|Back||Ashem Vohu Prayer|
“ASHEYM VOHU”, THE SMALLEST PRAYER. |
ITS EFFECT AND CONTENT
Our Prayer Book, Khordeh Avesta starts with a small composition of just twelve words:
"Asheym Vohu ….. Asheym".
Every prayer, big or small, be it a Gah or Niyaish or Yashta or Nirang or Seytaayesh, ends
with an Asheym Vohu.
Almost every prayer begins with the words: "Khshnaothra Ahurahey Mazdaao, Asheym
Different number of Asheym Vohu's are to be recited at different places during our
Khordeh Avesta Prayers.
The tradition teaches us to recite one Asheym Vohu on several occasions like : when we
sneeze; when we hear about somebody's death; when we change side in the bed; when our mind
tends to lose its composure or becomes depressed or worried; when our thoughts go astray or
become polluted or impure.
There is a not-much-known Avesta composition titled: "Hadokhta Nusk", wherein a highly
interesting dialogue takes place between Ahura Mazda, the Creator and Asho Zarathushtra. The
Prophet asks: which is the occasion when the recitation of one Ashem Vohu has the effect of 10
Asheym Vohu's? Ahura Mazda answers: when one who has infused in oneself good thoughts,
words and deeds and has discarded evil thoughts, words and deeds, recites one Asheym Vohu
while eating his meal.
Asho Zarathushtra then goes on asking : when is the effect of one 'Asheym' equivalent to
100 Ashem's ….. Ahura Mazda replies : when such a 'good' human recites one Asheym while
drinking the sanctified Haoma.
Ahura Mazda further answers that when such a good human recites one Asheym while
changing side during sleep, the effect is equivalent to 1000 Asheyms. And when he or she recites
one Asheym while waking up from sleep, the effect is of 10,000 Asheym's.
In the Holy Scripture, "Yazashney" of 72 'Haa's (Chapters), one full Haa (20th) is devoted
to Asheym Vohu. It brings out the inner and deeper levels of meanings hidden in Asheym Vohu.
What is this little Avesta composition of just twelve words which seems to be the
foundation of all Avesta Prayer; which is even the subject matter of a Divine Dialogue, and which
requires a full chapter of a Scripture to set out its inner content?
If we look to the modern philological, etymological and grammatical translations, you will
find something like: "righteousness for righteousness's sake", and that will just keep you
wondering and a bit baffled.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
There are a few Divine Truths about the Holy scriptures of all Religions, whether Veda or
Gita or Avesta which should be always kept in mind while trying to understand
their effect, message and meaning:
1. Vibrations of Divine light are the basis of God's whole creation. They are called "Staota Yasna"
and are too subtle to enter into the domain of our experiences. The Holy Scriptures are the
transmutations of those divine vibrations into such words as can be pronounced by the human
2. The transmutation is brought about by those Prophets and Saints who are in direct communion
with the Divine Vibrations through their spiritual exertions and authority.
3. The transmutation is, therefore, not an ordinary writing or literature or poetry. It
is the Divine Composition of Manthra.
4. The recitation of the Manthra, with due preparation and observance of certain ordained rules,
generates spiritual currents of divine energy and has specified effect in nature as also within the
5. In the very nature of things, Manthra Compositions are not subject to the human rules of
grammar and the science of ordinary human languages, but have the power to attune us with
God and His Divine Energies.
6. In addition to its power to attune us with the Divine Energies, every Manthra composition has
various levels of meanings and messages. These are not revealed through etymological
scholasticism, but require certain keys to decipher. These keys known as "taavil" have a special
spiritual science of their own. Without that science of "taavil" the grammatical translations become
dry, and often meaningless and even absurd, and the situation is like the blind leading the half
blind! That situation is rampant in the Western oriented studies of our Religion and is squarely
responsible for the decline of faith amongst the Zoroastrians.
7. The levels of meanings inherent in a Manthra composition have three main phases: (i) Divine
knowledge or Science; (ii) practical lesson for our second-to-second life on Earth; and (iii) an
expression of devotion. In every Avesta passage, some element of the spiritual knowledge and
sacred science is interwoven with some practical instruction of living and an outcry of love and
devotion towards Ahura Mazda or His Divine Channels (called Yazata's) or Asho Zarathushtra.
With this background let us enter a little in the message of Asheym Vohu.
Two words are predominant in Asheym Vohu : "Asha" and "Ushta". Asha is woven into the
words "Asheym" which is the first and the last word, and also in "Ashai" the 10th word.
ASHA, THE DIVINE LAW, ORDER AND BEAUTY
' Asha' indicates the Divine Law, Order, Beauty and the Divine Goodness or
The whole Creation is governed by Ahura Mazda's Divine Law and Order. That Law and
Order itself is one of His Divine Channels and is named as "Asha Vahishta" or "Ardibeheshta
Beauty, in whatever form, is the physical expression of "Asha Vahishta". Be reminded of
Ahura Mazda's Divine presence whenever you see beauty.
The Channel of Asha Vahishta pours down in the human heart and inspires goodness or
righteousness in it. Goodness is defined as a craving to give, to serve, and to love, all creation.
Selflessness is the prime virtue leading us to God. Its opposite, selfishness, is the prime vice
dragging us away from Him. So, be selfless and humble and not selfish and egoistic. Love to
give, not to take. This is one of the messages of Asheym Vohu.
USHTAA, THE DIVINE ECSTASY
The other key word is "Ushtaa". Its surface meaning is "happiness". But it does not refer to
any material or physical happiness. Ushta means bliss, ecstacy, divine happiness. Material
happiness and physical pleasures are temporary and illusory. 'Ushtaa' is eternal and real.
The fountain source of Ushtaa is Ahura Mazda Himself. We, the mortal, non-saintly
humans are 'away' from Him, separated from Him. The feeling of this separation is ever present
in our hearts. We burn in separation from our Love. That burning is called 'Devotion' or 'Bhakti'
which is also a form of 'Ushtaa'. We are in bliss when we burn for Him, because in our thoughts
we are in His divine company. Our heart throbs at His thought. The heart throb inspires
confidence in us that we will one day stand in the presence of our Divine Lover.
The message of Asheym Vohu can thus be summarised as :
Asha, the Divine Law, Order, Beauty and Truth of Ahura Mazda prevails in all
Creation, physical, non-physical and divine. Its channel flows down in every human heart
and manifests itself as goodness, righteousness, selflessness, service, love and
devotion.. Let every human be good, selfless; let him or her give away rather than snatch
away. Let every human adopt the law of Asha in minute-to-minute life on this Earth. Let
every thought, word and deed emanate from the Divine fountain of Bliss and Devotion and
Love ever flowing in our Heart. Let us be ready to meet Him; Let us prepare ourselves to
be lost in His Ushtaa.
As a Manthric composition Asheym Vohu has power to infuse order wherever there is
disorder. When thoughts go astray, when the mind is depressed, when the evil tries to
overpower us, when we are in a state of disorder in thoughts, words and deeds, we recite
an Asheym Vohu, praying that may order be restored. When we sneeze or yawn, some
pollution is shot out, some disorder is caused. Let Asheym Vohu restore the order. When we hear
about someone's death, by reciting an Ashem Vohu, we emanate a wave of Manthric power to
help the departed soul (Ruvan) to restore order.
Life is full of disorders of all sorts. Let us recite an Asheym and immerse our thoughts in its
divine message, every time a disorder appears.
When you wake up in the morning, when you close your eyes to sleep, when you turn your
side in bed, when you see any beauty, when you wish to do some good, when you wish to thank
Ahura Mazda for anything, RECITE AN ASHEYM VOHU.
Smallest but Loftiest ......
(Parsi Pukar – JULY 1995 Vol. 1; No.1)