The Mansion of Bahji, located in Akka (Acre), Israel, is the home where Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith died in 1892. The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, is located next to this mansion. (Photo courtesy Iain Simmons via Flickr).
From the earliest times, pilgrimage has been a cherished part of human life, be it individual or collective. Whether it was the ancient Greeks making the arduous journey to Delphi to consult the Oracle, or the Frankish knights and their kings making crusade to “free” Jerusalem, Hindus making the journey to Varanasi to immerse themselves in the sacred waters of the Ganges or Buddhists to Kandy in Sri Lanka to revere the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, many and diverse are the reasons for which men and women have undertaken the journey of pilgrimage, with its attendant trials and tests.
In the Bahá’í context, pilgrimage is a law ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in the Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In this Book, Bahá’u’lláh prescribes that all Bahá’ís who are able should strive to make pilgrimage to one of the two Great Houses, i.e. the House of the Báb in Shíráz and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád. However, after the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí as a place of pilgrimage, and stated that it is “obligatory” to visit these places “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”. Today, Bahá’ís make their pilgrimage at the invitation, and as honoured guests, of the Supreme Body of the Bahá’í Faith, the Universal House of Justice. The Shrines and other holy places are located in and around the cities of Haifa and ‘Akká in the Holy Land.
But what, our friends may ask, is the act of pilgrimage itself? What rites or rituals are involved? Before I continue, I should make it clear that each individual experiences their pilgrimage differently, and it is very personal. While sharing my thoughts and experiences in this post, it is not my intention to set certain expectations or a prescription of how people should feel while experiencing pilgrimage. My aim is to simply share some of my own thoughts and experiences in an attempt to answer, as simply as possible, the common question of “What is Baha’i pilgrimage?” Continue reading
Ever since I was a kid, it seemed implied in Bahá’í culture that we should memorize the Writings and prayers not only because they became more readily accessible during the teaching of the Faith but also because it had a deep spiritual impact within.
“From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages” Bahá’u’lláh enjoins in one of His Tablets, and Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone used to say that we should memorize prayers because when we die we can’t take our prayer books with us, but we can take our memory!
The importance of memorization has also been stressed in recent times through the Institute Process. Both as participants and as tutors we have seen ourselves and many others struggling when memorizing quotes, complaining how they are not young anymore or how the quotes are too long. But memory is like any other muscle or skill, it may be unused but it’s right there waiting for us to make the most out of it, and the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
What I want to attempt in this post is not to address the importance of memorizing the writings nor an analysis on the spiritual power of memory, but I want to share some practical tips that I have personally found helpful when memorizing quotes and passages. Continue reading
Bahá’í music composer Tom Price recently delivered six great new talks at the 2012 Tennessee Bahá’í School, called “Recreating Ourselves in the Image of the Master”.
For those of you who have yet to hear one of Tom’s talks, you’re in for a treat! Last year we posted Tom Price’s talks on The Five Year Plan and it’s still one of our most popular posts ever!
In these wonderful talks Tom Price shares six of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s attributes and looks at how we can learn from them and adopt them into our own lives.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (also referred to as the Master) was Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son and appointed successor, and He is considered the perfect example of how to live according to the Bahá’í teachings. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to North America, and Bahá’í communities across the US and Canada have been celebrating His visit.
You can listen to these talks by either streaming them live from our site or by downloading them – and best of all, it’s completely free! Continue reading
Martha Louise Root, Aug. 10, 1872 – Sept. 28, 1939. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)
If a fairy godmother appeared and guaranteed to fulfill one wish, for what would we wish? Would we wish to remove the wrinkles from around our eyes or dimples from around our thighs, for gender equality, racial unity or world peace?
Perhaps the wish that arches over and informs all other wishes is to achieve, through our thoughts, words and actions, the good-pleasure of God, whatever form that might take for each of us.
As we take the time to remember and reflect on the life of Martha Root, we know we are looking at someone for whom that wish came true. While there were certainly angelic hosts involved, there was no fairy godmother. There was a small middle-aged woman with poor health, restricted financial means and limited worldly power. The magic wand was a heart filled with the love of God and a willingness to sacrifice everything in the path of that love.
Martha Root was 36 years old when she embraced the Faith of Baha’u’llah in 1909. She was taught the Faith by Hand of the Cause, Roy Wilhelm (before his appointment as a Hand of the Cause) and the first American believer Thornton Chase. Three years later, as both an adoring follower and as a journalist, she travelled with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through several eastern states of America, deepening her understanding of profound spiritual truths and documenting His travels. She was privileged to have two private audiences with the Master during that period. Continue reading
When reading prayers revealed by the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith, you quickly notice that nearly every prayer ends with a list of the names and attributes of God. He is described as the “All-Merciful,” the “Ever-Forgiving,” the “Lord of bounty,” the “Provider of all mankind,” and with dozens of other titles and qualities that help us understand, albeit imperfectly, some of the characteristics of God. Many of these descriptions create an image of God as a parent who watches over humanity with infinite love, mercy, and kindness. Indeed, in both the Bahá’í Faith and other religions God is often described as “the Father” for this very purpose. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:
God is the Father of all. He educates, provides for and loves all; for they are His servants and His creation. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267).
But while God is repeatedly described as full of love, grace, and bounty in the Bahá’í Faith, dozens of passages also emphasize the importance of the “fear of God.” Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us to “fear God” or have the “fear of God” more than a dozen times in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (known as the Most Holy Book) alone, and in various places He describes the fear of God as “the essence of wisdom” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 155), “the fountain-head of all goodly deeds and virtues” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 135), “the weapon that can render him victorious” and “the primary instrument whereby he can achieve his purpose” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 272).
What should we make of such passages, and what does “fear” even mean in this context? If God’s relationship with humanity is like a loving and merciful parent, why does Bahá’u’lláh repeatedly warn us to fear God? And if the fear of God is an important attribute, how do we inculcate it in ourselves and others, such as our children? I’ll return to these questions in a moment, but it may be beneficial to first discuss other principles of the Bahá’í Faith related to the nature of spiritual development and the afterlife to place this topic of the fear of God in the broader scope of the teachings of the Faith. Continue reading
It’s not often you hear about Baha’i inspired novels aimed at children, and so when I heard that there was this great series of books called The Fellowship Farm series, I had to find out more.
The Fellowship Farm books are a series of ten novels for primary school aged children. Readers follow the Fitzgerald family who live on a farm in Tasmania, Australia as they go about their daily life. The Fitzgerald family experience crisis and victory, seize and neglect opportunities to develop their virtues, achieve (and on occasion fail to achieve) unity, as they go to school, work on the farm, go camping, find abandoned puppies, live through bullying and a even a snake bite, build a tree house, host Holy Days and so on. In an engaging way their stories offer a model of a healthy, loving family striving to practice the Teachings of Baha’u’llah.
The feedback from everyone who’s read the books has been fantastic, so I decided to catch up with Melanie Lotfali, the author of these wonderful books, to find out more. Continue reading
It’s a testament to our international age that I have two sets of foreign in-laws; one family lives in Mexico, the other Germany. Once every three or four years, each family will visit, and despite all of our best efforts – and heaven knows their English is better than my Spanish or German – it goes like this: We struggle through an hour or so of halting conversation over dinner, all of us speaking slowly, gesturing wildly, and, of course, growing louder and louder, as if shouting will help us be understood. Finally, with no less love in our hearts but mentally exhausted, we either retreat to the nearest television to watch something mutually enjoyable or we say “adios” or “auf wiedersehen,” hug, and call it a day.
The point is, it doesn’t matter how small the world becomes, or how much goodwill or love you hold in your heart for others, not being able to communicate is a drag. Continue reading
The mystical and soul-stirring music of the Canadian duo Smith & Dragoman can be felt in all three of the groups albums, originally inspired by The Dawbreakers, and are each based on a certain chapter of the history of the Baha’i Faith.
Their debut album Open The Gates, is based on the heroes and heroins of the Babí dispensation, and their follow-up album Under The Lote-Tree, continues the saga of the those early Babí’s who became followers of Baha’u’llah. Continue reading
In the United States, the conclusion of the summer Olympics also means we’re fast approaching another presidential election. In fact, the way various elections are staggered, we’re never more than a few months away from an election of some kind. Perhaps in your country, you too are blessed to have the freedom to elect your governmental leaders. It’s a precious and hard-won human right that the whole world is destined to exercise.
Democracy is a core value of Baha’i life. The way in which we govern our own affairs is deeply democratic. We elect our leaders from the bottom of the administrative order to the very top. But we do it all without campaigning. We don’t put our own names or those of others up for election, and likewise we don’t engage in negative self-campaigning to remove ourselves from consideration. Baha’is simply and prayerfully vote for a slate of people they believe will best serve the community, and, in the case of Spiritual Assemblies, the nine top vote-getters are elected. Continue reading
As a Baha’i, it’s important to know about other religions – actually it doesn’t really matter if you’re a Baha’i or not, the fact is that we live in a religiously diverse world and the more we know and learn about each other and our belief systems, the better we can hopefully get along.
I really love watching documentaries, and there are some great documentaries out there which focus on some of the various world religions and/or certain aspects of them. I thought I’d share a list of 10 interesting and informative documentaries I’ve seen about some of these world religions, and I know there are a lot of other great documentaries about religion out there, but I thought these 10 would be a good place to start:
1) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha
Narrated by Hollywood heartthrob Richard Gere, a long time practicing Buddhist himself, The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha tells the story of the life and spiritual journey of the Buddha (the founder of Buddhism), from his childhood to his final days. .
DVD blurb: Two and a half millennia ago, a new religion was born in northern India, generated from the ideas of a single man, the Buddha, a mysterious Indian sage who famously gained enlightenment while he sat under a large, shapely fig tree. The Buddha never claimed to be God or his emissary on earth. He said only that he was a human being who, in a world of unavoidable pain and suffering, had found a kind of serenity that others could find, too. This documentary by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin tells the story of his life, a journey especially relevant in our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion.