Photo courtesy wakingphotolife via Flickr.
If ever there were a concept alien to modern Western life, it is sacrifice. Compared to all former times, we scarcely know what it is. Today’s middle class lives in more comfort than the royalty of old. In a few more decades, explaining sacrifice to the modern human may be akin to explaining snow to a 16th century Indonesian, or palm trees to an 17th century Eskimo. At this rate, we might not even have a word for it.
While our men and women in uniform are still all too familiar with the concept, even they are fewer in number than the millions who sacrificed their lives, willingly or unwillingly, in the warfare of yesteryear.
We typically sacrifice little in daily life. When we have a tight financial month, credit card companies are only too happy to facilitate a creature comfort rather than having us sacrifice it.
Of course, the Founders of faith — both ours and every other authentic faith — were intimately familiar with the concept, so much so that they longed for the opportunity to sacrifice in the path of God and Their enemies were all too eager to provide the opportunity. Continue reading
When I first heard about Mama Papa & Me, I was excited for so many reasons. The education of children is a tremendously important duty in the Baha’i Faith. In fact, Abdu’l-Baha calls it “among the most meritorious acts of humankind”.
So when I found out that Mama Papa & Me focuses on education during the early years, which is now widely recognised among educators as being the crucial years in which the foundation for a person’s lifelong learning and wellbeing is formed, I was fascinated and wanted to know more about their Early Years Education Programme.
And then, when I discovered that Mama Papa & Me’s focus was not just on the early years, but also on helping parents and caregivers develop the capabilities they need as the first educators of their children, I definitely wanted to know more!
Serendipitiously, a family wedding brought me to London, which is where Danielle Pee, the amazingly talented founder of Mama Papa & Me, is currently based. And so I jumped on the opportunity to sit down with her and ask all my questions.
What started as a conversation about education, parenting and the work that Mama Papa & Me is doing ended up becoming a deeper conversation about capacity-building and the Baha’i approach to community development, as well as an illuminating discussion about what it means, in very practical terms, for Baha’is to attempt to contribute towards the advancement of civilization.
I gained so much from my conversation with Danielle, not just in terms of my own professional interest in education and community development, but also personally, as I listened to the story of her own inspiring journey and the many lessons she has learned along the way. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did! Continue reading
I was reading an interesting article on the BBC news website the other day and it talked about the detrimental health effects and the financial cost of alcohol related hospital admissions to the National Health Service in the UK. I couldn’t believe it when I read that nearly £2 billion was spent on alcohol related in-patient hospital admissions in just one year.
As a medical doctor from the UK, a country that has an entrenched culture of drinking alcohol, (in moderation and to excess) I thought it would be interesting to write about the health implications of drinking alcohol. Continue reading
A few weeks ago while attending a community event, a beautiful song in French start playing over the speakers during the devotional portion of the gathering. I had had to know who the singer was and where I could find the song.
It turns out the the song was by Delia Olam, a Baha’i who lives in Adelaide, Australia and she’s someone whom I had met several years ago at a conference. As someone quite involved with music and the arts, it makes me sad to think that there are so many great Baha’i inspired songs and other initiatives happening around the world that unfortunately go unheard to the vast majority of friends. One of the main aims of Baha’i Blog and our Resource Directory is to make sure that these wonderful initiatives are shared with others, and Delia Olam’s album HELLO … i Like You is one of those gems which has been hidden away from most of us for some time now.
I immediately caught up with Delia to find out more about her album, and she’s also allowed us to stream the song I heard at the devotional. The song is called O Ami, and it’s the Hidden Word “O Friend! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love…” in French. You can play the song at the bottom of this post. Continue reading
The Mansion of Bahji, located in Akka (Acre), Israel, is the home where Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith died in 1892. The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, is located next to this mansion. (Photo courtesy Iain Simmons via Flickr).
From the earliest times, pilgrimage has been a cherished part of human life, be it individual or collective. Whether it was the ancient Greeks making the arduous journey to Delphi to consult the Oracle, or the Frankish knights and their kings making crusade to “free” Jerusalem, Hindus making the journey to Varanasi to immerse themselves in the sacred waters of the Ganges or Buddhists to Kandy in Sri Lanka to revere the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, many and diverse are the reasons for which men and women have undertaken the journey of pilgrimage, with its attendant trials and tests.
In the Bahá’í context, pilgrimage is a law ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in the Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In this Book, Bahá’u’lláh prescribes that all Bahá’ís who are able should strive to make pilgrimage to one of the two Great Houses, i.e. the House of the Báb in Shíráz and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád. However, after the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí as a place of pilgrimage, and stated that it is “obligatory” to visit these places “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”. Today, Bahá’ís make their pilgrimage at the invitation, and as honoured guests, of the Supreme Body of the Bahá’í Faith, the Universal House of Justice. The Shrines and other holy places are located in and around the cities of Haifa and ‘Akká in the Holy Land.
But what, our friends may ask, is the act of pilgrimage itself? What rites or rituals are involved? Before I continue, I should make it clear that each individual experiences their pilgrimage differently, and it is very personal. While sharing my thoughts and experiences in this post, it is not my intention to set certain expectations or a prescription of how people should feel while experiencing pilgrimage. My aim is to simply share some of my own thoughts and experiences in an attempt to answer, as simply as possible, the common question of “What is Baha’i pilgrimage?” Continue reading
Ever since I was a kid, it seemed implied in Bahá’í culture that we should memorize the Writings and prayers not only because they became more readily accessible during the teaching of the Faith but also because it had a deep spiritual impact within.
“From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages” Bahá’u’lláh enjoins in one of His Tablets, and Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone used to say that we should memorize prayers because when we die we can’t take our prayer books with us, but we can take our memory!
The importance of memorization has also been stressed in recent times through the Institute Process. Both as participants and as tutors we have seen ourselves and many others struggling when memorizing quotes, complaining how they are not young anymore or how the quotes are too long. But memory is like any other muscle or skill, it may be unused but it’s right there waiting for us to make the most out of it, and the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
What I want to attempt in this post is not to address the importance of memorizing the writings nor an analysis on the spiritual power of memory, but I want to share some practical tips that I have personally found helpful when memorizing quotes and passages. Continue reading
Baha’i music composer Tom Price recently delivered six great new talks at the 2012 Tennessee Baha’i School, called “Recreating Ourselves in the Image of the Master”.
For those of you who have yet to hear one of Tom’s talks, you’re in for a treat! Last year we posted Tom Price’s talks on The Five Year Plan and it’s still one of our most popular posts ever!
In these wonderful talks Tom Price shares six of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s attributes and looks at how we can learn from them and adopt them into our own lives.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (also referred to as the Master) was Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son and appointed successor, and He is considered the perfect example of how to live according to the Bahá’í teachings. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to North America, and Bahá’í communities across the US and Canada have been celebrating His visit.
You can listen to these talks by either streaming them or by downloading them – and best of all, it’s completely free! Continue reading
Martha Louise Root, Aug. 10, 1872 – Sept. 28, 1939. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)
If a fairy godmother appeared and guaranteed to fulfill one wish, for what would we wish? Would we wish to remove the wrinkles from around our eyes or dimples from around our thighs, for gender equality, racial unity or world peace?
Perhaps the wish that arches over and informs all other wishes is to achieve, through our thoughts, words and actions, the good-pleasure of God, whatever form that might take for each of us.
As we take the time to remember and reflect on the life of Martha Root, we know we are looking at someone for whom that wish came true. While there were certainly angelic hosts involved, there was no fairy godmother. There was a small middle-aged woman with poor health, restricted financial means and limited worldly power. The magic wand was a heart filled with the love of God and a willingness to sacrifice everything in the path of that love.
Martha Root was 36 years old when she embraced the Faith of Baha’u’llah in 1909. She was taught the Faith by Hand of the Cause, Roy Wilhelm (before his appointment as a Hand of the Cause) and the first American believer Thornton Chase. Three years later, as both an adoring follower and as a journalist, she travelled with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through several eastern states of America, deepening her understanding of profound spiritual truths and documenting His travels. She was privileged to have two private audiences with the Master during that period. Continue reading
When reading prayers revealed by the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith, you quickly notice that nearly every prayer ends with a list of the names and attributes of God. He is described as the “All-Merciful,” the “Ever-Forgiving,” the “Lord of bounty,” the “Provider of all mankind,” and with dozens of other titles and qualities that help us understand, albeit imperfectly, some of the characteristics of God. Many of these descriptions create an image of God as a parent who watches over humanity with infinite love, mercy, and kindness. Indeed, in both the Bahá’í Faith and other religions God is often described as “the Father” for this very purpose. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:
God is the Father of all. He educates, provides for and loves all; for they are His servants and His creation. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267).
But while God is repeatedly described as full of love, grace, and bounty in the Bahá’í Faith, dozens of passages also emphasize the importance of the “fear of God.” Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us to “fear God” or have the “fear of God” more than a dozen times in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (known as the Most Holy Book) alone, and in various places He describes the fear of God as “the essence of wisdom” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 155), “the fountain-head of all goodly deeds and virtues” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 135), “the weapon that can render him victorious” and “the primary instrument whereby he can achieve his purpose” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 272).
What should we make of such passages, and what does “fear” even mean in this context? If God’s relationship with humanity is like a loving and merciful parent, why does Bahá’u’lláh repeatedly warn us to fear God? And if the fear of God is an important attribute, how do we inculcate it in ourselves and others, such as our children? I’ll return to these questions in a moment, but it may be beneficial to first discuss other principles of the Bahá’í Faith related to the nature of spiritual development and the afterlife to place this topic of the fear of God in the broader scope of the teachings of the Faith. Continue reading
It’s not often you hear about Baha’i inspired novels aimed at children, and so when I heard that there was this great series of books called The Fellowship Farm series, I had to find out more.
The Fellowship Farm books are a series of ten novels for primary school aged children. Readers follow the Fitzgerald family who live on a farm in Tasmania, Australia as they go about their daily life. The Fitzgerald family experience crisis and victory, seize and neglect opportunities to develop their virtues, achieve (and on occasion fail to achieve) unity, as they go to school, work on the farm, go camping, find abandoned puppies, live through bullying and a even a snake bite, build a tree house, host Holy Days and so on. In an engaging way their stories offer a model of a healthy, loving family striving to practice the Teachings of Baha’u’llah.
The feedback from everyone who’s read the books has been fantastic, so I decided to catch up with Melanie Lotfali, the author of these wonderful books, to find out more. Continue reading