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M.N. Dhalla: History of Zoroastrianism (1938), part 2.





Prayer is the heavenward soaring of the soul on wordy wings. Man has always prayed. Primitive man who did not understand natural phenomena worshipped power in the invisible beings whom he feared. He humbled and humiliated himself before them, and strove to placate and mollify them. His more enlightened descendants began worshipping goodness or knowledge or righteousness in gods. Prayer in its origin is instinctive and it gradually grows rational and moral. Man has always wearied God with his extravagant demands. He has prayed that fortune may drop from the skies. He has fancied gods would do miracles for him. And he has always expected that gods should answer all his prayers. His mental and moral progress has purified prayer. Naturally, he prays for his health and vigour of body, for food and riches, for offspring and long life. In his nobler mood, he prays for purity of mind and heart. He prays that God may strengthen him to fight temptation, vice, and sin. When he falters and falls, he feels contrition for his misdeeds, strips his heart bare before God. and implores him to wipe out his transgressions.

When his troubles are sleeping and the world smiles upon him, man sometimes forgets that he owes the happy turn in his life to God and prays not, or, if he prays he prays with his lips what he disowns with his heart. Some sorrow, some disaster throws him again on his knees. When darkness and gloom hang heavily upon him, when he is plunged into deep dejection, when he is cast down by the sense of his utter helplessness, when he thinks the world is giving way beneath his feet then to God he turns for succour. With uplifted hands and on bended knees, he unburdens himself of his afflictions, seeks strength in prayer and prays with his heart on his tongue. In his infinite mercy, God beckons him near, softens his bitterness, chases away his anxiety, strengthens him to triumph over his hardships, and fortifies [69] him against the assaults of vice and sin. The soothing gleam of joy dawns on his sorrowful life and, with God as his rock, he finds himself on safe soil.

Homage, invocation, sacrifice, and the outpouring of prayer are the various expressions of the inward longings of man to commune with the divine, to enter into mutual intercourse with him. Those are outlets through which man pours forth his heart to the fountain of all bounty. The individual who surrenders himself to unseen powers, who kneels down in humility at the altar, who with uplifted hands pays homage to the hidden forces behind the rising sun or the waxing moon or the roaring ocean, and who carries an offering to the fire or a libation to the waters is psychologically greatly affected. Such attitudes of spirit have great subjective value, for they deeply influence man's character. Prayer is the highest type of expression through which man conveys to his Heavenly Father his feelings of joy and sorrow, gratitude and love, hope and fear, or in his hunger and thirst for the divine grace lays down his grievances before him, confesses his guilt, craves for help, seeks mercy. Devotion is the first requisite. Mere mutterings of a few formulas with the lips, while the heart does not pulsate with devotional fervour, are no prayer. Where there is no such prayer, there is no devotion; and where there is no devotion, there is no religion.

A host of gods claimed man's homage. Gods were bountiful and benevolent. Men prayed to them. Prayers were mostly petitions for gifts of health, long life, offspring, cattle, chariots, riches, and victory over enemies. In Egypt prayers were offered to Amen and Amen-Ra at Thebes, Re-Horus at Heliopolis, Ptah at Memphis, who rose to great eminence and drew a large concourse of worshippers to their shrines. In Babylonia and Assyria hymns were composed in honour of Marduk and Ashur, Shamash and Anu, Nergal and Ninib, and other gods and goddesses like Ishtar. Men and women humiliated themselves, exalted the divinities, addressed them with honorific epithets as wise, creators, powerful and merciful, sang paeans to them and prayed to them. Gods were bountiful and men prayed to them for long life, numerous offspring, and wealth. The Vedic Aryans invoked gods for specific gifts which were in their power to bestow. Agni and Prajapati were asked to grant them fulfilment of their desires and to shower wealth upon them. Agni and the Maruts [70] were asked to give heroic offspring and prosperity. Men besought Agni to be near them for their welfare and to be of easy access as a father is to his son. The Adityas were invoked to lead them to the path of pleasantness. Ushas was implored to give them good luck and glory and riches. Indra was besought to render them help in their conflict with the black-skinned Dasyus and to enable them to ward off their enemies. Indra and Varuna were asked to confer upon them happiness and objects of their desires. Yama was invoked to grant them long life upon earth and happy life in the company of gods in heaven. Men dreaded Rudra's wrath and prayed humbly to avert his ill-will. Men prayed to gods and sought protection against hostile demons who worked for harm.

Zarathushtra purifies prayer. Ahura Mazda hears prayers even in thought. Righteous thinking is prayer. Such prayer lifts man to Ahura Mazda. Potent is the power of prayer unto Ahura Mazda, says Zarathushtra.1 Like unto Ahura Mazda, Zarathushtra addresses his prayers to Vohu Manah, Asha, Khshathra, and Armaiti, either as Ahura Mazda's attributes or as the eternal beings representing holy virtues. He pours out his soul in passionate supplication to Ahura Mazda and longs to win his love.2 With hands lifted in fervent homage and with devotional hymns, he yearns to come to Ahura Mazda.3 He praises and beseeches Ahura Mazda to be his own.4 Steeped in devotion, he comes to him with worship and praise.5 He seeks to approach Mazda with songs of praise and invocation.6 Through righteousness of Asha and good deeds of Vohu Manah, he says, he will come to Ahura Mazda worshipping with words of praise.7 He is anxious to behold his maker and to hold converse with him.8 He implores Ahura Mazda to come to him through Vohu Manah.9 In another place he beseeches Ahura Mazda to come in his person through Asha and Vohu Manah.10 He is eager to win Ahura Mazda, Vohu Manah and Asha for himself.11 He desires to know when being enlightened he will See Ahura Mazda, Asha, Vohu Manah, Sraosha, and the throne of Ahura Mazda.12 He appeals to Ahura Mazda, Asha, Khshathra, and Armaiti to come to him;13 to hearken unto him and have mercy upon him.14 The [71] faithful long to dedicate their songs of praise to Mazda, Asha, and Vahishta Manah and say that they will never incur their provocation.15 The songs of praise and homage, the prayers and good deeds of the righteous are stored in Garo Demana [Garothman], the Abode of Song.16

1. Y28.10.

2. Y44.17.

3. Y50.8.

4. Y43.8.

5. Y34.6.

6. Y34.2.

7. Y50.9.

8. Y33.6.

9. Y28.6.

10. Y33.7.

11. Y28.3.

12. Y28.5.

13. Y28.3.

14. Y33.11.

15. Y28.9.

16. Y34.2; Y45.8; Y49.10.

Bountiful Ahura Mazda is munificent in showering his gifts upon mankind and he knows what is best to give. Zarathushtra implores him to give what pleases him.17 He prays for long life;18 that he may be enabled to perform the good deeds of the Holy Spirit through righteousness.19 He asks him to apportion all good things of life and further the life of the body through Vohu Manah and Khshathra according to his will20 Vigour and endurance are the essential qualities that enable man to fight wickedness and cling to righteousness and Zarathushtra prays for them.21 These blessings are the earthly counterparts of weal and immortality, the heavenly boons represented by Haurvatat and Ameretat,22 and Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda to bestow them upon him through Vohu Manah according to his commandments.23 He prays for the possession of spiritual riches of Ahura Mazda,24 the riches that form part of the life of Vohu Manah.25 He beseeches Ahura Mazda to come unto him for help in his need with Vohu Manah, Asha, Khshathra, and Armaiti.26 He asks Ahura Mazda to shower his blessings upon the man who approaches him with invocation.27 He prays for that divine blessing, the power of Ahura Mazda which he gives through Vohu Manah unto the holy man who furthers righteousness through words and deeds tinged with religious wisdom.28 He invokes upon all the blessings of Ahura Mazda, Vohu Manah, Asha, and Armaiti, who are all of one will.29 His best prayer is heard and his ardent wish is fulfilled that those who once opposed his teachings have now come over to the faith to embrace the words and deeds of his religion and Ahura Mazda has extended to him the life of felicity now and for ever.30

17. 51.18.

18. Y43.13.

19. Y28.1.

20. Y33.10.

21. Y43.1.

22. Y45.10; Y51.7.

23. Y51.7.

24. Y51.2.

25. Y43.1.

26. Y28.3.

27. Y51.2.

28. Y51.21.

29. Y51.20.

30. Y53.1.

Zarathushtra faces bitter opposition from those who have played upon the credulity of the ignorant and the superstitious [72] and have prospered thereby. He invokes Ahura Mazda for the frustration of their mischievous machinations. Even prophets are moved with indignation and righteous wrath against evil-minded persons who lead mankind to destruction. Jesus, the embodiment of gentleness, denounces the Scribes and Pharisees with prophetic rage as fools and hypocrites, serpents and vipers; he overthrows the tables of money-changers, and casts them out of the temple with a whip of small cords. Zarathushtra exhorts those who seek Vohu Manah's blessings to put down violence and cruelty.31 He implores Armaiti not to let evil rulers govern the land.32 Bendva is the powerful foe who thwarts Zarathushtra's work of winning over men and women to righteousness, and he prays unto Ahura Mazda for his downfall.33 He calls such persons liars, deceivers, and wicked.34

31. Y48.7.

32. Y48.5.

33. Y49.1.

34. Y49.2; 53.8.

The Manthras. The prophetic word of great moral significance is called Manthra, corresponding to the Vedic Mantra. Both in Iran and India they turn into spells of magical charms. Ahura Mazda has, in one will with Asha, made them.35 Zarathushtra prays that he and Vishtaspa may successfully proclaim them.36 Whoso explains these sacred formulas unto the wise reaps joy.37 Zarathushtra is the friend of one who chants them with homage;38 and invokes Ahura Mazda to help him through Asha.39 He rouses all those that recite them to religious life.40 He gains the best reward who proclaims the true words of righteousness, weal, and immortality.41 He who follows righteousness under the inspiration of the Manthras gains weal and immortality.42 Those who do not base their conduct upon these salutary words as the prophet himself thinks and does, will be in the woe in the end.43 Grehma the opponent of the faith and his wicked followers who harass the messenger of Ahura Mazda's holy words will go to the abode of the Worst Thought.44 Zarathushtra seeks to know how will he rout wickedness by the holy words of Mazda's ordinance.45 With these sacred formulas on their tongues, he says, he and his disciples will convert the wicked to their Lord.46 The words of the wicked are also called Manthras, and the prophet exhorts his hearers not to listen to [73] them, because they bring destruction and death to the settlements of the faithful.47

35. Y29.7.

36. Y28.7.

37. Y51.8.

38. Y50.6.

39. Y50.5.

40. Y43.14.

41. Y31.6.

42. Y44.17.

43. Y45.3.

44. Y32.13.

45. Y44.14.

46. Y28.5.

47. Y31.18.

Rituals and sacrifices. Gods required to be propitiated that they might extend their favour to men. When men began to lead settled agricultural life, they began to offer the first fruits of the harvest and produce of the cattle as thanksgiving offerings to them. With growing prosperity they prepared rich repasts of sumptuous food and wine and invoked them to alight on the hallowed place where ceremonial rites were performed, or kindled fire to despatch the sacrifices to heaven on its flaming tongues. Thus were the gods as well as the ancestral dead treated at sacrificial repasts everywhere. The Indo-Iranians were not behind other peoples and their sacrificial offerings consisted of milk and melted butter, grain and vegetables, flesh of goats and sheep, bulls and horses, and the exhilarating Soma-Haoma beverage. Elaborate rituals and sacrifices offered to obtain coveted boons, to gain the remission of sins, and to stave off the terrors of hell. The consecrated food was partaken of by the sacrificers to reap the merit. The altars were reeking with the blood of animals that were sacrificed to innumerable gods. Zarathushtra does away with such sacrifices and purifies rituals.

Ritual is not religion; but it is a powerful aid to religious life. It feeds the emotional nature of man which plays the most prominent part in religious life. It inspires devotional fervour and purity of thoughts. Zarathushtra presumably utilized this formal side of religion to stimulate religious emotion and inspire righteous conduct. Tradition ascribes the division of society into priests, warriors, husbandmen, and artisans to the initiative of King Yima [=Jamshed] of the Golden Age of Iran. Zarathushtra does not recognize this fourfold professional order of society in the Gathas. He does not mention âthravan, 'the protector of fire' or priest. The Later Avesta speaks of the sacerdotal class by the title of âthravan. The Pahlavi texts continue to employ this priestly designation, and in addition speak of it as magopat, or magpat, corresponding to the Greek form Magi or Magus. Zarathushtra uses the forms derived from maga, 'great,' but it cannot be said that he uses them in reference to the priestly class. A threefold division of society appears in the Gathas, and Zarathushtra gives each one altogether different names. They are [74] called xvaetu, airyaman, and verezena, probably indicating his immediate disciples, the nobility, and the working classes respectively.48

48. Y32.1; 33.3, 4; 46.1; cf. [James Hope] Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, [London: 1913,] p. 355 n. 2.

The Later Avestan texts speak of distinct functionaries who officiated at the sacrificial ceremonies. The head of this group is zaotar, corresponding to Skt. hotar, 'the sacrificer.' Zarathushtra speaks of himself as a zaotar in one passage though with an ethical implication only. As a zaotar, he seeks the vision of Ahura Mazda and longs to hold communion with him.49 The food offered as a ceremonial offering is known in the Avestan texts as myazda, and Zarathushtra says that the faithful will offer myazda with homage unto Ahura Mazda and Asha.50 He alludes once to draonah [=dron], 'the sacred cake,' which forms an indispensable article of offering in the later period. He speaks of it probably in the sense of the ambrosia and asks Haurvatat and Ameretat to confer it upon him for ever.51

49. Y33.6.

50. Y34.3.

51. Y33.8.




The joy of living. Zarathushtra gives a joyful orientation to bodily life. He preaches a robust faith in living. The world may not come up to the individual's expectations, yet he has to live in such a wise as to get maximum good out of life. Man finds that sometimes life glides peacefully like the moon that sails across the heavens; on other occasions it runs a rough and ruffled course. Zarathushtra teaches man to adjust himself to the diverse ways of life. Man has to accept life on its own terms, take it as he finds it, make as much of it as he can, rejoice in it, and glory in it. He has to be a radiating centre of cheer and happiness to all with whom he comes in contact. It is the duty of every one to be the bearer of joy and light in gloomy and dark homes.

Man has an unquenchable thirst for joy, pleasure, and happiness. He longs for them in this world as he prays that he should get them in the next. In this world of joy and sorrow, Providence has provided joy in abundance for men and women in all stages of their lives to make their lives livable.

The rich and poor, high and low alike can feast their eyes on the wealth of natural beauty and the marvels of natural phenomena. It is superstition that converts lovable nature into a haunt of dreadful demons and ghosts, goblins and witches. Everything in nature wears a cheerful outlook and a bright hue. New life is blossoming all around and nature throbs with joy. The dawn has her charms reserved for those who rise early. The poor are astir at dawn and begin their day by enjoying the marvellous beauties of nature. They witness the rays of the rising sun driving away the morning mists. They have no diamonds to decorate their bodies, but there are no diamonds to compare with the sparkling beads of dew that they see on the leaves of the trees around them, when the virgin rays of the rising sun throw their lustre upon these. The poorest can inhale [76] in deep draughts the fresh breeze coming from fields which are being mown, from rich foliage and thick woods, or the sweet perfume of roses and jasmine wafted by the wind, or taste the sweet smell of the earth when it has been drenched by seasonal rain. It is a great joy to sit or lie under the shade of trees with their leafy branches gently swaying to and fro to refresh us with cool breeze fanning our faces, or to sit in a rose bower redolent of sweet perfume, or to sprawl or roll about or walk barefooted on the grass, or to romp in the gardens, or to run wild in the fields and woods, or to rest our eyes on the tender green of the grassy lawns stretched before us. Often do we long for calm and it gives us soothing calm to sit in the fields with nothing but the rustle of dry leaves to break the stillness. It thrills us with joy to hear the birds lilting and carolling their sweet music. The nightingale's melodious song, the cooing of the dove restlessly moving its beautiful neck, the chirping and warbling of birds, the buzzing of insects, and the sound of the wind singing through the woods have a pleasing effect on our minds. It is as pleasant to watch the waters of a pond ruffled by the wind, or the eddies of a lake, or the slender jets of the water of the fountain, or the sunbeams dancing on the water, as to watch the roaring waves rolling up with weakening ripples and softly breaking at our feet. It is pleasing to hear the noise of the heavy rain spattering against the window panes and the puddles in the street, or to see the snow falling in fleecy flakes. It cheers us to see the crimson glow at the sunset, the starlit firmament, powerful wind driving the fleecy clouds before it, the gambolling of soft, white cloudlets and their chasing one another like kittens, the bashful endeavour of the moon to peep from between the clouds, or the moon bravely fighting her way out from the heavy dark clouds interrupting her course and shrouding her in darkness, or the gorgeous pageant of the moon sailing the sky on a clear night in her majestic glory attended by her myriad sparkling handmaids, or the moon flooding the earth with her light and bathing the trees in silver shine, or the glittering rays of the moon drawing silvery lines on the waters. Nature delights us in her multifarious phases. It gives us untold joy and pleasure to be with her for our company. Our hearts beat in unison with the mighty heart of nature.

There is infinite joy in watching the play and amusements of [77] children. There is pleasure in watching games and sports played by others. There is yet greater pleasure in our own singing, dancing, walking, running, riding, driving, playing, roaming in a forest buzzing with life or in the fields of waving grass, skating, swimming, having a plunge in cool surging waves of the ocean on a summer day or rowing amid the rhythmic plash of the oars and a variety of entertainments.

The enlightened find joy in rational pastimes. They saunter in literary bypaths and find incalculable joy in literature, art, music, and other occupations of the mind. For them there is no delight to compare with the intellectual delights. There is no joy greater than that which one who is consumed with the desire to add something to human knowledge or to further human health and happiness experiences when, deeply engrossed in inventing and discovering, after concentrated observation and protracted experimenting he hits upon a right solution of the problem of his search. The products of such creative minds in the fields of arts and sciences have made life more livable. When we get wearied of our workaday world, it is enlivening to court the company of books. Our cares and sorrows are forgotten for a time, and we get a soothing message to embolden us to face life's problems. We greet thinkers and sages, poets and writers, historians and travellers, the great and the noble, the mighty and the heroic that have lived in ages past. The fatigue of our minds leaves us, the anguish of our hearts disappears, and we are refreshed. Joy and hope prepare us for our duties of life.

