April 22, 2016

1994: Australia's O.N.E. dance group

Members of Australia's O.N.E. Dance Theater prepare to perform at a Year of the Family event. (The Baha'i World 1994-1995)

April 20, 2016

Efforts through which Baha’is can “bring about the betterment of the world” – identified by the Universal House of Justice

  • “in the confidence that countless believers have acquired to share accounts of Baha'u'llah's life and discuss the implications of His Revelation and peerless Covenant;
  • in the growing contingents of souls who, as a result, have been attracted to His Cause and are contributing to the achievement of His unifying vision;
  • in the ability of Baha'is and their friends, at the very grassroots of the community, to describe in eloquent terms their experience of a process capable of transforming character and shaping social existence;
  • in the significantly larger numbers of those indigenous to a country who, as members of Baha'i institutions and agencies, are now guiding the affairs of their communities;
  • in the reliable, generous, and sacrificial giving to the Fund, so vital for sustaining the advancement of the Faith;
  • in the unprecedented efflorescence of individual initiative and collective action in support of community-building activities;
  • in the enthusiasm of so many selfless souls in the prime of youth who are bringing immense vigour to this work, notably by tending to the spiritual education of younger generations;
  • in the enhancement of the devotional character of the community through regular gatherings for worship;
  • in the rise in capacity at all levels of Baha'i administration;
  • in the readiness of institutions, agencies, and individuals 
    • to think in terms of process, 
    • to read their immediate reality and assess their resources in the places where they live, and 
    • to make plans on that basis;
  • in the now familiar dynamic of study, consultation, action, and reflection that has cultivated an instinctive posture of learning;
  • in the mounting appreciation for what it means to give effect to the Teachings through social action;
  • in the multiplying opportunities being sought and seized to offer a Baha'i perspective on discourses prevalent in society;
  • in the awareness of a global community that, in all its endeavours, it is hastening the emergence of divine civilization by manifesting the society-building power inherent in the Cause;
  • indeed, in the friends' growing consciousness that their efforts
    • to foster inner transformation,
    • to widen the circle of unity,
    • to collaborate with others in the field of service,
    • to help populations take charge of their own spiritual, social, and economic development—and,
through all such efforts, to bring about the betterment of the world—express the very purpose of religion itself.”
- The Universal House of Justice  (Ridvan 2016)

April 19, 2016

April 15, 2016

The “chief goal of every education”

…Baha'i education, just like any other system of education, is based on the assumption that there are certain natural deficiencies in every child, no matter how gifted, which his educators, whether his parents, schoolmasters, or his spiritual guides and preceptors, should endeavour to remedy. Discipline of some sort, whether physical, moral or intellectual, is indeed indispensable, and no training can be said to be complete and fruitful if it disregards this element. The child when born is far from being perfect. It is not only helpless, but actually is imperfect, and even is naturally inclined towards evil. He should be trained, his natural inclinations harmonized, adjusted and controlled, and if necessary suppressed or regulated, so as to ensure his healthy physical and moral development. Baha'i parents cannot simply adopt an attitude of non-resistance towards their children, particularly those who are unruly and violent by nature. It is not even sufficient that they should pray on their behalf. Rather they should endeavour to inculcate, gently and patiently, into their youthful minds such principles of moral conduct and initiate them into the principles and teachings of the Cause with such tactful and loving care as would enable them to become "true sons of God" and develop into loyal and intelligent citizens of His Kingdom. This is the high purpose which Baha'u'llah Himself has clearly defined as the chief goal of every education. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 9 July 1939, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; included in a Memorandum from the Research department of the Universal House of Justice, dated 16 October 1994; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)  

April 13, 2016

Will souls hear about Baha’u’llah in the next life?

Question:  If one refuses the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh during his lifetime, may he hear of it after death?

‘Abdu’l-Baha: Yes, he will hear of it in his next life, but through the mercy of God alone, not through his own ability.
(Notes of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s answer, October 18, 1911, Paris, France; Star of the West’, vol.2, no. 16, December 31, 1911)

April 10, 2016

“Bear in your heart great love to all races on earth”

Bear in your heart great love to all races on earth, to the ends that unity may be established between them. Take an interest in everyone and find out how you can help them, so that all may see that your love is truly universal. Do the Will of God, do not only speak about it; the elect of God do this. People do much speaking to advance their own glory and to make themselves appear superior to their neighbours. But if you do the Will of God and do not blazon it abroad, then you will change the whole world. They who do most speak least.

Man must ever be thinking of drawing nearer to God…

I hope that you will someday be able to hinder such actions, and thus enable justice to reign everywhere. I hope you will be able to make all hearts pure and tender, all efforts sincere, so that everyone may work for the good of humanity. This is my prayer and desire. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk, Paris, October 17, 1911; ‘Star of the West’, vol.2, no. 16, December 31, 1911) (See other talks by the Master)

April 7, 2016

Tablets of the Divine Plan “are the Charter for the teaching of the Faith”

As you are no doubt aware, the Tablets of the Divine Plan, which were revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during the First World War, are the Charter for the teaching of the Faith. All the teaching plans launched by the beloved Guardian, as well as those subsequently directed by the Universal House of Justice, are stages in the implementation of this master plan conceived by the Centre of the Covenant for the diffusion of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 29, 1977; compilation: Lights of Guidance)
English translation of the first Tablet of the Divine Plan which was addressed to the friends in the northeastern states of the United States. It was on the back and front of two postcards, and bearing the original signature of ‘Abdu'l-Baha. They were sent, along with their original Persian, to the address of Hooper Harris, a prominent Baha’i in New York City. This was during World War I. 
(See additional pictures, text, and a PowerPoint at Tablets of the Divine Plan - historical context)

April 6, 2016

The “physical body is an instrument over which the human spirit spreads a luminosity.”

Ponder ye, that during sleep the human body and the five physical senses, viz., sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch are passive, i.e., all physical forces are inactive. Notwithstanding this, human reality has spiritual life and the spiritual powers are penetrative, and wonderful disclosures are made in both the East and the West, and perchance one may discover some matters, which, after a long time, may become apparent in the physical world. Therefore it has become evident that the continuity and influence of the human reality does not depend upon the physical instrumentality; nay, rather, the physical body is an instrument over which the human spirit spreads a luminosity.  It is like unto the sun, which shining upon the mirror, causes its brilliancy, and when the reflection is withdrawn from the mirror, it becomes dark.  Likewise, when the luminosity of the human spirit is withdrawn from the body, that instrument becomes useless. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a Tablet to Ella Goodall Cooper; Star of the West, vol. 2, no. 15, December 12, 1911) 
(To read the entire Tablet please visit Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Star of the West)

April 5, 2016

A believer asked the Master for a “letter” to be read at Ridvan Celebration

Thou didst wish to celebrate the Day of Ridván with a feast, and to have those present on that day engage in reciting Tablets with delight and joy, and thou didst request me to send thee a letter to be read on that day. My letter is this:

O ye beloved, and ye handmaids of the Merciful! This is the day when the Day-Star of Truth rose over the horizon of life, and its glory spread, and its brightness shone out with such power that it clove the dense and high-piled clouds and mounted the skies of the world in all its splendour. Hence do ye witness a new stirring throughout all created things.

See how, in this day, the scope of sciences and arts hath widened out, and what wondrous technical advances have been made, and to what a high degree the mind’s powers have increased, and what stupendous inventions have appeared.

This age is indeed as a hundred other ages: should ye gather the yield of a hundred ages, and set that against the accumulated product of our times, the yield of this one era will prove greater than that of a hundred gone before. Take ye, for an example, the sum total of all the books that were ever written in ages past, and compare that with the books and treatises that our era hath produced: these books, written in our day alone, far and away exceed the total number of volumes that have been written down the ages. See how powerful is the influence exerted by the Day-Star of the world upon the inner essence of all created things!

But alas, a thousand times alas! The eyes see it not, the ears are deaf, and the hearts and minds are oblivious of this supreme bestowal. Strive ye then, with all your hearts and souls, to awaken those who slumber, to cause the blind to see, and the dead to rise. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (‘Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha)

April 4, 2016

The “principles” to keep in mind “concerning door-to-door calling in connection with Bahá'í activities”

We have considered the questions you put forward concerning door-to-door calling in connection with Bahá'í activities. . . .

The principles you should bear in mind are:

1. The dignity of the Faith. This should be carefully safeguarded in all Bahá'í activities, and it is clear from the following quotation that the Guardian felt that door-to-door distribution of pamphlets was undignified: "He feels that to distribute Bahá'í pamphlets from door-to-door . . . is undignified and might create a bad impression of the Faith. No doubt, it is the eagerness and devotion of the friends that led them to make this proposal, but he does not think that the best interests of the Cause are served by such a method. . . ."

2. Bahá'u'lláh's injunction as recorded in The Hidden Words: "The wise are they that speak not unless they obtain a hearing." It is important that no teaching activity should be an encroachment on people's privacy nor should it force the teachings upon unwilling listeners.

3. Integrity and sincerity. If people are to be asked to answer a questionnaire [1] it should be for the reason that it is necessary for the sponsor to know the answers. Bahá'ís should not use such a method as a subterfuge to press the message upon people. 
- The Universal House of Justice (From a letter dated December 16, 1965, to a National Spiritual Assembly; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, 1998 edition)
[1] The proposed questionnaire was to ascertain the wishes of the public in a given area concerning religious education in schools.

April 3, 2016

1994 World Forestry Charter Gathering at London’s St. James’s Palace

HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, welcomes Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Kháum to St. James’s Palace, London, venue for the 1994 World Forestry Charter Gathering. Looking on are Ms. Guilda Walkel; left, who organized the event for the Baha’i International Community, and Mrs. Violette Nakhjavani, extreme right.
(The Baha’i World 1994-1995)

April 1, 2016

“evil spirits” have no influence on human beings – “holy souls have great influence and intense effect”

You have asked regarding the influence of evil spirits. Evil spirits are deprived of Eternal Life. How, then, can they exercise any influence?  But as Eternal Life is ordained for holy spirits, therefore their influence exists in all the divine worlds

…the holy souls have great influence and intense effect, and their influence and continuity do not depend upon physical existence and elemental composition. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a Tablet to Ella Goodall Cooper; Star of the West, vol. 2, no. 15, December 12, 1911) 
(To read the entire Tablet please visit Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Star of the West)