Category Archives: Avesta and Studies
Of all the religious texts, the Avesta is perhaps the least familiar. This is unsurprising, since the Avesta was written in a now-dead language, before being lost for almost one thousand years. However, thousands of people still follow the teachings of this ancient text that is thought to have its origins between 1500 and 1000 BC. The Avesta is key not only to understanding Zoroastrianism, but also the origins of younger and more widely followed religions.
The Farvahar, the most common symbol of Zoroastrianism. ( Alexeiy / Adobe Stock)
What is the Avesta?
The Avesta is the religious text of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zoroaster at some point between 1500 and 1000 BC. The religion developed from an oral tradition, and its original prayers and hymns were composed in a language which was called Avestan, now long dead.
Thankfully, the Sassanian Empire (224-651 AD) went to great lengths to write the Avesta down. The text is usually divided into 6 sections: Yasna-Gathas, Visperad, Yashts, Vendidad, Minor Texts, and Fragments.
According to Zoroastrian tradition, the original 21 books, called Nasts were revealed by the Zoroastrian god himself, Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda is said to have revealed the texts to the prophet Zoroaster, who recited them to King Vishtaspa. The king then had the Nasts inscribed on golden sheets. This work was then memorized, recited at yasna (services), and passed down through word of mouth for generations, until the Sassanians took it upon themselves to record it all.
- Zoroastrianism: 4000 Years of Faith, Fire and the Battle Between Good and Evil
- Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu In Zoroastrianism’s Creation Mythology
A Sassanian Frieze in Iran showing Persian King Ardashir I crowned by Ahura Mazda (right). The figure standing behind the king is probably his son and successor Shapur I (Artaban V Vers 230 / CC BY SA 3.0 )
Zoroastrianism began as a polytheistic religion (a religion with more than one god). Ahura Mazda was seen as the king of the gods, and he was supported by lesser gods and spirits that represented the forces of good. Opposing Ahura Mazda and his retinue was the spirit Angra Mainyu and his forces of darkness. We know that in the early days of Zoroastrianism there was a priesthood that worshipped the gods, but very little other information exists about this early period.
Sometime between 1500 and 1000 BC, one of these priests rose up with new teachings. This priest, Zoroaster, claimed to have received a vision from Ahura Mazda. A being of pure light, Vohu Manah, had visited Zoroaster on the god’s behalf to inform him that Ahura Mazda was the one true god. It was Zoroaster’s responsibility to spread the word.
Unsurprisingly, things did not go well for Zoroaster when he first dropped this bombshell revelation. The priesthood turned against him, and his life was threatened, causing him to flee his home. Zoroaster soon arrived at the court of King Vishtaspa, who had him imprisoned for his heresy. Luckily, Zoroaster managed to win over the king by healing his favorite horse. Impressed by this miracle, King Vishtaspa promptly converted to Zoroaster’s version of Zoroastrianism and commanded his kingdom to follow suit. Zoroaster was no longer seen as a heretic, and his new religion began to spread rapidly.
- Emergence of Zoroastrianism and The Legacy of Zarathushtra
- The Faravahar: The Ancient Zoroastrian Symbol of Iran
An image of Zoroaster from the 1849 Bombay Shahnama ( Public Domain )
The new religion revolved solely around Ahura Mazda, the all-good, all-forgiving, all-loving god. All Ahura Mazda wanted was for humans to acknowledge his love through good thoughts, deeds, and words.
According to Zoroaster, his followers had to lead a virtuous life. This was done by honoring Asha (truth) and resisting Druj (lies). It was said that by leading lives of honor, people helped to combat the forces of darkness which were still led by Angra Mainyu. It is during this time that Zoroaster is believed to have composed the Gathas, the earliest section of the Avesta which takes the form of hymns addressed directly to Ahura Mazda. As stated above, legend states that King Vishtaspa had these hymns recorded on golden sheets, but no evidence of these sheets remains.
Click Here to continue to this interesting article at Ancient-origins.net
Zoroastrianism 101 Lecture on March 14, 2021
Attached, for your information and circulation, is a Press Release announcing the establishment of the North American Institute of Zoroastrian Studies, as an educational arm of the North American Mobeds Council (NAMC).
A debt of gratitude goes to Rohinton Rivetna for his initiative in drafting the initial charter, and to NAMC (President Er. Arda-e-viraf Minocherhomjee) for their resolution to carry the proposal forward. NAMC Vice-President Er. Tehemton Mirza has been tasked by NAMC to set up this organization, create a curriculum and manage its operations.
This is an important milestone for Zoroastrians in North America, marking our coming of age and taking our rightful place as an established religion, among others, in North America.
In the words of Asho Zarathushtra…
The Gathas are the Heavenly songs of our Dear Prophet Zarathushtra. These divine hymns in essence, represent Zarathushtra’s communication with Ahura Mazda, in which the Prophet enquires about various aspects of the corporeal and spiritual worlds that embody the Almighty’s Holy Plan. It is through these Gathas that we learn that Ahura Mazda ordained Zarathushtra to propagate our great religion and lead mankind.
The five Gathas address a wide variety of information, which include, the creation of Nature, the concepts of Asha, Vohu Manah and the Twin Spirits, the choices that mankind has to make between Good and Evil, the expected outcome for the demons of the time, the punishment for the followers of falsehood, and a slew of other material. The devotional ‘Manthras’ that Zarathushtra prayed at the time to invoke the sacred Blessings from Ahura Mazda, is sprinkled in different verses of each Gatha. These specific verses could very well be a great source of divine prayers for us to recite as well.
To allow a true Zarathushti to pray these selected sacred verses that are relevant to our daily lives, I have extracted these verses from each Gatha and have compiled them in a PDF format. I have also provided the English translation for each stanza, to help with the understanding of the meaning of each verse for the reader. This translation is based on “Gatha ba Maani” by Ervad Cowasji Eduljee Kanga, and “Divine Songs of Zarathushtra” by Iruch Taraporewala.
I am well aware of the unfortunate degradation of our community members throughout the world, to shy away from following the tenets of our religion, let alone reciting our daily prayers. However, even if a handful of true Zarathushtis do get a chance to recite these verses, I will consider myself blessed by Ahura Mazda.
Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.
This is a story narrated to Roshnimai Godiwala by a pious lady. It is the story of a simple husband who was unfortunate to have a wife whose lavish spending habits left him greatly distressed. For a long time, he tried his best to cater to her incessant monetary demands till one day, out of sheer despair, he decided to end his life. Even as he stood, poised for a leap unto death, on a precipice overlooking the Wai Ghat near Panchgani, a Sadhu suddenly appeared by his side.
When questioned by the ascetic, this Parsi gentleman explained his predicament , saying he was going to meet his Maker. The ascetic laughed aloud and told the Parsi that if this was truly a way to be liberated from life’s worries and meeting God, then many mortals would have succeeded by now. He requested this troubled soul to visit his Ashram and assured him that he would help him to meet God. Since the desperate Parsi had nothing to lose anyway, he accompanied the Sadhu to his Ashram.
The ascetic gave this despairing soul a fruit to eat. No sooner was the fruit consumed, the Parsi went into a samadhi– like state, liberated from all flesh and blood needs-no thirst, no hunger, no sleep, no defecation for forty days! When he returned from this trance like state, he had partaken of many secrets and mysteries lying locked in Nature’s vault. The ascetic handed a Jamaspe to this enlightened soul, instructing him how to use the book to prescribe Nirangs , prayers to other long suffering Parsi souls that they may enjoy some relief and happiness. He also told this Parsi that, henceforth, every morning when he awoke, he would find a ten rupee note under his pillow. It is worth noting that this sequence of events occurred in the forties when a rupee held great value.
On returning home, the man went about using the copy of Jamaspe and recently acquired divine knowledge for the work assigned to him. As for his extravagant wife, there was always the ten rupee note every morning to satisfy her foolish demands. After some time, the man realised his natural end was drawing near. He called a pious lady neighbour whom he trusted, and told her to take away the Jamaspe and carry on the good work after his death. The lady disciple told him that she would collect the sacred book from the prayer shelf with the burning oil lamp only after he had passed away. She assured him that she would then put it to good use as instructed by him. However, after his demise, when she tried to collect the book from the secret place shown to her, the book was missing!
Roshnimai asked late Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwalla Saheb (disciple of Ustad Saheb Behramshah Navroji Shroff) to explain why the book had vanished from the secret place shown to the survivor. He explained that , in the Aravali mountains, even today, there are places cut off from the outside material world by talismatic kash. Here lie some Astral Libraries where Holy Books of all the Divinely Revealed Religions are kept. Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwala Saheb opined that, since the survivor lady was not found eligible to use the secrets of Jamaspe, it must have, so to say, ehtherialised and got restored to one such astral library! He also explained that there are many such advanced souls dwelling in these places cut off from the outside materialistic world. Though the Sadhu was not a Parsi, he could draw the relevant book from such an astral library by virtue of his spiritual stature so that the Parsi could do the good work he was destined to do for other suffering Parsis.
The cynic and the doubting Thomas, will dismiss this story as an unbelievable yarn. We wish him good luck!
Strange are the ways of Nature and stranger, the multidimensional truths and events lying beyond the grasp of our puny human intellect that always presumes to understand the multidimensional truths of Nature. But then,as Hamlet told his friend,
“There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy!.”
Courtesy : K F Keravala
Presented as a recitable prayer in English compiled from the following publications which give different versions of the Holy Gathas as per links below, (a compilation by Jimmy Wadia ( firstname.lastname@example.org) :
Thank you Jimmy for sharing.