Roj Aneran Mah Fravardin, 1380 Yz.
The Prayers of the Khordeh Avesta can be categorized into two main groups – Nyaeshes and Yashts. Those who may have noticed the curious incidence of having Khorshed Nyaesh as well as Khorshed Yasht may have wondered at this. Why have a Nyaesh as well as a Yasht for the same Yazata? Our scholars and religious teachers have not been able to give a plausible and reasonable explanation for this anomaly. However, when this query was posed to our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah N. Shroff, he revealed the meaning behind this difference, which has has been explained very beautifully by Dr. Saheb Framroze S. Chinivala in his Khordeh Avesta ba Khshnoom.
The word ‘Nyaesh’ ordinarily means ‘praise, salutation, homage.’ However, there is also an inherent meaning of ‘wishing to get the blessings of the person to whom the homage is addressed’, and also an ‘entreaty to allow us to be in his service.’ The word also implies that by asking for such a boon, we are needy, or deficient, or lacking in something. Thus the word Nyaesh denotes the following four facets:
- a salutation to a specific Divine Entity
- offering Him/Her our respect and homage, and
- expecting Him to allow us to enter into His service, and
- thereby to give us what is lacking in us
To further aid us in understanding the differences between Nyaeshes and Yashts, let us delve a little into creation. As we are aware, there are two main universes – Hasti and Nisti. These both are very different from each other and need some explanation.
Hasti is the Perfect Universe, where there is no duality, no incompleteness, and no division of time and space. But Nisti is different, always changing, and imperfect. Therefore, there is duality in Nisti, space and time are separate here, and hence there are two aspects – positive and negative of every thing. There is incompleteness, or imperfection – which manifests itself in terms of separation, growth, maturity and death. This duality has to be ultimately removed. In short, Nisti has to become like Hasti for the ultivate salvation – Frashogard to take place.
This process of converting Nisti to Hasti is carried out by the Divine Government of Ahura Mazda, who are named as Amesha Spentas, Yazatas, Dae, Mino, Farrokh and Gatha. These Divine Entities function in the dual capacity, known as Payu (Protectors) and Thworeshtar (Sculptors). Man is confined to one very small part of Nisti, which we call Geti (Earth). Man has been given the responsibility of converting his part of Nisti (Geti) to Hasti. In order to do that however, he must first convert his own self from imperfection to perfection, from evil to good. The evil which is entwined in our spiritual DNA needs to be brought out, treated and converted.
To help us do this, Ahura Mazda has appointed a catalyst that makes the evil DNA erupt from our body. This catalyst is called Angra Mino who is often very wrongly portrayed as Satan or the Devil. (If he were the Devil, how could he be a Mino – a Divine Being?) Thus, Angra Mino causes the evil to erupt from us. This evil is then turned to good by the reaction of our own thoughts, words and deeds. This reaction is calibrated and sent down by the Yazatas as part of their Thworeshtar function. The converted good is then taken over for safe keeping by the Yazatas, as part of their Payu function.
This process, which goes on continually, without rest or stop, is called the Ahuna Vairya, the Will of Ahura Mazda. When man, stops the daily battle for acquisition of material goods and apparent happiness, and realizes his real role in nature, he begins to help in the work of the Yazatas, with a single minded and determined focus. This devotion and action towards Ahura Mazda and His Divine Plan, without even thinking of stopping or resting gives rise to a Divine Consciousness within him, which is called ‘Seraoshem’.
Thus, we see that Nisti is in a state of perpetual motion, of conversion, of slowly folding into its parent – Hasti. The Yazatas have appointed various agents who further their work in Nisti. The main agents whose physical manifestations we are able to see are
- the sun
- the sun’s rays
- the moon
- water, and
These agents continually work towards taking Nisti to Hasti. Man, if he observes the tarikats of Druj-Parhez (abstinence from evil), and attunes his mind with the Divine Consciousness – Bahman, can play a vital part in this process.
Therefore, when a Parsi
- consciously attunes himself to this process
- pays homage to the agencies which are continuously involved in this conversion; and
- wills himself to be a part of helping the Yazatas convert Nisti to Hasti
he is said to be doing a Nyaesh.
Thus if we may imagine Nisti as a lamp, then the Yazatas are the oil that keep the lamp burning. The oxygen, which allows the lamp to burn, is MAN, who can be a quiet beneficent wind or a tempestuous and unruly gale, attempting to blow out the flame. The five main agencies – the sun, the sun’s rays, the moon, water and fire aid the flame of this lamp to spread far and wide, removing the darkness of ignorance and evil and replacing it with the light and radiance of Ahura Mazda.
Thus when we pray the five Nyaeshes, we aid these agencies in their work, praise them, pay homage to them, and wish their work all the best. We Parsis often greet each other ‘Saheb ji’. What does that mean? It really means:
- may you live, (a true Zoroastrian life), and
- may you be one (that is, may your soul fragments gather into you)attain Khaetwodath).
In the same way, when a Parsi recites the Nyaeshes, he addresses the Five Creations, saying: ‘O you Five Glorious Ones, you who are forever in the work of Frashogard for the whole of Nisti, without rest or stoppage, homage unto Thee, may you also make us SALEM, that is, whole, perfect and of endless light!
Thus the Nyaeshes are not mere paeans of praise for a particular Yazata but are talismatic compositions which, when prayed, give rise to certain vibrations which make a small scale model (Keherp) of the work of the particular Yazata in Nisti around the body of the devotee. By praying the special formulae contained in the Nyaesh (known as Khshnuman), we attune ourselves and become one with the Joti and Rathwi, that is, the Spiritual University (Gaas) of Zarathushtra and its lawful Masters. The Gaas of Zarathushtra then activates the Keherp of our prayers and the energized Keherp moves forward to that particular Yazata – as our contribution towards his work and the Yazata in return showers down his blessings on us, which will, in the long term, remove our deficiencies and imperfections and make us whole and complete.
This is the real power of praying the Nyaeshes, and that is precisely why they are considered Farajyat, that is, obligatory every day. Just as it is necessary for us to drink water, eat food and exercise our body each day, so also the recitation of the 5 Nyaeshes is the fundamental spiritual exercise which each Parsi needs to perform, in order to reach closer to Ahura Mazda and earn his ultimate salvation. May that day come close for all of us!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram