on 101 Names of God
The 101 names of God that are the subject of this book derive from a misty antiquity, but they retain a remarkable freshness even today. They form part of the ancient Zoroastrian prayer compilation known as the Khordeh Avesta, which can be traced back at least 2000 years, and is traditionally associated with the Prophet Zoroaster himself. These names are all in Old Persian, an Indo-European language with close affinities to Sanskrit. These names also continue to form part of the regular Zoroastrian litany of prayers, both among Zoroastrians in Iran and Parsis of India.
The great modern spiritual teacher, Meher Baba (1894-1969), periodically drew attention to these 101 names of God as an important spiritual legacy from the Zoroastrian tradition, and he occasionally would have them recited alongside prayers from Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh sources. Meher Baba would certainly have recited these divine names during his youth, as he grew up in the Parsi community of Pune in Western India. But in an important declaration about this prayer given in 1963, Meher Baba also emphasized that these 101 names can be an effective prayer of divine love, regardless of one’s religious affiliation. Meher Baba gives both in the original Old Persian and in the translation, the list of 101 names contained in this book.
These 101 Persian names of God invite comparison with the well-known 99 names of God from the Islamic tradition. All of those are in Arabic, and are taken from the descriptions of God found in the Qur’an. Recitation of these names, and meditation on their divine qualities, forms a central part of the Sufi mystical practice of dhikr or recollection of God. Recitation of those names is considered to imbue the reciter with the divine qualities contained within the names.
A glance at the table of contents of this book will indicate some of the distinctive characteristics of the 101 names of God from Zoroastrian tradition. Some names emphasize God’s transcendence beyond human comprehension: Without Beginning, Without End, Exalted One, Detached from All, Formless, Lord Invisible. Other names speak of God’s infinite power and knowledge in relation to the world: Lord of All, In Touch with All, Bountiful One, Lord of the Universe. Still other names reflect on the intimate relationship between God and creation: Worthy of Our Profound Thanks, Remover of Affliction, Bountiful Giver, and Preserver of Creation. There is a particular emphasis on the profoundly ethical teachings of Zoroaster, summarized in the triple formula of “good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.” This stress on truth and justice is revealed in divine names such as Never Deceiving, Just Accountant, and Lord of Just Rewards. These names of justice are matched by other names stressing divine mercy, including Forgiver of Sins, Infinitely Patient, and Compassionate Judge. An especially interesting series of names (beginning at No. 61) describes the cosmic role of God as the Transmuter of one element into another. In the end, God remains unique in His beauty: Rayed in Glory, Haloed in Light. It is significant that the very first of the 101 names is Worthy of Worship.
Michael Kovitz brings to bear his own creative interpretation in the meditations on the 101 divine names that comprise this book. He draws upon spiritual symbolism from a variety of sources, including Hindu, Christian, Sufi, and Buddhist themes. An accomplished musician and poet, he reflects with sincerity and passion upon the divine qualities inherent in these names. I hope that this book of meditations will bring this remarkable ancient prayer to a new and appreciative audience
Zachary Smith Professor
Department of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
1. Khordeh Avesta, trans. Maneck Fordoonji Kanga (Bombay: Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat Funds and Properties, 1993), pp. 405-409; Khordeh Avesta: Zoroastrian Prayer Book with Prayers in Roman Script and Translation in English, trans. T. R. Sethna (2nd edition, Karachi: Ma’aref Printers, 1975), pp. 208-210.
2. A current translation in modern Persian is available in Khordeh Avesta, trans. Husayn Vahidi (Tehran: Bunyad-i Farhangi-i Surn Surushiyan, 1989), pp. 7-8.
From the Author
In reading Meditation and Prayers on 101 Names of God, one finds references and imagery drawn from Vedantic, Sufi, Christian, Buddhist, and Mystic sources — a reflection of my personal path and my search for God. Also, there are references and quotes attributed to Meher Baba, who translated the original 101 Names of God from the ancient Persian of Zoroaster into the English language.
Meher Baba is my spiritual guide and master. He is the inspiration behind all of my writings and He is the Beloved whom I address in each of the Names.
Yet, it is my intention and also my prayer, that Meditation and Prayers on 101 Names of God be for all seekers of truth and lovers of God, no matter what their spiritual path or their persuasion, and it is my most sincere hope that in the reading of the Names, all may find inspiration and a renewed vigor for their own unique and personal journey to awakening.
Michael Kovitz - 2011
Introduction to the Second Edition
Reviewing Meditation and Prayers on 101 Names of God for this, the second edition, I became aware of many typos, spelling and formatting errors that somehow always seem to slip past the eyes of writers and editors only to miraculously materialize, after the book is in print, so obviously obvious to the eyes of readers and critics alike. These have been addressed and corrected with the help of Dorothy Mead, my friend and co-author of my latest book, SuperVisions, and notes I had saved from eagle-eyed readers who had been kind enough to send their corrections my way.
But readers familiar with the first edition will undoubtedly notice numerous changes of a more substantive nature — changes to make the book clearer and more readable. As a result of looking with fresh eyes, nearly all the meditations and prayers have been revised — some extensively — but none have been totally discarded and re-written. In addition, the book has been reformatted and now sports a new cover.
On a personal note, it was interesting for me to re-visit the Names now, more than fifteen years since I first began writing them. Much had happened to me as a writer, musician, and spiritual voyager upon the ocean of life, yet as soon as I began re-reading the Names, I found myself, as it were, instantly transported back to the state I was in when I first wrote them.
And what a state it is! It is like being in a bubble of light where I, or at least my usual sense of I, am barely in attendance. And that is exactly how it was when I first wrote Meditation and Prayers on 101 Names of God. I never thought much about what I was writing — never felt that I was in control of the process. In fact, I mostly was not even aware what it was I was writing — so much so, that when later I would read what I had written, or a reader would quote something to me, it often was not familiar to me and I would sometimes feel quite awed, thinking or saying things like “Wow! Unbelievable! Amazing!”
In light of this, I remember a story I heard about Meher Baba. Meher Baba had been traveling with a group of followers when they saw a man fervently praying at the tomb of a certain saint. Meher Baba watched and seemed much amused. A follower asked Him what it was He found so amusing, to which Baba replied, “The man is praying at his own tomb!” I sometimes wonder what I would think if in a future life I happen to come across a copy of Meditation and Prayers on 101 Names of God?
Michael Kovitz – 2011
“If you repeat this prayer with Love, no other prayer remains to be said…. Anyone can repeat these names with Love, irrespective of the religion he belongs to.”
- Meher Baba, Poona, India, February 4, 1963
Worthy of Worship
Only You are worthy of worship
for all else is illusion and how can we worship illusion?
Respect, admiration, and appreciation, are tributes we pay to creation
for maintaining the path to Your Door.
Oh Yazad, help me to traverse the path
that I might know You as You are.
Power is the capacity for action.
Action is instigated by thought.
Thought is instigated by desire.
Desire originates in Whim.
God’s Whim is to know Himself and with this Knowing comes Bliss.
Since this Knowing is Infinite, this Bliss is also Infinite.
With this Knowing comes Power.
Since this Knowing is Infinite, this Power is also Infinite.
When God knows Himself
He finds Himself to be,
Light passing through darkness becomes color,
color passing through experience becomes ignorance,
ignorance passing through experience becomes consciousness,
consciousness passing through experience becomes light.
Beyond light and darkness,
color and ignorance,
consciousness and experience,
is the Source of all:
The All Knowing.
Lord of All
All means all, big and small,
Everything and Nothing too.
You and I, and everyone —
plants and worms, fish and birds,
Lord of all —
angels and archangels, gurus and saints.
Lord of creation,
the three worlds too.
Lord of all.
You always were,
You always are,
and You always will be.
You were before the beginning,
and even before the beginningless beginning.
All of time is a speck of dust
lost in Your depths.
Contemplating Your Beginningless-ness,
I am at peace.
Never were You not,
ever will You be,
contemplating Your endlessness,
I am at peace.
In the beginning was the Word,
and what began in the beginning,
will end in the end.
But the One who spoke the Word,
in the end remains,