THE MESSAGE OF ZARATHUSHTRA
Zarathushtra was restless again. He returned home. He had his answers, but he had to get them to the people. He did not know how to begin. He prayed for a way and he was inspired. He then knew how to begin. He called his relatives and explained to them the new doctrine of worshiping Mazda, the only God. He expounded the divine faculties of Vohu Manah, “good mind” that provided sound thinking and fine judgment; Seraosha, “inspiration,” hearing the divine voice that established communion with God; Asha, “precision and truth” that provided guidance to do the right thing at the right time at the right place and with the right means to obtain the right result – a perfect order in the world; the establishment of Khshathra, a divine “order” by the honest and true; Âramaiti, the “serenity” that followed the divine order; the progress toward Haurvatât, “wholeness”, perfection that followed serenity and tranquility; Ameretât, the “immortality” that is the result of perfection; and Spenta Mainyu, the divine “progressive mind” that creates, maintains, and advances the entire divine process. It was too new, too unique to understand. All stared blank, except one person, his cousin Maidyoimâha, son of Ârâsti. He is listed as the foremost among those who “listened to the thought-provoking words and teachings of Zarathushtra” Tradition says that he was fifteen years older than Zarathushtra.
Zarathushtra began addressing the people more frequently. A few joined him.
But then a reaction started. The priests saw their profession in danger. They attempted to persuade him away. They promised rich rewards. They failed, so they began opposing him. There were not only the priests, thekarapans, alone but they had with them their superior allies and patrons, the poet princes, the kavis. Bendav and Usig were two of the worst. Both were, incidentally, Vedic poets, rshis, of the Indo-Aryan lore. They opposed Zarathushtra hard and harsh, but he maintained his peaceful position. The karapans and kavis failed in their efforts, and Zarathushtra failed in promoting his mission. The reason for the double failure lay in Zarathushtra’s method. The karapans and kavis failed because he kept so cool and calm in his talks that they simply could not stir up a mob to harm him, yet this same method did not stir up mobs in his support. He disregarded the fanciful gods, but he never denounced any of them by name. For him they did not exist. Why should he waste his energy exciting the public by attacking something about which they were sensitive. He had a better way.
Zarathushtra was a versatile poet with wit and humor. The word for god, daêva, was derived from the root div, to shine, and therefore meant “the shining.” With a slight twist, it could be derived from a homonym root, “to deceive,” and therefore mean the “deceit.” Karapan, from krp, to arrange rituals, meant the “officiating priest.” It also meant “mourner, mumbler,” as a homonymous word. Kavi was both a poet prince and a pattering parrot. Bendav meant a faithful friend as well as a serf. Usig was “bright” and also “alight”. The drink Haoma was called duraosha, “repeler of death,” and it could mean “the waster of wisdom.”
These witty twists of meaning had their effect. They exposed Zarathushtra’s opponents. They were irritating but they also aroused interest. They ignited anger, but they also were amusing. They did not provide his antagonists with the pretext to destroy him, but they did give the people an idea of their inner selves. Zarathushtra avoided controversy with his wit, but he had failed thus far in spreading his discoveries because his ideas were so new, his doctrine so fresh, that the people around him could not grasp them. Later tradition says that a good ten years slipped by, and Zarathushtra still had only a few relatives and a few friends who had chosen his way. Nevertheless, his untiring preaching did not go unheeded among the populace. They were mildly sympathetic and not inimical, so the priest-prince coalition tried sterner measures. They started preventing the people, even Zarathushtra’s own companions, from meeting him. That was more than he could tolerate.
Zarathushtra began thinking of his mission. Why had his progress been so slow? Then he realized that he had been talking to people of limited knowledge. It had been useless to talk to people who were still not ready to understand what he said. Limited knowledge meant less understanding and more emotion. He had lost many a good year. Concerned that he would lose more, he wondered what he should do. Again he put a question to God:
“To what land should I turn? Where should I turn to go? They hold me back from my folks and friends. Neither the community I follow pleases me, nor do the wrongful rulers of the land. How can I please you, Wise Lord? I know, Wise One, that I am powerless. I have a few cattle and a few men. Please, Lord, see to it.”
Zarathushtra was inspired to approach Kavi Vishtaspa, the Sage Sovereign of the most prosperous of the Iranian lands. He had a court full of poet-philosophers. The king was prudent and powerful. Should Zarathushtra prevail upon the king’s prudence, he would be a success. If not, he could be doomed. It was a very great risk, yet worth it.
Zarathushtra told his companions of his daring venture and assured them of divine help. Soon he and his companions, a small band of honest, goodhearted people, bade their town goodbye and set off to the Helmand delta in the south. His antagonists followed, continuing to harass him, yet nothing stopped him. First he met the powerful Turanian princes, the Frayanas, who listened to him, accepted his message, and became his allies. Then he reached the royal court.
At the royal court he had long, long discussions. There were court intrigues against him, but he was undaunted and firm. It took him two full years to convince Kavi Vishtaspa, Queen Hutaosa, and the court sages. He had won the best support he could ever have. The entire court underwent a change. The warrior king and his stalwart sons and brothers turned into peaceful but ardent missionaries. Prominent among them were two sage brothers of Hvogva family, Ferashaoshtra and Jamaspa, and later Prince Spento-data whose name-Progressive Law-shows either that he was born after his father accepted the Good Religion, or that his name was changed because it related to an Aryan “daeva.” He appears to have become a missionary-at-large who forwent the crown he was to wear after his father Vishtaspa.
A later tradition says that Zarathushtra marked his success by founding the “Nîmrûz” (meridian) observatory in the delta, perhaps on the tiny island on the Hamun lake. This Mount Ushidarena, House of Science, is mentioned several times in the Avesta. It is known at present by the name Kûh-e Khvâjeh, Mount of Lord. The site was, incidentally, ideal for the purpose. It was indeed the “center” of the old civilized world. It stood 61 degrees longitude and 31 degrees north latitude. One line cut Asia, Africa, and Europe, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, in two, and other divided in half that part of the world that enjoyed regular days and nights between the well-inhabited zones of 70 degrees north and l0 degrees south. It was a lush green place with clear skies. The name “meridian” – Rapithwan in Avesta and Nemroz in Pahlavi, as well as the “mid-earth” (vimaidhya zem) given to it in the Avesta, makes sense and is in keeping with science. Against this the later Ptolemaic transfer of the prime meridian to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic could be interpreted as an illogical political move during the troubled years of the Parthian and Roman wars in the second century CE. The same holds true of the very recent arbitrary transfer of the prime meridian to Greenwich during British supremacy in l884. Tradition also adds that the occasion was particularly favorable because Aries entered vernal equinox around l725 BCE, thus providing a good clue for determining various dates concerning the early stages of the Good Religion.