Outwardly, the Baha’i notion of the oneness of religion is the furthest thing from the present babel of creeds competing to win the hearts and minds of mankind. It would be folly to deny that the belief systems and religious observances today represent a discordant cornucopia of theologies and rites.
Outward observance and formal theology is one thing. The actual living faith of billions from different religious backgrounds is an entirely different thing. The latter is usually far less defined and often has a lot in common across cultures and faith traditions. In my travels I’ve become completely sold to the notion that ordinary believers the world over, irrespective of faith tradition, have much more in common than theologians and so-called scholars. Intuitively these sincere ordinary folks possess a pure idea of the Divine. Continue reading
When human beings commit atrocities, whether individually or as a group, we are quick to judge our human race as nothing better than bestial, unable to control our grosser animal instincts. The fact that there exist people who are able to exhibit nobler qualities may, we reason, simply indicate that they are able to do this solely because they have not been pushed to their limits, but that they could easily descend to their brutish natures if provoked. However, Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
Signs of both these natures are to be found in men. In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature. The attributes of his Divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature.
The wind blows. Clouds move across the sky. Winter leeches colours from the leaves. Life is movement and change! Or in the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”
When I wandered the lonely and confusing plain between atheism and theism as a spiritual seeker, I reached a stage where I felt bewildered with the transitory nature of the world. I stopped and questioned the very nature of life: change. “Why?” I asked myself, “is there movement and change at all?” It seems like a silly question but when you think about it, God could have created any type of universe, so why did He create one that was ever-changing and impermanent?
Only some years later did I receive my answer: change is progress. Abdu’l-Baha explains that “Change is a necessary quality and essential attribute of this world, of time and place.” The reason that change is necessary, He explains, is that “the world of existence is progressive”. Continue reading
When I first started working as a medical intern I used to place a prayer book in my bag for work. At the time I thought I might have the opportunity to say a prayer for a sick patient or share a prayer with a family if they asked. Unfortunately a hospital is a busy place, and being an intern even more so. I put prayer and spirituality to one side, focusing on the material, scientific healing I was trained to practice. But maybe that is an excuse and I, like many of my colleagues, don’t put enough stock in the effects of spiritual healing. Continue reading
For our Earth’s sake, for our future’s sake, for our own sake…I will be talking trash!
Trash is something we consider unwanted, no longer needed or useful, therefore: it should be thrown out! But thrown out where? While we clean our homes and our streets (depending on where we live), we somehow consider some parts of this planet, our own loving, giving “mother” Earth – landfill. Landfill is where we dump all our trash. Sadly, what’s put in landfill accumulates over time and some things turn into something else. For example as organic waste decomposes in landfill, it produces the greenhouse gasses such as methane (54%) and carbon dioxide (40%). Did you know that methane is 24 times more damaging as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide? Continue reading
On April 22nd, the world celebrated “Earth Day”, so HAPPY EARTH DAY EVERYONE!
But wait, shouldn’t “Earth Day” be every day?
Well, let’s briefly review how Earth Day actually came to be 46 years ago. It was 7 years in the making until it became official in 1970. Many say that it was the result of 20 million people who participated at the grassroots level to achieve the declaration of Earth Day. Indeed, it’s all in the grassroots, and now it’s being celebrated around the world as a way to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
I think days like Earth Day are wonderful. They create opportunities to raise more awareness of the environmental issues that are affecting our beautiful planet and to remember with more tenacity why we need to have such a day in the first place.
The reality is that the lack of connection that many of us have with the earth is blinding some of us from seeing the interconnectedness of our planet. We are forgetting that what we give is what we get. As much as society presently likes to believe the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, our treatment of the planet has caught up with us, and now it requires more attention and action than ever before. Continue reading
My attitude towards the Baha’i fast has recently changed. Had you asked me a few years ago what words came to mind when I thought of the fast I would have said “endurance, sacrifice and obedience.” In the past, the month of February was spent mentally psyching myself in preparation for the fast. I likened it to running a marathon, whereby I needed to be mentally ready, picturing myself at the finish line. Continue reading
This March will be the third consecutive year that I will not be physically fasting and I think I am finally getting some ideas for how I can still participate. (If you’re unfamiliar with the 19 day Baha’i Fast, Sara wrote a great introduction about it).
There are many reasons to be exempt from fasting whether it’s age, health, performing physical labour, menstruation, travel, pregnancy, or nursing a child (exemptions from the Fast can be found in the synopsis and codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas). At first I really struggled with being exempt. On one hand I was grateful: the fast is not meant to make us ill or malnourished and my baby’s development relied heavily on me eating well. On the other hand, I felt like I was no longer participating in a spiritual marathon. I was on the sidelines. I was so disconnected from the Fast that I offered my Baha’i friends food to eat in the middle of the day (so embarrassing!).
Having a grumbling tummy or parched mouth is an excellent reminder that you are fasting and without those physical cues I felt disconnected. But it’s not all about the food, so this year I’ve made a list of ways to fast when you can eat – some of which I’ve already tried, and some of which I’m looking forward to implementing: Continue reading
Baha’is believe that us humans were created to love God.
At first glance, this seems to be in tension with the Baha’i teaching that God is an unknowable Essence. Imagine if I, a Baha’i, told you that I’m completely in love with something. You then ask me what that thing is. I respond, “I have no idea, but I love it a lot.” That seems weird, right?
So how, then, could a Baha’i love God without believing something that is weird at the best and incoherent at the worst? Here’s one perspective. Continue reading
There is surely something beyond fascinating characters and an exciting if familiar story that has been attracting people by their millions to see the new Star Wars movie.
My feeling is that a big part of the appeal is “the force”, the ongoing theme in the Star Wars series that gives the latest film its name: The Force Awakens.
In the Star Wars movies, the force seems to me to be roughly equivalent to the creative energy that pervades the universe, but there is also a dark side to it.
What might that mean in Baha’i terms? We are fine with the idea of a creative force and are familiar with the concept that “good has a positive existence; evil is merely its absence”. We could view the “dark side” of the force as the absence of the creative energy, a black hole of evil.
So, apart from the other factors mentioned, why do millions of people get attracted to a movie that has “the force” as an ongoing theme in the story?
Hard-wired into us all is a desire to transcend the mundane, the temporary physical realties of our lives. In my view, that desire is intended to motivate us to seek and ever approach the ultimate, everlasting reality, God. Continue reading