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The Spiritual Axis

Image courtesy of GuySie (Flickr)

In Baha’i Blog’s last Trivia Quiz about Baha’i Houses of Worship, one of the questions made reference to “The Spiritual Axis” and this seemed to stump a lot of people, so I thought it would be a good idea to explore what “The Spiritual Axis” is all about.

In a world where the term “axis” – as it appears in the media – has political connotations (and somewhat sinister, at that), the concept of a spiritual axis is both uplifting and intriguing.

The notion of a spiritual axis is indeed remarkable. That a spiritual axis between two far flung countries can exist and result in a capacity to advance the spiritual growth of other countries in the region and beyond is truly awe-inspiring! Continue reading

The Mystery of Abdu’l-Baha

Abdu’l-Baha returning to his home on Haparsim Street in Haifa, Israel. (Image courtesy of Baha’i Media Bank)

Abdu’l-Baha was a global revolutionary.

In the Middle East, He led a household that practiced equality between women and men. In Europe, He spoke in churches about the oneness of all the religions. And in America, He emphatically practiced and preached about racial unity.

How one man, in a lifetime lived mostly in exile and imprisonment, managed to affect so many lives around him and lead a nascent faith to spread from one corner of the globe to become a world religion, is a remarkable expression of the mystery of Abdu’l-Baha.

Born the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha was not a prophet, and did not have any type of ‘mystic unity’ with Baha’u’llah. But He did perfectly reflect the teachings of His father – so much so that He was titled the Mystery of God.

In Abdu’l-Baha, the ‘incompatible characteristics of a human nature and a superhuman knowledge and perfection’ were blended and ‘completely harmonised’. There are endless accounts of Abdu’l-Baha’s magnetic personage, approachability, kindliness and love that personify His mystery.

One of the early American Baha’is said it is through the heart that we best glimpse Abdu’l-Baha’s special nature. So here I’ve given my personal top 5 reasons, from the heart, as to why Abdu’l-Baha was a mystery. Continue reading

The Day of the Covenant

Abdu'l-Baha as a young man (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)

Abdu’l-Baha as a young man (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

Baha’is around the world celebrate what is known as The Day of the Covenant on 4 Qawl, according to the Baha’i calendar.

The other Holy Days, commemorating days of historical significance in the Baha’i Faith, are fairly easy to understand. We celebrate anniversaries of the birth and declaration of both The Bab and Bahá’u’lláh. We commemorate the martyrdom of the Bab and the ascension of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. We also celebrate Naw Ruz to mark the beginning of the Baha’i New Year.

But what exactly is the Day of the Covenant?

Continue reading

The Elusive Quest for True Happiness

On average, the population of today’s world live with more material comfort, less illness, greater equality and far more opportunities than people who lived at any other time in history. In spite of this, the World Health Organization has estimated that by the year 2030, depression will be the most prevalent and debilitating illness in the world – in both rich and poor nations.

Judging from the number of bestselling self-help books out there on how to achieve happiness in life, this question seems to be a pretty big one for a lot of people. It seems that many people acknowledge that in spite of being financially comfortable, having a good job and an active social life, true happiness remains out of reach. Continue reading

25th Anniversary of the Baha’i Temple in India

Photo: Baha'i Media Bank

This weekend (Nov 12-13), the Baha’i community of India commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Baha’i House of Worship in New Delhi, India, known to many as the Lotus Temple.

Over five thousand people from all walks of life and religious traditions from all over India and 50 other countries gathered in New Delhi for the celebrations. In addition to prayers, music, presentations and performances, the event also presented three individuals and organisations with  “Champion of Social Transformation” awards for their contributions in the fields of education of the girl child, youth empowerment and communal harmony.

The Baha’is of India aren’t the only ones commemorating the anniversary of the House of Worship. The Government of India, as part of its Incredible India tourism campaign, is featuring the iconic lotus-shaped temple on posters and billboards in 14 countries from South Africa to Japan, from the U.S.A. to Singapore. Continue reading

The Birth of Baha’u’llah

Tehran, Iran, the Birthplace of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. (Photo taken by Effie Baker in 1930. Courtesy: Baha’i Media Bank)

194 years ago, on 12 November 1817 in Tehran, Baha’u’llah was born.

As followers of Baha’u’llah’s faith, we are familiar with the profound wisdom of His writings and the dramatic events of His life. But there is a mystery that remains around His early years.

This is true of all other Manifestations of God too. I often marvel at the images of “baby Jesus” that we see in the ubiquitous nativity scenes every Christmas. It’s difficult to imagine that the Manifestations of God, who revealed teachings that revitalised entire human civilizations and who suffered the greatest tribulations while demonstrating the qualities of God, were once children!

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Finding Peace in Life’s Tests

In times of difficulty, it is only natural that we turn to our closet friends and loved ones for support.

They lovingly listen as you talk endlessly about the same thing. They remain patient and kind with you as you struggle to work through your thoughts and emotions, regardless of how ridiculous some of the things you are saying might be. They let you cry on their shoulder without commenting on the tear splotches and mascara stains you leave on their shirt. They give you amazing advice – with a wisdom that comes from knowing you inside-out, and an honesty that comes from wanting to see you overcome the test. And most importantly, they pray with you – and, for you.

This process is how we gain the insight and encouragement we need to resolve our situations.

But more fundamental than all of that, I think, is the ability to change the way we look at all of life’s tests that come our way. One of my closest friends – one of the wisest and strongest people I know – has, in the relatively short time that we’ve been friends, not only been a rock in times of adversity, but has always encouraged me to embrace life’s tests and to find beauty in them. This is perhaps the most valuable skill I could ever hope to learn and an ability that I feel that every person needs to continually nurture in themselves and others!

‘Abdul-Baha said:

Be not troubled because of hardships and ordeals; turn unto God, bowing in humbleness and praying to Him, while bearing every ordeal, contented under all conditions and thankful in every difficulty.

Changing our perspective doesn’t make the test, in itself, go away, but it allows us to stay grounded even when the strong waves of emotion and doubt hit us, and allows us to remain hopeful even in the darkness and dreariness of our pain and anxiety!

Continue reading

3 Tricky Truthfulness Scenarios

Nobody likes a liar. As kids, we were taught by our parents not to lie. In the school playground, getting caught telling a tall tale would see us subjected to poetic taunts about our pants catching fire. And as adults, we live in societies in which telling a lie under oath can have legal consequences.

The value placed on honesty isn’t specific to any culture, religion or ideology. Truthfulness is a universal virtue.

Also universal, however, is the harmless white lie – the cherished caveat, the exception to the rule. It’s where we find ourselves bending the truth, just slightly, to get out of an uncomfortable or difficult situation. It’s where we say what we think needs to be said, rather than what we know to be accurate, because we’re trying to avoid hurting a person’s feelings or offending them.

It’s not dishonesty, per se. White lies are justified under the circumstances and necessary, even! We’ve all been in those situations where telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would be disastrous. Those situations where we need to tell a little white lie.

Or so I thought.

Continue reading

Soul Food: Food for the Soul

It’s Sunday morning in the city of Melbourne, Australia, and a crowd of about 100 people gathers at the State Library of Victoria. Everyone’s eager to enter the auditorium, and they start lining up next to a sign labelled “Soul Food”. Everyone’s here because they’re hungry – but not for physical food, they’ve come to receive food for the soul.

Rated as one of the Top Ten things to do in Melbourne, Soul Food is a monthly event which has been running consistently for six years now. The program runs for about 40 minutes, and it features live readings from various faiths and philosophers woven together with beautiful imagery and live music.

I’ve been living in Melbourne for about three years now and Soul Food is definitely an event I’ve had locked in my calendar, so I decided to sit down with one of the organisers of the event, Nima Ferdowsi, and ask him about the initiative and its success. Continue reading

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