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Peter Gyulay is passionate about sustainable living and the deeper aspects of life. He has a BA (Hons) in philosophy along with an M.Ed. and works in the fields of education and philosophical consultancy/counseling. For more information visit www.thinktalktransform.com. Peter is the author of Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet: The Bahai Approach to Spiritual Transformation and other books and articles. For more about his written work visit www.petergexpressions.com.

3 Qualities That Can Improve the World

The Baha’i world is teeming with joy and deliberation after reading and reflecting on the recent 30 December 2021 message of the Universal House of Justice. With its optimism about the future of the world and its emphasis on contributing to social good, people all around the world are consulting and planning on how they can put this vision into action where they live.

There are so many profound points in this message, but I’d like to share my understanding of one excerpt. The Universal House of Justice says:

The enkindled souls being raised up through the processes of the Plan are seeking to gain an ever more profound understanding of Baha’u’llah’s teachings—“the sovereign remedy for every disease”—and to apply them to the needs of their society… They emphasize qualities and attitudes—such as trustworthiness, cooperation, and forbearance—that are building blocks of a stable social order.

The message explicitly mentions three qualities that relate to the betterment of the world so I’d like to reflect on them. The message goes on to describe other qualities and attitudes and each could be deserving of its own article, or more! In this post however, I’d like to focus on trustworthiness, cooperation and forbearance using the metaphor of constructing a house for the society-building work we are engaged in. Continue reading

My Thoughts on the Meaning of Obedience

In this age of liberalism, obedience can seem like a backward notion. It is true that blind obedience can cause havoc to the world, especially if you submit yourself to a misguided cause, or if you follow others blindly without investigating the truth for yourself. But when you recognize a person or a cause that is truly noble, devoting your time, your energy and your will to it can contribute meaningfully to a better world.

According to my limited understanding of the Baha’i perspective, true obedience is when a person devotes themselves wholeheartedly to the Manifestations of God because the Manifestations are the voice of God and the Divine Physicians who know the remedy for the ailments of the day in which they live: Continue reading

Recognising the Veils and Signs in Our Lives

Baha’u’llah revealed a path to humanity, a path to God for all who wish to walk it. I have been trying to tread this path for over 15 years and have realised that there are things that aid me in this endeavour and also things that thwart my efforts: signs of God and metaphorical veils that keep me from God. Of course, there are many other tools needed on a spiritual journey (prayer, fasting, service to others, and so on) but in this article, I’d like to explore what the signs of God might be, and the veils that hold me back. Continue reading

My Thoughts on the Mystical Dimension of the Baha’i Faith

Mysticism is often a confused term. To many people it conjures up thoughts of the magical and fanciful. However, most mysticism is concerned with experiencing the ultimate truth in life. There have been mystics from many different religions. Some have used the term “God” to signify the ultimate reality while others have used other terms such as the Absolute, Brahman, Nirvana, the Tao. But what seems to underlie all mysticism is the transcendence from everyday experience and attainment of a higher state of being.

Let me say from the outset that I’m certainly no mystic. At best I’m a mystical aspirant, a mystical wannabe. My investigations into the topic are not based on my own personal experience; they are my reflections on the Bahai Writings, which I strive to put into practice. So, I’d like to share my thoughts on the place of mysticism in the Baha’i Faith.  Continue reading

Being Sick During the Fast and My Conscience: A Personal Reflection

If you are someone who follows a defined spiritual path (Catholic, Hari Krishna, Sufi, Baha’i), you will have adopted a set of values and spiritual practices that you believe are true and useful. This does not mean that you have stopped thinking for yourself. But it does entail that you choose to abide by those principles, with mindfulness and intelligence, no doubt.

Quite naturally when we are trying to follow a spiritual path properly, we utilise our conscience to decipher right from wrong. Having a conscience is vital: it is a distinguishing feature of being human. One example of when I rely on my conscience relates to the Baha’i Fast and being sick.  Continue reading

Sacrifice: Letting Go of the Lower for the Higher

Sacrifice. It sounds like such a harsh word. But that might just be a sign of the times. These days, sacrifice can be seen as unnecessary self-denial. I’ve been thinking about it lately, and it actually seems to me that anyone who wants to accomplish anything difficult cannot do so without sacrifice, especially when it comes to spirituality.

When we think about sacrifice, the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to God often comes to mind. Now, there are a multitude of meanings and interpretations to this story which I won’t go into here. But what seems most basic is that Abraham was called to sacrifice his son out of his devotion to God. And to me, that’s what stands at the heart of true sacrifice. We don’t sacrifice things haphazardly or without a purpose: we renounce things as an act of devotion to something higher. But why do we do this? Because those things stand in our way; they are preventing us from attaining the object of our devotion.  Continue reading

5 Things I’ve Learned About God as Our True Friend

What is a true friend? Someone who is always there for us? Someone who never lets us down? Someone who is completely sincere? I think that a true friend is all of these things.

On the one hand, a true friend is someone who doesn’t need to force themselves to be your friend because friendship is about sincerity. But on the other hand, a true friend is someone who doesn’t let you down, and this does require effort – to meet, visit, and stay in touch. Inevitably, since we are only human, we will sometimes let each other down. I know I have felt let down by friends, and I’m sure that I have let my friends down too, and probably in ways that I’m not even aware of.

This can make us feel quite alone, like our friends are not really there for us. But this feeling of aloneness and abandonment is also a gift. All of us, whether we believe in God or not, must at some time face ourselves and feel our aloneness because while we do live together on this earth, we all live within the prism of our own consciousness. And if we do happen to believe in God, in that place of aloneness, we are perhaps even better able to see that God is our True Friend.

So, in what way is God our True Friend? Here are five things I’ve learned:  Continue reading

The Symptoms of the Soul

The body is great at telling us when something isn’t functioning. Aches, pains, rashes, lumps… all of these tell us that something is wrong with the body and we need to find out what it is. The symptoms are signs leading to a deeper underlying problem. But we don’t just have a body; we also have a soul. In fact, we are souls living with a body. So, if there are signs in the body of good and bad health, are there similar signs in the soul?

The perplexing thing about the soul is that it is so elusive and mysterious. We cannot see or touch it. Baha’u’llah says of the soul:

Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. ((Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.161))

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Finding Pleasure in God’s Pleasure

Like all animals, we are naturally pleasure-seeking creatures. The desire for pleasure drives, and has driven, many of our endeavours. And we might even say that in the technological age we live in, it drives us even more. But what if we realised that our task in life is not to pursue our own pleasure, but instead to pursue God’s? Baha’u’llah counsels us:

O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.

O SON OF HIM THAT STOOD BY HIS OWN ENTITY IN THE KINGDOM OF HIS SELF! Know thou, that I have wafted unto thee all the fragrances of holiness, have fully revealed to thee My word, have perfected through thee My bounty and have desired for thee that which I have desired for My Self. Be then content with My pleasure and thankful unto Me.

These are beautiful words. But they can be hard to follow. In today’s world, for many people, desires can be quickly met. We want a coffee; we buy one on the go. We want to be entertained; we find something interesting to watch on YouTube. I think that we have become accustomed to having our desires instantly satiated, so the notion of pleasing God, instead of ourselves, can be a completely foreign concept.  Continue reading