Happiness. Contentment. Are they the Same Thing?

Photo courtesy: pasotraspaso via Flickr

I was participating in a Ruhi book 1 study circle a few months ago, and as we got to the end of the book, we read the following quote:

O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. -Gleanings from the writings of Baha’u’llah

I had read this quote before, but for some reason when I read it this time, it really resonated with me. I began thinking about the difference between happiness and contentment. Which one should I try and work towards? Am I ever going to be happy? How can I learn to be content in times of tests and difficulties? Continue reading

Nordic Devotion: An Interview with Refuge

Refuge is the wonderful musical outcome of a group of friends and musicians in Finland, who came together to record an album inspired by the Holy Writings of the Baha’i Faith.

The majority of songs are in English but there are a few in Finish as well. This truly beautiful and inspirational album really swept me off my feet when I first heard it.

I decided to catch up with Elina Kuitunen and Mea Karvonen, two of the members of Refuge to find out more about this wonderful album and initiative. Continue reading

Wealth, Poverty and Spirituality

Image by figment_ (Flickr)

As an individual fortunate enough to have been raised with both the material comforts of the United States as well as the spiritual teachings of the Baha’i Faith, I often think about the relationship between wealth, poverty, and spirituality.

A number of questions naturally arise when considering this: Are wealth and material development important, or simply a distraction from spiritual development? Is it wrong for me to enjoy physical comfort and material prosperity? Is choosing to renounce the material advancement of the West, for example, by moving to a less developed part of the world a noble sacrifice or an unnecessary infliction of physical suffering upon oneself?

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The Baha’i Faith and Christianity: 5 Steps to Dialogue and Understanding

Image by peasap (Flickr)

As someone who was raised with a strong Christian upbringing, the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and Christianity is something I often think about when I reflect on my own journey to becoming Baha’i.

When I became Baha’i, I found myself the recipient of numerous questions and comments from my Christian friends and family members – some of whom were simply curious and interested in knowing more; and others who genuinely couldn’t understand my decision to become Baha’i, knowing how committed I remained to my Christian beliefs.

Similarly, I’ve had numerous conversations with Baha’i friends about conversations they’ve had with their Christian friends about Christianity and the Baha’i Faith. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on these conversations and trying to understand how to build a bridge of understanding that will facilitate stronger and more meaningful dialogue between Baha’is and Christians.

While this post cannot possibly do justice to the profundity and beauty of the numerous passages in the Baha’i Writings on Christianity, or the scholastic excellence of the numerous publications out there on the Baha’i Faith and Christianity, it summarises 5 strategies that have helped me to provide more useful and meaningful responses to my Christian friends and family members who have asked me about the Faith.

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Strive: An Interview with Anthony and Michael

Strive is the debut album from two 12-year-old brothers from New Zealand, Michael and Anthony Zemke, who got together with singer and producer Sonbol to record an album for young listeners and to help raise money for the Chilean Baha’i Temple Fund.

I decided to catch up with Michael and Anthony to hear what they had to say about this exciting initiative.

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The Poetry of Prayer

Image by mrehan (Flickr)

One of the first Baha’is I ever met exalted in his faith, claiming enthusiastically: “It’s the complete package!”

I now know what he means.

At the centre is a towering spiritual figure, Baha’u’llah. Then there are inspiring teachings that seem so clearly the remedy for this age and blueprint for the future. And don’t let me forget– there are astoundingly beautiful holy places.

Then there are the prayers. Oh, the prayers. They are like the bow that ties together the complete package.

Here are some excerpts to illustrate what I mean.

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Respect and Kindness for Animals

Cow

Image by JelleS (Flickr)

For three years now, I have been meaning to take on the journey of a vegetarian, but coming from a Pacific Island background in which large amounts of meat are cooked at home, this hasn’t been easy.

I first considered being a vegetarian when I came across “Meet your Meat”, a video addressing the cruelty in animal slaughterhouses. A friend of mine had posted this video on their Facebook page, accompanied beautifully by some Baha’i writings relevant to the issue. The fact that some of my closest friends are vegetarian further reinforced this idea in my mind. My sister and I have recently taken on a pescatarian diet (which has made it much easier to resist the urge to eat meat) as part of a gradual process towards becoming a vegetarian.

That being said, this blog post isn’t an attempt to convince you to become a vegetarian! Rather, it simply intends to create greater awareness about the way animals are treated around the world, and to share what the Baha’i teachings have to say on the matter.

The MANA Story …and why I think it’s important.

For the past decade I’ve had the pleasure of working with the music group MANA, who’ve recently finished recording their fifth album. Many of my friends and the Bahá’ís I’ve met while travelling have asked about MANA and why this project in particular is so important to me.

Well, before I answer that and start going on and on about MANA (which, trust me, I can do for hours), for those of you who haven’t heard of them, here’s a quick introduction.

MANA, which means “inner power” or “strength of spirit” in many of the Polynesian languages, is a musical and cultural performance group made up of young Pacific Island Bahá’ís who are mainly based in Sydney, Australia. MANA’s albums are all based on the passages from the Writings which are studied in the sequence of Ruhi books. Although these albums are predominantly in English, most of their songs are infused with the languages, chants and rhythms of the Pacific Islands. The group has released four albums so far – one album for each of the first four books of the Ruhi sequence – and is currently preparing their fifth album (based on Book 6 of the Ruhi sequence of books) for release.

MANA’s albums have been incredibly well-received around the world. But the MANA project (as we like to call it) is far more than being just about making music and selling CDs. Personally, I have always found MANA to be such a powerful and incredibly inspiring initiative because of the way it exemplifies many of the concepts and ideas discussed by the Universal House of Justice in relation to the Institute Process and the various Plans. To me, MANA represents many of the aspects of the new and exciting culture taking shape in the Bahá’í community.

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The Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh

The Mansion of Bahjí, in Acre, Israel, where Bahá’u’lláh passed away on May 29, 1892. (Photo by Kamran Granfar courtesy of Baha'i Media Bank)

In the early hours of the morning of 29 May, 1892, Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith passed away.

The commemoration of His passing is called ‘The Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh’, and Bahá’ís throughout the world pay their respects with prayers and selected Bahá’í Writings. It is also one of nine days in the Baha’i calendar year, where work should be suspended.

For almost 40 years Bahá’u’lláh suffered imprisonment and banishment, originally from His birthplace in Persia (present day Iran), to Baghdad, and then to the Ottoman cities of Constantinople, Adrianople, and then finally to the infamous prison city of Acre (in present day Israel), where He was held in a cold and damp cell. Continue reading