Perhaps no other doctrine in Zoroastrianism is as famous
as its "Doctrine of Good and Evil." It is also the most misunderstood and the
most misperceived one ... to the knowing. This is perhaps fitting, for not only
is it the first clearly ethical religious doctrine in history, but it was and
perhaps is the most satisfactory answer to what is known as the "problem of evil."
The Teaching as given in Gathas - Song 3
In Song 3 of the Gathas, Zarathushtra gives us the basics of Zoroastrian thinking
on Good and Evil. The very introduction in Verse 3:1 of this Song, he introduces
what he calls "Principles" to "those who wish to hear" and tells us that these
principles are "important to the wise."
A Brief study of Study of Sng 3.2
At this time it is vitally necessary that we do a briedf
study of Sng 3.2 and its immediate context, as well as where it fits in the over
all Gathic context.
us first start by reminding the readers that every single syllable in a Gathic
word is a unit of meter and every single line is a unit of thought . Let's not
forget also that every line has 2 sections called in Gathic pada, meaning feet.
In other words Zarathushtra is telling you right away how to translate his work.
1. You have to account for each syllable first, and then
get the meaning of the word from its meter that is from its syllables, because
this a poetic rhythmic composition, meant to be sung or chanted and the meter
makes the word understood and it preserves them, so the text cannot be manipulated
without breaking the meter and thus the meaning of the word.
2. Every single line of a verse or Stanza, stands on its
own two feet, that is the padas or line sections, which mean feet in Gathic,
are the basis that keeps the line doing its work, which is to carry a coherent
unit of thought by itself. This meaning is amplified and amplifies the meaning
of the next line and so forth and so on. This is no mere speculation but sound
theory and scholarship, developed and tested by Irach S Taraporewalla from his
study of the Aryan Gaetri meter, which has the same characteristics.
This is I believe an invaluable tool in translation, that is almost forgotten
today. It is an unappreciated and unaccepted discovery by Taraporewalla, which
ought to be brought up front and center in the field of Gatha translation. To
acknowledge this working theory and its clear results, is truly a crying and
vital need in the field of Gathic translations. Taraporewalla's systems simplifies
the tasks at hand, makes translations more coherent, there are less doubts about
meaning and construction, in short, its a superior system in my opinion. Plus
it once and for all lays to rest all the silly arguments like Zarathushtra wanted
to be obtuse and confusing on purpose, that have been espoused by some Western
Indeed this silliness, together with all the literal interpretations of cows,
pastures, husbandmen, etc; not only does violence to the rich poetic an allegorical
traditions of the Aryans, which are preserved, even to this day, in Iran, Pakistan,
Northern India and Afghanistan. But it also does violence to the very image of
the translators for their inconsistency. For these very same scholars, when they
look at the Bible, they don't see literal shepherds, sheeps, vines, mustard seeds,
etc. No siree, they recognize all of these as the allegories that they obviously
are, but do not give the same benefit to Zarathushtra, whom they insist to paint
as an agrarian reformer/shaman, drinking hallucinogenic beverages, smoking Cannabis
and dreaming up uncreated Devils. Now that we have laid the basis of translation
and remembering that the highest spiritua leaning should be attached to this
Hymns, we will look over he original in its phonetic adaptation (not on its own
alphabet because we lack the funds to acquire those, at present)
sraotâ gêushâish vahishtâ
avaênatâ sûcâ mananghâ
narêm narem xvaxyâi tanuyê
parâ mazê ýånghô (There is an error here, the
meter demands Yaaonghoo)
ahmâi nê sazdyâi baodañtô paitî
Hear the best with your ears
and ponder with a bright mind.
Then each man and woman, for his or
select either of the [following] two.
Awaken to this Doctrine of oursbefore the Great Event of Choice ushers in.
Now, as the custom is today, Jafarey divides the lines in padas, which is perfectly
alright, as long as we keep to the idea of one line, one unit of thought. Jafarey
is, in my opinion, practically a genius at translation. However, I believe that
by not following, strictly the system developed by Taraporewalla, he misses some
things. Of course no one is pefect. Tarap was neither, as he often defined a
word one way in his notes and translated it in another way and certainly Jafarey's
version is to me superior, because Taraporewalla had too much of an indentication
with the Parsi establishment and too much of a non-critical eye towards Hinduism
However, this does not change he fact that Taraporewalla's system is superior.
