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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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.
A view from Avenue de Camoens where Abdu'l-Baha delivered many talks. (photo: Michael Day)
One hundred years ago this month, Abdu’l-Baha was speaking up on behalf of the victims of conflict in Libya and offering solutions to the scourge of war.
We who are witnessing a civil war in the same country exactly a century later can read what he said at that time. His words are published in one of the most beloved of Baha’i books, Paris Talks, which contains transcripts of talks delivered between October and December 1911, as well as some later addresses in London.
Many readers are likely to have an uncanny experience of the “history repeats itself” variety.
“The news of the Battle of the Benghazi grieves my heart,” Abdu’l-Baha said in a talk he gave to an audience in Paris on October 21, 1911.
That battle was part of the 1911-12 Italo-Turkish war which claimed 25,000 lives in what is now modern day Libya.
Abdu’l-Baha spoke about the pointlessness of the fighting, a feeling many of us no doubt share today concerning the present conflict.
“The highest of created being fighting to obtain the lowest form of matter, earth?” he said. Continue reading
Image by shioshvili (Flickr)
When I first became a Baha’i, the concept of obligatory prayer was new to me. I went from only saying prayers when I needed divine intervention to rescue me from impending academic doom (i.e. every semester, during exam period) to trying to fulfil the various spiritual obligations for a Baha’i life. Obligatory prayer, 95 Allah’u’Abhas, reading from the scriptures at morning and night, remembering to bring myself to account each day – talk about a spiritual regime! For an undisciplined soul like mine, it felt like spiritual boot camp!
Nearly two years later, I still find myself struggling – particularly with obligatory prayer.
Walking into the Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney can be puzzling for a first-time visitor.
The Temple, which celebrates its 50th anniversary from September 18 to 25, has elements of similarity to the places of worship of other faiths. Yet, it is clearly different from them. If you were to ask a newcomer to describe the building, the answer might well be this: “With its dome, it almost looks like it could be Christian. The design also reminds me somewhat of a mosque. Once inside, I find the balconies reminiscent of those in a synagogue.”
Then the visitor would start to identify the differences. For a Hindu, a Buddhist or a Catholic, it might seem strange that there are no statues. There are also differences in the kind of services held there. There is no sermon or commentary. No musical instruments accompany the voices raised in prayerful song.
There is a good reason for all of this.