June 21, 2017

Baha’u’llah’s awesome reference to the Station of the Báb and His Own

Praise be unto God Who hath manifested the Point, hath unfolded therefrom the knowledge of all things, whether of the past or of the future—a Point He hath chosen to be the Herald of His Name and the Harbinger of His Great Revelation which hath caused the limbs of all mankind to quake and the splendour of His light to shine forth above the horizon of the world. Verily, this is the Point which God hath ordained to be an ocean of light for the sincere among His servants and a flame of fire to the froward amidst His creatures and the impious among His people… 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Tablets of Baha’u’llah revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

June 18, 2017

Wisdom of facing Akka when reciting Obligatory Prayers

He would advise you to only use the short midday Obligatory Prayer. This has no genuflections and only requires that when saying it the believer turn his face towards 'Akká where Bahá'u'lláh is buried. This is a physical symbol of an inner reality, just as the plant stretches out to the sunlight -- from which it receives life and growth -- so we turn our hearts to the Manifestation of God, Bahá'u'lláh, when we pray; and we turn our faces, during this short prayer, to where His dust lies on this earth as a symbol of the inner act. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 24 June 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude)

June 12, 2017

The “two essential mediums” through which one “can ensure the development and progress” of her/his “inner spiritual life” as well as “outer existence”

His brotherly advice to you, and to all loyal and ardent young believers like you, is that you should deepen your knowledge of the history and of the tenets of the Faith, not merely by means of careful and thorough study, but also through active, whole-hearted and continued participation in all the activities, whether administrative or otherwise, of your community. The Bahá'í community life provides you with an indispensable laboratory, where you can translate into living and constructive action the principles which you imbibe from the Teachings. By becoming a real part of that living organism you can catch the real spirit which runs throughout the Bahá'í Teachings. To study the principles, and to try to live according to them, are, therefore, the two essential mediums through which you can ensure the development and progress of your inner spiritual life and of your outer existence as well. May Bahá'u'lláh enable you to attain this high station, and may He keep the torch of faith for ever burning in your heart! 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 2 November 1933 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. II, Youth)

June 8, 2017

The Soul of the Manifestation of God is “pre-existent”

The Prophets, unlike us, are pre-existent. The Soul of Christ existed in the spiritual world before His birth in this world. We cannot imagine what that world is like, so words are inadequate to picture His state of being. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 9, 1947; compilation: 'Lights of Guidance')

June 6, 2017

The two wings of humanity

The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings or parts become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary. Therefore, woman must receive the same education as man and all inequality be adjusted. Thus, imbued with the same virtues as man, rising through all the degrees of human attainment, women will become the peers of men, and until this equality is established, true progress and attainment for the human race will not be facilitated. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk, ’The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912’; The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, Peace)

June 3, 2017

To remind ourselves that “though but a mere handful amidst the seething masses of the world, we are in this day the chosen instruments of God’s grace…”

Let us pray to God that in these days of world-encircling gloom, when the dark forces of nature, of hate, rebellion, anarchy and reaction are threatening the very stability of human society, when the most precious fruits of civilization are undergoing severe and unparalleled tests, we may all realize, more profoundly than ever, that though but a mere handful amidst the seething masses of the world, we are in this day the chosen instruments of God’s grace, that our mission is most urgent and vital to the fate of humanity, and, fortified by these sentiments, arise to achieve God’s holy purpose for mankind. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (Excerpt from a letter dated 14 November 1923 to the Baha’is throughout America, ‘Baha’i Administration’)

May 29, 2017

Human soul - after death, it “remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body”

As to the soul of man after death, it remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body, and after it is freed from the body it remains plunged in the ocean of God’s Mercy.

From the moment the soul leaves the body and arrives in the Heavenly World, its evolution is spiritual, and that evolution is: The approaching unto God.

In the physical creation, evolution is from one degree of perfection to another. The mineral passes with its mineral perfections to the vegetable; the vegetable, with its perfections, passes to the animal world, and so on to that of humanity. This world is full of seeming contradictions; in each of these kingdoms (mineral, vegetable and animal) life exists in its degree; though when compared to the life in a man, the earth appears to be dead, yet she, too, lives and has a life of her own. In this world things live and die, and live again in other forms of life, but in the world of the spirit it is quite otherwise.

