March 29, 2014

Calligraphic representation of an Arabic verse: 'Praise be God, the Exalted, the Beloved!'

Calligraphic arrangement by Mishkin-Qalam of the invocation: 'Praise be God, the Exalted, the Beloved!" (The Baha'i World 1976-1979)

March 27, 2014

How to regard the laws and ordinances of the Baha’i Faith

…the laws and ordinances of this Dispensation Bahá'u'lláh has specifically characterized as "the breath of life unto all created things", as "the mightiest stronghold", as the "fruits" of His "Tree", as "the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples", as "the lamps of His wisdom and loving providence", as "the sweet-smelling savour of his garment", as the "keys" of His "mercy" to His creatures. "This book" (The Kitab-i-Aqdas), He Himself testifies, "is a heaven which we have adorned with the stars of Our commandments and prohibitions." 
(Shoghi Effendi, extracted from God Passes By and published in ‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book’; Memorandum from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice dated 3 May, 1994)

March 20, 2014

“The appearances of the Manifestations of God are the divine springtime.”

The spiritual world is like unto the phenomenal world. They are the exact counterpart of each other. Whatever objects appear in this world of existence are the outer pictures of the world of heaven. When we look upon the phenomenal world, we perceive that it is divided into four seasons; one is the season of spring, another the season of summer, another autumn and then these three seasons are followed by winter. When the season of spring appears in the arena of existence, the whole world is rejuvenated and finds new life. The soul-refreshing breeze is wafted from every direction; the soul-quickening bounty is everywhere; the cloud of mercy showers down its rain, and the sun shines upon everything. Day by day we perceive that the signs of vegetation are all about us. Wonderful flowers, hyacinths and roses perfume the nostrils. The trees are full of leaves and blossoms, and the blossoms are followed by fruit. The spring and summer are followed by autumn and winter. The flowers wither and are no more; the leaves turn gray and life has gone. Then comes another springtime; the former springtime is renewed; again a new life stirs within everything.

The appearances of the Manifestations of God are the divine springtime. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a talk, 13 April 1912, New York; ‘The Promulgation of Universal Peace’)

March 16, 2014

Hand of the Cause John Robarts with three youth at Association for Baha'i Studies, Ottawa, Canada, 1982

The Hand of the Cause John Robarts with youth who received awards during the seventh annual conference of the Association for Baha'i Studies for scholarship and research on aspects of the Baha'i Faith. (The Baha'i World 1979-1983)

March 14, 2014

Explanation of Baha'i Calendar - from The Baha’i World 1930-1932

Among different peoples and at different times many different methods have been adopted for the measurement of time and fixing of dates, and several different calendars are still in daily use, e. g., the Gregorian in Western Europe, the Julian in many countries of Eastern Europe, the Hebrew among the Jews, and the Muhammadan in Muslim countries.

The Báb signalized the importance of the dispensation which He came to herald, by inaugurating a new calendar. In this, as in the Gregorian calendar, the lunar month is abandoned and the solar year is adopted.

The Bahá'i year consists of 19 months of 19 days each (i.e., 361 days), with the addition of certain "intercalary days" (four in ordinary and five in leap years) between the eighteenth and nineteenth months in order to adjust the calendar to the solar year. The Báb named the months after the attributes of God. The Bahá'i New Year, like the ancient Persian New Year, is astronomically fixed, commencing at the March equinox (March 21st), and the Bahá'i era commences with the year of the Báb's declaration (i.e., 1844 A. D., 1260 A. H.).

March 11, 2014

Three types of freedom – ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains

There are three types of freedom. The first is divine freedom, which is one of the inherent attributes of the Creator for He is unconstrained in His will, and no one can force Him to change His decree in any matter whatsoever....

The second is the political freedom of Europeans, which leaves the individual free to do whatsoever he desires as long as his action does not harm his neighbour. This is natural freedom, and its greatest expression is seen in the animal world. Observe these birds and notice with what freedom they live. However much man may try, he can never be as free as an animal, because the existence of order acts as an impediment to freedom.

The third freedom is that which is born of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Almighty. This is the freedom of the human world, where man severs his affections from all things. When he does so, he becomes immune to all hardship and sorrow. Wealth or material power will not deflect him from moderation and fairness, neither will poverty or need inhibit him from showing forth happiness and tranquillity. The more the conscience of man develops, the more will his heart be free and his soul attain unto happiness. In the religion of God, there is freedom of thought because God, alone, controls the human conscience, but this freedom should not go beyond courtesy. In the religion of God, there is no freedom of action outside the law of God. Man may not transgress this law, even though no harm is inflicted on one's neighbour. This is because the purpose of Divine law is the education of all -- others as well as oneself -- and, in the sight of God, the harm done to one individual or to his neighbour is the same and is reprehensible in both cases. Hearts must possess the fear of God. Man should endeavour to avoid that which is abhorrent unto God. Therefore, the freedom that the laws of Europe offer to the individual does not exist in the law of God. Freedom of thought should not transgress the bounds of courtesy, and actions, likewise, should be governed by the fear of God and the desire to seek His good pleasure. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, excerpt from a Tablet quoted by the Universal House of Justice in a letter dated 8 February 1998 written on its behalf to an individual believer)          

March 8, 2014

The Fast: “It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation…”

The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.  
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 10, 1936; Lights of Guidance)

March 2, 2014

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s prayer for the Greatest Holy Leaf

Dear and deeply spiritual sister! At morn and eventide, with the utmost ardour and humility, I supplicate at the Divine Threshold, and offer this, my prayer:

Grant, O Thou my God, the Compassionate, that that pure and blessed Leaf may be comforted by Thy sweet savours of holiness and sustained by the reviving breeze of Thy loving care and mercy. Reinforce her spirit with the signs of Thy Kingdom, and gladden her soul with the testimonies of Thy everlasting dominion. Comfort, O my God, her sorrowful heart with the remembrance of Thy face, initiate her into Thy hidden mysteries, and inspire her with the revealed splendours of Thy heavenly light. Manifold are her sorrows, and infinitely grievous her distress. Bestow continually upon her the favour of Thy sustaining grace and, with every fleeting breath, grant her the blessing of Thy bounty. Her hopes and expectations are centred in Thee; open Thou to her face the portals of Thy tender mercies and lead her into the ways of Thy wondrous benevolence. Thou art the Generous, the All-Loving, the Sustainer, the All-Bountiful. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘Bahiyyih Khanum, The Greatest Holy Leaf’; a compilation prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice’)