“Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in,
and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
The views expressed on this page reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Learning to trust in God
Discovering the Spiritual Meaning of Dreams
January 14, 2020
Written by Radiance Talley
Dreams – that prolonged activity we engage in every night – can have highly significant spiritual meanings if we pay attention to what they tell us. I’ve had dreams that gave me insight into how to solve a problem, and others that warned me of a potential tragedy.
Four years ago, I dreamed that my father had a heart attack and died. While still in the dream, I “woke up” frightened and told my mother about it. To my surprise, she calmly responded, “Good, that means we can prevent it.” Then I woke up. Needless to say, I felt very confused and distressed. I told my mother everything, and to my shock and amazement, she said the exact same thing that her dream self had said: “Good, that means we can prevent it.”
Clearly this dream was a premonition, because about a year later, my father had a severe hemorrhagic stroke. His doctor told my mother that his chances of surviving and regaining consciousness were slim. Someone with such a severe stroke would normally remain in a coma, and if they woke up, they would never be the same.
Thankfully, my father did not die, but his condition was very serious, and he was in the hospital for an entire month. During that time, we experienced many miracles due to the power of prayer, because while he was sick, hundreds of friends, family and kind strangers around the world prayed for his healing.
I firmly believe that all those prayers led to his full recovery. We may not have been able to prevent his stroke from happening, but we were able to prevent his death. This particular dream was an example of a true vision, because what I saw in my dreams occurred later in real life.
There are three kinds of dreams. One is a true vision, which is even as the morning light and has no need of interpretation. Exactly what is seen, the same thing occurs. But most people, generally, do not receive this kind of dream. In the period of every person’s life it may chance to happen that one’s heart and mind are free and clear of false suppositions. Then whatever the spirit discovers conforms to the reflection obtained. This is a true vision and needs no interpretation; it is reality.
The second kind of dream is that requiring interpretation, because the mind or the heart of the dreamer possesses false suppositions. When a spiritual journey is attained, it must be interpreted and false thoughts must be separated from spiritual discoveries. The soul is even as a fine white fabric. Any color that you add to it, it will receive, and this is real. However, if a color other than white is in the fabric, and you add a color, this is unreal. For example, if a yellowish color is in the fabric and you give it blue, it will become green. Then it is necessary to separate out the yellow until the blue is displayed. This is interpretation.
Another kind of dream is the confused dream. For example, during the day a man becomes engaged in a quarrel and dispute. Later, in the world of the dream, these same circumstances appear to him. This is a confused dream. It has no interpretation and contains no discoveries. Before the person dreamed, he was overcome with delusions. It is clear that this kind of dream bears no interpretation and is confused. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a talk compiled by Fadil-i-Mazindarani. Provisional translation by Keven Brown.
So, some dreams offer us true vision, some are confused, and some require interpretation. A dream that Abdu’l-Baha once had about his future death provides a great example of a dream that was interpreted by his loved ones incorrectly:
A few weeks later, whilst occupying a solitary room in the garden of His house, [Abdu’l-Baha] recounted another dream to those around Him. “I dreamed a dream,” He said, “and behold, [Baha’u’llah] came and said to Me: ‘Destroy this room.’” None of those present comprehended the significance of this dream until He Himself had soon after passed away, when it became clear to them all that by the “room” was meant the temple of His body. – Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 310.
Although Abdu’l-Baha understood the meaning of his dream, his loved ones could not interpret the dream correctly. Their desire for Abdu’l-Baha to stay alive and close to them may have clouded their understanding. So, they assumed that the dream referred to a physical location as opposed to Abdu’l-Baha’s physical body. Abdu’l-Baha passed away peacefully in his sleep soon after sharing that dream.
In the world of dreams, we visit a special place where God can give us not just foresight, but insight as well – if we have pure, detached minds and hearts. All we have to do is ask. Often, we can solve problems “in the world of the dream:”
How often it happens that man ponders a question in wakefulness, but he is unable to solve it. Then, in the world of the dream, it happens that the answer is discovered. Frequently such a dream is a true dream, inasmuch as that which is seen becomes manifested to the outer eye, requiring no interpretation. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a talk compiled by Fadil-i-Mazindarani. Provisional translation by Keven Brown.
For example, whenever my mom experiences writer’s block, she asks for inspiration before she goes to sleep. When she wakes up, ideas pour into her head and she knows exactly what to do. How exciting that the dream world can be of assistance to us, and that we can take steps to make our intention known! So, now that you know, what will you wish for in the world of dreams?
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Finding My True Heart – My Baha’i Journey
October 15, 2019
Written by Keng-Liang Huang
Sometimes, I catch myself praying with a specific outcome in mind, beckoning life to move me towards what I imagine to be best.
My idea of the “right outcome” for a situation can be so specific that sometimes I struggle to accept different answers to my prayers than I originally imagined.
Whether I entirely miss the signs or actively ignore them, I can struggle to accept an undesired outcome. If I accept or notice a nudge in a different direction, I realize I have to detach from what I want, and that’s not always easy.
I like to view prayer as a conversation with God. The Bible says:
Ask, and it will be given to you seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. – Matthew 7:7.
The Baha’i writings say:
Each bosom must be a telegraph station – one terminus of the wire attached to the soul, the other fixed in the Supreme Concourse – so that inspiration may descend … and questions of reality be discussed. Then opinions will coincide with truth; day by day there will be progression. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 183.
Through prayer, I can connect to God and hope to receive divine guidance. I can ask the souls who are no longer in this world, and I can open my heart and mind to the support they may provide. But when I become attached to the outcome I hope for, it can be difficult to hear over the noise of my own perception of a situation.
It’s not that I want to completely erase all my own thoughts, but it’s important to find ways to weed out unfounded attachments from true insight. Through the “aha” moments that come with reflective meditation and sincere prayer, I can better differentiate between thoughts rooted in fear, anxiety, and illusion, and thoughts rooted in intuition.
The Baha’i teachings say:
The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 121.
Radiant acquiescence goes beyond simply detaching from one’s own expectations, but involves doing so with joy, trusting that any situation will provide one the opportunity to grow. The best outcome may not always feel the best in the moment – instead, radiant acquiescence means that one does not only accept what God wants but accepts it with joy, gratitude, and trust:
The source of all glory is acceptance of whatsoever the Lord hath bestowed, and contentment with that which God hath ordained. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 155.
Often, when I pray, I’m not asking for clarity, but rather for some circumstance to change. Sometimes, that change turns out to be something that feels unbearably painful or uncomfortable.
When I ask God to end a test, sometimes the answer to my prayers is “not yet.” But as difficult as this can be, tests and challenges provide opportunities to strengthen certain virtues. Although struggles sometimes don’t clear up immediately, the knowledge that tests lead to strength keeps me afloat. It brings me clarity of mind that allows me to move through life with more fluidity and joy.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Teaching Your Children to Deal with Hardship
July 3, 2019
Written by Joseph Sheppherd
All of the world’s religions make mention of the essential human virtues—and ask us to teach them to our children:
An education in the inner human virtues can take shape in a variety of ways. Spiritual learning is not a process that is suited only to a classroom environment, for it is a learning experience that never stops. It is taught more by what we do than by what we say. Parents and other family members, who are the first teachers of their children, provide an example their children will readily follow, and there is much that they can do to create learning opportunities.
A formal education in a classroom setting with teachers as mentors and exemplars is yet another means by which children can learn about and apply the many virtues of God in their own lives. However, the first and most important role of parents, according to the Baha’i teachings, is teaching children to work and strive by giving them a taste of how to deal with the hardships of life they will inevitably face as adults:
While the children are yet in their infancy feed them from the breast of heavenly grace, foster them in the cradle of all excellence, rear them in the embrace of bounty. Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 129.
If we are trying to raise our children spiritually, it makes an enormous impact on their character to accustom them to hardship. This may be a novel and perhaps even shocking notion to many parents. The last thing we want for our children is to see them suffer or know sadness; it’s painful for us to see our children suffer. Yet there is an undeniable wisdom to this Baha’i principle.
Perhaps the wisest person is the one who has grown up with an appreciation for, and an understanding of, what it means to struggle in life. Having too many privileges without earning them or receiving too many things without having to work for them prevents a person from learning empathy, and precludes the understanding that can be gained from making personal sacrifices.
For children, learning that not every demand is responded to favorably and that not every path is easily traversed is a valuable spiritual lesson. After all, growing up is itself a struggle. A good analogy that illustrates this principle can be seen in the infant who is trying to learn to sit up on her own. A father can lovingly help the baby to sit by propping her up with pillows or balancing her against his own body. When the father does this the baby is in fact “sitting up,” but the necessary development is for the baby to learn and to develop the physical strength to do it herself. This is not a simple feat. It takes months of physical development, practice, and frustration before mastering this skill—one that most physically capable adults take for granted. Though there will inevitably be falls and mishaps along the way, and though it would be easier and less painful for the baby to give up and quit trying, the parents know that this is an important, if challenging, physical milestone. If the child gives up at this stage, unwilling to endure the frustration or put forth the effort to master the skill, her development is arrested and other important physical developmental milestones such as crawling, standing, walking, and so forth, will be nearly impossible to reach.
So there is great value in realizing that some lessons are very hard to learn, some goals are not attainable, and suffering has its place. If children do not learn this, they will not be prepared for the unexpected, unfortunate, and unavoidable reality of tragedy and loss in their own lives. This will make it much more difficult for them to grow beyond their current spiritual condition to develop the virtues latent within their souls.
Perhaps the hardest lesson for parents to learn is to not accommodate their children’s every whim or fancy—but to instill an appropriate sense of the need for sacrifice and struggle in their lives. This notion has to be balanced with moderation, however, as the intent is not to force children to suffer unreasonably, but to help them realize that disappointment and struggle are just normal, necessary parts of the process of spiritual growth and improvement:
… with clear vision we are enabled to struggle onward and upward, ever progressing in the paths of virtue and holiness, and becoming the means of light to the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 83.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
5 Baha’i Ethics: Oneness, Love, Kindness, Humility and Peace
April 12, 2019
Written by David Langness
Many books have been written about the new Baha’i ethics, but let’s see if it’s even remotely reasonable to try to summarize some of them here in a short essay. Impossible? Probably. After all, the Baha’i Faith, a new global religion that has spread to every part of the world and every human culture, contains literally hundreds of volumes of teachings direct from its founder Baha’u’llah and his son Abdu’l-Baha.
So with that unattainable goal of summarizing them in mind, here’s a short list of five fundamental Baha’i ethics—a selection of the underlying moral teachings of Baha’u’llah’s Faith he has asked all humanity to follow:
1. The Oneness of Humanity
The Baha’i Cause teaches, as its primary principle, the oneness of humanity. Baha’u’llah said:
These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family …. Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind …. – The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. viii.
This new Baha’i ethic asks every human being to consider themselves a member of one human family:
… the Cause of Baha’u’llah will bring about the oneness of mankind, and the tabernacle of unity will be upraised on the heights of the world, and the banners of the universality of all humankind will be unfurled on the peaks of the earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 101.
Cleanse ye your eyes, so that ye behold no man as different from yourselves. See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends, for love and unity come hard when ye fix your gaze on otherness. And in this new and wondrous age, the Holy Writings say that we must be at one with every people; that we must see neither harshness nor injustice, neither malevolence, nor hostility, nor hate, but rather turn our eyes toward the heaven of ancient glory. For each of the creatures is a sign of God, and it was by the grace of the Lord and His power that each did step into the world; therefore they are not strangers, but in the family; not aliens, but friends, and to be treated as such. – Ibid., p. 23.
Every great Faith teaches love. The Baha’i teachings renew, widen and expand that foundational moral teaching:
There is a Spirit that is mind and life, light and truth, and vast spaces. He contains all works and desires and perfumes and all tastes. He enfolds the whole universe, and in silence is loving to all. – The Hindu Upanishads.
Love is the beginning and end of the Torah. – The Hebrew Torah.
Through love of man, through service and through truth raise thou our souls into the realms of light. -The Zoroastrian Gathas.
He that loveth not, knoweth not God. For God is love. – The Buddhist Dhammapada
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – The Christian New Testament
Cling, all, to the strong rope of Love Divine–Love for each other, and of the One God—and do not think of separation ever. – The Islamic Qur’an
Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.
The Baha’i Faith emphasizes kindness, asking each human being to be infinitely kind:
Abdu’l-Baha tells us: “To be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them, and to help them, through kindness, to correct their faults. To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten. Never to allow ourselves to speak one unkind word about another, even though that other be our enemy.” – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in Dr. J.E. Esslemont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 82.
Put into practice the Teaching of Baha’u’llah, that of kindness to all nations. Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 16.
The Baha’i teachings encourage each one of us to be humble, to forget the demands of the self, and to focus on our own imperfections rather than anyone else’s:
Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs. Rather let us become oblivious of our own selves, and drinking down the wine of heavenly grace, let us cry out our joy, and lose ourselves in the beauty of the All-Glorious. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 236.
It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own? … As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.
The Baha’i teachings prioritize peace, both in the heart of every human being and across the entire world of humanity:
… war is darkness upon darkness while peace is heavenly light; war is the destroyer of the edifice of mankind while peace is the everlasting life of the world of humanity; war is like a devouring wolf while peace is like the angels of heaven; war is the struggle for existence while peace is mutual aid and co-operation among the peoples of the world and the cause of the good-pleasure of the True One in the heavenly realm.
There is not one soul whose conscience does not testify that in this day there is no more important matter in the world than that of universal peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 296.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
The Bahá’í Fast
March 2 - March 20, 2019
Written by Faraneh Hedayati
Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion. – Baha’u’llah
This Fast leadeth to the cleansing of the soul from all selfish desires, the acquisition of spiritual attributes, attraction to the breezes of the All-Merciful, and enkindlement with the fire of divine love… Fasting is the cause of the elevation of one’s spiritual station. – Abdu’l-Baha
In March, millions of Baha’is all around the world will voluntarily stop eating and drinking during the daylight hours for nineteen days in a row. Why?
During the Baha’i Fast, Baha’is abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset each day for the entire Baha’i month of Ala, which comprises the nineteen days before the spring equinox. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, explains that this annual Baha’i fast:
…is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. – Directives from the Guardian, p. 28.
You may not realize it, but most religions have a fasting period sometime during the year—Christians, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Muslims and Jains all practice some variant of an annual fast. Observant Jews fast for six days, especially on Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av; Muslims fast during the daylight hours for 30 days during the lunar month of Ramadan; Catholics fast during Lent and other holy days; different Christian denominations fast individually and voluntarily; Hindus fast at various times of the year; many Buddhist practices include fasting, as well.
So fasting has been practiced in different forms and times for millennia as part of religious life, but the principle remains the same—fasting symbolizes detachment from the physical world and from the self. Baha’is view fasting as a spiritual exercise, but recently science has shed new light on its significant role in human biology and physiology—another example of the agreement of science and religion, one of the Baha’i primary principles.
According to recent studies, intermittent fasting has significant health benefits. It promotes optimal physical health by reducing the risk of many chronic illnesses, especially for those who are overweight or obese. Based on the existing evidence from animal studies, fasting has strong effects on health indicators including greater insulin sensitivity, reduced levels of blood pressure, body fat, insulin, glucose, atherogenic lipids, and inflammation. Fasting alleviates disease processes and improves clinical outcomes in disorders such as myocardial infarction, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Fasting, with its general mechanism of triggering adaptive cellular stress responses, results in intensified ability to cope with more severe stress, which prevents disease processes from beginning. Fasting also protects cells from DNA damage, suppresses cell growth and enhances apoptosis of damaged cells—which consequently prevents the formation and growth of cancers. Fasting helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have now begun to show that fasting even has the potential to delay aging.
With all these health benefits, is fasting difficult? Those who have fasted know that the body gradually adapts to a new routine, and under normal conditions can cope well with lack of nourishment for twelve hours. But the Baha’i teachings say that fasting may not help the healing process if a person is already ill. In some cases, such as diabetics, it would be harmful to fast:
…obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God. It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations… – Baha’u’llah
Baha’is fast from the age of maturity, which the Baha’i teachings say begins at 15, until the age of 70. Those who are ill, pregnant and nursing mothers, those doing heavy labor, even those travelling for a long time are all exempt from the fast.
Would you like to try fasting during the Baha’i fast this year? It could increase your physical and spiritual health, and give you a new awakening:
Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow. – Abdu’l-Baha
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Hope for the World: The Universal House of Justice
February 10, 2019
Written by Catharino James Elijio
The Baha’i teachings urge every Baha’i—indeed, every person on Earth—to cling to justice and oppose tyranny:
The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men. The ocean of divine wisdom surgeth within this exalted word, while the books of the world cannot contain its inner significance. Were mankind to be adorned with this raiment, they would behold the daystar of the utterance, “On that day God will satisfy everyone out of His abundance,” shining resplendent above the horizon of the world. Appreciate ye the value of this utterance; it is a noble fruit that the Tree of the Pen of Glory hath yielded. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 66-67.
Given the evidently high regard that humanity has for justice, the widespread current acknowledgement of the importance of justice in every sphere in the life of society, including at the level of interpersonal interactions—treating others as we would like to be treated—clearly indicate the highly significant role that an institution of justice plays in the life of society.
For Baha’is, that institution is The Universal House of Justice, the supreme, democratically-elected global governing body of the Baha’i administrative system.
In addition to regenerating humanity through the influence of his revelation, the Baha’i writings testify that Baha’u’llah and his successor Abdu’l-Baha:
… unlike the Dispensations of the past, clearly and specifically laid down a set of Laws, established definite institutions, and provided for the essentials of a Divine Economy. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 19.
Baha’u’llah ordained successors to facilitate the fulfillment of the vision, will, and purpose of the Baha’i Faith, and the final successor is the Universal House of Justice—unique in all of the major worldwide Faiths because of its democratically-elected nature. Setting the pattern for the continuous administrative evolution and operation of the core institutions of the Baha’i Faith, the teachings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha led to the formation of numerous local and national governing institutions of the Baha’i Faith, laying the groundwork for the election of the Universal House of Justice. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, worked tirelessly from the 1920s to the late 1950s to extend that groundwork around the planet.
Once the Baha’i Faith had broadly spread to the world’s continents and countries, the Universal House of Justice began its ministry when the institution was first elected in 1963. The Universal House of Justice is now the primary institution responsible for the translation of the revelation of Baha’u’llah into social and cultural reality.
Through the terms laid down by Baha’u’llah, and the interpretations of both Abdu’l-Bahaand Shoghi Effendi, the House of Justice can legislate on matters not already addressed in the writings of the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith, satisfying the requirements of the Cause of God in the face of all new circumstances:
To enact laws and ordinances not expressly recorded in the Sacred Texts; to abrogate, according to the changes and requirements of the time, its own enactments; to deliberate and decide upon all problems which have caused difference; to elucidate questions that are obscure; to safeguard the personal rights, freedom and initiative of individuals; and to give attention to the preservation of human honour, to the development of countries and the stability of states …. – The Universal House of Justice, The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice, p. 4.
