Copyright: @2011 Ardeshir Farahmand ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
ashem vohü/ashem vohuu; the second most sacred manthra;
The “ashem vohü/ashem vohuu” is the second most sacred manthra/verse of Zoroastrianism. “ashem vohü” consists of twelve words and is recommended to be recited 12 or at least 3 times. It has a unique flow, ease of movement and distinct rhythmic pattern. Its easy flow brings it wit…hin reach of simple people, who are unable to memorize the more intricate verses, and assures it a prominent place among the four most sacred charms.
It speaks in thought-provoking riddles, as the rest of the gathas or enchanting songs of the prophet do. This suggests that the hidden spiritual significance of the “ashem vohü” is due to both, the interdependence of its enigmatic poetical form and the magical effect it aims at; an effect which seeks to achieve through the repetition and variation of the four keywords.
The keywords are “ashem, ashái, ashem.”…..”vohü, vahishtem, vahishtái,” ……”astí,…astí,” …….”úshtá,…úshtá.” The other two words appearing in this verse are respectively “ahmái” and “hyat.”
The deliberate word-play is an invitation to the imagination; a bid to reflect, to meditate and to ponder on a host of meanings of the sacred formula, and the numerous relations between its multilayered words. In this respect the “ashem vohü,” is representative of Zarathushtra’s poetical style in the gathas as a whole.
“ashem, ashái, ashem,” come from “ashá or arthá.” In Avestan sh and rt are freely interchangeable. ashá or arthá is “art, skill, ingenuity,” the effortless ease of imagination, the truth or essence of ahúrmazd; excellence, virtue.
“vohü, vahishtem, vahishtái,” is literally wow; awe inspiring, awesome, amazing and delightful. All that is beautiful, marvelous, wonderful, lovely and good.
“astí,.. astí,” literally means “is,” from the base es- “to be;” Compare with German “ist,” and Lithuanian. “esti.”
“úshtá…úshtá,” refers to the “beams of early light, the all-cheering sunrise, new and pristine splendors.” úshtá can be compared with Proto.Germanic. “Ôstarâ,” Austrōn, from Proto Indo European root aus- “to shine, be bright” especially brightness/new light/splendor breaking in the direction of DAWN; Old.Irish. “usah,” Lithuanian. auszra.
In addition, “ahmái” is “am, to be;” Compare with Old.Norse. emi, Lithuanian. esmi.
The verse starts by stating that “ashá” or the truth, the artful essence, the ingenuity in GD/nature/being/existence; is awesome, beautiful, most wondrous (vohü, vahishtem.) The Avestan commentary of this verse at Yasna 20.1, declares that “awe, marvel, beauty, wonder,” is the very SELF (khvaätavä khvaätâtem) of the cosmic order. khvaä comes from the Aryan base s(v)e: self. The words khvaätavä khvaätâtem, used in the Avestan commentary, relates to a variation of the first three words of Yasna 39.5.
It then states that ashá or “ahüric ingenuity/art” is “brilliance, pristine brightness, new splendors and supreme happiness; it is úshtá.” Varsht-manthar commentary calls it the brilliance and illumination of the spirit. The “bag-an” or the divine commentary, compares it with the first words of Yasna 43.1. This úshtá, or quest for new splendors and brilliance; is combined with extreme joy and the fulfillment of wishes. It steers (kh-shatrá) the course of the cosmos; and is khúdáyi; “god-power, magnetic energy.” The connection between ashá or “artful essence,” úshtá or “pristine brilliance, supreme delight” and kh-shatrá, translated as khúdáyi, or the god power to steer the course of events and destiny, is elucidated in the second stanza, of the third line of Yasna 33.10 per the ancient commentary. úshtá is the indispensable quality of virtue.There is no merit in self-righteousness. Excellence and virtue go hand in hand with lovely delight. The truth of ahúrmazd is ingenious, it is playful and it glows with radiant happiness.
This wisdom is the bridge/passageway to other dimensions per Süd-kar commentary. This brilliant artfulness and glowing inner-happiness is the qualifying virtue of the god-rulers and the future saviors per varsht-manthar commentary and bag-an.
In the word “hyat” lies hidden the spiritual energy of all the mánthrá; mánthrá is focus, the reflection on “ashái vahishtái.” ashái vahishtái” is the beautiful, awesome truth, the artfulness of GD/being/existence/nature. From “ashái vahishtái” of this verse, is taken the 4th name of ahúrmazd or “asha vahishta” in Ohrmazd Yasht or the hymn to divine names of GD.