November 8, 2015

The significance of one’s participation in Baha’i elections – by Horace Holley

Before participating in the local election this year, let us endeavor to form a clearer conception of the real significance of this Baha’i institution.

If we look for its importance to numbers alone, or to any other worldly standard, these little gatherings might well appear to be without special meaning or importance. But if we consider how for lack of unity the most important affairs of mankind have always been made a prey to jealousy, to partisanship and to self-seeking, then indeed can we realize that as a model for the organization and execution of the world’s myriad activities, the Baha’i method offers the sole solution of the many overwhelming problems by which older civilizations were destroyed, and the present one is seriously threatened.

If each believer will take part in his local election with the consciousness that he is contributing vitally to the spiritualization of all the affairs of daily life, and by his scrupulous adherence to the methods and principles given us by Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha is truly hastening the day of the Most Great Peace, then indeed we may be sure that the Cause is beginning to fulfill its divine mission. 
- Horace Holley  (Message from The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada to Local Spiritual Assemblies, Baha’i News, no. 4, April 1925)

October 11, 2015

Shoghi Effendi’s Introduction to Dawn-Breakers, its Footnotes, and Genealogy of the Báb - by Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery

Outstanding as an example of his historical perspective is the Introduction to the Dawn-Breakers. It contains a concise and brilliant history of Islam, to inform the reader concerning the forms and elements which concurred to set the stage on which the deeply moving drama of the Báb's Revelation was played. Many a time, during his table conversation, to illustrate some points, he would accurately quote from that particular book, or from God Passes By, or some other of his writings, often showing surprise or perplexity at the limited information, or lack of it, of some of his listeners. The footnotes of The Dawn-Breakers, some of which are in French, are another example of his talent in the field of historical research. To appreciate the tremendous background of knowledge he possessed at the time of his translation of that book, it suffices to glance at the titles and authors of the fifty-five books he consulted, as listed in the Appendix. In addition, one finds in his own handwriting the genealogy of the Báb, showing connection with Bahá'u'lláh's descendants, and presented on a fivefold sheet of paper twenty-six inches long.  The genealogy is prepared with scrupulous care, and shows the ramifications of the families, including names known to every Bahá'í as well as names unknown to the average believer, but which Shoghi Effendi brought to mind with great facility. Always amazing was his inexhaustible memory and the ease with which he recalled episodes, placing personages in their proper positions, with all their particulars of names, backgrounds and degrees of relationship. It was like reliving the spellbound days of my childhood when my aged and learned tutor would narrate the legendary feats of Greek mythology, with gods and people brought alive by his fascinating word pictures. 
- Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery  ('Shoghi Effendi – Recollections’)

September 5, 2015

Baha’i community’s organic growth and development - by Paul Lample

Yet another aspect of the Faith that can be grasped more fully as the close of the first century of the Formative Age approaches is the nature and pattern of the organic growth and development of the Bahá’í community. Shoghi Effendi refers to the community’s organic development and to its organic life, which reflects the characteristics it shares with the unfoldment of a living organism and with the coherent, integrated, and harmonious nature of its component parts. He speaks of the “the internal functions of the organic Bahá’í community” (Shoghi Effendi, ‘God Passes By'), explaining that its “embryonic state, shall evolve within the shell of His law, and shall forge ahead, undivided and unimpaired, till it embraces the whole of mankind” (Shoghi Effendi, “The World Order of Baha’u’llah’). The progress of national communities is propelled by “prosecuting specific Plans designed to foster their organic development” (Shoghi Effendi, ‘Messages to Canada’). “Such close interaction, such complete cohesion, such continual harmony and fellowship between the various agencies that contribute to the organic life, and constitute the basic framework, of every properly functioning Bahá’í community,” he states, “is a phenomenon which offers a striking contrast to the disruptive tendencies which the discordant elements of present-day society so tragically manifest” (Shoghi Effendi, ‘The Advent of Divine Justice’). And in one of its earliest messages, the Universal House of Justice writes,

"In the human body, every cell, every organ, every nerve has its part to play. When all do so the body is healthy, vigorous, radiant, ready for every call made upon it. No cell, however humble, lives apart from the body, whether in serving it or receiving from it. This is true of the body of mankind in which God “hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties,” and is supremely true of the body of the Bahá’í World Community, for this body is already an organism, united in its aspirations, unified in its methods, seeking assistance and confirmation from the same Source, and illumined with the conscious knowledge of its unity. . . . The Bahá’í World Community, growing like a healthy new body, develops new cells, new organs, new functions and powers as it presses on to its maturity, when every soul, living for the Cause of God, will receive from that Cause, health, assurance and the overflowing bounties of Bahá’u’lláh which are diffused through His divinely ordained order." (The Universal House of Justice, from a message dated September 1964)

June 20, 2015

The Most Distinguished Heroine of the Bahá’í dispensation - by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani

The human perfections that Bahíyyih Khánum exemplified, the heavenly attributes that she embodied, the laudable services that she rendered during the ministry of Bahá’u’lláh and her tremendous capacity for selfless service throughout her life won her from the Supreme Pen the appellation of the Most Distinguished Heroine of the Bahá’í dispensation:

“Verily, we have elevated thee to the rank of one of the most distinguished among thy sex and granted thee, in My court, a station such as none other woman hath surpassed. Thus have We preferred thee and raised thee above the rest, as a sign of grace from Him Who is the Lord of the throne on high and earth below … How high is the testimony of the Sadratu’l-Muntaha for its leaf; how exalted the witness of the Tree of Life unto its fruit!” (‘BAHÍYYIH KHÁNUM’, A compilation from Bahá'í sacred texts and writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum's own letters, made by the Research department at the Bahá'í World Centre) 
- Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani (Excerpt from an article presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #121 [English], Louhelen Bahá'í Center: Davison, Michigan, USA, October 10–13, 2013 published in Lights of Irfan, volume 15)
…read the entire article

April 5, 2015

Transformation of Canada - by Douglas Martin

Here, we touch with that mystery that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá termed “the secret of Divine civilization”. Increasingly, Bahá’ís will feel impelled to consider the impact on Canadian consciousness of Shoghi Effendi’s messages and the long term effects on the nation’s life. Prior to World War II it might well have been impossible to identify a society more provincial, more resolutely self-absorbed than that of Canada. Today, in its place, stands a nation for whom a global perspective is the norm, that has established a perhaps unparalleled record of service to the cause of international peacekeeping, and that is justly renowned for its willingness to provide economic assistance without attaching to it political or other conditions. 
- Douglas Martin  (28 February 1998, forward to ‘Messages to Canada’) 

February 8, 2015

Understanding the Book of Aqdas may be challenging for some due to one’s unfamiliarity with past religions - by Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qasim Faizi

The Book of Aqdas is also difficult to understand, but not because of language in which it is revealed. The language is lucid, very clear and direct, but some sentences are peepholes through which one must see the panorama of the past religions, religious beliefs, customs, etc. Should the reader be a stranger to this background, such sentences would remain meaningless and the reader will be startled as to why and what they stand for in such a mighty book. To understand such references, we must know that in the past religions of God, the people had many rules about hair, clothes, the place of their prayers and worship, engaging servants, and many other petty problems, and they were all sticking to these unnecessary details of their religious life. We must know that there are man-made interpretations about customs, habits, rituals and rules which the followers of the religions take them as the revealed Words of God. Bahá'u'lláh abrogated all such man-made interpretations which stood between man and his Creator, and Bahá'u'lláh, at the same time, paves the way for us to approach God in worship and servitude only with pure, radiant and kindly hearts. It is for these and some other reasons that the beloved Guardian made the codification of the Book of Aqdas as one of the goals of his Ten Year Plan, and not its direct translation. 
- Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qasim Faizi  (Excerpt from a talk: Commentary on the Kitab-i-Aqdas)

January 4, 2015

The power of prayer - by Dr. J.E. Esslemont

Many find a difficulty in believing in the efficacy of prayer because they think that answers to prayer would involve arbitrary interference with the laws of nature. An analogy may help to remove this difficulty. If a magnet be held over some iron filings the latter will fly upwards and cling to it, but this involves no interference with the law of gravitation. The force of gravity continues to act on the filings just as before. What has happened is that a superior force has been brought into play -- another force whose action is just as regular and calculable as that of gravity.

The Bahá'í view is that prayer brings into action higher forces, as yet comparatively little known; but there seems no reason to believe that these forces are more arbitrary in their action than the physical forces. The difference is that they have not yet been fully studied and experimentally investigated, and their action appears mysterious and incalculable because of our ignorance.

Another difficulty which some find perplexing is that prayer seems too feeble a force to produce the great results often claimed to it. Analogy may serve to clear up this difficulty also. A small force, when applied to the sluice gate of a reservoir, may release and regulate an enormous flow of water-power, or, when applied to the steering gear of an ocean liner, may control the course of the huge vessel.

