Shayest Na-Shayest ('Proper and Improper')

Translated by E. W. West, from Sacred Books of the East, volume 5, Oxford University Press, 1880.


Sin which affects accusers is to be atoned for (vijarishn) among the accusers, and that relating to the soul is to be atoned for among the high-priests (radan), and when they do whatever the high-priests of the religion command the sin will depart, and the good works which they may thenceforth do will attain completion (avasporik). 2. The sin of him who is worthy of death (margarzan) is to be confessed (garzishno) unto the high-priests, and he is to deliver up his body; except to the high priests he is not to deliver up his body.
On account of the dexterity (farhang) of horsemen it is not their business to hunt (nakhchir kardano); and it is not allowable for any one else to hunt for game, except for him whose wealth is less than three hundred stirs.
The ceremonial worship (yazishn) of those worthy of death, which they do not perform by way of renunciation of sin, is the ceremonial which is demon worship; and when the officiating priest (aerpat) does not know it the merit (kirfak) of the ceremonial goes to the store (gang) of the angels, and they give the enjoyment which arises from that merit in the spiritual existence to the soul of that person who has at once (aevak) become righteous in mind.
When the mortal sinner (margarzan) has delivered his body and wealth at once to the high-priests, and engages mentally in renunciation as to the sin which has occurred, and the high-priests give him their decision (dastobarih) as to duty and good works, the duty and good works which were before performed by him come back to him; and when they inflict punishment for three nights, he does not enter hell. 6. And if the high-priest orders the cutting off of his head he is righteous on the spot, and the three nights' (satuih) ceremony is to be celebrated for him, and the account of the three nights (satuih) does not affect him. 7. And if he does not engage in renunciation he is in hell till the future existence; and in his future body they will bring him from hell, and for every mortal sin they will cut off his head once, and the last time they will make him alive again, and will inflict (numayend) three nights' severe punishment.
However a man engages in renunciation of sin the duty of his state of renunciation (patitih) is to be engaged therein openly and mentally in renunciation; the duty of openness is this, that the sin which he knows has assailed him, is to be specially confessed (bara gobishno) by him, and the mental duty is this, that he engages in renunciation with this thought, that 'henceforth I will not commit sin.' 9. And that which occurs before the renunciation, except pious alms, it is well for him not to be overlooked by him, and not to be kept secret by him; for when he shall overlook, or shall keep secret, about sin committed, it becomes for him as much, some say, as three Srosho-charanams; some say that when he keeps secret about a sin of three Srosho-charanams he is worthy of death; some say much otherwise. 10. Ataro-pad son of Zartosht had remarked (pedakinid) to a disciple, about this duty, thus: 'Conform to the renunciation of sin!' and one time a secret was kept by him, and he ordered him thus: 'Henceforth be thou never apparent in this duty!' and after that he looked upon the supplication (avakhshih) and much repentance of that disciple, and even then he did not become the high-priest (dastur) over him.
The rule is this, that of those who would be proper for this priestly duty (dastobarih), that person is proper who is perfect in (narm) the commentary (zand) of the law, and the punishment of sin is easy for him, and he has controlled himself; some say thus: 'By whom a course of priestly studies (aerpatastan) is performed.' 12. And the punishment of sin being easy for him, and his having controlled himself are proper, and when, in danger before a menstruous woman, he engages in renunciation it is proper.
Neryosang said thus: 'Thou deemest it most surprising that, of the renunciation of sin with energy, whatever may be its efficacy, they have been so much of the same opinion, so that whenever they perform renunciation, however they perform it, and before whomever they perform it, whenever a sin is not even mentally originating with one a renunciation should be performed by him; and when very many mortal sins (margarzan) are committed by him, and he engages mentally in renunciation of every one separately, he is not on the way to hell, owing to his renunciation; and if there be one of which he is not in renunciation the way to hell is not closed to him, for he does not rely upon the beneficence (sud) of Ohrmazd, and it is allowable to appoint a priestly retribution (rad tojishn) to fully atone for it, and when thou appointest a priestly retribution for it, and dost not fully atone, it is allowable to inflict it justly and strongly (drubo).'
