Friday, November 2, 2012

A Hollow Reed

There are beautiful songs and poems from Baha’is that use the ancient symbol of a hollow reed. (One example is the ravishing “Hollow Reed” written, played and sung by the Baha’i science fiction author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. It is not the words of a prayer that was mistakenly attributed to Abdu'l-Baha.) This important image of a hollow reed is used in numerous authorized Baha’i Writings and texts. Please see below.

[ Emphasis added below.]

"Be thou of the people of hell-fire,
but be not a hypocrite.

Be thou an unbeliever,
but be not a plotter.

Make thy home in taverns,
but tread not the path
of the mischief-maker.

Fear thou God,
but not the priest.

Give to the executioner thy head,
but not thy heart.

Let thine abode be under the stone,
but seek not the shelter of the cleric.

"Thus doth the Holy Reed intone its melodies, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its song, so that He may infuse life eternal into the mortal frames of men, impart to the temples of dust the essence of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly Light, and draw the transient world, through the potency of a single word, unto the Everlasting Kingdom."

(Baha’u’llah, “Trustworthiness: A Cardinal Baha’i Virtue,” January 1987 Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 337)


[Baha’u’llah used the symbol of the hollow reed in other places in His Writings, including in Rashh-i-'Amá and extensively in Mathnaviyí-i Mubárak. However, these works have not yet been published in authorized English translations.]

'In Revelation [of St. John] 11:1-2 it is said:

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months."

'By this reed is meant a Perfect Man, and the reason for His being likened to a reed is that when the latter is entirely freed and emptied of its pith, it becomes capable of producing wondrous melodies. Moreover, these songs and airs proceed not from the reed itself but from the player who blows into it. In the same way, the sanctified heart of that blessed Being is free and empty of all save God, is averse to and exempt from attachment to every selfish inclination, and is intimately acquainted with the breath of the Divine Spirit. That which He utters proceeds not from Himself but from the ideal Player and from divine revelation. Hence He is likened to a reed, and that reed is like a rod; that is, it is the succour of the weak and the support of every mortal soul. It is the rod of the True Shepherd by which He guards His flock and leads it about in the pastures of the Kingdom.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 11.1-2, pp. 52-3)


'When Bahá'u'lláh departed from Baghdad, and traveled to Rumelia, the friends remained behind. The inhabitants of Baghdad then rose up against those helpless believers, sending them away as captives to Mosul. Ustad [Ustad Isma'il] was old and feeble, but he left on foot, with no provisions for his journey, crossed over mountains and deserts, valleys and hills, and in the end arrived at the Most Great Prison. At one time, Bahá'u'lláh had written down an ode of Rumi's for him, and had told him to turn his face toward the Báb and sing the words, set to a melody. And so as he wandered through the long dark nights, Ustad would sing these lines:

"I am lost, O Love, possessed and dazed,

Love's fool am I, in all the earth.

They call me first among the crazed,

Though I once came first for wit and worth.

O Love, who sellest me this wine,

O Love, for whom I burn and bleed,

Love, for whom I cry and pine  --

Thou the Piper, I the reed.

If Thou wishest me to live,

Through me blow Thy holy breath.

The touch of Jesus Thou wilt give

To me, who've lain an age in death.

Thou, both End and Origin,

Thou without and Thou within  --

From every eye Thou hidest well,

And yet in every eye dost dwell."

'He was like a bird with broken wings but he had the song and it kept him going onward to his one true Love.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 30-32)


Sunday, June 30, 1912 [New York]

'In the morning, after His obligatory prayer and supplications, the Master invited us into His presence and served us tea with His own hand. He spoke of the blessings and confirmations of the Ancient Beauty, the Greatest Name:

“This help and assistance are from Him and these confirmations are through His bounty and favor; otherwise, we are nothing but weak servants. We are as reeds and all these melodies are from Him. We are ants and this dignity of Solomon is from Him. We are servants and this heavenly dominion is from Him. We must, therefore, offer our constant gratitude to Him for His favors and must join heart and soul to praise Him for His blessings."'

(Attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Mahmud's Diary, The Diary of Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani Chronicling 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Journey to America, pp.153-54)


"What is needed to achieve success in the teaching field is a complete dedication on the part of the individual, consecration to the glorious task of spreading the Faith, and the living of the Bahá'í life, because that creates the magnet for the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit which quickens the new soul. Thus the individual should be as a reed, through which the Holy Spirit may flow, to give new life to the seeking soul.

"One should search out those who are receptive to the Faith, and then concentrate on these persons in their teaching."

(From a letter dated 18 December 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
(From a letter dated 19 December 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to two individual believers)

[The passage above is found in two different compilations assembled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice: “Guidelines for Teaching” and “The Individual and Teaching - Raising the Divine Call.” It appears that it was conveyed from the Guardian on two successive days.]

"Consecration, dedication and enthusiastic service is the Keynote to successful teaching. One must become like a reed through which the Holy Spirit descends to reach the student of the Faith.

"We give the Message, and explain the Teachings, but it is the Holy Spirit that quickens and confirms."

(From a letter dated 16 February 1955 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)


'Never must they let a day pass without teaching some soul, trusting to Bahá'u'lláh that the seed will grow. The friends should seek pure souls, gain their confidence, and then teach that person carefully until he becomes a Bahá'í, and then nurture him until he becomes a firm and active supporter of the Faith.

'Everyone must remember that it is the "Holy Spirit that quickens" and therefore the teacher must become like a reed through which the Holy Spirit may reach the seeking soul.

'The beloved Guardian has stressed over and over again, that to effectively teach the Faith, the individual must study deeply, the Divine Word, imbibe Its life-giving waters, and feast upon Its glorious teachings. He should then meditate on the import of the Word, and finding its spiritual depths, pray for guidance and assistance. But most important, after prayer is action. After one has prayed and meditated, he must arise, relying fully on the guidance and confirmation of Bahá'u'lláh, to teach His Faith. Perseverance in action is essential, just as wisdom and audacity are necessary for effective teaching. The individual must sacrifice all things to this great goal, and then the victories will be won.'

(From a letter dated 30 May 1956 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Hands of the Cause in the United States)


"He hopes you will be guided and confirmed in your work, so many souls may find eternal life, through your selfless services. It is important that you make contact with pure hearted individuals, gain their confidence, they gain confidence in you, and then gradually teach them. It is better to concentrate on a few, rather than attempt to teach too many at a time. Consecration, devotion, dedication, humility are essential, that the Holy Spirit may use you as a reed for the diffusion of Its creative rays."

(From a letter dated 15 July 1956 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)


"One should remember it is not the individual who confirms another, but the Holy Spirit which confirms. Thus the individual must become as a reed, through which the spirit may descend, and quicken souls. Thus the best way to develop capacity in teaching the Faith, is to teach. As one teaches, he gains more knowledge himself, he relies more on the guidance of the spirit, and expands his own character. This is why Bahá'u'lláh made it incumbent on all to teach the Faith."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 24, 1956)