A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Bombay, India on 14th January 1986
I should like to make it clear that I am not presuming to teach you anything. Who am I to arrogate to myself the exalted title of Teacher? Please regard me quite simply as your servant, whose happy duty it is to try to place before you for your consideration that portion of Truth or Vision which has become clear to me during the course of my life. If it so happens that you do learn something of value to yourselves through my words, something which may promote your own well-being and true happiness, your haurvatāt and ameretāt, your own wisdom and spiritual power, i.e. your vohu manah and khshathra, then such learning by you confers teacherhood upon me. Unlike a university degree, which is a small thing, the honour you do me by your benefiting through my simple service is indeed a very great thing, of serious import to you, and of profound satisfaction to me.
Underlying any meaningful word, there is a reality material and spiritual. ASHO ZARATHUSHTRA! Those two words, and their divine root-source, AHURA MAZDA, are the three most meaningful words, for those of us who are Zarathushtrians. They are the holiest of holy names in the Zarathushtrian religion. A Name represents the vital, informing principle which can continue to live as a Word of Power in the throbbing hearts of men, long after this mortal body is just dust and ashes.
So let all of us, together, consider these meaningful words, these Holy Names, But first, carefully bear in mind the deep meaning of the word ‘consider’, probably derived from the Old English con meaning to regard studiously or examine carefully, and the Latin sidus, meaning a star or a group of stars. Now a star is a self-shining light. Thus, to consider means to look intently at the self-shining light. For us, this self-shining light concerning God and man is the hidden Light that shines constantly within our own imperfect self, in the darkness of our own existential being, i.e. in our own psycho-physical organism which is known in the world by the name given to us by our parents after our birth. Most of us are blind to this hidden Light which is Ahura Mazda himself, embodied in us. Our personal task is to enlighten ourselves and dispel the darkness by living the pure Zarathushtrian life, the asho life of stainless Virtue. Living thus, the Light of Truth will burst forth with dazzling radiance, transforming our consciousness through and through to its innermost depths where Ahura Mazda lives. Then indeed we can consider everything faultlessly for we shall be free of the tendency to make errors due to our ordinarily impure and imperfect psyche. Out of the prison house of the dregvant we shall emerge into the blissful beatitude of the ashavant, for we too, like Zarathushtra, shall have become asho, Virtuous, Holy.
Let us now turn our attention to the Divine Name, Ahura Mazda. The word ahura is the Avestan equivalent of the Vedic asura, which originally meant living, spiritual, divine, and as such it represented the Spirit, the Lord God, the Supreme Being. But later on it came to designate the demons. Asu means life. So asura, and more emphatically so the Avestan Ahura, means the living Lord or Lord of Life. Coupled with Mazda, wisdom, we have the concept of Ahura Mazda as the Lord of Life and Wisdom. That distinguished scholar, the late Dr. Irach Taraporevala, translated Maz-da as ‘the Creator of Matter’ in his great work, The Gathas (p. 64). In the light of modern scientific knowledge, and in accord with Zarathushtra’s own statement in Ys.31.11., this translation could be acceptable. I myself have chosen Wisdom, rather than Creator of Matter, as the meaning of Mazda, because of the pre-eminent place given to Wisdom in religious teachings for many centuries afterwards.
The early Indo-Iranians venerated two other Ahuras, Mithra (the Vedic Mitra, the Avestan Meher Izad) and Varuna (the Avestan Apam Napat). Zarathushtra exalted Ahura Mazda above these two and swept aside all the lesser gods and godlings of the Rig-veda. Zarathushtra not only proclaimed Ahura Mazda, whom he venerated as the master of Asha (order, righteousness and justice), as the greatest of the Ahuras, but also as the One, self-existent, uncreated God, living eternally, creating all that is good and including all beneficent divinities. We must note carefully that in Zarathushtra’s teaching, Ahura Mazda creates only the good and the beneficent, NOT the evil and the maleficent.
In Sanskrit, we have these two interesting words: sumanas, meaning good-hearted, gracious, benevolent and cheerful, and sugata, which means having fared well, happily attained the goal. Sugata is also a Pali word, having the same meaning as the Sanskrit word, and is often applied to Gautama Buddha who was the Lord of Compassion and Wisdom. Look, now, at the word HU-MAN, remembering the interchangeability of ‘h’ and ‘s’. We know that hu-mat, hu-khta and hvarshta mean good thought, good word and good deed. The prefix ‘hu’ in human stands for good, good in the profound meaning and transcendental sense of asha, the divine Law, the Truth in the supreme degree. What of the ‘man’ part in human? The dictionary says that the root ‘man’ means to think. ‘Think’ is indeed a very poor word in this context. What we in our ordinary, imperfect state call ‘thinking’ is merely silent talking, inaudible chatter. Does God chatter? Of course not. Now consider that Trismegistic teaching — the discourse by the divine Pymander, the Shepherd of men and the Teacher (and ideal Archetype of all mankind), delivered unto Hermes Trismegistus. He says, “I am Pymander. I am the Light, the Pure Mind”, (the nous or Buddhi, the vohu manah, the loving Mind of God). The Word of Light from vohu manah is the Logos (the Zarathushtrian Ahunvar or Creative Word. This Creative Word, or Logos, is called in the Trismegistic Teaching “the Thought in the Mind of God”. We begin to see, then, the rootless root of what we mortals call thought and thinking, and to sense very subtly the deep meaning of the Sanskrit root man. In my book, The Heart of Religion, I put it in these terms: It is Creative Action in Eternity; or in other words: it is Transcendence thinking the Thought which is the Archetypal Man. This Thought in the Divine Mind is not a stream of words. It is transcendent Creative Energy. God’s speech is pure wordless Revelation.
So, coupling the root ‘man’ with ‘hu’ we see that the word HU-MAN, in its profoundest sense, means the blissful creator, which, of course, is just what Ahura Mazda himself is. And in relation to this it would be useful to consider a further point in the discourse to Hermes. God is presented as “All-Father Mind”. In Zarathushtrian terms, the vohu manah aspect of God is given precedence. Zarathushtra himself declares (Ys.31.8): “When I beheld Thee in my very eyes, then I realized Thee in my mind as the father of vohu manau. In Ys.43.4 he affirms, “When the full power of vohu manah came upon me, then did I realize Thee as the Mighty and Most Bountiful One, O Mazda”. And in Ys.43.11, “Then did I realize Thee as the Most Bountiful One, when the Good Mind (vohu manah) encircled me completely”.
Now let us hear some supremely significant words of Pymander: “All-Father Mind, being Life and Light, did bring forth Man, co-equal to Himself, with whom he fell in love, as being His own child, for he was beautiful beyond compare, the image of his Father, and on him did bestow all His own formations”. In Zarathushtrian terms, Ahura Mazda bestowed on him all the Amesha Spenta. Note also the Old Testament statement in Genesis, 1.26 and 27: “And God said, let us make Man in our image, after our likeness. And God created Man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he him”. Vedic literature has its own Creation accounts. We see, then, that the religions of the world present Man as being created by God, and in at least two cases Man is portrayed as being like God. The Atharva Veda has two hymns of exceptional interest: the second hymn of book 10 and the eighth hymn of book 11. In these hymns there is the unequivocal, positive affirmation that Man is of divine origin, and in him the Supreme is wholly embodied.
God, Brahman, Ahura Mazda — use any name you like, personal or impersonal — is the all-powerful Creator. Mankind has believed this, in some form or other, primitive or sophisticated, for many thousands of years. This creative Power of the Creator, in Zarathushtra’s language, is khshathra. Since we live in a scientific age we may be allowed to regard this as follows. Ahura Mazda’s khshathra, his Creative Power, if and when quiet and restful, is possessed of stored-up energy. It is potential energy. When this Power is active, that stored-up energy is set in motion. It is kinetic. In its potential state it holds the possibility of the entire cosmos, material and spiritual which can emerge out of it. The manifested universe is dynamic; it is in ceaseless motion. The Origin, the Creative Source, can be regarded as the Primordial, Undifferentiated Creative Energy both in its quiescent state and also in its active state. This Creative Source is Infinite and Eternal. It includes all forms of energy known to science, and much more besides. It is omniscient; it is Absolute Pure Consciousness in a transcendent sense, not restricted to the type of limited consciousness that characterizes the whole of the animal world, including the human species. This Primordial Creative Energy is self-replenishing, inexhaustible and Immortal, and functioning in the context of Infinity and Eternity. This Energy which is the creative Origin as well as all Creation, both that which is manifest to us as well as that which is not manifest to us, constitutes the One Total Reality, the Unitary Whole, held within the divine Consciousness of the Creator, whoever or whatever that Creator may be.
There is good reason for making these statements. Let us first consider the following question. What is the outstanding difference between animals and human beings? It is the difference in the kind of consciousness that functions in us humans as contrasted with that of animals. The entire animal world, including man, has two main drives, namely self-preservation and the preservation of the species. These two drives are interdependent, for unless individuals preserved themselves the species would become extinct. Now whilst all animals, including us, are conscious creatures, we humans are conscious in a markedly different way, and to a different degree from all other animal species. We can contemplate ourselves — our nature, our birth, growth, experiences, environment, the purpose(s) of our existence, our death, and what may be an after-death state for us. We can contemplate whether Life has, or has not, any meaning or significance or purpose for us or for the world; whether there is or is not something transcendent to us, either realizable by us or utterly beyond us — such as God; whether there is or is not a relationship between that Transcendence and us, and if there is one, what is the nature of that relationship, what does it entail for us as regards the kind of life we should lead, not only in relation to God but also in relation to our fellow human beings, to the world, to all creation. Animal species other than the human cannot do all this. Nor can they reason as we do, nor develop and live by a social, political and business morality, or by a religious ethic which could lead them to a full and true fruition and fulfilment of the purpose of their existence. And yet, animals do live instinctively in accordance with the laws of their own being in tune with Nature, as if they had an unconscious sense of asha. The hungry lioness who pounces on me and feeds her lazy, lordly master and her cubs and herself on my carcass is an asho lioness! Surely, it is my duty to respectfully observe the right distance between the queen of the forest and an intrusive human like me!
As we live the good life and grow in sensitivity, refinement, perceptivity and understanding, our consciousness goes through a process of development. It evolves. This evolution is not like the biological evolution of the organism, but I use the word simply for convenience, to suggest a process of inward awakening to a clearer and clearer understanding of the Truth. It involves a progressive change in our mode of awareness of everything. As we are at present, we are aware of the world as composed of separate things and creatures. I am myself and not you, nor am I anything outside this body. By a process of conditioning from infancy I may be made to believe that I am not my body or feelings, etc., that I the real self am an invisible, intangible and immortal soul or spirit, urvan or fravashi. Hence I am not conscious of the intimate relationships between myself and the whole world, apart from a nominal acknowledgement that these are my parents, relatives or friends, my dog or horse, my house or property, etc. This separative and isolative self-consciousness is extremely vivid, powerful and fixed. It is the self, me myself. The rest of the universe is the non-self. Such is the fundamental ignorance afflicting mankind. It is the root of the endless conflict between each person and every thing and every one else. It is the root of all our sorrows and disease, confusion and disharmony.
But the fact about the universe is that it is a unitary whole, characterized, amongst other characteristics, by an infinite variety. The multitudinous particulars composing it are completely inter-related and inter-active with each other. Science discovered this very early in this century, so much so that Sir James Jeans in his book The Mysterious Universe declared that the slightest action here affects the farthest star. In this connection you will find the modern work of Rupert Sheldrake most fascinating. Because of this inter-relatedness and inter-action, the whole world is a universe. This word, universe, is derived from the Latin unus meaning one, and vertere meaning to turn. Thus universe means turned into one, a unitary whole, as I said a few moments ago. And that other name for the universe — Cosmos — comes from the Greek word which means order — Order, that is asha! Can anything be more appealing and agreeable to Zarathushtrians? You may well ask me, “Why, then, do we see such disorder, conflict, destruction and evil in the world?”
A very pertinent question nowadays. The operative words in this question are “we see”. We, since we are isolatively and separatively conscious, are aware of the world process only in terms of separate, finite particulars and temporal events. Being unable to see the relationships between all the parts constituting the whole, our consciousness breaks up the whole into countless bits which we are unable to put together again, like a small child who takes a watch to pieces and cannot correctly put the pieces back again because he is ignorant of their proper relationships and functions.
But now, see what happens as consciousness evolves. By living the Holy Life this evolution of consciousness culminates in Pure Holistic Consciousness, that is, your isolative and separative, imperfectly functioning consciousness is transmuted into the divine Consciousness. The consciousness of me the ordinary, imperfect man, still at the sub-human stage, which is an exclusive consciousness, has now flowered out into the Perfected, all-inclusive, godly Consciousness, the Holistic Consciousness. All the Perfected Holy Ones, all the truly spiritual Teachers, realized this God-consciousness which functions in the context of Infinity and Eternity, and hence of Immortality, whereas we ordinary mortals are restricted to the context of finitude and temporality, and hence mortality.
Zarathushtra was probably the first great monotheistic Teacher, the Prophet sent by Ahura Mazda, to realize such Holistic Consciousness. I have quoted several of his affirmations of such realization in chapter 2 of my little book, Zarathushtra: The Transcendental Vision, and explained them as well as I could in other chapters. Zarathushtra, who realized Holistic Consciousness, stood on the supreme peak of human fulfilment. He was the Perfect Human. He was the very embodiment of asha. To me, that is the meaning of Asho Zarathushtra.
It is very difficult, if not impossible for the human brain to comprehend what is meant by, and implied in, the statement, “He was the very embodiment of asha”. Usually, we translate the word asha as order, truth, justice, the divine Law, Virtue, etc. Each of these words has a limited meaning for each brain — and there are more than 5,000 million brains in the world today. It is an astounding fact that each human being is different from every other person in the world. Correspondingly, the actual meaning and significance of order, truth, justice, etc. in each man’s brain will be different in some measure or other from the actual meaning and significance of truth or virtue, etc. in any and every person.
This is so in the finite and temporal context, the ordinary, worldly context of division and measurement and of all the dualities — more-less, pleasant-painful, beautiful-ugly, etc. But when one’s ordinary consciousness has evolved into Holistic Consciousness, one discovers that there is no division and measurement in the context of the Infinite and Eternal. Here, distance, position, direction, past, present, future, pleasure, pain, success, failure, good, bad, etc. have no meaning or manifestation whatsoever. This is not nihilistic doctrine. Let your brain be peaceful and silent, and let the feel of Transcendence permeate your whole being. In that state of blissful beatitude your inner consciousness will awake to the Transcendent Holy and you will experience for yourself the Transcendental meaning of asha, and it will be embodied in your whole being. You, like Zarathushtra, will become asho, although your brain will not comprehend that ashoi in thought or feeling or word. All our dictionary meanings and petty little concepts of asho vanish in the transcendent Holy Consciousness of a Zarathushtrian who has himself become the Golden Star — Zarathushtra the Asho.