"We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, or the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die, nor do we choose the time or conditions of our death, but within all this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we shall live: courageously, or in cowardice, honorably or dishonorably, with purpose or adrift. We decide what is important and what is trivial in life. We decide that what makes us significant is either what we do or what we refuse to do. But no matter how indifferent the universe may be to our choices and decisions, these choices and decisions are ours to make. We decide. We choose. And as we decide and choose, so are our lives formed."
Joseph Epstein, Ambition the Secret Passion, page 298.
The choice that Zarathustra talks about is between the good and the evil, the truth and the lie.
Choice also involves thinking. And there are the consequences of choice. We shall therefore examine what Zarathustra has to say on all these topics when he
The Gathas have been translated variously by different scholars. Presumably there are still great difficulties in various passages. There are, however, large areas in the translations where there is agreement. All translations inspire you to achieve your best in the realm of Truth, Good Thinking, Service, Moral Courage, and the cultivation of the Inner Life. It is therefore more important to put into practice the message of the Gathas as perceived by the reader than to dwell upon the various interpretations that rightfully exercise a scholar's mind.
It is our misfortune that the sayings of our prophet have remained obscure for thousands of years, because the language changed soon after he passed away. Now that modern research has discovered the meaning of this treasure, it is even more unfortunate that the average Zoroastrian does not widely read them.
The main reason why the Gathas should be read is that in no other book are the fundamental principles of our religion so clearly laid down and so beautifully expressed. At the same time it helps us to evaluate some of the traditional beliefs we grew up with. For surely the thoughts of the founder should have precedence over the thought of any later tradition that grew up in the absence of the knowledge of the meaning of his words. A few examples will illustrate this point.
Is it morally right for us to believe that non-Zoroastrians cannot be formally admitted to our religion when Zarathushtra addressing God declares in Y44.10:
One of our most valued prayers next to the Yatha Ahu Vairyo and Ashem Vohu is the Yenghe Hatam which says:
Please note that the prayer asks us to revere all good men and women, not just Zoroastrians. The distinction is between the righteous and the non-righteous, not between Zoroastrians and non-Zoroastrians. How then do we reconcile this with our tradition of not letting non-Zoroastrians join us in our ceremonies? Are we really following the advice of this prayer when we prevent non-Zoroastrians from eating consecrated food or when we prevent a righteous non-Zoroastrian from even paying his last respects at the funeral of his dear Zoroastrian friend?
It is a traditional belief that prayer in itself is a religious act of the highest order and that reciting in the Avesta (by means of its superior "vibrations") can give the living and the dead the utmost benefit.
Compare this with what Zarathushtra says (emphasis added):
Clearly the emphasis is on good actions and therefore the most religious act that a man can perform is to deliberately choose (in spite of being assailed by temptation) to perform the right action. It is this act of free choice that is the supreme religious act.
Good thoughts are the source of good actions and the emphasis throughout the Gathas is on Good Thinking. It is in this realm of Good Thinking that prayer plays the most significant part. The main purpose of prayer, apart from asking for God's guidance and blessing, is to direct your mind to good thought and to inspire you to good deeds and therefore prayer is of the utmost importance not as a religious act but as an invaluable guide and help towards performing religious acts.
There is no doubt that prayers chanted with fervour do, with their soothing vibrations, bring one into a devotional mood. But this is true of all devotional prayers and songs in any language.
If the Avesta "vibrations" were the beneficial part of prayer it would relegate all other prayers in other languages to a secondary status. It is presumptuous for us to believe that a prayer in Avesta is more efficacious or more acceptable to God than that of any other of his children in any other language. Moreover, a belief in the magical effect of Avesta vibrations would also mean that Zarathushtra has put the wrong emphasis in his hymns when he says "For worship indeed choose ACTS of piety" or that "the Highest shall be reached by Deeds alone."
Let us then explore what our prophet has said on the topics of Choice, Good and Evil, and the Consequences that follow the choice of Good and Evil, and try to perceive and put into practice his message which according to Insler
I will for the main part let Zarathushtra's words speak for themselves. A few minutes of careful reading will show how effectively the prophet makes his points.
Choice and Free Will.
In these four verses, Zarathushtra explains to us the moral principles created by God for mankind. There are two paths to follow but man has been given free will and the capacity to choose between them. Everybody has to make his choice on his own with a clear mind.
Good and Evil,
There is more elaboration here of the two mentalities, the true and the false, the good and the evil. The two mentalities are totally opposed. Evil persons put their emphasis on the wrong values and regard the wicked as the great ones of the earth. With their alluring speech they mislead and distract the mind of man.
Where to get help in making your choice:
Divine wisdom helps:
Zarathushra will guide:
Ask God for help:
Help from the enlightened and from God:
In these verses Zarathushtra says that God and his Divine Wisdom help to resolve the doubts of persons who are genuinely striving for the good. Zarathushtra himself can show the way when evil attractions cloud man's mind. How can Zarathushtra guide us in a practical sense? I believe he is referring here to the guidelines given by him in the two venerated prayers of the Yatha Ahu Vairyo and the Ashem Vohu. Yatha Ahu Vairyo in my perception promotes the following values:
The Ashem Vohu promotes the following values:
Consequences of Choice.
Freedom of choice, therefore cannot be separated from the responsibility that comes with that freedom. You are thus the architect of your own future. Brick by brick, by your own daily actions you build the House of Songs or the House of Woe.
Let us conclude with a modern echo of what Zarathushtra said many centuries ago:
"I try to remember that we are given the freedom to choose to live ethically, or
choose to live otherwise. Having this freedom to choose and exercising it with integrity
and humility actually makes us strong. Every time you work out you meet with resistence.
If the weights are too light to provide that resistance therefore easy for you to lift,
you won't increase your strength. That's why the toughest ethical problems provide the
biggest opportunities for growth."
Yezdi Antia, one of the founding members and a past president of the Zoroastrian Society of Ontario, is the son of a punthaky, and was raised in Devlali, India. He was one of the two organizers of the First North American Zoroastrian Conference held in Toronto in 1975. He was ordained a priest before the age of twelve, and (direct quotation per Yezdi) "like many other priests, had learned the ritual but remained ignorant of the religion." In 1967 he came to Toronto, Canada, as a civil engineer and volunteered his services as a priest whenever they were required. He read numerous books on Zoroastrianism, but according to Yezdi, it was only when he came upon a translation of the Gathas that he began to acquire a coherent picture of the fundamental principles of the religion. In his studies of the Gathas, he uses the translations of Taraporewala, Insler, Sethna, and D.J. Irani.
(Quotations from the Gathas)
"...Him who left to our will (to choose between) the
"...The Wise Lord is virtuous..."
"...this Zarathushtra chooses
"...Virtuous is truth and the rule of good thinking.
"... the truthful Lord,
"...Him, the Lord who is famed to be
"Come hither to me...
"...With words stemming from
"I know in whose worship
"...Reflect with a clear mind --
"...let a person listen...
"I...shall serve all of you, Wise Lord,
"...I shall always worship all of you,
"...One chooses that rule of
"...be present to me
"...speak, Wise One, ...
"Wise Lord, together with this virtuous spirit
"...who shall enlighten his guest in the good
Approximately four centuries ago William Shakespeare composed a body of works that, by most estimations, remains unparalleled in the history of English literature. Shakespeare's dramas, in particular, are lauded as demonstrations of their author's marvelous insight into the intricacies of human nature. In reading these dramas, one is not only entertained by their stories and enchanted by their exquisite language, one is also instructed in the complexities of human behavior. Shakespeare rarely, if ever, ventured an explanation for the ultimate basis of human behavior; he astutely observed it and superbly recreated it in the motives, words, and actions of his dramatis personae.
Almost four millennia ago, Zarathushtra is believed to have composed the hymns we now know as the Gathas. In the verses of the Gathas, the Prophet not only demonstrated a penetrating understanding of human nature, he also presented an inspired view of its basis in the form of a philosophy that was rooted in a vision of the nature of the universe as a whole. It is this vision of the ultimate causes and relationships that sets the Gathas apart from the world's exalted literature and establishes them as revelation.
As revelation, the Gathas are an assertion of Truth. Throughout the Gathas, Zarathushtra refers to his revelation as truth that stands in opposition to druj (falsehood, deceit) and is exclusive of other, conflicting claims to truth (Y45.3).1 The Prophet has communicated, as revealed to him, a perception of Reality, i.e. a description of the "way things are" in both the material and spiritual realms. The revelation as contained in the Gathas is not exhaustive in that the Prophet did not expound on every detail of the universe. On the other hand, the Gathic message is sufficent; it is adequate in content and detail to serve as a guide to a moral life. Although Zarathushtra's vision of Reality has many aspects, I believe that the concept of Asha is central to its understanding. This concept has been discussed in previous essays2, but a few major points should be reiterated here.
As a characteristic of Ahura Mazda the creator, Asha is manifested in His creation as Natural Law with its implication of Order. This underlying principle is further reflected in the human (moral) realm as individual Righteousness and collective Justice. The relationship between righteousness and justice on the one hand and natural order on the other is wonderfully illustrated in Ushtavaiti Gatha (Y44). In these verses Zarathushtra freely mingles ideas about the creation and ordering of the material world with ideas about moral righteousness. This intermingling reflects the Prophet's vision of the unity of Ahura Mazda's will in regard to the material and moral. Asha is clearly manifested in the operation of natural law in the material realm and stands as a model for the way things ought to be in the moral realm. The material creation is passively driven by Asha, but a variable is present in the moral realm -- humankind, possessing free will and a capacity to reason, must choose or not choose to think, speak, and act in harmony with Asha.
This choice is implicit in Ahunavaiti Gatha where the Prophet invites all who hear his words to confirm their truth.
This remarkable statement places Zoroastrianism in marked contrast to those religions that seek to support the veracity of their revelation by demonstrations of "miracles" or ask adherents to accept the revelation by faith. In effect, Zarathushtra says "This is the nature of Reality. Carefully examine and think about what I am teaching you. If your thoughts and experience lead you to conclude that what I am saying is really the way things are, you must decide how you will live your life in light of the truth of my revelation." It is noteworthy that this verse contains two directives. Zarathushtra asks his hearers to examine his message and determine by their own reason how well it reflects reality as they are able to discern it. His exhortation, however, does not stop there. He then asks them to respond to that message. Mere intellectual assent to the validity of Zarathushtra's teachings is not enough. Acceptance of the Prophet's message as truth demands action in concert with that truth. The same faculties that allow those who hear Zarathushtra's message to judge its reality also endow them with the freedom (or perhaps more aptly, the responsibility) to choose to live in harmony with that reality.
The choice to live in harmony with the truth of Zarathushtra's revelation is a choice to live according to Asha and in pursuit of truth, righteousness, and justice. It is clear from Yasna 30.2 that this decision is personal and must be made by each individual for him or herself. The decision is based upon an individual's ability to discern truth and respond to it by making a moral commitment. There is no other prerequisite of any kind attributable to the Prophet in the Gathas. Furthermore, the choice to live a life of Asha must be viewed as continuing or repetitive. Zarathushtra does not offer his followers instantaneous moral perfection. The Prophet's followers must, along with him, continually dedicate their lives to Ahura Mazda and their every thought, word, and deed to righteousness (Y33.14). In practice, this dedication involves an initial personal conviction of the truth of Zarathushtra's revelation and an attendant decision to live according to Ahura Mazda's will. Subsequently each motive, word, and act must be conformed to the original decision to pursue righteousness. Because of the inner conflict that characterizes human morality (Y30.3-6), the temptation to choose wrongly will always exist; however, those who have made a steadfast decision for righteousness and repeatedly choose to act and speak with upright motives develop a conscience attuned to the will of Ahura Mazda and a desire for goodness (Y48.4). An abundance of happy consequences arising from such single-minded dedication to living according to Ahura Mazda's will and the truth of Zarathushtra's revelation are recorded in the Gathas. One outcome is mentioned in Yasna 30.9-10:
The life of the individual who pursues righteousness is made new, and he or she, along with all others who seek righteousness above all else will be united in overcoming evil and "making the world progress toward perfection."3 These verses provide insight into the transforming power of dedication to righteousness. First of all the individual's life is renewed. This individual then becomes a part of what might be called a "community of the righteous" (Sethna uses the designation "brotherhood of Ahura Mazda") which participates in perfection of the world. Perhaps, something may be added here by noting that Taraporewala's word-for-word translation indicates that this community or brotherhood lives "through Asha, in loving companionship".4 Taraporewala parenthetically adds "with Thee" to indicate that he understands that the loving companionship exists between the righteous ones and Ahura Mazda, though this specification is not included in the original Avestan. This interpretation is undoubtedly true. Those dedicated to righteousness indeed enter into a loving relationship with Ahura Mazda. I believe, however, it would be permissible to also interpret this verse to include the loving companionship of the righteous with one another. The dedication of those true followers of Zarathushtra to Ahura Mazda's will is such that the pursuit of righteousness becomes central in their lives and is alone a basis for love of their fellows despite any other superficial characteristic that might otherwise divide them. Dedication to righteousness in response to Zarathushtra's revelation of reality is the true basis for Zoroastrian community.
Returning briefly to the contrast between Shakespearean drama and Zarathushtra's Gathas, we may now add another point of difference. Each in its own way depicts truth; however, the insights of Shakespeare's drama may be affirmed, debated, marveled at, or appreciated and then forgotten with impunity. The hearer of the message of the Gathas must respond to that message.5 The sincere confession of Zarathushtra's teachings as a true conceptualization of reality is, therefore, much more than an admiration for their beauty or an intellectual assent to their validity. To be impressed by the sublimity of the Gathas while not living by their precepts is a relegation of the Prophet's message to the realm of lofty literature, not its acceptance as a revelation of Reality. The confession of Zarathushtra's message as a description of the way things really are in the cosmos is a life-changing event that represents the beginning of spiritual growth toward the moral ideal of Asha in conformity with the will of Ahura Mazda.
© James K. Lovelace, 1990.
Dr. James K. Lovelace is currently Chairman of the Department of Biology in the Division of Experimental Therapeutics at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington D.C. He received a Bachelor of Science from Wofford College, a Master of Science from Tulane University, and earned a doctorate in Immunology and Infectious Diseases from The Johns Hopkins University. A student, both formally and informally, of philosophy for more than twenty years, Dr. Lovelace was introduced to Zoroastrianism in the early '80s by a fellow graduate student, now his wife, Dr. Rubina Patel. They have studied the Gathas together for approximately 4 years, relying upon translations by Taraporewala, Sethna, Irani, and most recently, Jafarey, and they have spearheaded the Gatha Study Group of the Zoroastrian Assn. of Metropolitan Washington (ZAMWI). Dr. Lovelace would like to dedicate this essay to the memory of his late mother-in-law, Mrs. Meher J. Patel, whose quiet devotion and selflessness taught him more than the reading of many books.
"What light is to the eyes, what air is to the lungs,
what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man."
"...Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be
purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what
course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Editor's Note: The Freedom to Choose.
This past year [1989-90] has been an historic one. The sweet breath of liberty has swept over our planet, and millions of individuals, in stunning displays of courage and determination, have demonstrated again and again, often at severe cost, that the human spirit hungers for the freedom to choose.
We have seen unarmed, individuals in the Phillipines blocking tanks and placing flowers in the muzzles of guns. We have seen in Tienanmen Square, individuals from all walks of life, the old and the young, cry out for a dream of freedom, and pay for it with their blood and their agony. We have seen East Germans vault embassy walls for freedom. We have seen people hammering holes in that symbol of oppression -- the Berlin Wall. We have seen the totalitarian governments of Europe fall, one by one, as millions of people took to the streets (with candles in their hands and fire in their hearts), expressing their hunger for liberty, demonstrating that the freedom to choose is as essential to the human spirit as food is to the body.
The moral and economic bankruptcy of oppressive dictatorships demonstrates the truth that without liberty, there is only stagnation and decay, without the freedom to choose, there can be no growth.
More than 3,000 years ago, Zarathushtra came to the same conclusion.
He teaches that we have to make choices. As a result, we gain experience. Through experience we attain wisdom. Of course, this raises some interesting questions: (1) how do we make these choices? and (2) what do we choose?
In a break from traditional notions of religious dogma, Zarathushtra does not command us to obey without question the dictates of any religious authority. The obedience to human authority which he visualizes is thinking obedience:
Indeed, with pleasing consistency, even when he prays for guidance from God Himself, it is through good thinking that he asks God to instruct him.
According to Zarathushtra's teaching, no authority has the right to demand of us blind, unquestioning, unthinking obedience. And this is eminently sane. For even the divine is made known to us through human faculties and agencies. And if an authority or agency is human, it is, by definition, fallible. It is better by far to make our own mistakes than it is to live the mistakes of others. For it is only when we think for ourselves, make choices, make mistakes and learn from our mistakes that we evolve to higher levels of understanding. On the other hand, if we institutionalize, venerate, and follow without thought or question, the ideas (and mistakes) of others, how do we grow? How do we learn? A slave mentality is not conducive to wisdom.. Zarathushtra tells us that we have the freedom -- and the responsibility -- of making our own choices, independently, on an individual basis, and that we must do so with reason and intelligence:
This means, among other things, that we must have the courage to use the minds God gave us to think for ourselves. The collective cop-out ("I'm only following orders" "This is the way it has always been") is not an available Zarathushtrian option.
Of course, this principle of individual choice has an important corollary. It also requires us to respect the other fellow's right to think for himself, although it is a good and friendly thing to share knowledge, and lend (and receive) a helping hand:
Next, we come to the question: what do we choose? At one level, we choose good rather than evil; truth instead of deceit; what's right instead of what's wrong (Y30). But Zarathushtra's thinking is never one-dimensional, and we find a more subtle and meaningful framework for choice in the Ahuna Vairya prayer (Yatha Ahu Vairyo), and in the values with which Zarathushtra defines divinity -- truth, good thinking, a benevolent spirit, good rule, benevolent service, completeness and immortality.
The Ahuna Vairya has been described in the later literature as a magic formula for defeating evil. The first few words of the prayer tell us that just as God is to be chosen, so too is the judgment in accord with truth.2 If we think of this injunction in terms of Zarathustra's definition of divinity, it is apparent that in exercising our judgment, each time we choose truth, we choose God. Each time we choose reason (good thinking), we choose God. Each time we choose benevolence, we choose God. Each time we convert those choices into actions stemming from good thinking -- actions of benevolent service to the rule 3 of truth and good thinking, we bring to life the "magic" Ahuna Vairya formula for defeating ignorance, deceit, violence, and all the other "evils" that stem from wrongful choices, thereby "saving" ourselves and our world. In the Vohu Xshathra Gatha Zarathushtra says:
To me, this undogmatic dogma -- the freedom to choose -- is one of the loveliest and most endearing aspects of Zarathushtra's teaching. It not only generates respect for others, and a sense of self worth, it is an expression of confidence -- that inspite of our many limitations and shortcomings, each one of us has what it takes to ultimately make it.
Dina G. McIntyre
Editor's Note: Some Historical Facts.
The earliest historical writer to mention Zarathushtra was Xanthus the Lydian, who lived at or before the time of Herodotus. Xanthus was of the opinion that Zarathushtra lived some 6,000 years before the Achaemenian emperor Xerxes, 1 which would have put him at about 6,500 BC. At the other end of the spectrum, as well as certain Pahlavi works, Arta Viraz Namak and Selections of Zatspram, place Zarathushtra's date at 300 years before Alexander (i.e. 630 BC), 2 and the Persian poet Firdausi, (perhaps confusing Zarathustra's patron king Vishtaspa with a much later king of the same name), also puts his date at about 600 BC. Today many scholars, based on the metrical and linguistic evidence of the Gathas themselves, put Zarathushtra's date at between 1,000 BC to 1,400 BC, although a few favor an earlier date, while Professor Gershevitch favors a much later date. 3
Tradition has it that when Alexander defeated the Persian empire around 330 BC, the religious texts that had been written up to that time were destroyed. 4 Roughly 400 years later, the Parthian King, Valkash ordered the scattered remnants to be collected, and about 200 years after Valkash, the founder of the Sassanian dynasty, Ardeshir, and his successor Shahpuhr completed the job. 5 However, the Dinkard tells us that all that could be recovered of the lost Zoroastrian texts at that time was only as much as any one priest could retain in his memory. 6 Those memorized words were reduced to writing in the Sassanian times -- more than 1.300 years after Zarathushtra, but by then understanding of the Avestan language had grown dim. Indeed, the Sassanians brought together a whole group of compositions by different generations of authors, which they collectively called the Yasna, without appreciating that some of these were Zarathushtra's own compositions, written in a more ancient form of language than normal Avestan. This fact demonstrates that the Sassanians had but an imperfect understanding of the Avestan language, 7 and unfortunately, when the Sassanian empire was destroyed by the Arab invasion in about 650 AD knowledge of the ancient texts went into further decline. Today, we have only copies all of which post-date the Arab invasion. 8 Indeed, had it not been for the practice of reciting these ancient works as part of the memorized ritual, all knowledge of them likely would have been lost. Dastur H. Mirza tells us:
In light of Al-Biruni's account, the rebirth of Zoroastrian learning a couple of hundred years after the Arab invasion, as demonstrated by the writings of Mardan Farukh, is truly extraordinary, and demonstrates how deep were the well-springs of Persian culture, and their regard for learning. Dr. I. V. Pourhadi, in a lecture delivered in memory of the Sassanian poet Borbad, cites an ancient Persian proverb thus:
One can understand why. So, from the time Zarathushtra founded the religion to the present time, we have a period of about 3,000 or more years. Over the millennia, between the many language changes that naturally occurred over so long a period of time, and the historical dislocations, persecutions and migrations, it is not difficult to understand why little knowledge survived regarding the original ancient language in which Zarathushtra taught. 11 Indeed, the wonder is that anything survived at all. Consequently, most Zoroastrians relied, on the later traditions for their religious knowledge.
