For example, you see that children born from a weak and feeble father and mother will naturally have a feeble constitution and weak nerves; they will be afflicted, and will have neither patience, nor endurance, nor resolution, nor perseverance, and will be hasty; for the children inherit the weakness and debility of their parents. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed. p. 57)
For those of us looking for evidence that “the sins of the fathers continue into the next generations”, this quote shows exactly how.
I grew up in a house with a violent, abusive alcoholic father and a passive, emotionally distant mother. I vowed I was not going to repeat the abuses I endured when raising my son. Sadly, though I was able to raise him in a home without alcohol or drugs and break the cycle of physical and sexual abuse, I still passed on the family dysfunction.
As someone who lives with a diagnosis of anxiety, depression and PTSD, I have definintely been afflicted with a “feeble constitution and weak nerves”! I am impatient, particularly with the changes that take time, and with other people who don’t do what they’ve promised to do. I make decisions in haste and am driven to get things done, seldom giving myself time to check in with God, through prayer and meditation. Now that I know why, I can do something about it.
Knowing that the source of my problems come from inheriting the weakness and debility of my parents, I can have compassion for them and for myself, forgive and overcome and I am grateful!
What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation? I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!
If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies PrintKindle
Thank you for your continued support of my work. I apologize for being largely absent following the hacking of 5 of my websites, which corrupted nearly 10,000 files, and resulted in being shut down by my webhost and blacklisted by Google.
I am deeply grateful to Malcolm Sargent and Jonah Winters for stepping in to save the site. A special thank you too, to all those who championed me emotionally, spiritually and financially. Your solid endorsement to keep going is heartwarming.
I haven’t been idle since then, though, and am thrilled to announce that 9 of my books are now available in both print and Kindle on Amazon.
You can borrow the Kindle version of each book free for 30 days.
AND when you buy the print version, the Kindle version is available at a reduced rate. I hope that those of you who read the books will share an honest review. A little of your time and a few brief words would go a long way to helping other customers (hopefully followers of all Faiths) make a decision. You can partner with me in this teaching effort.
To highlight my books, my website has a new look, a new name and a new focus. My previous blog content will remain accessible.
For some time, I’ve felt uncomfortable about branding my name, and since I’m publishing under Nine Star Solutions, this seems an ideal time to go forward with the www.ninestarsolutions.com name.
My goal for the new site is to post a single quote from the Bahá’i Writings every day, along with a small meditation on my blog.
I hope that you will post your understanding of the quote, and together we can immerse ourselves in the Ocean of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation. It’s a good way for me to remember my commitment to meditate on the Writings morning and night. I hope it will engage you too.
I celebrate the release of my books with you. I look forward to being able to post to the blog again. May it continue to encourage and inspire you to an ever-deepening connection to our dearly loved Baha’i Faith.
Let’s face it. Bad things happen to all of us, but when it seems like we’ve had a lifetime of suffering, it’s hard to stay strong and have hope. I thought I’d look to the Baha’i Writings and see what I could find out and share it with you.
We know that suffering leads to self-improvement:
Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self-improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434)
But the suffering of children is the hardest for many of us to understand. Many children are exposed to horrific events, and then spend a life-time dealing with the after-effects.
God can compensate the innocent:
He urges you to put these dark thoughts from your mind, and remember that if God, the Creator of all men, can bear to see them suffer so, it is not for us to question His wisdom. He can compensate the innocent, in His own way, for the afflictions they bear. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)
It’s comforting to know that for those souls, that suffering is the greatest mercy of God, and it will be far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world:
On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are the hear-rending trials of the innocent … With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of children “who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only states that for those souls “suffering is the greatest mercy of God”, He also explains that to be a recipient of God’s mercy is “far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world”, and He promises that “for those souls there is a recompense in another world”. (Universal House of Justice, Letter on the Oppression of Children, 1985)
If we knew what God has destined for us, our gladness and joy would increase every hour:
If thou didst know what God had ordained for thee, thou wouldst fly with delight and happiness, gladness and joy would increase every hour. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í World Faith, p.363)
We’ll have true wealth:
Even if all the losses of the world were to be sustained by one of the friends of God, he would still profit thereby… The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. (Bahá’u’lláh, Crisis & Victory, p.154)
Our reward is better than all the treasures of the earth:
So great are the things ordained for the steadfast that were they, so much as the eye of a needle, to be disclosed, all who are in heaven and on earth would be dumbfounded, except such as God, the Lord of all worlds, hath willed to exempt… I swear by God! That which hath been destined for him who aideth My Cause excelleth the treasures of the earth. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p.84)
God has promised us days of blissful joy, in this world and in the next!
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. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.329)
When we get to the next world, we’ll get to recount all the things we’ve been made to endure:
With them [the Prophets of God and His chosen ones] that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.156)
Here’s a story of how Juliet Thomson felt God’s love in this world:
Later in the morning He sent for me. My self-consciousness, my shyness had made me feel shut out from Him, but my heart had been continually crying out, with ever-increasing love, to Him. When I entered His little room and knelt at His feet and looked up into eyes of Love which I suddenly found I could meet, He put out His hand and said, “Now; now!”
I laid my head on His knee. The tears came. He lifted my face and wiped them away. “God shall wipe away all tears.” Ah, this blessed Day! I cannot remember exactly what happened, only that Love immeasurable flowed out from Him and was reflected in my poor heart. One thing I do remember. When He lifted my face, while He was wiping away my tears, He said in a voice of infinite sweetness, like the sighing of the wind which “bloweth where it listeth and we know not whence it cometh or whither it goeth”: “Speak. Speak to Me!” His words in English sink into your very soul. What I lose by not understanding Persian! “O my Lord, may my life speak to you!” I cried. (Diary of Juliet Thompson)
It seems to me that patience, long-suffering and resignation are 3 key virtues we’re developing through our suffering.
I’d like to look at the example of Bahíyyih Khánum, Shoghi Effendi’s great-aunt and the highest ranked woman in the Baha’i Faith. Her story is a testimony to the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity. Shoghi Effendi wants us to follow her example, so it only seems fitting to tell you about her here.
Bahíyyih Khánum was Bahá’u’lláh’s only daughter, and was also known as the “Greatest Holy Leaf”. Her station is similar to the Virgin Mary (to Christians) and Fatimih Zahra (to Muslims). She certainly led a life of continuous suffering. She spent her early years in an environment of privilege, wealth, and love and described this period of her life as very happy. When she was 6, her father was arrested and imprisoned, the family’s home pillaged and Bahíyyih and her family were forced to live in poverty. She clearly remembered the shrieks of the Bábís awaiting their death, leaving a strong mark in her later life. Later the same year her family were exiled over snow-covered mountains, to Baghdad and later to Constantinople, Adrianople and finally Acre. Her uncle (Mirza Yahya), forbade her to leave the house to play with other children or even to let a doctor visit her newly born brother who needed medical attention — instead leaving him to die.
Bahíyyih spent almost all of her adult life as a prisoner. As a young girl she chose to remain single, so she could serve her parents, her brother and later, to serve Shoghi Effendi. This was very strange for a woman of her rank and era. After so many tests and difficulties in the early part of her life, the death of her youngest brother, Mirza Mihdi, destroyed any morale she had left, yet somehow, she found the strength to help her mother and father with serving the pilgrims who came to visit. She was very close to her mother and always concerned about her mother’s delicate heath and when her mother died, it left Bahíyyih with a huge void in her life. Later, when Bahá’u’lláh passed away, it put her into severe mourning which caused her to become thin and feeble for a time.
When she was freed at age 62, Bahíyyih opened up an orphanage in her home for non-Bahá’í and Bahá’í children, oversaw their education and taught them “prayers, reading and writing, home management, embroidery, sewing and cooking. Women from Islamic backgrounds would ask Bahíyyih to cut the shrouds in which they would wear when they die so they could rest in peace. Everyone turned to her for help and advice. During WW1, the inhabitants of Haifa flocked to the house of `Abdu’l-Bahá, where Bahíyyih cooked for them and gave them rations.
When ‘Abdu’l-Baha made his journeys to the West between 1910 and 1913, and then again when Shoghi Effendi was away on several trips between 1922 and 1924, she was the “acting head” of the Faith. During these times, Bahíyyih Khánum dealt with the affairs of the Holy Land and outside, which included meeting dignitaries, making speeches on `Abdu’l-Bahá’s behalf, meeting officials of both sexes and offering medical help for the sick and poor. She also dealt with the spiritual and administrative guidance of the worldwide Bahá’í community by writing letters of encouragement to communities around the world. During the later years of her life, she was plagued by illness and pains and needed help to stand and sit.
