Dr Stanley Insler, Fellow of the World Zoroastrian Organisation – Rest in Peace

Dr Stanley Insler
Dr Stanley, 1937-2019

We at WZO were deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing away of Dr Stanley Insler on the 4th January, 2019.

He was Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Yale University, the Edward E. Salisbury Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology in the Department of Classics.

Son of Clara and Frank Insler, Dr Stanley was born on June 23, 1937 in the Bronx, New York City.

He attended the Bronx High School of Science, leaving at 16 to attend Columbia University on a Ford Foundation scholarship from where He received his B.A. in 1957.

He did postgraduate studies at the University of Tübingen (1960-1962), carried out research at the University of Madras, and received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1963.

In the same year he became a member of the faculty at Yale where he remained until his retirement in 2012, serving two terms at the chair of the Department of Linguistics from 1978-1989.

Long-time treasurer of the American Oriental Society and also its president from 1997-98, Professor Insler was an active fellow of Jonathan Edwards College and an enthusiastic participant at the Henry Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty.

Stanley received fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

He was a member of Société Asiatique, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the Philological Society, Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the French Oriental Society, among others.

Among his many achievements, Dr Stanley’s translation of the Avestan Gathas, the sacred text of the Zoroastrians is widely regarded as the modern standard.

He made a conspicuous contribution to the study of the Gathas by contesting the extreme ritualistic interpretation applied to them by earlier scholars.

His translation made this classic text accessible to many Parsees, or modern Zoroastrians, many of whom live in London and Bombay.

In his The Gathas of Zarathustra, Dr Stanley Insler used his introductions to each of the hymns, among other matters, to emphasize the moral and ethical character of Zoroaster’s thought neglected in the ritualist approach.

While it is true that all modern translators have made use of comparative materials from the Vedas, Insler, an outstanding Vedacist himself, probed the limits of what the ancient Indian texts can contribute.

Dr Stanley was a scholar of ancient Indo-Iranian languages and texts.

His research focused on Sanskrit, Vedic, Avestan, Zarathustra and the history of Zoroastrianism, metrical texts of the Pali Buddhist Canon, Indian narrative literature, Silk Road Studies, and the Gathas of Zarathustra.

Courses he taught included “Old Iranian: Avestan” and “Vedic Poetry”.

Among his many publications are The Gathas of Zarathustra, Acta Iranica 8 (Tehéran-Lìege: Bibliothèque Pahlavi; Leiden: diffusion E. J. Brill, [1974] 1975); “The Love of Truth in Ancient Iran,” Parsiana (September, 1989), 18-20; chapters on “Human Behavior and Good Thinking” and “Zarathustra’s Vision” in An Introduction to the Gathas of Zarathustra, ed. Dina G. McIntyre (Pittsburgh, 1989-90); “The Prakrit Ablative in -ahi.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 72-73 (1991-92), 15-21; and “Rhythmic Effects in Pali Morphology,” Die Sprache, 36 (1994), 70-93.

Dr Stanley Insler’s talks have regularly been published in the Hamazor.

The pursuit of asha which has been eloquently explained by Dr Stanley Insler in a lecture summarized in Issue 1, 2012 Hamazor magazine may be rewarded with comforting prospects for the afterlife.


Dr Stanley Insler was one of the speakers at the first academic conference which was organized in 1984 and brought together both Zoroastrian and non Zoroastrian speakers with a second in 1986, the first outside Britain in Chicago and the first Youth Congress in 1987.

Gift to Dr Stanley Insler by Shahpur Captain at the ZAGNY – WZO – FEZANA Gatha Colluquium 27-28/2009

Informing others about the Zoroastrian religion and customs is enshrined in WZO’s constitution. Dr Stanley Insler was an occasional speaker at the WZO annual seminars.

Here is one such video of Dr Stanley Insler at the 2004 WZO Seminar.

WZO Seminar 2004 Prof. Stanley Insler “Zarathustra’s Genetic Code” https://youtu.be/itHYxn8pruc

Professor Stanley Insler was awarded the singular honour of “Fellow of the World Zoroastrian Organisation” for his extensive and ongoing contribution to the learning and understanding of Zoroastrianism at WZO’s 25th anniversary celebrations at The Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow, Middx., on 19th March, 2005.

He is survived by his sister Thelma (Toby) Koenigsberg, his nieces Carol Koenigsberg and Diane Edwards, his nephew Stuart Koenigsberg, and his life partner William C. Sanford.

His Graveside Service is on Tuesday, January 8th at 11:00 a.m. in All Saints Cemetery, 700 Middletown Ave, North Haven, CT.

A memorial service is planned for April or May 2019.

Contributions in Stanley’s memory may be made to CT Hospice or the American Cancer Society.

Dr Stanley Insler may have left for his heavenly abode but his translations of Yasnas from the Gathas, which appear on the back cover of the Hamazor will stay on.

WZO is honoured and blessed to have Dr Stanley Insler’s support in all its endeavours.

We at WZO will always have his loving memories forever held in our hearts.