So what if his politics, his time and his tradition, led them astray some times.
The point is that his system, used impartially and without bias, will produce
a better, simpler, more accurate translation, as far as clarity of meaning goes.
Looking at the Avestan text and at Jafarey's translation, Jafarey clearly stays
within the bounds of Taraporewalla's system, except for the syllble's meanings.
So, outside of that, we are looking at a difference in terminology, more than
anything else: Lets look then at each syllable in each pada and see what we come
up with, remembering we are looking for the clearest and highest spiritual meaning,
while a literal translation does not make sense in a modern Western language.
So let's test out Taraporewalla's methodology and see what we can come up with.
Sraotaa: two syllables Srao = listen and taa is an emphatic form of the suffix
ta. Ta implies the state of being something, beingness Is truly untranslatable,
in an acceptable grammatical or logical way in a modern language with just one
word. In Sraotaa it's being listening with great care, since the extra a is emphatic.
So it's best to translate it "Listen attentively".
Geeushaaish: two syllables geeush aaish is being translated as ears but aaish
by itself is that Geeush is a form of geo or gao, that means worldly. So its
best to translate this with two words again: worldly ears.
Vahishtaa The very best or the very highest
avaeenataa a vaee na taa not seeing self/inner state of+ selflessly
Suuchaa suu light caa augmentative suffix Illumined Enlightened
Mananghaa man think anghas plural and emphatic form of to be
So we have the two padas forming a line. Literal translation would be:
Listen attentively (with) your earthly ears (In other words, this is not a spiritual
'hearing', but a physical one) (to) the highest (or very best)) Selflessly, (and)
(with a) thinking full (of) light
Which we can then render:
Listen attentively to the highest (of) worldly (things). Selflessly and with
In Song 3:4 these two are pictured as creating "LIFE" and "NOT LIVING", thereby
implying that when we choose the Spenta way, we choose the right way of living
and conversely when we choose the Aka way, it is indeed the wrong way of living……..which
is synonymous with not living at all. The verse further warns of "…..until
the end of existence ('angheush' - which can also be defined as 'world') the
worst mind (or Reasonings or Spirit ) is for the wrongful, and the best mind,
shall be for the Righteous"
Further in Song 3.11 we are explicitly told: "If you understand
the two principles of prosperity and adversity (Mainyus as explained in Song
3:1), established by the Most Wise and Great Creator, which are a long suffering
for the the lovers of illusion and deceit and a lasting good for the lovers of
the True and Right Order of Things, then you shall enjoy radiant happiness."
Thus the Zoroastrian doctrine clearly enunciates, that Evil in the Teaching
of the Saviors is placed inside mortal minds. It is produced by wrong,
retrograde, evil choices. On the other hand Good is also a product of righteous,
Spenta choices. Evil and Good are clearly ethical edicts, which have no real
existence outside Man's minds, Reasonings or Spirit and choices.
As a logical conclusion of this teaching, we, in the Teaching
of the Saviors, believe that there is no Evil in nature. Hurricanes, earthquakes,
volcanoes and sicknesses, which humans believe to be Nature's wrath or a manifestation
of Evil, or punishment for Man's misdeeds, are in Zoroastrianism ethically neutral.
That is they are neither good, nor bad in themselves. They are either the products
of chance, the existence of which is necessary to allow freedom of choice, or
they are a function of Asha, necessary to uphold creation.
For example, while earth quakes and volcanoes do cause consequences
that are destructive and disastrous to human existence, in reality they are necessary
to relieve the inner pressure of the Earth's crust. Without this relief of pressure,
the Earth would explode.
In the Teaching of the Saviors, God is totally good, thus
all His creation is good and is functioning as it was designed. Evil is the product
of man's wrongful choices and it is to be eliminated by good choices. Zarathushtra
expresses this beautifully as "delivering wrong into the hands of the True and
Right Order of Things." When mortals eliminate evil choices, they become progressively
more Whole (complete), eventually leading to immortality in the better existence
(the House of Good Mind) and in the very presence of our Creator.
Questions and/or opinions? You're welcome on the discussion