Morning reflections on a revolution in spirituality.
The Bahá'í Faith is an independent world religion, founded by Bahá'u'lláh (a title in Arabic meaning The Glory of God). The teachings of the Bahá'í Faith are fundamentally about unity - of religion, of God, and of humanity.
Bahá'ís read the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh every morning and evening, to reflect on, and further deepen in, His teachings, and to apply them to daily life.
This blog is an assistance to one Bahá'í in the quest to fulfill her responsibility to that end.
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“…Although the loss of a (child) is indeed heart-breaking and beyond the limits of human endurance, yet one who knoweth and understandeth is assured that the child hath not been lost but, rather, hath stepped from this world into another, and you will find them in the divine realm. That reunion shall be for eternity, while in this world separation is inevitable and bringeth with it a burning grief.
Praise be unto God that thou hast faith, art turning thy face toward the everlasting Kingdom and believest in the existence of a heavenly world. Therefore be thou not disconsolate, do not languish, do not sigh, neither wail nor weep; for agitation and mourning deeply affect their soul in the divine realm.
That beloved child addresseth thee from the hidden world: ‘O thou kind Mother (and Father), thank divine Providence that I have been freed from a small and gloomy cage and, like the birds of the meadows, have soared to the divine world—a world which is spacious, illumined, and ever joyous and jubilant. Therefore, lament not, O Mother and Father, and be not grieved; I am not of the lost, nor have I been obliterated and destroyed. I have shaken off the mortal form and have raised my banner in this spiritual world. Following this separation is everlasting companionship. Thou shalt find me in the heaven of the Lord, immersed in an ocean of light.’
Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 201
“The social dislocation of children in our time is a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition—it cuts across them all. It grieves our hearts to realize that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made the objects
of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimization too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by the parents themselves upon their own children. The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation. Our worldwide community cannot escape the consequences of these conditions. This realization should spur us all to urgent and sustained effort in the interests of children and the future… Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. “
—Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2000
Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.
Whenever I’ve mentioned this quote to a group of young people - middle-schoolers whose company I’ve enjoyed in the context of a junior youth group - there is always someone who immediately goes, “Ewwww! Love everyone?!”
I am ready to respond, “Is that what the quote means by ‘love’?”
It is so striking to me that this is a predictable response to the word “love.” Clearly, we’ve got a few different definitions going on. And one definition is highly propagated in society today, to the point that 12-year-olds are decidedly convinced of a certain range of possibility when it comes to love and what it entails.
This quote, to me, is not defining love as a physical entity, comprised of attraction, lust, and romance. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I are attracted to each other. And that’s an element of this complex thing we enjoy called “love.” But the type of love I share with my husband is, at the same time, very different and exactly the same as the type of love I will share with a friend, a relative, you.
This quote seems to suggest this. Let your heart burn with love for everyone! That must imply that we can love everyone. What does that love mean? What does it look like? What are we loving about everyone? From my perspective, and from my understanding of that of the Baha’i Faith, when we love someone it is out of an appreciation and admiration for the qualities of God that they manifest. Like, compassion for all people of the world, kindness toward friend and stranger alike, honesty towards others and about oneself, humility in times of desolation as well as in times of supreme success, determination in the face of difficulty, etc. And these are things that every human being on this great green planet can express, to one degree or another, and according to the effort that each puts into being a person of excellent character.
So, if that’s what unites the love that we can feel for anyone, anywhere, anytime, what’s the difference between the love of two friends and the love of two romantic partners?
In my mind it’s simply about the manner of expression, and the purpose of the relationship. I may show a strong love for a dear friend by calling to check in with them regularly, or by hugging them when they need comfort. Appropriately, signs of affection for my spouse will be much more intimate.
Scientific understanding helps us understand this as well. When considering the role of hormones in human systems throughout the life span, it makes sense that the person with whom one shares the most sacred of relationships is also the person with whom touch is most important, necessarily, and relevant. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, helps two people feel more attached to one another, the more they touch, the closer they are. Considering the purpose of my marriage to my husband, touch is especially valuable.
But in either situation, my heart will recognize, admire and appreciate the qualities of that person’s behavior. And I will love them.
“…justice and impartiality…means to consider the welfare of the community as one’s own. It means, in brief, to regard humanity as a single individual, and one’s own self as a member of that corporeal form, and to know of a certainty that if pain or injury afflicts any member of that body, it must inevitably result in suffering for all the rest.”
“The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother—none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all.”
Recently a young girl that I know posted a public online post from another young person at her school who described in the most desperate, despairing words I have heard genuinely used by someone, their plan to end the lives of as many fellow students as he could and then his own. His reasons were that these people who he saw every day conducted themselves with a great deal of disregard for anyone else, considered their family’s wealth to be a definitive judgement of of personal worth, and that they were wasting the lives they had been given.
One comment below the picture of this post was about how one never knows when life might end and that we should take great care to value every moment we are given.
I immediately wondered why no one was asking how this poor young person had gotten to such a hopeless, violent place. I wanted to see a comment about how perhaps the lesson here, more uniquely, is about “bringing those who have been excluded into the circle of intimate friends. Make the despairing to be filled with hope.“
Surely the circumstances that bring someone to feel ready to commit mass murder are complex. But, surely, one of the simplest remedies to a lonely heart is a genuine friend.
There’s a psychological phenomenon that describes how during an emergency a group of people will likely remain surprisingly unresponsive. Alternatively, in an emergency where only one other person is present, the sole bystander will respond immediately. One would think a large group of people would be safer - surely when so many people are present, someone will do something. But human psychology seems to say that only when we are certain it is up to us do we find the wherewithal to act without hesitation.