Clearly, the Universal House of Justice exists not only to guide the global Baha’icommunity, but to serve as exemplary proof that humanity can have a functioning, democratic international governing body empowered to stop war between nations and unify the world’s contending forces:
The experience of the Baha’i community may be seen as an example of this enlarging unity. It is a community of some three to four million people drawn from many nations, cultures, classes and creeds, engaged in a wide range of activities serving the spiritual, social and economic needs of the peoples of many lands. It is a single social organism, representative of the diversity of the human family, conducting its affairs through a system of commonly accepted consultative principles, and cherishing equally all the great outpourings of divine guidance in human history. Its existence is yet another convincing proof of the practicality of its Founder’s vision of a united world, another evidence that humanity can live as one global society, equal to whatever challenges its coming of age may entail. If the Baha’i experience can contribute in whatever measure to reinforcing hope in the unity of the human race, we are happy to offer it as a model for study. …
… the expectant voices of Baha’is can be heard despite the persecution they still endure in the land in which their Faith was born. By their example of steadfast hope, they bear witness to the belief that the imminent realization of this age- old dream of peace is now, by virtue of the transforming effects of Baha’u’llah’s revelation, invested with the force of divine authority. Thus we convey to you not only a vision in words: we summon the power of deeds of faith and sacrifice; we convey the anxious plea of our co-religionists everywhere for peace and unity. We join with all who are the victims of aggression, all who yearn for an end to conflict and contention, all whose devotion to principles of peace and world order promotes the ennobling purposes for which humanity was called into being by an all-loving Creator. – The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, October 1985, pp. 4-5.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
What if We Truly Loved One Another
November 19, 2018
Written by David Langness
What if you discovered that the Baha’i Faith, the newest of the worldwide religions, aims to bring a new infusion of God’s love to humanity?
Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings. Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the diverse elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation…
O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive to become the manifestations of the love of God, the lamps of divine guidance shining amongst the kindreds of the earth with the light of love and concord. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 27-28.
What if you began to see the Baha’i revelation as the source of that love?
…this is the summons of the Lord of Hosts, this is the trumpet-call of the living Lord, this is the anthem of world peace, this is the standard of righteousness and trust and understanding raised up among all the variegated peoples of the globe; this is the splendour of the Sun of Truth, this is the holiness of the spirit of God Himself. This most powerful of dispensations will encompass all the earth, and beneath its banner will all peoples gather and be sheltered together. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 82.
What if you understood that Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, came to unite the hearts of all human beings?
Consider the time of Christ. Peoples, races and governments were many; religions, sects and denominations were various; but when Christ appeared, the Messianic reality proved to be the collective center which unified them beneath the same tabernacle of agreement. Reflect upon this. Could Jesus Christ have united these divergent factors or brought about such results through political power? Was this unity and agreement possible through material forces? It is evident that it was not; nay, rather, these various peoples were brought together through a divine power, through the breaths of the Holy Spirit. They were blended and quickened by the infusion of a new life. The spirituality of Christ overcame their difficulties so that their disagreements passed away completely. In this way these divergent peoples were unified and became welded in a bond of love which alone can unite hearts. Therefore, it is shown that the divine Manifestations, the holy Mouthpieces of God, are the Collective Centers of God. These heavenly Messengers are the real Shepherds of humanity, for whenever They appear in the world They unite the scattered sheep. The Collective Center has always appeared in the Orient. Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad were Collective Centers of Their day and time, and all arose in the East. Today Baha’u’llah is the Collective Center of unity for all mankind, and the splendor of His light has likewise dawned from the East. He founded the oneness of humanity in Persia. He established harmony and agreement among the various peoples of religious beliefs, denominations, sects and cults by freeing them from the fetters of past imitations and superstitions, leading them to the very foundation of the divine religions. From this foundation shines forth the radiance of spirituality, which is unity, the love of God, the knowledge of God, praiseworthy morals and the virtues of the human world. Baha’u’llah renewed these principles, just as the coming of spring refreshes the earth and confers new life upon all phenomenal beings. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 164-165.
What if you realized that every Faith, including the Baha’i Faith, exists to help humanity unify and love one another?
All the divine Manifestations have proclaimed the oneness of God and the unity of mankind. They have taught that men should love and mutually help each other in order that they might progress. Now if this conception of religion be true, its essential principle is the oneness of humanity. The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice. The divine purpose is that men should live in unity, concord and agreement and should love one another. Consider the virtues of the human world and realize that the oneness of humanity is the primary foundation of them all. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 50.
If these teachings ring true to you, you’re a Baha’i.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
A Baha’i Blueprint for Peace
August 1, 2018
Written by David Langness
Humanity has reached the point in its evolutionary development, the Baha’i teachings say, when the world now needs a global government:
The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories. This will ensure the peace and composure of every people, government and nation. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164.
From the individual human level to the level of a newly-emerging global civilization, Baha’u’llah’s Faith focuses on creating a world where peaceful people live on a war-free planet.
Central to that sacred vision, and crucial to its realization, the Baha’i teachings advocate a federated union of the world’s nations to secure such a universal peace. In his book The Secret of Divine Civilization, written in 1875, Abdu’l-Baha fully outlined that Baha’i vision of a sustainable and peaceful world:
True civilization will unfurl its banner in the midmost heart of the world whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns—the shining exemplars of devotion and determination—shall, for the good and happiness of all mankind, arise, with firm resolve and clear vision, to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking — the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world—should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant. In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. In like manner, the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited, for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others. The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government. Should this greatest of all remedies be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure.
Observe that if such a happy situation be forthcoming, no government would need continually to pile up the weapons of war, nor feel itself obliged to produce ever new military weapons with which to conquer the human race. A small force for the purposes of internal security, the correction of criminal and disorderly elements and the prevention of local disturbances, would be required—no more. In this way the entire population would, first of all, be relieved of the crushing burden of expenditure currently imposed for military purposes, and secondly, great numbers of people would cease to devote their time to the continual devising of new weapons of destruction—those testimonials of greed and bloodthirstiness, so inconsistent with the gift of life—and would instead bend their efforts to the production of whatever will foster human existence and peace and well-being, and would become the cause of universal development and prosperity. Then every nation on earth will reign in honor, and every people will be cradled in tranquillity and content. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 65-67.
Does this “greatest of all remedies” sound do-able—or does it sound like a distant and unimaginable dream? Some may think that humanity could never achieve such a safe, secure and peaceful civilization—but the Baha’is do:
A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man’s utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however. On the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it. Many a cause which past ages have regarded as purely visionary, yet in this day has become most easy and practicable. Why should this most great and lofty Cause—the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity—be regarded as impossible of achievement? Surely the day will come when its beauteous light shall shed illumination upon the assemblage of man.
The apparatus of conflict will, as preparations go on at their present rate, reach the point where war will become something intolerable to mankind.
It is clear from what has already been said that man’s glory and greatness do not consist in his being avid for blood and sharp of claw, in tearing down cities and spreading havoc, in butchering armed forces and civilians. What would mean a bright future for him would be his reputation for justice, his kindness to the entire population whether high or low, his building up countries and cities, villages and districts, his making life easy, peaceful and happy for his fellow beings, his laying down fundamental principles for progress, his raising the standards and increasing the wealth of the entire population. – Ibid.
The world keeps moving closer to this vision of achieving universal peace. The community of nations made the first such attempt with the League of Nations after World War I; and tried harder, including more countries and the concept of universal human rights, by establishing the United Nations after World War II. Neither organization fully implemented Baha’u’llah’s vision of a truly united, disarmed and peaceful world, however. We still have a long way to go before we can achieve true global unity. In the next essay in this series, we’ll explore the path we need to take to get there.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Achieving True Global Security
July 15, 2018
Written by David Langness
Everyone says they want peace, but we keep fighting wars—so what would help us achieve the true global security of a lasting peace?
Baha’is believe that process has to begin at the level of each individual human being’s moral integrity and intellectual acumen. Once a peaceful spirit spreads to a sufficient number of people, the Baha’i teachings say, it will culminate in a common desire for world unity:
Instruments and means of human destruction have enormously multiplied in this era of material civilization. But if material civilization shall become organized in conjunction with divine civilization, if the man of moral integrity and intellectual acumen shall unite for human betterment and uplift with the man of spiritual capacity, the happiness and progress of the human race will be assured. All the nations of the world will then be closely related and companionable, and the religions will merge into one, for the divine reality within them all is one reality. Abraham proclaimed this reality; Jesus promulgated it; all the Prophets who have appeared in the world have founded Their teachings upon it. Therefore, the people of the world have this one true, unchangeable basis for peace and agreement, and war, which has raged for thousands of years, will pass away. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 102.
In other words, the Baha’i teachings say, true peace begins in your heart, and in mine, and in everyone’s. Those spiritual teachings urge us all to do everything possible to educate humanity “with the sentiments of peace:”
How is universal peace to be established? By the education of the public with the sentiments of peace. Today the full realization of universal peace is the panacea of every disease. … This military and naval expenditure is a great disease. … The remedy of this disease is through universal peace. This will insure public safety. Today that which is the cause of dispersion is war. If the nations enter into a faithful agreement to leave off all warlike preparation at once, they shall secure for themselves and their posterity eternal welfare. They shall become freed from every difficulty and international confusion. This end must be obtained through the development of the intellects and the inculcation of peaceful ideals in all the institutions of modern civilization. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 9, pp. 239-240.
We can begin to establish universal peace, Abdu’l-Baha advised, by educating “the public with the sentiments of peace.” But what does that mean?
From a Baha’i perspective, public education about peace starts with the recognition that an end to war requires a countervailing spiritual power, a “universal impelling force:”
Baha’u’llah teaches that the world of humanity is in need of the breath of the Holy Spirit, for in spiritual quickening and enlightenment true oneness is attained with God and man. The Most Great Peace cannot be assured through racial force and effort; it cannot be established by patriotic devotion and sacrifice; for nations differ widely and local patriotism has limitations. Furthermore, it is evident that political power and diplomatic ability are not conducive to universal agreement, for the interests of governments are varied and selfish; nor will international harmony and reconciliation be an outcome of human opinions concentrated upon it, for opinions are faulty and intrinsically diverse. Universal peace is an impossibility through human and material agencies; it must be through spiritual power. There is need of a universal impelling force which will establish the oneness of humanity and destroy the foundations of war and strife. None other than the divine power can do this; therefore, it will be accomplished through the breath of the Holy Spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 108-109.
We’re not going to establish peace through politics or diplomacy or racial and patriotic appeals, the Baha’i teachings say—instead, it has to happen “through the breath of the Holy Spirit.” It requires a new revelation from the Creator and the subsequent release of the energies needed to change the hearts of humanity. True peace can only come about through a peaceful revolution in the hearts of men.
From this unique perspective, Baha’is believe that those forces have already been unleashed by the advent of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the world’s newest global Faith:
The spiritual brotherhood which is enkindled and established through the breaths of the Holy Spirit unites nations and removes the cause of warfare and strife. It transforms mankind into one great family and establishes the foundations of the oneness of humanity. It promulgates the spirit of international agreement and ensures universal peace. Therefore, we must investigate the foundation of this heavenly fraternity. We must forsake all imitations and promote the reality of the divine teachings. In accordance with these principles and actions and by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, both material and spiritual happiness shall become realized. Until all nations and peoples become united by the bonds of the Holy Spirit in this real fraternity, until national and international prejudices are effaced in the reality of this spiritual brotherhood, true progress, prosperity and lasting happiness will not be attained by man. This is the century of new and universal nationhood. Sciences have advanced; industries have progressed; politics have been reformed; liberty has been proclaimed; justice is awakening. This is the century of motion, divine stimulus and accomplishment, the century of human solidarity and altruistic service, the century of universal peace and the reality of the divine Kingdom. – Ibid., pp. 142-143.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Work and Worship: Bringing Purpose to Your Career
July 1, 2018
Written by SImon Ward
Workplace stress has been called a modern disease. As the poet Henry David Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Workplaces are often pressurized and pervaded by the need to extract maximum performance from harassed employees, who do their best in often toxic environments where “dog-eat-dog” is the mantra that seems to serves best. How can society solve this issue?
The Baha’i writings offer some useful perspectives on the nature and purpose of work, and how we can look upon it in ways that can alleviate some of the stress we may feel.
First, we should know that if we are doing productive work, according to the Baha’i teachings, we are doing something good and right:
"The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds." – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 51.
I would suggest that the word “calling” in this context means work that is well-suited to us. Clearly we are not all lucky or well-qualified enough to be able to do work that satisfies some lofty inner calling, but at the same time, whatever role we fall into hopefully reflects something about our preferences, skills or current life-situation.
Another thing to remember is that the root of our suffering in the work-place can often be our natural desire for appreciation or to be recognized as being good at what we do. If we don’t get such recognition, we may feel dissatisfied and become disheartened. I once took a management course where I was told that up to ninety per cent of all job moves within the organization, promotions included, were precipitated by mistrust or dissatisfaction with one’s immediate manager. So how do we stop ourselves from becoming disheartened if our work isn’t recognized?
One of the key principles of Karma yoga maintains we should do our best in our work, but not get attached to the results. In other words, whether we are congratulated or chastised for our efforts, we should remain un-moved by either of those extremes, and just do our best. If we believe in a personal God, then we should dedicate our work to Him and no one else. Swami Vivekananda put it this way :
“This is the one central idea in the Gita (Bhagavad Gita): “Work incessantly, but be not attached to it.”
"All thought of obtaining return for the work we do hinders our spiritual progress; nay, in the end it brings misery. There is another way … that is by looking upon work as worship in case we believe in a personal God." – Swami Vivekananda, Karma Yoga, p. 38; p. 49.
Putting money to one side for a moment, the desire for reward on the worker’s part leading to misery is an interesting one. The Baha’i writings seem to support this idea:
"One who is imprisoned by desires is always unhappy; the children of the Kingdom have unchained themselves from their desires." – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 87.
Of course, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t expect to be correctly paid for our labors, or stand up for ourselves if we have been misjudged over something we’ve done or not done. We must strive for whatever is just and right, but once we have done this, leave the matter in God’s hands: “Tread ye the path of justice, for this verily is the straight path.” Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250.
This spiritual theme of work being equivalent to worship is also found in the Baha’iwritings:
"It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One." – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 26.
That’s why, for Baha’is, work takes on a spiritual dimension, and even if we have no financial need to take a job, work should still be a part of our lives:
Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, especially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Baha’u’llah a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work. – Shoghi Effendi, quoted by the Universal House of Justice in Baha’u’llah’s Most Holy Book, p. 192.
One of the fruits of our work helps us to draw closer to God and to understand ourselves and our role in this world better. Does that include, for example, a parent or carer who stays at home to run the household or care for family members ? Without a doubt, yes! Useful work of any kind, whether paid or not, especially when it serves the needs of others, fits the Baha’i definition of work as worship.
So it would seem that by doing some form of work, doing it to the best of our ability, seeing it as a service to others and then remaining detached from the results will give us the happiest results. That way we can provide for ourselves, our loved ones and for our own spiritual development, and keep our stress levels in check.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Finding Your True Identity
June 25, 2018
Written by Rodney Richards
Since birth, we have all taken part in the never-ending process of learning about ourselves and who we want to be.
In childhood and youth, our search for our true identity usually reaches its peak, but it never really stops. We seek self-knowledge constantly—it seems built in to our basic humanity. As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Ralph Ellison wrote “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” In Alice in Wonderland, the author Lewis Carroll asked “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
So when we look for ourselves, who do we expect to find? We usually find ourselves by beginning to understand our particular type of personality, our interests, our occupation, our sexual orientation, our relationships including marriage and children, our political views, our religious and spiritual avocations, and many more.
But in a way, these are all labels—not our true identities. In the crucial moments of life, and at the hour of death, all of these labels give way to something deeper and more profound.
So who are we really? All religions say we are spirits with bodies.
To discover our spiritual identities, we all undertake one of two kinds of searches: to find that inner meaning, that core, in ourselves and in our lives, and then, to find a physical reality that we can fit into society.
That inner core is our human spirit:
But it is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.– Job 32:8
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. – Proverbs 20:27
Due to humans’ dual spiritual and animal natures, both good or very good, or bad, or very bad, possibilities exist in humans. God is known through His attributes which are all light upon light; they are virtues like All-Merciful, All-Kind, All-Knowing etc. and not faults. – Qur’an 51:56.
The Baha’i teachings say this—and much more—about the human spirit:
In the world of existence there is nothing so important as spirit, nothing so essential as the spirit of man. The spirit of man is the most noble of phenomena. The spirit of man is the meeting between man and God. The spirit of man is the animus of human life and the collective center of all human virtues. The spirit of man is the cause of the illumination of this world. The world may be likened to the body; man is the spirit of the body, because the light of the world is the human spirit. Man is the life of the world, and the life of man is the spirit. The happiness of the world depends upon man, and the happiness of man is dependent upon the spirit. The world may be likened to the lamp chimney, whereas man is the light. Man himself may be likened to the lamp; his spirit is the light within the lamp. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 239-240.
The Baha’i writings also describe the human spirit as “the rational soul.” Abdu’l-Baha said this when describing the stations of the divine prophets and messengers:
The second station is that of the rational soul, which is the human reality. This also has a beginning, and the Manifestations of God share it in common with all humanity. – Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 172.
We each search for our soul, that unique part of us that defines who we are, that “spirit within us” that makes us different than everyone else on the planet, even though we have innumerable things in common.
We all have a soul, the human spirit, in common too.
That’s one reason why Baha’is try to stay clear of controversies about identity. Each person’s identity is the sum of many individual and very personal decisions. Our identities have deep societal implications, and laws and policies can unify or divide. It’s not easy to find one’s identity as a human being, so we all need to go beyond simple tolerance–mere tolerance of diversity was relegated to the dustheap of history years ago. Acceptance, cooperation and unity are called for now.
Just because civil laws change and evolve to legalize certain identity designations, Baha’is still view every human being as a unique and precious soul. That view means we must extend a hand, seek to understand and give aid, and offer our selfless service to humanity, no matter what color or gender or viewpoint:
Inasmuch as all were created in the image of God, we must bring ourselves to realize that all embody divine possibilities. If you go into a garden and find all the flowers alike in form, species and color, the effect is wearisome to the eye. The garden is more beautiful when the flowers are many-colored and different; the variety lends charm and adornment. In a flock of doves some are white, some black, red, blue; yet they make no distinction among themselves. All are doves no matter what the color.
This variety in forms and colorings which is manifest in all the kingdoms is according to creative wisdom and has a divine purpose. Nevertheless, whether the creatures be all alike or all different should not be the cause of strife and quarreling among them … Then will the world become as one great garden of flowering humanity, variegated and multicolored, rivaling each other only in the virtues and graces which are spiritual. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 113.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
The Symbolism of the Sea
June 10, 2018
Written by Kathy Roman
Are you one of those people who can’t get enough of the beach? I have been since I was lucky enough to grow up a few blocks from the ocean.
Now, whenever I can possibly manage it, I get myself down to the seashore, and if I can’t go physically, I journey there in my mind. So today I’m sitting in my paradise on soft pearl-colored sand, spellbound by the magnificent turquoise ocean. The soothing warm rays of the sun and the rhythm of the hypnotic surf de-stresses me as the salty sea mist refreshes my face. With any luck, I’ll soon spy some happy dolphins playing. Looking out on this massive body of water that seems to go on forever is such a liberating feeling. The sea makes me feel grateful and humble, and I realize that I’m just a drop in this mighty ocean of life, with so much to learn.
In the stirring and eloquent writings of the Baha’i Faith, there are a myriad quotes on the majesty and spiritual symbolism of the sea. As I look out at the ocean’s grandeur, many of them come to mind and take on new meaning:
"Verily, divine bestowals are like the sea, and we are the fishes of that sea. The fishes must not look at themselves; they must behold the ocean, which is vast and wonderful. Provision for the sustenance of all is in this ocean; therefore, the divine bounties encompass all, and love eternal shines upon all." – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 131.
"When a drop draws help from the ocean, it is an ocean in itself. Therefore do not consider thy capacity and merit, but rely upon the infinite Bounty and trust to His Highness the Almighty." – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 3, p. 565.
"Wherefore, O ye beloved of the Lord, bestir yourselves, do all in your power to be as one, to live in peace, each with the others: for ye are all the drops from but one ocean." – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 280.
Many months later, I am able to return to the ocean. However, this time the skies are gray and cloudy. Foreboding waves crash angrily upon the shoreline. As rain begins to pour down, the ocean turns dark and menacing. The wind whips my hair into my face and I cover myself with my jacket’s hood. Even though the ocean is ominous, I am ever in awe of the expansive changing water and the powerful surf. These dark days have lessons to teach as well as the bright ones. This storm will pass, and when it does it will leave the air crisp and fresh once again. When that happens I will appreciate the bright cheerful sun, turquoise water, and blue skies all the more.
"O ye beloved of God! When the winds blow severely, rains fall fiercely, the lightning flashes, the thunder roars, the bolt descends and storms of trial become severe, grieve not; for after this storm, verily, the divine spring will arrive." – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 395.
"Thoughts are a boundless sea, and the effects and varying conditions of existence are as the separate forms and individual limits of the waves; not until the sea boils up will the waves rise and scatter their pearls of knowledge on the shore of life." – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 109-110.
It’s a year later, the storm has long since passed, and I’m making my homecoming back to the sea once more. The sun shines brilliantly again, the sky blue and the water sparkling. Hearing sweet laughter, I look down the shoreline. I see a precocious toddler walking with her mother. At once, she bravely breaks free from her mother’s hand and bounces down to the shore. Following closely, the mother allows the child her freedom. Stubby little toes hit the cool water and I hear squeals of delight echo down the beach like a happy song. I giggle as the child quickly turns around and runs back into her mother’s loving arms, sharing this great adventure with her. The seagulls swoop down from above to witness the joyful event and partake in the excitement. Again and again, the child scampers down to the water line, each time more courageously than before, and each time, the squeal of glee pierces my heart with absolute bliss.
I feel utterly connected to this tiny one and her mother in love, after all, we are all the waves of one sea:
"Become as the waves of one ocean, the drops of one sea, the flowers of one rose-garden, the trees of one orchard, the grains of one harvest and the plants of one meadow." – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 490.
"The love which exists between the hearts of believers is prompted by the ideal of the unity of spirits. This love is attained through the knowledge of God, so that men see the Divine Love reflected in the heart. Each sees in the other the Beauty of God reflected in the soul, and finding this point of similarity, they are attracted to one another in love. This love will make all men the waves of one sea, this love will make them all the stars of one heaven and the fruits of one tree. This love will bring the realization of true accord, the foundation of real unity." – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 180.
I open my eyes. Now I am home again lying in bed at dawn. The ocean is no longer in front of me. The little toddler and her mother have long since gone. I no longer hear the birds or feel the warm sand between my toes. There is no storm, crashing waves nor menacing skies either, for these are only memories. But no matter, because the remembrance of the sea and all its lessons are embedded in my soul. The ocean is still there, abiding and present as God’s love. The birds are still singing, the dolphins playing and perhaps another child is cooing as she feels the ocean’s cool water kiss her feet.
When I open the pages of the Baha’i writings I can return whenever I wish. With all its mystical lessons and metaphors of the sea, I am sure to find my way back home. All I have to do is close my eyes, open my heart, and turn to God.
"Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths." – Baha’u’llah, Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, P. 118-119.
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
The Spiritual Power of Poverty
June 2, 2018
Written by Peter Gyulay
The world is still plagued by poverty, and our attitudes towards those living below the poverty line can range from apathy to rage, from disdain to paternalism to pity. No doubt, the way we regard the issue of poverty itself should be grounded in a deep desire to rid the world of it.
But how should we regard those people living in this condition?
"If ye meet the abased or the down-trodden, turn not away disdainfully from them, for the King of Glory ever watcheth over them and surroundeth them with such tenderness as none can fathom except them that have suffered their wishes and desires to be merged in the Will of your Lord, the Gracious, the All-Wise." – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 314.
The Baha’i teachings make it clear that no one should look down on anyone suffering from poverty. We are all created noble, and all possess the same array of potential virtues. Because of this inherent nobility, we never have the right to belittle anyone. Poverty and wealth are temporary conditions, limited to the boundaries of this material world. Also, people living in poverty have so much to teach the world about spirituality.
Just as the physical body is developed through training, so is our inner self. To become actualized, the virtues within us must be developed through education and practice. Through spiritual knowledge of our true nature, as gleaned from the messengers of God, we become aware of our inner potential. Through implementing their spiritual lessons, we begin to sharpen these faculties.
No doubt, each virtue is developed in certain conditions and through certain actions. We develop generosity by giving, and we also learn about it when we have very little. We learn determination when our resolve is tested through adversity. In a word, each condition we find ourselves in presents us with a unique opportunity to develop different aspects of ourselves.
So, what does this mean in relation to those living in poverty?
No doubt, poor people face a life which elicits virtues that those with wealth may never acquire, or at least to the same extent. In my current privileged condition, I cannot fathom these dimensions but can only guess at them. I imagine that a life in which hunger is a daily condition forces one to reach deep into the resources of their being for the faith in God and resolve to keep striving. A life in which work is sporadic necessitates a trust in God that transcends any type of trust that a person whose life is stable and secure needs to have.
`Abdu'l-Bahá explained that those in poverty can be spiritually uplifted:
"… Show the world that in spite of the utmost suffering, poverty, sickness, you have something which gives you comfort, strength and peace—that you are happy—serene—satisfied with all that is in your life." – `Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 86.
In fact, we could say that a life of poverty provides the opportunity to focus more on spiritual sustenance than material satisfaction. Of course, that does not mean this is an automatic attitude those in poverty always adopt. It can be very easy to look at the appearance of affluence and set one’s aspirations on it—which may even make one’s poverty more of a burden. But there must be certain spiritual lessons that one would learn more quickly if living with little wealth. Baha’u’llah actually said that the poor are more likely to attain to spiritual progress:
"Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved. The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation." – The Hidden Words, p. 41.
This is probably the reason that many of the world’s most spiritual people throughout history have chosen a life of poverty, have renounced wealth to live a life devoted to the spirit.
But what is it that feeds their souls?
"The Spirit breathing through the Holy Scriptures is food for all who hunger. God Who has given the revelation to His Prophets will surely give of His abundance daily bread to all those who ask Him faithfully." – `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 57.
Where does true wealth come from?
How Far Does Your Caring Go?
May 27, 2018
Written by David Langness
Who do you care about? Normally, we human beings care about the people closest to us physically and emotionally—but is that enough?
The Baha’i teachings urge each person to grow and extend his or her circle of caring and empathy further than it has ever gone before—to actively begin caring for and about a vastly-enlarged group of human beings.
Simply caring about ourselves, our families or our communities, as most of us have done in the past, will no longer suffice. The nationalistic patriotism of caring for our respective countries doesn’t extend far enough, either. Caring for only those of our own race or religion definitely won’t have sufficient impact. Baha’is believe that these narrow former definitions of empathy and caring must grow and expand to encircle and embrace every member of our species—and the planet we all live on:
"Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth … It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens". – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 249.
"If the learned and wise men of goodwill were to impart guidance unto the people, the whole earth would be regarded as one country. Verily this is the undoubted truth. This servant appealeth to every diligent and enterprising soul to exert his utmost endeavour and arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions … "– Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 172.
The Baha’i teachings say that our empathy and concern for others, and for the entire human race, has to grow wider, more inclusive and more universal than ever before. We need to find a way, each of us, to love the whole world and all of its people.
This new imperative has acquired fresh urgency as we’ve come to more fully understand the climate change crisis we all face.
Because we share our one planet, and because all people come from the same race—the human race—the realization has begun to dawn that we will need to unite to effectively address our first truly global crisis. That means caring for the entire planet and everyone on it, becoming aware of the needs of the globe and all its inhabitants, rehabilitating the conditions in all regions and not just our own, with universal loyalty as our highest aim and desire:
READ MORE at bahaiteachings.org
Understanding Each Other in these Confusing Times
May 18, 2018
Written by Badi Shams
In our world today, an air of confusion and irritation manifests itself in different ways in different people. Baha’is believe that the world is in the process of giving birth to a wonderful new world order with a great future. What we are experiencing now is the pain before its birth. In a sense, we are the midwives responsible for preparing and assisting with the birth:
"We stand on the threshold of an age whose convulsions proclaim alike the death-pangs of the old order and the birth-pangs of the new. Through the generating influence of the Faith announced by Bahá’u’lláh this New World Order may be said to have been conceived. We can, at the present moment, experience its stirrings in the womb of a travailing age—an age waiting for the appointed hour at which it can cast its burden and yield its fairest fruit.
'The whole earth,' writes Bahá’u’lláh, 'is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings. Immeasurably exalted is the breeze that wafteth from the garment of thy Lord, the Glorified! For lo, it hath breathed its fragrance and made all things new! Well is it with them that comprehend.'” – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 168.
We all react to this pregnant period in different ways, but I’ll let you decide where you belong, and suggest the course of action Baha’is are taking for surviving this period of changes and transformation in the history of humanity.
One extreme is those people who show no sign of being affected by these rapid changes and confusion, but quietly and with great courage do their best for the betterment of the world. Some of them have an affiliation with religious beliefs, and yet some are believers in science. They have realized their mission in life and do the best they can without needing to fight or hate those who take opposing views. They know how to see the common ground between people, and not the differences. They know what they are doing will bear fruit in the future. The Baha’i teachings describe them like this:
“Lift up your hearts above the present and look with eyes of faith into the future! Today the seed is sown, the grain falls upon the earth, but behold the day will come when it shall raise a glorious tree and the branches thereof shall be laden with fruit. Rejoice and be glad that this day has dawned, try to realise its power, for it is indeed wonderful! God has crowned you with honour and in your hearts has He set a radiant star; verily the light thereof shall brighten the whole world!” – `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 69
The other extreme? Those who thrive on confusion, seek only their own self-interest, and do whatever they can to get what they want. Since people like this think the end justifies the means, they do not consider the morality of their actions—but they lie, destroy, hate and even kill anything opposed to their version of the truth. Many of them are followers of different so-called religious groups—even though no real religion supports violence—or various radical ideologies. They function as the leading causes of the destruction of the old order, which ultimately contributes to the process of change, too.
Then there are those who cannot understand what is happening around them, and feel helpless to figure out a course of action. They often give up, and their efforts are limited to complaining and reminding everyone how hopeless the present time is and how they miss the good old days when everything was good and decent. They have forgotten their most important duty as citizens of the world:
“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” – Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214.
That last group of people, who could be you or me, have sincere motives and good intentions. They want to contribute towards building a just society—to defend the poor, save the planet from pollution, bring about a better health care system, a better system of education, a better system of government, and better economic policies. They have many other wonderful goals, as well. But instead of changing things for the better, they end up not knowing what to do.
We have a moral obligation to reach out to all these groups, and lovingly help them see the possibilities in creating a new world order. Those who already expend their energy selflessly building a better world need our encouragement and support for their sacrificial work. Those confused about what to do also need our help to remove the dark clouds hanging over their lives. Those good-hearted and yet frustrated souls need to be reminded that their anger and impatience is self-defeating, so that they do not end up frustrated and hating others. Those on the path of destruction are the most difficult to help, and yet we can always pray for them and make sure that their actions and words do not create feelings of hate in our hearts:
“… The world is like the body of man—it hath become sick, feeble and infirm. Its eye is devoid of sight, its ear hath become destitute of hearing and its faculties of sense are entirely dissolved. The friends of God must become as wise physicians and care for and heal this sick person, in accord with the divine teachings, in order that—God willing—it may perchance gain health, find eternal healing and that its lost powers may be restored; and that the person of the world may find such health, freshness and purity that it will appear in the utmost beauty and charm”. – `Abdu'l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 356.
Bahá'ís believe that we should be like physicians for the healing of humanity—physicians who recognize the symptoms and then prescribe the correct medicine. That medicine, the Baha’i teachings say, is embodied in the cause, the principles and the spiritual remedies brought by Bahá’u’lláh.
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The opinions and views expressed in these articles are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.