The soul does not evolve from degree to degree as a law—it only evolves nearer to God, by the Mercy and Bounty of God. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk, November 3, 1911, Paris; ‘Paris Talks’)

May 24, 2017

The process of learning: --> Questions that must be addressed through exploration of the Writings of the Faith as well as through scientific analysis of patterns unfolding

Numerous, of course, are the questions that the process of learning, now under way in all regions of the world, must address:
  • how to bring people of different backgrounds together in an environment which, devoid of the constant threat of conflict and distinguished by its devotional character, encourages them to put aside the divisive ways of a partisan mindset, fosters higher degrees of unity of thought and action, and elicits wholehearted participation;
  • how to administer the affairs of a community in which there is no ruling class with priestly functions that can lay claim to distinction or privilege;
  • how to enable contingents of men and women to break free from the confines of passivity and the chains of oppression in order to engage in activities conducive to their spiritual, social and intellectual development;
  • how to help youth navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and become empowered to direct their energies towards the advancement of civilization;
  • how to create dynamics within the family unit that lead to material and spiritual prosperity without instilling in the rising generations feelings of estrangement towards an illusory "other" or nurturing any instinct to exploit those relegated to this category;
  • how to make it possible for decision making to benefit from a diversity of perspectives through a consultative process which, understood as the collective investigation of reality, promotes detachment from personal views, gives due importance to valid empirical information, does not raise mere opinion to the status of fact or define truth as the compromise between opposing interest groups.

May 22, 2017

One’s own ongoing spiritual growth and development while attempting to conduct meaningful conversations

“With greater and greater spiritual perception, they are able to sense receptivity and recognize thirst for the vivifying waters of Bahá’u’lláh’s message.” (The Universal House of Justice, 27 December 2005, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors)

“As a person cultivates the habit of study and deep reflection upon the Creative Word, this process of transformation reveals itself in an ability to express one’s understanding of profound concepts and to explore spiritual reality in conversations of significance.” (The Universal House of Justice, 29 Dec, 2015, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors)

May 20, 2017

How to “become a focal centre reflecting the Manifest Light” – ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains

O Friends of the Pure and Omnipotent God! To be pure and holy in all things is an attribute of the consecrated soul and a necessary characteristic of the unenslaved mind. The best of perfections is immaculacy and the freeing of oneself from every defect. Once the individual is, in every respect, cleansed and purified, then will he become a focal centre reflecting the Manifest Light.

First in a human being’s way of life must be purity, then freshness, cleanliness, and independence of spirit. First must the stream bed be cleansed, then may the sweet river waters be led into it. Chaste eyes enjoy the beatific vision of the Lord and know what this encounter meaneth; a pure sense inhaleth the fragrances that blow from the rose gardens of His grace; a burnished heart will mirror forth the comely face of truth. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (‘Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’)

May 15, 2017

Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – which ones form “a part of Bahá'í Scripture”?

The original of "Some Answered Questions" in Persian is preserved in the Holy Land; its text was read in full and corrected by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá Himself. Unfortunately, Abdu'l-Bahá did not read and authenticate all transcripts of His other talks, some of which have been translated into various languages and published. For many of His addresses included in "The Promulgation of Universal Peace" and "Paris Talks", for example, no original authenticated text has yet been found. However, the Guardian allowed such compilations to continue to be used by the friends. In the future each talk will have to be identified and those which are unauthenticated will have to be clearly distinguished from those which form a part of Bahá'í Scripture. This does not mean that the unauthenticated talks will have to cease to be used -- merely that the degree of authenticity of every document will have to be known and understood. (From a letter dated 23 March 1987 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice included in a Memorandum from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, dated 28 March 1996 attached to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated 22 October, 1996)

May 10, 2017

An example of how the wishes of the Manifestation of God are carried out regardless of physical obstacles: --> Baha’u’llah decides to send Táhirih to Khurásán

A few days after Táhirih’s arrival at Tihrán, [circa 1848] Bahá’u’lláh decided to send her to Khurásán in the company of the believers who were preparing to depart for that province. He too had determined to leave the capital and take the same direction a few days later. He accordingly summoned Áqáy-i-Kalím and instructed him to take immediately the necessary measures to ensure the removal of Táhirih, together with her woman attendant, Qanitih, to a place outside the gate of the capital, from whence they were, later on, to proceed to Khurásán. He cautioned him to exercise the utmost care and vigilance lest the guards who were stationed at the entrance of the city, and who had been ordered to refuse the passage of women through the gates without a permit, should discover her identity and prevent her departure.

I [Nabil] have heard Áqáy-i-Kalím recount the following:

April 30, 2017

One’s “good works should proceed from knowledge”

Pleasing and acceptable as is a righteous person before God's Holy Threshold, yet good works should proceed from knowledge. However matchless and exquisite may be a blind man's handiwork, yet he himself is deprived of seeing it. How sorely do certain animals labour on man's behalf, what loads they bear for him, how greatly they contribute to his ease and comfort; and yet, because they are unwitting, they earn no recompense for all their pains. The clouds rain down their bounty, nurturing the plants and flowers, and imparting verdure and enchantment to the plain and prairie, the forest and the garden; but yet, unconscious as they are of the results and fruit of their outpourings, they win no praise or honour, nor earn the gratitude and approbation of any man. The lamp imparteth light, but as it hath no consciousness of doing so, no one is indebted to it. This apart, a man of righteous deeds and goodly conduct will assuredly turn towards the Light, in whichever quarter he behold it. The point is this, that faith compriseth both knowledge and the performance of good works. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (A revised translation of a Tablet in ‘Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, vol. 3, p. 549’; included in a Memorandum from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, dated 28 March 1996 attached to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated 22 October, 1996)

April 27, 2017

A PowerPoint presentation of some teachings of the Baha’i Faith

This document was used along with some background instrumental music, as part of the First Day Ridvan celebration in one community. Readers were assigned for some quotes to make the experience more interactive.

April 26, 2017

Helping the needy

Regarding the question you raised: in the first place every believer is free to follow the dictates of his own conscience as regards the manner in which he should spend his own money. Secondly, we must always bear in mind that there are so few Bahá'ís in the world, relative to the world's population, and so many people in need, that even if all of us gave all we had, it would not alleviate more than an infinitesimal amount of suffering. This does not mean we must not help the needy, we should; but our contributions to the Faith are the surest way of lifting once and for all time the burden of hunger and misery from mankind, for it is only through the System of Bahá'u'lláh — Divine in origin — that the world can be gotten on its feet and want, fear, hunger, war, etc., be eliminated. Non-Bahá'ís cannot contribute to our work or do it for us; so really our first obligation is to support our own teaching work, as this will lead to the healing of the nations. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 8 December 1947 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, published in "Bahá'í News" 210, August 1948; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, Baha’i Funds and Contributions)

April 23, 2017

Baha'u'llah delineates “the fundamental principles for the administration of the affairs” of humanity

Whilst in the Prison of Akká, We revealed in the Crimson Book that which is conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the reconstruction of the world. The utterances set forth therein by the Pen of the Lord of creation include the following which constitute the fundamental principles for the administration of the affairs of men:

First: It is incumbent upon the ministers of the House of Justice to promote the Lesser Peace so that the people of the earth may be relieved from the burden of exorbitant expenditures. This matter is imperative and absolutely essential, inasmuch as hostilities and conflict lie at the root of affliction and calamity.

Second: Languages must be reduced to one common language to be taught in all the schools of the world.

Third: It behoveth man to adhere tenaciously unto that which will promote fellowship, kindliness and unity.

Fourth: Everyone, whether man or woman, should hand over to a trusted person a portion of what he or she earneth through trade, agriculture or other occupation, for the training and education of children, to be spent for this purpose with the knowledge of the Trustees of the House of Justice.

Fifth: Special regard must be paid to agriculture. Although it hath been mentioned in the fifth place, unquestionably it precedeth the others...

April 20, 2017

Meaning of self-sacrifice...

Regarding the questions you asked: self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá'í writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as "he hath known God who hath known himself", etc. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection.

Self-sacrifice means to subordinate this lower nature and its desires to the more godly and noble side of our selves. Ultimately, in its highest sense, self-sacrifice means to give our will and our all to God to do with as He pleases. Then He purifies and glorifies our true self until it becomes a shining and wonderful reality. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 10 December 1947 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. II, Living the Life)

April 17, 2017

Imitations and superstitions have obscured the Reality of Divine Religion

...humanity is submerged so utterly in imitations, although the Reality of Divine Religion is ever the same. Most regrettable is it that superstitions have obscured the Reality, so that the world has become darkened and the illumination of Religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences because dogmas and rites are various and have become the cause of discord between the religious systems whereas Religion is for the unification of mankind. Religion is the cause of love amongst men, the cause of amity, the cause of the acquisition of praiseworthy qualities, but people have become submerged in the sea of imitation, and holding to these counterfeits, are utterly negligent of the Reality which unifies and are bereft of the radiance of Religion. They are holding to superstitions which are a heritage from their fathers and ancestors. To the extent that these imitations have caused darkness, they have taken away the light of Religion. That which was meant to be conducive of life has become conducive of death; that which was an evidence of knowledge has become a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be a cause of its degradation. Therefore, the realm of the religionist has gradually disappeared and become darkened and the world of the materialist has daily advanced. For that which the former held to was no other than counterfeit or imitation, while holiness and sacred Reality of Religion was neglected and discarded.

April 13, 2017

Aims and ambitions of Bahá'ís...

  • Pity and good-will towards all mankind.
  • The rendering of service to humanity.
  • To guide and enlighten hearts.
  • Each member must try to be kind to everyone and to show forth great affection towards every living soul.
  • Humility towards God and constant prayer to Him so as to be enabled to grow daily "Nearer God".
  • Always in every word and action to be faithful and sincere, so that each member may be known to the world as embodying the qualities of Sincerity, Faith, Kindness, Love, Generosity and Bravery. That we may be detached from all that is not God, attracted by the Heavenly Breath, divine beings - so that the world may know that a Bahá'í is a perfect being.
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (Notes of words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 6 November 1911, Paris, France: compilation: ‘Discourses of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in London and Paris’; Star of the West, vol. 2, no. 19, March 2, 1912)

April 11, 2017

The Pathway of Religion…

The… pathway… of religion… is the pathway of the Divine realm. It involves the acquisition of praiseworthy attributes in the world of humanity, heavenly radiance and commendable actions. This pathway is conducive to the progress and upliftment of the world. It is the source of the illumination of the world of humanity; the cause of human training and ethical improvement. It is the magnet which attracts the love of God, because of the knowledge of God it bestows. This is the foundation of the Holy Manifestations of God, for they are in reality the foundation of the Divine Religion of Oneness. There is no change or transformation in this pathway. It is the cause of human betterment, the acquisition of heavenly virtues, and illumination of human kind. 
- 'Abdu'l-Baha  (From a talk, June 9, 1912, Baptist Temple, Philadelphia; Star of the West, vol. 5, no. 7, July 13, 1914)

April 9, 2017

"What is a functioning Local Spiritual Assembly"?

The first Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly in Samoa, 1957
In reply to your letter of July 14th asking guidance as to what is a functioning Local Spiritual Assembly, we offer you the following comments:

Local Spiritual Assemblies are at the present newly-born institutions, struggling for the most part to establish themselves both in the Bahá'í community and in the world. They are as yet only embryos of the majestic institutions ordained by Bahá'u'lláh in His Writings This is also true of National Spiritual Assemblies. In the following passage written by the Secretary of the Guardian on his behalf this point is elucidated:

The Bahá'í Administration is only the first shaping of what in future will come to be the social life and laws of community living. As yet the believers are only just beginning to grasp and practise it properly. So we must have patience if at times it seems a little self-conscious and rigid in its workings. It is because we are learning something very difficult but very wonderful -- how to live together as a community of Bahá'ís, according to the glorious teachings."

April 5, 2017

Our “vain imaginations have been split asunder” by the “most exalted Word” of God brought to humanity by Baha’u’llah

Do Thou, then, ordain for them that which Thou didst ordain for Thy chosen ones and for the righteous among Thy creatures, whose constancy in Thy Cause the tempests of trials have failed to shake, and whom the tumults of tests have been powerless to hinder from magnifying Thy most exalted Word—the Word through Which the heavens of men’s idle fancies and vain imaginations have been split asunder. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the All-Knowing. 
- Baha’u’llah  (Extract from a prayer; ‘Prayers and meditations by Baha’u’llah’) 

April 2, 2017

Divinity can only be approached through the Manifestations of God – a brief compilation by Hand of the Cause Mr. Furutan

The Báb has stated in the Persian Bayan:

“Verily, whatsoever hath been revealed by God about attaining His presence or that of the Lord, is intended to be a reference to none other than Him Whom God shall make manifest [Bahá’u’lláh] inasmuch as God Himself cannot be seen.” (III, 7.)

“Whatsoever hath been mentioned in the Holy Books about attainment unto His Presence, referreth to the Presence of Him Who appeareth in His Manifestation; that is, He Who is the Point of Truth, Who is and hath been the Primal Will. (ibid.)

“And those people whom thou seest calling upon God, and who, between themselves and God, think of themselves as virtuous, are, one and all, lost in the realms of their idle fancies and vain imaginings. They call upon One Who is unknown to them. (The Báb, Kitáb-i-Panj-Sha'n)

And the Blessed Beauty has said: