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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Zend-Avesta

(Par.). The collective name for the scripture of Zoroastrianism. The word “Avesta” means “law,” although it originally referred to the dialect in which the scriptures were written. The word “Zend” is taken by scholars to mean “commentary,” but, according to Annie BESANT (Zoroastrinism, p. 7; first published in Four Great Religions, 1897), this commentary is named for the language, called Zend-zar or Zendzar, in which it was written, a language obviously linguistically related to “Senzar,” the language of the “Stanzas of Dzyan,” upon which The Secret Doctrine of Helena P. BLAVATSKY is based. Since this Zend, or commentary, has become regarded as part of the original text, the two words are now taken together to refer to the scripture.

The Zend-Avesta is divided into four parts: Yasna (the book of hymns or gāthās), Visparad or Vispared (a collection of prayers and ceremonies), Yashts (a collection of preparatory prayers and invocations, including the Khordah or “Little” Avesta), and Nasks (a collection of treatises on a variety of subjects, of which only the Videvdad or Vendīdād has survived). Later, the Dinkard was added. Much of the material in the original scripture was lost when the Zoroastrian library at Persepholis was destroyed in 334 BCE by Alexander the Great (or “Accursed” as he is known to Zoroastrians). The scripture has also been translated into various languages including Modern Persian and Gujerati.

See also ZOROASTRIANISM.

R.W.B.

 

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