My suggestion here is that we buck the psychological norm. Especially when it comes to social well-being. Be the person who responds immediately when you notice someone seemingly downtrodden or outcast, even to a small degree. Forget propriety, infringing on someone’s “personal space” or uncertain shyness. Remember what we have always said and will continue to say but not necessarily believe - we are in this together. Buck the norm, and be a friend. Be a friend without hesitation.
The word of God which the Abhá Pen hath revealed and inscribed on the first leaf
of the Most Exalted Paradise is this: Verily I say: The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it.
I’ve always known I have a strong sense of shame. Or at least I did. That was, until I remembered all of my mistakes, transgressions and instances of lower-nature-taking-over-higher-nature.
I suppose those moments when we are inspired, via our own sense of what is right and wrong (e.g. shame), to be the noble being we recognize to be our true self, are what should continue to inspire us when we feel weak and distracted by transitory things of this world.
Obviously, we are meant to enjoy this physical existence. But only to the point that those pleasures do not interject themselves into our relationship with God.
And we know we will make mistakes, subsequently seeking God’s forgiveness, and no one else’s, but to honor this amazing compass we may have, and can certainly develop, we can more easily maintain that relationship with God.
Today, all the peoples of the world are indulging in self-interest and exert the utmost effort and endeavor to promote their own material interest They are worshipping themselves and not the divine reality, nor the world of mankind. They seek diligently their own benefit and no the common weal. This is because they are captives of the world of nature and unaware of the divine teachings…
We all do this at times, whether for just a moment, or even weeks, months at a time. This is the test of the human condition. We are birds whose feet are caught in mire and clay. The desire to free ourselves can be assisted by the world around us, or hindered. Distraction with material possessions and realities disintegrates the motivation to ascend. Attraction to beauty in the world around us can help to remind us of the noble opportunities before us. And the choice is ours.
Now the world of women should be a spiritual world, not a political one, so that it will be radiant. The women of other nations are all immersed in political matters. Of what benefit is this, and what fruit doth it yield? To the extent that ye can, ye should busy yourselves with spiritual matters which will be conducive to the exaltation of the Word of God and of the diffusion of His fragrances. Your demeanour should lead to harmony amongst all and to coalescence and the good-pleasure of all….
I am endeavouring, with Bahá’u’lláh’s confirmations and assistance, so to improve the world of the handmaidens that all will be astonished. This progress is intended to be in spirituality, in virtues, in human perfections and in divine knowledge.
It should be immediately noted that Bahá’ís, whether men or women, are asked not to participate in partisan politics as it is a consistent source of dissension and discord among individuals and communities. We are also asked to be intimately aware of the needs of the age in which we live, to participate in community life, to be obedient to our nation’s leaders, and to be knowledgeable about the state of the world.
The key here is wisdom and, above all, unity. Politics are rarely fuel for harmony. Rather, seeking expression of our higher nature (spirituality) can assist us in establishing new levels of social unity. To help help ourselves grow, and to help our communities grow, both materially and spiritually, is after all a primary task as a Bahá’í.
In a sense, women being held back socially, politically, intellectually, as they have been historically, allows them the freedom to change humanity’s trajectory. Women in general have a lot less invested in the archaic forms of hierarchy currently present in society. Namely, patriarchy. Our power does not come from these existing norms. Our power as women comes in our collective effort to uplift humanity as a whole. That begins in our hearts, not in legislation.
The purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, hath been to bring forth the Mystic Gems out of the mine of man.
One of the things that makes the most sense to me from the Bahá’í Writings is the idea that there is only one God - one Creator, one Unknowable Essence, one, and one alone, of the same entity we all keep talking about - by different names.
Calling God - or whichever title you’ve landed on - by different names, and then insisting in the fundamental difference of each of “them” is like insisting in the belief that various groups of people around the world, because of skin tone alone, are different types of human beings.
Belief in the fundamental oneness of God, on the other hand, allows for a belief in the oneness of humanity, and in the oneness of religion.
If God is one, then each religion comes from God - and so the question becomes, what’s the method to the madness?
If God is one, all of humankind is a member of God’s creation - created in the image and likeness of God.
And, God, like the best parent you could hope for, provides for, guides, protects, but also relinquishes particular controls, that we might manifest the hidden gems of virtue within us.
Illumine, O Lord, the faces of Thy servants, that they may behold Thee; and cleanse their hearts that they may turn unto the court of Thy heavenly favors, and recognize Him Who is the Manifestation of Thy Self and the Dayspring of Thine Essence. Verily, Thou art the Lord of all worlds. There is no God but Thee, the Unconstrained, the All-Subduing.
This is the last paragraph of a larger prayer that I read this morning. The phrase “Illumine, O Lord, the faces of Thy servants, that they may behold Thee…” really stood out to me. The idea that God would shed light upon a person so that he or she can see God is powerful. We are so dependent upon the mercy, assistance and love of God. Certainly our efforts are a significant factor as well. But, is God’s assistance more significant?
The Báb stated:
Glory be unto Thee, Thou art exalted above the description of anyone save Thyself, since it is beyond human conception to befittingly magnify Thy virtues or to comprehend the inmost reality of Thine Essence. Far be it from Thy glory that Thy creatures should describe Thee or that anyone besides Thyself should ever know Thee. I have known Thee, O my God, by reason of Thy making Thyself known unto me, for hadst Thou not revealed Thyself unto me, I would not have known Thee. I worship Thee by virtue of Thy summoning me unto Thee, for had it not been for Thy summons I would not have worshiped Thee.
“…hadst Thou not revealed Thyself unto me, I would not have known Thee.” These words inspire such gratitude.
I don’t know where the quote is right now, but I remember reading that in response to gratitude we should behave in accordance with the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, manifesting God’s qualities of love, compassion, mercy, detachment, etc.