Mithra

Mithra and the the six Amesha Spentas

Mithra is the Holy Spirit, Spenta Mainyu among the Amesha Spentas. He stands at the head of the Seven Aeons as their leader and represents Ahura Mazda himself. Just as Melek Taus* stands at the head of Seven Archangels in Yazdanism. 

Mithra, as Spenta Mainyu, is an aspect of the Wise Lord. Through the Holy Spirit, Ahura Mazdā creates life and goodness. According to Zoroastrian belief, Spenta Mainyu protects and maintains many realms and creatures—the sky, water, earth, plants, and children yet to be born. *Mithra

(Scroll down for entries on each of the Amesha Spentas)

 

Zurvan, Mithra and Spenta Mainyu the solution to an ancient theological dilemma.

The solution to the problem detailed below from 'English Zoroastrian' is to see that Zurvan, Mithra and Spenta Mainyu are three modes of the Wise Lord, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This preserves the Orthodoxy of Mithraism as Mazdaism and the integrity of the theological distinctions. 

Enter Spenta Mainyu:

As long as the simple Zoroastrian believed in God, Hormazd, and his adversary the evil one, Ahriman, things went without spenta mainyu. The more learned said that it was an appellation of Hormazd. And long before them, in the good old days of the Vendidad, Ahura Mazda, the most spenta mainyu, had anghra mainyu as his opponent. According to the Zurvanites, who were perhaps as old as the Achaemenians in the 6th century BC, and as young as the authors of Bundahishn and Vichitakiha-i Zatsparam in the 9th century AD, good and evil were twins begotten by Zurvân Akarna, Boundless Time. So the simple Zoroastrian was, more or less, following tradition.

But with the advent of Zoroastrian studies, led and encouraged by Western scholars, a change set in. Studies of the Gathas and the later Avesta revealed that spenta mainyu was referred to as an entity. And since then, almost all Zoroastrians and those who are well acquainted with the Zarathushtrian religion know the term spenta mainyu. Because the Gathas and the later Avesta were translated into English and other European languages, mostly by Christian scholars who had the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit in mind, the term has conventionally come to mean the Holy Spirit. The general notion about it is that it has an adversary, Anghra Mainyu, the evil spirit. The two are locked in a pitched life-and-death combat. The victory, of course, will go to the Holy Spirit.

Meaning:
Spenta is derived by many philologists from an Avestan/Sanskrit root spi/svi, meaning "to expand, swell, increase." Many, therefore, render it as "incremental." The Pahlavi rendering of afzûnik, meaning "increasing," fully supports the translation. This is further strengthened by the later renderings mahattama (greatest), gurutama (most important), and particularly, vriddhi (increasing) in Sanskrit, and afzûni in Persian. There are other scholars who prefer to derive it from spit/shvit, to be bright, to be white, and consequently connect it with holiness. The renderings by most of these scholars range between "beneficent, bounteous, bountiful, incremental, holy and virtuous." Each scholar has reasons for his/her rendering. While scholars have reason to differ, the familiar and convenient "holy" has been taken for granted to be the meaning so much so that fundamental Iranians, in their drive to purge Persian of all Arabic words, have replaced moghaddas with sepanta! "Holy" is in vogue, both with scholars and the laity. 

I accept the traditional meaning on philological and contextual grounds. I render it as "progressive, promoting, promoter." As we shall see, it reflects the Gathic concept better. The Gathas emphatically advocate progress and advancement.


Mainyu is, as far as I know, derived by every scholar and Avesta/Sanskrit dictionary from man, meaning "to think, contemplate, meditate." Ervad Kanga gives "spirit, mind, brain" and Bartholomae gives "Geist, als Sitz des Denkens und Wollens - spirit/mind, the seat of thoughts and intentions." Even the Sanskrit dictionaries define it as "mind, zeal, spirit, mood, mettle." And "spirit" here only means "temper or disposition of mind" and NOT "a supernatural being or essence."

Although many know that yu is an agentive and instrumental suffix, none has bothered to translate it as "an instrument, a way, a mode of thinking," and therefore "mind, mentality." A few instances in the Gathas show that mainyu and manah are interchangeable (S 6:6 = Y 33.6; S 7:2 = Y34.2). Pahlavi and Persian do not help much because they have the same word as menok and mînu except for a few times when menishn, thinking, has been used. The root for "think" is menidan.  The Pahlavi literature shows its connection with "mind" and "mental." Sanskrit renderings of adrsyahparalokih, even manasah (mental), and other synonyms point towards an "invisible, outer" entity. Whatever the earlier renderings, the scholars have taken the by-now-popular translation of "spirit" in the Christian sense as quite suitable to their interpretation of a perpetual war between the so-called twin spirits. It suits them better. A departure may well topple the dramatic dualistic theory!

Many present Ahura Mazda as Spenta Mainyu and therefore elevate Anghra Mainyu to make him an adversary of the God of Good, and thus continue to write on the continuous fight between the two. As a result, Zoroastrians have been characterized by many as the people who believe in dualism.

As already pointed out, there was a time when the Zoroastrians believed in this dualistic "theology." The Vendidad tells us this and so do the writings written by and/or ascribed to the Sassanians and to those who followed them. New light on the Gathas and the later Avesta has changed views among intellectuals. But we see again a recession, because with the coming into prominence of a new class of Zoroastrian scholars with their academic roots in the dualistic scholarship of the later Avesta, the theory of the dualism of Ahura Mazda and His adversary is reappearing in certain quarters.

Gathic Picture:
The Gathas provide us with an entirely different picture: The term "spenta mainyu" has been used fifteen times in the Gathas (S 1:1=Y 28:1; S 6:12=Y 33:12; S 8:2, 3, 6, 16=Y 43:2, 3, 6, 16; S 9: 7=Y 44:7; S 10:6=Y 45:6; S 12:1-6=Y 47:1-6; S 16:7=Y 51:7) and twice in Haptanghaiti, (Y 36:1-2), a later text composed in the Gathic dialect by a companion/s of Zarathushtra. In these writings, there is no trace of any adversary of God, or any struggle, combat, battle, or war between the so-called good and evil forces at the divine level. The Gathas do not mention anghra mainyu at all. In other words, anghra mainyu does not exist as a compound word, a formalized term, in any of the texts in the Gathic dialect -- not in the five Gathas (composed by Zarathushtra), nor in Haptanghaiti (Y 35-41), Sarosh Hadokht (Y56), Fshusho Manthra (Y58), Fravarti (Y11.17 to Y13.3), and Yenghe Hatam! The dualism of "Good and Evil," highly dramatized in the later Avesta, is simply not related to the divine spenta mainyu. That dualism is a separate subject of human behavior on this earthly life and lies outside the scope of this article.

Subtle Faculty:
Let us know first where spentamainyuspenta manyu, and akin words occur in the Gathas.

Spenta (alone): S 2:7=Y 29:7; S 7:2=Y 34:2); S 8:3-5, 7,9,11, 13, 15=Y 43:3-5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15; S 9:2=Y 44:2; S 10:11=Y45:11; S 11:9=Y46:9; S 12:3-4=Y47:3-4; S 13:3,7=Y48:3,7; S 16:16=Y51:16, 21

Mainyu (alone): S 3:3-5=Y 30:3-5; S 4:3, 7, 12, 21=Y 31:3, 7, 12, 21; S 6:9=Y 33:9; S 9:2=Y44:2; S 10:2=Y45:2; S 17:7=Y53:7.

Spenta Mainyu: S 8:6=Y 43:6; S 9:7=Y 44:7; S 10:6=45:6; S 12:1, 5, 6=Y 47:1, 5, 6.

Spenishta Mainyu: S 6:12=Y 33:12; S 8:2=Y 43:2; S 16:7=Y 51:7.

Mainyu vohu: S 7:2=Y 34:2

Mainyu spenta:S 1:1= 28:1.

Mainyu spenishta: S 3:5=Y 30:5; S 7:16=Y 43:16.

Manyu: S 1:11=Y 28:11; S 4:9=Y 31:9; S 5:9=Y 32:9; S 9:11=Y44:11; S 12:8=Y45:8.

Manyu vahishta: S 6:6=Y 33:6.

Manyu spenishta: S 12:2=Y 47:2.

The above instances concern God, man, both, and occasionally âramaiti (serenity). But, as already said, spenta mainyu is related directly or indirectly, to God. One thing is evident: (a) Ahura Mazda is the establisher/creator/parent of vohu manah (good mind), asha (righteousness), Khshathra (dominion), and âramaiti (serenity), and grants haurvatât (wholeness, entirety), and ameretât (immortality) to the person who truly observes these principles; and (b) spenta mainyu and âtar (fire) belong to Ahura Mazda. These two are so subtly abstract that they are not a separate entity to be established or created. They are two divine faculties, thinking and illuminating.

Should one take all these instances one by one and at the same time, take into consideration the adjoining stanzas as well as the relative song, one would realize that the Gathas depict spenta mainyu as the subtle divine faculty of the continuous creation and expansion plan of Ahura Mazda. Zarathushtra, in his quest for truth, discovers that it is the "spenta mainyu" aspect of the Supreme Being that fashioned the joy-bringing world (S 12:7=Y 47:3). Above all, it was through spenishta mainyu that God "created the wondrous wisdom of good mind by means of righteousness." (S 8:2=Y 43:2). In fact the entire quest enlightens Zarathushtra to realize that God is not simply spenta but spenishta, the most progressive (S 7:4,5,7,9,11,13,15=Y 43:4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15). It made him realize his own self (S 8:7=Y 43:7) and know that the purpose of his acquiring knowledge was in quest of righteousness. (S 7:9=Y 43:9).

The progressive mentality plays a vital part in human progress. One may be "a person of very small means, a person of great strength" but if he is righteous, he has been promised the best. (S 12:4-5=Y47.4-5). God grants "good to both these parties through the progressive mentality by means of fire (enlightenment) because with the growth of serenity and righteousness, it shall convert many a seeker." (S 12:6=Y47.6). "He receives the best from the most progressive mentality who speaks words of good mind with his tongue and performs, with his own hands, deeds of serenity." (S 12:2=Y47.2). Wholeness and immortality are "the refreshing splendid goals achieved through the best mind." (S 6:8-9=Y33.8-9). "One whose soul is in accord with righteousness is a progressive person. (S 7:2=Y34.2). "The person who seeks the best life and prospers through righteousness is a great promoter and a treasure for all (S9:2=Y 44.2). "One knowing the divine teachings is progressive and wise like the Wise One. (S 13:3=Y 48:3). A progressive person advocates putting down fury and checking violence, and wishes to strengthen the promotion of good mentality's actions. (S 13:7=Y48.7).

That is why Zarathushtra too "chooses for himself spenishta mainyu, the most progressive mentality of God, so that a new life is breathed into the physical body, serenity prevails throughout the divine dominion" (S 8:16=Y 43.16), and wholeness and immortality are achieved (S 12:1=Y47.1). It is the progressive mentality that separates the two parties of mankind on earth -- the righteous who promote their world and the wrongful who retard their living (S 12:5=Y47.5). It is again the progressive mentality, which "enlightens" the wrongful to seek truth and ultimately become righteous (S 12:6=Y47.6).

This enlightenment is called fire, symbol of light, warmth, and energy, by the Gathas (S 11:7=Y46.7) and Haptanhaiti (Y36.1,3) It is this light, warmth, this energy that Zarathushtra prays that every benevolent person will have. He sings:

"Moreover, may the best of blessings come to the person who gives blessings to others. Wise One, may his knowledge grow throughout the days of his long life of joy through Your most progressive mentality, the mentality through which You created the wondrous wisdom of good mind by means of righteousness." (S 8:2=Y43.2).

Asho Zarathushtra wants every person to be godlike, choose spenta mainyu, the enlightening light, the invigorating warmth, and the vitalizing energy, rather the intuitive mind to be creative, promoter, and progressive in our joy-bringing world. Spenta mainyu is, the Gathas tell us, the guiding inspiration, the enlightening intuition, the constructive promotion in our good lives. It is the divine spark in us. Let us maintain and brighten it more. Let us, like Asho Zarathushtra, choose for ourselves spenta mainyu to make our mission of propagating mâñthra (the thought-provoking message of the divine Mâñthran, Zarathushtra) prevail in the "sun-bathed" dominion of God! Let us join him in a meditative prayer from the Gathas:

"Wise Lord, rise within me, grant me courage through serenity, good gifts of prayers through the most progressive mentality, full vigor through righteousness, and felicity through good mind.

