Category Archives Baha’i Life

Unity: The Promise of Ridvan

Today, Baha’is around the world commemorate the 12th and final day of Ridvan – a period to reflect on the day Baha’u’llah first proclaimed His message of unity to the world.

Ridvan is also the time when Baha’i elections are held. These elections are a time at which Baha’i communities all around the world prayerfully reflect on the spiritual wellbeing of their community. It is also a time to reflect on Baha’u’llah’s vision for unity and for communities to think about the path of service they will tread together over the coming year in their efforts to realise this vision.

What does unity mean, however, in a world in which prejudice and conflict are still widespread? And what role does the Baha’i community have in fostering global unity?

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What are the Ridvan Baha’i Elections?

Every year, Baha’is the world over gather in their local communities on the first day of Ridvan to elect the nine members of their Local Spiritual Assembly. Every adult Baha’i at the age of 21 is eligible to be voted for, and they have the responsibility to participate and vote for these nine members of the community who will volunteer their time to run the administrative affairs and assist in the spiritual well-being of their respective local communities for the year ahead.

When one thinks of elections, perhaps for many of us what immediately comes to mind are political parties and candidates, expensive campaigns, televised debates, the digging up of dirt on the opposing party, and copious amounts of campaign flyers and confetti.

This is not the case however with Baha’i elections. There are no political parties or independent candidates. Rather than debates, there is community consultation. Rather than smear campaigns, there is encouragement and accompaniment. Rather than campaign flyers and confetti, there are prayers and personal meditation. Continue reading

Accompaniment: A Personal Reflection

Good Friends

Image by Juliana Coutinho via Flickr

I remember stepping off the airplane into my new home, my pioneering post, thousands of miles away from all that was easy and familiar to me and from all that was loved and precious in my life. It was exciting. It was also scary.

The sun stayed hidden for days, the heat was heavy, and the air was thick with smog and exhaust. I had never seen the apartment where I would be living for the next year (part of my package with the university that had hired me) and when I arrived, the first thing I noticed was the stench of cigarettes. The second was the half bathroom. The third was that there was no kitchen.

It should have been a long, scary night full of questions and doubt. Actually, it was a long, scary night full of questions and doubt.

But it was surmountable because I was being accompanied.

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Naw-Ruz: Spiritual Springtime

Every year Baha’is from all over the world and of all cultural backgrounds celebrate Naw-Ruz on the day of the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, with Tihran, the birthplace of Baha’u’llah, as its standard.

Naw-Ruz has its origins as a Zoroastrian observance in ancient Iran and, to this day, is celebrated as a cultural festival by Iranians of all religious backgrounds. In addition to being celebrated by Iranians and members of the Iranian diaspora, the observance of Naw-Ruz has also spread to many other parts of the world, and is celebrated as a cultural holiday in India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Naw-Ruz, which means “New Day”, is celebrated at the vernal equinox, on the first day of spring. It is a time of joy and celebration, with the darkness of winter coming to an end and the reappearance of light, warmth and the beauty of spring’s flowers. It is a day of new beginnings, of change and hope.

However, for Baha’is, Naw-Ruz also has deep spiritual significance. Naw-Ruz marks the end of the 19-day Baha’i Fast, which is a period of reflection and profound spiritual reinvigoration for Baha’is. Naw-Ruz was ordained by Baha’u’llah as a celebration of humanity’s “spiritual springtime”: the Baha’i dispensation.

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The Fast and Sacrifice

Image by Paul Stevenson (Flickr)

What is sacrifice? As Baha’is, we believe that it is – in short – the act of giving up something for something of greater value.

Sacrifice has always been a concept of great fascination to me. It is fundamental to the progress and consummation of the human soul. Consequently, it is a practice that I try to apply in all aspects of my life.

As you would already know from previous posts, Baha’is are currently observing the Fast. In this time, I find myself asking: how does the concept of sacrifice tie in with the act of fasting? Continue reading

Five Tips for a Healthy, Happy Fast

Photo by iainsimmons

We’re a few days into the Baha’i Fast and as always for me, the first days are kind of hard! These early days are when your body is adjusting to its new routine and regime, and here in the southern hemisphere it’s also when the daylight hours are the longest.

