Category Archives Baha’i Life

How Isolation Can Help Us Draw Parallels to Events in Baha’i History

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put the world at a standstill, it seems like life was paused in order to allow us some time to reflect on the current conditions of the world and to reevaluate what is important to us. Even though this time is very challenging, it is also rich in opportunities that we are yet to discover. As a Baha’i, I try to make sense of this uncertain time by looking at it through the lens of spiritual and historical perspectives. Continue reading

12 Online Baha’i Resources Related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

With all that’s been unfolding with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world, we thought we’d put together a short list of 12 Baha’i or Baha’i-inspired recourses that have been created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far. These resources range from the most recent message from the Universal House of Justice, to news and travel updates to the Baha’i World Centre, to an episode of the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson featuring epidemiologist Dr. Robert Kim-Farley. It also includes a number of articles which share personal viewpoints and musings on the current global health crisis as seen through the lens of the principles of the Baha’i Faith. We hope that you find these interesting and useful. Continue reading

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Body Politic

Recently, I had a conversation with some of my public health students about the incredible coincidence that the COVID-19 pandemic was happening while they were completing their degrees in Global Health. Every decision and action (or inaction) by international organizations, national governments, universities, school districts, businesses, researchers, civil society organizations, service providers, hospitals, communities and individuals is a potential opportunity to learn about mitigating an infectious disease. It is also a personal opportunity to learn and reflect on our individual responses to the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic overlaps with the Baha’i month of fasting when Baha’is are encouraged to focus on spiritual development and service as we abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset for 19 days. So, I decided to dedicate my meditation and reflection during this Fast on the concepts of illness, disease, health and healing in the Baha’i Writings. 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

My Home of Peace and the Devotional Character of My Neighborhood

I have a 450-square foot studio apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My bed folds into a discrete cabinet against the wall, and my sink is always full of dishes. I have a tuxedo cat named Emma who doesn’t like anyone except me and has scratched up the ends of my armchair and leaves fuzz and hair wherever she sits. She tracks small pieces of litter across the apartment. My coffee table is covered with plastic bottles, coasters, leftover takeout containers, and graded papers. Working sixty to seventy hours a week, I roll in and out, often too tired to even put my clothes or shoes away in the right place, leaving them instead to hang out in piles on the floor or over my barstools. 

On Fridays, I hurry home from work, turn on bad reality television (Hell’s Kitchen mostly) whilst drinking a frappuccino, and start vacuuming. I sweep up all the white and black cat hairs, and vacuum them out of the sofa and throw pillows. I mop until the floors smell like lemon, sweep and wipe down the bathroom, throw my trash out, put away my recyclables, and finally fold my clothes or put them in the laundry. I take off all the extra things from my coffee table, light a candle, put a record on the turntable, turn on my string lights, change out of my work clothes, and wait for the first guest to arrive.  Continue reading

3 Spiritual Habits to Teach Young Children

Chelsea Lee Smith is the coordinator for online parenting courses for the Wilmette Institute, and Susanne Alexander, in her role as its Chair of the Relationship, Marriage, Parenting, and Family Department, often has the joy and privilege of helping Chelsea create course content. In our courses such as Fostering a Baha’i Identity in Children, Conscious Parenting, and more we help parents learn many practical ways to increase spiritual practices in their homes. Here are three spiritual habits that we love to encourage parents to teach to young children: Continue reading

A Personal Reflection on Adoption

Author Bre Vader and her family.

It can be difficult to remember the days before one’s children arrived – that’s especially true for my husband Dave and I. We married young and ten years ago had two biological children, a son and a daughter. Through a series of fortunate events when our children were four and two years old, we found ourselves on a 9-day Baha’i pilgrimage as a couple – parents will understand when I say that this special period felt like we exhaled for the very first time in four years!  Continue reading

My Thoughts on References to Wine and Intoxication in the Baha’i Writings

In this article I aim to explore a question which may have occurred to many when reading the Baha’i Writings: why are the terms “wine” and “intoxication” used if drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden to Baha’is? (If you’d like to read more about this topic, this Baha’i Blog article offers a medical perspective on why Baha’is don’t drink alcohol and this article discusses the social implications of this law.)

My question has actually been clearly and concisely answered in a letter of the Guardian written in 1926:

The wine mentioned in the Tablets has undoubtedly a spiritual meaning for in the book of Aqdas we are definitely forbidden to take not only wine, but every thing that deranges the mind. In poetry as a whole wine is taken to have a different connotation than the ordinary intoxicating liquid. We see it thus used by the Persian Poets such as Sa’di and Umar Khayam and Hafiz to mean that element which nears man to his divine beloved, which makes him forget his material self so as better to seek his spiritual desires. It is very necessary to tell the children what this wine means so that they may not confuse it with the ordinary wine.

Inspired by this quotation, I think an exploration of this answer can be a fruitful exercise. To do this I will attempt to provide some historical context to the terms as used in the Writings (although it must be noted I lack the academic background to provide more than the cursory explanation of a layman), and to look at the symbolic meanings of the terms via some quotations from the Writings themselves. 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