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Dr. Jose Luis Abreu was born in Venezuela in 1956 where he received his schooling.  He obtained his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Agriculture from Universities of Southwestern Louisiana and California State University, Fresno respectively.  Back in Venezuela Dr. Abreu completed an MBA and a Ph.D. in Management at Rafael Urdaneta and U.R.B.E. Universities.  His Ph.D. research was conducted in “The Ethical Dimensions of Management.”   Dr. Abreu has been attracted to Zarathushtrian religion and is the current director of Latin America Spenta University Foundation and a member of the California based Zarathushtrian Assembly in addition to his other professional activities. Jose Luis and his wife, America Noriega are actively raising their two children Andreina and Jose Luisito.   In August of 2000, Dr. Abreu  published a book entitled “The History of Ethics and Its Zarathushtrian Origins” in English and Spanish.

 

Any friend of Zarathushtra is a friend of ours

Author, Dr. Jose Luis Abreu

Valentine's Day is a day to honor love and friendship.  This article is a call for reflection on the truthful meaning of friendship. My friend, Larry Grant, deeply touched my heart with the following words:  

"Any friend of Zarathushtra is a friend of ours" 

The meaning of friendship has been defined by David Isaacs (1981) in his book "The Education of Human Virtues," as "To have with some people, previously met through common interests in the professional or free-time field, diverse and periodical exchanges caused by a mutual sympathy, being both interested in each other and in their well being”.  

The discipline that studies values is called axiology and it takes into consideration this ethical value because it is one of the best foundations for human relations at individual and social levels. Usually friendship is connected with other values such as peace, understanding, love, respect, trust, admiration, obedience, communication, honesty, sincerity and tolerance. However, a deviated concept of friendship may lead to wrong actions.  

In this article I am going to analyze, Zarathushtra’s view regarding the concept of friendship from a gathic perspective. In this sense, Zarathushtra had in his life, space for Ahura Mazda, his family, his friends and the living world in general. So let us study the nature of these relationships. 

Friendship with Ahura Mazda 

It seems that between Zarathushtra and Ahura Mazda there was a clear and respectful friendship. As a matter of fact, he addressed God as a friend in the Gathas during various occasions. This is the type of relationship that Zarathushtra tries to teach us, but this friendship, according to Zarathushtra, presents some conditions. In one of the gathic stanzas the prophet describes his friendship in the following manner:   "The Wise God is an ally through good mind and a good friend through righteousness." (Song 5.2). 

This statement means that any person, who wishes to be God’s friend, has to first cultivate a Good Mind and live a righteous life. Thus, these conditions must be met. Vohumana and Asha are the main pillars to build a friendly relationship with the divine. It appears to be the only way. 

If what was stated above is not enough evidence, there is another stanza that supports my affirmation that Good Mind and Righteousness are important qualities to possess, to become a friend of God:   "This I ask You, tell me truly, Lord. How shall I reverently pay You Your homage? Teach this to me like a friend, Wise One. Let us all be given, through loving righteousness, help so that it comes to us through good mind." (Song 9.1) 

The Rewards of a Divine Friendship 

Zarathushtra treats Ahura Mazda as a friend who shows love, respect, admiration and bestows praises. In this unique friendship, Zarathushtra expressed his feelings of love towards the Wise One saying:  "With love, I pray to You, the Best Lord, who is in harmony with the best righteousness?" (Song 1.8)  

It is also interesting to perceive Zarathushtra’s respect for Ahura Mazda when he said:  "Lord, may we not anger you. We consider you the mighty master of promotion, to be most worthy of invocation." (Song 1.9)As we can see, Zarathushtra’s feelings for Ahura Mazda can be described by a special kind of friendship. In this wonderful relationship, Zarathushtra is willing to dedicate his life to his friend in order to spread his message. (See song 2.8) 

The feelings of Zarathushtra are clear from a Gathic perspective, but what about the feelings of Ahura Mazda? Ahura Mazda is the Creator of the Living World (Song 4.9) and He puts life in the physical frame (Song 4.11). What can He ask for from a world He created? Certainly He is not asking us to be slaves or to follow blindly what is written in the Gathas. ‘He gave deeds and words, so that one makes his choice through free will." (Song 4.11) 

However, God has designed universal laws that result in repeated failures for the wrong doers and strength for the righteous. "God through Vohu-Khshathra established these universal principles." (Song 10.7)  In this scenario, we could infer from the gathic information that when the principles established by Ahura Mazda are respected; He will be so satisfied and pleased, that with all His power, he will be willing and committed to provide valuable rewards to his friends.  

God offers, amongst others, a very precious present, Immortality:   "God Wise grants wholeness, immortality, abundance of righteousness, independence in dominion, and a lasting good mind to him, who is His friend in mind and action." (Song 4.21)
 

Friends in Mutual Help 

The friendly relationship between Zarathushtra and Ahura Mazda is  mutual. How can Zarathushtra as a simple human being help a powerful creator? Well, it is hard to believe, but Ahura Mazda asked for help because He was worried about the rehabilitation of the world which was oppressed by fury, rapine, outrage, and aggression (Song 2.1). In this sense, He asked three times for a volunteer to be the leader of the world and proclaim His message:
(1)
"Then the Creator of the Living World asked Righteousness: Who is Your leader of the World, who can offer her civilization, nourishment, and strength? Whom do you wish to be her lord; one who shall repel the fury of the wrongful?" (Song 2.2) 

(2) "The Wise God, the Knowing, spoke in a loving form: So you do not know any lord or leader who acts in righteousness. But, were you not fashioned by the Creator to look after the promoter as well as the settler?" (Song 2.6) 

(3) The Wise God, of one accord with Righteousness, prepared His thought-provoking message in response to the sweet plea made by the World, because with His doctrine, He is the promoter for those who wish to be protected. He asked, “Good Mind, do you know any person who can help the mortals?" (Song 2.7) 

At this point of Ahura Mazda’s search for help, a proposal was made by Good Mind:  "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 the sweetness of speech." (Song 2. 8) 

And to the three calls and the proposal of Good Mind, Zarathushtra made his choice by free will, he did not hesitate to offer his help and he finally responded: "Now I shall speak to those who wish to hear of the two principles, which are of importance even to the wise. I shall also, with reverence for good mind and the good consideration of righteousness, have praises for the Lord, so that you may see brilliant happiness." (Song 3.1) 

In the Gathas, it seems that the Good Mind and Ahura Mazda agreed about the virtues of Zarathushtra, and decided that he was prepared for the mission:  "I also, Wise One, recognize him as Your foremost discovery." (Song 2.10) 

We have seen how Zarathushtra is capable of helping a powerful God. But, on the other hand, Zarathushtra had to face many problems and obstacles to accomplish his goals regarding the proclamation of the divine message. At this point Zarathushtra asked for Ahura Mazda’s help:  "Just as a wise and powerful man helps his friend, Wise One, give me Your enlightening support, ensuing from righteousness through Your dominion. I shall, then, motivate and lead those loyal to the teachings and all those who remember Your thought-provoking message." (Song 8.14) 

In his early missionary days, Zarathushtra suffered persecution. In this phase of his life he was weak and there were few people to help him. His mission was opposed by the priests of the old cult and by the princes. They had their vested interests at stake. They were very strong and Zarathushtra was not in a position to challenge them. The opposition grew to such an extent, that his relatives and friends could not meet him. Even men of influence were not allowed to help him. The following stanza indicates Zarathushtra’s desperation:  "To what land should I turn? Where should I turn to go? They hold me back from my folks and friends. Neither the community I follow pleases me, nor do the wrongful rulers of the land. How can I please You, Wise God?" (Song 11.1)   

Though he was left alone, he realized that he had one friend left to help him and that was none other than Ahura Mazda. He addressed Him pleading,  "I know, Wise One, that I am powerless. I have  few cattle and also a few men. I appeal to You. Please, Lord, see to it. Lend me the help a friend  gives a friend. Grant, through righteousness, the riches of good mind.” (Song 11.2) 

According to the studies presented by Dr. Jafarey (1989), Zarathushtra after asking for help, received divine inspiration and decided to leave his home behind and face the greatest risk of his life by visiting the chief poet prince of the region, somebody that would become one of his greatest friends and chief patron in spreading the message.  This was Kavi Vishtaspa, who became his righteous companion.
 

Friends 

Zarathustra had a reflective mind and he consulted God about the meaning of friendship and the importance of this ethical value in society. During his reflections he wanted to determine the elements that integrate a truthful friendship. He referred to Asha, Armaiti and Serenity as important principles to be considered:   “Wise One, which person is a friend of mine? Who, indeed, consults righteousness? With whom is the progressive serenity? Who, indeed, considers himself rightful to belong to good mind and to the Fellowship?” (Song 16. 11) 

Zarathushtra insisted in the importance of Righteousness (Asha) in building a healthy friendship and he sincerely tell us to cultivate friends through that universal principle:  "This I ask You, tell me truly, Lord. How shall one who from the very beginning seeks the best life, prosper? Indeed, such a person is through righteousness, a great promoter and a treasure for all. He is, Wise One, a guardian, a mental life-healer, and a friend." (Song 9.2) 

Other important characteristics that Zarathushtra demanded from friends were that they should respect the laws, be willing to help the community and participate in making a better society.  "And Wise One, let one listen to it through good mind. Let one listen to it through righteousness. You too hear it, Lord. Which friend, which relative abides by laws, and provides a good guidance to the community?" (Song 14.7) 

In the following stanza Zarathushtra stressed again the importance of Righteousness in choosing his friends, but he also requested that his friends should teach and spread the message: "Wise One, I, Zarathushtra, am through righteousness, his friend who carries this thought-provoking message. May the Creator of Intelligence fix the course of his tongue so that he teaches my doctrine through the good mind?" (Song 15. 6) 

Zarathushtra  promised protection to his friends from wrongful people, and he sincerely meant it. “Wise Lord, I am powerful enough to meet the two-fold threats, and restrain the crime of the wrongful directed against friends." (Song 5.16) 

Zarathushtra carried out a mission to pursue the rehabilitation of the wrong. In this process he rejected fury and violence and he said that fanatic leaders and wicked leaders who indulge in intoxicating rituals must be abandoned. Regarding this situation Zarathushtra mentioned that "the person who denies false gods and their men is a friend." (Song 10.11)  And in addition to that, he clearly said,  The mumbling priests are not friends. They are sufficiently far from laws and from the settlement. They take delight in injuring the world with their deeds and teachings, a doctrine that ultimately places them in the house of wrong." (Song 16. 14)  

Zarathushtra referred to his friends as companions and for him the fellowship was a group of people united by a friendship of universal principles and love for Ahura Mazda. Friends and companions on the path to radiant happiness:"Wise God, I approach You through good mind. Grant me through righteousness the blessings of both existences, the material and the mental, so that I lead my companions to happiness." (Song 1. 2) 

The concept of friendship for Zarathushtra, according to what has been discussed here, should be closely related to that of righteous companionship. It means that Righteousness is one of the main pillars of friendship:  "Who is my, Zarathushtra's, righteous companion? Who wishes fame for the Great Fellowship? He, on this great event of initiation, is Kavi Vishtaspa. I shall invoke, with words of good mind, those whom You, Wise God, have established in Your abode." (Song 11. 14.)  

Ferashaoshtra Hvagva was another friend of Zarathushtra. He was a great sage, who with his brother Jamaspa, joined Zarathushtra in his divine mission. On one occasion Zarathushtra spoke about his friends and himself with a lot of emotion in his words: "And now, let Kavi Vishtaspa, the Zarathushtrian Spitama, and Ferashaoshtra pursue, with mind, words, and deeds, the knowledge for the praise and for the choice of venerations of the Wise One, in order to establish in straight paths the conscience which God has granted to the benefactor." (Song 17.2) 

The Gathas presented an interesting conversation between Zarathushtra and his friend Ferashaoshtra Hvagva, in which the prophet showed his concern and said:   "Ferashaoshtra Hvagva, go with your companions where, as we both wish, radiant happiness pervades, where serenity accompanies righteousness, where the rule of good mind prevails, where the Wise God dwells in progress." (Song 11.16)  Something that has called my attention is the special way in which Zarathushtra addressed and defined the opponents of the Gathic Doctrine. He called them "not friends" (Song 16.14). He used the word "enemy" just once (Song 7.4).   And it seems that for him "not friends" were the wrongful people that have to be rehabilitated with the thought-provoking message.  I do not think that from a gathic point of view there are enemies; instead there are potential friends who need to be rehabilitated. Thus, if we see the opponents of the universal principles as enemies, it would mean that they do not stand a chance to take the path of wisdom.  

But everybody has a chance because God is progressive and Zarathushtra with his bright mind realized the real value of rehabilitation, saying:  "O Wise One, the dominion will be realized for them through Good Mind. God, then they shall be taught how to deliver the wrong into the hands of righteousness." (Song 3.8) 

Finally, good thoughts, good words and good actions are important elements to interact with our friends. Sometimes silence is better than using strong and offensive words in confrontation. There is a better chance to win our arguments when gentle words are used. 

Let us remember the Gathas: "Grant him the sweetness of speech." (Song 2.8) Zarathushtra proposed the conformation of a society of friends because friendship built on the three pillars of Asha, Good Mind and Armaiti can make us one with God in Vohu-Khshathra. 

"Any friend of Zarathushtra is a friend of ours."

  

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