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
Prayer and meditation are often jointly mentioned as one of the primary requisites for spiritual growth. For example, the Universal House of Justice tells us:
In His Writings, Baha’u’llah states clearly the essential requisites for our spiritual growth, and these are reiterated and amplified by Abdu’l-Baha in His talks and Tablets. They can be summarized briefly as prayer and meditation, the endeavor to conform one’s behavior to the exalted standard set forth in the Baha’i Teachings, participation in the life of the Baha’i community, teaching the Faith and contributing to the Baha’i Fund. Different individuals, according to their natures, will follow these paths in varying ways, but all are essential to spiritual growth.
I personally have had many conversations about prayer, but very little about meditation and so I wanted to explore what the Baha’i Writings say about meditation. 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
Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
I love reading quotations from Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice. I usually have one book from each of them or compilations that include all of them in my reading pile along with my prayer book. But it wasn’t always that way. Continue reading
This limitless universe is like the human body, all the members of which are connected and linked with one another with the greatest strength. How much the organs, the members and the parts of the body of man are intermingled and connected for mutual aid and help, and how much they influence one another! In the same way, the parts of this infinite universe have their members and elements connected with one another, and influence one another spiritually and materially. – Abdu’l-Baha
Ever since small boats could sail beyond the horizon, each person who has journeyed to a new home has a unique story, with their own motivation for leaving the home of their ancestors and for starting out as a foreigner in a new land. There is sometimes a push: famine or war. There is sometimes a pull: freedom or economic stability. For Baha’is, the strongest reason for their exodus from Iran over the past fifty years is religious persecution. Continue reading
When it comes to religion, one of the first things that may spring to many people’s minds is the concept of sin; as when hearing about anything resembling rules, the mind can very naturally turn to the logistics of breaking them. However, while the concept of divine law is relatively ubiquitous among religions the specifics vary to different degrees and I’d like to begin this article by offering a Baha’i perspective of divine law and morality.
Then I’d like to briefly explore the concept of sin, not through a meticulous survey of what is described as a sin in the Baha’i Writings, but through a broader consideration of the concept itself. It should be noted that except for the direct quotations of Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah, the text of this article is only my own interpretations and the reader should insert an “in my opinion” after any statement made. Continue reading
A young woman whom I’d recently befriended fell pregnant outside of marriage. When she called me, she was in complete shock and beside herself. In her agitation she spoke of her fear of what others would think of her, she was terrified of the name calling she and her unborn child would face. She felt she had besmirched her family name and was petrified of the judgment of her close and extended family, her community and friends.
She comes from a very traditional family, and spoke of how her parents would expect her to have an abortion to “save face.”
This is not a blog post about the rights and wrongs of having a child outside of marriage. It is not a post about abortion. Rather it’s about my horrifying realization that backbiting not only “quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul,” but in actuality, it can end a life. Continue reading
When I was eleven, my period leaked for the first time in my sixth-grade class. It was my second period ever, and while age and experience has now confirmed what my mother said to me the day it happened (“Every single woman in the world has leaked”) I was mortified to the point of being momentarily traumatized; boys bullied me for weeks about it, and I exerted all my efforts into avoiding the memory of it. From then on, when I had my period, nothing was more important to me than making sure I didn’t leak. All my thoughts, anxieties, and concerns through the day on those dreaded moments of a month revolved around how many pads or tampons I had in my bag, and how many opportunities I would have to go to the bathroom.
It wasn’t long before I realized this was a concern all my girlfriends shared, and we spent our days in middle and high school clandestinely passing each other pads and tampons in brown bags, so no one would see, and through the sleeves of each other’s shirts like we were exchanging contraband instead of products crucial to our health and well-being. We didn’t talk about our periods above whispers and used euphemisms like “our friend from down South” if we had to talk publicly or loudly. Characters in TV shows didn’t have or refer to their periods; no one in movies seemed affected. Pop stars and models were beautiful all the time and never caved over in cramps, migraines, or nausea, so we put smiles on our faces, saved the complaining for each other when we were home in our pajamas and watching TV, accepting the silence and secrecy as givens and normalcy for menstruating women.
I’d always been passionate about my faith and spirituality, I often talked about the Baha’i Faith’s advocacy for women’s rights, but I never saw how my humiliation or secrecy regarding my period had anything to do with the principle of gender equality. Sometime in my teenage years, I was reading my own copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) that my Baha’i school teacher had given me. I came across the passage: Continue reading
I was speaking recently with a cute five-year old, and our conversation turned from the TV show Paw Patrol to the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab. I asked him his thoughts on how we could celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, and he said: “We should make a nice card for His birthday and tell Him that He is the best Bab we have ever had!”
Aside from being amusing, from the perspective of the theology of the Islamic Dispensation, I thought he was kind of right; from what I’ve learned there actually have been several “babs”, or “gates” (in Shiite Islam it is believed that several historical figures called “gates” acted as intermediaries to the Promised One). So, in this special year, how can we draw closer to the Bab who was the “King of the Messengers”, “the Primal Point round Whom the realities of all the Prophets circle in adoration”, the “Founder of the Dispensation marking the culmination of the six thousand year old Adamic Cycle, Inaugurator of the five thousand century Baha’i Cycle”, “The Primal Point from which have been generated all created things”? Continue reading
“Each sees in the other the Beauty of God reflected in the soul, and finding this point of similarity, they are attracted to one another in love. This love will make all men the waves of one sea, this love will make them all the stars of one heaven and the fruits of one tree. This love will bring the realization of true accord, the foundation of real unity.” -Abdu’l-Baha
In 1904, Florence Breed and Ali-Kuli Khan married in Boston. Breed was American and Khan was Iranian; their union symbolized East and West uniting in the Baha’i Faith. When Abdu’l-Baha visited the US in 1912, the Khans hosted a luncheon for Him in Washington, D.C. There, Abdu’l-Baha defied social convention by giving Louis Gregory, an African-American Baha’i, the seat of honor. Continue reading