised for the truthful person
what indeed are the very best things....." (Y47.5)
"..... at the end, the worst
existence shall be for the deceitful, but the best thinking for the
truthful person." (Y30.4).
"Best thinking" in this last verse
is an abbreviation for the House of Best Thinking, or the House of Good
Thinking, which is one of Zarathushtra's terms for paradise, or heaven
Fifth, Zarathushtra uses the term
"best" (vahishta) to refer to paradise. He does this in a number of
ways: In Y32.15 and 16, he equates the "best" with being brought to the House
of Good Thinking. Referring to evil priests and princes, he says:
".....They shall not be
brought to those who rule over life at will in the House of Good Thinking.
This is equal to the best....[footnote:
'Namely, to be brought to heaven.']
In Y46 verse 10, Zarathushtra
defines what is "best for existence" as "truth for the truth and the
rule of good thinking."
In Y44 verse 2, Zarathushtra links
the "best existence" to salvation 18. He asks Ahura
"... Is the beginning of the
best existence in such a way that the loving man who shall seek
after these things is to be saved?...." (Y44.2).
And how does he define salvation?
As truth and good thinking.
"All ye (immortals) of
the same temperament, let that salvation of yours be granted to us:
truth allied with good thinking!....." (Y51.20).
It is interesting that in the
later Avesta, the "best existence" (ahu vahishta) is the term for the
heaven above the endless lights 19. And in Persian, the
word behesht, is used as a synonym for heaven. Behesht is a
later linguistic form of the Avestan word vahishta. What inferences can
we draw from this collection of verses. Once again, it may help to look at the
facts in tabulation form:
Ahura Mazda, and His
cardinal values of
truth, good thinking, and good spirit.
teachings, which are
truth, good thinking, and good spirit.
words and actions of truth,
and good thinking, (which come from good spirit Y45.8 20).
the reward for truth and
(which comes from good spirit Y47.5 21 and which
is truth and the rule of good thinking 22).
[No. 3 and No. 4 are an echo
of the idea we came across earlier, that the action (No. 3) and the
reward for the action (No. 4) are the same].
the best existence,
paradise, salvation, which is truth, and good thinking (Y51.20).
I am aware of only one use of the
word "best" (vahishta) in the Gathas, which does not appear to be
linked to God and his divine values in one form or another. It appears in Y46
verse 6. I do not know if this inconsistency requires some particular insight
which, as yet, is not clear to me, or if there is some other reason for it. It
is one of the Gathic puzzles I have not yet figured out.
But setting aside, for a moment,
this one inconsistent use of the term "best" (vahishta), what
conclusions or inferences would it be reasonable to draw from this body of
evidence. To me, one of the most startling conclusions is Zarathushtra's idea
of the nature of heaven, or salvation. The above verses suggest, among other
things, the conclusion that heaven, or paradise is that state of being that we
achieve, when we attain completely, or when we perfect, God's divine values.
This brings us to the concept of
perfection or completeness -- haurvatat. As with so many Gathic
concepts, haurvatat is reflected in the material, as well as in the
spiritual existences. Although the material and the spiritual existences
intertwine in 1001 ways, in Zarathushtra's philosophy, I will limit my
discussion of haurvatat today, to its reality in the world of mind and
Similarly, it is definitely
incomplete to speak of haurvatat without also considering its companion
concept ameretat. It too, like haurvatat is one of the ends or
goals of existence in Zarathushtra's scheme of things. However, a
consideration of ameretat would require us to address questions which
in my view have not adequately been addressed by students of the Gathas to
date 23. To do justice to ameretat would require
consideration of a body of evidence, which would make this paper unmanageable.
So in wrapping up this discussion of Zarathushtra's means and ends, I limit
myself, to the spiritual aspect of haurvatat, and leave ameretat
for another day.
has been translated as completeness, or perfection
24. If we collect and study all the verses in which this term
haurvatat appears, some unusual things become apparent. The Gathas suggest
that first, we achieve completeness or perfection through our own endeavors.
Second, God gives it to us. And third, we give it to God 25.
Here is the evidence:
First, we earn it:
"Now I shall speak of
what the most virtuous one told me, that word which is to be heard as the
best for men. Those of you who shall give obedience and regard to this
(Lord) of mine, they shall reach completeness and immortality. ....."
Second, it is given to us by God.
".....grant Thou to
me immortality and completeness, those two enduring forces which are
to be praised with good thinking." (Y51.7).
Third, we are told that when we
follow the path of God's divine values, we give completeness to God.
