Friday, December 31, 2010

True security for the people of Bahá will necessitate opposition, .....

  .... The vibration of the sound of that same soul-burning cry gradually noised abroad the call of this world-illuminating Great Announcement and the ringing notes of that call resounded in all regions of the world, and now too, the beloved friends in Irán, who are the devoted dwellers in the courtyard of the Beloved, stand firm in the same Covenant and Testament. Behold the courage, firmness, detachment, unity, co-operation, zeal, and enthusiasm with which these loyal lovers of the Beloved daily face their tests and prove and demonstrate to the world, with radiant and shining faces, their purity, their heritage, their quality, and their virtue. With the utmost meekness, truthfulness, wisdom, and courage they meet the challenges presented to them, the challenge of defying the enemies, dispelling misunderstandings which are a result of the proliferation of calumnies and false accusations. They have met their fate with acquiescence, have bowed their heads in the valley of submission and resignation, and have borne every tribulation with radiance, for they know with absolute certainty that the fulfilment of divine prophecies will coincide with dire events and the bearing of innumerable afflictions. The beloved Guardian says: "If in the days to come, adversities of various kinds should encircle that land and national upheavals should further aggravate the present calamities, and intensify the repeated afflictions," the dear friends in that country should not feel "sorrowful and grieved" and must not be deflected "from their straight path and chosen highway." He then continues to address the dear friends in these words:

The liberation of this meek and innocent band of His followers from the fetters of its bondage and the talons of the people of tyranny and enmity must needs be preceded by the clamour and agitation of the masses. The realization of glory, of tranquility, and of true security for the people of Bahá will necessitate opposition, aggression and commotion on the part of the people of malevolence and iniquity. Therefore, should the buffeting waves of the sea of tribulation intensify and the storms of trials and tribulations assail that meek congregation from all six sides, know of a certainty and without a moment's hesitation that the time for their deliverance has drawn nigh, that the age-old promise of their assured glory will soon be fulfilled, and that at long last the means are provided for the persecuted people of Bahá in that land to attain salvation and supreme triumph. A firm step and an unshakeable resolve are essential so that the remaining stages may come to pass and the cherished ideals of the people of Bahá may be realized on the loftiest summits, and be made manifest in astounding brilliance. "Such is God's method, and no change shalt thou find in His method."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Remembering some of the Martyrs



Dec. 27th 1981, the 8 members of National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is of Iran, were executed without trial in Evin prison, Tehran Iran.


  Kamran Samimi, Sirus Rawshani Uskui, Qudratu'llah Rawhani, Mahmud Majdhub, Izzat’u’llah Furuhi, Jalal Azizi, Mehdi Amin Amin and Jinus Ni'mat Mahmudi


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gems of Divine Mysteries

In this journey the seeker becometh witness to a myriad changes and transformations, confluences and divergences. He beholdeth the wonders of Divinity in the mysteries of creation and discovereth the paths of guidance and the ways of His Lord. Such is the station reached by them that search after God, and such are the heights attained by those who hasten unto Him.

When once the seeker hath ascended unto this station, he will enter the City of Love and Rapture, whereupon the winds of love will blow and the breezes of the spirit will waft. In this station the seeker is so overcome by the ecstasies of yearning and the fragrances of longing that he discerneth not his left from his right, nor doth he distinguish land from sea or desert from mountain. At every moment he burneth with the fire of longing and is consumed by the onslaught of separation in this world.  He speedeth through the Párán of love and traverseth the Horeb of rapture. Now he laugheth, now he weepeth sore; now he reposeth in peace, now he trembleth in fear. Nothing can alarm him, naught can thwart his purpose, and no law can restrain him. He standeth ready to obey whatsoever His Lord should please to decree as to his beginning and his end. With every breath he layeth down his life and offereth up his soul.

He bareth his breast to meet the darts of the enemy and raiseth his head to greet the sword of destiny; nay rather, he kisseth the hand of his would-be murderer and surrendereth his all. He yieldeth up spirit, soul, and body in the path of his Lord, and yet he doeth so by the leave of his Beloved and not of his own whim and desire. Thou findest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea, abiding in every land and treading every path. Whosoever toucheth him in this state will perceive the heat of his love. He walketh the heights of detachment and traverseth the vale of renunciation. His eyes are ever expectant to witness the wonders of God’s mercy and eager to behold the splendours of His beauty. Blessed indeed are they that have attained unto such a station, for this is the station of the ardent lovers and the enraptured souls.
And when this stage of the journey is completed and the wayfarer hath soared beyond this lofty station, he entereth the City of Divine Unity, and the garden of oneness, and the court of detachment. In this plane the seeker casteth away all signs, allusions, veils, and words, and beholdeth all things with an eye illumined by the effulgent lights which God Himself hath shed upon him. In his journey he seeth all differences return to a single word and all allusions culminate in a single point. Unto this beareth witness he who sailed upon the ark of fire and followed the inmost path to the pinnacle of glory in the realm of immortality: “Knowledge is one point, which the foolish have multiplied.”

This is the station that hath been alluded to in the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, Myself, except that I am that I am, and He is that He is.”
In this station, were He Who is the Embodiment of the End to say: “Verily, I am the Point of the Beginning”, He would indeed be speaking the truth. And were He to say: “I am other than Him”, this would be equally true. Likewise, were He to proclaim: “Verily, I am the Lord of heaven and earth”, or “the King of kings”, or  “the Lord of the realm above”, or Muḥammad, or ‘Alí, or their descendants, or aught else, He would indeed be proclaiming the truth of God. He, verily, ruleth over all created things and standeth supreme above all besides Him. Hast thou not heard what hath been said aforetime: “Muḥammad is our first, Muḥammad our last, Muḥammad our all”? And elsewhere: “They all proceed from the same Light”?





Bahá'u'lláh

Study Circle part 3.

Implementing a Program for the Spiritual Empowerment of Junior Youth
A set of branch courses following Book 5

Drawing on the Power of the Word Walking the Straight Path Breezes of Confirmation Courses for implementing a program for junior youth will form a specialized branch. They will complement, and eventually merge with, the branch courses for teaching Bahá’í children’s classes. Referred to as “animators”, those who enter this path of service will be helped to prepare themselves to work with young people between the ages of 12 to 15 and to familiarize themselves with the materials recommended by the Ruhi Institute for use with this age group, which currently include items with content inspired by the Bahá’í Faith, as well as those which treat specifically Bahá’í subjects.
More info at Ruhi.org

 

Teaching the Cause
Book 6

People from every walk of life are welcome to explore the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and learn how they can apply them to better their lives. All Bahá’ís, then, share liberally and unconditionally the teachings and precepts of their Faith. Although the propagation of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is one of the most essential services to be rendered, teaching is also a state of being—a state of being in which one is constantly sharing with others that which one has been so bountifully blessed. This concept is explored in the first unit of Book 6, “The Spiritual Nature of Teaching”. The next two units, “The Qualities and Attitudes of the Teacher” and “The Act of Teaching”, examine various notions about the nature of teaching in light of the Bahá’í writings and how it should be approached, emphasizing the importance of adopting a posture of learning. Of particular significance is the example offered in the third unit of how to introduce the Faith to a seeker through the story of Anna and Emilia.

Walking Together on a Path of Service
Book 7

Book 7 is dedicated to an act of service crucial to the functioning of the Ruhi Institute itself, namely, helping a group of individuals go through the initial six courses in the sequence. That individuals accompany one another on a path of service to their communities is central to the process of capacity building set in motion by the courses. The first unit of the book, “The Spiritual Path,” raises awareness of the spiritual dynamics of advancing along a path of service and increases understanding of the forces at work. The second unit, “Becoming a Tutor of Books 1-6,” examines some of the concepts, attitudes, skills and abilities that contribute to the capability of helping a group of friends to go through the earlier courses. This is generally done by bringing together eight or ten people in what is termed a “study circle”. The third unit, “Promoting the Arts at the Grassroots,” is designed to create appreciation for the role of artistic endeavors in the activity of a study circle.
book 7 “Thousands upon thousands, embracing the diversity of the entire human family, are engaged in systematic study of the Creative Word in an environment that is at once serious and uplifting.” 21 April 2008 message from the
Universal House of Justice

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Study circle part 2.

Arising to Serve
Book 2

Book 2 of the main sequence explores the nature of a path of service and the manner in which it is to trodden. An essential feature of community life is unity and fellowship. Visiting people in their homes—family and friends, neighbors and acquaintances—and talking with them about themes central to spiritual and social existence is the first conscious act of service carried out by those engaged in building such communities. The book helps participants acquire the skills and abilities, knowledge and qualities, needed to enter into conversations with others that are uplifting to the mind and spirit. Participants also think about the nature of the joy one derives from service. There are three units in the book: “The Joy of Teaching”, “Deepening Themes”, and “Introducing Bahá’í Beliefs”.
 

Teaching Children’s Classes, Grade 1
Book 3

The second act of service addressed by the Institute is in the area of the spiritual education of children. The education of children is essential to the transformation of society. Book 3 focuses on some of the knowledge, skills and qualities necessary for those wishing to enter this important field of service. The first unit, “Some Principles of Bahá'í Education”, briefly examines certain principles and concepts inherent to education from a Bahá’í point of view. It does this in the context of character development, as preparation for the next unit, “Lessons for Children’s Classes, Grade 1”, which offers fifteen lessons intended to foster the development of spiritual qualities in small children. The third unit, “Conducting Classes for Children”, seeks to develop the skills and abilities needed to manage a class with a great deal of love and understanding and, at the same time, with the discipline necessary to create a proper learning environment.

“Aware of the aspirations of the children of the world and their need for spiritual education, they extend their efforts widely to involve ever-growing contingents of participants in classes that become centres of attraction for the young and strengthen the roots of the Faith in society.” 21 April 2008 message from the Universal House of Justice 

The Twin Manifestations
Book 4

Book 4 in the main sequence returns to the question of identity, the “I” in the statement “I walk a path of service”. History shapes much of the identity of individuals, as well as entire peoples. The second and third units in the book are dedicated to the study of the life history of Bahá’u’lláh, the Author of the Bahá’í Faith, and His Forerunner, the Báb. In the first unit, the significance of this Day is briefly examined. Seeing clearly the elements that characterize the past enables individuals to contribute more effectively to shaping the future.

Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth
Book 5

This book, still in the process of development, but being made available for limited use in pre-publication form, has a special place in the sequence of the Ruhi Institute. According to the Bahá’í teachings, an individual reaches the age of maturity at 15, when spiritual and moral obligations become binding. The years immediately before this age, then, take on special significance. This is the time when fundamental concepts about individual and collective life are formulated in the mind of an adolescent struggling to leave behind the habits of childhood. Youth between the ages of 12 to 15 have much to say, and whoever treats them as children misses the opportunity to help them form a proper identity. The three units that will make up Book 5 focus on some of the concepts, skills, qualities, and attitudes that experience has shown are required by those wishing to implement a program for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth.

“They assist junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and to become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.”
21 April 2008 message from the Universal House of Justice

More to follow ....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Study circle

The term study circle has become common terminology in the Bahá’í Faith to describe a specific type of gathering for the study of the Bahá’í teachings, with an emphasis on "promoting the well-being of humanity.

Study circles are a form of distance learning designed to systematically bring education about spiritual concepts to the grassroots level. Because they are intended to be sustainable and reproducible on a large scale, study circles shy away from formally taught classes, opting instead for participatory methods. They are usually led by a tutor whose role is not to act as an expert but rather to facilitate the rhythm and pace of the study circle. In this way, attendees of study circles are expected to become active participants in their own learning process.
Another foundational principle of study circles is a heavy emphasis on the Writings as a means of finding unity of vision and action by focusing on the essentials of Bahá’í belief.
The most common curriculum used in study circles was originally developed at the Ruhi Institute in Colombia but is now used in Bahá’í communities all over the world.

The curriculum of the Ruhi Institute aims, in its entirety, at achieving three overall objectives: providing insights into spiritual matters, imparting knowledge about the Bahá’í Faith, and helping to develop specific acts of service. There are currently seven books in the first sequence of courses, with two more in development. Each book is broken up into 3 units comprised of many sections. Tutors are encouraged to apply the arts, using music, games, crafts, and such during the training. Each book has one or more practices that can be done outside of the training. For example, the third book trains people to give children's classes, and the practice is to give an actual class. Also encouraged throughout the books is the practice of memorizing passages and prayers.

