Photo: Freedom House via Flickr
The recent news and accompanying images of those who drowned while attempting to flee war-torn Syria has brought the entire world to tears. No matter what their age, background, or religious affiliation, people have been deeply affected by the tragedy and almost everyone has been left feeling helpless and searching for a means to ‘fix’ the current global refugee crisis.
In light of this news, I was particularly moved by the following excerpt taken from The Promise of World Peace by the Universal House of Justice: Continue reading
Participants of a Study Circle in Battambang, Cambodia (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)
The word “accompaniment” has become a quintessential part of Baha’i “jargon”. As the Universal House of Justice wrote in their 2010 Ridvan Message, “the growing frequency with which the word ‘accompany’ appears in conversations among the friends” is in fact a sign of the evolution of a collective consciousness emerging among the Friends. Accompaniment is, as the House writes, “a word that is being endowed with new meaning as it is integrated into the common vocabulary of the Baha’i community” and signifies no less than the strengthening of a culture that fosters the participation of more and more people in a united effort to apply Baha’u’llah’s teachings to the construction of a divine civilization.
Accompaniment, like everything in the Baha’i Faith, is a concept that needs to be translated into action if it is to have any effect in achieving the vision described by Baha’u’llah and laid out by the Universal House of Justice.
What then can accompaniment look like as we advance from merely talking about it to carrying it out? Continue reading
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
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
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
There are many ways in which your faith, your belief in Baha’u’llah and His teachings, can be tested. In its most outwardly violent form, some of us are publicly persecuted, discriminated against, or pressured to recant. Some of us are tested by calamities and intense physical suffering, like the loss of a loved one, or the destruction of everything you own. For some, other people — including other Baha’is — are a test of faith. Who hasn’t experienced difficulties with someone who just “rubs you the wrong way” or whose understanding of a teaching stands in sharp contrast to your own? And we can all be a test to ourselves. I was once asked, “What do you do when there is an aspect of your religion that troubles you? What do you do then?” I mumbled through an answer but studying excerpts from the 19 April 2013 message from the Universal House of Justice has helped me think through my answer to this question more profoundly. Continue reading
The Revelation of Baha’u’llah redefines everything, including how history is charted and mapped. The sacred history of the Faith was (and will continue to be) delineated into cycles, ages, epochs and stages as explained by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. This conception of time is both linear and cyclical, and in this article, I’ve attempted to briefly outline how Baha’i history is charted. Continue reading
Abdu’l-Baha said that the material and the spiritual are closely linked. Have you ever seen something reflected in water so still that it seemed a perfect, upside-down duplicate but beyond the reflection were unfathomable depths? That is how I imagine the connection to be between this material world and spiritual existence.
Recently I’ve been thinking about this relationship, particularly as it relates to the Baha’i fund, where money is no longer just money. Continue reading
What will be the food of the future?
This was a question that was once asked of Abdu’l-Baha.
Although what constitutes the optimal diet for good health has been debated for centuries, it has become a particular concern for many in today’s society, as the average waistline gets larger and, for the first time in a thousand years, we face the possibility of a decline in our life expectancy.
In a recent article on diet and health, I looked at what the Baha’i Writings say about the important role of diet in both preventing and treating disease. The natural question that then arises is this: which diet, among the hundreds out there, is recommended by the Baha’i Faith? Continue reading
37 seconds. I have been sitting still for 37 seconds now. I am not kidding. And with my eyes closed all this time. Well, nearly all this time. I had to open them to see how many hours minutes seconds (sigh) had passed. I close them again. Focus, I tell myself. Concentrate. I am aware that my foot is itching. Now I am aware that I am focusing on my foot instead of…? What am I supposed to be focusing on? Now I am just feeling irritated. I open my eyes again. 52 seconds.
Clearly this is not working.
Meditation: something that I have been struggling to learn for years. I call to mind the simple and direct plea from TS Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’: “Teach us to sit still.”
The words resonated deeply with me those many years ago in my high school poetry class, just as they do today. How do we learn to ‘sit still’, to truly be still, particularly in the midst of the mayhem and madness of life?
What does it mean to meditate? Continue reading