It is a boon to live, says Zarathushtra. He teaches everyone to enliven his mind with sunny cheerfulness, to be gay of heart and buoyant of spirit. He exhorts him to say Yea to life with overflowing enthusiasm and overplus joy.

Happiness unto him who gives happiness unto others. Thus says Zarathushtra at the gray dawn of history.1 The sublime precept is again and again imparted to mankind in their days by Confucius, Hillel, and Jesus and is contained in the Pentateuch and the Book of Tobit. The noblest of mankind live to make others happy. Kindly feelings for others make them insensible to their own privations. They impose privation upon themselves to save something for the needy. They place service before self and expose their lives and limbs to imminent peril [78] to rescue others in danger. They think little of themselves and much of others, and wear out their lives in the service of others. In all ages and places there have been noble men and women who would willingly sacrifice their lives a hundred times over for some ideal, some noble cause. Men of generous disposition have always laboured to bring sunshine in the lives of their fellow-men. Such persons have been eager to share their own happiness with their neighbours. Life lived for others is life at its best. When everybody will wish everybody well and when everybody will endeavour to live for all and all will labour to live for everybody, men and women will be angels in flesh inhabiting the world. Service to fellowmen is the best service to Mazda.

1. Y43.1.

Vitality and endurance are priceless boons. The body is the most marvellous apparatus prerequisite for mental and spiritual activity. Zarathushtra is the first to teach that the purity of the body leads to the purity of the mind and the pure in mind become pure in spirit. Life is struggle and a healthy, sound and strong body is indispensable for combating physical, social, and moral evil. Everyone has to gird up his loins for the fray and with a sound and rigorous body be quick in his gait for the arduous duty not to do less than his best in life. It is robust health that creates bodily vigour and vitality. Zarathushtra lays constant emphasis on a sound and agile body, for it is indispensable for all activities of mind and spirit. The spirit may be daring and eager to fight the battles of life, but it cannot fulfil the mission of its life if it is enshrouded in a weak body. Zarathushtra prays for his followers to be brimful of vitality and energy which may give them success in all their physical, mental, and spiritual efforts to uplift humanity. Vitality and endurance, or utayûitî and tevishî, are the most incomparable earthly boons given by Haurvatat and Ameretat. These superb qualities of the body make for physical exuberance which results in the strenuous, untiring, zealous activity on the part of man. Man of overflowing vitality, unfailing endurance, abnormal energy, undaunted courage, restless activity, whose life is bubbling over with youthful exuberance, who is intoxicated by the exhilarating enthusiasm, laughs in the face of obstacles and hardships, and looks death defiantly in the face, lives a whole life in the short span of time and changes history. Physical exuberance is a stimulant to [79] mental and spiritual exuberance. The harmonious adjustment creates zest for life, and unbounded enthusiasm for ameliorative work. The ordinary man in his undertakings and the patriot who changes the destiny of his country and the prophet who revolutionizes man's social and moral life, all work with diverse enthusiasms created by the bodily, mental, and spiritual exuberance.

Prayer for earthly blessings. Zarathushtra asks Mazda to give him and his followers long-enduring joy that he may be able to withstand opposition.2 Zarathushtra prays that the faithful be given the reward of joyful and happy life.3 Ahura Mazda has ordained that the good shall have happy homes in which joy abounds.4 He is invoked to give, according to his will, such good abodes with all pleasures of life that were and are and will be.5 The faithful long for such good abodes rich in pastures.6 Armaiti, as the genius of the earth, gives happy dwellings unto the righteous.7 Those that are devoted to Vohu Manah are blessed plenty and prosperity.8 The Daevas defraud mankind of happy life upon earth.9

2. Y28.6.

3. Y28.2.

4. Y29.10.

5. Y33.10.

6. Y48.11.

7. Y48.6.

8. Y49.5.

9. Y32.5.

Ahura Mazda and his heavenly associates advance the desires of the good for the blessings of life.10 Zarathushtra invokes for the realization of the desires that he and Vishtaspa entertain.11 Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda to fulfil the desires of those who are worthy in his eyes for their righteousness and for good thoughts.12

10. Y28.9.

11. Y28.7.

12. Y28.10.

Mazda is implored to grant vitality and endurance which are the earthly gifts of Haurvatat and Ameretat.13 Armaiti confers these boons upon the inmates of happy homes.14 Zarathushtra prays for long life.15 Mazda is besought to bestow happiness and joy for all the days of a long life upon those who pray for them.16 The happiness and blessings of life come unto those that are righteous.17 The devout pray for the riches of Good Mind through Righteousness that may bring unto them joy of [80] long life.18 Vohu Manah is invoked to give reward to men according to their deeds.19 Ahura Mazda is implored to grant vitality through Armaiti and through the Holiest Spirit, mighty power through Asha, and supremacy through Vohu Manah.20

13. Y43.1; 45.10; 51.7.

14. Y48.6.

15. Y33.5.

16. Y43.2; 50.5.

17. Y51.8, 9, 20.

18. Y28.7, 8; Y43.12.

19. Y43.16.

20. Y33.12.




The problem of evil. The origin of evil has been the deepest problem of life.1 It confronts every human being in one form or other. If there is one question which has eluded all investigations of the keenest intellects of all lands and all times; if there is one problem which has called forth volumes of writings from the profoundest of thinkers; if there is one riddle that has baffled all attempts of the sages at solving it; if there is one problem on which the last word yet remains to be said, despite the world's voluminous literature of some ten and twenty centuries -- it is the problem of the existence of evil. It makes a world of difference whether one looks on life with a healthy mind and a cheerful spirit, or with a morbid mind and a sick spirit, or with an arrogant mind and a defiant spirit. The philosophies of life vary greatly from optimism or pessimism to cynicism or scepticism, according to the various casts of the temperaments of their founders. Life has been a blessing to some, but a curse to others. Some have sought satisfaction by giving up the world of activity with its joys and sorrows, others have tried to escape the temptations and vices of the world by leading a life of self-renunciation. To others still, freedom from existence has seemed the only salvation.

1. Some material in this chapter is inserted here from my Our Perfecting World, New York, 1930.

The existence of evil is a stubborn fact of life. The creation has not only a bright but also a dark side, and the latter is to be accounted for. All is not well with the universe. There is something that savours of bad. The optimist who says that all is right with the world is as much at fault as the pessimist who says that all is wrong. It is not good to dilate upon wrongs, real and imaginary, and pine away under melancholy and gloom; it is wrong to groan and worry over the darkness of the night, oblivious of the light of the day; but it is equally wrong to dismiss [82] this great question in a rough-and-ready way by denying outright the existence of evil. We cannot dismiss this eternal problem with a shrug of the shoulder. Evil is far too potent a factor in human life to permit us to turn a blind eye to it. It is too real to be ignored and sophistically explained away.

Man finds that he lives in a hostile world. The elements and animals and his fellowmen combine to make war upon him. Great is the wrath of the elements. Nature is beautiful and kindly, benevolent and bountiful, wise and frugal, cheering and comforting, ennobling and inspiring. But Providence governs the universe by the law of contraries. In her malevolent mood, nature is a callous and capricious and frightful monster, raging and thundering, wasting and withering, scorching and burning, drowning and burying, devastating and destroying, devouring and killing. Her catastrophes and cataclysms work havoc upon earth. Her magic wand spells destruction and death all around. With appalling suddenness, in one terrific moment, she razes to the ground marvels of man, raised by his toil and industry of years. Her burning mountains, in their frightful freaks, rain brimstone and fire upon fertile fields, convert prosperous towns in one raging sea of flame, emit molten metals, and, let loose hell on earth. Her terrific quakes bring havoc upon villages and towns, overwhelm sleeping humanity reposing in its implicit confidence in the gentle mother earth, rudely wake men, women, and children, and mercilessly drive them headlong, demented and delirious, in futile search of shelter and safety and bury their unwary victims deep under the debris. Her furious hurricanes blow about the weeping weaklings of the human and animal world like autumn leaves and bury them alive in the sandy solitudes of the desert. The unbridled gushing waters of her inundations carry all life and property before them. Her famines and droughts kill vegetation and decimate animals and human beings. Her giant trees strangle and deal out death to small trees growing about them in the forests. Wild creepers entwine themselves like serpents round trees and choke their lives out. Countless millions of insects and ants gnaw trees down to dust and death, ravage the crops, and kill live stock. A reign of struggle to the death is witnessed in the animal world. The strong live and thrive by devouring the weak in the forests. Millions of animals and birds and fishes are born to be so many morsels to the stronger of their [83] species. She breeds plagues and pestilences and looses death to hold its carnival. Leprosy distorts the countenances of hundreds of thousands of men and women, renders loathsome their touch, and encrusts their bodies with plague spots of disease more horrible than death.

The greater enemy of men than elements and animals, however, is man himself. The human scourges of God, like Attila or Jenghis Khan or Nadirshah or Tamerlane, sweep over populated areas like blighting winds and leave an appalling wake of desolation and death. Peoples give distressing exhibition of human bestiality when they go to war with one another. Man's baseness augments a thousandfold the beastliness of nature. His inhumanity to man, nurtured upon his falsehood and inequity, arrogance and avarice, wrath and jealousy, envy and hatred, cunning and intrigue, vindictiveness and cruelty, malice and back-biting, selfishness and meanness, and vice and wickedness create human misery worse than the worst done by the lifeless and living creation whose lord he claims to be. When the brute in him rears his head and acts through him, he becomes worse than the wildest beast of the jungle.

Zarathushtra stigmatizes evil as evil. The existence of so much evil in the world lies heavy on the heart of man. Evil is a challenge, and Zarathushtra accepts it. He does not palliate evil. It is not, he teaches, the passive negation of good. It is the active enemy of good. It is not complementary to good, nor is it good in the making. It is not evil only in name. Evil is just evil, nothing more nor less. It is the fundamental fact of life, and haunts us like our shadows which we cannot evade. Illusion does not cause evil; it exists in the realm of reality. It is the most disagreeable fact in Ahura Mazda's universe, and the prophet of Iran looks it in the face. It is futile to speak of things as better than they actually are. Bad things of life do not lose their badness by giving them good names. It is wrong to make-believe that evil does not exist, though it does exist as truly as man exists. The world is not all good; it is not all bad either. Neither is all right with the world, nor is all bad with it.

Life is co-operation with good and conflict with evil. Good and evil are co-existing polarities. Man can think of things only in terms of their opposites. Light is light because of darkness. Health is a coveted boon, as its loss heralds sickness. Life is [84] valued as Ahura Mazda's most incomparable gift, as lurking death threatens its extinction. Happiness is pleasant, for misery is unbearable. Riches rise in worth owing to the dread of poverty. Joy is gratifying, for sorrow aims at killing it. Virtue is the health of the spirit, for vice is its disease. Righteousness is the life of the spirit, for wickedness spells its death.

There can be no compromise between good and evil. Incessant warfare is raging between good and evil. Man's duty is to commend good and co-operate with it; to condemn evil and enter into conflict with it.

"Resist Evil" is the clarion call of Zarathushtra to humanity. Evil is equally the enemy of Ahura Mazda and man, and man is created a comrade in arms to resist it in all its manifestations. It is his birthright to fight evil. He shares Ahura Mazda's work of mending evil. The world is a battlefield and man is a soldier in the eternal struggle. The soldier's duty is to stand firm at his post and fight even to the death. If he holds overtures with the enemy, or succumbs to his wiles, he is a rebel; if he evades fight, or ignores it, or turns his back upon the enemy, he is a coward, dishonouring his manhood.

Belief in the existence of evil gives force to man's feelings of repugnance to evil. He can squarely meet the enemy of Ahura Mazda and man on the field, and give him battle, if his reality is fully understood. Evil is fought the harder, not by loving good the more, but by hating evil. Love of good and working for good breed only passive dislike for evil. Hatred of evil alone sets the soul on fire to fight it with zest and zeal. Evil cannot be hated with an all-consuming hatred, if it is masked in the garments of good. To be hated from the depth of the heart, and with the fullest force of one's being, evil should be exposed in its innate ugliness, its diabolic nature. Evil is aggressive. Man must resist and conquer it, or submit and court defeat.

Zoroastrianism is essentially militant. It stirs human hearts to repugnance towards evil; it spurs man to fight it with all his being, body, mind, and spirit. Not to resist evil with offensive and defensive warfare against it is either to be callous or cowardly, or both in one's person; it is to fail in one's duty to mankind and be false to the redemptive task assigned by Ahura Mazda to man. Evil is the common enemy of Ahura Mazda and man, and man is engaged in fighting as an ally of the [85] godhead. In his fight against evil, he is a co-worker and a fellow-combatant with Ahura Mazda. Men of all times and all places have to fight individually and collectively for 1he mighty cause. Man has to fight the forces of evil to his last breath. His life is one of a continued crusade against the powers of wickedness. He has to adjust social wrongs, regenerate society, and redeem the world of humanity.

Man's duty to resist evil in his own nature. Man was animal but yesterday. Today he is man, though not devoid of animal traits. His destiny is to be angel, and tomorrow he shall be that also. Everyone has in his or her power to be a saint. But the way to attain sainthood and divinity is distant and beset with countless difficulties. Every step in advance is a struggle. The animal in man is obdurate and persistent, cunning and resourceful. To escape from his grip, to destroy his power, to eliminate him, man has to fight a hundred battles. Man's inner life is a perpetual warfare between animal and human within his breast. A violent struggle is going on in every human heart between the higher impulses to renounce animal appetites, and the lower instincts to satisfy them. Man is a divided self, divided mind, divided will, and feels within him the conflict of two opposing natures. The one half of man's being is always at war with his other half. When the Good Spirit first met the Evil Spirit, he said that he was opposed to him in his thoughts and words and deeds and faith and conscience and soul and every thing.2 The same comp1ete polarity obtains between the higher self and the lower self in man. The one stands for truth, virtue, and righteousness, the other represents falsehood, vice, and wickedness. Though inhabitants of the same tenement, they are poles apart in their thoughts, words, deeds, feelings, and aspirations. What is light to one is darkness to the other, and what is nourishment to the one is poison to the other. When the animal in man gets the better of the human, it makes for his imperfection, it is his curse, his enemy, his evil. Evil thoughts and dark passions are its emissaries. They are to be combated and conquered, if man desires to fulfil his destiny. The storm of evil that arises within man is no less violent than any which he encounters in the outer world. Resistance to evil in the one is as instinctive as it is in the other. This resistance is conducive to [86] higher life. It breeds in man the qualities of strenuous effort, toil, courage, strength, and sacrifice. Courageous fight to vanquish evil builds character. Facing aggressive evil with fortitude, fighting temptations, and overcoming evil is progressive ascent towards individual perfection.

2. Y45.2.

Man's duty to resist evil in society. As it is with the individual so it is with society. Social life opens with animal instincts and evolves toward human traits. Every man is an ally of every other man against the common enemy, evil. When they play human they co-operate with their comrades in the task ordained for them by Ahura Mazda. In their forgetful moments, when they throw down their human vesture and lapse into their animal state, they miss their mark. Instead of fighting the enemy of man, they fight men, and tear them with mad fury. Every man's hand, then, is against every man individually, as every nation's hand is against every nation collectively. Rather than follow the demands of the moral world, to wage war with evil, they continue the practice of the physical world, the war of the strong against the weak. At all times they fight beyond their homeland, sometimes they fight in their homes. Dogs living in the same yard are friends all day, but turn into foes at any hour. So are men, friendly and fondling in their human nature, but snarling at each other, like dogs, when the animal in them emerges on the surface. Society has always had its parasites, who live on theft and plunder, rapine and bloodshed. So will it be until that time, in distant ages to come, when society, by human effort for betterment, eventually reaches perfection. The animal in man will grow weak with time, and will be subdued. As society progresses in evolution, this baser element in man will be disabled by degrees. In perfect society it will be eliminated.

But society is yet imperfect in all phases of its life. It has its stray dogs and pouncing wolves and cunning serpents. They are menaces to its well-being, and vigorous resistance to their vicious propensities and evil doings is indispensable for the very life of society. In primitive society the work of redressing wrongs remains in the hands of aggrieved individuals, and as individuals are actuated by vengeance, hatred is met by hatred, blood is avenged by blood, and evil is repaid by evil. In organized society the right of redressing wrongs is taken from the individual. Society interferes, and in its authoritative position [87] as State, undertakes to dispense justice to warring factions. Justice ceases to be vengeance, but cannot dispense with the punishing rod. Society cannot exist without laws, and all legislation implies enforcement of laws by punishing their infringement. To punish, however, is to use force tor the resistance of evil. An imperfect society in an imperfect world cannot exist without its courts and constabularies, its prisons and scaffolds. The State as police cannot do its duty without resort to physical force. If the guardians of society were to don ash-coloured robes, and retreat before the forces of evil, or make themselves known as non-resistants to evil, unprotected society would soon welter in crime and bloodshed. Militant evil, with no deterrent combatants in the field, would throttle passive good to death.

Persuasion and force are two chief factors indispensable in human affairs. Individuals, as well as society, can endure wrong patiently and try to reclaim the wrong-doer by good counsel and admonition. But when persuasion fails in its purpose, and wicked people become more desperate in inflicting injury, endurance on the part of the recipient of injury ceases to be virtue. It encourages evil, exposes society to danger, and does harm even to the perpetrator of crime by allowing him without restraint to sink deeper in guilt. The human in man is amenable to persuasion, but his animal nature must be subdued by force. Society requires the coercion of the State, because it is imperfect. To those members of the State who are walking on the path of perfection or who are striving to come nearer to perfection, coercive laws of the State do not apply. As society evolves towards perfection, persuasive power will prove an increasingly effective urge to good behaviour, and force will gradually recede into the background. In the perfect society to come, force will have no place.

To be good and eschew evil are passive virtues; to further good and to fight evil are active virtues. Personal salvation is the basic principle, the motive power that inspires all religious life. Zarathushtra insists that every man's duty is to seek salvation of all mankind. To secure individual salvation and leave others to their fate, without working and struggling for their salvation, is to fail in one's duty towards his fellow-men. To be good, but not to make others good; not to be evil, yet not to resist evil caused by others, are merely negative virtues. Just as [88] the individual's duty ends not in practising passive virtues which tend to make him good, but in making others good, so also he must not rest when he has eradicated his evil thoughts, bridled his passions, and overcome the evil that lurks in his inward nature, but he has further to reclaim others who have embraced evil. It is not only passive resistance that he has to offer to evil, but, adopting an aggressive attitude towards evil of all kinds, he has to combat and rout it. It is not enough that he should himself eschew evil; he must combat evil in others. He cannot remain a passive spectator while his neighbour is suffering. He is not to be a passive onlooker of, or to connive at some wrong on the ground that he is not the originator of it. The fact that something evil and imperfect exists around him, no matter by whom caused, is a sufficient reason why he should rush into the fray and do his share to mitigate and remove it. Nay, he has even to hunt out the hydra of wrong and strike at its many heads, so that the world of goodness may not suffer.

The prophet of Iran warns man that happiness is not the criterion of the value of human life, pleasure is not the standard; but duty in its two-fold aspect, that is, of working for righteousness and fighting against wickedness, is the guiding principle of life. Incessant work for the Kingdom of Righteousness deepens man's life; uncompromising war against the Kingdom of Wickedness strengthens it. This two-fold activity makes life complete. To further righteousness is only half the duty; to combat wickedness is the other half. Both are indispensable to realize the Zoroastrian. ideal of righteousness.

Everyone can contribute his or her mite, in the manifold walks of life, to the grand end of bringing about the final victory of good and the utter defeat of evil. The poorest man, who cheerfully fulfils his obligations of father and husband, brother and son, who struggles with poverty, yet loves independence and honour, who extends not his hand for alms, but lives on the slender earnings of his honest toil, who rears his children into good men and women does his duty by goodness, and does it well. The man who has energy and time, and employs both of these in social service of any kind, who organizes philanthropic work, preparing ameliorative schemes and who spends his bodily vigour and leisure hours for the betterment of humanity, succours goodness. The rich man, who gives away his wealth in the [89] name of Ahura Mazda to alleviate the sufferings of the needy, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the sick, builds homes for the homeless; promotes goodness. The man of learning and wisdom, who enlightens and inspires, ennobles and uplifts mankind, furthers goodness. The man of adventurous spirit who reclaims arid wastes, fertilizes barren lands, clears the forests of wild beasts; or the man of talents, who discovers an antidote to some disease, a preventive to epidemics and plagues, extirpates germs and bacteria, combats heroically physical evil. One who struggles hard for the elimination of the darkness of the mind, who crusades against superstition and bigotry, is combating mental evil. The man who struggles with the forces of corruption and injustice, who fights for the redress of wrongs, who blunts the edge of the tyrant's sword, is routing the forces of social evil. A righteous person who wages a relentless war against immorality, who pares the wings of vice and cripples crime, is a hero of the war against moral evil.


The Evil Spirit and his characteristics. Just as man, in his religious evolution, comes to the belief in the existence of kindly invisible beings who protect and nourish and help him, so he discovers that there are hostile powers who wish him evil. Such demons are presided over by powerful chiefs who rule over the world of darkness and evil. They have weak personalities as incarnating evil, but each one is Satan in the making. Set was in conflict with Horus in Egypt, as Tiamat was with Marduk in Babylonia, and Vritra with Indra among the Indo-Iranians.

The Evil Spirit who disputes the sovereignty over human hearts in Iran with the Holy Spirit, is not given a proper name in the Gathas. Of the two primeval Spirits, the one who chose evil as his sphere of activity is given the epithet angra, meaning enemy or evil. Angra Mainyu thus means the Enemy or the Evil Spirit. This attribute is applied once directly to the Evil Spirit.3 In another place it is said why is a bad (angra) man not like unto Angra, 'The Evil One,' referring evidently to Angra Mainyu, or the Evil Spirit.4 The term angra is thus used more [90] than once in the ordinary meaning 'evil' as a designation of wicked men.5 He is given the epithet aka, 'bad.'6 In one place he is given the name Aka Mainyu, 'the Bad Spirit.'7 Yet in another instance he is termed dregvant, or the Wicked One.8

3. Y45.2.

4. Y44.12.

5. Y43.15; 44.12; 48.10.


7. Y32.5.

8. Y30.5. [dregvant literally means 'possessing druj'. -JHP]

In his thoughts, words, deeds, faith, conscience, soul, and everything else, he stands at the opposite pole to the Good Spirit.9 He is himself evil in thought, word and deed,10 and chose to do worst things.11 When he first manifested himself he created non-life in opposition to the action of the Good Spirit who created life.12 He denounces the providence of Ahura Mazda.13

9. Y45.2.

10. Y30.3.

11. Y30.5.

12. Y30.4.

13. Y44.12.

The Evil Spirit lures men by his mischievous machinations to the path of wickedness, and lulls their spiritual senses to repose. He is the inveterate foe of humanity. Man, we may infer from the tone of the Gathas, should avoid him as he would a pestilence. Fortunate is he who successfully bridles the tumult of the Evil Spirit and breaks the heavy chains that fetter his spirit. But woe to him who revolts from the Good Spirit, pays homage to the author of evil, and lives in bondage to him. Such a man is a moral pervert, a rebel, and suffers death in the spirit. The normal state of man is to be always on the side of the good, and by any act of going over to the realm of evil he creates for himself an unnatural situation. His sacred duty is to espouse the cause of the Good Spirit.


The infernal crew. The diabolic spirits who have entered into a compact with Angra Mainyu to mar the good creation of Ahura Mazda are the Daevas, or demons. They are the offspring of the Evil Mind and spread their mischief over all seven zones.14 The Evil Spirit has taught them to mislead men through evil thought, evil word, and evil deed.15 The Daevas instigate the enemies of settled life to give the cattle to violence.16 Mazda best remembers the misdeeds of these recreants and he judges [91] accordingly.17 When the two primal spirits of good and evil came together at the beginning of creation the demons chose evil and rushed with one accord to bring destruction to mankind.18 The wicked are the beloved of the demons, for they are the ones that renounce the Good Mind and revolt from the wisdom of Ahura Mazda and Righteousness.19 The demons should therefore be abjured,20 and the Saviour Saoshyant will be the friend, brother, and father of those who hate them.21 The Daevas will receive their due at the final Dispensation when Righteousness will smite Wickedness.22

14. Y32.3.

15. Y32.5.

16. Y44.20.

17. Y29.4.

18. Y30.6.

19. Y32.4.

20. Y34.5.

21. Y45.11.

22. Y48.1.

As Ahura Mazda holds his council of celestial beings, so Angra Mainyu maintains in his infernal court a retinue of male and female demons. In opposition to every archangel and angel, the younger literature sets up a corresponding fiend. These form exact counterparts of the powers of goodness, and always act in direct opposition to them. We do not find the symmetry of diametric opposites between these rival forces carried out to completion in the extant Gathic literature. The names of not all the corresponding demons, who are the opponents of Mazda's ministering angels, are found. The rivals of Vohu Manah, Asha, and Sraosha are mentioned by names, as Aka Manah, Druj, and Aeshma, but with the exception of Druj, the adversary of Asha, the rest are seen working only sporadically and not in systematic antagonism to their corresponding rival good spirits. Taromaiti, or heresy, the opponent of Armaiti, is named but once,23 though the term does not occur in this particular passage as a personified demon. Aka Manah, Druj, and Aeshma are the only Daevas expressly mentioned in the Gathas. We shall deal with these separately.

23. Y33.4.


The Evil Mind. Aka Manah is mentioned only three times in the Gathas.24 Even in his name he is the antithesis of his heavenly rival Vohu Manah, or Good Mind. Like his celestial adversary, who is sometimes called Vahishta Manah, 'Best Mind,' this fiend is also styled Achishta Manah or 'Worst Mind.' The [92] Daevas, it is said, chose to embrace the Worst Mind.25 They are the progeny of Aka Manah.26 Zarathushtra undertakes by his prayer to drive out the demon of Evil Mind from before him, that is, from the world of Righteousness.27 When man's mind is not filled with the good thoughts of Vohu Manah, it becomes an easy prey to the onslaughts of the evil thoughts of Aka Manah. Whosoever is a victim to Aka Manah finds his thoughts enslaved by him. As heaven is associated with Vohu Manah, hell is mentioned as the region of Aka Manah. The tyrant Grehma and his wicked followers who destroy life, we are told, will go to the Abode of the Worst Mind.28

24. Y32.3; Y33.4; Y47.5.

25. Y30.6.

26. Y32.3.

27. Y33.4; Y47.5.

28. Y32.13.


Her Kingdom of Wickedness. The Rig Veda speaks of a minor demon Druh who with others of her class stands for malice or hatred. The corresponding Gathic term is Druj, 'falsehood or wickedness.' The Daevas are generally malevolent male beings. Druj, on the other hand, is a female fiend. The Gathas give her greater prominence than to any other evil being. As the rival of Asha, or Righteousness, Druj personifies wickedness in every form and aspect. All evil in the world is focused in her. Ever since the Evil Spirit introduced evil in the world, the world of humanity has been and will be, until the final Renovation of the universe, divided into two distinct parties. Those on the side of Ahura Mazda follow the law of Righteousness, but those who have chosen to live in error have embraced the law of Druj, or Wickedness. The righteous form together the world of righteousness, whereas the wicked ones are classed as the members of the world of wickedness. The sacred mission of Zarathushtra lies in the work of converting these misguided men to righteousness and in winning them over to the side of Ahura Mazda.

The adherents of Druj. The man who yields to the temptations of Druj is a dregvant, 'wicked one,' as opposed to the ashavan, 'righteous one,' who follows Asha.29 Angra Mainyu himself is called dregvant.30 The wicked who are themselves [93] of evil faith seek to mislead others.31 They defy the good admonitions of the Deity and are not willing to hear the good counsel, the divine word of the Good Mind. Zarathushtra seeks means, therefore, to drive out their wickedness.32 He exhorts his audience to listen attentively to his inspired teachings, so that the teacher of evil may not thereafter injure them.33 The prophet comes as the lord between the parties of the righteous and the wicked and those whose good and evil deeds balance.34 He preaches to those who, being led astray by the evil advice of Druj, smite the world of righteousness.35 The wicked are far from the good-will of Ahura Mazda; their sinful deeds make them companions of Evil Mind.36 They strive to estrange the righteous from the Best Mind,37 and from the best deeds.38 They strive to reduce all others to their own class. They bring distress and death to the house, village, town, and country, through their wicked spells.39 He who harasses the prophet is the child of Druj.40

29. Y29.2, 5; 30.11; 46.1, 4.

30. Y30.5.

31. Y45.1.

32. Y44.13.

33. Y45.1.

34. Y31.2; 33.1.

35. Y31.1.

36. Y47.5.

37. Y32.11.

38. Y32.12.

39. Y31.18.

40. Y51.10.

Druj's followers are to be requited with evil in this world. In his crusade against the Kingdom of Wickedness, Zoroaster is unsparing and even unforgiving. We do not see, in the words handed down from his lips, the gentler side of virtue of returning good for evil. Here we have the ethics of retaliation. Once the antithesis between the Kingdom of Righteousness and Wickedness is sharply defined, the latter is to be relentlessly opposed. The two parties are on the war-path, and strict discipline demands that the righteous man will on no account wink at or palliate wickedness, and let the evildoer go free without retribution. Wrong is to be handled as wrong, and the man who does wrong is to be met with his own weapons. Evil is to be requited by evil and not by goodness. Indifference and leniency threaten only to further the domain of Wickedness. Consequently evil is to be relentlessly put down.

Zarathushtra is the friend of the righteous, but a veritable foe to the wicked.41 The wicked lords of the land vehemently oppose his work;42 it is they who hinder the righteous in the pursuit of goodness. He who hurls these miscreants down from [94] power clears the way for the good teachings.43 Succouring the wicked is tantamount to practising wickedness. It is expressly said that the one who is good to the wicked is himself wicked.44 Those who with their thoughts, words, and deeds bring punishment to the wicked fulfil the desire of Mazda.45 No one, therefore, should be the cause of rejoicing to the wicked.46 Every one, on the contrary should always practise goodness towards the righteous, but deal out ill to the wicked.47 The man of truthful words should not give chieftainship to the wicked.48

41. Y43.8.

42. Y46.1.

43. Y46.4.

44. Y46.6.

45. Y33.2.

46. Y43.15.

47. Y47.4.

48. Y49.9.

Druj's disciples fare no better in the next world. Ahura Mazda reckons the followers of Druj as wicked, and therefore retribution and misery await their souls.49 Ahura Mazda gives happiness and joy hereafter to the righteous, but on the wicked he inflicts punishment and pain.50 The wicked, according to the teachings of the Gathas, are led by their conscience through their own deeds to the Abode of Darkness.51 One of the names of the inferno, as we shall see, is drujo demâna, 'Abode of Druj.' There rush the wilfully blind and deaf52 thither go to perdition the crew of the wicked.53

49. Y43.4; Y45.7

50. Y31.14, 15; Y51.8, 9.

51. Y31.20.

52. Y46.11; Y51.14.

53. Y49.11.

Final defeat of Druj. The logical sequence to the war between the powers of righteousness and wickedness in these sharply defined poles of existence is the demanded ultimate victory of righteousness over wickedness. This is the goal towards which the world of humanity moves. When punishment will come to the wicked and the divine kingdom descend upon earth, Druj will fall forever into the hands of Asha.54 Hence Zarathushtra abjures Druj,55 and prays for power that he and his followers may be able to smite Druj.56 He asks Ahura Mazda how it will be possible to deliver over Druj into the hands of Asha,57 and it will eventually come to pass that the righteous will rout the wicked.58 The tone of his divine inquiry implies the answer that when humanity unanimously adheres to Righteousness, Wickedness will ultimately perish.59

54. Y30.8.

55. Y49.3.

56. Y31.4.

57. Y44.14.

58. Y48.2.

59. Y30.10.



The demon of wrath. The foe of Sraosha, who is above all the genius of obedience and revelation, is Aeshma, or 'Wrath.' When Geush Urvan, or the Spirit of animal life, complains of the disturbance and disorder, chaos and anarchy prevailing on the earth, it speaks of Aeshma as the prime originator of these calamities.60 The Fashioner of the Cattle, thereupon, consults Asha to find out a chieftain who. would ultimately banish Aeshma from the creation.61 Furthermore in this connection, when the twain spirits of good and evil first met together at the beginning of the creation, the demons embraced evil and rushed to the standard of Aeshma in order to bring destruction to the life of man.62 Those who with firmness control and repress this arch-fiend are the saviours.63 Zarathushtra says that the faithful follower of the good, who is striving to hold and make his own the Good Mind through righteousness, should in the first place put down Aeshma, the fiend of fury.64

60. Y29.1.

61. Y29.2.

62. Y30.6.

63. Y48.12.

64. Y48.7.




Death lives by feeding on life. Death is ever at man's heels. It is closer to him than his shadow. Man has always desired to gain immunity from death. It is only when man is downcast and depressed that he looks to death as deliverer and says that he would be better dead than live and suffer. When life becomes dreary and dark, death, assumes a bright hue and promises the unfortunate ones to drown their miseries in the darkness of the grave, and to give them rest which life has not given them. When life takes its normal course, man blames God that he should have permitted death to stalk the earth. Out of compassion for mankind, it is said, the Babylonian god Ea once endeavoured to secure immortality for it but failed in his attempt. Both gods and men considered the indefinite prolongation of life as the supremest blessing. But the gods zealously guarded this much coveted boon and kept it as their exclusive possession. They grew jealous and frustrated men's attempt to win immortality, for men would be gods if they got the priceless prize. The hero Gilgamesh passionately longed for immortal life and went in search of an escape from death. He was informed by the shade of his heroic compatriot whom death had taken away from him that death was the final fate of man and he was indulging in futile hopes. Immortal life was for gods only. Death was the lot of mankind and even a hero like Gilgamesh with all his marvellous achievements could not escape it. It was, therefore, advisable for him to give up yearning for what was unattainable and rather whole-heartedly enjoy life as long as it lasted and death was yet far off. He is advised by others to don fine raiment, to anoint himself with oil, to fill his belly with fine food and wine, to love the woman of his bosom and be merry by day and by night, for death would put an end to his life at any moment.

Death comes with stealthy steps. When the hour sounds [97] and death issues its summons and knocks at the door, nothing in the world, can keep it out. Death is a grim harvester. It is absolutely heedless of the seasons of life. It swings its sickle and takes away some in the heyday of their summer. It strikes others when they are in the full vigour of life before their life-work is finished and they have enjoyed the greatness they have built. To others who lie lingering in bed suffering excruciating agonies of pain it comes with cruel slowness leisurely moving with feet of lead and leaves them long writhing in the convulsions of fading life. Its kiss is killing and its embrace is extinction. It is difficult to look it in the face without quailing. Its helpless victim lies tossing in bed fighting in vain to keep off its icy hands circling round his neck to smother and squeeze out life. Death's ghastly pallor comes over his livid face the breath begins to rattle laboriously in the throat his voice is stilled, he stares with sightless eyes, his dear ones around him watch with bated breath his every breath fearing it to be his last, the convulsions of the body, at grip with the soul struggling to leave it, grow keener, life gradually ebbs out of him, it dries up in his veins, the heart ceases its beating, and he gives up his ghost. Death prostrates him in the dust. He sleeps in solitude in the cold grave to be eaten up bit by bit in its decay by worms or is consumed by the roaring tongues of red hot fire or is torn limb from limb by vultures who make a meal of him.

Death is man's last sleep from which he wakes up in the other world. Death sets man brooding over the whereabouts of the dead who has just ceased breathing and fails to respond to the call of the living. It is the greatest mystery, with the solution of which man is always confronted. Man has ever longed to lift the veil that hides it and look behind it. It was an enigma to the first man upon earth and an enigma still it is to us. From the gray dawn of civilization man has vaguely believed that the dead do not die altogether. The Egyptians are among the earliest of the civilized peoples who have left records of their beliefs they held some seven thousand years ago. They could not account for the disappearance of the individual at his death and conjectured that unseen and unheard though the dead one had become, he existed somewhere and somehow. Though he had dropped his vesture of clay he had adopted some invisible replica of it and had thrown a veil over himself and his doings that cannot be [98] penetrated. The grave where his last remains were deposited, they thought, was his natural abode where he lived the life that he hitherto led, but only invisibly. Naturally enough he hungered and thirsted, worked and rested, loved and hated, as he did while alive. So also did the Babylonians believe that the dead departed to the subterranean regions and lived their invisible lives.

