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Studying the Gathas as a Pratical Guide to a Blissful Existence[1]
(Mumbai, April 14, 1934)

Effective Living

Gathic Illustration

Irani, Dinshah



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According to the Teachings of Zarathushtra, the aim and end of life is to reach the state of perfection ourselves, and help the world in its progress towards perfection. To find the center for ourselves, and open the Kingdom of Heaven[2] (ed. Heaven on earth) to others.

Zarathushtra teaches that life is a divine spirit eternal, that this world itself is an earnest of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that we should live here, a full and useful life, bringing happiness to others and perfection to ourselves. Zarathushtra does not teach that we should suffer first to be happy hereafter, that we should discard this world to attain bliss. No; Zarathushtra teaches his followers to live a full and usefu1 life, to champion the cause of goodness to make the world happy, to establish a veritable kingdom of heaven upon this earth. and thus perfected, to be happy themselves. In the very first stanza of the immortal Gathas, Zarathushtra prays - for the gifts of Righteousness and the Good Mind, in order thereby to bring happiness and joy to the whole creation. This marvelous passage is practically the key to the psychological view point of Zarathushtra. In Y 28-1 he says:-

In humble obedience, with hands outstretched,
I pray to Thee my Lord,
O’ Invisible Benevolent Spirit!
Vouchsafe to me in this hour of joy,

All righteousness of action, all Wisdom of

the Good Mind,
That I may thereby bring joy to the Soul of Creation.

The Key to Happiness: Pursuit of Happiness:  Then in the Gathas he gives us the key to perfection and happiness and shows us the method.  We are all acquainted with the English expression “pursuit of happiness".  Some people think  happiness is in wea1th and go in pursuit of its acquisition until they find they have failed. Others pursue power to find in the end that it only forged a further chain to fetter the freedom of the soul. The blue-bird of happiness can never be had through pursuit. It is a wrong psychology which is responsible for many a sore heart and disappointed life.

Zarathushtra teaches that happiness is the result of perfection to which it is linked.

The right method of obtaining happiness, Zarathushtra summarizes in one sentence, in the opening stanza of the Ushtavad Gatha., where ho says: “Happiness is the lot of  him who works for others' happiness." Throw the bread on the waters and it will come back to you multiplied a thousand times. And then he gives the method leading to Perfection and Bliss.

The Center:  Zarathushtra teaches that the center of the whole creation, the center of everything is the supreme being Ahura-Mazda (embodiment of Asha). That is our sheet anchor; and the ship of life is less liable to be tossed about in a stormy existence, much less lost, if our anchor is firm in this haven of rest.

The Divine Essence Within:  Secondly, Zarathushtra teaches that within everyone of us there is a divine essence-call it the soul, the conscience, the intelligence or whatever you like. This divine essence within us is the cause of all progress, the cause of all uplift, the motive force which makes a man rise from the state of a beast to that of an angel. Zarathushtra further teaches that this divine essence is capable even in this life on earth, of making one so progress, that this earthly life is itself perfected, becomes full of bliss, and one is ready for the ultimate goal to meet at the center Ahura-Mazda in eternal friendship.

Recognition: Therefore the duty of us, men or women, is to recognize this divine essence within us, to recognize its capabilities and potentialities and to so elevate ourselves that eventually we reach the state of perfection in this world and have a life full of joy; and then when the final call comes, we are prepared with a smiling face to enter eternal bliss in the state of best consciousness.

The True Path:  For this purpose Zarathushtra shows us the path. In one of the Avestan fragments there is a sentence that states:

Aevo panto yo ashahe,
“There is on]y one path and that is the path of Truth."

And Zarathushtra shows us how to proceed along this path.

The Simple Maxim:  For the ordinary common people and for the generality of mankind, Zarathushtra gives the simple, understandable maxim of Humata, Hukhata, and Huvereshtn (Good Thoughts[3], Good Words, Good Deeds). These are the Zarathushtrians' points of direction which, with unfailing accuracy, keep a man right and straight.

Therefore, for all people, from an illiterate beggar and a workman in. the fields to the wisest philosopher in the land, a complete direction and a clear programme is given for their conduct in life through these three simple words, through this trinity of Humata, Hukhata, and Huvereshta, and however science may evolve, however knowledge may advance, these fundamental principles will stand unchanged and unchangeable for all eternity.