Verily, We have elevated thee to the rank of one of the most distinguished among thy sex, and granted thee, in My court, a station such as none other woman hath surpassed. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Bahá’í World, vol. V, p. 171)
I’m so excited, I could burst! I just had to share this with someone and who better than those who follow me and support and encourage me!
20 Years; 20 Stories; 20 Necklaces
Miranda Britton, a local Artist, developed a collection of necklaces that tell the stories of women impacted by YWCA Muskoka over its 20-year history. The finished pieces will be auctioned off and 100% of the proceeds will go back to the YWCA Muskoka.
The necklace she made from my story, was called “Empower”. It’s been chosen as the logo for the auction! It really looks like the chaos of overwhelm I feel most of the time on both sides and the calm in the centre of the storm in the middle, when empowered by the support I’ve received from the Y. She captured my emotions exactly!
She told me:
“Empower” was the first piece I made for the collection and quite possibly my favourite. Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly.
Here’s what I wrote, which inspired the necklace:
What first brought you to the YWCA?
Ten years ago I moved back to Muskoka and was about to publish my first book. I was excited to learn about the Women in Business course, which had both a business stream and a life skills stream. I learned a lot from the program and ended up creating both a business plan and a life plan that guided me for many years.
Over the years I have benefitted from their many conferences, workshops and networking lunches geared to women entrepreneurs. Recently I was at a crossroads in life and again the Y came through for me, through offering personal and business coaching and support through the Gathering Space.
How has your involvement with the YWCA changed you?
When I first came to the Women in Business Course, I was on a disability pension with anxiety and depression and PTSD. I wanted to use my skills, talents and abilities and get paid for them. The Y helped me learn how to do that in a way that was not overwhelming and whenever I fell back into overwhelm, they were there to support, encourage, nurture and empower.
Is there a story/anecdote that you could share that you feel really illustrates the spirit of the Y?
I had 6 sessions of counselling this past winter and was assessed going in with an anxiety score of 17 (very high). By the end of the 6 sessions it was down to 1! I attribute this directly to the hope and encouragement I gained from all of the staff at the Y, even from those not directly involved with the Gathering Space. When the tasks ahead of me seemed impossible to accomplish, they wouldn’t let me give up. Instead, they helped me break them down into manageable pieces, and filled in the gaps where my knowledge lagged. Even when they didn’t know how to do something, they never gave up, but worked with me to find a solution.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Everything the Y does is 500% helpful! The imagine something and then find the funding to make it happen. My most fervent prayers are that they continue to provide services to the women of Muskoka. They fill a gap that no one else can fill. Thank you to all of you, from the bottom of my heart!
‘Abdu’l-Bahá never let anyone take advantage of Him.
When giving out money, He had people with Him to regulate the crowds:
During this time this friend of the poor has not been unattended. Several men wearing red fezes, and with earnest and kindly faces, followed him from the house, stood near him and aided in regulating the crowd, and now, with reverent manner and at a respectful distance, follow him away. When they address him they call him “Master.” (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)
He liked discipline and order, so they could pass by Him one by one:
They crowd up a little too insistently. He pushes them gently back and lets them pass him one by one. (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)
His helpers made sure that everyone passed on as soon as they’d received money from Him:
The men accompanying Him kept order in great kindness, but firmness, and saw that each passed on as soon as he had received from the Master. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)
He kept a record of those who He gave to because He did not wish to be abused:
He gave where He felt it was merited and kept a record of the recipients. He did not wish to be abused. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 76)
If He knew someone was just lazy, He would turn them away and reprimand them:
Once in a while we would see Him send some one away empty-handed and He would reprimand him for his laziness. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)
He called everyone His friends, but those who attempted to deceive Him were rebuked and told where they might obtain work:
Later, while resting, the Master told Mrs. True about His friends. ‘These are My friends, My friends. Some of them are My enemies, but they think I do not know it, because they appear friendly, and to them I am very kind, for one must love his enemies and do good to them.’ He explained that there simply was not sufficient work in ‘Akká. Men could do but two kinds of work: they could fish, but the sea had been too stormy lately, or they could carry loads on their backs, which required great strength. Those who attempted to deceive Him were rebuked and told where they might obtain work. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)
If someone criticized a gift, He reproved them but He always gave them something else:
At one time the Master had a fine cloak of Persian wool, which had been given to Him. When a poor man appealed to Him for a garment, He sent for this cloak and gave it to him. The man took it but complained, saying it was only of cotton. ‘No,’ ‘Abbas Effendi assured him, ‘it is of wool’; and to prove it He lighted a match and burned a little of the nap. The man still grumbled that it was not good. ‘Abbas Effendi reproved him for criticizing a gift, but He ended the interview by directing an attendant to give the man a mejidi (a coin then worth about four francs). It was observed that if someone vexed the Master, He always gave him a gift. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 75)
One of the most well-known story is about how ‘Abdu’l-Baha refused to be cheated by a dishonest taxi driver:
Economic justice, even in small matters, was important to the Master. Once in Egypt ‘Abdu’l-Bahá obtained a carriage in order that He might offer a ride to an important Pasha, who was to be His luncheon guest. When they reached their destination, the driver asked an exorbitant fee. The Master was fully aware of this and refused to pay the full amount. The driver, big and rough, grabbed His sash and ‘jerked Him back and forth’, demanding his unfair price. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained firm and the man eventually let go. The Master paid what He actually owed him and informed him that had he been honest, he would have received a handsome tip instead of only the fare. He then walked away. Shoghi Effendi, His grandson, was present when this happened. He later admitted to being very embarrassed that this should have happened in front of the Pasha. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, on the other hand, was evidently ‘not at all upset’, but simply determined not to be cheated. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 109)
They took a taxi to the train station, where the taxi driver demanded more than the usual fare. Abdul-Bahá ignored him, saying, “A man may give $1000 without minding it, but he should not yield even a dollar to the person who wishes to take it wrongfully, for such wrongful behavior flouts justice and disrupts the order of the world. (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 190)
He Gave Advice to the Poor
He reminded them to give thanks for the things they have been given, sometimes in His talks:
So, my comrades, you are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Your lives are similar to His life; your attitude is like unto His; you resemble Him more than the rich do. Therefore, we will thank God that we have been so blessed with real riches. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 34)
Sometimes through stories:
The Master sometimes made His points through telling stories. Julia Grundy recorded the following story of His: ‘A master had a slave who was completely devoted to him. One day he gave the slave a melon which when cut open looked most ripe and delicious. The slave ate one piece, then another and another with great relish (the day being warm) until nearly the whole melon had disappeared. The master, picking up the last slice, tasted it and found it exceedingly bitter and unpalatable. “Why, it is bitter! Did you not find it so?” he asked the servant. “Yes, my Master,” the slave replied, “it was bitter and unpleasant, but I have tasted so much sweetness from thy hand that one bitter melon was not worth mentioning.”’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 167)
He Gave Even More Advice to the Rich
Baha’u’llah set the standard:
O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH!
The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 54)
To those who were suffering because of the poor, He gave this advice, which had positive effects:
Then He added, “However you must strive to overcome these feelings, do everything in your power to help, pray, then leave it with God, because the world will grow steadily much worse, and if you suffer like this you will not be able to survive. Nevertheless his words opened the door of help to those strike sufferers, and on my return to Montréal I went to a very wealthy and prominent Irishmen there, whom I had never seen, burst into tears in his office, to his astonishment and mine, and asked him what he was going to do about it. Well, to end the story, he headed the committee to raise a fund which we sent to Dublin through private channels in which came just in time to succour thousands of women and children. (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 186-187)
He reminded them why the poor are especially beloved of God:
What could be better before God than thinking of the poor? For the poor are beloved by our heavenly Father. When His Holiness Christ came upon the earth those who believed in him and followed him were the poor and lowly, showing the poor were near to God. When a rich man believes and follows the Manifestation of God it is a proof that his wealth is not an obstacle and does not prevent him from attaining the pathway of salvation. After he has been tested and tried it will be seen whether his possessions are a hindrance in his religious life. But the poor are especially beloved of God. Their lives are full of difficulties, their trials continual, their hopes are in God alone. (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)
He reminded them of their responsibilities towards helping the poor:
Therefore you must assist the poor as much as possible, even by sacrifice of yourself. No deed of man is greater before God than helping the poor. Spiritual conditions are not dependent upon the possession of worldly treasures or the absence of them. When physically destitute, spiritual thoughts are more likely. Poverty is stimulus toward God. Each one of you must have great consideration for the poor and render them assistance. Organize in an effort to help them and prevent increase of poverty. (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)
