Zoroastrian Sacred Poetry; “Holy Book” OR creative rhthyms of verse, vision and discovery???

The question of what are the sacred sounds, melodies and songs of the “Mazdyasni religion” and if we are dealing with a CLOSED CANON or not; is an interesting subject that has been discussed in the third volume of the holy DENKART, question Number 9.

At first, i should point out that the “Mazdyasni tradition” like that of the vedic, druid and ancient norse traditions, gives unequivocal precedence to the ORAL channel of language, recitation by heart and memorization. Hence, it is only fitting to refer to Zoroastrian sacred songs, melodies and POETRY rather than holy writings. The question that Denkart deals with in the aforementioned section is the nature of the SACRED POETRY and if such SACRED POETRY embodies a sealed holy text or is it merely a meditative vehicle to better seeing and higher understanding of the true nature of things?????

According to Denkart the creative source of the sacred poetry, insight and inspiration are the GATHAS; and the nectar and essence of the GATHAS is the “ahü vairyö” manthra. GATHA is the same as the Lithuanain “GIEODOTI” to sing, chant; also Welsh “GWAWD” poem, poetic composition. “GATHA” refers to an enchanting song, melody, rhymed verse, and/or inspired poetry. It might be interesting to add that the songs/melodies or GATHAS were accompanied by MUSIC; and the classical iranian musical melodies known as “dast-gáh,” have their root in the ancient gathic chanting and melodious compositions. In fact, classical iranian musical terms such as se-gáh or “three -gáh,” chahr-gáh or “four -gáh” and panj–gáh or “five -gáh,” correspond to the three-lined, four-lined, and five-lined poetic composition of the GATHAS.

Sanskrit term GITA/SONG and Vedic GAYATRI/VEDIC POETIC METER come also from the same root as GATHA. The most holy mantra of the Hindus is known as “Gayatri Mantra.” In Vedic tradition, all names and aspects of the godhead have a “Gayatri Mantra” or “rhymed verse” associated with them. There is a Gayatri for Ganesha, one for Shiva, one for Durga, one for Vishnu, one for Lakshmi, and so on. Most people are unaware of this fact. However when hindus refer to “Gayatri Mantra,” they refer to the most ancient and powerful of all Gayatris dedicated to Savitri or “glorious light.”

A parallel could be drawn here to the Zoroastrian religion. One manthra as the basis of all creation and source of all wisdom, known as “ahü vairyö” gatha or melody/Yasna 27.13; gives rise to other gathas and songs; Yasna 27.14-54.1 (with the exception of Yasna 42 and Yasna 52 .) These sacred incantations/gathas are considered to be thoughts, ideas and brilliant visions conceived in the superb mind of ahura mazda as creative formulas of the universe.

“ahü” is the same as sankrit asú; also the first element in the norse term “æsir/god” comes from same the root; “as/ans” namely “splendid, superb.” “vairyö” is related to Old.Norse. vilja, Lithuanian. velyti, english will, Old.English. wyllan, Goth. waljan “to will, wish, desire, to choose, to rule/command.” Hence, the most sacred manthra of Mazdyasna known as “ahü vairyö” literally means “the will to become superb or godlike.”

According to the Avestan Commentary of “ahü vairyö,” placed at Yasna 19; the key to understanding this most sacred manthra/gatha is the comprehension of the terms “ahü” and “ratü.” “ahü” points to “ahura” and becoming superb and godlike. “ratü” points to discovery, counsel and learning; O.N. raða; to explain, learn, rule, advise, counsel,” Old.High.German. ratan, Ger. raten “to advise, counsel, reason.” O.C.S. raditi “to take thought, attend to,” Old.Irish. im-radim “to deliberate, consider”.

“Ratü” is also connected to English “riddle,” German “rätsel” via notion of “understanding.” Also, the name of Anglo-Saxon king Æðelræd II (968-1016), lit. “good counsel,” changed into “elrond” in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings;” comes from the same ancient root.
In short; the close connection between “ahü” and “ratü” in the most sacred song/gatha of Zoroastrianism; means that only through a journey of learning, higher knowledge, understanding and discovery; we can become superb and like ahura.

It might be interesting to add that in the runic lore; “Raidô,” the rune of “ride, journey” has similar connotations and is closely related to the Avestan concept of “Ratü. In fact, all runic names/terms have a very similar sounding, linguistically related and almost exact gathic equivalent. Gathic poetry is embedded with riddles, word play, and a mantic, passionate, rich style. As an example of the incredible sophistication of the Gathas, see Prof. Martin Schwartz’ analysis of the parallel clusters of lexic, semantic, and phonic data which occur in concentric rings (‘Sound, sense, and “seeing” in Zoroaster: The outer reaches of orality’, in K.R. Cama Oriental Institute International Congress Proceedings, 1989, pp. 127 ff.).

Concerning ” ahü vairyö” also referred to commonly as “ahün-var;” we read in the Zoroastrian lore; that “Ahurmazd manifested ahün-var from endless spiritual lights from which itself phenomenal forms proceeded. The lord ahün-var together with the other enchanting songs/gathas of the beautiful religion are the seed of seeds. and source of all talents, gifts, sciences and dispensations; .” Throughout all Zoroastrian accounts,” ahü vairyö/ahün-var” is identical with daäná or “insight into the true nature of things/vision” which is in turn identical with “spiritual wisdom” or mazdá. “ahü vairyö/ahün-var” symbolizes the uncreated, primordial wisdom of mazdá.

We read in verse 81 0f farvardin Yasht that: ” the AUSPICIOUS MANTHRA “mãnthrö speñtö” is BROAD, WIDE “aúrúshö,” Greek eurys, Skt. uruh;” LIGHT, SHINNING and BRIGHT “raökhshnö,” ancient Germanic leukhtam, O.Fris. liacht, German Licht, and FAR-SEEING “frá-deresrö;” and is the SOUL “urvá” of ahúrá.” Therefore, THE GATHA MANTHRA or “ahü vairyö” and other sacred verses or GATHAS are represented as participating in the ultimate reality as its inner essence or the SOUL of ahúrá.

“Sacred Verse” is represented as “hidden knowledge” AVESTA and/or wisdom that serves as the formulating power of creation; a supreme vision. In discussing the nature of the “sacred poetry;” traditional Zoroastrianism asserts that “gatha/rhymed verse/manthra” is an “enchanting song” that can not only reveal knowledge and faculties we did not before possess, but can result in effects and in actions. In other words, it is a “staötá/staömá” literally that which causes “to stand forth, appear, bring into existence.” GATHA like the Sanskrit GAYATRI is wisdom/knowledge that “sets energies into motion and makes it happen. ” Hence, by word play it is associated with Avestan “gvö,” old germanic gai/gæ- gaen, German. gehen: to meet, reach a goal, go through.

This identification of the “sacred verse” with “power to accomplish” and “vision, understanding and insight,” provides that the various forms of gatha/manthra reflect the laws and structure of the various levels of consciousness/MINOO and the phenomenal universe, thereby reaffirming the “multidimensional” nature of the charms, spells, manthras and/or gathas.

Denkart in Book 3, question 9; acknowledges this identification of “sacred poetry” with “supreme vision and insight” and concludes; that “ahü vairyö” together with the other enchanting songs/gathas, are the timeless, spiritual essence of the beautiful religion. It also concludes that the knowledge derived from “ahü vairyö” and other gathas, when authentic and sincere, is also divine for it is “divinely inspired.” Hence, this divinely inspired human knowledge could and should be included in the Avesta lore. This means a body of sacred lore much larger than its “divine poetic core.” A comparison could be drawn between the innovative role of the “sacred poetic core/gathas” in Zoroastrianism and the very similar role of “Tao Te Ching” in Taoism.

Accordingly; the “God of light and wisdom” first made “ahün-var” or “yathá ahü vairyö,”‘ which is in the form of a “Gáthá or Melody.” From the 3 lines, and the 21 words of the ahün-var; have originated the 21 lores of Avesta/hidden knowledge; and the threefold division of Gáthá, Haðá Mánthrá and Dátá. The 7 “Gáthá/Mánthrá” lores are in “Verse,” and treat of the MINOO; spirit/mind, consciousness, thoughts, ideas and visions, in short the invisible and spiritual. The 7 “Haðá Mánthrá” volumes are accompanied poweful prayers to gathic formulas/manthras, by which men commune with their Maker and primeval energies of consciousness and being. The 7 Dátá books are in prose, and deal with sciences, art and temporal rules for the conduct of men in this world. They contain an account of the Creator and of the forces of nature created, of ethical and religious precepts.

It should be added; that this “collection of learning” became a “treasure trove” for sciences, math, music, medicine, astronomy, art, agriculture, animal husbandry, ancient indo-european legends and myths. Many portions of this ancient knowledge were later translated into arabic and gave rise to the islamic golden age, which in turn has directly and indirectly brought an end to the dark ages in europe, and thereby influenced culture and civilization in every continent.


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2 Responses to Zoroastrian Sacred Poetry; “Holy Book” OR creative rhthyms of verse, vision and discovery???

  1. zaneta says:

    this was fascinating and very refreshing to read-thanks so much

  2. Ross Coyle says:

    Ardeshir, as an admirer of your scholarship, I would be well pleased- Could you explain if willing, what is meant by the Vairyo prayer as manifesting ‘endless spiritual forms’? Do yo mean that what is within the remit of our dreams is in the remit of our creating?Ushta te

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