The Gathas, said to have been written by Zoroaster himself, are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian tradition. In one sense they seem written less with the aim of teaching a doctrine than with the aim of imparting a sense of the glorification of Ahura Mazda (the All-Wise, the Pure), and hence the religious tradition that followed is one in which wisdom and purity are glorified above all else.
In the opening verses the theme of the work is made plain: the battle between good and evil, between the good followers of Ahura Mazda and “the perpetrators of Evil and their followers”. To this end, Mazda brings forth Zarathustra as “the protector and guide,
for the welfare of the world and its diligent people”.
The Gathas then proceed with a reverential adoration of Ahura Mazda, with the tone of a humble servant. The purpose of the Gathas is stated clearly, and in it we can see the emphasis Zoroastrianism places on the development of the Good:
Those whom Thou knowest as full worthy, by reason
of their Righteousness and Good Mind,
For those, do Thou fulfill their desire for attainment,
O Mazda Ahura.
For I well know that the words of these song offerings
to Thee directed to righteous ends
Will have their blissful effect.
And through these divine songs, for evermore shall I preserve
Righteousness and Good Mind for the people.
And so, at the outset Zoroaster calls to all those who would seek wisdom and bids them listen to his words:
O ye, coming to seek wisdom, now shall I proclaim
to you the message of the Wise Creator,
The hymns unto Ahura, and the offerings of the Good Mind,
The enduring sacred Truth,
And the glorious vision of the Heavenly Lights
attainable through Truth sublime.
Hearken with your ears to these best counsels,
Reflect upon them with illumined judgment.
Let each one choose his creed with that
freedom of choice each must have at great events.
O ye, be awake to these, my announcements.
Then the Gathas proceed, at times as a seeming dialog between Zoroaster and Mazda, at times as prayer, at times as teachings. The Gathas lay forth the very essence of their tradition, just as we find the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita doing for theirs. We find hints of a cosmogony, treatment of essential morality, and always the profession of the glory of Ahura Mazda, which is the glorification of Wisdom, Purity, Charity, Neighborliness and the Good Mind. The verses of the Gathas expose the heart and mind of the races of Persia and the Middle-East; their seeking after righteousness, their desire for purity, and their adoration of the embodiment of these noble qualities in their One God. This mode of thought and life is clear throughout the Gathas, and summed up ideally in the following belief:
“The follower of the righteous shall attain the Abode of Light.”
And now, we present to you in full, the Gathas of Zarathustra: