Zoroastrianism - Asha, The Zoroastrian Concept of Truth and Universal Order

Zarathushtra or Zoroaster, the Founder of Zoroastrianism

by Jayaram V

The meaning of asha is rather complex because its meaning depends upon the context in which it is used. The word asha is interpreted variously as truth, order, justice, righteousness, godliness. Asha an inseparable quality of God. Ahura Mazda is the master of Asha. He is also its creator. Where He prevails, Asha reigns. Asha is divinity in itself. Asha makes things beautiful. Asha makes things perfect.

Asha is one of the reaons why evil stays away from the domain of God. Asha renders evil weak. Asha renders Ahirman helpless. God attains His ends the most infallibly, because of his Asha. All the Zoroastrian ritual places are said to be asha sanctified. They are performed in an orderly manner, according to an established procedure. So performing a ritual according to the scriptures means, putting God's asha into action and bringing order and sanctity into our lives. Among the Amesha Spentas or the universal beings, Asha is personified by Asha Vahishta, who represents the qualities of of truth, fairness and justice in the spiritual plane and the element of fire in the material.

The word ash is derived from the root word, 'arta', meaning right or true, from which is also derived the Sanskrit word "rta", which denotes more or less a similar concept in Hinduism. Just as God creates rta in the Vedic tradition to uphold the worlds and establish Dharma (righteous law), in Zoroastrianism also God creates asha to uphold the entire creation and establish righteousness. God's creation is an orderly process in which He brings forth various worlds and beings in a sequential fashion and sets them up in space and time in a meaningful and manageable hierarchy. It is like producing a melodious symphony from disparate elements of music and creating a feeling of oneness. In contrast, Ahirman or Angira Mainyu, the evil spirit, represents chaos and confusion (druj). He is opposed to asha because he cannot thrive in it. So he always tries to disrupt the elements and lives of people by throwing them off balance. The battle between good and evil is also a battle between order and chaos. According to Zoroastrian teachings, human beings should be aware of the dangers posed by evil in a chaotic world and strive to bring order and balance into their lives, by performing good deeds and living righteously for order is rooted in righteousness, so that they can keep evil at bay.

In the physical realm, asha is represented by fire. The symbolism is understandable because in darkness, fire makes things visible and meaningful so that we can make sense out of them and act accordingly. According to Zoroastrian tenets, fire has the capability to purify things and make them truthful and divine. Fire is used in the sacrificial rituals because of its nature to sanctify things. Fire is also a symbol or light and life. Where these exist there is order, beauty and the presence of God. In ancient times, fire was used to prove some one's guilt or innocence and establish truth and justice. Fire has the ability to drive away the fear of evil and darkness, which symbolizes chaos and confusion, from our minds. Again it is with fire that Ahura Mazda will ultimately destroy Ahirman and subject all the evil doers to punishment on the Judgment Day.

Excerpts From Zoroastrian Texts On Ahura Mazda

Avesta - Yasna - Chapter 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)!

3. I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) for Asnya, the masters of Asha, to Hawan, Asha-sanctified, master of Asha; and I celebrate, and I carry out (this Yasna) for Savanghi and for Visya, Asha-sanctified, master(s) of Asha.

I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) for Mithra of wide pastures, of the thousand ears, and of the myriad eyes, the Yazad of the spoken name, and for Raman Khwastra.

4. I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) for Rapithwin, the Asha-sanctified master of Asha, and for Fradat-fshu, and for Zangtuma, the holy master(s) of Asha; and I celebrate and carry out (this Yasna) to Asha the Best, and to the Fire of Ahura Mazda.

5. I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) for Uzerin the Asha-sanctified master of Asha, and for Fradat-vira and Dakhyuma, the Asha-sanctified master(s) of Asha, and for that lofty Ahura Napat-apam (the son of waters), and for the waters which Ahura Mazda made.

6. I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) for Aiwisruthrem (and) Aibigaya, the Asha-sanctified master(s) of Asha, and for the Zarathushtrotema, and for him who possesses and who gives that prosperity in life which furthers all. And I celebrate and carry out (this Yasna) for the fravashis of the saints, and for those of the women who have many sons ['Men and herds?'], and for a prosperous home life which continues without reverse throughout the year, and for that Might which is well-shaped and stately ['Well-grown'], which strikes victoriously, Ahura-made, and for that Victorious Ascendency (which it secures).

Yasna 45

I will speak of what is best for the life. Through Asha I have come to know, O Mazda, who created it (the life), the father of active Good Thought: but his daughter is the good-working Armaiti. The all-observant Ahura is not to be deceived.

KHORDA AVESTA - Part 1

Holiness (Asha) is the best of all good: it is also happiness. Happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness!

We worship the Ahunwar. We worship Best Asha, the most beautiful Amesha Spenta.

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