Eleven – A New Book by Paul Hanley

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A friend of mine in Australia told me how he had read a book which had such a profound impact on him, and in fact he felt was so important for everyone to read, that he bought dozens of copies of it to give to all of his staff. That book was Eleven, by Paul Hanley.

Critically acclaimed as “the read of our times”, the author of Life of Pi Yann Martel said “Every concerned citizen of this planet needs to read this book.”.

Paul Hanley’s Eleven “…is an inspired map of the road ahead, drawn in lines of truth we turn our gaze away from every day. More than that, though, this sweeping book makes an audacious but coherent and thoroughly-researched case for the possibility that, by awakening to the reality of what we are doing to the earth and our own souls, we may already be getting ready to walk the road with our ‘better angels of our nature’ fully in charge.

I had the fortune of meeting Paul Hanley at the recent 2015 Association for Baha’i Studies Conference in Orange County, California, where he was the recipient of the 2015 Award for Distinguished Scholarship in the Book Category.

Paul Hanley agreed to do an interview with Baha’i Blog: Continue reading

The Almost Hip Religion – Western Ideals Meet Baha’i Teachings

Children in a Haitian slum showing off their Western-taught ‘gangsta’ moves. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

Children in a Haitian slum showing off their Western-taught ‘gangsta’ moves. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

I’ve been a Baha’i all my life and yet it never ceases to amaze me how intuitive the Baha’i Faith seems. Most Baha’i ideals quite simply feel true. They resonate and appeal to what some call “our modern sensibilities”.

And yet for many of us there remains that fraction of the totality of Baha’i ideas which is difficult, even daunting, to truly accept in one’s heart of hearts.

Many teachings stand in stark contrast to the majority view in any given culture. Some teachings challenge what is hip and trendy. Some defy what is passed down as a proud tradition. Almost all Baha’i teachings defy strong selfish impulse or entrenched habit. A new Baha’i or someone looking into the Baha’i Faith, may become so enamoured by the beautiful and instantly palatable core teachings that they unwittingly ignore a host of other fundamental principles which may later come as an unpleasant surprise — usually in the inconvenient personal challenge they present. Time should be given, and loving sympathy and utmost patience shown for every individual to process the most personally challenging Baha’i ideas whatever they may be. Continue reading

Avoiding Anger as you Would a Lion

Avoiding Anger as you would a Lion

Often when we’ve been hurt, our first response is to get angry; to want to punish someone as much as we feel we’ve been hurt, but Baha’u’llah teaches:

Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion.

I used to think this meant I shouldn’t feel anger at all, but I don’t think that’s what it means. If we just ignore the lion (our anger), it will attack! If I’m in a jungle and I see a lion, I would be foolish to deny its existence. No – first I say: “There’s a lion, what should I do now?”

The idea of comparing anger to a lion is a really good analogy and one can draw a lot of parallels, so I Googled “How to Prevent a Lion Attack” and this is what I found: Continue reading

5 Great Online Sources to Help You Study the Baha’i Faith

5 Great Online Sources to Help You Study the Baha'i Faith

If you’re looking for a place to deepen and study about the Baha’i Faith online, here is a list of five great places to start:

1. The Wilmette Institute: www.wi.bahai.us

The Wilmette Instituteis an online Baha’i Learning Centre that just celebrated its 20th birthday. They offer more than 50 unique courses on the web to an average of 30 students per course and some 7,000 students residing in almost 100 countries have participated in Wilmette courses. Upcoming classes for 2015 include topics such as Abdu’l-Baha: His Life and Ministry, An Introduction to Shaykhism, Exploring the Baha’i Calendar, Economics and the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah’s Early Mystic Writings, World Federation, and many others.

The average course is 7 weeks long, but some are as long as 17 weeks and each course typically requires about 5 hours of study per week. Faculty members instruct the courses, mentors assist the students with questions, and online forums permit students to enrich each other’s learning. Continue reading

Haji Mirza Haydar Ali – The Delight of Hearts

Haji Mirza Haydar Ali

Haji Mirza Haydar Ali

Haji Mirza Haydar Ali is regarded as one of Baha’u’llah’s most outstanding disciples yet very few people know of his servitude towards the Baha’i Faith. A staunch Baha’i, Haydar Ali went above and beyond to defend the Covenant of Baha’u’llah and later championed the Faith during Abdu’l-Baha’s Ministry, protecting it from the onslaught of Covenant breakers.

But it was Haji Mirza Haydar Ali’s distinct sense of humour and wit, which I believe was his distinguishing characteristic. It is no wonder that he was given the title ‘The Delight of Hearts’, for delighting hearts was indeed his forte. The following story is just one example of his humorous persona:

“One day we were outside the city of Isfahan in a very pleasant place where there was a mosque and a stream and a few trees. We had taken provisions to spend the night. We went to the mosque, where we planned to stay. A few of the inhabitants were curious, so they entered the mosque and someone asked me where I was from. I had a slight Isfahani accent, but I said that I was from Shiraz.

