Sayings of Adarbad Mahraspandan

Adarbad Mahraspandan was a famous saint, High priest, and prime minister of Shapur II (309-379 A.C.)

Translation from R. C. Zaehner, The Teachings of the Magi, London, 1956, p. 110 ff. Comments in [] by JHP. Spelling has been normalized to conform with other texts in this series. I have also used 'yazads' in place of Zaehner's 'gods' which I think is very misleading. -JHP.

A translation into Polish by Valeria Aleksandrova is available here:


([Source for text:] Pahlavi Texts [ed. J. D. Jamasp-Asana, Bombay, 1897], pp. 144-53)

(1) These are some of the sayings of Adhurbadh, son of Mahraspand, spoken by him on his death-bed to the people. He taught them (on these lines): "Remember (what I say now) most particularly (pat dakhshak) and act accordingly. Do not hoard against the day when you may be in need, for what you hoard . . .1 except to . . . want does not come sparingly. (2) Strive to hoard up only righteousness (ahrâyîh), (that is) virtuous deeds, for of (all) the things that one may hoard, only righteousness is good.

1. Text corrupt.

(3) Do not harbour vengeance in your thoughts lest your enemies catch up with you. (4) Consider rather what injury, harm, and destruction you are liable to suffer by smiting your enemy in vengeance and how you will (perpetually) brood over vengeance in your heart (varom). Do not smite your enemy in vengeance, for it is plain enough that whoever puts vengeance even for a trifling thing out of his mind, will be spared the greatest terrors at the Bridge of the Requiter.

(5) Whether you are defendant or plaintiff (at a court of law) tell the truth so that you may be the more certain of acquittal at the trial. (6) For it is clear that by giving true witness a man will be saved, and damned will be the man who perjures himself.2

2. Text is corrupt but the sense seems certain.

(7) Show moderation in your eating (and drinking) so that you may live long; (8) for moderation in eating (and drinking) is good for the body as moderation in speech is good for the soul. (9) Though a man be very poor in the goods of this world, he is (nevertheless) rich if there is moderation in his character. (10) Pay more attention to your soul than to your belly, for the man who fills his belly usually brings disorder on his spirit.

(11) Take a wife from among your kin so that your lineage may be more protracted; (12) for most of the disorder and vengeful spirit and loss from which the creatures of Ohrmazd have suffered has been caused by the giving of one's daughters <to the sons of strangers> and the asking of the daughters of strangers in marriage for one's sons.3 So does a family die out.

3. Reading râdh for 'nê.

(13) Abstain rigorously from eating the flesh of kine and all domestic animals (gôspandân) lest you be made to face a strict reckoning in this world and the next; (14) for by eating the flesh of kine and other domestic anunals, you involve your hand in sin, and (thereby)4 think, speak, and do what is sinful; (15) for though you eat but a mouthful(?), you involve your hand in sin, and though a camel be slain by (another) man in another place it is as if you <who eat its flesh> had slain it with your own hand.

4. Reading -ich for 'chê.

(16) Make the traveller welcome so that you yourself may receive a heartier welcome in this world and the next; (17) for he who gives, receives, and (receives) more abundantly. Seat yourself at a banquet where (your host) bids you be seated, for the best place is where a good man sits.

(18) Do not strive for (high) office, for the man who strives for (high) office usually brings disorder on his spirit.

(19) Live in harmony with virtue and do not consent to sin. Be thankful for good fortune and contented in adversity. Avoid an enemy; do not cause harm in doing good works; do not aid and abet evil.

(20) Even should the most fearful calamity befall you, do not doubt concerning the yazads and the Religion.

(21) Do not be unduly glad when good fortune attends you, (22) and do not be unduly downcast when misfortune befalls you.

(23) Be contented in adversity, patient in disaster. Do not put your trust in life, but put your trust in good works; (24) for the good man's good works are his advocate and an evil man's <works> are his accuser, (25) and of thoughts, words, and deeds, deeds are the most perfect.

(26) For there is no misfortune which5 has befallen me, Adhurbadh, son of Mahraspand, from which I have <not> derived six kinds of comfort. (27) First, when a misfortune <befell me>, I was thankful that it was no worse. (28) Secondly, when a misfortune fell not upon my soul but upon my body, (I was thankful), for it seemed better that it should befall the body rather than the soul. (29) Thirdly, (I was thankful) that of all the misfortunes that are due to me6 one (at least) had passed. (30) Fourthly I was thankful that I was so good a man that the accursed and damnable Ahriman and the demons should bring misfortune on my body on account of my goodness. (31) Fifthly (I was thankful) that since whoever commits an evil deed, will be made to suffer for it either in his own person or in his children, it was I myself who paid the price, not my children. (32) Sixthly, I was thankful that since all the harm that the accursed Ahriman and his demons can do to the creatures of Ohrmazd is limited, any misfortune that befalls me is a loss to Ahriman's treasury, and he cannot inflict it a second time on some other good man.

5. Reading 'i-m for 'im.

6. Reading râdh for 'nê.

(33) Abstain rigorously from churlishness, self-will, enmity to the good, anger, rapine, calumny, and lying so that your body be not ill-famed and your soul damned.

