November 30, 2016

How to become “receptive of the divine light”

The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light. One heart may possess the capacity of the polished mirror; another, be covered and obscured by the dust and dross of this world. Although the same Sun is shining upon both, in the mirror which is polished, pure and sanctified you may behold the Sun in all its fullness, glory and power, revealing its majesty and effulgence; but in the mirror which is rusted and obscured there is no capacity for reflection, although so far as the Sun itself is concerned it is shining thereon and is neither lessened nor deprived. Therefore, our duty lies in seeking to polish the mirrors of our hearts in order that we shall become reflectors of that light and recipients of the divine bounties which may be fully revealed through them. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk, New York, 14 April 1912; ‘The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912’)

November 28, 2016

A Baha’i's “ambition” in life

They who are the people of God have no ambition except to revive the world, to ennoble its life, and regenerate its peoples. 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah’)

November 26, 2016

Benefits of participating in institute courses – both for individuals & the community

Central to the pattern of action evolving in a cluster is the individual and collective transformation effected through the agency of the Word of God. From the beginning of the sequence of courses, a participant encounters Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation in considering such weighty themes as worship, service to humanity, the life of the soul, and the education of children and youth. 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. These capacities are visible not only in the elevated discussions that increasingly characterize interactions within the community, but in the ongoing conversations that reach well beyond—not least between the Bahá’í youth and their peers—extending to include parents whose daughters and sons are benefiting from the community’s programmes of education. Through exchanges of this kind, consciousness of spiritual forces is raised, apparent dichotomies yield to unexpected insights, a sense of unity and common calling is fortified, confidence that a better world can be created is strengthened, and a commitment to action becomes manifest. Such distinctive conversations gradually attract ever-larger numbers to take part in a range of community activities. Themes of faith and certitude surface naturally, prompted by the receptivity and experiences of those involved. What is clear, then, is that as the institute process in a cluster gains momentum, the act of teaching comes to assume greater prominence in the lives of the friends. 
- The Universal House of justice  (From Dec. 29, 2015 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors)

November 24, 2016

The “most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men”

As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized. Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world.
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh’)

November 21, 2016

Garden of Ridvan in the Holy Land at the time of Baha'u'llah

The two seats that Baha'u'llah often used are marked. The gardener, Abu'l-Qasim, is standing on the steps leading to the stream that flows through the garden. ('Views of Akka, Haifa, Mt. Carmel and Other Places', an early publication by Baha'i Publishing Society, Chicago)

November 18, 2016

Shoghi Effendi’s humility and selflessness – a kind not yet known elsewhere

Humility of a kind not yet known elsewhere was one of Shoghi Effendi's many unique virtues, a humility which came from the conviction that man's faculties are not self-created but are a precious trust from God, not to be displayed or used overbearingly or with vanity. And yet he emanated true pride and dignity, such a regal dignity that raised him far above any man I have yet met or known.

When conversing with him, one could strongly sense this feeling of humility, while his ample brow and penetrating eyes reflected an inner light born of faith, courage and determination. One could feel an awareness that was amazing and rendered one speechless.

Shoghi Effendi's selflessness was not only outstanding but exemplary. He never placed his personal interests or desires ahead of his functions as Guardian. Those who were near to him inevitably felt that his life was something to be fully expended in the service of God and humanity, in a dedication unlike that of any other human being. When close to him I always felt the powerful process of his sublimation to the reality of the unseen world, while his body was there, near to me, like a visible, finely-tuned musical instrument whose melodies, imperceptible to the human ear, vibrated unseen through the ether.

November 16, 2016

Service on the institutions and agencies of the Faith – is a “privilege”, not one to be “sought by the individual”

Service on the institutions and agencies of the Faith is indeed a tremendous privilege, but not one that is sought by the individual; it is a duty and responsibility to which he or she may be called at any given time. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a message dated 28 December 2010 addressed to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors)

November 14, 2016

Qualities for which a Baha’i community should be distinguished

Wherever a Bahá'í community exists, whether large or small, let it be distinguished for its abiding sense of security and faith, its high standard of rectitude, its complete freedom from all forms of prejudice, the spirit of love among its members and for the closely knit fabric of its social life. The acute distinction between this and present-day society will inevitably arouse the interest of the more enlightened, and as the world's gloom deepens the light of Bahá'í life will shine brighter and brighter until its brilliance must eventually attract the disillusioned masses and cause them to enter the haven of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, Who alone can bring them peace and justice and an ordered life. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a message dated August 1968; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963 to 1986’)

