Category Archives: Resources

Displaying the Baha’i Faith: the pen is mightier than the sword

 

 

There’s a famous saying that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. In other words, ideas have a greater impact, when written down and read, than when they’re spread by force.

Those words were coined by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. He was an exact contemporary of the Persian nobleman Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, the bicentenary of whose birth is currently being celebrated around the world.

The importance of the written word for Bahá’u’lláh was established in the earliest moments of his religion. During his first spiritual revelation, he heard these words, ‘Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen.’ This was to be a message of peace offered, as a gift to people, only through words and the positive acts of those who believed them.

Here is one of the original pens used by Bahá’u’lláh.

It’s hard to imagine today, when we have the ability literally at our fingertips to share ideas in an instant across the planet, that it was through pens such as this that Bahá’u’lláh set out his vision for one, united human race, in more than 100 volumes of writings. Despite the limitations of the technology, Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings spread, giving rise to a community that now numbers in the millions, established in virtually every country on the planet.

The power of the ‘Word’ has been central to all the world’s great faiths. It has inspired human beings to discover their noblest qualities and create new patterns of life, giving rise to great civilisations. In the case of older religions, it was the spoken sayings of their founders that were heard and passed down by others, captured in texts that have become sacred scripture. For Muslims, the Qur’an was verbally revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The revelation that Bahá’u’lláh received, for some 40 years, was immediately written down, authenticated by him, and shared far and wide. For all of that time, because of his teachings, Bahá’u’lláh endured torture, imprisonment and a series of exiles from his homeland.

Revelation writing

Eyewitnesses left accounts of the extraordinary manner by which Bahá’u’lláh’s writings came into being. Firstly, his secretary, Mírzá Áqá Ján, would have ready a number of reed pens – also on display in the bicentenary display – and stacks of large sheets of paper.

The verses would then seem to flow from Bahá’u’lláh, who spoke rapidly or chanted them aloud. Such was the speed with which his verses had to be captured on the paper that they were only readable by the scribe himself. Seeing this page of ‘revelation writing’ by Mírzá Áqá Ján, it looks almost like a sketch by a 20th-century Abstract Expressionist artist. But these are Bahá’u’lláh’s words, hurriedly captured by his scribe.

Later, Mírzá Áqá Ján would copy out his marks in legible handwriting. Sometimes he could not even read his own writing and he had to ask Bahá’u’lláh to help him decipher what was dictated. Then Bahá’u’lláh would give his seal of approval to the clean copy.

Other followers would then take this version, and write it out again, sometimes bind the verses into books like this one, so they could be transported and shared with people throughout the Middle East, and even as far afield as India, Burma (Myanmar) or China.

The Hidden Words

Bahá’u’lláh himself was also a skilled calligrapher, often transcribing his writings in his own beautiful handwriting that was later illuminated on the page.

Two beautiful examples are also on display of Bahá’u’lláh’s best-known and well-loved collection of writings, The Hidden Words, verses that present the ethical heart of his message and distil the spiritual guidance of all religions of the past. Among the principles conveyed in this example is the teaching of the oneness and the equality of the human race: ‘O Children of Men!’ he writes, ‘Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other.’

Imagine if the handwriting of Jesus Christ were to be discovered, how extraordinary it would be for a Christian today to be able to actually see it! For members of the Baha’i Faith like myself, it’s a very special privilege to be able to experience alongside others, the original handwriting of Bahá’u’lláh. Usually such items are only on display for pilgrims who have made a special visit to see them in the Holy Land. Most of the pieces in the display have been lent specifically from the International Baha’i Archives in Haifa, part of modern-day Israel, close to where Bahá’u’lláh passed away in 1892. The house where he lived for the final years of his life, outside the former Ottoman prison city of Akka, is where a professor from the University of Cambridge, Edward G Browne (1862–1926), went to visit him in 1890.

An English professor meets Bahá’u’lláh

Browne was fascinated by the evolution and rise of the Baha’i religion in his own time. In a unique pen-portrait, he left this description of Bahá’u’lláh:

The face of Him on Whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow… No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain.

During those meetings, Bahá’u’lláh expressed to Browne the hope that:

all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled… Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.

A year later, Bahá’u’lláh sent Browne a pair of reading glasses, originally a gift from a follower in Hong Kong. With them Bahá’u’lláh enclosed a message:

We should like to send them to our true friend. Though by God’s grace, he is endowed with outward and inward vision and has no need of them yet the object in view is a mention of us with him.

These glasses are also a rare and fascinating item in the display.

Today several million Baha’is around the world are working with their friends and neighbours for the spiritual and material prosperity of their communities. But, as this display reminds us, it all started with the markings of a pen on paper.

You can see the display The birth of Bahá’u’lláh: a bicentenary celebration of the Bahá’í Faith’s founder in Room 34 from 7 November 2017 until 22 January 2018

 

The True Bahá’í

“I have never heard of Bahá’u’lláh,” said a young man. I have only recently read about this movement, but I recognize the mission of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and desire to be a disciple. I have always believed in the brotherhood of man as the ultimate solvent of all our national and international difficulties.”

“It makes no difference whether you have ever heard of Bahá’u’lláh or not,” was the answer, “the man who lives the life according to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is already a Bahá’í. On the other hand a man may call himself a Bahá’í for fifty years and if he does not live the life he is not a Bahá’í. An ugly man may call himself handsome, but he deceives no one, and a black man may call himself white yet he deceives no one: not even himself!”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London

OTTILIE RHEIN

OTTILIE RHEIN

1903-1979

Knight of Bahá’u’lláh

published in Bahá’í World, Vol. 18 (1979-1983), pages 610-825

Haifa, Israel: Baha’i World Centre, 1986

Ottilie Rhein, named by the beloved Guardian a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh for having pioneered to the Island of Mauritius in 1953,1 passed on to the Abhá Kingdom on 29 October 1979 in San Mateo, California. She was laid to rest in the beautiful hills overlooking an expanse of the great Pacific Ocean.

Oceans were not a barrier to Ottilie’s adventuresome spirit. She was to cross and recross the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans by both sea and air. She set goals for herself and went about accomplishing them regardless of the perils she might face. As a young girl she left her native Germany to seek adventure in the United States where she settled in Chicago and managed a building in which she rented rooms. One of her tenants, Betty Powers, had in her room a photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which aroused Ottilie’s passing interest — she thought Him a Holy Man — but through changing her job Ottilie lost contact with the Bahá’ís until 1941 when the distress and loneliness occasioned by World War II caused her to be drawn irresistibly to the Bahá’í Temple.

After attending meetings conducted by Melvin Newport and Albert Windust, Ottilie gave her heart and life to Bahá’u’lláh. ‘The Guardian will pray that, in the days to come, you may render the Faith many lasting and noteworthy services,’ Shoghi Effendi’s secretary wrote to her on his behalf on 10 December 1942. Almost immediately Ottilie arose to pioneer in Arizona to fill a goal of the Seven Year Plan in that State. From here she moved to San Mateo, California, where her dear Bahá’í friend, Mrs. Lisette Berger, made her welcome. San Mateo became the base to which she would return from her various international pioneering posts when necessity dictated. As a naturalized citizen of the United States she could not be away from the country for more than five years without losing her citizenship.

Ottilie was present at the International Conference in Chicago in 1953 when the beloved Guardian launched the Ten Year Crusade. All hearts were touched and a flood of volunteers arose in response to the call for pioneers. But Ottilie was always a person of action and she was one of the first to put her affairs in order and leave. She stored some of her belongings with Mrs. Berger and departed

1 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá’í World, p. 57.

with only minimal luggage. She had thought of joining Rex and Mary Collison in Uganda but the Guardian had specified the settlement of virgin areas so she determined to go to Mauritius, an island mentioned by name in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Tablets of the Divine Plan and one ‘whose name was enshrined in Bahá’í history during the Heroic Age … as the source, two years before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s arrival in America, of a contribution towards the purchase of the site of the Mother Temple of the West’.1 She poured over maps, atlases and encyclopedias but could discover very little about the island except that it had a mixed population, that sugar cane was the chief crop raised and that French and English were spoken. But that was enough for her, and excitedly she boarded a ship at Mombasa after having visited Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (now Tanzania). She arrived in a heavy downpour on 11 November 1953. Shoghi Effendi’s cable — ASSURE RHEIN LOVING APPRECIATION — was relayed to her on 4 December by Paul E. Haney, then chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States.

Ottilie’s utter trust in Bahá’u’lláh enabled her to overcome the difficulties she encountered. She rejoiced at obtaining a visa which was good for six months and which later was extended to three years plus three months. With the assistance of a German missionary she found a house which offered the barest necessities but which provided a setting for Bahá’í meetings. Her first shopping expedition, occasioned by the urgent need to acquire mosquito netting, led her to a shop whose proprietor, Mr. Him Lim, a Chinese, became the first resident of Mauritius to accept the Faith. When she had enrolled two Bahá’ís and had interested a number of inquirers, Mr. Jalál Nakhjavání,2 and later another Persian believer, visited the island and assisted with the teaching work. By 1956, just before her visa expired, there were forty Bahá’ís, enough to form three Local Spiritual Assemblies. Although some vacillated at the last moment, Ottilie was determined not to be deprived of victory.

By sheer determination she confirmed some new believers and induced others to change residence with the result that there were established — as she later recorded — ‘three Local Spiritual Assemblies for the three years of teaching’. A strong and self-reliant foundation had been laid. This victory made it possible for Mauritius to send a delegate to the historic first Regional Convention convened at the farm of Mr. and Mrs. William Sears, near Johannesburg, South Africa, at Ridván 156. But Ottilie’s service in Mauritius was at an end. Her request for an extension of her visa was refused although she called upon the Governor who listened sympathetically to her appeal and was attentive to her explanation of the Faith. This same gentleman — Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam — later became Prime Minister and addressed the Bahá’í Oceanic Conference held in Mauritius in August 1970. Ottilie had the bounty of attending that gathering and of receiving his smile of recognition.

After leaving Mauritius she remained in Kampala for a time lending much needed assistance in the production of Bahá’í literature until it became necessary for her to return to the United States to safeguard her citizenship. But her restless spirit could not be idle

1 The Universal House of Justice, The Bahá’í World, vol. XV, p. 299.

2 See ‘In Memoriam’, p. 797.

when the Faith needed pioneers. By 1959 she had saved enough money to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and then settle in Chile where, by living frugally, she was able to remain from 1960 until 1963. Chile was her last international venture, but in her home community of San Mateo she could always be depended upon to contribute her share to every activity. One of her greatest joys was to keep in touch with her Bahá’í friends throughout the world.

On 27 December 1978 the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of Mauritius wrote to Ottilie Rhein, addressing her as ‘Spiritual Mother of Mauritius’, and conveying ‘deep love and gratitude on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Faith in Mauritius … It is highly significant that God’s Message for this day was planted in this island by a lady. We turn our hearts in thanksgiving to Bahá’u’lláh that you were chosen for this and we pray to Him that He may shower all His blessings on you and bring you eternal joy and happiness. Present generations may not be aware of the import of such a feat by you, but your name will forever be associated with the Faith in Mauritius and future generations will befittingly mark the event of your first coming to Mauritius. It may not be without meaning that when you landed in Mauritius on that morning of Sunday, the 11th November 1953, it was raining heavily — the happy presage of a bountiful harvest … ‘

And again, on 21 February 1979, ‘We were deeply touched to read the copy of the letter the Universal House of Justice addressed to you on the 29th November 1978 and appreciate your kind thoughts for Mauritius. It is incredible that a quarter of a century has elapsed since you arrived in Mauritius. The seed you planted has grown and it has no doubt been sustained by your love, devotion and sincerity in the Cause of God … We have now seventy-four Local Spiritual Assemblies … ‘

Ottilie remained in spirit a true pioneer right to the end. In her life she manifested the seven qualifications of the divinely enlightened soul mentioned by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in one of His Tablets: knowledge of God, faith, steadfastness, truthfulness, uprightness, fidelity and evanescence or humility. She was honoured at the time of her passing with the following cable from the Universal House of Justice:

SADDENED LEARN PASSING OTTILIE RHEIN DEVOTED MAIDSERVANT BLESSED BEAUTY KNIGHT BAHAULLAH MAURITIUS STEADFAST PERSEVERING IN PIONEER POSTS MANY YEARS UNDER DIFFICULT CONDITIONS. OFFERING LOVING PRAYERS SACRED THRESHOLD PROGRESS HER VALIANT SOUL ABHA KINGDOM. KINDLY CONVEY CONDOLENCES HER FAMILY OUR BEHALF. (Adapted from a memoir by VALERA F. ALLEN)

The Duty of Kindness and Sympathy towards Strangers and Foreigners

When a man turns his face to God he finds sunshine everywhere. All men are his brothers. Let not conventionality cause you to seem cold and unsympathetic when you meet strange people from other countries. Do not look at them as though you suspected them of being evildoers, thieves and boors. You think it necessary to be very careful, not to expose yourselves to the risk of making acquaintance with such, possibly, undesirable people.

I ask you not to think only of yourselves. Be kind to the strangers, whether come they from Turkey, Japan, Persia, Russia, China or any other country in the world.

Help to make them feel at home; find out where they are staying, ask if you may render them any service; try to make their lives a little happier.

In this way, even if, sometimes, what you at first suspected should be true, still go out of your way to be kind to them—this kindness will help them to become better.

After all, why should any foreign people be treated as strangers?
Let those who meet you know, without your proclaiming the fact, that you are indeed a Bahá’í. Put into practice the Teaching of Bahá’u’lláh, 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.

Oh, you of the Western nations, be kind to those who come from the Eastern world to sojourn among you. Forget your conventionality when you speak with them; they are not accustomed to it. To Eastern peoples this demeanor seems cold, unfriendly. Rather let your manner be sympathetic. Let it be seen that you are filled with universal love. When you meet a Persian or any other stranger, speak to him as to a friend; if he seems to be lonely try to help him, give him of your

willing service; if he be sad console him, if poor succor him, if oppressed rescue him, if in misery comfort him. In so doing you will manifest that not in words only, but in deed and in truth, you think of all men as your brothers.

What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless.

The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world’s misery would very soon be changed into comfort.

A man who does great good, and talks not of it, is on the way to perfection.
The man who has accomplished a small good and magnifies it in his speech is worth very little.
If I love you, I need not continually speak of my love—you will know without any words. On the

other hand if I love you not, that also will you know—and you would not believe me, were I to tell you in a thousand words, that I loved you.

People make much profession of goodness, multiplying fine words because they wish to be thought greater and better than their fellows, seeking fame in the eyes of the world. Those who do most good use fewest words concerning their actions.

The children of God do the works without boasting, obeying His laws.

My hope for you is that you will ever avoid tyranny and oppression; that you will work without ceasing till justice reigns in every land, that you will keep your hearts pure and your hands free from unrighteousness.

This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you.

 

Paris Talks
Addresses Given by ‘Abdu’l‐Bahá in 1911

Regarding Economic Life – THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE 1 March 2017

Regarding Economic Life – 2017-03-01

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE 1 March 2017

To the Baha’is of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

In an increasingly interconnected world, more light is being cast on the social conditions of every people, giving greater visibility to their circumstances. While there are developments that give hope, there is much that should weigh heavy on the conscience of the human race. Inequity, discrimination, and exploitation blight the life of humanity, seemingly immune to the treatments applied by political schemes of every hue. The economic impact of these afflictions has resulted in the prolonged suffering of so many, as well as in deep-seated, structural defects in society. No one whose heart has been attracted to the teachings of the Blessed Beauty can remain unmoved by these consequences. “The world is in great turmoil,” Baha’u’Uah observes in the Lawh-i-Dunya, “and the minds of its people are in a state of utter confusion. We entreat the Almighty that He may graciously illuminate them with the glory of His Justice, and enable them to discover that which will be profitable unto them at all times and under all conditions.” As the Baha’i community strives to contribute at the level of thought and action to the betterment of the world, the adverse conditions experienced by many populations will more and more demand its attention.

The welfare of any segment of humanity is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole. Humanity’s collective life suffers when any one group thinks of its own well-being in isolation from that of its neighbours’ or pursues economic gain without regard for how the natural environment, which provides sustenance for all, is affected. A stubborn obstruction, then, stands in the way of meaningful social progress: time and again, avarice and self-interest prevail at the expense of the common good. Unconscionable quantities of wealth are being amassed, and the instability this creates is made worse by how income and opportunity are spread so unevenly both between nations and within nations. But it need not be so. However much such conditions are the outcome of history, they do not have to define the future, and even i f current approaches to economic life satisfied humanity’s stage of adolescence, they are certainly inadequate for its dawning age of maturity. There is no justification for continuing to perpetuate structures, rules, and systems that manifestly fail to serve the interests of all peoples. The teachings of the Faith leave no room for doubt: there is an inherent moral dimension to the generation, distribution, and utilization of wealth and resources.

The stresses emerging out of the long-term process of transition from a divided world to a united one are being felt within international relations as much as in the deepening fractures that affect societies large and small. With prevailing modes of thought found to be badly wanting, the world is in desperate need of a shared ethic, a sure framework for addressing the crises that gather like storm clouds. The vision of Baha’u’Uah challenges many of the assumptions that are allowed to shape contemporary discourse—for instance, that self-interest, far from needing to be restrained, drives prosperity, and that progress depends upon its expression through relentless competition. To view the worth of an individual chiefly in terms of how much one can accumulate and how many goods one can consume relative to others is wholly alien to Baha’i thought. But neither are the teachings in sympathy with sweeping dismissals of wealth as inherently distasteful or immoral, and asceticism is prohibited. Wealth must serve humanity. Its use must accord with spiritual principles; systems must be created in their light. And, in Baha’u’llah’s memorable words, “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it.”

Although Baha’u’Uah does not set out in His Revelation a detailed economic system, a constant theme throughout the entire corpus of His teachings is the reorganization of human society. Consideration of this theme inevitably gives rise to questions of economics. Of course, the future order conceived by Baha’u’Uah is far beyond anything that can be imagined by the present generation. Nevertheless, its eventual emergence will depend on strenuous effort by His followers to put His teachings into effect today. With this in mind, we hope that the comments below will stimulate thoughtful, ongoing reflection by the friends. The aim is to learn about how to participate in the material affairs of society in a way that is consistent with the divine precepts and how, in practical terms, collective prosperity can be advanced through justice and generosity, collaboration and mutual assistance.

Our call to examine the implications of the Revelation o f Baha’u’Uah for economic life is intended to reach Baha’i institutions and communities but is directed more especially to the individual believer. I f a new model of community life, patterned on the teachings, is to emerge, must not the company of the faithful demonstrate in their own lives the rectitude of conduct that is one of its most distinguishing features? Every choice a Baha’i makes—as employee or employer, producer or consumer, borrower or lender, benefactor or beneficiary—leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands that one’s economic decisions be in accordance with lofty ideals, that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims. Naturally, the friends habitually look to the teachings to set the standard to which to aspire. But the community’s deepening engagement with society means that the economic dimension of social existence must receive ever more concentrated attention. Particularly in clusters where the community-building process is beginning to embrace large numbers, the exhortations contained in the Baha’i Writings should increasingly inform economic relationships within families, neighbourhoods, and peoples. Not content with whatever values prevail in the existing order that surrounds them, the friends everywhere should consider the application of the teachings to their lives and, using the opportunities their circumstances offer them, make their own individual and collective contributions to economic justice and social progress wherever they reside. Such efforts will add to a growing storehouse of knowledge in this regard.

A foundational concept to explore in this context is the spiritual reality of man. In the Revelation of Baha’u’Uah, the nobility inherent to every human being is unequivocally asserted; it is a fundamental tenet of Baha’i belief, upon which hope for the future of humankind is built. The soul’s capacity to manifest all the names and attributes of God—He Who is the Compassionate, the Bestower, the Bountiful—is repeatedly affirmed in the Writings. Economic life is an arena for the expression of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, generosity, and other qualities of the spirit. The individual is not merely a self-interested economic unit striving to claim an ever-greater share of the world’s material resources. “Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue”, Baha’u’Uah avers, “and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.” And further: “Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.” By consecrating oneself to the service of others, one finds meaning and purpose in life and contributes to the upliftment of society itself. At the outset of His celebrated treatise The Secret of Divine Civilization, ‘Abdu’l-Baha states:

And the honour and distinction o f the individual consist in this, that he among all the        world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.

Viewed in this light, many seemingly ordinary economic activities gain new significance because of their potential to add to human welfare and prosperity. “Every person must have an occupation, a trade or a craft,” explains the Master, “so that he may carry other people’s burdens, and not himself be a burden to others.” The poor are urged by Baha’u’Uah to “exert themselves and strive to earn the means of livelihood”, while they who are possessed of riches “must have the utmost regard for the poor”. “Wealth”, ‘Abdu’l-Baha has affirmed, “is praiseworthy in the highest degree, i f it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts and the grace of God, in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and i f it be expended for philanthropic purposes.” At the same time, the Hidden Words is replete with warnings of its perilous allure, that wealth is a “mighty barrier” between the believer and the proper Object of his adoration. No wonder, then, that Baha’u’Uah extols the station of the wealthy one who is not hindered by riches from attaining the eternal kingdom; the splendour of such a soul “shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!” Abdu’l-Baha declares that ” i f a judicious and resourceful individual should initiate measures which would universally enrich the masses of the people, there could be no undertaking greater than this, and it would rank in the sight of God as the supreme achievement”. For wealth is most commendable “provided the entire population is wealthy.” Examining one’s life to determine what is a necessity and then discharging with joy one’s obligation in relation to the law of Huqiiqu’llah is an indispensable discipline to bring one’s priorities into balance, purify whatever wealth one possesses, and ensure that the share which is the Right o f God provides for the greater good. At all times, contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the Almighty are qualities that befit the God-fearing soul.

The forces of materialism promote a quite contrary line of thinking: that happiness comes from constant acquisition, that the more one has the better, that worry for the environment is for another day. These seductive messages fuel an increasingly entrenched sense of personal entitlement, which uses the language of justice and rights to disguise selfinterest. Indifference to the hardship experienced by others becomes commonplace while entertainment and distracting amusements are voraciously consumed. The enervating influence of materialism seeps into every culture, and all Baha’is recognize that, unless they strive to remain conscious of its effects, they may to one degree or another unwittingly adopt its ways of seeing the world. Parents must be acutely aware that, even when very young, children absorb the norms of their surroundings. The junior youth spiritual empowerment programme encourages thoughtful discernment at an age when the call of materialism grows more insistent. With the approach of adulthood comes a responsibility, shared by one’s generation, not to allow worldly pursuits to blind one’s eyes to injustice and privation. Over time, the qualities and attitudes nurtured by the courses of the training institute, through exposure to the Word of God, help individuals to see past the illusions that, at every stage of life, the world uses to pull attention away from service and towards the self. And ultimately, the systematic study of the Word of God and the exploration of its implications raises consciousness of the need to manage one’s material affairs in keeping with the divine teachings.

Beloved Friends: The extremes of wealth and poverty in the world are becoming ever more untenable. As inequity persists, so the established order is seen to be unsure of itself, and its values are being questioned. Whatever the tribulations that a conflicted world must confront in the future, we pray that the Almighty will help His loved ones to overcome every obstacle in their path and assist them to serve humanity. The larger the presence of a Baha’i community in a population, the greater its responsibility to find ways of addressing the root causes of the poverty in its surroundings. Although the friends are at the early stages of learning about such work and of contributing to the related discourses, the community-building process of the Five Year Plan is creating everywhere the ideal environment in which to accrue knowledge and experience, gradually but consistently, about the higher purpose of economic activity. Against the background of the age-long work of erecting a divine civilization, may this exploration become a more pronounced feature of community life, institutional thought, and individual action in the years ahead.

Allowance of non-Bahá’ís at Feast

Allowance of non-Bahá’ís at Feast

Dearly loved Friends,

New guidance from the Universal House of Justice has recently been received that we hasten to share with you, mindful of its significant implications for the Nineteen Day Feasts you conduct in accordance with your sacred responsibilities.

The guidance concerns the presence of non-Bahá’ís at Feasts. As both the beloved Guardian and the House of Justice have numerous times pointed out, the Feast is for Bahá’ís only, and non-Bahá’ís should not be invited to attend any portion of it.

Our understanding has for some time been that if a non-Bahá’í should appear at the Feast, however, he or she was to be welcomed and invited to participate in its spiritual and social portions, while the administrative portion was to be suspended.

The new guidance we have received from the House of Justice makes it clear that the administrative portion can now be modified to accommodate the attendance of non-Bahá’ís rather than being postponed. The House of Justice has further specified that:

The sharing of local and national news and information about social events, as well as consultation on topics of general interest, such as expansion and the multiplication of core activities, service projects, the fund, and so on, can continue as usual, while discussion of sensitive or problematic issues can be set aside for another occasion when the friends can express themselves freely without being inhibited by the presence of guests.

The definition of what constitutes “sensitive or problematic issues,” beyond the general exceptions specified above, is left to the local Assembly.

The House of Justice has also stated that a similar approach can be taken when a family with some members who are not Bahá’ís hosts a Feast in their home.

The local Assembly is encouraged to consult with these families to “find a satisfactory way to resolve each situation that arises” and “apply the requisites of hospitality and love, on the one hand, and those of confidentiality and unfettered discussion on important topics, on the other.”

We invite you to share this important guidance with your community as a means of deepening the friends’

understanding of the institution of the Nineteen Day Feast, in the words of the House of Justice that “link that connects the local community in a dynamic relationship with the entire structure of the Administrative Order,” that “new stage in this enlightened age to which the basic expression of community life has evolved.”

May your celebrations of the remaining Feasts in this Bahá’í year be joyous and satisfying on every level, and may they be gradually enriched by this significant new guidance from the Supreme Institution of the Bahá’í world.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Secretary-General

by National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States December 16, 2008

To all Local Spiritual Assemblies cc: Continental Counselors serving the United States Regional Bahá’í Councils

True wealth

True wealth

The light that reflects in a mirror is its wealth. Without the light, the mirror is worth little. Spiritual qualities, knowledge, and service to humanity constitute true wealth. Material possessions are necessary and acceptable, but only if they are used for the promotion of human virtue and happiness.

Bahá’u’lláh says:

‘Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavors be spent in promoting your personal interest.’

Spiritual qualities

Spiritual qualities

The way we possess spiritual qualities is different from the way we own material things. When a mirror reflects the sun, one could say that it possesses the image of the sun. But, not in the same way that it possesses its own atoms and molecules. The Bahá’í teachings explain that spiritual qualities are gifts from God that we may receive by turning the mirror of our hearts towards Him.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:

‘The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light. One heart may possess the capacity of the polished mirror; another, be covered and obscured by the dust and dross of this world. Although the same Sun is shining upon both, in the mirror which is polished, pure and sanctified you may behold the Sun in all its fullness, glory and power, revealing its majesty and effulgence; but in the mirror which is rusted and obscured there is no capacity for reflection, although so far as the Sun itself is concerned it is shining thereon and is neither lessened nor deprived. Therefore, our duty lies in seeking to polish the mirrors of our hearts in order that we shall become reflectors of that light and recipients of the divine bounties which may be fully revealed through them.’

Our Inner Life

Humanity, through suffering and turmoil, is swiftly moving on towards its destiny; if we be loiterers, if we fail to play our part surely others will be called upon to take up our task as ministers to the crying needs of this afflicted world.

Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of teaching—no matter how worldwide and elaborate in its character—not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abhá Revelation.

One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendor of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh.

Looking back upon those sullen days of my retirement, bitter with feelings of anxiety and gloom, I can recall with appreciation and gratitude those unmistakable evidences of your affection and steadfast zeal which I have received from time to time, and which have served to relieve in no small measure the burden that weighed so heavily upon my heart.

I can well imagine the degree of uneasiness, nay of affliction, that must have agitated the mind and soul of every loving and loyal servant of the Beloved during these long months of suspense and distressing silence.

But I assure you such remarkable solicitude as you have shown for the protection of His Cause, such tenacity of faith and unceasing activity as you have displayed for its promotion, cannot but in the end be abundantly rewarded by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who from His station above is the sure witness of all that you have endured and suffered for Him

Bahá’í Administration

Shoghi Effendi

At the time of the Revelation all men are equal in rank.

At the time of the Revelation all men are equal in rank. By reason, however, of their acceptance or rejection, rise or fall, motion or stillness, recognition or denial, they come to differ thereafter. For instance, the one true God, magnified be His glory, speaking through the intermediary of His Manifestation, doth ask: “Am I not your Lord?” Every soul that answereth “Yea, verily!” is accounted among the most distinguished of all men in the sight of God. Our meaning is that ere the Word of God is delivered, all men are deemed equal in rank and their station is one and the same. It is only thereafter that differences appear, as thou hast no doubt observed.

Bahá’u’lláh, Tabernacle of Unity, Section II, Verset: 2.50

In confirmation of the exalted rank of the true believer, referred to by Bahá’u’lláh, He reveals the following: “The station which he who hath truly recognized this Revelation will attain is the same as the one ordained for such prophets of the house of Israel as are not regarded as Manifestations ‘endowed with constancy.’” 

Estimating the station of the true believer He remarks: “By the sorrows which afflict the beauty of the All-Glorious! Such is the station ordained for the true believer that if to an extent smaller than a needle’s eye the glory of that station were to be unveiled to mankind, every beholder would be consumed away in his longing to attain it.

For this reason it hath been decreed that in this earthly life the full measure of the glory of his own station should remain concealed from the eyes of such a believer.” “If the veil be lifted,” He similarly affirms, “and the full glory of the station of those who have turned wholly towards God, and in their love for Him renounced the world, be made manifest, the entire creation would be dumbfounded.” 

Bahá’u’lláh,   The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh by Shoghi Effendi