Song 1 – Humbly I pray
Asho Zarathushtra begins his songs, original in nature, with a humble prayer in the presence of God. He prays in earnest for divine inspiration, the very message he has to proclaim. He has a mission and he is dedicated to it: It is to please God and serve to promote the living world. He and his companions pray for both mental and material blessings with a long life, only to spread the divine message to all and even convince the barbarian and unruly to listen to it and make a right choice. They are careful not to violate any divine principle. They want to establish the life on the primal basis of the divine order of righteousness, good mind, and serenity. They pray for it and know well that prayers with a noble purpose are heard and answered.
Song 2 – The Choice of Asho Zarathushtra As the Lord and Leader of the World
Introduction: The second song of the Gathas is an interesting play. It provides the reason why Asho Zarathushtra was chosen by the living world as the Lord and Leader exclusively on the basis of his righteousness and competence. The play is not only the oldest Indo-Iranian play on record (approximately 3700 years old), but one can even go further to state that it is the oldest dramatic poem in the world which survives in the very words of the author, the Hero of the play – Zarathushtra Spitama. Commentary: Might is right in the living world. The strong are oppressing the weak and depriving them of their legitimate rights. It is a world of the survival of the fittest, rather the strongest. This law is perhaps good for the jungle. But man has outgrown being a mere animal. He is a creator now. He has discovered how to make fire. He has discovered metals and learned how to mould them into instruments. He has invented many articles. These discoveries have made him very powerful. He can make wonderful things and, equally, he can destroy these wonderful things. His destructive aspect poses a great threat, not only to his own existence, but to all of life on the good earth. Therefore, the law of the survival of the strongest cannot hold true any longer. With wonder weapons in hand, now weaklings can wipe out the fittest, the strongest and the finest. However, man the creator has a very clear and strong thinking faculty. He can be guided by his good mind to be always constructive. His good mind must, therefore, be trained and strengthened to be his only guide. He must do things right. He must be taught that “Might is not right” but that “Right is might.” The living world will survive only if man is guided by his good mind. There must be a radical change, a turning point. Wisdom should take over and the lead force and power. Only the wise and benevolent should be the lords and leaders of the world. This requires two things: Power to repel aggression and control oppression, and wisdom to eliminate them and promote permanent peace and prosperity. The living world, therefore, is in dire need of a person who can comply with these two requirements. That person, in the play, is Asho Zarathushtra. He is the person who seeks to bring in the new change, and introduce a complete departure from the past policy of senseless force and aggression. He is naturally chosen by the free living, rather the thinking world both as the Lord and the Leader. It is after understanding the play that one realizes the true significance of Ahuna Vairya or Yath_ Ahu, the opening, yet the outstanding, stanza of the first Gatha, Ahunavaiti, meaning the song which contains Ahuna-vairya, the stanza of the “Choice of the Lord.” Let us now turn to it: Both the lord and the leader are to be chosen because of their righteousness. These two appointments are made with good mind, so that the acts of life are done for the Wise One, and the dominion of God is well established, in which the chosen person becomes the Rehabilitator of the rightful who are oppressed. This short stanza of 20 words and two particles encapsulates the spirit of the entire Gathas.. It emphasizes that both the lord and the leader required to transform the world into a divine dominion should be chosen only on the criterion of their righteousness and precision. The choice is made by good thinking and the correct judgement, an act that helps one to dedicate his or her very life to God and thus work toward establishing the chosen dominion in which there would remain no oppression and thus none oppressed. It is a unique formula for a divinely inspired, sound democracy which promises mental and material peace and prosperity for all. The emphasis is on vairyo, to be chosen, worthy of election; ashât-chît hachâ, only on account of righteousness; vangheush manangho, of good mind, based on good thinking; shyaothananâm angheush, acts of life; Mazdâi, for the Wise One; khshatrem-châ Ahurâi, the kingdom belongs to Lord;dadat vâstârem, appointed a rehabilitator, given a settlement; drigubyo, to the wrongfully restrained, the oppressed righteous. Keeping the above points, we can realize the significance of the entire song. It is the basis for evolving a peaceful world. It provides us with the freedom to choose our spiritual and physical leader and then work with him or her to create the world which we have all along been desiring. That is the reason the Avesta lays the highest emphasis on Ahuna Vairya formula. According to it, it concerns the principles which lead to the salvation-“the best life, the best righteousness, the best enlightenment… Should the material world understand it, memorize it, it would lead to immortality.” (Yasna 19, an Avestan commentary on Ahuna Vairya).
Song 3 – Good and Evil
Notes: Mainyu is derived from the Avesta/Sanskrit root man, to think and with its agentive/instrumental suffix of yu, means “means or way of thinking” and therefore mind and mentality. The interpretation of spirit, in its abstract or personified form, is a much later development. In this song or elsewhere in the Gathas, the two mentalities, also called choices, are confined to human behavior only and do not concern the cosmic world at all. The term spenta mainyu, standing for the divine creative faculty, has no opponent or adversary in the Gathas, and the term “angra mainyu” does not exist in the Gathas. The so-called opponent “spirits” are also a later development.
Gist: Asho Zarathushtra advises people to listen to the best words, then consider them with a clear, bright mind, and then each person make the choice for his or herself. Among those best words are his new doctrine of good and evil. Good and evil stem from two mentalities a person has since the beginning of one’s life. A beneficient person chooses good and a base person the evil. Thus these two mentalities create life and “not living” for a person-life with all its potentialities, or otherwise a living without them, making a person one of the walking dead. A person choosing good will perform beneficial deeds and please God, but a person, fond of false gods, falters in his choice and once he indulges in thinking evil, he resorts to anger, a mood which brings destruction to people because anger is the source of all violence. The person who takes to good mind and righteousness, finds strength, stability, and ultimately God. But even he who goes astray and suffers the consequences, may realize the truth and give up deceit for truth. Therefore, let all of us pray to be among those who make a fresh world, a world in which the wise unite to defeat evil and create a happy life of wisdom and righteousness. Therefore, let us fully understand that the principles of a prosperous life and a miserable living. Wrong and deceit bring long suffering but righteousness and truth result in true happiness.
Song 4 – Guidance
After explaining good and evil, Zarathushtra points out that his message will prove good to bad people and prove the best for those who are already devoted to God. He says that since it is not easy to discriminate good and evil, one needs a guide. He, as one, explains the facts based on wisdom and knowledge. He pays more attention to those going astray, because as long as there are wrongful people, the spiritual and social evils cannot be eradicated. But in spite of this guidance, Zarathushtra lays emphasis on free will and sound discrimination of the people. He wants them to grow in knowledge to a desired level so that they are able to make their own choice. He says that the reward of righteous deeds are good, and that evil actions lead to long life of sufferings. But the ultimate salvation of wholeness and immortality is for all. It is easy and smooth for the righteous but hard and difficult for the wrongful. Zarathushtra continues to pray to God for enlightenment and success. He also blesses the wise who have listened to his divine message and are working zealously to spread it to mankind.
Song 5 – Aberration
This song is, in fact, an exposure of the fraud and aberration practiced by the priests and princes of the old cult. The daevas, false gods and their worship were the creation of evil mentality and deceit. It is superstitions that deviate a man from thinking right. However, they become a good source of income for the cunning, who continue to hoard what they can extract from the simple people. These cunning persons are the ritualistic priests, called karapan by Asho Zarathushtra. The word actually means “arrangers of rituals,” but it also means “chatterers” and “mumblers” which they were indeed. They were not alone. There were the rulers, turned into luxury lovers through the spoils they had accumulated. The two, having a common vested interest of exploiting the people, had joined hands. They kept the people in darkness and ignorance. Their increasing lust for wealth had turned them into tyrants, an action that earned them people’s hatred. However, they forgot that God was watching them and that a day would dawn when a thought-provoking genius would rise and lead the people out of their clutches. It may be noted that this is the only song in which Asho Zarathushtra mentions a legendary person-Yima/Jamshed/Jamshid-about whom it was said that he fell because of his arrogance and false pride. He, however, leaves the judgement to God.
