Create in Me a Pure Heart: An Interview with Luke Slott

Create in Me a Pure Heart, Luke Slott

The “Create in me a pure heart” prayer by Baha’u’llah has long been one of my favourite prayers for spiritual growth. Whenever I read this prayer, my mind is drawn to the beauty of its imagery, and regardless of how I was feeling when I began reading the prayer, I begin to feel a profound tranquility.

Luke Slott’s beautiful musical rendition of this prayer is befitting and always reminds me of one of my favourite lines from the prayer: “Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquility on me”.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that Luke’s rendition of Create in Me a Pure Heart is merely part of a larger project: an album of devotional music! (Not to mention the beautiful album artwork by Shirin Sahba!)

I decided to catch up with Luke to find out more about his devotional album, his future plans, as well as his thoughts on being a Baha’i musician.

Baha’i Blog: So tell us a bit more about yourself and how you started making music.

When I was 12 years old, my father, who was a jazz trumpet player, gave me a gift of one of his trumpets and started giving me lessons. After about a year of teaching me at home, my dad insisted that I get a classical music education at an established institute. So I enrolled for trumpet lessons at the College of Music & Drama in Dublin. Around the same time, I started taking piano lessons at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and guitar lessons with a local teacher. In my teens, I started writing songs and for a few years I played in a rock band with some school friends. Continue reading

What Kind of Temple Is This?

Walking into the Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney can be puzzling for a first-time visitor.

The Temple, which celebrates its 50th anniversary from September 18 to 25, has elements of similarity to the places of worship of other faiths. Yet, it is clearly different from them. If you were to ask a newcomer to describe the building, the answer might well be this: “With its dome, it almost looks like it could be Christian. The design also reminds me somewhat of a mosque. Once inside, I find the balconies reminiscent of those in a synagogue.”

Then the visitor would start to identify the differences. For a Hindu, a Buddhist or a Catholic, it might seem strange that there are no statues. There are also differences in the kind of services held there. There is no sermon or commentary. No musical instruments accompany the voices raised in prayerful song.

There is a good reason for all of this.

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In the Footsteps of Abdu’l-Bahá’s Travels in London

 

Courtesy of Baha'i World News Service

A full century has passed since ‘Abdu’l-Baha travelled to the West from Akka, to share the blessed message that His father had brought to the world. The Guardian speaks of the significance of these travels:

…Called into being this community… at the time of the inception of His Father’s Faith in the West, …tenderly and vigilantly nursed it and guided its footsteps in the early years of its infancy, …twice conferred upon it the inestimable blessings of personal contact with its members, … sustained, from His station on high, its development in the course of no less than two decades, within the framework of a rising Administrative Order, …enabled it to expand and consolidate itself within its island home, [and] launched it, subsequently on its mission overseas… . Shoghi Effendi. God Passes By

Living in London this year has allowed me to partake of this special time. As I visit the places that He went to, my heart overflows with joy and gratitude. My mind wanders as I try to imagine what the atmosphere of these places must have been like 100 years ago and the effect His presence must have had on the people surrounding him.

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5 Easy Ways to Involve Children in Community Activities

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

In the 2000 Ridvan Message, the House of Justice said the following of children:

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and the guarantee of the future. Message from the Universal House of Justice (2000)

While reflecting on this quote recently, I was inspired to think of ways we could engage the children of our community more in our activities. These are some of the thoughts that came to mind. Some are from past experiences; others are from stories I’ve heard.

1. Change the time of events

Many families with young children often find it hard to attend evening programs. A simple change in the starting time of regular community events (e.g. 7 pm instead of 7:30 pm) can go a great way in encouraging participation of young families (and hence their children) in these events. I’ve seen, in a neighbouring community, how even just a 30-minute adjustment can make all the difference!

In addition to this, any Holy Days or Feasts that fall on a weekend could be held during the day where possible, perhaps with a barbeque, picnic or big spread of kid-friendly food and activities to celebrate.

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The Bow and the Arrow: Parenting and Love

Photo Courtesy: jarnah.com

Eleven weeks, one day, eight hours and three minutes ago my life changed forever. With the birth of our first child, I went from being an independent individual – responsible for nobody but myself – to a mother.This new task of motherhood is both difficult and precious as, all at once, I have been given the opportunity – and the challenge – to shape and raise a human being.

Abdu’l-Baha says that ‘…mothers are the first educators of mankind; if they be imperfect, alas for the condition and future of the race.’ Uh oh! And as the first educators of the young, our task as mothers is to free them ‘from human imperfections and to acquire the divine perfections latent in the heart of man.’ Ah, that’s a fairly lofty goal. How and when do I rise to meet this challenge?

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Education: A Right for Everyone

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The recent arrests of some Baha’i’s in Iran for running the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) has been met with outrage across the world.

Iran’s attack on Bahá’í educators has also struck a strong chord with me for a number of reasons.

The BIHE is an online university and it was established in 1987 for Bahá’ís in Iran.  Bahá’ís in Iran have repeatedly been denied access to a higher education ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  A leaked confidential Iran memo in 2006 (from Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology) exposes a government-level policy to deny Bahá’í students university education.

I’m a Bahá’í, and I’ve had the opportunity to go to university, graduate, and now specialise in adult education – but hey, I don’t live in Iran. To be honest, I never thought going to university was such a big deal. I just saw it as a natural continuation from my schooling years.  My only source of stress during my university years was waiting to see if my marks were good enough to get into the course of my choice, as well as some of the last minute study cramming I used to do for my exams.  In fact, my years at university were some of the best years of my life, so far! This is why I find it confusing and unthinkable that Bahá’í students in Iran are repeatedly denied the opportunity to pursue a further education, and even be arrested for trying!  Continue reading

Designing the Faith: Photography

Creative design has an important part to play in the Faith. There’s a small army of creative Baha’is who labour hard to communicate the message of the Faith on screen and paper. The Designing the Faithseries showcases some of their ingenious work in film, fashion, the internet, architecture and more.

In the third part of the series, we showcase the work of Baha’is who spend their days behind a lens. Armed with Japanese and Korean machinery, they capture moments of devotion, community life, and the Holy Places, letting the world catch a glimpse thereof.

Photo by Marco Abrar

 

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What Makes a Person Great: A Tribute to Dr. Peter Khan

Dr. Peter Khan 1936 - 2011

When a person of the caliber of Dr Peter Khan passes away, it is not only a time to grieve but also a time to reflect on what makes a person “great”.

In this context we are not using the word “great” as often applied to a sporting star, musician or actor. In such cases, the assessment is usually based on a limited range of unusually developed attributes. Nor are we talking about the merely famous. Journalists, friends and family know that these folk often have feet of clay.

To be a truly great person, in my opinion, requires a much wider range of qualities, always including those of personal integrity or “goodness”. Such people might include Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama.

To call someone “great” should not, however, imply a spiritual judgement. That is not ours to make – nobody has any idea of a person’s spiritual potential or the extent to which they have fulfilled it. However,  the general consensus among those who heard, met or worked with Dr Khan is that he was, unquestionably, a great man who lived an inspiring life.

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The NSA of UK Responds to Unrest in England

 

Photo courtesy Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but I lead a fairly easy and luxurious life. My daily challenges rarely go further than deciding what to have for dinner and how not to get angry amongst crowds in small spaces. I rarely need to think about the starving masses or the homeless I walk past on the streets every day.

But now and then, the problems simmering underneath our casual lifestyles come to the surface in dramatic fashion and remind us that all is not well. The recent riots in London remind us that we are witnessing a breakdown in social order and that our commitment to serving our communities is necessary. Continue reading

Living A Life of Service

A female doctor with the International Medical Corps examines a woman patient at a mobile health clinic in Pakistan (Image by UK Department for International Development via Flickr)

A female doctor with the International Medical Corps examines a woman patient at a mobile health clinic in Pakistan (Image by UK Department for International Development via Flickr)

In his beautiful tribute to his father last week, Naysan reflected on his father’s legacy of love and compassion and the way in which his father’s life has shaped his own ideas about service and spirituality. We’ve heard back from many readers who were deeply moved and inspired by that post and it has sparked many conversations about the concept of service.

In line with the theme of service, this post aims to address a question that is commonly asked of Baha’is: what do the Writings say about service and the role it has in our lives?

In today’s fast-paced world, it is often a struggle to aspire to lofty ideals such as service to humanity. As a society, we routinely have a myriad of balls in the air at once – bills to pay, traffic jams to navigate, meetings and appointments to juggle, personal relationships to manage and professional opportunities to pursue. We are all so caught up in our own busy, hectic worlds – it truly is a huge effort to think beyond that!

Service to humanity is an act that springs from a love for all humanity and a recognition of its oneness. It stems directly from the one spiritual principle that is emphasised over all others in every religion: the Golden Rule. Continue reading