SPIRITUAL REFLECTION ON EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
materials for group discussion prepared by
This two part programme of Spiritual Reflection was designed by Rick Johnson for the 2005 Seminar on Education for Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension, in Orlando, Florida, USA (14-15 December 2005) that was the 9th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum. Each day of the ESD seminar began with an hour long session with the objective of anchoring the day's activities in the Bahá'í Writings. The sessions are interactive using stories and art activities that focus on the transforming power of Bahá'u'lláh's Message, fostering spiritual resonance and helping set the tone for the seminar. They could be used for many group activities (up to about 100 people) that need a spiritual centering.
"Yea, Verily!" The Transforming Power of Bahá'u'lláh's Message
- Offer brief introduction remarks relating the Suffering of Bahá'u'lláh and His Mission to transform the world.
- Begin by saying something like the following: "We are going to explore the impact that Bahá'u'lláh had in people's lives by looking at some stories. We're going to look at the spiritual qualities expressed in these stories, to understand the impact that Bahá'u'lláh had on people's lives, and the transformation inspired by their contact with Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Bahá'u'lláh, said that when people heard about the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, they often arose immediately to devote themselves entirely to spreading the teachings and serving humanity as they required. He said is was if they were asked, "Am I Not Your Lord?" and they shouted, "Yea, Verily!"
- There are many stories that illustrate the power of Bahá'u'lláh to transform lives and inspire transformative action. Some such stories are provided below - some of the stories are very simple, with very simple action; some are more complex; some focus on adults, some on children; some are in the past, some current. All illustrate people who are seeing the world differently, and doing things differently in the world, because of their embrace of Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings. Divide the group into small groups (2-4 people is ideal), providing one story to each group to read and reflect on.
- After reading or sharing the stories, have the group respond to the following focus questions:
- What spiritual qualities were expressed in the lives of the people in the stories?
- How did the services and spiritual qualities of the people in the stories increase as a result of their faith in Bahá'u'lláh?
- How do you think their service and capacities changed as a result of their faith?)
- After the discussion, ask the small groups to use the paper at your table and the arts supplies provided to give a visual response to what you've read.
- One group: Make a paper banner emblazoned with the question: "Am I Not Your Lord?" "Yea, Verily!" This banner should also include the image of a brilliant sun! The banner can be as simple or complex as materials and participant capacities suggest is appropriate.
- Remaining groups: Using the metaphor of a tree to depict the story.
- Each of the banners will leave some "open space" - for use in the following second activity (following morning).
- Discuss with the group the symbolism of the banners. The first banner symbolizes the life-giving power of Bahá'u'lláh's invitation to follow His Teachings. The question 'Am I Not Your Lord?' is like the physical sun offering itself to plants! The second banner symbolizes the response of the diverse body of believers who followed Bahá'u'lláh. The fruits are the spiritual qualities that each of us can develop as a result of following Bahá'u'lláh. Explain that as each one of us strives to develop these spiritual qualities in our lives, we transform the world around us. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see this progress in the world?
NOTE: Some of the stories are longer, some shorter. In some cases, groups will study several shorter stories together in order to give each group a roughly comparable amount.
Reported words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
There was a man in Bagdad who was the chief of a thousand warriors. These men were not in the regular army, but the Government gave the chief $2,000 a month to divide amongst them with the stipulation that whenever war broke out, this chief with his one thousand strong warriors would join the army. But instead of paying two dollars to his men monthly, he would give them each one dollar and pocket the balance. He abused his soldiers continually. he had also ten colored men in his personal service but treated them shamefully. . . .
One day this man with his evil reputation came to see Bahá'u'lláh, and afterward came frequently. He gave ear to all His advices and exhortations. Little by little the magical change was wrought; and one day he called together his thousand men and told them that for several years past he had been depriving them every month of half their pay, but that now he had realized his mistake and sought their pardon. From now on they were to receive their full pay of two dollars a month. His men were wild with joy and from that moment they nicknamed him, "The darling of our heart."
Then he went to his home and called together his ten Negro servants and told them he was extremely sorry for his treatment of them, that he now knew better; that he would try to amend the past by being kind to them and would treat them as if they were his real sons. Often I called upon him and enjoyed the intimate relation which existed between this man and his "Negro sons." They adored him. Then, before his death, he incorporated a clause in his will that his "Negro sons" should be free, and bequeathed to them a quarter of all his possessions.
By relating to you this story I want to impress upon your minds what miracles the love of Bahá'u'lláh can accomplish. This man was not a Bahá'í - he did not believe in Bahá'u'lláh - he simply loved him. We who believe in Him must most naturally do a hundred times more than this simple man. We must be ever ready to sacrifice our lives through the power of faith.
- 1913; from Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab; Star of the West, Vol. 9, p. 209
Remarks by Janabi Fazel Mazindarani
It is a great happiness for me to be here in this great convention for amity between the white and colored races and to speak for a few minutes, as the hour is late. During the past year I have spoken in many colored churches among others and have found much of hospitality and loving kindness. Many seeds of love have been sown. The glances of the Almighty are turned toward such a gathering as this, whose objects are love and reconciliation. The aim of all the Prophets of God, while they underwent persecution, was the establishment of peace among the people of the world. It is evident that racial prejudice has long been a disease attacking the body of humanity. There are many blots on the pages of history due to prejudices and misunderstandings. . . .
In my country, Persia, racial misunderstandings were very strong, much more so than in the United States. Although racial prejudice played a great part, there were other prejudices, such as religious and sectarian, each one playing havoc. Each of the races had its own language and religion; and so they fought, causing much spoliation, destruction and carnage. Moslems persecuted Jews, withholding from them the just administration of the laws.
There are not many colored people in Persia, yet they appear in the records of the poets and scientists. One of them was known as Lokman the Wise. His sayings are on the lips of thousands. When dying he told his son, if ever unhappy, to find the shirt of a man who has never been sad, put it on, and his own sadness would vanish. When difficulties came in the life of the son he searched in vain for such a man, and thus realized that sorrows were the common lot. One of the kings of Persia had a colored son. In his youth he proved himself so clever and capable that he was chosen by his father over another son as his successor. He became one of the wisest and most sagacious kings of Persia, gathering around him many scholars. He had the Greek books translated into Persian and his court became famous for wisdom and learning.
Racial and religious prejudice lately became much intensified in Persia until a great spiritual movement [the Bahá'í Cause] appeared. The doors of the Kingdom were opened. The Divine Bounty rained down and thousands of people were filled with the power of God. The Divine love brought a community of interest. All antagonistic elements gathered around the standard of unity and agreement. Liberal ideas were introduced among the children in the schools. The children being simple and coming from God without prejudices, grew up knowing God and His laws. In reality, children enter the world without bigotry and fanaticism, but are taught these things by their elders. My only race is the human race. My only religion is that of God. My country is the whole world. We must put aside narrow and limited notions, for we see the harm they have done others. It is now the age of Divine justice and universal service. All tears must be wiped away!
- Amity Convention, Washington D.C., May 21, 1921; Star of the West, Vol. 12, p. 123-124
Excerpt from "Peace - Result, Not a Cause," by Grace Ober
A Bahá'í family lives in a section in which there are no other colored residents. They own their home, and the Father, Mother, and little daughter (at the time, eight years of age) have become the joy of the neighborhood through their selfless lives of service to all.
One summer day the little daughter, playing on the front veranda with her little neighbor of the white race, was rudely addressed by some passing schoolboys. In a tone of derision and scorn one boy called out, "Oh! you little 'n_____.' Instantly with a beautiful expression upon her upturned face she replied, "No, I am not a 'n_____.' I am a Bahá'í. You don't know what that means now, but you will, and when you do you won't call anybody names."
The two mothers were inside the front room, the white mother being taught by the colored mother the glorious Bahá'í Message, and as this incident closed she turned to her teacher and said, "I need no further proof, this Message is from God for nothing but the power of the Love of God could have enabled that child to give such an answer."
- Star of the West, Vol. 16, June 1925, p. 392-393
Recollection of Juliet Thompson
During the visit of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Jersey City some children were jeering and laughing. 'Abdu'l-Bahá said: "The people are asleep. You must be awake. See how heedless they are! How submerged in darkness! You must be a sea of light! In the ascent of Enoch after he had passed, the people asked: 'Why is it he dwelt among us and we knew him not? Why is it we saw not the splendor wherewith the Lord had clothed him!'"
If we could only know in our hearts what this mighty mystery of love is, our vision would be clear. A little colored child of six years, whom [I] took to see 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was blessed by him. Later this child asked: 'Is the Master who blessed me tonight the same who holds the moon and the stars in His hand and makes the sun shine?'
If we cry out with the love of God, that love will flow to us. Without that love the Bahá'í Cause will never be established."
- Star of the West, Vol. 13, December 1922, p. 89
Recollections of Marzieh Nabil
Sometimes a stray word over a bridge table definitely proves that bridge has its uses. On a recent occasion the talk across a game of bridge veered suddenly from the weather conditions up and down the Pacific Coast to the Bahá'í Teachings.
For a moment the players forgot that spades were trumps, while an older woman voiced the remark that Persia, a backward country, was perhaps in need of the Bahá'í Cause, and wondered why the Bahá'ís didn't keep it there.
The writer replied that members of the colored race were perhaps at that very moment being lynched in our own Southern States; and the game went on. The woman in question was not a religious fanatic or at all narrow minded or vindictive; she was merely comfortable, agreeably belligerent and altogether too good a bridge player to be tolerant of very much else. She belonged to the great and undoubtedly charming class of people who shake off cataclysms and warm the atmosphere with rationalizations.
The reluctance of human beings to grasp facts is not so much disheartening as it is productive of impatience. No one can deny that, in spite of the astounding developments of science, the spread of education, the betterment of living conditions, and all the similar phases of our modern civilization, the world is in greater danger than ever before. Centuries of misgiving are now bearing fruit. Inherited hatreds are thriving under present day more favorable conditions.
Humanity is speeding toward the maelstrom, and is too busy playing bridge to care.
- Star of the West, Vol. 20, January 1930, p. 213
Recollection of Mary Hanford Ford
Nowadays it is a comparatively easy matter for a traveler especially if he speaks at least one foreign language to recognize in theory the oneness of mankind. Nevertheless his affirmation is frequently followed by a declaration of what he finds very objectionable in all races. It is one thing to accept a statement mentally and quite another to feel it in one's heart so that thoughts are translated into the world of action. Bahá'u'lláh said: "Guidance hath ever been in words, and now it is given by deeds. That is, every one must show forth deeds that are pure and holy, for in words all partake, whereas such deeds as these are special to Our loved ones."
Many in the past have been unable to admit the accusation of the customary attitude on the part of some people toward the Hindu, because they were so accustomed to the feeling of superiority that they were unaware of its e xpression. With others the conviction of Negro inferiority is so strong a hereditary trait that they are not aware of resenting the Negro in any other capacity than that of belonging to the servant class.
In this day of reality it is not enough to register an intellectual conviction upon any subject. One must pragmatically feel it and live it. Few seem to be aware of the extent of the discrimination against the Negro. It is accepted as a rule that the colored and white people should live in different sections and have but slight social relations. As a rule citizens accept the custom and do not reason about it.
Recently an intelligent and well to do American woman of New York City said to the writer, "You know I am going to move, Mrs. Ford."
"How is that?" I replied in surprise, aware that she owned a most attractive home.
"You see," she continued, "the Negroes are invading the locality and it is not agreeable any longer."
"But are they an ignorant lot of people?" I asked, having in mind a group of highly cultured colored friends whom I knew.
"Oh no," she answered, "but you know one does not like to put Negroes on one's calling list."
"Are they not good neighbors?" I continued. "In my experience Negro neighbors are exceedingly kind."
She was evidently surprised, and expressed her "hundred per cent" Americanism with decision: "I like Americans best," she declared.
I laughed again. "But dear lady," I cried, "the Negroes are Americans as much as you or I. The only pure blooded Americans are the Indians. All the rest of us from the point of view of the continent are aliens and came over here as an alien group of different races."
- Star of the West, Vol. 22, September 1931, p. 140-141
Bahíyyih Khánum, Daughter of Bahá'u'lláh
As far back as the concluding stages of the heroic age of the Cause, which witnessed the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán, the Greatest Holy Leaf, then still in her infancy, was privileged to taste of the cup of woe which the first believers of that Apostolic Age had quaffed.
How well I remember her recall, at a time when her faculties were still unimpaired, the gnawing suspense that ate into the hearts of those who watched by her side, at the threshold of her pillaged house, expectant to hear at any moment the news of Bahá'u'lláh's imminent execution! In those sinister hours, she often recounted, her parents had so suddenly lost their earthly possessions that within the space of a single day from being the privileged member of one of the wealthiest families of Tihrán she had sunk to the state of a sufferer from unconcealed poverty. Deprived of the means of subsistence her illustrious mother, the famed Navváb, was constrained to place in the palm of her daughter's hand a handful of flour and to induce her to accept it as a substitute for her daily bread.
And when at a later time this revered and precious member of the Holy Family, then in her teens, came to be entrusted by the guiding hand of her Father with missions that no girl of her age could, or would be willing to, perform, with what spontaneous joy she seized her opportunity and acquitted herself of the task with which she had been entrusted! The delicacy and extreme gravity of such functions as she, from time to time, was called upon to fulfil, when the city of Baghád was swept by the hurricane which the heedlessness and perversity of Mírzá Yahyá had unchained, as well as the tender solicitude which, at so early an age, she evinced during the period of Bahá'u'lláh's enforced retirement to the mountains of Sulaymáníyyih, marked her as one who was both capable of sharing the burden, and willing to make the sacrifice, which her high birth demanded.
Shoghi Effendi: Bahíyyih Khánum, pages 32-33
The outbreak of the Great War gave her yet another opportunity to reveal the true worth of her character and to release the latent energies of her heart. The residence of Ábdu'l-Bahá in Haifa was besieged, all throughout that dreary conflict, by a concourse of famished men, women and children whom the maladministration, the cruelty and neglect of the officials of the Ottoman Government had driven to seek an alleviation to their woes. From the hand of the Greatest Holy Leaf, and out of the abundance of her heart, these hapless victims of a contemptible tyranny, received day after day unforgettable evidences of a love they had learned to envy and admire. Her words of cheer and comfort, the food, the money, the clothing she freely dispensed, the remedies which, by a process of her own, she herself prepared and diligently applied - all these had their share in comforting the disconsolate, in restoring sight to the blind, in sheltering the orphan, in healing the sick, and in succouring the homeless and the wanderer.
She had reached, amidst the darkness of the war days the high water-mark of her spiritual attainments. Few, if any, among the unnumbered benefactors of society whose privilege has been to allay, in various measures, the hardships and sufferings entailed by that Fierce Conflict, gave as freely and as disinterestedly as she did; few exercised that undefinable influence upon the beneficiaries of their gifts.
Age seemed to have accentuated the tenderness of her loving heart, and to have widened still further the range of her sympathies. The sight of appalling suffering around her steeled her energies and revealed such potentialities that her most intimate associates had failed to suspect.
Shoghi Effendi: Bahíyyih Khánum, pages 40-41
Louis G. Gregory, Torch-bearer for Racial Unity
Louis Gregory was born on June 6, 1874, in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of former slaves. His father died when Louis was about 5 years old, and his mother and maternal grandmother, the slave wife of Chancellor Dargan raised him. Louis' mother was the result of that union. Louis' mother remarried and his stepfather, George Gregory, raised him as his own and requested that Louis take on his name.
His stepfather sent young Louis to the first public school in Charleston that was open to both blacks and whites. Later, Louis attended Avery Institute and then Fisk University. He received his law degree from Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. After embracing the Bahá'í Cause, he gave up his secure position as a lawyer and devoted his life to promoting both the Bahá'í Faith and the principle of racial unity. He traveled throughout the United States, and, in particular, the South. The difficulties of holding interracial meetings in the South made this quite difficult. If not for the love and hospitality of the Bahá'í, it would have been impossible, as these types of meeting were dangerous, and sometimes even illegal. He spoke on many of college campuses.
In 1912, at the suggestion of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Louis married Louisa Mathew, a white Bahá'í of English descent. Their inter-racial union was illegal in many states, but even this added affront to the human dignity never dimmed his confidence in the future of racial unity.
The following is a portion of an address he gave to an audience on "The Oneness of Mankind" during the 1926 National Bahá'í Convention in San Francisco.
Just a few months ago I was in far away Florida. I was invited to join a group of workers going out to visit a country school. We had to pass along an unfrequented road, a distance of about eighteen miles. We had a Ford car which carried the party of four or five people. After we were well started on our journey it began to rain, which made the already difficult road, extremely difficult, but we continued on our way and finally reached our goal. It continued to rain all the time. We served the children as best we could and started on our way back. After we had gone two-thirds of the distance we got stuck and a small boy, and the entire party went to work and for an hour and a half, in the rain, we toiled and struggled to dislodge that machine. Our efforts were entirely fruitless. By-and-by we heard a noise in the distance, which grew greater and greater, and finally there came into sight an automobile truck driven by two white working men. Not knowing what would happen, we called upon them for assistance. I may say, parenthetically, that the working men of the world, whether black or white, have a community interest, and although not having seen that interest borne out in human experience, we called on them for assistance, not knowing what would happen, but gallantly they responded. They came to our aid and the four men, two white and two black, made a tremendous effort, but we were still unsuccessful... They were prevailed upon to make another effort and this time the ladies and the small boy joined us, so the entire party, composed of youth and age, black and white, men and women, all made an effort and this time we were victorious. The automobile was dislodged and we went back a distance to a haven of safety much relieved by the removal of this embarrassing situation. We shook hands, across the color line, and our friends bade us good-bye... [after some minutes spent fixing the car] We started once more on our way. The most interesting part of the story is this, it seems to me: We had not gone a distance of more than what would be covered by two or three of your city blocks before we came upon our two white friends and this time they were stuck in the mire. (Laughter) We were very happy, not because they were in difficulties, of course, but because we had the opportunity to return their kindness.
So, among all the different races and groups and classes of people in the world, the ideal of today is co-operation, mutuality, service. If one wants to distinguish himself let him become distinguished as a servant of humanity. (Applause) Let him stand upon this exalted principle of the oneness of God and the oneness of the entire human race. Who-ever stands upon this exalted principle will never be shaken by the shifting sands of time; who-ever stands upon this exalted principle, like the lever of Archimedes, will move the world.