So how do we know today whether we have any of Zarathushtra's original teachings? Well the story is an interesting one. It all started with a Frenchman in the second half of the 18th century. Anquetil Duperron purchased some manuscripts from a Zoroastrian priest in India, who, according to Duperron, also instructed him in the Avestan and Pahlevi languages. Duperron published a supposed translation of the Zend Avesta in Europe which created quite a sensation among the intellectuals of that day. A few scholars, primarily in England, thought that the whole thing was a fabrication, and that no such language as Avestan really existed, but most scholars in Europe were convinced of the authenticity of the manuscripts.
Life is full of ironies, and it so happened, that one of the doubters, William Jones, made an off-handed remark which triggered a major breakthrough. He said that when he ran his eye over a glossary of Avestan words in Duperron's work, he was greatly surprised to find that six or seven words in ten were pure Sanskrit, and even some of their inflexions conformed to the rules of Sanskrit grammar. 12 That opened up a whole new field of inquiry, and about fifty years later, a gifted Danish philologist, Rask, demonstrated that not only was Avestan closely related to Sanskrit 13 but its grammar also bore some resemblance to Latin. 14 And it was theorized that along with Sanskrit and Latin, Avestan was an early decendant of a parent Indo-European language.
Subsequently, Eugene Burnouf, Professor of Sanskrit at the College de France in Paris, and successive European scholars made an extensive and meticulous analysis of Avestan from all available manuscripts. Using principles of comparative philology they decoded the grammatical structure of this ancient language, and the meaning of its words, with the help of both Sanskrit and the Pahlavi works. This systematic analysis made them aware that Duperron's translation was full of errors, and in some parts was largely imaginary 15 and also that there were some serious inaccuracies in the Pahlavi free translations of the Avesta, 16 although the Sassanians had certainly retained some knowledge of the Avestan language. 17
But the most exciting discovery of all was that embedded in the Avestan Yasna, was a set of poems with distinctive poetic meters, and in a language even more ancient than normal Avestan -- a language which was a sister language to Vedic Sanskrit. Once the connection was made with Vedic, this group of poems -- the Gathas -- started to yield their secrets. The quality of the poetry, the language, and the thought contents of these poems was found to be quite extraordinary, and today, based on the internal evidence of the Gathas themselves, most scholars believe that they were composed by Zarathushtra. Reading the message of the Gathas, it is easy to understand why Zarathushtra gained such a reputation for wisdom in the ancient (and modern) world.
Zoroastrians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not hesitate to avail themselves of this new scientific knowledge. K.R. Cama studied comparative philology under Spiegel and brought this knowledge to the Zoroastrian community of his day in India. 18 Taraporewala studied these techniques under Bartholomae, and Dhalla studied under Jackson. And today we enjoy the fruits of their works, as well as the researches of others.
Regrettably, there is a tendency amongst some of us to regard the so-called "western" scholars with hostility. This is unfortunate, because what we are doing is shutting ourselves off from the significant advances that have been made in understanding the Gathic language since those early days. In my view, it makes no difference whether a head is an "eastern" head or a "western" head. It's the knowledge inside the head that counts. In decoding the Gathic language, each generation builds on the discoveries and knowledge of preceding generations. We need to keep up with these new developments on a continuing basis. We need to produce more Camas, more Taraporewalas, and more Dhallas to learn these advanced philological techniques, and teach them to our children so that knowledge of the words of our prophet will live again -- as familiar to us as they were to his own disciples.
There are only a few Universities in the United States and Europe which have knowledge of comparative philology as it relates to the Gathic language. Adults of my generation who have to earn a living can't leave their families and their jobs and hike off to some distant university to learn these dual disciplines. But it's not too late for our youngsters, if we can find some way to encourage such studies. I believe that is the key to the survival of Zarathushtra's message. Once our youngsters become aware of his ideas, I think they will be hooked for life. Because ideas that touch the mind and the heart survive long after armies and empires.
Dina G. McIntyre
"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it;....What then is the spirit of liberty?...The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; ... which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women;...which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias;...[it] is the spirit of Him who... taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest."
Judge Learned Hand of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, The Spirit of Liberty a Lecture delivered May 21, 1944.
This page was last updated on Friday, February 11, 2005.