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Baha’is and Baptism

When my son was born, I was a new Bahá’í (of 2 years), and my husband was Anglican.  I had a vague idea that Bahá’ís didn’t baptize their children, but believed that unity in the family was a higher principle, so my son was baptized in the Anglican church and raised as a Bahá’í.

It would have been helpful to know this guidance at that time:

Children of such a union may be baptized if the Christian parent so wishes; from the Bahá’í point of view the baptism has no effect. It must be emphasized, however, that the Bahá’í parent, while perfectly free to attend the baptismal ceremony, should not undertake any commitment or vow contrary to Bahá’í law and should not surrender her parental right to impart the Bahá’í teachings to her child.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 139)

I promised to raise my child in the Anglican church, believing that to raise a Baha’i child was also to raise a Christian, Moslem, Jewish child.  Now I wonder if this is the same kind of dissimulation Baha’is in Iran are rejecting when they are asked if they are Moslem and they say no?  On the surface, they could answer yes, because Baha’is believe in all Faiths, but they don’t.  I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about this back then, so I was on my own.  Fortunately I did not have to surrender any parental right to impart the Baha’i teachings to my son, otherwise I never would have gone through with it.

I wondered how many other families might be in the same situations, so I turned to the Writings to see what they had to teach us.  Let’s have a look!

In the past, baptism was used to awaken people:

Reflect, also, that baptism in the days of John the Baptist was used to awaken and admonish the people to repent from all sin, and to watch for the appearance of the Kingdom of Christ. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 94-95)

Children don’t derive any spiritual benefit from baptism.  In fact, many of them become agitated and ill.

But at present in Asia, the Catholics and the Orthodox Church plunge newly born children into water mixed with olive oil, and many of them become ill from the shock; at the time of baptism they struggle and become agitated. In other places, the clergy sprinkle the water of baptism on the forehead. But neither from the first form nor from the second do the children derive any spiritual benefit.   (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

In this dispensation we don’t need a symbol of repentance and seeking forgiveness from sins:

No, this baptism with water was a symbol of repentance, and of seeking forgiveness of sins.  But in the cycle of Bahá’u’lláh there is no longer need of this symbol; for its reality, which is to be baptized with the spirit and love of God, is understood and established.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baptism doesn’t cause spiritual awakening or conversion – it’s only a custom we follow:

Other peoples are amazed and wonder why the infant is plunged into the water, since this is neither the cause of the spiritual awakening of the child, nor of its faith or conversion, but it is only a custom which is followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

Religious laws are changed in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times:

Question. — Is the ablution of baptism useful and necessary, or is it useless and unnecessary? In the first case, if it is useful, why was it abrogated? And in the second case, if it is useless, why did John practice it?

Answer. — The change in conditions, alterations and transformations are necessities of the essence of beings, and essential necessities cannot be separated from the reality of things. So it is absolutely impossible to separate heat from fire, humidity from water, or light from the sun, for they are essential necessities. As the change and alteration of conditions are necessities for beings, so laws also are changed and altered in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 93-94)

Material water doesn’t purify the heart:

For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism is through the divine teachings and the exhortations of Baha’u’llah:

The performance of baptismal celebration would cleanse the body, but the spirit hath no share; but the divine teachings and the exhortations of the Beauty of Bahá will baptize the soul. This is the real baptism. I hope that thou wilt receive this baptism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 390)

It’s the heavenly water and spirit which makes the human heart good and pure:

But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure — that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism removes evil qualities such as anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.:

These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.  Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why He says baptism with the spirit, with water and with fire is necessary, and that it is essential — that is to say, the spirit of divine bounty, the water of knowledge and life, and the fire of the love of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

When we’re baptized this way, we will become filled with eternal bounty:

Man must be baptized with this spirit, this water and this fire so as to become filled with the eternal bounty. Otherwise, what is the use of baptizing with material water? (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baha’is don’t act as godparents either:

Your Assembly understands that a conscientious Bahá’í couple must not have their children baptized, nor should Bahá’ís ordinarily participate as godparents in a baptismal ceremony for this also may seem to imply their affiliation with the church.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 143)

For parents who are looking for a spiritual baptism ceremony to welcome the newly arrived babe, they can consider a naming ceremony:

Thou hast asked regarding the naming of children: When thou wishest to name a babe, prepare a meeting therefor; chant the verses and communes, and supplicate and implore the Threshold of Oneness and beg the attainment of guidance for the babe and wish confirmated firmness and constancy; then give the name and enjoy beverage and sweetmeat. This is spiritual baptism.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 149-150)

This would not be an official public ceremony, and would not involve any ritual:

We have no ‘baptismal service’ in the Cause, such as the Christians have. There could be no objection, however, for the friends to come together on such happy occasions, provided they do not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid any uniformity and rigidity in all such practices.  We feel that this activity should be left to the discretion of the parents.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 138)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  What’s been your experience?  Post your comments below.

Causes of Estrangement and How to Overcome It

When I began to speak about the abuse that happened in our family, I wrote to the House of Justice about how much contact I should have with them and they suggested:

Such an attitude (forgiveness and insight into their actions) does not preclude your being prudent in deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents. In reaching your decision you should be guided by such factors as their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past, the extent of their present involvement in practices which are so contrary to Bahá’í Teachings, and the level of vulnerability you perceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them. In the process of reaching a decision, you may well find it useful to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist.  (Universal House of Justice to me, 9 September, 1992)

Based on this, I wrote letters to my parents, asking them to take responsibility for their actions by paying for my therapy and assuring me that my son would never be subjected to the same thing.  They tried to have me declared crazy and have my son taken away.  When that didn’t work, I was shunned by my parents and siblings, and no matter what efforts I made to overcome it, my parents passed away still estranged and my brothers have shown no desire to heal the rift between us.

For more information, you might want to look at:

Should I Send a Confrontation Letter?

As someone working to bring unity to the world, the fact that I could not have unity within my own family has been a considerable source of pain for most of my adult life.

As I look around though, I realize that there has always been estrangement in families.  I’m not as unique as I once believed.  It seems we were created that way:

Souls are inclined toward estrangement. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

The love of family is limited; the tie of blood relationship is not the strongest bond. Frequently members of the same family disagree, and even hate each other.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

How often it happens that in a family, love and agreement are changed into enmity and antagonism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 79-80)

In Ruhi Book 1 we spent much time discussing the 5 things that inflict the greatest harm on the Cause, estrangement being one of the five:

Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)

The Baha’i standard would have us love each other so much we’d spend our money and give up our own desires for each other:

Cause them to love one another so as to sacrifice their spirits, expend their money and give up their desires for each other’s sake!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 263)

That’s a hard standard to live up to!

What are the Causes?

Misunderstandings:

This hatred and enmity, this bigotry and intolerance are outcomes of misunderstandings . . . This is the real cause of enmity, hatred and bloodshed in the world; the reason of alienation and estrangement among mankind.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 96)

Selfish purposes:

Everything which conduces to separation and estrangement is satanic because it emanates from the purposes of self. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 207)

Effects of Estrangement:

Stress:

This “Most Great Separation”, as Bahá’u’lláh referred to the severing of the relationship [between Himself and Mírzá Yahyá], perplexed and confused believers who were unfamiliar with Mírzá Yahyá’s conduct … The anguish it brought upon Bahá’u’lláh is reflected in the term He used to refer to this period – Ayyám-i-Shidád, the “Days of Stress”.  (Geoffrey W. Marks, Call to Remembrance, p. 132)

Death and Dissolution:

Consider how clearly it is shown in creation that the cause of existence is unity and cohesion and the cause of nonexistence is separation and dissension. By a divine power of creation the elements assemble together in affinity, and the result is a composite being. Certain of these elements have united, and man has come into existence . . . But when these elements separate, when their affinity and cohesion are overcome, death and dissolution of the body they have built inevitably follow. Therefore, affinity and unity among even these material elements mean life in the body of man, and their discord and disagreement mean death. Throughout all creation, in all the kingdoms, this law is written: that love and affinity are the cause of life, and discord and separation are the cause of death.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 207)

‘Abdu’l-Baha becomes overwhelmed by grief:

I swear this by the beauty of the Lord: whensoever I hear good of the friends, my heart filleth up with joy; but whensoever I find even a hint that they are on bad terms one with another, I am overwhelmed by grief. Such is the condition of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Then judge from this where your duty lieth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 231)

How to Prevent Estrangement:

Through love, respect and courtesy:

Where love, respect and courtesy are genuinely and mutually expressed, estrangement finds no accommodation and problems become soluble challenges.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)

Through consultation:

You have asked, however, for specific rules of conduct to govern the relationships of husbands and wives … If, God forbid, they fail to agree, and their disagreement leads to estrangement, they should seek counsel from those they trust and in whose sincerity and sound judgement they have confidence, in order to preserve and strengthen their ties as a united family.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 456)

How to Live with Estrangement:

You may have to sever your ties:

Although Bahá’u’lláh tried to conceal Mírzá Yahyá’s attempt on his life from His companions, further acts of treachery and betrayal forced Him to sever all ties with His younger half brother.  (Geoffrey W. Marks, Call to Remembrance, p. 132)

Show kindness:

Steps should first be taken to do away with this estrangement, for only then will the Word take effect. If a believer showeth kindness to one of the neglectful, and, with great love, gradually leadeth him to an understanding of the validity of the Holy Cause, so that he may come to know the fundamentals of God’s Faith and the implications thereof—such a one will certainly be transformed. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)

Ways to Overcome Estrangement:

Through the powers of the Holy Spirit:

It is clear that limited material ties are insufficient to adequately express the universal love … No worldly power can accomplish the universal love … the Holy Spirit will give to man greater powers than these, if only he will strive after the things of the spirit and endeavour to attune his heart to the Divine infinite love.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

Prayer:

Bring them together again, O Lord, by the Power of Thy Covenant, and gather their dispersion by the Might of Thy Promise, and unite their hearts by the dominion of Thy Love! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 263)

Make every effort to remove any feelings of estrangement:

The people of the world are carefully watching the Bahá’ís today, and minutely observing them. The believers must make every effort, and take the utmost care to ward off and remove any feelings of estrangement.  (Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 207)

Fix your gaze on unity:

Shut your eyes to estrangement, then fix your gaze upon unity.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 67)

Love each other in God and for God:

When you love a member of your family or a compatriot, let it be with a ray of the Infinite Love! Let it be in God, and for God! Wherever you find the attributes of God love that person, whether he be of your family or of another. Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

Through truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness:

Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness; that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Bahá, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 445)

Through love, patience, resignation, forgiveness, friendship and reconciliation:

If the friends and relatives are keeping themselves at a distance from thee, be thou not sad, for God is near to thee. Associate thou, as much as thou canst, with the relatives and strangers; display thou loving kindness; show thou forth the utmost patience and resignation. The more they oppose thee, shower thou upon them the greater justice and equity; the more they show hatred and opposition toward thee, challenge thou them with great truthfulness, friendship and reconciliation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 557-558)

Promote amity and concord and secure an active and whole-hearted cooperation:

They must endeavor to promote amity and concord amongst the friends, efface every lingering trace of distrust, coolness and estrangement from every heart, and secure in its stead an active and whole-hearted cooperation for the service of the Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 38)

Benefits of Overcoming Estrangement:

Heaven will support you:

Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world … You will be servants of God, who are dwelling near to Him, His divine helpers in the service, ministering to all Humanity. All Humanity! Every human being! Never forget this!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

The Grace of the Holy Spirit will be given and we will become the centre of the Divine blessings:

In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness…. If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One…. Should they endeavour to fulfil these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become the centre of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88-89)

Here’s a book you might find helpful:

How has this helped you understand this topic better?  Post your comments below.

Who is God and How Can He Help Restore Me to Sanity?

This book, by Justice St. Rain of Baha’i Resources, is now available on Amazon.  Click the book title for more information!

By Anonymous

I’m a workaholic and adrenaline junkie and my life has become unmanageable due to burnout and adrenal fatigue caused by drivenness, compulsive caretaking and approval seeking.

For the past several months, I’ve been attending five different 12 step programs over the phone (Workaholics Anonymous,   Underearners Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous,  Adult Children of Alcoholics Anonymous and Survivors of Incest Anonymous ).  I’ve got a sponsor and am actively working the 12 steps in Workaholics Anonymous.

As I completed Step 2, my sponsor asked me to identify the qualities of God I wanted to help me with my addictions and recovery. I thought this was a great idea, as I had already written 2 blog postings which could help:

Understanding the Power in the Long Healing Prayer 

Using the Names of God for Healing

I chose these 12 as my most important, and share them with you in case you’d like to do something similar in your own recovery:

  1. My only Hope
  2. The Healer
  3. The Helper
  4. The Forgiver
  5. The Loving
  6. The Inspirer
  7. The Unfolder, Unfastener and Uprooter
  8. The Comforter
  9. The Best Lover
  10. The Restorer
  11. The Satisfier
  12. The Bringer of Delight

Here’s how I elaborated on each one.

My only Hope:

I started with this one because it’s so true.  It’s the basis of everything.  God is the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing, the All-Wise and the Well-informed. He is a huge, immense, vast, large, abundant, boundless, enormous, omnipotent, unknowable God.  He can do anything!

He has a greater vision of what’s going on with me than anyone else can, (including me), so He knows where and how to apply His healing remedy. I’ve tried everything I knew to try and I still had a problem with drivenness, perfectionism, compulsive caretaking, people pleasing and approval seeking.

It’s nice to know that God has no equal and is the best there is, so I can trust Him with my problems and my healing and stop looking for second class help.  He’s become the security blanket I don’t want to let go of, the cord I cling to at all times and under all conditions.  He’s the life force that keeps me going.

Of all the things I can remember, His absolute, unconditional love for me and His continual presence in my life is the greatest of them all.  That’s why it’s so important for me to continually call Him to mind.  I can trust Him to keep my issues confidential.

I can trust His advice and guidance.  He is the most sympathetic, empathetic, gentle, kind-hearted listener I will ever find, the one who can get at the root of any of my problems and solve them.  He has a quick grasp of reality, comprehends, perceives, understands and is able to figure out problems I can’t solve by myself.  He has the cure, the medicine, the therapy and the treatment I need to recover, restore, refresh, regenerate, rebuild, repair and recuperate.

He’s all I need to restore me back to health.  He is there to guard, shield, defend, protect and act as my bodyguard.  He’s able to offer, provide and give generously whatever I need from His hidden storehouses.  He’s concerned, sympathetic, empathetic, gentle, caring and considerate.  He’s eager to be understanding and forgiving.  In short, He’s got it all and He’s my only hope.

The Healer:

God is my Divine Physician and He has the remedy for all my ills.  I trust Him to heal me.  In WA, I’m learning that healing involves so much more than my puny mind can conceive.  When I give my will over to the care of God, He can help me get at the root of my problems, where on my own I would just focus on the symptoms.  His medicine is effective and quick acting, as long as I remember to listen for and apply His remedy.

The Helper:

This is the aspect of God who brings aid, assistance and comfort.  He relieves the pain, supports and rescues me.  He gives me a helping hand where one is needed.  He steps in and takes care of the practical details.  I almost always feel like I have to do everything myself.  Sometimes it’s even easier that way.

Delegating can be exhausting and time consuming, so it’s nice to know I can ask the Helper to send the help I need.  Sometimes I need practical help.  Often I can’t even imagine what I need.  Neighbors and friends often say:  “if we can do anything to help . . .”, and they really mean it, but often I can’t think of anything and need “The Helper” to figure it out for me, and find the right person to deliver it in the right way, at the right time.

Although many people call on The Helper, He’s never too busy to help me too.  He has no limits or boundaries. He’s free and unencumbered by anything or anyone.  He’s not restricted or regulated. He is the one who can find solutions where none seem to exist.  I can trust that whatever solutions He has in mind for me will help me beyond my wildest imagination.

The Forgiver:

He stands ready to forgive me for my unhealthy attachments and can help me forgive everyone behind my fear of abandonment.  God is Merciful and not punishing.  Nowhere in the Writings of any religion, do we see God referred to as the All-Punishing or the All-Condemning.

He’s the one I want to root out and extinguish all of my character defects and sins.  We all do things that are not pleasing to God.  We have all done things we think are unforgiveable, and yet, God shows everyone, including me, His mercy, favor, kindness and leniency.  This is the aspect of God I most need to relieve me of my shame and humiliation.  He grants His forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding, tolerance, pardon, pity and reconciliation to everyone who asks, so I know I can rely on His forgiveness and mercy.

The Loving:

God’s love for me brought me into being.  He’s provided me with the foundation and basis for life. He’s the loving parent I need when life is falling apart.  He has an endless supply of resources and knows where to find the help I need.  He’s a loving friend who is with me “at all times and under all conditions”.  He gives a helping hand where one is needed.  He steps in and takes care of the practical details.  He is the one I can count on when all others have gone home.  He’s the one I want to curl up beside and share all of my woes, knowing He’s got a listening, non-judgmental and compassionate ear.

I know I can ask God for anything, but like any loving parent, sometimes He has to say no for reasons I may not understand till later.  Sometimes He knows that the kind of healing I want isn’t what’s best for me right now.  Sometimes it may seem that He’s withholding His help, especially if I’m expecting a certain outcome. His answer may come in ways I find hard to recognize.  I can trust that He loves me so much that nothing is too much trouble and He always has time for me.

The Inspirer:

God has eagle-eye vision.  He knows every aspect of my life and my place in the world.  He notices things I may have long forgotten.  He sees everything I’ve ever done or ever will do and He’s able to remind me of my strengths, and show me which path is best for me to go down at this time.

He is single, unattached and free to give me His full attention as He inspires, uplifts, moves me and helps me transcend my problems.  All I have to do is listen for His guidance, so that I can align with His will.  In the past, I’ve turned to everyone else for help, but God’s knowledge is infinitely higher.  He can steer me to the right people when I remember to ask His advice.  I’m learning that I’m not unique.  My problems aren’t unsolvable.  With God’s inspiration, I’ve got a limitless storehouse of solutions to draw on.

The Unfolder, Unfastener and Uprooter:

These are the aspects of God who seem to destroy, ruin and wreck things.  God knows when things aren’t working anymore and need to be broken so something new can come in its place.  He helps me burn away my satanic self in order to purify and cleanse me, in order to draw closer to Him.

These are my least favorite aspects of God, because I don’t like change.  I frequently pray for healing so I can go back to life the way it was before starting into recovery, but when I ponder these attribute, I realize that maybe God has something better planned for me.  He has to unfasten me from my old way of being, so I can be the person He created me to be.

In any given day and depending on my level of attachment to the old “me”, this can be as painful as ripping Velcro, or as easy as unzipping a coat.  He knows when it’s time to move me from a shady spot to a sunnier one; from gravel to a loamy soil.

I don’t know what’s in my best interest, but the Uprooter does, and He’s not afraid to prune me and replant me somewhere better.

Every time the Unfastener has been at work in my life, it’s felt like Velcro ripping apart, or like a Band-Aid pulling hair out of my skin when it’s ripped off.  It HURTS!  The pain of each of these tests is excruciating, whether He’s been unfastening me from people I love, jobs I’m attached to, or locations I’ve been living in!

When I meditate on the meaning of the “Unfastener” as a name of God here for my healing, I realize God is helping me to let go of something or someone I thought I needed in my life and the best way to heal is to recognize I need to detach, forgive and move on to something better.

The “Unfolder” needs to be active in my life because I’ve  folded myself up to protect against hurt or pain, and my muscles have atrophied from curling in on myself.  I need to be unfolded, so I can heal and live the life God has in store for me.

The Comforter:

This aspect of God is meek, mild, gentle, warm, soft – all comforting words.  This is the aspect of God most likely to bring me a metaphysical cup of tea, exactly when I need it or gift me with someone whose kindness is quietly given at exactly the time I need it the most.

The Best Lover:

God has “unfastened” me, so that I could draw closer to Him and make Him my “Best Lover”.  The actions I need to take include letting go of my excessive worry and self-pity, blame, hurt and self-hatred, trusting that He’s not going anywhere, and is everything I need and more.

Most of us look to our spouses to be our “best lover” and wonder where the love goes when it fades away.  Humans were never meant to take this on.  God wants me all to Himself.  When I put Him as my Best Lover, calling on Him day and night; serving Him; mentioning His name, He’ll never leave me.

He’s with me always; permanent, steadfast, unshakable. He’s with me long after everyone else leaves. People have come and gone in my life.  Sometimes it was the ones I most counted on who suddenly, abruptly and with no warning, disappeared from my life in times of crisis, but I’ve come to appreciate that God’s love and presence in my life has been constant, endless, unceasing, unbroken, steady and invariable, even when I thought He had abandoned me.  I know I can count on Him even when I can’t count on anyone else.

The Restorer:

God is the only one who can restore me to sanity. He’s is in my life for the long haul.  He doesn’t leave when His shift is over. He works weekends and never takes holidays.  He’s there to support and nourish and hold me up, even when my resolve is flagging and I’m exhausted.  He’s the one who can give me the energy to carry on with the next right action.  He’s all I need to nurse and restore me back to health.

I used to hope that God would restore me to the same level of health I enjoyed prior to my burnout and adrenal exhaustion but that may not be as quick and easy as I would like. I’ve noticed that there are 125 separate names or attributes of God embedded into the “Long Healing Prayer”.  Now when I say it, I imagine each one as a separate entity, able to assist with a specific area of healing, so that by the time the prayer is finished, I’ve humbly asked God in all His manifest attribute to restore me to sanity so I can better serve His Cause and His servants.

The Satisfier:

I’m learning that nothing can satisfy me but God. He satisfies my thirst in ways my addictions never could.  He is pleased and satisfied with me and wants to satisfy my every desire.  I don’t have to do anything to earn His love.  It’s unconditional.

I can trust Him with my problems more than anyone else because His love is never going to change.  He is generous, giving, open-handed and makes sure I have plenty of what I need.  He’s caring, sympathetic, gentle, thoughtful, compassionate, kind-hearted and humane.

He’ll see that things are handled well for everyone around me, so I can let go of any need to compulsively-caretake or people-please.

God can speed things up, accelerate solutions and help move things forward at a quicker pace.  His “yes” might not look like the “yes” I was expecting, but I can always count on it to be the right “yes” for me, at this time and in this place.

When I call on the Satisfier, I’m asking God to heal not only me, but everyone dealing with disease, poverty, pain, distress, ordeals, tests, hardships, anguish, grief, mourning, worry, stress, trouble, danger, difficulties, misfortunes, burdens, regrets, disappointments and torments, knowing He can satisfy everyone in just the right way.

The Bringer of Delight:

It’s hard to imagine that in the middle of my darkness there can be any joy, but God wants to bring me joy, happiness, enjoyment, delight and pleasure in the little things, so I can live in the present and appreciate, relish, enjoy and savor each moment.

He wants me to be enthralled, captivated, mesmerized, hypnotized, entranced and delighted as He transports me to another place, high above my troubles.

He is the one who shows me everything beautiful in nature, to remind me that there is still beauty to be found, even in the midst of my pain.

He loves to give extravagant presents!  His gifts are always over the top, lavish and plentiful.  He can bring beauty into even the ugliest of settings, so this is the aspect of God I want when that dark cloud is following me and I want Him to cheer me up and brighten my day.

And I am grateful!

How do you define your “Higher Power” and how does this definition help with your recovery?  Post your comments below.

Integrating Spiritual Principles into Our Work Life

Recently I was listening to a talk called “A Baha’i Perspective on the Meaning of Work” by Dr. Tiffani Razavi and as someone in recovery from workaholism and work anorexia (also called underearning or under-being), it got me wanting to know more about what the Writings have to say about work.

What is the Bahá’í Standard for Work?

 I think many of us are familiar with this quote: 

[Bahá’u’lláh exalts] work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship.  (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 281-282)

But how do we know if we are performing our work in the spirit of service?  And what is service?  These are the questions I started with.

First of all, the best definitions of work done in the spirit of service I’ve found are:

Bahá’u’lláh has even said that occupation and labor are devotion. All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion, at the same time seeking to lift the burden of others, striving to be the source of comfort to souls and facilitating the means of living. This in itself is devotion to God . . . But the energies of the heart must not be attached to these things; the soul must not be completely occupied with them. Though the mind is busy, the heart must be attracted toward the Kingdom of God in order that the virtues of humanity may be attained from every direction and source.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

It is the commandment of the Blessed Beauty, may my life be a sacrifice at His Threshold, that whosoever engageth in a craft, should endeavour to acquire in it utmost proficiency. Should he do so, that craft becometh a form of worship. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

In the Baha’i Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are (counted as) worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 176-177)

This suggests that:

  • paid employment requires both exertion and seeking to lift the burden of others
  • neither should be the focus of our attention
  • our attention should be focused on drawing closer to God and acquiring the virtues we’ll need in the next world
  • if we do our jobs with utmost proficiency we will be worshipping God
  • if we do our job to the best of our ability, conscientiously, concentrating all our forces on perfecting it, we are giving praise to God
  • all effort and exertion must come from the fullness of our hearts and be prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity

The dictionary suggests that service is:

  • an act of helpful activity; help; aid
  • ready to be of help or be of use to someone
  • something made or done for the public benefit and without regard to direct profit

So the implication is that we do our jobs, with an attitude of helpfulness, usefulness and of benefit to others, without expectation of payment.  Can that be true?  The Bahá’í Writings seem to suggest that it is.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:

All government employees, whether of high or low rank, should, with perfect integrity, probity and rectitude, content themselves with the modest stipends and allowances that are theirs. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

Let them be content with their wages, and seek distinction in truthfulness, straightforwardness, and the pursuit of virtue and excellence; for vanity in riches is worthy of none but the base, and pride in possessions beseemeth only the foolish.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

So far from acting thus, he should content himself with his salary and allowances, seek out the way of righteousness, and dedicate his life to the service of state and people. Such must be the conduct and bearing of the Bahá’ís. Whoso transgresseth these bounds shall fall at length into manifest loss.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

They should … content themselves with the salaries they are receiving, taking pride, rather, in the degree of sagacity, competence and judgement that they can bring to their work. If a person content himself with a single loaf of bread, and perform his duties with as much justice and fair-mindedness as lieth within his power, he will be the prince of mortals, and the most praiseworthy of men. Noble and distinguished will he be, despite his empty purse! Pre-eminent will he rank among the free, although his garb be old and worn!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 343)

So to summarize, these quotes seem to suggest that we should:

  • be content with our wages, salaries and allowances, no matter how modest
  • take pride in the degree of competence and sound judgement we bring to our work
  • seek distinction in truthfulness, straightforwardness, and the pursuit of virtue and excellence instead of delighting in riches

If we achieve this, even if our purses are empty and our clothes old and worn, we will be the prince of mortals, the most praiseworthy of men, noble, distinguished and pre-eminent

And if we don’t do it, we will fall into manifest loss.

Similarly, this quote applies specifically to teachers, who occupy so high a station in the Bahá’í Faith, that they receive a portion of a person’s estate, if they die without leaving a will (see the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 254).  In neither quote do we understand the meaning of the word “teachers”.  Could it be “teachers of the Cause”?  Teachers of Children?  Teachers of Higher Education?  We don’t know, and maybe it doesn’t matter.  The principle is the same:

This matter of teachers requires the greatest condition; that is, they should never stain themselves with the world, they should not look for the least pecuniary reward from any soul; nay, rather they should bear the utmost poverty and with the perfect wealth of nature [a state wherein man can dispense with things and be happy in their absence], through the bounty of God, may they associate with the people. They should seek no reward nor recompense. Freely have thy received, freely should they give.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 359-360)

Teachers should not look for a financial reward or recompense but bear the utmost poverty and be happy.

Let’s look at what else the Writings can tell us about our work.

What are the Principles?

Bahá’u’lláh’s solution of the social question provides for new laws, but the different social classes are preserved. An artisan remains an artisan; a merchant, a merchant; a banker, a banker; a ruler, a ruler; the different degrees must persist, so that each can render service to the community. Nevertheless, every one has the right to a happy, comfortable life. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 83-84)

Work is to be provided for all and there will be no needy ones to be seen in the streets. The vocational labor adjustment provided by BAHA‘O‘LLAH precludes there being people too poor to have the necessaries of life on the one hand, nor the idle rich on the other.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 83-84)

Bahá’u’lláh has even said that occupation and labor are devotion. All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

So from these quotes we learn that under Bahá’u’lláh’s new laws:

  • everyone has the right to a happy, comfortable life
  • everyone must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion
  • work is to be provided for everyone
  • there will not be people too poor to have the necessaries of life or too rich they can be idle
  • the different social classes are preserved, so that everyone can render service to the community

What is the Standard?

Let’s start by looking at some quotes:

Bahá’u’lláh enjoins work on all. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 462).

No one need ever be ashamed of his job.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 462).