He reminded them through stories, that we’re all one family and have a responsibility to each other:
A Persian king was one night in his palace, living in the greatest luxury and comfort. Through excessive joy and gladness he addressed a certain man, saying: “Of all my life this is the happiest moment. Praise be to God, from every point prosperity appears and fortune smiles! My treasury is full and the army is well taken care of. My palaces are many; my land unlimited; my family is well off; my honor and sovereignty are great. What more could I want!” The poor man at the gate of his palace spoke out, saying: “O kind king! Assuming that you are from every point of view so happy, free from every worry and sadness — do you not worry for us? You say that on your own account you have no worries — but do you never worry about the poor in your land? Is it becoming or meet that you should be so well off and we in such dire want and need? In view of our needs and troubles how can you rest in your palace, how can you even say that you are free from worries and sorrows? As a ruler you must not be so egoistic as to think of yourself alone but you must think of those who are your subjects. When we are comfortable then you will be comfortable; when we are in misery how can you, as a king, be in happiness?” The purport is this that we are all inhabiting one globe of earth. In reality we are one family and each one of us is a member of this family. We must all be in the greatest happiness and comfort, under a just rule and regulation which is according to the good pleasure of God, thus causing us to be happy, for this life is fleeting. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)
He reminded them that God has many mansions prepared for servants of the poor:
He admonished all that we must be the servants of the poor, helpers of the poor, remember the sorrows of the poor, associate with them; for thereby we may inherit the Kingdom of heaven. God has not said that there are mansions prepared for us if we pass our time associating with the rich, but He has said there are many mansions prepared for the servants of the poor, for the poor are very dear to God. The mercies and bounties of God are with them. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)
He reminded them to be grateful:
Day by day friends brought offerings of flowers and fruit, so that the dinner table was laden with these beautiful tokens of love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Whilst cutting off bunches of grapes and giving them to various guests, He talked to us of the joy of freedom, of how grateful we should be for the privilege of dwelling in safety, under just laws, in a healthy city, with a temperate climate, and brilliant light – “there was much darkness in the prison fortress of `Akka!” (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)
He reminded them to be moderate:
After His first dinner with us He said: “The food was delicious and the fruit and flowers were lovely, but would that we could share some of the courses with those poor and hungry people who have not even one.” What a lesson to the guests present! We at once agreed that one substantial, plentiful dish, with salad, cheese, biscuits, sweetmeats, fruits, and flowers on the table, preceded by soup and followed by coffee or tea, should be quite sufficient for any dinner. This arrangement would greatly simplify life, both as to cookery and service, and would undeniably be more in accordance with the ideals of Christianity than numerous dishes unnecessary and costly. (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)
He reminded them that deeds were more important than words:
Later that evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was seated with a number of visitors to whom He was saying as He laughed: ‘Assuredly give to the poor! If you give them only words, when they put their hands into their pockets they will find themselves none the richer for you.’ (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 177)
He made sure they understood that service to others was to be given for the sake of God and not for praise or fame:
A day or two later, Abdul-Bahá talked about charitable works: “As charitable works become praiseworthy, people often perform them merely for the sake of fame and to gain benefit for themselves, as well as to attract people’s admiration. But this does not render needless the teachings of the Prophets because it is spiritual morals that are the cause of training one’s innate nature and of personal progress. Thus will people offer service to one another with all their hearts for the sake of God and in order to fulfill the duties of devotion to Him and service to humanity and not for the purpose of acquiring praise and fame. (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 158)
He reminded them to see everyone, no matter how blurred or torn, as a letter from God:
“Mrs True, when you go back I want you to look at every human being and say to yourself, “you are a letter from my Beloved, and I must love you because of the Beloved Who wrote you. The letter may be torn, it may be blurred, but because the Beloved wrote the letter, you must love it.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the book, Corinne True)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá once gave the example of a soiled and crushed letter that reaches the hand of a lover from his beloved. That letter, He said, is no less precious because of the condition in which it has arrived. It is cherished because it has come from a loved one. In the same way, we can learn to love a fellow man, no matter who he is, because he is God’s creature.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 96)
How has this helped you understand how you should treat the poor? Post your comments below!