Zarathushtra - (Zoroaster)






Volume 6





Haurvatat and Ameretat

Professor K. D. Irani


Understanding these two concepts requires that their roles in the scheme of the theological framework of the Gathas be grasped. Haurvatat and Ameretat are members of that group that later came to be called the Amesha-spenta. The six Amesha-spenta fall into three functionally related pairs. The first is the pair of Vohu-mana and Asha; the second of Khshathra-vairya and Armaiti; and the third of Haurvatat and Ameretat.

In the first pair, Asha represents the Truth or Right, and Vohu-mana, the good mind, which is the capacity that can grasp the truth of a situation, i.e. the appropriate state which ought to be, and also recognize whether that state is present or absent in the concrete. The Truth grasped by the good-mind becomes the Moral Imperative.

In the second pair, Khshathra-vairya, the Ideal Dominion, represents the ideal society, and Armaiti refers to Benevolence or Piety, i.e. the inclination to do the right. One can see that benevolent action as it becomes universal leads to the ideal social structure; and the ideal society would call forth and reinforce benevolent action.

The last pair, Haurvatat and Ameretat refer to the states of the individual who has lived the good life. Specifically, Haurvatat refers to Well-being or Perfection in this existence; and Ameretat refers to Immortal Bliss. It is the analysis of these concepts with which we shall be concerned here. We shall explore the several related senses of the terms and how they function in the theological structure of the Gathas.

At this point let me digress into a brief discussion of the problem of interpretation. Undoubtedly we start by trying to find the literal meanings of the terms in the Gathic language by analysis in the complex system of phonemic transformations of the Indo-European languages. But one must appreciate that Zarathushtra uses these terms and concepts to express new ideas in a totally innovative theology, which, being revelatory insights, are expressed in the liberal syntax and semantics of inspired poetry.

In this theology Zarathushtra needs words to convey abstract concepts embedded in a philosophic structure dealing with an area of human consciousness hitherto completely dominated by mythological thinking.

In our attempts to grasp the theology of the Gathas we must, therefore, explore how the terms have been used and metaphorically extended or shifted to become concepts in the theology, and how they are to be interpreted to elicit the senses of the various connections within the scheme appearing in the verses.

It becomes apparent that the concepts of the Amesha-spentas are all multi-dimensional because they have diverse relations to each other. These were probably developed by the Prophet at different times in the contexts of specific sermons. In my view, our interpretations should be guided by a general grasp of Zarathushtra's theological framework, which, though not presented in any one location, emerges as a clear and consistent system from the totality of the Gathas. So when we ascribe to Gathic terms senses in our language and thought which fit contextually into the scheme of Gathic theology we have confidence that we are approximating the philosophic vision even though it is separated from us in culture and time by over three millennia.

In this spirit I suggest several related senses of Haurvatat and Ameretat in the language and idiom of present-day thought.

The terms Haurvatat and Ameretat very frequently, but not invariably, appear together. They are attributes applicable to both Divinity and Humanity. For humans, the person who has lived by the Good-mind, with good words and deeds in accordance with Truth shall receive Haurvatat and Ameretat. Thus these are the consequential states for one who has lived the good life. The plausibility of the double application is seen in Y47.1.

When Haurvatat and Ameretat appear as consequential states they are part of the law of recompense, i.e. well-being in this life and salvation in the form of immortal bliss are completely dependent on the moral character of one's life. This is a simple statement of the principle of moral responsibility in salvation. Yet it is significant in what, by implication, is rendered irrelevant to one's salvation, e.g. rituals, pleas for mercy, intercession by holy, divine or semi-divine agencies.

We can now turn to each concept by itself. Haurvatat means Wholeness or Completeness in its literal sense. Scholars have provided other words to bring out shades of meaning in various contexts, such as Well-being, Integrity, Health, Happiness, Perfection. The more literal analogies may incline us to "health" and "happiness", but the former is too physical a sense, and the latter, too emotional for a term which obviously has spiritual components.

Although "wholeness" and "completeness" as used in ordinary language fail to capture the clear spiritual sense, they do imply a full and integrated realization of the self; however these implications appear clearer in the words "Integrity" and "Perfection". Here Integrity is not to be understood in its usual reference to character, but to a state of one's consciousness.

Following this line of thought, if we are looking at the self internally, i.e. at the state of consciousness, the most suitable term would be Integrity. Here the contrasting condition would be a state of divided self whose fractured aspects are in conflict. Integrity in this sense has, of course, a component of happiness or contentment, more appropriately, freedom from guilt, resentment, and regret.

We may also look at the Self externally, where the appropriate sense of Haurvatat would be Well-being, including health and happiness. It is the state of the individual who having acted rightly with benevolence (Armaiti) is in peaceful and prosperous harmony with the world around him. If we combine both the aspects, internal and external, the most suitable term might well be Perfection.

In the Gathas a general view of these two concepts may be gleaned from Y31.6.

"His is indeed the Best State who declares truly the message of holy wisdom.

The message of perfection and eternity,

Of Mazda's Kingdom which flourishes through the Good mind." (Y31.6).

Here the attributes of Perfection and Eternity are attributable to Divinity as well as Humanity.

In Y31.21 we receive the assurance:

"To him who is Thy true friend in spirit and in action, O Mazda Ahura,

To him shalt Thou give the perfection of integrity and immortality

In perpetual communion with Truth and Holy Authority,

And to him shalt Thou give the sustaining power of the Good-mind." (Y31.21).

Notice the connection between Integrity on the one hand and Truth and Good-mind on the other.

This connection appears again in Y33.8 where the Ultimate Good, the final end, is brought about by the help of the Good-mind, with praise of Truth, and receiving the blessings of Haurvatat and Ameretat. What does this connection entail for the concept of Haurvatat?

Haurvatat is the state of the self where the mind has grasped the Truth and acted accordingly. It is the realization of Good thought, word, and deed. Maintaining this state of Integrity calls for insight into oneself and recognition of the Truth of the situation one is in. When one fails to live in that way one has lost the state of Haurvatat.

It is not always active, malicious evil that brings one to the state opposite of Haurvatat. Frequently we lapse from Integrity when our motives, instead of being focused on the rational demands of the situation, become clouded by the unavowed hurts of past slights, the discontents of frustrated hopes, the fears of faltering ambition. These corrupt our judgments and make us disguise self-serving actions as manifestations of righteous intent, perhaps even as achievements of worthy goals, often in the form of preserving for oneself the power or opportunity to do good. But these are deceptive voices of self-interest speaking within us. The Self in such situations gradually disintegrates into a conflict of incompatible demands. It becomes a mask of deception, not only to others but often to oneself. Such conduct looked at externally is misrepresentation, but internally it is the anguish of the loss of Integrity.

Now turning to Ameretat, we see that literally it means immortality, a state of deathlessness. Salvation, in many ancient religions, meant becoming deathless. But in Gathic theology, the immortality of the soul is assumed; therefore the blessing of Ameretat must be a special form of immortality. Depending on the moral character of a particular life the soul achieves a state of best consciousness, or presence in the Abode of Songs, if good; but descent into the darkness of the House of the Lie, if evil. There are indications in the Gathas of an explicit doctrine in later Zoroastrian theology that such states of the soul continue until the final renovation when the taint of evil shall be purged from all.

However till then there is a good and an evil state of the soul after life. In Y30.11 one is told:

"O ye mortals, mark the commandments the Wise Lord has given for happiness and for pain.

Long suffering for the doer of evil, and bliss for the follower of Truth..."(Y30.11).

Again, in Y31.20:

"The follower of the righteous shall attain the Abode of Light. But for the deceiver the future shall be a long life of misery, darkness and woe..."(Y31.20).

The last line of this verse is quite telling, for in it is declared the principle that the miserable existence of the wicked is a direct consequence of their actions:

"O ye of evil lives! Your own deeds will lead you to this dark existence."(Y31.20).

According to Gathic theology this misery was initiated and brought upon humanity by the spirit of Falsehood. In Y32.5:

"...And thus the Liars defrauded humanity of a life of happiness and immortal bliss..."(Y32.5).

When the terms Haurvatat and Ameretat appear together, Ameretat always means immortal bliss, an extension and elaboration of the perfection of Haurvatat into eternity. And in being so understood, not only are they the consequences of the good life, they also act as inspirations for our ;moral upliftment as in Y34.11:

"Thy twin spirits of Perfection and Immortality sustain our aspirations.

