- The Arda Viraf Naamu or Arda Viraf Naameh, is the name of a Pahlavi book, originally written in the 3rd century CE, during the reign of the first Sasanian King Ardeshir Babegan. The name Arda Viraf Naameh means “the book of Ardaviraf or righteous Viraf.” Ardaviraf, a very holy priest was selected from among 40,000 priests to visit the spiritual world and get a first hand account. The result was this book, which is often compared to Dante’s “Divine comedy.”
- The Arda Viraf Nameh was a very popular book among Parsis till some time back. It preaches morality and ethics, but in a different style. The first 4 chapters are narrative of the times of doubt and turmoil in Iran preceding the journey of Ardaviraf. 83 of the total 101 chapters are a graphic description of punishments of sins in Hell. 10 chapters are an account of Heaven. 4 chapters are admonitions from Ahura Mazda, Sarosh Yazad and the souls.
- Excerpts from description of Heaven: Heaven is like a garden of flowers with smell of rose and amber and cool wind blowing. Meher Yazad sits on the throne next to Rashne Yazad who held weighing scales. Ardaviraf saw deceased members of his own family and conversed with them. From there Bahman Ameshaspand led him to the golden throne of Ahura Mazda. It was resplendent and surrounded by thousands of Yazads. Ardaviraf paid homage to the throne.
- Excerpts from description of Hell: Souls have to wait for people whom they have offended and against whom they had sinned to come and forgive them. If they do not forgive them they have to keep waiting. Some souls floated in river with stinking water, shouting with fear of being drowned, but nobody heard them. Noxious reptile bothered them. The river was made from tears shed by relatives of the departed. A man biting his own arms. He was an ungrateful man who never thanked or blessed his benefactors. A group of souls who had neglected to wear the Sadra-Kasti, did not cover their head and the feet and did not follow the religion, were amidst reptiles and noxious creatures. A man surrounded by demons was being flogged with snakes, who bit him all over the body. He was a tyrant who abused his authority, made his subjects unhappy and did not listen to their pleas. Another man was receiving similar punishment because he took away his neighbour’s land. As long as the land remained in his family’s possession, he would have to suffer.
- Excerpts of advice from Ahura Mazda: Adherence to religious laws brings benefits and rewards and their infringement brings punishments; As you sow so shall you reap; Ill gotten wealth is never enjoyed; the rich must believe in God, and not let prosperity turn away their minds; Deathbed repentance is useless, instead intentions should be kept pure; The precepts of Zarathushtra should not be feared or doubted.
- Excerpts of advice from Sarosh Yazad & Adar Yazad: Without trouble nothing can be attained; Every labour and merit will be rewarded; People who do not accept the ups and downs of life suffer punishment for their attitude; Not to set heart exclusively on the pleasures of the world, as men cannot carry anything away with them after death; The body is like a horse and the soul like its rider. If either one is weak, the other is affected. As man needs to take greater care of himself than his horse, so he has to take greater care of his soul than his body; In wine, women, eating and drinking one should avoid excess, as they bring their own punishments; When asking boons from God, leave it to Him to grant it; Contentment is the happiest condition for man.
- Advise from souls at various stages of heaven: Avoid sin, think of the last day, avoid temptations; Convey to men the necessity of prayer, of wearing the Sadra-Kasti, performance of rituals and good deeds; The joys of heaven are eternal, the joys of the material world are fleeting; It is necessary to have an heir in the world, as it is necessary to pass the Chinwad bridge. To hand down our names to posterity is one of the highest duties we owe to our Creator.
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