Some of the Main Concepts of the Gathas
The Gathas are 17 songs, sung by Zarathustra Spitama and they are the core of Zoroastrian religion. Zarathustra called his songs “Manthra” meaning thought provoking word.
We use the Gathas as our guide. It does not tell us how to do things or what specific things to do for any given situation. However, it gives us the tools to make the right decisions. We use these tools, consult wise individuals when necessary, listen/evaluate openly all sides, and use our good mind to make a wise decision.
We are free individuals and are free to choose any path we like. The Gathas encourages us to choose a path that will improve us, our family, our community, and our world at large.
It is important to know that with this freedom comes a great responsibility. We reap what we sow and we are responsible for the good or the bad results.
Zoroastrian religion is a universal religion, not specific to any country, race, gender or people. It is a guide of progression for all living beings.
There are no miracles in the Gathas, it is a logical way for good living. It is a modern approach, millenniums after they were first sung. No wonder in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Zarathushtra’s name is mentioned as the first philosopher. This is because of his strong logic of ethics in the Gathas.
Some of the main tools for making good decisions as mentioned in the Gathas:
1. Vohu Mana= good mind, good thinking
There is always a thought before an action. If a good action is taken, there must have been a good thought behind it. For example, to help an elderly cross the street, one must first think about helping the elderly. Our body does not perform an action without a command.
That is why It important to consider, Mindfulness which teaches us to take a few deep breaths and bring our mind into the present and think from our cognitive part of the brain about what action to take or words to speak after calmly considering the present conditions.
Therefore, in order to do good we have to think with a good mind.
2. Asha= truth, order, righteousness (in it’s simplest meaning)
The literal meaning of Asha is “what fits” based on Old Persian conjugates it is translated as truth, order, and righteousness. It is what fits in both matter and mind. In matter, it is the natural laws that order the universe (physics, chemistry, etc= science). In mind, it is what is ‘correct’ or what is right.
Asha is doing “the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, and with the right means in order to obtain the right results.”
3. Spenta Mainyu= progressive mentality
In Zoroastrian religion, it is not enough just to be good, kind, truthful, etc., we need to always be improving. There has to be a constant flow towards betterment of the living world.
4. Aramaiti= to be tranquil, serenity, being at peace, devotion, humility
This is the personal reward for the good and progressive actions that we do. It is a peaceful harmony with oneself and the living world. It is achieved by using Vohu Mana, following Asha, and using Spenta Mainyu.
5. Vohu Khshathra= good rule, Good dominion, good state of living
If leaders, and individuals in a family, community, country, or the world follow Vohu Mana, Asha, and Spenta Mainyu then we will live in a dominion that is constructive and is moving forward toward better living for all. It will lead to everyone’s happiness and security.
6. Haurvatat= Wholeness or completeness (a state of well-being both physical and spiritual)
It refers both to an external and an internal state of being (physical and spiritual). In an external sense it refers to health and happiness and in terms of internal sense it refers to integrity in the context of one’s consciousness. Together it brings a state of perfection for the individual.
“Haurvatat is the state of the self where the mind has grasped the Truth and acted accordingly. It is the realization of Good thought, word, and deed. Maintaining this state of Integrity calls for insight into oneself and recognition of the Truth of the situation one is in. When one fails to live in that way one has lost the state of Haurvatat.” (Professor KD Irani article on Hauvartat and Ameratat)
7. Ameretat= immortality, a state of deathlessness
Depending on the moral character of a particular life, we achieves a state of best consciousness, or presence in the Abode of Songs, if good; but descent into the darkness of the House of the Lie, if evil.
When the terms Haurvatat and Ameretat appear together, Ameretat always means immortal bliss, an extension and elaboration of the perfection of Haurvatat into eternity.
8. Druj=“harmful lie, wrong”, it is similar to the Sanskrit word “druh” meaning to cause harm. We may be able to conclude that anything that causes harm to the living world is druh or druj. It stands opposite to Asha (righteousness).
9. In the Gathas there are two forces that stand against one another. One of these forces is Vahyo meaning better and Spenta meaning ever more increasing or progressive. The other force is Aka meaning bad and Angra meaning regression or ever decreasing. These forces stand against one another in a continuous battle but this battle is not in a physical or external sense but inside our mind only. For example: “I really need to get an A on this test, what harm is it if I just this once look on my friend’s paper?” It is an internal battle. It becomes an external manifestation when action is taken by the person who chooses one against the other. In order to achieve Haurvatat and Ameretat, Zarathushtra encourages us to always choose Vahyo and Spenta.
A few things encouraged by Zarathustra in the Gathas:
Listen to the best words and consider them with an open mind, then make the best possible decision (Song 3 Verse 2, Yasna 30 Verse 2).
Always move toward improving the living world. “And, may we be among those who make this life fresh…” (Song 3 Verse 9, Yasna 30 Verse 9)
To question and think for ourselves and make sure the answer we want to accept is the one that makes sense through a good, open and wise mind.
Why does a child love his/her parents? Who made the light and darkness? Who makes the moon wax and wane? (Song 9, Yasna 44)
Why have you created me? Why is there injustice in the world? (Song 2, Yasna 29)
The judges are looking for a thoughtful paper not a wrong or right answer so be truthful to yourself and your work.
Good luck in your venture of truth.
The information above have been mainly taken from:
The Gathas our Guide by Dr. Ali A Jafarey
Dina McIntyre from https://alexanderbard.blogspot.com/2011/08/meaning-of-asha.html
Professor KD Irani article on Hauvartat and Ameratat
Message of Zartosht (پیام زرتشت) by Dr. Ali A Jafarey