Nemö, “hail, prayer in the poetic gathas,” Persian namaz


Nemö, “hail, prayer in the poetic gathas,” Persian namaz

The common word for “mental focus/prayer” in the poetic gathas is nem.añg.há, nem.añg.hö, nema, nemas, nemö.

Greek neuein, Latin numen from nuere “to nod,” Proto Indo European neu; “nod, give regard to, assent;” Vedic नमस् namas नम nama, and नमो namo are almost identical and all come from the same root.

The word is commonly translated as “making a bow, salutation, hailing by inclining the head in connection with a divine name or god-force.”

However in the poetic gathas and the Avestan lore, nemö is more like “turning the focus of mind/thoughts onto something, reflection, giving regard to,” Compare Greek noesis, “thought, mental focus.”

Also Persian namáyesh, nemú-dan come from the same Avestan root, namely “allow or cause to be visible, a display of something impressive.”

Hence the gathic nem.añg.há, nem.añg.hö, nema, nemas, nemö is “a show of godly powers and names through mental focus and prayer.”

In fact, the sacred gathic poetry is all a prayer/mental focus that reveals/manifests the god-powers of Ma(n)zdá; the God of mind-energy, passion, spirit, creativity.

The common shia moslem word for prayer or namáz comes from the Avestan root nema, nemö.

Also the Japanese Buddhist recitation called Namu Amida Butsu (南無阿弥陀仏, “Hail the Amitābha Buddha” is most likely influenced by both Sanskrit and the gathic Avestan formulas. In fact, Amitabha Buddhism shows a great deal of Zoroastrian influence.

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3 Responses to Nemö, “hail, prayer in the poetic gathas,” Persian namaz

  1. Wayne Baxley says:

    As the founder of, and one of the 3 admins of the facebook group “Ta Ahura”, I also give this article 5 stars……..I do have one question and that would be at what point/date did “Nemö” started appearing in the gathas……..this helps, of course, settle some differences of opinion on the actual age of Zoroastrianism.

  2. John Easter says:

    I took this information from a larger paper I wrote about the connection between Buddhism and Zoroastrianism in general and rearranged it for here.

    Amitabha Buddhism and Zoroastrianism
    John Easter

    (Parallels to the Ahuna Vairya prayer and Zoroastrianism in Mahayana Buddhism)
    Saying the Ahuna Vairya to cross the Chinvat Bridge in Yasna 19.6 is mirrored and echoed by the reciting of another mantra called the Nianfo(in Chinese) or Nembutsu(in Japanese) in Pure Land Buddhism which is a major branch of Mahayana Buddhism. The entire mantra is Namo Amitabhaya in the original Sanskrit, Namo Emituofo(or Amituo Fo) in Chinese, and Namu Amida Butsu(Buddha) in Japanese.

    Pure Land Buddhism, mostly in the form of the schools called Yuzu Nembutsu Shu, Jodu Shu, Jodo Shin Shu, and Ji Shu, is the largest version of Buddhism in Japan. The basic Pure Land practice itself is also a part of Obaku Shu, a Japanese Zen school, and Mahayana Buddhism in general within China where it never became a specific Buddhist sect. It is also in Mahayana Buddhism within other East Asian countries such as Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

    (Other buddhas and buddha lands)
    The Buddha, specifically Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni(of the Shakya clan), said that there are many other buddhas besides himself in both the older Theravada and later Mahayana texts. One of these other buddhas is called Amitabha who was said to create a buddha field or special realm called Sukhavati which means land of bliss.

    It is meant for sentient beings that could not become enlightened and obtain Nirvana while alive so that after death they could avoid both aimless rebirth and going to Naraka(the Hell realms). As well as the good but temporary deva(god) realms described in both the Buddhist and Jain cosmologies.

    (Parallel to Ahura Mazda in Mahayana Buddhism)
    Namo means homage or hail and Amitabhaya(Amitabha) literally means infinite light. It is a phrase that can just as easily and equally be applied to Ahura Mazda. Garo Demane of Ahura Mazda, or Heaven, is even called Endless Light in later texts.

    “Amida(Amitabha) is barely mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, and his worship probably originated in central Asia, perhaps based on an Iranian original. He may well have emerged from Zoroastrian scriptures, which worship him in a similar way to the Amidists.

    In Zoroastrianism, those who pray to Ahura-Mazda and rely on his mercy will end in the Paradise of Boundless Light, which they may attain if they repeat the proper formula.”
    -Michael Ashkenazi, Handbook of Japanese Mythology p. 49

    From Buddhism in Central Asia pp. 143-144 by B.N. Puri
    “According to the Tibetan historian of Buddhism, Taranatha, Amitabha’s worship could be traced back to Saraha or Rahulbhadra, a great magician, and reputed to be the teacher of Nagarjuna, who saw Amitabha in the land of Dhingkota and died with his face turned towards Sukhavati.

    The name Saraha does not sound Indian, probably a Sudra represented in Tibetan scrolls with a beard and top knot and holding an arrow in his hand. Thus, the first person whom tradition connects with the worship of Amitabha was of low caste and bore a foreign name. He saw the deity in a foreign country, and was represented as totally unlike a Buddhist monk.

    While it cannot be proved that he came from the lands of the Oxus or Turkestan, there seems little difficulty, according to Eliot, in accepting Zoroastrian influence on this cult or worship. The main principles of Amidist doctrine are that there is a paradise of light belonging to a benevolent deity and those good men invoking his name would be led to that region.

    The highest heaven (following after the paradises of good thoughts, good words and good deeds) is called ‘Boundless Light’ or ‘Endless Light’. In this connection reference might be made to this region and its master, Ahura Mazda, who are constantly spoken of in terms implying radiance and glory. It is also a land of song, like that of Amitabha’s paradise re-echoing with music and pleasant sounds.”

    “It is proposed by Eliot, that the chief features of Amitabha’s paradise are Persian, only his method of instituting it by making a vow is Buddhist. While numerous paradises are the outcome of Indian imagination, and the early Buddhist legend tells of the Tushita heaven, the Sukhavati is unlike these early Buddhist abodes of bliss. It appears suddenly in the history of Buddhism as something exotic, ‘grafted cleverly on the parent trunk, but sometimes overgrowing it’.

    Eliot equally poses the question of tracing connection between Sukhavati and the land of Saukavanstan governed by an immortal ruler and located by the Bundehist between Turkestan and Chinistan. While there is no etymological relationship, it is likely that Saukavasta, being well-known as a land of the blessed, might have influenced the choice of a significant Sanskrit word with a similar sound. This Zoroastrian influence is traced by this British diplomat scholar even in the concept of Avalokita who is also connected with Amitabha’s paradise.”
    -B.N. Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia pp. 143-144

    (The Pure Land sutras)
    The 4 main Pure Land sutras of Mahayana Buddhism about Amitabha and his Sukhavati realm include the Longer Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, the Shorter Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, the Amitayur-dhyana Sutra, and the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra, which is the oldest.

    (Quote from the oldest Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra about Amitabha)
    “dwell alone in a place and contemplate Amida Buddha of the western quarter where he lives now. According to the teaching received, one should remember: ten million kotis of Buddha-lands away from here, there is a land called ‘Sukhavati.” “The Buddha continued, “Bodhisattvas in this land can see Amida Buddha by single-mindedly contemplating him. Now, let it be asked what method of practice they should perform in order to be born in that Land. Amida Buddha relies, ‘Those who desire to be born should call my Name unceasingly. Then you will attain birth.”
    -Reverend Hisao Inagaki, Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra

    Compare to the more ancient Avesta.

    (Yasna 19.6 from the Yasna section of the Avesta outside of the Gathas)
    “And whoever in this world of mine which is corporeal shall mentally recall, O Spitama Zarathushtra! a portion of the Ahuna-Vairya, and having thus recalled it, shall undertone it, or beginning to recite it with the undertone, shall then utter it aloud, or chanting it with intoning voice, shall worship thus, then with even threefold (safety and with speed) I will bring his soul over the Bridge of Chinvat, I who am Ahura Mazda (I will help him to pass over it) to Heaven (the best life), and to Righteousness the Best, and to the lights of heaven.”
    -L. H. Mills, The Zend Avesta, Part 3 of 3 pp. 193-194

    (Ahuna Vairya/Yatha Ahu Vairyo in Gathic Avestan)
    Yatha Ahu Vairyo atha Ratush
    Ashat chit hacha;
    Vangheush dazda Manangho
    Shyothananam angheush Mazdai;
    Kshathrem cha Ahurai
    A yim daregobyo dadat vastarem.

    (Ahuna Vairya/Yatha Ahu Vairyo in English)
    Just as the Lord [Ahu] is all-capable [Vairya] and worthy of veneration [Vairya], so also the Prophet [Ratu]-by reason of his great store of Truth and Righteousness [Asha].
    The gifts of the Loving Mind [Vohu Mano] are for those who perform deeds for the Great Lord of Existence.
    The Power [Kshathra] of the Almighty is indeed his, who makes himself a protector of the poor, the needy and the meek.
    -Ardeshir Mehta, Zarathushtra pp. 72-74

    (Yasna 46.10 from the Gathas by Zarathushtra.)
    “Whoever, man or woman, does what Thou, O Mazda Ahura, knowest to be the best in Life. Whoever does right for the sake of Right(Asha), Whoever in authority, governs with the aid of the Good Mind(Vohu Manah); I(Zarathushtra) shall bring all these to join in songs of Thy Praise, Forth, shall I with them cross the Bridge of Judgment(Chinvat Perethu/separating passageway).”
    -D. J. Irani, The Gathas: The Hymns of Zarathushtra p. 39 (Parentheses and their contents added by me to show important Gathic Avestan terms.)

  3. John Easter says:

    “Further, it is also said in the Zoroastrian text that whoever recites the ‘Ahuna-Variya formula’, his soul would be led by Ahura Mazda to ‘the lights of heaven.’ The repetition of Ahura Mazda’s name is repeatedly reported to be efficacious enough to lead the person to paradise.”
    -B.N. Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia p. 144
    (See Yasna 19.6 about the Ahuna-Variya and Yasna 27.13 for the Ahuna-Variya)

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