Category Archives Opinion

Opinions, thoughts and ideas

Remembering the Ascension of Baha’u’llah

Every year Baha’is gather to commemorate the Ascension of Baha’u’llah on 13 Azamat according to the Baha’i calendarCustomarily (although this is not a requirement), at 3 in the morning, following an evening of prayer and reflection,  Baha’is stand and face Qiblih as one from amongst them reads the Tablet of Visitation.

It was early in the morning of May 29, 1892 (five minutes past 3, to be precise) that Baha’u’llah passed away in the mansion of Bahji outside Akka (present-day northern Israel), after a brief illness. Following His death, a vast number of mourners from all walks of life and religions, grieved with Baha’u’llah’s family and followers.

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Waiting for the World to End

Image by krypty (Flickr)

As Baha’is, we believe that the foundation of all the divine religions is one. Ever so often, we’ll be putting up posts for our ‘Changeless Faith Series’, in which we look closer at some of the similarities between the divine religions, in an attempt to more fully understand what Baha’u’llah meant when he said “This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”.

It’s certainly been an exciting weekend!

Around the world, on May 22, Baha’is celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab. The Bab was a Messenger of God whose mission was to prepare humanity for the message of Baha’u’llah. The story of the Bab’s life and mission is dramatic and emotion-stirring – filled with persecution, difficulty and, ultimately, triumph. The Bab foretold the coming of a Divine Teacher with a message even greater than His own. Although the Bab’s faith was a religion in itself, the Declaration of the Bab reminds Baha’is of the exciting and remarkable historical events that provided the context for the mission of Baha’u’llah.

The other remarkable historical event that happened this 22 May – or was meant to happen but didn’t – is one that has captured the imagination of many since time immemorial: the end of the world.

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Contemplating Death

Image by birdeye (Flickr)

On one occasion the Buddha asked several of the monks, “How often do you contemplate death?”One of them replied, “Lord, I contemplate death every day.””Not good enough,” the Buddha said, and asked another monk, who replied,”Lord, I contemplate death with each mouthful that I eat during the meal.””Better, but not good enough,” said the Buddha, “What about you?”The third monk said, “Lord, I contemplate death with each inhalation and each exhalation.” Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Last Saturday night, I was out for dinner with an old friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a typical Saturday night at the end of an even more typical week. I’d gone from one weekend to the next without even realising that a whole week had gone by – going from one thing to the next; trying to cross as many tasks off a to-do list as possible; scheduling in new appointments while waiting for Melbourne’s notoriously unreliable trains. Even dinner at a new restaurant seemed old and familiar – I’ve come to know this city like the back of my hand.

But then, I received a call from home that violently pulled me out of my comfortably predictable, routine-filled world in a second – a family member had passed away. In the hours and days that followed, I found myself in unfamiliar territory.

Death isn’t generally something we – as humans – tend to think very much about until life forces us to by confronting us with the reality and inevitability of death. Following that phone call, I rushed to cancel all my appointments and to catch the earliest flight back home. Much of the next 84 hours was spent shuttling to and from airports, waiting to board flights and trying (unsuccessfully) to get some sleep in between the turbulence and captain’s announcements. These long, empty hours and my need to make sense of a very emotional situation forced me to do something that I’ve realised we – as a society – simply don’t do enough: contemplate death.

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What is a Five Year Plan?

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Ever so often, we’ll be putting up posts for our ‘Common Questions Series’. As the name suggests, these are questions about the Faith that we often get. You know those ones – where you kinda, sorta, maybe know the answer but aren’t sure if you know enough to give the asker a full response? Yeah, those ones. Baha’i Blog has decided to make a collection of those questions, which will hopefully be as helpful to you, our readers, as it is to us!

Every Ridvan, the Universal House of Justice addresses a message to Baha’is around the world looking at where we – as an international community – are in our attempts to execute the latest Plan. This Ridvan, the international Baha’i community entered the second of four consecutive Five Year Plans. Having watched the first Five Year Plan unfold from 2006 to 2011, we stand at an important point in history as we enter the next phase of this exciting journey towards a New World Order, in which we see Baha’u’llah’s vision for the unification of mankind realised.

The Five Year Plan highlights one of the most crucial principles underlying the life of a Baha’i – that of a twofold moral purpose. As a Baha’i, it is crucial to focus on spiritual growth and the acquisition of virtues. However, we are also cautioned not to focus solely on our own spiritual development in a manner that is removed from a consideration of the context in which we live. That is to say that our efforts to acquire spiritual perfections must go hand in hand with our efforts to serve humanity and contribute to the advancement of civilization.

As spiritual beings, we all have this twofold moral purpose. To focus on one aspect while neglecting the other leads to imbalance and prevents us from realising our true life’s purpose. Efforts to acquire spiritual perfection in a vacuum, without engaging in the affairs of society around us, leave us prone to acts of ego. Conversely, efforts to transform society without any regard to our individual spiritual growth will always be misguided and ineffective. The Five Year Plan encapsulates the principle of the twofold moral purpose perfectly by representing a united effort by individuals who recognise the importance of constantly developing their own spiritual qualities by combining their efforts to serve humanity together.

