Monday, July 21, 2014

Last Breathers, Part 1

Photo © Baha’i International Community

These two musings on the significance of one's last breath include accounts of Hands of the Cause. The stories here got my attention.

This first one is extracted from an outstanding article, (of over 16 pages in length), entitled "Afterlife and the Twin Pillars of Education," written by John S. Hatcher and published in the magazine 'World Order,' Fall 1978 issue:

'To a certain extent...whether a knowledge of the afterlife alleviates fear depends on how an individual assesses his earthly performance...[I]f the reality of one's continuation were an intimate, vital part of one's system of belief, one would be more inclined to shape one's life according to that eventuality, to be comforted by the assurance of ultimate rewards and justice, and to be deterred from those acts that might bring about a negative experience.

'The reason such knowledge could never wholly alleviate fear is, I think, that no one can be certain about his spiritual condition. ...[T]here is no point in life when one can be sure that his destiny is secure, especially since he is not competing with anyone but himself, and one can never be sure of what his capacity is or whether that capacity will increase. ...[O]ne can never feel he has developed as far as he can or done as much as need be done.

'But perhaps the most significant deterrent to the complete elimination of fear is the ever-present possibility of reversal or failure, peripeteia, as the Greek tragedians called it. ...[A]nyone is capable of boundless growth or abysmal failure...

'A good illustration of the respect that one knowledgeable Baha'i had for this verity is exemplified by a story, albeit an apocryphal one, about Tarazu'llah Samandari. As he lay dying, Mr. Samandari requested that a prayer for steadfastness be read. A Baha'i attending him, fully aware of the exemplary life of devoted service Mr. Samandari had lived, asked why he of all people should feel the need for that particular prayer. The reply was, "There is still time."'

Hand of the Cause of God 
Tarazu'llah Samandari
Photo © Baha’i International Community

The following is a transcription from a recording of Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, (Hand of the Cause of God Ruhiyyih Rabbani, the widow of the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi), speaking on day three of the Second Baha'i World Congress in 1992: 
'…And another thing that Shoghi Effendi said to me—which I was horrified, because I was so, I never, you know—believed that I was worthy to be the wife of Shoghi Effendi. But at least—I said to myself: Well now I don’t have to worry anymore. You know this terrible thing at the end of the Iqan—if you know your Baha’i scriptures—well, it says—I put it in my own language—Baha’u’llah says that many a sinner in his last breath has ascended to the—up, you know—and many a saint has done a nosedive. [audience laughter] He doesn’t put it in that vocabulary. But if you look at the last [audience laughter]; look at the last few pages of the Iqan, this is what He says you see. And my mother was a last-breather. And she was forever, you know, terrified of her last breath. Was she going to be acceptable with her last breath. So I was raised, you see, on this last breath business. [audience laughter] Then when I was married I said, “Well isn’t that wonderful: I don’t have to worry anymore! All those other people have to worry but I don’t have to worry because I’m tucked under the arm of Shoghi Effendi.” Now I’m safe you see. Don’t have to be of any anxieties about my last breath. And one day Shoghi Effendi—I don’t know what it was about; it wasn’t a very serious thing but evidently he wanted to say it to me and he did—he said, “And your destiny lies in the palm of your own hand.” Of course I didn’t say anything, but I just sort of looked and thought: My God, it’s back again you see. [audience applause] I’m making you laugh, but I assure you it wasn’t a laughing matter for me; it was a terribly serious matter.'

Hand of the Cause of God
Ruhiyyih Rabbani

Photo © Baha’i International Community