Further Method for the Wise:  But with this short maxim given for the generality of mankind, literate and illiterate, Zarathushtra gives a fuller method, or the wise and the knowing in the Gathas, a method to attain to perfection and happiness here and eternal bliss in the presence of the Divine Father in Heaven hereafter; and this he gives in his beautiful philosophy of the six Amesha Spentas. Zarathushtra says that Ahura-Mazda has six divine attributes which he calls Amesha Spentas or holy immortals. They are:

  1. Asha Vahishta (Spirit of Truth ana Righteousness)

  2. Vohu Manah (Spirit of the Good Mind)

  3. Khashthra Vairya (Holy Sovereign Power)

  4. Spenta Armaiti (Spirit of Love and Devotion)

  5. Haurvatat (Health and Perfection)

  6. Ameretat (Imnortality)

Zarathushtra teaches that each and every mortal can so develop in himself or herself these divine attributes of the one divinity, Ahura-Mazda, that on this very earth he or she would be a source of eternal joy to himself or herself and all others. Such a person would be blessed with perfection and happiness in this life and eternal salvation in the next.

Truth: Zarathushtra says that the first attribute of Ahura-Mazda  is the Spirit of Truth and Righteousness which is called Asha Vahishta. This Asha Vahishta includes in its connotation the idea of the unchanging and unchangeable law which makes not only all life but the entire universe progress towards its goal of perfection. The law of evolution in nature, the law of progress of the world, the law by which the movement and life of the whole universe is sustained is included in the connotation of the word  Asha Vahishta. Some 4000 years after this great thought was propounded by Zarathushtra, Tennyson gives expression to the same thought in a famous poem of his when he says:

“That God Who always lives and loves
One God, one Law, one Element,

And one far-off Divine Event

To which the whole Creation moves”

Practical Application:  Now as far as we human individuals are concerned, that part of the meaning of Asha Vahishta which we are to make manifest in ourselves, is the divine quality of Truth and Righteousness. Many people will lay their hand on their conscience and say that generally speaking they can be said to be truthful persons. It is easy to be truthful when our interests are not at stake, but that man is really truthful who would stick to truth in the most critical situation. There is a beautiful passage in the Gathas in which Zarathushtra beseeches Ahura-Mazda for the help of truth at supremely crucial moments. Once an effort is made and we are truthful and righteous at critical junctures, the battle is won, and our heart, for the sake of the very beauty of it, will not allow us to take an untrue and unrighteous course. And this is not surprising at all because. Truth is really innate in us .The Divine Spark within is of the essence of truth, and an effort is only required to so develop ourselves as to bring to manifestation this glorious and divine attribute. As Browning says :-

Truth is within ourselves. It takes no rise
From outward things, whatever you may believe.
is an inmost center in ourselves.
Where Truth abides
in fullness; and to know,
Rather consists in finding out a way

Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape

Than by eff6cting entrance for a light
Supposed to be without.”

And let it be said to the pride of the Iranian race, that history has recorded the fact that in the times of the Achaemenian kings, the whole Iranian nation was famous for its quality of truthfulness.

The Record of History: Historians from amongst their national enemies, like Herodotus, who have not spared the

Iranians from calumny where none was deserved, could not however withhold their appreciation of the quality of righteousness and truthfulness among the Iranians. It is recorded by these historians that the Iranians hated to go to the market place and haggle for price, lest it should make the shop-keepers untruthful. They abhorred running into debts lest it should make them tell fibs to their creditors. It is a recorded fact that when Cyrus conquered Lydia, the Greeks sent him word that he should take care and not attack them. Cyrus replied that if he was minded to fight the Greeks, he would not care two straws for a nation who daily went to the market place and told a hundred lies.

Darius the Great in his rock inscriptions leaves a mandate to all nations of the world and their rulers that if they wished to keep their country and their nation safe and well-established, they should abstain from falsehood and fol1ow the path of truth.

Throughout the history of the world, no nation has such a proud record as the ancient Persians during early Aahaemenian times for their great love of truth, and it was not the accident of  a. reigning sovereign setting the mode of speaking the truth for a time, but as Henri Ben Bays it was a national characteristic, and that was due to the teaching of their Prophet.

