Beyond Good thoughts (Humata ) Good words (Hukhta ) and Good deeds (Hvarshta)
By Er. Dr. Ramiyar P. Karanjia
(This article appeared on p. 2 of Parsi Times on Saturday 17th March 2012)
We have heard ad infinitum that all the teachings of the Zoroastrian religion can be summarized in three words: Good thoughts (Humata), Good words (Hukhta) and Good deeds (Hvarshta). Whenever children speak at elocution competitions, or elders give a talk, most of them say that Zoroastrianism is nothing but Humata, Hukhta and Hvarshta.
The surprising fact is that the triad of the Avestan words Humata-Hukhta-Hvarshta is not at all found in the Gathas, the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrians, which are the first metaphysical thoughts and personal outpourings of our dear prophet.
In the Haptan Yasht this triad is often mentioned, wherein in Kardeh I.2 it is stated that all those who perform Humata-Hukhta-Hvarshta are appreciated. In our Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayer which we recite at the end of the Kasti, we say āstuye humatem mano, āstuye hukhtem vacho, āstuye hvarshtem shyaothnem, that is “I praise the thought which has Humata, the word which has Hukhta and the action which has Hvarshta.”
The antithesis of Humata-Hukhta-Hvarshta is Dushmata, Duzukhta, Duzvarshta which mean “bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds.” It is erroneously believed that the Pazand words Manashni, Gavashni and Kunashni too mean good thoughts, good words and good deeds, which is wrong. These three words just mean “thought, word and action.”
From the point of view of ethics, virtues and morality, Zoroastrianism has one of the most logical systems, based on the triad of Humata, “Good thoughts”, Hukhta “Good words” and Hvarshta “Good deeds.” However a religion is much beyond ethics and morality. And since goodness is a basic virtue which is uniformly there in all religions, Zoroastrianism cannot have a monopoly over goodness.
Zoroastrians, in their earnestness seemed to have over simplified the concept of Humata, Hukhta and Hvarshta, even at an ethical level. Humata should not be perceived as a stray good thought practiced at will and convenience. It has to be a permanent state of mind.Hukhta is the goodness and sweetness of tongue which should be a life long companion and not just to be used at one’s convenience. Hvarshta is a uniform attitude of goodness and benevolence to all, and not an isolated act.
The three words make real sense only when seen in a deeper perspective. They were understood differently in the past as borne out by the Avesta and Pahlavi texts. The fact that different texts give different ideas about these three terms show that they were not regarded as simplistically as we make them out to be.
According to Yasna 19, Humata is defined as the Primeval thought of Ahura Mazda for creating creations. Hukhta is explained as Manthra spenta, that is, Holy words of prayer which help progress the creations of the world. Hvarstha is described as all the acts which help us move towards our life’s purpose and finally towards Frashogard – the Final Renovation which is the goal of all existence. Our rituals may also be included among such ‘acts.’
A different idea emerges in the Pahlavi text Aiyadgare Vazurg Meher (11-14), where to the question “What is goodness ?” the answer is Humata-Hukhta-Hvarshta. Thereafter Humata is further explained as “balanced thought” Hukhta as “charity” and Hvarshta as “righteousness.”
In the short Avestan prayer Vispa Humata it is stated that all Humata, Hukhta and Hvarshta are the result of evolved consciousness and they lead to Heaven.
Taking some liberty, we can say that Humata broadly typifies the Gnan Marg, using knowledge to have good, balanced thoughts, Hukhta to Bhakti Marg where one has to use honest, loving and caring words (emerging from a loving heart) and Hvarshta to the Karma Marg where one’s cumulative acts lead one to spiritual evolution.
We may conclude with these lines from the twelfth Kardeh of the Pazand prayer Patet Pashemani: pa zīvandie jān āstuān hōm, humata pa manashne, āstuān hōm hūkhta pa gavashne, āstuān hōm hvarshta pa kunashne, āstuān hōm pa gavahe dīne māzdayasnān, hamā kerfehā hamdāstān hōm, az hamā gunāhīhā juddāstān hōm, pa neki sepāsdār hōm, az anāi khorsand hōm. “Upto the end of my life, I will adhere in my mind to good thoughts, I will adhere in my speech to good words, I will adhere in my actions to good deeds; I will adhere to the good Mazda-worshipping religion. I agree to be one with all righteous deeds. I agree to be opposed to all sinful deeds. I will be grateful for all the good (that comes to me from God). I will remain contented in the midst of all trouble (that may come to me).”