While the Fast is ultimately spiritual, and this is a time of prayer and reflection, I find it helps to put some thought into the material aspects of Fasting. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different ideas for what to eat and drink, and how to go about the days. I have come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to be moderate, consistent and embrace the Fast.

Here are my personal tips for a healthier, happier fast. What are your tips? What works for you? Add them in the comments! Continue reading

The Baha’i Fast

The Baha'i Fast 620x412
The Baha’i Fast falls during the month of Ala – the last month of the Baha’i calendar. During these 19 days, Baha’is – with the exception of women who are nursing or pregnant, the elderly, children, the sick, those travelling and those engaged in heavy labour – abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset.

While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.

For 19 days, those observing the Fast partake in a rich spiritual experience. The Fast is a time of joy and invigoration of our lives. It is an opportunity that comes once a year for us to take a step back and reconnect with what truly matters to us. It is a period of respite from the daily routines and hectic schedules that so often consume and overwhelm us.

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Faith, Tradition and Rituals

Attending church with my family as a child was for me, as a kid with the attention span of a fly, a weekly three-hour long ordeal. I remember sitting in the pews observing the same elaborate ceremonies every week and not understanding why we were doing any of it. I was not alone either. My friends, just as bored and disgruntled, would complain about the length and repetition of the rituals, challenging our parents to show us where in the bible Jesus makes mention of any these rituals.

Our parents would smile patiently and urge us to see the beauty in our traditions. It’s the way things have always been done, was the common refrain. Not at all a satisfactory answer for a child. Tradition for tradition’s sake! I would exclaim impatiently.

As an adult, however, I am finally able to look back at those very practices and see the beauty in each of those practices. As a child, I considered the solemn chants in Latin to be a earsore, but now, hearing those same chants help me feel more reverent. As a child, I used to make a point of coughing obnoxiously to make my distaste for incense known, but know I understand that incense represents an offering to God borne out of love and devotion.  As a child, sitting through those long services each week were a test of my very will to live, but it is only now that I understand the theological significance behind the order of service.

I remember being intrigued, when I first became a Baha’i, by what then seemed like a complete lack of ritual in the Baha’i Faith. Our post last month, “What Christmas means to Baha’is” generated a lot of comments which have got me thinking about the Baha’i approach to rituals and tradition.

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9 Service Project Ideas for You and Your Community

Baha'is of Wahiawa Adopt a Highway

While on holiday to Hawaii, I was driving down a highway on the island of Oahu and passed a sign for the “Adopt a Highway” program. The program is for local organizations and communities to keep their roads and areas clean and free of litter. I was really pleasantly surprised to see that this particular highway stretch had been adopted by the Baha’is of Wahiawa!

Rendering service to humanity is an important part of being not just a Baha’i, but a member of any religion and in fact pretty much any good moral code. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Well here are nine simple ideas to get you thinking. I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments! Continue reading

3 Tricky Truthfulness Scenarios

Nobody likes a liar. As kids, we were taught by our parents not to lie. In the school playground, getting caught telling a tall tale would see us subjected to poetic taunts about our pants catching fire. And as adults, we live in societies in which telling a lie under oath can have legal consequences.

The value placed on honesty isn’t specific to any culture, religion or ideology. Truthfulness is a universal virtue.

Also universal, however, is the harmless white lie – the cherished caveat, the exception to the rule. It’s where we find ourselves bending the truth, just slightly, to get out of an uncomfortable or difficult situation. It’s where we say what we think needs to be said, rather than what we know to be accurate, because we’re trying to avoid hurting a person’s feelings or offending them.

It’s not dishonesty, per se. White lies are justified under the circumstances and necessary, even! We’ve all been in those situations where telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would be disastrous. Those situations where we need to tell a little white lie.

Or so I thought.

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