In the United States, the conclusion of the summer Olympics also means we’re fast approaching another presidential election. In fact, the way various elections are staggered, we’re never more than a few months away from an election of some kind. Perhaps in your country, you too are blessed to have the freedom to elect your governmental leaders. It’s a precious and hard-won human right that the whole world is destined to exercise.
Democracy is a core value of Baha’i life. The way in which we govern our own affairs is deeply democratic. We elect our leaders from the bottom of the administrative order to the very top. But we do it all without campaigning. We don’t put our own names or those of others up for election, and likewise we don’t engage in negative self-campaigning to remove ourselves from consideration. Baha’is simply and prayerfully vote for a slate of people they believe will best serve the community, and, in the case of Spiritual Assemblies, the nine top vote-getters are elected. Continue reading
As a Baha’i, it’s important to know about other religions – actually it doesn’t really matter if you’re a Baha’i or not, the fact is that we live in a religiously diverse world and the more we know and learn about each other and our belief systems, the better we can hopefully get along.
I really love watching documentaries, and there are some great documentaries out there which focus on some of the various world religions and/or certain aspects of them. I thought I’d share a list of 10 interesting and informative documentaries I’ve seen about some of these world religions, and I know there are a lot of other great documentaries about religion out there, but I thought these 10 would be a good place to start:
1) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha
Narrated by Hollywood heartthrob Richard Gere, a long time practicing Buddhist himself, The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha tells the story of the life and spiritual journey of the Buddha (the founder of Buddhism), from his childhood to his final days. .
DVD blurb: Two and a half millennia ago, a new religion was born in northern India, generated from the ideas of a single man, the Buddha, a mysterious Indian sage who famously gained enlightenment while he sat under a large, shapely fig tree. The Buddha never claimed to be God or his emissary on earth. He said only that he was a human being who, in a world of unavoidable pain and suffering, had found a kind of serenity that others could find, too. This documentary by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin tells the story of his life, a journey especially relevant in our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion.
Photo courtesy: zAmb0ni via Flickr
There is perhaps nothing more fundamental to faith in God than our ideas, traditions, and assumptions about creation. After all, “Creator” is our most descriptive synonym for God.
For most of its visible history, much of humanity has subscribed to a literal belief in creation stories. These stories were critical stepping stones that infused cultures around the world with ideas that would guide their development. These ideas included the notion there was a divine entity who engineered the creation of the natural world and who bestowed on humanity a special gift: free will, knowledge of good and evil. This gift carried with it unique privileges — indeed dominion — but also grave responsibilities. Continue reading
Photo: Victor Bezrukov via Flickr
Prayer, according to the Baha’i Faith, is central to one’s spiritual existence. It is the means by which creation communicates with the Creator.There are numerous prayers revealed by Baha’u’llah, the Bab and ‘Abdu’l- Baha, and each of these prayer express our innermost needs and offer us guidance, in a way that our own words can’t.
In addition to the many revealed prayers, there are also the daily obligatory prayers – revealed by Baha’u’llah – which are to be recited individually and privately, every day. Individuals can choose from one of three prayers – the short obligatory prayer to be said between noon and sunset, the medium obligatory prayer to be recited three times a day, or the long obligatory prayer to be recited anytime during the course of the day.
Bahá’u’lláh states that “obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God”. Abdu’l-Bahá affirms that such prayers are “conducive to humility and submissiveness, to setting one’s face towards God and expressing devotion to Him”, and that through these prayers “man holdeth communion with God, seeketh to draw near unto Him, converseth with the true Beloved of his heart, and attaineth spiritual stations”.
Photo courtesy: pasotraspaso via Flickr
I was participating in a Ruhi book 1 study circle a few months ago, and as we got to the end of the book, we read the following quote:
O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. -Gleanings from the writings of Baha’u’llah
I had read this quote before, but for some reason when I read it this time, it really resonated with me. I began thinking about the difference between happiness and contentment. Which one should I try and work towards? Am I ever going to be happy? How can I learn to be content in times of tests and difficulties? Continue reading
[Image by "figment_" via Flickr]
As an individual fortunate enough to have been raised with both the material comforts of the United States as well as the spiritual teachings of the Baha’i Faith, I often think about the relationship between wealth, poverty, and spirituality.
A number of questions naturally arise when considering this: Are wealth and material development important, or simply a distraction from spiritual development? Is it wrong for me to enjoy physical comfort and material prosperity? Is choosing to renounce the material advancement of the West, for example, by moving to a less developed part of the world a noble sacrifice or an unnecessary infliction of physical suffering upon oneself?
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As someone who was raised with a strong Christian upbringing, the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and Christianity is something I often think about when I reflect on my own journey to becoming Baha’i.
When I became Baha’i, I found myself the recipient of numerous questions and comments from my Christian friends and family members – some of whom were simply curious and interested in knowing more; and others who genuinely couldn’t understand my decision to become Baha’i, knowing how committed I remained to my Christian beliefs.
Similarly, I’ve had numerous conversations with Baha’i friends about conversations they’ve had with their Christian friends about Christianity and the Baha’i Faith. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on these conversations and trying to understand how to build a bridge of understanding that will facilitate stronger and more meaningful dialogue between Baha’is and Christians.
While this post cannot possibly do justice to the profundity and beauty of the numerous passages in the Baha’i Writings on Christianity, or the scholastic excellence of the numerous publications out there on the Baha’i Faith and Christianity, it summarises 5 strategies that have helped me to provide more useful and meaningful responses to my Christian friends and family members who have asked me about the Faith.
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One of the first Baha’is I ever met exalted in his faith, claiming enthusiastically: “It’s the complete package!”
I now know what he means.
At the centre is a towering spiritual figure, Baha’u’llah. Then there are inspiring teachings that seem so clearly the remedy for this age and blueprint for the future. And don’t let me forget– there are astoundingly beautiful holy places.
Then there are the prayers. Oh, the prayers. They are like the bow that ties together the complete package.
Here are some excerpts to illustrate what I mean.
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The Baha’i Faith is a global religion. It is acknowledged today as one of the most wide-spread religions – present in over 200 countries and territories, with its central texts translated into over 800 languages and its adherents hailing from diverse traditions and cultures. This is something that many of us Baha’is are proud of and see as a testament to our diversity and universal worldview.
However, wherever you may encounter the Baha’i Faith, sooner or later you’re bound to encounter Baha’is from a Persian background. They will vary in their relative “Persian-ness”. Some will be second or third generation immigrants with a strong cultural foundation in their new country, such as my husband who is more Australian than he is Persian. Others will be much more culturally Persian and might tarof with you every chance they get. You’ll also find people like me, who are a good old mix of a lot of different things. (I am one quarter Persian, although most people wouldn’t know it, and often assume my last name is taken from my husband.) There are also those who have no ethnic links to Persia or Iran, but may have Persian names after early heroes of the Faith’s history, like Vahid or Tahirih.
So what is the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and Persian culture?