Karma in the Desatir
The Path, October, 1891
The Desatir is a collection of the writings of the different Persian Prophets, one of whom was Zoroaster. The last was alive in the time of Khusro Parvez, who was contemporary with the Emperor Revaclius and died only nine years before the end of the ancient Persian monarchy. Sir William Jones was the first who drew the attention of European scholars to the Desatir. It is divided into books of the different prophets. In this article the selections are from the “Prophet Abad.”
“In the name of Lareng! Mezdam 1 separated man from the other animals by the distinction of a soul, which is a free and independent substance, without a body or anything material, indivisible and without position, by which he attaineth to the glory of the angels.
“By his knowledge he united the soul with the elemental body. If one doeth good in an elemental body, and possesseth useful knowledge, and acts aright, and is a Hirtasp, and doth not give pain to harmless animals; when he putteth off the inferior body I will introduce him to the abode of the angels that he may see me with the nearest angels.
“And every one who wisheth to return to the lower world and is a doer of good shall, according to his knowledge and conversation and actions, receive something, either as a King or Prime Minister, or some high office or wealth, until he meeteth with a reward suited to his deeds.
“Those who, in the season of prosperity, experience pain and grief suffer them on account of their words or deeds in a former body, for which the Most Just now punisheth them.
“In the name of Lareng! Whosoever is an evil doer, on him He first inflicteth pain under human form: for sickness, sufferings of children while in their mothers womb, and after they are out of it, and suicide, and being hurt by ravenous animals, and death, and being subjected to want from birth to death, are all retributions for past actions: and in like manner as to goodness.
“If any one knowingly and intentionally kill a harmless animal and do not meet with retribution in the same life either from the unseen or the earthly ruler, he will find punishment awaiting him at his next coming.”
Certain verses declare that foolish and evil doers are condemned to the bodies of vegetables, and the very wicked to the form of minerals, and then declare they so remain,
“Until their sins be purified, after which they are delivered from this suffering and are once more united to a human body: and according as they act in it they again meet with retribution.”
In the Desatir the doctrine is held that animals are also subject to punishment by retributive Karma; thus:
“If a ravenous animal kill a harmless animal it must be regarded as retaliation on the slain, since ferocious animals exist for the purpose of inflicting such punishment. The slaying of ravenous animals is laudable, since they in a former existence have been shedders of blood and slew the guiltless. The punisher of such is blest.
“The lion, the tiger, the leopard, the panther, and the wolf, with all ravenous animals, whether birds, quadrupeds, or creeping things, have once possessed authority; and everyone whom they kill hath been their aider or abettor who did evil by supporting or assisting, or by the orders of, that exalted class; and having given pain to harmless animals are now punished by their own masters. In fine, these grandees, being invested with the forms of ravenous beasts, expire of suffering and wounds according to their misdeeds; and if any guilt remain they will return a second time and suffer punishment along with their accomplices.”
1. Mezdam is the Lord God, so to say.