doctrine of Twin Mainyu, is the seminal notion that serves as a nucleus
for the genesis of the concept of dualism in Zarathushtrian religion.
Basically humanity perceives the structured world in binary opposites. The
most profound opposites universal among the human experiences are those
of light and darkness. Religious and spiritual traditions have
historically associated light with goodness, and darkness with emanation
of evil. One finds this association starting with the Vedic era in
(Upanishad 4.37), through Hebrew bible as in Ge.3, Ps.27.1, Is 2.5;
through Chinese religious traditions, all the way to the modern
Christianity in the gospel of John 8.12. Synchretic Zarathushtrian
tradition that evolved out of the early Gathic religion is no exception to
these universal phenomena. Our later tradition believes in a constant
lock of a cosmic combat between the two primal principles, Ahura Mazda,
representing light and Anra Mainyu representing darkness.
specificity of the Gathic dualism of Zarathushtrian faith, as opposed to
the syncretic viewpoint, resides in the ethical conduct, in context with
the opposite ontological principles. It is therefore important to examine
in some depth, the Gathic scriptures, to attempt and understand the
thinking of the prophet on this issue. Prophet Zarathushtra in that early
dawn of civilization, appears to sense the basic universal concept of the
two opposites, at the very core, at the absolute focus, that moulds the
human conduct, namely, the human mind. The mind, that unique metaphysical
entity, gifted by the creator to the humans is the one, that has the
ability to recognize and choose between the truth and falsehood, between
the right and wrong. Doctrinally speaking, humans are endowed with that
most important divine attribute of the creator, Vohu Mano.
Prophet Zarathushtra, in
his perception of the two opposing primal principles appropriately defines
them as Mainyus. the term finds its derivation from the av. root 'mana'
meaning to think.
In Ys.30.2 of the
Ahunavaiti Gatha, prophet addresses the entire humanity with the words:
GEUSH AIS VAHISTA
Listen with your ears, the best,
AVENTA SUCHA MANANGAHA
Ponder with an enlightened mind
The teaching of your choice.
NAREM KHAKHAYAI TANUE
Each human being, for oneself.
very next verse (Ys. 30.3) he speaks of what is the best.
MAINYU POURUYE YA YEMA
In the beginning two mental aspects which are twins
ASRVATEM MANAHI-CHA VACHAHI-CHA
Mutually disclosed themselves in thoughts, words, and deeds
VAHYO AKEM-CHA AOS-CHA
The one of them as the better and the other bad.
key word of importance in this verse is that the two mentalities are twin
(yema) suggesting the common source of their origin. What better common
source can there be for the two opposing mentalities? A rational
inference to this question has to be the human mind. The prophet ends this
verse by referring to the choice between them by the intellectuals and
subsequent verse (Ys 30.4) the prophet articulates over the genesis of
existence through these two mental aspects.
CHA HYAT TA HEM MAINYU JASAETEM
When these two mentalities came together
PAOURVIM DAZDE GAEMCHA AJIAITIMCHA
At the very beginning they created life and non-living
continues -till the end of time when there will be the worst state of mind
for the deceitful and the for the righteous the best state (meaning
happiness) of mind.
most crucial terms here that needs to be understood are Gaemcha and
Ajiaitimcha. Many translations western as well as zarathushtrian, gloss
over these together as life and not-life or life and death. At the outset
the term gaem appears twice in the Gatha (Ys 30.2, 43.1) and is derived
from Gaya meaning life. So
philologically there appears to be no discrepancy with the translation of
Gaemcha as life. there is however a clear discrepancy with the
translation of the term Ajiaitimcha. one can outline clear rationale why
not-life or death are unsuitable.
Firstly a direct negative of Gaemcha would be Agaemcha meaning not-life,
but prophet does not use that term.
Secondly the Avesten term for death is derived from the verb 'mar' meaning
to kill. The derivative Mareta or Maretan (as in Gayo Maretan) referring
to mortal, implying subject to dying. The actual word death is used very
sparingly in the Gathas. only once is Merethyu (Ys 53.8). so the
translation as death seems clearly incompatible.
Thirdly the term jiaiiti is derived from jvas meaning living. This has
been used at least 8 to 9 times (Ys 31.15, 32.5, 32.11, 32.12, 32.15,
33.10, 46.4, 46.8, 53.9) in association with livelihood and way of life.
the proper and most suitable translation for the word ajiaitimcha should
be non-living or a life not worth living.
Putting all this together we arrive at a parable which says, "at the
beginning two mental aspects came together to create life and
non-living". How do we decipher it ?
examination of Ys 30 clearly reveals:
That all the verses 2-6 of this Yesna are focused on the mind, thinking,
and the choice.
The entire corpus of the hymn is directed to the humanity at large.
The prophet also speaks of the humanity as belonging to opposing classes
of ashavan -the righteous and dregvatam (Ys 30.4)- the wicked or hudaongho
-the intellectuals in contrast to duzdaonghao (Ys 30.3) - the ignorant.
Considering these factors, we can rationalize, that the phrase "creation
of life and non-living" must imply that "the better mentality creates a
life following the path of Asha while the bad one generates a way of life
not worth living". Theologically therefore, Spenta Mainyu leads to a life
of righteousness while the other Mainyu, -as it is not directly named in
the Gathas- generates a worthless way of life.
summary prophet presents:
common source for two mentalities, the human mind.
That humanity has to choose between them
better mental aspect leads to a life following Asha, the bad one generates
life not worth living.
this as the functions of the two mentalities, let us examine major
difference between the Gathic doctrine versus its evolution in the
Syncretic religion. While in the later tradition the two mainyu enjoy a
coequal status, that is unequivocally not the case in the Gathas. We
note in Ys 30.6 and 7 the prophet clearly elaborates what the proper
choice of humanity should be. he stresses that, "those who made the choice
of the "bad mentality" followed wrath, hatred, and afflicted the human
existence while those who chose the "better mentality" shall survive the
final judgment". In keeping with this we note that the term Spenta Mainyu
-selfless or progressive mentality- appears in the gathas 16 times in
contrast, the other term Anra Mainyu as such is absent in the Gathas. (
only once in a linguistically modified form the term Akashcha-mainyu
occurs in Ys. 32.5). taking this in context with the two key attributes
of the creator, Vohu Mano (good mind) and Ashavahishta (absolute
righteousness) the prophet proclaims to the humanity, that only by
choosing Spenta Mainyu - the benevolent or selfless mentality, - will it
succeed in temporal world, to evolve the good mind that can recognize
that immutable law of nature vested in the concept of the supreme
righteousness. Zarathushtra thus clearly defines the importance of Spenta
Mainyu -the better way of thinking over the bad one.
what were the factors that caused this fundamentally reflective dualistic
thought to undergo profound transformation with time?
approach the Younger Avestan era we see the religion of Zarathushtra
gradually spreading westward, from its source of origin, in northeastern
Iran. With this, the religion encountered the early organized
prescriptive faith of Mesopotamian civilization controlled by that median
tribe - the Magi. This powerful priesthood adopted and accepted the
teachings of zarathushtra. In doing so the Magi ensured the
transmission and perpetuation of the religion through the entire Iranian
world of the time. However there was a heavy price tag associated with
this. This powerful priesthood concomitantly elected, to make some
profound changes in the philosophical, theological and ritualistic aspects
of the Gathic religion, to satisfy their needs, for aspirations of power.
Many pre-zarathushtrian divinities and rituals were reincorporated in the
Gathic religion during this period. The pantheon of Yazatas non-existent
in the Gathas evolved through the incorporation Verethraghana, Tishtriya,
Mithra and Ardevi Sura Anahita in this era. The pre-zarathushtrian Haoma
ceremony could very well have reentered the Yasna ritual at this time.
the most poignant reinterpretation introduced by the Magi was in the realm
of the Doctrine of Twin Mainyus. The Magi who adopted the religion
centuries later reduced this philosophically reflective concept of
ethical duality into a radical one, in nature. as Prof. Fox ( Fox D. A.
J. Am. Acad. Rel. 1967, 35, 133) writes, “ Magi added a number of
innovations to Zoroastrianism. none more significant than their clear-cut
rigid dualism in the concept of a deity”. They evolved Zurvan -the
divinity of time - as the supreme daity, and explained the Twin Mainyu as
Ahura Mazda and Anra Mainyu emanating from Zurvan. Ahura Mazda the
supreme Gathic divinity was thus reduced to an issue of Zurvan coequal
with its adversary. This concept became deeply rooted with time in the
syncretic zarathushtrian faith that evolved. Even though the reverence to
Zurvan has receded with time, the coequal nature of the two mainyu has
remained an accepted misconception.
texts of the Younger Avesta, particularly in many of the Yashts and in
some of the later Yasnas ( Yt. 13.71,77; Ys 61.2;), the term Anra Mainyu
was profusely quoted as the demonic spirit responsible for the evil
creation. We note this nowhere more pronounced than in Videvdat or
Vendidad, (Vd. 19.1, 6, 4). In contrast with the Gathas, where
Zarathushtra at no time refers to a total compartmentalization of
creation into two groups; chapter one of Videvdat - a text written circa
2nd century C.E.. (almost 1800 years after the time of the prophet) -
enlists all the good creation as that of Ahura Mazda against the entire
counter creation of Anra Mainyu.
thinking of the Greek philosophers was also highly influenced by the
profound re-mythologisation of the Gathic faith by the Magi. This has left
a great paucity of the comprehension of the Gathic teaching. as
Gerschewitz mentions ( Gerschewitz I., Jour. Near Eastern Stud. 1964, 23,
12) the Greek philosophers of 4th century B.C.E.. understood
zarathushtrian faith as a religion of Oromazdes and Areimanios the two
gods, as depicted by the magian doctrines.
becomes evident from their writings. For example, Plutarch addresses
prophet Zarathushtra as “zoroaster the magus”. according to Theopompos
(400 B.C.E..) the two contrasting divinities were alternatively supreme
for three millennium each, and after this time they are in deep conflict
for the next three thousand years, clearly a non-gathic concept of the
Younger Avestan era. Diogenes Laertius quotes Aristotle saying, “...magi
are more ancient even then the Egyptians, and according to them there are
two first principles ....one called Zeus and Oromasdes and the other Hades
and Areimanios” (M. Boyce, History of Zoroastrianism vol. ii, p 281).
These expressions, have left a profound imprint of the misconceptions, of
the ethical dualism of the Gathic faith even to this day.
approach the Pahlavi era the contrast of the Avestan dualistic concept is
even more strongly magnified. The efforts of the ninth century theologian
Mardanfarrokh i Ohrmazddadan, the author of Shikand Gumanig Vijar, and a
profoundly commited duelist brings the subject to a stage of consummation.
The author focuses on the basic premise that Ahura Mazda is all good and
under no circumstances can he be responsible for the creation of evil.
If evil arises from him that would clearly make him imperfect and
therefore unworthy of worship by the human. This is extensively
elaborated in ch. 11 of his treatise (SGV. Ch. 11. 13-16, 103-111). It
must be realized that Mardanfarrokh is clearly developing on the theme,
that had, by 9th century become one of the central tenets of the faith,
viz., the struggle between the good and the evil symbolized by Ahura
Mazda and Angra Mainyu.
author is so profoundly obsessed with evil, that he presupposes it to be
a creation of a divinity, and that he ignores the possibility of it
arising from the bad thoughts, bad words, and bad deeds through the wrong
choices made by the humanity.
Gathic concept of Twin Mainyus demands a critical evaluation of the truth
embedded in the message of the prophet. Taken in context with the notion
of choice, that humans have to make, in this temporal existence, it
presents a tanet that defines the responsibility of humanity to the
under the influence of the dynamic Iranian cultures, that the Gathic
concept of the “Two mainyu that came together to create the life and
non-living” (Ys. 30.4) was all but forgotten. the notion elaborated by
zarathushtra, that it is only by choosing one or the other mentality, that
the humanity (as well as the divinity) will be directed to good or evil,
was completely overshadowed. The Gathic dualism coupled with Vohu Manah -
the good mind, and Asha Vahishta, the absolute truth, that presents a
view of the control by, and responsibilities of the humanity within the
creation, has thus become ill-defined with time.
as we stand on the threshold of 21st century, it is crucial for us to make
a concerted effort to understand what has happened in the long and rich
history of our faith. What has caused the Gathic concepts such as that of
the Twin Mainyus, of the divine Fire of Ahura Mazda, to undergo these
profound erosion. It is absolutly essential that we bring this to the
attention of our youth - the generation that will assume the
responsibility of perpetuation of our faith in the next century. It is
imperative that we build the bridge of knowledge that spans the gap, so
that the off-spring of this generation is better equipped to handle the
problems of perpetuation than the generation gone-by.
thus evident , that the ethical dualism of the Gathas resides in close
proximity with choice made by the humanity through the exercise of their
freewill. To make the perfect choice of their own freewill, is the plane
of evolution that will be synchronous with the beginning of Farshokereti (Ys
34.13) - the resurrection of absolute perfection.
at the Second North American Gatha Conference, Houston, Texas, August
31-sept. 2 1996