Song 6 – Devotion to Duty
The entire song is devoted to Zarathushtra’s divine mission of communicating with God only to gain guidance to spread the universal message, and to serve God and humanity. He rose to eliminate the ills that plagued every unit of human society. He rose to guide humanity on the righteous path of the highest wisdom. Years of untiring preaching made his voice heard among the people who formed the nucleus of his Maga: the Great Fellowship of his companions. Now, he wanted it to go beyond this circle, to the settled people of the land. He wanted more strength and more enlightenment for his expanding mission. He wanted courage that comes with supreme serenity, the sublime strength that comes with progressive thinking, the invigorating energy that comes with righteous conduct, the happiness that blesses a good mind-and he wanted all these to strengthen his conceptions. In return for all these favors, he made a surprising offer. He dedicated to God his life, mind, words, deeds, his communion, and the very power and endurance he was asking. That is why he broke into a beautiful prayer-a prayer for a divine vision that would grant him communion with God. He wanted his reverential prayers, rather the dedication of his humble service, to manifest itself among his companions. He prayed for the success of his mission. And we know, he was granted this wish. Let us join Asho Zarathushtra, and pray for enlightenment through righteousness and good mind. Let us also dedicate ourselves to serve the Great Mission. Let us pass on his divine message beyond our still small circle to humanity at large. Let us be enlightened, only to enlighten others.
Song 7 – Renovation
In his last song of Ahunavaiti Gatha, Asho Zarathushtra begins, as always, with a prayer in praise of God Wise and asks for divine help and guidance. He wants the divine fire, the God-given bright mind to help his supporters and to thwart his antagonists. He dedicates his deeds to God to accomplish his mission. He wants to introduce a drastic change in life. His doctrine, based on good mind and righteousness, poses a danger to vested interests. But he is determined to continue his task and frustrate their inimical designs. He wants devoted souls and beneficent people to come forward and help him. He wants them to devote their lives in serving a world which is full of good potential. He wants to rehabilitate the people who have lost their rights because of aggression. And finally as a reward, he wants God to help him in renovating the world and maintain it as fresh as God wishes it to be. He wishes to return to God happy and content upon the completion of his mission.
Song 8 – Realization-Self, Nature, God
Note: A very good way to develop the faculty of thinking is to meditate in a serene atmosphere. There one can think and contemplate first on one’s self, then the environment, and then nature, only to realize the truth about the creation and the Creator. Meditation means contemplation, to focus thoughts on a certain object. It can best be done facing a shining altar-fire, a lighted flame, a brilliant light. It helps to illuminate one’s mind so much so that one feels encircled by the illumination. It is this mental illumination that enlightens one to enter into communion with the Supreme Intelligence Being-Ahura Mazda.
Gist: Ushtâ Ahmâi, the song of meditation, illumination, and enlightenment describes in beautiful poetry how Asho Zarathushtra seeks and realizes, through observation and contemplation, and then silent meditation his God as the Most Progressive Intelligent Being. He realizes that life has its consequences. The divine law says that you reap what you sow. He realizes his duty, the duty of an Enlightened One: Enlighten others, whosoever they are, and root out the evil that plagues human life. He realizes that it is a difficult task to do so. The priests, whose sacrificial fire rituals aimed at keeping the people in ignorance, he categorically rejects, oppose him. Yet he chooses the most progressive divine mentality and determines to start a new movement, the movement towards enlightenment for all. Zarathushtra asks for divine support to guide mankind to righteousness. He begins his mission, and that places the world at a new turning point. False gods and their deceptive priests and tyrant princes recede. Only the Wise and Ruling-at-Will God is recognized. The universal law of righteousness, enlightened mind, and liberty prevails. True happiness lies in making others truly happy. It is a new order to create a new world, a sun-bathed dominion of enlightenment.
Song 9 – Answering Questions
Notes: Questions lead to discoveries, discoveries enhance our knowledge, and knowledge guides one to salvation. A good look around ourselves to see the earth, the sky and what is between them, to discover the order that revolves them in perfect harmony, and to study our own human society would unfold many truths-above all the wisdom that creates and maintains them. It makes us realize the Supreme-God, and we get a clearer picture of the creation around us. The first thing the discoveries do is to remove all imaginations and superstitions about the universe we see. However, all appears to be right except for the human society. It is groping in darkness and ignorance. Ignorance breeds superstitions. Since ancient times, there have been persons who have thrived on people’s ignorance. They have taken every advantage to exploit them through their superstitions. This has created disorder in society, disorder which is corrected by force only. This force is used by the very people who create disorders, with the result that disorder keeps on multiplying. And the exploiters continue to keep the people in darkness so that they are able to dupe and rob them. Force recoils with force. Atrocities continue. And when they reach their peak, the reactions are violent too. All this causes disturbances, wars, and bloodshed. Zarathushtra comes with a new remedy, a new message. He does not believe in violent force, but in peaceful knowledge, in steady enlightenment. This knowledge may be acquired through open-minded and first-hand study of nature so as to realize the super-wise, super-powerful creator, maintainer, and promoter-God. This is the way he realizes the truth. He wants others to realize the same. He wants them to know the truth, the facts. He wishes them to be passive, prudent, and devoted to the mission of promoting the God-created world. He turns to society with his new doctrine. He meets with different people. Some are good, some a little bad, and some very evil. Some listen to him. Some ignore him. And some confront him. He is opposed by vested interests of the priests and princes, the persons at the root of all social disorders. He does not give up. He continues preaching. His efforts are rewarded. He wins over many a stalwart. He has a team which he knows will ultimately win the race. He and his companions are for promoting the world, a world freed from violence, enjoying freedom, relishing peace, living happily, progressing steadily, and above all, having full faith in God and the good creation. He and his companions turn to God alone in their prayers, and at the same time, harmonize with nature in promoting an ever-better world. The Gathas are a masterpiece of songs, divine inspired to inspire all those who recite them. They are a very thought-provoking message. However, this subtle song has its own beauty. It is full of questions, which are, in fact, their own answers. Every question makes one wonder, think, and then have the answer. The answering questions reveal that Zarathushtra must have asked others many questions, and when he was not satisfied with their illogical answers, he started asking himself. The answers came through good mind he had developed so thoughtfully. The answers led him to the good God, and he became fully enlightened about his mission-to lead human society on a new spiritual and material path of progress, wholeness, immortality, and godliness. His questions put a thinking person on a holy quest for the Creator through serving the created, a novel way of stimulating one to seek knowledge and to be Godlike.
Song 10 – Proclamation
This is again a beautiful song in which Asho Zarathushtra begins the first six stanzas with “Now, I shall proclaim …” He makes the proclamations because he has had his cherished experience of communicating with God-Ahura Mazda, God Wise, and now feels fully confident of his mission. And he makes his proclamations in an assembly of people who have come from far and near to listen to him. He cautions the people who have come to be aware of the persons who are attempting to dissuade them back into the old cult. He makes it clear that the two mentalities-the better and the evil-have nothing in common. The choice of one means abandoning the other. That is why he wants his listeners to understand and practice his doctrine, otherwise they may suffer a bad end. His doctrine, based righteousness, good mind and serenity, leads to wholeness and immortality, and to God. Asho Zarathushtra then breaks into a prayer. He prays to God for strength and endurance to spread the message because all human beings-dead, alive, or yet to be born seek success from God alone. The souls of the righteous will always, here and hereafter, be strong, but the wrongful will face failures in their climb to wholeness. God has, at the same time, given mankind freedom of choice. One may make progress or fall back. Progress means promotion of human society and our living environment. He finishes his proclamation by stating that those who deny false gods and their followers by actively serving the progressive movement are truly the benefactors and supporters of society.
