Daena/Daæná and the individual eschatological journey of the spirit
The journey of the soul after the end of physical life is well elaborated on in the Avesta, specifically in the Hadókht Nask. A person’s consciousness meets, after the end of physical life, an exact counterpart of his or her daena/daæná. Daæná/Daäná is the shining light of sight, spiritual vision, the female angel of “luminous vision” that awaits us in our journey to the realms beyond.
Daena/Daæná is related to Lithuanian diena, Old Church Slavonic dini, Polish dzien, Russian den; literally “to shine; to see, to see through.” In ancient times it was believed that the eyes emitted a beam of light. This light would allow one to SEE and perceive. Daäná/ Daæná is the “visionary power” which enables the worldly being (gätik) to be coupled with his or her spiritual (menök) reality.
The earliest reference to the close connection between úrvaan “soul” “the power to choose, try, venture” and daena/daæná “ability to see” goes back to the poetic gathas of the prophet, (See Yasna 45.2, 5th rhymed verse line.)
According to the poetic gathas and the Avesta, the status of a soul hereafter is linked to its daena/daæná or “ability to see/perceive beauty.” (See Yasna 49.4, 2nd rhymed verse line)
Hadókht Nask tells us that when life departs, for three days and nights, the soul still lingers in this world. The soul’s bliss in each of those days and nights amounts to as much happiness that exists in the entire living world; (avavat shátöish úrva ishaiti ýatha víspem imat ýat júyö ang.húsh.)
At each dawn, the soul chants the 1st and 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 43.1; “úshtá to each and every, úshtá to all persons, for the GD of Genius and Light has destined fulfillment of wishes and kingship at will.” Ushta/úshtá, Proto Germanic Ôstarâ, Old Irish usah, Lithuanian auszra; refers to the “dawning light, bright new splendors and newfound horizons.”
At the dawn that rises after the third night following death, the soul has to cross the Chinvatö Perethü, the Chinvat Bridge, to reach the boundless Lights beyond. But, it is first daæná “ability to see beauty” that the souls will meet after death, (See Yasna 46.10, 5th rhymed verse line, Yasna 46.11, 3rd and 4th rhymed verse line, Yasna 51.13, 1st and 2nd rhymed verse line.)
Perethü comes from Proto Indo Europen root pertu “pass over” “bridge;” German brücke, Old English faran “to go, journey” Old Norse fjörðr. Chinvatö comes from the root chit, Sanskrit chid, Welsh chwydu, Old Irish scian, Gothic skaidan; “to cut, break open, to separate one thing from another.” Chinvat Bridge is the bridge that “manifests knowledge, reveals, make it all clear.” Chinvat is the port/passage where higher insight is revealed and a selection of the souls for journey to more wondrous dimensions is made.
First, the soul smells the most fragrant winds coming from the south. Amidst the most fragrant southerly winds and lush plants appear daäná/daæná and the soul comes face to face with her spiritual vision. It appears to the soul as a figure of supreme beauty, (kehrpa sraæshtánm, Compare with German Körper.)
The analogy between “luminous spiritual vision” and “an astounding beautiful figure” can also be traced back to the poetic gathas, (See Yasna 51.17, 1st and 2nd rhymed verse line.)
The soul asks; “What maid art thou, who art the fairest maid I have ever seen?” Daena/Daæná answers; I am thy own vision, ýá sva daæna; victorious and free from any sorrow. I was lovely and thou madest me still lovelier; I was fair and thou madest me still fairer; I was desirable and thou madest me still more desirable; I was sitting in a forward place and thou madest me sit in the foremost place, through beautiful thought, through beautiful speech, through beautiful deed of Thine; and so henceforth men adore/worship me because of my unison with Ahúrá Ma(n)zdá and having the vision and counsel of the Gd of Genius and Light.
Having the clear vision and counsel of the Gd of Genius and Light, (ahúrem mazdá(n)m darekhö- ýashtem.cha hám-parshtem.cha) is taken directly from the poetic gathas, See Yasna 33.6, the 3rd rhymed verse line.
darekhö , Greek draco, derkesthai” to see clearly, have clear vision;” parshtem from Avestan peresa/frashna, Lithuanian prasyti,Old Church Slavonic prositi, German fragen, Old English fricgan; to question, deliberate.
Daena tells the soul; while others were scorching bodies, cutting down trees; you were adoring good waters and the pure luminosity of ahúrá ma(n)zdá, delighting the virtuous coming from near and far, singing the sacred verse/gathas, (gátháws-cha srávayö.)
(It is the custom of the beautiful religion to plant trees, keep eternal flames and make offerings of holy water/rose water in memory of the departed souls.)
Then, the luminous soul passes the bridge to the realms beyond, taking the first step to the Paradise of beautiful thought (hú.mat,) hú means “essence, nectar, wine.” mat is “meditation, contemplation.” Hú.mat is the paradise of purest, most clear thoughts, meditations.
The second step that the luminous soul takes is to the paradise of beautiful words (hükht,) words, expressions that are nectar-like and delightful as wine. Hükht is the paradise of divine speech and words of power.
The third step that the luminous soul takes is to the paradise of beautiful action manifestation (hvarsht,) varsht is Old Norse wyrd/urðr, German werden; to become, come to pass, manifest. Hvarsht is the paradise of the purest, most delightful manifestation, realization.
The fourth step that the luminous soul takes is to the unbounded, infinite lights.
Another Avestan book, Vendidad (19.27) gives the account of the departed soul as follows; There comes that bright illumination. This light is gloom to the vicious soul, but it carries the luminous soul to the other side and guides him/her across the bridge to adorable godly powers, to deathless existence, to the verdant, enchanting throne (gátvô zaranyö) of ahura mazda, to the verdant, enchanting throne of the auspicious immortals, to the house of songs, to the company of those who strive for excellence.
The above mentioned Vendidad passage is also inspired by the poetic gathas, (See Yasna 28.5, the 2nd rhymed verse line and Yasna 46.16, the 3rd, 4th and 5th rhymed verse line.)
I dedicate this article to the loving soul of “Katayoun Seyedi.” Katayoun Jaan, You will always be in my heart, forever young. May your beautiful vision and your eye for beauty delight in the house of songs of ahura mazda, and in the boundless lights beyond. We will meet again one day.
I like to end this article by the following quote from lord of the rings;
Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way. Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it. Pippin: What? Gandalf?… See what? Gandalf: White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise. Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad. Gandalf: No… No it isn’t.