There are many outstanding qualities of Baha’u’llah that shine through in this monumental narrative, and one that particularly struck me from His youth was the way in which He would resolve complicated questions with simple and elegant solutions. At the age of 15, Baha’u’llah would be in discussions with learned divines who were tying themselves into knots with complicated theological discussions, and He would stun them with answers that were straightforward yet profound. Continue Reading
One of the things I’ve personally struggled with, and I’m sure others have as well, is being content with one’s life. Not only do I frequently find myself wanting material things, like a new car, but I also frequently feel that something is missing from my life – something I can’t quite wrap my mind around.
Some might argue that the lack of contentment is just the nature of a human being, and that it’s a good thing because it pushes one to excel and be prosperous, but I don’t necessarily agree with that notion. After all there are plenty of very rich and successful people in the world that are dissatisfied with their lives, and plenty of poor people that are perfectly content.
Contentment is encouraged in the Teachings of the Baha’i Faith, for instance in one of The Persian Hidden Words of Baha’u'llah, He says:
O QUINTESSENCE OF PASSION! Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised.
I feel that I should be content, after all I live in a great country, I have a career I love, and I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family. So what is it that I’m yearning for, and what can I do to find my own inner peace and contentment?
I’ve listed six simple things which have helped me personally, and maybe they can help you too: Continue Reading
Last week, I learned you could trap those pesky, ever-multiplying fruit-flies with a bowl of vinegar and plastic wrap. It worked. But this is not your typical how-to guide, as matters of the spirit can sometimes seem much more complicated – but they don’t have to be.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can work on becoming a better person in a very real and practical sense, and I keep thinking about the analogy of us being like a mirror, and how we need to constantly work on polishing it.
Dean Frasier said,
[we] see the world, not as it is, but exactly as we are. The whole world is our mirror, to the many renounced and rejected aspects of ourselves.
The German writer Goethe was a little more subtle when he wrote,
[a] man sees what he carries in his heart.1
Yeah, psychologists call this ‘projection’, and its embarrassing when someone points out that we may be doing just that. I don’t know about you, but what’s in my heart, on its less-than-pure days, is not always pretty. Luckily, Abdu’l-Baha tells us we can change this:
The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of the hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light…2
Now this all sounds awesome, but how do we actually do this?
So here are a six things that work for me and help me polish my mirror: Continue Reading
Baha’u'llah says that…
One hour’s reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship.1
Consider. If we define humanity as “life being aware of itself”, then “a life not examined is a life only half lived”… and unless we are aware that each and every moment is taking us on a journey, – not only towards death but towards the spiritual growth and understanding that is essential if we are to continue our travels beyond death – then we can never fully appreciate the significance of what we are doing here, right now. Nor can we stand back and evaluate what our whole existence means.
This is what a spiritual approach to life demands of us.
That is why Baha’u’llah asks us to… Continue Reading
- Baha’u'llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 238 [↩]
Over the last 15 years I’ve had the opportunity to participate, tutor, and be involved to varying degrees in numerous Baha’i study circles in different parts of the world. I’ve experienced very good ones, and ones that could use a little work. Ones that completed the Ruhi book we were working on, and ones that fizzled out before completion. Ones that were run at an extremely intensive and accelerated pace, and ones that took over a year to complete. Ones that brought people into the Faith, and ones that weren’t very well received by some of the participants.
The fact is that no matter what you think about study circles or what your involvement has been with them over the years, study circles have and continue to revolutionize many Baha’i communities worldwide, helping to change the overall culture of the Baha’i community – and I think for the better.
Of course there’s always room for improvement, and we’re all learning through action and reflection while continuously developing and working on improving our ‘posture of learning’, but I thought it would be interesting to look at just six of the ways study circles have helped the Baha’i community, so let’s take a look: Continue Reading
How do we know when transformation is about to happen to us?
The Writings of Baha’u'llah state that,
Adversity is the oil that feedeth the flame of this Lamp! Such is God’s transforming power.1
Psychologist C.G Jung also wrote that,
There is no balance, no system of self-regulation, without opposition.2
It would seem, from the above, that it is when we consciously experience the adversity that comes from opposites clashing in our lives. But being aware of these life-changing moments is one of our greatest challenges. We do, however, have some very useful tools to help us recognize and welcome such changes. Continue Reading
I once asked someone what their biggest fear was and they answered that they were most afraid of going to Hell. Basically, they were afraid of missing the mark, not trying hard enough in their life, getting to judgment day and then being told they had a one way ticket to the Netherworld. And the sad thing is, I don’t think that is a rare fear. I think it is an extremely common one.
As Baha’is, we don’t believe in a literal hell, but we definitely believe that we should try our best to live our lives in accordance with Baha’u’llah’s teachings. In the Hidden Words, we are commanded to take stock daily on how we’re doing… Continue Reading
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
In the United States, freedom is highly coveted and when it becomes threatened, freedom is fiercely defended. The first amendment of the Constitution promises to protect these freedoms, guarantees that the American people have the basic right to things like free speech, free press and the right to assemble. Other countries may not emphasise these rights in the same way, but people the world over want the freedom to be themselves and to be free from oppression and prejudice. Indeed, a world without those troubles would be a liberated one. However, are there other ways to think about freedom? Continue Reading
I am a peaceful man, but I have always wanted to be on the “front lines” of life. I liked when the choir sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” when I was a kid, and as a young man I began learning to take my marching orders from Abdu’l-Baha, trying to be one of the “souls” in a “heavenly army” whose mission was to bring light and justice to a darkening world.
I love this part of an address by the American President, Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause… (From a speech titled “Citizenship in a Republic”, given at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)
My wife, the warrior woman that I am trying to keep up with, has taught me much about another battle that Baha’is are learning how to engage in: the crisis we’ve created for the world’s ecology, and the search for sustainable ways to live with and within it. Continue Reading