Indo-Europeans used mind as the seat of thinking, the Egyptians,
Semites and other people in what is now the Near East imagined Heart
to be the seat of thinking. With the Semitic religions - Judaism,
Christianity, Islam and now Baha'ism dominating the world for the last
1700 years, the word HEART, used approximately 300 times in the Bible
means "Intellect, Mind."
However, the anatomy has helped to slightly change the meaning. It is
defined as "the emotional or moral as distinguished from the intellectual
nature: as (a) generous disposition: COMPASSION; (b) LOVE, AFFECTIONS; and
(c) COURAGE, ARDOR. In fact, one's innermost character, feelings, or
inclinations. (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 1996)
But Zarathushtra and his Indo-Iranian contemporaries, a branch of
Indo-Europeans, were far from the Biblical peoples. To them Manah/Manas
was Mind - "the element … in an individual that feels,
perceives, thinks, wills, and especially, reasons." In the Avesta and
Vedic Sanskrit, it stands for MIND, intellect, intelligence,
understanding, perception, sense, conscience, will; in fact, all the
mental powers (see "A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Sir Monier Monier-Williams,
Oxford, 1899/1956; Avesta Dictionary, Ervad Kavasji Edalji Kanga, Bombay,
1900; and Altiranisches Worterbuch, Christian Bartholomae, Berlin/New
The Indo-Iranians had another word zereda/hrd, heart. For
them, it allegorically meant "the seat of feelings and emotions." And
emotions, we all know, run wild. The Gathas would not recommend it. That
is why, it has been used only ONCE - Song 4:12. And perhaps that is why we
do not find it repeated in the Later Avesta. Here it is:]
"Therefore, whether one speaks truth or not,
whether one is wise or
one expresses in words
what is in one's heart
enjoying serenity, may ask himself:
Where will the two
(Gathas: Song 4 -
All -- truthful, liar, wise, and stupid -- express themselves in words of
what their minds guide or their emotions dictate. It is then that one,
cool and calm, may well understand where the good or the retarding
mentality would lead to.
Mind engages in thoughts. Heart throbs with emotions. Two ways of
expression. Cool consideration decides which one to choose.
Against the solitary
use of "heart," the Gathas have, for more than 250 times, khratu
(intellect), chisti (perception), daênâ (consciousness),
mainyu (mentality) and above all, VOHU MANAH that
encompasses Good Thoughts, Close Friendship and True Love that translate
into Good Words and Good Deeds only to unite mankind in mental and
physical bonds that know bounties without boundaries.
studies, conducted by me as an interesting sideline during my visits over
the last 50 years, among Indo-Iranians from the western borders of Iran to
the eastern boundaries of India, show that its seat was/is in HEAD.
In spite of the Semitic influence, they still pointed to their head for
thinking and contemplating and to their Heart/Breast when talking of
feelings and emotions. The idea of Mind in one's head has not been
forgotten. And now we have the anatomical definition added to it for the
Mind in the Gathas
stands for all the mental powers and functions, and heart for emotions.
NOTE I: (a)
Indo-Iranian: Avesta zereda, Sanskrit hrd/hrday,
Baluchi zirdê, Gilaki and a number of other Iranian languages
del, Kurdish zar, Munji zîl, Osset zârdâ,
Pahlavi dil, Pashto zra, Persian dil/del,
Sangalechi urzrây, Sangsari, Sarkhei and Valashgardi dael,
Sarikali zârd, Semnani and Shahmirzadi dâl, Shughni,
zrâd. (b) Armenian sirt. (c) European: English heart,
German herz, Greek kardia, Latin cord.
NOTE II: "Del/dil"
in Persian means "heart, (seat of ) feelings, emotions and thinking,
abdomen, stomach." It has the Indo-Iranian and Semitic notions combined.