THE TEACHINGS OF ZARATHUSHTRA
Yasna (includes the Gathas) Yashts Visperad Vendidad Khordeh Avesta
When we say Scriptures we at once think of it as the work of God. The Bible is called the Gospel, that which God has said through men. The Quran goes a step further because it is said to be the actual words of God spoken by him directly to Prophet Muhammad. Arabic is called the language of God and till very recently the translation of the Quran was forbidden and illegal in Islamic countries.
With the advance in knowledge the words of God fall short of expectation. When we study the sequence in which the earth was made or we study the origin of humans as mentioned in the scriptures it does not match with facts around us. Today with the Hubble telescope we are seeing the origin and death of galaxies and if we are to believe what we see then we are in direct conflict with God. The Quran warns those who start questioning and doubting _"- but such as open their hearts to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be dreadful penalty. " _(S.26-106) Similarly in the Bible God warned Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Knowledge. (Genesis 2:17).
But let us dare and compare the words of God. In the Bible Genesis 1:1 to 31 we are told how God created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh, and that first the Earth was created and then the Sun and the Moon. This by itself does match with what science tells us, now lets compare that with the Quran. As mentioned in SURA XLI (41): 9 God created the earth in two days and then 41:10 He set forth on the earth mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measured therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four days, Here we see that the mountains are important and so created by God in the initial days of creation. !!! ???
Zarathushtra personally has made no claims of being a media between God and man. The Gathas are the works of Zarathushtra himself. It is his experiment with his own principle. He inquires and activates his Vohumana and gets the answer to his questions. The information he gets are in response to the question asked nothing more nothing less. It is just like when men decided to land on the moon. They used their Vohumana and acquired the Asha Vahishta about how to make it to the moon. If they had not made the decision they would have not gone to the moon to this day. If Zarathushtra did not have a question he did not think of an answer.
What Zarathushtra has said in his Gathas is the ultimate truth. The truth, that passage of time and increase in knowledge proves it. Not something which, with the increase in knowledge we start questioning and doubting its correctness. What Zarathushtra has said in the Gathas is too advanced even for our time and age, as such scholars, out of disbelief juggle with words and translates the Gathas to suite their standard of knowledge and belief.
Thus when we say scriptures in Zaratushtism it means all that is complied by Zarathushtra and those men who like him followed the Eternal Law. The collection of these works is called the AVESTA.
The Avesta as of today can be divided into five parts.
1 Yasna (includes the Gathas)
5 Khordeh Avesta
They date from the time of Zarathushtra right up to the Sasanian Period when the Khordeh Avesta was compiled. The collection underwent major destruction two times in history; once when Alexander the great (his greatness was in being an example for Hitler) conquered Persia and destroyed Takht-e-Jamshid. The main copy of the collection in the library was partly destroyed and partly carried to Athens where scholars translated part of the knowledge, to the extent that they could understand and registered it under their own name as their scholarly work. The second time, was when the Arabs conquered Persia. Abn Khaldun the 14 century Arab historian and scholar of Spanish origin writes in his book ‘The Muqaddimah’, that:
' The knowledge that has not come down to us is larger than the knowledge that has. Where are the sciences of the Persians that Umar ordered wiped out at the time of the conquest.' (Pg. 78 Vol. I )
He further writes, ' Among the Persians, the intellectual sciences played a large and important role, since the Persian dynasties were powerful and ruled without interruption. The intellectual sciences are said to have come to the Greeks from the Persians, at the time when Alexander killed Daryush and gained control of the Achaemecinian Empire. At that time, he appropriated the books and sciences of the Persians. However, when the Muslim conquered Persia and came upon an indescribably large number of books and scientific papers, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas wrote to Umar b. al-Khattab, asking for permission to take them and distribute them as booty among the Muslims. On the occasion, 'Umar wrote him: " Throw them into the water. If what they contain is right guidance, God has given us better. If it is error, God has protected us against it." Thus the Muslims threw them into the water or fire, and the science of the Persians were lost and did not reach us. ' (Pg. 113 - 114 Vol. III)
Fortunately it was a practice to memorize the Avesta, which still continues to this day, thus much of the Avesta and the Gathas were preserved and have come down to us.