Sources: Adapted from http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/bahai_faith/15530
One of only two African-American children in her Cincinnati classroom, Elsie pointed out errors in a textbook that denigrated the role of Africans in world history.
Elsie then told her class about the many contributions made by Africans in producing works of great beauty from bronze, gold, and ivory. "There was an electric silence," she said many years later. She recalled that her teacher had then agreed with her and described to the class the contributions made to the world by African-Americans.
Elsie Austin gained her initial motivation to stand up for principle from the example and teachings of her brave forebears such as her great-grandmother, who refused to be intimidated by the racist terror perpetrated against her by the Ku Klux Klan in her home state of Alabama.
After Dr. Austin became a Bahá'í in 1934, she gained life-transforming inspiration from accounts of the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. She was confirmed in her Bahá'í attitudes and beliefs by Hands of the Cause of God Dorothy Baker and Louis Gregory, an African-American.
In a 1998 lecture Dr. Austin said that Bahá'ís constitute a unique world community, one that is operating in every part of the world where there is tension, violence, and hatred.
"We are making a serious effort to pry human beings away from their alienating traditions, their comfortable ignorance, and their prejudice -- but we must try harder."
Dr. Austin never wavered in her own resolve to try harder, but rather redoubled her efforts over the decades. The service rendered to humanity by Dr. Austin was so distinguished that, after her death in October 2004, the Universal House of Justice advised the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States to hold memorial gatherings throughout the Bahá'í community in the United States and in the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. That event will be held on 11 December 2004. Another such gathering will be held in the Bahá'í House of Worship in Uganda.
Describing her as a "dearly loved, keen-sighted, stalwart promoter and defender of the Cause of God," the Universal House of Justice said "the shining example of her sacrificial life will remain a source of inspiration to her fellow believers for generations to come."
Dr. Austin met the head of the faith, Shoghi Effendi, while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1953, and shortly afterwards earned the accolade from him of Knight of Bahá'u'lláh for introducing the Bahá'í Faith to Morocco.
She was a member of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'ís of the United States (1946-53) and North and West Africa (1953-58), and of Local Spiritual Assemblies in five countries -- the United States, Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Bahamas.
She was one of the first members of the Auxiliary Board, assisting the Hand of the Cause of God Musa Banani in that role for four years. She also served at the Bahá'í World Centre in the Holy Land.
Dr. Austin recorded a series of firsts in the secular community. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Cincinnati's College of Law and the first to be appointed assistant attorney-general of the State of Ohio.
After a legal career with several federal government agencies, she spent a decade in Africa as a Foreign Service officer, working in cultural and educational programs sponsored by the United States Information Agency, and initiating the first women's activities program of that organization in Africa.
Dr. Austin participated in many international women's conferences, including the 1975 International Women's Conference in Mexico City where she chaired the Bahá'í delegation.
In such roles, as in her daily life, her natural dignity and grace, and her down-to-earth attitude won the hearts of those with whom she came into contact.
Citing her determination, independence, honor, and justice, her longtime friend, Lecille Webster referred to her love of fine dining and her sense of humor.
During one address Dr. Austin said, "I have shortened this talk, lest it become like the mercy of God in that it endures forever and passes all understanding." And in a resume, Dr. Austin described her hobbies: "Reading, writing, theater and anything else which stimulates the mind and does not involve drastic exercise."
Dr. Austin won a string of awards, including two honorary doctorates. A scholarship for law students from minority groups was named after her, and she served as national president of Delta Sigma Theta, a prestigious national US public service sorority.
Her writings appeared in legal journals as well as in Bahá'í magazines. One of her articles, later produced as a pamphlet, was about her mentor, Louis Gregory.
More than seven decades after she stood up for the truth in her classroom, Dr. Austin delivered a lecture in which she said that there are times when it is necessary to protest, not violently but with the courage to reject the false and the unjust.
"If we go about it with faith, with intelligent protest, standing up and demonstrating what the right attitude and motivation is for human progress, we can cause progress," she said.
"After all, the battle we face is essentially a spiritual battle to transform the souls and spirits of human beings, to empower them to express love and justice, and to develop a unity of conscience."
Khurshid Begum, who was given the title of Shamsu'd-Duha, the Morning Sun, was mother-in-law to the King of Martyrs. This eloquent, ardent handmaid of God was the cousin on her father's side of the famous Muhammad-Baqir of Isfahan, widely celebrated as chief of the ulamas in that city. When still a child she lost both her parents, and was reared by her grandmother in the home of that famed and learned mujtahid, and well trained in various branches of knowledge, in theology, sciences and the arts....
Shamsu'd-Duha was there in Karbila when the cry of the exalted Lord was raised in Shiraz, and she shouted back, "Yea, verily!" As for her husband and his brother, they immediately set out for Shiraz; for both of them, when visiting the Shrine of Imam Husayn, had looked upon the beauty of the Primal Point, the Bab; both had been astonished at what they saw in that transplendent face, in those heavenly attributes and ways, and had agreed that One such as this must indeed be some very great being. Accordingly, the moment they learned of His Divine summons, they answered: "Yea, verily!" and they burst into flame with yearning love for God....
Shamsu'd-Duha had become friends with the "Leaf of Paradise," sister to Mulla Husayn, the Babu'l-Bab. Through that lady she had met Tahirih, Qurratu'l-'Ayn, and had begun to spend most of her time in close companionship with them both, occupied in teaching the Faith. Since this was in the early days of the Cause, the people were not yet afraid of it. From being with Tahirih, Shams profited immeasurably, and was more on fire with the Faith than ever. She spent three years in close association with Tahirih in Karbila. Day and night, she was stirred like the sea by the gales of the All-Merciful, and she taught with an eloquent tongue.
As Tahirih became celebrated throughout Karbila, and the Cause of His Supreme Holiness, the Báb, spread all over Persia, the latter-day ulamas arose to deny, to heap scorn upon, and to destroy it. They issued a fatva or judgment that called for a general massacre. Tahirih was one of those designated by the evil ulamas of the city as an unbeliever, and they mistakenly thought her to be in the home of Shamsu'd-Duha. They broke into Shams's house, hemmed her in, abused and vilified her, and inflicted grievous bodily harm. They dragged her out of the house and through the streets to the bazar; they beat her with clubs; they stoned her, they denounced her in foul language, repeatedly assaulting her. While this was going on, Haji Siyyid Mihdi, the father of her distinguished husband, reached the scene. "This woman is not Tahirih!" he shouted at them. But he had no witness to prove it, and the farrashes, the police and the mob would not let up. Then, through the uproar, a voice screamed out: "They have arrested Qurratu'l-'Ayn!" At this, the people abandoned Shamsu'd-Duha
Shams-i-Duha remained in Isfahan. She spent her days and nights in the remembrance of God and in teaching His Cause to the women of that city. She was gifted with an eloquent tongue; her utterance was wonderful to hear. She was highly honored by the leading women of Isfahan, celebrated for piety, for godliness, and the purity of her life. She was chastity embodied; all her hours were spent in reciting Holy Writ, or expounding the Texts, or unraveling the most complex of spiritual themes, or spreading abroad the sweet savors of God.
It was for these reasons that the King of Martyrs married her respected daughter and became her son-in-law. And when Shams went to live in his princely house, day and night the people thronged its doors, for the leading women of the city, whether friends or strangers, whether close to her or not, would come and go. For she was a fire lit by the love of God, and she proclaimed the Word of God with great ardor and verve, so that she became known among the non-believers as Fatimih, the Bahá'ís' Lady of Light.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 181-185
Bahá'í-inspired Sustainable Development Project
"Fifteen years ago, the fishing was good," said Mr. Mahamat. "But it gradually died out to the point where there was practically nothing."
Mr. Mahamat concedes that until a few years ago he had inadvertently contributed to the die-out. In what he now realizes was a misguided effort to help fishermen here, he sold nets with increasingly smaller mesh, designed to catch the few immature fish that remained.
Then, one day, he tried to sell his nets to the fishermen of this village, located about 50 kilometers southeast of Sarh, the regional capital.
But the fishermen here had other ideas. They had organized into a community-based group to revive the fishing and they had become serious about enforcing game laws.
"They said I can't sell small nets here," said Mr. Mahamat. "They said I could only sell nets with large mesh. They said it was to protect the fish."
Today, because of actions like that, the fish are returning to the Chari River in the Sarh region -- as are other signs of prosperity.
Much of the credit goes to APRODEPIT, a Bahá'í-inspired non-governmental organization that has worked here for more than a decade to promote a variety of community-based, sustainable development practices. (For the meaning of its name, see below.)
Based in Sarh, the organization's outward focus is to provide communities with training in improved fishing practices, fish farming, and the preservation of fish through smoking and curing.
It also promotes wildlife protection, reforestation, composting, and arboriculture.
Along the way, it has helped to organize more than 140 community groups in the region -- and dozens more in areas near N'Djamena, the national capital.
Further, because of its distinctive participatory methods of community organization and consultation, a number of the groups have branched out into other endeavors, such as the operation of community-based schools, women's literacy classes, and village granaries.
Governmental officials in Chad, the 11th-least developed nation in the world point to APRODEPIT as a model partner in the effort to promote sustainable development.
"The importance of using local knowledge as the starting point for initiating new technologies and constant contact in the field with the participating groups has given APRODEPIT an impressive success rate with its projects," said Nenodji Madingar, assistant director of Forestry and Desertification in the Ministry of Environment and Water.
The organization takes a distinctive approach to development that emphasizes the equality of women and men, environmental protection, systematic growth, and, above all else, close consultation with the local community -- principles that are all drawn from the Bahá'í teachings.
"In reality, the training we give emphasizes how communities can develop themselves," said Yam-bel-yam Kosse Malla, the founder and director of APRODEPIT. "Our underlying idea is to promote an organic process of community development.
"They start with fish farming, and they harvest the fish. Then they realize they have more money but their children aren't educated. So they decide to create a community school. Next, perhaps, they realize they have a problem with health. So we assist with health education. And by following this system, the village gradually raises itself up," said Mr. Kosse Malla.
This approach has certainly worked in Waltama, which formed its first group in 1995 and has since instituted a variety of sustainable fishing efforts, established a village school, created a village granary, and, most recently, launched a program of literacy classes for women.
"The groups are really helping the village from my point of view," said Gastone Allada, the 70-year-old chief of Waltama, who also acknowledged the organization's crucial role in the process.
"Before, there were no fish; now there are fish. Before there was no school; now there is a school. So I am very happy."
Local community groups in Waltama and neighboring villages have also established a protected zone for hippopotamuses -- an idea that also emerged from a process of community consultation.
The villagers noticed that there were more fish where there were also hippos -- and so, with the assistance of field managers from APRODEPIT, they set up signs declaring their section of the river a wildlife protection zone. They also formed surveillance patrols to drive away poachers.
As a result, since 1995 the population of hippos has gone from approximately two to about 200. The increased presence of hippos, in turn, has improved the fishing. The manure from the hippopotamuses serves to breed small insects, which become food for the fish.
Additionally, the hippos act as natural fish wardens. Outsiders are afraid to mingle with them, while local fishermen have learned how to maneuver through the herd without upsetting them.
Though eager to impart the new Revelation to friends and family, Corinne was careful not to overwhelm them with it. At the appropriate time she would share a Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá or a newly-translated excerpt from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh with friends and family - especially with her children - who were impressed with her dedication to her Faith. In the long run, that had a profound effect on them.
The True family was happy and very close. There was deep love between children and parents, and they were not afraid to express it. Edna went around the house as a child, leaving little notes to her parents - writing on almost anything available, 'O, how I love my mother and father.' But that did not mean the children did not, at times, have a hard time following family rules. Although they were not defiant, the children did at times need extra disciplining: If a meaningful look from Corinne did not gain the desired behavior, she would tap the child on the arm or cheek with her forefinger. The loving, joyful family atmosphere nurtured happy, well-behaved children. Although Corinne's husband, Moses, never became a Bahá'í, he strongly supported Corinne's Bahá'í work and, in many ways, led a Bahá'í life.
Corinne realized that caring for and training one's children was more than a parental duty. It was an essential Bahá'í act. Corinne found time to become involved in her children's interests, even if she understood little about them. She knew, for example, that it meant a lot to her son, Davis, that she attend his sporting events; so she went to them, even though she called his best sport "Poller vaulting" and it terrified her to see him throwing his body high in the air over the wooden bar! Similarly, Corinne encouraged Edna in her basketball interest in days when basketball was viewed as a sport only for men - and she went on to become a star women's basketball player at Smith College!
Corinne's home was a Bahá'í home, where Bahá'í standards were kept. When the children behaved contrary to a Bahá'í principle, she would lovingly remind them of the principle. When emphasis was needed, she would tap her forefinger on the palm of her other hand. To the children, that was enough because of Corinne's dynamic example of Bahá'í living. The True home was like a Bahá'í hotel. People from different parts of the world would spend time with them. At times the children gave up their beds to travellers - but despite the inconvenience, the children found such a home exciting. Growing up in such an environment, the children absorbed the Faith little by little, and like their mother, they learned to turn to the Faith as the center of their lives. Those that survived into adulthood, all became devoted believers and servants of the Cause, including a member of the Continental Board of Counselors.
Corinne knew that raising spiritual children was an important foundation for the growth of the Faith, and she involved them and their interests in her philosophy of teaching. She encouraged the children to stage "vaudeville" performances in the True family backyard including dancing, singing, silly skits. These performances drew the interest and participation of many children and adult neighbors. Corinne saw this wholesome, happy fun as a way to develop the loving friendship and hospitality that was an important way to make new friends for the Faith. The life-changing spirit of love and happiness could be expressed in many ways. She also encouraged the children to turn to toward the Center of the Covenant. Edna and Katherine wrote their first personal letters to 'Abdu'l-Bahá at ages 9 and 15, and she took her children with her on pilgrimages.
|Corinne made a total of nine pilgrimages, the last at age 91. On her first pilgrimage, 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave Corinne a piece of life-changing advice as she left His presence. Because the Master sensed the fear and distaste Corinne had felt during her journey regarding the different peoples and cultures she encountered, He spoke to her of love, universal love, and the importance of loving everyone, even the seemingly unlovable. And above all, He gave her the key to doing so: "Mrs. True, when you go back I want you to look at every human being and say to yourself, 'You are a letter from my Beloved, and I must love you because of the Beloved Who wrote you. The letter may be torn, it may be blurred - but because the Beloved wrote the letter, you must love it.'"|
Corinne learned what teaching was by observing the Master's household. Over forty people living together in unity, black, white, Arabic, Persian, Burmese, Italian, Russian, English, and American. Corinne saw that "the life lived and not preached is what creates the wonderful atmosphere of that Home. It is natural and normal and easy. No one ever criticizes or finds fault with anyone - they only see the good in everyone."
Corinne had always had a progressive attitude toward race relations, but the Master had shown her that the real source of love for all people was deep in the heart. The real depth of Corinne True's love for humanity - expressed in action - is illustrated by her relationship with the black women who served as her cook. Vivian Wesson realized that Corinne was not a social-political activist on race relations, but rather "a real Bahá'í" who simply broke down racial barriers by taking Vivian many places blacks had never been before. What Corinne did was not political protest. To Corinne bringing her well-loved Bahá'í sister along was just the natural thing to do. The love between Corinne and Vivian continued throughout their lives, and when Vivian decided to go pioneering in the Ten Year Crusade, she visited Corinne for advice. Corinne told her: "Rely on Bahá'u'lláh. Study the teachings hard. Know your subject when you speak. But don't lecture to people and tell them what they should be. Give them love. And be simple."
It was this spirit that endeared her to the Master and the Guardian.
Adapted from Corinne True, Faithful Handmaid of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, by Nathan Rutstein
The distinguished Ali-'Askar was a merchant from Tabriz. He was much respected in Adhirbayjan by all who knew him, and recognized for godliness and trustworthiness, for piety and strong faith. The people of Tabriz, one and all, acknowledged his excellence and praised his character and way of life, his qualities and talents. He was one of the earliest believers, and one of the most notable.
[When Haji became a Bahá'í he] was awakened to new life. He became a candle burning with the love of God, a goodly tree in the Abha gardens. He led all his household, his other kindred and his friends to the Faith, and successfully rendered many services; but the tyranny of the wicked brought him to an agonizing pass, and he was beset by new afflictions every day. Still, he did not slacken and was not dispirited; on the contrary, his faith, his certitude and self-sacrifice increased. Finally he could endure his homeland no more. Accompanied by his family, he arrived in Adrianople, and here, in financial straits, but content, he spent his days, with dignity, patience, acquiescence, and offering thanks.
Then he took a little merchandise with him from Adrianople, and left for the city of Jum'ih-Bazar, to earn his livelihood. What he had with him was trifling, but still, it was carried off by thieves. When the Persian Consul learned of this he presented a document to the Government, naming an enormous sum as the value of the stolen goods. By chance the thieves were caught and proved to be in possession of considerable funds. It was decided to investigate the case. The Consul called in Haji Ali-'Askar and told him: "These thieves are very rich. In my report to the Government, I wrote that the amount of the theft was great. Therefore you must attend the trial and testify conformably to what I wrote."
The Haji replied: "Your Honor, Khan, the stolen goods amounted to very little. How can I report something that is not true? When they question me, I will give the facts exactly as they are. I consider this my duty, and only this."
"Haji," said the Consul, "We have a golden opportunity here; you and I can both profit by it. Don't let such a once-in-a-lifetime chance slip through your hands."
The Haji answered: "Khan, how would I square it with God? Let me be. I shall tell the truth and nothing but the truth."
The Consul was beside himself. He began to threaten and belabor Ali-'Askar. "Do you want to make me out a liar?" he cried. "Do you want to make me a laughingstock? I will jail you; I will have you banished; there is no torment I will spare you. This very instant I will hand you over to the police, and I will tell them that you are an enemy of the state, and that you are to be manacled and taken to the Persian frontier."
The Haji only smiled. "Jinab-i-Khan," he said. "I have given up my life for the truth. I have nothing else. You are telling me to lie and bear false witness. Do with me as you please; I will not turn my back on what is right."
When the Consul saw that there was no way to make Ali-'Askar testify to a falsehood, he said: "It is better, then, for you to leave this place, so that I can inform the Government that the owner of the merchandise is no longer available and has gone away. Otherwise I shall be disgraced."
The Haji returned to Adrianople, and spoke not a word as to his stolen goods, but the matter became public knowledge and caused considerable surprise.
That fine and rare old man was taken captive in Adrianople along with the rest, and he accompanied the Blessed Beauty to the 'Akká fortress, this prison-house of sorrows. With all his family, he was jailed in the path of God for a period of years; and he was always offering thanks, because the prison was a palace to him, and captivity a reason to rejoice. In all those years he was never known to express himself except in thankfulness and praise. The greater the tyranny of the oppressors, the happier he was. Time and again Bahá'u'lláh was heard to speak of him with loving kindness, and He would say: "I am pleased with him." This man, who was spirit personified, remained constant, true, and joyful to the end. When some years had passed, he exchanged this world of dust for the Kingdom that is undefiled, and he left powerful influences behind.
As a rule, he was the close companion of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. One day, at the beginning of our time in the Prison, I hurried to the corner of the barracks where he lived -- the cell that was his shabby nest. He was lying there, running a high fever, out of his head. On his right side lay his wife, shaking and trembling with chills. To his left was his daughter, Fatimih, burning up with typhus. Beyond them his son, Husayn-Aqa, was down with scarlet fever; he had forgotten how to speak Persian, and he kept crying out in Turkish, "My insides are on fire!" At the father's feet lay the other daughter, deep in her sickness, and along the side of the wall was his brother, Mashhadi Fattah, raving and delirious. In this condition, Ali-'Askar's lips were moving: he was returning thanks to God, and expressing joy.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 163
Bahá'í Community of South Africa
The following is an excerpt from the statement of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South Africa to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
Abhorring all forms of prejudice and rejecting any system of segregation, the Bahá'í Faith was introduced on a one to one basis and the community quietly grew during the apartheid years, without publicity. Despite the nature of the politics of that time, we presented our teachings on unity and the oneness of humankind to prominent individuals in politics, commerce and academia and leaders of thought including State Presidents. Approaches to individuals and prominent persons were pursued in order to offer to South Africa a pathway to peace and justice for all its citizens.
During the apartheid years, both individual Bahá'ís and our administrative institutions were continually watched by the security police. The surveillance and investigation by the police was due to the racially integrated nature of the Bahá'í community and its activities. However, it would appear that our numbers were too small and our activities too peaceful to be perceived as a real threat to the Government of the day.
Our activities did not include opposition to the previous Government for involvement in partisan politics and opposition to government are explicitly prohibited by the sacred Texts of our Faith as revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of our Faith, even though that Government be suspicious of and ill disposed to the aims and activities of the Bahá'ís as was the case in this country.
During the time when the previous Government prohibited integration within our communities, rather than divide into separate administrative structures for each population group, we opted to limit membership of the Bahá'í Administration to the black adherents who were and remain in the majority of our membership and thereby placed the entire Bahá'í community under the stewardship of its black membership. Happily, such policies were eased and we were able once again to have racially integrated administrative bodies which were and are democratically elected by and from the entire body of adult adherents of the Bahá'í Faith.
The following is an excerpt from a report of the celebration ceremonies observing the 75th anniversary of the South African Bahá'í Community:
PHOKENG,South Africa, 30 December 2003 (BWNS)-- Two young cousins provided a highlight here at the national Bahá'í jubilee celebrations, which followed satellite festivities in eight cities.
At an opening session of the festivities, Kelebogile Khunou, 12, and Direlang Nakedi, 11, praised their grandparents for becoming Bahá'ís nearly 50 years ago. The cousins said the sacrifices made by their grandparents, Ntate and Mme, were the cause of many of the benefits in their own lives. . . .
"I [would] never exchange anything to give up being a Bahá'í child - it is really a rewarding experience," Kelebogile said. "The favorite gift I receive every day from my grandparents' efforts is the relationship of my parents, which is based on the principle of equality of men and women."
This testimony by third-generation Bahá'ís helped symbolize the dramatic and inspiring history of the Bahá'í Faith in South Africa, where for many years the government's official policy of apartheid (involving the separation of racial groups) ran directly counter to the principle of the oneness of humanity, a fundamental teaching of Bahá'u'lláh.
Participants at the South African jubilee celebrations, held from 21 to 22 November 2003, told stories of courage, of successes achieved in a "cloak and dagger" fashion, of constant police surveillance, of dogged determination, and of endeavors of heroic proportions. . .
During the celebrations, some Bahá'ís who were in South Africa in the 1953-1963 era recounted memories, and outlined some of the difficulties they overcame in the early years of the community.
One such speaker was Ephens Senne, whose wife, Dorothy, in January 1955, became the first South African woman to accept the Faith. Describing the oppressive atmosphere of apartheid, Mr. Senne said he and his wife were scared initially that the white people had plans to kill them. That fear vanished as they got to know the Bahá'ís, but they had to be very careful about meeting them because of their apprehensions about official surveillance.
When the couple visited European (white) Bahá'ís, they had to pretend that they came to clean the houses, carrying mops and brooms to avoid suspicion, said Mr. Senne, a former member of the National Spiritual Assembly.
Bahá'í Children of Morovia, California
Steven Gholar and his two daughters, Naomi (age 8) and Karmel (age 5) developed a plan for Oneness Classes in their ethnically-diverse neighborhood. The plan action plan gave each team member having important responsibilities:
- ·morning team members prayed for the children/parents at Naomi and Karmel's school bus stop to be receptive to the concept of the oneness of humanity
- ·morning at the bus stop the parent in the team began conversations with other parents about the oneness of humanity with the purpose of talking about starting a oneness class at the Gholar home
- ·morning the children also talked to the other children at the bus stop with the purpose of getting to know them
- ·the team members invited children (with parent's consent) to attend the Oneness Class and also a weekly Devotional Meeting with the same theme
- ·curriculum teaching the Oneness of Humanity was selected for use in the Oneness Class.
Steven visited the homes of the children/parents who were at the bus stop inviting them to the "Oneness Class." He explained that it was a class whose focus would help children appreciate diversity and practice concept that we are all one people regarding to race or religion. Steven made sure that in the informal conversations at the bus stop that he shared a little about who he was which included that he is a Bahá'í. Some wanted to know more about the Bahá'í Faith others did not seem interested in his religion.
Each of the classes includes prayers, a lesson on oneness, singing, making action plans for the coming week and reviewing actions taken since the last class. One of the regular elements of student action plans is to invite others to the weekly Devotional Meeting and Dinner held at the home of teaching team members.
Attendance at the first children's class was 7 - ages 2 ½ to 13 years old. The class plan was flexible enough to enable the teachers to manage the age span. The teaching team was elated - children were coming regardless of age! The children on the teaching team were especially excited about having the classes in their home, and having something special to share with their peers.
The teaching team hoped that by the second class, new attendees to the children's classes would begin to attend the Devotional Meeting. The focus of the devotional meeting is prayers for humanity. However, when the first invitations were given at the end of the first children's class, all the children wanted to attend.
Steven then went to each of the children's parents and asked if they could go the prayer session or devotional gathering and stay for dinner. All the parents gave permission. There were 7 guests from the oneness class at the Devotional gathering and dinner.
The next time the children saw each other at the bus stop, the main topic of conversation was excitement about how much fun everyone had at the children's classes and devotional meeting, and what they learned. Those who did not attend explained why they didn't attend and asked if they could come for the next class.
The second children's class began with 18 attendees - 4 Bahá'í children and 14 friends! Once again, the ages of the children were 2 ½ to 13 years old, and this time the teachers were even better prepared to accommodate the variety of needs. The group decided the class would be called the Cypress Oneness Class because that was the name of the street that where the class was held. All the attendees were happy.
Once again, all the children wanted to attend the Devotional Meeting and Dinner. There were 14 guests from the oneness class at the Devotional gathering and dinner. Some of the children even shared with their school class about the Cypress Street Oneness class during the classroom sharing period and invited everyone to attend.
The third week of classes, 15 children attended the Oneness Classes (4 Bahá'í and 11 friends). The loss of three children from the previous week was because they had moved away. So, 100% of the children had returned! Now, in the third week of classes, the children were happily giving reports of actions they were taking to promote oneness.
Once again, all the Oneness Class children attended the Devotional Meeting and Dinner and all joined in singing a song that was taught during the Cypress Oneness Class. It brought tears to the eyes of everyone. One five year old girl said that she was shy but asked if she could say a prayer next week at the devotional gathering. She said she wanted to ask God to make everyone be nice and kind to everybody even if their skin color were different.
Haji Abdu'r-Rahim of Yazd was a precious soul, from his earliest years virtuous and God-fearing, and known among the people as a holy man, peerless in observing his religious duties, mindful as to his acts. His strong religious faith was an indisputable fact. He served and worshiped God by day and night, was sound, mild, compassionate, a loyal friend.
Because he was fully prepared, at the very moment when he heard the summons from the Supreme Horizon - heard the drumbeats of "Am I not your Lord?" - he instantly cried out, "Yea, verily!" With his whole being, he became enamored of the splendors shed by the Light of the World. Openly and boldly he began to confirm his family and friends. This was soon known throughout the city; to the eyes of the evil ulamas, he was now an object of hate and contempt. Incurring their wrath, he was despised by those creatures of their own low passions. He was molested and harassed; the inhabitants rioted, and the evil ulamas plotted his death. The government authorities turned on him as well, hounded him, even subjected him to torture. They beat him with clubs, and whipped him. All this went on, by day and night.
He was forced, then, to abandon his home and go out of the city, a vagrant, climbing the mountains, crossing over the plains, until he came to the Holy Land. But so weak he was, and wasted away, that whoever saw him thought he was breathing his last....
A few days later, permission came, and he hastened to the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. When Abdu'r-Rahim entered there, the spirit of life was wafted over him. On his return, it was clear that this Haji had become a different Haji entirely: he was in the bloom of health. Nabil was dumbfounded, and said: "How life-giving, to a true believer, is this prison air!"
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 64-65
Ustad Baqir and Ustad Ahmad
And again among those who left their homeland were two carpenters, Ustad Baqir and Ustad Ahmad. These two were brothers, of pure lineage, and natives of Kashan. From the time when both became believers each held the other in his embrace. They harkened to the voice of God, and to His cry of "Am I not your Lord?" they replied, "Yea, verily!"
For a time they stayed on in their own country, occupied with the remembrance of God, characterized by faith and knowledge, respected by friend and stranger alike, known to all for righteousness and trustworthiness, for austerity of life and the fear of God. When the oppressor stretched forth his hands against them, and tormented them beyond endurance, they emigrated to Iraq, to the sheltering care of Bahá'u'lláh. They were two most blessed souls....
[Both followed Bahá'u'lláh into the Most Great Prison in Akká.] Both of the brothers were under the protection of God and free from every earthly bond. In the prison, they worked at their craft, keeping to themselves, away from friend and stranger alike. Tranquil, dignified, confident, strong in faith, sheltered by the All-Merciful, they happily spent their days. Ustad Baqir was the first to die, and some time afterward his brother followed him.
These two were firm believers, loyal, patient, at all times thankful, at all times supplicating God in lowliness, with their faces turned in His direction. During that long stay in the prison they were never neglectful of duty, never at fault. They were constantly joyful, for they had drunk deep of the holy cup.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 72-73
Haji Muhammad Khan
Another of those who left their homes and came to settle in the neighborhood of Bahá'u'lláh was Haji Muhammad Khan - When he was very young, he caught fire and became a mystic - an arif, or adept. As a wandering dervish, completely selfless, he went out from his home and, following the dervish rule, traveled about in search of his murshid, his perfect leader....
Far and wide, he carried on his search. He would speak to everyone he met. But what he longed for was the sweet scent of the love of God, and this he was unable to detect in anyone, whether Gnostic or philosopher, or member of the Shaykhi sect. All he could see in the dervishes was their tufted beards, and their palms-up religion of beggary. They were "dervish" - poor in all save God - in name only; all they cared about, it seemed to him, was whatever came to hand. Nor did he find illumination among the Illuminati; he heard nothing from them but idle argument. He observed that their grandiloquence was not eloquence and that their subtleties were but windy figures of speech. Truth was not there; the core of inner meaning was absent. For true philosophy is that which produces rewards of excellence, and among these learned men there was no such fruit to be found; at the peak of their accomplishment, they became the slaves of vice, led an unconcerned life and were given over to personal characteristics that were deserving of blame. To him, of all that constitutes the high, distinguishing quality of humankind, they were devoid....
Thus at the very moment when he heard the call from the Kingdom of God, he shouted, "Yea, verily!" and he was off like the desert wind. He traveled over vast distances, arrived at the Most Great Prison and attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. When his eyes fell upon that bright Countenance he was instantly enslaved. He returned to Persia so that he could meet with those people who professed to be following the Path, those friends of other days who were seeking out the Truth, and deal with them as his loyalty and duty required.
Both going and returning, the Haji betook himself to each one of his friends, foregathered with them, and let each one hear the new song from Heaven.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 90-92
Haji Muhammad-Rida came from Shiraz. He was a man spiritually minded, lowly, contrite, the embodiment of serenity and faith. When the call of God was lifted up, that needy soul hurried into the shelter of heavenly grace. As soon as he heard the summons, "Am I not your Lord?" he cried out: "Yea, verily!" and became as a lamp to the people's feet.
...Later, following a journey to distant countries, he went to the Holy Land, and there in utter submission and lowliness bowed his head before the Sacred Threshold and was honored with entering the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, where he drank in endless bounties from cupped hands. For quite a time he remained there, attending upon Bahá'u'lláh almost every day, encompassed by holy favor and grace. He was outstanding as to character, and lived after the commandments of God: tranquil and long-suffering, in his surrender to God's will he was selflessness itself. He had no personal aims whatever, no feeling of attachment to this fleeting world. His one desire was to please his Lord, his one hope, to walk the holy path.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 116-118
Yet another of the emigrants and settlers was the valiant Jamshid-i-Gurji, who came from Georgia, but grew up in the city of Kashan. He was a fine youth, faithful, trustworthy, with a high sense of honor. When he heard of a new Faith dawning, and awoke to the tidings that on Persia's horizons the Sun of Truth had risen, he was filled with holy ecstasy, and he longed and loved. The new fire burned away those veils of uncertainty and doubt that had closed him round; the light of Truth shed down its rays, the lamp of guidance burned before him.
He remained in Persia for a time, then left for Rumelia, which was Ottoman territory, and in the Land of Mystery, Adrianople, won the honor of entering the presence of Bahá'u'lláh; it was there that his meeting took place. His joy and fervor were boundless. Later, at Bahá'u'lláh's command he made a journey to Constantinople, with Aqa Muhammad-Baqir and Aqa Abdu'l-Ghaffar. In that city, the tyrannous imprisoned him and put him in chains.
The Persian ambassador informed against Jamshid and Ustad Muhammad-'Ali-i-Dallak as enemy leaders and fighters These two respected men were first imprisoned and caged; then they were sent out of Turkish territory, under guard to the Persian frontier. They were to be delivered over to the Persian Government and crucified, and the guards were threatened with terrible punishments should they once relax their vigilance and let the prisoners escape. For this reason, at every stopping place the victims were kept in some almost inaccessible spot. Once they were thrown into a pit, a kind of well, and suffered agonies all through the night. The next morning Jamshid cried out: "O you who oppress us! Are we Joseph the Prophet that you have thrown us in this well? Remember how He rose out of the well as high as the full moon? We too walk the pathway of God, we too are down here for His sake, and we know that these depths are the heights of the Lord."
Once arrived at the Persian frontier, Jamshid and Muhammad-'Ali were handed over to Kurdish chiefs to be sent on to Tihran. The Kurdish chiefs could see that the prisoners were innocent men, kindly and well-disposed, who had fallen a prey to their enemies. Instead of dispatching them to the capital, they set them free. Joyfully, the two hastened away on foot, went back to Bahá'u'lláh and found a home close by Him in the Most Great Prison.
Jamshid spent some time in utter bliss, receiving the grace and favor of Bahá'u'lláh and ever and again being admitted to His presence. He was tranquil and at peace. The believers were well-pleased with him, and he was well-pleased with God.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 119
Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, the Afnan
Among those souls that are righteous, that are luminous entities and Divine reflections, was Jinab-i-Muhammad-Taqi, the Afnan. His title was Vakilu'd-Dawlih. This eminent Bough was an offshoot of the Holy Tree; in him an excellent character was allied to a noble lineage. His kinship was a true kinship. He was among those souls who, after one reading of the Book of Íqán, became believers, bewitched by the sweet savors of God, rejoicing at the recital of His verses. His agitation was such that he cried out, "Lord, Lord, here am I!" Joyously, he left Persia and hurried away to Iraq. Because he was filled with longing love, he sped over the mountains and across the desert wastes, not pausing to rest until he came to Baghdad.
He entered the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, and achieved acceptance in His sight. What holy ecstasy he had, what fervor, what detachment from the world! It was beyond description. His blessed face was so comely, so luminous that the friends in Iraq gave him a name: they called him "the Afnan of all delights." He was truly a blessed soul, a man worthy to be revered. He never failed in his duty, from the beginning of life till his last breath. As his days began, he became enamored of the sweet savors of God, and as they closed, he rendered a supreme service to the Cause of God. His life was righteous, his speech agreeable, his deeds worthy. Never did he fail in servitude, in devotion, and he would set about a major undertaking with alacrity and joy. His life, his behavior, what he did, what he left undone, his dealings with others - were all a way of teaching the Faith, and served as an example, an admonishment to the rest.
After he had achieved the honor, in Baghdad, of meeting Bahá'u'lláh, he returned to Persia, where he proceeded to teach the Faith with an eloquent tongue. And this is how to teach: with an eloquent tongue, a ready pen, a goodly character, pleasing words, and righteous ways and deeds. Even enemies bore witness to his high-mindedness and his spiritual qualities, and they would way: "There is none to compare with this man for his words and acts, his righteousness, trustworthiness, and strong faith; in all things he is unique; what a pity that he is a Bahá'í!"...
After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, the Afnan, loyal and staunch in the Covenant, rendered even more services than he had before; this in spite of many obstacles, and an overwhelming load of work, and an infinite variety of matters all claiming his attention. He gave up his comfort, his business, his properties, estates, lands, hastened away to Ishqabad and set about building the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar; this was a service of very great magnitude, for he thus became the first individual to erect a Bahá'í House of Worship, the first builder of a House to unify man. With the believers in Ishqabad assisting him, he succeeded in carrying off the palm. For a long period in Ishqabad, he had no rest. Day and night, he urged the believers on. Then they too exerted their efforts, and made sacrifices above and beyond their power; and God's edifice arose, and word of it spread throughout East and West. The Afnan expended everything he possessed to rear this building, except for a trifling sum. This is the way to make a sacrifice. This is what it means to be faithful.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 126-128
This distinguished man was one of the greatest of all the Báb's companions and all the loved ones of Bahá'u'lláh. When he lived under Islam, he was already famed for his purity and holiness of life. He was talented and highly accomplished in many directions. He was the leader and spiritual exemplar of the entire population of Najaf-Abad, and the eminent of that area showed him unbounded respect. When he spoke out, his was the deciding opinion; when he passed judgment, it took effect; for he was known to all as the standard, and the authority of last resort.
He had no sooner learned of the Báb's Declaration than he cried out from the depths of his heart, "O our Lord! we have indeed heard the voice of one that called. He called us to the Faith - 'Believe ye on your Lord' - and we have believed."He rid himself of all impeding veils; his doubts dispelled, he began to extol and glorify the Beauty promised from of old. In his own home, and at Isfahan, he became notorious for declaring far and wide that the advent of the long-desired One had come to pass. By the hypocrites, he was mocked, cursed and tormented. As for the people, "the mass, as a snake in the grass," who had worshiped him before, now rose up to do him harm. Every day brought on a fresh cruelty, a new torment from his oppressors. He endured it all, and went on teaching with great eloquence. He remained staunch, unmoved, as their wrath increased. In his hands he held out a full cup of Divine glad tidings, offering to all who came that heady draught of the knowledge of God. He was utterly without fear, knew nothing of danger, and swiftly followed the holy path of the Lord.
To the tidings of Bahá'u'lláh's advent his soul replied; to the drum beat, "Am I not your Lord?" his heart drummed back: "Yea, verily!" Eloquently, he taught again, using both rational and historical proofs to establish that He Whom God Shall Manifest - the Promised One of the Báb - had indeed appeared. He was like refreshing waters to those who thirsted, and to seekers, a clear answer from the Concourse on high. In his writing and speaking, he was first among the righteous, in his elucidations and commentaries a mighty sign of God.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 150-151
This knight of the battlefield was one of the most learned of seekers after truth, well versed in many branches of knowledge. For a long time he was in the schools, specializing in the fundamentals of religion and religious jurisprudence, and making researches into philosophy and metaphysics, logic and history, the contemplative and the narrated sciences. He began, however, to note that his fellows were arrogant and self-satisfied, and this repelled him. It was then that he heard the cry out of the Supreme Concourse, and without a moment's hesitation he raised up his voice and shouted, "Yea, verily!"; and he repeated the words, "O our Lord! We have heard the voice of one that called. He called us to the Faith - 'Believe ye on your Lord' - and we have believed."
When he saw the great tumult and the riots in Yazd, he left his homeland and went to Najaf, the noble city; here for safety's sake he mingled with the scholars of religion, becoming renowned among them for his own wide knowledge. Then, listening to the voice from Baghdad, he hastened there, and changed his mode of dress. That is, he put a layman's hat on his head, and went to work as a carpenter to earn his living. He traveled once to Tihran, returned, and sheltered by the grace of Bahá'u'lláh was patient and content, rejoicing in his garb of poverty. In spite of his great learning he was humble, self-effacing, lowly. He kept silent at all times, and was a good companion to every sort of man.
On the journey from Iraq to Constantinople, Mirza Ja'far was one of Bahá'u'lláh's retinue, and in seeing to the needs of the friends, he was a partner to this servant. When we would come to a stopping-place the believers, exhausted by the long hours of travel, would rest or sleep. Mirza Ja'far and I would go here and there to the surrounding villages to find oats, straw and other provisions for the caravan. Since there was a famine in that area, it sometimes happened that we would be roaming from village to village from after the noon hour until half the night was gone. As best we could, we could procure whatever was available, then return to the convoy.
Mirza Ja'far was patient and long-suffering, a faithful attendant at the Holy Threshold. He was a servant to all the friends, working day and night. A quiet man, sparing of speech, in all things relying entirely upon God.
--Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 155-157
Embrace the World Tour
These sounds, often in thrilling combination, came during Embrace the World, a concert tour by Bahá'í musicians. The tour went from 15 April to 11 May 2004 and traveled to 10 states of the United States and also to British Columbia, Canada.
The musicians performed at 20 concerts at packed venues in major cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Salt Lake City, and Houston, as well as in various smaller cities and towns in between.
Audiences from a wide range of religious and ethnic backgrounds responded with standing ovations, singalongs, and insistent requests for encores.
After each concert, the musicians slept on a bus as they were driven to the next venue -- they covered more than 8000 kilometers in 26 days.
Why take on the difficulty of such a demanding tour requiring the harmonizing of diverse musical styles, different instruments, and musicians from different cultures?
"The general purpose of the concerts was to share the Bahá'í concept of the oneness of mankind -- and I feel that sense of oneness was felt deeply by all who attended the concerts," said KC Porter, a multi-Grammy award winning producer, songwriter, and keyboardist, who organized the concert series.
"The spirit of unity was reflected not only in the music, but with the diversity that was represented on the stage, featuring artists and musical styles from around the globe," he said.
"The events also provided an opportunity for concertgoers to come together in a spirit of oneness."
Mr. Porter won a Grammy for his contribution to Carlos Santana's "Supernatural" -- named the album of the year in 2000 -- worked with popular music artist Ricky Martin, and was named producer of the year by the Latin Grammys in 2001.
Sharing the stage with Mr. Porter was Lin Cheng, a singer and erhu virtuoso whose albums have sold by the millions in China, and Iranian-born Farzad Khozein, a jazz-influenced classical violinist.
Also touring were Colombian singer Leonor Dely with her family's flute-and-percussion group, Millero Congo, and backing musicians from the United States and Scotland.
Bahá'í communities and Bahá'í college clubs promoted the concert and organized venues all along the path of the tour, often with the help of local organizations such as the local Community Race Relations Coalition in Waco, Texas.
Civic officials in several areas recognized the uplifting message of the events. Former Washington Governor Mike Lowry, the chief executive of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Michelle Sanidad, and the chairperson of the Duwamish Tribe, Cecile Hansen, attended the Seattle concert at the invitation of local Bahá'ís. In Scottsdale, Arizona, Mayor Mary Manross proclaimed May 11 "Embrace the World Day."
The concert won positive reviews, including by the executive director of the Arts Council in Lake County, California, Xian Yeagan:
"It was the integration of these styles in the hands of the masters that made the concert so moving," the review said.
"And that was what the concert was all about, embracing and unifying the world through art."
Local musicians also had the opportunity for exposure as opening acts for some of the concerts. They included hip-hop group Justice Leeg in the Los Angeles area, the Duwamish Tribe drumming group in Seattle, and a 100-piece choir, Getting Higher, in Vancouver.
Audience members of Chinese background in particular reacted warmly to Lin Cheng's interactive performances.
"Some of them had grown up [in China] with the songs of Lin Cheng on the radio and sang along with her," said Anne Perry, after a concert at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she is a faculty member.
As well as music, the concerts included presentations of selections from the Bahá'í writings. Question-and-answer sessions after each concert promoted understanding of the Bahá'í Faith, and of why its teachings encouraged these musicians from such varied backgrounds to perform together.
The Impact of Bahá'u'lláh's Counsels
Suggested music to play before first activity: "Love is the Secret" from the Fruits of the Spirit CD.
Activity #1: Whole Group Together
Setting The Stage - Bahá'u'lláh in the Síyáh Chál
Choose three readers in advance. Choose people able to read their assigned materials clearly, with feeling, and appropriate dignity.
Reader #1:Let us reflect upon Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment and suffering and its meaning for us today:
In the scorching heat of the midsummer sun, one hundred and fifty years ago, Bahá'u'lláh was conducted, "on foot and in chains, with bared head and bare feet," to the subterranean dungeon known as the Síyáh Chál. "On the way," records Shoghi Effendi, "He several times was stripped of His outer garments, was overwhelmed with ridicule, and pelted with stones."
The "black pit" in which he was held had been a water reservoir for a public bath. About the prison, Bahá'u'lláh, Himself, says, "We were consigned for four months to a place foul beyond comparison...." "We were all huddled together in one cell, our feet in stocks, and around our necks fastened the most galling of chains. The air we breathed was laden with the foulest impurities, while the floor on which we sat was covered with filth and infested with vermin. No ray of light was allowed to penetrate that pestilential dungeon or to warm its icy-coldness."
To sustain His fellow Bábí prisoners, He taught them to chant, "God is sufficient unto me; He verily is the All-sufficing! In Him let the trusting trust."
This was the setting in which Bahá'u'lláh received the Call of God, heard from every side: "Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Erelong will God raise up the treasures of the earth - men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him."
(If desired, provide a copy of the entire letter to the participants: Letter to Feast of Kamál, 1 August 2002)
In this spirit, let us first seek deeper understanding of what Bahá'u'lláh suffered.
Reader #2:Bahá'u'lláh's terrible sufferings in this horrible prison did not change the power of His love to touch the hearts of those around him. It was in the midst of these sufferings and tribulations that Bahá'u'lláh received His Revelation from God. He tells us that this powerful Revelation from God cannot be stilled by tribulations and adversity:
I was asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of My Lord, the All-Merciful, passed over Me, awoke Me from My slumber, and bade Me lift up My voice betwixt earth and heaven. This thing is not from Me, but from God. Unto this testify the dwellers of His Dominion and of His Kingdom, and the inhabitants of the cities of His unfading glory. By Him Who is the Truth! I fear no tribulation in His path, nor any affliction in My love for Him and in the way of His good pleasure. Verily God hath made adversity as a morning dew upon His green pasture, and a wick for His lamp which lighteth earth and heaven.
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 128
Suggested music to play as transition: "Bahá'u'lláh" or "This is Faith" from the Fruits of the Spirit CD.
Activity #2: Small Groups
Hearing The Call - Bahá'u'lláh's Counsels Flow Out to Humanity Through Deeds
Explain to participants that we will now be exploring the meaning of some of the Counsels of Bahá'u'lláh which He proclaimed to the world in the years immediately following His Revelation.
Divide participants into small groups (2-4 people is ideal). By whatever means you think best, distribute the Counsels of Bahá'u'lláh from the list below among the participants. Each group should have about two Counsels to discuss.
Ask each group to discuss what they think the passages mean. Explain that there are no 'right' answers, but that they are asked to apply their own insights to explore the meaning of the Counsels. After exploring the meanings, each group should explore how the saying or phrase might apply to the 'real world' as a tool to help us improve ourselves and the world around us.
After this consultation, ask each person to return to the banners created in the previous activity (previous day). They can move toward the banner that they themselves created, or another that attracts their attention. Using the "open space" areas on the banners, invite each person to write or draw their ideas or images of how the world might be improved by applying the Counsels of Bahá'u'lláh.
Suggested music to play as transition: "Kam Kam Ruz Beh Ruz" from Fruits of the Spirit CD.
In this day, the fertilizing winds of the grace of God have passed over all things. Every creature hath been endowed with all the potentialities it can carry. And yet the peoples of the world have denied this grace! Every tree hath been endowed with the choicest fruits, every ocean enriched with the most luminous gems.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 25)
It is clear to thine Eminence that all the variations which the wayfarer in the stages of his journey beholdeth in the realms of being, proceed from his own vision. We shall give an example of this, that its meaning may become fully clear: Consider the visible sun; although it shineth with one radiance upon all things, and at the behest of the King of Manifestation bestoweth light on all creation, yet in each place it becometh manifest and sheddeth its bounty according to the potentialities of that place. For instance, in a mirror it reflecteth its own disk and shape, and this is due to the sensitivity of the mirror; in a crystal it maketh fire to appear, and in other things it showeth only the effect of its shining, but not its full disk. And yet, through that effect, by the command of the Creator, it traineth each thing according to the quality of that thing, as thou observest.
In like manner, colors become visible in every object according to the nature of that object. For instance, in a yellow globe, the rays shine yellow; in a white the rays are white; and in a red, the red rays are manifest. Then these variations are from the object, not from the shining light. And if a place be shut away from the light, as by walls or a roof, it will be entirely bereft of the splendor of the light, nor will the sun shine thereon.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 17)
Tread ye the path of justice, for this, verily, is the straight path.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 188)
He [seeker after truth] must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 264)
Beware lest ye approach that which your minds abhor.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 76)
Show forbearance and benevolence and love to one another. Should any one among you be incapable of grasping a certain truth, or be striving to comprehend it, show forth, when conversing with him, a spirit of extreme kindliness and good-will. Help him to see and recognize the truth, without esteeming yourself to be, in the least, superior to him, or to be possessed of greater endowments.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 8)
Deal not treacherously with the substance of your neighbour.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 76)
In this Day whatsoever serveth to reduce blindness and to increase vision is worthy of consideration. This vision acteth as the agent and guide for true knowledge. Indeed in the estimation of men of wisdom keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 35)
O SON OF SPIRIT!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, p. #3)
Be ye trustworthy on earth, and withhold not from the poor the things given unto you by God through His grace.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 76)
Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 87)
...examine all matters with the eye of justice and mercy, and not to content himself with the baseless claims of certain individuals.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 111)
O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, p. #68)
If ye stay not the hand of the oppressor, if ye fail to safeguard the rights of the downtrodden, what right have ye then to vaunt yourselves among men?
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 190)
Ye were all created out of water, and unto dust shall ye return.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 76)
Do not rob them to rear palaces for yourselves; nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 93)
Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 142)
...look upon matters with an eye unbeclouded by contempt.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 135)
From that which hath been said it becometh evident that all things, in their inmost reality, testify to the revelation of the names and attributes of God within them. Each according to its capacity, indicateth, and is expressive of, the knowledge of God. So potent and universal is this revelation, that it hath encompassed all things visible and invisible.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 178)
Could one discern the lord from the vassal, or those that enjoyed wealth and riches from those who possessed neither shoes nor mat? By God! Every distinction hath been erased, save only for those who upheld the right and who ruled with justice.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 130)
I bear witness that in His [Divine Manifestion] person solidity and fluidity have been joined and combined
(Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 49)
Beware lest ye shed the blood of anyone. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men's hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other. God's mercy, hath, verily, encompassed all created things, if ye do but understand. Aid ye your Lord, the God of Mercy, with the sword of understanding. Keener indeed is it, and more finely tempered, than the sword of utterance, were ye but to reflect upon the words of your Lord.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 23)
Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form
When within thee the universe is folded?
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, p. 34)
Look not upon the heavens and that which they contain, nor upon the earth and them that dwell thereon, for We have created you to behold Our own Beauty: See it now before you!
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 10)
The potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 340)
We see the people in this day censuring the oppressors of bygone ages, whilst they themselves commit yet greater wrongs and know it not!
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 128)
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. This unity can never be achieved so long as the counsels which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed are suffered to pass unheeded.
Through the power of the words He hath uttered the whole of the human race can be illumined with the light of unity, and the remembrance of His Name is able to set on fire the hearts of all men, and burn away the veils that intervene between them and His glory. One righteous act is endowed with a potency that can so elevate the dust as to cause it to pass beyond the heaven of heavens. It can tear every bond asunder, and hath the power to restore the force that hath spent itself and vanished....
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 286)
As thou dost observe, man's power to comprehend, move, speak, hear, and see all derive from this sign of his Lord within him. It is single in its essence, yet manifold through the diversity of its instruments.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 154)
The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves. That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 286)
Erelong these outward trappings, these visible treasures, these earthly vanities, these arrayed armies, these adorned vestures, these proud and overweening souls, all shall pass into the confines of the grave, as though into that box. In the eyes of those possessed of insight, all this conflict, contention and vainglory hath ever been, and will ever be, like unto the play and pastimes of children. Take heed, and be not of them that see and yet deny.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 168)
If ye meet the abased or the down-trodden, turn not away disdainfully from them, for the King of Glory ever watcheth over them and surroundeth them with such tenderness as none can fathom except them that have suffered their wishes and desires to be merged in the Will of your Lord, the Gracious, the All-Wise. O ye rich ones of the earth! Flee not from the face of the poor that lieth in the dust, nay rather befriend him and suffer him to recount the tale of the woes with which God's inscrutable Decree hath caused him to be afflicted. By the righteousness of God! Whilst ye consort with him, the Concourse on high will be looking upon you, will be interceding for you, will be extolling your names and glorifying your action. Blessed are the learned that pride not themselves on their attainments; and well is it with the righteous that mock not the sinful, but rather conceal their misdeeds, so that their own shortcomings may remain veiled to men's eyes.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 314)
We have, moreover, commanded you to cleanse your hearts from every trace of the love or hate of the peoples of the world, lest aught should divert you from one course or impel you towards another.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 49)
Know ye that by "the world" is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him. The "life to come," on the other hand, signifieth the things that give you a safe approach to God, the All-Glorious, the Incomparable. Whatsoever deterreth you, in this Day, from loving God is nothing but the world. Flee it, that ye may be numbered with the blest. Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 276)
Know that thy true adornment consisteth in the love of God and in thy detachment from all save Him, and not in the luxuries thou dost possess.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 62)
It beseemeth all men, in this Day, to take firm hold on the Most Great Name, and to establish the unity of all mankind. There is no place to flee to, no refuge that any one can seek, except Him.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 203)
Cleave thou, therefore, with the whole affection of thine heart, unto His love, and withdraw it from the love of anyone besides Him, that He may aid thee to immerse thyself in the ocean of His unity, and enable thee to become a true upholder of His oneness.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 214)
Lay not upon your souls that which will weary them and weigh them down, but rather what will lighten and uplift them, so that they may soar on the wings of the Divine verses towards the Dawning-place of His manifest signs; this will draw you nearer to God, did ye but comprehend.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 73)
...judge with fairness and act with justice
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts)
. . . ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you. Were ye but to open your eyes, ye would, in truth, prefer a myriad griefs unto this joy, and would count death itself better than this life.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Persian Hidden Words, #20)
The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 141)
No harm, assuredly, can befall him if he partaketh with justice of the benefits of this world,
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 77)
Lay not on any soul a load which ye would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for any one the things ye would not desire for yourselves. This is My best counsel unto you, did ye but observe it.
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 128)
Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest, if ye be of them that comprehend.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 93)
Conclude with music from the Fruits of the Spirit CD: "We Can Move the World".
Last updated 27 June 2007