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 Vohu Manah: The Precious Gift of Mazda

Religion & Science


Ervad Dr. Jehan Bagli



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It was the pioneering work of  Rene Descartes, in the 17th century AD, that gave philosophy the two-substance view of the radical duality of mind and body. In the years that followed, this basic concept fell short of answering the questions raised by the rationalistic philosophers of Europe and Britain. With time, however, the notion lost its importance. Mind and matter came to be regarded as aspects of a single continuous entity, that differ only in their structure. Spinoza rejected the Cartesian view in favor of the idea that mind and matter are finite aspects of a single infinite substance, designated as God, that is the universal essence or nature of everything that exists. These early modern philosophers did not know the context of the Zarathushtrian theological thought that preceded them several millennia before.

A question we need to address at the outset is, what is the difference between  Mind and Spirit? Referring to the Vedic and Avestan vocabulary, one readily finds that mind and spirit are varying interpretations of related words, philologically arising out of the same basic root: Man, which means “to think.” For instance, the terms Manah, Mainyu,  and Manthran  are interpreted as mind, mentality, and a thinker or thought-provoker. Holy Manthra, in religious usage, are the Holy words of Zoroastrian scripture. Mainyava, Menog and Minoi, are linguistic variations of what we understand as the Spiritual World. It is thus clear that Mind and Spirit are interchangeable expressions, depending upon the context of their use, in human experience.

What is Mind or Spirit? Is it possible to explain this invisible yet palpable entity? Modern science has attempted to explain this entity in terms of objective phenomena that can be quantified and measured. In their efforts to explain Mind in terms of biology and neurology, the professionals have simply uncovered their own limitations. Little worth reading has been written about it.

 The human Mind and its attributes such as consciousness, will, imagination and thought, are mystical entities that cannot be apprehended by the senses. They are beyond the bounds of the physical sciences. They clearly fall into the spiritual domain of abstractions. It is for the same reason that telepathy, clairvoyance and other forms of extrasensory perception have failed to be accepted by responsible scientists, because they are at the outer fringes of physical perception, in the gray area between the physical and the spiritual.

The importance of Mind and Divine Spirit was recognized by the spiritual thinkers of ancient times, going back more than 4000 years. The early Hindu scriptures not only speak of the importance of Mind, but also Hindu scholars, writing about Zarathushtra’s Gathas, recognize Zarathushtra as the earliest reformer of the Aryan Race. The text of the Bhagavad-Gita that forms a part of the Mahabharata was strongly influenced by the teachings of Zarathushtra. It speaks of the meditative practice of introspection through fixation of the Mind on one’s Self (1). It is the practice of communion with the Divine, that reveals the  path of Righteousness (2).      

Asho Zarathushtra, for the first time in the history of mankind, recognized that the thought process of  humanity must be  Good  and Righteous, to  be  in harmony with  the Mind  of  his God - Ahura  Mazda.   This  is the principle  on which rests, the edifice of the Bounteous Immortals – the Amesha spenta. The foundation stone of this pyramidal structure, is Vohu Manah, the Good Mind. Many astute academicians have filled pages, with the writings of what Zarathushtra says in the Gathas about Vohu Manah.

The fundamental  question  is, how does an average  human  meet the challenge  to keep the mind GOOD and in its ideal  state.  How  can  humanity  maintain the GOODNESS of this precious gift of Mazda, in this Physical world full of imperfections.

For it is only through Good Mind that human beings can recognize that immensely  complex  concept of Asha. That is the Will of Ahura Mazda.

And only through  the recognition of Asha can  humans  transform the evil in this Getig world, to good, and bring forth the Divine rule - Khshathra Vairya.

This Divinely ordained Thinker, Zarathushtra, preaches to us, that  "Spiritual life-breath implanted by the Creator in the physical human frame, provides intellect and ability to innovate in life.  The Wise Lord also grants them Freedom of expression." (Ys 31.11)

Let us pause here, to understand the message. If we understand Ahura Mazda as the 'Supreme Intellect', the Wise Lord, the interpretation  that "the Creator has provided intellect and ability of conception" clearly conveys to us that God has gifted humanity  with a part of His Self. To put it in simple terms, the Divine essence of God is within us. We have the obligation to learn to recognize that innate Divinity. For only through recognition of the Divine within can humans ascend to the next step of the philosophical pyramid to relate to the Divinity in the Universe, and get in closer proximity with God. In that sense, the human body is the abode of Divinity. This clearly imposes a heavy responsibility, to keep this House of Divinity Pure and Good.  The place to start is the HUMAN MIND.

So how can one start to keep the Mind Good? How do we keep it free from the contamination and flaws of this imperfect world? Asho Zarathusht elaborates several attributes of that personification of Wisdom, we know as  Ahura Mazda. One of these characteristics is Spenta Armaiti .

The concept of  Armaiti  has been  interpreted  by  philologists as devotion, serenity, or tranquility (3). The Dinkert (medieval Zoroastrian wisdom-text) explains this abstraction as the "Will or Complete Mindfulness" (4). Humbach refers to it as Right-Mindedness (5). In simple terms Spenta Armaiti  is the holy,  peaceful  state of Mind that promotes  devotion  and piety,  in the compassionate  thinking  of  prayers,  in words   and  in actions.  This attribute is best integrated in daily life by communion with a peaceful Mind through prayerful invocations. It  is  only  in  this  tranquil state that the Human Spirit can be free of the fetters of material and carnal instincts. This is the state that preserves Vohu Manah, in its ideal form – The Good - to permit  the recognition of our innate Divinity.

This is the state of Mind that harmonizes:

The Human mentality with the Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Mentality,

The Human Will with the will of God.

Asho Zarathusht in his quest for piety proclaims:

Ys.  28.3…"I shall praise the Wise Lord and those for whom Armaiti promotes the Divine dominion"

Ys. 32.2…" We have chosen your Spenta Armaiti:  May it be ours"

Ys. 34.9…"The evil ones lack the Good Mind for they have abandoned Spenta Armaiti"

Ys. 34.10…"The Spenta Armaiti is the companion and at the root of Righteousness…

Ys. 34.11…"The Holy Armaiti promotes the Good Mind and Asha that results in Wholeness and Immortality that serves the Wise Lord"

Ys.47.1…"The Wise One in rule is the Lord through  Armaiti"

These are just a few  of the Gathic expressions that clearly demonstrate, that Good thinking  can only proceed from a mind where Holy Armaiti  prevails.. That,  is the attribute that permits one to to perceive, and commune with, one’s innate Divinity and relate to the omnipresence of Ahura Mazda in the created world. This  oneness  of the spiritual  with  the physical can only become evident, through the Benevolence of Vohu Manah.  

It is in the recognition of this attunement, that Vohu Manah reveals the Path of Asha, that  unlocks   the doors  to  Khshathra Vairya - the Divine Rule - in this Getig world.

References  (The bracketed numbers in the text, correspond to the references)  

1) Bhagavad Geeta, 6.25
2) Bhagavad Geeta, 18.33
3) Farhang Mehr, The Zoroastrian tradition, pg 27
4) Dinkert, Bk.IX, Ch.12.25, 31.17, 43.2, 60.4
5) Humbach/Ichaporia, The Heritage of Zarathushtra, pg 23, 31, 36, 47, 49