“Why are you lying?” the man replied. “It is obvious that you are from Isfahan. Seventy thousand angels will curse a liar.” Continue reading

A Nightingale’s Cry: A New Album by Mea

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A couple of years ago, Baha’i Blog featured a great Baha’i-inspired musical initiative out of Finland called Refuge, and now one of the participants of that initiative, Mea Karvonen, has just released her very own debut album entitled A Nightingale’s Cry.

A Nightingale’s Cry is an instrumental album of piano pieces inspired by the Baha’i Faith, and the tracks comprise of both original pieces composed by Mea, and also ones inspired by songs composed by other Baha’i musicians such as Tom Price, Jean Rebstock Murday and others which have touched her in one way or another, like the piece called Grace & Favor, based on an Iranian Baha’i song she’s been singing since she was a child. Additionally, Mea has also included a download of the sheet music to these songs as well, which is always great!

I recently caught up with Mea to find out more about her music and her debut album: Continue reading

3 Ways to Become a Better Listener

3 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Listening isn’t easy. There is so much more to it than allowing sound waves to tickle their way into your ears. How can we become better listeners? In reflecting on this question, I have the following three suggestions:

1. A Gentle Silence is Golden

Baha’u’llah says that “the tongue is a smoldering fire and excess of speech a deadly poison.” I have grappled with these striking and powerful words for a long time but I know it to be true from all those times I found myself in conversation just itching to put forward my ideas and ignoring what others were saying. My excess of speech consumed me and deafened me and I am slowly learning that the way to be a better listener is to simply. Stop. Talking. Howard Colby Ives, an early Baha’i, describes this feeling perfectly and he explains how Abdu’l-Baha was the perfect listener. Ives writes: Continue reading

The Importance of Memorizing the Baha’i Writings

Importance of Memorization in Baha'i Faith

Memory is one of the five spiritual powers that we, as humans, possess. In addition to the five physical senses, we also have imagination, thought, comprehension, memory, and what Abdu’l-Baha terms the “common faculty”.

While our physical senses enable us to navigate through the material world, it is our spiritual powers that allow us to transcend it. Memory is therefore something unique to us and non-occurring in the natural world. As Abdu’l-Baha says, “man is fortified with memory” – it is an attribute and a strength with which we have been endowed.

When we look through the sequence of Ruhi courses, it is evident that the memorization of quotes and prayers plays a key role in our study. Tutors and participants alike sometimes struggle with the expectation to commit long passages of text to memory, particularly when unaccustomed to the style of language often used. It might even seem unnecessary to memorize in a world where smartphones allow us easy and instantaneous access to prayers and Writings from wherever we are.

Our willingness to memorize is key to being able to do so. The importance of memorization should therefore not be lost on us: Continue reading

Baha’i Blog Images – Galleries of Beautiful Baha’i-related Visual Works

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A big part of our mission here at Baha’i Blog is to showcase and highlight the amazing Baha’i projects and work going on around the world. That’s why a year ago we broadened our site with a gallery of great Baha’i-related video, and then this year we added a showcase of Baha’i-inspired music and audio. Today we’re excited to launch yet another new part of the site.

Baha’i Blog Images features photos, wallpapers, design, art and other imagery. We’ll be publishing photographic portfolios from talented Baha’i creators, historic and event related images, evocative art and design, and of course pictures of beautiful Baha’i architecture, plus lots more! Continue reading

Baha’i Chronicles – A New Site Chronicling the History of the Baha’i Faith

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Here at Baha’i Blog we’re passionate about Baha’i history, and so we’re super excited to share with everyone a wonderful new site called Baha’i Chronicles, which aims to document the stories of the heroes and heroines of the Baha’i Faith, both past and present.

Baha’i Chronicles (BahaiChronicles.org) is the brainchild of Neda Nassir Najibi and Vanda Marie Khadem. Three years ago, Neda Najibi had started a series on her Facebook page titled “Did You Know”, which portrayed stories about Baha’i heroes and heroines, and while researching these individuals, she realized that there wasn’t a single website which captured the heroism, struggles, victories, sacrifices, and dedication of all of the Baha’is, both past and present. The stories of Baha’i heroes and heroines had also been a constant source of strength and inspiration in Vanda’s life, and it was her dream that future generations of children have access to the Baha’i Faith’s precious global heritage. So after several phone conversations, texts, emails, brainstorming sessions, and with the unfortunate passing of Neda’s father Nassir Najibi, who was an enormous influence on her, the two of them came up with idea and launched Baha’i Chronicles in his honor.

Neda is an old friend of mine, and so I decided to catch up with her to find out more about Baha’i Chronicles: Continue reading