How to come to terms with a tragedy – part 2

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Roj Asman Mah Amardad, 1380 Yz.

In our previous post we analyzed the emotions that run through our mind when faced with a serious crisis. We asked the question whether there was anything in our scriptures which could help us ease our anguish. The answer lies in the deeply mystical and devotional paragraph of Ahunavaiti Gatha, Yasna 29.4.

Yasna Ha 29 begins with the lamentation of Geush Urvan – the Soul of the Earth. She complains to the Creator that unbearable levels of sin are being forced upon her by the deeds of evil men. The load on her shoulders is too heavy to bear. She asks for deliverance, for a saviour, who can ease her burden and transform the Earth to its original pristine state (Yasna 29.1).

At this point, Geush Urvan and Her twin, Geush Tashan – the Architect of the Earth, enter into a deep meditation with Ahura Mazda. From this meditation, the Twins receive the answer to their anguish and queries. Ahura Mazda explains that their lamentation has already been registered with Him. Based on the Plan of Ahu, a saviour has been appointed, many millions of years before this event, who will come and deliver the Earth from its accumulated evil. He, who is the Saviour, has already started His mission in the higher realms to ensure that the load put on Earth is relieved and such a situation does not occur again. (Yasna 29.2)

In the process of this deep meditation, Ahura Mazda reveals to the Twins the Saviour of the Earth – Zarathushtra. Ahura Mazda explains to them that so far, all those who had tried to combat the evil of the earth had failed, because they did not have the requisite Spiritual Authority and Divine Weaponry to combat evil. Because of the absence of such Divine Authority, the evil on the earth had accumulated to such levels that the very existence of earth was called into question. (Yasna 29.3) Thus even though the PoiryoTkaesha – the First Law Givers – the great monarchs of the Peshdadian and Kyanian dynasty who preceded Zarathushtra fought a valiant battle against evil, the final victory and triumph would come only when Zarathushtra the Yazata took human form and descended on the earth. This was the message of Ahura Mazda to the Twins of the Earth.

In deep spiritual ecstasy as the Creator resolved their anguish, the Twin Geush begin the chanting of one of the most devotional verses of the Gathas, Yasna 29.4. This chanting was not only to proclaim their spiritual deliverance, but more importantly, it was to leave a message for every single person who may ever be in distress. The promise of deliverance and redemption contained in this verse is not confined to Geush Urvan and Tashan, but is for entire mankind and every part of creation. Let us have a look at the three lines of the Avesta verse first, so that we may realise the beauty of the language of love and devotion.

i. Mazdao sakhvare mairishto ya-zi vaverezoi pairi-cithit
ii. daevaishcha mashyaishcha yaca vareshaite aipi-cithit
iii. hvo vichiro Ahuro, atha-ne anghat yatha hvo vasat!

The verse can be freely translated as:

i. Mazda is the best-keeper-of-tallies (mairishto) of each-and-every-thought-word-deed (sakhvare) that (ya) indeed (zi) has-been-done (vaverezoi) in-the-time-gone-past (pairi-cithit).

ii. (and Mazda also knows every thought-word-deed) that (yaca) will-be-done (vareshaite) hereafter (aipi-cithit) by the Daevas (daevaishcha) and by man (mashyaishcha).

iii. Ahura is (Ahuro) Himself the Lord (hvo), the One-Who-Judges-Good-and-Evil (vichiro). Therefore (atha) let happen (anghat) unto us (ne), as He Himself (hvo) Desires (vasat).

Like all Gathic verses, Yasna 29.4 has multiple levels of meaning and understanding. The key lies in properly establishing the link between the preceding verses and the verses following, as well as the relationship between the three different lines of the verse itself.

The verse begins with the proclamation about the knowledge and memory of Mazda. The very word Mazda means Wisdom. But here Zarathushtra, speaking through the voice of Geush Tashan amplifies the true and deeper meaning of He Who we call God. Mazda is described as being mairishto – the Best Remembering, the Calculator, the Enumerator. The Avesta word mairishto is derived from root mar – to count, and ishto is the superlative degree, hence ‘best counter’. Khshnoom explains the deeper meaning of this word as One who not only remembers everything, but also One who sorts the thoughts-words-deeds of all creation – classifying them as good or evil. The word also finds resonance in the 16th name of Ahura Mazda contained in the Hormazd Yasht, Hata-marenish – ‘One Who maintains Account’. The other important word in the first line is sakhvare, which is translated as ‘each and every word’. The deeper meaning of sakhvare is the summation of all thoughts, words and deeds committed by each and every aspect of creation. Every little thought, or word or execution, anything of the slightest exertion, any seemingly insignificant activity – yes, even the leaf that flutters in the wind, is covered in sakhvare.

Thus the first line of the verse proclaims that Mazda is the keeper of account of anything – any thought, word or deed which has taken place in the past. Accordingly in times of distress and tragedy, when we may feel that God has forsaken us, forgotten us, this first line of the verse provides us with that great emotional support – we are not alone. God is with us at every step. He knows all, He remembers all, He keeps tally of each and every aspect of creation.

This great comforting thought is further amplified in the second line of the verse. Not only does Mazda know, understand and record every thought-word-deed of each aspect of creation which has occurred in the past, he similarly knows of every thought-word-deed of each aspect of creation which will happen hereafter. The important words in the second line are daevaishcha and mashyaishcha. Daeva is a most misunderstood word in Avesta studies, which has been unfortunately applied to the similar sounding word in Sanskrit for Divine Beings of the Hindu religion. Just because two words of two different languages sound the same, they need not mean the same!

Ustad Saheb explained that the roots of the similar words in both languages are different. In Sanskrit, Daeva is derived from the root div – to shine, hence Daeva in Sanskrit means the ‘shining ones, celestial beings’. However, in Avesta, the word Daeva is derived from root dab – to deceive. The word Daeva in Avesta means one who is deceived – that is, one who does not understand the end aim of creation. Daeva implies one who is rooted only in the present. He sees the various aspects of God’s creations and does not understand their end aim – of Frashogard. He therefore tries to acquire everything he sees for himself – paying no thought or regard to whether the possession rightfully belongs to him or not. Thus one who wantonly loots the good creations of Ahura Mazda for his narrow, selfish and immediate consumption is called Daeva – the misguided one.

The second line therefore distinguishes between a Daeva and mashya – man. Man is an elevated being – one who can reach the status of a divine being, a Yazata – if only he can conquer his physical senses and infirmities. Therefore, every thought-word-deed of either the misguided ones – who will someday be reformed and attain perfection, as well as man – who is well on his way to perfection (although many obstacles remain), which have been done earlier – or which will be done hereafter – all are known, understood and sorted by Mazda.

The great message and comfort to man contained within the second line is that not only does God know and understand whatever has happened in the past, he also clearly knows and understands, and will keep record, of whatever will happen hereafter, in the future. Thus, nothing is hidden from Him, whether past, present or future.

Based on the Divine Truths contained in the first two lines, the third line packs the most potent punch, summarising and leaving for mankind, one of the greatest teachings of Zarathushtra. It says, Ahura is Himself the Lord of Judgement. Here, it is important to distinguish between Ahura and Mazda. Most of us understand Ahura Mazda as One Being whom we refer to as God. However, Ustad Saheb revealed that in the Avesta, different functions of God have been ascribed different names, based on what stage of creation they exist, and the time scale. It is for this reason that God is referred to variously as Ahura, Mazda, Ahura Mazda, Mazda Ahura, Hormazd, Khodae, Anhuma, etc. In this verse, God is referred to as Mazda in the first line, but as Ahura in the second line. This is not some poetic license, but rather a true reflection of the different powers and states of God.

Ahura means Lord of Existence, derived from root ah – to be. Hence the function of God, which causes creation to exist and go ahead is overseen by Ahura. When God undertakes the role of Executor of the Will of Ahu, creating and furthering every aspect of creation, He is referred to as Ahura. But when God is referred to for His ability to Keep Record and Know all that has happened and will happen, He is called Mazda. This fact was well known to the Pahlavi Masters – the great religious leaders of the times of the Sassanian Zoroastrian monarchy who wrote commentaries on the Avesta scriptures. Explaining this line, the Pahlavi translators have added their comments in brackets to explain the distinction between Ahura and Mazda.

The key word here is vichiro – the judge, the chooser, the separator. Creation can be furthered and taken to perfection only when Righteous Judgement exists. Zarathushtra proclaims here that Ahura is the Righteous Judge. Thus Ahura is the Judge of All, He who sees through the thoughts-words-deeds of all creation, He cannot be misguided, or deceived. He knows all. Based on His great wisdom, Ahura sorts through our thoughts, words and deeds and passes His Judgement.

Mazda keeps record, knows about every thought-word-deed of each aspect of creation, whether done in the past or to be done hereafter, either by the misguided ones, or by man. Ahura is the Righteous Judge of all such thoughts-words-deeds. So then what is left? Rightly Zarathushtra delivers His masterstroke, proclaiming: ‘atha-ne anghat yatha hvo vasat!’ Whatever will happen to us – it will only be as He Himself desires!

Readers of Frashogard – these six words of Avesta should be forever on our minds, lips and in our hearts! Nothing in this world (or other worlds) happens without the consent of the Lord. Nothing that happens, or will happen, can happen without the knowledge of the Lord. Whatever happens, is the consequence of the Judgement of the Lord. Therefore, DO NOT COMPLAIN, BE CONTENT, THIS TOO SHALL PASS. This is not an attitude of resignation, or giving ourselves up to fate. No. There is no complacency here. But herein lies great wisdom, and the key to our salvation.

Because our mind is incapable of seeing the larger picture, since it cannot think beyond the present few years, or this life, we often mistake the Will of God as misfortune, calamity or worse – revenge or vindictiveness. The Lord is Just, but He is also Merciful. Whatever happens to us has come about through our own various thoughts-words-deeds, spread over an expanse of time which we cannot even begin to fathom. As Ahura guides us from imperfection to perfection, from being removed from Him to being one, united with Him, there will be many times, many events which will sadden us, will make us cry, will make us feel as though God has forsaken us. But that feeling in only the manifestation of the imperfection of our minds and emotions.

Zarathushtra reveals that it is human to err and human to complain. But the real nucleus of our humanity lies in understanding our weaknesses and our imperfection, and in being content with being guided by the Lord of Existence and Perfect Wisdom. When we leave our emotions aside and put faith in the Judgement and Perfection of Ahura Mazda, there can be no room for doubt, for weakness, for complaining. It is not an easy path, but it is a path which we must all tread, wiping away our tears and girdling our heart from the pain that threatens to wreck us. As we take one step, the Wise Lord will come multiple steps towards us, hold our hands and lead us to salvation.

The desire of man to enter into everlasting union and communion with God is contained in the beautiful verse of the Hoshbam prayer where we implore:

Asha Vahishta Asha sraeshta, daresama thwa, pairi thwa jamyama, hamem thwa hakhma.

Through Perfect Righteousness, through the most beautiful righteousness, may we see You, may we come near to You, may we attain everlasting Friendship with You!

Dear readers of Frashogard, it is only in times of crisis and tragedy that we can come nearer to Him. Let us use such trying times to revitalize ourselves, to re-dedicate ourselves to Him and to reach out to Him, so that He may deliver us from our pain and afflictions. May it be so, as He Desires!‘atha-ne anghat yatha hvo vasat!’

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram

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Comments

  1. rita  January 13, 2011

    Very beautifully explained Ervad saheb. Thank u.

  2. Ruby Sanjana  January 13, 2011

    @So true, God never forsakes us, it is we who let ourselves down repeatedly by not following his path.In fact he is always holding our hand in times of trouble.

    @ Asha Vahishta Asha sraeshta, daresama thwa, pairi thwa jamyama, hamem thwa hakhma.

    I love this beautiful verse so much,i get emotionally charged when i pray it in Hoshbaam.

  3. Kaizad Kumana  January 13, 2011

    Dasturji, this is a fantastic article and deeply moving and extremely inspirational. Please do continue writing more and more stuff and make up for the lost time when you did not write. You are back with a bang 🙂

  4. Roshan Pastakia  January 14, 2011

    Ervad Saheb am touched. No words to express my feelings. Please do keep on writing and inspiring us. God Bless U.

  5. Hootokshi Thanawalla  January 18, 2011

    Respected Ervad Marzban Saheb,

    I am in a dilemma. You say that even a leaf dows not flutter without the will of God. Please enlighten me does heinous deeds such as rape, murder and scams which are perpetrated every day have the approval of God. How can a man achieve salvation in such a world which is ruled by the Daevas. I will appreciate your guidance on this. Thank you

  6. nauzad  January 20, 2011

    Only want to share something i read today, which directed my mind to the recent question above. Hope this article from Parsi Pukar answers it and puts an end to your dilemma.

    http://tenets.zoroastrianism.com/ParsiPukarEntersits9thYear.pdf