Zarathushtra brings us to this conclusion in two steps. First, he suggests
that our completeness and immortality are the best offerings that we can give
to God. For example:
worshipful offering has been established to be immortality and
completeness and immortality are for Thy sustenance. Together with the
rule of good thinking allied with truth, (our) [aramaiti loving
service] has increased these two enduring powers (for Thee)....."
Then Zarathushtra takes us one
step further. In Yasna 45 verse 10, he says:
"..... Whatever one has
promised to Him with truth is to be completeness and immortality for
Him under His rule, is to be these two enduring powers for Him
in His House." (45.10)
We see the idea that we give
completeness to God even more clearly in the famous Yasna 47 verse 1:
"Through a virtuous
spirit and the best thinking, through both action and the word befiting
truth, they shall grant completeness and immortality to Him. ....."
It would be reasonable to infer
from this collection of verses, that by following the path of God's divine
attributes, man not only achieves completeness at an individual level, but in
so doing, both receives and gives completeness to God. In short, man is not
complete without God, nor God without man.
To date, I have found no "smoking
gun" corroborative evidence of this extraordinary conclusion, and we are now
entering the realm of speculation 26. However, this
conclusion -- that man is not complete without God, nor God without man -- is
echoed in a universally acknowledged idea of Zarathushtra's that is implicit
throughout the Gathas --- the idea of the in-dwelling God, the idea that the
spirit of God lives within each person, the idea that there is -- not an
equivalence -- but a unity of identity between man and God. If this is so,
then although He is perfect and complete at His level, as long as He is a part
of us too, it stands to reason that He cannot achieve ultimate completeness
until we do too.
If this idea is true, it has a
significant and compelling corollary. If God is not complete without man, nor
man without God, then it needs must follow (as the night the day), that man
cannot be complete unless his fellow man also achieves completeness
In other words, it is not enough
for each of us, individually, to attain perfection or completeness, by our own
endeavors. We cannot achieve ultimate completeness, unless every other person
28 reaches this same state of perfection or completeness. If God
is not complete without man nor man without God, the conclusion is compelling:
man cannot be complete without his fellow man.
Once again, I have no direct
corroborative evidence of this last conclusion, although there are verses in
the Gathas that hint of this idea, and I have footnoted them for your
information 29. However, the idea that man cannot
achieve ultimate completeness unless his fellow man does also, finds an echo
in the concept of frashokereti. In Zarathushtra's scheme of things,
salvation, as he defines it (truth and good thinking, Y51:20) will ultimately
be achieved by all. This of course raises an interesting question: Given the
freedom to choose, how can we be certain that all the living will eventually
choose what's right, and that frashokereti will be achieved? The answer
to this question lies in another fascinating Gathic puzzle, but it is beyond
the scope of this paper.
Getting back to the idea that man
is not complete without his fellow man, when the idea first hit me, my
immediate reaction was negative. When I come across ideas in the Gathas, I
like to see how they play out in what we optimistically call the "real" world,
-- the material world in which we live. In our world, we have some wonderful
people, and we also have some real jerks -- megajerks and minor jerks. There
was no way I could imagine my completeness having anything to do with theirs
-- to say nothing of the unfairness of the situation. If sanctimonious little
me makes all those tough choices, and attains perfection or completeness at an
individual level, why should I be denied ultimate completeness with God just
because some other jerk can't make it? But the more I thought about this idea,
the more I appreciated its validity in a number of ways. I'll give you three
First example: take a look at the
savage hatreds that exist in our world. The Serbs with their ethnic cleansing,
the communal riots in India, the troubles in the Middle East and Northern
Ireland, the prejudices of people all over the world who hate because they
perceive others as somehow "different" from themselves, for whatever reason,
or because they are caught up in a cycle of revenge and recrimination. If each
of these opposing factions were to come to the understanding that if everyone
doesn't make it, no one makes it, the futility of what they are doing to each
other might become clear to them.
A second example. If we cannot
achieve ultimate completeness unless everyone achieves it, it becomes clear to
us that we cannot be smug and self-satisfied with our own individual
accomplishments, although they are a necessary first step. We have to use our
spirits and minds to help each other make it. It sometimes seems that there is
no limit to the problems that chain our souls -- crimes of violence, drugs,
the greed for power and wealth that translates into junk bond scandals and
destructive corporate take-overs, to name a few, all so detrimental to the
human condition and the human spirit. But there is also no limit to the
ingenuity of the human mind in breaking these chains for all of us, if we are
motivated by the right spirit. This might be done by finding global solutions
to global problems, or by a simple act of friendship, one-on-one.
A third example of the validity of
this idea -- that we cannot achieve ultimate completeness unless everyone
achieves it -- is that it requires us to separate the person from what he
does. It suggests to me that I can hate and oppose the wrongful conduct of a
person, but that I must not hate the person. That's tough. But if I can do it,
it helps to break the cycle of hatred and recrimination that we so often get
caught up in.
Do I believe that God is not
complete without man, nor man without God? I don't know. I don't know that my
mind is capable of comprehending what does or does not complete the Infinite.
Do I believe that man cannot achieve ultimate completeness without his fellow
man? I don't know. I can only say that after my initial skepticism and
rejection, the idea strikes a responsive chord in me. And it has made a big
difference in my thinking. But the real question is not what I believe. The
question is: what did Zarathushtra believe.
You and I, we can agree or
disagree about what Zarathushtra said, or what he meant. But fortunately for
us, he has given us an excellent formula for winning out. I can do no better
than to quote his own words. He said:
".....Through good thinking
the Creator of Existence shall promote
the true realization of what is most healing
according to our wish." (Y50.11)
"Therefore may we be those who
shall heal this world!....." (Y30.9).
Dina G. McIntyre,
Insler, The Gathas of
Zarathushtra, (E.J. Brill, 1975).
Quotations from a verse, in this
paper, may be limited to the particular strand of thought under discussion,
so that the reader can understand the point I am trying to make, without
being distracted by the other strands of thought in the verse.
"Truth, shall I see
thee, as I continue to acquire both good thinking and the way to the
An idea that is corroborated in
"Truth, shall I see
thee, as I continue to acquire both good thinking and the way to the
"Give, o truth, this
reward, namely the attainments of good thinking, ..."
"Lord of broad vision,
disclose to me for support the safeguards of your rule, those which are the
reward for good thinking. ..." (Y33.13).
"But to this world He
came with the rule [xshathra] of good thinking and of truth, ..."
"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).
" 'Therefore do Thou
reveal to me the truth, which I continue to summon. Being in companionship
with [aramaiti] I have deserved it. ...' " (Y43.10).
Opinions differ as to the
correct translation of the word aramaiti. Pahlavi writers translated
it as "right-mindedness", which is also favored by Professor Humbach.
Humbach, The Gathas of Zarathushtra, (Heidelberg, 1991). Bode &
Nanavutty translate it as "devotion" in their Songs of Zarathushtra, The
Gathas. Insler translates it as "piety" in his The Gathas of
Zarathushtra, (Brill, 1975), but more recently, he has taken the
position that "respect" may be a more accurate translation, and that the
word "aramaiti" also is related to the Vedic aram kr which
means "to serve". See An Introduction to the Gathas of Zarathushtra,
No. 4, page 5, footnote 7. Based on the way in which Zarathushtra uses the
term in the Gathas, I think aramaiti means bringing to life the rule
of truth and good thinking with our thoughts, our words and our actions.
"Loving service" or devotion to the rule of truth and good thinking is the
closest English equivalent, in my view.
"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, in order to
announce Himself to them for their support." (Y46.12).
This is another one of those multiple meaning verses.
A loving or benevolent spirit
(spenta mainyu), truth (asha) , good thinking (vohu mano),
the rule of truth and good thinking (vohu xshathra), loving devotion
or loving service to the rule of truth and good thinking (spenta aramaiti),
completeness and immortality (haurvatat, ameretat).
Corroboration: Y47.2 (words and
actions); Y32.12 (actions); Y43.15 (words); .
Corroboration: Y31.6; Y46.18; Y
Insler, The Gathas of
Zarathushtra, page 33 footnote 3. In my view, the terms which
Zarathushtra uses for heaven -- the House of Good Thinking, and the House of
Song, are his way of describing a state of being -- the House of Good
Thinking being a state of wisdom, the House of Song being a state of bliss.
For the evidence on which I base this conclusion see A Question of
Paradise, WZO Seminar, September 1991, London England.
See also Y46.10.
Yasht 12, as described in
Windfuhr, "Where Guardian Spirits Watch by Night and Evil Spirits Fail: The
Zoroastrian Prototypical Heaven." American School of Oriental Research, pp
625 to 645.
".....for I have just
now, knowingly through truth, seen the Wise One in a vision to be Lord of
the word and deed stemming from good spirit..." (Y45.8).
"And through this very
virtuous spirit, Wise Lord, Thou hast promised for the truthful person what
indeed are the very best things. (But) the deceitful man shall have his
share apart from Thy approval, since he lives by his actions stemming from
evil thinking." (Y47.5).
"...Virtuous is truth
and the rule of good thinking. The Wise Lord created this, (and) I shall
entreat Him for this good reward." (Y51.21)
Ameretat has been
universally translated as "immortality." But the conventional understanding
of the word "immortality" does not seem to fit the internal evidence of the
Gathas. We have all been brought up with the view that whether we are good
or bad, perfect or imperfect, we have an immortal soul. In other words, we
have been taught that the immortal nature of our souls does not depend on
how we lead our lives. Yet, we are told precisely the opposite in the
Gathas. There, Zarathushtra tells us that completeness and ameretat
are reached through following the path of truth and good thinking. In other
words, ameretat has to be earned. In the Gathas, it does not appear
to be available to the unperfected soul. What does this mean? Do we need to
revise our ideas of Zarathushtra's conception of immortality? This question
can only be answered by a careful consideration of the evidence, -- as to
the use of both haurvatat and ameretat in the Gathas, and as
to how any inferences we might draw fit into the whole of Zarathushtra's
system of ideas.
Gathas of Zarathushtra, (E.J. Brill, 1975);
Gathas, Our Guide (Ushta, Inc. 1989)
in Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, (AMS reprint) p 295, note 2.
Gathas of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, Part
I (Heidelberg, 1991).
||Ichaporia, The Gathas of Asho Zarathushtra, (FEZANA, 1993).
Translation of Gathas, (1988).
Nanavutti, The Songs of Zarathushtra, The Gathas, (George, Allen
& Unwin, Ltd. )
The Religion of Zarathushtra, (Bombay reprint, 1979).
The Divine Songs of Zarathushtra, (ZAGNY reprint).
||Mills, Sacred Books of the East, Volume 31, (Motilal Banarsidas Reprint).
Teachings of Zarathushtra, (Reprint 1978)
There is a fourth way in which
Zarathushtra uses haurvatat. Read Y34.1, Y51.15 and Y30.5, in
conjunction with each other, and see what conclusions you come to.
Professor Insler first pointed
out the interdependence of man and God in Zarathushtra's thought, in his
discussions on the Gathas. Insler, The Gathas of Zarathushtra,
It is interesting that in the
later literature hell is described, in part, as a condition in which the
people there are so close together that they seem an indistinguishable mass;
yet in the darkness, each ever wails, "I am alone!" Moulton, Early
Zoroastrianism, (AMS reprint) page 173.
There is some evidence in the
Gathas, that the progression towards completeness (or salvation), is not
reserved for the human race alone, but extends to all the living.
Although there is no
corroborative evidence of the "smoking gun" variety for the conclusion that
man is not complete without his fellow man, there are some hints of this
idea in the Gathas. For example,:
In Y46.10 Zarathushtra says:
"Wise Lord, whoever -- be it man or woman -- would grant to me
those things which Thou 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 kind -- with all
these I shall cross over the Bridge of the Judge." (Y46.10).
In short, those who achieve God's divine values
(which are the best for existence) achieve it not only for themselves, but
also for Zarathushtra, representing their fellow man. In other words, they
achieve it not only for themselves, but also for their fellow man. Crossing
over the Bridge of the Judge, in my view is a metaphoric way of expressing
the transition from mortality (i.e. from the state of "death's bondage"
(Y53.8) to immortality (i.e. a state of "no-death-ness" ameretat) -- at the
In the same way, in Y46.18 and 19 Zarathushtra says:
"The person who (has given) life [ameretat?]
to me, to him I indeed have promised with good thinking the best
things in my power......"(Y46.18).
"The person who, really in accordance with truth, shall bring to realization
for me, Zarathushtra, what is most healing....."
Finally, we see an echo of the idea that man is not complete without his
fellow man in the way Zarathushtra complements the individual and the
community. Moral choices have to be made, first, at an individual level
(Y30.2). Yet, although that is the necessary first step, it alone is not
enough. One must, in addition, mobilize the family, the community, the clan,
indeed the world, to God's service to bring about the desired end (Y32.1,
Y50.5, Y30.7, Y30.9).
"At my insistance...the family, the community
together with the clan, entreated for the grace of Him, the Wise Lord,
(saying:) 'Let us be Thy messengers, in order to hold back those who are
inimical to you'. " (Y32.1).
"Therefore may we be those who shall heal this world! Wise One and ye other
lords [the benevolent spirit, truth and good
thinking, whom Zarathushtra personifies metaphorically in the Gathas] be
present to me with support and with truth, so that one shall become
convinced even where his understanding shall be false."
"Lord, let wisdom come in the company of truth across the earth!..."(Y50.5).
The idea is also echoed in Zarathushtra's anguished cry to Ahura Mazda in
"...The community with which I have associated has not satisfied me, nor
those who are the deceitful rulers of the land. How, then, shall I satisfy
Thee, Wise Lord?" (Y46.1).