November 10, 2016

The “force of contrast” – “as material affairs go from bad to worse in the world”

Indeed as material affairs go from bad to worse in the world, the confidence, optimism, love and hope of the believers will, by force of contrast, shine out as an ever brighter beacon, leading the people to the Path of Truth, the way laid down by God, which alone can guide them to the promise of the future. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 28 February 1942 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles; ‘The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community’)

November 9, 2016

We have “three aspects of our humanness, so to speak, a body, a mind and an immortal identity—soul or spirit”

When studying at present, in English, the available Bahá’í writings on the subject of body, soul and spirit, one is handicapped by a certain lack of clarity because not all were translated by the same person, and also there are, as you know, still many Bahá’í writings untranslated. But there is no doubt that spirit and soul seem to have been interchanged in meaning sometimes; soul and mind have, likewise, been interchanged in meaning, no doubt due to difficulties arising from different translations. What the Bahá’ís do believe though is that we have three aspects of our humanness, so to speak, a body, a mind and an immortal identity—soul or spirit. We believe the mind forms a link between the soul and the body, and the two interact on each other. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, June 7th, 1946; ‘Arohanui: Letters from Shoghi Effendi to New Zealand’)

November 6, 2016

The “leaven that will transform human society”

Beyond the expansion of the community, vital as it is, the Five Year Plan [1974-1979] witnessed great progress in the spiritual development of the friends, the growing maturity and wisdom of Local and National Assemblies, and in the degree to which Bahá'í communities embody the distinguishing characteristics of Bahá'í life and attract, by their unity, their steadfastness, their radiance and good reputation, the interest and eventual wholehearted support of their fellow citizens. This is the magnet which will attract the masses to the Cause of God, and the leaven that will transform human society. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a message dated Naw-Ruz 1979; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986’)

November 3, 2016

Seeing the world through the eyes of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – “the greatest theatre in which humanity plays its part”

O thou who hast clung to the pure hem of the Branch of the Blessed Tree.

Behold thou the world and the inhabitants thereof with a seeing eye. It is the greatest theatre in which humanity plays its part. Thou seest hosts of people, running in the Arena of profit and loss and the waves of the Sea of madness are visible and apparent in many parts. Uproarious voices are raised, and clamor, revolution and intense tumult reaches the ears of the discerning ones. Bitter quarrels and strife are waged between capital and labor, and with swords and arrows, spears and daggers, battles are fought between the lowly and the high. Everywhere the regiments of the Armies are drawn in battle array and the infernal and destructive artilleries are mounted on every side. The gleaming brightness of the swords of enmity is seen from afar and the intense brilliancy of the spears of hatred is illuminating the black darkness of the night and dazzling the eyes.

By the above statement is meant that the implements of warfare, struggle, battle and slaughter are prepared and ready in utmost completeness. On the other hand thou hearest the voice of music and harmony, the melody of harps, organs and songs, and seest the signs of joy and happiness, mirth and cheerfulness. Here thou observest the spectacle of the attachment of the people to gold and silver, and the display of decorations, tinsels, earthly pageants, pomps, worldly ambitions and covetousness are the conditions of the ephemeral world. And there thou hearest the moans of helplessness and lamentation, the groanings of pain and sufferings and the cries of terror and impotence. The wailing of the weeping ones, the deprecations of the afflicted ones, the grief of the distressed ones and the despair of those drowning in the Sea of Tests are ascending toward Heaven, fervently begging help and succor. Hither thou beholdest the burning pangs of separation, the enkindlement of the Fire of longing and the scorching of yearning, and yonder thou seest the agitation and raging of Kings and headless ministers, the contention and rivalry of thoughts and ideas of senseless leaders and the consultations, tactics, strategies, devices, constructions and destructions, fame and notoriety of the Counsellors of Kingdoms and Empires.

November 1, 2016

How we should respond to anger directed at us

Should anyone wax angry with you, respond to him with gentleness; and should anyone upbraid you, forbear to upbraid him in return, but leave him to himself and put your trust in God, the omnipotent Avenger, the Lord of might and justice. 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas’)