Friday, March 20, 2009

Some Baha'i Readings for a Naw-Ruz Gathering


Some of the following passages may prove useful—mixed with songs or other music and perhaps a story—for a holy day celebration such as would typically include people concluding the Baha'i Fast, children, and friends not familiar with the Faith.

"O MY BROTHER!
Hearken to the delightsome words of My honeyed tongue, and quaff the stream of mystic holiness from My sugar-shedding lips. Sow the seeds of My divine wisdom in the pure soil of thy heart, and water them with the water of certitude, that the hyacinths of My knowledge and wisdom may spring up fresh and green in the sacred city of thy heart."

(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words, No. 33)


Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Ruz as a festival unto those who have observed the fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto Thee. Grant, O my Lord, that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the fast enjoined by Thee may inflame them in Thy Cause, and make them to be occupied with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.

Since Thou hast adorned them, O my Lord, with the ornament of the fast prescribed by Thee, do Thou adorn them also with the ornament of Thine acceptance, through Thy grace and bountiful favor. For the doings of men are all dependent upon Thy good-pleasure, and are conditioned by Thy behest. Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the fast. And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.

Thou art He through Whom the ensign "Praiseworthy art Thou in Thy works" hath been lifted up, and the standard "Obeyed art Thou in Thy behest" hath been unfurled. Make known this Thy station, O my God, unto Thy servants, that they may be made aware that the excellence of all things is dependent upon Thy bidding and Thy word, and the virtue of every act is conditioned by Thy leave and the good-pleasure of Thy will, and may recognize that the reins of men's doings are within the grasp of Thine acceptance and Thy commandment. Make this known unto them, that nothing whatsoever may shut them out from Thy Beauty… Supply them, then, with that which will profit them, in both this life and in the life beyond. Thou, in truth, art the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, pp. 67-69)


"…because these days are the days of Naw-Ruz, you have come to my mind and I am sending you this greeting for this glorious feast. All the days are blessed, but this feast is the national fete of Persia. The Persians have been holding it for several thousand years past. In reality every day which man passes in the mention of God, the diffusion of the fragrances of God and calling the people to the Kingdom of God, that day is his feast. Praise be to God that you are occupied in the service of the Kingdom of God and are engaged in the promulgation of the religion of God by day and by night. Therefore all your days are feast days. There is no doubt that the assistance and the bestowal of God shall descend upon you."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 11)


'O ye loved ones of God! The wine-cup of Heaven overfloweth, the banquet of God's Covenant is bright with festive lights, the dawn of all bestowals is breaking, the gentle winds of grace are blowing, and out of the invisible world come good tidings of bounties and gifts. In flower-spangled meadows hath the divine springtime pitched its tents, and the spiritual are inhaling sweet scents from the Sheba of the spirit, carried their way by the east wind. Now doth the mystic nightingale carol its odes, and buds of inner meaning are bursting into blossoms delicate and fair. The field larks are become the festival's musicians, and lifting wondrous voices they cry and sing to the melodies of the Company on high, "Blessed are ye! Glad Tidings! Glad Tidings!" And they urge on the revellers of the Abha Paradise to drink their fill, and they eloquently hold forth upon the celestial tree, and utter their sacred cries. All this, that withered souls who tread the desert of the heedless, and faded ones lost in the sands of unconcern, may come to throbbing life again, and present themselves at the feasts and revels of the Lord God.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 255)


'This period of time is the Promised Age, the assembling of the human race to the "Resurrection Day" and now is the great "Day of Judgment." Soon the whole world, as in springtime, will change its garb. The turning and falling of the autumn leaves is past; the bleakness of the winter time is over. The new year hath appeared and the spiritual springtime is at hand. The black earth is becoming a verdant garden; the deserts and mountains are teeming with red flowers; from the borders of the wilderness the tall grasses are standing like advance guards before the cypress and jessamine trees; while the birds are singing among the rose branches like the angels in the highest heavens, announcing the glad-tidings of the approach of that spiritual spring, and the sweet music of their voices is causing the real essence of all things to move and quiver.'

(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 352)


"This sacred day, when the sun illumines equally the whole earth, is called the equinox, and the equinox is the symbol of the Manifestation of God. The Sun of Truth rises on the horizon of Divine Mercy and sends forth its rays. This day is consecrated to commemorate it. It is the beginning of Spring.

When the sun appears at the equinox, it causes a movement in all living things. The mineral world is set in motion, plants begin to shoot, the desert is changed into a prairie, trees bud and every living thing responds, including the bodies of animals and men.

The rising of the sun at the equinox is the symbol of life, and likewise it is the symbol of the Divine Manifestations of God, for the rising of the Sun of Truth in the Heaven of Divine Bounty established the signal of Life for the world. The human reality begins to live, our thoughts are transformed and our intelligence is quickened. The Sun of Truth bestows Eternal Life, just as the solar sun is the cause of terrestrial life."

(Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 5, p. 4)


"The divine religions are like the progression of the seasons of the year. When the earth becomes dead and desolate and because of frost and cold no trace of vanished spring remains, the springtime dawns again and clothes everything with a new garment of life. The meadows become fresh and green, the trees are adorned with verdure and fruits appear upon them. Then the winter comes again, and all the traces of spring disappear. This is the continuous cycle of the seasons—spring, winter, then the return of spring. But though the calendar changes and the years move forward, each springtime that comes is the return of the springtime that has gone; this spring is the renewal of the former spring. Springtime is springtime, no matter when or how often it comes. The divine Prophets are as the coming of spring, each renewing and quickening the teachings of the Prophet Who came before Him. Just as all seasons of spring are essentially one as to newness of life, vernal showers and beauty, so the essence of the mission and accomplishment of all the Prophets is one and the same."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 126-27)


"O Lord, my Lord!

This is the day which Thy Sacred Tongue and Thy Pen of Glory both have sanctified, and made it a day of heavenly blessings, of divine benediction and favour. Thou hast honoured it with Thy bestowals, endued it with Thy Grace, and invested it with Thy Glory, and caused it to be a day of joy and gladness unto them that have turned to the Light of Thy Divine Revelation; that the hearts may thereby be gladdened, that the radiance of happiness may illumine the lives of them that remember the manifestation of Thy Glory upon Thy Sacred Mount.

Hallow it, 0 Lord, with Thy grace, and make it a day of joy and blessedness for Thy loved ones that have stood fast and firm in Thy Covenant, Thy friends that have sung Thy praise, and especially for this servant of Thine that hath turned his face to Thy Holy Kingdom, supplicated the glory of Thy might and power, circled Thy throne of grandeur and fell prostrate at Thy threshold of Divine Mercy. Thou art the Gracious, the Bountiful, the All Merciful."

(Abdu’l-Baha, published June, 1923 in Star of the West, Vol. 14, p. 82. “A prayer revealed by Abdu’l-Baha in memory of the Day of Naw-Ruz. Translated by Shoghi Effendi.”)



Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Ethics of the Hidden Words



Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha’i Faith and authorized interpreter of its writings, tells us that the Hidden Words, (consisting of two parts, from the Arabic and from the Persian), occupies a position of “unsurpassed preeminence” among Baha’u’llah’s “ethical writings.” (God Passes By, p.140) In Shoghi Effendi’s exquisite English translation of the Hidden Words—a small book of powerful aphorisms—the word “heart” occurs forty-nine times.

The word “love” appears many times also and, further, in a variety of expressions including: “beloved,” “Beloved,” “loving-kindness,” “loved,” “Loved One,” “lovest,” “lover,” “loving,” “well-beloved,” “lovers’ blood,” and “lover’s heart.”

The tally of references to “love” is seventy-one times.

The very first Arabic hidden word is explicitly focused on the human heart:
1. O SON OF SPIRIT!
My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.


In the second Arabic hidden word, when Baha’u’llah speaks of “Justice,” it is presented as a gift of God’s love that will bless us with first-hand knowledge. That is, “Justice” is bracketed within the terms “best beloved,” “heart,” and “loving-kindness.” [Emphasis added.]
2. O SON OF SPIRIT!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.

    (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

The very first Persian hidden word addresses the “first call of the Beloved” to the “mystic nightingale” which is a “messenger of the Solomon of love” bidding it, “Seek thou no shelter except in the Sheba of the well-beloved…” 

The second Persian hidden word is focused on “the hearts of men.”

Hand of the Cause of God George Townshend, in an essay he wrote about the Hidden Words, compares its Arabic and Persian parts, commenting, “…the writer in Arabic is a loving teacher, the writer in Persian a teaching lover.”

Baha’i ethics are grounded in God’s love and the response of the human heart.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Resurrection and the Means of Livelihood

This excerpt from a tablet of Baha'u'llah, which includes a special prayer, is a miracle in that it is so brief and direct, yet so profound and helpful. It is always a surprise.

This Wronged One hath perused thy letter in the Most Great Prison and is apprised of thine enquiry concerning the commandments of God on the subjects of resurrection and the means of livelihood. Thou hast done well to ask these questions, for the benefit thereof will be gained by thyself as well as other servants of God, both outwardly and inwardly. Verily thy Lord knoweth all things and readily answereth the call.

The supreme cause for creating the world and all that is therein is for man to know God. In this Day whosoever is guided by the fragrance of the raiment of His mercy to gain admittance into the pristine Abode, which is the station of recognizing the Source of divine commandments and the Dayspring of His Revelation, hath everlastingly attained unto all good. Having reached this lofty station a twofold obligation resteth upon every soul. One is to be steadfast in the Cause with such steadfastness that were all the peoples of the world to attempt to prevent him from turning to the Source of Revelation, they would be powerless to do so. The other is observance of the divine ordinances which have streamed forth from the wellspring of His heavenly-propelled Pen. For man's knowledge of God cannot develop fully and adequately save by observing whatsoever hath been ordained by Him and is set forth in His heavenly Book.

