Work is no fun. It’s an almost iron law of modern life. So what should we do about it? The easy answer is “do what you love.” But many of us can testify from our own experience that life isn’t like that. Even when a job involves something a person really enjoys, the end of the workday can’t come soon enough. The excitement wears off. Things that might have once seemed cool and interesting can become tedious and stressful. Work takes up a huge proportion of our time on this earth. So its very dispiriting to see how often and how easily it can detract from attaining a sense of meaning or high purpose in life. We need ways to make it more uplifting. Continue reading
To the mothers must be given the divine Teachings and effective counsel, and they must be encouraged and made eager to train their children, for the mother is the first educator of the child… So long as the mother faileth to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect.
But new mothers are often overwhelmed at knowing where to start, particularly when they haven’t had good role models to follow. Fortunately there is lots of guidance in the Writings to take us back to basics!
Let’s start with the ABC’s! Continue reading
It recently struck me that becoming more spiritual requires both effort and volition, that it isn’t something that will just happen unless I do my part for it. This realisation came while I was reflecting on the following quote from Baha’u’llah:
Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee.
I realised that I needed to focus more on the first part of the quote, “Love Me…”, which I had previously almost overlooked. Many of us know that at times this command requires effort, and at other times it can seem like the most natural thing in the world. However, at least for me, loving God is not always something that comes easily, and I have to consciously remind myself of it ever so often, so here are four ways.
To answer this, I use a framework developed by Kenneth Waltz in his classic text Man, the State and War, which begins by asking: “What causes war?” This is an important question because, just as one must understand cancer to cure it, war and its causes must be understood in order to reduce it. In his review of the literature on this question, Waltz finds that there are basically three answers to this question, which he calls “the three images”. These images claim that war is caused by: Continue reading
When we try to define Baha’i scholarship, we naturally encounter preconceptions from our cultural surroundings. These arise from how scholarship has affected us over our varied histories of colonisation, conquest, enlightenment, enslavement, liberation, revolution, and materialistic consumerism. Scholarship, in part, refers to the systematic and disciplined study of any subject with the goal of deeper and shared understanding, and has often included appropriate personal characteristics, though these vary by culture and era.
Scholarship starts with assumptions about reality, which it simultaneously tests and pursues by a strict, but ideally not narrowing, set of rules. If done in the spirit of uncovering more of the mysteries of reality with a mix of humility and wonder, its results are ever-changing and open to challenge. It is worth identifying, unedited, our private lists of qualities and processes we ascribe to scholarship before considering scholarship in light of the Faith’s Teachings. In a workshop at the 2013 conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies, such an exercise revealed a fascinating list of praise, contempt, hope, and frustration, often from the same person, and from scholars, themselves. Continue reading
“Thou art what Thou art.”
Let’s face it. I know nothing about the Mystery of Mysteries. Yet somehow my heart rests in deep satisfaction born of my utter cluelessness. It’s even strangely liberating. Blissfully ignorant though I may be of Its nature, yet I am stirred to my depths when Baha’u’llah, in words at once mind-boggling and awe-inspiring, hints at that “Unknowable Essence” which is shrouded behind an impenetrable veil. I am led to humbly acquiesce in the compelling truth that there is ‘Something’ that exceeds everything that I can ever hope to muster in Its praise – the most lyrical verses of poetry, the most mystical of meditations, the most soul-stirring of human experiences, the most awesome of spiritual feelings. Even the abstrusest of allegories. The great prophets, holy ones and sages of old have given that undefinable Something, that hidden Essence, a veritable catalogue of labels that have steadfastly withstood the test of time. Allah, YHVH, Brahman, Atman, The Buddha-dhatu, The Great Spirit.
As many parts of the world are celebrating ‘Mother’s Day’, I find myself reflecting on the high standard in the Baha’i Writings for our youth, and I can’t help but think about the importance of moral and spiritual education during those precious first years of a child’s life. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
You must be distinguished amidst men by your sanctity and detachment, loftiness of purpose, magnanimity, determination, noble mindedness, tenacity, the elevation of your aims and your spiritual qualities; that you may become the means of exaltation and glory for the Cause of God and the dawning places of His heavenly bestowals; that you may conduct yourselves in conformity with the counsels and exhortations of the Blessed Beauty — may my life be offered up for His loved ones — and by reflecting Baha’i qualities and attributes, you may stand out distinguished from others.
Society tends to downplay the significance of being a mother. What do you suppose attracts more interest when I answer that typical question at dinner parties: “What do you do?” Lawyer or mother? Usually, when I choose to answer, “I am a mother,” people smile and say, “Oh, that’s nice.” There is never an incredibly interested follow-up question on what kind of exciting parenting I practice. The polite ones never say it, but some of them are probably thinking, “You’re a mom? What do you do all day?” Indeed mothers, myself included, often fail to comprehend the momentousness of the work we do, when in fact, according to Abdu’l-Baha, “no nobler deed can be imagined!” Continue reading
I naively and ignorantly thought that because I had been raised a Baha’i that I knew the Writings well. It wasn’t long before I realized that while I knew many of the principles of the Faith, I barely knew its sacred texts at all. Baha’u’llah exhorts us to immerse ourselves in the ocean of His words, and I was merely floating on the surface. In a boat.
I personally find that a small part of diving into the study of a text requires that I figure out its context. Through various deepening classes, I have learned that these 3 questions can prove very useful. Continue reading
For many of us, determining our role in the current Five Year Plan can be a major struggle. The Baha’i community is progressing and learning at such a rapid rate that it can seem difficult to keep up. There may also be certain community initiatives that are new to us and make us feel uncomfortable, so we watch others conduct the teaching work as we try and find our place.
In its most recent Ridvan message, the Universal House of Justice praised and encouraged our global teaching efforts and indicated that there is no formula to how we serve the current plan. During each cycle of activity, several methods of teaching can be employed depending on the characteristics of each population. The Supreme Body states: Continue reading
“I Love You”. It’s a phrase that is often thrown around very loosely, and come February each year on Valentine’s Day, these three words give people around the world an excuse to pamper one another with gifts, flowers, jewels and dinner promises. Of course there is nothing wrong with showing your loved ones a token (or two) of your appreciation, but I think it is equally important for us to use this time of year (or any time of year for that matter) to re-evaluate the word ‘love’. Is it really only about airy-fairy, lovey-dovey sentiments, or is there a deeper meaning to this four-letter word?
Abdu’l-Baha in fact spoke about there being four kinds of love in Paris Talks, and so I thought I would explore each of these in a little more detail in a bid to reflect on the true meaning of love. Continue reading