Archive for October, 2008

Effort is required for success

 

There is a connection between the spiritual and the physical, a connection of similar and parallel laws that guide us as we progress toward our goals. One of these concerns the need for effort in order to succeed. In the physical world, for example, will, sincerity, time, effort, diligence, focus, habit, persistence and passion are required in order to possess a skill, such as how to play a musical instrument, attain athletic prowess, or learn medicine, engineering, or law. The same is true in the attainment of spiritual qualities. They don’t just happen. They, too, are achieved in the same way.

 

Bahá’u’lláh, referring to the Qur’an, assures us that effort results in guidance along the right path:

 

“Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: ‘Whoso maketh efforts for Us,’ he shall enjoy the blessings conferred by the words: “In Our Ways shall We assuredly guide him.’ ”

 

And again He says to us:

 

“There can be no doubt whatever that, in consequence of the efforts which every man may consciously exert and as a result of the exertion of his own spiritual faculties, this mirror [the mirror in our soul that reflects God’s beauty] can be so cleansed from the dross of earthly defilements and purged from satanic fancies as to be able to draw nigh unto the meads of eternal holiness and attain the courts of everlasting fellowship.”

 

There is, however, a condition which each of us must first meet before we begin this spiritual effort, in order to obtain this success:

 

“When a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading unto the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy.”

 

The means, among other things, that one must put aside the obstacles of preconceived notions and a preference for material pursuits. If we are going to search, then let’s search without letting other things get in our way. In particular, Bahá’u’lláh tells us that:

 

The seeker must purge his breast of every defilement and sanctify his soul “from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments.”

 

He must so cleanse his heart that “no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth.”

 

And also (don’t panic and continue breathing normally):

 

He must, at all times, put his trust in God

Never exalt himself above anyone

Wash away every trace of pride and vain-glory

Cling unto patience and resignation

Observe silence and refrain from idle talk

Avoid backbiting

Be content with little and freed from all inordinate desire

Treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world

Avoid boastful and worldly people

Commune with God at the dawn of every day

Persevere in the quest of his Beloved

Consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention

Pass by all else save Him

Succor the dispossessed

Show kindness to animals

Not hesitate to offer up his life for His beloved

Not allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the truth

Not wish for others that which he does not wish for himself

Do not promise that which he cannot fulfill

Avoid fellowship with evil-doers with all his heart

Forgive the sinful and never despise their low estate.

 

Whew! Hey!! No, wait! Don’t turn and run, now! This is too important. I know, I know. Makes you want to return to that comfortable embrace of women and booze, doesn’t it? One thing is for sure, becoming a spiritual person is no task for wimps. What a reminder of how imperfect we are!  Do you think you can do it? Yes, you can! You’ve got the Right Stuff. You can do it. Bahá’u’lláh tells us so:

 

“He will never deal unjustly with any one, neither will He task a soul beyond its power. He, verily, is the Compassionate, the All-Merciful.”

 

This is something that all of us are asked to do. And why is this important?

 

“Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient, and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.”

 

And also:

“These are among the attributes of the exalted, and constitute the hall-mark of the spiritually-minded. They have already been mentioned in connection with the requirements of the wayfarers that tread the path of Positive Knowledge. When the detached wayfarer and sincere seeker hath fulfilled these essential conditions, then and only then can he be called a true seeker.”

 

And finally, Bahá’u’lláh tells us this about that with these wondrous Words:

 

“Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker’s heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being. At that hour will the Mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of heedlessness. Then will the manifold favors and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of Divine Revelation, and the evidences of an everlasting Manifestation.”

 

How long do we have to do this and when should we begin? Again, there is a parallel between the physical world and the spiritual one, as this story shows:

 

An Army paratrooper in training was about to bail out of the airplane for his first jump, and he was nervous.  He asked his sergeant, “When should I pull the ripcord?”

 

The sergeant answered, “Son, you have the rest of your life.”

 

 

The quotations from the Bahá’í Writings and related information are from Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, page 106 and pages 262 – 267.

An All Saints Eve Thought

The silent, grim expression on this carved stone speaks to us. It tells us that this earthly life will last but for a brief span of time. What then will be left of us here? A thoughtful person might ask, “What values should I strive for while I live on this earth?”  Here are some inspiring words from Bahá’u’lláh on this subject:

“The generations that have gone on before you — whither are they fled? And those round whom in life circled the fairest and the loveliest of the land, where now are they? Profit by their example, O people, and be not of them that are gone astray.

Others ere long will lay hands on what ye possess, and enter into your habitations. Incline your ears to My words, and be not numbered among the foolish.

For every one of you his paramount duty is to choose for himself that on which no other may infringe and none usurp from him. Such a thing — and to this the Almighty is My witness — is the love of God, could ye but perceive it.

Build ye for yourselves such houses as the rain and floods can never destroy, which shall protect you from the changes and chances of this life. This is the instruction of Him Whom the world hath wronged and forsaken.”

Bahá’u’lláh

Tablet of Visitation for the Báb

 

 

The Tablet of Visitation, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, is read at the Shrines of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb and is also frequently used in commemorating their anniversaries. Here is a recitation of the Tablet of Visitation to honor the anniversary of the Báb’s birth.

Tablet of Visitation by Bahá’u’lláh

 

The importance of the Báb’s Ministry is well summarized by Shoghi Effendi’s powerful words that open his masterful narrative of the first century of the Bahá’í Faith, God Passes By, describing the years of the brief Ministry of the Báb, the Herald and Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh:

“May 23, 1844, signalizes the commencement of the most turbulent period of the Heroic Age of the Bahá’í Era, an age which marks the opening of the most glorious epoch in the greatest cycle which the spiritual history of mankind has yet witnessed. No more than a span of nine short years marks the duration of this most spectacular, this most tragic, this most eventful period of the first Bahá’í century. It was ushered in by the birth of a Revelation whose Bearer posterity will acclaim as the “Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve,” and terminated with the first stirrings of a still more potent Revelation, “whose day,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms, “every Prophet hath announced,” for which “the soul of every Divine Messenger hath thirsted,” and through which “God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets.” Little wonder that the immortal chronicler of the events associated with the birth and rise of the Bahá’í Revelation has seen fit to devote no less than half of his moving narrative to the description of those happenings that have during such a brief space of time so greatly enriched, through their tragedy and heroism, the religious annals of mankind. In sheer dramatic power, in the rapidity with which events of momentous importance succeeded each other, in the holocaust which baptized its birth, in the miraculous circumstances attending the martyrdom of the One Who had ushered it in, in the potentialities with which it had been from the outset so thoroughly impregnated, in the forces to which it eventually gave birth, this nine-year period may well rank as unique in the whole range of man’s religious experience. We behold, as we survey the episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master Hero, the Báb, arise meteor-like above the horizon of Shiraz, traverse the sombre sky of Persia from south to north, decline with tragic swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that same incandescent light, burn themselves out with that self-same swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily gathering momentum of God’s nascent Faith.”   

Shoghi Effendi

Birth of the Báb

The Birth of the Báb

October 20, 1819   Muharram 1, 1235

 

Every religion has a herald, or forerunner, to prepare people for the coming of  that great Spiritual Counselor who is periodically sent by God to humankind to foster our spiritual development – that One whose divinely appointed mission it is to remind people to re-focus on what really matters, the eternal human spirit rather than the physical world, and to be helpful, kind, and loving to one another, rather than brutish, selfish and hateful, and to act with regard to one another responsibly and with justice in all aspects of life.

 

The Báb is that Herald for Bahá’ís – for those who recognize Bahá’u’lláh as the Creator’s guiding Voice and Spirit for this age. Today is the anniversary of the Báb’s birth, according to the Gregorian calendar, the date on which He was born in 1819 in the city of Shiráz, Iran.

 

The Lord acts gradually to nurture His creatures, in the spiritual world as well as in the physical one. In the physical world, the sun rises gradually to its zenith each day, gently warming the earth. If it sprang suddenly to its full noon-day potential, the sudden impact of its effect would be harmful rather than beneficial to the physical condition of the living creatures and plants of the world. In a similar way, God prepares the human heart for the renewal of His Word.

 

The Báb was God’s chosen Agent to play this pivotal role. His unique mission was to proclaim to the world the conclusion, with the end of Muhammad’s dispensation, of that great and long cycle of religious prophecy that foretold a time in the distant future when the peoples of the world would live together in harmony and unity, when the lion would lie down with the lamb; and to proclaim to the world that this long prophesied time had arrived, and that He, the Báb, was announcing to the world that the time for this great figure was imminent, that One whom He referred to as He Whom God Shall Make Manifest, that One referred to by many names in different religious traditions, such as Everlasting Father, the Lord of Hosts, Christ returned in the Glory of the Father, the return of the Imám Husayn, the descent of the Spirit of God, the Sháh-Bahrám, the reincarnation of Krishna, and the Fifth Buddha.

 

Islamic tradition expected the return of a Promised One, the Báb. It called Him the Qa’im. The tradition says this: “Knowledge is but twenty and seven letters. All that the Prophets have revealed are two letters thereof. No man thus far knows more than these two letters. But when the Qa’im shall arise, He will cause the remaining twenty and five letters to be made manifest.”

 

This tradition testifies well to the station of the Báb, who ranks as one of the independent Manifestations of God’s authority. But in relation to the station of Bahá’u’lláh, He for whose purpose the Báb came into existence, the Báb Himself testifies with these words:

“… I Myself am, verily, but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest.”

 

People do not easily heed the word of God. The material world and its vices make a strong claim upon the souls of men. The Báb’s divine call was repugnant to their desires and expectations. They opposed Him and His followers. They ignored their traditions that foretold His coming. They clung to their vanity and their material privileges. They forgot God’s message of love and answered with hatred.

 

His message caused a storm of protest in the Islamic world. The Báb and thousands of His followers gave their lives in the service of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. They magnificently fulfilled their role. They prepared a heedless, ignorant, and abased humanity for the healing revival of God’s Word through the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. They bore the main brunt of the ferocious opposition to the new Announcement, and by doing so, perhaps made it possible for Bahá’u’lláh’s own ministry to be more productive and creative than it might otherwise have been. The Báb’s ministry, ennobled by the courage and consecration of those who recognized His station, constitute the early years of the glorious and heroic age of our Faith. Their devotion lives in our hearts as both inspiration and example.

 

It is fitting for us to come together to observe His birth and to share companionship and food.

 

 

Photo of the House of the Báb in Shiráz, Iran, is taken from http://www.bahai-biblio.org/

Poverty – There are solutions

 

 

Solving poverty requires practical solutions, but the fundamental basis that motivates us is spiritual. The Golden Rule, which exists in all religions and cultures, testifies to this truth. Here is a “Golden Rule” passage from the Bahá’í Writings:

“Lay not on any soul a load which ye would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for any one the things ye would not desire for yourselves. This is My best counsel unto you, did ye but observe it.”  Bahá’u’lláh

 

We are all poor before God. Our obligation is to know and worship Him.

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.  Bahá’u’lláh

 

The worst poverty of all is poverty of the soul.

“Thou art He, O God, Who hath proclaimed Himself as the Lord of Wealth, and characterized all that serve Him as poor and needy. Even as Thou hast written: ‘O ye that believe! Ye are but paupers in need of God; but God is the All-Possessing, the All-Praised.’ Having acknowledged my poverty, and recognized Thy wealth, suffer me not to be deprived of the glory of Thy riches. Thou art, verily, the Supreme Protector, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”   Bahá’u’lláh

 

Our Creator has made us all to be rich of soul. However, people bring themselves down to poverty through their own behavior.

“O SON OF SPIRIT!
I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?”  Bahá’u’lláh

 

Naturally, we all have some responsibility to help the poor. Here is a passage from the Bahá’í Writings, where Bahá’u’lláh addresses the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire regarding the poor in Istanbul:

“We found among its inhabitants some who were possessed of an affluent fortune and lived in the midst of excessive riches, whilst others were in dire want and abject poverty. This ill beseemeth thy sovereignty, and is unworthy of thy rank.”  Bahá’u’lláh

 

People and their governments are really obligated to do something about poverty.

“A financier with colossal wealth should not exist whilst near him is a poor man in dire necessity. When we see poverty allowed to reach a condition of starvation it is a sure sign that somewhere we shall find tyranny. Men must bestir themselves in this matter, and no longer delay in altering conditions which bring the misery of grinding poverty to a very large number of the people. The rich must give of their abundance, they must soften their hearts and cultivate a compassionate intelligence, taking thought for those sad ones who are suffering from lack of the very necessities of life.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

 

Happily, social service projects are widespread throughout the world. Here, in Pierce County, Washington, for example, we have the Emergency Food Network. Formed in May of 2000, the Mother Earth Farm is an eight-acre  farm that produces over 150,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each year — all of which is distributed directly to local food banks and hot meal programs. Here is their link: http://www.efoodnet.org:80/mother_earth.htm.

 

Today, October 15th, is the second annual Blog Acton Day. The idea of Blog Action Day is for blog publishers to view a critical social issue from their own perspective, and do it all at once, in effect generating a multi-faceted global discussion on a specific topic. The topic this year is poverty.

Shattered Dreams – Support Bahá’í Students in Iran

 

EDUCATION IS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT

 

The Iranian government continues to actively prevent Bahá’ís from entering or staying at universities, and in some cases, they are being refused enrollment at secondary and primary schools. You can play an important role in assisting the Iranian Bahá’í students. We know, from reports received from Iran, that international pressure has had a powerful effect on government action. 

 

What can you do? And especially university students and faculty? First, you can pray for our Bahá’í friends in Iran and for guidance as to what role you can play in their defense. Then you can consult with other students and faculty at your college. Bahá’ís can consult with their local Spiritual Assembly as to the most effective course of action.

 

Here are some suggestions from http://iran.bahai.us:80/support-bahai-students:

Students, faculty and academics around the world are protesting the treatment of Baha’i students in Iran and calling for equitable access to higher education in Iran. Review the sample actions below and consider how you can help.

 

For further details about the situation and suggestions for action, go to:

http://iran.bahai.us/support-bahai-students

http://www.usbnc.org/comm/iran/DenialEdu.asp