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Democracy: A Zarathushtrian Perspective

















This is how “democracy” is defined by the Webster’s Dictionary: a] A Government by the people, especially rule of the majority. b] A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation involving periodically held free elections. History of democracy, as presented by Western scholars, only goes back to the people of Greek cities of the pre-Christian era.  This is just a part of the story.  The full fact is that regional elected councils are well documented in the Indo-European, particularly the Indo-Iranian societies, and the later Roman city democracies is that “ancient democracies did not presuppose equality of all individuals; the majority of the populace, notably slaves and women, had no political rights.  Athens, the greatest of the city democracies, limited the franchise to native-born citizens.” (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia.Vol.8 “Democracy”) Nothing surprising.  Women have been granted the right to vote and hold government office in most of the democracies only in the first half of the 20th century!

What do the Guiding Gathas of Zarathushtra say?  The very first song begins with “Yatha Ahu”, the Principle of Choice.  In order to bring peace, prosperity, stability, progress and happiness to the living world, people are to select only competent persons who are able to free the world from mental and physical wrongs, rehabilitate the persons deprived of their rights and lead mankind to truth, precision, progress, wholeness, and immortality.

Song 16, the last but one, is particularly dedicated to “Vohû Khshathra Vairya” literally “Good Domain Worthy-of-Choice.”  It elaborates that a good government must be an elected one.  It is then the best gain one can have.  To serve a chosen government means to serve it best with devotion based on righteous deeds.  It is for such a dominion, a world order that Zarathushtra rose to work for us, mankind.  He founded the foremost democracy – mental and physical, spiritual and material.  

Contrary to the pyramidal structure of the society into professions/casts of a single superior top to the massive inferior bottom of serfs and salves seen in human history of many doctrines, the Gathas profoundly present a doctrine of individual freedom of will and choice equally for all men and women. The Gathic division of the human society is unique.  It begins with the family living in a house that multiplies consequentially into settlements, districts, and lands and finally embraces the entire earth –all based on good thinking and precise procedure.  This makes one realize the true democracy Zarathushtra expounded.  The guiding leaders of all these units must be elected only on account of their competence, and that too by persons with ‘good mind –Vohu Manah’ and in the ‘right –Asha’ procedure.

In today’s definition it would mean that each and every person elected must be fully qualified for the office he/she is elected to. It would, in a simpler term, mean competent, coordinating and cooperating persons leading the house, settlement, district, land and the globe. On the governmental level, it would mean that all the candidates for presidency, home affairs, foreign relations, commerce, council, cabinet and all other offices will prove their competence of quality and experience, in order to be elected for their particular posts.  A person elected for every post will be according to his or her competence.  And on the global level, we will have a “united Nations” organization that would lead free, friendly, peaceful, prosperous, healthy, happy, and lovingly united people in a glorious global democracy. 

A close look at all the democracies in the world would show that mankind has still to work wisely and hard to reach the Gathic principle of “Vohû Khshathra Vairya”.  Zarathushtra prayed for it in the concluding stanza of his Sublime Songs:

May the desired Fellowship come,
for the support of the men and the women of Zarathushtrafor the support of good mind,
so that the conscience of every person earns
the choice reward, the reward of righteousness,
a wish regarded by the Wise One.

[Â Airyêmâ Ishyâ]

Let us join Zarathushtra in the solemn prayer, and seriously and sincerely work to achieve his ideal Vohû Khshathra Vairya”.