A year ago the Most Holy Book was sent down from the heaven of the bounty of the Lord of Names. God willing, thou mayest be graciously enabled to fulfil that which hath been revealed therein.

Concerning the means of livelihood, thou shouldst, while placing thy whole trust in God, engage in some occupation. He will assuredly send down upon thee from the heaven of His favour that which is destined for thee. He is in truth the God of might and power.

Yield thou thanks unto God that thy letter hath reached the presence of this Prisoner and from the Seat of divine authority the answer hath been revealed and is being sent to thee. This is an incalculable blessing vouchsafed by God. Although it is not evident at present, it soon shall be.
It behoveth thee to say:

Magnified be Thy Name, O Lord my God! I am the one who hath turned his face towards Thee and hath placed his whole reliance in Thee. I implore Thee by Thy Name whereby the ocean of Thine utterance hath surged and the breezes of Thy knowledge have stirred, to grant that I may be graciously aided to serve Thy Cause and be inspired to remember Thee and praise Thee. Send down then upon me from the heaven of Thy generosity that which will preserve me from anyone but Thee and will profit me in all Thy worlds.

Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Inaccessible, the Supreme, the Knowing, the Wise.


(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, pp. 267-69)





Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Baha'i Fast, Additional Insight, Part IV


The numbering below is arbitrary and has no significance other than for referencing within this site.

Photo © Baha’i International Community

From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha regarding the Fast
1. “Ye had written of the fasting month. Fortunate are ye to have obeyed the commandment of God, and kept this fast during the holy season. For this material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.”

2. “The laws of God, such as fasting, obligatory prayer and the like, as well as His counsels regarding virtues, good deeds and proper conduct, must be carried out everywhere to the extent possible, unless some insurmountable obstacle or some great danger presents itself or it runneth counter to the dictates of wisdom. For indolence and laxity hinder the outpourings of love from the clouds of divine mercy, and people will thus remain deprived.”


3. “Thou hast written about the Fast. This is a most weighty matter and thou shouldst exert thine utmost in its observance. It is a fundamental of the Divine Law, and one of the pillars of the religion of God.”


4. “Well is it with you, as you have followed the Law of God and arisen to observe the Fast during these blessed days, for this physical fast is a symbol of the spiritual fast. 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.”
5. “Fasting is the cause of the elevation of one’s spiritual station.”


From
Shoghi Effendi, regarding the Fast

1. "As regards fasting, it constitutes, together with the obligatory prayers, the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. They act as stimulants to the soul, strengthen, revive and purify it, and thus insure its steady development."


2. "The fasting period…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. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires."


3. “Those unwarranted practices, in connection with the sacrament of baptism, of communion, of confession of sins, of asceticism, of priestly domination, of elaborate ceremonials, of holy war and of polygamy, have one and all been rigidly suppressed by the Pen of Baha’u’llah; whilst the rigidity and rigor of certain observances, such as fasting, which are necessary to the devotional life of the individual, have been considerably abated.”



National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, 1950

“How fitting was the prelude to this year… our Fast – symbolic of the will to sacrifice and wholly yield the self to God. As we abstained from food and drink, we became deeply conscious of the things for which He [the Bab] forfeited His life…the cherished hopes of men for promised peace, and unity of mankind.

He chose our hearts and asked of us surrender of the ancient hurts, the active fears and failings with which we wound each other and mar the splendid unity we seek in Faith.

Can we find strength and will to cancel out the caustic criticisms, the long-embroidered slights, the outraged pride, the unexplained hostility, the bitterness of ingrown loneliness, the cruel-edged perfection with which we weigh each other? These are the heavy weights which ground our spirits and our prayers.

Then, let us turn our hearts to God and pray with fervour for that sense of love to truly do Him honour, since this alone can change all things and men, because it changes us.”


*******************

FASTING

There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.

We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox

is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.

When you're full of food and drink, an ugly metal

statue sits where your spirit should. When you fast,

good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.

A table descends to your tents,
Jesus' table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table

spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.

-Rumi


Key to the Sources (Alphabetically)
DG – Directives of the GuardianIOPF – The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting
SWAB – Selected Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
WOB – World Order of Baha’u’llah



From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha regarding the Fast:

1. SWAB, pp. 69-70; 2. IOPF, Part 2, IV; 3. IOPF, Part 2, XXV; 4. IOPF, Part 2, XXVI; 5. IOPF, Part 2, XXVII

From Shoghi Effendi, regarding the Fast:

1. DG, p.27; 2. DG, pp. 28-29; 3. WOB, p.22

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States
"Baha’i News," April 1950, p. 2. Written in the year commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Bab.

FASTING – Jalalu’d-Din Rumi (1207-1273 A.D.)

From
The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks, pp. 69-70.

Rumi is often regarded as one of the great Persian Sufi poets. Baha’u’llah quoted him: see, e.g.,
The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys.