Ancient Váršt-mánsar commentary on the holiest formula of Zoroastrianism


Váršt-mánsar literally “most efficient mantras, mind formulas,” is the title of one of the 3 most ancient commentaries of the Poetic Gathas.  In the following series of articles, I will discuss the Váršt-mánsar commentary of each gathic, sacred song beginning with yathá-ahü-vairyö, the holiest formula of Zoroastrianism, the “will to become godlike.” 

According to this ancient commentary, yathá-ahü-vairyö teaches that whoever upholds the “godhood” of an ahü and “wisdom, counsel” of a ratü becomes worthy of the exquisite blessings of the physical worlds, and delights of the realms of the spirit/mind. 

Those deserve the “lordly mastery” of an ahü/ratü who in their very nature have “ingenuity, skill, vigor, and spirit.” Whom their inner selves correspond to the “godliness” of an ahü, and the “exceptional knowledge/right formulations” of a ratü, those who themselves uphold Godhood as a Model to imitate. 

(The ancient Avestan commentaries translate ahü as khodái “godhood.”Avestan ahü comes from the same root as the standard word for the old pagan deities in Norse literature áss, plural æsir. Ahü corresponds to Old English ōs “god, lordship,” and to the title ans(us) with which the Goths exalted their victorious Godkings. The rune *ansuz “titan, first gods” has the same meaning and connotation. Other cognates include Avestan ahûrá, aηhu, and Middle Iranian/Pahlavi öhr, Greek ἤϊος (êïos) “godly, lordly” (epithet of Phoebus,) Armenian այս (ays) “spirit,” Vedic असुर (ásura-) “titan, original gods,” and Hittite hassus “king.” See Didier Calin, Dictionary of Indo European poetic and religious themes.)

Love Me Zarathustra, (referring to vairyö “strongly desire, will” in the Avestan original,) as your supreme ahü “god,” and the “wellspring of sage advice” ratü, for you have the superb virtues of an ahü, “god,” and the “good judgment, right formulas,” of a ratü. Thus mortals shall uphold you as a Model.  

(In the Zoroastrian sacred lore, Ahûrá Mazdá is the highest ratü Model/Prototype of the celestial gods, and Zarathustra is the highest ratü Model/Prototype of the mortal men, See Vispered 2.4 as one such example. 

The term ratü is derived from Porto Indo European ∗h2er “to fit, discover the right formulation, proportions.” The ancient Avestan commentaries translate ratü as dastür “wise counsel.” Dastür is also the spiritual title for high-ranking Zoroastrian theologians, and expert jurists who are models/sources of emulation, and to whom Zoroastrian laity turn for authoritative advice and counsel. Dastürs provide religious interpretations on matters of law and rituals. Both in Ancient Avestan poetry, and Old English rune poems there is a clear connection between godhood and ōs “mouth, magic of speech, power to interpret, discover the right formulas.” We read in an Old English rune poem: Os byþ ordfruma ælere spræce//wisdomes wraþu ond witena frofur// eorla gehwam eadnys ond tohiht. The mouth is the source of all language// a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men// a blessing and a joy to every knight. Courtesy of Didier Calin.

To this day in Persian literature, the term dastür is used in the sense of “instruction, prescription, model, master copy, right formula, rule, order of the day.” Interestingly, the term dastür was borrowed into Arabic as “constitution, pillar, rule, regulation.”)

As diabolic forces, and those who sow chaos face off with you in battle, you shall prevail, since you are a “wise counsel, well versed in right formulas.” For Not Upholding a ratü,” and Not grasping a “brilliant essence” is the law of demons. 

Ahûrá Mazdá upheld the Auspicious Immortals as Gods, and Prototypes/Models, (referring to the dominion of the ahûrás in the Avestan original.) 

For the Godhood of Ahûrá Mazdá is one and the same with his dátári, “creativity, use of imagination and brilliant ideas.” 

(This refers to dazdá man.aηhö “establish, create through mind power” in the Avestan original. *dheh1 is an ancient Indo-European verb for divine creation which means “to set in place, lay down, or establish.” The phrase dazdá man.aηhö is also a masterful wordplay on the name of the Supreme God, Mazdá from the ancient Indo European root *mens–dheh “power of mind, imagination, ideas, to create and establish.” In the Avestan lore, The Auspicious Immortals of Mazdá are called vohü.nám dátárö, Giver of all good things.)

This too, that through “creative ingenuity/excellence,” a ratü fulfills desire, is lordly, and has god powers, is a creator, and is a restorer, and cleanser of the dispossessed (drigü.) 

Also, all who have embraced the wisdom/vision of Zarathustra belong to the supreme heaven, the house of music/songs, (garöthman.) 

ardeshir

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