Friday, 2 December 2016

Persian-Iranian Wisdom - The Javidan Khirad

In Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary, we have an entry called:

Iranian Morals. The little work called Ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian Morals, compiled by Mr. Dhunjibhoy Jamsetjee Medhora, a Parsi Theosophist of Bombay, is an excellent treatise replete with the highest moral teachings, in English and Gujerati, and will acquaint the student better than many volumes with the ethics of the ancient Iranians.

The text was favorably reviewed in Thomas Moore Johnson’s The Platonist, (January, 1888). This 1887 text can be found at this link:

It was first translated into English as The Javidan Khirad , The Maxims of Hosheng The Student and Intellectual Observer of Science, Literature and Art, Volume 2 p. 176 1869 transl. E. H. Palmer. The title can be translated "Perennial Wisdom". Similar contents can be found in Al-Ghazali’s Nasihat al Muluk and covers wisdom literature from Persian, Hindu, Arab and Greek traditions.

In her Gems from the East, Blavatsky uses some 40-odd sayings from the Javidan Khirad (see months of October-November):

Below are some extracts from: AN APOCRYPHAL WORK: THE "JÂVIDÂN KHIRAD" OF MISKAWAYH - M.S. KHAN - Islamic Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Autumn 1998), pp. 371-380

The Javidda Khirad of Miskawayh (d. 422/1030) was edited and published by 'Abd al-Rahman al-BadawT as al-Hikmah al-Khdlidah in 1952 with an introduction and notes.

The original title is Javidan Khirad. Without an idafat, Javidan can only be considered an adjective; and Khirad is a noun. With the idafat it should have been Khirad-i Jdviddn. Khirad is the modern form of the old Avestan form Khratu which is allied to Kratu of Vedic origin. However, an important question to be asked about Miskawayh's Javidan is in regard to its original author. It has been attributed to Hoshang, or Awshahanj in Arabic, who is a mythological and not a historical king, and it is certain that he could not be the author of this book in which means "wisdom and will" (cf. Datestan-i Meenok-i Khirat).

Regarding its translation, it is stated in the introduction of the Javidan that it consists of the counsels left by Awshahanj (Hoshang) the ruler, as a testament for his successors. It was translated from an ancient language into Persian by Kanjur ibn Isfandiyar, Vizier of the king of Iranshahr, which was translated into Arabic by Hasan ibn Sahl, brother of al-Fadl ibn Sah l26, viziers of Caliph M'amun in 196/812 and it was completed by Ahmad ibn Muhammad Miskawayh.

Strictly speaking, even if it is accepted that this Javidan is an Arabic translation from a Pahlavi book, it should be stated that the actual translation covered only about fourteen printed pages of the Javidan published by Badawi. Miskawayh himself states on the authority of Jahiz that the actual translation ended there.30

Jahiz is considered by some to have been the greatest precursor of the doctrine of Eternal Wisdom which held that "the wisdom of all nations found its way into Arabic literature in a slow process of transmission from nation to nation and from generation to generation".25

The Javidan of Miskawayh and the newly-discovered Khiradndmah belong to Iranian ethico-didactic literature called Andarzndmah or Pandndmah which were written in Pahlavi.31 These may roughly be divided into three main categories (i) religio-theological (ii) politico historical and (iii) socio-ethico-didactic. They also contained anecdotes for entertainment, worldly knowledge, wit erudition and description of virtues. They were compiled for the guidance and training of rulers and princes, statesmen, administrators and for common people for a good life. In these works the rulers were given three general advices: to lead a good and virtuous life, to be always just and administer justice strictly, to strive for the welfare of their subjects, to protect them from oppressors and tyrants and be kind and generous to the poor and the needy.

This substantial material in Pahlavi proves that the Arab-Muslims did not destroy Iranian culture and literature after they had conquered it. (375)