Avesta: Hadokht Nask on What Happens After You Die

This is a translation of Charles de Harlez’s 1877 French translation. If you want to see how wildly divergent translations of this text can be, take a look at Darmesteter’s translation.

HADOKHT NASK FRAGMENT ON WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU DIE

1-2. Zarathustra asked Ahura Mazda: Ahura Mazda, very holy spirit, creator of visible good things, pure being! When a righteous one dies, where does his soul stay that night?

4. So Ahura Mazda told him: it stays near the head, reciting the Ustavaiti Gatha, repeating wishes for joy: Happiness[1] to him, happiness to all whom Ahura Mazda wishes to give it to, He who rules as He pleases. During this night, it tastes as much joy as all the joy in the whole world.

3-4. During the second night, where does the soul stay? Ahura Mazda responded: it stays near the head, reciting the Ustavaiti Gatha, repeating wishes for joy: Happiness to him, happiness to all whom Ahura Mazda wishes to give it to, He who rules as He pleases. During this night, it tastes as much joy as all the joy in the whole world.

5-6. During the third night, where does the soul stay? Ahura Mazda responded: it stays near the head, reciting the Ustavaiti Gatha, repeating wishes for joy: Happiness to him, happiness to all whom Ahura Mazda wishes to give it to, He who rules as He pleases. During this night, it tastes as much joy as all the joy in the whole world.

7-9. Upon the passing of the third night to the beginning of the glow of dawn, the soul of the righteous man finds itself in the midst of plants. A fragrance comes to it (contained in the plants). A wind bringing it to him comes from the middle of the southern regions, a fragrant wind, more fragrant than all other winds. The soul of the righteous man inhales this wind into his nose. From whence blows this wind more fragrant than any I have ever inhaled into my nostrils? From this fragrance, his own nature comes to him in the form of a young maiden, beautiful, bright, with rosy arms, strong, majestic, with an upright and slender physique, with an admirable body, noble, of illustrious race, fifteen years of age, with a body brighter than the brightest of creatures.

10. And the soul of the righteous one asks her: What maiden are you, most beautiful of all maidens I have ever seen?

11. And his own nature responds: I am your good thoughts, your good words and your good actions, the very nature [Daêna] of your own body. Who has adorned you with[2] this grandeur, this excellence, this beauty, emitting a fragrant scent, triumphant, dominating your enemies, such as you appear before me?

12. It is you, oh young man, your good thoughts, your good words, your good actions, your very nature [Daêna], that has adorned me with this grandeur, this excellence, this beauty, emitting a fragrant scent, triumphant, dominating my enemies, such as I appear before you.[3]

13. When you saw up there [in the world] someone practicing magic, engaging in seduction or oppression, you bowed and recited the Gathas loudly, honoring[4] the pure waters and the fire, son of Ahura Mazda and seeking to please the faithful man, whether he came from near or far. Thus you rendered me, I who was already lovely, even lovelier; though seated on a high seat, you have made me sit on an even higher seat, through these good thoughts, through these holy words, through these good works.

14. Thus men after this will honor[5] me, I Ahura Mazda, long-honored, consulted (by those who seek the truth).

15-16. The soul of the righteous takes a first step and stops in Humata [good thoughts]; it takes a second step and stops in Hukta [good words]; it takes a third step and stops in Huarsta [good deeds]; it takes a fourth step and stops at the place of beginningless lights. A righteous one who died before him questions him, asking: How, oh dead righteous one, did you come from the home of the herds, from the land of abundant unions, from the corporeal world, to the spiritual world; from the perishable world to the eternal world? How has happiness come to you for eternity [footnote: How has good being been yours enduringly?]?

17-18. And Ahura Mazda speaks: Ask nothing of this man whom you question, this man who has come from a formidable, horrible road, who distances (himself from the world), upon the separation of the body and the intelligence. What suits him best after death is having food brought to him, golden oil, for the young man whose thoughts, words, inclinations, and actions were holy. It is the food (that is suitable) after death for the maiden who has persevered in holy thoughts, words and actions, always well guided, surrendered to her master, continually pure.

19-24. Zarathustra asked Ahura Mazda: Ahura Mazda, very holy spirit… pure being. When a wicked one dies, where does his soul stay that night? Ahura Mazda replied: It goes around the head, o holy Zarathustra, saying loudly this verse of the Gathas:  To what land shall I take myself, where shall I flee? [Yasna 46:1] On the same night, this soul suffers as much suffering as all the suffering in the world.

During the second night, where does the soul stay? Ahura Mazda replied: It goes around the head, o holy Zarathustra, saying loudly this verse of the Gathas:  To what land shall I take myself, where shall I flee? [Yasna 46:1] On the same night, this soul suffers as much suffering as all the suffering in the world.

During the third night, where does the soul stay? Ahura Mazda replied: It goes around the head, o holy Zarathustra, saying loudly this verse of the Gathas:  To what land shall I take myself, where shall I flee? [Yasna 46:1] On the same night, this soul suffers as much suffering as all the suffering in the world.

25-26. Upon the passing of the third night to the beginning of the glow of dawn, the soul of the evil man finds itself in (a place of) horror, and a disgusting odor comes to him. The wind that brings it blows from the north, from the northern countries, spreading a fetid stench, more fetid than any other wind. And the soul of the wicked man inhales this wind into his nose: From whence blows this fetidly reeking wind, more fetid than any I have ever smelled?

——-

A large part of the Avestan text has been lost here, but here is a plausible-sounding reconstruction of the gist of this section, drawing on the Bundahishn and obvious patterns in the chapter:

From this fetid wind, his own nature comes to him in the form of a maiden, hideous, ugly, maladroit, reeking.

And the soul of the wicked one, speaking to her, asks: what maiden are you, most hideous of all maidens I have ever seen?

And his own nature responds; I am your evil thoughts, your evil words and your evil actions, the very nature [Daêna] of your own body. Who has given you this sickliness, this ugliness, this stench, this feebleness, such as you appear before me?

It is you, o evil man, your evil thoughts, your evil words, your evil actions, your very nature [Daêna], that has given me this sickliness, this ugliness, this stench, this feebleness, such as I appear before you.

You did evil on the earth. Thus you rendered me very hideous; seated on a high seat, you have made me sit on a very low seat, through these evil thoughts, through these evil words, through these evil works.

The soul of the wicked one takes a first step and stops in Evil Thoughts; it takes a second step and stops in Evil Words; it takes a third step and stops in Evil Deeds.

——-

To return to the extant Avesta:

33-34. The soul of the wicked takes a fourth step and stops in beginningless darkness. An evil one who died before him questions him, asking: How did you die, o wicked one, how did you come from the home of the herds, from the land of abundant desires, from the corporeal world, to the spiritual world; from the perishable world to the world that never ends? How has this misfortune come to you for eternity?

35-36. Angra Mainyu cries: Ask nothing of this man whom you question, this man who has come from a formidable, horrible road, who distances (himself from the world), upon the separation of the body and the intelligence. What suits him after death is having food brought to him, that which is poison or mixed with poison, for the young man whose thoughts, words, inclinations, and actions were wicked. It is the food (that is suitable) after death for the maiden who lived wickedly, whose thoughts, words and actions, were continually evil, who followed a bad direction, independent of any master.

[1] The word here translated as ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’ is ushta, designating supreme spiritual happiness. De Harlez translates it as salut, meaning salvation.

[2] Other translations include ‘endowed you with’, ‘willed for you’, and ‘loved for you’.

[3] Due to major omissions on the part of de Harlez, I consulted the Avestan and Darmesteter’s translation to translate this verse.

[4] Other translations could be ‘worship’, ‘praise’, ‘celebrate’, ‘revere’; the word is ýazemnô.

[5] Ibid.

(This translation is Copyright 2017 Zebulon Ulysses Goertzel and free to share with the Creative Commons 4.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Please credit both me and de Harlez.)

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