Message Of The Holy Gathas

What makes us like Zarathushtra among others who were enlightened? To begin with, Zarathushtra was not against life or any of its joys and bounties. All that he was against was falsehood and hypocrisy. He was not against creating wealth; in fact he saw prosperity as positive and poverty as negative. Zarathushtra was not against eating, drinking or marriage. In fact he never, not even once, or remotely, suggest fasting or celibacy in order to attain salvation or enlightenment. He expected people to live life in its totality knowing full well that if one does not live life in totality he/she becomes a hypocrite and a hypocrite is incapable of knowing the truth. Zarathushtra’s Gatha are life affirmative and speak about life in its totality. He does not talk of salvation he talks of happiness. He does not speak about saving you or your soul, he expects you to be your own savior by exercising enlightened choices. Zarathushtra wants his followers to live an ordinary, but, active, industrious life with extraordinary intensity and passion. People should be simple; people should be ordinary and live the ordinary life with extraordinary intensity. He does not want us to fear God; he wants us to befriend God. He does not want us to please God; he wants us to be pleased with our own enlightened or well thought out choices. He does not encourage pain and misery in this world with promise of a better world after death.

Zarathushtra talks of the here and now and about attaining happiness in this world itself, mainly through making others happy. This is what makes Zarathushtra and his message stand out and stand apart. Many scholars refer to the Zoroastrian religion as ‘dualistic’. But, is it really dualistic and if the answer is in the affirmative wherein lies the dualism? For answers, we would have to understand the Zoroastrian concept and understanding of good and evil and the Zamyad Yasht would be one of the best hymns to study in this regard. The Zamyad Yasht is a litany to the spirit of this earth. The final paragraph of this hymn is inspiring and hope-giving! It affirms that: Akem-Mano (evil mentality) smites, but Vohu-Mano (good mentality) shall smite him; the Word of falsehood smites, but the Word of truth shall smite it. Haurvatat (Khordad or perfection) and Ameretat (Amardad or eternity) shall smite both hunger and thirst: The evil-doing Angra Mainyu bows and flees, becoming powerless.

The Yasht does not speak of Angra Mainyu being destroyed, because, one can only destroy what exists. Angra bows (accepting defeat) and simply flees, just like darkness flees when light is brought in. In like manner, ultimately, evil mentality shall bow to the good mentality and flee and the world will know Frasho Kereti or a Perfect World. But, the beauty lies in the fact that we are all imperfect soldiers in a perfecting world, in a daily battle between our twin mentalities. Choose Asha (truth) as your friend and companion and contribute to Angra fading away in the light of your Spenta.

The Gatha, consist of seventeen hymns composed by the poet-prophet Zarathushtra. They are arranged into five groups based on their meter:

Ahunavaiti Gatha (Yasna 28 to Yasna 34)

Ushtavaiti Gatha (Yasna 43 to Yasna 46)

Spentamainyush Gatha (Yasna 47 to Yasna 50)

Vohukhshathra Gatha (Yasna 51)

Vahishtoishti Gatha (Yasna 53).

The Gathas speak of the twin mentalities and choices we all must make using our sucha managha or “Illuminated mind”. In the Gatha Zarathushtra says: “I will speak of the Spirits Twain at the first beginning of Life, of whom the Holier Spake thus to the wicked one: Never shall our minds harmonize, nor our doctrines; neither our aspirations, nor yet our beliefs; neither our words nor yet our actions”. This elaborates the ethical duality we observe in this world and in our lives.

The Gatha advises: “Hear with your ears the highest Truths, Consider them with clear thought, before deciding between the two paths, Man by man, each one for himself”.

Zarathushtra speaks here about the moral and ethical choices each one of us must exercise with clear thought or an illuminated mind. And, once we make a decision, we have to be responsible for its consequences. No savior can come to our rescue except our own good thoughts, words and deeds. And hence the Prophet in reference to these two paths states: “And of these two the wise do choose what’s right; the unwise choose not thus.”

The Ushtavaiti Gatha, which embodies happiness, celebrates the Zoroastrian precept of friendship with God. In Ushtavaiti Gatha, Yasna 46.2 Zarathustra says: “Rafedhrem chagvaao hyat fryo fryaai daidit, Aakhso vangheush ashaa ishtim manangho.” Meaning (as translated by Prof. Stanley Insler): “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!”

Here Zarathushtra does not see God as the Master or the Lord or as Father or someone to fear, but sees Him as a beloved friend to talk to in times of distress and to love Him and seek His support to perfect an imperfect world with friendship based on good thinking allied with Truth. The Spentamainyush Gatha corresponding to Yasna 47 to 50 embodies the qualities of Purity, Piety, Simplicity, Tolerance and Humility.

In this Gatha the Prophet questions: “On whom can I count for help? On whom can I depend to protect my possessions?” And, answers in the same verse: “On whom but on Thy Truth, and on Thyself, O Mazda Ahura, when invoked with the Enlightened Mind!” Note here the emphasis on invoking God with an enlightened or illumined mind instead of mechanical babble without focus or understanding.

The Prophet further asks: “Tell me, O Mazda, how should they act and work? Who care for this joy-giving world with its pastures?”

And, he answers thus: “Living upright lives under the recurring splendor of the sun, apart from the repudiators, living ordered lives in harmony with the law of Truth, these shall reap the Blessed Reward!”

In other words the Prophet tells us that excellence and fulfillment can be achieved by leading an upright life in sync with the law of Asha and away from the perpetrators of evil and in doing so Spenta, the very spirit of the earth, rejoices. The Vohukhashatra Gatha (Vohu = Good and Khashatra = Power or Strength) elucidates the power of doing good deeds. It says:

“That man, who performs all his actions as an act of worship through Asha’s Law, is deemed as the best by Mazda Ahura. Those who have been in the past and who are such at present, I shall, with reverence, recall them by name, and shall try to reach their high position by righteous deeds.” This Gatha relates to Yasna 51 wherein Zarathustra elucidates that excellence comes through righteous actions performed as acts of worship. Thus righteous actions are the best form of worship and such actions reap strength and empowerment. In the fifth and last Gatha, Vahishto-Ishti corresponding to Yasna 53, the Prophet gives his daughter Pouruchista’s hand away in marriage and counsels:

“These words do I address to you maidens who are being married, these counsels do I give to you, bridegrooms, Heed them in your minds and lay them to heart. Let each cherish the other with Righteousness. Then surely the reward of a happy life shall be yours.”

Here Zarathustra does not see marriage as a contract to cohabit; instead he sees it as a path to happiness, a bond of friendship to cherish and togetherness to celebrate with joy. While concluding he also emphasized the benefits of praying. Beginning the day with a prayer puts us in a positive and peaceful frame of mind, he said. It fortifies our self-confidence and generates new energy and, in the process, equips us mentally and emotionally to face the daily ordeals of life. Prayer is a great source of psychic energy. When we pray, we link ourselves with the inexhaustible motive power that spins the entire universe.

Leave a Reply