Song 11 – From Suffering to Success
This song presents two phases of Asho Zarathushtra’s good life: The early missionary days when he suffered persecution, and the days when he had won over the persons who spread his message far and wide. The first phase shows him a weak person who had a small number of persons to help him, and who hardly had any material backing. His mission was opposed by the parrot priests of the old cult and by the poet princes. Both had their highly vested interests at stake. They were strong and he was not in a position to challenge them. Their opposition grew to an extent that even his relatives and close friends were not allowed to meet him. Even men of influence could not help him. He was left alone, but he was not forlorn. He had Ahura Mazda. He turned to Him and broke into a plea: Where should he go? What should he do? He received divine inspiration: God had endowed him with a bright mind and clear thinking. He had a bright idea: he resolved to leave his home behind and face the greatest risk of his life by visiting the chief poet prince of the region and his courtful of princes and priests-Kavi Vishtaspa! The second phase shows him on the road to success. First he met the powerful Turanian princes, the Frayanas, who listened to him, accepted his message, and became his allies. Next, after two years of persuasion, he blessed and welcomed King Vishtaspa into the Good Religion. Vishtaspa became the chief patron in spreading the message. Zarathushtra’s own relatives, the Spitamas, joined him. Two stalwart brothers, Ferashaushtra and Jamaspa, famed for their wisdom, followed next. Both became his main missionaries. One preached to people. The other learned the doctrine, now composed in seventeen songs-the Gathas. People had gathered around their benefactor-Saoshyant-to zealously work to start a completely fresh life in a fruitful world with a bright future.
Spenta Mainyu Gatha
Song 12 – Progressive Mentality
Notes: (1) The first stanza of the song is the only place in the Gathas in which all the seven principles that were later transformed into “Amesha Spentas-Incremental Immortals” are mentioned. Their use in one place defines well their complementary relations to one another. Another place (Song VII.11) where more abstract principles are used, also proves the same idea. (2) The word “spenta mainyu” is present in all the six stanzas. (3) This is shortest song in the Gathas.
Gist: Spenta Mainyu, the progressive mentality, is the divine wisdom which creates, maintains and promotes the creation. It is the faculty which created the joy-bringing world for the wise who would settle and prosper in peace. Should man promote the faculty in himself, he too would become Godlike. He will achieve wholeness and immortality through his best thoughts, words, and deeds performed in the right way and in a serene dominion. Those who consult their good mind, promote their progressive mentality. Those who do not, live a life of evil mind. However, the divine light and love light the way to progressive mentality, and help many a seeker to become converted, literally “choose the religion.”
Song 13 – Victory over Wrong
Wrong results in wrong ways and good produces yet more goodness. Wrong must be conquered. This is achieved by means of righteousness, good mind, and profound wisdom, a wisdom that promotes one to be Godlike. Fury and violence, practiced by fanatic religious leaders and wicked rulers who indulge in intoxicating rituals, must be abandoned. Spreading health and happiness is a foremost principle of life. Government must be run only by the good, wise and righteous rulers. Life on the earth must be led in peace, prosperity, and progress. It is only then that true reward of good life is obtained. It is only then that the divine dominion is established. It is only then that the mission of Zarathushtra is fulfilled.
Song 14 – Removing Obstructions
The greatest obstruction to progress are the bigots who prevent people from taking the right path. This is because they do not think with a calm and clear mind. Their evil intellect makes them create false deities and false beliefs. Because of their restraining tactics, they become a burden on a productive society. In fact, they are parasites. One should break away from them. One should turn to devotion and prayers, and become balanced through righteousness. One should abide by the law and guide the community. It is these deeds that make one Godlike. Zarathushtra then turns to Ferashaushtra and Jamaspa, two wise brothers, who have chosen the Good Religion. He wants them to know that the new turn in their life unites them with the righteous only. They, like other good souls, live in the divine abode in which good mind, peace, and prayers exist in an ever-lasting environment. Here in stanza 11, one finds a hint that the souls of evil-doers return and remain in their evil world. But as we see in other stanzas, particularly Song 5, they too eventually progress onward to wholeness and immortality.
Song 15 – Communion with God
With difficulties overcome, success follows success, and Zarathushtra breaks into prayers to uplift his soul and strengthen his mission. He communes with his Lord Wise to advance his cause. He is seeking to promote an ideal society on a “sun-bathed” joy-bringing earth. He wants his companions to go forth and spread his message to the whole of humanity. He wants people to become self-reliant in life, because self-reliance is truly a good reward. It gives one the power to be good to others, to be beneficent. A triumphant Zarathushtra is determined to praise the Wise Lord because his prayers turn into solid actions that make life on the earth as new and modern as God wishes. This song is the song of “progressive renovation.” It is a communion with God to renovate the human community in the joy-bringing world. Note, the last line which in Avesta is “Haithy_ varesht_m hyat vasn_ ferashotemem – true actions make life most renovated as God wishes.” It is a part of the daily prayer with which one begins tying one’s kushti, the sacred girdle of service, around the waist, a reminder of Asho Zarathushtra’s determination to maintain an ever-splendid world through continuous modernization, and a stimulation to continue to be his partner in this task.
