A youth studying the spiritual empowerment of junior youth in Montero, Bolivia. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)
Oftentimes, I find myself reading chronicles from early Baha’is, immersing myself in their stories of complete selflessness, utter sacrifice, and staunch devotion to the Cause of God.
I find myself thinking that my humble undertakings serving the Baha’i Faith pale in comparison to what they endured in a bid to spread the Message of Baha’u’llah.
…ye must in this matter—that is, the serving of humankind—lay down your very lives, and as ye yield yourselves, rejoice.
But what does it mean to lay down our lives? I think that this is one of many metaphorical references found in the Baha’i Writings to giving up one’s life and it makes me ask myself, what does it symbolically look like for me to give up my life to the beliefs I hold dear? And how can I do so rejoicingly?
Hands of the Cause of God Hyde Dunn and Clara Dunn with a group of Baha’is in Australia, c. 1940. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
While reading the Tablets of the Divine Plan, American Baha’i Clara Dunn looked up from her page and voiced a sincere plea to her husband Hyde Dunn:
“Let us go where Abdu’l-Baha wished to go.”
Where had Abdu’l-Baha wished to go? In the Tablets of the Divine Plan He said:
O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of [Baha’u’llah] in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it.
These tablets, written to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada in 1916 and 1917, set out strategies for ensuring that the Message of Baha’u’llah could be learned about in every corner of the world.
Clara made her plea in 1919, only two short years after she and Hyde Dunn had married. At that time, the couple was almost in a state of poverty. For many, the idea of leaving home at the ages of 52 and 65 respectively, and immigrating to a foreign land without any financial backing would be ludicrous. Hyde Dunn, unhesitatingly, answered with these words:
“Yes, we will go.” Continue reading
Photo courtesy of Elliott Vreeland
Over 20 years ago, my family left metropolitan life and moved to the Australian regional centre of Ballarat. Located an easy 90-minute drive west of Melbourne, the city is renowned in Australia and abroad for its goldrush history. However, I like to think of its claim-to-fame as being the fact that Australia’s first ever Baha’i woman Effie Baker was raised there, and it was in Ballarat where she received the knowledge and training that would ultimately lead to her serving the Faith as one of its most notable photographers.
With a population of about 100,000, Ballarat is certainly rich in culture, history and heritage. But the reason I love my hometown most of all is because of the strong sense of love, unity and devotion which underpins the Baha’i community. While relatively small (we have less than 30 adult believers and about 15 children and junior youth), we have always managed to work within our means to serve the Faith in a spirit of utmost humility, forging a pattern of collective life that is warm, inclusive and ever-advancing. Continue reading
They say if you want to remember a particular moment in your life, you should listen to a piece of music. Melodies help us recall the very shape and form of an experience or moment in time. The same can be said about fragrance. Wear one type of perfume for a set period and you will always associate that scent with that same period in your life.
During her last month of volunteer service in the Holy Land, my sister-in-law listened to one selection of music only. Upon her return home and whenever she heard those specific melodies, she would immediately be carried away to Israel where the memories of her last few weeks in paradise replayed vividly in her heart, mind and soul.
The Writings of the Faith have a very similar effect on one’s senses. They are a melody, a fragrance, and they have the power to transport you to a different time or place – conjuring up memories, feelings and emotions of times gone by. Continue reading
The period of junior youth is one of transition and discovery. No longer children and not yet youth, those in this age group are searching for their identity and yearning for a sense of purpose. The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program material plays a vital role in assisting these adolescents as they develop a concept of service and discover their place in society. According to the Universal House of Justice, these books “…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.”
The Discovery series of books, written by Scottish author Jacqueline Mehrabi, acts as the perfect complement to the Junior Youth material. The trilogy has been developed to prepare junior youth for the spiritual obligations that come with reaffirming their Faith in Baha’u’llah – using storytelling to familiarise the readers with certain laws and ordinances including fasting and obligatory prayer. We spoke to Jackie about her latest works and what she hopes the books achieve. Continue reading
Every single one of the world’s seven (soon to be eight) Baha’i Houses of Worship is unique – unique in history, in design and in surroundings. But the one thing they all share in common is that they are The Dawning Places of the Mention of God.
I have always wanted to visit the Wilmette Temple. I don’t think photos can do justice to its utmost majesty, its intricate ornamentation, and the feeling of awe one must feel when standing in its presence.
American author Bruce Whitmore’s work The Dawning Place explores the very wonders of this House of Worship, providing a chronological account of events from before the Temple’s construction through to the present day. We spoke to Bruce to find out about him and his book, which is now in its second edition. Continue reading
There is a wealth of information and differing opinions about pregnancy-related issues online and in print, so much so that expectant parents often feel quite overwhelmed when sourcing information. When I first fell pregnant, I avoided reading like the plague in fear that I would get confused and (more) anxious about my impending role as a parent. I decided the best way to source information was to turn to the Writings, and most other things could be learnt on the job.
A dear friend of mine, Kamelia Khoshmashrab has made it easy to find information about pregnancy-related matters from a Baha’i perspective with the release of her compilation Child of Mine. The publication brings together Baha’i Writings on a range of topics and is the perfect go-to resource for anyone who is planning, expecting or has just given birth to a baby.
Child of Mine is divided into five chapters as follows: pre-pregnancy matters, matters within pregnancy and breastfeeding, infant health, matters after birth and the spiritual environment of infants. Topics covered include (but are not limited to) chastity and the purpose of marriage, IVF and surrogacy, miscarriages, vaccinations, naming a child, godparents, and postpartum depression.
Baha’i Blog spoke to Kamelia to find out more about the new release: Continue reading
There are countless heroes and heroines in the Baha’i Faith, all who devoted their very lives for the progress of the Cause. Luckily, we have access to innumerable works of literature which profile these heroic figures and provide inspiration for us to serve the Cause in our own way. One such work, Champions of Oneness: Louis Gregory and His Shining Circle, does just that.
Written by American author Janet Ruhe-Schoen, the book focuses on the years between 1898 and 1921 and portrays the lives of a handful of Baha’i pioneers of race amity in the United States. At great personal sacrifice, these early Baha’is traveled extensively to share the teachings of their newfound Faith, even if it meant facing severe challenges from those resistant to change.
We caught up with Janet to find out more about her work and the inspiration behind her latest book. Continue reading
For Baha’is, the purpose of marriage is to create a divine institution that gives birth to the next generation of teachers who will arise to further proclaim the Cause of God. As Baha’u’llah says:
Enter ye into wedlock, that after you another may arise in your stead.
There are, of course, many factors that influence whether and when to have children, including education, financial stability, career or physical ability. A letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice states:
They should realise, moreover, that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children.
As Baha’is, we know that education is of three kinds: material, human and spiritual. As a mother, I have always found the first two kinds relatively easy to manage. When it comes to their spiritual education however, I tend to feel a little more uneasy, especially since Abdu’l-Baha refers to this kind of education as the “true” kind when he says:
Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists in acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education…
The pressure is mounted with the following quote:
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved – even though he be ignorant – is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the science and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light.
A few of the mothers in our community recently decided to start a children’s class specifically for those aged between zero and five. These preschool classes aim to encourage the development of morals and good conduct in our young ones, with each lesson based on a different virtue and featuring prayer, singing, stories and crafts.
Below are the 10 main steps we took when starting up the preschool classes: Continue reading