(34) Do not plot evil against the evil, for the evil man reaps <the fruit of> his own bad actions. (35) In order to bear with(?) evil men keep the power of goodness in mind and make it your model. (36) Has there ever been a man who associated with evil men who did not regret it in the end?

(37) Do good simply because it is good. Goodness is a real good (nêvak) since even evil men extol it. (38) Do whatever you know to be good and do not do anything that you know to be not good. (39) Do not do to others anything that does not seem good to yourself.

(40) Do not underestimate the value of confessing your sins of omission (? mandak) to the religious judges, of submitting to the disciplinary whip, and of performing the ... (?) ...

(41) You have (only) one name, you are men. Do not pay attention to both the desires (of the body and the soul); (42) for the body and the soul do not both have the same desire. (43) The bodily desires of the body should be satisfied and the soul-desires of the soul.

(44) Never commit a sin out of vengeance, but always strive your utmost to do good works. (45) Do not forsake the righteous law out of lust. (46) Do not violently strike innocent people because you are angry with someone. (47) Do not be false to a contract out of vengeance lest you be caught up in (the consequences of) your own actions.

(48) Put not your trust in women lest you have cause to be ashamed and to repent. (49) Do not tell your secrets to women lest (all) your toiling be fruitless.

(50) Do not take orders from the crafty lest you meet with ruin. (51) For these four things are most useful to men,7 wisdom (combined with) courage, vision (combined with) knowledge, wealth (combined with) generosity, and good words (combined with) good deeds. (52) For courage divorced from wisdom is (very) death in a man's body; (53) vision divorced from knowledge is (like) a pictured image of a body; (54) wealth divorced from generosity is like a treasure of Ahriman; (55) good words divorced from good deeds are manifest unbelief (ahramôghîh).

7. Reading *'martômân.

(56) The signs of the unbeliever are six; he has the outward appearance of good character, but does the works8 that beseem a bad character; he performs the liturgy correctly(?), but does evil; he "talks big" to others, but is himself stingy though seeming generous; he is a giver of evil gifts and patient of abuse; his thoughts, words, and deeds do not agree.

8. Reading kêrôk.

(57) Do not say anything that is not specifically of profit except as a joke (huramîh), and when joking consider the time and the occasion. (58) For wisdom guards the tongue, the body's fruit is civilized behaviour (frahang), and the reward of virtue is Heaven and the receiving and giving of the fruits of the earth; (59) for all forms of courage need wisdom, wisdom knowledge, knowledge experience. To be respected one must have a good name. All actions depend on the proper time and place, while wealth needs to be received and given away, and all enjoyment depends on freedom from fear.

(60) Do not rejoice overmuch when good fortune attends you, and do not grieve overmuch when misfortune overtakes you, (61) for both good fortune and misfortune must befall man. (62) Be grateful to the yazads for any good fortune that may befall you in this world and share it with the yazads and with good men. Leave (all such things) to the yazads, for any reward (that is due to you) will come of its own accord from the place whence it must proceed.

(63) Till the earth and do good, for all men live and are nourished by the tilling of Spandarmad, the Earth.

(64) Do not sin against water, fire, kine, or other domestic animals, or against the dog and the dog species, lest you find the way to Heaven and Paradise (garothman) closed to you.

(65) Do good and keep your doors open to any who may come from far or near, for he who does not do good and does not keep his doors open, will find the door of Heaven and of Paradise closed.

(66) Be zealous in the pursuit of culture (frahang), for culture is an adornment in prosperity, a protection in distress, a ready helper in calamity, and becomes a habit in adversity. (67) When you have learnt something, put it into practice, for the man who knows a lot and believes little is the greater sinner. (68) The wisdom of a learned man, if unaccompanied by goodness, turns to injustice (sâstârîh) and his intelligence turns to unbelief (ahramôghîh).

(69) Do not mock at anyone at all, for he who mocks himself becomes the object of mockery, he loses his dignity (khwarr) and is execrated, and only rarely will he have a decent and warlike son.

(70) Go every day to wherever good men gather together to consult them; (71) for whoever goes most frequently to where good men gather together for the purpose of consultation, receives a greater share of and holiness.

(72) Go to the Fire-Temple three times a day and recite the liturgy to the fire, (73) for whoever goes most frequently to the Fire-Temple and recites the liturgy to the fire, receives a greater portion of worldly goods and of holiness

(74) Keep your body rigorously aloof from the sin9 of the Lie (sodomy?), from a woman in her menses, and from a harlot in milk so that your soul may not be involved in the hurt such evil does to the body.

9. Reading bazak.

(75) Do not leave any sin for which penance is demanded (unconfessed) even for a moment so that the pure Religion of the worshippers of Ohrmazd may not be your enemy.

(76) The body is mortal, but the soul does not pass away.10 Do good, for the soul (really) is, not the body; spirit (really) is, not matter. (77) Out of respect for the body do not neglect your soul; and do not, out of respect for anyone, forget that the things of this world are transitory. Desire nothing that will bring Penance on your body and punishment on your soul.

10. Reading *asachishn.

(78) Do not, out of affection for anyone, neglect the respect due to your soul so that you may not have to suffer a grievous punishment against your will".