Very interesting discussion, as always between you and dear brother Ali Jafarey!
I agree with you but would just like to add that Zarathushtra never claimed to proclaim a new religion. He proclaimed a new teaching, a new philosophy, and in that sense I believe he was as correct as one possibly could be. Which is also why I insist on calling "Mazdayasna" an Iranian philosophy and not an Iranian religion. The religion to me is "Zoroastrianism", the practiced melange of ideas that followed after Zarathushtra and which was a mish-mash of his ideas, ideas older than him, and ideas introduced after his death, such as the Abrahamic idea of "Zoroastrianism" as a "monotheism".
I don't mind religion. I just don't think that was what Zarathushtra set out to create. He was interested in facts far more than faith.
2010/8/6 Parviz Varjavand
Dear Ostad Jafarey,
I am glad to see that you review your old posts and publish them again. The article you posted below has not changed in any significant way since its first draft of 1996. Let me go over what I feel the core of your message wants to express:
First about the Mazdayasna Myth, it is the repeat of an old attack upon the Parsis trying to show that they are mistaken when they say that Mazdayasna is older than Zarathustra and a repeat of your claim that M.Y. is an invention of Zarathustra. My reaction is that I do not care who invented MY first, the fact that both you and the Parsis equate Mazda-Yasna with "God-Worship" is what I have a problem with. Just your title says it all when put next to one another and talk about Mazdayasna, Daeva-yasna, and Yazata-yasna; this is a repeat formula of God-worship, Devil-worship, and Gods-worship. This whole categorization is Abrahamic and out-dated (and wrong) as far as I am concerned. Yes dear Ostad, I have read your works carefully and I know that you will object that I am misrepresenting your views, but believe me that I am not. Your Mazda-worship boils down to the same basic formula as Yahveh-Worship philosophically.
I feel that Mazda-Yasna translates into Philo-Sophia and not God-Worship. When entrapped in the God-Worship images (God-Gods-Devil), the God of Abraham will come forward and dominate the philosophical imagery's. I wish you would re-examine your outlook on this topic and go for the deeper contrasts that our religion has with others. I wish you good health and much happiness and it is a great pleasure each time I see you on the Iranian televisions.
An admirer of you always,
P.S. I hope that you do not mind me posting a copy of this Email to Ushta.
--- On Tue, 7/27/10, Jafarey@aol.com
Subject: [zoroastrians] MAZDAYASNA MYTH, DAEVA-YASNA AND YAZATA-YASNA
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Ahura-Mazda@yahoogroups.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2010, 11:50 AM
MAZDAYASNA MYTH, DAEVA-YASNA AND YAZATA-YASNA
Ali A. Jafarey
Advocates of a traditional school of Zoroastrianism say that the “Mazdayasna” religion existed from the very beginning of the “Aryan” era and that King Jamshid was the first prophet. Some go further and say that Kayomars, the first human being, is the foremost Aryan prophet. These traditionalists maintain that Zarathushtra came only to “reform” the religion of its “deviations” that had crept in during the past several thousands of years. Therefore, the question of “converting” people to a new religion did not arise. Zarathushtra simply guided the “Aryans” back to the straight path. What else a reformer could, would and should do?
The Mazdayasna religion is a “birthright” of every Aryan, now solely represented by approximately 60,000 persons, known as “Parsis” of the Indian sub-continent. One has to be a born-Zoroastrian by both parents. Both conversion and mixed marriages are taboos. Some of these "Traditionalists" add some 40,000 Iranian Zoroastrians and bring up the number to approximately 100,000. Others do not know how to place the official census report by the Iranian Government that Zoroastrians in Iran numbered 91,000 in 1987. Whatever the total, demographic studies of the Parsis of the Indian sub-continent show that the numbers of "born" Zoroastrian are alarmingly declining fast.
The Traditionalist school, however, says that the decrease will continue until the “miraculous” Shah Bahram Varjavand, the much-awaited Savior, will appear, and mankind will be, this time without any race, color, or creed discrimination, “converted” to the Mazdayasna religion, the “mother” of all religions. So far so good!
Scholastic research based on linguistics, history, geography, and Indo-Iranian literature shows that the Indo-Iranians who called themselves “Aryans” had two terms for gods -- AHURA/asura and DAEVA/deva (the first represents the Iranian pronunciation and the second the Indian version). Ahura, meaning “The Being, The Essence,” was applied more to invisible gods—Varuna, Mithra, and Airyaman (gods of truth, tribal contract and family bonds). Daeva, meaning “the shining,” was reserved more for the visible ones—Indra (storm), Sun, Moon, Wind, and others. The two terms, nevertheless, were used for all and any of the gods and goddesses.
The names of many gods and goddesses are known and their functions are, more or less, defined in the early Indo-Iranian literature, the Rig-Veda and the Avestan Yashts. No god or goddess is recorded, remembered, and venerated as MAZDÂ/medhâ, a word in feminine gender. Medhâ is a minor goddess in a much later Sanskrit literature.
MAZDA is a term, every evidence points out, CHOSEN by Zarathushtra ALONE to define the god he had realized as the “Supreme Wisdom.” This is what the abstract word means both in Avesta and Sanskrit. In his concise Gathas of 241 stanzas, Zarathushtra uses this word 164 times, MAZDA AHURA for 50 times, and AHURA MAZDA only for eight times. AHURA is used alone for 131 times. The Gathas do not have a fixed compound term of Ahura Mazda.
While choosing Mazda as the only Ahura, Zarathushtra declares: “Along with these (co-religionists) I am the foremost to clearly recognize You. All others I consider mental hostilities.” (Song 9: 11 = Yasna 44:11) This is confirmed by Fravarti, the Declaration of the Choice of Religion (Yasna 12). It states: “1 renounce the wicked, no-good, unrighteous, evil genius gods. I renounce the very false, very rotten, very wicked false gods and their devotees. I renounce sorcerers and their devotees. I renounce each and every mental malady and physical ailment. I renounce these falsities and malignities in thoughts, words, and deeds, in my very essence. … This is how Zarathushtra renounced the false gods … I, too, a worshipper of the Wise One and a Zoroastrian, renounce the false gods, just as the Righteous Zarathushtra did.”
The term Ahura Mazda used as a regular compound word for the Supreme Being is a post-Gathic usage. All the pre-Gathic parts of the Avesta that use the compound term are but the *revised* form of an ancient order. The post-Gathic authorities who wanted to incorporate the pre-Gathic parts back into the sacred lore, retained Ahura but substituted the name of god, perhaps the chief god Varuna (the Avestan version may be guessed to be "Vaoruna") by Mazda. This substitution is so thorough that there is no trace of the original name. This is the *only* reason one finds the popularized term of “Ahura Mazda” in the pre-Gathic Yashts and certain parts of the Vendidad, all of them revised to suit the time, trade and taste of the people involved, first the priests and then the laity.
This is no phenomenon. Sacred scriptures of other religions show the same practice. Later names of God, Lord, Allah, Bhagwan are used in place of older terms when tales and quotations of ancient times are retold or paraphrased. This article, however, is not the place to go into any detail.
The question one faces now is: How could one have a MAZDAYASNA religion before the word MAZDA was ‘introduced’ and put to use for the Supreme Being? Both “Mazdayasna” and “Daeva-yasna” are absent in the Gathas. They are clearly post-Gathic. They were coined by early Zarathushtrians to distinguish themselves as the “worshippers of Mazda”, the only god originally realized by Zarathushtra, and as separate from those who had other ahuras or daevas as their deities, very likely the pseudo-Zarathushtri ans who had joined in movement and yet wanted to retain their old beliefs and rituals.
There is not a single allusion to the founding of the Mazdayasna religion by any other person than Zarathushtra in any Zoroastrian scripture. Even Kayomars (Avestan “Gaya-maretan”) “who first heard Ahura Mazda’s thoughts and teachings” is simply shown as the person “from whom the kindred and breed of Aryan lands were fashioned” (Farvardin Yasht 87). Far from being the first human being as some of the Sassanian legends say, he is not even the first Aryan in the Avesta. Did he have any message? What were his teachings and what was his “message” like? There is no trace of it. No oral composition, which could have been rendered into writing the way other parts of the Avestan collection have been done. He is not related at all to the Mazdayasna religion in the Avesta.
As far as Jamshid (Avestan “Yima Khshaeta”), the second person claimed to have been a "prophet," is concerned, he, a legendary person, symbolizes a period of approximately 2000 years of history in which the Indo-Iranian people, a pastoral group, survived an ice spell by taking cover in habitable caves and then overpopulation made them migrate in stages towards south to settle on the north-eastern parts of the Iranian Plateau, now mostly in Afghanistan and Central Asian republics. Whoever this legendary man was, he is reported to have become arrogant at the end of his leadership so much so that he boasted to be the “Lord of the World” (Gâush Baga). His pride had him mercilessly thrown and murdered by another legendary personality “Azhi Dahaka” (Zahhak or Zohak).
The Zamyad Yasht speaks of the Kayanian Glory forsaking Jamshid because of his “lie” (Zamyad Yasht 34-38). Note that the Kayanians had yet to be born long long after Jamshid, but chronology is mixed up again by the revisionist authorities in post-Gathic times. The Avesta speaks of Jamshid in a few other instances but does NOT mention him as a “prophet” or even as a “server” of the Mazdayasna or any other religion. He is simply “the handsome [and] of the good flocks”, a good leader of pastoral people. And that is what he represented before going arrogant.
The Vendidad (Fargard 2) and the Hom Yasht (Yasna 9.4) praise him for his good leadership, and do not allude to his arrogance and fall. The Vendidad also says that Jamshid was the “first” person to whom Ahura Mazda spoke and “showed him the Ahurian-Zarathushtr ian (sic!) religion ... and asked him to be my retainer and promoter of the Ahurian-Zarathushtr ian religion.” Jamshid declined the divine offer. He said: “I have not been made and brought up to be your retainer and promoter of the Ahurian-Zarathushtr ian religion.” Whether God was taken aback or not by the unexpected straight answer by Jamshid, He was quick enough to realize His ignorance and make him another offer. “If you do not accept ... [this], then promote my world.” Jamshid obliged and accepted the second offer (Vendidad 2.1-5). Imagine a god who did not know that Jamshid was not made and trained for the task, a god entreating and Jamshid retreating!
How can this person be the founder or leader of a religion and that too with the name of “Zarathushtrian” attached to it? Chronologically the order should be in reverse. One should expect the religion to be called "Kayumarsian" and/or “Jamshidian” and not Zarathushtrian!
Contrary to what the Vendidad says that Ahura Mazda informed Zarathushtra that Yima was the first to be offered to promote the religion, all that Zarathushtra says in his Sublime songs about Jamshid is: “Regarding these offenses, it is said that in order to please our human race, Yima son of Vivanghan also sounded himself the god of the world. For such offenses too, as far as I am concerned, the final judgment lies with You” (Song 5.8 = Yasna 32.8) [While the late Dr. Taraporewala and Prof. Insler have “sin” and “sinner” instead of “offenses,” Prof. Humbach has “crimes”.] Zarathushtra associates Jamshid with false gods in the Gathas. In fact Song 5 (Yasna 32) expressly exposes false gods and their devotees, and Jamshid is one of them. Ferdowsi faithfully echoes the Gathic words in his Shahnameh and says that Jamshid told his people: “You should recognize me as the Creator of the World.” He calls Jamshid “nâ-pâk dîn -- of foul faith.” Outside the Vendidad and a few pre-Zarathushtrian martial yashts, as already seen, Yima/Jamshid is a person punished for his arrogance and offense.
Contrary to the way the founders, prophets and reformers of most of other religions have done, Zarathushtra does NOT acknowledge ANY person as the forerunning “prophet” or “founder” of the religion he proclaimed, propagated, and preached. He does not mention Kayomars (Gaya Maretan) and calls Jamshid (Yima) as an offender. Is this the way a "succeeding reformer" would act -- ignore or deprecate his predecessors, so to say the real founders?!
In fact, Song 2 (Yasna 29) is quite clear on this point. The Song, a play on the choice of Zarathushtra by the Living World as the Lord and Leader who would repel aggression and rehabilitate it “with civilization, nourishment and strength.” Asha, the Universal Law of Precision, could not find the proper person. None was free of malice. And the Living World had its plea. Then Mazda turned to Vohu Manah, Good Mind: It had the answer: “Yes I do. There is only ONE person who has listened to our teachings. He is Zarathushtra Spitama. Wise One, he is prepared to proclaim the message through his Songs for the sake of Righteousness. Grant him sweetness of speech. (Gathas: Song 2-stanza 8). This leaves no doubt that no person whatsoever had listened to the Divine Voice before Zarathushtra. It is this very point, which is confirmed by the Farvardin Yasht.
The Farvardin Yasht shatters the myth that Mazdayasna religion preceded Zarathushtra. It is quite explicit on this point that Zarathushtra is the “first and foremost” in every walk of life, in every phase of the Good Religion. He is, in fact, the “expounder of the religion which is the best of the existing ones ... the Good Religion which will henceforth [after Zarathushtra’s proclamation] prevail all over the seven climes” (Farvardin Yasht 87-94, 152).
“ Daênâ Vanguhi, the Good Religion,” later also called by the name of the “Mazdayasna” religion was founded and promoted by Zarathushtra. He, his companions, and their generating followers spread the religion by preaching, teaching, and helping people of all the known races -- Aryans, Turanians, Dahas, Sainis, Sairimas and others -- to choose the universal Good Religion of “Mazda-worship,” and they knowingly and willingly did so.
Early Zarathushtrians gave those who were before Zarathushtra and believed in multiple ahuras and daevas, the name of “daeva-yasna”. They called themselves “Mazdayasna” only to show that they believed in Mazda alone, the Essence realized and recognized first by Zarathushtra. If it were ahura versus daeva, they would have called themselves “Ahura-yasna”. Had they believed in Ahura Mazda as the head of a pantheon of “ahuras” later called “yazatas,” they would have called themselves as “Yazata-yasna.” They did not because the Gathas and the supplements do not mention and recognize any “yazata,” a deity other than and/or associated with Mazda.
The word "yazata," meaning “venerated, venerable,” is mentioned only once in the Haptanghaiti, a supplement of the Gathas composed by Zarathushtra' s companion/s. It says: "Humâim thwâ izhim, yazatem ashanghâchim dedemaidê -- You we consider superwise, zealous, venerable, [and] an associate of asha." (Song 7:3 = Yasna 41:3) The term "yazata" is one of the four attributes, in fact the third attribute, of Mazda. A simple, adjective. Nothing startling to speculate about "yazata," the common term *formalized* in post-Gathic eras to apply to certain reinstated deities and personalized Gathic Principles to reconstruct a pantheon!
The term“Yazata,” especially applied to a list of deities, reminds one of the Rig Vedic “yajata.” The term is used as an *adjective,* and NOT as a class for Indo-Iranian gods -, Varuna, Mitra, Indra, Agni (Fire god), Sarasvati (river goddess compared to the Avesta river goddess Aredvi Sura), the Maruts (storm gods), the Ashvins (twin gods of health and wealth), and Soma (Avesta Haoma). We see that in the later Avesta a number of pre-Zarathushtrian gods and goddesses are re-introduced as “yazata,” a word no more used as an adjective but meaning a “deity.” Mithra (pastoral contract deity), Aredvi, (river deity), Verethraghna (war deity, in Rig Veda, it is Indra’s epithet), Tishtrya (rain deity), Âtar (fire deity), Apam-napât (“grandchild of waters,” lightening (?), a Vedic deity), the-instant- intoxicant Haoma, and, of course, certain Gathic abstract names of the Primal Principles of Life of which six have, in addition to the term “yazata,” a new term – "amesha spenta – immortal progressives. " The others are simply “yazatas.”
In this new pantheon of clear *henotheism* of "yazatas," the Godhead Ahura Mazda is “the greatest and the best yazata”, Fire "the greatest yazata," Mithra “the mightiest, strongest, most mobile, fastest, [and] most victorious yazata,” Verethraghna (Bahram) the best armed yazata, and Vayu (wind deity) “the best yazata” among the host of yazatas. The Rig-Veda uses “vishva-deva” and the Later Avesta speaks of “vispa-yazata” to venerate “all the deities.” The correspondence between “yajata/yazata" is striking. The Indo-Iranian term provided an easy solution to restore the deities, completely ignored by Zarathushtra, back to high positions in the post-Gathic henotheism as against the unique and so-far unparalleled Gathic monotheism.
One wonders that when the Later Avestan people called the followers of the old pantheon “daeva-yasna,” why they did not apply the term “yazata-yasna” for themselves, particularly with their repeated “yazamaidê” for every and all the yazatas. This name would have suited them the best! Whatever the reason for not calling themselves “yazata-yasna,” they seem to have been content with the earlier “Mazdayasna” plus “Zarathushtri, vi-daeva (anti-daeva) , and Ahura-tkaesha ([of] Ahura-doctrine) .” Perhaps "yazata-yasna" would have exposed their true identity as henotheists. It would still do if the Traditionalist henotheists come out clean to call themselves by the name that would suit them the best.
Whether the pre-Zarathushtrians were all “daeva-yasna,” or the post-Zarathushtrian s should have called themselves “yazata-yasna,” the fact remains that MAZDA, the name given to the “Super-intellect Essence” Creator, Sustainer and Promoter of the Cosmos, was first CHOSEN and used by Zarathushtra Spitama and that only those who recognize MAZDA as the ONLY God are THE TRUE Mazdayasna with no myth attached to it.
Mazdayasnô ahmî, Mazdayasnô Zarathushtrish. I am a Mazda-worshipper, a Mazda-worshipper Zarathushtrian.