Roj Ava, Mah Meher, 1377 Yz.
Among the various Avesta scriptures that survived the repeated rounds of destruction, first at the hands of Alexander, then the Arabs and Mongols and the ever flowing abrasions of time; most were classified and arranged into the Yasna, Vispered, Vandidad, Yashts, other Khordeh Avesta prayers etc. However, amongst the survivors were also pieces of Avesta that were once part of some larger prayer lost in entirety. Some fragments were found as remains of manuscripts thrown in to the fire by zealots trying to wipe out Zarathushtrian scriptures which were then carefully preserved by the persecuted families. Several of these fragments were collected and annotated by the laborious efforts of the early European savants like Westergaard and Darmesteter who published them in the 19th century.
One such fragment which survived is merely two lines long. But it is of such great significance that this sentence was used as a sign-off slogan (much like HTML signature files in today’s email) by the old Dasturs who would copy the manuscripts of the Vendidad and Yasna to hand down to their children. These ending remarks added to the manuscripts are technically known as colophons and served to identify the writer of the manuscript, his genealogy, the place of his residence, the day, month and year of finishing the project and sometimes the name of the sponsor who paid for the scribe’s efforts. Very often these learned Dasturs would add small sentences or passages from the Avesta or from some Pahlavi work which were of special import. In this manner, some bits and pieces of Avesta, which belonged to some unknown greater work were preserved and handed down to us. This priceless gem, taken from some unknown and lost Avesta prayer reads:
Noit cahmi zazva yo noit urune zazva
Noit cahmi zazusha yo noit urvãni jazush
He has gained nothing who has not gained the soul;
he shall gain nothing who shall not gain the soul.
At the obvious level, this verse shows the shallowness of a material life wasted in the satisfaction of the physical senses. But there is a much deeper meaning here. This almost Zen-like sentence can immerse the true seeker in hours of deep and profound meditation and unravel many layers from our overburdened minds.
That this priceless gem was valued many centuries ago is evident from the following. Among the various Pahlavi works which have survived is a wonderful compilation called the Datistan-i-Menog-i-Khrad or “Opinions of the Spirit of Wisdom”. This is a catechism (question and answer session) written by an unknown author, who identifies himself only as ‘danag’, meaning ‘wise one or sage’, possibly a scholar-Dastur somewhere around the 5th century AD. Our priceless verse of the Avesta quoted above is also used by the author of this work. In Chapter 1, verse 27-30, the sage has quoted the exact lines with the prefix: ‘And it is declared by the Avesta:’ That the author of this work was not a mere scholar but also a mystic seeker of the elusive Truth is confirmed by his commentary to this verse from the Avesta. He writes:
“(this is so) because the Spiritual World and the Material World are like two forts; one can easily capture the one, but not the other (at the same time).”
As the understanding of this sentence grows in the mind, one cannot but offer grateful thanks to our learned ancestors – the wise Dasturs who in the face of great threat and persecution kept the scriptures hidden and made secret copies to pass on to their children, who passed on the equally vital oral tradition to their descendants so that the religion survived to this day. And it is a telling indication of the times we live in, that despite the free flow of information and the great advances in religious research and studies, none in our community can come even remotely close to the anonymous danag or simple seeker of truth who lived more than 1500 years ago.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram