Mankind has, history
shows, venerated and honored gods, goddesses, God, spirits and the souls
of the departed. This is performed in rituals and ceremonies, individually
or led by minister/s in a congregational gathering. This has been the norm
all through the ages.
enlightened by Vohu Manah, adds a new feature. He sings:
The Wise God knows
any person of mine for his or her veneration
done in accordance with righteousness.
I shall, on my part, venerate such persons,
passed away or living, by their names,
and shall lovingly encircle them.
(Gatha: Song 16.22)
What an honor, what a
love and that too from what a personality!
Historically, Zarathushtra is the foremost in "venerating - yazâi"
the living and that too by taking their names.
Let us look at the Song first. It is the 16th Song, "Vohu Khshathra
Vairya - The Good Dominion of Choice." It speaks of the success of his
Divine mission. The Good Religion is well established and spreading. King
Vishtaspa, his family and courtiers have converted. Zarathushtra mentions
a few of his closest companions by name - King Vishtaspa, Ferashaoshtra,
Jamaspa, Madyoi-mâhâ Spitâma and then concludes the song with the above
Zarathushtra is paying tribute to the people promoting righteousness. He
says that Mazda Ahura knows best the good acts of veneration and service
done according to precision and righteousness. Zarathushtra, on his part,
venerates all such persons, dead or alive, by mentioning their names and
by lovingly embracing them. What a touching scene to see a Master
mentioning each of his followers, those who have passed away and those who
are with him, by name, and then loving and encircling them! Teacher
venerating pupils! Only one like Zarathushtra could do it.
Whom did he mention by name? The Farvardin Yasht has the full list of the
first converts and one or two generations more, a total of 261 men and
women. The veneration is in reflective plural. "Yazamaidê," we venerate
the righteous "Fravashi" of the righteous …(name of the person)… Each
man and woman is venerated by his/her name. This is unprecedented. A List
of the then dead and alive persons. It continues to be unprecedented.
It is not only the named persons who are "venerated - yazamaidê,"
but the righteous men and women - dead, alive, yet-to-born -- of the
"homes, settlements, districts, and countries" of Iran, Turan,
Sairima,Saini, Dahi, and the wide world. As if not enough, waters and
plants, in fact "this earth, that sky, and all the good that exists within
And the Farvardin Yasht specifies its venerating persons by name and
collectively by quoting the Gathic stanza: "Vîspanâm âonghâm
ashaonâm ashaoninâm idha yazamaidê fravashîm yaêshâm nô ahurô
mazdâo ashava yêsnê paiti vanghô vaêdha - The Fravashi of all the
righteous men and women whom Righteous Ahura Mazda knows better for
[their] veneration" ( stanza148)
All this is inspired by the Gathas. They are clear on this point that
Nature should be seen, valued and venerated in its true perspective. The
Haptanghaiti, the congregational prayers composed by Zarathushtra's close
companion/s, is the foremost in this field. The term "yazamaidê"
is seen for the first time in them. There the congregation "venerates" The
Lord Wise. It also venerates the abstracts -- Best Righteousness, Good
Mind, Good Conscience, Intellect, Good Felicity, Good Serenity, zeal,
integrity, renovation, good reward, good aspiration, good invocation, good
teaching, and good abundance. It venerates sky, earth, water, clouds and
rain. It venerates, good men, good women. It venerates animals. While the
Haptanghaiti has congregational prayers for venerating more good abstract
qualities and virtues, its supplementary Song (Yasna 42) attends to
venerating "water sources, water courses, water-shedding mountains,
water-holding lakes, sea, road divergences, road convergences, barley
fields, land and "all that is good." There are certain parts of the Later
Avesta that are fully tuned with the Gathic texts and give more praises of
God and the Creation.
The Gathas and their supplements inspire one to venerate God, respect the
Good Principles and Virtues, honor men and women, and value every element
of our natural environment.
How different is the "yazamaidê" that is meaningfully chanted for
God and God's Good Creation from those offered to imaginary deities and
illusionary gods! One inspires and stimulates Good Thoughts, Good Words
and Good Deeds, and the other instigates to turn to negativism in mind,
speech and action.
Let us conclude by chanting the paraphrased version of the Gathic stanza
(16:22 = Yasna 51:22), the Yenghê Hâtâm prayer: "Yênghê hâtâm â-at
yesnê paiti vanghô, Mazdâ Ahurô vaêthâ ashât hacâ yâonghâm-câ.
Tâns-câ tâos-câ yazamaidê. -- Indeed Mazda Ahura, the Wise God,
knows better any person among men and women for his or her veneration. We,
on our part, venerate all such men
1 Based on a presentation
given at the San Jose State University, Northern California on
February 13, 2004.