Meditation and the Baha’i Faith: A Personal Exploration

Prayer and meditation are often jointly mentioned as one of the primary requisites for spiritual growth. For example, the Universal House of Justice tells us:

In His Writings, Baha’u’llah states clearly the essential requisites for our spiritual growth, and these are reiterated and amplified by Abdu’l-Baha in His talks and Tablets. They can be summarized briefly as prayer and meditation, the endeavor to conform one’s behavior to the exalted standard set forth in the Baha’i Teachings, participation in the life of the Baha’i community, teaching the Faith and contributing to the Baha’i Fund. Different individuals, according to their natures, will follow these paths in varying ways, but all are essential to spiritual growth.1

I personally have had many conversations about prayer, but very little about meditation and so I wanted to explore what the Baha’i Writings say about meditation.

I’ve organized the sacred Writings below according to the following three questions:

  1. Who should meditate?
  2. What is meditation?
  3. How should we meditate?

1. Who should meditate?

According to our sacred texts, meditation is enjoined upon everyone, man and woman alike — basically anyone who harbors a human soul.

You cannot apply the name “man” to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts.2

This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.3

Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit—the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation.4

With this in mind, let’s move forward to look deeper into what meditation actually is.

2. What is meditation? 

In His talks Abdu’l‑Baha describes prayer as “conversation with God,” and concerning meditation He says that “while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed.5

The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food.6 

The way I interpret Abdul-Baha’s definition of meditation of posing a question to your own spirit and waiting for its answer is equivalent to that of Dhyana (focused attention on inner awareness) according to the yogic scriptures. Dhyana is the 7th step in the Eight Steps of Enlightenment, right before the 8th step Samadi, meaning enlightenment.

Although neither Abdul-Baha nor any other Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith ever elaborated further on exactly how you put certain questions to your spirit and wait for its answer, from the perspective of yoga, it is not necessarily a challenging activity to pose questions to your spirit or receive Divine inspiration, nor are there too many formulas for “self-inquiry,” as they call it.

However, what is pervasively understood as challenging in the yogic world in reference to Dhyana, is to sustain focus long enough to maintain a conversation with your soul, in order for the light to break forth and reality reveal itself.

Traditionally, before a yogi is even allowed to practice Dhyana, focused attention on inner awareness, they are asked to master the following in consecutive order:

Step 1: Yamas — master the cultivation of virtue to the outside world

Step 2: Niyamas — master the cultivation of virtue within one self

Step 3: Asana — health, healing and alignment of the body (yoga postures)

Step 4: Pranayama — awareness of breath and life force (breathing practices)

Step 5: Pratyahara — withdrawal of senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell)

Step 6: Dharana — intermittent concentration

You’ll notice there is a distinct step that precedes the 7th step Dhyana (focused attention on inner awareness), which is Dharana, intermittent concentration; the step that includes the gradual building up of sustained focused. With Dharana, there is focus, but the difference with Dhyana is that it is not sustained. Only when sustained focus has been practiced, could a yogi reach enlightenment.

Thankfully as Baha’is,sthese many steps are not required from us, as we will learn below from our Sacred Writings that we don’t have a fixed way of meditating.

However, what I did want to illustrate from the example provided above is the amount of effort that yogis go through in order to refine the ability of attentive focus and ability to hold a conversation of an inward nature – this takes practice, and is a faculty of meditation that we have to hone.

Many people I have encountered in my role as an integrative yoga therapist (in training) get stuck on meditation, or prayer for that matter, because of the lack of ability to focus, and stop there; circumambulating around personal inadequacies, or perceived lack of spirituality.

Whereas in reality, meditation is a spiritual faculty that needs to be cultivated and disciplined in order to build the capacity to hold that conversation with your own spirit or God.

I think it can be helpful to ask ourselves: what quality of attention and focus can we bring to our prayers and meditation, regardless of the human circumstances that we are going through at any given moment, at any particular place, or time in order to enter into that communion without interruption?

If our minds wander, there is a certain level of discipline that is required to constantly bring one’s attention back to God, back to the question posed to your own spirit, back to the conversation – and hopefully without going down the rabbit hole of feelings of shame, personal judgment, guilt, doubt, fear, worry etc.

3. How should we meditate?

Baha’u’llah has specified no procedures to be followed in meditation, and individual believers are free to do as they wish in this area, provided that they remain in harmony with the Teachings, but such activities are purely personal and should under no circumstances be confused with those actions which Baha’u’llah Himself considered to be of fundamental importance for our spiritual growth. Some believers may find that it is beneficial to them to follow a particular method of meditation, and they may certainly do so…

Baha’u’llah says there is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time—he cannot both speak and meditate. It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed.

It would seem that there are in Norway many believers who draw particular benefit from meditation. The House of Justice suggests that for their private meditations they may wish to use the repetition of the Greatest Name, Allah-u-Abha, ninety-five times a day which, although not yet applied in the West, is among the Laws, Ordinances and Exhortations of the Kitab-i-Aqdas.7

It is my understanding based on the quotations above that there really isn’t any prescribed way of meditating, other than the sign or prerequisite of it as being “in silence.” The other suggested way to meditate is to repeat the Greatest Name, Allah-u-Abha, ninety-five times a day.