We asked some of our readers to share their reflections on being a part of the next Five Year Plan. One of our readers has shared the following reflections in response to reading the 28 December 2010 message from the House, highlighting the momentous historical significance of this period in time. Continue reading

Taking the Politics Out of Politics

(Photo courtesy: planolight via Flickr)

pol·i·tics

n.
1. The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs.
2. Intrigue or manoeuvring within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power

The fact that the word “politics” – once used simply to refer to the act of governing – has come to acquire the additional meaning listed above says a lot about the world we live in. This definition reflects the assumption that the act of governance in a country or organisation is inseparable from divisiveness, conflict and the struggle for power and status.

But is that necessarily the case?

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Living a Coherent Life

Image Courtesy of Seafaring Woman

Image by Seafaringwoman (Flickr)

Have you ever thought about all the different spheres of your life? Like most people you probably have work, family, friends, and if you are a Baha’i, your Baha’i life. How do these different parts fit together?

Last year while reading the Baha’i World News service, I came across the idea of “a coherent life”. The idea that these different parts of your life – work, family, friends, your beliefs and your ideals – should all make sense together.

Like most good ideas, a coherent life makes sense intuitively. In fact once you start to think about it, not living your life in this manner seems hypocritical. How can you be one person in one part of your life, and another somewhere else? Yet doing just this is surprisingly easy to do.

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The Virtue of Joyfulness

Image by a4gpa (Flickr)

I don’t like the word “stress”. It’s a Madison Avenue word. It’s something that can be cured with flavoured coffee and bath bubbles.

These words, spoken by the fictional President Josiah Bartlett, are – in my not-so-objective, The-West-Wing-obsessed opinion – one of the best encapsulations of how our society deals with stress.

We don’t!

We all know what it’s like to constantly have too much to do and too little time to do it. We’re constantly overworked, sleep-deprived, trying to catch our breath and fatigued. We live in a society that is overwhelmingly anxious and unhappy.

But perhaps what is more dangerous than all of that is our acceptance of these levels of stress as normal. Getting by on four hours of sleep and bucketfuls of coffee is something of a badge of honour in many circles. In a world where there are so many things to do, if you’re getting enough sleep, you’re probably just not doing enough. Or that’s what we’re encouraged to believe anyway.

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Junior Youth: The UN Chimes In

UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2011 Report

Every year, UNICEF publishes it’s flagship report “State of the World’s Children”. This report – read by thousands of people in governments, the United Nations, the media and the general public – typically examines a key issue affecting the welfare of children and strongly influences policy-makers and practitioners working in the field of children’s rights around the world.

So, it is exciting to see how policy-making at both the national and international levels will respond to the bold statement underlying the entire report: Young people, truly, can change the world.

The report , titled “Adolescence – An age of opportunity”, begins to question many of the assumptions that have been made about adolescents by society  and implores policy-makers to recognise both the incredibly vulnerability of adolescents, where investments into their well-being and development have not been made, as well as the tremendous capacity of these very same individuals, where those investments have been made. (Download the State of the World’s Children 2011 report or watch the UNICEF video summaring the report.)

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Naw-Ruz: A Time for Renewal

Image by matio_svk (Flickr)

I’m a big fan of new years. I’ll admit it. I celebrate the new year as many times in a year as I possibly can. Growing up in a country with four officially recognised ethnic groups, I milked the multiple calendars for all they were worth. I would attend midnight mass every New Year’s Eve. I would line up for my ang bao and scarf down bakkwa every Chinese New Year. Diwali was yet another opportunity for festive fun. (One year, looking for an additional opportunity to celebrate, I attempted to appropriate the Russian Orthodox New Year. This was, however, met with some skepticism from my friends.) So the recent addition of Naw-Ruz as another new year that I get to celebrate has been a source of joy, as you might imagine.

Why the new year fixation? Simply put, I love new beginnings. I love turning a new page in the diary. I find peace in pausing for a breath and thinking about all that has been and marching forward with a plan of attack – boldly stepping into a new day.

Naw-Ruz. A new day.

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Fasting: So it’s not just about food?

Image by Mamchenkov (Flickr)

The Baha’i Fasthas just ended. I’ve been fasting for 20 years now and I’m embarrassed to say that I still find that I have to constantly remind myself that the Fast is not just about the food! Okay, so for those of you who don’t know me, you should know that ohhhh I love food! My family and I are renowned for talking about how much we like food and the different types of food we like, even while sitting around a table and having a meal together. In fact, there’s even a Tablet written by Baha’u’llah to my family some generations back, which relates to – you guessed it – FOOD!

Most of us identify the Baha’i fast with the act of not eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. But as Shoghi Effendi explains, there’s much, much more to it than that:

It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian

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