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Connections between Zoroastrianism and Mahayana Buddhism

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Connections between Zoroastrianism and Mahayana Buddhism

John Easter

Yasna 19.6, outside of the Gathas, says that Ahura Mazda will help any soul pass over the Chinvat Bridge to Heaven who says the Ahuna Vairya prayer. It seems that later just saying Ahura Mazda, or calling out to God for help, was considered just as effective.

“Further, it is also said in the Zoroastrian text that whoever recites the ‘Ahuna-Variya formula'(see Yasna 19.6 & Yasna 27.13), 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.”
-Buddhism in Central Asia p. 144 by B.N. Puri

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer 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.

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer 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.
-Zarathushtra pp. 72-74 translated by Ardeshir Mehta

Many near death experience testimonies report a Great Being of Light that generates love and it is usually identified with God. However many reports also state that there are actually numerous beings of light, that includes Jesus and the angels, who are the emissaries of God constantly saving souls from ending up in the Abyss like a rescue operation.

In Yasna 46.10 Zarathushtra states that he himself will be with and comfort the souls of good people who cross the Chinvat Bridge.

“Whoever, man or woman, does what Thou, Ahura Mazda, knowest to be the best in life; Whoever does right for the sake of right; Whoever in authority governs with the aid of the Good Mind… I shall cross with them the Bridge of Separation.”
-Yasna 46.10 by Zarathushtra Spitama

It seems Zarathushtra was saying that he was going to become one of these helpers of light over 3700 years ago.

“All around these lost souls were Beings of Light just waiting to assist them out of their hellish state.” “Both the Northern Buddhist and Universalist Christian traditions have saviors (Amida Buddha and Jesus) who rescue people from hell (Vincent, 2005, p. 8).”

“They believe that the Amida Buddha is a “savior god” who can rescue you from hell and take you to the pure land of bliss. Once there, you can work out your final ascent to Nirvana under blissful conditions. “A butcher is dying. He first has a vision of hell, whereupon he was terrified into chanting the name of ‘Amida;’ He then had a vision of the Amida Buddha offering him a lotus seat and passed peacefully away.”
-Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side” by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

Parallels to the Ahuna Vairya prayer and Zoroastrianism in Mahayana Buddhism

Saying the Ahuna Vairya to cross the Chinvat Bridge in Yasna 19.6, as mentioned before, 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 Jodu Shu and Jodo Shin Shu, is the largest version of Buddhism in Japan. The basic Pure Land practice itself is a major part of Mahayana Buddhism within other East Asian countries as well such as Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

The Buddha, specifically Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni, said that there are many other buddhas besides himself in the Theravada & 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 couldn’t become enlightened and obtain Nirvana while alive so that after death they could avoid both aimless rebirth and going to Naraka(the Hell realms) and the good but temporary deva(god) realms of Buddhist/Jain cosmology.

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. The reason is because Ahura Mazda is so greatly associated with light that he has actually been identified as light itself even though Yasna 44.5 implies that he created light instead. Ahura Mazda’s dimension, or Heaven, is even called Endless Light in later texts.

From Handbook of Japanese Mythology p. 49 by Michael Ashkenazi
“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(The formula is the Ahuna Vairya prayer. See Yasna 19.6).”

From Buddhism in Central Asia pp. 143-144 by B.N. Puri
“According to the Tibetan historian of Buddhism, Taranath, 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.”

General parallels to Heaven in Mahayana Buddhism

It is thought that the residents of the Pure Land use the good environment to either practice under Amitabha in order to obtain Nirvana with him or instead become his bodhisattvas(buddhas in training) that plan on eventually being reborn on Earth or other worlds in order to bring more sentient beings with them into the Pure Land through their good influence and teachings.

There are many other Pure Lands created by other buddhas besides Amitabha’s Western Pure Land(Sukhavati) such as the Eastern Pure Lands which include Akshobhya’s Abhirati, Bhaisajyaguru’s Vaiduryanirbhasa, and Manjusri’s Vimala. However there are indications that all the different Pure Lands are closely interconnected through the Dharma-kaya(body) and are accessible between each other so it is like one Pure Land.

Other special realms in Buddhist lore that are functionally similar to the Pure Lands are Avalokitesvara’s Mount Potalaka, Maitreya’s Tushita(technically just a regular deva/god realm of Buddhist cosmology) and Kalki’s hidden Shambhala kingdom mentioned in the Tibetan Kalachakra Tantra.

Incidentally the Shambhala of Tibetan lore might be related to Airyanem Vaejah, which is the original homeland of all Iranian peoples mentioned in the later Avesta. Airyanem Vaejah and Shambhala are also both described as a Garden of Eden like area.

Parallel to Vohu Manah/Loving Mind in Mahayana Buddhism

Amitabha is thought to be very closely assisted by a high level bodhisattva called Avalokitesvara in bringing beings to Sukhavati. Avalokitesvara literally means lord who looks down in the original Sanskrit. He is also called Guanyin in Chinese, Kannon in Japanese, and Chenrezig in Tibetan. He is additionally considered an embodiment of the omnipresent compassion aspect of the Dharmakaya or Adi-Buddha(Primordial-Buddha).

The great compassion for all sentient beings of Avalokitesvara in Mahayana Buddhism may distantly reflect the third part of the Ahuna Vairya mantra where it says that the real power of God goes to whoever is a protector of the poor, needy and meek. Also similar is Vohu Manah, literally meaning loving/good mind/purpose, who is both an independent arch-angel and an aspect of Ahura Mazda. Vohu Manah is even associated with animals.

His Guanyin(in China) and Kannon(in Japan) depictions represent his female manifestations mentioned in chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra. Their statues have been depicted similarly to the Virgin Mary in Catholic Christianity. He is also claimed to have composed the Heart Sutra about shunyata(emptiness). It is a major text in both Chan(in China) and Zen(in Japan) Buddhism, which are also branches of Mahayana Buddhism.

Maha-sthamaprapta, also known as Vajrapani, is another high level bodhisattva that assists Amitabha. He represents power or the power of wisdom. This is somewhat similar to Khshathra Vairya who is the arch-angel of power or dominion of Ahura Mazda. However he is also loosely similar to Mithra in the Mihr Yasht and Indra in the Rig-Veda.

It is also similar to the wisdom aspect of Ahura Mazda’s name. However it is actually Manjusri who is the high level bodhisattva that represents wisdom itself. Vajrapani, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara are a trinity of bodhisattvas that represent power, wisdom, and compassion.

The rejection of God by the Buddha in Theravada texts

The staunch rejection of a creator god in the Theravada Pali Canon, as well as its extreme view of the physical world as entirely negative, are 2 very major points of difference between Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Particularly in the Brahmajala Sutta text of the Digha Nikaya within the Pali Canon and in the Bhuridatta Jataka text of the later Theravada literature. The Pali Canon also has many stories with references to gods or spirits who falsely think or state that they are creator gods as well as the human teachers who worship them but these tend to have an almost humorous feel unlike the Brahmajala Sutta.

However there are aspects in the Mahayana Buddhist texts that agree with the spirit of Zoroastrianism. Apparently understanding that there is a primordial and omnipresent, but not omnipotent, sentient power of compassion within the Dharmakaya(roughly the Mahayana Buddhist equivalent of the Hindu Brahman) is an acceptable view in Mahayana Buddhism. Not as a creator but as an emanator. However the sentient aspect may only just reflect the enlightened minds of beings that became buddhas in the past.

The Gathas by Zarathushtra Spitama however are crystal clear in expressing that humans, animals, and ultimately all sentient beings emanate from God. While the main focus in the Gathas appears to be on the planet Earth it is also clear that the Universe in its entirety(meaning all planets, worlds, dimensions and universes) is regarded as Ahura Mazda’s good creation or emanation.

Jainism and the Shramana movements

Early Buddhism started out as one of the many different Shramana movements in India opposed to the Hindu brahmins/priests like Jainism. Early Buddhism and Theravada texts share many similarities with Jainism and Jain texts such as the Jain Mahapurana text written by Jinasena who was a Jain monk. The Mahapurana also staunchly rejects a creator god similar to the later Theravada Bhuridatta Jataka text. Even the basic story of Mahavira, the founder or last reformer of Jainism, is very similar in detail to the Theravada story of the Buddha. In fact Mahavira was an older contemporary of Buddha according to Theravada texts.

I personally think that the ascetic and world rejecting Shramana movements and the traditions that they influenced, Jainism, early Buddhism, and even later Hinduism, and their texts such as the Brahmajala Sutta, Bhuridatta Jataka, and Mahapurana, have all been afflicted by the Druj(the lie or malicious falsehood) as all religions are.

Including the theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and even Zoroastrianism as can be seen in their records of both needlessly violent and also psychologically cruel expressions. While Jain, Theravada, and even Mahayana texts sometimes contain atheistic like statements and philosophical positions that feel opposed to the Zoroastrian understanding, and theism in general, they also contain positive ideas and teachings too.

The diffusions of the Universalist Light

As Buddhism was starting to grow and become a major influence on the Eastern world it was apparently influenced, to some degree, by Zoroastrianism through the compositions of some of the Mahayana sutras by way of Central Asia(Afghanistan, Tajikistan, etc.).

These texts may indeed really contain some influences and reflections of the Zoroastrian Universalist Light of Greater Iran. The main specific texts are the 3 Pure Land sutras about Amitabha and his Sukhavati, the Lotus Sutra, and possibly the Mahayana Maha-Pari-Nirvana Sutra or Nirvana Sutra. Both the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra express ideas similar to Universalism.

The practice of expressing Bhakti(loving devotion) to a form of Brahman(God) in Hinduism, itself possibly influenced by Zoroastrianism through the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, may of also been an influence on the development of Pure Land Buddhism. Vishnu, Vishnu’s avatars of Rama & Krishna, Shiva, and Maha-Devi(Great Goddess) in the Bhakti movements provide the same functional role as Amitabha and Avalokitesvara.

“Not even Buddhism has escaped Zoroastrian influence, for the region around Afghanistan and Bactria, where Zarathushtra lived many years,” “was at a crucial time in history one of the main centres of the development of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy.”
-Zarathushtra by Ardeshir Mehta

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Zarathushtra’s influence on Judaism

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Zarathushtra’s influence on Judaism

John Easter

This is a small topic briefly showing the strong Zoroastrian influence on Judaism and later Christianity by brining together different information and quotes not usually placed side by side.

The purpose of this is to show the close and intimate interconnections between these 3 traditions of spirituality. I think an open acceptance and deeper understanding of the vast importance of the Zoroastrian background can help to shed light and reveal a better understanding of Judaism & Christianity rather than take away anything from them.

Ancient Judaism, which taught an ethical monotheism but developed out of very harsh circumstances as reflected in the stories recorded in the Jewish Tanakh or Christian Old Testament, became heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism during the time period of the Achaemenian or first Iranian/Persian Empire and beyond. The Torah only refers to the first 5 books of the Tanakh which are said to be by Moses and is usually regarded as the most sacred section of the Tanakh.

This occurred about 500 years before the time of Jesus. Friendly relations, protection and influence would continue on during the Iranic Parthian Empire as well. By extension this includes Jesus who was a rabbi during the middle of the Parthian era.

When Emperor Cyrus of Iran, the first emperor of the Achaemenian Empire, took over Babylon he ended the exile and restrictions imposed on the Jewish people by the Babylonians and treated them with kindness as recorded in the Tanakh and in historical sources.

The Books of Isaiah & Ezrah in particular go as far as to call him a Messiah and a special servant of YHWH(Yahweh). However indirect it may be, this is the first hint of a possible, and even almost outright, identification of YHWH(Yahweh) with Ahura Mazda.

Although Emperor Cyrus treated all the different groups of the lands he took over fairly well, some scholars theorize that Emperor Cyrus gave the Jewish people more help in particular because he recognized them as fellow monotheists with a similar religion, even going as far as to give them gold and silver from his treasury to help them rebuild their temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians.

Through the strong friendly relations between the 2 groups, Zoroastrianism indirectly influenced the composition of the later books of the Tanakh, the Talmud, and later texts in a very positive way affecting the later Jewish traditions. The Kabbalah in particular has some very Zoroastrian like aspects.

The 10 Sephiroth(emanations), together with their 10 representative arch-angels, of the Ein Sof(the infinite or God) is indeed a comparable concept to the 7 Amesha Spentas (independent projections of God or high arch-angels) of Ahura Mazda. The main 7 arch-angels mentioned in the earlier Book of Enoch not included in the Tanakh, but in the later Christian Book of Revelation, also echoes the 7 Amesha Spentas.

Some important Kabbalistic or Jewish mystical texts include the Third Book of Enoch, the Sefer Yetzirah, both the Sepher Ha-Razim given to Noah and the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh given to Adam which are claimed to be transmitted by Raziel the Arch-angel, and the Zohar.

The 2 books said to be given by the angel Raziel, also called Galitzur, cover angelology and angelic magic and identify some of the names of the Greek gods & goddesses to be alternate names for some of the angels similar to the understanding of the yazatas/angels as the good powers or gods & goddesses under God in Zoroastrianism.

Specific correspondences, and possible identifications, between the Jewish angels and the Zoroastrian angels include Michael, together with the Primordial Metatron who appears to be the same being as Michael, with Mithra in the Mithra Yasht, and Gabriel in the Bible with Sraosha in the Gathas. The Primordial Metatron should not be confused with the human prophet Enoch in his ascended angelic form as Metatron, which is different.

However in one Kabbalistic source Metatron is described as Enoch’s angelic double that existed before Enoch. This is similar to the fravashis(guardian angels) being the higher angelic doubles of people in Zoroastrianism.

Correspondences between the Jewish demons and the Zoroastrian demons include the Daevas, the shining deities that chose to embrace evil, with the fallen angels and more specifically between Asmodeus, a demon king mentioned in many Jewish texts, with Aeshma, the daeva of wrath, rage, and fury who inspires brutality against man and animals alike, who is mentioned as early as in the Gathas.

Many affinities also appear in the ancient Apocrypha not included in the Tanakh/Bible such as the 3 Books of Enoch, the Book of Giants, the Book of Jubilees, the War Scroll and the Community Rule texts within the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Testament of Solomon, the Life of Adam and Eve, the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Book of Tobit, and many others. Also in later Jewish texts after the Talmud such as in the Midrash Vayosha and the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel.

The Jewish concept of Tzedakah(Righteousness/Justice) refers to doing what is right because it is right which is usually expressed in the form of charity and is very similar to the older Zoroastrian concept of Asha (Righteousness/Truth/Morality/Ethics/Art). The Jewish concept of Olam-Haba(World To Come) is heavily influenced by the older Zoroastrian concept in the Gathas for the restoration of the universe known as Frasho-Kereti(Making Wonderful, Excellent, Fresh).

It is true that the more harsh or tribal aspects of YHWH(Yahweh) start to mellow out and slowly fade away within the Tanakh in the books written after the time of the Persian contact where he also begins to be portrayed in a kinder and more Universal light.

Judaism was monotheist in its views of YHWH(Yahweh) and their idea of God was originally understood as the God of all people as purposely portrayed in the two metaphoric accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis which does utilize some parts from older Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian lore for the narrative.

Abraham, Moses, and other ancient Hebrew Prophets were indeed early monotheists that tried to do what was right independently before the Jewish people met with the Zoroastrian Persians. Such insights appear independently all over the world including China, Africa, North America, and other areas.

However their moral or law system, while claimed to come directly from God, was made by men and was more so based on what was good for their own tribe or tribes in order to survive as a group which reflected the basic, and also harsh, manmade rules to help with the necessities of life for the times. Similar to neighboring groups.

This is the reason for the strange seeming and extremely harsh attributes of YHWH(Yahweh) in the Tanakh or Old Testament that don’t seem compatible with the idea of God as all loving and universal. This doesn’t mean that the texts are all untrue or that God is bad but that they should be recognized for the times and circumstances that they were written down in and reflect.

The religion and the language of the early Jewish tribes shares some general similarities with the religion and language of their ancient close cousins, the various Canaanite tribes such as the Phoenicians and many other groups. The Canaanite groups were the main polytheists and pagans the Jewish tribes always tried to strongly distance themselves from within the Tanakh/Bible.

Both to maintain their uniqueness as a distinct monotheist group and because they were against some of the Canaanite’s horrible practices of human and child sacrifice to their gods and it being associated with YHWH(Yahweh). (The story of Abraham and Isaac in the Book of Genesis might represent that.)

The Hebrew language and its variants, together with the other Canaanite languages represented by texts such as the Ugaritic Baal Cycle about Hadad’s battles with competing gods, are within the North-West Semitic group of the Semitic language family, which in turn is part of the larger Afro-Asiatic language family, which includes ancient Egyptian and various language families throughout North Africa.

Other major groups within the Semitic family include East Semitic, represented by groups such as the Akkadians(Assyrians & Babylonians) in texts such as the Enuma Elish about Marduk’s battle with Tiamat and the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Central Semitic, mostly represented by the Arabs in texts such as ancient Arabic pagan poetry and in the later Islamic stories within the Arabian book called 1001 Nights.

Relevant quotes

“Despite the apparent differences between Zoroastrian and Judaic religious vision, they shared the unifying focus of the monotheistic rule of one supreme Creator-God” “their prolonged intercourse in the wake of the Babylonian exile was conditioned by what is usually described as mutual religious sympathy.”
-The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy p. 55 by Yuri Stoyanov

“in fact Jews had ample opportunity to familiarize themselves with the essentials of Zoroastrianism. For some two centuries Judaea formed part of the vast Achaemenian empire, while the large Jewish diaspora also lived within the bounds of the empire. Achaemenian rule was relatively benign, and was recognized by Jews to be so:

whereas there is plenty of Jewish propaganda against Babylonian and Seluecid and Roman rule, there is not a single Jewish text, biblical or rabbinic, directed against Persian rule. Moreover, already in Achaemenian times there was a certain affinity between Jewish and Iranian religion.”
-Cosmos, Chaos & the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith p. 220 by Norman Cohn

“The earliest evidence of the entrance of Persian words into the language of the Israelites is found in the Bible. The post-exilic portions, Hebrew as well as Aramaic, contain besides many Persian proper names and titles, a number of nouns (as “dat” = “law”; “genez” = “treasure”; “pardes” = “park”) which came into permanent use at the time of the Achaemenid Empire.”

“a large number of Persian words found their way into the language of daily intercourse and into that of the schools, a fact which is attested by the numerous Persian derivatives in the Babylonian Talmud.”
-Judeo-Persian article on Wikipedia

“Following the conquest of the Near East by the Zoroastrian King, Cyrus the Great in the 6th century B.C.E., Jews came under a Persian Zoroastrian dominion that lasted for centuries.

Babylonian Jews were subjects of successive ancient Iranian, Zoroastrian dynasties that together made up more than a millennium.

A number of important books of the Bible were written during this period. Moreover, the central work in the Jewish canon, the Babylonian Talmud, was produced close to the Zoroastrian Sassanid winter capital of Ctesiphon.

Babylonian Talmud contains many Indo-European/Persian loanwords and numerous references to Zoroastrian kings, religious leaders, and aspects of cultural and religious life in Iranian/Zoroastrian-ruled Mesopotamia.

The Talmud itself relates that: “Shemot HaMal’akhim ‘Alu Lahem MiBavel” – “The names of the Angels arose from Babylon”. The Talmud, in fact, goes to the extent of borrowing the names of many of angels in the Zoroastrian pantheon, such as: Mithrá/MiÞrá (called Metatron in the Talmud), Aæshm , the demon of wrath in Zoroastrianism, (called Ashmedai, the king of the Jewish demons in the Talmud),

Yet, biblical apologists consisting mostly of Evangelical Christians, have an unshakeable faith that the Zoroastrian eschatology and angelology could not have possibly influenced the later biblical books and worldview. Neither can they accept the Zoroastrian influence on Greek thought as admitted by Greek philosophers themselves.