The Indo-Iranians came to believe at an early age that at death man leaves behind all that is mortal. His mortal tenement perishes but the imperishable part of man, his real personality, his soul survives his bodily death. Yama was the first to discover the path of the dead and won for himself the empire of the dead. Yama welcomed the soul of the dead to his abode where it was met by its kith and kin that had preceded it.

Zarathushtra systematically speaks of two different worlds, this one and the next. The present, or the earthly world, is called astvant, 'corporeal,' and the other or the heavenly world is called manahya, 'spiritual,' literally, 'of thought.'1 Body and soul are the two main constituents in the formation of man. These two have their respective organs and other spiritual and material essentials. So long as these work in unison man lives, and lives for the best in this world. The Evil Spirit has introduced death in the world,2 which brings the dissolution of these diverse elements. The soul exists for the short span of its life on earth in the tenement of the body. When the material frame crumbles into dust it flees heavenward. The bodily death does not mean the death of the soul, for that is immortal.3 Death is not the end of man's life, for he lives in heaven in spirit and he lives upon earth in posterity. The present life is a prelude to the future life. It is a pilgrimage to a higher life. Man should therefore bethink himself to prepare for the journey to the next world when he departs from this life. He will get in heaven what he craves for in vain upon earth. He will have for actual experience in heaven the best and perfect condition which he visualizes but imperfectly in thought on earth.

1. Y28.2; 43.3.

2. Y30.4.

3. Y45.7.

The belief that he will one day meet the dear departed lightens man's burden of bereavement. Death casts the greatest gloom around us. Time, in its fulness, softens the sorrow of the bereaved, wipes away his tears, and heals the wound [99] inflicted by death. But there are always persons of deep emotional nature and gentle feelings who are disconsolate. Their dear ones are torn from them whom they cannot forget. Death lacerates the heart of fond parents by snatching away from their bosom their only child that was the apple of their eyes. The devoted wife in the neighbourhood is deprived of her doting husband, who was the idol of her heart and was all that she most loved on earth. Life seems to be empty and hollow to yet another father who has lost his youthful son, who was the joy of his heart and pride of his life. The bereaved grieve and weep, sigh and sob, cry and pray that God may give them back their dear ones, who had shared their joys and sorrows at the fire hearth, but God does not give them back. The dead have gone to the world from where there is no return. With the passing away of their beloved ones, flowers seem to have lost their fragrance, life is shorn of its sweetness, the world has lost its light, and everything around seems to be dead to them. The dead do not pass out of their lives. The music of their voices lingers in their minds, their images float before their vision, their faces haunt them during the day, and they dream of them at night. If they walk in the garden they think they see the airy figures of their dear ones under the shade of the pine trees; if they turn aside they feel they are followed by the ghosts of their dead; If they close the door of their abodes they think they hear the dead knocking at their doors; if they open the doors they fancy they hear the retreating steps of the dead.

Unto countless millions of such aggrieved persons driven to hopeless despair, comes the welcome tidings that their dead ones are living in the yonder world and they will one day be able to meet them. Death has parted them now, but they will be united with them some day. They will themselves go the same way that their dear ones have gone; only they have preceded them and are now awaiting their arrival. When they will go to the world of the dead, they will meet them face to face, they will know one another; greet one another with open arms, and live thereafter together in peace and felicity. If God has taken away their beloved before their time, it must be because in his infinite wisdom he must have thought this world not good enough for them. For those whom God loves most, he calls to himself sooner than others.

[100] The anomalies of earthly life and their final adjustment in heaven. The unequal distribution of earthly possessions among mankind, the unequal opportunities held out to men, the undeserved sufferings of the righteous, the unmerited success of the wicked, and various other anomalies of life have led man by long ages of thinking to postulate a place where wrongs shall be ultimately adjusted, outraged righteousness expiated, and undetected wickedness punished. Death is the entrance into eternal light or eternal darkness. The order of this world is far from perfection; the innocent often suffer, while the guilty escape with impunity; the virtuous poor man pines under grinding poverty, while the rich man prospers. The doctrine of a future life of rectification where justice will be administered with exactitude in accordance with the divine ordinance, where grievances of this world will be redressed, and where every injustice, borne patiently, will be rectified, gives mental tranquillity and spiritual calm to the afflicted. A vista of hope thus opens before those who are roughly handled by this world. This hope brings peace that the world had not hitherto given them. It enables them manfully to endure pain and privation, suffering and sorrow, in the pious hope that a higher life awaits them in which they will receive their due. This hope assures man the continuation of what little happiness he has had in this world and the cessation of what great misery he suffered on earth. It gives meaning to the life of the individual, and inculcates a robust faith in the goodness of God. Man thus learns that he is not the sport of some evil-designing spirit who has carelessly thrown him on this world, resourceless and he1pless. When in spite of his own honest work and hard labour he finds himself hopelessly lost in the feverish struggle for existence, he does not complain that some unjust and partial Maker has made him of clay inferior to that of his intensely selfish competitors, and given to him lesser opportunities for success than to his rivals in the race of life. The cheerful idea dawns upon him that the gloomy and dark night of anguish of his broken heart and troubled spirit will be followed by an eternal morn which will dispel all darkness and shed light on his path. He consoles himself with the belief that his life of misery upon the earth is a precursor of happy life in heaven. When life upon earth brings no solace, the hope of heavenly recompense comforts and sustains him.

[101] Vast numbers of men and women have always believed in heaven and hell as certainties. The fear of punishment in the next world has had a great deterrent effect upon many wicked persons. They have dreaded death opening the door to their damnation.

Reward for the good and retribution for the evil. Looking to the history of the origin of this belief among the cultured peoples prior to the advent of Zarathushtra, we find that the growth of ethical concepts led the early Egyptians to believe in the judgment of the soul in the next world. The heavenly tribunal was presided over by Osiris and his associates. Before each of these subordinate judges the soul had to declare that it had not committed the various sins which were enumerated before it name by name. Its heart was weighed in a balance. The soul that came out successful from the trial was escorted by Horus to Osiris who now awarded it bliss. Woe unto the one who could not stand the test at the seat of judgment, for a hippopotamus sitting on the watch pounced upon it and made a morsel of its diet.

The Babylonians did not entertain the belief in the reward and retributions to the righteous and the wicked on an ethical basis. The heavens never formed the abode of the dead. It was in the subterranean regions full of darkness and gloom where all the dead departed. Tired by the gloom and monotony of their imprisonment, the dead longed for an escape to the world where they had experienced joy during life. But the guardians of the lower world kept a careful watch and did not let the unfortunate incumbents escape to the upper world.

In the abode of Yama, according to the Vedas, was found sensuous enjoyment, sweet music was heard and milk and honey and wine flowed amid abundance of food. There was no sickness or old age or suffering. In the early period all souls went to the abode of Yama, but the later belief was that only the righteous abode in the heavens and the wicked went their way to the world of nothingness. Immortality was not inherent in man; he won it as a reward for his righteous life upon earth.

The doctrine of reward and retribution in the other world forms the chief part of the ethical teachings of Zarathushtra's Gathas.4 All precepts in the sacred stanzas are generally accompanied by a repeated mention of reward or retribution in this or [102] the next world, Men of elevated minds may hold that it is not a high moral standard in which an individual practises virtue in the hope of reward and eschews vice for fear of retribution. But to be entirely disinterested in the acting of righteousness, or to follow virtue for virtue's sake, is a saintly prerogative. And the world is not made up of saints. The saint is the acme in the moral sphere, as is the intellectual genius in the realm of reason. Both form the climaxes in the two distinct spheres of human activity. The world begets tens of millions of average men, in contrast to the few isolated types of master-spirits who inspire the world with their boundless devotion or enlighten it by their profound intellect. These give a new life and impetus to the moral and intellectual activities of mankind. The saintly type of virtue is the goal which humanity feebly attempts to reach. Humanity, as a whole, is evolving towards this ideal type of virtue, but meanwhile — and let this be emphasized till the striven for goal is reached — it needs some sort of incentive to good conduct in the lives of its masses. Hence the prime motive of their embracing righteousness is the hope of future reward, and that of shunning wickedness is the fear of retribution. In human affairs we have to be content with getting something less than ideal.

4. Y30.10; 31.14, 20; 45.7; 51.6, 8, 9.

It is no wonder, then, if we find an elaborately worked out system of rewards and retributions in the ethical code of the sacred hymns. The faithful generally pray, among other boons, for endurance, durability, riches and happiness in this world, and for rewards, weal, and immortality in the world to come. Zarathushtra implores Ahura Mazda to grant him long life in his Divine Kingdom,5 and inquires what will bring happiness to his soul.6 In the same manner, the devout lift up their praises of the Lord to the throne of the Almighty.7 Ahura Mazda is the giver of rewards to the righteous as well of punishment to the wicked.8 He is entreated to grant the riches of both the worlds.9

5. 43.13.

6. 44.8.

7. 45.8.

8. 43.4.

9. Y28.2.

The soul reaps as it has sown. The soul is the master of the body and is responsible for the good or the evil deeds it has done in this life. Man carves his destiny for the next world by his thoughts, words, and deeds in this life, and good or evil destiny awaits the soul in the next, or the spiritual world, which is [103] essentially the place of reward and retribution. The life in this world is incomplete without its prolongation in the heavenly world, for it is only a life of probation, and the harvest of good or evil deeds sown here is to be reaped hereafter by the soul in the world of the spirit. Whether the soul, on embarking to the next world, will be greeted by the righteous or seized by the wicked, depends entirely on the sort of life it has led in this world. If it wins beatitude, it is on its own merits; if it loses this, it is equally through its own fault. If it ascends to heaven, it is owing to its righteous life in this world; if it sinks into hell, it is due to its wicked life here.

The soul is created pure and innocent. The lost soul that traverses the regions of inferno after death was at the first moment of its original entrance into the bodily world as pure and perfect as the soul of its neighbour now entering paradise. In the spiritual world, class distinctions are unknown. There are no white or black, red or yellow, high or low, touchable or untouchable souls, as man has most selfishly branded his brethren from the difference of the colours of their skin or their low rank in society. The noblest of souls may dwell in the tenement covered with the darkest skin; the vilest of souls may take the body with the whitest skin for its vestment; the loveliest of spirits may be found in the body with the ugliest complexion and the foulest of souls may lurk in the fairest body.

The Bridge of Judgment. When man began to people the heavens with the celestial beings and came to the belief that the dead go heavenward, he naturally began to think of the means to scale the heights. Nature often showed the beautiful rainbow spanning the space between the earth and the sky in glorious colours, and the shining Milky Way paving its circular path with silvery stars. With the development of the eschatological ideas, the Egyptians believed that the souls of the dead lived in the starry regions which were generally reached by means of a huge ladder.10

10. For parallels to the Bridge see Soderblom, Les Fravashis, [Paris, 1899,] p. 70 f.

We are given in figurative language by Zarathushtra the image of a bridge, called Chinvat [Chinwad], literally 'of the dividing one', that connects this world with the unseen world, and serves as a medium to cross the deep chasm that separates the two. The reckoning of the good or evil deeds of the souls takes place after [104] death,11 and judgment is passed upon them before they can cross the bridge. The souls fare here as is their due. The righteous souls come to this place in pious expectation of the reward that awaits them. Zarathushtra helps those righteous souls to cross the Bridge who have devoutly practised his religion.12 But the wicked souls, who have estranged themselves from the Path of Righteousness by their own evil thoughts, words, and deeds, stand trembling at this judgment span.13 Writhing with the pangs of their conscience and crying words of woe, they are now led by their own conscience to perdition.14

11. Y31.14.

12. Y46.10.

13. Y51.13.

14. Y31.20; 46.11.


Abode of the righteous after death. The sharp antithesis that existed between the righteous and the wicked in the material world finds its counterpart in the spiritual world. The righteous in this world formed ashahyâ gaethâ, 'World of Righteousness,' as against the dregvants who belonged to the world of wickedness. The place reserved for the pious souls that approach heaven is called garo demana [Garothman], 'Abode of song.' Ahura Mazda first entered this home of the blessed ones and Zarathushtra has promised that the faithful of all times will win admission to it through thinking good thoughts and practising righteousness.15 The prophet says that he will sing praise unto Ahura Mazda in such a manner that it will be heard all along the path leading to Garo Demana.16 He will carry the dutiful homage of his own and of his followers unto Ahura Mazda to his resplendent House of Song.17 Here the pious souls are surrounded by choirs of celestial beings. Those who win fair report of their lives in this world, live in the happy lodgings of Ahura Mazda, Vohu Manah, and Asha.18 We have already seen that paradise itself comes to be known by the name of Good Thought or Best Thought. In one instance this region of felicity and bliss is called vangheush demana manangho, 'Abode of Good mind.' 19 Ahura Mazda with his heavenly host, and the souls of the righteous ones, live here. He will welcome King Vishtaspa and other friends of the faith [105] who have helped Zarathushtra in his mission, to live with him in the same abode.20

15. Y51.15.

16. Y50.4.

17. Y45.8.

18. Y30.10.

19. Y32.15.

20. Y46.14.

The nature of reward in heaven. The blessed ones now enter into felicity. To the pious souls Ahura Mazda gives the good reward which their goodness has earned.21 The fruition of paradise belongs to them. Those who have helped the prophet in his great work are rewarded in the spiritual world.22 There the righteous enjoy felicity in immortality.23 Zarathushtra prays for long life of blessed existence in the Kingdom of Mazda,24 and seeks to know his soul will reap the good that will rejoice it.25 The good leave a good name and fame behind them on earth, and attain reward in the abode of Ahura Mazda, Vohu Manah, and Asha.26 The weal of the blessed ones in heaven knows not any woe; it is the lasting happiness which is never followed by misery, and the bliss is without alloy, for the riches of Vohu Manah are everlasting.27 Earthly happiness is fleeting, it may be supplanted by misery at the very moment that man thinks himself most secure in its enjoyment. The joy of life may at any moment be eclipsed by a passing cloud of sorrow; but the heavenly bliss is abiding, knowing no end, and having no pain in its train. It is the highest blessing of life, says Zarathushtra, which Mazda will give for ever and aye to all those who are the faithful followers of his excellent religion.28

21. Y30.11; Y43.5.

22. Y46.19.

23. Y45.7; Y51.8, 9.

24. Y43.13.

25. Y44.8.

26. Y30.10.

27. Y28.8.

28. Y53.1.


Between heaven and hell. We learn from Pahlavi works that an intermediary place, situated between earth and the star-region, is reserved for the souls in whose case the records of what may be called the Book of Life show that their good deeds are on a par with their evil deeds. The strict logic of the doctrine of Zoroastrian eschatology and the, symmetry of the entire system demand a place where the souls whose good and evil deeds exactly balance and who cannot ascend to heaven because of the heaviness of their sins, and yet are not so weighed down by [106] sin as to descend into hell, and find their resting-place till the final judgment. The Avestan and Pahlavi texts record in full detail this eschatological doctrine, while the Gathas appear to recognize either in spirit or in the abstract, so that we may be justified in concluding that the concept of the intermediate place was embodied in the teachings of Zarathushtra from the beginning.29 Whoso wavers between good and evil through his unsteady thoughts, words, and deeds will in the end find his place in intermediate region.30

29. Cf. Y33.1; 48.4, Bartholomae in ZDMG. 35. 157, 158; Roth, ib. 37. 223-229; Geldner, Aus dem Avesta in KZ. 30. 530.

30. Y48.4.


The wicked are consigned to perdition. In contradistinction to the Best Existence, the abode of sinners after death is achishta ahu, 'Worst Existence.'31 The region of hell is called drujo demâna, 'Abode of Wickedness,'32 or achishtahyâ demâna manangho, 'Abode of the Worst Mind.'33 Darkness is the characteristic trait of the inferno.34

31. Y30.4.

32. Y46.11; 49.11; 51.14.

33. Y32.13.

34. Y31.20.

The nature of retribution in hell. The Gathic texts casually mention that torment and woe, punishment and sorrow, fall to the lot of the wicked in hell,35 and that the demons greet the lost souls with foul food.36 This figurative expression and other poetic metaphors of like nature are taken literally in the later periods, when hell is materialized and the concept of physical torture is systematically worked out. The soul writhes in agony owing to the consciousness of its alienation from Ahura Mazda. Its vicious life proves in the end its own perdition. From day unto day it has made its own hell, and now its own conscience condemns it to the damnation of hell.37

35. Y30.8, 11; 31.14, 15, 20; 43.5; 44.19; 45.3, 7; 49.4; 51.8, 9; 53.7.

36. Y31.20; 49.11; 53.6.

37. Y31.20.

Duration of punishment in hell. The Gathas speak of the punishment as lasting for a long period.38 The idea of eternal [107] damnation, that is confinement in hell, until the day of Renovation, which is markedly manifest in the later works, exists in embryo in the Gathas. A passage expressly speaks of the misery of the wicked souls as lasting for all time.39

38. Y30.11; 31.20.

39. Y46.11.



The end of the world. The Gathas speak of a period when the progress of creation will stop, the evolution of the universe will reach its destined goal, as the cycle of the world will then be completed and creation and life will end.1 Ahura Mazda will come at this time with his Holy Spirit, and with Khshathra and Vohu Manah, to accomplish this great work.2 The world-process will then come to its final consummation as ordained by him at the beginning of creation.

1. Y43.5; 51.6.

2. Y43.6.

The saviour Prophets. The later scriptures speak of different saviours that will appear in the world at various epochs to reform it, the last and the greatest of such saviours being Soshyos [Soshyant], or, to use the Gathic word, Saoshyant. The term saoshyant, in both the singular and plural form, occurs in the Gathas. Here, however, the word is used, not as the name of any particular individual, but as a generic term, designating Zarathushtra and his fellow workers. It is in the Younger Avestan period that we first become acquainted with a person bearing this name. Those who by their good deeds work for the commandment of Ahura Mazda through Good Mind and Righteousness are called the saviour prophets.3 Ahura Mazda is asked regarding the period when the wisdom of the saviours will dawn upon the world through their efficacious precepts.4 Zarathushtra is the deng-paiti, 'Lord of the House.' He says that as the Saviour he will be friend, brother, and father unto him who hates the demons and those mortals who belittle him.5 A thousand years after him Jesus as Saviour uses the identical word and says that whosoever shall do the will of God, is like a brother and sister and mother unto him who is the oikodespotes 'Lord of the House' and Saviour.6 To be as worthy as these saviours who [109] bring about the furtherance of the world and to be the perfectors of the world, themselves, is the devout prayer of the faithful.7

3. Y48.12.

4. Y46.3.

5. Y45.11.

6. Matt. 13.27; 20.1; Mark 3.35; see Moulton. Early Religious Poetry of Persia, p. 106; 107.

7. Y30.9.

Universal Judgment. All human souls will be subjected to a collective judgment before the ultimate renovation of the world. The souls will have to undergo the great ordeal by fire and molten metal, to which reference has already been made.8 At the time of the final Dispensation Ahura Mazda will judge the souls of the righteous and the wicked by the test of his blazing fire.9 The powerful fire will be a manifest help unto the holy, but harmful unto the wicked.10 Asha and Armaiti will help Ahura Mazda at the final judgment.11 Mazda knows best how to mark out the lost sinners at the final ordeal of the molten metal.12 This tribulation will reclaim the sinners.13

8. Y51.9.

9. Y31.3, 19; 43.4; 47.6.

10. Y34.4.

11. Y47.6.

12. Y32.7.

13. Y47.6.

Righteousness triumphs over wickedness. The world of humanity will at last arrive at the stage when Druj, or Wickedness, will come into the hands of Asha, or Righteousness. This ideal aim and end has been the final goal laid out in the Gathas. Zarathushtra prays over and over again for the period when Righteousness will smite Wickedness. Every gain to the Kingdom of Righteousness is the loss to the Kingdom of Wickedness, and when there is no Wickedness left Righteousness will reign supreme. When the law of Wickedness is thus annihilated, the divine law of Righteousness will pervade the entire world. Even the wicked souls who had revolted from Mazda in the corporeal world and gone over to the Evil Spirit will after the retribution come over to Mazda and acknowledge his sovereignty. As the great shepherd, Ahura Mazda will bring back into the fold of righteousness all those persons who, led astray by the arch-tempter, had left his flock.

The later texts give us a systematic account of the final struggle between the good and the evil powers, and relate in detail how every one of the heavenly beings will smite his own particular opponent evil spirit. As we have already seen, the Gathas speak of the victory of Asha, or Righteousness, and the defeat of Druj, Wickedness. The fate of Angra Mainyu, the father of evil, is not mentioned; but we can infer that once the [110] law of Wickedness perishes, its originator must be impotent; in other words, the final defeat of Druj signifies also the defeat of the arch-Druj Angra Mainyu.

The Kingdom of Righteousness; man's share in its inauguration. In the higher sphere of life man is taught to go out from within himself and do active work for others. The truly righteous person does not live for himself alone, but holds out his own life for the ransom of others. Man may not rest with working for the salvation of his individual soul; he has equally to strive for the, saving of the collective soul, the soul of all humanity. Every year that he lives in this world he has to render some distinct social service and further the sum total of human joy and happiness: every day that he enjoys the infinite blessings of Ahura Mazda he has to give his mite in the furtherance of the cause of goodness. Human society is a great family, and no single member can live for himself. No act of the individual can be so personal that it does not affect the other members of the group or influence them in some way or another. Every one has to work for all. The individual is an important incident in society, a dutiful member of the world of humanity if he works for it; but an undesirable burden and a superfluous impediment to society if he selfishly lives for himself.

When one works for the good of others and lays his services at the door of society, one becomes richer in spirit. The spirit gains when she goes out from within and is prepared to lose herself for the common good, but loses when she is confined to the narrow limits of herself. There is nothing nobler for her than the virtue of self-sacrifice. The righteous sages have attained to greatness because they were meek enough in spirit and humble enough in heart to be humanity's willing servants. These spread goodness around them and become the means of happiness to others. And real happiness in turn comes to those who thus make others happy.14

14. Y43.1.

Various, as we know, are the motives which serve men as incentive in their work. Some work for the applause of their fellow-beings, some for the posthumous name and fame, while still others do some good work in the hope of some reward in this or the next world. If a man abstains from evil it may be owing to the dread of public censure or to the fear of incurring the [111] divine vengeance and future retribution; but the truly righteous one practises righteousness for its own sake. As the patriot who is guided by the noblest of human sentiments lives and dies for his country, so the ashavan acts in promoting the divine Kingdom of Righteousness.

Each age has its ideals, religious and social; and they vary in accordance with the high or low grades of civilization, of its peoples. The establishment of the Kingdom of Righteousness is the one universal ideal, which knows no change. Ahura Mazda will bring about the renovation of the world in accordance with his divine will.15 The whole universe moves towards the realization of this state of perfection, and humanity evolves towards this ideal. The righteous at all times help to bring this great event nearer by their deeds, even though the onward march may be beset with obstacles, and progress at times may be retarded, yet it can never be wholly arrested. Occasionally it may seem to swing back, but on the whole its move is onward along the path. If progress and evolution seem to be slow, the faithful need not despair. In the course of eternity Ahura Mazda has ample time to finish the work with the cooperation of the children of men. Human beings that form a society at a given period in the endless chain of Boundless Time have to give their respective share in the furthering of this great work. If society suffers for the faults of its units, it is because the individuals are human; out even these faults and these sufferings turn out to be incentives for the sure and steady work of advancement. Zarathushtra is the first to give meaning to human history. There is the great design, the stupendous purpose, the onward march towards making a new world, a perfect world. Progress is the Zoroastrian watchword. Man's birth is an ascent to the state of final perfection. Each individual has to join hands with the rest of his fellows in this great and noble undertaking; he must work to the extent of his powers and lend his aid, no matter how insignificant, to the attainment of the ideal end. Man need not feel appalled by the narrowness of the sphere in which he can labour nor must he be staggered at the vastness of the work to be done. The individual life should add something to the sum total of the life of humanity. Everyone has to consecrate his life to the good of humanity. It is a stage in which [112] everyone feels sympathy for his neighbour and helps everyone else. This is the common aim that knits together all men that have visited this earth since creation began, and must equally unite for all time those that will inhabit it up to the end of existence. The eternal conflict aims at the universal. Individuals in all ages have to work to accomplish this great end. Each generation profits by the work done in the past, makes some infinitesimal advance and adds its own share to the inherited legacy; thus handing it down to posterity in a better and a higher condition than that in which it received this inheritance. At last, by the constant efforts of the ages and the accumulated work of humanity, the desired object will be secured. Every effort made in this direction is a step upward gained on the ladder leading to the ultimate goal.

15. Y34.15.

The great world drama will then be over, the final curtain will fall on the tragic element in creation; the ultimate triumph of good over evil will be secured, the divine Kingdom of Righteousness will be established, and all this will come to pass through the work of man, the chief actor and hero of the human play, who co-operates and participates in this great work with his Heavenly Father. Man will then enter into the everlasting joy of Ahura Mazda. Such is the great message of Hope that the prophet of Iran brings to the world of humanity from Ahura Mazda.




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Brahmanism. The millennium that followed the advent of Zarathushtra witnessed the great creative period of religious and philosophical thought in the world. Beginning with Zoroastrianism, it gave rise to Brahmanism, Buddhism, and Jainism in India, which form the religion of one half of mankind at the present day. In addition, it developed Judaism in Palestine, and Taoism and Confucianism in China. When the Indo-Iranians separated, members of one group settled in the Panjaub and produced the hymns of the Rig Veda. Their descendants, who had by this time moved towards the plains of the Ganges, created the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. Apart from Buddhism and Jainism, which arose in the middle of this period of religious and philosophical efflorescence, we may distinguish at least four stages of religious evolution, namely those of the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. These periods do not exclude but overlap one another. The Vedic period continued for a considerable time into that of the ritualistic Brahmanism, and the Brahmanic into that of the philosophic Upanishads and the Upanishad period projects into that of the religion of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Brahmans officiated at the sacrifices and conducted religious services for the laity. They propitiated and placated gods with libations and sacrifices and penances to win magical power. When the Vedic language and literature became antiquated, the Brahmans interpreted and amplified the ancient texts. Thus arose the Brahmanas dealing with sacrificial texts based on the authority of the Vedas. The Vedic poets had weaved religious thought in the garb of beautiful lyrical poetry. Their descendants were now preoccupied in formulating elaborate ceremonials and sacrificial rites. Symbolical significance was attached to their punctilious performance. Rites and ceremonies [116] came to be invested with mysterious power to secure for the donor his heart's desires. Words specifically arranged and recited in a specific manner were believed to have magical potency and were supposed to heal disease, to win the favour of gods, to rout the demons, to frustrate the evil scheming of enemies and to cause them harm. The power of sacrifices was equally great. The gods, it is said, were originally mortals and dreaded death, but later won immortality by sacrifices. Sacrifice, it is added, enables the Brahmans to compel the gods to do their will. Ritualism thus rose to a pre-eminent position. Burnt offerings and sacrifices were believed to procure earthly gifts and heavenly bliss and to raise the estate of the soul in the next world. Exhortations for moral life continued to be made, yet elaborate ritual and animal sacrifices became the central feature of religion.

Such elaborate ceremonies performed and sacrifices offered by a specialized priestly class satisfied the religious needs of the masses of people. The chanting of the sacred formulas, the sound of bells and conches, the odour of the burning incense and of burnt offerings, descended soothingly upon the spirits of the vast numbers of people and appeased their innate human hunger for religion.

But there were some persons of a deep devotional disposition whom dreary ritualism and magical incantations which superseded a religion of morality, did not satisfy and they yearned for higher personal religious experience. They longed for passionately plunging into the life of the spirit. Such persons aspired to live religion in their own persons, to approximate the object of their devotion, to see their God face to face, to commune with him, and to lay bare their souls before him. They aimed at leading the life of the spirit, but the spirit was encased in a fleshy frame, and the flesh seemed to them to be antagonizing the spirit. Beneath their calm exterior, they often experienced the tempest raging within and their inner world torn by the conflict. Evil thoughts and vicious passions forced themselves into the mind and tortured it. Their one paramount function, they concluded, was to quell the tumult of their physical nature, before they could embark upon spiritual progress. They betook themselves to ascetic practices to drill and discipline, control and subdue their unruly bodies. They left their homes and retired to the forests. They practised various kinds of austerities, [117] flagellated themselves, emaciated, tortured, and mortified their bodies by rigorous devices. They laboured to induce ecstatic state by fasting, vigil, and use of narcotics, as aspirants to magical power have been known to do from primitive times. The austerities and devotional exercises of some advanced ascetic monks, known by the name of Shramanas, excited great admiration and reverence of the people. Even gods, it is alleged, gained their supernatural power by practising austerities. They were mortals originally, say the Atharva Veda and the Brahmanas, and austerities enabled them to defy death. Sages and saints attained miraculous power by the same means. Manu speaks of the practice of austerities as the best means of purifying one's life. By the close of the Vedic period, life was divided into four stages, being those of discipleship, householdership, hermitage, and renunciation. The great legislator lays down that when a householder finds his skin wrinkled and his hair grown gray and witnesses sons born to his sons, he should give up his possessions, wear a tattered garment, resort to the forest, and fare on what grows in the forest or beg his food in adjoining villages. There he should practise austerities and concentrate his mind on Brahma. The ascetic ideal rose in great esteem. People whose lives were saddened with sorrow and suffering, those of highly emotional nature who were extremely sensitive to the jars and buffets of life, those who were temperamentally subject to intense alternating elation and depression, or those in the autumn of their lives who were anxious for their spiritual edification, severed all ties with their families and the busy world and returned to the forest solitudes. The cloister attracted recluses from all grades of society. King Janaka renounced his throne in old age and became a hermit.

The philosophical religion. Among the forest dwellers there arose a class of persons to whom the ascetic life, with its concomitant mortification of body, failed to bring mental satisfaction. There were already germs of theosophy in the Vedic hymns, and such persons, prone to reflection, began to think deeply on the great problems of life and death.

Philosophy has generally led its distinctive existence as a parallel attempt of man to think out for himself the eternal verities of life, which religion has claimed to impart through divine revelation. Religion has acknowledged it as an aid in its [118] need or as a handmaid to amplify and elucidate its preachings. Philosophers have stood as a class by themselves. Their systems of thought have been recognized as the results of concentrated thinking on the problems of existence, or as the findings of human reason. Philosophy has from its earliest days been regarded in Greece as a secular attempt of the human mind to solve the riddles of life. India, on the other hand, has classed all such thinkers as one group of seers, sages, or prophets and held the utterance of every thinker as inspired. The unknown Vedic seer who sings of the water as the germ of life in the hymn of creation is giving expression to revealed truth, whereas Thales of Miletus, who declares water as the first principle, speaks in terms of cosmogonic philosophy. Kapila's great Sankhya system of numbers is enshrined for all time as divinely vouchsafed. When his Greek contemporary, Pythagoras, preaches that number is the first principle of the world, he passes as a lay thinker grafting his metaphysics on numbers.

With the advent of the great thinkers who weave their metaphysical speculations into creative systems of philosophy, higher religion in India tends to be philosophical religion, and metaphysical speculation becomes religious philosophy. The philosophical religion thus propounded by the great thinkers is embodied in the Upanishads. These Upanishads are appendices to Brahmanas and represent the essence of higher Brahmanism. They set aside the Vedic gods. The supreme God of the Brahmanic period was Prajapati or Brahma, a personal god like the various gods of the Vedic pantheon. The Upanishads replace this father-god by the impersonal world-soul. They teach the principle of divine immanence. Personality implies the existence of another, as an 'I' to a 'thee.' It is limitation. According to the thinkers, nothing exists outside of Brahma; all is Brahma. They teach idealistic monism. Brahma is the only reality, all else is illusion. The individual self is a mere reflex of the Self or Brahma. It is identical with the universal Self. It is due to ignorance and illusion that this fundamental truth is not recognized. It is knowledge that leads the individual to discover for himself that the outward Brahma and his inner self are one and the same. Man had always extolled God and humiliated himself. God was infinite when man was finite. God was all powerful, man was a weakling. God was king and man was his subject. [119] Man looked to God with awe and reverence. He bowed before him, and prayed with folded arms and on bended knees. The Indian mystic philosopher is daring in his intercourse with the divine. He claims intimacy and identity with God, nay, he hails himself God, and assures every human being of potential divinity. When knowledge dawns upon man he can acclaim with sublime ecstasy, 'I am Brahma.' Man thus becomes God and the supreme function of philosophy is to raise man to his proper estate by means of knowledge. Divinity sleeps in man, it has to be awakened. Man is God in the making and knowledge makes him God. In its keen insight into the mystery of existence, its scientific value of philosophical thinking, its boldness of conception, this all-absorbing monism has no equal in the history of philosophy. Brahma, as the apex of existence, is the acme of metaphysical speculation. But being nameless, colourless, and lifeless, it denies definition and defies description. It demands that man shall speak of it in negation only, but better still not speak at all. It is an impersonal neuter abstraction, a phantom god in the world of shadowy reality, a god who is no god.

But the human heart hungers for a God who is a thinking and willing being, a personal God who can hear man's prayers, who can bestow gifts, who can fulfil hopes, who can guide man on the highway of life, who can protect him from harm, who can award merit, who can punish wrong, who can forgive man's trespasses, who can replenish life when it seems hollow and empty, who can brighten it with gleams of sunshine when it seems dark and dreary, who can sustain man when he is downcast, in whom he can find strength in his weakness, before whom he can lay his troubles, upon whom he can lean in his loneliness, in whom he can find refuge when the world seems to fail him, who can console the heavy-hearted, who can heal the bruised and bleeding heart, who can wipe away the tears of those that weep their lives out, and who can respond to the human call whenever and from wherever it comes and whatever it may be.

The philosophers thus dispensed with gods, but they persisted nonetheless. Like the rise and fall of kings and dynasties, old gods were forgotten, forsaken, but new ones simultaneously succeeded them. The sacred texts habitually explain and accommodate new gods by depicting one as incarnating himself in the person of another or by declaring a new god as being identical [120] with the old one. Rudra, for example is seen resenting the treatment accorded him. The supreme Adorable One pacifies him by saying that homage paid to one was equivalent to that given to another, for they were both one and the same. When Bhagavat or Vasudeva rises to be the supreme God in the fourth century B.C., Brahma and Shiva are declared to be his creations and are relegated to subordinate positions to carry out the will of the new god. Similarly when Brahmanism later absorbed the cult of Bhagavat, Vishnu, the sun god who was popular at the period, became the supreme God. Thus did the generality of mankind find that they could not live without personal gods and kindly gods did not desert them to their fate.

The religion of devotion. Krishna Vasudeva, a member of the warrior caste, founded Bhagavatism, the religion of bhakti, devotion or love, about the 4th century B.C. Bhagavatism arose under the influence of Sankhya and Yoga. Sankhya being an atheistic system, Bhagavatism allied itself with Yoga. Concentration of thought, which is Yoga's fundamental concern, was converted into devotion to a personal God. This personal God, whom he termed the Adorable One, was the objective of man's devotion and love. This doctrine is later propounded in the Bhagavad Gita, or the Song Celestial, originally composed in the 2nd century B.C. and surviving in its later redacted form. In transcendent beauty and elegance of form, this philosophical poem is among the sublimest that have been vouchsafed to man. It teaches an eclectic philosophy weaving ideas from Sankhya and Yoga around the central doctrine of devotion or love to God.

Whole-hearted love of God and duty selflessly performed in the name of God, dedicating one's actions to the glory of God, win deliverance for man — such is the message of the Gita. Rituals, concentration of thought, and disciplinary ascetic practices are aids to the life of devotion or love for God. Love for God leads man to know him better and teaches him to do his deeds, leaving their outcome to God. Those who know Krishna are freed from the binding nature of actions. Those who piously seek and find refuge in him are absolved of their sins. Faith, love, and resignation in him sustain man in this life and open for him, 1ifter his death, a life of felicity in loving fellowship with God.

New gods thus replaced the old Indo-Iranian gods. The [121] evolution of religious thought in India made such a comprehensive and revolutionary advancement upon Indo-Iranian religion, that it gave an altogether different form to the religions that originated during the millennium.

The Indian outlook on life changes. A thousand years of life upon the valleys of the Indus and the Ganges had softened and sombred the character of the robust and joyful Aryan settlers of India. In common with their Iranian cousins whom they had left behind the Hindukush, the Vedic singers had sung of this world in laudatory terms and fervently prayed for long life in it with its riches and joys. The hymns of these priestly sages throb with the cheerful, optimistic view of life. Their descendants of the later Brahmanic period who speculated on the problem of life showed a marked turn from this cheerful and optimistic attitude towards life upon earth to a gloomy and pessimistic one. The Kshatriyas or men of the ruling and fighting class produced the pessimistic philosophy of the Upanishads from about 800 B.C. onwards. They seem to have grown intensely sensitive to the stress of living. Climatic influences, political upheavals, racial contacts, and above all, metaphysical speculations of their great thinkers are the causes that have contributed to their altered attitude towards life upon earth. This new philosophical religion preaches that happiness or enjoyment of life while living or of the merited good after death reacts upon the person and condemns him to several lives in the woeful world. This world is illusory and soaked in sorrow and suffering. Yet upon such a purgatorial world man's desire for happiness brings him again and again to go the dreary rounds of births and deaths, to live out the karma of his past lives until, divested of actions and their consequences, he may, at a dim and distant date, win liberation from the labyrinth of life and escape heavenward to rest his world-weary head on the breathless bosom of Brahma.

Such is the philosophy of life propounded by the leading thinkers of India by the sixth century B.C. It becomes the standard philosophy for all time and generally leaves its indelible impression upon the subsequent religious and philosophical thought in India. With the exception of some materialistic systems of philosophy of the type of the Charvaka which taught pure Hedonism, the various schools of thought generally agreed in their [122] estimate of life upon earth as a life of woe. Buddha and Mahavira, who founded their great religions at short intervals during the sixth century B.C., had their minds saturated with the pessimistic view of man's life upon earth; The one great thinker whose teachings exerted lasting influence upon Buddha was Kapila, the founder of the Sankhya philosophy. It was the dictum of the Sankhya system, that existence was suffering. What men considered pleasure was pain in disguise. Life was pain.

Buddha lays down with greater emphasis than ever before that life is suffering. Thyre is no cure for the world-ache. The world is irremediable and not to be born in it is the only escape from suffering. Life, says Buddha, is steeped in sorrow and suffering. Pleasure is gilded pain. Joy is veiled sorrow. Birth is sorrow. Age is sorrow. Wealth is sorrow. Sickness is sorrow. Death is sorrow. Union with the unpleasant is sorrow. Separation from the pleasant is sorrow. Desire for life is sorrow. Ungratified desire is sorrow. The tears, he adds, that the weary wayfarers have shed upon their pilgrimages upon earth make a vaster expanse of water than the waters of all the oceans upon the earth. Just as the ocean has only one taste of salt so, it is said, Buddha's teachings have but one taste, deliverance from suffering. The comprehension of the origin and nature of this suffering and the knowledge of the path that leads to its cessation bring freedom from birth and death. Life is suffering and Buddha's mission is to preach the gospel of deliverance from it.

The philosophy of escape from life. There are occasions in the lives of all human beings when they think they cannot adapt themselves to the world around them. Hard facts of life seem to press very heavily upon them and they seek diverse means to lighten the burden. Some like to forget their environments and seek seclusion in out of the way places far from society, where they can feel happy to be alone in the company of nature. They crave the joy of solitude where they can lose themselves in the soliloquy of their own thoughts. Men with literary leanings read so that they may forget themselves for a time and transplant themselves into other environments. Society's baseness revolts some who long to strip themselves bare of the trappings of civilization and escape to the freedom of primitive simplicity. Morbidity drives some to seek isolation from society. Despair and distress drive others to seek refuge in a world of dreams, where [123] they can forget the hard realities of life, and live awhile with their fancies and dreams in the atmosphere created by their own imagination. They like to retreat within themselves, seeking the protection of the inner life against the torments of outer life. Here they fondly delude themselves to ascribe reality to their visions and dreams. They people the world with their own thoughts, make it after their likes and dislikes. It gives them some comfort to live awhile in the world of illusion. Many find occasional reverie soothing. The soothing thoughts of the dream-land of their creation help them to forget the trying reality and lull to sleep the burning fever of the tortured brain. Men of philosophic bent of mind seek to escape the sordid realities of life by retiring into a world of mysticism to live in the atmosphere of otherworldliness.

Among the Aryan settlers of India, we have seen, renunciation of the world of desires became an ideal of life. Desire came to be looked upon as the chief cause of evil. To live is to desire and consequently suffer in many rebirths. Escape from the life of desires to seek their extinction hastened deliverance. The Bhagavad Gita seeks to find compromise by advising the wise to desire without any attachment and to act without any expectation of reaping fruits.

Prince Arjuna is grieved at the painful duty his position in life entails upon him to fight his kinsmen. When he witnesses the contending armies drawn up on the battlefield, he is struck with sudden compunction and appalled at the prospect of the impending slaughter of his kinsfolk. He hesitates to plunge into the battle array. God Krishna manifests himself in human form in the person of his charioteer to relieve him from his embarrassment. On no account can the prince shirk his inevitable duty, urges Krishna, even if its performance forces him to wade his way to the throne through the blood of his relations. Man cannot escape his duty in life. He cannot compass his retreat before the actions that fall to his lot.

Life without actions is unthinkable. One has only to do his work in such a manner that he may maintain complete detachment from the consequence of his actions. Dispassionate and disinterested performance of actions does not fetter the doer. Thus, says Krishna, he acts himself, for the world would perish if he ceased to work. The multifarious actions that he performs do [124] not entail upon him the necessity of going the round of existences because his actions are selfless and directed to the good of mankind. Action, he says, is better than inaction and he adds that immunity from action can be had by action alone. Action should be for the sake of accomplishing it and not for its resulting rewards. Man has to perform his duty zealously in whatever station of life he may happen to be. He has to be utterly indifferent and unmindful of the fruits of his actions. Or better still, says Krishna, he should do his deeds in the name of his God and for him, and dedicate all his activity to the glory of God.

Ignorance is the penalty that the soul pays when it enters the body. The senses introduce it to the fleeting show of the world. The mind broods over the objects and is drawn in attachment to them. Attachment gives rise to desire which is insatiable like fire. As long as man is swayed by desire, he drifts like a ship that is tossed upon the waves by stormy winds. Desire, wrath, and greed are the threefold entrance to hell. By regulating and controlling the senses, man secures the tranquillity of thought and knowledge. His tranquillity of mind should be such as to remain undisturbed like a flame that is sheltered from the wind and flickers not. He should be temperate in food and sleep, work, and rest. As the tortoise draws its head and feet within its shell, so should he be withdrawn from the outer world of senses and, retiring to a secluded spot, think and meditate deeply upon God. When he has attained this state Of devotional exaltation, a clod of earth and a lump of gold become of equal worth unto him. Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, success and failure, censure and praise, good and evil, friend and foe are all alike unto him and he is unaffected by the pairs of opposites. Happiness is quiescence and life's goal is its attainment.

The inherent evil nature of matter, however, remains characteristic of all Indian thinking. The human body continues to be regarded as the root of evil. The moralists teach the strengthening of the spirit by breaking the body and the ascetic ideal of life is highly esteemed.

When the Buddhist monk migrated to distant lands they spread the ascetic view of life in places where they lived. The Greek philosophers became acquainted with it at an early date. The Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect, adopted it from the Neo-Pythagoreans.




The Indo-Iranian cult passes under the mantle of Zarathushtra. King Vishtaspa was succeeded by weak kings and Eastern Iran soon lost political importance. Zarathushtra, likewise, was not blessed with successors of commanding personalities to carry on their missionary work. His religion could not penetrate into Western Iran, where the cult of the Indo-Iranian divinities had a strong hold over the minds and hearts of the people. Mithra occupied the pre-eminent position among them, with the non-Iranian Anahita as the close second in importance. Ahura Mazda outshone Mithra with his transcendent spiritual sublimity and ethical greatness. Besides, he had come with profound prestige as his cult was proclaimed by the new prophet himself. He was easily acclaimed as the most incomparable divinity that man had ever known. Mithra, Anahita, and other bagas, as we have seen from the inscriptions of the successors of Darius, accepted to work under the new supreme God.

The stronghold of Zarathushtra's religion was Eastern Iran. His religion was a reform of the primitive faith of the Iranians. But the reform did not last long, owing to the counter-reformation that followed his death. The excellence of his highly ethical religion was indelibly imprinted on the minds of the cultured classes, but it had not reached the masses. They could not comprehend the abstract ideas of the new prophet, whereas they found it easy to invoke Mithra and his heavenly associates with elaborate rituals and sacrifices. Their veneration for these older divinities, now in exile, had not ceased. They viewed the movement of the revival of the Indo-Iranian faith with great favour. The leaders of the Zoroastrian Church, on the other hand, were alarmed at this growing tendency to go back to the pre-Zarathushtrian faith. They sought a compromise. A great religious syncretism then took place, with the result that the successors of [126] the prophet were obliged to accommodate the Indo-Iranian divinities in the divine household of Ahura Mazda. Mithra was the most popular divinity at the period in Western Iran from where his cult, as we shall see later, passed on to Europe. It is expressly said that Ahura Mazda and the Amesha Spentas were pleased with his religion and accepted it, and Ahura Mazda conferred upon him the chieftainship of the world,1 Mithra and his co-workers were made to give their allegiance to Ahura Mazda and to agree to work as the satraps in his divine kingdom. The Yashts or hymns dedicated to the several Yazatas open with the declaration that they are created by Ahura Mazda. Mithra is created by Ahura Mazda. The Yasht composed in honour of the angel Verethraghna, begins with the acknowledgment that Verethraghna is Ahura-dhâta, 'created by Ahura (Mazda).' In return, Mithra and his old compatriots secured the privilege of sharing the homage and adoration of mankind with their heavenly sovereign Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda and his six spiritual attributes were now openly recognized as seven impersonations of the cardinal virtues of Ahura Mazda, and were given a class designation, Amesha Spentas or the Holy Immortals. These Amesha Spentas were given the first rank in the divine hierarchy and the Indo-Iranian divinities and those of pre-Zoroastrian Iranian origin were classed under the epithet Yazata or Adorable One, and assigned a second place in the divine hierarchy. The Amesha Spentas are thus the archangels and Yazatas the angels in the newly formed Zoroastrian pantheon.

1. Yt10.92.

With the return of the pre-Zoroastrian divinities also came the ancient rituals and sacrifices, offerings and libations. The beliefs and practices of the old faith were engrafted on the religion. The writers ascribe them to the authorship of Zarathushtra. He is himself depicted as glorifying and worshipping the great Indo-Iranian divinities whom he did not recognize in his Gathas. He is shown begging them for various boons. The Indo-Iranian religion that Zarathushtra came to replace by his religion of reform thus lives as an indissoluble part of his religion. Zoroastrianism became a blend of the two, that is, the Indo-Iranian religion and Zarathushtra's religion of reform. And so it remains up to the present day, as we shall see in subsequent pages.

[127] The Gathic view of life persists. When the ascetic ideal of life became so widespread in and outside India, it is natural that people of despairing disposition may be drawn to it. There were, it seems, some small sects or brotherhoods in Iran that embraced this view of life. It is evidently of some such sect that the Vendidad2 speaks with disapproval. Apart from such sporadic instances, the ascetic ideal of life is foreign to the Later Avesta. The exhortations of the prophet about the prime importance of a physically strong and sound body to enable man to combat evil, to fight the imperfections of the world, and to work strenuously for the regeneration of mankind, are faithfully embodied in the Younger Avesta. Self-control and discipline of the body rather than austerity and self-mortification remain the ideal. Strong and hardy men and women of rugged virtues bred of bodily cleanliness, bodily purity, bodily health, and bodily soundness are praised with unabated zeal. The view of life remains as optimistic and cheerful as propounded by Zarathushtra. The inborn craving of all human beings to obtain pleasurable states of feeling or happiness for themselves is fully recognized. The devout yearn for happiness that they can find in a temperate enjoyment of the good things of life. The gloomy view of life which the Indian cousins have now embraced is unknown to the Iranians. Life is still joy.

2. Vd4.47.

Ahura Mazda has created joy-giving lands for mankind.3 Three of the many names of Ahura Mazda are: All Happiness, Full Happiness, and Lord of Happiness.4 He has created happiness for mankind.5 He is himself abundant joy.6 Ahura Mazda has created joy, happiness, and pleasure of Haurvatat, the archangel presiding over weal.7 Adoration of Ahura Mazda by day and by night, bring him and Sraosha and waters and trees and the Fravashis unto the faithful for their joy.8 The householders pray that joy and happiness may never leave their houses.9 They prayerfully ask that their minds be full of joy.10 Ahura Mazda is invoked to give joy and happiness.11 Zarathushtra invokes his blessings upon King Vishtaspa that he may be as full of happiness as Raman, the genius of joy.12 Abundant happiness comes to him to whom the Kingly Glory cleaves.13 Mithra gives full [128] happiness to his votaries,14 and the faithful invoke him to come for their joy.15 The angels presiding over fire and waters are invoked to give great happiness and life of joy.16 Atar is invoked to bestow joy upon the faithful.17 The Fravashis of the righteous give happiness.18 Airyaman is implored to come for the joy of men and women who faithfully follow Zarathushtra.19 The entire creation that imparts weal unto mankind is invoked.20 Ardvi Sura gives good abodes and joyful abodes and enduring abodes unto all Mazda-worshipping families.21 Tishtrya prospers joyful and good abodes.22 Mithra blesses the Aryan peoples with them.23 The devout invoke Mithra that they may dwell long in happy abodes under him.24 He is besought to give happiness.25 Ardvi Sura gives riches and prosperity and flocks of cattle.26 Riches, flocks of cattle, and garments are his to whom Glory cleaves.27 The householder prays for an increase of his flocks.28 Atar is invoked to grant sustenance, life in abundance, and children of innate wisdom.29 He is further implored to grant flocks of cattle and multitude of men.30 That happiness, glory, riches, children of innate wisdom, and fortune may never leave his house is the fervent prayer of the worshipper.31 Ahura Mazda is invoked to give long, joyful life.32 Mithra gives courage, victory, fame, knowledge, bodily health riches, and virtuous offspring.33 Soundness and health of body, riches, children of innate wisdom, life longer than long are sought from the good waters of Ahura Mazda.34 Vitality is asked from Haoma.35 The Fravashis are asked to give long life.36 Thus are all boons that make life comfortable, happy, enjoyable, and livable, constantly prayed for.

3. Vd1.1.

4. Yt1.14.

5. Y21.4

6. Y1.1.

7. Yt4.1.

8. Yt1.9

9. Y60.1, 7.

10. Y60.11.

11. Y35.4.

12. Yt23.7; 24.6.

13. Yt19.54.

14. Yt10.33, 65, 108.

15. Yt10.5; Ny2.14.

16. Y62.1, 4, 10; 68.2, 11; Yt5.26; Ny5.10.

17. Y58.7.

18. Yt13.32.

19. Y54.1; Vd20.11.

20. Vd19.37.

21. Y68.14.

22. Yt8.2.

23. Yt10.4; Ny2.13.

24. Yt10.77.

25. Yt10.33.

26. Yt5.26, 98.

26. Ny5.10.

27. Yt19.54.

28. Y60.3.

29. Y62.4, 5; Ny5.10, 11.

30. Y62.10, Ny3.10; 5.16.

31. Y60.7.

32. Y41.4.

33. Yt10.33, 108.

34. Y68.11.

35. Y9.19.

36. Y13.135.




The Avestan people. The races that formed the Zoroastrian fold were the Bactrians, the Medes, and the Persians, who successively rose to political independence in Ancient Iran. The Bactrians of the Northeast, the Medians of the Northwest, and the Persians of the Southwest, were politically welded into one Persian nation, under the Achaemenian empire. This process of blending these different peoples into one homogeneous nation under the creed of Zoroaster was completed by the time of the of Persia by Alexander the Great.

Zoroastrianism takes its root in Eastern Iran. The Later Avestan texts speak of King Vishtaspa as the very arm and pillar of Zoroastrianism, the defender of the Faith, who gave an impetus to the religion, which until then had experienced only an extremely chequered career, and who made the faith known and renowned throughout the world.1 With all the zeal and fire characteristic of converts Zarathushtra's followers worked actively for the promulgation of the faith. The authors of the Younger Avestan period depict Zarathushtra as saying that he will exhort the people of house and clan, town and country to embrace the Mazdayasnian religion and teach them to practise it faithfully in their thoughts, their words, and their deeds.2 The zealous priests invoke Chisti, the heavenly associate of Daena, or religion, to grant them a good memory and strength for their body.3

1. Yt13.99, 100.

2. Y8.7.

3. Yt16.17.

Athravans, the Zoroastrian priests of Eastern Iran. The generic name for priest in the Avestan texts is âthravan, derived from âtar, 'fire.' It corresponds to the Skt. atharvan, the fire-priest of the Indo-Iranian period. The atharvan, it is said, twirled Agni or fire and, like Prometheus, brought it from the [130] sky to the earth.4 Nature hails Zarathushtra at his birth as an athravan.5 He is the very first and foremost of the athravans.6 Even Ahura Mazda himself takes this term to define one of his own innumerable names.7 Like their Vedic brethren, the Avestan people divided their society into different professional groups; and the athravans formed the first of them. Fire was their special charge, and it was their special duty to tend the sacred flame in the shrines, and also to go abroad preaching the religion of Mazda.8

4. RV.6.16.13.

5. Yt13.94.

6. Yt13.88, 89.

7. Yt1.12.

8. Y42.6.

The Medes and Persians of Western Iran. We have already seen that the Aryan race had established their settlements in Northwestern Iran from about 2000 B.C. and that the Kassites and Mitannis had ruled over considerable tracts between 1700 B.C. and 1400 B.C., The other two peoples of the same race that successively rose to great power during the first millennium before the Christian era were the Medes and the Persians. So close was their racial affinity that the Biblical and classical writers generally use their names as alternative terms. The Medes or Mada are first mentioned by their names in the Assyrian inscriptions in the ninth century B.C. They overthrew the Assyrian empire in about 708 B.C., thus replacing the Semitic domination in Western Iran by the Aryan.

The earliest mention of the Persians is made in the Assyrian inscriptions where it is said that the Assyrian King Shalmaneser II led a campaign against the people of Parsua in the Zagros in the ninth century B.C. These people were probably identical with the Persians who rose to power later in the further east. They lived in Pars, known in its Greek form as Persis, and were a tributary subject people under the Medes. Their ruling house was known after the name of Hakhamanish, the head of the royal house, known in history in its Greek form, Achaemenes. Cyrus wrested the royal sceptre from the Medes and founded the Persian empire in about 558 B.C.

Not long after the death of Vishtaspa, the royal patron of Zarathushtra, the Kingly Glory left the eastern line of the Iranian kings and thus flew to the west. With the shifting of the political sphere of influence, the centre of religious authority [131] gravitated towards the west. Ragha, hereafter, became the pontifical seat of the descendants of the prophet. The temporal and spiritual power here was vested in the chief pontiff of the Zoroastrian world.9 Religious influence radiated from this ecclesiastical centre, and the Magian neighbours, who formed the priestly caste among the Medo-Persians, were probably the first to imbibe the new ideas and gradually to spread them among the peoples Western Iran.

9. Y19.18.

The Achaemenian empire was made up of various nationalities of diverse faiths, and the rulers were always tolerant towards the religions of these subject races. Guided by political expediency, they often built or restored the temples of alien peoples, and occasionally even honoured the Jewish, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek divinities.10 Cyrus ordered the restoration of temple at Jerusalem,11 and Darius, the devout worshipper of Auramazda, favoured its rebuilding as decreed by Cyrus.12 According to the Babylonian inscriptions, Cyrus restored the gods of Sumer and Akkad to their former temples, from which they had been brought out by Nabuna'id, the last native ruler of Babylon. He returned the captive gods of Kutu to their home and rebuilt their temples.13 Cyrus was the shepherd and the anointed of Yahweh in Judea,14 he was the chosen of Marduk in Babylon. Darius is called the son of the goddess Neit of Sais in an Egyptian inscription at Tell el-Maskhutah.15 Cambyses, according to an Egyptian inscription on a naophoric statue preserved in the Vatican, ordered the purification of the desecrated temple of Neit at Sais, and paid homage to the goddess.16 In a Greek inscription Darius reproved his satrap Gadatas for the reverential attitude toward Apollo.17

10. Cf. Gray, "Achaemenians", in ERE. 1, 69-73.

11. Ezra 1.1-11; 3.7; 4.3; Is. 44.28; 2. Chron. 36.22, 23.

12. Ezra 6.1-15.

13. Cylinder Inscription, 32-35.

14. Is.44.28; 45.1.

15. Golenischeff, Recueil de Travaux relatifs à la Philologie, 13. 106, 107.

16. Petrie, A History of Egypt from the Nineteenth to the Thirtieth Dynasties. 3. 361, 362. London, 1905.

17. Cousin and Deschamps, Lettre de Darius, fils d' Hystaspes in Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenistique, vol. 13. p. 529-542.

The religion of the Achaemenians. Zarathushtra's new religion took time to penetrate into Western Iran, and, in absence of any data, we are not in a position to say how far Cyrus and [132] his people were influenced by it. It is safe to surmise that they practised some form of Indo-Iranian religion, with Mithra, who was steadily rising in influence, as perhaps the regnant divine power. Darius and his successors were ardent Mazda-worshippers. These Achaemenian kings most devoutly ascribe all their greatness and success to Auramazda, Av. Ahura Mazda. The Old Persian Inscriptions speak of him as the greatest of the divinities.18 Darius says with fervent piety that Auramazda made him king and enabled him to hold his vast kingdom firm. Everything that the king did or every glory that he achieved was by the will of Auramazda. Every battle that he won and every army of the enemy that he routed was by the grace of Auramazda.19 Xerxes zealously imitates his illustrious father and attributes everything of his to Auramazda, and invokes his protection for himself and his empire.20 It is again Auramazda who brought the kingdom to Artaxerxes III.21 Though Auramazda is thus the supreme God of the Achaemenians, it seems there were lesser divinities who received their homage. Without using their names, Darius and Xerxes are seen expressing their wish that other gods besides Auramazda may protect their country.22 It is Artaxerxes who speaks of Mithra and Anahita.23 Herodotus tells us that the Persians did not set up images to gods.24 During the later period, however, Artaxerxes Mnemon first introduced images of gods. He set up the statue of Anahita in Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana, Damascus, and Sardis.25 Arshta, Av. Arshtat [Phl. Ashtad], which personifies Rectitude is yet another heavenly being discovered by Foy in the inscriptions and confirmed by Jackson by close examination on the rock.26 Darius says here that he walks according to arshtâm or rectitude. With the emphasis that Zarathushtra lays in the Gathas upon Druj, Lie, Wickedness, Darius speaks of drauga, Lie, as the embodiment of [133] all evil. It is the Lie that incites his enemies to revolt from him.27 He advises his successor to protect himself from Lie and punish those that lie.28 It was because he did not lie that Auramazda and other gods bore him aid.29 Herodotus informs us that the Persians considered lying as most disgraceful.30 The Gathas and the Later Avesta speak of the Path of Righteousness as the only true path,31 or the truest path,32 and Darius exhorts in the same vein not to leave pathim tyâm râstâm, 'The Path of Truth,' not to slight the commandments of Auramazda and not to sin.33-34 Closely parallel to Y37.1, which enumerates Ahura Mazda's earthly creation, and which formula is recited by devout Zoroastrians as grace before meals, the Old Persian Inscriptions state that Auramazda has created this earth, yonder heaven, man, and peace for man.35

18. Dar. Pers. d.1; Xerx. Elv, 1; Xerx. Van. 1.

19. Bh. 1.5-9, 13, 14, 18, 19; 2.20, 25-31, 33, 35; 3.36, 38, 41, 42, 45, 46; 4.50, 52, 54, 56-59, 62, 63; 5.72, 75; Pers. d. 1-3; e. 2; Nr. a. 1, 3-5; b.1; Elv. 1, Sz. c, 1.

20. Pers. a. 1.3, 4; b. 1.3; c. 1.3; d. 1.3; Elv. 1; Van. l.3.

21. Pers. a. 1.

22. Bh. 4.12, 13; Dar. Pers. d. 3; Xerx. Pers; b. 3; c. 3; d. 3.

23. Art. Pers. a. 4; Art. Sus. a; Art. Ham. 1.

24. Herod. 1.131.

25. Berosus. cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, Propreptica, V .65, 3; cf. Cumont, Anahita, in ERE. 1. 414, 415.

26. Bh. 4.64; see Jackson, JAOS XXIV. 90-92.

27. Bh. 4. 4.

28. Bh. 4. 5.

29. Bh. 4. 13.

30. Herod. 1. 138.

31. Y51.13; 72.11; Vd. 4.43.

32. Yt10.3.

33-34. Nr. a. 6.

35. Dar. Pers. g. 1; Nr. a. 1; Elv. 1; Sz. c. 1; Xerx. Pers. a. 1; b. 1; c. 1; d. 1; Elv. 1 ; Van. 1; Art. Och; Pers. 1.

The Persians, says Herodotus, sacrificed unto the sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and winds.36 The Magus, we are told, adorned his head-dress with a garland of myrtle and took the sacrificial animal to the highest peak of the mountain. He cut the animal, seethed its flesh, spread it out on a carpet of the tenderest herbage, and consecrated it by chanting sacred texts.37 The Yasht dedicated to Ardvi Sura Anahita depicts Iranian kings and heroes sacrificing her a hundred stallions, a thousand oxen, and ten thousand sheep. Herodotus attests to the fact that when Xerxes arrived at Hellespont in his expedition against Greece, he sacrificed a thousand oxen to Athene of Ilium, by which he evidently means Anahita.38 The sculpture on the Tomb of Darius depicts the king reverentially facing fire on the stone altar, and the sun above.

36. Herod. 1. 131.

37. Herod. 1. 132.

38. Herod. 7. 43, 53, 54.

Darius asks the reader of his inscriptions to make them known and not to conceal them. Upon him that carries out his wishes, he invokes his blessings that Auramazda may be his [134] friend, may there be a large family unto him, may he live long, and may all his actions be crowned with success. Whoso, however, acts against the royal wish and keeps back the achievements of the king from the knowledge of the people, unto him, says Darius, Auramazda may not be a friend, he may not be blessed with a large family and long life and fulfilment of his wishes.39 The Later Avesta names the demon of drought Duzhyairya.40 and Darius invokes Auramazda and his associates to protect his country from Dushiyar.41 The inscriptions do not mention Angra Mainyu. We have, however, seen that Darius uses Drauga, Lie, with the emphasis that the Later Avesta puts on Angra Mainyu, and in thus seeing all evil in Drauga instead of in Angra Mainyu, Darius is more faithful to the spirit of the Gathas than the Later Avesta is. It is true that the inscriptions never mention Zarathushtra by name, but they undoubtedly breathe the spirit of his teachings. The royal house of the Achaemenians is a devout Mazda-worshipper at its rise, it imbibes the Zoroastrian cult gradually and is fully Mazdayasnian Zarathushtrian by the time of its downfall.

39. Bh. 4. 10, 11, 16, 17.

40. Yt8.50-55.

41. Pers. d. 3.

Magi, the Zoroastrian priesthood of Western Iran. Herodotus tells us that the Magi formed one of the six tribes into which the Medes were divided and constituted their sacerdotal class.42 They wore the white robe and covered the head with the woolen tiara with long flaps on each side to, cover the mouth.43 The Median empire was short-lived. Cyrus overthrew Astyages, the last Median king, in 550 B.C. and laid the foundation of the great Achaemenian empire. The Persians thus conquered the earthly possessions of the Medes and the Magi, their priests; but they were in turn conquered by the latter in spirit. The Magian victory in the spiritual domain more than made amends for the loss of their temporal power. The racial jealousy and antagonism between the conquerors and the subdued races, however, continued for a considerable time owing to the Median attempts to regain their ascendency. When Cambyses heard of the Magian priest Gaumata's revolt to overthrow the Persian empire, he exhorted [135] the people never to let their kingdom fall into the hands of the Medes and the Magi.44 Gaumata had destroyed the structures called âyadanâ, which the Babylonian version explains as the houses of gods. Darius restored these temples.44a The anniversary of the day of the Magian usurper's fall, known as Magophonia, was observed by the Persians as a great festival, and Herodotus informs us that the Magi kept within their houses on that day.45 With the lapse of time, however, the Medes and the Persians became more reconciled to each other. The Magi were the priests of the Medes; they now became the priests of the Persians. This strengthened their position. The classical writers held their names in ancient times as synonymous with the wisdom of the East. Magic and magician are the words reminiscent of their fame; No sacrifices were offered without them.46 They accompanied the armies with the sacred fire, kept it burning on the battlefield, and invoked divine help for the victory of the king. Herodotus tells us that the holy chariot drawn by eight white horses followed the armies of Xerxes. The Magi made sacrificial offerings at various stages on the march and prayed for the triumph of the Persian arms, in which the king and the Persian soldiers in the army participated.47 They were held in great esteem, and their exalted position at the court of the kings ensured them a considerable influence over the people. They were looked upon as the wise mediators between man and God. They officiated at the ceremonies, chanted the hymns, sacrificed at the altar, explained omens, practised divination, expounded dreams, and ministered to the various religious wants of the people.48

42. Herod. 1. 101; see Carnoy, Le Nom des Mages in Le Muséon, 9, 121-158; Moulton, The Magi in Early Zoroastrianism, p. 182-253; Moore, The Persian Origin of the Magi in Hoshang Memorial Volume, p. 306-310.

43. Strabo, 15. 3. 15.

44. Herod. 3. 65.

44a. Bh. 1.64.

45. Herod. 3. 79; cf. Ctesias, Pers., 15.

46. Herod. 1.132.

47. Herod. 7.43, 53, 113, 114, 180, 191.

48. Herod. 1.107, 108; 7.19, 37.

It seems that the Magi took a long time to supplant the religious practices of the Persians by their own. The two races differed very widely on some of the main religious observances. For example, the Magi held the elements of nature sacred. The earth was to be kept pure from defilement. Hence they exposed the corpses of the dead to be devoured by birds; though the Persians, on the contrary, enclosed the corpses in wax, and interred [136] them in the earth.49 We gather from Arrian that Alexander sent the body of Darius to be interred in the royal mausoleum by the side of the remains of the departed ones of the royal family of Persia.50 The Persians continued this practice for a considerable time, until finally with the complete fusion of the two races they seem to have exchanged burial for the exposure of the corpses.

49. Herod. 1. 140.

50. Anabasis, 3, 22. 1; and cf. ShN. 6.56.

The earliest Greek writer to acquaint the Western world with the history of the nations of Ancient Iran is Herodotus, who wrote about a century and a quarter before the fall of the Achaemenian empire. Writing at a period when the Persians were in the zenith of their power in Western Iran, and when the Magi were the recognized class, he, with the other writers that followed him, acquainted the West with the Magi. The athravans, the real custodians of the Avesta and the guardians of the Zoroastrian symbol of fire, are unknown to these writers. This may be due to the fact that Eastern Iran, which was the home of the athravans, had politically declined, and the writers are mainly concerned with the Persians of the west, and their immediate predecessors, the Medes.

The Avestan texts do not recognize the Magi. The forms derived from the term maga, 'great' occurring in the Gathas and the Later Avesta do not represent this priestly class. We find a solitary passage, presumably a late interpolation, which pronounces a curse upon those who ill-treat the Magi.51 We may add a passage in which Ahura Mazda tells Zarathushtra that he prefers a man who has a wife to one who lives as a magus, that is, lives in continence.52 The class designation of the priests in the Avestan text is persistently athravan. The disposal of the dead by the exposure to the light of the sun, the reverence for the elements, fire, water, and earth, the stringent laws for bodily cleanliness, the active crusade against noxious creatures, are some of the salient features of the religious practices and beliefs of the Magi that we glean from the writings of the Greek authors. These form the cardinal tenets of the Vendidad and are all associated with the athravans, who make up the official priesthood of the Avestan people. It is not a Magus who cleanses the defiled by ablution ceremonials, heals the sick by [137] the recital of the holy spells, and moves about with a penom over his mouth, and a khrafstraghna in his hand; but it is an athravan who exercises all these powers and more. The sacerdotal class is known by the title of athravan throughout the texts. It is the only privileged priestly class that the Avesta recognizes.

51. Y65.7.

52. Vd4.47.

Spread of Zoroastrianism in remote lands. The Zoroastrian missionaries travelled to distant lands for the purpose of promulgating the religion, and their homeward return from their sacred missions is celebrated by the faithful.53 The promulgating zeal on the part of the Zoroastrian priests seems to have provoked opposition from non-believers. Keresani, a powerful ruler of a foreign land, we are informed, prevented the fire-priests of Iran from visiting his country to preach the Zoroastrian doctrines.54 In spite of all such obstacles thrown in their way, the Zoroastrian missionaries gradually succeeded in planting the banner of their national faith both near and afar. They wished eagerly to spread abroad between heaven and earth the Ahuna Vairya, or the most sacred formula of the Iranian faith, together with the other holy prayers.55 Attention has already been called to the fact that the Gathas celebrated the conversion of Fryana the Turanian and his descendants. The Avestan texts include some more Turanian names in the canonical list of sainted persons.56 The most illustrious of these Turanian Zoroastrians was Yoisht-i Fryana [Yavisht i Friyan], who sacrificed unto Ardvi Sura and begged of her a boon that he might be able to answer the riddles that the malicious wizard Akhtya put to him.57 The boon was granted him,58 and the later Pahlavi treatise which bears the name of the Turanian saint adds that Yoisht-i Fryana solved the enigmas put forth by the wizard who was killing all those who were unable to answer his questions. The saint, in his turn, proposed to Akhtya three riddles, which the wizard was unable to answer. The saint, thereupon, put the sorcerer to death.59 The Fravardin Yasht60 commemorates the Fravashi of Saena, an illustrious convert to [138] Zoroastrianism. We learn from the Pahlavi works that this apostle of the faith left behind him one hundred disciples who preached the Mazdayasnian faith in the land of Seistan.61 Armenia came under the Zoroastrian influence at a very early date, and a corrupt form of Zoroastrianism prevailed in the country for several centuries.62 Cappadocia, Lydia, and Lycia were the scene of an active Zoroastrian propaganda. The Aramaic inscriptions recently discovered in Cappadocia mention Daena, the female genius of the Mazdayasnian religion, conjointly with the native God Bel.63 India and China witnessed the spread of the gospel of Iran.64

53. Y42.6.

54. Y9.24.

55. Y61.1.

56. Yt13.113, 120, 123.

57. Yt5.81, 82.

Ib., 83.

59. Cf. West and Haug, Yosht-i Fryan in Arda Viraf, p. 247-266, London, 1872.

60. Yt13.97.

61. Modi, The Wonders of Sagastân in Aiyadgar-i Zariran, p. 126, 127, Bombay, 1899; for further references see Jackson, Zoroaster, p. 137, n. 6.

62. Cf. Ananikian, Armenia (Zoroastrian), in ERE. 1, 794-802.

63. Lidzbarski, Ephemeris fur Semitische Epigraphik, vol. 1, p. 67 f., Giessen, 1902.

64. ShN. 1. 76, 77; For references regarding the Zoroastrian propaganda in China see Jackson, Zoroaster, p. 278-280.

The proselytizing work on the part of the Zoroastrian ministers of the faith was thus carried on with a considerable amount of success, though we are not in a position to form any idea regarding the numbers of the followers of the religion of Mazda at this period.




Zarathushtra is the chief of mankind as Tishtrya is of the stars. On the banks of the river Darej lived Pourushaspa of the family of the Spitamas in a small house.1 A boy babe was born unto him. In consultation with the elders of the clan, the child was named Zarathushtra. Nature donned a festive garb, the sun shone with a brighter glory, trees strewed flowers, on the ground roses bloomed in luxuriant profusion, flowers and leaves and grass scented the air with sweet fragrance, creepers climbed the hedges in riotous luxuriance, the birds carolled in the air, myriads of tiny drops of the morning dew shone like pearls upon the leaves and branches of the trees, the clouds floated merrily in heaven, the winds made music in the lofty trees, joy filled the air, and the trees with their leafy tongues and the blades of grass and the grains of sand and birds and beasts and men and everything everywhere joyously sang: "Hail, for to us is born the Athravan, Spitama Zarathushtra."2 He is said to have been renowned in Airyana Vaejah.3 Here did he commune with Ahura Mazda and other heavenly beings.4 Ahura Mazda made him the lord and overseer over mankind as he has established Tishtrya the leader of the stars.5 He was the embodiment of goodness and righteousness on earth. He was the first and best of the divine law.6 He tells Ahura Mazda that he will lead mankind according to the thoughts, words, and deeds of the religion which is of Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra.7 Ardvi Sura speaks of him as the wise, clever Athravan, who has mastered the revealed law and who is himself the word incarnate.8 He is the holiest, the most ruling, the most bright, the most glorious, and the most victorious among men.9 Haoma speaks of him as the most strong, the most firm, the most clever, [140] the most swift, and the most victorious.10 He is the chief of the material world, the head of the two-footed race.11 He is the first bearer of the law among peoples.12 He is the foremost in thinking good thoughts, speaking good words, and doing good deeds. He exemplifies best in himself the virtues of the priest, the warrior, the husbandman and furthers righteousness as never done before.13 The Amesha Spentas longed for his advent as the lord and the master of the world.14 He is himself invoked as the wisest, the best-ruling, the brightest, the most glorious, the most worthy of sacrifice, prayer, propitiation, and glorification.15 Homage is paid unto him.16 The Kingly Glory that belongs to the Aryan nations is also his.17

1. Vd19.4.

2. Yt13.93, 94; Y17.18.

3. Y9.14.

4. Vd19.11.

5. Yt8.44.

6. Yt13.148.

7. Y8.7.

8. Yt5.91.

9. Yt19.79.

10. Y9.15.

11. Yt5.89; 13.41, 91, 92.

12. Yt13.90.

13. Yt13.88, 89, 91.

14. Yt13.92.

15. Yt13.152.

16. Yt17.5.

17. Yt19.56 f.

Zarathushtra invokes the Yazatas for various boons. Ahura Mazda asks Zarathushtra to sacrifice unto Ardvi Sura.18 Zarathushtra thereupon offered a sacrifice unto her and begged of her a boon that he might win over king Vishtaspa to his faith and lead him to think and speak and do according to the law.19 Ardvi Sura granted him the boon.20 When assailed by the demon Buiti, he offered sacrifices unto the waters of the river Daitya.21 Unto Drvaspa he offered sacrifice for the boon that he might succeed in bringing over Hutaosa to think, speak, and do according to his religion and to make his religion known to others.22 And the boon was granted unto him by Drvaspa.23 He asks for the same boon from Ashi Vanghuhi and it is given him.24 He invokes the Fravashis of the faithful to his help whenever he finds himself in danger.25 From Verethraghna does he ask victorious thinking, speaking, and doing, questioning and answering, which the angel of victory vouchsafes unto him.26 Unto Chisti, the genius of wisdom, he offers a sacrifice praying for righteousness of thought, word, and deed, agility, soundness of body, keen hearing, and eyesight.27 He invokes Ashi Vanghuhi with the voice that the female genius declares to be the sweetest of all that invoked her.28

18. Yt5.1.

19. Yt5.104, 105.

20. Yt5.106.

21. Vd19.2.

22. Yt9.25, 26.

23. Yt9.27.

24. Yt17.45-47.

25. Yt19.41.

26. Yt14.28-33.

27. Yt16.6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13.

28. Yt17.17.

[141] Temptation of Zarathushtra. Temptations of the prophets of God by the Evil One are recorded in the lives of the great prophets. Buddha, the enlightened one, is thus tempted by Mara and promised universal dominion if he desisted from imparting his illumination to mankind.29 Satan shows Jesus the kingdom of the world and their glory and offers them all to him if he gave up God and came over to him. Several centuries before both Buddha and Jesus, the prophet of Iran is tempted by Angra Mainyu. At the command of the arch-fiend, the demon Buiti came rushing to cause Zarathushtra's death. Zarathushtra saw through insight that the wicked, evil-doing demons were taking counsel together for his death. He chanted the Ahuna Vairya [Ahunwar] and frustrated the foul attempt of the Druj on his life. Foiled in his mission, Buiti rushed away dismayed and spoke unto Angra Mainyu that so great was the glory of holy Zarathushtra that he could see no way of killing him.30 Angra Mainyu tells Zarathushtra that he was a mere man, born of human parents, and could not therefore withstand his onslaughts. Moreover, if he renounced the Mazdayasnian religion, he would award him untold riches. Unto him the prophet of Mazda retorted that neither for the love of his body or life, nor if his breath were torn away would he desist from the good Mazda-worshipping religion. With the sacred formulas as his weapons, he adds, he would strike and repel the evil brood of Angra Mainyu.31 Up to the end of time, up to the time that the victorious Saviour came, Zarathushtra tells Angra Mainyu that he would smite his evil.32 Thus was he first in the material world to proclaim the word for the destruction of the demons.33 The demons fled headlong, weeping and wailing, at his sight and their malice was extinguished.34 He chanted the Ahuna Vairya and drove back the demons beneath the earth.35 Haoma says that Zarathushtra drove back beneath the earth the daevas that were stalking the earth in the shape of human beings.36 He was the first among mortals who brought the demons to nought, who first proclaimed the word that worked their destruction, and who first denounced their creation as unworthy of sacrifice and [142] prayer.37 Angra Mainyu, the wicked and deadly, howled in impotent rage that Zarathushtra alone succeeded in routing and smiting him where all the Yazatas failed to encompass his defeat.38 He bewails that Zarathushtra smote him with the Ahuna Vairya, the deadly weapon, which was as a stone as high as a house,39 that he burnt him with righteousness as if it were molten metal, and that he, the prophet of Mazda, was the only one who made it better for him to leave the earth.40

29. See Nariman, Some Buddhistic Parallels, in The Religion of the Iranian Peoples by Tiele, p. 148-162.

30. Vd19.1-3.

31. Vd19.4-9.

32. Vd19.5.

33. Yt13.90.

34. Yt19.80.

35. Yt19.81.

36. Y9.15.

37. Yt13.89, 90.

38. Yt17.19, 20.

39. Vd19.4.

40. Yt17.20.

King Vishtaspa helps Zarathushtra in establishing his religion. Bactria sheltered Zarathushtra when his own native place had cast him out. King Vishtaspa embraced his faith and he thought and spoke and did according to the law. He became the arm and support of the new religion. He gave movement to the religion, say the sacred texts, which stood motionless for a long time. He helped its promulgation all around and made it prosper.41 Ragha, we are told, became the seat of the prophet's ministry and here he was both the spiritual and temporal chief.42 The royal example evidently influenced many people to give ear to his teachings. People now warmly welcomed him and heard him with bated breath. His countenance radiated light among them and they felt that their souls had awakened to new life. The faithful undertake to tread in his footsteps, conform themselves to his likeness, live his life, and walk in his light.43 Zarathushtra thus triumphed in lighting a beacon to illumine the path for mankind to tread.

41. Yt13.99, 100; 19.84-86.

42. Y19.18.

43. Y12.7.

Allusions to Zarathushtra in classical literature. In absence of any authentic Iranian data regarding the age and place of Zarathushtra's birth, we eagerly turn to the testimony of the classical writers who have written up to the time of the close of the Avestan period.44 The information, however, that we derive from them is fragmentary and mostly legendary. The cycle of legends has formed around him and he is undiscernibly remote from the writers. His name is given variously as Zaras, Zaratas, [143] Zaratus and Zoroaster.45 Diogenes Laertius says that Xanthus of Lydia (fifth century B.C.) mentioned Zoroaster by name.46 The earliest authentic allusion to him, however, is found in the Platonic Alcibiades.47 Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) says that Zoroaster was the only human being that laughed when he was born and adds that his brain pulsated so forcibly that it repelled the hand put over it. Tradition has it, he says, that Zoroaster lived in a desert upon cheese for twenty years.48 Diogenes of Laerte (second century A.D.) quotes Dino (about 340 B.C.) as saying that Zoroaster meant one who sacrificed to the stars and adds that Hermodorus, a disciple of Plato, agreed with this.49 He is spoken of as Chaldaean by Hippolytus (A.D. 236),50 or as an Assyrian51 or generally as a Magian or Bactrian. He is called the king of Bactria who fought with Ninus and Semiramis and was defeated.52 The Avestan texts are silent over the question of the age in which he was born. The classical writers speak upon the subject, but their testimony is not reliable. Pliny says on the authority of Eudoxus (368 B.C.), Aristotle (350 B.C.), and Hermippus (250 B.C.) that Zoroaster lived 6000 years before the death of Plato or 5000 years before the Trojan war, and Diogenes of Laerte quotes Hermodorus and Xanthus to the same effect.53 Pliny quotes Hermippus as saying that Zoroaster composed two million lines of verse.54 Polyhistor (about first century B.C.), Plutarch (A.D. 46-120), Apuleius of Madaura (A.D. 124-170), Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-211) and Hippolytus say on the authority of Diodorus of Eretria (60 B.C.), and Aristoxenus, a disciple of Aristotle, that Pythagoras was a pupil of Zoroaster.55 He is generally designated the discoverer of magic.56 Dio Chrysostom (A.D. 40-120) says that according to the account given by the Persians, Zoroaster withdrew from the society of men to live in a mountain. A great fire fell from [144] heaven and kept the mountain burning, but that Zoroaster came out of it unscathed.57 Clement of Alexandria speaks of Zoroaster as the son of Armenius and adds that he was killed in war. He quotes Plato as saying that after lying on the pyre for twelve days he came back to life.58 Pliny states that it is not certain whether there was only one Zoroaster or others also bearing his name.59

44. See Jackson, Zoroaster, p. 150-154, 169, 170, 182, 186-191; Fox and Pemberton, Passages in Greek and Latin Literature relating to Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism, translated into English, p. 1-82.

45. Fox and Pemberton, Ib., p. 28, 44, 46, 54, 73, 82.

46. Proem, 2.

47. Fox and Pemberton, op. cit., p. 22.

48. Ib., p. 44.

49. Ib., p. 80, 81; for other references see Jackson, ib., p. 147-149.

50. Fox and Pemberton, ib., p. 82.

51. Ib., p. 28.

52. See Jackson, ib., p 154-157.

53. Jackson, ib., 152-154; Fox and Pemberton, ib., p. 45, 80.

54. Fox and Pemberton, ib., p. 45, 46.

55. Ib., p. 28, 54, 65, 73, 82.

56. Ib., p. 22, 52, 60, 65, 69, 82.

57. Ib., p. 48.

58. Ib., p. 73.

59. Ib., p. 45.



From the Gathas to the Later Avesta, a retrograde step. We now enter upon a new field of investigation, and move in an entirely changed atmosphere as we proceed. The buoyant spirit of the Gathic hymns is preserved to a great extent in the composition of the Haptanghaiti, or the section to 'Seven Chapters' in the Avestan Yasna, written in the Gathic dialect during the transition period that intervened between the close of the Gathic age and the opening of the Avestan period. The lofty tone of the earlier compositions gradually declines, and the greater part of the Yasna, Yashts, and Vendidad becomes heavy and monotonous. On only rare occasions do the texts exhibit sudden flashes of transcendent beauty and devout fervour. The growing tendency is for complexity and concreteness. The Gathas generally dealt with the abstract concepts. Every one of the Amesha Spentas, as we have already seen, impersonated some cardinal virtue. Though Asha, the genius of righteousness, and Haurvatat, that of perfection, have each a Yasht consecrated to them in the Younger Avesta, the abstract virtues of these archangels do not receive any recognition in these hymns. The secondary and concrete qualities with new associations loom larger in the thoughts of their composers than do the primary qualifications. Rather than dealing with the righteousness of Asha Vahishta and the perfection of Haurvatat, the later texts expatiate upon their healing powers by means of the recital of the various formulas of magical efficacy and the spells to drive away the demons of diseases and death. This general tendency of drifting towards the concrete and material in religion is the characteristic feature of the times and endures throughout the Younger Avestan as well as the subsequent Pahlavi period, in which it reaches its climax.

Daena, Chisti, Mithra, Raman, Rata, Manthra, Airyaman, Asha, Hvare, Maunghah, Asman, Ushah, Atar, and Zam furnish [146] us with instances in which terms that were used in the Gathas to connote the ordinary meanings are now personified as angels.

The angels that outshine the archangels. Some of the Yazatas, both those or pure Iranian extraction and those of Indo-Iranian origin, have risen to such a great popularity during this period that they are honoured more than the Amesha Spentas. The angels Anahita and Tishtrya, Mithra, and Verethraghna figure more prominently than the archangels Vohu Manah and Asha Vahishta, Armaiti, and Ameretat. Some of the longest Yashts, or sacrificial hymns, are composed in their honour. The Yasht dedicated to Mithra, for example, is eight times larger than the one composed in honour of Ahura Mazda himself. The archangels, who are higher in the spiritual hierarchy, who occupied a unique position in the Gathas, and whose glory the prophet ever sang with his clarion voice to the people of Iran, have now either to content themselves with short laudatory compositions or go entirely without any special dedication. Some of the attributes that are the prerogative of Ahura Mazda alone are lavishly applied to the leading angels; but the authors are sparing even to parsimony when they confer honorific epithets on the Amesha Spentas.

Their imprecations upon their careless votaries. A few of the Yazatas, or Adorable Ones, are conjointly honoured with Ahura Mazda in the same strain. They are eager to help man and stand by his side in the hour of his need, if they are invoked. They help man, if man remembers them. Moreover, they are themselves strengthened in their work by man's offerings. Tishtrya despondently complains to Ahura Mazda that he is worsted by his adversary Apaosha because mankind do not propitiate him with sacrifices as they ought to. If they did so, Tishtrya would be emboldened and enabled to conduct his warfare with the demon of drought more vigorously. Tishtrya complains that people do not sacrifice unto him to the extent that they do unto the other angels, who are more popular among them. Mithra, likewise, complains of man's occasional neglect of his invocation, which evokes his displeasure. And Mithra is terrible when angered. Unless man appeases his wrath by abundant sacrifices, he punishes his wretched victim mercilessly. Similarly, the Fravashis, or Guardian Spirits, are the most helpful genii, but on [147] condition that man propitiates them with sacrifices. When satisfied, they are of indescribable help, but once offended they are hard to deal with. They are to be approached with religious awe. They are to be feared, rather than loved. This fear of the celestial beings may engender obedience in man, but not devotion. And devotion is the higher of the two virtues.

Ahura Mazda invokes his heavenly ministers for help. In the Gathas we saw Ahura Mazda co-operating and holding conferences and working in consort with his heavenly subordinates. The Younger Avesta gives a picture of a step in advance in this direction. Here Ahura Mazda is often depicted as sacrificing unto the minor divinities, and asking for boons from them. For instance, he prays to Ardvi Sura, Mithra, and Vayu for favours, and they grant him these boons.1 Vayu even goes further and says he does good to Ahura Mazda.2 The Fravashis helped Ahura Mazda, and the Lord himself says that had he not received their help, great would have been the difficulty.3 But even here it is expressly said that all these beings whom Ahura Mazda invokes for help are his creations. It is he himself who has made Tishtrya and Mithra as worthy of honour, sacrifice, and prayer as himself.4 Rather than commanding his envoys and viceroys as the sovereign ruler to put his orders into execution, he solicits their co-operation in his work. Besides, Ahura Mazda's offering sacrifices unto other beings turns out a source of help to them. Tishtrya in his distress looks to Ahura Mazda for help. Mazda, thereupon, sacrifices unto him, which gives Tishtrya renewed vigour and strength to fight his adversary Apaosha.5

1. Yt5.17-19; 10.123; 15.2-4.

2. Yt15.44.

3. Yt13.12, 19.

4. Yt8.52; 10.1.

5. Yt8.25-29.

Ceremonial implements, textual passages, and objects and expressions that share invocation. In common with the Vedas, the Avestan texts deify the ritual implements, textual passages of the scriptures, and other like objects. The expressions of invocation and sacrifice applied to them are the same as those used in honour of Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, and the Yazatas. The following are the objects that come in for a share of invocation in the ritual: Haoma, Aesma or the wood for the [148] fire altar,6 Baresman or the sacred twigs, Zaothra or libations, one's own soul and Fravashi,7 the Gathas, the chapters of the Yasna Haptanghaiti,8 metres, lines, words of the chapters of the Haptanghaiti,9 intellect, conscience,10 knowledge,11 and even sleep.12 Thus the creator and his creature, angel and man, ceremonial implements and scriptural texts are all alike made the objects of adoration and praise.

6. Y6.18; 7.26.

7. Y59.28; 71.18.

8. Y71.12, 18.

9. Vr16.3.

10. Yt13.74.

11. Y22.25; 25.6; Yt2.1; Sr1.2, 29; 2.2, 29.

12. Vr7.3.

Zarathushtra's monologues in the Gathas as against his dialogues in the Avesta. In the Gathas the prophet addressed several questions to Ahura Mazda, but the replies were left to be inferred from the context. An advance is made upon this method, and now we have Zoroaster depicted as putting questions, and Ahura Mazda himself as answering them categorically. To invest their compositions with divine sanction and prophetic authority, the later sages wrote in the form of a dialogue between Ahura Mazda and his prophet. The greater part of the Vendidad and some of the Yashts are composed in this style. Escorted by the celestial Yazatas, Ahura Mazda comes down to Airyana Vaejah to attend a meeting of mortals convened by Yima, and warns him of the coming destructive winter and frost.13

13. Vd2.21, 22.

The Avesta looks with unrelenting abhorrence upon idols and images of divinities. Idolatry in any form is sin. The Shah Namah abounds in passages depicting the Persian kings and heroes as conducting a crusade against idols and idol-worship. The conquering armies of Persia always destroyed the idols and razed their temples to the ground. Herodotus writes that the Persians did not erect idols.14 Sotion adds that they hated idols.15The statues of different divinities were, however, not unknown among the Achaemenians. The winged figure floating over the head of Darius on the rock sculptures at Behistan is probably a representation of Auramazda. We have it on the authority of Berosus that the Achaemenian king Artaxerxes Mnemon (B.C. 404-358) had statues erected to Anahita in Babylon, [149] Ecbatana, Susa, Persepolis, Bactria, Damascus, and Sardis.16 Strabo describes the image of Omanus, that is, Vohu Manah, as being carried at a later period in procession in Cappadocia.17

14. 1.131.

15. Diogenes Laertius, Prooem. 6.

16. Cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, Protreptica, 5, 65, 3.

17. P. 733.

We find no traces of such open disregard of the genuine teachings of the faith, when the priesthood firmly established its influence. Orthodox Zoroastrianism never sanctioned any form of idol-worship in Iran.

The Yazatas, or angels, Tishtrya, Verethraghna, Dahma Afriti, and Damoish Upamana introduce a novel feature in the theology of this period. They are pictured as assuming various forms or man, horse, and other objects in the performance of their allotted work.

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