The zealous Armaiti with Truth shall assure the permanence of Thy Kingdom of the Good-mind.

By these O Mazda, dost Thou inspire the foes of Thy foes." (Y34.11).

Gathic passages from the poetic translation of the Gathas by D. J. Irani.

Kaikhosrov D. Irani, 1989.

Professor Kaikhosrov Irani teaches  philosophy at the City College of New York. where he is a Professor Emeritus and past Chairman of the Department of Philosophy. He is Director of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities of the City University of New York, and a member of the Academy of Science in New York, the American Philosophical Association, the Philosophy of Science Association, and the American Academy of Religion. He has lectured in his field at such institutes of higher learning as UCLA, the Universities of Michigan, London, Goetingen, Vienna, Sweden, Finland, and Rome. He is a popular lecturer at national and international conferences on the subject of Zoroastrianism. He has studied the Gathas on his own for many years, and relies primarily on the translations of Humbach, Insler, Mills, Bartholomae, Taraporewala, and that of his father the late, great, Dinshaw Irani.


Sketches of Ahura Mazda

(Quotations from the Gathas)
(Insler translation)


"...Take notice of it, Lord,
offering the support
which a friend should grant to a friend.
Let me see
the power of good thinking allied
with truth!"


"...In consequence of my insight
they have wished for
Thy powers, Wise One."


"...That the soul of the truthful person
be powerful in immortality..."


"...What (reward) of Thine
is to be sent by truth
to those who are... sincere ...?"


"...The person who, ...has
opposed the guilty gods and mortals... such a person, by reason of
his virtuous conception,
is an ally, a brother, or a father (of Thee), Wise Lord..."


"Thee, Best One,...
do I lovingly entreat for the best...
the best for a whole lifetime
of good thinking."


"... As He shall wish it,
so shall it be for us."



Selections from the Gathas

(Insler translation)


"...those who are yoked with truth
have yoked their conceptions
on the best prize..."


"...Grant ye all to me...
that wish for the desirable condition which is said to exist
under thy rule."


"...happiness has been lost to the deceitful who violate truth..."


" the end, the worst existence
shall be for the deceitful
but the best thinking
for the truthful person."


shall be the future possession
of him who shall
come to a truthful person..."


"...the... judgment ...
shall bring to realization
the most just actions for the deceitful
as well as for the truthful man,
and for the person
for whom falsity and honesty
are held to be indifferent."


"...(But) in due course,
[aramaiti] shall come to terms
with one's spirit
where there has been opposition."



Editor's Note: A Question of Reward.


Conventional descriptions of heaven, in my view, are all singularly uninteresting. They tend to make one think, with delight, of George Bernard Shaw's comment that all the most interesting people are probably to be found in the other place.

However, the conceptions of "reward", "heaven", "hell" et cetera, in the Gathas, was for me an exciting discovery -- quite different from the "conventional wisdom" on the subject. Part of the excitement, however, lies in the process of puzzling over the text, and discovering Zarathushtra's ideas for oneself. And on this subject, as on so many Gathic subjects, opinions differ.

I therefore thought it might be more interesting for you to undertake the treasure hunt on your own, and decide for yourself what conclusions you may come up with. To that end, I have crafted this Editor's Note in the form of a puzzle. It contains verses from the Gathas and questions. Study the verses and jot down your answers to each question. If you have trouble with any verse or question, don't get up-tight, skip it and go on to the next. When you are done, let your mind play over the questions and your answers. Then decide for yourself what your answer might be to the ultimate question: What is the Zarathushtrian heaven?

And may His benevolent spirit attend you with good thinking. (Y43).


The Puzzle:


I. Of Means and Ends.

1. What are the rewards of truth?

(a) "...then...shall the rule of good thinking be at hand in order to be announced to those, Lord, who shall deliver deceit into the hands of truth." Y30.8.

Answer: ______________________


(b) "Give, o truth, this reward, namely the attainments of good thinking..." Y28.7.

Answer: ______________________


2. What are the rewards of good thinking?

(a) "Truth, shall I see thee as I continue to acquire both good thinking and the way to the Lord?..." Y28.5.

Answer: _______________________


(b) "Lord of broad vision, disclose to me for support the safeguards of your rule which are the reward for good thinking..." Y33.13.

Answer: _______________________


3. What does His good rule consist of?

(a) "But to this world He came with the rule of good thinking and of truth, and (our) enduring [aramaiti] gave body and breath to it..." Y30.7.

Answer: _______________________


4. What are the rewards of truth and good thinking?

(a) "...Virtuous is truth and the rule of good thinking. The Wise Lord created this, (and) I shall entreat Him for this good reward." Y51.21.

Answer: _______________________


(b) "Therefore, those whom Thou dost know, Wise Lord, to be just and deserving in conformity with truth and good thinking, for them do Thou fulfill their longing with these attainments..." Y28.10.

Answer: _______________________


5. What are the rewards of truth and aramaiti (piety, benevolent service)?

(a) "Since thou, truth, didst arise among the noteworthy children and grandchildren of Friyana the Turanian, the one who prospered his creatures with the zeal of [aramaiti], therefore did the Wise Lord unite them with good thinking, in order to announce Himself to them for their support." Y46.12.

Answer _______________________


6. If we define spenta aramaiti as benevolent service (bringing to life the rule of truth and good thinking by our understanding, our good words and good deeds) what are the rewards or consequences of aramaiti?

(a) "...Reveal to me, by reason of my [spenta aramaiti] those conceptions in harmony with truth." Y33.11.

Answer _______________________


(b) "Therefore do Thou reveal to me the truth, which I continue to summon. Being in companionship with [aramaiti] I have deserved it. And counsel us..." Y43.10.

Answer _______________________


(c) "... By reason of my [aramaiti], grant this to me: the rewards of ... a life of good thinking." Y43.1.

Answer _______________________


(d) "The Wise Lord...shall give the permanence of good thinking's alliance to him, the one who is His ally in spirit and actions." Y31.21.

Answer _______________________


(e) "I who shall [praise] all of you as never before -- thee, o truth, and good thinking and the Wise Lord...for whom [aramaiti] increases their unharmable rule..." Y28.3.

Answer _______________________


7. What do the above questions and answers tell you about the means and the end? Clue:

"When I might call upon truth, the Wise One and the other lords shall appear; also reward and [aramaiti]..." Y31.4.

"All ye (immortals) of the same temperament..." Y51.20.

Answer _______________________


II Salvation (another word for reward).

1. To Zarathushtra, what does salvation consist of?

(a) "All ye (immortals) of the same temperament, let that salvation of yours be granted to us: truth allied with good thinking! (We shall offer) words allied with [benevolent service], while worshipping with reverence ...the Wise One who offers support (to us)." Y51.20.

Answer _______________________


2. For whom is salvation the reward?

(a) "...Instruct us to those paths of good thinking, easy to travel in alliance with truth." Y34.12

"...when [you] learn (there is) both a way of easy access and one with no access, as well as long destruction for the deceitful but salvation for the truthful, then each one (of you) shall abide by all these commandments. Wish it so." Y30.11.

Answer _______________________


(b) "Therefore, let us reverently give an offering to Thee, Lord, and to truth, all of us creatures under Thy rule whom one has nourished with good thinking. Indeed let salvation be granted to the beneficent man by all those among your kind, Wise One!" Y34.3.

Answer _______________________


III. The Prize (another word for reward).

1. What is the "prize" the reward for?


(a) "... This prize has been promised to you during the times of salvation by reason of your good thinking and truth." Y51.15.

Answer _______________________


(b) "For that prize... Wise One, has been established (for those) who, through their action stemming from good thinking, indeed exist in the community of the [good vision] as they further the good understanding of your will with truth, Lord, throughout the (whole) community." Y 34.14.

Answer _______________________


2. What does this "prize" consist of? What is the "prize"?

(a) "...those who are yoked with truth have yoked their conceptions on the best prize..." Y49.9.

Answer _______________________


(b) "What prize Zarathushtra previously promised to his adherents -- into that House of Song did the Wise One come as the first one..." Y51.15.

Answer _______________________


IV. Heaven (another word for reward).

"Heaven" is variously described in the Gathas as the "House of Song" (Y51.15, Y50.4), and the "House of Good Thinking" (Y32.15); and "Hell" as the "House of Worst Thinking" (Y32.13) and the "House of Deceit" (Y49.11).

1. Is the word "House" used in a metaphoric sense? And if so, what is it a metaphor for?

"...the long-lived rule of good thinking and the paths, straight in accord with truth, wherein the Wise Lord dwells." Y33.5.

"...Thou dost guard in Thy house this good thinking,..." Y49.10.

"When I might call upon truth, the Wise One and the other lords [good thinking and good rule] shall appear; also reward and [aramaiti]...Y31.4.

"...I shall call upon those [amesha spenta]whom Thou, Wise Lord, hast assembled in Thy abode." Y46.14.

"...I shall always obey (you), the truly sincere ones [amesha spenta] existing in the House of Song." Y50.4.

Answer _______________________


2. To Zarathushtra were "heaven" and "hell" geographic places? physical locations? or something else?

" the end, the worst existence shall be for the deceitful but the best thinking for the truthful person." Y30.4.

"...But the deceitful man shall have his share apart from Thy approval...." Y47.5.

"Heavenliness shall be the future possession of him who shall come to a truthful person.... But a long lifetime of darkness... woe -- to such an existence shall your conception, along with its corresponding actions, lead you, ye deceitful ones." Y31.20.

Answer _______________________


V. Completeness (Haurvatat) and Immortality (Ameretat ) (another term for reward?)

1. What are completeness and immortality the rewards for?

(a) "...Those of you who shall give obedience and regard to this (Lord) of mine, they shall reach completeness and immortality. The Wise One is Lord through such actions stemming from good spirit." Y45.5.

Answer _______________________


(b) "Because those who are alive, and those who have been, and those who shall be, shall seek after the salvation that comes from Him, the One who offers solicitude. That the soul of the truthful person be powerful in immortality, that woes beset the deceitful men in an enduring fashion -- these things, too, did the Wise Lord create by reason of His rule." Y45.7.


2. And who do the rewards of immortality and completeness benefit?

(a) "...Those of you who shall give obedience and regard to this (Lord) of mine, they shall reach completeness and immortality..." Y45.5.

Answer _______________________


(b) "I shall...glorify Him... with prayers of [aramaiti]. Him, the Lord who is famed to be Wise in His soul. Whatever one has promised to Him with truth and with good thinking is to be completeness and immortality for Him under His rule, is to be these two enduring powers for Him in His House.

Answer _______________________


(c) "Through a virtuous spirit and the best thinking, through both the action and the word befitting truth, they shall grant completeness and immortality to Him. The Wise One in rule is Lord through [aramaiti]." Y47.1.

Answer _______________________


(d) "Yes, both completeness and immortality are for Thy sustenance. Together with the rule of good thinking allied with truth, (our) [aramaiti] has increased these two enduring powers (for Thee)...." Y34.11.

Answer _______________________


(e) "If, during the times after this (present) one which is under the workings of evil, one shall defeat deceit by truth, ... for the sake of immortality, then one shall increase Thy glory, Lord, during those times of salvation." Y48.1.

Answer _______________________


VI. Points to ponder:

"The best shall be for him, the knowing man, who shall tell me the real precept concerning the truth of His completeness and immortality: 'Such is the rule for the Wise One that one shall increase it for Him through good thinking.' " Y31.6.

"Because of these things [evil actions referred to in preceding verses], the class of Karpans [a type of priest] is disappearing, and the Kavis [princes], along with those they ensnare. They shall not be brought to those who rule over life at will in the House of Good Thinking." Y32.15.

"Wise One, Thou dost guard in Thy house this good thinking, and the souls of the truthful ones,..."Y49.10.

"...When I could rule at will over my reward, then I would, exercising such power, be in the stride of the blessed one." Y50.9.


VII. What is the Zarathushtrian heaven?


Answer. ______________________.


"Oh brother,
Do you know where heaven is?
It has no beginning, it has no end,
Nor is it any country. .....
In my heart
Heaven finds her home,
And in my songs
Her melodies..."

Rabindranath Tagore,
A Flight of Swans,
(Poems from Balaka, No. 24), translated from the Bengali by Aurobindo Bose).




"...Mingling darkness with light
You have created your earth;
To that earth you send me
Empty handed......
You command me to transform it
into heaven..."

Rabindranath Tagore,
A Flight of Swans
(Poems from Balaka, No. 28), translated from the Bengali by Aurobindo Bose).


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