Hence, these biblical apologists disguised at times as scholars, have all along stubbornly insisted to lower the age of the ancient seer Zaraþúshtrá from 600 years before the Trojan wars (about 1700-1800 BCE as reported by almost all the ancient Greek writers;) to 600 or even 300-100 BCE.”
-The time of Zoroaster/Zarathúshtrá and the Zoroastrian influence upon biblical worldview by Ardeshir Farahmand

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Indo-European background of the Gathas

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Indo-European background of the Gathas

John Easter

This is only a very brief and simple overview of the Indo-European background behind the Gathas. I made this to help show why the texts of various pagan/polytheist literature of the Indo-European religions, such as the Norse Poetic Edda and the Indian Rig-Veda, can help shed light on understanding what is essentially the earliest form of panentheism/monotheism on record. At least the earliest expression of it that is also strongly associated with love and goodness for its own sake.

Indo-European pagan/polytheist literature includes many different things. Including Norse texts, which includes the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, the Norse Sagas, and the Old English Beowulf poem, and Hindu texts, which includes the Rig-Veda, the Upanishads, the Ramayana epic by Valmiki, the Mahabharata epic by Vyasa, and the Puranas, and many others.

Also Celtic texts, which includes the Old Irish Tain Bo Cuailnge epic and the Middle Welsh Mabinogion, Greek texts, which includes the Bibliotheca by Apollodorus, the Theogony and the Works & Days poems by Hesiod, the Argonautica epic by Apollonius of Rhodes, the Iliad & Odyssey epics by Homer, and the Homeric Hymns, and Roman texts, which includes the Aeneid epic by Virgil and the Metamorphoses by Ovid, among others.

Some similar but non-Indo-European pagan/polytheist literature includes the Uralic(Finnish) Kalevala epic by Elias Lonnrot, the Northwest Caucasian(Circassian) Nart Sagas, the Chinese Fengshen Yanyi epic by Xu Zhonglin, and the Japanese Kojiki by O no Yasumaro & Hieda no Are and the Nihon Shoki by Prince Toneri & O no Yasumaro, which are the 2 oldest and most important texts within Shintoism.

The words of the Gathas are indeed the very embodiment of Mazda-Yasna, literally meaning God Worship, and they represent a very pure monotheism in that they always assert the primal power of Ahura Mazda or God above all other entities.

However Zoroastrian tradition has always acknowledged a numerous host of ultra powerful and wonderful celestial beings that are indeed most comparable to the gods and goddesses of the world’s other traditions.

Including the non-Indo-European traditions such as in the African, Native American, Australian and Polynesian cultures. However the great yazatas(beings worthy of veneration) are portrayed with an even more heroic, and of course more angelic like, stature. This all obviously having very strong universalist implications.

This is contrasted sharply with the Jewish tradition, which tends to severely downplay the abilities of the angels in order to over illustrate the omnipotence of Yahweh. A concept inherited from the neighboring ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian traditions where the high reigning top gods, such as El, Baal Hadad, Marduk, and Ashur, had to be evaluated above all other beings and at all costs.

Indeed the strictly demanded obedience and veneration of Allah in Islam can be thought of as an extension of these ancient traditions as there are some noticeable parallels between descriptions of El “the kindly, the compassionate” and Allah “the merciful, the compassionate”.

Paganism, more specifically polytheist worship or the practice of acknowledging and revering multiple spiritual beings, has customarily been looked down upon by hardcore monotheist traditions. By revering the yazatas(gods & goddesses/angels) and the elements over which they preside we are in fact celebrating the good creation of God.

Mazda-Yasna offers an inspired synthesis of what is best in both monotheism and so called polytheism. The world would be a much better place if the gods, and the aspects of nature of which they represent, were seriously revered only a small fraction of how much they were by the Indic polytheist composers of the Rig-Veda.

The Biblical/Koranic based religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, have often been described as superior to other traditions just because of their absolute monotheism alone as if they were proud of the idea portrayed in the Old Testament statements of a “God” who would strangely stress to never ever share his glory with other entities and beings. This somehow displaying his true greatness.

This is clearly only a residue of the older Canaanite and Mesopotamian styles, borrowed by the ancient Jews who wanted to use such language as a way to illustrate God’s uniqueness, rather than being the literal and actual reflections of a truly universal God.

History has repeatedly shown that this mindset of clinging to an absolute monotheism alone as the highest virtue, regardless of anything else, including love and goodness, has tendencies to generate a blind, violent, and arrogant expression of faith.

In Mazda-Yasna God is synonymous with the very element of goodness itself and any form of cruelty towards sentient beings would never be understood as being the will of God.

Zarathushtra Spitama is the prophet or teacher of Mazda-Yasna(God-Worship) and the composer of the Gathas. He lived somewhere within the eastern area of Greater Iran. It could possibly be in what is now either eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, or even southern Russia.

He was the first monotheist in recorded history to clearly expound that there is only one truly supreme God behind the universe who is also the force of love and goodness. This is expressed in his Gathas or Songs. Gatha is both the Avestan word and the Sanskrit word for hymn or a song of praise.

Many scholars consider the Gathas or the Songs to be a record of Zarathushtra’s own words that were carefully preserved and passed down through oral tradition for about 2000 years before being committed to writing.

The Indo-Iranian languages, Gathic Avestan and Vedic Sanskrit, are so close that Zarathushtra must of composed the Gathas in Iran within only a few centuries, either before or after, of when the rishis(seers/sages) composed the Rig-Veda in India. This may have been as early as 1500 to 1700 B.C. or 3500 to 3700 years ago.

A later date between 1000 to 1200 B.C. or 3000 to 3200 years ago is also suggested for Zarathushtra’s time but it really depends on the real age of the Rig-Veda and also the Vedic Sanskrit language itself, both of which seem to be much more ancient than that.

“The prophet Zarathushtra, son of Pourushaspa, of the Spitaman family, is known to us primarily from the Gathas, seventeen great hymns which he composed and which have been faithfully preserved by his community.”

“Zoroaster’s date cannot be established with any precision, since he lived in what for his people were prehistoric times. The language of the Gathas is archaic, and close to that of the Rigveda (whose composition has been assigned to about 1700 B. C. onwards); and the picture of the world to be gained from them is correspondingly ancient, that of a Stone Age society.”

“It is only possible therefore to hazard a reasoned conjecture that Zoroaster lived some time between 1700 and 1500 B.C.”
-Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices p. 17 and p. 18 by Mary Boyce

Aside from what is in the Gathas there is very little known about Zarathushtra for sure. There are stories and elaborations in the later Avesta, Middle Persian texts, and the Shahnameh epic by Ferdowsi but all these came much later.

The basic story seems to be that Zarathushtra came from an Iranian priestly family with practices not too different from the Indian priestly families and the earliest expressions of Hinduism. This would explain how Zarathushtra was actually able to compose the Gathas and sing them.

Early in his life Zarathushtra wanted to understand the nature of things. He questioned many things and sought all the higher knowledge he could gain from various teachers and priests like the Buddha over a 1000 years later.

Early on he noticed the corruption of the Karapans(Iranian priests) who easily controlled all others with fear and power for the sake of maintaining their own wealth and position, while the Kavis(warrior chieftains) raided villages and slaughtered innocent people. No one, not even his parents, would listen to him.

It is then said that when he was around 20 he left his home and went to dwell in the wilderness of the mountains where he mediated on all aspects of life and existence while also observing nature for 10 years.

When he was 30 he communed with Vohu Manah(Loving Mind) who showed him that there was ultimately one Primal and Supreme Intelligence of pure goodness behind all the universes or dimensions of existence, both physical and spiritual.

Zarathushtra returned wanting to share and teach his discoveries with his family and friends. However his community was too used to the traditional Indo-Iranian religion of their ancestors and they would not accept his new ethical message.

Eventually the Iranian priests realized how damaging his message could be to their prestigious lifestyle and called on the aid of the warrior chieftains to forcibly expel him from their community.

Later on Zarathushtra reached the community of King Vishtaspa who, together with his ministers, accepted his message and from then on aided him in spreading it.

Zarathushtra’s message would eventually spread all throughout the Greater Iranian plateau and about 1200 years later would greatly influence Judaism through Emperor Cyrus of Persia freeing the Jews from Babylonian captivity.

This made for long term friendly relations between the 2 groups who may of additionally felt a kindred spirit with each other as fellow monotheists. This in turn would influence the formations of Christianity 500 years afterwards, about 1700 years later, and Islam another 600 years afterwards, about 2300 years later.

While in the East, about 1000 years later, the message would more indirectly influence the formation of later Post-Vedic Upanishadic Hinduism in India. About 1700 years later it would also influence the formation of later Mahayana Buddhism in Central Asia before its spread into China and Japan.


“Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.”

“and some of its leading doctrines were adopted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as by a host of Gnostic faiths, while in the East it had some influence on the development of northern Buddhism.”

“These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence,”
-Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices p. 1 and p. 29 by Mary Boyce

“The Bible, which does not mention his name, was nonetheless so strongly influenced by his teaching that without him Judaism would have been a very different faith from what it is, and Christianity as we know it might not, arguably, even have come into existence, and certainly not spread in the direction it did.”

“a great deal of research carried out by numerous scholars indicates that both Judaism and Islam, and through Judaism Christianity as well, were directly influenced by Mazdayasni ideas.”

“Not even Buddhism has escaped Zoroastrian influence, for the region around Afghanistan and Bactria, where Zarathushtra lived many years,” “was at a crucial time in history one of the main centres of the development of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy.”

“and as much a Reformer of the Vedic society as Gautama Buddha. …As a matter of fact Zarathushtra stands nearer to the Vedic religion than Gautama Buddha does. For while Buddhism has sometimes been suspected of atheism, Parsi-ism (Zoroastrianism) (equally with Hinduism) is nothing if not theistic. …Yet no scholar thought of presenting the matter in this light.”

“These classes(caste system) paralleled the Hindu ones of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra”. It was Zarathushtra’s innovative teaching that first challenged this typical Aryan trend; and although today the concept of equality between man and his fellow-man is so common as to be taken for granted,

it ought to be appreciated that it was not the framers of the Declaration of Independence, but the Persian Prophet, who first enunciated it in unambigouous terms.”

“No other individual in the entire history of the world from the time Time began has ever had greater importance, influence, or impact on humanity; and yet he has been so neglected, even by the majority of historians (who surely ought to know better) that many-perhaps most-people in the world have not so much as heard of him.”
-Zarathushtra by Ardeshir Mehta

Check out the book.,Draft.pdf

(Yasna 28.4 of the Ahuna-Vaiti Gatha)
“I who have set my heart on watching over the soul, in union with Good Thought[Vohu Manah], and as knowing the rewards of Mazda Ahura for our works, will, while I have power and strength, teach men to seek after Right[Asha].”

Translation from The Divine Songs of Zarathushtra by Dr. Irach J. S. Taraporewala and C. Bartholomae

Zarathushtra’s pure revelation was totally all his own and was truly and most uniquely inspired by God. He calls himself a vaedemna(one who knows) which means he has divinely inspired wisdom.

However he must have been trained in the same oral traditions as the Iranian and Indo-Iranian poetic priests that came before him who in turn inherited their oral traditions from the even older Indo-European poetic priests.

In fact in the Gathas he refers to himself as a zaotar(a fully qualified priest of the older Indo-Iranian religion he opposed) and also a manthran which means one who is able to compose manthras(in Avestan) or mantras(in Sanskrit).

As strange as it may seem the Gathas are composed similarly to the heroic bardic poetry of the Norse & Celtic traditions, which are also of Indo-European origin.

The Gathas are actually passionate and poetic songs in loving praise of God that also contain visions, riddles, and prayers that are simultaneously intellectual and emotional.

“These are not works of instruction, but inspired, passionate utterances, many of them addressed directly to God; and their poetic form is a very ancient one, which has been traced back (through Norse parallels) to Indo-European times.”
-Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices p. 17 by Mary Boyce

Gathic Avestan, like its close relative Vedic Sanskrit, is a very fluid language. The words contain multi-layered meanings that reflect many different concepts at the same time.

The situation is somewhat similar to the multiple meanings of the ancient Chinese characters within the Tao Te Ching text by Lao Tzu which has resulted in many different English translations as well.

Many of the words convey implications referring to the mind/spirit, mental awareness, and consciousness not unlike that which would later be expressed in Hindu & Buddhist philosophies over 1000 years later.

Unfortunately this isn’t quite as easily apparent in English translations of the Gathas because even the most literal and technically correct translations are stilted to focus on a more direct meaning of the words for the sake of easier comprehension.

The Gathas, unlike the Old Testament and the Koran, are not a set of unchanging instructions or arbitrary tribal rules but instead serve as divine encouragement to always pursue and attune to what is good through Daena(Vision/Conscience), Tushna-Matay(Meditation), and personal mental/spiritual insight.

Part of the Kushti(holy belt) prayer.
“I keep pure my conduct by keeping pure the six powers of life, act, speech, thought, intellect, reasoning and mind.”

The Gathas also encourage the use of one’s God given mind to ever increase in creative consciousness and to improve the good physical creation of God for the benefit of all sentient beings which is indeed extended to include the welfare of animals.

“More accurately though ashá/artá is “divine artistry” or “supreme art.” ashá/artá comes often with the epithet vahishtá “beauty, wow, wonder.” The concept of Ashá vahishtá /Artá vahishtá is about the VISION/ART which creates and discovers WONDER.”

“In fact, Zarathúshtrá teaches that we are the co-workers (ham-kár) of the Gd of Genius and Vision through ashá/artá,”
Why shall we choose Goodness and Virtue??? by Ardeshir Farahmand

“For the Gd that Zarathushtra teaches about does not want servants and slaves but superior ahúrás and master creators, shapers of a fresh, new world and destiny,”
-Ameretát “Immortality,” “Indestructibility,” in the Poetic Gathas by Ardeshir Farahmand

“Fundamental to Zarathushtra’s philosophy is the tender loving care, friendship and stewardship of gentle/graceful animals, pets and livestock;” “Zarathushtra teaches that animals have a SOUL and consciousness,” “The seer/sage takes a very strong stand against the unrestrained slaughter and ill treatment of animals,”
-Zoroastrian dietary laws, animal friendship and stewardship by Ardeshir Farahmand

The Proto-Indo-Europeans, or the earliest Indo-European tribes, are generally thought to of originated over 5000 years ago from somewhere within the area of what is today in southern Russia. To the north of the Caucasus. At different points, different Indo-European tribes migrated to Europe, Iran, and India, spreading their influence and language.

The Indo-European tribes did in fact mix with the local indigenous groups of the areas that they settled in. This greatly influenced the development of the different expressions of the Indo-European cultures and mythologies after thousands of years of settlement.

The major Indo-European language groups in Europe include the Greek, Italic(Italian/Spanish/French), Germanic(German/Norse/English), Celtic(Irish/Scottish/Welsh), Slavic(Russian/Polish/Bulgarian), and Baltic(Lithuanian/Latvian) families. Lithuanian, of the Baltic family, is the European language that is closest to the Vedic Sanskrit in the Rig-Veda and the Gathic Avestan in the Gathas.

Indo-Iranian is a major and ancient offshoot of Indo-European. It mainly refers to the linguistic ancestors of the speakers of Iranic(Iranian) and Indic(Indian) languages before they divided into separate groups. It also includes the distinct Nuristani & Dardic language speakers.

The Proto-Indo-Iranians, or the earliest Indo-Iranian tribes, and apparently even the earliest Iranians themselves, most likely hailed from an area much further north than either Iran or India because of the ancient ruins of the Sintashta and Arkaim settlements. Particularly an area that is now within Russia or Kazakhstan.

“The cemetery excavation at Sintashta, in the south Ural steppe, has yielded compelling evidence for the importance of warriors in that area around 1500 B.C. Of special interest to us are finds that suggest correlations with the warrior activities condemned by Zarathustra.”
-Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology p. 192 by Shan M. M. Winn

Iranic peoples include the ancient Iranians who spoke Avestan during Zarathushtra’s time, the ancient Persians who founded the Achaemenid and Sassanian empires, and the modern Persians, Tajiks, Kurds, and other groups in the Middle East and Central Asia today.

The largest surviving communities of Iranian Zoroastrians within modern Iran are in the provinces of Yazd and Kerman, and in the city of Tehran within the province of Tehran which is the capital of the country.

Over a thousand years ago many Iranian Zoroastrians migrated east towards India in order to escape Islamic persecution and became the Parsi people. Beginning over 200 years ago more Iranian Zoroastrians went east to escape Islamic persecution as well and became the Irani people.

Some of the other Iranic groups include the ancient Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, and their descendants who settled in the Caucasus that later became the modern Ossetians. The Ossetian people composed their own versions of the Nart Sagas along with the versions composed by the native Caucasian peoples.

The origins behind the Iranic Ossetian versions of the Nart Sagas of the Caucasus would also strongly influence the stories about King Arthur, and his Knights of the Round Table, through Roman and Sarmatian migration to Britain.

The Indic peoples include the speakers of Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and many other related languages which all ultimately derive from Vedic Sanskrit. Both early Vedic & later Upanishadic Hinduism was developed in India through what was probably a combination of influence from both Indo-Iranian religion and the ancient Dravidian religion of the indigenous Dravidian peoples of non-Indo-European origin. Even Vedic Sanskrit shows traces of Dravidian influence.

The Romani(Gypsy) people are also included among them. The Nuristani & Dardic peoples include the Kalash people who seem to be the very last followers of unbroken traditions from Indo-European paganism and polytheism. The Kalash pantheon includes Indra from the Rig-Veda.

Other Middle Eastern areas where the Indo-Europeans settled include Armenia and Anatolia or ancient Turkey. Anatolia is where the Anatolian peoples settled which includes the Hittites.

Armenia was influenced by both Iran and Greece and the deities of Armenian Mythology are somewhat like a fusion between the Zoroastrian yazatas and the Greek Olympians because their names are similar to the names of the Zoroastrian angels but their attributes are more akin to the Greek gods.

The Indo-Europeans even migrated as far as western China in the Tarim Basin and the Taklamakan Desert where the Tocharian languages were spoken. It is also where the well preserved Tarim mummies were found.

I will now end this by showing some amazing similarities between a few Gathic Avestan terms and a few Old Norse terms. First I will describe the background of the Norse texts. The Norse tribes originated from older Germanic tribes who in turn originated from Indo-European tribes that settled within northern Germania and southern Scandinavia.

The Germanic languages are divided into 3 major groups. East Germanic, West Germanic and North Germanic. East Germanic tribes included the ancient Goths and Vandals. Only West and North Germanic languages are spoken today.

West Germanic languages includes German of Germany, Dutch of the Netherlands(contains Holland), Frisian of Frisia, and English of England. West Germanic languages are also spoken in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Belgium. The Jewish influenced Yiddish language is also a West Germanic language.

North Germanic has 2 subgroups. West Scandinavian which contains Norwegian of Norway, Icelandic of Iceland, and also Faroese of the Faroe Islands, which are in between Norway and Iceland. The other group is East Scandinavian which contains Swedish of Sweden and Danish of Denmark.

Other West Scandinavian languages not around today include Greenlandic Norse of Greenland and Norn of the Orkney islands and the Shetland islands which are both north of Scotland. Norn was also spoken in Caithness, a county in north-east Scotland.

Proto-Norse is the earliest form of North Germanic languages before it developed into the Old Norse of the Viking Age and then split up into the modern Scandinavian languages. Ancient runic inscriptions in the Elder Futhark alphabet, the oldest form of the Norse runes, show Proto-Norse to be almost exactly the same as Proto-Germanic.

Germanic Mythology in general is mostly preserved from Icelandic writings based on Norwegian versions of the myths which are both North Germanic groups making it Norse Mythology. There are not as many West Germanic writings on the myths but the Merseburg Incantations, which are written in Old High German, mentions Odin, Baldur, and Freya or Frigg. This shows that German Mythology is closely related to Norse Mythology. Anglo-Saxon(Old English), also West Germanic, references are also shown to be closely related.

God is variously called Ahura Mazda, Mazda Ahura, Mazda, and Ahura within the Gathas. Ahura(masculine base) means lord or god while Mazda(feminine base) means wise or wisdom. Together it perhaps should be understood as meaning the Primal and Supreme Intelligence or Mind Force behind the universe.

Asura is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Ahura and refers to a type of deity in the Rig-Veda. Aesir is the Old Norse cognate of both Ahura and Asura and refers to the highest ranking deities, such as Odin and Thor, in the Norse Poetic & Prose Eddas.

In the Gathas the Chinvat Bridge is the separator or the divider between the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension or the House of Song(Heaven). Apparently the Chinvat Bridge, through Indo-European roots, is related to the Norse Bifrost, or Asbru(Aesir’s bridge), which is the illuminating rainbow bridge that separates Midgard(Earth) and Asgard(the realm of the Aesir gods).

“Our universe is riddled with passages and according to the Poetic Gathas Chinvatö Perethü, or the Chinvat Bridge is the name of the main passageway from this world to the next and the wondrous realms beyond.”

“Perethü comes from Proto-Indo-European root pertu “to pass over” “bridge;” German brücke, Old English faran “to go, journey” Old Norse fjörðr “ford, entrance, passage” Old Church Slavonic pariti “fly” Latin portus”port, entrance, passage,” Greek poros “journey, passage,” peirein”to pierce, pass through.”

Chinvatö comes from the root chit, Sanskrit chid, Welsh chwydu, Old Irish scian, Gothic skaidan; “to separate one thing from another, to shed knowledge/light on” Latin scientia”knowledge” from scire “to know,” originally “to separate one thing from another.”

Chinvat Bridge is the bridge that “manifests knowledge, reveals, make it all clear.” Chinvat is the port/passage where higher insight is revealed and a selection of the souls for journey to more wondrous dimensions is made.”
-Chinvat Perethü; the Bridge of understanding and Ásbrú, the Aesir’s Bridge by Ardeshir Farahmand

“Zarathushtra teaches about a brilliant bridge or link between our finite material realm of rigidities and limitations to the domains of infinite possibilities and ever greater lights. Through this bridge man’s soul widens to cosmic dimensions and establishes a beaming pathway to the celestial house of music (Garoe-Demane.)

This bridge links up the most rudimentary and fragmented levels of our material knowledge with the highest levels of superb wisdom, understanding and consciousness. Through it we can have access to a realm where all consciousness meets, an undiminishing great light of super-knowledge and innovation.”

“The “Chinvat Bridge” rises beyond time and space and reveals all the future possibilities. It is an all-seeing measureless link, it is all vision, a channel for the superb clarity. The entire universe and all the worlds are seen through it. All becomes clear, revealed and sorted out!”

“The idea of the Chinvat Bridge has an almost identical counterpart in the Norse mythology. The Aesir (Same as Avestan “Ahura” or Sanskrit “Asura”) made a bridge with great skill and knowledge and ride this bridge which is called As-Bru (Aesir-bridge.) It crosses over to the “Urda-Brunn” (Well of Urd or original knowledge,) where the Aesir go to make judgments.

Apparently an intense, illuminating fire burns over the bridge to keep the evil forces away. We read in the Eddas; “Because the “As-Bru” burns all with fire, the holy waters move.” In Norse mythology the bridge/or link to the Aesir’s realm is inaccessible to the wicked and is only open to the noble souls.

Also, in the Zoroastrian holy writings the vile because of their own actions (destroying the world of men/mortals) and lack of vision are unable to cross over the bridge and are cast back into the domain of lies that have consumed them through all ages. (Yasna 46.11 and Yasna 51.13)”
-The concept of the illuminating bridge in Zoroastrian Faith, Norse Mythology and the al Sirat in Islam by Ardeshir Farahmand

Now the similarities between the Zoroastrian texts and the Norse texts are even more extensive than that. They are so particularly strong compared to other Indo-European texts that this may actually reflect a second layer of connections that goes beyond just both groups having the same linguistic background. Zoroastrian traditions coming out from Greater Iran may have possibly influenced the early Germanic tribes and other European groups.

Indo-European tribes have already migrated to Europe long before Zarathushtra’s time in 1700 B.C. or 3700 years ago. However the earliest Proto-Germanic tribes, who developed out of the older Indo-European tribes that settled in northern Germania & southern Scandinavia, may of formed during the Nordic Bronze Age between 1700-500 B.C. or during the Iron Age Jastorf culture which began in about 500 B.C.

The Nordic Bronze Age was exposed to foreign influences through trade with Central Europe and the Mediterranean and includes groups such as the Greeks, Egyptians, and others. Iranian influence may of also been transmitted towards the Proto-Germanic culture while it was still developing out of the older Indo-European culture that settled in Germania.

This would possibly explain why some of the oldest myths within the Norse Poetic Edda, such as the Voluspa, contain several similarities with Zoroastrian texts. Most striking are the similarities between the Zoroastrian Apocalypse and the Norse Ragnarok.
See In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth pp. 84-87 by J.P. Mallory

Another important and amazing similarity between a Gathic Avestan term and an Old Norse term.

“into the eternal lights, and then into the celestial House of Music & Songs of Ahúrá Manzdá. The House of Music & Songs is called Garö Demanæ in Avestan; Compare Avestan gar with Old Norse galdr (plural galdrar) deriving from a root for “singing” music/songs composed in a special metric measure.”
-The Zoroastrian threefold motto: The purest essence in thoughts, words and deeds by Ardeshir Farahmand

Garo[Song] Demane[House] is usually translated as “The House of Song”. It is the dimension of Ahura Mazda from where numerous worlds and melodies are emanated. It is also the oldest name for Heaven.

There is an ever-constant and omni-present invisible gate or portal between the physical dimension and Garo Demane from where all inspirations, creativity, new ideas, progress, and upper levels of consciousness within our minds are generated from.

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Heaven, Purgatory, reincarnation, ghosts, and Hell in light of the Gathas

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Heaven, Purgatory, reincarnation, ghosts, and Hell in light of the Gathas

John Easter

“The Gathas must be understood by themselves and in the light of their own contents. In other words, it would not be correct to take a Gatha word in the sense it acquired in later Zoroastrian Literature.” “The nearest to the Gathas, both in language and in spirit, stands the Vedic Literature of India.” “The Gathas are spiritual in the fullest sense of the word.”
-The Gathas of Zarathushtra pp. ix-x by Dr. Irach J. S. Taraporewala


Heaven in Zoroastrianism or Mazda-Yasna(God-Worship) is called Garo Demane, literally song/singing house/domain, which means the House of Song or House of Music and Songs. It is known by other terms meaning House of Loving/Good Mind/Purpose, World of Goodness, Infinite Lights, and Best Existence. It is the dimension of Ahura Mazda(God) and all the angelic spirits. It is associated with music, light, happiness, and love, and is where the souls of good people and also the souls of animals dwell.

Yasna 28.2 of the Gathas refers to both a physical world and a spiritual world. Yasna 32.15 refers to the spiritual world or Heaven as the House of Vohu Manah(Loving/Good Mind/Purpose). Yasna 50.4 and 51.15 calls it Garo Demane(House of Song or House of Music & Songs) and the dimension of Ahura Mazda(God). Garo Demane is later called Garodman in Middle Persian texts and Garothman in the Parsi Gujarati language.

Other Zoroastrian terms for Heaven include Gathic Avestan “Ashahya Gaeva”, meaning World of Asha or goodness, Avestan “Anaghra Raochah”, meaning Endless Light or Infinite Lights, and Avestan “Vahista Anhus”, meaning Best Existence, as well as Middle Persian “Wahisht” and New Persian “Behesht” also meaning Best Existence.

Heaven in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all reflections of the House of Music & Songs first described in the Gathas. The Yasna verses from the Gathas are actually composed by Zarathushtra himself and are dated between 3000 to 3800 years old. It is likely that they also distantly influenced the concepts of the Deva Lokas(deity realms), the Pure Lands, and Moksha or Nirvana within later Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism.

English “Heaven” comes from Middle English “Heven”, which in turn comes from Old English “Heofon” meaning Home of God. Earlier Heofon meant the sky. It is related to Old Norse “Himinn”, Old Frisian “Himul”, Dutch “Hemel”, and German “Himmel” for sky as well. Old English “Neorxna-Wang” is a similar term that means contentment field.

It is also related to the Old Norse term “Himin-Bjorg”, literally Heaven’s castle or mountain, which is the dwelling place of Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, and a part of Asgard, the world of the Aesir gods, at the top of Bifrost or Asbru(Aesir’s Bridge), which is the illuminating rainbow bridge that connects down to Midgard, the world of men, in Norse myth. Interestingly Old Norse “Aesir” is linguistically related to Gathic Avestan “Ahura” in the name of Ahura Mazda(God) through Indo-European roots.

In Zoroastrianism the Gathas describe the Chinvat Bridge as the separator or divider for souls between the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension. The Al-Sirat Bridge is the equivalent in the Islamic Koran and seems to be directly based on the Chinvat. Jacob’s Ladder used by angels to travel down to Earth and back up to Heaven in Jacob’s dream seems to be the equivalent in the Jewish Tanakh & Christian Old Testament.

There is a similar bridge in Japanese myth & Shinto religion called Ama-no-uki-hashi or the Floating Bridge of Heaven, which connects the Earth to Takama-ga-hara or the High Plain of Heaven. It is used to travel to and from Heaven. The bridge is also from where creation emanated from. Heaven overarches creation and is the place of Ame-no-minakanushi or the Central Master who is above all the gods. The Floating Bridge, the Chinvat, and Bifrost/Asbru all share the same basic similarities.

Takama-ga-hara is also the place of the ancestors, the kami(spirits), and where the Yamato Japanese gods have their assembly place and halls. Including the sun goddess Amaterasu who is the acting leader of the Yamato pantheon. Similarly Odin, the acting leader of the Norse pantheon, has halls such as Valhalla for the souls of warriors, Gladsheim where the gods have their assembly place, and Hlidskjalf for observing the worlds. Other halls of the gods within Asgard include Freya’s Sessrumnir in Folkvang, Thor’s Bilskirnir in Thrudheim or Thrudvang, Heimdall’s Himin-Bjorg, and others.

English “Paradise” ultimately comes from Avestan “Pairidaeza” which originally referred to enclosed parks and gardens. Hebrew “Shamayim” for sky is the word for Heaven and the Home of God in the Jewish Tanahk/Old Testament while Greek “Ouranos” for sky is used in the Christian New Testament for the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God. Arabic “Jannah” for paradise or garden is the equivalent term used in the Islamic Koran.