In the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, it is incumbent upon every soul to acquire a trade and an occupation. For example, I know how to weave or make a mat, and you know some other trade. This, in itself is an act of worship, provided that it is conducted on the basis of utmost honesty and faithfulness. And this is the cause of prosperity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 19, No. 7, p. 219)

It is necessary for all to learn a craft, through which the people may earn their living. This commandment is universal.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

It is the commandment of the Blessed Beauty, may my life be a sacrifice at His Threshold, that whosoever engageth in a craft, should endeavour to acquire in it utmost proficiency. Should he do so, that craft becometh a form of worship. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

Please God, the poor may exert themselves and strive to earn the means of livelihood. This is a duty which, in this most great Revelation, hath been prescribed unto every one, and is accounted in the sight of God as a goodly deed. Whoso observeth this duty, the help of the invisible One shall most certainly aid him. He can enrich, through His grace, whomsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, hath power over all things.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 202)

Service to humanity is a primary motivation for those employed by Bahá’í institutions. In addition, the attitude that work is a form of worship is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s healing remedies for mankind which should permeate Bahá’í institutions. (Universal House of Justice, Guidance for Bahá’í Radio, p. 14)

The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 26)

The work done by the individual in trade, craft, art or profession is the core of his life and not merely the source of his living. Work performed in the spirit of service can today be accounted as an act of worship. The obligation to work is essentially a moral obligation and one not discharged by possession of wealth.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1947 Feb, A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights)

Thus the right to work, the right to contribute to society, takes on a spiritual dimension, and the responsibility to be productive applies to everyone. This attitude toward work profoundly influences the Bahá’í approach to social and economic development.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Feb 12, Human Rights Extreme Poverty)

The Teachings are most emphatic on this matter, particularly the statement in the Aqdas to this effect which makes it quite clear that idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order. As a corollary of this principle, Bahá’u’lláh further states that mendicity should not only be discouraged but entirely wiped out from the face of society. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

There are no solitaries and no hermits among the Baha’is. Man must work with his fellows. (‘Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 93)

This seems to suggest:

  • those in charge of the organization of society must give everyone the opportunity to acquire and use a necessary talent in some kind of profession
  • everyone must acquire a craft, trade and an occupation, even the handicapped, the rich and the poor
  • this is the core of our life and not merely the source of our living
  • perfection in worldly things doesn’t glorify our souls
  • the obligation to work is a moral obligation, not discharged by possession of wealth
  • the most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg
  • idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order
  • we need to work with others
  • prosperity comes from conducting our jobs with the utmost honesty and faithfulness
  • when we strive to earn the means of livelihood, we can count on the help of the invisible One

When we apply all of these principles in our work life, there’s no need for anyone to ever be ashamed of his job

Why Do We Work?

Let’s look at some quotes:

Every person must have an occupation, a trade or a craft, so that he may carry other people’s burdens, and not himself be a burden to others.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62)

To engage in some profession is highly commendable, for when occupied with work one is less likely to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of life.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 175)

With reference to Bahá’u’lláh’s command concerning the engagement of the believers in some sort of profession: the Teachings are most emphatic on this matter, particularly the statement in the Aqdas to this effect which makes it quite clear that idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order. As a corollary of this principle, Bahá’u’lláh further states that mendicity should not only be discouraged but entirely wiped out from the face of society. It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, specially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá’u’lláh a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom. Thus it is incumbent on every one to engage in crafts and professions, for therein lies the secret of wealth, O men of understanding! For results depend upon means, and the grace of God shall be all-sufficient unto you. Trees that yield no fruit have been and will ever be for the fire. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 281)

You should also endeavour to engage in some useful occupation, or by training yourself to have such an occupation, as work in itself another means at our disposal, in accordance with our Teachings, to draw nearer to God, and to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 282)

The attitude that work is a form of worship is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s healing remedies for mankind . . . (Universal House of Justice, Guidance for Bahá’í Radio, p. 14)

When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 26)

These seem to suggest that we work because by working we:

  • carry other people’s burdens instead of being a burden to others
  • are able to increase our physical wellbeing and give our bodies the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights
  • are less likely to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of life
  • draw nearer to God and are better able to grasp His purpose for us in this world
  • find the secret of wealth
  • benefit from one of Bahá’u’lláh’s healing remedies
  • obtain a token of God’s infinite and all-pervasive bounty

How do we choose a career?

We assess our talents, skills, specialized training and material resources, and then we consider how much time and energy we want to expend, and whether or not we can apply Bahá’í principles:

Let them step forth to take their places in the arena of service where their talents and skills, their specialized training, their material resources, their offers of time and energy and, above all, their dedication to Bahá’í principles, can be put to work in improving the lot of man.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 546)

We weigh the earning capacity of the job with the benefit of the work to mankind:

Every Bahá’í has a duty to work and earn his living, and in choosing a career a Bahá’í should consider not only its earning capacity but also the benefit of the work to his fellowmen. All over the world Bahá’ís are rendering outstanding services in this way.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 513)

We choose a field of science that profits the people of the world:

Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth . . . Great indeed is the claim of scientists and craftsmen on the peoples of the world.  (Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 51-52)

This includes craftsmanship:

One of the names of God is the Fashioner. He loveth craftsmanship. Therefore any of His servants who manifesteth this attribute is acceptable in the sight of this Wronged One. Craftsmanship is a book among the books of divine sciences, and a treasure among the treasures of His heavenly wisdom. This is a knowledge with meaning…. (from a Tablet of Baha’u’llah’s, translated from the Persian)

We place our whole trust in God:

Concerning the means of livelihood, thou shouldst, while placing thy whole trust in God, engage in some occupation. He will assuredly send down upon thee from the heaven of His favour that which is destined for thee. He is in truth the God of might and power.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 267)

In the Workplace, What Attitudes Should We Have Towards Work?

To the extent that work is consciously undertaken in a spirit of service to humanity, Bahá’u’lláh says, it is a form of prayer, a means of worshipping God.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Mar 03, The Prosperity of Humankind)

True reliance is for the servant to pursue his profession and calling in this world, to hold fast unto the Lord, to seek naught but His grace, inasmuch as in His Hands is the destiny of all His servants. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155)

We have enjoined upon all to become engaged in some trade or profession, and have accounted such occupation to be an act of worship. Before all else, however, thou shouldst receive, as a sign of God’s acceptance, the mantle of trustworthiness from the hands of divine favour; for trustworthiness is the chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 335)

Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men. There can be no doubt that whoever is cognizant of this truth, is cleansed and sanctified from all pride, arrogance, and vainglory.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44)

It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men. (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 144)

Having taken up an occupation, youth naturally try to contribute to their field, or even to advance it in light of the insights they gain from their continued study of the Revelation, and they strive to be examples of integrity and excellence in their work. (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

The right attitudes seem to include:

  • performing our jobs with diligence, in order to produce results that manifest beauty and perfection
  • performing work that is consciously undertaken in a spirit of service to humanity
  • contributing to their field or advancing it in light of insights gained from study of the Revelation
  • having true reliance on God, holding fast and seeking nothing but His grace
  • trusting that in God’s Hands lies our destiny
  • being grateful
  • receiving the mantle of trustworthiness from the hands of divine favour, as the chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity
  • striving to be examples of integrity and excellence in their work
  • being fully aware that the source of our prosperity, wealth, might, exaltation, advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men

If we are aware of this truth, we will be cleansed and sanctified from all pride, arrogance, and vainglory.

How Do We Handle Problems at Work?

When problems arise at work, and we want to overcome them, we need to first of all to centre our whole hearts and minds on service:

An individual must center his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.  (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 20)

Then consult in a spirit of unity and love, without ego and without insisting on your own opinion:

Strive with all your hearts and with the very power of life that unity and love may continually increase. In discussions look toward the reality without being self-opinionated. Let no one assert and insist upon his own mere opinion; nay, rather, let each investigate reality with the greatest love and fellowship. Consult upon every matter, and when one presents the point of view of reality itself, that shall be acceptable to all. Then will spiritual unity increase among you, individual illumination will be greater, happiness will be more abundant, and you will draw nearer and nearer to the Kingdom of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 183)

And then be content and resigned to whatever God has ordained.

However, one of the most important attributes for one who earns his living is to be content and resigned to whatever God has ordained for him. ‘The source of all good,’ Bahá’u’lláh states, ‘is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment in His holy will and pleasure. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 281)

What About Mothers and Homemakers?

In relation to your specific queries, the decision concerning the amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home, which may vary from time to time. Family consultation will help to provide the answers.  (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Women)

Mothers can now be the primary agents for empowering individuals to transform society. They alone can inculcate in their children the self-esteem and respect for others essential for the advancement of civilization. It is clear, then, that the station of mothers, increasingly denigrated in many societies, is in reality of the greatest importance and highest merit.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Aug 26, Girl Child A Critical Concern)

You ask about the admonition that everyone must work, and want to know if this means that you, a wife and mother, must work for a livelihood as your husband does… . You will see that the directive is for the friends to be engaged in an occupation which will be of benefit to mankind. Home-making is a highly honourable and responsible work of fundamental importance for mankind. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 625-626)

The principles seem to be:

  • the station of mothers is of the greatest importance and highest merit
  • home-making is a highly honourable and responsible work of fundamental importance for mankind
  • decisions about the amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home
  • this may vary from time to time
  • this should be decided by family consultation

What About Those Who Can’t Work?

 The House of Justice will provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence:

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that “if a person is incapable of earning a living, is stricken by dire poverty or becometh helpless, then it is incumbent on the wealthy or the Deputies to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence … By ‘Deputies’ is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes, p. 193).

What About Retirement?

The House of Justice will have to legislate on this matter in the future:

Concerning the retirement from work for individuals who have reached a certain age, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf stated that “this is a matter on which the International House of Justice will have to legislate as there are no provisions in the Aqdas concerning it”.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 192)

Earning Money

We do earn money while working, so what do we do with it?

We spend it first on ourselves, then on our families for the love of God:

The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words, 82)

When we get into debt, there are five things we have to do:

Thou hast asked regarding the means of livelihood. Trust in God and engage in your work and practice economy; the confirmations of God shall descend and you will be enabled to pay off your debts. Be ye occupied always with the mention of Bahá’u’lláh and seek ye no other hope and desire save Him.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 375)

  • trust in God
  • engage in our work
  • practice economy
  • always be occupied with the mention of Bahá’u’lláh
  • seek no other hope and desire but God

How Do We Have Work/Service/Life Balance?

In this materialistic world, where employers demand more of our time and attention, where one person does the work of three, it’s hard to not become a workaholic.  This is compounded by the demands of the Faith, which are so urgent and demand many sacrifices and a herculean effort.  So how do we have a work-life balance?

Here are some suggestions:

Now I shall tell you the essence of service. Share your time with God. Spend half of the day in search of livelihood, guaranteeing your material life and dignified appearance and dedicate the other half in the acquisition of moral virtues and service at the threshold of God (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 17, Mar. 1927, p. 365)

It is a compromise between the two verses of the “Aqdas”, one making it incumbent upon every Bahá’í to serve the promotion of the Faith and the other that every soul should be occupied in some form of occupation that will benefit society. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that the highest form of detachment in this day is to be occupied with some profession and be self-supporting. A good Bahá’í, therefore, is the one who so arranges his life as to devote time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause.  (Universal House of Justice, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

The delicate balance between the claims of the Cause of God and the claims of one’s profession is an intensely personal matter which can only be resolved eventually in the heart and soul of each individual. Many Bahá’ís have become, and are, distinguished in their professions and at the same time have rendered and are rendering great services to the Cause and it is obviously possible to achieve distinction in one’s profession and calling and to serve the Cause of God at the same time. The House of Justice realizes, however that circumstances can conspire at critical times in the fortunes of the Faith, to require individuals to make the heart- searching decision of sacrificing one’s own prospect for the apparent good of the Cause. Here again, the history of the Cause provides many examples of believers who have willingly forgone promotion in, or even the continued practice of, their professions in order to meet the needs of the Faith. As in all difficult decisions facing individual officer, such as a Counsellor or Board member, or even one or two friends of his own choosing. Even then, however, the eventual decisions rests with the individual himself.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 31-32)

These seem to suggest:

  • a good Bahá’í devotes time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause
  • it is possible to achieve distinction in one’s profession and calling and to serve the Cause of God at the same time
  • a guideline to aspire to is to spend half the day in your profession and half the day in service
  • it’s a delicate balance and an intensely personal matter
  • it requires us to make heart-searching decisions
  • it requires us to sacrifice our own prospects for the apparent good of the Cause
  • we can study the history of the Cause for examples of those who have willingly forgone promotion in, or even the continued practice of, their professions in order to meet the needs of the Faith
  • we can consult a Counsellor or Board member, or even one or two friends
  • the decisions rests with the individual
  • it can only be resolved eventually, and in the heart and soul of each one of us

Conclusion:

I’d like to end with this quote from the Bahá’í International Community:

Thus the right to work, the right to contribute to society, takes on a spiritual dimension, and the responsibility to be productive applies to everyone. This attitude toward work profoundly influences the Bahá’í approach to social and economic development.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Feb 12, Human Rights Extreme Poverty)

What would you add to this discussion?  Post your comments below.

Ruhi Book 10: Talks to Prepare for a Conversation with Youth

In Ruhi Book 10.1, (Accompanying One Another on the Path of Service) pages 86-87, we are asked to put some passages together on the themes Enidia identified. These included:

  • Period of Youth
  • Twofold Moral Purpose
  • Relationship Between Personal and Social Transformation
  • Constructive and Destructive Forces Operating in Society
  • Material and Spiritual Progress
  • Service to the Community
  • Educating Younger Generations
  • Early Adolescence as a Critical Stage of Life
  • The Institute Process and the Educational Process it Promotes

Our study circle, consisting of long-term deepened Bahá’ís, did some research and combined our collective quotes and posted them in this article, hoping that these would help others going through Book 10.

The next step was to undertake a thorough exploration of each theme.  We each chose a topic, researched it using the quotes we’d gathered and prepared a small talk, to help us get familiar and comfortable using the language and concepts, in preparation for having a conversation with some youth on these themes.

Although everyone prepared an oral talk, they were invited to submit their talks for publication here, to again help others with this assignment and with elevating the levels of discourse in society.

What follows is a couple of those submissions.  We’d be very grateful to have you add your own presentations, so we can have an even better compilation.  We hope you find our efforts helpful!

The Younger Generations by Jane Macmillan

In the following talk, Jane assumes she is talking to Chantal.

Hello Chantal – I am so glad that you were able to come and meet me today – lets go and have a hot bowl of soup at the Grind!!

You remember last time you were asking me about our programs for children in the community and I mentioned that we have four core activities that we offer – Devotional, Study Circles, Junior Youth Empowerment and Children’s classes – I think you were particularly interested in the children’s classes because Rosie is 6 years old.

We really believe that the younger generations are the most precious treasures that a community can possess and that in our material world it is so easy for children to be overwhelmed by the aggressive pursuit of materialistic ends – so the moral and spiritual education of children assumes vital importance.

All children have capacity and are noble beings – so we like to think of them as a mine filled with precious gems that can be discovered and polished – so that they see with both their inner and outer eyes and become aware and learn to express themselves.

I know that you were interested in the lesson plans too – so a typical lesson might start with a prayer or reflection and then an exploration into some of the words contained in that prayer – for instance: “O God! Guide me, protect me, illumine the lamp of my heart and make of me a brilliant star…” So we would look at the words guide, protect, illumine and discuss their meaning and gain a little more awareness of what we are praying for. This might then be followed with a story that further illustrates these sentiments and virtues and then a song which would have some bearing on the lesson.

By letting them discuss and experience the word of God they will gradually foster habits and patterns of conduct that are a reflection of those spiritual qualities and become more aware of their interactions with others.

Children are like young plants that need to be nurtured, respected, and treated as noble beings, all have talents and faculties that can be encouraged along.

Maybe next time we meet we can have a chat about the Junior Youth Empowerment program as I know you also have an 11 year old at home.

Material and Spiritual Progress by Susan Gammage

 Central to the Bahá’í teachings is a belief that that there must be a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life.

At this crucial point in the unfoldment of the Plan, it seems appropriate that we reflect on the nature of the contributions which our growing, vibrant communities will make to the material and spiritual progress of society.

Material and spiritual progress are two very different things

  • Material progress comes from the dictates of a material civilization
  • Spiritual progress comes from following the laws of God

Material progress ensures the happiness of the human world. Spiritual progress ensures the happiness and eternal continuance of the soul.

We need material progress.  For example, if a man is successful in his business, art, or profession, he is able to increase his physical wellbeing and give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights.  If we aren’t careful, we can surround ourselves with every modern convenience and luxury, and deny ourselves nothing.

It’s OK to have wealth, but it must serve humanity and its use must accord with spiritual principles.  Material advantages do not elevate our spirits, so we need to be careful not to forget the things of the soul.

In material civilization good and evil advance together and maintain the same pace. For example, consider the material progress of man in the last century. Schools and colleges, hospitals, philanthropic institutions, scientific academies and temples of philosophy have been founded, but hand in hand with these evidences of development, the invention and production of means and weapons for human destruction have correspondingly increased.

Motivated by the desire to serve humanity, Bahá’ís are improving the material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings, by multiplying the core activities, involving themselves in social action projects and participating in the prevalent discourses of society.  These activities contribute to constructive social change as we learn to combine the teachings of Baha’u’llah with knowledge accumulated from different fields of human endeavor.

There’s a children’s prayer I like to say to balance my own material and spiritual progress:

I am earthly, make me heavenly; I am of the world below, let me belong to the realm above; gloomy, suffer me to become radiant; material, make me spiritual, and grant that I may manifest Thine infinite bounties.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Baha’i Prayer Book, page 29)

Only by improving spiritually as well as materially, can we make any real progress, and become perfect beings.  Only when material and spiritual civilization are linked and coordinated, will happiness be assured. Then humankind will achieve extraordinary progress, the sphere of human intelligence will be immeasurably enlarged, wonderful inventions will appear, and the spirit of God will reveal itself; all men will consort in joy and fragrance, and eternal life will be conferred upon the children of the Kingdom.

O God, hasten the day!