Monday, January 31, 2011

Prayer for Forgiveness

O our Lord! punish us not if we forget, or fall into sin; O our Lord! and lay not on us a load like that which thou has laid on those who have been before us; O our Lord! and lay not on us that for which we have not strength: but blot out our sins and forgive us, and have pity on us.

The Qur'an (Rodwell tr) Sura 2 - The Cow

The Holy Spirit

An article written 30 years ago for the City of The Covenant News.

The Holy Spirit

In the prayer for the Northeast States revealed by Abdul-Baha[1], a supplication the “is to be read by the teachers and friends daily,” we beseech God to “bestow upon us the breath of the Holy Spirit.” What are we praying for when we read this statement?

A survey of Abdul-Baha’s writings shows us that the Holy Spirit is: a perfect and divine power[2], a divine favor that can revive our souls[3], and “has effective power in the realities of things and creates new creatures”[4]. The Holy Spirit is a force that strengthens us after prayer and supplication[5], and it is a force that teaches every sincere and faithful soul[6]. The Holy Spirit is our companion[7], a heavenly blessing that descends on us[8], a source of help[9], and our assistant[10]. The Holy Spirit is the bestower of life to our hearts [11] and makes our hearts tranquil[12]. It is a personal, and an integral part of our communion with our Creator. The Holy Spirit is a mediator between God and man[13], without whose influence “man would remain dull, helpless and deprived of all attainment. But touched by that Divine Elixir, he becomes tender, loving, responsive and capable of every perfection of life.[14]

Yet on another level we are told that the Holy Spirit is watchful over the nations[15], that it is the establisher of the congregations of the righteous ones[16] and that the Holy Spirit is the force and power through which our Assemblies should make the souls real Baha’is[17].

Abdul-Baha also tells us that the “teachings of Baha’u’llah are the breaths of the Holy Spirit which create men anew[18]” and that the Holy Spirit is the executive force by which the teachings of God are established in human hearts and conditions[19].

The Holy Spirit is our source of confirmations. The Holy Spirit gives us power to teach[20], and is how the breath of life reaches other souls[21].

The Holy Spirit is that ideal force which we must reflect to our fellowman. It starts small. It starts in being the Power by which we ourselves are transformed, born again into the heaven of reunion, with our Lord Baha’u’llah. The Holy Spirit is the confirming power we need to attract, in order to be effective in transforming the hearts of our fellowmen into organs pulsating to the rhythms of the Will of God. And by virtue of the former two transformations, the Holy Spirit is the force that has the potential to transform our world into the Kingdom of God on earth.

In closing, Abdul-Baha revealed this beautiful exhortation in a tablet to an American believer. “ I pray to God that He may cause to descend upon thee a heavenly blessing, quicken thy heart with the Holy Spirit into an everlasting life and make thy heart a source of merciful sentiments so that thy breath may become a quickener of souls, thine attractions may move the heart of the world, thy strong love may attract the hearts of me that thine abundant affection may become a mercy to mankind in the world of existence[22].

May we pray likewise for ourselves and our coworkers.

[1] Bahai Prayers

[2] Tablets of Abdul-Baha p.1

[3] ibid p.9

[4] ibid p.65

[5] ibid p.75

[6] ibid p.134

[7] ibid p.162

[8] ibid p.210

[9] ibid p.225

[10] ibid p.228

[11] ibid p.646

[12] ibid p.704

[13] ibid p.611

[14] SOW Vol II No.14 p.7

[15] ibid No. 16 p.5

[16] ibid p.8

[17] Tablets of Abdul-Baha, p.148

[18] SOW Vol VIII No 8, p.103

[19] SOW Vol III No18, P.7

[20] SOW Vol VII No.8, p.103

[21] Tablets of Abdul-Baha, P.665

[22] ibid p.201

Prayers can only be answered through action

Teaching is the source of Divine Confirmation. It is not sufficient to pray diligently for guidance, but this prayer must be followed by meditation as to the best methods of action and then action itself. Even if the action should not immediately produce results, or perhaps not be entirely correct, that does not make so much difference, because prayers can only be answered through action and if someone's action is wrong, God can use that method of showing the pathway which is right....

Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer
From a letter dated 22 August 1957 written on his behalf

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Persevering Steps

Steps to the roof in the Prison at Akka

An article I wrote in 2004 aftrer returning from Pilgrimage.


Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart's desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved.

(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words)

Mt. Carmel is a fairly good size hill. It is, being a hill – steep. Being a very large man, I was worried on the trip over to Israel, that I might have trouble climbing the Terraces and walking all over the mountain. My family will tell you that I majored in worrying in college. It’s just part of who I am.

My worries were put to rest the very first afternoon of Pilgrimage. The Pilgrim’s were assembled at the Haifa Pilgrim House and walked quietly to the Shrine of the Bab together for our first visit to the Shrine. We were led by Counselor’s from the International Teaching Center. It was during the walk that I saw H.R. for the first time. H.R. was walking along the crushed tile and pebble walkways hunched over his walker on the way to the Shrine. I wondered how he would be able to go through Pilgrimage in his physical condition. He was obviously in his mid to late seventies and in poor health.

After we had assembled in the Shrine of the Bab and the Shrine of Abdul-Baha and heard the Tablets of Visitation read, we all headed back to the Pilgrim Reception Center. It is a good walk from the Shrine. I ran into H.R. and his wife and son on the way there. H.R. was having some physical difficulty but he was determined to make it to the Pilgrim Reception Center because Hand of the Cause of God Vargha was speaking that evening. He made it. He also made it everywhere else Pilgrim’s go on Pilgrimage.

H.R. is my hero. Nothing in this world, no physical limitations, no health condition was going to stand between him and his Beloved. His desire, his effort, his perseverance, inspired me to let go of my petty preoccupations and concentrate on why I was there, not on any limitations, real or otherwise. Just thinking of H.R. made me happy during my time in Israel and it still does today.

O thou yearning flame, thou who art afire with the love of God! I have read thy letter, and its contents, well-expressed and eloquent, delighted my heart, showing as they did thy deep sincerity in the Cause of God, thy persevering steps along the pathway of His Kingdom, and thy staunchness in His Faith -- for of all great things, this is the greatest in His sight.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 162)

Civilization Out of Control

“As humanity is tossed and tormented by the ravages inflicted upon it by a civilization gone out of control, let us keep our heads and hearts focused on the divine tasks set before us. For amid this turmoil opportunities will abound that must be exploited "for the purpose of spreading far and wide the knowledge of the redemptive power of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and for enlisting fresh recruits in the ever-swelling army of His followers." This Plan to which we are now committed is set at one of the most critical times in the life of the planet. It is meant to prepare our community to cope with the accelerating changes that are occurring in the world about us and to place the community in a position both to withstand the weight of the accompanying tests and challenges and to make more visible a pattern of functioning to which the world can turn for aid and example in the wake of a tumultuous transition. Thus, this Plan acquires a special place in the scheme of Bahá'í and world history. Those of us who are alive to the vision of the Faith are particularly privileged to be consciously engaged in efforts intended to stimulate and eventually enhance such processes.

May you all arise to seize the tasks of this crucial moment. May each inscribe his or her own mark on a brief span of time so charged with potentialities and hope for all humanity. Lest you become distracted or preoccupied with the drastic happenings of this age of transition, bear ever in mind the advice of our infallible guide, Shoghi Effendi: "Not ours, puny mortals that we are, to attempt, at so critical a stage in the long and checkered history of mankind, to arrive at a precise and satisfactory understanding of the steps which must successively lead a bleeding humanity, wretchedly oblivious of its God, and careless of Bahá'u'lláh, from its calvary to its ultimate resurrection.... Ours rather the duty, however confused the scene, however dismal the present outlook, however circumscribed the resources we dispose of, to labour serenely, confidently, and unremittingly to lend our share of assistance, in whichever way circumstances may enable us, to the operation of the forces which, as marshalled and directed by Bahá'u'lláh, are leading humanity out of the valley of misery and shame to the loftiest summits of power and glory."
The Universal House of Justice The Four Year Plan Ridvan 153 (1996) Pp 42-44

Monday, January 17, 2011

Civil Disobedience

Just about every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day - I find myself having an internal argument as to whether Martin Luther King Jr. much beloved by many of my fellow Baha'i's could have been a Baha'i, and whether we should hold him out as a role model to our children.

No Baha'i would argue that Martin Luther King Jr.'s message on how to we should relate to each other as human beings is spot on with the Faith's Teachings.

Should Baha'i's have been marching arm in arm with Dr. King? Guidance from the NSA would seem to indicate that we could not associate with his organization - here are the criteria:

The following questions must be asked: Are the aims of the organization compatible with Bahá'í laws and principles? Is membership open to persons of all racial and religious backgrounds? Is it free from partisan politics and political controversies? Does it refrain from civil disobedience and violence? To answer these questions it would be necessary to review carefully an organization's activities and charter.

(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)

Civil disobedience seems to be misguided. We are to willingly submit to government and rule of law no matter how misguided. Indeed the Key Figures in our Faith submitted themselves to the authorities of Their time and endured it patiently.

Additionally, we are to avoid organizations that bring with it the baggage of things that do not accord with the Teachings - example working for the equality of men and women - but advocating abortion and homosexual rights - which on face are against the Teachings of the Faith (see the 12/28/10 UHJ message to the Counselors).

Basically, change is made in the hearts of men by the movement of the Holy Spirit. I do not think that Dr. King would disagree. But the example of the utmost civility, harmony and affinity as opposed to disobedience, disunity, and separation is the powerful remedy prescribed for this day and age.

So I think I will wait some years to try to explain this to my grandchildren. I for one will reflect today, I will not march.