To support me, wide-watching Lord, reveal to me the force of Your sovereignty, the blessings of good mind. Show me through progressive serenity, righteous conceptions.
Now as a dedication, I Zarathushtra offer to the Wise One the very life-breath of myself and the first fruits of my good mind, deeds, and words, gained through righteousness, with my ear to the divine voice; in fact, my whole strength.
" (S 6:12-14=Y33.12-14).

 

 

Amesha Spentas

Amesha Spentas or Ameshaspands
by Jayaram V

In a general sense, the Amesha Spentas or Ameshaspands are the effulgent luminaries or bountiful immortals created by Ahura Mazda from his own aura, and include all the ahuras, archangels, guardian spirits and universal beings. But in a more restrictive sense, the Amesha Spentas are the six immortal beings created by Ahura Mazda in the spiritual realm to protect the worlds from the evil deeds of Ahirman or Angra Mainyu and his army of evil spirits. In an abstract sense, the Amesha Spentas are the personifications of the various attributes of Ahura Mazda Himself. Of the six Amesha Spentas three are masculine and three are feminine.

From an ethical perspective, the Amesha Spentas serve as the symbols or ideals of purity and divinity for the human beings upon earth, which they can actualize within themselves through practice and worship to guard themselves against evil. Spenta means increasing or growing. The Amesha Spentas help Zoroastrian worshippers and people of the faith to grow or increase in themselves the good qualities represented by them individually. The Zoroastrian texts, especially the Gathas, extol the Amesha Spentas as universal beings or immortal beings who were created by Ahura Mazda in the Infinite Time immediately after he had a confrontation with Ahirman. The six Amesha Spentas along with their qualities are described below.

The representative qualities and earth symbols of the Amesha Spentas are summarized in the following table.

Excerpts From Zoroastrian Texts On Amesha Spentas

Khorda Avesta Haft Amahraspand Yasht

1. To Ahura Mazda, bright and glorious, and to the Amesha-Spentas;

To Vohu-Mano; to Peace, whose breath is friendly, and who is more powerful to destroy than all other creatures; to the heavenly Wisdom, made by Mazda, and to the Wisdom acquired through the ear, made by Mazda;

2.To Asha-Vahishta, the fairest; to the much-desired Airyaman; to the instrument made by Mazda: and to the good Saoka, with eyes of love, made by Mazda and holy;

To Khshathra-Vairya; to the metals; to Mercy and Charity.

3. To the good Spenta-Armaiti, and to the good Rata, with eyes of love, made by Mazda and holy; To Haurvatat, the master; to the prosperity of the seasons and to the years, the masters of holiness; And to Ameretat, the master; to fatness and flocks; to the plenty of corn; and to the powerful Gaokerena, made by Mazda.

Yasna 1

2. I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) to Vohu Mano, and to the Highest Asha, and to Khshathra Vairya, and to Spenta Armaiti, and to the two, the Haurvatat and Ameretat, to the body of the Kine, and to the Kine's Soul, and to the Fire of Ahura Mazda, that one who more than (all) the Amesha Spentas has made most effort (for our succor)!

Yasna 4

3. Yea, further, we present (them to the Bountiful Immortals with an especial gift) these thoughts well thought, these words well spoken, these deeds well done, these Haomas, Myazdas, Zaothras, and this Baresman spread with sanctity, the flesh, and Haurvatat (who guards the water), and Ameretatat (who guards the plants and wood), even the flesh, Haoma and Parahaoma, the wood-billets, the perfume, and this their lordship and their sanctity, and this chieftainship, this prayer for blessing, the heard recital of the Gathas, and the well-said Mathras.

4. We offer with our celebrations, and we announce them (of a verity) to the Bountiful Immortals, those who exercise their rule aright, and who dispose (of all) aright, the ever-living, ever-helpful, the male divinities among their number who dwell with the Good Mind, [and the female ones as well].

Yasna 7

1. With a complete and sacred offering [Ashi] I offer and I give this meat-offering, and (with it) Haurvatat (who guards the water), and Ameretatat (who guards the plants and the wood), and the flesh of the Kine of blessed gift, for the propitiation of Ahura Mazda, and of the Bountiful Immortals (all, and) for the propitiation of Sraosha (Obedience) the blessed, endowed with sanctity, who smites with the blow of victory, and who causes the settlements to advance.

Yasna 12

I choose the good Spenta Armaiti for myself; let her be mine. I renounce the theft and robbery of the cow, and the damaging and plundering of the Mazdayasnian settlements.

Yasna 16

And we worship the former religions of the world devoted to Righteousness which were instituted at the creation, the holy religions of the Creator Ahura Mazda, the resplendent and glorious. And we worship Vohu Manah (the Good Mind), and Asha Vahishta (who is Righteousness the Best), and Khshathra-vairya, the Kingdom to be desired, and the good and bountiful Armaiti (true piety in the believers), and Haurvatat and Ameretat (our Weal and Immortality).

THE BOOK OF ARDA VIRAF

(1)Afterward, arose Vohuman, the archangel, from a throne made of gold, (2) and he took hold of my hand; with the words 'good thought' and 'good word' and 'good deed,' he brought me into the midst of Ohrmazd and the archangels and other holy ones, (3) and the guardian angels of Zartosht Spitama, Kai-Vishtasp, Jamasp, Isadvastar the son of Zartosht, and other upholders and leaders of the religion, (4) than whom I have never seen any one more brilliant and excellent.

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Vohu Manah

Vohu Manah or Vohuman represents the quality of good mind or good thoughts and righteous thinking in the invisible realm. In the visible or material world he is the protector of cattle and also represented by them. According to the Zoroastrian calendar, the 2nd day of the month and the 11th month of the year are dedicated to him. Human beings can increase the qualities of Vohuman in themselves through proper speech, proper discourse and by keeping animals properly, taking care of them and the cattle-master, admitting the male and not slaughtering the young (Denkard Book 9 and Fargard 5). Vohumna prepares the list of good deeds performed by souls at the time of their departure from the material plane, which is used at the Chinawad bridge to decide whether they should be led to the heaven or hell.

Asha Vahishta

Asha Vahishta represents the qualities of truth, fairness and justice in the invisible or spiritual realm and the element of fire in the material world. He is associated with the principle of Asha or good (moral, righteous) order. The association of fire with truth is probably rooted in the ancient tradition of using fire to test the innocence or truthfulness of those who were accused of some guilt. According to Zoroastrian beliefs, Asha Vahistha will be present on the Judgment Day, along with God, when the dead are resurrected and every soul is subjected to a final judgment. Humans can increase His qualities within themselves by offering hymns of praise, sacrifices and prayers and by practicing the three commandments. According to the Zoroastrian calendar, the third day of the month and the second month of the year are dedicated to Asha Vahishta.

Kshatra Vairya

Kshatra Vairya represents in the spiritual realm the heroic power God and the kingdom to come. In the material world Kshatra Vairya symbolizes strength, power and the hard quality of metals. He is strength and valor personified. His strength is the strength of righteousness with which evil can be driven out.

Aramaiti is a feminine entity among the Amesha Spentas. She is referred as the daughter of Ahura Mazda. Aramaiti represents the qualities of service, kindness, faith, devotion, and serenity in the spiritual realm. In the material plane Aramaiti personifies, the earth, fertile land and sacred places. During the ceremonies, she is invoked to purify the ritual place. Her help is also sought during the purchase of a new land or a new building. Being a female entity, Aramaiti represents the ideal womanhood for Zoroastrian women, representing the divine virtues of loving kindness, peace, selfless service and dutifulness.

Haurvatat

Haurvatat is also a feminine entity. like Aramaiti, representing qualities of wholeness and perfection in the spiritual world. She personifies the element of water in the material plane. She also associated with after life, wholeness, health and prosperity. Haurvatat and Ameretat are usually referred together as twins. In the Zoroastrian texts she Haurvatat also associated frequently with three lesser divinities (yaztas), namely vayu (wind), manthra (chant) and fravashis (guardian spirits). The sixth day of the month and third month of the year in the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated to her.

Ameretat

Ameretat represents the quality of immortality in spiritual plane. In the material world, she exemplifies the plants. Like Aramaiti and Haurvatat, Ameretat is also a feminine entity. The seventh day of the month and fifth month of the year in the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated to Ameretat.