The Yasna comprises of 72 chapters and theGathas as composed by Zarathushtra make up 17 of them. These 17 chapters are grouped in five sections as under.
Ahu na vad Gatha with 7 chapters (28,29,30,31,32,33,34) consisting of 100 couplets
Oush ta vad Gatha with 4 chapters (43,44,45,46) consisting of 66 couplets
Spen ta mad Gatha with 4 chapters (47,48,49,50) consisting of 41 couplets
Vohu kha shatr Gatha with 1 chapter (51) consisting of 22 couplets
Vahesh tu esh Gatha with 1 chapter (53) consisting of 9 couplets
A total of 238 couplets.
The Gathas are all that we have from Zarathushtra himself.
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The Yashts are thesis written by different scholars over a span of time. It comprises of the Asha Vahista acquired by the use of Vohumana in the same way that Zarathushtra acquired and composed the Gathas.
To understand it better let us look at the Farvardin Yasht and the Mah yasht for example.
Farvardin Yasht Karda 1 para 5, talks of 'AREDVI SUR ANAHITA’ from where flows water which purifies the semen of all males which purifies the womb of females for giving birth, which gives easy delivery to all females, which gives timely milk to all females to carry.
Para 7, United on all sides of the sea of wide shores (skin) all are united near the middle when it flows onward towards the Aredvi Sru Anahita whose thousand rivers, and thousand channels, whose these rivers whose these channels need forty days ride for a man riding a good horse.
Para 8, This one water channel spreads all over towards regions which are seven, this my one water channel carries similar water quantity in summer and winter. This water purifies the semen of men, the womb of females and the milk of females. Etc.
Here we see that the author is telling us about the heart (Aredvi Sru Anahita), and the blood (water) and about the functions of the blood; about the arteries and veins (rivers and channels) and how an equal amount of blood flows in summer and winter and most important that the length of these arteries and veins are so long that a man on a good horse would have to ride 40 days. In Persian literature forty stands for less than infinity. Some of these facts were rediscovered by science and today we are told that the length of the arteries and veins in our body are about 99,999 miles.
Modern day scholars have translated Aredvi Sru Anahita as the Aral Sea and the river as River Oxus. Which water in the world has such properties, let alone those of River Oxus. But how could these scholars believe that the ancient Zarathushtis were talking about the Circulatory System, the HEART, the BLOOD, and the ARTERIES and VEINS. Such high standards of knowledge, that too so long ago, this could not be digested by these scholars. More so because during the same period, other civilizations having a recorded history of over 4000 years, and whom scholars consider as the most advanced during the period, have left behind large libraries which do not even show signs of the possibility that, in those days they could even dare to think about such matters. Knowledge was in the realm of God and man was forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. (Genesis 2:17)
Para 1 Homage to Ahura Mazda, homage to the eternal holy law, homage to the moon a part of the universe, homage to the part that WAS seen, homage to the part that IS seen.
Para2 When does the moon wax, when does the moon wane. For fifteen days does the moon wax for fifteen days does the moon wane. ...........
Para 4 When the moon’s light shines, due to moisture green coloured offshoots grow up on plants on land in the days after the new moon. .........
As late as in the 1960’s the Soviet and Japanese scientists rediscovered that which was common knowledge among the ancient Zarathushties. They rediscovered that if a seed is sown with the new moon it grows faster stronger and that its fruit is better.
The Yashts cover science, philosophy, geography, history, astronomy, ... provided they are justly translated.
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The Visparad consists of 23 Kardas (Chapters) which among other things specifies the time of the year and the significance of each of the six Gahambars.
As recorded in the Visparad Karda 1.2 the year was divided into six irregular parts called 'Gahambars'.
Maidh-yo-zarem - mid spring - when fresh vegetables are in plenty. April 30 to May4.
Maidh-yo-shema midsummer the time for harvesting corns. June 29 to July 3.
Paiti-shahem -harvesting of fruits. Sept. 12 through 16.
Aya-threm -sowing of winter crops and that closes the summer season. Oct. 13 to 17.
Maidh-ya-rem - the period of perfect rest - is directed towards animals. January 1 to 5.
Hamas-path-maedem - equality of heat and cold - is in preparation for the revival in Nature. March 16 to 20.
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It means the law against the Daevas the impurities. It is like a Medical Guide, which set out some laws to protect one from impurities, pollution and sickness. It contains quarantine procedures to make sure that travellers did not carry any deadly germs like plague, when they returned from abroad. It seems to have been written at a very late stage and during a time when the society was passing through a difficult time as far as health was concerned. It contains 19 chapters and covers topics such as: -
What makes the earth happy?
What grieves the earth?
What pleases the earth?
Dead not to be buried
The period the earth remains unclean when defiled by the dead
How long after death decomposition of the body commences
Cleaning of the clothes defiled by the dead
How a physician is tested and his fees
Classification of contracts
Penalties for offences
On evil of false oath
On disposal of hair and nails
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It is a collection of selected Avesta text, which are suitable for daily prayers by the laity and was compiled during the Sasanian Period. The major part of it is in Pazand and it also contains fragments from the Yasna. It was compiled to suit the needs of the day. It has become the most commonly used book and for most it is ‘The Holy Avesta’ and sacred. The Khorda Avesta book itself is handled with special respect - in a way more respected than the book containing the Gathas.
The respect and daily use by the laity, has kept this book under the lime light and has thus always been subjected to changes depending on the belief and practice of the age and time. At times whole chapter have been added and at other times deleted and paragraphs have been freely moved around. Khordeh Avesta printed in the early 1900’s contains a chapter called " Afsoon-e-Shah Faredoon" which does not exit in latter editions. So also the Kushti prayers in the Bombay edition are different from the ones printed in Iran.
Friends and foe, true believers in Zarathushtra and those who have made Him their business, their bread giver, people from all walks of life, all have taken their pick at this book, even to this day and have insulted the judgement of its original writer. The only other book that has been subjected to similar changes is the ‘ Shahnameh’ of Ferdowsi and the reason being, there are more people who think they know better than Ferdowsi.
The Khordeh Avesta is the work of Mobed-e-Mobedan Ataropad Mahr-Aspand of the Sasanina era and effort should be made to preserve it in its original form, it tells us about the beliefs and thoughts of his time.
Zarathushtra in his Gatha 30.2 says
Listen with your ears to the supreme facts
Consider with open mind
Between the paths before deciding
Person by person for his own self
Before greatness of the message
Is truly spread understand each one
A true Zarathushti need not believe in the writings of any one if he feels so, but that does not give him a right to change what an ancient writer has written and has become famous for having written it. Why change what has been written, if someone thinks he knows better why not write a new book under his own name.
Another book which is sometimes included among the scriptures by some scholars.
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ARDA VIRAF NAMEH
Arda Viraf Nameh is a ninth century Phalavi mythical book written by Mobed Arda Viraf.
Arda Viraf was a priest who claimed that he in his sleep journeyed through heaven and hell for seven days and night. When he awakes he gives a very graphic description of both heaven and hell. The types of joys and sufferings and their reasons. Each type is attributed to a particular good deed or a sin that the person had committed on earth.
The souls he found in hell were those that had lied, given false evidence, misappropriated funds, not given milk to infants, distressed their parents, and acts of sodomy, unlawful slaughtering of animals, muzzling of the mouth of animals and ploughing cattle, overworking and ill treating of beasts, taking bribes, adultery, seduction, false judgements, keeping back benefits from mankind, inhospitality towards travellers etc. The punishments that they were receiving in hell are also very graphic. Like the women who had not given milk to her child is seen digging a hill with her breast, or the judge who has given a false decision is sentenced to slay his own child and eats its brain.
It basically tells us what was considered good or bad in those days. Some of the sins worth noting are --- Eating while talking, (most business meeting these days would have to be cancelled), eating the grain which is destined to be sown, washing in or throwing impure matter into running water, walking without shoes, lamentation and weeping, charging travellers for what is given to them, not giving shelter to travellers, ( for this reason in Iran there existed Caravan-sara’s which gave shelter to travellers without charge, and even today we have Pazereshghas and Dharamshalas where charges if any are to cover the cost).
Dante Aligheri the 14th century Italian poet is well know today only for having written the book " Divine Comedy ", which in fact is based on Arda Viraf Nameh. The reason that Dante and his Divine Comedy are famous is that it is considered a literary work while Arda Viraf Nameh is considered a religious book and so shunned by many.
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