In the Bahá'í view, the power that brings about answers to prayer is the inexhaustible Power of God. The part of the suppliant is only to exert the feeble force necessary to release the flow or determine the course of the Divine Bounty, which is ever ready to serve those who have learned how to draw upon it. 
- Dr. J.E. Esslemont  (‘Baha'u'llah and the New Era’) 

September 14, 2014

Shoghi Effendi's exposition of the Word of God ‑- an astonishment and a new breath of life - by David Hofman

Such was the nature of Shoghi Effendi's exposition of the Word of God ‑ an astonishment and a new breath of life to all who had thought religion to be limited to 'the spirit of brotherhood and goodwill', to idealism and the expression of vague and pious hopes, to personal salvation, requiring the believers to have patience and firmness in faith that the Promised One would bring about the Kingdom of God on earth in His Own good time. It was Shoghi Effendi who said, in effect, Oh no; you must study and toil and sweat and sacrifice and God of His bounty will reward your efforts. He uncovered for us all that marvellous guidance and direction of which we knew nothing, led us into his dynamic programme for building that Kingdom of God on earth ‑ long anticipated, Christ‑promised, and now to be ushered in through our services to the King of Glory. 
- David Hofman  (The late member of the Universal House of Justice, from an essay: ‘Shoghi Effendi Expounder of the Word of God’; included in ‘Studying the Writings of Shoghi Effendi’, published by George Ronald)

July 19, 2014

Humanity enters the age of maturity through the Kitab-i-Aqdas - by Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi

The Kitab-i-Aqdas …is a gate through which man enters the age of maturity, leaving behind all the years and centuries of childhood, savagery and inhumanity.
Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi (Published in 'Excerpts from Letters, Talks and Writings of Hand of the Cause of God Abu'l-Qásim Faizí, Compiled by Shirley Macias)
…read the entire talk

May 4, 2014

A National Spiritual Assembly stands… as the pillar upon which rests the dome of the Baha'i social structure -- the Universal House of Justice - by Horace Holley

Significant as the formation of a new National Spiritual Assembly is as evidence of an active, vigorous and widespread Baha'i community in its land, its full importance lies in the fact that the institution of the National Assembly itself is but a step in the development of the Baha'i world order. A National Spiritual Assembly stands not as an independent body, nor a final authority in the realm of collective action, but as the pillar upon which will rest in future the dome of the Baha'i social structure-the International House of Justice. A great part of the necessary foundation for that crowning Baha'i achievement has already been constructed. It remains only for the new National Spiritual Assemblies to begin functioning with effective power…The requisite capacity will then have been acquired, and the proper conditions realized, for the decisive final step upon which the world's peace and even its very existence depends. 
- Horace Holley  (from ‘Survey of Current Baha’i Activities in the East and West, International’, in ‘The Baha’i World 1934-1936’)

March 15, 2014

Simplicity in Baha’u’llah’s life and Writings - Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi

Simplicity is the basis and order of Bahá'u'lláh's life. It rules throughout His ways and manners of living, including garments, residence, furniture, His approach to His friends and followers, and as a matter of fact, to all the people of the world. The same order applies to His Writings. All are easy to read, to follow and understand. Almost every Tablet starts with the praise of God, and immediately after that, He starts to answer questions put to Him by the believers. His answers are always direct, frank, to the point, and concise. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule and there are obvious reasons for such exceptional cases. I mention three of these exceptions.

The first is the Tablet to the King of Persia, Násiri'd-Dín Sháh. The language is very exalted and in some parts the vocabulary is very powerful and difficult to understand. The reason is this, that the King had been surrounded by the divines, who always boasted of their knowledge of the Arabic language. Bahá'u'lláh, Who had never been to their schools, by using elaborate words and perfect melodious sentences desired to awaken and address the King and his entourage to the source of His revelation, the greatness of His Cause, and the exceptional power with which He had been endowed. When the King received this Tablet, he sent it to the divines of his country and asked them to compose a suitable answer, but none dared to even a sentence which could be compared with the perfection of words, style and melody used by Bahá'u'lláh in that great Tablet.

February 15, 2014

Early soldiers of the Guardian - by David Hofman

Those early believers on whose shoulders we now stand ‑ a debt we can never forget or repay ‑ although beatified by their recognition of the Promised One of all ages, were, nevertheless, insofar as His Revelation was concerned, largely uninformed, naive and not yet weaned from the old order which Baha'u'llah was rolling up. Yet they were the Guardian's soldiers ‑ the army of life: he trained them, enlarged their vision, and led them on to victory.

The late Hand of the Cause H. M. Balyuzi related that even the erudite among the Persians, who could read the entire Sacred Text in its original, were not exempt from the general simplicity. He maintained that the Bab's statement 'Well is it with him who fixeth His gaze upon the Order of Baha'u'llah . . .', was understood by them to refer to Baha'u'llah's literary style. It was Shoghi Effendi who put the capital 'O' to that Order ‑ a device not used apparently in Persian orthography. 
- David Hofman  (The late member of the Universal House of Justice, from an essay: ‘Shoghi Effendi, Expounder of the Word of God’; published in ‘Studying the Writings of Shoghi Effendi’, by George Ronald)
-- read the entire article

December 20, 2013

Be natural, be happy - by William Copeland Dodge

Wendell [Dodge] and I [William Dodge] were so glad to be with ‘Abdu’l-Baha [in ‘Akka, in 1901]. At some times we were quite jolly. We were mere boys of 18 and 21. Our interpreter, Ameen Fareed, told us that we must be reverent, that when we entered the presence of the Master we must bow our heads, clasp our hands, avoid smiling. Of course we felt the rebuke. So the next time we entered the dining room, our heads were bowed, our hands clasped, and we did not smile. ‘Abdu’l-Baha passed quickly by us. He seemed to ignore us. We felt further rebuked. Returning to our room we wondered why ‘Abdu’l-Baha seemed different in His attitude toward us. Well, we decided that we were not good actors. So when we entered the dining room for the next meal, we smiled. ‘Abdu’l-Baha smiled. He came over to us, took us in his arms and said: “That’s the way I want you, boys, to act -- be natural, be happy.” 
- William Copeland Dodge  (Excerpt from the transcript of a talk given by William Copeland Dodge relating the account of his pilgrimage to ‘Akka in 1901)
...listen and read the entire talk

November 13, 2013

A symbolic blessing for the Americas and a vital consequence to the evolution of the Administrative Order world-wide - by Violette Nakhjavani

It was hardly surprising that the arrival of 'Abdu'l-Baha in the city of New York would have provoked such joy and celebration among the small band of Baha'is in that city. From the vantage point of history, it was also one of the greatest events in the life of the Master Himself. It was not only a high honour for the United States and Canada, but a symbolic blessing for the Americas and of vital consequence to the evolution of the Administrative Order world-wide. By this one act, 'Abdu'l-Baha prepared the way for the writing of the Tablets of the Divine Plan which were to serve as one of the charters of the Covenant. By graciously accepting to set His foot on American soil He caused the spiritual life on that mighty continent to stir, and diffused the fragrances of the Blessed Beauty across the West. It was a journey whose effects were destined to be felt for centuries. 
- Violette Nakhjavani  (‘The Maxwells of Montreal, vol.1’)    

October 1, 2013

Happiness for human beings - by Marzieh Gail

…happiness for human beings means being raised out of the blind physical world into the conscious life of the spirit, and this can only be done by the Prophet of God. 
- Marzieh Gail  (Introduction to 1953 edition of Baha’u’llah’s ‘Epistle to the Son of the Wolf) (To read the entire article please visit Baha’i Talks, Messages and Articles)
...read the entire article

September 5, 2013

How we can each contribute to the building of a new social order that is shaped by the truths of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh - by - Paul Lample

“It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding,” Bahá’u’lláh states, “to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.”[1] To be a Bahá’í, to “live the life,” means to comprehend the Word of God and act on it, individually and collectively. It is to make the reality of one’s personal life and the pattern of society at large reflect the teachings. Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms that “the object of every Revelation” is to “effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions.” Otherwise, He observes, “the futility of God’s universal Manifestations would be apparent.”[2]

Collectively, we receive the gift of the Word of God, and through its application we are to raise the Kingdom of God on earth; that is, we are to gradually contribute to the building of a new social order that is shaped by the truths of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. This statement appears simple, yet implicit in it is a challenge to reflect deeply about how we are to understand and behave. Achieving Bahá’u’lláh’s intended purpose for the human race requires new morals, new ways of generating knowledge, new ways of communicating, new ways of acting, and new institutions. How do we Bahá’ís, with our diverse, sometimes conflicting, understandings of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, collaborate to bring about the society that reflects His will? The answer will have to be found in learning, over time, to better understand the text and translate it into efficacious action consistent with its divine intent. 

- Paul Lample  (Excerpt from a plenary talk given by Paul Lample at the 32nd annual conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies – North America, 29 August to 1 September 2008)
[1]. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
[2]. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán

...read the entire talk

September 2, 2013

A funny incident while in the company of the Master - by William Copeland Dodge

video
Although ‘Abdu’l-Baha was a serious expounder of the Baha’i Faith He had a fine sense of humor. One day at dinner, we were eating soup, a nice thick soup. Leaving my spoon in the plate I raised my hand to adjust my collar. As I brought down my hand my elbow came in contact with the handle of the spoon. And soup was spread upon the whiskers of the Persian believer on my right. Of course, I was terribly embarrassed. However, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, observing the incident quickly said: “Do not worry. That is a blessing” and laughed aloud. My brother Wendell then remarked: “Who gets the blessing, Bill, you or the friend with the whiskers?” And ‘Abdu’l-Baha laughed again. Wendell and I were so glad to be with ‘Abdu’l-Baha. At some times we were quite jolly. We were mere boys of 18 and 21. 
William Copeland Dodge  (Excerpt from the transcript of a talk given by William Copeland Dodge relating the account of his pilgrimage to ‘Akka in 1901)
...listen to and read the entire talk

August 31, 2013

The two processes at work in the world today - by Peter Khan

It is, I think, generally accepted by the mass of the people of the world that there are, to a certain extent, two processes at work in the world today, a process of decline in the quality of life, and a growth in positive elements including the emancipation of deprived minorities, a global perspective through internationalism, and the use of technology for beneficial ends. This recognition of the existence of two processes is not something which has been characteristic of the mass of humanity over many years. If we survey the history of the 20th century there have been periods of great euphoria, associated generally with either the election of a charismatic political leader or with an event which seemed to hold unlimited promise such as the demolition of the Berlin wall, in 1989. But over the last 20 years it appears to me that the mass of humanity have come generally to recognize that things are not going extremely well, with the emergence of some very pressing and portentous problems.

And I think if you talk to the casual observer of the world scene he or she will say “there are two things happening at the same time, decline and growth.”

Obviously we have our Bahá’í teachings on this subject but that’s not the point at the moment. The conventional reaction to this process of decline becoming increasingly apparent in the world today takes a number of forms. Most people anticipate and hope that it will only be temporary: “Things are not so good at the moment, financially with the crisis, political volatility, in Africa or Asia, or Central or South America, or in other countries, but with a bit of luck it’ll get better and we’ll go back to the way it was before, with a calm settled society.”

August 28, 2013

The re-opening to pilgrims Baha’u’llah’s Cell in the Most Great Prison - by Hartmut Grossman

The Universal House of Justice views the re-opening of the Cell of Baha’u’llah as being a very significant event, so much so that prior to the pilgrims’ visit, all of the members went to the Cell as a Body to say special prayers. 

We should remember the suffering that occurred at this prison - the prison designated by Him as the Most Great Prison, which is deeply significant considering the conditions under which He suffered in the ‘Black-Pit’, the Siyah-Chal, in Tehran. He had just arrived when he was forced to sell His carpet, the carpet He used to sleep on, to pay for the funeral expenses of one of the members of His entourage. Even after paying the expenses, the body was still treated very disrespectfully, but He had to make the attempt. It was while confined to this Cell that He sacrificed His son. Many, many other afflictions were faced by Him there.

Many events of note also took place in this Cell, one of which was His giving the Tablet to the Shah of Persia to Badi for its delivery. Baha’u’llah had written the Tablet prior to His arrival in Acco, but there was not a believer at that time who exhibited the necessary levels of devotion and sacrifice. So to give the Tablet to Badi, He bound the eyes of the guards so that Badi could be smuggled into His presence and safely back out again. The second Tablet to Napoleon and the Tablet to Queen Victoria were also written from this Cell.

August 26, 2013

The “sons of the Kingdom are of two kinds. One is the real son and the other is the material one.” - by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

video
Akka 1901

It is stated in the New Testament that Jesus Christ was once drinking the juice of grapes and said he would drink no more except in the presence of the Father. This means that the spirit needs food for strength as well as the body. The appearance of the Holy Manifestations is for the purpose of causing the heavenly table to descend. This Table means the divine virtues and characteristics and is the means of strengthening the spirit and life. Therefore we hope that as this heavenly table has descended from the Kingdom of Abha in this marvelous period the believers and friends of God will have a great portion of it so that they will be the cause of eternal life and the means of enlightening the hearts of the people of the World.

In short, I hope you will ask God to bless you as being the real sons of the Kingdom. Because the sons of the Kingdom are of two kinds. One is the real son and the other is the material one. Judas Iscariot and Peter were both sons of the Kingdom but Peter was the real son, Judas was the material son. Consequently he was deprived. The real sons of the Kingdom are those souls who act according to the instructions and teachings of Baha’u’llah, the Blessed Perfection. They are drunken with the cup of Providence and are illuminated by the divine Light. They are honored by all the perfections and virtues of humanity, and are characterized with attributes which embellish the essence of man in such a manner that all the people even the enemies testify of their good actions, attractions, separation from the world, purity, sanctity, knowledge and belief.