When his sin is committed against (den) accusers it will be necessary to act so that the head of the family (mirak) shall not become evil-minded, and shall not divorce the wife from matrimony, and they shall not bring him on unto him; before his accusers he is to be engaged in renunciation, and when not, he is to be engaged in renunciation of the sin before the high-priests (radan), and it will become debts, and debt does not make a man wicked; its effect is this, that in the future existence they may quite forsake him, and this becomes a great shame, and they disturb (kavend) his enjoyment. 15. As to the sin which affects the accusers, when the female has atoned for it, its stem (payak) is atoned for; some say that the stem (payakghih) has no root; some say that it is just like a tree whose leaves wither away.
Sin relating to the soul, when one engages in renunciation, stays away from him; when it shall be fully atoned for it is well, and when he does not fully atone they will make him righteous by the three nights' (satuih) punishment. 17. Kushtano-bujed said that even that which affects accusers, when one engages in renunciation, stays away from him.
Nosai Burz-Mitro spoke these three sayings, that is, 'Next-of-kin marriage will extirpate mortal sins (margarzan), and the sacred twigs when their ablution is such as renders them improper for firewood, and a man when his wife becomes pregnant by him.'
Whoever commits a sin against (den) water, and kills a lizard, or other noxious water-creature, has atoned for it; also when thou atonest to (den) fire for that against water it is proper, and when thou atonest to water for that against fire it is proper; some say that even a scorpion is proper to be killed. 20. And when a sin of one tanapuhr is committed by him, and he shall consecrate a sacred cake (dron), or shall accomplish a good work of one tanapuhr, it has atoned for it.
When he has committed a mortal sin (margarzan), and engages mentally in renunciation, and the high-priest (rad) knows that, though he ought to give up his body, he will not give it up, it is allowable when he shall kill him; that is, because he relies upon the beneficence (sud) of Ohrmazd. 22. Moreover, from the rule (mank) 'yazemna kat na hakat' ('through being worshipped what then at once,' &c.) it is evident, and it becomes his through ceremonial ablution of the hands; it amounts to a whole quarry (kano) of good works, and the worship of God (yazishn-i yazdano) is to be performed for him. 23. Adarbad Mahraspandan said that it is always necessary to be more diligent in performing one's worship of God at the time that many mortal sins are committed; all sins being admissible into renunciation, when thou shalt atone by complete self-sacrifice (pur-jan-dadiha), and when one engages in renunciation of the sin from its root, he becomes free from the sin in renunciation of which sin he engaged; for Ohrmazd will not leave his own creatures unto the evil spirit, unless on the path of non-renunciation.


The greater Hasar is one part in twelve parts of the day and night, and the lesser Hasar is one part in eighteen parts.
The priest (asruk) who passes away in idolatry (auzdayakih) thou hast considered as desolate (viran); and there is a high-priest (dastur) who is of a different opinion, there is one who says he is as a non-Iranian (an-airan) country. 3. It is declared that, when a supreme high-priest (Zarathushtrotema) passes away in idolatry, an apostate (aharmok) will be born in that dwelling, and a rumor of this calamity is uttered by that supreme high-priest.
In order to be steadfast in the good religion it is to be discussed with priests and high-priests, and when one does not discuss it is proper that he do not teach it.
The ceremonial worship (yazishn) which they perform in a fire-temple, when not done aright, does not reach unto the demons; but that which they perform in other places, when they do not perform it aright, does reach unto the demons, for there is no medium in worship, it reaches either unto the angels or unto the demons. 6. Of a man who has relinquished a bad habit, and through his good capabilities engages in renunciation of sin, the good work advances unto the future existence.
Any one who shall die in a vessel (kashtik) it is allowable, for fear of contamination (padvishak), to throw into the water; some say that the water itself is the receptacle for the dead (khazanih).
This, too, is declared: 'When in the dark it is not allowable to eat food; for the demons and fiends seize upon one-third of the wisdom and glory of him who eats food in the dark;' and it is declared by that passage (jinak) which Ohrmazd spoke to Zartosht, thus: 'After the departure of the light let him not devour, with unwashed hands, the water and vegetables of Hordad and Amurdad; for if after the departure of the light thou devourest, with unwashed hands, the water and vegetables of Hordad and Amurdad, the fiend seizes away from thee two-thirds of the existing original wisdom which, when he seizes it away, is the glory and religion which are auspicious for thee that day, so that diligence becomes a vexation this day.'
In a passage of the fifth fargard of the Pazag Nask it is declared that one mentions these characteristics of four kinds of worship of the celestial beings (yazdan):- one is that whose Avesta is correct, but the man is bad; the second is that whose Avesta is faulty (zifano), but the man is good; the third is that whose Avesta is correct, and the man is good; and the fourth is that whose Avesta is faulty and the man is bad. 10. That whose Avesta is correct, but the man bad, the archangels will approach and will listen to, but do not accept; that whose Avesta is faulty, but the man good, the archangels and angels will approach, but do not listen to, and will accept; that whose Avesta is correct, and the man good, the archangels and angels will approach, will come to, will listen to, and will accept; that whose Avesta is faulty, and the man bad, they do not approach, do not listen to, and do not accept.
In every ceremonial (yazishno), at the beginning of the ceremony, and the beginning of the sacred-cake consecration (dron), the angels and guardian spirits of the righteous are to be invited to the ceremony. 12. When they invoke the angels they will accept the ceremony, and when they do not invoke them, all the guardian spirits of the righteous are to be invoked at the beginning of 'staomi;' and when not, they watch until the words 'frasho-charethram saoshyantam,' [y26.20] and when they shall invoke them there they will accept the ceremony; and when not, they will watch until the words 'vispau fravashayo ashaonam yazamaide,' [y26.34] and when they shall invoke them there they will accept the ceremony; and when not, they will watch until the words 'tauscha yazamaide;' and when they invoke them at the threefold 'ashem vohu' and the word damanam,' [y8.10] at the twice-told 'aokhto-namano,' [Y22.33] the 'ashat hacha,' [y24.30] or the 'yatumanahe jasaiti,' [Y8.9] they will accept; and when not, they go up the height of a spear (nizak) and will remain. 13. And they speak thus: 'This man does not understand that it will be necessary even for him to go from the world, and our prayer (apistan) is for reminding men; it is not that our uneasiness arises from this, that we are in want of their ceremony, but our uneasiness arises from this, that when they do not reverence and do not invoke us, when evil comes upon them it is not possible for us to keep it away.'
'O creator! how much is the duration in life of him who is dead?' And Ohrmazd spoke thus: 'As much as the wing of a fly, O Zartosht the Spitaman! or as much as the hearing a wing unto a sightless one.'


The rule is this, that a sacred thread-girdle (kusti) be three finger-breadths loose transversely (pavan targun), as is said in every teaching (chastak), and when it is less it is not proper.
The rule is this, that the sacred cake (dron), set aside at the dedication formula (khshnuman) on the days devoted to the guardian spirits, is to be used at the season-festivals, the Nonabar, the three nights' ceremony, the Haoma-dron, and other rites of the righteous guardian spirits; and when they shall not do so, according to some teachings, it is not proper.
In the exposition (chastak) of the Nigadum Nask it says that a man is going to commit robbery, and a wall falls in upon him, it is his destroyer; when a man strikes at him he is his adversary, and both are in sinfulness; when he is going to perform the worship of God (yazisno-i yazdano) both of them are in innocence.
The rule is this, that when a woman becomes pregnant, as long as it is possible, the fire is to be maintained most carefully in the dwelling, because it is declared in the Spend Nask that towards Dukdaub, the mother of Zartosht, when she was pregnant with Zartosht, for three nights, every night a leader (khuda) with a hundred and fifty demons rushed for the destruction of Zartosht, but owing to the existence of the fire in the dwelling they knew no means of accomplishing it.
The rule is this, that they have a tank (moj) for the disciples, when they are going to perform the worship of God, and are sprinkling the stone seat (magok); and lest they should make a wet place by that sprinkling through taking water out from it, it is to be done sitting; for in the Vendidad the high-priests have taught, about making water when standing on foot, that the measure it refers to applies to everything else, not even of a like origin; by him who makes water the Avesta for making water is to be uttered, and then it is the root of a tanapuhr sin for him, and when he does not utter it he is more grievously sinful.
The rule is this, that to recite the Gathas over those passed away is not to be considered as beneficial, since it is not proper to recite the three Has which are the beginning of the Ushtavat Gatha whenever one is on the road; whenever one recites them over a man in the house they are healing.
The rule is this, that in the night wine and aromatic herbs (sparam) and anything like food are not to be cast away towards the north quarter, because a fiend will become pregnant; and when one casts them away one Yatha-ahu-vairyo is to be uttered.
The rule is this, that reverential should be the abstinence from unlawfully slaughtering of any species of animals; for in the Sudgar Nask it is said, concerning those who have unlawfully slaughtered animals, the punishment is such that each hair of those animals becomes like a sharp dagger (tekh), and he who is unlawfully a slaughterer is slain. 9. Of animals, the slaughtering of the lamb, the goat (vahik), the ploughing ox, the war-horse, the hare, the bat (chiharaz), the cock or bird of Vohuman, and the magpie (kaskinak) bird, and of birds that of the kite, eagle (humai), and swallow is most to be abstained from.
A pregnant woman who passes away is not to be carried away by less than four men, who are at it constantly with united strength; for with other corpses, after a dog's gaze, when they carry them along by two men with united strength, they do not become polluted; but for a pregnant woman two dogs are necessary, to whose united power she is to be exposed; and they carry her along by four men with united strength, and they do not become polluted; but when they carry her along by two men they are to be washed with ceremony (pishak).
The rule is this, that when they beg forgiveness for a person (mardum) who has passed away, such a prayer is more significant when one says thus: 'Whenever a trespass (vinas) of mine has occurred against him, you will take account of it along with those of his which have occurred against me, and the trespasses have passed away one through the other; any further trespasses of his which have occurred against me are then made a righteous gift by me.'
The rule is this, that one should not walk without boots; and his advantage therefrom is even this, that when a boot (mujak) is on his foot, and he puts the foot upon dead matter, and does not disturb the dead matter, he does not become polluted; when a boot is not on his foot, and he puts the foot upon dead matter, and does not disturb it, he is polluted, except when he knows for certain (aevar) that a dog has seen it, or if not it is to be considered as not seen by a dog.
The rule is this, as revealed in the Duwasrud Nask, where a day in the year is indicated, that the sacred thread-girdle [kusti] of every one who shall be one day more than fourteen years and three months old is to be tied on -- it is better so than when he remains unto fifteen years, and then ties on the girdle -- who is more cared for, that way, than a five-months' child, on whom they should put it in the womb of its mother.
The rule is this, that when one retains a prayer inwardly, and wind shall come from below, or wind shall come from the mouth, it is all one.
Also this, that ten women are necessary for affording assistance to a woman who is in labor: five women for directing the making of the cradle (gavarak), one woman should be opposite the left shoulder, and one to hold the right shoulder, one woman to throw a hand on her neck, one woman to hold her waist, and one woman, when the infant shall be born, to take it up and cut the navel cord, and to make the fire blaze. 16. Three days and three nights no one is to pass between the fire and the child, nor to show the child to a sinful man or woman; they are to titrate a little sulfur in the sap (maya) of a plant, and to smear it over the child; and the first food to give it is Haoma-juice (parahom) and aloes (shapyar).
The rule is this, that in case any one shall beat an innocent man, until the pain shall cease it becomes every day the root of a tanapuhr sin for him.
The rule is this, that when in a country they trust a false judge, and keep him among their superiors, owing to the sin and breach of faith which that judge commits, the clouds and rain, in that country, are deficient, a portion (bavan) of the deliciousness, fatness, wholesomeness, and milk of the cattle and goats diminishes, and many children become destroyed in the mother's womb.
The rule is this, that a man, when he does not wed a wife, does not become worthy of death; but when a woman does not wed a husband it amounts to a sin worthy of death; because for a woman there is no offspring except by intercourse with men, and no lineage proceeds from her; but for a man without a wife, when he shall recite the Avesta, as it is mentioned in the Vendidad, there may be a lineage which proceeds onwards to the future existence.
The rule is this, that a toothpick is to be cut out clear of bark (post pak), for the high-priests have taught that when one's toothpick -- made for the mouth with the bark -- shall fall, and when a pregnant woman puts a foot upon it, she is apprehensive about its being dead matter.
The rule is this, that in accepting the child of a handmaid (chakar) discrimination is to be exercised; for in the fourteenth of the Nask Husparum the high-priests have taught thus: 'My son is suitable also as thy son, but my daughter is not suitable also as thy daughter.'
The rule is this, that one perseveres much in the begetting of offspring, for the acquisition of abundance of good works at once; because, in the Nigadum Nask, the high-priests have taught that the duty and good works which a son performs are as much the father's as though they had been done by his own hand; and in the Damdad Nask it is revealed thus: 'Likewise, too, the good works, in like measure, which come into the father's possession.'
The rule is this, that they shall give to the worthy as much of anything as is proper for eating and accumulating; because in the Nigadum Nask the high-priests have taught thus: 'A man gives a hungry one bread, and it is too much, yet all the good works, which he shall perform through that superabundance, become as much his who gave it as though they had been done by his own hand.'
The rule is this, where one lies down, in circumstances of propriety and innocence, one Ashem-vohu is to be uttered, and in like manner when he gets up well; when he does so, every single drawing of the breath (vayo) becomes a good work of three Srosho-charanams, that is, a weight of ten dirhams of the full weight of four mads.
The rule is this, that when an action or an opinion comes forward, and one does not know whether it be a sin or a good work, when possible it is to be abandoned and not executed by him; as it says in the Sagadum Nask that Zartosht has not provided about everything whatever, but three times it been done by Zartosht about this duty, that is, so that the Avesta and Zand, when one has learned it thoroughly by heart, is for recitation, and is not to be mumbled (juyishno), for in mumbling (judano) the parts of the Ahunwar are more chattering. 26. As it says in the Bag Nask thus: 'Whoever shall mutter, O Zartosht! my allotment of the Ahunwar -- that is, shall softly take it inwardly -- and shall let it escape again -- that is, shall utter it aloud -- so much as a half, or one-third, or one-fourth, or one-fifth, his soul will I shield, I who am Ohrmazd, from the best existence -- that is, I will keep it away -- by so much of an interval as the width of this earth.'
The rule is this, that one is to proceed with great deliberation when he does not know whether it be a sin or a good work, that is, it is not to be done.
The rule is this, that an opinion (andazak) of anything is to be formed through consultation with the good; even so it is revealed in the Chihrdad Nask that Spandarmad spoke to Manuschihar thus: 'Even the swiftest horse requires the whip (tazanak), the sharpest steel knife requires the whetstone (afsan), and the wisest man requires counsel (ham-pursih).'
The rule is this, that when one laughs outright (bara khanded) the Avesta and Zand are not to be mumbled, for the wisdom of Ohrmazd is omniscient, and good works are a great exercise of liberality, but an extreme abstinence from producing irritation (hanjidar-dahishnih); because in the Ratushtaiti Nask many harsh things are said about the severe punishment of producers of irritation, in the spiritual existence.
The rule is this, that as there may be some even of those of the good religion who, through unacquaintance with the religion, when a female fowl crows in the manner of a cock, will kill the fowl, so those of the primitive faith have said that there may be mischief (vinastarih) from wizards in that dwelling, which the cock is incapable of keeping away, and the female fowl makes that noise for the assistance of the cock, especially when the bringing of another cock into that dwelling is necessary.
The rule is this, that when one sees a hedgehog, then along with it a place in the plain, free from danger, is to be preserved; for in the Vendidad the high-priests have taught that it is when the hedgehog every day voids urine into an ant's nest that a thousand ants will die.
The rule is this, that in the Vendidad seven kinds of things are mentioned, and when they are the cause of a man's death, until the forthcoming period of the day (gas-i levin) comes on, contamination (nisrusht) does not rush upon him; and for this reason, this, too, is well for the good, that is, to show a dog rightly again a previous corpse in the forthcoming period of the day.
The rule is this, that by those who attend to a corpse among the pure it is then to be shown to a dog very observant of the corpse; for when even a thousand persons shall carry away a corpse which a dog has not seen, they are all polluted.
The rule is this, that meat, when there is stench or decomposition not even originating with it, is not to be prayed over; and the sacred cake (dron) and butter (gaush-dak) which are hairy are also not to be prayed over.
A woman is fit for priestly duty (zotih) among women, and when she is consecrating the sacred cake (dron), and one Ashem-vohu is uttered by her, she puts the sacred twigs (barsom) back on the twig-stand, brings them away, and the utterance of another one is good; when she says it is not expedient to do it with attention before a meal, it is proper. 36. The sacred cake of a disreputable woman is not to be consecrated, but is to be rendered ineligible (avijinako).
When one places a thing before the fire observantly, and does not see the splendor itself, 'tava athro' is not to be said.
At night, when one lies down, the hands are to be thoroughly washed. 39. That which comes from a menstruous woman to any one, or to anything, is all to be thoroughly washed with bull's urine (gomez) and water.
The rule is this, as Adarbad Mahraspandan said when every one passed away:- 'The mouth-veil and also the clothing are to be well set apart from the gifts (dasaran), so that his soul may become easier.' Completed in peace and pleasure.]

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