In hopes of contributing to the world-wide celebrations of the bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, I have created and am host of the Bicentenary Meditation Project, where my friends, colleagues and I will be aiming to create 365 diverse meditations and styles centered on the message, sacred Writings, Divine Personage, stories, sufferings and purpose of the Bab and Baha’u’llah throughout the bicentenary year, for anyone who is personally interested in developing their meditative faculties (and if you’d like to get involved, you can take a look at the submission requirements here, or submit inquiries to [email protected]).

There is a Chinese idiom that translates as: “sharpening your knife doesn’t take time away from wood cutting.” In the case of meditation, whether it be one of the meditations I’ve shared, or anything else, I believe that sharpening your spiritual faculties will not delay your conversations with your own spirit or God.

  1. Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual dated 22 April 1996 []
  2. Abdu’l-Baha. Paris Talks. #54 54. Address by Abdu’l‑Baha at the Friends’ Meeting House, St. Martin’s Lane, London, W.C. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. The Universal House of Justice letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Norway dated 1 September 1983 []
  6. Abdu’l-Baha. Paris Talks. #54 54. Address by Abdu’l‑Baha at the Friends’ Meeting House, St. Martin’s Lane, London, W.C. []
  7. See p. 46 of the Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. []

About the Author

Nahal is a Integrative Yoga Therapist (in training) who provides online yoga and meditation classes. Her educational background is in the control of tropical infectious diseases and has worked in global pandemic outbreaks such as H7N9, MERS-CoV and Ebola.

Discussion 12 Comments

  1. Good explanation and suggestions for meditating. I do believe the West is now under obligation to recite The Greatest Name 95 times.

    1. Dear Lyn
      My name is marc andre from seychelles island and i want to thk you for the presentation.
      we are asked to pray and meditate, but unfortunately i find and over expression of prayer and little meditation.its like eating and the you for get digest it. The process is incomplete and i pray the day ruhi institute will produce something that enphasises on meditation.wnere our prayers may be translated into action.there is an over enthusiassm to teach others when the teaching should start with the transformation of ones personal soul and the light of aquired attributes will attract the souls of men. i use the 1 hour chant of ya baha ull abha and ya ali yull allah. the keys to heaven. really powerful atmosphere for divine assistance.

  2. Thank you for this very interesting and useful post, Nahal.

    I am currently attending free 15 minute meditation sessions with a Buddhist group. It attracts about 15 people Monday to Thursday at lunchtime during the working week.

    A teacher leads the way and encourages us to focus on our breath, on it entering and leaving our nostrils. He or she occasionally gently intervenes to ensure we are not drifting away (or into sleep– I find keeping the eyes just slightly open helps prevent that).

    Maintaining this focuse be very challenging. I think it develops the discipline required for a focus in our own time on Baha’i themes so that we can receive what the Master describes in the quotation in the post: “the breath of the Holy Spirit”.

    I feel amazingly refreshed after each session. It is quite uncanny.

    (There are some good books too.. “Meditation” by Wendi Momen, and “The Divine Art of Meditation” by Farnaz Masumian, both published by George Ronald)

    1. That is so absolutely fantastic! So glad to hear it, keep at it!

      Absolutely with the Breath of the Holy Spirit! Meditation like keeps our life blood moving, presenting small inspirations daily.

      I have never heard of that book, thank you so much for sharing it with me 🙂 I will definitely look those up!

  3. Thank you Nahal, as a Baha’i I was reflecting on this very important topic yesterday, intently thinking I would like to master this. You brought together some very important points that were enlightening! This article came and spoke to me today and answered many of my questions. So true that this important topic needs to be addressed. Blessings for your future active service in this regard! ✨

  4. Thank you for this wonderful synthesis of the Baha’i teachings with meditative practice. I have found so many benefits to meditation, including a deepening of my ability to read and benefit from the sacred writings of the Baha’i Faith.

  5. Thank you for this very interesting post. The Bicentenary Meditation project is exciting and when I complete a mandala I am working on I will submit it. This is the first time I have had an opportunity to explore meditation from the Baha’i perspective, although I participated in a Ruhi Book 1 study group in which we briefly touched on the questions you answered in your post : what is meditation and how should one meditate ? I find it very helpful in my own spiritual practice to meditate on specific holy writings, either from The Bible or the writings of Baha’u’llah- very often there are layers of meaning in holy writings that we do not perceive by just reading or saying the words and when we go withing and make time to reflect deeply on what the writings are actually saying and how they apply to our lives Spirit reveals the deeper meaning. For my own meditation practice I use mandalas from an adult colouring book and select a quote for the week to memorise then as I am creating the mandala I try to harmonise the patterns with what the quote evokes for me. I tried many different meditation techniques over the past 10 years and this one I discovered recently of creating your own mandalas is the one that has worked best for me , especially since incorporating quotes from holy writings

    1. That is so fantastic that you have found something that works for you! The Bicentenary Meditation Project is just that, a plethora of meditation techniques for a beginner meditator to see what works for them, but since you have already found something that works for you, that is so so great! It make me so happy to hear that 🙂

      Definitely meditating on the Sacred Writings of all faiths give inspiration, in fact, I believe there were many details that Baha’u’llah did not mention because other faiths did. We are encouraged to read and study the sacred texts of other religions, so especially for the topic on meditation, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism have been so incredibly helpful for me personally. The Baha’i writings leave it a bit broad for you to choose your own devices, however, others get quite specific, which is nice in narrowing down the plethora of choices, and ways to go about it.

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