The Good Mind: The second divine attribute of Ahura-Mazda which we must attain to and incorporate in ourselves is Vohu Manah, the Good Mind. This does not merely mean a mind remaining good in a passive state. It means a mind subjectively good and objectively working for the good and welfare of oneself and others. We are taught in the Avesta that the mind has two qualities. One an innate intellect and the other acquired wisdom. Upon every Zarathushtrian therefore it is incumbent to perfect his God-given intelligence by education in order to attain to Wisdom. Consequently, serious study and universal education of men and women to attain the light of wisdom, becomes a religious duty. The result is complete knowledge which makes the mind poised and balanced. Its possessor is not upset by every passing misfortune as is a willow tree by every passing breath of wind. The mind becomes peaceful and serene. The light of wisdom is lit in it, and wisdom being there to guide one's life, whatever a man does or wherever he goes, he can never err. All this is contained within the connotation of the expression Vohu Manah or the Good Mind which a Zarathushtrian must attain to, to find the center, to reach the ultimate goal. In the Gathas there are certain passages of great historical interest.

They refer to the wedding of Pourachista,. the daughter of Zarathushtra, with Jamasp, the wise minister of King Vishtasp. The bride prays to Ahura-Mazda for the light of the Good Mind and Jamasp is praised as possessing the wealth of the Good Mind, that is wisdom divine. And the holy Prophet, while performing their marriage ceremony, tells the marrying couple and through them all men and women so disposed, that by means of truth, wisdom and love alone, a happy home life can be theirs.

Now having made incarnate in ourselves these two divine attributes of Truth and Righteousness, and the Good Mind, guided throughout by the Light of Wisdom, proceeding from a mind serene and at peace, we are well nigh on the road to making our own the two more divine attributes which would bring us to the stage of eventual perfection.

Holy Power and the Kingdom of Heaven: The third divine attribute of Ahura-Mazda is Khashthra Vairya, meaning Holy Sovereign the Kingdom of Power, the Kingdom of Heaven, etc. The natural question would be what we mortals have to do with Holy Sovereign Power,  though we know that the Kingdom of Heaven is meant for the good. Here too Khashthra bas a very wide meaning and Zarathushtra also means thereby, the, selfless use of all power and influence within us, which he designates as Holy Sovereign Power. Every man and woman in the world, from the poor and helpless toiler in the fields, to the mighty king on his throne, every man or woman has some power or influence, small or great, which he or she can wield in the world. A poor man has some influence over his wife and children; an ordinary man, over his family and friends, and so going up the grade from the village headman, the chiefs of towns and cities, and judges and ministers, right up to the rulers of realms, everyone has some power or influence. If all this power and influence from the lowest grade to the highest is used only for selfless purposes, is used only for the good and welfare of others, what would be the result.  Perfect justice will prevail, and a sense of equality and fraternity will rule in the land. A sense of universal brotherhood will be developed and peace and prosperity will bless the earth. A veritable kingdom of heaven-the final meaning of Vohu Khashthra - we can ourselves establish thereby in this world.

This is the meaning of incorporating in ourselves the divine attribute of Khashthra, viz. the selfless use of power.

The Glory that is Persia’s:  Historians and scholars record the fact that Cyrus the Great and his successor Darius the Great, were just and wise and great rulers. And they were not so by any accident. After Cyrus had conquered Baby]on, he restored to the Jews the looted treasures of the great temple at Jerusalem, freed them from their captivity, and helped them to complete the temple well-nigh destroyed. Darius the Great after conquering practically the whole of the civilized world, did not interfere with the religious observances of the conquered people unless they had any evil influences in them. His administration has been considered a model by the civilized world for more than 2000 years. Cyrus was called the "Annointed of the Lord" in the Jewish Testament and Henri Berr says in his introduction to Clement Huart 's book on the Civilization of Persia that these great emperors, so utterly different from the cruel and heartless monarchs of Babylon and Assyria, were so good and just because of their Persian culture which had at its back the teachings of Zarathushtra. The Achaemenian kings considered themselves the representatives of the divine quality of Khashtra, and therefore Cyrus and Darius used the powers they commanded for the good of others as the Great Father in Heaven would do.

To-day[4] the League of Nations tries to bring about disarmament and universal peace. It is just possible that the nations may go to a war on these very questions of disarmament and the so called universal peace. For the words are on the lips and there seems to be no change of  the heart. If only this principle of Khashthra, for the selfless use of an power within us, were taught and accepted, what a Kingdom of Heaven we could establish on this earth!

Love and Devotion:  The fourth divine attribute we are taught to incorporate in ourselves is Spenta Armaiti, the Spirit of Love and Devotion.  Armaiti means devotion to God and an active and beneficent love for all. The divine quality of love is in every heart. Material love is a manifestation of love-divine and is the precursor of its eventual enfoldment.

A man's love for his wife and family is beautiful if it blossoms into love universal, but it is love lost if it is allowed to wither within that small, circle. For in the Gathas, Armaiti, the Spirit of Love, is described as working with active zeal for the welfare of one and all, even for a man who sins. In a poetic passage Zoroaster says that when a man wavers in his selection between right and wrong, when at the parting between the two ways, Truth and Untruth, a man hesitates and is inclined to go the wrong way, the loving Angel of Devotion and Love, Armaiti, comes and pleads with the party wavering. Such a universal and beautiful love we are enjoined to make incarnate in our body and soul, in order to make us active and zealous in works for the welfare of humanity. 

An Epitome of Social Virtues:  In this beautiful command therefore is concentrated all social virtues and duties. Through injunction for love, social welfare work for the poor becomes a sacred duty. Total absence of idleness and constant zeal and ardor, for all works for the world's welfare becomes a duty. To give help to agriculture, the mainstay of a country and its poor peasants, becomes a religions duty.  In a beautiful passage in the Gathas, Zarathushtra prays to Ahura-Mazda, "May Armaiti, the Spirit of Devotion and Love, ever abide in these sunlit realms to make this world a world of joy", and adds that even in the Kingdom of Heaven, Armaiti, the Angel of Devotion and Love, brings joy and bliss. And just like Truth, Love also leads a ,man from the wrong path to the right. In Zarathuhtra's times there was a Turanian tribe the leader of which was one Fryana, whose tribe was at first the opponents of Zarathuhtra. Eventually Truth seemed to have dawned on them and Zarathuhtra records this historical fact in a beautiful passage in the Gathas wherein he says:- “When inspired by- Truth and Love, the Turanian tribe of Fryana shall know well how to act well; then they will realize the truth of the holy message and then they will be garnered in the happy abode of Ahura-Mazda in the end."

Having made these four divine attributes our own, a man reaches his mental and moral perfection in this very life. Happiness which is the blessing and attribute of Haurvatat becomes his, without asking. The blue-bird of happiness comes to us the moment its pursuit is given up and it is sought to be sent out to others.

The Gathas:  But mental and spiritual perfection is incomplete without physical well-being. Therefore, under the connotation of this term Haurvatat, physical well-being is included.

and to make efforts to attain to physical perfection becomes a man's duty under the Zoroastrian Faith. Our bodies must therefore be kept not only pure, but in perfect health and the welfare and physical well-being of not only ourselves but of our household, city and country becomes a sacred duty. Consequently all the requirements of sanitation; and hygiene must be observed by true Zarathushtrians, as a religious duty. All the ancient books of the Zarathushtrians are full of examples of efforts of the Iranian race to preserve the health, vigor and vitality of the human society and modern conceptions about sanitation and hygiene, health and eugenics, are a substantial part of the conception of Haurvatat, meaning perfection, well-being and happiness.

Realization and Immortality:  And the man who has reached this stage, a man who has evolved himself into a super-man in this fashion, to speak in the words of Tennyson, is ready to meet his pilot face to face when he has crossed the bar. When the call comes he receives the blessing of Ameretat, viz. immortality and sublime beatitude in the existence hereafter. The realization takes place. The center is found for ever. The perfected soul reaches its goal in what Zarathushtra calls the “Abode of Songs, the Realm of Light" with the Divine - Father as the center and as everything.

[1] This article was written as a forward to the book “Metrical Version of The Gathas In English” by Sorabjee Pestonjee Kanga, 1997 reprint in Mumbia by Jenaz Printers

[2] Ed. Zarathushtra was the first to introduce the concept of heaven and hell as a reflection of a person’s doings in life.  This concept later adapted by Ibrahimic religions was give a materialist orientation in connection with existence after one’s passage from this life as we know.

However, Zarathushtra’s view of Kingdom of Heaven as the state of best conscious relates to this life.  He calls upon humans that through righteous doing based on progressive mindedness to be the agents for ushering in Khashtra Vairya, holy dominion on earth.  The idea of promising the kingdom of heaven in the life after as a means of keeping followers at bay, is contrary to Zarathushtra’s enlightened vision for humans to take moral responsibility for their individuals deeds, and the call to usher in the righteous order in the life they live through their personal doings.

[3] Good thoughts as conceived through Vohuman, the progressive mentality

[4] The article’s time frame of reference was 1934 when the League of Nations was in existence