Category Archives Baha’i Life

7 Things Men Can Do to Help Undo the Oppression of Women

As Baha’is we believe in Baha’u’llah’s explicit teaching of the equality of men and women, but believing in something and acting on it are two different things, and we each have to strive continually to ensure that Baha’u’llah’s teachings are translated into our everyday lives.

The reality is that we live in a male dominated world, and even though the landscape of the inequality of the sexes is currently changing to varying degrees and rates in many countries and societies, we’ve still got a long way to go as we’re products of our environment and there’s still a lot we can do as individuals to help change things.

Living in a male dominated world, as men especially, we have a lot of responsibility in regards to this inequality, so I’ve listed below seven things men can do to help undo the oppression of women – but before we get to that, it’s important to understand that we live in a materialistic society, and one definition of materialism is that it’s “a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress”. Given this definition, we clearly live in a materialistic society as success in our society is most often defined as an attainment of material advantage, whether it’s money, possessions, rank, competitiveness, or power. When people talk about what the greatest country in the world is, the greatest corporation, or the greatest sports team, these are invariably the criteria they use. This is clearly out of step with the teachings of the Baha’i Faith:

… consider how base a nature it reveals in man that, notwithstanding the favors showered upon him by God, he should lower himself into the animal sphere, be wholly occupied with material needs, attached to this mortal realm, imagining that the greatest happiness is to attain wealth in this world. How purposeless! … What an ignorance this is! What a blindness! (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 185)

Women are viewed almost exclusively through this materialistic lens. Widespread unhealthy and unchaste images, pressure to spend time and money on appearance, and the distressingly high danger of harassment and rape are just some of the damaging effects. So here are a few ideas for how men, particularly Baha’i men can address this situation:  Continue reading

Remembrance is a Gift from the Soul

If the soul comes from God, as the world’s religions agree, why wouldn’t it have some memories of this remarkable origin? If it did, this remembrance surely wouldn’t come easy. It would require hard work to retrieve such deeply embedded memories. Remembrance of our divine origin may be deeply hidden but it is also the most rewarding of all memories to attempt to recover.

That’s why there is a great power in remembrance. Enough hard work, and remembrance can awaken us to an everlasting, changeless reality. God continues to send us his Messengers to help us remember who we are and where we came from. The world’s sacred traditions acknowledge the importance of seeking answers to the mysteries of life. This quest for spiritual understanding raises two essential questions: “Where have we come from?” and “Where are we going?” The mystery of our origin and our destiny is intricately tied to the nature of the soul.  Continue reading

150 Years of Ridvan and Counting: Celebrating Like a Baha’i

“Going anywhere special for The Festival this year?”

“Usually we spend Paradise at home, but this year we’re going on a 12-day luxury cruise to Baghdad.”

“Really? Oh, I’m jealous. My husband just can’t miss the Ridvan golf junket in Las Vegas, so it’s going to be more reading and pomegranate tea by the pool for me…”

No, I haven’t heard many conversations like this at devotionals or reflection meetings, either! (And aren’t we lucky? Our Holy Days still focus on the holy part.) Still, it is the Most Great Festival, and who knows what it will be in futures that more or less distantly shine in our imaginations? As with the 19 Day Feast, so with Ridvan: we have only the barest notion of how to celebrate them. As with everything, we’re learning, and nothing stops our education more quickly than the thought that we know how to celebrate our festivals and nineteen-day spiritual gatherings. They will be “unimaginably glorious”, as the Guardian might have said, but for now we do the best we can. Continue reading

Divine Transcendence: Closer than your Life-vein

A profound mystery lies deep inside all of us. Buddhists call itEnlightenment”; Christians call it “Grace”; and Baha’is call it “Divine Bounty”.

But any mere words we try to use to describe it will always fall short. It is imperative, however, that we find a way to tune into that mystery because this is what makes our lives meaningful, happy and enriched. And getting there is not nearly as hard or as painful or as elusive as we might think. Continue reading

Two Wings: Women, Men, and the Bird of Humanity

One of the most important principles of the Baha’i Faith is the oneness of religion, or the belief that all of the major world faiths teach the same fundamental truths and are entirely in agreement. Being raised Baha’i, this principle seemed so intuitive that I never really questioned it when I was young. But during my time as an undergraduate in university I was surprised to encounter a number of people who disagreed with the teachings of the Baha’i Faith precisely because of our belief in the principle of the oneness of religion. Oftentimes people of a particular faith would take issue with this principle because they were raised to believe that religions other than their own were inherently wrong. While I disagreed with their perspective, this didn’t necessarily surprise me as such views are somewhat common. But other times I would meet someone who wasn’t particularly religious, who loved all of the other teachings of the Faith, but who disagreed with the principle of the oneness of religion because it implied our acceptance of the principles from older religions that they disagreed with.

“How can you say you accept other religions when their teachings are the complete opposite of yours?” they’d ask. “Could you give me an example?” I’d reply, “I’m not sure exactly what you mean.”

One person’s response was particularly interesting: “Just look at how women have been treated in so many other religions,” He said. “I thought Baha’is believe in the equality of men and women. Other religions obviously don’t, right? How can you believe that all religions are in agreement when the status of women differs so much between them?”

It is absolutely true that the Baha’i Faith professes the complete and absolute equality of men and women. As Abdu’l-Baha states:

The world of humanity has two wings – one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be.

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Language: The Brick and Mortar of an Ever-advancing Civilization

One important component of building an ever-advancing civilization that merits careful reflection is the role of language in this process.

There are certain words one hears repeatedly—in the messages of the Universal House of Justice, in reflection gatherings, in conversations among friends, and in society at large. Some examples are ‘organic’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘coherence’. Perhaps at times, it would be fitting to pause and ask “Do I know what these concepts mean?” “Am I using these words carefully or am I treating them like jargon-du-jour?”

‘Organic’ and ‘empowerment’, notably, appear to have been appropriated by wider society, and are used so frequently and thoughtlessly as to render them virtually meaningless. For instance, a well-known singer recently described her new album as an exercise in “female empowerment”. Almost every track on that album was about sex and the objectification of one or both genders. How empowering?

Is this just a matter of semantics, or is there something more important at stake here? Continue reading

4 Things The Fast Helps Us Strengthen

As I take part in this special period of the Bahá’í year, and join fellow Bahá’ís around the world in The Fast, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned from fasting over the years. Probably the main thing which comes to mind is that even now, although I’ve been doing it every year for the last 20 years - I’m not getting any better at it.

But perhaps that’s the point. To get better at it would mean that we would potentially miss out on a significant opportunity to put ourselves to the test in order to help ourselves grow and develop into better human beings, which is what we’re encouraged to do as Bahá’ís everyday. Baha’u'llah wrote:

We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period… beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book.

So, maybe it doesn’t need to get easier, as I don’t want to be deprived of “this grace”.  Continue reading

A Vision of the Future: Playing Our Part

Like many others, when I heard the news about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I wept. This was not the first massacre in the United States in recent years, but it was perhaps the most shocking.

When something like this happens, it raises a lot of questions. People begin to wonder how many more episodes of human cruelty will transpire in their lifetime, in their children’s lifetime. They wonder if humanity is, in fact, hopeless, and whether it’s even worth it to have children anymore. Just last night, one of my best friends from college told me he and many other couples he knows have decided not to bring kids into this crazy world. Continue reading

Meaningful and Distinctive Conversations

Over the past few decades, The Universal House of Justice (the elected international body which guides the work of the global Bahá’í community) has outlined a vision of action for Bahá’ís that includes a number of separate but interrelated “core” activities: the gathering together of friends for the purpose of sharing prayers and reading writings of various religious traditions, the intentional study of the sacred writings of the Bahá’í Faith, programs for the spiritual education of children, and groups designed to allow pre-youth to explore themes of spiritual import and engage in service activities together.

Given the importance of these core activities to the overall efforts of the Bahá’í community, it seems prudent to discuss a concept that The Universal House of Justice describes as one of the primary impetuses behind all of these activities: engaging in “meaningful and distinctive conversations” with our friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and co-workers.

So what exactly does it mean to engage in “meaningful and distinctive conversations”? Why is it so important to do so? And what are some ways we can become more mindful of our everyday speech? Continue reading

Baha’is Lend $1.4m through Kiva

Photo by hodag

In the days before the internet, being a Bahai and trying to help the poor could be a little bit more challenging than it is today. If you want to help struggling families on the other side of the world, but don’t know where to start or how to go about it, then consider the web-based microloan service Kiva.

Kiva is a non-profit organization that helps the less fortunate via loans given by people such as yourself to help them purchase whatever they need to maintain their livelihood. You can loan as little as $25 to make a big difference in someones life. Loans eventually get paid back, and then you can re-loan the money again. Kiva has a How it Works page which explains more about the mechanics of loaning via the service.

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