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Having spent the best years of her youth holed up in the library of her law school, she is now beginning her journey on a career path that is looking suspiciously unrelated to law. She is passionate about children's rights and international development. She asks for your patience and that you oblige her as these interests become evident in her contributions to this blog. It's not so much didacticism as it is her unbridled enthusiasm for the concepts of social action and service to humanity which are enshrined in the Baha'i Faith, so she apologises if she comes across as a bleeding-heart, tree-hugging, kumbaya-singing, fisherman-pants-wearing hippie at times. (She's really not. Ask her friends.)

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Six Months of Baha’i Blog: Your Favourite Posts Are….

Having just passed the six-month milestone just days ago, we’ve decided that it’s time for another round-up of Baha’i Blog’s top 10 posts in the past three months! Before we get around to your favourite posts so far, here are some interesting stats of where we’re at.

As of now, we have:

  • 43,195 pageviews to date
  • 970 followers on Facebook (and we’re gonna be doing something pretty cool when we hit 1000 – stay tuned to find out more!)
  • readers from 171 countries out of the world’s 196 (up from 129 countries just three months ago)!

The top 10 posts on Baha’i Blog based on our stats were….

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5 Unique Baha’i Apps for Android

5 Unique Bahai Apps for AndroidSome time back, we published a post about 5 Unique Apps for the iPhone. For all the Android users among our readers – we haven’t forgotten about you! There are a number of really cool Baha’i apps for Android out there as well!

Here are 5 great Baha’i apps for the Android users out there. They’re all incredibly useful and, even better, free! Be sure to grab a copy and support our community of awesome Baha’i app developers.

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Create in Me a Pure Heart: An Interview with Luke Slott

Create in Me a Pure Heart, Luke Slott

The “Create in me a pure heart” prayer by Baha’u’llah has long been one of my favourite prayers for spiritual growth. Whenever I read this prayer, my mind is drawn to the beauty of its imagery, and regardless of how I was feeling when I began reading the prayer, I begin to feel a profound tranquility.

Luke Slott’s beautiful musical rendition of this prayer is befitting and always reminds me of one of my favourite lines from the prayer: “Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquility on me”.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that Luke’s rendition of Create in Me a Pure Heart is merely part of a larger project: an album of devotional music! (Not to mention the beautiful album artwork by Shirin Sahba!)

I decided to catch up with Luke to find out more about his devotional album, his future plans, as well as his thoughts on being a Baha’i musician.

Baha’i Blog: So tell us a bit more about yourself and how you started making music.

When I was 12 years old, my father, who was a jazz trumpet player, gave me a gift of one of his trumpets and started giving me lessons. After about a year of teaching me at home, my dad insisted that I get a classical music education at an established institute. So I enrolled for trumpet lessons at the College of Music & Drama in Dublin. Around the same time, I started taking piano lessons at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and guitar lessons with a local teacher. In my teens, I started writing songs and for a few years I played in a rock band with some school friends. Continue reading

Living A Life of Service

A female doctor with the International Medical Corps examines a woman patient at a mobile health clinic in Pakistan (Image by UK Department for International Development via Flickr)

A female doctor with the International Medical Corps examines a woman patient at a mobile health clinic in Pakistan (Image by UK Department for International Development via Flickr)

In his beautiful tribute to his father last week, Naysan reflected on his father’s legacy of love and compassion and the way in which his father’s life has shaped his own ideas about service and spirituality. We’ve heard back from many readers who were deeply moved and inspired by that post and it has sparked many conversations about the concept of service.

In line with the theme of service, this post aims to address a question that is commonly asked of Baha’is: what do the Writings say about service and the role it has in our lives?

In today’s fast-paced world, it is often a struggle to aspire to lofty ideals such as service to humanity. As a society, we routinely have a myriad of balls in the air at once – bills to pay, traffic jams to navigate, meetings and appointments to juggle, personal relationships to manage and professional opportunities to pursue. We are all so caught up in our own busy, hectic worlds – it truly is a huge effort to think beyond that!

Service to humanity is an act that springs from a love for all humanity and a recognition of its oneness. It stems directly from the one spiritual principle that is emphasised over all others in every religion: the Golden Rule. Continue reading

3 Problems with Religion… and Solutions!

Image by AmandaConrad (Flickr)

A few nights ago, I invited three of my friends over for dinner. At some point, the topic of religion came up and the conversation that ensued was very interesting, given the diversity of religious backgrounds represented in the room, but also incredibly challenging. Firstly, there was me, a Baha’i who had been brought up as a Christian in an Eastern Orthodox church with a strong – and very, very old – religious tradition of its own. And then there were my three friends – one of Druze heritage, another with a somewhat secular Anglican upbringing, and the last of Jewish descent. All three of them, however, are self-professed “militant atheists” with a profound disdain for religion that was only kept in check that night by their long friendship with me and their unwillingness to offend me (too much).

For the first ten minutes of the conversation, I found myself feeling incredibly relieved that my role as dinner hostess was keeping me occupied in the kitchen, where I could hear the conversation but be spared the unpleasant task of having to be the sole defender of religion! For the next ten minutes (after I ran out of dinnerware to fiddle around with), I sat with them, feeling a mixture of amusement, discomfort, defensiveness, guilt and indecision as to what the prudent thing to say was. However, as I kept listening, I felt more at ease, realising one very important thing: for the most part, I agreed with them!

It became quickly apparent, as the conversation unfolded, that my friends and I had many values in common and that much of their discomfort with religion came from a strong commitment to the very principles that I cherish as a Baha’i: justice, compassion, honesty and integrity – just to name a few. The only point of difference between us, however, was that while they felt dismayed and despondent about the problems that religion has caused in the history of humanity, I remained optimistic about the transformative power of religion.

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White Picket Fences

Image by theogeo (Flickr)

My friends laugh at me when I admit to this but there was once a time when I maintained an uncompromising policy which governed my social interactions: Do Not Become Friends With Neighbours. Looking back now, it seems crazy – even to me – but if I rack my brain hard enough I can begin to imagine why I once felt this way.

Perhaps it had something to with being raised in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Perhaps it had to do with a strong tendency towards intraversion and guardedness that I had as a teenager. Or perhaps, it stemmed from living in the dorms during my first year of university, where it was virtually impossible to enjoy a quiet night in without my friendly (and often inebriated) neighbour pounding at my door at 11 pm, with a loud “Preethi, I know you’re in there. COME TO THE PARTY!” – who knows, really.

But whatever it was, when I first moved out of the dorms to live by myself, I found myself living by the wisdom of the old adage: Good fences makes good neighbours. Years later, however, when I became Baha’i, my partiality for the good old picket fence was challenged by the Baha’i approach to social transformation – one based on community building and the empowerment of closely-knit neighbourhoods.

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Famine: A Spiritual Problem

Image by UNICEF Australia

Following severe drought in the East Africa, the United Nations has declared a famine in the region for the first time since the 1980s. The images and stories are both tragic and devastating – babies struggling to live, malnourished children with bloated stomachs and mothers having to make decisions in providing for their children that no parent should ever have to make.

In an article titled East Africa famine: Our values are on trial, Andrew O’Hagan describes some of the horrors of the poverty and starvation.

This is the children’s famine. Running from conflict, and sick with hunger and thirst, people are fleeing to the borders or the aid camps, many children dying on the way or too weak to survive once they get there. In some areas one in three children is seriously malnourished and at severe risk of death. In October the rains will come, most likely bringing epidemics of malaria and measles. Some of the children just lie down and wait for death, which is likely; or mercy, which is elsewhere.  Andrew O’Hagan

Aid agencies and international organisations are scrambling to get emergency aid delivered where it needs to be, taking out full page advertisements in newspapers and making urgent appeals to governments and the public for donations.

People have begun to ask the important question: what is to be said of a world in which so many people are dying from lack of something as basic as food when, as an international community, we are far more prosperous than we have ever been before?  Continue reading

Blogging about Children’s Classes: An Interview with Leyla Neilsen

Image from bahaichildrensclass.wordpress.com

At Baha’i Blog, we like our blogs. You’ve heard us wax lyrical about the importance of encouraging Baha’i blogging. A few months ago, we featured Blog The Faith, a fantastic resource for Baha’is who want to use blogs as a form of social discourse. In addition to its very helpful Baha’i Blogging 101, with tips for those new to blogging, the website also features examples of 8 great Baha’i Blogs to inspire you and get you started on your own.

Recently, I came across a fantastic blog by Leyla Neilsen from New Zealand devoted entirely to one of the core activities: children’s classes! It’s a fantastic resource – not just for lots of creative ideas for really great children’s classes, but also as a source of inspiration and motivation for everyone out there who currently runs, or is looking to start, their very own children’s class!

I think Leyla’s blog is a fantastic example of how blogging can support and enhance the service that people are doing all over the world. And so, I caught up with her to have a quick chat about her blog, her children’s classes and her thoughts on blogging the Faith!

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The Prayer Book

Image by 85934826@N00 (Flickr)

When I became Baha’i, the concept of prayer wasn’t new to me. I had been raised with the knowledge that prayer is an important component of our spiritual growth and a means of drawing nearer to God. Although I had been taught to say the Lord’s Prayer and reflect on it as the model of prayer that Jesus had revealed, my personal experience of prayer had generally been limited to spontaneous prayer – that is, the act of saying whatever came to mind based on what I felt I needed to ask for, like a child would to a parent.

So when I came across my first Baha’i prayer book, I remember finding the concept of reading prayers that had been revealed (instead of just saying whatever came to mind) to be somewhat foreign and very interesting. The typical Baha’i prayer book consists of a collection of prayers revealed by the Bab, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and usually categorises them under headings such as “Aid and Assistance”, “Children”, “Detachment” and so forth, depending on the content of the prayers. I remember looking through the categories in my prayer book, somewhat bemused.

Which section should I turn to when I want to pray for a difficult situation with a friend? What about a desperate prayer for help specifically for a person about to sit an exam that she hadn’t studied enough for because she was too busy watching funny videos of cute kittens on Youtube the night before? For someone who had spent her life only really praying in times of need, the prayer book with it’s numerous categories of revealed prayers confused me. It truly was a foreign concept.

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Three Months of Baha’i Blogging!

It’s been three months since Baha’i Blog’s official relaunch and what an amazing three months it has been! We’ve really grown rapidly in a short span of time, thanks to the amazing support of our lovely readers who have given us constant encouragement, some really great feedback and have spread the word by following us on Facebook and telling friends about us.

Everyone at Baha’i Blog is really excited about being involved with the larger efforts to encourage blogging among Baha’is. It’s been incredibly heartening to see the Baha’i Blog team start to grow from just 5 people in Melbourne, Australia to a dynamic and international community of readers and contributors from all over the world!

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