Chinese “Shangdi” and “Tian”, and Mongolic & Turkic “Tengri”, are very similar terms that mean both one high god and the sky realm of the gods or Heaven. Sky ladders for humans and gods to travel to and from Heaven are mentioned in many ancient Chinese myths in the form of mountains, trees, ropes, towers, cobwebs, and even rainbows. Sky ladders to Heaven are also mentioned in numerous myths around the world including Central & North Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, and South America. Sky realms of the gods are also mentioned in Maori and general Polynesian myths within Oceania.

Similar terms for a good supernatural realm include Greek Mount Olympus, Elysium or the Elysian Fields, and the Islands of the Blessed, Irish Mag Mell and Tir na nOg, Welsh Annwn and Avalon, Norse Asgard & Vanaheim: Odin’s Valhalla, Freya’s Folkvang, Gefjon’s hall, Vingolf(assembly place of the goddesses), and Gimle(for good souls), Sami Saivo, Finnish Paivola/Ylinen, Hungarian Tulvilag/Felso Vilag, Slavic Iriy/Virey, Russian Bunyan, Lithuanian Dausos, Latvian Debeskalns(Sky Mountain), Iranic Ossetian Kurys, Hindu/Indian Svarga, Egyptian Aaru(Field of Reeds), and Wiccan Summerland.

“into the eternal lights, and then into the celestial House of Music & Songs of Ahúrá Manzdá. The House of Music & Songs is called Garö Demanæ in Avestan;”
-The Zoroastrian Threefold Motto: The Purest Essence in Thoughts, Words and Deeds by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

“in good music of all kinds I’ve always perceived the echoes of Garodman(Heaven)”
-On becoming a Zoroastrian in Italy by Michele L. Moramarco

“There, too, will all the animal kingdom be-flocks and herds, wild animals, birds, and fish”
-The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism p. 307 by R. C. Zaehner

“An absolute white Light that is God-all loving. The reunification of us with our creator.”
-Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 27 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

There are numerous near death experience testimonies about God and Heaven that mention great light and also the feeling of great love.
See Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience by Dr. Ken R. Vincent.

Music is also mentioned.
See Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 41 and p. 69 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent.


The Gathas seem to express a view in between the extremes of ultra liberalism and ultra fundamentalism but ultimately leans towards Universalism. What seems to be expressed as sinful within the Gathas is harming sentient beings such as by exploiting and killing fellow humans and by causing unnecessary and prolonged suffering towards animals. This is extended to include intentional verbal and psychological abuse.

Yasna 51.9 states that Ahura Mazda exposes everyone to his divine “fire” or “molten metal” which affects people differently based on how good or bad they are. Yasna 30.7 and 32.7 mention this as well. This exposure is also understood to be an allusion to what happens at the Apocalypse/Ragnarok or the Frasho-Kereti(making wonderful, excellent, fresh) of Earth or the Universe. Olam Haba(world to come) is the Jewish equivalent.

Yasna 30.11 states that happiness and blessings come to the followers of goodness while pain and long punishment come to the followers of Druj(evil). The verse also says that eventually all shall be well. Yasna 31.20 states that the followers of Druj experience a long age of misery, darkness, ill food, and crying of woe.

However Yasna 30.8 states that when comes the punishment of the wicked, Ahura Mazda, through Vohu Manah(Loving/Good Mind/Purpose), makes them understand and they are then taken back by Ahura Mazda when their frenzy finally wears off and they surrender the evil in their hearts to the powers of good. Yasna 30.10 and 34.10 imply this as well.

Comparatively in modern Judaism what is called Hell really functions as Purgatory. The Babylonian Talmud, in tractate Eduyot 2:10, states that souls are not punished anymore than 1 year or 12 months.

A specific shadowy Purgatory and Limbo like dimension is only vaguely alluded to in Yasna 33.1 of the Gathas. It is first called Misvan Gatu(place for the mixed ones) in the later Avesta. In Middle Persian texts it is called Hamistagan(equilibrium stationary). Interestingly it has later been described as being similar to Earth and even having winters and summers.
See Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions p. 205 by Mitra Ara.

The neutral and shadowy dimension corresponds to many similar references within mythologies from all over the world. Including Sheol in ancient Judaism and the older Kur(Sumerian name) or Irkalla(Assyro-Babylonian name) in Mesopotamian myth.

Other examples include the Asphodel Meadows of Hades in Greek myth, Helheim of Niflhel in Norse myth, Tuonela/Manala in Finnish & Estonian myth, Jabme-Aimo in Sami myth, Patala in Hindu myth, Yomi in Japanese myth & Shinto religion, and the House of Hine in Polynesian(Maori) myth from New Zealand.


Yasna 46.11, 49.11, and 51.14 state that the souls of evil people, in particular the Karapans(evil priests) and the Kavis(tyrant princes), fall back into the Demane Druj (House of Druj) while crossing the Chinvat Bridge. Druj is the concept of evil in general.

The Chinvat Bridge was understood as the separator or the divider between the physical world and the spiritual world. Apparently the Chinvat Bridge, through Indo-European roots, is related to the Norse Bifrost or Asbru(Aesir’s Bridge) which is the illuminating rainbow bridge that separates Midgard(Earth) and Asgard(the world of the Aesir gods).

The House of Druj looks like it should be a name for Hell and it is understood that way. However Dr. Taraporewala, in his free verse translation of the Gathas p. 215, p. 255, and p. 283, identifies it with the Earth or the physical universe.

The reason for this seems to be because in Yasna 49.11, the Gathic Avestan words, paiti and yeinti, could be translated as “shall return” or “do come back”. Alternatively it could be translated as “go (forth?) to meet”. Another reason for this seems to be because the Chinvat Bridge was understood as the barrier between the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension. They are called Astavat(physical) & Manahya(spiritual) in Avestan and Getig(physical) & Menog(spiritual) in Middle Persian.

The problem with this is that it makes it sound like the Earth, or the physical universe, is being identified with Hell, similar to Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Buddhism, instead of being the good creation of Ahura Mazda. However the physical universe is understood to be afflicted by Druj. It’s in this sense how I understand what Dr. Taraporewala meant.

“In Zoroastrianism, the material world is not seen as negative in itself; rather, it exists in the state of ‘mixture’ and it has been contaminated by the aggressive activity unleashed against it by the evil spirit, Angra Mainyu.” “The spiritual world is directly connected with the material world, as if the latter were the manifestation of the spiritual world.”
-Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions p. 166 by Mitra Ara

If Yasna 49.11 is referring to reincarnation it should be compared to statements that seem to be in support of reincarnation from the nearly contemporary Rig-Veda instead of later Hindu texts.

The Rig-Vedic verses, 10.16.3 and 10.16.5, either mentions being reborn in Heaven or on Earth. The Rig-Vedic verses, 2.33.1 and 6.70.3, mention being reborn through one’s descendants.
See The Rig Veda pp. 48-51, p. 206, and p. 221 translated by Wendy Doniger.

Interestingly Middle Persian texts from the Sassanian era refer to the resurrection of people, after the Apocalypse or Frasho-Kereti, as obtaining the “Final Body”. This may or may not be a very distant echo of reincarnation from the Rig-Veda and the background of Indo-Iranian religion, which in turn come from the even older Indo-European religion.

Additionally post-Vedic Hindu texts seem to show some noticeable traces of Zoroastrian influence. Examples include the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Narayaniya chapters of the later Shanti Parva book added to the Mahabharata epic.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad mentions using forms, including the depictions of all the different Hindu deities, to help understand Brahman(God) and the importance of expressing Bhakti(loving devotion) to Brahman or God. The statements in the Upanishad about Brahman and the later Bhakti movements within Hinduism, such as the Hare Krishna movement, may have originated from Zoroastrian influence on the composers of the Upanishads. Major avatars include Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Shiva, and Maha-Devi.

The Shanti Parva mentions a foreign land to the north-west of India called Shweta Dwipa that seems to be referring to Zoroastrian Iran because its people are described as being equals, monotheistic, and worshiping God through good thoughts, words, and deeds.
See Zarathushtra pp. 60-61 by Ardeshir Mehta.

However post-Vedic Hinduism also contains many influences from the later ascetic Shramana movements indigenous to India. The Shramana traditions taught a purely karma based reincarnation instead. Shramana not only changed Hinduism but also very strongly influenced the formations of Buddhism and Jainism, which rejected the Vedas.

The main objection I have against reincarnation in Zoroastrianism, mainly through Yasna 49.11, is that it implies a system similar to the pure karma systems in later Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It should be noted that Yasna 49.11 may not be specifically referring to reincarnation even if “do come back” is definitely the correct translation.

However I don’t think reincarnation is necessarily incompatible with Zoroastrianism. I also don’t think a Zoroastrian reincarnation would be a cold and mechanical process like how it’s described in Buddhism, Jainism, and some expressions of Hinduism. Nor do I think people, who are reborn unaware of their past deeds, are to experience suffering or good things in the current life, nor in a yet even later life, when their karma “ripens”.

The Rig-Veda portrays rebirth among descendants as desirable and even requesting it from the gods. The Helgi lays of the Poetic Edda and the Norse/Icelandic sagas, Finnboga Saga, Viga Glum Saga, Svarfdaela Saga, and the story of Olaf in the Flateyjarbok, which are all from a Germanic but related Indo-European culture, also seem to hint at this same idea. Other Indo-European peoples, Celts, Greeks(see the story of Er in the Republic by Plato), and the Italic Romans(see book 6 in the Aeneid by Virgil), hint at this as well.

“A lesson which they[the druids] take particular pains to inculcate is that the spirit/mind does not perish, but after death passes from one body to another;”
-De Bellico Gallico 6.14 by Julius Caesar. He is describing the druids of the Celtic Gauls.

Alternatively I think reincarnation could be a willing request made by souls to God to help spread more goodness throughout the universe as hamkars(co-workers). Kabbalistic Judaism expresses it in this sense and the basic idea is in alignment with Zoroastrianism.

“but reincarnation is generally viewed positively, as multiple opportunities to help others and acquire merit for the self.”
-The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism p. 218 by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

“In Kabbalistic understanding of gilgul(cycle), which differs from many Eastern-religious views, reincarnation is not fatalistic or automatic, nor is it essentially a punishment of sin, or reward of virtue.” “As such gilgul is an expression of Divine compassion, and is seen as a Heavenly agreement with the individual soul to descend again.”
-Gilgul article on Wikipedia.

Similar expressions of a more positive version of reincarnation are also mentioned in the Native American traditions as well.
See Amerindian Rebirth: Reincarnation Belief Among North American Indians and Inuit by Antonia Mills and Richard Slobodin.


If the translation “shall return” or “do come back” in Yasna 49.11 is correct it would not necessarily mean reincarnation or reincarnation alone. It could also refer to the physical or Earthbound containment of a disembodied Urvan(soul/self in Gathic Avestan) akin to a ghost.

The Zoroastrian texts don’t seem to specifically mention ghosts, outside of the temporary state of a disembodied Urvan before going to the Chinvat Bridge, but they do mention demons. Evil spirits or bad ghosts may have been associated with the demons in general.

Zoroastrians do maintain an ancient tradition of a series of 10 days, known as the Farvar-digan or Muktad days approximately March 11-20, for honoring all the good spirits of the dead who are believed to visit from Heaven. Jashne(Festival) of Farvar-dingan on April 8 is another day of the dead. The Farvar-digan days are generally similar to both the All Saints’ Day/All Hallows and the Feast of All Souls Day in Catholic Christianity.

The last Wednesday of the 10 days is called the Chahar Shanbe Suri. It is also known as the Festival of Fire and bonfires are made at night to repel the evil spirits. It has aspects surprisingly similar to Halloween and may reflect ancient Indo-European connections. During the evening children and adults use white shrouds or sheets to dress up as ghosts to reenact the coming of all the spirits and then go out to visit homes asking for treats.

“The popular holiday of Halloween has its roots and origin in the Celtic holiday of Samhain. It is truly fascinating that how Halloween and many other ancient Indo-European festivities, have been preserved untouched in Mazda-Yasna or Zoroastrianism with the original ancient beliefs behind them.”

“The Gaels, like the Zoroastrians believed that the border between this world and the Other-World became thin before the New Year; it thus allowed the spirits to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living.”
-Celtic Origins of Halloween and Zoroastrian Beliefs and Festivities by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

Some near death experience reports describe Hell as being in an Earthbound state as a ghost. There are exceptions, such as in ancestor veneration, but many of the ghosts and other undead beings that are recorded in folklore from all over the world are usually described as hostile or sad as well as being in an unnatural or even Hellish like state.

“But what if one level of hell existed right here on the surface- unseen and unsuspected by the living people occupying the same space? What if it meant remaining on earth but never again able to make contact with it?”
-Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 131 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent
Taken from Return from Tomorrow by George Ritchie and Elizabeth Sherrill

“The psychiatrist George Richie (1998, pp.37-41) who had an NDE(near death experience) in 1943 tells of visiting hellish realms invisible but on the earth-plane, as well as tours of other realms where people were trapped because of their own desires.”
-Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side” by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

Gathic Avestan “Druj” means malicious falsehood, the opposite of “Asha” or goodness, and the essence of evil in the wickedest, vilest, deepest, and un-holiest sense. It is a close cognate of Vedic Sanskrit “Druh” which means affliction, hurtful, hostile, injurer, foe, fiend, demon, and evil power. “Druh” is also the opposite of “Rta” which is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Gathic Avestan “Asha” and means order.

Old Norse “Draugar” and Middle Irish “Aurddrach” refer to undead beings and are related cognates of Gathic Avestan “Druj” and Vedic Sanskrit “Druh” through Indo-European roots. Other related words include Old English “Dreag”, meaning ghost, Scottish Gaelic “Dreag”, meaning ghost lights or “fiery death-warnings”, Old Persian “Drauga” and Persian “Dorug”, meaning lies, German “Trug”, meaning fraud or deception, and English “Trick”. Possibly even English “Darkness”, which derives from Old English “Deorc” meaning obscure, gloomy, sad, cheerless, sinister, and wicked.

“Aurddrach” means ghost. “Abhartach” is a similar word that refers to an undead dwarf in an Irish legend who is described as one of the “neamh-mairbh” or walking dead. “Draug”, singular, or “Draugar”, plural, are ghoul like beings described in the Norse/Icelandic sagas. Including Eyrbyggja Saga, Saga of Grettir the Strong, Saga of Erik the Red, Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, Saga of Egil & Asmund, Saga of Hromund Gripsson, Njal’s Saga, Laxdaela Saga, Gisli Sursson’s Saga, and Floamanna Saga.

Draugar are related to ghasts in Swedish lore, Nachzehrers in German lore, and revenants in English lore. Draugar are particularly similar to the vampires in Slavic & Romanian lore and to both the Rakshasas and the undead beings in Hinduism & Indian lore. They are also similar to the ghouls in Arabian lore and to the Dybbuks in Jewish lore. Whether described as physical ghoul like beings or non-physical ghost like beings the undead are mentioned in the lore of numerous countries and cultures and on every continent.

Draugar were thought to be very greedy, cruel, and wicked people in life. As undead they injure and terrorize both human and animal life in the Norse sagas. This does seem to be connected to the Dregavants, the followers of Druj and the living injurers of human and animal life, who fall back into the House of Druj after their deaths, which is described as a Hellish state for their souls in the Gathas. Frawardin Yasht 12 states that the guardian angels help prevent Druj from gaining power over the physical world or corporeal life.

“In Norse mythology the bridge/or link to the Aesir’s realm is inaccessible to the wicked and is only open to the noble souls. Also, in the Zoroastrian holy writings the vile because of their own actions (destroying the world of men/mortals) and lack of vision are unable to cross over the bridge and are cast back into the domain of lies that have consumed them through all ages. (Yasna 46.11 and Yasna 51.13)”
-The Concept of the Illuminating Bridge in Zoroastrian Faith, Norse Mythology and the Al-Sirat in Islam by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

A fate like this would seem more likely for the Karapans(evil priests) and Kavis(tyrant princes) in the Gathas than reincarnation considering their offenses of instructing men to do evil and causing harm and pain towards people and animals alike.

Yasna 31.20, 46.11, and 51.13 state that it is actually their own soul and self, not God, that torments them for their wicked deeds and words when they approach the Chinvat Bridge and fall back into the House of Druj.

“This concept of self-judgment most likely stems from the Zoroastrian insistence that God is perfect goodness and that such a God could not inflict the pain of punishment.”

“As Ahura Mazda can create no evil, the pain of any Hell must come from demons independent of God’s power or, as the Gathas indicate, must be self-inflicted. Ahura Mazda does instigate the final ordeal of molten metal, but it is clear that the suffering depends on the person’s nature, for the righteous swim in this fluid as if it were warm milk.”
-Last Judgment as Self Judgment: After Death Experiences in Zoroastrianism and Tibetan Buddhism
Taken from “Humanistic Self-Judgment and After-Death Experiences” by N. F. Gier in Immortality and Human Destiny pp. 3-20 by Geddes MacGregor


Here Hell is identified with the Abyss or the dimension of Angra Mainyu and his daevas. As opposed to a place meant for human souls to be sent for punishment by God. It appears souls can be drawn down to it but not as a part of the will of God and the angelic spirits under him.

Yasna 30.3-5 and Yasna 45.2 state that Angra/Akem/Aka Mainyu, the hostile/evil spirit, chose to oppose Spenta Mainyu(Holy Spirit) who is the sacred and bright life-emanating spirit under Ahura Mazda(God). Angra Mainyu, called Debaoma(arch-deluder/deceiver) in Yasna 30.6, persuaded the daevas, shining deities or beings, to join his cause. Yasna 30.6 and Yasna 32.3-5 state that the daevas chose to go bad with him and to afflict humans and the world or Universe with hateful acts as well as to inspire aggressive religious views and violence in the minds of people.

Their dimension is not directly described but it seems to be alluded to in Yasna 30.4 and Yasna 32.13. Their abode also seems to be alluded to in the Zamyad Yasht and the Mithra Yasht within the Avesta. The later Vendidad, Bundahishn, and Dadestan-i Denig texts all reference a mountain to the far north called Arezura said to have a gate or portal to their dimension on the summit.

Yasna 32.13 states that an evil man called Grehma, and his followers, obtained dominion or power in the House of Acishtahya Manah(Worst Mind/Purpose) but that the power will destroy them and then they will desire the power of Ahura Mazda instead. Acishtahya Manah is a term similar to Aka/Akem Manah(Evil Mind/Purpose).

Aka Manah is the opposite of Vohu Manah(Loving/Good Mind/Purpose). One of Heaven’s names is the House of Vohu Manah. So it seems that the House of Acishtahya Manah is the original name for Hell. Aka Manah in Yasna 32.3 seems to possibly be referring to Angra Mainyu(Hostile Spirit) instead of an arch-daeva under him like in the later Avesta. Interestingly Spenta Mainyu(Holy Spirit) and Vohu Manah might be the same being.

Other Zoroastrian terms for Hell include Gathc Avestan “Druj Demane”, meaning House of Druj or evil, Avestan “Anaghra Temah”, meaning Endless Darkness, Avestan “Achista Anhus”, meaning Worst Existence, and Avestan “Duzanhu”, meaning Bad Existence, as well as Middle Persian “Dusox” and New Persian “Duzak” also meaning Bad Existence.

English “Hell” comes from Old English “Helle” and “Hel”. Both mean concealed place and refer to the underworld of the dead in general. They are related to Old Norse “Hel” which refers to both the goddess of the underworld and the neutral area of the underworld in Norse myth. Old Norse “Niflheim” refers to the misty wilderness of the underworld.

Old Norse “Nastrond”, meaning corpse shore, is the punishment area of the underworld for murderers, adulterers, and oath-breakers. It is described as a large hall filled with serpents woven into the walls and ceiling that are continuously dripping venom and forming streams. It is similar to other Indo-European punishment areas. Including the Greek Tartarus within Hades of Plouton/Pluto and the Hindu/Indian Naraka of Yama.

The wicked dead, in addition to wading through rivers of venom, are also attacked by a wolf and by the flying dragon called “Nidhogg” which means Malice Striker in Old Norse. Old English “Wyrm-Sele” is a term that means Serpent Hall. It is filled with serpents and is probably the Germanic Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Norse Nastrond.

Uralic negative spirit worlds are similar to Norse Niflheim and Nastrond. Including Finnish Pohjola, described as a cold land of all evil and ruled by Louhi/Loviatar the evil goddess of diseases, Sami Rotaimo, described as the place of evil spirits and ghosts and ruled by Rota/Ruohtta the evil god of death and sickness, and Hungarian Pokol/Also Vilag, described as the place for cruel souls and ruled by Ordog the god of evil. Pohjola, like the mountain Arezura in Zoroastrian texts, is also described as being to the far north.

Hebrew “Gehinnom” in the Jewish Tanahk/Old Testament referred to a place called the Valley of the Son of Hinnom where children were burned to death as a sacrifice to the dark god called Moloch. In the later Jewish writings “Gehinnom”, because of its evil association, came to be used to refer to the negative spirit world or a place of punishment as either Hell or Purgatory. It also has a wicked angel prince depending on the source. The physical valley itself was thought to contain a gate or portal to the dimension.

Greek “Gehenna” comes from Hebrew “Gehinnom” and is the equivalent term in the Christian New Testament while Arabic “Jahannam” is the equivalent term in the Islamic Koran. The “Lake of Fire” in the Jewish Book of Enoch and the Christian Book of Revelation seems to echo the lakes and rivers of red fire for punishment within the Duat, which is the general spirit world in Egyptian myth. It is also similar to the molten metal described during the process of Frasho-Kereti(Making Wonderful) in Zoroastrianism.

The Abyss and Tartarus are the Greek language terms used for the abode of fallen angels or demons in the New Testament. Abyss means bottomless pit. In Greek myth Tartarus is a great abyssal pit that was used to cast away and seal up powerful enemies of the Olympian gods such as the Titans, the Gigantes, and the monstrous Typhon according to the Theogony poem by Hesiod. The Tartarus within Hades where Plouton or Pluto, the god of the underworld, administers punishment to the wicked dead is a different Tartarus.

In the Book of Enoch and the Book of Giants of the Jewish Apocrypha a group of fallen angels called Watchers, led by Azazel and Shemyaza, subjugate and enslave humans killing hundreds of thousands of them. They were defeated by the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel and were then sealed up in Tartarus. These fallen angels, or abyssal fallen angels in general, seem to be alluded to in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 within the New Testament. The Second Book of Enoch says that Satan hovers above the Abyss.

In the Rig-Veda the Devas, or gods of the early Hindu pantheon, Indra, Agni, Soma, and Varuna, fight and defeat the Asuras(dark gods or demons) and Rakshasas(lesser Asuras) which are then sealed away in the world of the A-Sat, literally meaning the non-existence or anti-existence, and An-Rta, literally meaning anti-order. It is described as a dark hole or a great, deep, gloomy, and abyssal pit. It is later called Naraka in the Atharva-Veda.
See Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions p. 108 and pp. 140-146 by Mitra Ara.

“Time was forever, endless rather than all at once. The remembering of events had no sense of life review, but of trying to prove existence, that existence existed. Yes, it was more than real: absolute reality. There’s a cosmic terror we have never addressed.

The despair was because of the absolute conviction that I had seen what the other side was- I never thought of it as Hell- and there was no way to tell anyone. It wouldn’t matter how I died or when, damnation was out there, just waiting.”
-Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 127 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent
Taken from Distressing Near-Death Experiences by Bruce Greyson and Nancy E. Bush

There are many near death experience testimonies about Hell. Many different people have described it as a vast pit or dimension of darkness and evil. Reports also mention that there are screams and demons within. Some people even described it as being very hot or having heat like in the traditional fire and brimstone descriptions but not always and sometimes even coldness is described instead.

Sometimes an evil being, thought to be either the Devil or a demon under him, would try to forcibly escort the person to go deeper and deeper down into the abysmal darkness. In many of these accounts where the person started to become more and more scared of what was happening around them they would call out to God for help and then God would instantly appear to rescue them from the evil dimension.
See Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 117, p. 121, p. 123, p. 125, and p. 127 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent.

Many more near death experience testimonies report a Great Being of Light that generates love and it is usually identified with God. However many reports also state that there are actually numerous beings of light, that includes Jesus and the angels, who are the emissaries of God constantly saving souls from ending up in the Abyss like a rescue operation.

“Over the past few decades, increasing numbers of modern people have described a personal, direct knowledge of Hell as the result of their “near-death experience” (people revived following a period of clinical death).

Interestingly, those who found themselves in Hell initially often reversed their experience from negative to positive when they called out to God or Jesus. These encounters seem to indicate that God still rescues people.”

“I was in Hell…I cried up to God, and it was by the power of God and the mercy of God that I was permitted to come back..” “It appears from near-death experience accounts that Jesus is still rescuing people from Hell!”
-The Golden Thread: God’s Promise of Universal Salvation p. 24 and p. 63 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

In Yasna 46.10 Zarathushtra states that he himself will be with and comfort the souls of good people who cross the Chinvat Bridge. It seems Zarathushtra was saying that he was going to become one of these helpers of light.

“All around these lost souls were Beings of Light just waiting to assist them out of their hellish state.” “Both the Northern Buddhist and Universalist Christian traditions have saviors (Amida Buddha and Jesus) who rescue people from hell (Vincent, 2005, p. 8).”
-Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side” by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

“He(Amida Buddha) may well have emerged from Zoroastrian scriptures, which worship him(Ahura Mazda) in a similar way to the Amidists.”
-Handbook of Japanese Mythology p. 49 by Michael Ashkenazi

Ahura Mazda is not an angry or vengeful God. The souls seem to be weighed down to the House of Acishtahya Manah, or the dimension of Angra Mainyu, from the evil in their minds and hearts. The Gathas say that evil-doers suffer after death at the Chinvat through their own evil because they see or realize it and that God exposes everyone to his power, which affects people differently based on how good or bad they are. The Chinvat seems to function like a neutral mechanism that shows them what they done wrong.

Yasna 30.8, among other indications within the Gathas, makes it clear that Ahura Mazda neither wants nor intends to loose any of his creations. There are also other indications of this outside of the Gathas as well.

Yasna 19.6, outside of the Gathas, says that Ahura Mazda will help any soul pass over the Chinvat Bridge to Heaven who says the Ahuna Vairya prayer. It seems that later just saying Ahura Mazda, or calling out to God for help, was considered just as effective.

“Further, it is also said in the Zoroastrian text that whoever recites the ‘Ahuna-Variya formula'(see Yasna 19.6 & Yasna 27.13), 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.”
-Buddhism in Central Asia p.144 by B.N. Puri

“Merež is the word for Mercy in the Poetic Gathas.” “The mercy/grace of higher providence is for all the creation. We receive it according to our “sincere aspiration” and openness (See Yasna 33.11, 3rd rhymed verse line, sraótá möi merež-dátá möi.)”

“the Poetic Gathas unambiguously teach that mistakes can be effaced. The importance of mistakes and misdeeds lie in the extent to which they have served us to make progress. And once the learning/progress has been made, the consequences of past errors disappear through the bright light of mercy and providence’s grace.”
-Mercy in the Poetic Gathas by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

Maybe the differences in the perspectives about Hell, such as the Zoroastrian & Christian Universalist views compared to the Christian & Islamic Fundamentalist views, can be illustrated in this account of a missionary preaching to the Maori people of New Zealand and the people’s response to it.

“The missionary then began to expatiate on the torments of hell, at which some of them seemed horrified, but others said, “they were quite sure such a place could only be made for the white faces, for they had no men half wicked enough in New Zealand to be sent there;”

but when the reverend gentleman added with vehemence that “all men” would be condemned, the savages all burst into a loud laugh, declaring “they would have nothing to do with a God who delighted in such cruelties;”
-A Narrative of a Nine Months’ Residence in New Zealand in 1827 pp. 154-155 by Augustus Earle

“The idea of “an endless misery” is fundamentally at odds with the core beliefs and dogmas of the Zoroastrians. Zoroastrianism vehemently opposes the notion of a GD that creates imperfect, evolving creatures to punish them later for their imperfections in a demonic hell for ALL ETERNITY.”
-Reincarnation and the Zoroastrian Beliefs by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

“In point of fact Zarathushtra does not even deem evil-doers eternally condemned; there is hope for them too, for their evil passion must, perforce, wear off one day; and then even these lost ones are taken back by Mazda, in His infinite mercy, unto His bosm:

(Yasna 30.8:) And when the frenzy departs from these sinners, then Mazda Himself, with the help of His Loving Mind, makes them understand, and inspires in them His Strength; Ahura Himself instructs those who surrender the Lie into the hands of the Righteousness.”
-Zarathushtra by Ardeshir Mehta

This quote from Dastur(High Priest) Dr. Kersey H. Antia’s essay “A Brief Exposition of Spirituality in Zoroastrianism” seems to make a good conclusion here as well.

“We can thus see how comprehensive and yet so logical, lofty, sublime and literally so down-to-earth Zarathushtra’s philosophy is about attaining spirituality and how relevant, inspiring and practicable it is today as it was at the dawn of history.

As a matter of fact, when people are turning away from religion and religious dogmas today, his theology holds promise for inspiring us to recognize and fulfill our spiritual mission so easily on this earth, a mission which is not far from our grasp if we only will it.”
-A Brief Exposition of Spirituality in Zoroastrianism by High Priest Dr. Kersey H. Antia

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer 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.

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer 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.
-Zarathushtra pp. 72-74 translated by Ardeshir Mehta

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Hello my name is John Easter. This blog was created for me by my friend Chris Crawford. He felt it would be a good idea for me to start putting my personal writings and research up on a blog for people to see instead of on a forum for only a few friends. They consist mostly of mythology and religion. It started out as a hobby for fun but slowly developed into a more serious interest.

Although my interests include religions and mythologies in general I have a particularly strong interest in the Zoroastrian religion and its relationship with the Indo-European mythologies, which includes the Greek, Norse, Celtic, Hindu and other mythologies.

Most of my stuff is about ancient Zoroastrianism and its relationships and similarities with other religions and mythologies. Including non-Indo-European ones such as Judaism and the Chinese and Japanese mythologies. Over time I will be going over and posting some of what I have wrote for this blog. I may eventually post some new things too.