Vohu Khshathra Gatha
Song 16 – A Chosen Dominion, A Good Government
The ideal government is the one chosen by the people. It is the best reward, a divine boon. Asho Zarathushtra works for that with dedication. Such a government is an ideal place of righteousness, progressive peace, true happiness, and best intellectual activities. One must work to strengthen such a government. And the head of such a government, a lord in spirit and leader in matter, must be a qualified person of humble nature and firm faith. One who tries to weaken such a government, shall suffer the consequence, because the divine rule is: Evil for the wrongful and true happiness for the righteous. The princes and priests, interested only in their own welfare, do not please Zarathushtra. They do harm to the living world, an act that recoils and has grave consequences for them. The persons Zarathushtra considers his friends are those who are wise, truthful, peaceful, progressive in the human fellowship. Of them, King Vishtaspa, Ferashaushtra, Jamaspa and his own cousin Madyoi-Maha are some. They, and many more, support Asho Zarathushtra in his divine mission of spreading the thought-provoking message. They, in turn, are granted life in the divine presence, in a serene state of song and music. And although it is God Who knows best how dedicated to righteousness a person is, Zarathushtra venerates his companions, living or not, by their names and encircles them in love, in a true tribute to those who are devoted to God and God’s creation.
Vahishta Ishti Gatha
Song 17 – Best Wish
A successful Zarathushtra feels that his wishes of spreading the divine message to the entire humanity have come true. He finds that his early enemies have learned about the beauties of the Good Conscience and have accepted its principles. He appreciates the services being rendered by his companions and as he prepares to retire, he urges them to continue their good work. Then he turns his attention to the marriage of his youngest daughter Pouruchista. He encourages her to choose a worthy mate. She does so by choosing the man who later becomes her father’s successor: Jamaspa Hvogva who was specially chosen and trained by Zarathushtra to lead the Fellowship. The happy occasion provides Zarathushtra with an appropriate opportunity to address future brides and bridegrooms. He cautions them not to forget their duties before God and the divine creation by indulging in a irresponsible, self indulgent lifestyle. He urges them to strive together in the glorious effort to create a better world through their personal devotion to righteousness. Then he emphasizes that since the whole structure of the ideal world society is built on the foundation of righteous families, each serving as a brick to be used in building a wonderful new world for humanity, every Zarathushtrian has a profound responsibility to marry wisely and to raise a happy, productive, well-adjusted and devout family. Thus divorce is strongly discouraged and marital couple are urged to be formally committed to making their marriages succeed, to work together even through the bad times they share to preserve their love and unity. The “Best Wish” is truly a sublime swan song of Zarathushtra.
A Airyema Ishya
Concluding Benediction – World Zarathushtrian Fellowship
A world fellowship of men and women to bring peace and prosperity to every living being in the world is one of the main goals of the Good Conscience. It is the fulfillment of Zarathushtra’s mission, a mission aimed at perfecting the world in mind and matter, spirit and body toward immortality and union with God. It is the fellowship for which he rose, worked and succeeded. It is the universal union which is desired. It is a unity which would bring true happiness to every person in every family. It is the unity built by loving families. It is the outcome of true spiritual and physical democracy in which there would exist no oppressor and no oppressed. It is to tread the path of righteousness with a good and sound mind. Its reward: righteousness. While “Yatha Ahu” is the beginning of the Gathas, “A Airyema Ishya” is their end. One is the aim of creating a perfectly happy world and the other is the culmination of the aim. A Airyema Ishya is a prayer which wishes us a worthy world of unity, unity through the Good Conscience, unity through the Fellowship it establishes. It is a beautiful benediction with which Asho Zarathushtra concludes his inspired and inspiring songs-The Gathas-of divine love and sublime guidance. May we continue to follow the divine principles of wholeness and immortality by studying and practicing the thought-provoking message of the Gathas. And may we continue to be worthy members of the Zarathushtrian Fellowship.