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A touching biography and guide book has been published by George Ronald. It is titled Lifeline: A Life of Prayer and Service as Experienced by Meherangiz Munsiff, Knight of Baha’u’llah. The first part of the book describes her pilgrimage with Shoghi Effendi and her pioneering and travel teaching efforts, as retold by herself and her daughter Jyoti. The second part consists of lesson materials prepared by Mehrangiz on the power of prayer. Both are priceless in their own way; the first part of the book acts as a documented proof of the second part when put into practice.
Jyoti kindly agreed to tell us all about this new book:
Can you tell us a little about yourself and about your incredible mother, Meherangiz Munsiff?
I was born in India and was an only child born into an Indian Baha’i family. My career was that of an international corporate lawyer for forty years working in 24 countries. Frankly there is very little of note to say about myself other than I had the good fortune to be raised by parents who were devoted Baha’is and tremendous role models when it came to sacrifice and service.
My mother was an example of a very ordinary person who, without education went on to live a life of extraordinary accomplishments both for the Baha’i Faith and in many spheres which were not Baha’i related. Her motivation was fuelled by a “unique” 11 day pilgrimage when we were the only Baha’is present and had the enormous bounty and privilege of daily audiences with the Beloved Guardian. Her love for Shoghi Effendi from that moment burned with a never ending flame which inspired her to teach the Faith with every breath she took. In response to the Ten Year Crusade she pioneered to Madagascar and French Cameroons for which she was made a Knight of Baha’u’llah and went travel teaching to well over 140 countries. Pioneering to countries where she didn’t speak the language and had no money was nothing as compared to the sacrifice she made to leave her only child whom she loved more than life itself.
Could you please tell us about the discovered materials that your mother wrote and how they form part of the book?
During the last 20 years of my mother’s life she developed a course on prayer and meditation convinced in the knowledge that all of her achievements were an answer to her prayers and by following the guidance she received after meditating. The guidance was generally bizarre but with successful spiritual outcomes. Long after my mother died a dear Baha’i friend, Pixie MacCallum, helped me sort out the various papers associated with my mother’s life including reports, letters and publicity materials. In amongst the mass of papers Pixie found a rather large file headed Lifeline and asked me what it was about. I said I had no idea but would she kindly read it and see what should be done with it. Never to let the grass grow under her feet Pixie read the manuscript within a couple of days and in the end pronounced, “This has to be published.” Her enthusiasm stemmed from what she saw as someone showing with concrete examples the result of accessing and relying upon the power of prayer, using the prayers that have been revealed for us in their hundreds. This was not an erudite exposition on praying but a practical guide from which Baha’is could derive inspiration. My next dilemma was why had my mother gone to all the trouble of producing this work years before her death and then done absolutely nothing even though she was being encouraged by the Baha’i Publishing Trust to print it. After making judicious enquiries I realised that my mother who could be as brave as a gladiator when it came to teaching was convinced that someone who had no education (she taught herself to read and write) could not produce anything worthy of going in to print and she would never want to do anything which might be an embarrassment to the Faith. After receiving positive responses from those to whom I sent drafts I decided I would publish it.
Subsequent to my mother’s passing scores of people kept asking when was I going to write a book about my mother’s life and teaching trips. I kept explaining that since I didn’t travel with my mother and she never spoke to me about her trips I couldn’t write anything meaningful. However, with the prospect of publishing Lifeline I decided to take the opportunity to ask the Universal House of Justice if it had any information from my mother about her pioneering days. Fortuitously it did and was gracious enough to send me some of her recollections.
In addition, I thought this was an appropriate opportunity to share some of her pilgrim notes particularly as Shoghi Effendi’s last words to her on departure were, “If you do not share your pilgrimage with the friends it will not be accepted.” Hence Lifeline, which is a combination of contributions from different times in Meherangiz’ life is not an elegant read but one which will I hope achieve the purpose of encouraging all of us to understand that many of the glories of our Faith were not achieved by people with education, money or status but by those who sacrificed and kept on sacrificing with a view to sharing the love and teachings of Baha’u’llah.
What was something you learned in the process of compiling this book?
While compiling this book Pixie and I came across literally thousands of letters from people of all ages, from all countries whose lives were turned around because someone had gone to the trouble of presenting to them the miracles that are there for each and every one of us to experience when we access the prayers revealed for us. Not just for reading in meetings or briefly in the evening and in the morning but for clinging to with every fibre of our being, to give us the strength and the wisdom to teach and to transform ourselves so that we can be proud to call ourselves Baha’is.
Thank you, Jyoti, for taking the time to share this with us.
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