Reflections on the Life of the Spirit
Book 1

The first book in the sequence of courses is largely concerned with the question of identity. What is the real identity of the “I” in the sentence “I walk a path of service”? Three aspects of identity from a Bahá’í perspective are explored in the book: “The reality of my existence is my soul which passes through this world to acquire the attributes it needs for an eternal and glorious journey towards God. My most cherished moments are those spent in communion with God, for prayer is the daily nourishment that my soul must receive if it is to accomplish its exalted purpose. One of my principal concerns in this life is to study the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, strive to increase my understanding of His teachings, and learn to apply them to my own daily life and to the life of the community.” The book consists of the units “Understanding the Bahá’í Writings”, “Prayer”, and “Life and Death”.

More  to follow ......

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Unity of the Prophets.

The Bahá’í Faith teaches that the Messengers from God come from the same source, God, to deliver God's Teachings, while also mirroring forth His attributes. In this light, the Bahá’í writings state that the reality of these Messengers of God is the same reality.
Bahá’u’lláh explains the essential nature of the Manifestations of God as twofold: they are at once human and divine. They are divine in that they all come from the same God and expound His teachings (and can thus be seen in the same light), but at the same time they are separate individuals known by different names, who fulfill definite missions, and who are entrusted with particular revelations.
Regarding the relationships of these prophets Bahá’u’lláh writes:
"God hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God . . . They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory."
Bahá’u’lláh on the oneness of the prophets:
"The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace... hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence.
"These sanctified Mirrors, these Day Springs of ancient glory, are, one and all, the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory."
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p 99.
Concerning their twofold station, Bahá’u’lláh has written:
"These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe to them the same attributes, thou hast not erred from the truth. ... It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in divers attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith. Such is the unity of those Essences of Being, those Luminaries of infinite and immeasurable splendor! Wherefore, should one of these Manifestations of Holiness proclaim saying: "I am the return of all the Prophets," He, verily, speaketh the truth. ...
"The other station is the station of distinction, and pertaineth to the world of creation, and to the limitations thereof. In this respect, each Manifestation of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfils a definite mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 50. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Progressive revelation

Progressive revelation is a core teaching in the Bahá’í Faith that suggests that religious truth is revealed by God progressively and cyclically over time through a series of divine Messengers, and that the teachings are tailored to suit the needs of the time and place of their appearance. Thus, the Bahá’í teachings recognize the divine origin of several world religions as different stages of in the history of one religion, while believing that the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is the most recent (though not the last), and therefore the most relevant to modern society.

Bahá’ís believe God to be generally regular and periodic in revealing His will to mankind through messengers/prophets, which are named Manifestations of God. Each messenger in turn establishes a covenant and founds a religion. This process of revelation, according to the Bahá’í writings, is also never ceasing, which is contrary to many other belief systems that believe in a finality of their prophet/messenger. The general theme of the successive and continuous religions founded by Manifestations of God is that there is an evolutionary tendency, and that each Manifestation of God brings a larger measure of revelation (or religion) to humankind than the previous one The differences in the revelation brought by the Manifestations of God is stated to be not inherent in the characteristics of the Manifestation of God, but instead attributed to the various worldly, societal and human factors, these differences are in accordance with the "conditions" and "varying requirements of the age" and the "spiritual capacity" of humanity. These differences are seen to be needed since human society has slowly and gradually evolved through higher stages of unification from the family to tribes and then nations.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Backbiting "Quencheth the Light of the Heart"

"… Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.
"Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness."

Bahá’u’lláh

 Backbiting—The Most Great Sin
"…Thou hast written regarding aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting; more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Baha'o'llah (Bahá’u’lláh) would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.
"I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.
"It is related that His Holiness Christ—May my life be a sacrifice to Him!—one day, accompanied by His apostles, passed by the corpse of a dead animal. One of them said: 'How putrid has this animal become!' The other exclaimed: 'How it is deformed!' A third cried out: 'What a stench! How cadaverous looking!' But His Holiness Christ said: 'Look at its teeth! How white they are!' Consider, that He did not look at all at the defects of that animal; nay, rather, He searched well until He found the beautiful white teeth. He observed only the whiteness of the teeth and overlooked entirely the deformity of the body, the dissolution of its organs and the bad odour.
"This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and the manner of the real Bahais (Bahá’ís). I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station." ‘Abdu’l-Bahá