A Zoroastrian Educational Institute


Fall 2004




Spenta Mainyu in the Gâthâs[i]

Gathic Illustration


Dhalla, Dastur Maneckji

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Spenta Mainyu is the self-revealing activity of Ahura Mazda.  Zarathushtra solves the problem of reconciling the unchangeable nature of Ahura Mazda with the world of change by postulating a principle that intervenes between the unmoved mover and the moved.  This working medium of Ahura Mazda spans the chasm between the super-sensuous and the sensuous.  He brings the transcendence and immanence of Ahura Mazda into a synthesis.  Ahura Mazda is neither completely separated nor completely merged in the world.  He is the primordial, self-existing being.  In his infinite goodness he wills the creation of the universe.  Both heavenly and earthly existence lived with him and in him as idealized contents of his being.  The projection or manifestation of his creative will and thought is his active working principle Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit.  Spenta Mainyu is as old as Ahura Mazda, for he ever was in Ahura Mazda and with Ahura Mazda. Though he is thus partly Ahura Mazda in his manifestation as the working self of Ahura Mazda, he is different from Ahura Mazda.  Still he is not an entity or personality.  Ahura Mazda is the greatest spiritual personality.  Spenta Mainyu is his image, his replica.  He represents the creative attribute of Ahura Mazda in his relation to the created world.

Spenta Mainyu symbolizes the ideal or perfect existence as conceived in thought of Ahura Mazda.  The materialization of the divine thought in creation spells imperfection and Spenta Mainyu is shadowed by his inseparable opposite. These two primeval spirits that are spoken of as twins, emerged from divine bosom and by their innate choice appeared as the better and the bad in thought, word, and deed (Ys.30.3).  He, the most Holy Spirit, chose righteousness and he who is called the Evil Spirit wooed the worst as his sphere of action (Ys.30.5).  The better one of the two spirits told the evil one that they were by nature opposed to each other in their thoughts and teachings, understandings and beliefs, words and deeds, selves and souls, and in nothing could they ever meet (Ys.45.2). When the two first came together in the world, they created life and non-life and established the law of reward and retribution for mankind, that the righteous will reap, at the end of existence the weal of Best Thought and the wicked the woe of the Worst Existence (Ys.30.4).

The Gāthās variously speak of Spenta Mainyu, either as the attribute of Ahura Mazda, his vicegerent, his co-worker, or as identified with him or as distinct from him.  It is through Spenta Mainyu that Ahura Mazda creates cattle and water and plants and all that exist (Ys.44.7; 47.3; 51.7).  Ahura Mazda is asked to give ear to man’s invocation through Spenta Mainyu (Ys.45.6), and give strength through him (Ys.33.12).  Through him does Aura Mazda give perfection and immortality unto the pious that lives a righteous and devoted life of best thoughts, words, and deeds (Ys. 47.1).   Ahura Mazda is implored to teach by his own mouth on behalf of his Spirit how the world fist came into being (Ys.28.11).  It is through his Spirit that Ahura Mazda furthers his blessed realms (Ys.31.7).  He gives the best unto the righteous through Spenta Mainyu (Ys.47.5). Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda what award will he make unto the believers and the non-believers through his Spirit (Ys. 31.3: 47.6).  Mazda will come at the final disposition with Spenta Mainyu (Ys.43.6).  Through him does one win felicity of paradise (Ys.43.2).  The devout seek to be acquainted with the works of Spenta Mainyu (Ys.28.1).  The Spirit knows the attitude of the false speaker and the true speaker, the wise and the unwise as they are led by the promptings of their heart and mind (Ys.31.12).  Spenta Minyu is the friend of all and he protects them through righteousness in both the worlds from transgressions (Ys. 44.2).  It is the wicked that are hurt by him (Ys.47.4).  Spenta Mainyu or the Holy Spirit is sometimes spoken of as the Good Spirit (Ys.45.5) or the Best Spirit (Ys.33.6), or the Most Holy Spirit (47.2).  This superlative title, the most Holy Spirit, is sometimes applied to Ahura Mazda himself (Ys. 33.12; 43.2; 45.5; 51.7).  It is also used for Spenta Mainyu as apart from Ahura Mazda. For example, Zarathushtra tells Ahura Mazda that he chooses his Most Holy Spirit for himself (Ys. 43.16).  The Most Holy Spirit, the one who stands in opposition to his evil twin brother, dons the massive heavens for his garment. (Ys.30.5).

[i] Reproduced from the Nov.-Dec. 2003 issue of USHAO educational bulletin by Virasp Mehta, Wichita, Kansas

[Source: Silver Jubilee Volume (1935) --Young Men’s Zoroastrian Association, Karachi]